We are in Aravaipa Canyon. Part 1 is here:
“It is overcast,” I report, as I lazily look out the back of the net-tent. I am looking up a thousand feet nearly straight above me at a sliver of sky next to the cliff’s edge. Warm and cozy still, we curl up and sleep a tad late, waiting it out.
It rains and it sprinkles. There are no real downpours. We have an oatmeal breakfast in a cup, stuffing strawberries, bananas and cinnamon down into the meal to rehydrate and flavor. It is very good. Still no reprieve and knowing that the forecast had been a possible 60% chance of rain, we hope for the 40% chance of good weather.
We tell each other stories of childhood, she in Buffalo, New York and me, in post war Japan. We pass the time, and then, she tells me that she thought that she had heard my entire repertoire! “Nope, just getting started.”
About 11:30am we get a reprieve. We adjust the rocks holding the tent and decide to take a walk.
I’m in my long sleeve T-shirt and down jacket and a sarong from waist to knees, when we are set to leave camp.
We decide to explore upstream some more without the packs. It feels safe to leave our stuff here.
The weather, although unpredictable for now, has calmed down. We have rain ponchos in our pockets, cameras and a bottle of water as we take off.
Everywhere it is a wondrous view, near and far.
There are no real waterfalls of any kind, just a few rapids through boulders.
There is always a trail around the deep parts and shortcuts through the inside of the meanders. Yes, there are many trails in this trail-less area.
At Virgus Canyon, a tributary, we come across the tall guy from the parking lot sitting yogi style with his face pointed up basking in the sun. Consumed, he probably doesn’t even notice our passing.
We find that Deer Creek has many camping spots under a grove of tall trees. It is very pleasant. There could be privacy and peace here, but for the occasional traveler passing through.
There is often a carpet of lavender flowers.
We come to a dead end in one of the trails there. We have been out about an hour and a half, the water supply is dissipating and it feels correct to turn around, like a signal from our senses.
As we begin our return, exiting the Deer Creek area, the weather is obviously coming back and quickly. We hear thunder and don’t want to get caught up in lightning. With the ponchos rigged, we make our way through the sometimes very lush vegetation, which is often catching on the plastic as we pass.
A wind has picked up dramatically and it seems that we are always just about to be caught up in a storm. With tails in the air, as best that we can, we hurry back to camp. We cut the earlier time for the walk upstream by one third.
We arrive just in the nick of time, climbing into the tent as the pour begins. The weather isn’t so great, but the timing is perfect, as if something is watching over us. We have had an informative and pleasant, yet not nude foray.
We are now tired and cold. The tent is a refuge as we have a late lunch and tell yet more stories to each other. We notice that our organic whole-wheat tortillas are getting moldy. We won’t have them for lunch again tomorrow as planned. We have been wrapping them around rehydrated refried black beans and spicy hummus. It is good to know that whole wheat won’t last for days on the trail during future endeavors.
A few hours later, we are eating dinner in the twilight and although chilly, the wind stops and as the clouds part, stars begin to come out. We decide to start a small fire. We see how the full moon is coming our way. The massive towering canyon wall gets illuminated at the top and slowly this show drops down along the grand stature. Eventually, half of the moon is peeking out from a cliff above. This cliff hangs out at an angle ready to someday fall. It looks as if a half-moon is laying on its back, as it peeks around the corner of the cliff.
It shoots beams of moonlight through the trees upon us. We watch the spotlights play upon the stage all around us. It wakes up the rocks on the other side of the creek. The fire is warm and entertaining. We have a long important conversation about how to address our futures. Eventually, we bury the fire with beach sand and fall asleep.
Wednesday, Happy Birthday!
I roll over to DF, look down at her and into her sleepy but peaceful eyes and say, “Happy Birthday.” A pleasant smile comes to her face and then quietly, we embrace.
It is still cold, but there seems to be a potential for warm sunlight. Then, dark clouds again appear above the canyon. We begin breakfast and end with a fine nutritious herbal tea and the special, spongy “Birthday” cookies that DF has been saving in her gear.
