We have been camped near the Lemmon pools in the Catalina Mountains for two days. The first was a backpack descent finding a good comfortable camp and enjoying it as the day ended. Today, we have hiked, very much nude, through a wonderland of rock formations to the west side of the range to a vista, which looks down to the Tortolita Mountains and beyond. After gathering our water out of a creek and falling sleep, we have arrived back at camp, resting in the shade of our tarp on mattresses. Tomorrow we will spend the morning exploring the illusive Lemon Pools, before packing back to the car.
It feels “very soon,” as I wake up to a now overcast sky above us. It is now cooler after a warm nude hike in the midday. While DF rehydrates a veggie soup that I had prepared, I write my notes about our day.
The sun creeps out from under the overcast sky. There is a threat of rain. We see it all around, but none of it is reaching the ground. There are wispy trails of a dark grey mist, which are storms that never make the impact with terra firma before evaporating.
As the sun begins to creep out from under the weather, the colors begin to explode, rainbows appear and a wondrous floor show accompanies our dinner. Lichen of shades of green, grey and black covers the granite nearly everywhere. Now, as the light changes, so does the intensity of this mossy material that decorates so much of this surreal world.
DF takes off on a walk about, wandering, as I adjust the tent. I hear voices near. I walk barefoot up a ledge where a large balancing boulder sits. I find my new friend Brandon, who keeps popping up, sitting reading “The Hobbit” in hardcover. He has a comfortable REI chair situated among four great balanced boulders and a stunning view. It is a unique place of solitude.
He is friendly. His cohorts have left the normally talkative young man, having decided to head back to the trailhead. We talk of camping rigs, and where we have hiked.
He makes a committed statement, “All I need is this.” He is referring to life in a busy city career in contrast with the wonder that he has found camping. He understands a simpler practical lifestyle, like a deeply hidden secret of existence. We have that piece humanity in common.
The city lights are coming on far below us, as our faces fade into shadow. DF shows up with a small flashlight to help my bare feet find their way home in safety.
Morning brings me back to the magic of the surreal little hidden cove of hoodoo boulders, where I discovered Brandon the night before. This morning the sunrise is glaring in a canary and turquoise sky. I creep completely naturally bare along the steep sided lean of the rock.
My bare feet grip the grit of the surface. I am feeling for my special place. It is between two massive boulders. The sun is warming the flat level area that I find myself sitting down on.
I lay down a sarong, kneeling before the energetic appeal of the sun. It is primordial, something shared by countless generations before me, by every animal, by the birds, when it triggers their systems to sing. As a radiation warms my skin, I stretch, I pose with yoga and warm the muscles inside me. I experience how I essentially am, as a part of all of this.
I pray for guidance and find that all that is important is the compelling awareness of this moment. Under the balancing mass that poses next to me, there is a triangle between two pillars. I study the golden morning light beaming through it and the framed snapshot of the city miles below.
They say that everything is alive. Some particles vibrate slower than others. At this moment, I am at kinship of the soul with this place.
DF finds her way to join me. I ask softly, peering out, “Does it seem like a long time ago that the hail came?”
A Little Chore?
After breakfast, I have a job to do. We need more water. I drape four bottles over my shoulders and grab the filter. I need absolutely nothing else. I find my way along yet another indefinite path to the trail and then down to the watery slab in the middle of the creek.
All of those revelers are gone, but for two loud voices. They soon become more faint, as they mosey downstream into the forest and some pools surrounded by rock. There is once again peace here.
I begin my slow task of filtering water into the four jugs. I enjoy the wetness placing itself on natural pieces of my body without concern for soggy clothing, or shoes. I look over my shoulder upstream. There is the calm water with its arched canopy of verdant bows. They reflect in the waters, a tunnel.
Coming at me, is a black bird sailing at speed, fast along the aerial highway. It could never stop or turn for an obstruction. It has to have gone this way before. I suspect that it is speeding through here for fun. It is bearing down right at me. If I stand up, it might not be able to swerve. Mischievously, I think to rise. Like an arrow, the living projectile swiftly passes and continues to barrel down the narrow channel.
To the Pools:
Back at camp, we gather up a minimum, knowing that we’ll be climbing down a steep and unstable incline. It is a short distance to a narrow path that takes us to a wonderful campsite near the slope.
The trail is just loose rocks, slippery, even treacherous.
At one point I find myself literally climbing through a tree’s branches.
It should be easier going back up.
We hear two voices below, young male and female, some quiet giggling. Before long, this “trail” opens up and to my right. I see much more than I had imagined. A thin waterfall slides down through a smooth rock face. A swimming hole and shady tree are amongst the boulders. The young couple is sitting quietly, minding their own business.
I’m surprised by a pretty young blonde that has come down right behind us. Coincidentally, she knows the other girl. Conversation erupts.
We decide to explore on. Climbing through and over some big rounded boulders, we soon find a shady flat rock.
I lay down, stretched out comfortably on its cool surface.
DF joins me. We are quiet, listening to the sound of a trickle behind us and looking up through the trees.
We suspect that there are more pools. Past the collection of boulders I see a treetop, indicating a drop.
That’s for next time. This time we’re taking it easy. We have a good uphill hike this afternoon after breaking camp.
After all the time that we need and now, very comfortable and completely nude to our toes, we decide to return to the pond.
It is disappointing to find seven people gathered around, sitting, laying on the rocks.
The slender blonde and the male have made their way up onto the rocks above the fall. She is climbing around carefully, he just sits and watches. Their friend rises up to join them.
Standing in wait above the pools maybe 15 feet above the waterline, the blonde is daring herself to jump. After, a calming hesitation, she explodes the pool, disappearing underwater. Her head rises up, not in triumph, but to shout, “It’s cold!”
She convinces us. We try out a boulder, shoot a few pics and decide to head out.
The climb out is easier.
We break camp.
The first time taking down the new tent is much easier than the setting up.
We stop by the other shady campsite by the stream and have a warm soup for lunch. We’ll have a burrito next to the trail around half way up, then, back in town. The goal is Italian ice-cream.
I lay down and write notes, falling over gently to just relax.
The birds call out. The wind occasionally rises, roams the tree tops and moves on. This is a gorgeous place without all of the noise.
Rested, our packs feeling slightly lighter and we march off.
All along the trail, there are plenty of various pine smells.
The summer vegetation feels cozy.
We are grateful for the cool of clouds and no strong winds, just a refreshing light breeze.
There are no encounters, until we arrive at the intersection. There are no crowds until the parking lot. There among cars and busy people, “civilization” immediately feels extremely overrated.
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