Morning, day number two in the Huachuca Mountains. We have a personal story to share with you….
The two Previous Parts can be found here: https://thefreerangenaturist.org/2019/04/18/miller-peak-camping-and-a-surprise/
As the Day Began:
Birds are up and moving about with their new day. I hear the sound of DF rhythmically pounding her down jacket. She is waking with her chi gung, slapping her body into action. Sun beams are all around, but the tent is in shade. Sun and shade are as different as night and day. I roll over and through the net right next to me, like bed fellows, are yellow daisies and green tall grass. I greet them good morning.
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I slept in two layers of warm pants and a down jacket. It was cold out when I went to bed. It became hot and clammy in the night in the clothing, but I was too lazy to be disturbed to remedy the curse of clothing. It feels good to pull off the pants. But with the chill of shade, I stay with a t-shirt.
As I climb out and upright, I place the jacket on a branch. A deep male voice is in my head singing “Walk Me Out in the Morning Dew, My Honey.”
I walk over to the two holes that I dug for a latrine. There has been activity in the night. The soft dark ground has been disturbed. One hole is filled in. I’m alarmed speculating who, or what. Then, I realize that I have sh_t in someone’s living room! Bugs the bunny, or Gary the gofer are not happy with me. “Human’s, there goes the neighborhood.”
I stroll down the trail a bit until I feel a sense of a perfect place. There, I stand and pray gratitude and sweet surrender, in this morning. No clouds are here today. Up there, where the would clouds glide, is Miller Peak.
We are on our way up to Miller Peak, another rise in elevation equal to our previous day. There is going to be a big climb today. We have spent a while making sure our minds and bodies are ready for this.
The wind direction has changed since yesterday morning. Now, a group of whispy clouds fly by rapidly. A few little ones appear. To the southwest, some are grey. The wind picks up and there are more clouds, which soon block out the direct warm sunlight. It cools.
The plan has been to leave all behind, but for food, water and ashes during our hike, a brazen naked foray miles into the wilderness. The weather had been predicted to be clear, calm and warm. The forecasted opportunity isn’t appearing. We have to consider bringing some clothing, which means a bigger bag. Now, maybe, we’ll just bring one of the backpacks.
It has been established that there is a bear living around here. We have food in an airtight bag, but it would be difficult to get it effectively hung in a tree that that guy couldn’t get into. Our camp is right next to the trail, the tent is open and belongings are visible. There are few up here but us, but then again a passing illegal immigrant could use some of our high tech gear, if only to sell.
DF has loaded up her bag. I have my clothing and extra water to carry, too. We decide to leave the tent and a few belongings and take a lesser load up the hill. Mountains are often unpredictable and we can’t really see what is going on outside of them, as we are down in this valley. It is a disappointment, but then again, we’re more secure.
Taking off with a chill, we return to the spring and its bathtub. With the nippy wind coming up the canyon, I place pants on my legs. We gather fresh water for the day, and make our resolve.
The trail leads us along the hillside where the bear had run off to. We look down at our tarp tent and camp and then leave it behind. It is better to leave without the concerns of catastrophe in the back of my mind.
Around a half of an hour up the trail, we see a pleasant looking campsite on the crest of the saddle. It is under trees. Pine needles have replaced the constant broken rock on the trail. The aromatic scent of the pines over takes us as we smile at each other. We thoroughly enjoy the carpeted walk to the ring of stones for campfires.
The other side of these mountains drops steeply below us. There are dirt roads and trails down there among the trees, then further, grasslands appear. These stretch out to the border wall and an expanse of Mexico beyond. This would be a nice camp, other than the 20 or thirty minute walk to a water source.
The trail is staying on the northeastern side of the crest. It is in good condition, since it is now a part of the Arizona Trail. Teams of supporters keep up the maintenance.
