DF had been sick all week, felt weak and was just playing her hand as it came. I had a cap pop off of my tooth and the only time that the Mexican dentist could cover it was…in the middle of Valentine’s Day. The prognosis was looking kind of bland, but as the day progressed I sensed that there was something perfect in the air.
We headed down to Nogales that morning. As we got nearer to the border, the sunny day, projected to be high 70F’s in Tucson was beginning to get overcast. The elevation down south is higher and the temperature could be expected to be a few degrees cooler. This was not a good sign. We proceeded across the border arriving at the 11:00am appointment at 10:59. Things were somehow working out perfectly. The procedure came out with less needing done, a cavity that would have become a root canal was exposed and so problems were prevented. To top it off, this trip was very inexpensive. We happened to check price on a needed prescription at the local “pharmacia” and discovered another brand at one tenth the cost of the stateside pirate drug dealers that are known as Big Pharm. Things WERE looking up.
We had decided to take the scenic cruise back, going through Patagonia and stop off at the cute little town. We found a spot to park across the street from the “Velvet Elvis Pizza” establishment and strode in through the patio garden hungry and ready to eat. It was way past our lunch time. There greeting us inside, was the large velvet portrait of “The King.” Back before the free trade agreement destroyed the border tariffs, it was always a fun trip to visit the border towns on the other side and shop for curios, Mexican made tourist stuff. One of the favorites that I grew up seeing, were the black velvet sheets for a canvas with oil paint depictions upon them. These classic Mexi-Americana are not to be seen anymore, but not forgotten. This one was prime. I don’t wish to denigrate the décor, it was beautiful, with well-done iron furniture with long sheets of mesquite wood, polished for table tops, tile…well, we didn’t think to take pictures.
We decided that the patio would be the very best. We sat under a trellis canopy of Tombstone Rose. This species of plant was imported from China to Tombstone, Arizona back in the days of Wyatt Earp. The original plant still grows there, a huge beautiful vine all over one of the old original buildings for tourists. Cuttings are available. This former cutting had been trained most impressively above us.
We had a delicious meal. Me, a Sonoran style pizza with a Mexican glass bottled coke. DF had a well-executed curry dish and bright red hibiscus tea. By the time that we finished the special Valentine desert (a smooth vanilla Dairy Queen or frozen yogurt style ice cream in a crystal goblet, topped with brandy, Kailua, and dark brandied cherries) our day was looking very bright indeed, despite the overcast.
There is a section of the Arizona trail ( http://www.aztrail.org/ ) that goes through the town and then heads north. I had the Forest Service information and we decided to investigate. A left turn out 1st Avenue and we soon found ourselves on a quiet dirt road, climbing through the Arizona high grasslands.
This was a gain in elevation from the Santa Cruz Valley that we had come down from Tucson thru, which runs along the old Conquistador’s mission trails that are now interstate highway. There, the forests of cottonwood trees were already thick with new spring florescent leaves.
There was a strange gray rock and soil through there, matching a gray sky. It lay amongst a winter landscape of dried golden tall grass. The tree branches were bared even on much of the scrub oak.
As we looked north toward the south end of the Santa Rita Mountains, there before us, were Mt. Wrightstown and the pine forests. This road, by our maps, would take us to a trailhead and we could take as long a hike as DF was up for in her recovery. That was the plan, but there was much greater surprising fun to be discovered.
We passed a couple of parking areas and then saw another where a truck and trailer were parked. No one was around the site and we supposed that the trailer had been filled with quads. Just as we crossed the clear water stream again, we spotted a small water-worn canyon to the left, which looked inviting enough. We decided to investigate.
I pulled off and into a campsite, turning off the 4runner. There, a firepit was made out of large colorful rocks. We noticed that there was color in many of the nearby rock surfaces. These mountains are mineral rich and many colorful formations are to be found.
I had had enough of my denim pants and discarded them. I heard a quad in the distance coming down the road. As I sat sideways on the driver’s seat strapping on my VFF’s and socks, the quad pulled right up to us, surprising us. People usually give more space. He commented on the canyon. I responded and then mentioned, “Hey, I don’t have my pants on.” He just said, “Aw, I don’t give a sh…” One more encounter showing people who object to nudity are a minority. He left on his way.
