Such a peaceful place for this to happen

Here is a small lesson in how one should never take things for granted.

Last Sunday had been a work day as had been Saturday and many days and weekends before that. It was miserably hot and working past noon was almost dangerous in the heat. About 1 p.m. my friends, who had been working so hard to help me, and I, in the heat since early morning, as well as the day before, looked at each other and said, "Hey, there is always tomorrow." We packed up the ice chest, loaded it and ourselves in the truck and headed for Desert Creek, about seven miles south of Wellington, for a few hours. Heat, not withstanding, the sky was brilliant blue, the air was fresh with the smells of sage, piñon, the rushing water smells of the creek and all the other wonderful things being out-of-doors can provide.

As we started up the dusty road, the last physical structures we passed were a wonderful old ranching complex with a sign on the entry that said Desert Creek Ranch. I had been by there before and mused to myself, "That would make such a wonderful drawing," not knowing anything of its history or its reason for existence, just knowing it was old and interesting. Less than a half mile past the ranch and off to the right of the road were rock formations with petroglyphs etched in the rock faces. Here, we stopped, throwing small rocks ahead of us where we wanted to wander to view the art, in hopes of discouraging the ever-present rattlesnakes sunning themselves in and among the many scattered rocks.

After satisfying a small amount of our curiosity we loaded back in the truck and headed further up the canyon, fording the creek several times before we made our next stop at a wide spot in the road and a beautiful deserted campsite right along the creek. As we stopped there for a short time, I indulged myself in the child-like behavior of wading in the rushing creek up to my knees while I picked up some brightly colored flat rocks and skipped them across the water in a still water alcove on the edge of the rushing creek. I hadn't done that in years; what a joy.

Continuing on up Desert Creek Road, we crossed the creek several more times before we came to the junction of Risue Canyon and Desert Creek. All along the way, steep canyon walls were formed with fabulous sandstone rock formations in multi-colored rusts and golden ochre tinged with mossy greens and grays. An artist paradise "if only there was just the time to stay for a few days and enjoy it," I was thinking to myself the whole time. We stopped at a place near the junction my friend called "Big Tree," named for the huge pine standing as a lone sentinel near the creek diminishing the size of the piñon and juniper native to most of the area. Here, again, I indulged myself in the childish play of wading and rock skipping in the still water created by a mini dam built up with rocks that leveled the stream into a still water pool for a few yards of tranquility.

As we continued up the road we came to a grassy area near the end of feasible vehicle travel and next to the creek. Here we lingered a little longer to enjoy the sound of the creek and explore the peace it had to offer. Again I found myself half in the water and as I laid back on the grass at the edge of the creek I thought to myself "a grateful thank you" for the few hours of peace and quiet and hoped to return in a few weeks and, if nothing more, spend 24 hours of quiet time.

All too soon, it was time to leave, time to go back to the world of work and responsibility. We didn't retrace our steps, but instead, we cut off at the 'Y' near Big Tree and went up Risue Canyon Road which would eventually bring us out Topaz Lane to Highway 395 and the end of a perfect afternoon I wanted to see last forever.

The following Monday was to change all of this. As I was driving home from work, traveling down Highway 395, I could see the sky, blackened with thunder heads, in front of me covering the Antelope Valley. Lightning down-strikes were happening, one right after another, exhilarating and frightening, all at the same time. After being home for a little while, I left to do some errands about 4:30 p.m. and off to the south east I saw the straight plume of black smoke funneling skyward on the western face of the Sweetwater Range.

Logic told me that distance can fool visual location but something told me it was the Risue Canyon and near where we had been barely 24 hours before. Through the night I kept watch on the flames I could see from home here at the northern edge of the Valley in Topaz Ranch Estates and listening to the scanner as to just where the fire was and how it was doing. I was up past midnight, like it was going to make any difference in the direction the fire took. Getting up to a Valley view obscured by smoke at 5 a.m., much to my dismay, fire was still visible on the ridges above Antelope Valley and Risue Canyon.

The fire has burned for five days now and through the heroic efforts of firefighters to keep the fire out of the canyon, Desert Creek is still intact. All I can say is, wonderful job and keep on keepin' on.

n Jonni Hill can be reached through The Record-Courier at or by calling 782-5121, ext. 213, or after hours at


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