Df has been curious about the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. Her daughter and family live out in the foothills of the area. I looked at my 13 year old topos. There looked to be potential for a good hike. One jeep trail seemed to lead to Sycamore Canyon, which is rife with old mines and possibly actual sycamore trees. The other trail leads out passing where I used to go to target practice, back in the 80’s. We knew that there are a few homes back there as they are visible from a distance. The trail appeared to lead to a loop just inside Federal lands (where nudity is not illegal. We would be in the area on Christmas Day after attending the big unwrapping of Santa’s bounty in the morning.
Around noon, we took off down a back road to find the Sycamore Canyon route. We found a Sycamore Canyon Rd. in a subdivision. We drove out a jeep trail in a pretty lush desert, but it merely took us around a loop. Returning, we stopped to ask a couple what they knew about the route. He had a hunting rifle and she a small appliance box. I’m not sure what they were doing out there. It’s not hunting season. His answer was that the road was over a probably 20 foot tall pile of fill dirt that we had passed, but he said that it was blocked off with a gate, as private property. He suggested other routes into the canyon area. Our investigation proved that he was correct. It was only a nice drive in the desert.
The other route at the end of Houghton Rd. was mapped as a 4×4 jeep trail, but we discovered this now paved and running through an exclusive neighborhood. We drove to the end of the pavement to find a steel gate and rail fence and a sign offering 26 acres with Federal land on two sides. This was the place that we had been looking for that would take us to some Federal lands.
Two dogs barked at us then whined as we walked away from the truck. It was as though they recognized their own boredom coming, after the excitement walked away.
There was a cold chill of a breeze coming down the canyon hillside. I had switched to black sweatpants and sweat shirt with fivetoe shoes and out of my Christmas regalia. DF had hiking pants and three layers of clothing on top, as well as her daypack.
We continued up the trail identifying hoof prints. These lost any of our concerns, pretty soon. We saw them both going our way and coming back. They also showed-up in the occasional grassy bogs. Obviously these had been made when the mud was more fresh, just a couple of days before. No worries, the place was ours.
The old jeep trail was soon found and as per the topo map, it curved around and then went up a hill. From this, I had a fair idea where the federal lands began. We then roamed on up a ridge, which were flanked by two small canyon-like washes.
We were deciding what to further explore, as we went along. I was feeling warm, actually a bit hot and confined in my clothing. The breeze was outside of this, keeping me from getting more exposed. I felt a bit clammy. This was the first time that I have been hiking with the voluntary intention to stay clothed to stay warm, in years. The experience just had to be better. I asked DF for some support for stability, as I pulled and stretched the elastic bottoms over my shoes while standing up. There were no big rocks; just a lot of smaller and not very rounded stones, making it tough to sit on the ground to disrobe. The shoes and pant bottoms made for a commitment, because they would definitely not be quick to put back on, that is, if we ran into somebody. I put the pants into DF’s backpack. I immediately felt more comfort, freedom and fluid movement for my legs. The sun felt good in spite of the wind. Further on, I was sure that the sweat shirt alone would be enough. I rolled it up a bit, but left my chest and shoulders covered. Now this hike was taking shape.
The two rut trail became a single horse track and then died completely. We were left with scratchy grey bushes to walk through with interspersed prickly pear and agave. We couldn’t really see what was ahead because of the ridge, but it looked like a pass. There were ocotillo growing there. The few saguaros were on a distant ridge to the north of our south eastern course. I looked for clues as to why they grew there and not otherwise. I suspected that the sun in the cold winter would shoot through the pass, casting the morning sun’s heat through the corridor so the saguaros wouldn’t freeze there. If we got over to the saguaros, we might see the pass and know what we were getting into.
We were bushwhacking at this point, or more plainly put, dodging cactus and pricker plants as we zigzagged through the foliage. We commented that there was no way that we would attempt to do this during snake season. Between the distant saguaros and us, on the other side of another smaller wash, it looked like the vegetation was more grassy and passable. It was. We found a way to cross over to it, but then discovered a deeper wash with a twenty foot drop off, before us.
If we picked out a way through this, we could move up stream of the bigger wash and possibly cross it. I could see a rock formation that might cross the wash bed back in there. It could be an interesting old mine, too. Moving through this mess was not fun and very slow, but that idea worked. We then found an animal trail which lead though the vegetation down to the rock formation.
This was a neat place. The rock was a denser consistency than local granite, with a reddish tint and green/yellow highlights.
There is probably some mineral in it.
We could see how the water will sometimes cascade through it washing it smooth. DF found a spot where the wind was blocked somewhat. We both got properly naked.
I soon discovered water seeping out of the rock a few feet away. Nice spot.
We ate our cracker and pate snack, climbed around, bathed in the sun and took photos.
I jogged back up stream until I found a larger ponding and a waterfall rock formation.
We discussed taking this wash back instead of the way that we came. It appeared to be pretty clear. My concern was the later time of day. If we couldn’t climb back out and were forced to double back a mile or more to get to the truck it would be getting late. Also, the sun, blocked by the cliff, might present some cold air in the shade. I was naked outside on Christmas Day and I wanted to keep that, making the most of it. There was also the rocky ground that a wash will attack feet with. We decided to do what we already knew would work and see if that wash could be a viable route on a future hiking date, before taking it on during this day.
DF got dressed, I slipped on the sweat shirt and we climbed out, through the thick desert growth. We finally found the trail again and walked back.
We heard a strange sound. “What’s that? An animal?” we wondered. Agave stalks are being used to make didgeridoos. One that had fallen, had a long split or crack in it. As the wind blew it around, it rubbed into the ocotillo that it had fallen into. It would make a squeak sound. The sound’s vibration traveled down the tube and was amplified.
We came across the remains of an old adobe ranch house on a butte-like lookout and discovered how to use the big wash the next time.
A thousand feet from the truck, we heard voices. In the wind, it was hard to judge from where and at what distance. Then, I saw people on the ridge near to where we had been at the old ranch house ruins. Always watch the uphill slopes.
It was time to stumble around, putting on the pants over the shoes. Using DF’s body to block their view of me, and her stability to not fall over, I managed to put the pants on. I had thought that I would make it back to the truck bottomless, but….
We further investigated the entry to the big wash. We then drove into the new neighborhood that has sprung up near there, in the hills. It was surprisingly developed, prolific and upscale. The next discover outing will definitely include google satellite shots, as well as topo, beforehand. We did enjoy ourselves, our exploration, a 2 1/2 hour hiking foray and some pure naturism in the sun, on a Christmas Day’s afternoon.