We are camped in The Ironwood National Forest (Monument) after being up late to watch a lunar eclipse.
Having been up late, we make an easy morning. The evening chill is replaced by a sunny sky. Blankets and coverings go away. There are no clothes for breakfast.
Ragged Top is as magnificent as ever. We wander west, straight into the desert to explore.
There are a group of saguaros that have grown too close together and crowd each other in a bundle. Their needles are pricking each other.
In between them all is a smaller one wrapped to the point of being choked out by the others. It can only peek out, like a small child in a cluster of adult legs.
The crested gets a closer inspection and a requisite recorded photo.
It is magnificent.
A platform of rock sits like a huge table where ironwoods grow. It feels different here. It has that feel of a sacred spot, with a higher energetic force. We sit on a boulder, eyes closed for a few moments. This morning is a wonderful kind of church.
During breakfast the other camper plods by, leaving us alone and even more to ourselves.
After breakfast, we take off intentionally nude. We wear shoes, carry a camera, water and me in my hat. We want to relish purely naked freedom, abandon, a greater sense of something more real, or essential.
If someone is coming, we will know much ahead. The sound travels far in silence, the view is vast. Clouds of dust from tires can be seen at a distance. But, today, we don’t care. We are going to be nude, in all probability alone and anyone else would be intruders in our realm. We really just don’t care. Another’s objection not only would be unlikely, but mostly silly.
It is fun to retrace what we saw last night, now in the daylight.
The sky is huge and a lovely turquoise blue. There are to the north jet trails from military planes. They use this route often. They leave the chem-trail streaks as they cross in virgin sky. These drift south, fazing into wispy clouds. Before, we have seen rainbows in the clouds from the pollution. By the time it reaches Tucson, it has created a hazy sky. The formations are fun, the pollution and eventual dull skies are not. Haze is associated with heat.
The road finally ends in a clearing. There is a red rock spire raising out of the gentle slope of the bajada plain.
We’re here to explore. We bushwhack over to it. A fallen tall saguaro is decomposing, leaving a long trail of debris.
We wander around the monument to nothing really. I take pictures in the light and color of the rock. DF poses as she rests next to the shade given by the rock.
I tell her to look down. Between us, nearly at her feet there is a rattlesnake. She is startled, but it is harmless this time. The critter is trying to hibernate in a crack in the rock. Its back is exposed as it sleeps.
There is a cattle fence across the way. We try a gate through it, which has a trail leading from there. This has been the way over a pass to a rancher’s property. I have been there several times through the years.
This time, the trail bends to the west away from the usual path. It is more distinct, too. It has the feel of an official trail. It is new and heading up the side of Ragged Top toward a saddle.
We find that this isn’t always clear trail; it is a climb leading through brush. Jajoba bushes and Teddy Bear Cholla are surrounding us at times. It reminds me of the nearby Tucson Mountains with little spiny landmines that the Teddy Bears shed.
DF picks up a bundle, or they pick up on her, as they are designed to do. The sharp toxic stab gathers one’s attention in a heartbeat. Each step is a reminder, until a stick can be found to swish it away into the brush.
We turn around occasionally and imbibe the panorama. We look back toward camp, resting on the steep hillside trail.
Looking ahead and up, the trail continues to appear to head to that saddle above. I wonder if it goes to the other side, where I know the Silverbell Mine is, a huge barren open pit.
The trail gets less distinct because of expanses of bare bedrock. There are a few cairns piled up. Then it becomes a guessing game. I wonder if I am on the trail, or it has ended, as that saddle gets closer.
We finally climb through some tenacious brush growing through solid granite cracks and a small lip of rock layer. There is a crest. It is sharp, steep and requires all fours.
I poke my head up and see the other side.
I expect to see the barren hole of the mine, but there is a vast valley down there. A remote ranch house can be seen on the opposite ridge, miles away. This is a sort of hidden valley. What a great place to escape the city life. No mine on other side, just a lush valley and a house. I think back. This is like the Tucson Mountains 50 years ago, before homes were built.
We get ourselves up on the rock, looking for a spot comfortable enough for both of us to sit and look out.
Our feet dangle off of a short cliff. Ragged Top’s rear end is rising steeply ahead. There is no trail. It is too rough for a trail. Because of this, the local big horn sheep will have solitude on the craggy mountain. It feels safe and isolated up here. I surmise and believe that those animals can appreciate this.
It all feels very good.
We decide to head back. There is just so much water in our jugs.
The footing feels more slippery when going downhill.
The slope is loose sand. Our progress is slow, but we get back to camp by 4pm.
We enjoy dinner and fire. A little guitar and we relax.
A lone truck goes by with camper. I sit in my chair naked and wave. We listen to it ramble noisily on and then stop at the end of the trail. They are probably the better part of a mile away.
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