There was no warm sun, so I kept my sweatshirt on.
I grabbed the camera and we were off. DF with her cough and cold kept warmly dressed, so as not to chill and hinder her recovery.
The canyon was fascinating.
It was truly an alien environment that I have never seen the likes of.
The water had carved a deep chasm in this multi colored rock. The rock had been just flaking off layer by layer and shards were everywhere, except where the recent rains had washed things clean.
These unusual rock surfaces in the overcast light, brought out a different set of dominate colors, in greens, greys and other subtleties.
We climbed back into this place over the trickling water and the ponding in the contours of the washed rock, until we came to a “swim to our waist in cold water” or to risk a steep slippery climb.
There was a ridge that climbed out nearby, so we climbed up it to see if we could bypass this spot and also see what was ahead by looking down into the canyon ahead.
There were more shards everywhere and grasses.
A staghorn cholla grew with unusual bright yellow fruits that nearly glowed in the overcast light.
DF found bright red beans and large pods that she hasn’t ever seen outside of the Chiricahua Mountains.
We found a way to proceed up the canyon which turned into wash, but decided to return to the truck, continue to explore and save the rest of this for another day.
She needed to conserve and we had just so much time left in our afternoon.
We headed up the road slipping into four wheel drive, with multiple stream crossings, sometimes up to the axles. There were trees, and thick foliage everywhere. This place is beautiful. The recent rain and snowmelt left just a perfect amount of water flowing.
We came across an old mine with piles of colorful rock around it and decided to stop and investigate. It was a large mine, very deep and we couldn’t see the end of it. It would be fun another time and a nest of bees were discouraging us, along with a lack of torch light. We picked up a few unusual “pretty rocks” on the way back to our truck.
We had seen just one walker and no cars. It was getting later, the forest service directions described the area as a less frequented part of the Santa Ritas, and so we didn’t expect anyone else. The canyon was ours, DF freed herself of her pants and I had become comfortable enough to get properly disrobed.
We continued until we came upon a wider meadow area. We were confused by the map mileage and my odometer, but could see that the road continued up the hill in the distance. We were sold. This place will make some great nude trips in the future. The road was supposed to stop at the wilderness designation ahead, but now I’m wondering if the Border Patrol has cut the road through. We had seen one Border Patrol truck, the only other truck on this 4×4 road. Anyway it was getting later and we thought it best to be out of the area before sunset and this was the place to turn around.
We decided to stop and walk upstream at a curious spot that I had commented on earlier. With only a camera we climbed river rock to investigate the sound of a waterfall, but it sounded greater than it actually was. We then turned and went upstream away from the road. It is washed out of its soils in the streambed, so much of our travel was stepping from one large exposed river rock to the next.
Each step was to another fascinating unique specimen. The color variations were a rainbow.
The water was crystal clear, different from the golden waters that we have been frequenting closer to home.
This was a place that we could be nude with no care about others.
We found a hole in a cliff, a grotto looking formation. We stuck our heads in and began sounding Om’s and tones, enjoying the vibration of the echo.
Soon, the river rock gave way to a wonderful bedrock surface to continue on.
We strolled along, jumping off, stepping across the water flow, enjoying the beauty, solitude and sound, until we came to a small waterfall. Under the crystalline clear water the bedrock had large patches of green rock surface, which was glowing up at us from under the water.
As we admired the jade quality, a small waterfall sang to us.
I felt a few drops of cold rain on my naked body and it was getting late. Time to leave. We’ll be back up this canyon again someday and venture further.
We drove out of the area, encountering vistas out into Mexico. There was a break in the clouds to the east as the sun was setting.
The south-eastern sky brought out pinks and we then drove toward it on the two lane highway.
I threw cloth over my waist as we stopped at the Border Patrol checkpoint. An air of gratitude befell us for finding such a wonderful Valentine Day together.