“It never crossed my mind,” I said of the small aircraft that buzzed me earlier in the day. By then though, I was making the trek back to the highway in passenger seat of federal vehicle, though I really didn’t understand why.
It was slightly after sun-up when I pulled my truck onto the side of the road. I could see the rocky cliffs in the distance, those that I had plans to explored throughout the day, hoping to find something of interest to think about.
Dodging sage brush, creosote and the occasional rattlesnake or lizard makes for a pleasant hike into the high desert for this writer. If it isn’t something I have observed then it something I have thought about that generally gives me a subject to expound upon later at my computer.
Today, would prove to be exactly that kind of day.
More than two-hours after beginning, I found a shaded spot and set up my camp stool beneath a jagged rock face. I wanted to sit for a couple of minutes, rest, have some water and do some journaling in the notebook I had in my day-pack.
As I got comfortable, I heard a small aircraft’s engine echoing across the escarpment under which I sat. The next thing I knew, the aircraft a yellow and blue Piper J-3 Cub came in low and slow to the west of me.
He was so low and moving so slowly that I could have tossed a rock at him and struck the aircraft with no problem, something I’d never do unless threatened. I could even see the pilot, his large reflective glasses looking at me as he spoke into the headset wrapped from ear to ear and over his mouth.
Six-pages into thought, including being I buzzed by a plane out in the middle of nowhere, I heard the deep hum of an off-road vehicle. Since I was on public lands, I never gave it a second thought other than to know where my pistol was in the event they were a bunch of hooligans looking to have some ‘rowdy fun.’
It’s been known to happen.
Next thing I know, I have a ‘badged’ officer aiming a pistol at me, demanding I keep my hands in sight. As he walks closer, I realize the man is wearing a Bureau of Land Management uniform.
The agent made me get up and walk backwards to him, orders me to my knees and cuffs my hands behind my back. “What are you doing out here?”
“Jus’ exploring the desert and doing some writing.”
“You do know you’re not supposed to be in the area, right?”
“No, I had no idea.”
“Well, there’s a sign at the trail-head and a couple along the trail letting you know you’re trespassing.”
“I didn’t come in from the trail-head. I walk from the highway about four miles east of here.”
“So what did you say you were doing?”
“Exploring and writing. Will you take these damned handcuffs off me?”
“I don’t believe you. People don’t jus’ go for hikes to write. And no.”
“Well, can I sit on my ass, my knees are killing me. There’s water in the pack – have some — along with a snake pistol.”
“No thank you on the water, but I am gonna confiscate your pistol since you’re trespassing.”
Since he ignored my request to get off my knees and to sit like a normal human, I did so on my own. He never said a thing.
“Figured so. Am I walking back to the trail-head or are you transporting me?”
Slowly, he collected my belongings and tagged them as I watched. Within half-an-hour I could hear the four-by-four truck as it bounced up the sandy path, stopping jus’ beyond my line-of-sight amid some sage brush.
This time a woman, in the same uniform came into the clearing and after some talk between the two officers, she came over and asked, “Do you need help up.”
Though my hands were still braced behind me, I rocked forward, rolling my knees under me and staggered to my feet. I stood and waited for her to take me by the arm to her vehicle.
“Trespassing, huh?” she asked her fellow officer.
“Yeah, there jus’ something weird about a guy wandering out here doing nothing but writing.”
“Okay,” she responded, You’ve got all the evidence loaded up, right?”
“See you in town.”
As she slammed her door shut, I asked, “Does this mean we’re headed to the federal building?”
“Yes. I wanna see what the magistrate has to say about this.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, most likely like you’re thinking,” she responded, “I think this is a bunch of bullshit.”
“Yeah, but I wasn’t gonna belabor the point,” I smiled, “Besides I have a story to write now.”
“So you really are a writer?”
“Yup, I have lots of free time since I lost my paying job, so I fill it with writing, photography and a little painting.”
“You wanna be the new John Muir or something?”
“Or something,” I answered, “I’ll make up my mind once I decide to grow up and quit getting into trouble.”
After a short pause in our conversation, I asked, “If this stuff happened to John Muir when he was alive, do you think he’d have written any of his stories?”
“By stuff, you mean over-regulation and getting arrest for trespassing? Probably not.”
“I was thinking the same – but happily for me, I’m not Mr. Muir.”
She chuckled as I pointed at my truck as we drove by. Later, in the day she would return me to that same truck – without the ‘trespassing’ charges.