The Pinaleno Mountains are in southeastern Arizona. The mountain reaches 10,720 feet (3,267 m) in height. We had been scouting the area for free range use for two years. Posts of those adventures will follow this in time.
The weather here is weird and difficult to predict this year. All week we had had to vacillate between three locations for our three day weekend. A nude body appreciates as nice a weather as can be had. It’s good to have alternative contingencies. The White Mountains would be warmer, but better chance of rain, The Verde River would certainly be warmer, but maybe too much so and the rain forecast was flip flopping. The original destination, the Penaleno Mountains promised cold weather, but no rains. This is June and the dry extreme heat still wasn’t yet happening (oh, but the next week, it did arrive, everyday over 109F!).
A pair of friends called and just happened to have a trip up in the Penalenos planned. They wondered if we would meet. The weather prediction on Thursday was showing us 60F’s and lows in the upper 30F’s, not good nude weather in the shade of a forest, but we went for it. The rest showed more rain and this place was at least clear.
I prepped and met DF after work, Friday afternoon. We took car-camping gear and our ultralight set up. I packed enough dehydrated food to backpack, as well as the perishable cooler food. Our original intention was to explore the north end of the Penalenos, backpacking in and spending time at the head waters of Deadman’s Creek, a trip that I had planned for a while. Because of the weather, this option seemed less pleasant. It was decided to go to a fine campsite that we had discovered before, try out the new backpacking gear and clothing in the colder weather for an evening and then decide. We could also meet our friends there and spend a day and an evening with them. Being nude around them might feel uncomfortable, but with cold temps, we were likely to be bundled up anyway. We could always head out on a hike by ourselves nude, if things changed.
We arrived at THE spot, around 10:30 that evening. The drive up in the dark had been grueling. It is a multiple 15 mph switchback all of the way, taking over an hour. I stopped the 4×4 and turned off the motor, exhausted. There was no moon. I couldn’t see my own hand in front of my face. We laid back in the seats and looked out the moon roof. Eventually, there was some distinction. We could see a multitude of stars in the crystal clear skies. The silhouettes of tall pine and fir trees came to view, but curiously, their shape looked more like palms. Then again, the aroma of pines slipped into the window. We agreed that we could have been in Florida.
We had been naked since home, other than wrapping up to grab gas and a quick veggie sandwich at the Subway in Wilcox. The heater had been on for the last hour with the sunroof, now a moonroof, opened to smell the pines. Our imagination of Florida was shortly dissolved, when we stepped out into the 40F degree night. I put on a long sleeve T-shirt and sweat jacket, as I unloaded the back into the front seats and onto the roof. It was late and we just wanted to make a quick bed in the back of the SUV.
I slept well under the new goose down camping quilt. Only one window was opened next to me. At dawn, I got up to take a leak in flip flops and bottom-free. A thermometer had been set out to check the temps correctly while testing the new equipment. It read 34F. I was somehow okay with this.
The day came about, and as I slid out of the door to place obstacles and claim our territory the area, a white truck pulled up the trail toward us.. I grabbed my sarong quickly and watched a couple pull into the nice level space next to us. This is where we were going to put our friend’s camper truck. This could be a problem. I strolled over and explained that plan to them, as they pulled out fishing gear. Our friends were to arrive around 2:00 that afternoon, I told them.”Cripe,” I thought. We had pushed to get up here last night to claim this spot before the weekend crowd. They fortunately assured us that they would only be there fishing in the stream and not camping. “There would be no fish of any size here,” I secretly thought, “Good enough.”
We worked around them, creating our camp. I went out amongst nearby fallen trees that were uphill to dig latrines behind a crossed set of large logs, but sure enough, the fisherman came into view, as I labored. I needed to give a subtle resourceful message of privacy, I thought. I dropped what I was wearing (a kilt) and proceeded. I think that the guy saw me wiping, because after that, they decided to fish downstream across the road.
