I'd spent a couple of winters at the Verde, and thought I'd seen it all. I know now what an understatement that can be.
Spring was coming. I remember that because more people were showing up on the weekends and it was still a little cool in the mornings. Janine was there sleeping in a hammock. There were a couple of schoolteachers, fellas from Colorado, camping near her. Other than that, there was only one other truck in camp. It was unoccupied and parked in the Hackberries.
I woke at 6 O'clock on that Friday morning and decided to hike up and have a nice soak before the crowds rolled in. I packed my canister stove, coffee, water, and a worn copy of “The Monkey Wrench Gang” a hippie girl had laid on me. The river was a little high, so I took the old ranch road to the One Crossing. I approached the springs carefully, having heard a single gunshot when I was passing the old corral.
When I arrived, I found the tarp from the roof of the inside tub had been removed and hung across the doorway. I assumed a couple was in there and wanted some privacy, so I left my pack on the steps and lowered myself into the cooler outside pool.
After about an hour, I was eager to leave the breeze and 98 degree water for the warmer spring. After two hours, I began to get annoyed. There hadn't been a sound coming from the stone building just feet from where I sat. That was unusual. The water in there is pretty warm, and people usually have to at least stand up now and then to cool off. If somebody was camping in there, it was time for them to get up. Nobody has the right to monopolize the building like that. The other option that crossed my mind was suicide; that single gunshot I heard.
I had enough. I climbed out, naked and shivering, I stood at the door listening through the tarp. Nothing. “Hello”, I called. No answer. I carefully pulled back the tarp and nothing could have prepared me for what I found.
Next to the wood stove was a pile of dirty laundry about three feet high. Who in the world could have carried so much up the trail from camp. It wasn't there the night before. Odd as that was, it was nothing compared to what else I saw.
The inside tub is roughly six by eight feet. A shallow rectangle of hot water with a few steps leading down. The entire thing was covered in carefully placed sheets of glossy magazine pages. Closer inspection revealed it to be lesbian porn. In the middle was a large beach ball. Next to the steps was an empty wine bottle on it's side, a large purple rubber dildo, and a set of false teeth.
Who in the world would leave their teeth? Nobody. That’s who.
There's a cave on the other side of the outside pool, and the smart money said that whatever wackadoo owned this collection was probably in there, possibly armed, and likely didn't want to be found. I gathered my pack and my clothes and dressed on my way down the trail to the river.
About halfway back to camp I passed the schoolteachers, who shared some tasty blond hash. They asked how my soak was and I cautioned them about the gunshot, false teeth, dildo, beachball, and thirty pounds of laundry. They laughed and said they'd keep an eye open.
Later that afternoon, I was visiting with Janine and they came over. They said they thought I was just kidding. They were surprised to find everything exactly the way I described, with the addition of a little old man who appeared, packed everything up, and split.