On the Trail
Tongue flapping in the wind out the moving car window: every dog has its day.
In all the hullabaloo over independence, many missed the beginning of Dog Days on July 3. And ending on on August 11. Depending upon whom you ask. Ask a dog. Arf!
Dog Days are a potential forest fire season for New Mexico—and the entire West. Nice that Dog Days are almost precisely surrounded by our monsoon season. No, not a monsoon like in south Asia, but nonetheless a period of unusual rain. Like, some. Much needed, much sought.
For a different sort of humidity, we followed the route of the Santa Fe Trail from its inception in Franklin, Missouri. We crossed Kansas, took the Cimarron cutoff, passed through Oklahoma, then home to the Plaza. Near a thousand miles. Brutal hot temperatures, enhanced by breathtaking humidity. Lush and green, of course. Our tongues wagged with sweat. There’s no place like home.
A park ranger at Fort Larned suggested that prairie dogs be properly treated as vermin and shot. Whereas in Santa Fe, we humanely relocate them—they’re protected by city ordinance. It’s a dog’s life.
All along the Trail, the Daughters of the American Revolution had placed granite markers, up to three and a half feet tall by two feet wide. The markers were placed in 1906: a long-lasting work, with foresight for ages. In various places also were unattributed markers, the same height but narrower: a noble anonymous donation.
We learned to see the ruts, or swales, where wagons had passed, up to four abreast. This trade route thrived almost 60 years beginning with the first trip in 1821 and proceeding in earnest in 1822. Wagons went up to 45 miles a day. We went far faster and were glad for relief from the brutal heat and humidity. Up to 100° and 80%. Not much relief at night.
Our last overnight on the Trail was in Clayton, NM. We wolfed down green chile with breakfast eggs. Imagine that. Our tongues sizzled in gratitude after a twelve-day forced abstinence. Arf!
By the time Dog Days end, the delicious aroma of roasting green chile will permeate the air.