I’m looking at property in the Tortolita Mountains and DF and I decide to take a hike while we’re out here. There is a nice little trail that leads up to a cliff face, not very far and relatively quick.
We have been this way before, but not this fork.
This is January. It isn’t bad, but any light breeze might be chilling. We keep some clothing on at first. We are looking across the valley, up at the Catalina Mountain range where at 9000 feet, there is a solid snowcap. DF is getting over a cold and tells me that she isn’t ready for anything too strenuous.
It has been raining and the creek is flowing. The deep sand is soggy and we sink in. It clings to our shoes and makes the round smooth creek rocks slippery. The silence is continually broken by the sound of crunching and grinding, as we trudge through.
The air feels fresh, as it slides up into my nostrils. I can feel humidity as I undress out of a kilt, leaving on my dark sweatshirt to keep my torso warm. DF decides to just remove her sweater top, placing it in our pack, keeping her pants.
Walking up the wash, we miss the intersecting trail. I know that something doesn’t feel right. I backtrack fifty feet and find our way.
After the switch off onto solid trail, we are in new territory, heading up the slope to the cliff face that all of this rubble and soil came from over millennia. It is a good trail for horses, until the switchbacks begin. At that time, we find a fork for them, which leads back down.
This slope is loaded with fun saguaros.
The low winter’s sun light beams through the rows of needles making them look like fur.
Their arms go every which way, some arm in arm, very social.
There is a special presence in saguaros, probably brought on by human projection. Their arms have messages.
They seem like tall beings through the personalities that the arm positions create.
We look back and below, we see our truck at my friend’s house. We haven’t gone very far at all, as the crow flies and we laugh.
I knew that this trail would take us to the base of the familiar cliff that we sit and enjoy the sight of from below. I have seen it for years in the distance from my house. It is a sharp distinct rock face in peaceful hews of brown. I stop and observe the saguaros, which are as upright as the cliff’s wall’s, as they stand at the base.
What I’m surprised by, is that there is a well-defined trail leading between them and the cliff!
The vegetation is thick and diverse here. It is slightly overgrown. We stop and look out at the vistas across the entire valley. On a clear day one could see to Mexico. Tucson is spread out before us and to the west Avra Valley. To the east the Catalina’s are majestic. A huge turquoise blue mass connects it all and meets mountain range after distant mountain range.
I find what looks like a deep cave that must be investigated.
I climb up the slippery rubble to bare rock. I notice that I don’t pull myself up so well. It isn’t like I’m used to. I make note to do pull ups at home. I often need four limbs to get where I need to in our outings. Any weakness can create danger. I have to know that I can depend on all four limbs. It is not safe to be in the midst of a maneuver and find a body part isn’t up to the task. It is sort of like standing up and finding that a leg has fallen asleep.
I find that the cave is just stained black and only goes back four of five feet.
The thing about climbing is that it is often easier to climb up than down. I can’t see the footing that I used on the way up. Fortunately, DF is there to direct me.
As the trail goes around the bend of the hillside, we come to a flat spot, which widens the view into the northeast. We find that it is more windy here, after the calm of the other side. It is a bit chilly. as it pops out and hits us with some surprise.
DF tells me that because she has been sick with that cold she has gotten tired. She resigns herself, “I’m done.” She sits down on a rock with some windbreak. She knows that I’m curious. She is, too. I head on while she rests.
The trail continues to climb. I’m in shade now, on the north side of the hill, behind the cliff. The vegetation is different here. There are more grasses and fewer saguaros. On a frosty morning, a saguaro filled with moist water wants the heat of the sun as soon as possible. This would be shady and cold.
I come to a saddle, which opens to another western vista, not blocked by the neighboring hills. In the distance, I see the silhouettes of Baboquivari the sacred mountain and Kitt peak’s giant telescope.
Still, the trail climbs. Eventually, I see that it continues to the top of the mountain. I can’t abandon DF and time is getting on. She is probably cold on that outcrop. I must find my way back to her.
We start our walk back down the steep trail. There are many slippery spots along the way. Going up is one thing, but this loose gravely sand and rocks demand that care is taken. I don’t want a rash on my bare bum.
We are mostly looking down. I nearly bump my head on a saguaro’s low branch.
Nearing my friend’s house, we decide to go to the other wash on the other side of a hill. These two intersect, but before they do, there is a place called “the alter.” It is a rock slab with a wall of character next to it. The water ponds here. My friend treats this place of his as his church. The massive cliff face, which we have just explored, is as impressive as a cathedral’s spires with its Tortolitan beauty. There is peace and sanctuary here. It is green and abundant. The blessings of life happen here in so many natural ways.
The water trickles. It is a pleasant petite sound. I watch it run through my fingers. I leap over the water from rock to rock.
I lay down on the radiant warmed rock. The shaded part is chilly. I stretch.
DF joins me. There is enough room for two. Shoes off, it is nice to be completely naked. The direct sun feels warmer. The lack of a breeze, also feels warmer. The rock and I share this knowledge.
DF and I reflect back. There have been lots of variations in temperature during the hike.
Eventually, we have much to do. We need to get back to town before sunset. We visit with my friend before we leave. He tells me that I can get up to the waterfalls, the windmill and the upper petroglyphs using that trail.
We will be back.
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