Over the River and Through the Woods

My girl cousins and I would sing this song on our way to Grandma’s house where she lived in the summers into early fall with her second husband. Four of us bounced abroad in the back seat of either my mom’s large and long Oldsmobile or my aunt’s blunderbuss of an Old’s. We changed the words to the song depending on what we saw out the window; Black Eyed Susans, swaying Golden Rod, last of the season’s butterflies, deer coats molting from their summer red to brown, easily blending into the surrounding woods as camouflage and colder weather protection.  

You no doubt picture four little girls, but by then, we were in or out of high school. Something about riding crammed in a wide back seat with moms or aunts behind the wheel brought childhood behavior and moods back. Both of our moms were lead foot drivers and the autumn leaves would spit out from behind the rear tires and swirl into little cyclones before settling back into the three-track dusty road, or on the many little one lane bridges that crossed several creeks. We sang our song of expectation.

This past Monday was a perfectly planned autumn drive. My husband and I and two dear friends packed our lunches, plus deviled eggs, a thermos of coffee, and freshly baked Iced Apple Cider cookies. We headed southeast towards Parker Canyon Lake. The lake is a reservoir formed by a dam in Parker Canyon at the south end of the Canelo Hills in southwestern Cochise County. Parker Canyon is a tributary to the Santa Cruz River in the San Rafael Valley. Natural springs crisscross the road, Collins Spring being one of the longest where tall Cottonwoods line up in their newly dressed autumn gold.

Our trek took us over a portion of the Santa Rita mountains with old mines, high flatlands of working ranches with cattle and horses in Sonoita, and vineyards through Elgin toward the backside of Ft. Huachuca in the Coronado National Forest in Cochise County. A two-lane paved road led us through these fabulous valleys and grasslands, horses grazing to either side, cattle laying amid the tall grasses, their front legs tucked under. Wild turkeys roamed in the fields around them, heedless of their differences in size. Goats, llamas, and chickens shared small pastures, a donkey hanging his head over the fence to chat. Gray squirrels skittered up pinon trees and scrub oak showing their deep gold and red leaves. Ducks and osprey skittered across the lake, ruffling up the water while two separate fishermen, one in a bass boat and the other with his feet propped up on the rail of the dock with his fishing line glistening in the blue soft lap of the lake.  

It was a day of no rush or worries. Foods taste fresher and crisper outdoors, the air is pure and the sun hugs our shoulders. We eventually packed up our lunch goods and headed back toward Tucson. No hurry. These types of drives are easy on the eyes, they relax the constant motion and notions that flog us when at home, work, or doing whatever our daily needs are. We can sit at ease, hum a tune, and enjoy ourselves over a river and through a wood.