Jumping off the Edge

On March 13th, 2018, 13 students from Edge High School set out for a rugged adventure into the Little Rincon Mountains. This area is off the beaten path and rarely traveled, allowing us the chance to truly leave other humans behind and explore a wild place. For nearly two months, this area has received decent rains, and our hope and goal were to find deep pools of water to swim in and study. On this hot desert day, these students pushed past their comfort zones and truly jumped right into this expedition.

Our adventure began when we turned onto Mescal Road and followed its dusty path between the massive Rincon Mountains and their stout neighbors, the Little Rincon Mountains. Here, sandwiched between the two, it began to feel as though we were entering a whole new world. We began hiking in an arroyo that was shaded by red leafed sycamore trees. Moist dirt patched the sand under our feet as groundwater fought to pool at its surface. The arroyo took us into a canyon, where bedrock rose out of the sand the cliffs stacked all. Here framed by the rising walls sat a lone Saguaro that looked down on our path. Here, deep pools of water were trapped by the rock, and gave us some practice maneuvering and climbing to avoid falling in. The students were thrilled with this hidden desert landscape. Together we discussed the importance of water in the desert, and we tried to imagine just what that struggle might be like. In the pools lived aquatic insects and stinky algae the shaded its lower residence. These “micro” environments fascinated the youth, who wanted nothing more than to swim in these pools.

The sun sat directly overhead, meaning even in our narrow canyon we were submerged in sunlight. The steep bedrock was patched with deep arroyo sand making travel laborious. The windy drainage finally brought us to a gem of the hike. It appeared as if we reached a dead end before the arroyo cut right suddenly, bringing us to a pyramid-shaped boulder two stories tall sitting in the middle of a cathedral-like area. We were boxed in with our surrounding walls 50-60’ tall, and a waterfall pouring off of one corner. The floor below us was suddenly full of water, letting every sunburnt face relax with joy. Shaded by the tall walls we began devouring our lunches, sometimes with our feet in the water. Students took their chance, jumping and in swimming under the waterfall and resting in these pools of life. When hiking in the desert, under boiling radiation and heat, nothing makes it more worth it than cool deep pools

The students were everything but happy to leave. We needed to scramble up a collapsed cliff wall, a stack of boulders netted together by out of control acacia bushes. This was going to be a true challenge for the group, but nothing we could not do. It took time but after battling through with scratches and bruises we made it to the top. We immediately made our way to the top of the waterfall, where to our surprise stood multiple pools that one could even dive into, if they were so naïve. It was without prompting, students one by one began jumping in feet first. The dark deep water seemed to consume them as they disappeared under the surface, only to spit them out cold shocked and out of breath.  These pools sat above a waterfall, overlooking a deep valley and the massive Rincon Mountains. It was an incredible place to bond with the landscape, and the youth wasted no time or chance.

Like pulling teddybear cholla from the skin, tearing these students away from the water was painful but necessary. Soaking wet clothes dripped the whole hike back, but this is desert A/C at its finest, bringing smiles on everyone’s face. Our hike back followed a cattle trail that rode the rim of the canyon that brought us here. It was wonderful to see the area we had just spent such intimate time, from a new perspective. We paused and spent some minutes in silence, listening to the sounds of the neighborhood. For most groups, this is often what they describe as their favorite part of SOS programs. The chance they get to sit in stillness and quiet is something we rarely get anymore. Like jumping into a desert pool, sitting is silence soaks the soul like water does clothes, dripping off us the whole way back. Finally, we reached the van, tired, content, and ready to do it all again. Together we hiked roughly 6 miles and explored a wild and bold space. Another successful expedition for Edge High School.