I don't know why I love the Galiuro mountains like I do. I have never loved a "thing" or place like this one. Not my childhood home, not many other more lovely and amenable places I have been.
It certainly didn't start out that way. My first trip in the dry and desolate times; almost no water in Powers spring. My second trip backpacking I became ill and my partners ended up altering their trip and I ended up going home with a bitter taste in my mouth. Over time I visited many places here, several times; I completed all the trails in the range. That wasn't the point. I had found a place that felt so much like home, and has been to many others over the years. I studied the human and natural history I could find, I talked to ranchers, I spoke to other hikers avid about this place like myself. I hiked alone, I hiked with others, I saw no one else, I saw groups. Nothing drove me away, I was never bored or made me think of other better places.
I have several collages of Galiuros photos on my walls. One in my kitchen I can rinse dishes in the sink and look up and am immediately transported to a dark, clear trail in Rattlesnake canyon near the Pipestem confluence, part of the old road. It is lined with leaves, a tunnel of semi darkness, with glowing green vegetation surrounding it in the late light. I feel such intense pleasure. To walk this section is like I am walking on air.
Sitting in the cabin at the Garden by myself. It's twilight and I have a propane lantern or two lit, and I read the log book or one I have brought with me. It's raining lightly outside, and there is a rhythmic steady dripping off a corner of the roof. At times I hear the scamper of mice in the walls. But it's mostly still and the subtle light makes corners of the old cabin seem clean and neat. I would be no where else in the world right now, not the canals of Venice, the great rock of the Outback, nowhere. I wish I could capture the sensation of peace I have and hold it tight.
Waking up on the shoulder of Rhodes peak, light topping the hills and the dark pockets below in the San Pedro Valley. Birds, the rustle of the wind in the brush, the changing colors on the lichen coated rock. I am near civilization if I had wings. It feels like I am in the center of aloneness, a feeling I so celebrate at times. No electronic noises, no mechanized intrusion.
I trudge in the snow up Rattlesnake canyon, near Holdout spring. It's cold and I'm tired and I feel like giving up. And this is the easy part of the trip. I push, I want to scream " I've had enough!" Later when I camp I am so tired I fall asleep with my wet boots still on. I finally get settled. The morning comes and the air is so clear, cold and the vivid colors in the light filtering through the tall trees make me so ecstatic, I forget my discomfort in a flash.
I stand in front of the Shoot out cabin, and imagine what it's like to be here when the confrontation began. I know of another hiker who ritually came here for several years on the anniversary of the shoot out. He may still do so for all I know. For some people it 's the history, the western romance, for some it's the intermingled natural and human history still in place, largely undisturbed in recent years with it's inaccessibility by motor vehicle, and the long drive here just to hike.
These Galiuro mountains are so much more than Powers Garden. So much more than any human sculptured history. I never understood passion about something until I met two people, my partner Brian and the author Katie Lee. Brian's fierce protection of caves, and love of their form and special life in the darkland. Comments he would make early on would make me cringe at times, and say, "whoa, a little extreme there". He doesn't care who he alienates in his pursuit to make sure the delicate ecosystems aren't harmed by visitation. He backs it up by his experience, cavers he associated with, and places he has been, the physical labor he has expended. He knows of what he speaks; he walks the walk. Still, it's his passion, not mine.
Katie Lee--- I had read her book " All My Rivers Are Gone" before I met her, again I appreciated---I thought-- her point of view about the drowning of Glen Canyon by Lake Powell. I was not prepared for the force of life on her shining, beautiful 90 something year old face when she answered the door. When we first met we spoke more of hiking and some of the more remote places in southern utah she had frequented. We looked at maps, we didn't speak much of Glen Canyon. But when she did--wow--there was no mistaking the pain she still feels, and the power of remembrance of her special place. Yet I still couldn't quite feel it; her passion, not mine.
I have found mine. I didn't ask for it or expect it. A quote by Ed Abbey might help some " Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary." I haven't read everything he ever wrote; or follow his sentiments, but I agree with this one.