We are waiting it out, to see if things will clear up, as was predicted days before. Nothing has followed the prediction so far. I have been hearing the sound of rocks moving above us in the cliffs. I wonder if it is caused by an animal. Perhaps it is a big horned sheep. I have been scanning for them above, all of this time. Early this morning there is the sound of a rather large rock falling from very high above. It bounces onto a ledge and then another, “crack” and then again, “crack.” It finally hits and launches off and lands in the creek waters,” kahplunk.” I figure the odds of one of these six or eight inch stones falling for hundreds of feet and hitting us. I have already scanned the cliffs for any signs of one of the larger ones looking unstable.
I make my way down to the creek to wash up and refresh. There are large prints there, which are still surrounded with wet sand. They are leading to a rock outcropping. Someone, something has bounded from the water and leapt up into the rising terrain. We had both heard a large and heavy animal a bit earlier. It had been sloshing in the creek upstream, but out of sight. We suspected a large sheep or deer and had sat quietly watching to see if it would appear in front of us in passing. Perhaps this was it? The track size was big like a human. Perhaps a large mountain lion was after prey.
As the morning continues, we feel the cold, then the winds pick up, then it gets nice again. This pattern repeats again and again. There are just a few passersby. They are the same people, so why were there so many cars in the parking lot?
A hawk lands on the cliff ledge at eye level across the creek, only about one hundred feet away. It sits. A crane courses through the canyon following the bends. We hear one of those bird calls with a repetitious sound that slows and falls away, as if it is out of breath, like a toot running out of steam.
We decide that we have had enough of the cold and to head home. We leisurely break camp.
There is lots of very nice fine sand on most things from the wind. It has been a pleasure to walk in it barefoot, and it has been a good cushion under the tent. We take shots of a particular cave high above in the cliffs. It looks large enough to inhabit as a fortress.
I wonder if it has archeology in it. On the way back, I’ll be sure to watch for access to it in the slopes.
Packing out, we will have a three hour cruise.
We photograph and soak in the multitude of geologic colors in the thousand foot cliffs and the glistening river stones.
We are surprised, as we notice that it is taking longer than three hours. Our calf muscles hurt from lots of sloshing and soft sand and the end is not in sight.
Everything seems more primitive, prehistoric here. Ancient animals frequent it. I see what looks like a huge colorful turkey about four feet high and too big to fly. It bends its head down as it heads into the brush behind a short hill, “thump, thump, thump.” Its foot steps are very heavy, but I have never seen a turkey so large. The markings are not like those of sandhill cranes. It is as though an extinct species of some dinosaur bird has come back.
We lose track of a definitive trail. We find ourselves deep in a tall grass and reed covered trail. It isn’t familiar, nor is it as well-worn as it should be. It is a good haven for snakes and very uncomfortable. We back track to a sign, thinking that we have missed and gone down a wrong fork. We are concerned that we have missed the trail leading out of the canyon. It just seems too far. We both silently consider that we at least have equipment and can stay the night if it gets dark.
This fellow blended in so well that I placed my hand on him while climbing through two rocks. We both were startled.
Soon a pack of javalina can be seen in the distance. A razor back takes a threatening stance, as we approach. Others scamper off. We find a trail that takes us to the left, so we don’t have to confront his bluff, or possible charge. We are on a mission at this point needing no distractions. The sun is beginning to set.
We decide to take the creek. Everything follows the creek. Our pace has already quickened. We are eventually rewarded with the sight of other footsteps in the exposed creek gravel. We can’t all have gone the wrong way. The feeling of being lost is gone, but the course just goes on and on and on. We query why it only took three hours before and upstream at that. It has gone past four hours, this time.
The weather has gotten better. The predicted clearing seems to be occurring. Finally the “Wilderness” sign appears, and soon after the one marked simply “Trail.” I had been picturing this sign for the last couple of hours, looking for it. It is blocking the trail and pointing to the right, out of the creek bed.
We arrive at the trailhead at the end of a day. The last sunlight has the cliffs to the west illuminated in a golden orange. The parking lot is empty. We both throw off our backs and all clothing. It is a sanctuary of the warm desert here. We feel so light with the packs off our shoulders, after hours. We are feeling so right, so free in our bare skin. We have been bundled up for too long. Nothing could get clothing back on us at this point. We look at the map at the kiosk wondering why the hike out took so long and watch the day get dark.
The drive is a half an hour to the main highway on a dirt road and an hour to get home from there. We are pleasantly warm and naked.