We are camping in the designated campground of the Verde Hot Springs. We have a parking pass for Matzatzal, a designated spot along Fossil Creek. We’ll have the serenity of a clear mountain stream. The spot should be all to ourselves and no intrusions expected.
We awaken to the gobble of a turkey in the morning….
The sky has cleared nicely and we find ourselves in a pleasant morning temperature and clean air. I still am spending much of my time in the tent with a headache, nursing the persistence of last week’s illness. DF is out and about enjoying a naturally nude morning, taking a stroll.
I’m still dressed in last night’s clothes, worn with a slight fever. DF happens to have put on a sundress when a new camper stops by looking for directions to the springs. He acts invigorated, “I’ve heard so much about the place.”
He has on a t-shirt that says, “What we need is to be a little more Hippie.” There seems to be a mystique, or romance with the old hippie thing. The hot springs are definitely a hippie legacy. It gets me to thinking about these “hippie” values. I think back to the lessons of Woodstock and the myth of the coming Woodstock Nation. Cooperation, looking out for each other, peace before war, love and care of our fellows, and freedoms of choice come to mind. It all sounds like values that we could all use these days in a world ruled much like the era before that generation.
Finally, with patience, I’m strong enough to get into the SUV and tackle that horrible road that we lumbered down to get here. The entire day should have no need for any clothing.
The road is just as bad as it was two nights ago in the dark. When we stop on the top of the hill, after that rocky part, I smell the rubber from my tires. They have been slipping on the rocks, which are now black from cumulative rubber coatings.
On to Matzatzal:
At the top of the hill, there is a saddle. There is signage and we realize that there is camping for a short stretch here, just before the restricted day use area. It is grassy and exposed, a good place for a lightning strike.
Matzatzal is one of the first parking spots coming back through the Fossil Creek area. We have our parking permit printed to be placed on the dash. We pull into the area and park between our choice of two strips of white fireman’s hose. It has been pinned by a thick nail into the dirt to delineate parking spaces. There is room for five vehicles and a public toilet.
We can expect no one, but ourselves. The online permit process tells us, that the only other two people on Fossil Creek are over a mile away. We have chosen this spot, because it is more remote, less popular and ¼ mile from the road on a dirt trail. The plan is to scout the other parking areas, later.
The setting is beautiful. We gaze up at the rock cliffs above. This didn’t exist back in the day. It was just something that we’d pass on our way to the hot springs. The water was mostly being diverted to the Childs power station.
We stroll past all of the signs and then down the path.
Soon, we begin to hear the water cascading through the canyon below.
Following our ears, our hearts and an obvious path. We discover a fossil rock slope on the west side of the creek. The erosion is down to bedrock. Across the stream, there are thick trees, and grass amongst river rock. The effect is no shade on our side and no sitting on the shady side.
We of course begin to explore down the creek on a quest for shade and a flat surface to lie on.
I find a spot to lie on my back. I must prop my feet on a large river rock in the stream. Above me, there is a small tree. The branches fall out like palm fronds, long and heavy and filled with leaves. They wave in the slight breeze. The constant drone of the water rushing by is calming. I might as well be pharaoh lying with my slave’s attention to fanning me from the heat.
I can’t lay flat. My feet are propped on that river rock in the stream. I’m standing up, as much as I am laying down and my submerged feet, are refreshing me throughout.
As the sound of the cascade tirelessly makes its music, I feel its gentle caress through the fibers of hair on my legs, making every cell seem to come alive. My calves are sinking in and out of the rushing water and muscles relax. My eyes close to the wafting branches and I feel natures caress all over.
A flash of warm sunlight finds a momentary tunnel in the leaves and then instantly, the cool blanket returns to cover my body.
I watch myself breathe; I can taste the fresh clear air that flows just above the stream. I smell the water. I am given an extraordinary gift.
In time, eyes slowly open to the world out there. There are turquoise skies today, with wispy clouds. The clouds are a type which are constantly being altered by winds high above me. These are the clouds that inspire imagination. Dr. Seuss creatures form, morph and disappear, one after another. Dragons stretch and fly through the heavens. Faces, some comical, some disturbing, exhume personalities. I go with it. What better activity is there for this moment?
I have been hearing the call of a bird downstream amongst the rush of the waterfall. Lifting my head, I see a large black hawk sitting on a large black boulder as if on a huge egg. It makes its exaggerated cry, jumps up and floats on air behind the drop of the waterfall. I’m surprised to find that it is fishing! I didn’t know that they did that. Have they learned this from the bald eagles up stream on the Verde River?
Returning to its rounded black perch in the stream, it waits and then jumps again, talons stretched, wings out, gliding into the waters, out of sight.
We have been watching fish in the crystal waters today. There are tiny dace who jump from anchorage to anchorage allowing the current to carry them from pebble to pebble. A larger one chases these.
In a school a group of what may be catfish swim upstream from us as we wade. They are maintaining a safe distance as they wander and feed on the bottom.
Golden orange appears to be the popular fashion this year. Dragonflies glistening like koi fish, flutter through the air. A large butterfly has this decor as well, with black wingtips.
DF tries the water. It is brisk, yet inviting. It is perfectly deep, a swimmin’ hole.
We find a way further upstream with a quick climb.
We are still in a quest for a spot to relax horizontally in shade.
Under a cliff, I find something. It is like lying on gravel. I slip and slide downhill slowly as the surface crumbles under me, but I need my rest and my recovery.
After a salty burrito, we filter some cool water.
Back here, we find a shortcut to the main trail to use later.
The light changes as the day goes on. Shadows are longer, air cooler, exposed rock in the mountains above change color.
Back down at the base of the mountain next to the Verde River, in the dark evening, the clouds have cleared. Looking up through the trees there appears to be one more cloudy stretch. We walk out into the night to get a wider view through the trees and canyon walls. It is a thick Milky Way, sparkling gemstones, colorful planets, like a band of angel hair in a big sky. We are naked, the sense of the air makes us feel more alive and a part of it all. We hold hands.
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