Slavin Gulch I:


Liberating the Ranch

Saturday, we headed down to the Triangle T Guest Ranch in the Dragoon Mountains. This is right in the pocket of The Amerind Museum that we visited when we hiked Cochise Stronghold the week before. We have a going away/birthday party to attend and then we’ll head down to the southern end of the mountain range to climb up the western leg of that same trail. We are getting in shape for a more strenuous hike and this is an increment….but, plans sometimes must change.

The story of our trip to Cochise Stronghold can be found in the archives in November of 2018.

Getting to the Party and Liberating the Ranch:

As we pass down into the San Pedro Valley, we can see a nasty thunder storm in the distance. It is apparently sitting right on top of our destination. The plan is, until the party starts at 6pm, to lay about at the resort pool with periodic sliding into their jaccuzzi tub. We can see that pieces of those mountains are buried in thick grey downpour.

As we approach the area, the deluge engulfs us. I’m slowing down on the Interstate to compensate. We manage to see our exit and pull off.

By the time we reach the stop sign at the intersecting road, the rain stops! These thunderous cloud bursts often do that, shutting off like a spigot.

We travel the short distance to the Amerind Museum and turn in. The odd shaped granite formations are glistening. They are still wet from the rain and now baked by the sunshine. There is a fluorescence in the tall grasses and freshly cleaned air.

We pull under the thick green tree at the graveyard to put some clothing on.

We know that this gift shop is a great place to purchase cards and we have a birthday boy next door at the Triangle T.

I count 30 buzzards congregating in a tall tree. When I enter the gift shop, I inquire about them. The standard reply is, “They are just patiently waiting for us to die.”

Eventually, we head back to the road and turn off again at the Triangle “T” Ranch. We know nothing of this place. But with a series of Burma Shave-like signs, one actor at a time, we are told that this has once been a movie set. Many of the old-time cowboy movie stars have stayed here through the years.

It is casual. The office is closed and I remember that I was told that the staff would be managing the party preparations. We go looking for them.

We soon find wooden stairs leading up to a porch. Before me are two of the largest, most authentic swinging western saloon doors, that I have ever seen.

I turn to DF, “Watch this.” I strut in spreading the doors like I own the place, like a movie. How can such a simple act be such fun? Maybe it is the fulfillment of a child’s dream.  I remember doors like that in New Mexico, as a kid, and being too small. Dad got to be the hombre, back then.

There is a round bar on the other side which wraps around a huge boulder. They just built the building around it. A little stunned, DF states the obvious, as her jaw quits hanging, “Do you see that rock?”

I turn to the western garbed bartender, and ask him, “Do you hear that a lot?”

“Yep, I tell ‘em that I blow it up every morning.”

We order libation and manage to pay for our needs there. We have decided to just camp, because we intend to be about very early and wouldn’t use a $200 room, but to lie down for a short night. We also discover another thing about Triangle T. The campsites are a fair distance from the rest of the complex and nestled in these wonderful rock formations and scrub oak trees.

We wander off to set up camp in a more remote part of the property. There are several spots to choose from. This is the off season and there are no other guests. We walk the dirt road through the meadow of tall grass and climb on the huge boulders of Texas Canyon.

Our ultimate choice is a charming spot. The boulders help to dissipate the incessant drone from the semi-trucks on the highway and shield us from the view of anyone. The Triangle T just went nude.

We set up the tent and sleeping arrangements and then, redress appropriately casually and drive back to explore the ranch and try the pool’s waters. On the way, we see signs declaring that this is the set for the 1957 movie “3:10 to Yuma.”

We get out and begin to explore the old movie set. There is a bathtub used with ice and cold beverages. A rustic bar, which is not much, but a cowboy’s version of a lemonade stand, sits there. It is labeled “Watering Hole.”

We are taking pictures, when DF and I lock eyes and grin knowingly. We’re on the same page. We know what the other is thinking. I smile, “Quick, take off your clothes.” Giggling, DF pulls her sundress over her head and hands it to me. A photoshoot is on.

Sometimes, it is liberating to be spontaneous and do something just for senseless fun. One thing leads to another.

We end up parked in front of the bar with the big rock, again. There is a hitching rail stretched across the length of the building. There are two signs reserved for handicapped parking by law. It brings to mind an old horse drawn carriage with a wheel chair lift….

We wander up into the adjacent rock formations. There is a vine covered arch there for weddings. The oaks here are spreading over the huge rocks. It looks like the trees are trying to eat the boulders.

They are glued to each other. Their bark covered roots spread around like a giant snail gathering purchase.

Dipping our toes into the pool, there is a chill. The jaccuzzi is dirty and cool. It is not tourist season. This party is the only thing going. We’re disappointed. We decide to fill the void by taking a walk and exploring the guest ranch facilities.

There are a collection of stucco casitas. Every door has a triangle and a ”T” under it. On the other side of the quaint dining room with lace curtains, a labyrinth has been built among still more boulders. We walk it peacefully, admiring the collection of quarts rocks that create its borders. We sit under a tree in a quite spot. Then, it is time to party.

