Mark D Stephens: Adventurer, writer, photographer, ambassador of the sonoran desert
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Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness: Backpacking Adventure

Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Hiking Arizona"Do you see that? I think it's a satellite. Look at the way it's moving in one perfect straight line, so faint. Wow." The sky was clear and the wind blew in such a way that it reassured me that this was a gentle night.

"Yeah, look at that. Do you remember being in grade school and using an old, crusty tooth brush with white paint to make a starry sky on black paper? All of those stars remind me of that. Like a huge hand came through here and sprayed white paint on the atmosphere. And that moon...wow. You know, you never sit around wondering about the moon; like, how did it get there? Why isn't there more than one? No wonder indigenous people think it's a god."

"It's so quiet, too. The silence out here seems almost loud. I could sit here and stare at that sky all night long."

Aravaipa Canyon Arizona BackpackingBrooke and I were leaning against some rocks in a small grove of grass in Aravaipa Canyon late at night. The tent was set up, but the temperature was so nice that we chose to read our books in the grass until we were ready to sleep. I couldn't read more than three words or so without looking upward to watch the night sky. I gave up eventually and put my book down and crossed my hands over my stomach. A small silver crescent moon hung just over the rim of the canyon, and yes, the breadth of the sky was dotted with billions of stars that I've surely never seen before. I stayed busy for several hours that night by just watching what what going on up there and wondering, wondering, wondering.

Backpacking in Aravaipa Canyon WildernessBefore hiking in that morning, we ate breakfast at the little Mexican restaurant in Hayden, Arizona and were served by a friendly Mexican woman who had thick glasses and spoke with an accent. She smiled when I asked for "just an omlette with bell peppers and onions please." Brooke drank hot, black coffee and the nice lady refreshed her mug several times. Above my head on the wall was an original painting - the kind with glops of real paint all over - of an old wooden sailing vessel in a mildly stormy sea. Everyone who came into the restaurant spoke Spanish with the nice lady and hollered, "Buenos dias" at the cook in the back. One middle-aged man with a thick mustache and a dirty baseball cap said, "Good Morning" to us when we had caught eyes with him as he left. I liked Hayden, Arizona.

Aravaipa Boulder in ArizonaWhile hiking, Brooke and I saw thousands of birds; some had blue feathers, others had black feathers. I don't know the names of any of them, but some seemed so friendly. We had to negotiate water up to our knees, and at one point we had to get in up to our stomachs. It took several tries to find the high spot as this portion of the canyon was slot-like with vertical rock walls on both sides. The water was too deep to feel the bottom along the edges next to the walls, so we had to experiment with other routes through the middle.

If we didn't want an adventure of this kind, we would have stayed home and vacuumed or something like that. We enjoyed getting wet. It's weekends like this that make me remember that we - the collection of people on this planet and maybe others - are loved beyond what we can understand.

"...and everything is thankfulness..."

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Mark D. Stephens: Adventurer, Writer, Photgrapher and Ambassador of the Sonoran Desert