We were still recovering from the big outdoor party that we had put on. It had been a project to put together. It was way fun, all night. At 5:30am, we were watching the turquoise blue of coming daylight. It was rough, when we were getting up again, a short few hours later. We had to feed those who stayed and then clean up. It was busy, hauling borrowed lawn furniture back to its owner, tearing down the band equipment, hauling drums, on and on and then, preparing for the trip in the morning to Peppersauce Cave. Chores done, we collapsed.
The cave is not a colossal endeavor, as I remembered it. My way-back-then girlfriend and I, had found it easily while making our weekly cruise out of town in my white VW bug, to release college tension. There was a leaning slit in the rock, called unofficially “Fat Man’s Agony” by my young peers. We had shuffled through that entrance and into a good sized room. The temperature was warm, actually comfortable. In the middle of that room we had found a pond, which was known as a swimming hole. The water was a pleasant temperature, but black in color, to our eyes. We had intended to skinny-dip for full bragging rights and cool, but then, retracted participation. It just seemed kinda murky with no sense of bottm. I remember from that day, instead, we had taken an exploration up the back side road of Mt. Lemmon. We weren’t sure if we would make it, as we were nearly out of gas. We did make it to the top, many many miles from a gas station. We placed the VW in neutral and coasted all of the way down the winding mountain road and as far as we could to its base, squealing around corners. Fumes got us miles further. We two young lovers actually made it.
This trip, on 2014-05-12,we drove out to Oracle, Arizona. From there, that dirt, backside road still runs up to Mt. Lemon and the ski lodge. I had vague directions and a very old memory of things that probably have changed anyway. Our not so in-depth plan was to get to Peppersauce Campground, go a couple of miles further and try to recognize the place. I did, but the place didn’t appear to have any trail. Yep, it all looked different.
We continued on in search. We stopped in the middle of the dirt road to ask a guy on a motocross bike, if he knew about it. He told us that everything was back at the campground area. The putz had no idea, we found out later.
There had been a chilly wind (lots of unusual wind this year. The most in history). The windows had been mostly up, which is good for dust problems. We found ourselves back to the campground area. Across from that more busy campground, suitable for RV’s, there is a road to Spring Peak. I had been told that if you drove back as far as you could, it would have been seven miles to a swimming hole, the spring. Perhaps the cave was back here a tad. We chanced it.
We were hungry and stopped to eat at a nice campsite in the thin canyon. It was pleasantly quiet. I still had on a long sleeve t-shirt, but as I tested the air, I discovered that in the sun it was quite pleasant. So much for the remaining encumbrances. We had a fine sandwich and walked around taking some pictures of each other in a five pronged tree.
(Remember, every photo becomes full size, sharper, and in context, if you simply click it.)
I thought how nice my folding chairs would be, but I had this sense that something was forgotten in the haste and daze of a recovery morning. An associated thought hit at that time. Another other thing was suddenly realized. We had no flashlights and extra batteries. I had to announce that we weren’t doing any caving today and laughed at myself.
So, with no spelunking on the agenda, we decided to see how far we might get, exploring the coming road, trying it out on and up the hill. It was a riparian area, so chances were that it would be pleasant. There had been a truck with a set of hunting dogs caged in the bed and a quad strapped to a platform on top. It had passed us as if there was something up there. The area appeared to be unpopulated other than that. I had already switched into 4×4. The sunroof was open and windows down. We were off.
We drove through the forest of juniper, looking at overhanging branches through the sunroof creating shadows across our bodies and cool shade amongst sunshine. It made splotches of contrast, which rapidly were floating across our bodies. We encountered no one. This was a Monday, not a weekend.
I noted a log swing on a hill at a campsite by the road. We stopped, to explore.
With merely a camera and shoes, we had a relaxed walk up the hilly gully through more forest. Leaves crunched below our steps. DF dutifully packed an abandoned beer bottle and some trash out of the glade.
We figured that we would hear vehicles coming, even though the wind sounded like a car at times. It had died down, but there were light gusts on occasion. The gust gave us a fun little nip on our bare skin, with each passing.
I climbed onto this wholly neet log rope swing.
DF took pics and then joined me.
As I swung, I thought that I heard water, but the stream was dry. When I was done with this toy, we investigated. There was a pipe coming out of nowhere, emptying into a round metal tub buried in the creek bed.
Water is a big thing in southern Arizona, no matter how humble the drip and pond. This was encouraging, as there might be water in the swimming hole, which had been reported to be further above.
The road became more challenging and steeper, as we ascended. I switched into four wheel low. We cleared out of the riparian area and found ourselves in high desert amongst ocotillo, agave, grass, and scrub trees, with grand vistas.
At one point, both roads at a fork were labeled with the same number.
There were new roads, obviously for firefighting. A devastating fire had taken much of Mt. Lemon a few years ago. We never found a swimming hole, just two cattle ponds.
I chose a dead agave shoot and decided to cut it and take some home.
I had watched a “Mick Dodge” video where he was using a staff to exercise on youtube and wanted to try it:
The top would make something decorative.
I poked it down into the seldom used umbrella stand within the wrought iron table on the patio, bringing a dab of desert flair into the area.
By this time, we had realized that it was just us and the hunting dog guy for miles and miles around. We discarded any notion of back up clothing in the warm afternoon sun. We were naked and free, strolling around as we pleased.
The truck crept back down the steep incline. As we did, we I noticed another older road forking off below, which was clawed out of the side of the hill. Where it should meet the main road, it was nowhere to be found. I pulled off and looked. I found a new tree growing across the road and stream bed, and an old campfire in the middle. It looked like a great campsite. It was hidden from the road, and I could park the truck near it for access of gear when car camping. This also creates a red barricade stating my claim to the site.
We wandered up the stream bed and found the old road continued on up another canyon. It is unusable for vehicles, great for nude walking. It had washed out at a section. There, it is a bit slippery to climb on the loose soil and rock, but with care, doable.
I’m going back soon to stay a couple of days in solitude and study. There are wonderful composite rock formations.
There are trees for shade. It is about ten degrees cooler here, so it is a jewel when the lower desert heats up. That will be soon. A cool mountain air stream should breeze down this canyon. It is only about one hour from my door.
While we stood there we heard the dog guy coming on his quad.
He was hunting, looking our way, but we were well hidden from him and his parade of ten dogs panting behind him. How can a guy expect to find game, moving too fast to see tracks and freaking out every animal around with his loud motor?
We had accumulated very tired state and work would come in the morning. As we headed home, DF spotted a cave on the side of the road. Not the one that I was familiar with, but my friend had suggested another entrance and this might be it. We pulled off and looked inside.
DF did have a small flashlight, but we could only see so much and it was very dirty. It was an old mine diggings.
When we got back home, I satellite googled the area. The roads are confusing; the old road trail from that future campsite goes for a few miles. If I come in the mid-week, I should be able to stroll nude the entire time. Even on the main road, if I carry a backup covering, or make a game out of hiding behind trees. The quiet would warn me well in advance and the rough road keeps traffic creeping. The only problem might be finding myself in hiding and a rattlesnake behind the chosen tree with me, when I am I a hurry.
The internet shows me that the caves are where I thought they were, a couple of miles past. That will be another adventure. Some people claim that you might as well dispose of your clothing after the dusty smelly muddy clay of those caves. I will have to debate on wearing any at all. There are pictures of scorpions in there and getting my body cleaned up would require hauling lots of water.