DF has a Wednesday off and a 4:00pm doctor’s appointment. She takes me up on the suggestion to visit Romero Pools early. She hasn’t been there and I am promising wonderful pools of refreshing water to Adam and Eve in.
We arrive at the trailhead and take off about 8:30am. The heat is coming up already. It will be in the upper 90F’s today. We take off, she in a sundress and me with a backpack rig and a sarong covering me. We pass a mother with two small children. They have sunburned cheeks and look tired. I see no water bottle.
The first mile passes quickly. It is wide and an easy grade. We stop at the one lone bench at the end of this trail and pull a snack out of the bag. After food and rehydration, we begin the harsh descent up the Romeo Canyon Trail. I’m going to jump into a few anecdotes along the way.
Once in a Lifetime:
Here, we are in a dry land with colors of browns, orange, grey and any manner of green earth tones. But there are those rich colors that one wouldn’t think would exist in nature. Here, by itself, in its own distinct glory sits a lone towering agave, psychedelic yellow, high and prominent. It is showing off. In one grand stand, once in its lifetime the stalk has risen a dozen feet and it blooms in mass.
A hummingbird flits from pod to pod against the solid backdrop of the turquoise azure sky.
The fantastic display robs the attention from the magnificent mountains, the vaulting stacks of granite boulders, which are thousands of feet high.
We stop to admire.
A Rugged Trail:
Boulders and hoodoos, in the plethora of color and texture from various volcanic actions appear. The solid and rock chunks become reddish quartz. Much of it is broken up quickly in the wind, rains and daily foot traffic. This soon gives way to feilds of brownish material. Then, lines of dull grey matter appear. All the while, we must traverse upon the rugged, craggy and disheveled. We must take each footstep with care. Because of this, there is little time to look out and admire the distance. Those visions of vistas are for a time of rest, or a momentary glance. Sometimes there are tall stair steps. Sometimes there are a series of secured rocks ready to be stepping stones up the steep hill. These are not round smooth or consistent however. There are sharp edges and plenty of places to grip with shoes.
This isn’t much different in the elevation to distance gain compared with many trails, for some it is even less, but this one is more difficult and more consuming. All of the muscle systems begin to come out and demand notice as my feet go in seemingly every conceivable direction and twist. The hike is only three miles, but eventually takes over two and a half hours.
A Tiny Magnificent:
Also like the agave, some flowers show off their rich colors to contrast with the rest of this transitioning ecological world. A cardinal red bell dangles from a thin stalk.
We find one of the very few pieces of shade this morning. It is a welcoming side of a perpendicular slope next to the trail. The sun still hasn’t reached an apex and this thin line shelters us. There are two pieces of granite just big enough for a hiker’s buttock, and no more. We sit, or should I call it squat.
Across the path, I watch the town of Oro valley miles away from a birds eye view through the closer rock formations, as the ridges rise. My attention then drifts to the vegetation in the immediate proximity. A lizard is sitting there on a rock, taking in sun, as I shelter just a few feet away. He is doing pushups, as lizards do. But this one reveals something hidden as he rises. It is that time of year, the hottest and driest, when the reptiles change color and willing young men put on display for the girls. We have seen several varieties of sporty lizard suitors along the way. They have been just off of the trail, as we pass. This one has shown no distinction, but now, an indescribable distinct belly appears. It is such a deep rich blue that it exceeds the dominance of the celebrated skies. I don’t recall ever seeing such a rich color, yet there, hidden on the bottom of such a small animal, is an azure patch. I grab for the camera as he poses, hoping for another series of pushups to capture this. I have to wonder if there is a possibility that the camera can do this justice.
Just a few short weeks in a remote difficult area, this guy, who could care less, has something unique, a jewel. I am lucky to see this wonder of color and hue in nature, or anywhere. It is dazzling.
Continuing and Taking Inventory:
We meet a couple coming down, who report that there are four people left at the pools. Then two male hikers greet us and report two women and a single person. What to believe?
Two young women of local Native American background greet us. I wonder how they are doing in the heat. Then, as we are just about to reach the pools, DF sights a red hat coming up the path. I decide to drape the sarong in front of me, as she passes. It is one last gestor to the powers that be. She is the last other in the area. It is 11:00am and the heat as gotten uncomfortable, but freedom and nudity tend to negotiate and distract away from that. It balances out.
