Well, we clean the lodge. And then we go hiking, of course!
There were some old structures, now abandoned, up in the Baboqivari mountains. These stone walls were everywhere and I can't imagine the work that went into them.
This shed had a door but the lock was open.
Impossible to resist, we had to see what was inside.
Next to the stone shed was a cattle pen with rusting mystery equipment.
There were five of us on this hike - three in their 70's and two of us youngsters. Seriously, I have to love a group where I feel absurdly young. In fact, one of the men in our group responded to something I'd said with, "You're a good kid."
This stand of sycamores by the creek looked ghost-like to me.
But the smooth bark was a rarity - most plants have spines.
Brown's Canyon is what is called a "sky island" - one of a series of ecosystems isolated from others by altitude so that it houses unique species.
Our goal was the arch - a 47-foot natural bridge with a creek and pool running through it.
As I stood under the arch next to the water, I said, "You know, this would be a great place to camp. You could put your sleeping bag ri... are those
Yes they were - deer bones. As it happens, there is a mountain lion who also thinks it's a great place to camp.
Normally you are only allowed to go up to the arch as part of a guided tour but as Refuge volunteers, we had free range. This meant we were the only group out for a hike.
We walked back past this old farmstead. It's pretty dilapidated inside, but I bet it would have been an interesting place to live. You'd have to be comfortable with isolation, though.
Baboquivari Peak in the evening light. I took this photo standing behind the lodge. I can see why the Tohono O'odham felt it was a sacred place.
I came away from the week with a new set of role models for how to age right. They were a friendly, hard-working bunch who also knew how to have fun. I can't say that the desert is for me, but the trip - the work, the interesting new scenery, and especially the people with me - was absolutely worth it.
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