We are on a hike along the trail at Cochise Stronghold. We have found a pocket just before the season’s campground opening and been blessed with a cool day with the shade of a parade of fluffy clouds.
The first part of the story can be found here:
We have reached our water source at Half Moon Tank.
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The water is brackish, not inviting, but plentiful. The view is impressive, there is shade here. We have a water filter. We look for a best shady spot, perhaps a nice rock to relax on. Someone has made a pile of rocks at a tree base creating a chair, but not enough room for two nudes. The gaps in the rocks could harbor bugs, too.
Searching this pleasant shady spot with trees fed by the dam, I see a granite slab in the shade, at the base of a hill. There is a small pond of water from the recent rains. It is clear and fresh looking.
We will filter this instead.
We sit, redistributing the contents of the backpack by eating the weighty sandwiches and grapes.
We spend nearly an hour here, walking, snapping photos, and resting naked in our miniature Eden. We collect filtered water into our empty bottles, together.
A young water snake appears when I begin to ripple the water. We are delighted by its exuberance and seeming play. It wriggles quickly, gathering bugs. It twists its tail and springs at prey. At one point, it wriggles up and swoosh, it is propelled down, under and through a submerged stick. There it hides under a clump of grass. It seems at play, just to practice the joy of being alive.
As our ripples get its attention, it comes closer. Its head pops out of the water. It stops to stare and watch us. We simply smile and say, “Hello there fella.” It is wonderful to share the pond with the curious little demonstration of joy in creation.
“Let’s do it”:
The goal was to find the crest and reconnoiter the western slope for another hike the next weekend. That trail is a bit more than half as long, but twice as steep. There are also some places to wander off of the trail on the huge granite slabs and enjoy the views.
DF is up for the extra mile. “Let’s do it,” she declares.
“Okay,” I reply. “There is less shade, it is more open.”
We are off. A couple of short jaunts across massive boulders show us views down into the canyons.
Through incredible formations we look out into the valley that we came from.
To the south, there are beautiful cumulus clouds marching north.
There is stark silence.
This is thick green among what would qualify for the set of a Road Runner and Willy E. Coyote cartoon.
But this is real.
This is history.
This is sacred.
We are grateful for these clouds. The trail is mostly exposed to the sun and the day is getting warmer. At one point, the wind picks up. DF walks down the trail arms spread out grasping cooling air with every inch of her body.
Everywhere along this mountain route, we are compelled to stop and soak up the scenery. On our right are these rising entertaining colorful rock formations. But to the left there are more typical hills, green and more gentile slopes. There contrast is clear and we are walking between them.
At the crest are a fence and a stile. A sign tells us what we need to know.
The world drops off dramatically from here into a verdant valley.
More rock formations are seen.
Through the stile, we travel a short distance to see what will be in store for us later and then return.
There is a small bench under the trees made of three thin logs tied together. We rest. It is windy up here at the crest as saddles tend to do. The air is warm, but the movement cools us. Next to us a barbed wire fence was wrapped around the tree many years ago. The growth has deformed the tree bark, stretching it is slow motion.
We decide to return to the peaceful pond for an additional snack and rest and more solitude before the last leg of our decent.
The Downhill Half:
The trail is every bit as wondrous going back down as going up.
There is so much to see, that most of it is not now familiar.
There is a different light illuminating the multitudes of variety.
Each opportunity to look up from our footing makes the trip new, as if it is another trail.
Footing does keep much of our attention on the slippery slopes. We must make shorter more carefully placed steps, taking longer. We generally stop to gaze into the vast world. These crumbling rocks leave sand that will make a flip easy to accomplish, like stepping on marbles.
At the water, we lose our shoes, giving our tired feet to their nature. Our shade has moved, but we find another nice rock to comfort ourselves on.
DF takes a barefoot all over wander toward the pond to possibly soak her feet and simply be.
The shaded floor is rough however, with too many surprises.
The wind picks up in the tree tops and then, soon enough, there is quiet once again.
DF takes the backpacking rig now, placing it over her white men’s shirt. I relish the freedom of just shoes, camera bag and hat.
As we move into the riparian creek bed and its pleasant ardor, we comment that the trip back seems to take longer. We surmise that it may be that we were marching earlier and it actually is taking longer.
At about a mile and a quarter from the trailhead, we are surprised. There is a young man coming our way. He has a late start, and we wouldn’t expect anyone, let alone at this hour. He is a bit overweight, with several black tattoos on his pierced upper body. There is a white spot where he had had something stick to his chest when he got tanned. He is fashionable with goatee and bare head. As he passes, I greet him with, “The whole place is yours.”
I look back at DF as he is about twenty feet above us. He is passing around a bend and glancing back at us. Maybe he’s just trying to figure it all out, these naked people?
DF asks me about the law here. I explain. She smirks and expounds that it is probably okay to be nude around people with pierced nipples. They don’t mind.
About a quarter mile from the trailhead, I notice the other hiker coming up from behind. We greet again, “Cut it short?”
He explains where he has been. I tell him that we have made a day of it going to the crest. His eyebrows go up. He suggests to us that not far, just around the bend on another trail are some pools. He is perhaps thinking helpfully, that naked people like to skinny dip. He marches on.
As we near the high end campground, we become more alert.
There could be walkers.
The shadows are playing with sunbeams through mountain saddles.
As we walk over the steel bridge, we spot a couple through the trees on the other side of this park. It is time to cover. We come to another couple. They are also heading in our direction, which is the gate and back to our SUV. She finds something curious behind a boulder and we pass them. I wait for them to leave before disrobing for the drive.
The camp is undisturbed, except for a centipede under the ground cloth that escapes into the grass.
From camp, the waterfall sounds to be a lighter flow.
As we snack, I notice a deer in the tall grass.
We take a stroll after it, hoping that the complacent air of these locals will allow us to get closer. It disappears, hidden. We stroll on.
We watch the sunset around us.
Next week, The Great Mushroom Hunt….