We are up in the Huachuca Mountains. We have just located Bathtub Spring and filled our water bottles. We need to find a place to camp. It is forbidden to camp near these springs because it scares the wildlife.
For the our story about getting here: https://thefreerangenaturist.org/2019/04/12/miller-peak-bathtub-spring/
One thing about this mountain range, it seems that it has no flat spots except on the top of windy hills. Our forecasted sunny weather isn’t happening. There are shady clouds often and the wind chill picks up intermittently with gusts. The windy hilltops could be problems. I’ve been told that Huachuca means windy. Hard gusts can blow a tarp with chilling cold air in the night.
We take a stroll down the trail toward Miller Peak, but soon realize that there is little chance for a good camping spot on the slopes. Looking down, we see the Miller Canyon trail has trees and potential. We grab our packs and begin to look and hope. I ask Ganesha for a spot. Yes, we pray and he comes through. We see a make do in the creek bed that is level. We’ll use that, if nothing else.
Soon, as we walk yet further downhill, there is a spot just off of the trail. It is flat and roomy enough for a couple of tents. It has a tall fire pit. The coals and ashes have filled up the many past circles of rocks. More rocks have been piled around, making the ring taller. Upon closer observation, we are surprised to find that most of the rocks are beautiful white quartz! Thank you, Ganesh, my friend.
This elevated pit and occasional wind won’t make a safe fire. The lack of use during the monsoon season has left tall grass and weed plants. It hasn’t been used in a while.
DF makes a kitchen out of the logs around the beautiful quartz firepit. I start on the net tent and tarp. The stakes slide in surprisingly well, but I use the weight of the convenient large pieces of quartz to anchor the tarp cords in six places. It feels as though I am using beautiful huge gem stones.
The view is down the valley and up through the trees to Miller Peak. DF spots deer up above us, across the grassy hillside.
After setting up, we are surprised to see a cave. It is behind some plants in the hillside near the tent.
We wonder how we could have missed it. I look inside and see debris. It is a good size and goes back deeper. It could be perfect for bears, or smugglers.
There is a vague and not frequently used path to it. It is too late to move and where? We can only hope to not be disturbed.
We have a delicious dinner of thick re-hydrated vegetable tomato soup with a dark chocolate dessert.
After dinner, we are compelled to take a walk in an orange sunset and twilight. We wander down the trail. The wind has died down, we are encouraged that this may be the beginning of the pleasant forecast.
DF is reminiscing of days of youth walking up here from way below and meeting her husband to stay at the fire lookout station on the top of Miller Peak. She tells me of past friendships and anecdotal stories. The sun is creating colorful clouds and lighting up Miller Peak in golden hews. The path itself is pleasant, bordered in green with trees arching over it.
We watch a pair of maybe starlings fly in aerobatics above the tree tops in the setting sunlight. The massive Miller Peak Mountain is glowing in gold, a backdrop to these dancing shadow figures.
Down the valley, the round moon pops out from behind a tree branch and then we see it in glorious display. It is larger from atmosphere magnification. It is a huge pearl in a pastel bed, between two peaks.
At one point we can see the valley floor below and the shadow of Miller Peak creeping across it as the sun sets. All around us, it is bio-diverse thick and green.
Tiny bats flicker about. We encounter a few logs across the trail as it dives further into the canyon. I’d like to explore this Canyon bottom someday. We have been there, but it was congested. Maybe, we could spend a few days camping next to the trek trail with a pair of clippers and clear the quarter mile, or so, of thick brush.
We find two more large piles of coal black scat smack in the middle of the trail. We still ponder the cave and wonder if we have placed ourselves at the door step of a bear, or a big cat, or a weigh station for a group of scared and desperate immigrants. Why is it so overgrown?
We lay down early, dead tired. The moon lights up the night sky and beams through the trees to illuminate the campsite clearly. I lay awake for a while in the cool of the night with the crickets, listening to their chirp. I watch the shinning glitter of those white quartz stones around me polished clean like the fresh cool air. It all turns our tarp into a lampshade, as it pelts our snooze with light.
We both hear a stick break in the calm night air. We lay still and listen, wondering, “Who’s there”
Here and there the tarp ruffles and the sound brings me awake in the night.
Early in the morning, I hear a tapping coming from the direction of the cave. I listen carefully for intruders. Above, a woodpecker is working in the still of the morning.
I drop back off to sleep, just a bit more.
A Surprise in the Morning:
I find my roost on a small knoll in the warm sunshine. I look up at magnificent Miller peak rising from below and then high above. Behind me is camp in the shade of mangled oak trees. The hillside before me has a few new pines. They are still just large Xmas trees dotting the grassy slope. There are thick raspberry thickets covering much of the other side of the creek bed. Birds flit back and forth through these protective trappings.
Some of the birds have long tails, giving them the ability to fly quickly up and down, and changing direction quickly into the covering of the brush. Some bushes are covered with smaller birds.
Some of these aviators, for the reason to simply do it, jump out of the bushes and dive down the steep hillside at dramatic speeds. It’s like following a baseball pitch. There are boy/girl pairs and flocks.
A white hawk flies above, a raptor, efficient, a predator. It appears well fed. It is looking for a breakfast amongst the many smaller birds. It can catch them in the air. I wait. It flies up and clamps onto the hulk of a tall dead pine which had been a victim of the fires. Two small excited birds take refuge in the empty branches just above, not far from and in spite of their torment. I realize that the hawk can’t get to them, it is like an inside punch. It squawks trying to flush them out. They stay bravely as they are. As if realizing their ploy and giving up, the hawk shrugs its big shoulders covered by feathers. The wings rise up and it soars away, around the mountainside.
Life is to be simply lived, to be experienced. This place brings the lesson home. We are just a being of observation, watching what is, life going on, a body feeling, thoughts float in and out from somewhere, to somewhere. We are seamless, merely watching existence and fully knowing wonder.
DF joins me; we sit still in peaceful amazement.
DF grabs my shoulder. “There is something…”
I hear a rustling in the bushes behind us. It sounds big and excited. It bolts across the creek bed and begins up the hill. In unison, we both say, “It’s a BEAR!”
A large fellow, not so much for a bear maybe, or maybe not, darts to a stop on the hill.
It stops, not even 50 feet away. It is rounded, thick with fur of the colors of the tree bark, dark black to greys. Its head is still and cocked off to the side. It is looking at us out of the corner of its eye, out the side of its head. Oversized ears stand up like a Teddy, or a cute puppy that needs to grow into them. It is assessing, deciding what it feels about these strange things? Am I safe, what to do?
DF is struggling for her camera. A long moment slips by before the bear rambles quickly up the steep hill and away. Meanwhile, I hear a clicking sound next to my ear.
“Did ja get it?”
A pause awaits me. I fill it with, “Wow!”
“I think so. I hope so.”
…We sit. We’re quieted by amazement.
The white hawk has rounded the mountain. It passes through again. It hopes to surprise the prey.
Early next week: A personal story.