I found that my calendar was filled with an abundance of “ME” time. DF went to Morocco with her women’s group for a couple of weeks.
I quickly got into the business of a detox fast. I took care of myself, exercised moderately and studied on how to do that.
One day, I wandered out and found myself at the door of an old friend that I used to work with. He has several acres about a mile and a half a mile from me.
As we caught up, he began to show me around his property. I realized that I had never seen the acreage. Upon my request, he took me on a full tour of his desert twenty, or so, acres. The main wash rolls through the property on the hidden side of the hills, which you don’t see from the south face, where he lives. It is covered with the usual mesquite and grasses. It is the stealth route that DF and I have used to access a tall waterfall through the Stone Canyon Golf Course and residential area. The gated community sprung up blocking my old bike path to the waterfall, but that is another story.
What I didn’t realize is that there is a tributary, which intersects there and his property is backed against State Trust Land. He also offered me the run of the place, anytime.
After the visit, I got on line and investigated the area with Google Maps. I followed the brown strip of sand up and into the mountains. Several spots with large bedrock sheets can be seen. Mesquite trees line the natural path. There are million dollar homes on the border of the public lands, but apparently there is a dip into the wash, which creates a view buffer and the distance is far enough to not be seen. At this point, I have decided to hold off until DF‘s return, but I’m chomping at the bit to get out there and explore.
After midnight on a Thursday, DF steps off of a shuttle bus from Phoenix Airport after 24 hours of travel. She looks exhausted and I know that she is in an eight hour time change. I take her to my house and she drops dead away.
There are basically two spring bloomings here in the Sonoran Desert; one comes in early spring, usually beginning in March give or take, when winter rains will produce a plethora of dainty pastel flowers. They can be so prolific that they carpet the ground. With the green growth from winter, it is enchanting. I’ll do a report later about my Spring walkabout.
Sometime around mid-April and into May, typically, further blooms appear. These are when the succulents are popping out their florescent flowers.
The mesquite blooms lay yellow powdered dust everywhere, and palo verde trees become masses of dainty yellow flowers.
Among this “yellow time of year” saguaro are topped with white and ironwood are a mass of lavender to compliment those palo verde. DF has arrived home in “yellow Time.” She walks out into the fresh morning air to sit and slurp her smoothie on the rock slab, warm by the sun and nurse the hangover that travel brings.
She is captivated. My property is a wonderland rich in pastel color and topped with clear turquoise skies. Birds are singing, interrupting only the still quiet.
I excitedly tell her about my discovery. It is all just too wondrous and fleeting to pass up the moment. She asks about how far. I tell her that it is a short hike, up a wash with essentially no elevation climb and cool morning air. When I tell her,”All that we need are shoes, water and a camera,” she is sold.
We drive the two miles on dirt roads to my friend’s property, parking near his guest house mobile home. There is a guest staying there. He needed a place to retreat during a tough time and was offered the little house a couple of days back. He had been warned about me coming through.
I have situated the truck behind a mesquite tree and thick foliage a few feet from the wash. I don’t want to be engaged with the fellow; we don’t want to have to get covered, or deal with his surprise at nude people. We don’t have to take any clothing this way, just leave it behind in the cab of the truck.
It is a short distance to the property line. I’m surprised that there is a barbed wire fence there, crossing the wash. There were once cattle being grazed in the area. I scout around looking for a low point to go over or under the rusty barbs. The best spot is about crotch high. We can push it down and carefully straddle over it there.
I soon see that this is not the wide trail that I thought that I saw in the satellite image. The wet winter has produced mesquite growth into the wash, but the main disappointment is the incursion of buffle grass, an invasive species.
Buffle grass is a clump of a plume of long pieces that flow out like a fountain in washes. It can stand waist high and often covers a three foot diagonal. It is not a problem to walk through, as it brushes against the skin in itself. It does however, provide a danger, as its overhang creates shade to shelter rattlesnakes. Lounging rattlesnakes hidden where my feet need to blindly step.
Through the years, we have been deterred from several creek areas by this, all over Baja Arizona. It is clogging up many of our favorite haunts in the Tortolitas. The satellite photos are just a few years old, but show no indication of this new growth. I am always temped to bring a shovel with me into the desert and attacking this pest. Oh for the pleasure of a blow torch, or flame thrower.
Soon enough, we intersect a trail that is coming from the Stone Canyon neighborhood. This had given me a little concern that there could be hikers, horses, or even quads coming through here while I was exploring the satellite images. Like the wash, it is also thinner than I thought. It comes from a spot with a fence across it. It leads up a hill to a spot under a rock cliff. There must be spectacular views of the valley and city lights there, but that will be another time. There is also a less used trail that will lead over the hills into the mountain range, a high road.
