We’re walking up Carr Peak in the Huachuca Mountains. This day trip is exploratory and an experiment to gather full confidence to backpack to Miller Peak before the season’s end our opportunities.
Last week, we began our foray up Carr Peak, which may be found here:
We are about to venture into one of the most astounding moments of a lifetime…naked.
The Switchbacks Begin:
Someone has labeled several of the nine or ten switchbacks with numbers, drawn with a can of spray paint. From this, we have been promised that the trail will keep its steep grade.
We zigzag up the incline. Trees surround one bend. A tuft of low flowers decorates the next.
A bouquet dresses up another.
One is washed out deep from the rains, another is just a bend in the path.
Everywhere on this mountain, we are presented with change.
We are having one new experience after another.
Then, when we turn to look out, the majesty of this huge planet opens out, exploding.
As another change takes place in a patch of trees, a corridor is running through them.
There, a humming bird shows its amazing self. We listen to its murmur, as it stops to hover near us.
Down the trail, once again, aspen sound like waterfalls as their leaves dangle in the wind like earrings. Because of this, we don’t hear another hiker marching up behind us. The young woman smiles, as we greet each other. She politely averts her eyes to us, as she passes.
After a while, I realize that I haven’t recently seen DF on the trail behind me. I stop to wait and listen. She comes up to me with big eyes, almost scurrying. “I was standing next to this rock looking out across the valley. This big lizard comes out from under it, stops and just stares at me. We watch each other and as he is leaving this bird flies by just over my head. It was like it buzzed me. I could hear its wings. It happened so fast that I didn’t even see the bird!” Her short story is told as if a mystical experience.
Earlier, as we sat on the purple rock under that tree to snack, we had counted a dozen different flowering plant species around us. These species have popped up continuously since, becoming a more common familiarity to us.
As we find our way around the eastern slope of the mountain and begin to head south, the taller foliage becomes less frequent. These modest patches of flowers become the dominate species, a vast rock garden. They mass together. More purple here, more white there, always some yellow, it is an ever changing mass of color that Monet could certainly appreciate.
As we round the mountain, Miller Peak comes to our view.
Slightly taller, across a very deep canyon, the dark green mountain is impressive. It hides all that is south. It is a matriarch, the grandest mother in the range. Only a section of Mexico is allowed to peek out from around her outstretched skirt.
Far down below, we see the old orchard that DF used to live in at the base of Miller Canyon. When she was a younger woman just fresh from the east, she would hike up to Miller Peak to visit with her husband, who manned the fire watchtower. She thought nothing of climbing the rugged trail under the light of a full moon. She had no sense of danger, nor distance.
It is lunchtime. We find a rock outcrop under a thick dark alligator juniper. We decide to lay our stuff down on it.
At first, it appears as though there is just a little bit of space to sit, but when we look around the tree, there hidden, is a huge slab in the sun.
It juts out displaying as grand a vista as could be had. Miller Peak and this mountain frame the view out into the golden expanse in the bottom lands contrasting with the deep green mountainsides.
From our perch there is a plummet thousands of feet below into the deep canyon where shadows are the norm. To the southwest, green alpine-like fields roll into Mexican plains further on. Then, in the rock formations, all about, there are bouquets of different flowers. As if in a daze I hear my voice, “I can’t believe how beautiful this is.”
Huachuca means windy. I have a sandwich wrapped in paper and I’m concerned about keeping what has been a slimy mess from blowing away polluting this vast landscape. There is always a breeze and I can hear any gusts as they approach, like beings tromping down the trail. We can watch the trees and plants moving as they approach. We can see them, we know how big they are, when they will end and how strong they churn the air. I hold on tight to the wraps and napkin a couple of times as the wind whips through, mostly deflected by the bushy tree.
We pose to make photos to go with an article that I’m to submit to a Naturist magazine. We rest and imbibe our incredible day.
I stretch and make my way to the edge of the trail to get some grapes out of my pack and dispose of the messy papers. Occupied, I notice out the corner of my eye maybe 30 feet away, another hiker. She has turned around, and vacillates where her next step is. She doesn’t know how to approach naked people. For all she knows, she maybe intruding on a private moment, and embarrass me. When I see this, I call to her, “It’s okay, We’re not concerned, if you aren’t.” I make a show of business as usual and casually head back to the stone platform, my back to her. She comes forward. I add assurances, “We’re just naked hikers.”
She smiles and then grins, “Anyway you like to do it.” She implies that sense of, “let’s all just get out here, enjoy ourselves and to each their own way of experiencing this world.”
