Carnuding to Happy Valley on Saturday morning, we pull off of the Interstate to get gas. There will be no more clothing after pumping this gas.
Happy Valley is on the other side of the Rincon Mountains from Tucson. There are a couple of “A” difficulty rated hiking trails that lead to the top of those mountains from there.
We intend to explore the first day, looking for the best camp sites and maybe some short walk/hikes. We’ll set up camp, a fire and then have a major hike the second day.
Rain and overcast is predicted, but somehow I know that we will have fun with some Arizona natural grace. The valley is around 1500 to 2000 feet more elevation than the Tucson area and slopes go up steeply. This is similar in elevation to the Chebo Falls trip on the other side of the Rincon Mountains. It is a few degrees cooler with the help of cool air dropping down off of the mountains, but here, air flows through a shady forest of a riparian paradise.
On the way, there is an old movie set that has turned up in various western films through the years. A gate and sign have now have made it no option to visit. We pull up here to lock the front hubs into 4×4 high. The road will immediately be turning to dirt. I get out my invisible six shooters, invisible western outfit, cowboy hat and invisible boots and pose for the photo-op.
The massive Rincon Mountains loom to the left as we head north. A smaller range of very rugged bare rock sits to the right. No one could know what is back there between these by its deceiving entrance, still in the distance.
It is as peaceful, as we had remembered. Neither of us has visited this oasis in give, or take, 30 years. Memory is stale and the area has lost a few landmarks. It is again new to us. DF reminisces about camping with her young family under a certain tree. I have memories as one of two teenage lovers, carving initials into a huge cottonwood tree. I look, but I can no longer find that tree standing.
Turkey Creek Trail
We continue on through a misty rain, as the terrain changes into grassy ridges with large trees along the creek beds.
There are people set up in camps, which we later discover are day trippers, with quads and 4×4’s. We find the entrance to Miller Canyon. We then decide to explore the other trail head called Turkey Creek. We have found no pictures, but the narratives that I had read described a jeep trail that runs past the entrance to a less used trail. The thinking is that this information could mean a secluded free-range camping spot for us stealth naturists.
There is a beautiful glade of various trees, even oak circles, but it is not secluded. We then follow the jeep trail, which I had read went a mile and a half further. It is a four wheel drive route over the ridges of grass. With the light rain mist, it could be recognized as Irish countryside.
Rolling emerald green hills can be seen for miles.
There are however, no trees to shelter soft level campsites up there. We drive to the end of the road and find the trail. We get out marveling at the beauty and we stretch. We each don an umbrella, and a camera.
We end up wandering through the thigh high grasses on the trail until we find the highest point to gaze the vista.
This shows us where the trail would climb and how much more of this Ireland look alike is on the other side. The wet grasses brush us, the rain patters on the umbrellas.
We enjoy the air all over us. We are comfortable, not cold. The outside temps were predicted to be high 80F’s to low 90F’s. Although not yet reaching those high temps, this morning, feels just right. The walk is wonderful.
Throughout this day, in the grass, each step will disperse a multitude of various grasshoppers. Many are incredibility beautifully colored. Again, like Chebo Falls, there are lots of Mexican Generals.
We are back into the 4×4.
We have seen one set of tire tracks heading up and then meet four young men as they come back down the jeep trail. I quickly learn the strategy that I will use for the rest of the day. Get off onto the high side of the road, so they can pass. With that angle, they can’t see down into the cab. The preference is to angle, so that DF’s chest is covered by the door on the passenger side.
This time, DF is wearing her light Genesha T-shirt for no real reason. As we drive back down, we encounter a classic Landcruiser. I used my waving hand as a distraction to advantage, as they passed on the way up and then again, as I allow them to pass us heading back down. Like walkers watching their footing, the driver is preoccupied with the ruts, rocks and slippery hillsides.
The Valley Floor:
We continue through the valley road, comparing opinions of each campsite along the way. There must be a half a dozen suitable ones, if we just park, set the tent with the truck to block the view and also use the vegetation to hide our naturism.
I think that I have found the mammoth cottonwood that I had carved my lovers initials into, during my youth. It is huge.
It made an impressive tree, but now makes an impressive log.
We stop at a couple of campsites and walk around the area. This is a beautiful forest with grassy meadows at the peak of the monsoon rain’s watering. One brings us to a massive fallen cottonwood over the creek.
Many of the roots are still in the ground.
Even though it lays on its side, new shoots are growing out of the old trunk.
It is a perfect bridge.
