We have left the Triangle T Resort Ranch and have headed out to hike the western slope of Cochise Stronghold Trail, the other half. We found that there is just too much potential for disastrous washouts with the threatening thunder showers. We have decided to head back and explore another safer trail south of here.
When we return to the trailhead, we see that that lounging guy’s truck is still sitting there by the creek under the tree. In response, DF chooses to wear a sundress to start up the trail. This will work well for me. I rig my backpack with the belt to carry the weight of the water. We have a water filter, just in case we find some.
Déjà vu, I wait out yet another jeep’s passing. Like the last time, I’m covered by my open driver’s door. This time, I have DF walking behind me covering my bare bottom from any possibility of view. She can wear her dress until we get around the bend in the trail. We think it wise to be discrete around the trailheads.
Land of Many Surprises:
Soon, we are merrily crossing a meadow, both comfortably nude.
The trail appears to descend slightly into distant trees. After this, dramatic orange cliffs rise up. There is awe, and excited anticipation of the rugged enchanting rock formations.
As we walk along, we hear the buzz of what may be a swarm of bees. Still, they have a deeper tone than bees normally do. It is odd. We stop to listen.
It is a motor. We continue, but suddenly we realize that it is the drone of a drone! We look up and see a little flying machine above. Could it be the guy in the truck?
This is irritating. It is noisy and it violates our serene atmosphere like a lawn mower. I stare, but can’t really tell which direction the camera could be facing. It could be recording us for all I know. Solitude, even privacy are disrupted.
I place my hands above my head and exhibit the all familiar obscene hand gesture, as I walk on. I don’t know if there is any effect to it, but the pest eventually does move on.
We are now hearing something else. I stop to discern what it is. DF hears it, too. “That sounds like water.”
She replies, shaking her head up and down, “Lots of water!”
I spot fellow hikers on the trail ahead. A man and two women. I stop to squint. It looks like one isn’t wearing pants. I have trouble being sure with the distance and I alert DF. There is a little trail leading off in the direction of the sound of water. Instead of dressing, or baring it all to the strangers, we decide to go investigate the intersecting path. We ponder another thought, if there are kids with the on-comers, there is no place to squat to cover ourselves.
We stand with our backs to the trail and I look over my shoulder. Those two “women” are still budding young girls with a dad. One looks curiously down at us, as they pass.
We find our way down the hill to a creek. This means that there will be more water upstream, and maybe those pools are full. This could be a wonderful find.
Delighted at our find, we return to the trail to see what lies ahead. The trail dips into the stream and they become one. Our five-finger shoes do well in this. The shallow water is refreshing.
I hear the voices of adults with a little girl excited to play in the water. The bedrock surface sloping into the slow creek is a perfect place to wade and play.
DF and I get dressed. She puts on that sundress and I take my sarong from under my shoulder straps and wrap it around me, draping it on my pack belt.
Two women greet us warmly. One confesses that this is her first time here. She says that she is planning to come back, “and I haven’t even left yet.” I ask if there are others up ahead. She says no, but adds, that there is a drone. Obviously, she gets it and supports what we are asking about. Our bodies are covered, but we aren’t fooling anyone. She also tells us that there are pools, “just a little ways up the trail.”
We continue on, stripping soon after leaving them. A little way ahead, sure enough, there is a darling wading pool with three small waterfalls feeding it. This is gonna be great!
We wade in.
The water is wonderful, clear and I surmise mostly fresh rain. There are no cattle here to pollute.
As we continue up the trail, there are three more pools and then a fence shows itself. A sign reminds passers to shut the gate, but the wire is mashed down to only a foot and a half high.
After we pass through, the vegetation gets thicker. I ponder that these may be the pools where people go and there may be no more on ahead, so they don’t come this way. The place is all ours, for better or worse.
The trail is based upon the remnants of the road to an old copper and zinc mine. It makes the trail easy to follow, but the piles of rock that once supported finer material are often all that is left.
It is rough on feet, but the barefoot movements in our thin sole shoes are steady and comfortable. I think about pictures of Geronimo in his Kaibab deer leather boots. I remember the feel of my old pair, with just enough thickness to protect my bare feet inside. This is similar. There is more tread on these soles however. Sometimes the stiffer bands get wet and become slippery. Geronimo’s leather softened and gripped, more like real feet.
This place is a wonderland.
In every direction there is a photo. Hoodoos are everywhere.
The contrast of colors, the earthy oranges and reds contrasting with the different greens from many different kinds of trees is classic Arizona. It is what I saw in my thoughts of Apache territory, as I was growing up.
The elevation changes and the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts converge. There are pines with deciduous and cactus. Desert and mountain plants mix all the way, always changing. Always, there are odd combinations of life showing themselves.
Steadily the trail climbs. It lifts out above the creek below, sometimes it is a steep drop to the water.
There are several pools, some are big. The accessibility varies.