This place is beautiful. A babbling brook in a lush green basin meanders next to our camp. There are huge trees, many fallen. The bend in the road is far enough away, so there is no dust problem. There is just enough sound from the road to know what is going on without distraction. Every so often, we would hear, or see one of the vehicles slow or stop. Each attempting to see what was up our trail, as they looked for their own spot. There was a fire pit and flat spots waiting for us. As the sun began to come through the trees, the temps were found to be actually ideally comfortable. This was going to be wonderful. DF put breakfast together as I set up the net tent and tarp in a near perfect place overlooking the creek. I put it into a lean-to position using cord to trees. It would shade us and give added privacy, but also treat us with a star filled sky as we lay in our cozy net. I went from kilt to less and back. DF similarly changed with the passing tide of the fishing neighbor’s movements. When they pulled away, we wasted no time gathering a bright blue tarp and rope to secure that spot. We were walking down the trail with the tarp, before they had turned onto the main road. “Bye, don’t let the door bump your cute butts on the way out.”
The blue tarp was secured to give effective warning of occupancy, but we discovered that it also added to the privacy from view from the road, after we inspected the angles of sight. Perfect! We even stood behind it as we set it up, during which a vehicle passed on the road. Our cohort’s truck would be the final piece of barrier.It was discovered that I hadn’t used the trusty camping list and consequently had forgotten the fuel for the portable stove. We had the small ultra-light heating device, but any of the perishable large pot provisions would have to be cooked on an open fire. There was the fire pit. I rearranged the old coals and the rocks so that we could set a pot down on rocks inside the pit. Stripped and free, we began to gather firewood upstream, for the night. I took my tomahawk and made some manageable larger logs to carry back. I then set to work hacking away to shorten the collected debris and stacking into different piles, distributed by thickness. Eventually, lunch was created.
It is curious to me, how camping requires seemingly endless motion in chores. There is required a degree of focus when nude. One is quite aware of bare knees, flipping pieces when hatcheting wood, or flames shifting next to sooty rocks. When we finally sat, we realized that out friends were late. We had gotten the infectious attitudes of, “This is great! I don’t want to get dressed.” Disappointment from their absence was quickly diminished.
We decided to take a walk without effective cover-ups. If our friends arrived before we returned there would be something new for them. He has known DF for decades and it might be more like seeing his sister naked, but they’d just have to get over that. They had been warned about how we are.
There wasn’t much trail and not far upstream, even that disappeared. It was a wandering experience through the thick growth, stepping over streambed rounded rocks, climbing steep hills that were littered with fallen trees and pine needles making these hills slippery. I lamented not taking my tomahawk for a bushwhacking tool.
It was idyllic. The light streamed down through the trees illuminating the forest floor, the waters would twinkle silver, the air was just right. The going was slow. The climbing would be remembered the next day in my thighs.
We found a nice high-back chair that had been carved out of a tree stump; sunlight highlighted golden sap.
There was a wonderful waterfall cascading down a rock shoot. I began to look for a way to get a photo of it without foliage in between. The camera would focus on the wrong object and it is difficult to photograph in forests without washing out part with too much light, or getting the other too dark. I stepped across the stream and moved upward on the green covered bank. A thistle, or something, grabbed across the width of my knee leaving no scratch marks. An instant sting ensued. I looked, but never discovered which plant it had been and I never got that shot. I didn’t know what to think. It’s burn demanded my attention.
It was time to return; we only had an hour or so to travel and the knee continued to remind me of the assault. We returned to a still unaccompanied campsite and began to speculate what could have happened to the friends.
An Evening Walk:
Dinner was served next to the fire and then hand in hand, we began a pleasant walk down the road. There was another camping area that way across the road. We hadn’t yet explored it. The chill had begun. I had found my old alpaca cap from my Bolivia trips 40 years before. I wrapped my camo kilt with the Velcro waist around me and placed a grey long sleeve T over my torso. I was very hip, fashionable….well, unusually so.
We walked down the off road into this signed campground on the other side of the road and then down. It meandered and at its end, we found two trucks and the voices of young men. Down below 100 yards or so, there was a nice area with a fire pit and logs squared around it for sitting. Privacy matters. We strolled back to our own camp.
