We are visiting Maverick Springs by way of Green Mounting Trail in the Catalina Range.
Part I is here:
THE NEXT DAY:
It is pleasant to awaken under a canopy of trees with a sky blue background and the warmth of the sun on my face. I have been comfortably wrapped up in our camping quilt and a down jacket with its hood. Now, I am realizing the warmth and peeling off layers accordingly.
I stretch on the air-mattress, realizing that the tent is just long enough. I am also aware that my calves got a workout yesterday walking downhill with that extra weight. The new style five-finger shoes without the heel strap only created slippage. My ankles had to compensate on the rough extremely uneven surfaces. I’ll be doing stretches more this morning.
It isn’t long before I’m stripping out of my down jacket and adjust comfortably in my long sleeve t-shirt and shoes. DF is covered in her white men’s shirt. The shade and shadows are still a bit of a chill and we make a point to sit in the sun like lizards. We have a delicious almond, pear and cinnamon breakfast on our designated dining rock.
We are at task with morning chores, after a session of chi gong. Suddenly a dog comes to my feet and a friendly unassuming man, soon after. He is looking for the spring. He says that it is around here close. He had visited 6 years before. He heads down the hill, as if things are familiar to him. I begin to follow, but he has turned around and is coming back. It isn’t there. I follow him and the dog. I’m in just my long T. I suppose that it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t matter.
We make our way up the hill through the lack of trail. There are tracks going everywhere. The way that this guy is bushwhacking, there will be more confusion. He tells me that he will let me know when he finds it, so I go back to camp.
After a few minutes, I start back. If there is water, I want some. If there isn’t, I’d like to be sure. I find him in some trees, when he shouts that he has found it. I follow his voice through the trees. I’m soon on the trail through the tall ferns.
I had seen pictures of the spring among ferns, but the shot was downhill, so I looked for it below. It is uphill, on the side of the hill above the trail. It is obvious.
There is water, lots of water. We find the black tube that feeds it and follow it uphill through more ferns to the actual spring.
I converse with the Stranger that entered our camp. He tells me that “we” whoever that is, are staying down at General Hitchcock. There is water near there also. “We will be going to Lemon Pools next weekend,” he tells me. I explain that DF and I also have plans to go there. That is quite a coincidence. I hope that it doesn’t mean too many people. We exchange names like business cards. We chuckle as we part, see you next week” like old friends.
I return to camp, telling DF of the good news. We break camp. We will have a strenuous long pull today. We will be climbing the length of the stairs of the Empire State Building and then some. These steps are however, anything but consistent or even. They won’t be skipped up two at a time.
The spring is on the other side of a particularly difficult incline of loose soil, which is topped with two fallen logs. We make this by handing through our backpacks. It is too tight, as it is. My calves are giving me notice already.
The water is cool and relatively clean, as we filter it for good measure.
We photograph and document and enjoy the wonderful forest with its sunbeams.
We decide that we will hike nude from here. The scratchy bushwhack has passed. The pines take over.
Setting off, I soon realize that each time I stop to wait, my calves freeze up and I’m in pain, until I get moving again. Because of this, I’m soon marching ahead of DF.
There is a tricky break in the trail and before long. I remember how important that it is for two hikers to stay together, when I hear her she calling to me by my name. I’m on the wrong trail. She isn’t sure of her own position, but is on the correct path.
We soon pass familiar landmarks.
Back on the Green Mountain Trail:
We reach the trail junction and look at the sign once again. As we are turning to leave, DF makes me aware of another hiker coming down the trail. He is decked out in a dull green shirt and heavy pants that look as though they could repel knives and fire. He also looks hot in his outfit. There are very strong gusty winds on the other side of the saddle where he came from and warm clothes might be handy. We are wondering if he is a Forest Service worker.
As we start on the trail, I glance back, looking for clues as to his official identity. He is just well dressed, but not as well dressed as us. I don’t know if he can see our natural garb because of the bushes and packs, but he does see us. He doesn’t follow. He is going to the springs.
DF is ahead, when she asks me if I think there are bike tracks in the trail. My doubtful mind takes a look. Someone has been riding a fat tire knobby bicycle on this rotten trail! It has been digging in deep. I can see how in parts, the activity is eating away at the little topsoil that we can find purchase for our feet. In the flat narrows the tires grind away at the ledge making the thin walking strip significantly thinner. This one bike is wearing down the path more than a hundred hikers in some spots. For the first time, I’m realizing that there needs to be restrictions. The Forest Service has only a pittance to maintain trails and this activity will not allow our trails to continue to be effective.
How this guy is navigating this rugged climb also strikes me as impressive. I love mountain bikes, too.
We get around a bend where the high winds calm down and our nude bodies tell us about perfection. The place is dramatic. When we look back to see where we came from, it is mostly rock surfaces on the slopes with trees.
Cliff faces rise up majestically out of this rocky forest. Their faces show us the layers of developing mountains before they were pushed up into the sky.
These monuments, these notable landmarks, demand awe. We are small in a big world.
We hear voices ahead. Soon, a middle aged couple comes by, as we step off uphill to make room. He, with his hiking poles, looks upon us speaking through a tight grin and asks the question, “Did the wind blow your clothes off?”
DF responds, “Yes.”
My comeback is more practical, as I look at his clothes “It is much cooler this way.”