The creek’s passage is thin at times, but it opens up into a valley of green trees before thinning out once again.
We find a spot in the creek with a smooth shady rock to sit on.
We begin our lunch/snack with feet in the water. It is very pleasant here.
Another Change in Plans:
Whenever we turn around to look behind us, we are usually treated by the view down the canyon and then the vast valley beyond. With the elevation, we can see much of the weather coming our way. The blue skies have been filled with a variety of cloud formations all day. It is fascinating. This is one of those days when you might just lay contentedly on your back on a rock and imagine shapes and fanciful creatures in the sky.
Cool shadows pass to warm sunshine and back, across a delighted body. However, what it now is showing me, is a column of storm clouds marching in a line from Mexico and a dark gathering to the northwest in the direction of Tucson.
In this canyon our view is blocked in several directions. I have the latest forecast. It is only a 20% chance of thunder storms. We have seen none of these, but all it takes is one, like what we experienced yesterday.
We are heading to the ruins of the old mine at the end of the trail.
It is probably another rugged slow mile off and maybe an hour or more round-trip. We can see a dark bottomed cloud peeking out of the ridge above us. It has been growing for the last half of an hour. It feels very iffy. We just can’t know. We have rain ponchos with us. A lightning storm and flash floods could engulf us. We would probably have to wait it out.
On the side of caution and with a tinge of anxiety, we decide to cut our excursion short and return to a safer place.
We will get safe, soak in a pleasant pool and then head over to Tombstone for a handmade sarsaparilla at the Crystal Palace on Main Street.
We make our way, still in workout mode toward assured safety.
Now, as we walk down the canyon looking out into the far distance and big skies, there is an ominous string of dark cloud cover to the north. We can’t know how close it is to us or how strong its attitude may be.
Just at the pools, we hear voices again. Another, very young little girl is accompanied by four adults. The adults are in poor health. One might be the grandma who certainly isn’t an avid hiker. The first part of this trail is easy. Locals know of this place. This tells me that it can get populated on some of the weekends. There is often water here and people bring their kids.
Upstream, past the three pools, it is a free range paradise.
During the week, the entire gulch is probably a great secluded place. I think that it could be a great place to spend several days during a monsoon week. Perhaps sometime, I’ll set up a car glamping arrangement. Each day, I could take a water filter, snack, a pair of leather gloves and some snippers and work on the trail in nude solitude.
The other thing that these people inadvertently tell us is that there are probably no seriously threatening clouds hidden behind these mountain peaks. We are safe.
We find a spot to sit, bathe and soak our feet in the creek, before the trail takes us away from the water for the last time.
We enjoy ourselves in peace and tranquility, appreciating the wonders that we have seen and are still discovering in this playground.
There is a steady flow of the tall green grasses encroaching along the trail. Without end, it brushes our bodies, tickling and caressing our thighs lightly. We let our hands out to caress the stands, fully immersed in the pleasure of it.
The truck is sitting in quiet, as we arrive. The drone and the guy in the pickup truck are gone.
We pull down the thin dirt road through the wispy grasslands and the strings of trees. A couple of other vehicles pass and we wave.
Once, we have to stop and back up and wait. The old road is just too thin for two. We smile and are waving to each other, knowing that they don’t realize that we are nude, nor would they care. They are here for a good time and they appreciate good will and civility.
I pull to the side of the wide dirt road within sight of Tombstone up on the hill. We change into last night’s party clothes and I disconnect the 4×4 lockers. Since we left the trailhead, we have seen a storm cloud pouring a deluge on the valley past the mountain range behind Tombstone. It is still pouring there a half an hour later and no place else. It could have been us…or not.
In Tombstone, we walk hand in hand along the wooden plank sidewalks, window shopping.
People in Wild West garb smile and nod at us. The Crystal Palace has our waitress dressed as an 1880’s fallen lady. She escorts us to our table. We sit and admire that long ornate bar with its mirrors, the oil paintings of reclining nude women and the gun belt filled with bullets on the guy walking out of the door. The sarsaparilla is imported all the way from Wisconsin, not the local brew, but very well appointed.
I wonder why so many people here walk like they just got off a horse after riding on it, sleeping on it and eating on it, for 30 years straight.
As we walk down the main street, just past the OK Corral, giving right of way to a horse drawn stagecoach, we can see the rock face of Cochise Stronghold lit up in red by the setting sun in the distance. What a world of secrets and treasures are hidden there.
Just outside of town, we pull over on to Middlemarch Road again, to get comfortably naked. There on that hill, we are once again in awe of this planet. To the west the sun is fire flashing out of black clouds.
To the east, it is pastel looking like an ice storm. To the south, another worldly combination dots the grand expanse of the sky.
A mile down the road, we pull up to the Border Patrol stop. The car in front of us is presenting a photo I.D. We arrive dressed like paper dolls. “Thank-you sir, go ahead.”