More of the Desert Monsoon
Each year sometime around early July, give or take a couple of weeks, Tucson begins it’s Monsoon Season. Warm rains are pulled up from Mexico each day, generally in a deluge. Often there is seen across the valley, a black wall of water with elongated bolts of lightning with resounding thunder. The sonorous bombardment has often made me wonder. Could the name of our Sonoran Desert home be derived from these experiences?
There is entertainment each day. For instance sunset and sunrise explodes with awe inspiring color, like few places in the world. The night skies can be fascinating and are world renowned fireworks displays. Bolts flash clear across the sky in fingers while thunder crashes down shaking buildings.
The dry washes flow and rage with water. Life comes back to the desert after the usual seasonal drought. Flowers bloom, animals get active, it is an extra season like spring, but this time with more extreme temperatures. Many plants are geared to bloom to this timing. Some do so, only during this time of year. It is a fifth season.
Thor does his Stuff and the Thunderbird Flies:
It’s Friday evening, a terrific sunset is beginning, as I await DF’s arrival, after work. I again walk out into the desert via the jeep trail, enjoying the evening air and colorful sky. As they fall off of the towering Catalina Mountains, I watch as the massive rains come thundering down into the valley.
As the sunset begins its finish, DF finally drives up and gets out of her car. I immediately approach her, reach for the hem of her dress and lift it over her head to begin to relieve her of the tensions of the day. I welcoming her with the pure joy that I am experiencing. We stroll down the driveway through the desert and under the mesquite. We stand here and there watching the show. Thunder/lightning storms had been spotting across the valley, but soon are accumulating above us. They are right over the Tortolitas. At first, a warm rain comes to us to walk through in delight. Then, lightning comes, illuminating as if it is looking for us. We feel threatened.
We sit under the porch’s roof in refuge when it becomes cooler and the grand show of bolts begins. The clouds seem to be stuck here and around us. There is a very entertaining lightening show lasting for over two hours after the sunset and then into darkness. It is a natural Fourth of July. The wind blows a mist across the patio porch occasionally. I go inside and grab a couple of towels to sit on as nudist do. I also grab one large one to blanket our naked bodies, as the show continues.
Half way through, I notice the silhouette of a small bird alight on a branch of the mesquite tree next to us. It is taking shelter from the storm. It is a small owl. We take pictures, attempting to get it focused in the dim light and maybe get one with a flash of lightening behind. It just sits as if to pose.
An extremely large Colorado river toad, six or seven inches long, squatting with legs in, hangs out in the bushes. Then, a newer younger smaller neighboring toad hops across the patio before us.
We savor the last of it all and then go indoors to snack. After an hour or so, DF heads outside to look at the sky. It has cleared. There, the moon is glistening and the stars are sparkling. The humidity is pleasant and the heat of the day has vanished. It is a wonderful way to drape a naked body.
The outdoor bed is still relatively dry because of a tarp. We prepare the air-mattress and the bedding. We finish this wonderful evening watching stars, until we are sleeping out under them in peace.
The next morning:
Still naked, we roll out of the bed in the morning light and gather a five gallon bucket and tongs. We have three parties to attend this evening. One is DF’s women’s group, who will be making prickly pear juice and swimming. She needs a pail of prickly pear tunas for her all girl gathering.
While I make a light breakfast, she heads down the driveway to harvest. Nakedness is safer down there now, as the neighbors have rid themselves of their horses. The possibility of them coming out to care for them and seeing our nudity is now lessened. I miss the horses, however.
We eat and then venture out to get more tunas.
They are sparse around here, so we have to go far and wide to get enough. We don’t want to rob the local animals of all of the good food source.
The fruits are often difficult to get to.
These are PRICKLY pear patches and in amongst the other prickly vegetation. A stretch and reach from a careful stance is often necessary. DF looks attractive to me. A woman harvesting from nature in a natural state to make a nurturing brew, just seems very earthy, and well, womanly.
We spent the day packing, laying about and napping, before DF goes to her skinny-dip/ tuna juicing, women’s group party. She will then make a stop at a girlfriend’s birthday party. I go shopping for food and pack the truck for an early start out to the Chebo Falls area. Close to sundown, I throw on clothing to go to the Tortolitan neighborhood party.
While at the party, I spend some time talking with a neighbor and his wife. He is the one who we have often come across while hiking freely in the Tortolita hills. These encounters consequently have had us throwing on clothes. Once, he stood next to our backpacks while we hid on a hill, trapped naked. We have thought to ask him if he has seen us nude up there and how he might react to that. I can’t act on that tact with his wife sitting there with us. I am able to find out that he doesn’t hike in the mornings, but is out there most evenings after around 4:30pm, that he is now running on the trail and where his favorite haunts are. This is good information to have.
We continue, speaking of local nature sightings and the possibilities of building bird houses for owls, when his wife brings up her curiosity of my strawbale home. I tell her about the insulation and how infrequently that I have to turn on the air -conditioner. I confess that we are usually wearing little or nothing, so that a higher house temperature is more tolerable. I lie “little” just to sound more conventional. We don’t wear anything at home, period. He gets this smirk and I can see an apparent light come on. I almost hear the gears start grinding in his mind at hearing my comment. He just sits back in his chair, folds his arms and tries to contain himself. It is apparent. He has seen us hiking nude. He probably is just being discrete because we are. We will have that discussion someday, maybe while nude on the trail. There have been several times when we have been inconvenienced to stop and shuffle to get dressed. It would be very pleasant to just be able to greet our neighbor as we naturally are.
