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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Desert Solitaire: Finding The Wilderness Needle-In-A-Haystack On The Edge Of Megalopolis

Looking for "The Few" in a Pandemic Year. Never before have so many, driven so far, to join a mega-throng of urbanites in search of peace and quiet. Any outdoor person will tell you: The past year resembled a literal prison-break as throngs of bored-stiff families traded locked-down cities for wilderness in search of a "vaccine" for monotony and depression. If, and that is a very big "if," they could only find an empty parking space.

And so it is here, at the base of the Superstition Mountains, every weekend and every holiday. I faced down such a ruinous calamity that I almost pulled the plug in order to head on down to the next megapolis, Tucson...where, in all likelihood, it would be the same or worse. 

I decided to give Monday through Friday a try first, though, and I'm so glad I did. Excepting holidays, Monday through Friday was tolerable. On weekends I choose to explore areas away from the "main attractions," i.e. two trails, one of which was Wave Cave. In doing that, I discovered a maze of rugged off-road tracks that were perfectly suitable for hiking and biking. Better yet, there was hardly a soul to be seen or motor to be heard

One weekend I happened to notice a few single track bike paths intersecting my new-found backroads that escaped the masses. As it turned out, I stumbled upon another maze locked in quietude...a maze of bike trails, as in a hundred miles worth! Everything from beginner "green" to intermediate "blue" to advanced "double black diamond." Best of all, I seemed to be the only one out there. Shhhhh.
Before discovering my "Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine for peace and quiet and recreation, I decided to kill a Sunday afternoon by hiking up to what proved to be one of the two most popular hiking destinations for "ubanites" I've ever encountered anywhere. "Wave Cave."  

This must be something worth seeing, I said while doing my best to stay masked up while fighting my way up against an unending tsunami of sweaty day-hikers on their return trip from the cave. 

The trail was well-trampled and well bouldered (picture a dry stream bed, eroded by 25 years of monsoonal flash floods). The last mile of what amounted to be a paltry three mile hike, was so steep and slippery that I wished I had worn micro spikes. 

Everyone clawed for traction, some going down on all fours as they inched the final yards up to the "Wave Cave." A few fell short of the prize, yielding to bodies more suited for Dairy Queen than real-life exertion. Even I was oozing sweat, like a well grilled brat-dog poked with a fork. 

This cave must be amazing! So many people!  Of course most of them were unmasked, coughing and gasping for air like a coal-fired steam train. I donned a second mask for extra protection, sanitized my hands after each touch of rock or boulder to pull myself through sundry bottlenecks and tight spots that funneled us together like a concert line for the Stones.  

Taking the Goldmine Trail to the Wave Cave Trail. Everything beyond the fence is designated Wilderness.

The Wave Cave...just above where shadow meets sun below the peak in the center of the above photo. 

Ta Da: Nothing too special at first glance...

Then I see "The Wave."

Less the gal in tights, I was disappointed. Don't think I'll be back...

On the way back to camp, a side trail went through the wilderness fence. I decided to see where it went.

The trail led me to an old mine shaft. The closer I got, the more warm air I felt gushing out of the opening...like a furnace. Damp hot air. No, I did not go in.

Since I was camped somewhat near Fountain Hills, Jim and Gayle came out for a day-hike. It was great to catch up with old, er, make that long lost friends.

More bike rides with Chris and Bobbie. Let the crashes and blood-letting begin.

One by one it occurred to us just how alone we could be by simply substituting lesser trails for main trails. We made a pact to return to this beautiful camp, maybe try and ride and hike the rest of what a full month of diligent exploration fell short of "scratching the surface" of routes and possibilities.

Jim and Gayle came back for another hike shortly after Bobbie returned from Lovely Ouray. Chris joined in on the ensuing gab-fest were we each took turns roasting POTUS and toasting his kicking and screaming departure. 

Yet another bike ride...this time catching some sweet single-track...and more blood-letting...

Below a short video of one of our rides...

When we tired of biking and blood-letting, we hiked the single track bike trails. It was fun "stitching" them together.

One thing for sure, we never lacked for magnificent mountain and desert views...

Finally, niece and nephew Anita and Brent showed up with promised cases of beer and wine. Newbies, this was their first Rv outing and not without its share of problems. It took a couple bottles of wine to turn frustrations into laughter.

Their new rig had an imax window!

Brent and I headed out to ride the single track while Bobbie and Anita went for a 7 plus mile hike.

This post comes to you from Lovely Ouray. Yes, one day after Brent and Anita showed up, we stored Daisy and made the 10 hour drive home in order to get in line for our 1-b vaccine shots. Hopefully it won't be as long as the line to hike to the Wave Cave. What can I say other than boo hoo. I've yet to change out of shorts, though. We'll see how long that lasts.

One final comment and question on the "urban exodus" in search of wilderness: My Wave Cave experience was a nightmare. Imagine standing "nuts to butts" with a thousand sweaty, mostly mask-less people, huffing and puffing COVID 19 droplets into my air space. Is this the "new normal," or will all these people return to "city life" activities once vaccines begin to subdue the virus? If not, me thinks we need more wilderness.

That's it from Lovely Ouray, with over a foot of snow on the ground in our front yard.

PS: Remember to click on the first photo in each post in order to view it in High Resolution!!!!
Peace Out!


  1. I see you met some of Chuck's bovine. Please quit telling people about the good side of the Sups :-)

  2. I hope they do, but I'm afraid they won't. Wouldn't be surprised if the "new normal" is here to stay. They're never going back to work.

  3. Desert Solitaire, my absolute favorite Abbey book!

  4. The Wave was cool, wonder how that happened? Short video was cool too for us arm-chair folks. I'm been satisfying my wandering-urges with travel blogs like yours, and lately, my favorite "out-there in the beautiful earth" videos are the almost daily dog walks with wonderful snowy mountains and fresh snow on the ground (I mute it and play jazz while watching) . . https://www.facebook.com/maxinthelakes/videos/157564792536331

    1. I read The Sun is a Compass you recommended. That was a pretty darn good book. Thanks

  5. Love pictures. Hope you get the vaccine faster than Florida. At this pace it will be longer than 5 yrs for the 21+mil of us.

  6. I have had similar experiences. Now, I never go anywhere that's at all known. My fervent hope is that all of these people go back to their old activities when the pandemic is under control. I keep thinking that I'm so glad that I'm alive now and not 100 years from now when the human population will far outstrip the available "wilderness".

    I hope that you're getting your vaccine and finding some fun in Ouray.


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