This was our last day in the company of friends. Grivy told Leonard and me that he wanted to show us place that the Indians called Erontapu Conshaki, which means " Canyon of Gold ". Actually, I made that up. Sounded good though, didnít it? In reality, we were on the trail of an abandoned mining town just across the river into California.
We crossed the Parker Dam in my truck and made our way through the arid foothills. We stopped for a while just off of the road at the head of a small, but steep canyon. We hiked up what appeared to be a jet-black waterfall (without the water). The way that the sporadic rains had carved out a serpentine path through the rock was just beautiful. How many millennia had passed since this volcanic upheaval had first been scrubbed and scratched by violent floods ? Every pocket was brimming with black sand and so many crevices ran perpendicular to the water flow. Cha-ching ! We were unprepared for crevicing, but a note was scribbled on to the mental message pad.
Up the road again. The pavement abruptly dissolved into a bedrock surface. As the truck twisted and turned along the narrow service road, we decided to stop at a rare widening of the trail. We wished to look out over the monotonous surroundings in hopes of spotting our elusive destination. In all we surveyed, only an abandoned school bus appeared on the horizon. To this day, I am convinced that it was the Muppet Mobile, put to rest after they took Manhattan. Mike suggested that we press on, as is his nature. I suggested, after viewing the road ahead disappearing into oblivion, that we take advantage of our wide turnout, as is my nature. I knew that we had to be in Havasu City in a few hours to meet Bill. Leonard, of course, was neutral on the subject. Ultimately, the guy who owns the ride gets veto power. After a graceful 18-point turn, three tons and twenty-two feet of truck began the long lurch down the ridge.
Mike, however, had one more trick up his sleeve. We pulled off of the pavement into an open area which tapered to a six-feet wide crack in the bone-dry hills. Hidden from view was a honest-to-goodness babbling brook. I thought it a cruel mirage. Mike led us upstream to an area that I could only compare to a tropical rainforest. Huge palm trees towered above us, lush patches of blue-green reed grass choked the head of the creek. The palms were growing right out of the brick-red bedrock. I kept expecting to see Mr. Roark and Tattoo magically appear. It was a real, live oasis.
Havasu awaited and we needed to press on homeward. After a short hop back to the trailer, we, accompanied by Kim, were off to see the wizard (Bill), the wonderful wizard of Barley Brothers Brewhouse. Bill is the assistant brewmaster at a place perched on the west end of the London Bridge. Everyone had a beer and yakked for a while.
Our evening plans included an excursion to the Pittsburgh mine. The area has a rich history and Bill had filled my head with tales of .50 caliber Air Force strafings, minersí dumps, and stone carons marking forgotten belongings. As Bill, Mike, and Leonard took off on foot for places unknown, I swung the Goldbug in search of mementos of yore. The BLM bureaucrats frown on this, but picking up trash in the desert is very low on my list of sins. My take? An old tobacco tin and a .50 caliber bullet. And the world went on a spinniní.
Later that night, Leonard and I said our goodbyes to Bill and headed south with Mike and Kim. Our trip had come to a close.
During the fifteen-hour drive home, I had time to reflect on my desert adventure. Although I had started out as merely a tag-along, I wound up with three great new friends and another chapter of memories.
Still frames filled my mind. Finding a lump of pickers in every cleanup pan. Sharing true lies and obscene noises with my buddies, and smiling all the way. My eyes laughed, in spite of myself, thinking about that first day, feeling hopeless in the heat. All the memories just fell into line after that. I camped in the desert. In late May. Even eighteen Wisconsin summers paled by comparison. Something Grivy had said stuck in my mind. " Not once did you get into your truck and turn on the A/C." I felt like a Boy Scout with a chest full of badges. The Inferno Badge. The Scorpion Badge. The No Showers for a Week Badge. And The Desert Gold Badge. I had earned them all.