We are going to spend four days in the Huachuca Mountains, a sky island which has its southern tip at the Mexican border. It is Friday to Monday, so I have planned to avoid the weekend crowd by being in more remote areas during the usual high points.
The weather has been changing and this is our backup plan to another part of the state. Often, I just have to mitigate circumstance. Two options, or more, will often save the day, if the weather needs to suit a lack of clothes. The first two days will be in the more remote area on a west facing side of the mountain range. This is also where the warm sun will be on the cooler days. This morning, the quickest way to bring us to this new spot the earliest, is by taking the highway through Sierra Vista. The planning works out well and our story begins.
South of Serra Vista, the trees and grass around new stucco homes, reminds me of California.
There is a turn off of the highway that leads to Montezuma Pass. The two lanes head toward the mountains as we look down the hill at the great black line that is the border wall. Things have changed since the days when a Mexican could just walk across the expanse each week, work and then return home to family.
Anxious to get out to nature, we are slowed to a near stop by construction going up the winding Montezuma Pass road. It looks like there will be asphalt added on top of the dusty trail. Tourists bring money to the economy.
Once we have cleared the pass with its vista, tourists and history, I pull over to slip the lockers into 4×4 to hug the road a bit better. The dirt road is steep and sometimes slippery.
Both of our cell phones go off in ring tones. They are messaging us, “Welcome to Mexico.” It feels unsettling to know that we are being tracked. The recorded voice goes on to explain that our charges will be no different. Perhaps Verizon and T- mobile are not aware of the Gadsden Purchase.
There is a parking area at the base of this hill and it is time for a break. When we pull off of the road, I notice a truck hidden behind a tree. I get out and wrap a kilt around just to take care. It is Border Patrol. It is creepy being spied upon.
We pull out and cross the main road where there is the dirt track to the two valleys. We intend to explore both during our retreat.
The road gets pretty rough. At one point I question that we might have made a wrong turn, as it wanders through the scrub oak trees. Soon, a sign is posted mentioning one of the trails up one of the canyons that we intend to explore.
I feel gratified, when we see that we are chasing a turkey. It flees down the middle of the road in front of us. Fright and flight, it doesn’t seem to know that we won’t follow it into the trees. This is the wilds and soon we will come to a designated wilderness.
We come to an open camping spot with a large fire-pit. There will be no fire, this week. It’s dry and there are restrictions.
We sit relaxed under the canopy of scrub oak, alligator juniper and other associate beings. DF pulls lunch out of the cooler, a stack of sandwiches made the night before. This place feels good. The sounds and quiet are peaceful and we have it all to ourselves. We’ll wait to have a hike a bit later.
We sit listening to the turkeys call to each other. There seem to be four calling four and then three calling three. Did one wander off? We follow their movement by their sounds. This is a treat.
In between the turkey conversation, a bird call which is new to us, rings out at a rhythm of four tones. Something about it seems proud. Then, another of that kind calls out with three tones, as if another call. They are the same kind of bird, but will never harmonize or sing together.
A bird of stunning color, flies above and lights in a tree. It must be a relative to a parrot. I’ve never seen one like this on this side of the border. Animals travel through these sky islands, which link to more ranges and ecosystems deep into Mexico.
The quiet calms us.
We begin our search for each of two canyons by walking further up the road. I’m in no mood to drive more and possibly have more 4×4 excitement, or thrills. For all we know, it may only be a short distance beyond where the wilderness starts officially.
There are no cars, but we decide to leave our territory marked by our red SUV. On a Friday afternoon, if we drove away, someone might claim our great campsite in our absence.
We do take off pleasantly nude. There are toe shoes on our feet. Cameras and water are slung over our shoulders. We figure that we need no clothing on this gorgeous day. All of the indicators, so far, tell us that it is doubtful that we might just happen to see someone else. We’ll soon be in a designated wilderness and away from campsites and trailheads. It is Friday and the weekend hasn’t taken off, yet. We have grasped a sense of freedom. We look to each other, “Why not?”
We soon find another spot to camp among the trees. It is flat, but could be a problem during flooding. There is a gully cut through the hillside above this spot, where the creek cut though a hillside during a severe storm.
I take note, as I am considering this as a future glamping spot. We are in a charming area.
Just before the sign marking the official Wilderness, there’s a blue Toyota tucked away in the bushes. This tells us that we are not so alone. We may encounter someone up the trail. They could be out for a walk, or miles away, backpacking a few thousand feet above in the alpine forest. Again, “Why not?” The odds are very very slim that somebody will object if we are seen.
Just a short walk up the trail, we are surprised to hear the faint sound of water in a brook. Investigation shows that it is fact.
There has been a black hose running down the middle of the road, surfacing from time to time, a source of water for some rancher. We exclaim, “Score!” Even with the clues, we couldn’t be sure to find water here. This is a very pleasant surprise.
“Enchanting” forest gives way to “magical.” There is a waterfall and ponding. There, the stream-bed widens and a collection of reeds, grasses, flowers and other lush vegetation displays itself.
We stop for a while, taking it all in, appreciating the vibe and taking photos.
