I recommend reading Part I before continuing into this section of our hike. It is found here:
We continue up along this trail carved out of this wondrous place.
In time, we see an agave, or yucca with large seed pods on it (Please, pardon my botany).
We hadn’t seen one like this. We make our way off the trail in order to inspect the specimen and photograph it, when we hear voices.
DF mentions that they are loud, but one voice sounds familiar to her. Coincidence provides us with another encounter, this time a friend of ours from DF’s work. DF, she and another friend had backpacked together last year, an overnight to Hutch’s Pool.
She knows about our predilection for nudity. Her companion is quite pleasant, maybe a little unsure at first, but I walk over to her and put out my hand, introducing myself, as DF and her pal catch up. We have found friends in the wilderness.
They have been out for two days and tell us that they haven’t seen anyone in all of that time. There only were people where they had camped last night, which was on top of the mountain at Manning Camp. They tell us that there is always water at that spot. It is dammed. That is great to know. I have wanted to travel to that point for years and now I know that I don’t need to carry water for both directions. Suddenly an overnight, or more time, exploring the top of these mountains naked and away from the summer heat is viable. Another trip is born.
We make our way along the climb, fascinated by natural treats and expansive vistas.
Mexico appears to the south and other hikes like Muleshoe Ranch are seen in the distance.
We find ourselves at a lovely bend in the trail in a boulder strewn streambed. There, we find a large rock to sit on and eat lunch. It is time for a break.
As we relax and chew, DF comments that every time that we have taken a break today, synchronistically, somebody has shown up. Precisely as she says that, a voice breaks the silence behind us in greeting. Apparently a guy didn’t want to startle the naked people in a private moment and has decided to give us plenty of warning. We can see down the trail approaching and the trail leaving as we sit in the “V” of the bend simply with a twist of the neck.
He passes smiling, having a good day.
A female very soon comes along; whom we assume is the partner of the earlier gentleman. She stops to talk with us. She tells us more of Manning Camp and we ask her if she met our friends up there. She doesn’t recognize the names. After a short pleasant conversation, she continues on and we continue to snack. We’re naked, that’s all, we are enjoying ourselves, that’s evident, we smile. There is no problem, no alarm.
After still more distance climbing, it is getting to be about time to return.
This will be a significant board meeting that we don’t want to miss. Its commitment has been inevitable throughout the day.
We come to a spot with a slab of shaded granite, not a big piece, but room for a pair of weary behinds to be placed while the owners look out toward New Mexico and down the hill at the trip back.
As we calmly take in the magnificence of it all and evaluate our bodies, I suggest that we remember to check our breathing. We take in the air with four deep breathes, through our nostrils. My eyeballs slide to the side and begin to watch DF in her profile. I watch as she centers into a place of peace. We are naked and we are free. We are here and of this earth. My eyes close again, belonging and gratitude wash into my being and we just sit.
We have one last ridge to look over, a hill and there is still more mountain ahead.
We don’t know how far it is that we have come.
We know where we are, we know where we have been and the string of moments, the blessings, the fascinations, the fun.
We will do it all in reverse, in a different perspective, in a different time of day and light, no longer stepping up, but carefully stepping down, to revisit.
We look into each other’s eyes. Hands touch and then they affectionately gently squeeze each other.
We make our way down the four miles, or so, that need to be covered.
The vistas are still feeling very impressive. The afternoon shadows of mountains flood the valleys. We see things that we didn’t notice on the way up.
The afternoon light is of course very different in its effect than the morning light, that we came up with. We take pictures with this new resource.
We see balancing rocks and hoodoos.
One is spotted far down in the valley, the afternoon sunlight exposes it as being white, as it towers above the trees that surround it.
We make our way in reverse order and the evident aforementioned reverse sunlight. As shadows increase, some bury whole sections of the mountain side. The sun will soon be blocked by the towering mountain.
The downhill trail isn’t as slow, but it does present some slippery slopes that have to be cautiously calculated. Each step is done with care, each rock.
We don’t want our feet going out from under us, or tumble forward.
When we arrive, there is nobody at the trailhead at this hour on a Sunday late afternoon. The sun will be behind the mountains and the air will cool soon.
We decide to drive down the dirt road a short distance for a quick dinner. We stop at the familiar old “big tree.” An old friend to many, the landmark greets us with its burl and canopy. We continue on after communing with it, sharing our anecdotal histories.
A stop off the road in the high desert, and we watch the sunset penetrate the wheat colored tall grasses and paint them orange. With a colorful sundown, the wild west movie set town becomes a silhouette up on its hill.
When we arrive on University Boulevard for our board meeting, I am getting dressed on the street and sidewalk; DF is sitting in the passenger’s seat slipping a sundress over her head. All the while, two old friends are hanging out saying hello to us, after several months apart.
Later, we enjoy a shower and fresh clean sheets.