After arriving in Gardner Canyon, we continue our search for an old camping/hiking grounds in nearby Cave Canyon. Part I is here:
…As we pass that large hollow sounding fairy tree once again. Curious, I climb to look at the side that is away from the path and discover that nearly half of the tree is missing from a fire.
It is still alive, branches and leaves escape out of the trunk above.
DF laughs at her lack of observance. The hole is big enough to stand in. It has been a very large tree. She stretches her arms out to get an idea of the circumference; still laughing that she had been tapping on a hollowed tree and missed that half of it was missing.
We begin our climb out of Cave Canyon.
As we rest in some shade on a bend in the switchbacks, we notice a pile of mine tailings.
There is a cave up there, but we are too hungry to investigate. We begin the steep climb.
It seems to be a shorter hike back, as often happens.
At the truck, we snack and decide to head downhill to find a best camping site. We pass the fellow in the pickup truck that we had spoken with. He smiles and waves from his nest amongst the trees and is still oblivious to our nakedness.
We find a very nice spot next to the creek with a fire ring, but fire is restricted in this drought. Someone has courteously left wood to start a fire. It is a tease. Some of it is collected in a hard re-enforced cardboard box. DF turns the box over and creates a table between our two folding chairs.
The campsite features a small natural henge, a tiny grove of scrub oak, a circle made up of seven trees. We decide to sit and to exercise here, in a sort of living room.
I pitch the net tent right next to this circle.
The SUV’s tailgate, our kitchen, is in easy proximity.
There are many bird calls, including turkey, as we unpack. We make guacamole and dip jicama, zucchini slices and blue corn chips into the mush. DF has a stick of incense that her daughter gifted her. It is called “Naked in the Woods.” We decide to give it a try. The aroma is delicious, as it dances into our nostrils in between the bouquets of the numerous varied pines. The cardboard table is handy to share and keep our cameras at ready.
DF has brought a copy of the Sunday funnies from an old newspaper. We each create voices to match the characters, as we read to each other aloud, as if reading from a play. Our game is silly and we are having fun with it.
DF has discovered a path down along at the dry creek bed.
She invites me along. Our naked stroll takes us through thousands of varieties of smoothed river rocks, their colors enhanced in the late afternoon light. Each is unique. The colors clash like a bowl of gumballs.
We are lead to its intersection where the dirt road crosses. Hand in hand in the road, we walk, we listen, we smell, we feel with all of our senses, inside and out.
Sunset turns to dusk:
There are now the sounds of at least two turkeys, one on each side of us, but back in the forest. They not far away. We find that we are surrounded by turkeys. Could they know of our presence? Are we in their way to rejoin their flock? Are we a curiosity, a creator of a food source, or a sense of danger?
One is getting closer on the other side of the road. We have heard the clumping sound of heavy feet. I grab my camera and stalk it, as I hide behind my truck. DF is close behind. I see something move and I’m encouraged. We wait. It is dusk, and getting darker. I sneak across the road with the stealth silence of bare feet all over.
Jays are following me. They are disturbing every other bird. There is a ruckus. I hear the gobble getting more distant, as I turn my head one last time in futility. DF explains that that is what the Jays do in these mountains. She tells me that when she would hike up Miller Peak that the jays would follow her, like an early warning system for the other wildlife.
We eventually eat a dinner of vegetable soup that DF’s daughter has made. The table has been placed in front of us to display a tall candle anchored in sand in a nude shinny tin can. It flickers, but the air is generally calm and warm.
DF brings out the last of two slices of flourless dark chocolate cake with a small birthday candle on top. I quickly blow it out, before nature does it for me.
We have been nibbling at a slice, or two, after each minor meal during the trip. DF has placed the last slice in a clear bowl with raspberries and blackberries. The fruity goo seeps out and the candle illuminates this from below. There is a glassine ruby red with a silhouette of the triangle in the middle. It is delicious, a soft squishy piece of chocolate that sticks to the roof of the mouth, melts, dissolving around the tongue. Its buttery sticky consistency requires the slow drawn-out savoring that gives every precious moment to moment the feeling of delight.
The crescent moon and its attendant star are before us, beaming through the trees.