This is Friday and upon inspection, we see that we would be unlikely to have an encounter on any day going up this wash.
It soon becomes evident how much that the wash is unused. There have been no rains for at least three weeks and still the sand bears no tracks or disruptions. We can assume that we are free.
With the lack of use as a trail, our walk has become more akin to bushwhacking. The winter rain’s mesquite branch growth into the wash is an obstruction. We have to bend around and under. Sometimes we push back the branches and some dead and brittle, will break off. There is a cautious pace and an intensely aware sense when in our bare outfits.
It would be a hassle for a clothed person, unless they wore thick denim overalls and boots. Many of these branches have thorns. Mesquite is joined by catclaw acacia and other scratchy plants. Then there are the branches pushed aside that whip back when they can. Clothing gives no sensitivity, so it gets caught by these plant protectors which are claiming their ever expanding turf. It gets hung up and many of these needles will penetrate the clothing and take to the skin like a blade.
A nude body has a sixth sense. Our walk leaves us mostly unscarred. Most of the points will simply brush at our skin like a good scrub brush. If it takes ahold, we stop before it can create a bloody gash. By the end of our trip today, I will walk away with several scrapes on my forearm.
At one point, I stop. There is a large house up and in line with the wash ahead.
It is built high with a patio to take advantage of the views. There are two workers in orange florescent shirts on the roof. DF points out that they have their backs to us. We continue on in sight. We would be small and blend in. They are busy working on a roof. If they turned around, they would not complain, or take the time to disturb us.
The wash is mostly firm sand, but as we get into sections with rocks, the buffle grass appears. We must carefully step on and in-between the grass mounds. Then there is also the potential danger on the hidden sides of rocks there. Me in the lead, I must move with anticipation in each step, listening for a swish or an alarming rattle. I’m ever ready to react in retreat, or jump, however my adrenaline decides for me. With all of this Spring beauty, the four species of rattler in these mountains also arrive.
These fountains of grass also hide sprigs of needled young plant’s branches. At times the combination of stepping cautiously and avoiding the stray brambles gets tiresome.
All in all and for the greatest part of it, we are walking through the desert, unhindered, admiring the rock formations, enjoying the varieties of surfaces.
There is an occasional climb up some bedrock, or a dry waterfall.
We enjoy these spots. Some require handholds, but a little canyoneering adds spice to any journey.
The flora with its splashes of shades of yellow and peppering of cactus florescent blooms is a gigantic garden.
Spring is here, warmer weather is returning. I am pleased to have my favorite Desert Flower home with me.
We come to a waterfall. Its pond is filled with sand. The rocks only bear the residue of grey from lime deposited during past flows. It is steep, straight and tall. We won’t get past it, unless we climb around through the desert. We’ll take a break here.
I discover water. There is some seeping out of the rock. I joke that the fall is active.
DF goes over to pose for perspective, but we don’t get very close. Bees are swarming around the trickle. Insects like these places of moister.
DF turns to me, “I hear voices.” It sounds like they could be just around the corner about to step out. We are hearing the echo off the round rock wall from far behind us. Perhaps a half of a mile away, workers are talking in a dirt field laying a foundation for another expensive house.
DF’s jet lag and lack of sleep are catching up with her. She looks very tired and says so. This is a good place to turn back. There is another valley up above the water fall. The wash continues. There appears to be a high route into that area from a satellite’s view. There will be other times. This playground will be here, all for us.
We make our way through the foliage. Some places are just impassable and we have to find a more intricate way around, or through.
The rock faces that we climbed up feel a bit more daunting as we climb back down, but as I said before, most of this is a walk in the natural park.
Many of the landmarks seem a bit further than I remembered. The route seems a bit longer. DF is ahead of me. She is leaning and slouching. She has had enough.
It’s been an hour and a half, or maybe two, since we left the truck.
We sneak back onto his property, but hear the busy industrial hum of a vacuum cleaner inside the guest house. This means that we still have no need to dress. We don’t dress until the next afternoon, when it is time to fill DF’s refrigerator in town. DF has been with a group of women, house servants and on the streets of a conservative Muslim country for two and a half weeks. It has all been clothed. She couldn’t even tan privately on the roof patio. The weather is gorgeous; we don’t want to leave our connected sense of liberation. Life simply feels too good…naked.
We have four or five Springtime adventures, several shorts and articles, a four year anniversary, some stories out of the past that need reworked and we’re on course for a season of new fun from the bucket list.