Those yellow flowers continue to delight us. The hillside has been blocking and calming the southwestern wind. I decide to again pack away my pants. Down the trail, we tuck our torso coverings up into the belts of our packs. The air feels wonderful on our bodies. Still, it is a bit too cold to disrobe our upper core torsos.
Within five minutes we are walking through raspberry bushes. There are still a few fresh mature berries to stop pick and enjoy. The rich juice paints our finger tips. They get wiped clean on bare thighs.
The mother earth will take back what is hers. In this case the opportunistic berry plants have sent shoots across the trail. We push our way through the bramble shoots for at least a quarter mile. Each bow has fine needles on the branch.
It is scraping our bare legs, but we soon realize that it is not much more than a good bath brush might scrub. Occasionally there is another type of bush that is less accommodating, often hidden by the other growth. If we don’t see it, it does leave a scratch. The alternative would be to have these grabbing at our pants and probably tugging and damaging them.
A section of tall ferns greet us. These are fun to pass through nude when they are fresh, but now they are a burnt brown and dry. They can scratch, too, but we still are protected with our sleeves and the fern’s tendency to have few lower extremities.
The mountains are in recovery, there are plenty of young aspen coming up. They look like aspen bonsai trees. They are miniatures of their fellows, which are standing higher above them.
Rock formations peek over the other side of the crest. A gradual upward climb brings us to a mountain side of fluorescent yellow flowers. These contrast with the charcoal black trunks of burnt pine trees. I had seen these from below. There at the peak of a crest, sits the sign marking our departure from the Crest Trail. This is a steeper trail. There is approximately a half of a mile left to the peak.
We pass through a section of dead grey trees, their branches shooting out strait. This morning, down below, from the distance, it was difficult to tell if I was looking at a layer of rock face, or these grey trees.
A pair of white tail deer pose and then run off into the brush and stop. I press on for a photo. They once again take off, but this time, disappear except for their sound in the bush.
The trail is thin. Its edge drops off at a rock ledge. All the way, the vegetation is thick and crowding the high side of the trail, driving us toward the ledge. Often it is difficult to see where to step at all. We are constantly leaning, pushing into the thick mass. Still, it is kind to our bare skin as we brush through.
As we come up to a ridge, the vegetation changes to a lower lying species and granite slabs. For the first time, we can see down to Montezuma Pass, which is the southern tip of the Huachuca Mountains. The switchback dirt road looks craggy and difficult. Many years ago, on this equinox date, it was there that DF married the young man whose remaining ashes she carries. She is quietly touched, yet still invigorated by the exertion of the climb.
When she was in her twenties, fresh from back east and knowing no sense of danger, she would climb from the base of Miller Canyon, sometimes under the full moon light, to visit her husband. He had work in the fire watchtower that used to sit on top of this peak. It is a fitting day and place, to leave his remains to rest.
When we arrive at the peak, the views are astounding. Half of the panorama is deep into Mexico, the other half across the United States. It is separated by the border wall, a dark terrifically straight line across the landscape.
I can see my Tortolitas, a two hour driving distance away.
The wind is up. We find ourselves sitting in a curious phenomenon. There is a very circular round dark cloud hanging above us. It’s like an umbrella over the Huachuca Mountains. Beyond, for the hundred miles that we can see, there are blue skies with a few clouds traveling and shading here and there. It is like that character Joe Btfsplk in the Lil’ Abner cartoon, jinxed with a tiny rainstorm over his head, wherever he goes.
DF requires a photo opt. She wants one clothed to send to family and the old friends from those mountain days. She also wants one nude, conquering this peak. The light makes shooting difficult, but the chore is quickly done.
We both get bundled with what we have, the wind is quite chilly. I find an old concrete slab on the leeward side of the peak where I sense windbreak. I sit down bundled in my goose down jacket, yet still wearing no pants. I find a better use for them as a folded a tush cushion. It is time for me to leave DF alone to her personal chore, her prayers, memories, goodbye and ritual.