DF wonders if the candle will burn slower with a windbreak. She turns our table on end. The inside is illuminated, reflecting the hypnotizing candle cradled in it. The circle of trees around us light up, as if a campfire glows below them.
We walk under the stars and find ourselves out to the road. In the distance, the conveyance is a path of vision, brightly lit up by a glowing moon. The canopy of trees is making a distinct border, a contrast with their darkness and the light of night. Only the glow of our candle can be seen in the distance to find our way back. DF tells me of when she was young and fresh out of upstate New York. She would hike up Miller Peak for miles with the full moonlight. She tells me that she had no concept of bears, puma, rattlesnakes, or danger.
It is chilling off; we have added a couple of layers of cloth on top. It is time for the final layer, the camping quilt. Looking up through the net tent screen, we fall asleep watching stars pass by.
After falling asleep, lying still in the darkness, looking through moon lit trees at glistening stars, morning brings new light as if time hasn’t passed, only the vague memories of dreams. Looking up, there is a gentle ruffle in the mesh of the net tent. Above that, a thousand leaves are gently dancing. They are a subtle shimmering in the morning light against the backdrop of a clear turquoise sky.
I roll over to hold my warm lover in my arms. My hand finds hers under the silky down quilt. There is no hurry.
The air smells clear again, the various pines blend in their bouquet. This will be another beautiful day. We emerge into it through a zippered net door. The moving is slow, a walk here and there, stretching, chi gung, all in a pleasant blank morning mind.
Today, we’re off to the San Pedro River, a completely different environment. But first, we are here in this pleasant forest, a place that we could just naturally stay. DF pulls out a pre-made concoction of pears, almonds and cinnamon, all ground into a mush. This is a favorite breakfast at our campsites and easy. It goes along with our attitude.
A pack of three motocross motorbikes come by down the road. They are returning from a night camping. We had seen them yesterday as they passed. They have everything that they need in backpacks and saddlebags. They can get away to places quickly where others can’t. I know how they feel, the release, the freedom and mobility with comradery. DF is in a short T-shirt, me nothing. I figure that they will be watching the road and besides, out here we don’t need to care if we are to be seen by some passing young guys.
The conversationist in the truck drove by before we got out of the tent. We are now alone in this handsome park of rolling hills, of forests and grass.
We packed up and are down the road again, when we spot another road with a big yellow dead end sign. I ask DF about exploring it. I have yet to find the old campground and it makes sense to be the Cave Canyon road. She has no objections. It’s all good.
We cross a cattleguard. A roadrunner with a lizard in its mouth doesn’t seem to know how to react to this loud red beast and then quickly runs off of the road. We are in a valley, a grassy flat with walls on each side. There are some more hillsides, some are steep and rocky.
We spot a large bird sitting on a rocky outcrop high above, a hawk.
I stop and DF jumps out, camera in hand to zooms in. We may not know what it is, until we get home and blow the snap up on a computer screen. The opportunity is part curiosity and part awe.
There are several pleasant campsites along this road. A dry creek bed runs along one side and each site takes advantage of its offering. I find two that might be the lost group site from twenty years before.
We find a gorgeous bloom on the local hedgehog cacti. DF heads through a wash to the other bank to capture an image.
These are enchanting.
The smooth road goes through a rocky wash and then climbs back out steeply. The steep rise has challenged many a tire, the slip making them dig in. It is quite bumpy and rough. From here, we pass the waterhole and cave. Then the steel fence blocks the road. This is where we came through yesterday.
I’m sure that this is the area. I remember the waterhole’s cave, and the barb wire fence that is beyond this point. We hiked as a nude group here. There has been a forest fire and the consequent flooding rains have washed the topsoil away. The campsite must be close.
We return and I drive off the road into the most likely campsite and park. I get out to photograph the area. I remember that the road went through the middle of the campsite. Here, I find the remnants an old road running through the cleared campsite. This was it. There is a new road that bypasses it. My mission is accomplished.
We are heading to the San Pedro River valley near Tombstone. A few Saturday day trippers pass by on the now more familiar route and we are then out on the open highway.
Our tale will continue soon, backpacking up the San Pedro River Corridor. After parking in a ghost town, we find ourselves in a veritable Eden-like situation in the wildlife preserve.