They continue on.
Very soon, I am startled. My adrenals pop and I jump to the edge of the trail. ”Whaoh!” spontaneously leaps out of my mouth. A young man, a kid really, has come around the bend on his mountain bike. He slams on his breaks, startled himself, leaving us both in a close call, as he continues to pass by.
I fester for a while as I calm. I’m thinking about the damage that he has been taking from all of us for his quick kicks and those foolish movements. I have an angry defensive sense. The next time a fool jeopardizes us, he can be the one to jump off of the trail and maybe I’ll help him to protect myself. Who can I write? What can be done? Well, we’ll see how I feel tomorrow.
From here, we have a ridge filled with switchbacks to climb. It is more exposed and the strong winds begin to whip around us. “Hold on to your hat!” DF yells. I pull it down nearly over my ears and grasp my bill. This stuff can howl. There is no place pleasant to rest. The winds are refreshing in the sun, even cold.
Still, my calves lock up every time that I pause. The load and stair-step climb are having a toll. I need to just keep moving, keeping the blood flowing. We crest the ridge and find more of this on the other side. We decide to trudge on to the next pleasant spot nonstop, get a workout and then take our time in rest.
Occasionally, the trail is just a granite slope, not a trail at all.
The wind continues unabated.
Around the next bend we expect relief, but there is always more. My memory is of a wooded spot that will be coming very soon, but it eludes me.
Finally, we arrive at the illusive, shady and calm rest stop. DF comments that we have been climbing for two hours without a significant break. The trek has stretched out piece by piece. An empty stream cascades down this gully between two steep ridges. The pines are tall and various. Boulders litter the bed, fallen and collected through centuries. There are a few that we can use to sit on comfortably. The act of stripping the load and allowing the covered body parts to refresh is wonderful. I stretch and take it all in. I’m conscious of my whole physical being. My pleasure is the ability to move without restriction, weight and effort. Still, those calves ache. The next blessing to appreciate will be to get my body’s load off of them.
I find a large enough rock with a shape suitable for my buttock and squat, slowly at first, then ker-plunk. I fall the final few inches, and exclaim, “ugh.” In front of me, is another rock. I have a desk top, my note sheet and a pen. DF pulls snacks out.
The relentless noisy wind has been replaced with peacefulness. I look up into the heights above me. The sun is shining through the deciduous trees, creating a florescent canopy of new jiggling beauty. A dramatic cliff is seen through these trees, then blue skies.
Up the trail, there are large pines, as pillars marking the path. The slopes appear nearly as upright as the trees. Everything about this place is steep, but the trail itself.
Eventually, we wander around. DF’s body is relatively unscathed by the exertion. She sits serenely, as I hobble around with my camera, feeling pain with each step.
There are for us, unusual flowers of color. When I begin to take still photos, the wind picks up and they move. I curse the wind as if an irritating inconvenient being. I then smile and shake my head in defeat. Is it the wind’s, or my timing, that is off. “It is what is, oh well.”
With the harsh winds less than perpetual, the rest of the trek becomes more pleasant. The dramatic rock formations begin to have familiarity.
Now quite tired, we hear a voice above us as a switchback appears. We could listen to the conversation, if we had a mind to. At the bend of yet another switchback, a man sits on a big boulder above, like that pipe smoking worm in “Alice in Wonderland.” He is with his cell phone in hand. He is smiling. He is pleased to tell us about his cell phone reception. He says, “Its Verizon.” He talks on and on. We hear a roaring a motorcycle on the highway.
“Are we nearing the trailhead?” I ask.
“Yes,” he replies.
He would talk on, but we manage to wedge out and continue our hike. No mention of our nudity has been made.
It will be time to cover up very soon. At a familiar fallen tree we see three young people and a man with a grey head. They pass us and I ask if the trailhead is near, again.
We decide that it is time to find a wrap. We have been waiting for a place to de-pack and change easily, but it hasn’t been found in the steep terrain. We make do. I take my sarong and wrap it around. My pack belt then seals it to my body. DF pulls on her floral sundress.
We have had enough when we arrive at the parking lot. We are hungry. We decide that we will make the short drive to the town of Summerhaven, near Mt. Lemmon, for something overpriced and unhealthy.
There are now people in the parking area, so I use the car as cover to put pants on. My body is stiff and I curse all society for clothing, as I painfully stand, dragging my tired legs through the pants, one at a time, holding on to the car. There is a man on a bicycle across the car park. DF tells me that he belongs to the car directly behind us and is politely waiting for my decency. I’ve been too tired to notice. “If I could just…’oh well, real world’…have acceptance.”
We eat and then head down the mountain. We are stuck behind one of those slow drivers, who don’t know to get off of the road and let the line of others pass by. I brake often. When I get home, as I spin my legs out of the driver’s seat, a Charlie horse shoots through my thigh. For the first time in my life, I have tears from pain. I hobble and resolve that I’ll need a couple of days to recover. I’ll be better for this and ready for a more difficult trail next week.
We call our friends with the Jacuzzi and are invited over. It is a nude cruise to their nude haven. DF drives. We soak and catch up with friends. Those calves enjoy the water jets and the improvement is remarkable. Just give it a couple of days, stretch, and pills for inflammation…a sweat…and empty that pack some more.