Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Post in Pictures: Something about a creek...

Sometimes you get to reclaim a little of your childhood thousands of miles from where you grew up.

In order to do so this past Sunday, Matthew had to drive our van down a dirt road that felt like a rollercoaster from the early 1900s with people regularly pitched off the wooden slats to their serious injury a few dozen feet below. (I stroked my van and apologized, and she sits in the driveway stewing still, caked with mud all over her rear end.)

Holly and Chip, our hiker friends - the cool ones - are very intrepid, but when we finally parked the van 11 miles and 35 minutes later off the road and peered over the edge of the parking allotment at our trail, Matthew and I felt a little squeamish. But if our kids and Holly's pug, Buster, were raring to go, then so were we!

Pic by Holly
The hike led down toward Sycamore Creek near the Verde River, and once we had navigated the sharp descent with our children, digesting the fact that it would surely be the devil's road on the way back up, we came quite quickly to the first swimming hole. There was a thin rope, looped at the end, dangling from a small branch over placid water.

"Hey, a rope swing!" someone said excitedly.

"We'll have to try it on the way out," said Chip.

Our hike had barely begun, so we ventured on until we came to another accessible part of the river, and the kids all dipped their hats in the water and tipped them back on their heads, letting the cool drip down their necks. Little white butterflies fluttered around us, and larger members of their family, more colorful, drew near. Brilliant blue dragonflies zipped past and played about the water. We found a huge watermelon vine trailing the ground; someone must have dropped their seeds, because watermelon is certainly not native. But the smell on that path through the woods was a native aroma. It was delicious, all exotic spice, probably from the creosote. I breathed deeply, wishing I could capture the fragrance to rub into some grilled meat next time we barbequed.

Both families left directions in the cars, so we were lucky to find our swimming hole at all. We were sure we had lost the creek after crossing it twice and losing all sound of running water. So Chip and my boy Berto decided to scout it out ahead while the rest of us turned back, dispirited. The guys came running and shouting for us to halt in our cowardly retreat. They'd found the place, and it was right below a beautiful red rock with caves and multiple crevices.

"I hope you aren't fooling us, Chip," I said as we followed them on the silent, dusty trail.

"It's right ahead."

And sure enough, we turned a corner, and there it was in its splendor, worth the heat and the sweat and the uncertainty.

Chip, our resident adventurer, decided that we needed to go out on a ledge to ideally enjoy our packed lunch. So we clambered up behind him, helping our six children along, the remaining adults crawling quickly over a narrow lip of the rock after them. There we settled on a red rock precipice for  our meal, the adults and older kids hung their legs above the water and created a human fence to prevent the little ones from falling. Matthew dropped a carrot in the pool below, and presently Berto cried, "Look, a lobster!" It was a crawdad. He had grabbed the veggie and was ambling along the rocks with his prize.

It was all shade at first in our precarious dining space, but presently the sun broke above us. It was time for a swim.

There's a country song called Something About a Truck from Kip Moore with this verse that goes:

Something about a creek around 2 am
After a few of those beers, you wanna dive right in
You don't need no clothes, just hang em on a limb!
Something about a creek around 2 am

I hear that verse when Matthew is playing his country music, and I say to him, "That man has never been in a creek at 2 am. At 2 pm it's cold! If you wanted to go skinny dippin in a creek at 2 am, I'd say, 'You first!' and push you right in." Still, he's the only one who could persuade me, but it would definitely take a couple craft beers. (I'm selective but a light weight.)

And how right I am. We started wading out in the water, and I felt like my body was going to seize up. Meanwhile Chip was trying to catch crawdads by letting them clamp down on his finger. Holly submerged quickly and wisely kept most of her body under. Then Chip swam all the way across the pool to explore a cave. Matthew didn't want to swim; his lean body has no fat to protect him against the chill. I was dying for a swim; it'd been so long. After a short breast stroke, however, my hollers of misery were echoing off the red rock. Matthew snapped a picture after my dip:

Chip heard me shrieking from the cave and asked what was wrong. "Nothing...she's just cold!" Holly called to him.

Something about a creek around 2 am, my foot...though maybe with a proper bathing suit or no clothes it's better. My plastered and dripping jean shorts and T-shirt weren't helping.

Eventually, I found my courage, and getting down in the cold, I stayed down. I had a good swim while Holly, a great and once competitive swimmer, volunteered to water taxi the kids on her back to the cave, and Matthew stood still and alone in a little shaded bay of his own and lured fish with bits of carrot...until they got wise to him.

As we swam bits of white fluff from the cottonwood trees drifted continually by on the breeze, dragonflies lined up on a floating twig, small fish approached our toes and birds skimmed the water with their beaks to catch lunch.

It was a beautiful spot, in hues of blue and green and red, and the jolting drive and hot hike were nothing to the adventure of a good swimming hole, but eventually it was time to face the road again.

On the hike out we passed groups of young people in bikinis and swimming trunks, the young men hauling coolers of beer between them, looking sure of a good time (something about a creek...).

Just as we were getting dry, we jumped back in to play on the rope swing at the first swimming hole. We got muddy and wet, and our toes sank into the sediment on the bottom, sending big clouds of dirt spreading across the water. But I have a soft spot for rope swings, and so does Chip, apparently. I reminisced about the thick barge rope over our creek in Tennessee, how we could sit in its large loop. He talked about childhood summers in Pennsylvania, canoe trips and expeditions to find the best rope swing each year.

Memories such as those and these must be made. You have to grab adventure by the horns, no matter how tiresome it is to pack lunches and water, lather four kids with sunscreen, and see the mess of a van you rode home on. My city kids, so thrilled to explore caves and watch crawdads and fling themselves into water from a rope swing, need a lot more time in the God-given country. And where better than Arizona?

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love your comments!