We arrived for the first the shuttle at Sabino Canyon Visitor Center. We had had to wait out the weather.
There had been a nearly full moon the night before to walk up to the last shuttle stop. It can be a beautiful hike, but for the asphalt for miles and breaking rules about pitching a tent. We decided that for the five bucks to ride the shuttle, we would ride past the tourists, enjoy the views and be fresh. The tourists will be gone sooner, and we will be on the trail and free.
We are heading up to Hutch’s Pool for a night or two. I have a Birthday to celebrate in proper attire. I want to be with my favorite friend and enjoying my favorite activities. The pool is a favorite, about four miles hike for us. There are clouds over the Catalina Mountain range this morning, but the forecast is sunny. The grey covering is beginning to dissolve as the sun breaks through.
We place our packs on the back seat of the shuttle and listened to the descriptive recording along the way, as we watch the beautiful canyon pass by. The driver is friendly and helpful. I think back years to the last time that I had ridden the old shuttle and the driver’s voice had been our guide. Each one had had a different personality and enthusiasm. This recording sounded like one of those typical Disney movie narrators.
I was surprised as this recording mentioned plans for a dam a few decades ago. It would have killed all that fans out below Sabino Canyon and bury the rest of this wonder under water! Fortunately the funds dried up, so the water didn’t and the catastrophe was averted.
I watch the familiar places pass and remember my first trips up into this canyon. We used to be able to drive up and park on the side of the road before the shuttle. Hidden behind the giant boulders, we would drink cheap wine, smoke and skinny-dip. These days, 1.3 million visitors each year populate our old playground.
We get to the last stop and climb out. DF has a sundress on and I have found a pair of old swim trunks in the back of my dresser drawer. A pair of middle aged people get out with us and start up the trail. We’ll have to wait to disrobe.
They are friendly enough. The guy is suffering bad knees and envy is in his eyes, when he tells me that he would love to go out and camp, like us.
Eventually, they take the Phone Line Trail and we’re off on the other fork.
It is quiet out here, the excitement of tourism is melting away; the calm morning air and pace take over the ambience.
A lizard scurries away from me down the trail, as I walk. I catch up with it and it scurries away again and then again. Poor little guy has run 60 feet out of its way, thinking that I am chasing it.
The inside of my legs are feeling the chap of the swimsuit liner. A trail runner has come up from behind, but I finally decide to get out of the pants. We are far enough from the trailhead. It is Friday, there are likely just a very few other people on this trail, at this time. Most don’t get past the bus stop.
DF sticks the pants under the straps of my backpack for me. On this first backpacking journey since last Fall, my bag had felt heavy at first. I have felt my knees adjusting, and by now, I’m getting used to it. I adjust the straps and belt. I’m getting in tune.
I tuck my t-shirt into my backpack waist band; DF tucks her dress the same. It is a comfortable temperature, but still a bit of a morning chill. We know that we can always drop the front down and be legally covered at any time, as if that matters out here.
The sensation without the pants feels liberating. I’m feeling so much more and natural. Within a 100 feet, I turn to DF, “Well, my experience just improved about 180%.” This isn’t called free hiking for nothing.
Before long we are surprised by a lone woman, who is making her exercise by walking fast. She will go two miles to the intersection of trails and then return. We will move slower, taking pictures, enjoying a new wondrous place, with a load on our backs.
The terrain gets grassy and the grasshoppers are out. One takes flight around me as I approach. The rather plain critter spreads its wings. I’m surprised by the hidden rich turquoise fan under its dull exterior.
We are elevated high above the water. We can see plenty of water in inaccessible swimming holes. Above us are jagged massive cliffs and then an increasingly blue sky. The sun has gotten overhead enough to end the shadows of the steep canyon walls. Across the canyon, there are huge bare cliffs and dry waterfalls.
We stop and turn around, looking back at the valley that we just came through. There is a line along the far foothills along a mountainside. This is Phone Line Trail. One day I’d like to do a monsoon hike along there nude. It isn’t very popular. It is visible from below nearly all the way, but the distance is so far that people wouldn’t be able to be certain what the tiny characters up there are wearing. We’d be hiking in plain sight nude, but undetected. The monsoon would bring waterfalls and ponding in pools.
We are about to pass around a bend and lose sight of the Sabino Canyon area. This will be new territory. DF had been to Hutch’s Pool a couple of years before, but had been with a pair of girlfriends who took her another route via Gordon Hirabayashi Campground.
A little snake, maybe a foot long, wriggles off of the warm trail and under a rock, before I can snap its picture.
Another runner comes toward us. She must have gotten up here at sunrise.
I stand watching the granite face on the other side of the canyon. It shows magnificent formations of niece, the black, white and grey strips of rock that is prevalent all up and down this canyon.
I move and another young snake, maybe two and a half times the size of the last one jumps rapidly off the trail and down a steep rock surface. It seems to jump to the next boulder and then jumps out of sight into a bush. Jumping snakes!
We sit under one of the few trees shady and handy enough to rest and drink some water. As we emerge, DF is delighted by a swarm of butterflies. They are all around.
