I had been too easily distracted for my licensure studies and decided to take time away from the “to do” list and other fun, to just camp and study. The solitude of the Pepper Sauce Canyon area had been scouted and affirmed a couple of weeks before. The weather has been steadily windy and often dusty and the temps would be in the nineties F. Up in elevation on the back side of the Catalinas, ten degrees can be chopped off of that, giving perfect eighties. Because DF and I had taken that day trip, I knew exactly where I would go.
After getting a sandwich and ice in Oracle, I pulled off to lock into four-wheel high for the dirt road and strip down with the intention to stay that way for the duration. I pulled onto the Forest Service road and had traveled about a mile, when it occurred to me that, “I forgot my ^&*!@# shoes.” “ No sh*t, I actually forgot my five finger hiking shoes.” A monolog of doubt ran through my mind, as I recounted the list of forgotten items from the last trip. This won’t be a pattern, I resolved. I continued on to the campsite, still eager. There was nothing to do about it.
I wrote a running journal of sorts, during my time there. Usually I’m busy with DF, but this “wish to find solitude” trip was different, so I’m switching into present tense as it was written.
All I have are my huraches, the homemade ones with the thin leather sole, about the thickness of an old piece of vinyl tile and in some places not quite that.
There are of course the rubber flip flops. This is it. This might be limiting. Could all of that barefoot talk and reading have planted a subconscious suggestion?
I sit completely bare now, in a folding chair, eating blue corn chips. I think, “Well this is my lot. I might as well experiment by trying.” At least I will be more grounded to the earth without rubber, which is a part of my agenda’s intention during this trip.
I take off with a hat, camera, water bottle and the huraches. The beginning is a creek bed, just rocks with a little sand here and there. I’m doing okay with the minimalist footwear, noting each step, one at a time. The last couple of months conditioning have made a difference. About 100 yards up, I’m startled by a pair of cows, one blond and one redhead. They trot off in fear taking another fork. It is best, because I don’t want them near my camp.
I continue, seeing a large squirrel. Lizards scamper through the fallen leaves, each time putting me on alert for a snake, but always a false alarm. I discover a worn trail where there was none a couple of weeks ago.
The cattle have made this trail, lumbering through in a single file. It does make going through the hot, sharp, dark rocks much easier.
I’m out of the thick riparian forest, now amongst alligator juniper, grass, agave, yucca and plenty of broken rock.
The wind kicks up on occasion. There is a frigid quality to it, as it has traveled down the mountain from another mile higher in the pine forested tops. It is refreshing. The temps are in the low 80’sF. There are obvious signs of drought everywhere.
There will be no campfire tonight, especially with the wind.
My shoes and feet are doing very well as I climb what is left of the old road bed. The two cows keep turning up ahead of me. I’m glad to be driving them further from camp, so they won’t return for a while. Suddenly, two white tail deer shuffle across the ridge to my right, maybe forty feet away. They are grey, a different color than my neighbors. They share the bark and rock’s colors dominant in this area, which have just spots of green. I continue over more distance, and to my left two more deer bolt. Looking down a cliff to a gorge, there are more.
I’m grabbing my camera. They pop in and out of a clearing below. One, two, three, then seven!
I have found myself looking down at camp. I can see how the roads link up. I figure that I should not push the feet this first day. It is best to head back.
Downhill the steps are shorter, but the more natural feel with the shoes is working very well. I can hear the wind’s roar as it flows through the gorge below. It is like hiking next to a freeway. I discover a nice round ball of quartz, three broken pieces of shale that will make a nice puzzle later on and one more deer, as I near camp.
I just sit in a canvas chair, bare and grounded. The mind drifts, like the wind, coming and going. I begin to doze. I face downstream and then turn to face upstream. I count five different species of trees there. It’s time to set up camp. It’s becoming more shady.
The shade of the canyon wall takes the heat, along with the direct sight of the sun. I take the canvas folding chair out to the road where there is still nice warmth. I bask in the middle of the road, not anticipating any traffic.
I can assume that there is only me out here, for miles.
I spend the sunset into darkness deep massaging my feet with Bag Balm, a very relaxing pastime. I have a cheap flute that I know nothing about. In the dark, I play, experiment and make fake bird calls. I’m sure that I have driven away all of the wildlife, unless a predator interprets the noise as an animal in distress. Laughing.