We arrive at the falls. There is just a trickle today, in a place where four pools and a grotto pond link. An overflow leads the water to slip down a shoot to the next level.
The water bottle strap comes off of my shoulder and then the camera. I lay these down peacefully into a groove in the rock. They are safely placed on a ledge. The concern is them sliding into the ponded waters. I undo the clips that hold the cushioned belt and suddenly I feel the weight from the backpack as its support quickly falls away. My body is tired. This has been nearly three hours of locomotion. Although morning still, the heat of the day has us sitting in the 90F’s. I feel the moister cooling in the breeze, as I wiggle the last straps off of my shoulders and down my arms. The old Hawaii shirt with the holes worn through the back is sticking to my back, but the breeze immediately turns this into the pleasure of evaporation. I pull and it comes down, gets wadded up and tossed with little regard or gratitude, its riddance from my body is a pleasure. It will dry on the rock in the sun and air.
I squat, wondering how difficult it will be to get back up. I lean back and place the first part of my body to the smooth granite surface. Centuries have polished the stone. It is refreshing here where the shade of a lone tree covers the smooth granite slab. I loosen the contraption of the lacing and the five toe shoes slip off easily. I then pluck each toe of the sock, slip the heel and pull the toes more. My feet love the liberating removal. I have become gloriously absolutely naked. It is a pleasurable boost to a worn body.
With each article secured from a gust, I am free. I rise, feeling the strain of aches, and take several short steps toward the small ledge by the pool. Once again I sit, but this time, I stretch the legs and slip the feet into the cool waters. What a simple, yet potent joy this is. How magically I feel, healed from exposure and the stiffness from overuse. Cool feet affect the rest of my physical entirety. I am in a swift recovery.
DF has been joining me in this procedure. We are so very ready to strip all clothing and bounds, to lay ourselves in trust to the nature of these bodies, without encumbrances, or the protection of the man-made articles.
Each pool contains a community of tiny critters. Tad poles flock in various sizes. They scurry, squirming away into the deep, as our feet pass into the waters. DF has waded in and I am enjoying a new lack of movement. Water bugs with long legs suspend them out of the water; beetle shaped boats with a pair of paddles follow each other’s small ripples. Strange creatures and familiar, some camouflaged as leaves, some more colorful, varieties of each, I just watch and listen to the trickling flow as it splashes into the surface to replenish the inhabitants, stir the algae, and gather for the next step in its journey.
We decide to tour the various ponds. I lead the way over the terrain as it becomes more familiar to my stiff feet. The surface is warm and soothing.
At the pool before the small waterfall lying before the grotto, we stop to inspect and to admire. This has been a swimming hole. The thunderous fall as been replaced by three tiny funnels. Today, the one on top doesn’t have the strength to carry the water to the pool below. Instead, the flow hits a ledge and then explodes out, dissipating into a spray. The grotto is dark, shady, but a spotlight from the sun is focused on this one point on the ledge. Each drop of the fan is illuminated as it flies out and sprays.
We cautiously slip into the water on a slippery granite slope. It starts barely an inch deep, not even covering our toes and gradually gets deeper. A herd, like a school of fish, this day tadpoles are swimming to safety before us. The granite transforms into a golden sandy bottom where a slip is now unlikely. The golden water is wonderfully refreshing. I rub and splash water across my arms, up onto my chest and then allow myself to sink further. Submerged, the hot rugged trail’s effects disappear. I may as well have been baptized and reborn.
I creep forward, giving DF, who hasn’t yet brought herself into the waters, a light splash. She throws her arms across her chest in protection and shivers and squeals. I know not to continue my playful aggression, but I do. I threaten her with a hug with my chilled body. She in the sun is such a contrast to my adjustment to the cooler waters. We are gentle with each other.
A large blue dragonfly is being chased by a large red one. The red one eventually takes a position next to us on a stick, which is overhanging the pond. It poses, wings spread, the stick bobs in the breeze.
I grab a camera and hope to capture the image in focus.