I look down and see two large swimming holes and begin to look for a passage to them. They would be private.
The woman speed hiker walks swiftly past us and through the wonderment. She is on her way back. She looks very serious, a determined clenched teeth and stern squint.
About half way, the trail heads away from the canyon that leads to Hutch’s Pool, while it drops in elevation. I stop to take a picture of a mass of flowering bushes. In just that much time, the blooms have my nostrils dry and then I’m with a runny nose. I’m allergic, apparently. This lush diverse desert seems to have something for everyone to be allergic to, every so often.
Across the way, we hear voices talking in the peaceful silence. We then see tiny people hiking. One is in an evident red shirt.
When we reach the intersection of the trail we will meet them. I drop my shirt in front of my genitals. Soon two women join us, the talkers. They inquire about our toe shoes. How thick are the soles, how do they react. I answer the barrage of questions. They are very friendly. The guy looks curiously at my rigged shirt. The women keep going on and on. They mention shoes, but nothing of the oddly bared butt cheeks.
The wash is a pile of big rocks and little sand. We find ourselves jumping and cautiously stepping from one rock after another. I’m looking for a large rock under a shady tree to rest and snack. We have passed the halfway spot.
A shady candidate is found.
We strip off the packs and sit down. DF takes this opportunity to shuck off her clothing. It is actually a tad cold under the tree in the light breeze. She puts her white blouse back on to pack out. I leave the t-shirt on.
Then, after setting up our rigs and walking back out of the shade, the sun is out and it is getting warm in the clothes. Oh well….
Hutch’s pool is a mile and a half more. The thin trail passes through the rocky stream.
Here the grass is tall.
Young buffle grass is beginning to be a problem.
In the Neighborhood:
Eventually, DF points out a light trail.
It’s just trampled dry grass really. It wanders off to the right. She says that it leads to their old campsite. We decide to check it out and all the sites along the trail on the way to the pool. It has become shady and pleasant.
Here, there is a fire place sheltered by boulders. I’m concerned about the very dry grass catching fire.
We continue on, inspecting campsites along the way, until we arrive at Hutch’s Pool. It looks just like the pictures.
There is a sandy beach and a few places with boulders and a granite face. We choose one to lay the packs on. After three hours, our baggage has become heavier, the top clothing hot and it is time to relax.
The water is cold. There is snow runoff in there.
I see a flat warm rock to lie on. I meld into it and find a pose like a corpse on a sacrificial alter. With my hat over my eyes, I am soon about to drift off to sleep.
I hear voices, male and female, but I’m not about to move, or be bothered. They walk away. DF sits quietly at the pond.
After a spicy bean and humus burrito, we decide to wander up the stream. There is a trail to nowhere that pretty much peters out.
This a climb down a sharp 12 foot cliff. Then, crossing through thin new growth trees, we find an idyllic spot.
This is a place that I could spend some time at, but we should claim a campsite before any Friday afternoon crowds might come through.
Making our way back to the first site, we find two backpackers standing in it. “Oh. Were you going to camp here?”
“Great we were.” “Don’t mind a little nudity do ya?”
“Oh dude, of course not.”
They leave and I set up the tent.
DF and I climb through a field of boulders to get to a slab on the another side of the creek.
We filter out drinking water and an extra liter to rehydrate diner. DF gets involved in the cooking process and I gather wood.
I reconstruct a small fire pit and set up sticks in a Boy Scout teepee arrangement. The fire start is ready for a single match.
DF is watching large black raven digging in a dead tree. It is tapping like a woodpecker. I haven’t seen this behavior. These black birds have been infrequent until a decade or two earlier. I’d see them often in Mexico, but not up here. So, they dig for insects?
Our hearts sink. There is a nest in there. We pray for the chick’s survival, but all in all it is not our place. Several minutes go by and then the alarmed parent hawks come home. We now hear the sound of only one offspring.
Diner set by the fire, we have a spaghetti soup in our cups. The chocolate for my birthday the following evening is half consumed ahead of time.
The flames rise higher than expected when the tepee catches. We are soon sitting in that ritual that leaves us staring into the fire. The natural attraction that seems ingrained in people, like DNA.
We begin to sing old songs around the fire. DF is amused and sometimes bewildered by the old dusty tunes that are coming out of my head. She sings along. “My Boyfriend’s Back” by the “Angels” will unfortunately remain stuck in our heads well into the night.
The nearly full moon comes out, beaming through the leaves and branches of a scrub oak like a yellow headlight on a train. It lights up the canyon walls and delivers intriguing silhouettes.
On the north side, the vegetation is a grassy desert with huge classic saguaros that have been protected by the sun on cold mornings. The south is upper desert, almost a forest. Between, it is pleasant next to the fire in the rocks next to the stream. Heat reflects off of warming granite. We soon discover that we don’t need clothing until after dark and no pants are used deeper into the evening. Eventually, we get into our open top net tent and fall quickly asleep looking up at trees and moonlight through our net.
Next Week: We extend the trip and enjoy new discoveries and relax in the sun and shade.