Planning a Southwest Sojourn

The weekend found us planning this year’s big road trip, a sojourn through the Southwest to White Sands, Saguaro and Joshua Tree national parks. White Sands National Park, located in New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, was originally designated a national monument by President Herbert Hoover in 1933. It was redesignated a national park by President Donald Trump in 2019. It seems ironic that a president who denied climate change would designate a gypsum dunefield brought about by climate change as a national park. From there, we’ll travel to Saguaro National Park in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. As the park’s name implies, it contains approximately 1.8 million saguaros, some of which are estimated to be nearly 200 years old, as tall as a six-story building, and weighing more than two tons. After leaving the Sonoran Desert, we’ll travel to California’s Mojave Desert for a visit to Joshua Tree National Park. The park is named after the tree-like yuccas that reminded Mormon pioneers of the Biblical story of Joshua raising his hands up to the sky in prayer. The trip home will include overnight stays in Flagstaff and Albuquerque, but, unfortunately, we won’t have time to explore these great cities.

In addition to looking ahead, we also spent some time looking back. While investigating his family tree, Jon discovered that his cousin had died in February. He also learned of the death of a woman he had brought into the church when he was the pastor in Salem, Illinois. Both deaths prompted long conversations about the meaning of faith and life, and the importance of relationship and remembrance.

We are frequently asked if we still practice our Catholic faith, and the short answer is no. But not because we have any particular hostility toward the Catholic Church. God knows, we’ve tried to construct a meaningful faith life, but have usually ended up wanting. It’s difficult to find the right combination of a vibrant community, lively liturgy, and inspiring preaching in most parishes these days. Many of them lack one or more of these essential elements. And so we stay home. It’s been said, “You can’t draw water from a dry well,” so we try to slake our thirst as best we can in other ways.

Throughout the weekend, we were visited by a pair of cattle egrets (one of which is pictured here). Cattle egrets are so named because they forage alongside livestock, eating insects stirred up by the larger animals; sometimes perching on them to eat ticks and other invertebrates. Considering Jon pulled a dog tick off his arm this weekend, we were glad to have the cattle egrets around to do their part on the tick population. With so much rain throughout the Spring, it’s been a challenge for park volunteers to mow the grass along the roads.

One other unexpected surprise was running into our fellow Airstreamer Talie, who was camping nearby. We were able to enjoy Friday’s sunset together, and then share some tips the next day on handling the Zip Dee awning (pull, don’t push, and use the roller bar for lifting!).

By the time Monday rolled around, bringing even more rain, we were ready to head out–back to the awaiting workweek and the long weekend ahead, which we’ll be spending at home.