We head back to our shade and belongings. There is a climb across the slopping bedrock face. Each step has to be planned for foothold. Each step is an experience all new in the uneven surfaces, and textures. It is sensual fun, in a body completely unencumbered.
She unrolls the turquoise foam mat and sits. I join her there. I dig down into the bag and pull out the Ziploc bag with the food. It is time for lunch and we are hungry. Appetite has been building and we feast grapes, hummus, crackers and raw food breads. A few apple slices, all of it lovely, melting into our palates. Then the dried potassium of banana chips and organic apple chips from an old homestead’s trees during the last fall. We drink the last of our water, before filtering more. We feel the chia seeds in the bread, grow and fill us, as we lie back on the soft mat and gaze. A bright red cardinal like bird joins us, and entertains, flitting from tree to tree, to bush, to tree. We grab cameras and attempt to capture a clear photo.
The sky is in its wonderful turquoise hues, a backdrop for a winding meander of an venerable old alligator juniper overhead.
The bark varies, as I lie on my back and follow it up the long trunk with my sight. It is as if there is a pattern of movement in the slow growing bark. It is more congested at one point and then squeezed at others. My eyes follow the traffic of this distinctive bark, as if watching the flow of winding freeway roads from high above in an airplane, or a rampaging herd of buffalo amuck in a system of canyons.
The road branches off and my vision follows. I jump to the other lane and return.
I explore another branch.
A hawk with a white belly flies over, distracting me, derailing the tour. It floats through my vision and disappears behind the ridges of the mountain slope above us. Attention returns to the tree.
DF exclaims,” I see some animal.” We soon are focused on the new neighbor. DF surmises that it has heard our chewing. It takes me a few moments to understand that it is a squirrel. It is huge for one, the size of a large house cat. The branches of the tree that it is in bend and sway, as it searches for something to eat. I squint and ask myself, “Is that really a squirrel?” It occurs to me that I saw another large one like this at a similar elevation and ecology on the other side of these mountains. It was Peppersauce Canyon, a few years past. We observe and it moves on. I fall back to the meditation with the tree’s bark and form. We lay next to each other very relaxed and thoughtless. DF nearly falls asleep. I eventually close my eyes and listen, and drift from place to place of awareness, the gurgle of the water flow, a passing breeze announcing itself before walking across our bodies.
A Longer trip down:
It is time to come back from Pools of water in Romero Canyon and too soon.
It is somewhere near 100F when we leave. We dip our shirts into one of the lovely pools. DF is first. The effect is tremendous. She feels like she has wrapped herself in a freezer. She chills and goose bumps erupt all over her body.
The shirt soon dries in the parched sun.
Fortunately, we are able to stay nude all the way to the trailhead. The shady afternoon clouds begin to get more frequent and with these, some breezes, as they displace the air of other temperatures.
I look behind me and see DF with her shirt blowing above her head; her arms extended to create shade with it. A nude body, shade and breeze are the best that we have for the heat. The shade of a passing cloud is recognized as a blessing.
As we pass through the hillside trail nude, we can readily feel the difference in the heat from one area to the next. The sun has been baking the exposed rocks and boulders for many hours.
At four o’clock, the hot air’s temperature is often being augmented by the stored energy in these southwestern facing surfaces. It is like walking past one hot stove after another on this already hot day. Some rocks are hotter than others, in some places we are surrounded, baked by the emitted heat. Even though the temperature is in the vicinity of 100F, these cast off significantly greater temperatures. My naked body teaches me a lesson about heat exposure today, as we pass through each micro-climate.
It was this heat that gave me so much trouble during my first trip to the pools, but that time, I had no water left in the car. We have filled our bottles with newly filtered water, but it is rapidly disappearing. We have to be sparing today, until we reach the parking lot. When we get there, the water is like hot tea, but it is welcome.
We hurry off to our doctor appointments, DF slipping on a sundress and removing her five toed shoes. We have just enough time for a trip to a fast food restaurant for ice in a cup. It is so very refreshing, a true treat. At my appointment, after slipping on pants in the parking lot, I sit in a waiting room. I read that a hiker from Illinois was found dead next to the desert trail on the other side of the mountains. His pack had an empty water bladder.
It can come on very quickly, before you know it. Be careful out there.