We got a late start after a late New Years Eve…of course. When we began our drive up into the mountains, it was around noon plus thirty. The goal was to visit the petroglyphs that we had been to once before:
It is winter time and the rattlesnakes are asleep with most of the local reptiles. We can bushwack, step over rocks and climb without fear of disturbing those fellows. The vegetation is more sparse and easier to see under and move around when naked. It is a time when I’ll survey the 55 saguaros that grow on my property and revisit terrain that is too dangerous at other times.
It sounded weird to us as the radio told us the date was in 2014. The reported temp on the radio was 66F downtown as we slowly plodded our way up the 4×4 trail, which has been severely eroded. We weren’t sure what to expect for wind-chill, but the forecast was eight miles per hour at most. To a delight, as we parked and exited the SUV, I was stunned by the absolute surreal silence about us and the warm sun on my nude body. We were in the heart of the Tortolitas.
As we ascended the mountains, a guy on a mountain bike had switched places with us twice, but he was soon going another way. The place was obviously all ours. We had been concerned because people’s New Years Day outdoor activities can detract from our elbow room.
Earlier, I had thought to go up a wash in a different way, but time was an important consideration at this point. The other hiking route would have given us an extra mile and a half in that sandy rocky wash. We decided to make our own way across a saddle, from the area around the old windmill. Again, we could move a bit quicker without those snakes to watch out for and we had been this way before and knew some landmarks.
I stripped off my shirt immediately, but kept a sweat jacket and long sleeve T in DF’s backpack, in case the wind picked up, or the generously warm afternoon sun suddenly was robbed from us. Damn the pants, of course.
DF got the pack this day, because of a surprise lower back problem that I had been suffering for a couple of days. I was carrying two bottles and a camera on shoulder straps. I did eventually throw the long sleeve T over my shoulders to protect against tanlines.
We had very little idea how long that this hike would take. The sun was setting around a quarter to 6:00pm. The tall hillsides and cold air dropping downhill from them, can make it uncomfortable very quickly.
DF timed us. The drive by itself had been about a half of an hour, or more, driven at a 4×4 crawl. We eventually took just over an hour at a constant hike, but not a steady speed to get to our destination. We had to contend with our own trail blazing, sorting out a path through cactus, rock terrain and sharp brush.
The trail, which had been made a couple of years ago was found, but it had become overgrown with prickery plants and the cattle had created many misleading trails off of it. The area was as is typical around there, devastated by the huge hooves and the tonnage of lumbering animals. Much of this mess was offset by a fresh coating of moist green sprouts of grasses and weeds. There was quite a bit of mustard. It all gave these hills a more mowed meadow kind of look.
In other words green instead of the kicked about sand and dirt that the cattle leave. Between cattle waste and the fresh new prickers, we had to constantly watch our footing.
At one point, we had to leave the trail because a large black cow stood across it, not comprehending what we were trying to do. Further down, a small group of six with a bull in leadership gave us some concern, as they watched us from maybe 100 feet away.
My description may sound like disappointed, but we were blessed with incredible vistas, unique saguaros and the trail was not totally indistinct. We were certainly enjoying it.
DF leaned on me as a firm post to remove her long pants and to be freely nude. This meant that they would not go back on quickly, if we had an encounter. The plan would have to be grin and bare it. We couldn’t know if there would be anyone on this portion of the trek this New Year’s Day.
The trail eventually led us through the saguaro covered hills to where it t-bones into large wash that leads to the petrogylphs and waterfall cliff.
We soon discovered a pile of unusual scat and some huge scratch marks in the sand.
We researched the net later, wondering if it had been a mountain lion or lost bear from the Catalinas. It looks like an exceptionally large puma. Or something else left a pile and then an exceptionally large puma came by and made a message with the scratch. We became as heads up. I had smelled a large cat eating fresh kill in the area at other times and this seemed pretty fresh.
As we neared the destination, we were startled by what looked like, behind rock, a wild horse. All we saw was the mange on the back and the head was down. It seemed more thin than a cow. We began to reach for cameras. What a coup to actually see one of the wild horses and get a pic.
It was startled by us, as we found that it was only yet another cow. It tried running up the side of a rock slope, only to kick up dust, as it slid around with no footing and fell. It then turned, and blessings, found another spot to escape from its spook.
DF checked her cell phone for the time, declaring that our hike had been only just over an hour from the truck. At the petroglyphs, I stripped off my gear and laid down before them on the nice flat granite slab to rest.
The sun baked rock was comfortably warm for a bare body. There is always a primitive sense about this place. Staring at the scratched out rock art, I began to project myself into a past time. Our lack of clothing helped to immerse me into the footsteps of the people who made a living in these mountains long ago.