Off to Chebo Falls and the Redington Area:
The next day, we are off early on our trip to Chebo Falls in the Redington Pass area. This is the northeastern foothills of the Rincon Mountains, which looks out to where it joins the Foothills of the Catalina Mountains. It is an hour across town. It is another two hours, or so, in four wheel drive to the campsite, which I had found a few weeks earlier with my son. I then again had driven with him and my niece’s husband while checking out my 4×4’s new auto lockers, two weeks ago. We had seen plenty of water on both trips.
We have to put on pants to add gas, before going out into the wilderness. Then again, covering has to be worn on the side of the dirt road in a staging/parking area to lock the front hubs and let air out of the tires. There are people around.
We pass a few vehicles on the road, and even have to follow a forest service truck for a mile or so, but manage to stay naked, even during stops on narrow roads, as other 4×4 vehicles pass and wave.
We turn up and onto a less traveled trail, hoping to find the area unpopulated by weekend campers, or picnickers. We won’t see a soul for the next thirty-six hours. Apart from an airplane, a helicopter and some distant gun shots, we don’t hear a soul.
Ultimately, at the ultimate campsite, we would hear anyone coming. It is a very slow process traveling out there on these rocky trails. It takes us an hour to travel 3.6 miles and another half hour to get the extra 1.6 miles to our camp. There are many very steep hills of rock that must be just crawled over. They have steps of rock and leaning slopes. The speedometer registers zero most of the time. Think two miles per hour. I can tell you that when we leave to return to the main road, which is dirt, 30 miles per hour will seem very fast. It is plain treacherous in spots. A sharp rock in a sidewall could ruin the day. I discover myself finally breathing again in several challenging spots. DF too is amazed by the performance of the 4runner. After a series of deep breaths, wide eyes, and white knuckles, she pats the truck’s dash and my shoulder with more confidence, gratitude and sense of adventure.
We are to camp under one of two huge trees. These are the largest for miles. The canopy is over 60 feet diameter, nice and tall and shady. They are near where two washes or creeks converge. These water routes also carry the cool pine scented mountain air. It is 103F in Tucson (2500 ft.) and we are at 5000 ft. with this airstream falling down from the 9000 ft. mountain. We are naked and comfortable, if not, delighted. It had already been quite warm and humid the previous morning as we gathered prickly pear tunas. This is different.
When we arrive, there is a threat of rain. We decide that I show DF where the stream had been running two weeks before and find out how much water is there. It hasn’t been raining in this area like usual, during this monsoon. There may be little to no water. The source is not constant.
We get the sense that we have the entire area to ourselves. It is Sunday afternoon and people will be heading home on the long haul out of the pass. We have no need to dress and just take off naked, but for our five toe shoes, with hand in hand. We discover that he water is flowing well. A further delight for us.
It begins to sprinkle. We return back walking naked through the rain. The warm sun baked rocks seem to radiate their heat, making the rain feel warm in most spots. We can see the misty rain on the mountains above. It will be heading down our way.
It has been discussed, that if an usual monsoon lightning storm comes, we will move the truck out from under the tree and sit in it, waiting out the torrential storm. It never does that. The rain picks up as we walk back, but it stops for us to set up the tent. Then, it goes on lightly again. Everything works out perfectly. Just absolutely perfectly! We sit in our shaded chairs and have a wonderful lunch.
A preliminary exploration:
One goal of the trip is to visit the Chebo Falls. I haven’t been to them in thirty years. The road has been decimated by 4×4 use and is passable only with specialized rock hopping equipped vehicles. The maps tell us that camping where we are, we might hike downstream a short distance and get to the falls, by a back way.
There, there are pools of water and an 80 ft. waterfall.
We search for a way through, but the way is blocked by large rocks with thick tall grass and acacia prickers in key areas.
These make great places for rattlesnakes to hide, too. That plan has to be scrapped, but we have fun trying.
We are among trees, ponds and small waterfalls which cascade through large flat rocks…free range naked.
We return to camp, gather and chop wood and having a warm campfire dinner. I make fire and play guitar, as DF heats and prepares the rest. There is much light from the nearly full moon through clouds and some glare from the city, which is in the far distance. We watch the campfire burn itself out, then we play Gung He Fuk Choy, a fortune telling game, on the wool carpet in the cozy tent. We then climb into a comfortable bed.
Part II will appear in the coming week. Hiking, we discover an amazing place. Remote, it is all to ourselves.
I like your proposed etymology of the name Sonora, meaning “sonorous,” or loud. I love the incredible lightning and thunder show our monsoon weather gives us every summer, and I’m sure the early inhabitants and Spanish explorers were impressed by it too. In Spanish, “tierra sonora” makes sense, meaning loud or sonorous land. However, we’ll probably never know for sure how the name came to be.
There’s this from Wikipedia: “Several theories exist as to the origin of the name “Sonora”. One theory states that the name was derived from Nuestra Señora, the name given to the territory when Diego de Guzmán crossed the Yaqui River on the day of Nuestra Señora del Rosario (“Our Lady of the Rosary”), which falls on 7 October with the pronunciation possibly changing because none of the indigenous languages of the area have the ñ sound. Another theory states that Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his companions, who had wrecked off the Florida coast and made their way across the continent, were forced to cross the arid state from north to south, carrying an image of Nuestra Señora de las Angustias (“Our Lady of Anguish”) on a cloth. They encountered the Opata, who could not pronounce Señora, instead saying Senora or Sonora. A third theory, written by Father Cristóbal de Cañas in 1730, states that the name comes from the word for a natural water well, sonot, which the Spaniards eventually modified to “Sonora”. The first record of the name Sonora comes from explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, who passed through the state in 1540 and called part of the area the Valle de la Sonora. Francisco de Ibarra also traveled through the area in 1567 and referred to the Valles de Señora.”
To me those ostensibly scholarly explanations seem far-fetched. I like yours better, and at any rate we’ll just continue to enjoy the show.