We both slept well. We’re waking to birds, treetop branch shadows, turkey gobbles. It’s a wonderful temperature, when we stand in the sun.
We drop off our bedclothes here and there. The cold of the night is disappearing steadily. I free my pants, then the down jacket. DF has a similar wardrobe distribution and breakfast comes.
As we sit quietly eating breakfast, still in shirts, cuddled by our folding chairs, yet another white p/u truck pulls up and stops where the road gets particularly nasty. This time, a family gets out and parades past, following the road. The father marches ahead like a tall commander in front of his troops. All are in matching camouflage outfits. A less statured mother is next, carrying rifle on her shoulder. A teenaged son brings up the back. He is nothing of the confidence of his father. He has a very shy gangly insecure walk to him. They disappear up the road.
We’re not going that way today. We’re exploring Ida Canyon. We have decided to delay our trip to Miller Canyon on the other side of these mountains. We didn’t expect this to be so wonderful. We had a long hike yesterday and figure that it is best to just relax and enjoy this place. It is best to take only one hike today and scrap the plan of one hike hurried here and then one into Miller Canyon. There is no hurry. We are free to enjoy this vast playground in leisure, nearly all to ourselves. Miller Canyon is more likely to be busy with Saturday walkers.
As we sit, watching from our nest in the wild forest, we are entertained by another parade of people. These mind their own business, eyes ahead. Wearing just these shirts, people might think that we may be wearing short shorts. This group consists of four hikers, all with hiking poles. They dress like many Arizona birder outfits, but without their binoculars.
As one talks, the male, the others listen. It seems that he is explaining to try to assert his authority of wild nature, yet he struggles to keep up with their pace. Through the trees, I hear something about some thing that eats, but leaves the vital organs. He sounds like an imitation of a TV nature channel. He seems to be overcompensating for insecurity, needing recognition and acceptance. I wonder how his lecturing all day in the woods will pass as the day goes on. Well, we aren’t going that way either.
The three hunters return about an hour later. We have heard no shots. The boy is carrying two young turkeys by their legs. They are stiff, not flopping like rubber. I think to later check out the law. (I find that they are hunting illegally. This is actually the turkey breeding season.
I stand brushing my teeth and study an oak tree, just appreciative of the form, the balance, the larger tufts at the end of the branches, with many leaves. Then I turn and observe an alligator juniper. No intellectual thought, no judgement, no label, just observing the tree and the brushing of my teeth. Trees are so beautiful. The warm sun feels good.
I make my way back to the chair, leaves crunching under my feet to announce myself to DF.
The tent stays up and we make alternate plans for dinner. We are free to leave and have more time to wander in paradise, moment by moment. Our time is not being watched. Time is irrelevant.
We Begin our Nude Hike:
The road meanders past the other’s campsite, those who came in last evening. A plethora of brand new camping equipment is spread about the white pickup truck and a 9×12 orange tent. I saw just one person. Today, there is no one about. We pass by pleasantly nude, taking note that someone may be up ahead climbing the trail.
The road ends at the Designated Wilderness sign and becomes a trail.
It wanders steadily upward through a thick forest. The canyon varies wider and then, thinner. Everywhere, there are signs of the flash flood left from forest fires, years ago. Where a mountain stream banked in topsoil once meandered through, a swath of river rock and boulders lie bare.
Still the sound of crunchy dry leaves persists. In my disturbance to the quiet forest, I look up at black gnarly bark going every which way amongst various tones of green florescence.
A lizard seems to be beginning his day, or the season’s first warm day.
High Road, or Low Road?
There is a fork in the route. There is a trail which follows what is left of the old road and then, I’ve read, a steep switchback pattern.
The newer trail bypasses the verdant valley floor. It is a quicker easier grade with grand vistas of Mexico beyond. The trail will lead us to the water of Bear Springs high above, then it is a short distance to the crest trail, a piece of the Arizona trail. We aren’t looking for a goal today, or climbing miles uphill. We’re taking it easy and savoring every delight that nature offers to us. We decide to see what the newer trail is like and catch some of the views. This trail for a time, may dip back into the valley, but we aren’t certain of that.
It is a steady climb, with its views peeking out through the trees. Down valley, we see across the plain to Mexico.
Uphill are steep slopes leading high above to bald rock and alpine forests.
We realize that we will not be a part of the verdant valley again this way. This is the high road, which climbs miles up, even as to link with Bathtub Springs, the perennial water hole.
We descend as we came, past a pile of fun pieces of geology. There are sparkling geode-like pieces lying about around us. Fascinated, we explore off of the trail.
