Thursday, June 14, 2018

Getting an on-site inspection

There is nothing like visiting the scene of a scene to stir the senses and get a genuine feel for a time and place. I should know. I have done it several times, most notably on June 21, 2013, when I walked across the intersection of Sixth and Bank in Wallace, Idaho, at exactly the same time as protagonist Kevin Johnson in The Fire.

I intend to do something similar next month when I visit Upper Panther Meadow on the south slope of Mount Shasta in California. Readers of the Carson Chronicles may remember that the meadow is the location of one of three time-travel portals mentioned in the series. All three portals appear only on solstices and equinoxes.

The other portals, prominently featured in River Rising and The Memory Tree, are located near Sedona, Arizona, and New Paris, Pennsylvania. I visited the Sedona "portal" on Tuesday because I had the opportunity and because I wanted to see what members of the Carson family saw in two — soon to be three — works of fiction.

The general setting, south of Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte (above) in Yavapai County, Arizona, was as I expected it to be: stark, stunning, and beautiful. With its abundant vegetation and inspiring landscapes, it was much more appealing than even the tourist photos and satellite images I used in creating several chapters in the books.

Because of the near-100-degree heat and my limited time schedule, I had hoped to get in, take my pictures, and get out. But like the Carsons, I found that trips to Red Rock Country can get problematic in a hurry. I took a wrong turn at a fork in a trail and ended up in a no man's land of rocks, juniper, sagebrush, and prickly pear — with no water, no map, and a bike that was not built for off-trail travel. Central Arizona, I quickly learned, was a land filled with surprises.

I needed a half hour to extract myself from the thicket, much to the surprise of my wife, Cheryl, who remained with our traveling cat in our air-conditioned pickup. Like the vendor at the trailhead who advised me to load up on water, she assumed I knew what I was doing.

In the end, though, the payoff was worth it. The final stop, southeast of Courthouse Butte on the Loop Trail, was as spectactular up close as it was in pictures. I made a mental note to come back soon.

I should note that I did not see the sofa-sized boulder described in River Rising and The Memory Tree. Nor did I see many open spaces or a time portal that floated in the air like a translucent sheet. Then again, I didn't expect to. The solstice was still nine days away.

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