We set off, heading over the flowered ridge that we have been looking at. I offer the backpack to DF to try, to get a better feel for the coming backpack trip. We take a few more photos of the rock garden, but we are not ready for what we find on the other side.
The local rock features dissipate, but now there is a steep meadow of astounding color as far as we can see. The flowers have taken over, “Wow!!!”
Everywhere masses of flowers, bushes to our waist are thick with flowers. Flowers sweep our legs, soft flowers, and flowers on stiff sticks, flowers made to bend in the wind and now bend in our passing, flowers in every pastel color and shape defined by grace.
I have been in meadows, but never could imagine such a place. “This is unimaginable!” We share what comes to mind as we walk in floral splendor. The Wizard of OZ was never this remarkable.
There is a constant buzz from insects. I often am compelled to step carefully, looking down at my naked body in waist high nectar. DF points, alerting me to a pair of big black bumblebees. These are the kind that travel together, as if in a pair bond. I have seen them hover in a place, then find them back, still hovering in the same spot for days.
I hear a drone, a growl really. I become alert, attempting to identify it. Could it be a nearby bear? It is DF. She is imitating a hummingbird with a particularly deep bass sound. It heads my way. It is loud. The growl like a big animal passes with it.
Walking on in continuous stunning amazement, I notice that the trail has become more overgrown. I’m suspicious that we have left the main trail to the mountain’s peak, which is a spur that elevates another 300 feet, or so, up.
Our intention was to make the peak as a goal, and maybe explore the rest of the trail, which eventually T-bones the spine of this mountain range on the way to Miller Peak.
As the vision of Carr Peak, our original first goal, gets further away, we ascertain that we have missed a non-signed fork.
The thin trail is buried under the thick foliage. As we pass through short beginnings of taller trees, their stalks at the edge of the trail, it is evident that this is the trail less traveled.
This is what is in store during our next hike. Still, it is amazing. It is heading downhill, but we have our uphill goal in mind. We turn back to find the fork.
There had been a fork, but it appeared to just come back down to our route again. Exploring this, I find that this trail also wanders on up the mountainside. I gather some debris to mark the intersection and build a cairn for others.
As we climb up the grade, a little quicker pace to work and test our body’s conditioning, we are still marveled by the gigantic garden.
As we pass through, the shadow of a cloud passes over us. There is always a change in the florescence of flowers, like the difference of an overcast day and a sunny day. This day, the change comes in an instant. The masses around us are suddenly more vivid, sort of like switching on a black-light. I am stopped in my tracks, stunned. In time, the cloud passes.
As I continue up the hill, the change happens again. It is like a dream here. It is so surreal, other worldly, so unimagined and dream-like, that I literally pinch myself to be sure of my reality.
I turn to tell DF what I have just done and find her looking out with her mouth hanging open, dazed.
Creeping up the steep hillside to the top, it is the workout that we had expected. We are in an open area on the mountain’s south side. One description of this peak online was that “nothing much grows up there.” That person was probably thinking about the lack of trees, but never saw this peak floral life, after the monsoon.
As I near the ridge, I see a patch of trees and taller foliage ahead. There are stairs of rock leading to an arch, like a demarcation, a doorway. I look through the portal and there is yet another type of world and there is shade.
I stand in waiting. I want a picture of DF walking through into the portal to shade. When she does, she gets the same sense and smiles knowingly to me.
We follow the winding trail upwards. As I come out of the forest, there is a denuded dome of gravel-like light grey rock. Each step reveals more and more vista beyond. It feels like a peak.
I’m there. I’m soon relieved of my baggage, naked and pleased.
I snap a few shots while I wait for DF. I walk back down to greet her. I take her hand and try to remember the theme to “Rocky.” The theme to “Star Wars” comes out of my mouth…it works.
Slowly, her exasperated tired look becomes a smile.
We have conquered the mountain. If we can do this, we are in condition enough to backpack Miller Peak.
As high as clouds, we have 360 degree vistas. We look deep into Mexico. On the other side, I see the Rincon Mountains and know that Tucson is at their feet. The borders of New Mexico can be seen to the east.
The clouds are bulbous and glorious. There is no rain in the forecast, yet I see a storm drenching the desert grasslands to the east of us and north of Douglas. To the west, there is a more diminutive shower out by the sacred peak Baboquivari. To the north another rain burst can be seen. They are far off, but could arrive anywhere haphazardly.
We take photos like victorious warriors. We see the extent of our climb.
We zoom in on our truck far below.
We sit and rest, and watch. We pray in gratitude.
We have to climb down off of this mountain. Our story continues next week.