Up a hill, I find an irresistible piece and decide to lug it back with me to the trail fork.
My gem-find gets heavier, as I go along. I switch arms. I hold it close to my chest. I hold it away and lift it like weights. As I walk, I receive an upper body workout. A few times, there is the consideration in my thoughts of leaving it along the way, but I do get it to the fork. I stash the rock with its now earned value, near the sign and we continue up the ancient corridor.
There seems to be mostly two kinds of hikers basically. There is a goal oriented styled marcher and the quicker. Then, there is a wandering walker, who is just enjoying the moment. Both various, but can be put on a relative scale. Our choice today is solidly the later. We agree that the other trail feels like a freeway bypass compared to driving through town and seeing the sights. The route is much the same style of terrain as we enjoyed yesterday. Here, it is a wider track, more open, with no water in the stream.
We begin to look for a shady rock, big enough for two to sit on. We have decided to empty out some of the weight of the daypack, by eating it.
A lunch is had. We sit on a boulder in peaceful contemplation and observation. Green polka dots run up the sides of local trees. It is other worldly, some fungus. Large baseball and football size burnt marshmallows cling to the branches of trees. Just one kind of tree, we notice.
I admire an old branch lying on the ground. It has a dignity and smooth lines, like a piece of drift wood. It’s a kind of elegance. It is enough to just watch and sit. Maybe we’ll take photos later. I think of walking sticks and hiking poles. I think of clothing, and certain shoes all claiming to augment our natural state and function. None of it makes sense anymore. One could claim the need of dryer lint in the belly button to soak up moister and prevent disease, too. We were born with an ideal, adaptive, flexible and just miraculous body, evolved over millennia. Do I really need arch support, ankle support, thick soles, extra limbs, fabric that sweats, instead of simple nudity?
The rock and this place feel perfect, today. I pull out my folded sheet of paper and pen and begin to take down my notes of the day. I’ll write about it later.
DF wanders and photographs nature and discovery.
We continue through the forest, steadily gaining altitude. It eventually becomes a long and winding road. There is no water to refresh our bottles. We see a few more very old piles of trash, which were left by illegal entries from Mexico.
Then, there is a steep ascent. While I am carefully working my way up the slope, DF notices something and calls to me. I wander back down in curiosity.
She has found the foundation of the homestead that I had hoped to see. It is something that I read about online. It is some archeology and a landmark along the route. Two settlers so many years ago placed their home on this knoll with some nice views out to the southwest. It is close to their hopeful mine diggings. We explore, looking for debris amongst the blanket of fallen golden leaves.
The slope is steep, the trees and shrubs overgrown.
Footing may be found on sharp objects under cover.
Steel roofing and a heater stove pipe jack are sitting unused as wreckage.
DF calls me over. It is the wall from the internet picture, something that I wanted to see. By this, I know that, “this is it.”
We bushwhack through to discover lots of the old stuff of an bygone life.
I’d like to find their old trash dump and excavate, but this mess is National Property and maybe someday, archeology.
Continuing further seems not worth the effort. We have found what I was looking for and the trail gets steeper and more slippery.
We start downhill. Careful at first, as the ground is dry and slippery with its tiny rocks on hard packed soil, or bedrock.
It doesn’t seem far back to the nice park lanes of leaves and arching trees. We review the places that we had seen on the way up. I pick up my treasure rock at the sign at the fork. It gets much heavier, as I go along. I’m relieved when I get back to camp and drop it down next to my tire.
It sparkles in the sun.
We lay out the picnic mat and splay ourselves out. It feels good to pull off the shoes, airing out drying up under the beams of warm sun. Horizontal, unperturbed by gravity on the spine, this must be like flying, but we are very well connected to the earth. One might notice the two naked corpses through the trees when passing, if one is to look. No one has looked our way in all of our time here. Most people just look down, so as not to trip, or simply look ahead.
The party of five walks by.
After eating, we are watching the sun fall behind the western triangular peak. DF alerts me to an animal across the road. She is smiling ear to ear.
I squint at a very large black turkey through the brush. Then, it congenially moves into the open. It efficiently scratches with feet and pecks the ground.
I’ve never observed a wild turkey. I think of all of those black and white bugs that I have seen the last two days among the leaves.
Another turkey comes to pal around. These two don’t gobble so much. Perhaps that is why they live on to be so big. I slip off quietly to get a camera and one looks our way. Dry leaves have ruined my stealth. They are scared away.
We again lay on the mat as the sun passes on.
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Love Reading your stories. Question, how do you navigate on your hikes