“If we don’t get out of here by 7:30, we’re not leaving at all tonight.”

It’s that witching hour – one hour before we actually lock the front door and drive away. Steve tends to bark and growl in that last hour – somehow, I guess he thinks this is a useful attitude for starting a trip. It’s not.

He got home early from work, so the back of the truck is already loaded with gear. I only hope that he remembered to make the kitchen box accessible for the camping nights in Chaco. I load up my share: road food, road/camping cooler and my bags in the extra cab of the pick-up. Ammo boxes loaded, cats patted and we are on our way.

Ammo boxes? Yes, many things that the Army issues in war-time serves quite well for peacetime civilian activities, like rafting vacations. The standard issue 50 cal. ammunition boxes are just the perfect substitute for a day pack on a river. They are rigid metal, and well sealed against any moisture and dust. That means nothing in there gets crushed, wet and/or muddy on the raft, as long as it is closed. It’s a perfect size for field guides, paperback books, and smaller cameras. It’s also a good place to stash a headlamp, pen, and a bit of duct tape – all that can suddenly become necessities. We have two more ammo boxes for critical gear: the first aid kit and the raft repair kit. On larger trips, larger ammo boxes serve as food and gear storage, or as the loo.

So we are off. We’ve got one iPhone in tow with us, so I use the map app to see what route is suggested. I have the good old AAA paper version, and I don’t agree with the electronic directions. We are headed for Bakersfield, or beyond if we can stay awake. But after three hours, we are toast and we pull into a Fairfield Inn on the far east side of Bakersfield. We are poised to jump into the Mojave Desert first thing tomorrow morning.

We note the passing of the solstice with relief, happy that we are not in Chaco Canyon already.


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