I scan the Arizona side in front of me. I’m identifying each mountain range and reflecting back to our many nude adventures in them. I snack, drink water and rest. I see the trail and the mountain that we have been hiking. I look for clues as to which valley our camp is in. Can I see it?
There isn’t much left of the old fire tower. An empty cistern for water, some piles of grey stone. DF comes to me and cuddles. She tells me of the time when the lady bugs were so thick that they were gathered up by the hundreds in a bag and brought down to her garden far below.
I feel a tiny drop of rain on my leg and hear one on my hat. Undeterred, it is time to have a short picnic. We snack and watch, thoughts to ourselves.
As we wander around the peak and its ruins, she shows me the craggy rugged rock around us and shares with me a few anecdotes. I see a small pile of rocks placed on a slab. A few of those yellow flowers have been picked and placed to poke out of it. We stand and silently look down at it. I hold her. We have a cry. We then look up and out.
It is still frigid in the wind. We take up our packs and begin to make a casual descent. There is no hurry. Halfway down to the crest trail, a young military looking guy with two walking sticks, using them as third and fourth legs, comes bouncing his way up the trail. He is wearing shorts, a t-shirt, a water pack and a grin. We signal our greeting. He continues to grin as he passes and bobs up the hillside trail.
As we travel through the thick brush and grand vistas, we take occasional photos. A layer of clothing is dropped off here and there, as appropriate to the weather and winds. Backtracking where we came from, we take in everything from a different new perspective.
Deer are about. Two peer down at us, completely still. They look like bookends on a shelf.
A celebration and more surprises in in the night:
We are soon back in camp with fresh water from the bathtub. We are tired and sitting on a log, as we dine on another good veggie soup. There is dark rich chocolate for dessert. We are in celebration and congratulation. As we raise and slap our hands together, our eyes meet, “We did it!” We climbed Miller Peak. We have been working our way up to this since last spring.
It is equinox. We take a walk to a spot which soon becomes sacred. The sun has finally peeked out under the clouds and color is everywhere. Miller Peak is once again in golden hews. The full moon is up. We stand in deep gratitude watching all that is glorious. DF guides us in ritual, noting each of the four directions. I speak a few words of equinox and life’s balance.
The air becomes cold. There are too many coals in the fire pit and too little water to put it out. We decide to lay in the tent, covered by that wonderful down quilt to stay warm. We are soon asleep.
At 1:30am, DF’s cell phone rings. There is no caller. The phone wasn’t on supposedly. The light of the full moon illuminates the forest.
At 3am, I am deep into a dream. I’m happily naked among other people in the dream. At the same moment, back in what we call reality, DF is moving. I’m startled awake. Two very bright white lights are coming down the trail quickly. I roll over. My tomahawk is sheathed, so as not to cut the fabric of the tent. My glasses are sitting loose in my hat. We are exposed in the clear net tent and they are coming at us quickly. As the lights shine on us, I’m still confused, coming out of my deep sleep.
We’re just a few feet from the trail. It feels threatening. Could it be wetback marauders, or some bad hombres? Why move so fast and why at night? A voice says, “United States Border Patrol,” and they continue, passing those few feet away. ”Thanks,” leaps from my mouth. Not for their service, or protection, just thanks for identifying themselves.
We are now awake. There is no sleeping with our residual adrenal release. We talk. There is supposed to be a thick overgrown section of trail and barely passable where they are headed in Miller Canyon. Will they come back? What are they doing out here? If that wall works so well, why are they here?
At 4am, I’m lying on my side and drop off into more of those naked dreams. I keep losing my pants in them. It seems that having spent so much time nude, that nude is now my normal state in my dream’s world. In the dream, as in life, there comes an obstacle to nudity.
Gotta mention the Fungus along the trail:
There were so many wonders along the trail on this day, that I just threw up my hands and decided to just go ahead and publish lots of pictures. I hope that you enjoy our exploration. Here’s some of the bizarre fungus.
Next week: An easy pace.