On the other bank, attracting my eyesight, a lone Datura flower glows in a patch of green with glittering shadow dancing around it, like a precious white jewel for fairies.
As we back out, we see large vultures atop the trees.
Later we will see nearly a dozen floating high in the sky above in that ominous dance that they do over a carcass.
Making a Camp
We decide that this valley would be a crowded area on a weekend, on a nice day. We surmise that the rain has discouraged more people than we have seen. In the end, we discover that they were, but for one, all day trippers. This would be a great return day trip and mostly all ours, during the week.
Coming to the end of the road, there is a loop in the grass. It has become a mere trail. A sign stating “Private Property, No Trespassing” on barbed wire is very clear. Next to this, is a used campsite in the trees and surrounded by bramble. It has a large fire pit with logs for sitting around it. We don’t know what to expect with so many others back at the other places, so we decide to claim it. I back in to block the view, if anyone happens to come by. We begin to unpack.
A couple of camouflage quads drive by making the loop and waving. I am standing naked with my body hidden by the truck. DF is a few feet away, hidden by bushes. They are dressed in Levis and camouflage jackets, a couple are heavy of a thick down. We are butt naked, with the sun coming out through the clouds, and very comfortable. They look silly.
As I unpack, I discover my blow up sleeping mat. This is strange, because we have an air mattress to sleep on. I soon discover that I have left the tent back at home…uh oh! It is the same size and weight as the tent bag. It has a cover nearly the same. Here we are, out camping without a tent. We give thought to sleeping cramped in the back of the truck. The forecast will be rains through the night and, well, what can we do? We change our plans. We elect to make the most of what time that we have, then head back to Tortolita, and sleep there on the outdoor bed. There is a good amount of day left. Embarrassment and offering my bare butt to DF’s fivetoe shoes, I eventually get over it. How could we feel disappointed standing in paradise? We decide to head to Miller Creek, do a nice hike and thoroughly enjoy the scenery on the way.
Before we leave here, we elect to take a no-backup walk up the creek. We admire the multitude of differing river rocks. They are not your usual variety of common granite, but composites, etc. The rain has washed them clean, bringing out the highlights and colors, as if a glaze has been placed on them. We climb out of the creek bed and then take a nice stroll down the trail/road back to camp. We figure that the odds are with us, at this time, not to be caught naked by vehicles. We would be hearing them come at a distance, anyway. This is a very pleasant stroll.
We arrive at Miller Creek trailhead, finding no other cars and the sun still pretty high. It isn’t raining.
Getting out of the truck, we decide to go light. This attitude quickly evolves into a no backup clothing impromptu. Adam and Eve in Paradise with cameras and fivetoe shoes.
A white-tailed hawk calls out continuously from a dead branch overhead to make his point to whomever.
We will still hear it quite a ways up the trail.
We walk through grass, through the empty stream bed and then gradually find a steady flow of water through the rocks and various types of vegetation.
We find that the toadstool mushrooms and fungi attached to the moist wood are fun.
We count six varieties. At a small waterfall, decorated by golden rocks, DF comments, “This must be where the fairies hang out.”
A good word for this canyon, this day, is delightful.
We stop, photograph, and admire our way for only maybe ¾ of a mile. We turn around, because of the rain cloud patterns. We brought no umbrellas or clothing and it looks like the trail will be getting much steeper and rugged from here. Turning back now, just seems right.
We see many dainty unusual flowers. We admire the smooth mansanita and pick their berries, chewing their sweetness along the trail.
We hear the sound of dogs barking in the distance, which might be at the trailhead. We had smelled a large cat around there before. Perhaps there was a confrontation. We discuss how we might cover, if we had an encounter. DF could hide behind me, covering my genitals with her hands, while I explained. We laugh, imagining this and continue, deciding that they would just have to get used to it quick. It’s Federal land with a reasonable expectation that we would be alone. There are no authorities for many miles. At the end of the trail there are no encounters, the dogs are way off in the distance, somewhere.
The drive home is good timing. We leave the dirt road just at sundown. A handsome monsoon sunset is there to drive off into. There is only an hour or so’s drive to dinner and sleeping under the stars…until the rain comes back at 4:00am! Instead of braking camp and hiking Miller Creek, we sleep late. We enjoy a healthy yoga class geared to my back ailments (we put on clothes for that). DF is able to attend her Shamanic Class, while I lounge around naked, talking and hugging friends, and worshiping at the sweat lodge. There are the vibrations of double didgeridoos and drums, with Native American chants and song in that sweat amongst us. Children play, swim, climb the mesquite trees and bounce on an old piece of furniture springs. It’s all good.