custodian of the desert

The morning chill still hung in the air, but it didn’t matter since I was taking an early morning soak in the hot springs and the temperature was perfectly steamy. The sun was rising over the desert and light was inching over the east face of the Steens. Part of me had wished that the hot springs would be empty when I drove up so I could enjoy the morning alone. But the conversation was nice, not what we talked about necessarily, but just talking with people who all wanted to be in this special place far away from towns and cities and weekday life.

The conversation flowed from one thing to another, nothing too revealing, but after a while I could tell that in other places, under other circumstances we might all find ourselves on opposite sides of issues. That doesn’t matter in the Alvord Desert. What matters is that we all care about this place and are brought together by that one simple fact. When I mentioned that a warning light popped up in my car about low tire pressure this one man said he’d check and fill up my tires. When I talked about wanting to drive north and explore a new path home, but would have to backtrack to Fields to fill up my tank he offered to sell me gas. That is the way things work in the desert.

So it was fitting that the conversation centered on Carl Thomas who died last spring. Carl had the one ranch situated right at the edge of the desert and throughout the decades he lived there helped more people than anyone can count – stuck in the mud and he’d pull you out, need a phone he’d offer his up, the main entrance too bumpy and you could use his road to access the Alvord. Carl will be missed.

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