Continuing on, the trail is a pleasing old mining road, often with arching trees over it.
There has been constant noise underfoot. The dry dead leaves of all of these trees are a carpet of crunch. There could be no stealth here. The wildlife probably is spooked by us way before we arrive.
I hear a voice. It is a young boisterous man. I look ahead and very briefly see a white guy’s head on the trail in camouflage. It could be Border Patrol, an illegal hunter, or just another of those people who dress in fatigues to walk in the woods. I rule out people smuggler. American white guys rarely do that anymore. Mexican Nationals have replaced them. The days of mule trains laden with marijuana are now ancient.
I drop back to DF and let her know. I suggest that we just act like we don’t know that we are naked, nothing amiss. The alternatives would be to turn around, or act as if something was amiss. Those two strategies are just wrong.
We continue and arrive where I saw him. He was heading off of the trail at that time. Now, there is no sign of him.
We continue walking as quiet as we can, listening. The leaves have thinned here. They are walked on and ground down into the soil. Still perfect silence is impossible.
Just as I am about to give up on any contact with him, I hear something breaking into a run up above on the ridge where the dry leaves are thick and loose. Then, I see him, running through the forest, legs kicking high. A rock is kicked and begins a roll slowly, but consistently down the slope. It’s like a bowling ball and it won’t stop its descent. The guy is apparently practicing stealth, and blew it. Still, it is kind of creepy.
We continue on a parallel direction on the trail, listening and as quiet as we can be, in his game, now ours.
It is not far, maybe a few hundred feet, when DF points out a chair hanging high in a tree above us.
It is for observing, maybe faux hunting, or for policing smugglers. I guess the former. I guess that it is part of this guys play. Maybe, he’s a vigilante.
Eventually, I figure that there is no danger and that the game is over. He isn’t following us. If he were running ahead, I would have heard him.
The natural enchantment continues, but the water doesn’t. It stops and starts again, springing up from rocks along the way.
Big pines become more numerous and various pinecones litter the trail. Rocks are everywhere in all shapes and sizes. This old road has seen better days, but obviously it was constructed well and according to the stream flow.
We come to a rock foundation in the forest. There is a rusty steel bin there filled with old brown cans in odd shapes with unusual pull tabs.
There are some old tuna cans with pop tops sprinkled amongst it. I let my mind go, trying my memories, attempting recall of them.
We imagine prospectors and miners and how they worked to make a living a hundred years and more ago.
Up the trail a more diminutive patch of magical ferry-like stream-side appears. We wander up the edge of it to explore. The foliage is too thick to follow the stream.
I find some mysterious cans under a bush. The paint is still on them, Mexican soda. This is a smugglers trail and they stopped here late at night, long ago.
The trail begins to switchback.
We are given glimpses of the mountains rising so high above. We recognize rock outcrops from our travels up there two years ago. This trail will climb up there, but without us.
We are here to enjoy the moment, to unwind and celebrate spirit and nature.
We make our return. The chair is gone. The blue Toyota is gone, so we now know who owns it and it isn’t border patrol.
Back at camp, we lie back and pass through the notable moments of the day. I take note of where tomorrow’s stroll will go, up Ida Canyon.
We discover how our picnic mat feels, padded with a thick bed of leaves and grass under it. We pull off our shoes and lie in the warmth of the sun. This is so relaxing, that we nearly fall asleep in the sun.
Setting up camp is easy. I pitch the tent and DF turns the tailgate of the SUV into a chuckwagon. We sip warm tea.
I am curious about the other sites around us and their potential for others using them tomorrow. More people may come around, on a Saturday. This is described as a less frequently visited area by the Forest Service, but things have been more crowded other places during the lockdown.
The sun has gone behind a mountain, creating the effect of an extended sunset and dusk. I wander over through the trees on the difficult 4×4 road.
I’m surprised! I thought that this was campsites. It is only a fork in the road. Where I thought the trail for Ida Canyon began, is actually here. I wander further, then a little more and with curiosity, a little more.
Chilly air is beginning to stream down the mountain, with the sunset. We have watched the golden light give way to the shadows. That darkness climbs, rising up the mountain side high above.
Frogs begin to chirp, birds call out, and then toads, one at a time, taking turns.
Back at camp, a bird call starts slow and works into a frenzy. Then it calls another time and another. We quietly wander into the forest barefoot all over, like ancient humans, looking for the owner of the voice.
A motor warns us of a white pickup truck as it drives by. I think that it is the one that we saw earlier down the road. It goes toward Ida Canyon over a short ridge and then, stops. I hear doors and a tailgate. I know where they are.
After a nice dinner, we take a walk near the other campers and turn around before we are in their view. Besides, DF needs her neck massaged.
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I have diligently been producing a new post every week for over five years, now. I thought that I would let you know, that I may now, only produce three posts some months. I have some other projects that have been getting into my time. I need to make sure that quantity doesn’t come at the cost of quality.
Not to be concerned. I already have a few months of stories and other posts in the works. Also, this summer, DF and I are planning an epic several weeks long nude road trip across America. Those other projects will also get reported on. We’ll be here.
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