We manage change into festive clothing in the parking lot. Our host sees us and greets us as I slip my pants on, standing by my driver’s seat. We make the short stairway climb to those fun swinging doors. This time, there are several Saturday night locals in western garb sitting at the bar. They look like they belong here in the western decor.

We dine on tacos and burros, meeting the other guests. Two know us from visiting our sweat/sauna. We didn’t make the connection. It is one of those, “Don’t recognize them with their clothing on,” things.

The moon is rising over a string of dark clouds in the east. The larger than usual orb breaks through, creating a silver lining on the dark clouds. Most of the party gathers in the parking lot to watch the phenomenal show. Soon there is music blaring from a car and everyone has formed a circle and is dancing. This is a beautiful evening.

Tough Place to Make a Living

Half of the guests have called and can’t make it. They live over by Cochise Stronghold. The earlier rains have buried parts of the road in wet black silt and flooding water.

This is of concern. Although we went that eastern way last week and our intention is to use the western trailhead tomorrow. Tomorrow’s route is a less maintained road and is also subject to flooding. We’ll just have to wait until tomorrow, drive out there and find out.

After the revelry fades, we find the campsite under the full moon and the air still comfortable enough for nudity. I take a nude stroll and DF bundles up. To each his and her own.

We wake early, to a leisurely pace.

I roll over and immediately begin to fold up the mattresses and bedding.

We have breakfast, and pack up to make our way south to the eastside of the Dragoon Mountains. Nude, there is only the need to slip on my kilt while visiting the restroom and get cleaned up for the day. Soon, we are driving into our day’s adventure.

Heading South:

The San Pedro River is flowing and full at the town of Benson’s bridge. Earlier, when planning this trip, we had considered a hike in the San Pedro’s riverbed, like we had taken before, but that thought is instantly washed away.

Further on at Saint David, there is less flow, but still it wouldn’t be anything like the meandering flow in paradise that we had found before the monsoon.

See here:

About a mile before the city limits of Tombstone, we make a turn onto Middle March Road. This is a wide graded dirt road that will take us back northeast to the Dragoon Mountains. The dramatic cliffs of Cochise Stronghold are apparent about ten miles distant across a green plain. During the Indian wars, this was the direct route between Fort Bowie and the San Pedro Valley, or Ft. Huachuca. The middle of the march was near the stronghold.

I get out, switching into 4×4 high for better traction on the slippery road. The wide road runs flat along here. The landscape is low creosote bushes and ocotillo. I can see that no one is near in any direction.

Soon, we are on FR 687, a much less maintained road. It winds through grasslands with scrubby little mesquite. Occasionally, a taller shady stand rises up around us. There are several side roads, or I should say trails, along the way. Some meander into the fun rock formations at the foothills of these mountains. Exploring a couple, we discover secluded campsites, nestled in the magical terrain.

We eventually come across a spot of ponded stream water. Which is collected in the middle of the road. We see two trucks there under the canopy of trees which grow tall, the roots tapping into the watercourse. A driver sits with his shirt off, biding his time. DF waves and he waves back. We cross the streambed, splashing water and mud in every direction.

Yesterday on the internet, I found a trail that I thought we might try later. I see what might be the trailhead and pull off to park. I get out of the SUV to read the sign and to walk up the ridge to get a feel of where this trail may go. But first, I wait for a jeep to pass, standing behind my door.

As I walk back from the stile in the fence DF gives me a heads up. The guy who is sitting in the truck can probably see me at the trailhead. I can now see the truck parked from where I am walking.

She has put on a precautionary sundress. I walk behind her on my way back to the truck, obscuring the view of my naked self. No laws are broken, no genitals have been seen.

We make our way around the mountains toward FR 688, which is described as a jeep trail. We are surprised to see that there are several very large homes in the area. They might be described as haciendas. A private road connects them to the outside world. I say “outside world” because the vistas tell us that we are many miles from “civilization.” The population is very sparse as far as we can see in the vast distance.

A Change in Plans:

We find ourselves on the 4×4 trail FR 688. We missed the sign notifying us, but it is obvious what we are dealing with.

The rains last week and yesterday afternoon have done their damage. The road is a mass of rocks, completely washed out. I take a walk to scout it out. We could certainly get through with my SUV, but if there were to be another rain this afternoon like yesterday’s, we would be spending the evening stuck at the trailhead.

We ponder and assess the possibilities. We can get out and walk, but, if a storm were to sneak up on us from behind the mountains, we could still be in the same situation on foot.

I know from some research something about that other trail that I stopped at earlier. Going back, it would mean a late start, but it is the safer route. The little that I have read, tells me that there is a very good possibility of swimming holes along a creek. The climb may be close to the same. We are getting in condition. If we choose, for a workout we can march the trail.

I find a muddy place to turn around, as DF directs me away from the surrounding trees.

We make our way.

Shooting Flora Out the Window

The rough road is taken without hurry.

We stop when something interests us.

In the next publication, we will share a wonderful discovery, Slavin Gulch Part II



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