We’re supposed to have a mostly cloudy day today. We’ve run out to Tortolita to get my mail. My friend called to tell us that the desert was in a full bloom after the rains.
In January, we had discovered a well-groomed surprise trail. I have now seen satellite photos and heard where that trail goes. Although it is not on the maps, we were told that it can be used to traverse the Tortolita Mountains to my usual and familiar territory. It would be a sort of back door. I’ve looked at the topo maps. Those images and knowledge of the terrain tell me that we will end up near a familiar area, but it seems to disappear at a point. I don’t know why and I have never come across this trail in my hiking.
We’re to embark on a nude exploration. I suspect that we will see no one else out there.
Here’s how we discovered the trail and how far we got on that day:
When we arrive, my friend suggests, well insists, that we just head out through the desert straight to the cliff face. We would certainly bump into the trail which runs across the hill, before that cliff face.
My plan had been to take the familiar wash and leave the clothing behind. We take off, zigzagging the rough, thick, but low growth. I am not happy with its difficulty, but it is beautiful, with a plethora of various flowering plants in green grasses.
The grass however, helps to hide errant balls of cholla prickers and the remains of prickley pear plants, all thick with needles.
We have to be careful.
We find the trail, disrobe, me losing a kilt and DF a light sundress. We don’t expect to see anyone, maybe a hiker.
It is not long before we hear voices. We stop, look at each other and then backtrack, first down and then off of the trail. As I wrap my kilt back around my waist, there is a tall head coming over the rise.
DF has her dress rolled up at her shoulder under her camera and water bottle straps. She must pull it out and then, get it over her head. She steps off of the trail behind a taller cholla, as we realize that it is people on horseback. We have been spotted, and the first voice is suggesting to the others to hold back, while she gets dressed. They don’t.
Two younger women, then a thirty-ish guy with a long black beard, appear as DF fumbles around. l begin to chuckle. In her desperation, she is smiling with nothing but acceptance. These three are followed by an older woman and man. The horses lumber on past as the five exchange greetings with us and we wait. The last man thanks us for making room and not spooking the horses, or being patient, I’m not sure.
I ask if they have been up the hill, and the answer is no. They came from the road through the neighborhood.
The trail up the hill, which we will use, is thin anyway. I figure that we are unlikely to see more travelers.
Oh well, we’ll be something for them to talk about over cocktails, I suppose.
Fork to Solitude
We walk a short distance and find the trail’s fork. I disrobe again and start the steeper part of the climb. The yellow brittle bush has the entire hillside lit up in yellow. It is a wonderful natural garden.
We follow the trail without surprises this time. At the first opportunity, I place my camouflage kilt on top of a boulder that I will recognize on the way back. I’ve got the day pack and extra water, and I don’t want any unnecessary weight. I also like the idea of abandoning myself to freedom without clothing.
We round the bend and arrive at the familiar rock formation that DF had sat on before. It is a fine and warmer day today. From here, it is new for her.
Dainty white flowers dot the green grasses as we climb along the hillside.
The vista of the western Sacred mountain of Baboquivari is passed and DF lags behind to soak it in and take a photo. To the east, Mt. Lemmon is crowning the Catalina range. It is still covered with snow in contrast. Today, it feels perfect for a nude body.
We pass where I had climbed before and where we are both in new territory. I see the canyon and trail below where we first took these trails. Beyond it, is where we hiked last spring during “yellow time.”
Link to “Yellow Time”:
Still this trail climbs. I wonder if it is here just to reach the mountain top for the view.
We eventually look down into a canyon and it is familiar. It is where we tried to find a Tortolita Traverse before:
The rock where we had lunch is only a couple of hundred feet down this hill. We were so close.
The flora reflects springtime and abundant winter rains.
We admire and stop to appreciate the show as it is happening.
I’m surprised to bump into a barbed wire cattle fence. The trail continues along it.
We are soon surprised to see a canyon below. It is our familiar trail, coming from my old neighborhood in Tortolita. I never knew that this trail was so close to where we would hike. The angles hide it. The barbed wire fence dissuades.
Bees buzz and are heard across the canyon. They are out and busy everywhere.
The trail is overgrown, but well-marked. With a sleuth’s effort, we don’t get it confused with the meandering cattle trails that can fool us, steering us off in the wrong direction.
A green gate appears. It creaks, as I detach the chain and slip through.
DF is surprised to see me standing like a gentleman at a doorway. I bow politely, gesturing to her to pass.
It is at this point that the trail gets difficult. The grass is thick and it just isn’t easy to find. There are cairns periodically and some sun bleached white tape in a few of the mesquite trees and cacti. We have to back track, or stand and consider where the trail is, several times. All of the indicators are heading in the correct direction. It is now difficult to discern cow wanderings from the human creation.
We find a trail intersection which becomes familiar to me. It is the way to the petroglyphs. I place a system of sticks marking the confluence, so as to not miss this on the way back.
Now, mostly cloudy skies are making it much cooler with a slight breeze. DF puts on her dress to block the wind.
We are deciding to have a late lunch at the petroglyphs or not. This trail is overgrown, as it was when I passed through here a year ago. At that time, I got lost and scratched up quite a bit.
We begin to look for a rock for two. That chill helps along our decision, too. We aren’t sure when the sun will come back.
We head onto what looks like a rocky bald hill, off of the trail to sit. It isn’t, but below, next to a small empty wash creek, there is a rock. We arrive at our rock for two, to find that someone else has already been there. Perhaps a ground squirrel has left a mess. It must be swept away.
We eat our lunch and snack. Looking down, we discover at our feet, the only standing water that we have found. It is merely a small bowl in a piece of granite The puddle ripples each time a drop seeps out of the rock and falls, just slower than a ticking clock. We surmise that there is probably a good amount at the petroglyphs, but we’ve decided to head back.
“Let’s head back”
Returning, we find the sticks that I had laid out to mark the fork in the trail. We make our way across the grassy field, but it isn’t any easier this direction. It all needs trail work. Maybe later the good weather will come, I’ll have a pair of gloves and some clippers and a broom with me.
Maybe I’ll spend a couple of days and camp out.
The cold at the end of the day is defined by the numerous flowers that are folded up, as we pass them on the trail.
Still there is plenty of color. The whites today, are dominated by the purple and bright yellow flowers.
We feel the change, as the sun cuts through the clouds. We feel the heat on our backs and DF relishes the relief and splendor of it all, stripping once more on a hilltop.
Do you know that moment, to have the warm bright sun come out, to strip away the cloak, to no longer be contained, to enjoy the air, to breathe and feel the sun? The colors change and oppression goes away.
DF takes the backpack for a while. When I take it off, I lose its warmth and the whole of the day feels cooler. I place the sarong around my neck like a scarf and feel much warmer. It is as if the cloth on my neck gives the rest of the body permission to be naked. I suspect that it is like having a wet cool kerchief on a hot day to keep cool.
I also notice that the sound seems to have changed with the coolness.
A friendly saguaro cactus drapes its arm around a buddy to feel another sunset coming. We stand as the same, looking down on the Tucson valley stretching out below us.
Our sentiment is the same. We agree that we just want to stay up here. We don’t want to go back to weird empty grocery shelves and threats of deadly virus and economic ruin. We want to be away from fear and foolishness. It has been very good in the moment, with flowers, silence, peace and reality.
Oh how good the flowers smell.
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