We ate some snacks and I then began to explore the many sharp and unusual rock formations that are often an excellent harbor for rodents and their predators, including reptiles, but again, I had no concerns for that during this winter time of year.
I was able to climb to see the tall cliff from different angles.
This was the cliff and sometimes waterfall, which had produced vertigo in us both, when we were here last. This shoot has a bend and then the water funnels and drops considerably.
The very slippery smooth surfaces won’t allow a misstep.
It is too dangerous to look over the edge at the water shoot.
I stood and watched the petrogylphs and began to speculate.
There are swirling figures that are commonly known to be depictions of the sun, but there are also concentric circles that are similar. I figured that people have it wrong. The swirls are depictions of snakes. On this wall were lots of common animals.
There were a few deer like figures. As I looked at them, I realized that the horns looked more like those of big horn sheep. This tells me that the Big Horn once lived in the Tortolitas. The last of them were killed off just across the valley on Pusch Ridge about 15 years ago. Human intrusion in their environments, blocking of water supplies, human murder and mountain lion’s hunting weakened species hold on their livelihood.
This place is an excellent trap for hunting. It is a small slippery rock canyon formation with the waterfall cliff at one end. This petroglyph spot was ideal for hunters to wait to box in large game.
I noticed that the wind generally flows downstream, so the game wouldn’t smell hunters in wait.
I thought back to our encounter with that cow/wild horse earlier. I pictured the violence.
I then studied a mandala like figure. I had a speculative theory to work with. Tumamoc Hill is down by the downtown Tucson area. It is a sacred space. It is where the first flowers of spring bloom. This was big news back when. The hill can be seen, like a wheel’s hub, from numerous points of ancient civilization around the valley. There is a little known theory that Tumamoc was a center and a messaging center. Not only could the news of the first flowers of Spring be seen by fire or smoke, but news of intruders, etc., as well. I suspected that this was a place of waiting. I also suspect that it was a place of communications. My theory was that if I climbed up the canyon sides that I might find evidence of fire and a direct look at Tumamoc Hill. I did find that the view was there.
This place is more accurately due magnetic north of Tumamoc. That could be significant. I also could see a significant archeological site, which is near my house, from there. Could it be the ancient internet?
We noted that the sun wasn’t staying up forever. We estimated that we could return to the truck in sometime around an hour plus. It was all uphill and we still hadn’t decided whether to take an alternate route back up a wash, thus eliminating the bushwack hassle.
We packed out. We did stop to take photos and listen to a fun unusual bird singing an intricate song on our way. There was a herd of cattle ahead of us on the trail.
They were trying to get away from us. They continued on, as I noticed the turn off for the saddle. We began to bushwack again.
First, we walked up to another height along the trail to determine the distance of the other route, but we knew that we had dawdled enough. The sun’s warmth might be gone soon. I could hear the bull mooing in the distance, probably where the wash is. I know that there is a small cliff in that wash’s canyon that one must climb up and we might trap the cattle like a box canyon. doing that, we might be blocked from our return by them. We went back the way that we came.
The sun was still up in the distance when we got back to its warmth and out of the shadow of the hill. At the truck it was around 5:00. We would have some daylight to drive the difficult road back home. It seemed perfect, but the sun soon began to blind us as it cast a wonderful golden pate on the vegetation surrounding us. I went slower and tried sunglasses and visor, but I still slipped off of a drop on a rock step, that I didn’t see, and banged my bumper hitch. The paint scratching bushes and trees were very hard to see, as I carefully wound through the meandering jeep trail. We have blocked the end of this road three or four times, but people just keep extending it out deeper up the canyon with more meanders.
We were surprised to have had encounters with three other 4×4 parties on the way home. One politely kept the fence gate open for us as we passed and fumbled with throwing any cloth that we could find over our nude bodies. One smiled, but pretty much ignored us.
Back at my place, we had an experimental dinner from dehydrated vegetables, spaghetti sauce and noodles. We’re making ready for the backpacking camping that we will do when it gets warmer.
It was a high spirited day and a good way to start this New Year. I’m so very grateful to have DF to share these adventures and all that we do together.
Happy New Year
Last Fall, we drove up north to the Verde River Hot Springs and Fossil Creek. I’m going to start up this New Year’s posts with tales of that trip…next time.
Be sure to click any image to enlarge it as you desire.
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Another set of great pics and commentary on a beautiful area for nude hiking.
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Love to have been there with you guys. Love our naked hikes, too.
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It is with a certain sadness that I read this post. I came across your blog about 6 months ago and after a quick look decided to read it from the beginning, which I have now just completed. It has made many evenings in what is now a snowy Minnesota very pleasant as I think about hikes that are in the future both free range and covered. Looking forward to more.