Once upon a time, rivers ran in Arizona and Native Americans lived along their banks. Now the water is drawn off to send to distant cities and to water broad fields of alfalfa and cotton, leaving only dry washes as evidence of what used to be.
I began driving my rented four-wheel drive car about a half hour before dawn today with the objective of reaching a small area of public land that I had selected using a topographic map. What made this particular area of interest was the fact that it lay between a certain river (dry now, but flowing before modern farmers commandeered it to water their fields)and adjacent highlands. Equally important was the likelihood that existing jeep tracks would allow me to get reasonably close to my desired destination (I don't believe in creating new ones, especially in arid regions, where the damage takes many years to heal).
As the sun was nudging over the horizon, I was turning off the paved road and onto a jeep track that was headed, more or less, in the right direction. Shooting the straights to gather enough momentum to carry through the occasional stretches of deep sand and braking sharply into the turns and gullies that crossed the track to keep the vehicle both moving and in one piece, I navigated by sight for the next half hour, switching tracks and gradually working my way closer to where I wished to go.