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Into the bano-free Bisti

March 1, 2009

There are no potties in the Bisti Wilderness.

On Feb. 7, however, there was a smallish boy dancing amidst the hoodoos compulsively sucking water out of his Camelbak and denying that he needed to pee.

The trip was a spur-of-the-moment idea. We’d made plans to go to Tsankawi
and the overlook in White Rock but as we stood in my mom’s kitchen with gathered snacks and other hiking-with-kids necessities, Mom stopped and said, “you know, we could go to the Bisti.”

Almost everyone was enthusiastic about that option.

“Hey!” I told the girls and Graysen, who’d never been before, “it’s really cool! Kinda like the MOON!”

“Can we FLOAT!?!?” Chiara shrieked, grinning and clapping her hands.

“YEAH!” shouted Gray.

“That’s such a LOOOONNNGG DRIVE,” groaned Mira, unimpressed.

The pre-trip donuts from Kip’s impressed everyone, however, and with Mira
happily ensconsed in the back seat with her book and MP3 player, we set out and
… drove. For a long time.

We made it to the Bisti by early afternoon and the kids burst from the car
ready to sprint off into the badlands. But first, we organized the stuff: Camelbaks,
sunscreen, hats, snacks and cameras… . On past excursions we’ve had to contend
with the kids’ desires to drag their various toys along. Graysen was once notorious for carting around a Lightning McQueen backpack containing approximately
100 pounds of Hot Wheels … that he would usually rather have me carry.

Then there’s Chiara and her ubiquitous stuffed animals, and until Mira evolved
into a pre-adolescent, she was keen on baby dolls.

A couple of years ago, when the three youngest were deep in the throes of their
respective toy obsessions, we hiked to a mesa top via a scree slope with the
four kids and the following items: two Hot Wheels (one for each of Gray’s small
hands which effectively negated the ability to scramble over rocks), Chiara’s stick
horse-that-was-actually-a-unicorn (with sparkly reins!) and Mira’s twin baby dolls
with all the necessary accoutrements safely tucked into a colorful baby doll backpack.

Only Soren climbed the scree without a toy in hand … at least until Graysen
handed off a Hot Wheel.

But at the Bisti, we were delightfully unencumbered by such things and ready
for a short journey into the primitive.

Most of us, anyway.

We hiked and explored for a couple of hours. Then, as we were drifting around a
stunning hoodoo-studded valley on the cusp of sunset, suddenly all three adults present (Mom, my husband, Chris, and me) realized that Graysen needed to pee.

It must have been the circular dance while holding himself that tipped us off.

“Gray, c’mon! Time to pee!” called my mom.

To which Gray replied, still dancing, “NO! LET’S GO HOME SO I CAN PEE FIRST! THEN COME BACK!’

No can do, we all told him, and finally persuaded him to just … let go.

Which he finally did. On a flat rock. Which drenched his shoes, legs and part of his pants.

NO WORRIES! HE’LL DRY! I told myself, as the setting sunlight cast the sky in a gentle shade of pink. Sunset in the Bisti … something I was determined not to miss.

We camera-crazy adults went off in all directions. Meanwhile, Chiara found a partially-exposed dinosaur bone in the rock. Soren stared at the petrified trees. Mira decided she was hungry and tired and wanted to go home already.

And the little shadow who was Graysen with his semi-soggy trousers kept sucking
down water so that, an hour or so later as we were all trudging through darkness back to the car, he once again reached his own little limit. And surpassed it.

“Uh-oh,” he said suddenly, two paces ahead of me in the dark. Then: “I wet, Mom.

I sorry.”

I trained my headlamp on him and, sure enough, he was soaked. I groaned.

“I really sorry!” he added, in case I didn’t quite get it yet. Then he patted my leg as if to say, don’t worry Mom. It’s all okay. I’ll dry ….

Even in the dark I could see him smiling up at me.

He would, of course, dry out. But that last half mile was brutal for Gray’s devoted
daddy, who scooped him up when his little legs got tired and carried him — wet britches and all — through the night. In the end he marked his steps by the cadence of our small boy’s snoring.

We finally reached the car, happy but tired, grabbed a snack, settled in, hit the road
… then had to stop for another problem leak.

The car busted a radiator hose.

By then, all we could do was smile and tell ourselves that while we may not have been prepared for a leaking child, at least we had water for the radiator.

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