It was a warm spring day, dry but not uncomfortably so, as was typical of the desert this time of year. There were a few of us, about as many as would fit in a mystery machine which was good, cause we had a mystery mission. We had heard tales of a mysterious crater at the top of a nearby canyon that was not geological and we were intent on exploring it, which was tricky as it was both access restricted yet seemingly open to the public.

Our group walked into the military base at the foot of the mountain, armed with our dubious alibi, knowing that all we really needed was a distraction and what ever they did…it worked. I get the distinct impression that there may have been arrests involved but I didn’t see, because I was already driving away in the opposite direction from there the guards were rushing to my friends. I say “I” but I was actually a passenger, it was Doug driving his range rover that was our escape. We made our way up behind he base, Doug and I to the start of the canyon, it’s a well used but muddy and rocky sort of road. As we ascend out of the valley my mind recalls a strange google earth photo that I happened upon while researching this mysterious spot:

“Large Prairie dogs here”

Its the only caption of one of several photos of abnormally large Prairie dogs leering aggressively out of roadside wholes. Weird.

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As we climb higher and higher, amazed that the Range Rover is just chugging away with working air suspension, we reach a dusty more well maintained part of the road with holes all over the edges. As we approach, sure enough GIANT prairie dogs pop out and glare at us for a while. We glare back, crawling along as a brief moment of tension, the kind of tension that shouldn’t exists between a man and a prairie dog, ctsd the air. Then, they charge the car.

“HIT IT DOUG!”

He takes off as the creatures jump at the windows and bite at the tires. About 500 yards later we speed past them as they slowly fall away into the distance in a cloud of dust. Okay, that was strange. Doug still had his foot deep into the throttle when we approached, and then overshot a trail junction; there was a wooden sign there that appeared brand new and had “summer point summit” with an arrow pointing strait ahead, which trail we were now on, a trail that had obviously seen very little traffic and “Regrowth area [closed]” with an arrow pointing right to the obviously more well used and groomed trail. Getting a hold of our nerves we made a large U-turn behind a rise in the hill, hoping to avoid any R.O.U.S’s [Rodents Of Unusual Size] from seeing that we were turning back towards them as we make a new trail to the “regrowth area”. The car stopped and we got out, Doug was looking around and underneath his range rover as I wandered over to a large array of solar panels lying on the ground. As I got closer I realized that right next to this bank of panels was a box with wires that went under the earth. On closer inspection I noticed that the “earth” the wires were going under was actually a large, taut tarp painted to look like the surrounding scenery.

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Only there were gaps in the tarp along the edges. I put my head through one of the gaps and noticed a LARGE lit cavity below me, as well as a clearly defined ridge that gave the cavity the look of the inside of a tennis ball with the top 1/3rd cut off. The rim of the cavity was smooth and it arched up away from the ground, the walls were black and sharply convex from the rim, circling back around to the bottom, where I saw briefly another power box with wires leading to it, and what looked like a large aluminum platform floor and lots of brightly colored boxes, crates and items I couldn’t make out clearly. My head was at such an angle through the slit that I couldn’t look straight down and so I pulled out my camera, and “hip shot” about a dozen pictures through the hole without looking.

As I was walking away from the hole a young women comes strolling up to Doug with about 20 dogs of various breeds close behind her barking away. I couldn’t hear their conversation from the noise of the dogs and distance from he and I but it looked pleasant enough, I casually pocketed my camera and quietly walked up to meet them. So engrossing must Doug have been that neither of them noticed I had arrived at the truck for a good minute or so and I could make out from the tail of the conversation that she likes to walk her dogs up here sometimes and…

“Hi”

I interject, introducing myself.

She really must not have seen me because she looked quite taken aback. She explained to me that she was with the forest service and she was here just hiking her dogs and checking to make sure all the rules are being followed. We were not in the regrowth area at the time because we had parked someplace between the two trails. Doug turned to me and said

“I was just telling her about how we got a little turned around looking for summer point after we got chased by those huge prairie dogs.”

His tone and look told me that he had been doing some lying in my absence…and that it had apparently worked. She didn’t seem to acknowledge the presence of these so called giant prairie dogs and offered to walk back with us so we could show her. We drove slowly down the trail as she and her dogs bounced around us with zeal. Sure enough, as we approached the area we were attacked there was no sign or the creatures, though the dogs did seem to become quieter and more focused.

“hmm, strange.” She said, “but it does look like you ran into some trouble with your tires.”

“My tires?” Doug said with alarm.

We get out and discover what might look like the remains of a vinyl record collection if you left it alone with a group of toddlers with scissors, caffeine and hammers. One tire was punctured, and 2 more were loosing air slowly.

“Must have happened looking for that trail” I said casually.

We offer to give her a ride down the mountain and she accepts as the lumbering British car slops and groans down the muddy trail with only 1 good tire. I wonder if carmax would accept this as a claim…

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“What happened?! I’ll tell you what happened! We were attacked by vicious enlarged prairie dogs and…”

On second though, maybe Doug shouldn’t trouble them with this one.

We were making pleasant small talk with this women, whos name I never got, when she noticed a camera in my pocket

“You didn’t take any good pictures did you?”

“Me, not really…we didn’t get to the summit and so it was mostly just at the ready.” I lied.

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It was then, as she reengaged Doug in something or other that I deftly slipped open the card door that was facing up in my pocket and popped out the card, I then opened my wallet to find a spare card I always keep in there and without her noticing I slipped that card into the camera and put the other card in my back pocket.

We eventually got to the bottom, where we were inexplicably greeted with all of the rest of the gang, smiling as if nothing had happened. She thanked us for the ride and wished us well as the gang piled into Dougs stricken range rover and we limped to the nearest tire repair center. Doug and I were nearly out of breath as we tried to talk over the cacophony of noises as we all were attempting to explain our own versions of this crazy story. When we stop, everyone pours out of the truck and into the repair center, and as I reached into my pocket to pulled out my camera I went to check to see if my dummy card that I had inserted into the camera was still there. It was gone.

Later that evening as I went to load the pictures on my computer I think to check the pictures of those prairie dogs I had seen before, a few clicks and I find the profile of the poster, it was that same women from the “forest service” who refused to believe in our fabulous tales of ROUS’s and our miraculous escape. Only in this version she wasn’t an employee of the forest service, but rather her profile listed her as a yoga instructor who likes to lead an active lifestyle walking in the mountains.

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Who was this woman? Why did she not believe us? Why did she take my memory card? And most importantly…what was the deal with that cavern. As I began to load the pictures onto my computer everything starting turning while and the next thing I know I’m greeted by my 2 year old doing the long jump onto my stomach. Whoa…what a crazy dream.

The best part? This was Seriously, the dream I had last night...crazy right? Maaaybe I’m spending too much time here. Many thanks to Agrajag for the illustration. And special thanks to Mr. DeMuro for his guest appearance in my dreams, sponsored by carmax™.