Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Road Trip to Tuscon

From 4/27-4/30

Day 1, Friday, April 27th
Took off early after work - 2:30 - and made it to Big Lake, Sitgreave National Forest Campground in the White Mountains of Arizona (over the state line from New Mexico's Gila Wildnerness). Elk raised their heads as I ascended to their golden meadows from the desert. I set up camp just before dusk - 8:30pm here.

Day 2, Saturday, April 28th
I began the day with the sun and a 3 hour hike on Mt. Baldy Trail # 95, shortly past my campground on Big Lake. Wow! What a diverse hike - from meadow and tall pines, along a stream, up steep terrain and wrinkly giant boulders, up into snow, and snow peaked mountains. Absoultely stunning. I meditated at the top for 20 minutes, then back down.

Then I began my circuitous route to Tuscon, across 260 and down the tremendous descent of Salt Canyon into my first saguaro cacti sightings, skirting phoenix entirely, and heading south on 77. The biosphere 2 was just closing at 4pm so I didn't make it in. I checked out the Original Buffalo Exchange before arriving at my couch surfer's place nearby. My couch surfer, a yoga instructor, was out of town, but she left me the key hidden and her room! One of her room mate's was home, a graphic designer also. We enjoyed sharing each other's work. Interesting guy - he'd lived in NYC for 5 years working at a publishing house before getting burnt out, moving to AZ and spending 6 months in a Buddhist Monestary in southern AZ then moving to Tuscon. I went to bed early since I knew the next day would be full-on exploration.

Day 3, Sunday, April 29th
Tuscon is just a cool beautiful and charming city. Love at first site like it was for me with Santa Fe. By 7am, I was driving around the Saguaro National Park East. Lucky for me, all the parks were free this particular weekend! And many of the cacti were in bloom. I passed lots of Tusconans running, biking and pushing baby carriages along the scenic road. The majority seemed to be active, tan, fit and friendly - and proud of their city and happy to talk to me about it. I met a woman from NH who had relocated here 20 years ago and absolutely adored Tuscon, even the summer, which she said was her favorite season because she loves the heat. Upon her directions and the recommendation of a friend, I was soon on a 3 hour hike around Sabino Canyon. Absolutely gorgeous. By noon, I was resting in meditation in the chapel at the Degrazia Gallery in the sun, feeling a little like I was in Barcelona again.

Then I drove 9 miles south of Tuscon to see the gorgeous 1783 Spanish mission church constructed on the Indian Reservation, called San Xavier de Bac. Mass was just ending when I arrived. In the native Am. crafts stands, I couldn't help buying prickly pear juice (delicious) and a turquoise and silver rose ring to mark the trip.

At 3pm, I was back in Tuscon simply enjoying the down town area along 4th street. Under improvement, the street is filled with boutiques, health food stores, buskers, young people, thrift stores and cafes. I found some delicious made in Tuscon gluten free raisin carrot bread and some 100% raw hibiscus, ginger chocolate made in San Francisco. From this area, I walked across the historic El Presidio Park and wound up at a famous restaurant called El Charro, recommended to me by my boss. Happy hour margarita and an a la carte carne seca taco. It felt great to be sitting still and people watching, anonymous, and unattached.

I hit the road at 6 and ended up driving all the way back to the Gila Wildnerness and one of my favorite camping spots there, the Catwalk, because no where in AZ called. Arriving at the Catwalk recreation area at 10:30pm, I simply parked, grabbed pad and sleeping bag and rolled them out near the river and fell asleep listening to the water. To my gratitude, the trip seemed to be great for my back and neck ---something about being in nature so much, hiking and sleeping on the earth.

Day 4, Monday, April 30th
Woke up at 6am again and began a 3 hour hike up the canyon through the catwalk. Saw lots of spring activity and few other people. I meditated by the stream and sat writing postcards on a rock.

Then I drove north, amazed by the vast stretch of pine forest approaching Quemado. At Quemado Lake, I stopped for a few hours and absorbed the sun. I'll have to come back sometime and camp here. It was still another 3 hours from Quemado back to Santa Fe.

I'm so grateful for the trip and all the time in nature, for the space and the big mind and the soul nourishment. On the last leg, the sun was lighting El Malpais, the arch, the new green spring grass. I gave all my thoughts of the future and the past away. I saw a mother cow nursing twin calves. A second later, I saw a young couple on touring bikes with all their trip belonging packed on back. No other cars had passed in ages and the simple beauty of life in this moment struck me full force. Poignantly tangible. I was in it. Am it.

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