The next morning, I have had a good and long night’s sleep. I had noticed the static charge on the tent and on the foam sleeping pad. Static electricity in sheets keeps me awake and restless. I have the light five pound tent, but decide to use my bulky woolen sleeping bag. I line the bag with a sheet and then inside, wrapped myself in an Earthing half sheet, naked. An attached cord runs out of the bottom of the sleeping bag through the zipper, then out the door between those two zippers, to a grounding rod with a fuse. The sheet was thick, warm and very comforting.
There is no wind. It is very peaceful with wonderful cool air sliding in when I unzip the window. After a snack, I take my huraches, water bottle and camera on a stroll. I have slung my wrap around bath skirt over my shoulder. It comforts the straps which rest over it and hold it in place. Ya never know, someone might come by on the road.
I bask in a wonderful morning with intermittent shade.
It’s about a half mile down to the rope and log swing in the forest.
About half way there, I begin to discern the sound of a possible vehicle instead of a breeze in the forest, coming up through the canyon. It doesn’t sound like a truck or 4×4 vehicle. It has a very quiet motor with just the crunch of the tires on the rocks. I quickly grab the skirt, looking to see which is the top with the snaps and which is the bottom, without. I can see a Subaru plodding down the road into the wash that I am in. I’m on the other side, a couple of hundred feet away. I have only one snap closed, so I turn around heading back up the hill, while I finish.
I hope that it will look like I am wearing it, not out nude. My direction and shuffle, I’m thinking, and thinking fast, will look as if I’m just getting out of the way, off of the road. We wave as he passes. He shows no surprise, or concern.
I watch and listen to this little car on the difficult high clearance road. There is a very rough spot just before my camp. I have figured that this would discourage others away. I waited for the chunk, or bang of him hitting bottom, but no such entertainment materialized! With only seconds dressed in the wrap, I take it off and continue.
As I remove the wrap, I notice that the waist band is a tad high. I then feel the rear and notice that a part of my buns were exposed. I had presented the ol’ miniskirt on an escalator look. He was concentrating on the road. Maybe he missed that. One of these days, I’ll get to be comfortable with, “Yea, I was hiking naked, so what.”
The swing is fun.
I have parked everything, including the shoes, on a rock. I listen to the wind and watch the trees. As I swing, I get very mindfully aware of the effect of the swing on my body. It creates a great deal of stretch, muscle tension and flex to operate standing and moving. I haven’t been in a big swing since I was a kid. It is a good way to exercise and give a body fluid strengthening. It uses the muscles associated with upper body and with sciatica. I confess that I have been a couple of months in a recovery process overcoming sciatica and Morten’s Neuroma. The sciatica has taught me just how twisted I am, coupled with learned muscle memory, coupled with nerves. The exploration of my feet and body’s motion system has taught me how disassociated and tight my feet are, all effecting my walk. Then there’s the inflammation associated with every other malady one could acquire. So now, I’ve learned log and rope swing yoga. I move the apparatus every which way, as I learn its potential, until I sense that it best to lay off, before I find myself sore. Gotta get me a rope swing one of these days for a good healthy toy…
About 200 yards up the ridge, a dark shadow is perched on a protruding rock, watching…Ah, a black squirrel and pal. The dark one is standing up now, doing a sun and air bath, as you know those naturists will. It’s very large to be so prominent from this distance. Could it be a ringtaled cat?…
What a fun morning on the playground, but something is calling me away. About where I had encountered the motorist, I blow a tire, so to speak. The huarache strap brakes on the left shoe. Immediately, a large sitting rock is seen 15 feet away.
The shoe repairs quickly. All I have to do is feed the leather tie string back through the hole in the sole and tie it. There is already plenty of extra cord on hand. On the other end of the string, I have left ample extra. I simply feed it through.
Returning, I have oatmeal with fresh raspberries, banana chips and strawberry chips, with a fresh strawberry aside. I cut an agave pole to exercise with and now I write. The clouds overhead have been very unusual. They are constantly moving, quickly changing shape with the strong winds. It’s quite a parade.
The sand and rocks that I must walk on are getting hot for barefeet to stand on. These dead leaves and soil are nice for feet. I think that I shall pass the heat of the day laying down in the shaded tent and study before an afternoon meal. See the first pic.
After a good five hour study session, I emerge from the tent to get a meal. I am surprised by a dark storm cloud. The forecast was no rain until tomorrow, if then. Looking out of the bottom of the deep canyon, I can’t see the bigger picture. Then, it starts to actually rain! It smells good, actually wonderful. I am parked right in a wash. This could mean trouble. Flashflood waters can roll down from the mountain from miles away. I decide to break camp to be cautious and head reluctantly home, early.