As night fell, we figured that our friends had gotten hung up and they would figure that we would be leaving, backpacking, the next morning. They had told us that they intended to check out Geronimo’s favorite spot to raid wagons in the north of the Chiricahua Mountains. They might be up the next day instead. It would have been nice to see them, but fun can get in the way. Besides, we were grateful to be able to spend our day as free range naturists!
As the temperature dropped…
… we began to experiment with ultra-light clothing options next to the fire. Nudity was in the mix. The net tent in the 30F degree nighttime temps would come later. I tried silk long underwear, a layer of Fruit of the Loom thermal long johns that my son had given me, and a new pair of expensive windbreaker pants. I figured that the heat would be kept in and the first layers would wick the moister and provide insulation.
On top, I wore the long-sleeved cotton T-shirt, a sleeveless sweat shirt and a windbreaker anticipating the same strategy. The ancient wool cap would keep my heat loss during the night. I knew that it worked in Bolivia. I still had my Vibram Five finger shoes added to the ensemble. I still felt cold by the fire,
We were up talking and playing with a log that was burning very slowly, when we discovered that it was midnight. We had to gather two extra pots of water from the stream by flashlight to kill all of the hot coals. The tent was waiting, we each had new Klymit sleeping pads to try together and the open tent to try out using in cold temperatures. We would be covered only by the custom Enlightened down camping quilt. Shoes off, I placed thick grey socks over my day use toe socks.
We had to learn how not to fall into the gap between our mats. My feet never got warm enough, and although the quilt did its job, I felt a bit of chill in the wind sealed clothing. That old hat must have fallen off over half a dozen times. But, the stars through the trees were wonderful as we spooned through the night.
The next day, Sunday:
We had the pleasure to awaken to gazing out of a 280 degree window at the babbling brook, thick tree trunks and the comforting forest. The sound of the stream and local birds were our music. Getting the day on with more chores, walking and eating in this sweet haven, brought us to the conclusion that we couldn’t do any better than this. We didn’t want to break camp, travel and backpack for miles, then turn around the next day to do it again. We had paradise right there. We would do day hikes without weight and certainly no clothing to bother with instead.
On a knoll above camp, there is a flat clear area where the sun beams warm through the trees. DF did her Chi Gong nude facing the sun. I laid out a mat and did my stretches, yoga and prayer. There was quite a bit of stretch with the new supply of aching muscles disturbed the day before.
A PLAN HATCHES:
I dug out the maps and trail information to make a decision with. We spent plenty of time searching, but decided on two potentials with the option to just follow our noses in trust…decisions, decisions.
Our first thing was to check out Cunningham Campground, where there was a 4×4 road and a trailhead, which would lead us to a grand waterfall and a 2000 foot vista gorge. When we arrived, the camp ground was devastated. Most of the shade trees had been cut down, debris was everywhere and the 4×4 road was impassable covered with logs to prevent access. Why? There were suspicions, amongst our disappointments. Why? There was an expensive public toilet, a kiosk and they had laid the place to waste. No one was there. Later we looked down through trees far below the road and noticed a large pile of cut timber. We have to wonder if the local forest service official is in cahoots with a scam. Everywhere there are trees of a certain circumference marked with blue paint. It is destroying the ambiance of the forest and then there is that pile of lumber.
A plan is thrown out:
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.—Loa Tzu
We decided to play it by ear. The next turn off was in our literature from the internet HikeArizona site. It led us to switch into four wheel low and there was a fun yet kinda risky stretch of mud to slip through. This leads to a knoll and ends. There is a camping site with short trails leading off to incredible vistas.
This southern part of the mountain range drops dramatically with rock faces and pines. We wandered, and shot photos, climbed on the rock faces and searched for what we had been cheated out of. It was a magnificent place and we were sure that no one would be by to interrupt our nude wanderings.
We made our way back to the main road to wander sitting down. There was an interesting cut into the forest and we followed it. It led to a gate. On the other side, there was a sign claiming it as University of Arizona property and that it is a sacred place to many native nations. We respected it, but I may look it up and see about getting permission at a later date.
Our own sacred space:
Down the main road, not far, on the other side of the sacred area, we found a rough road which led through a boulder dump. I was wondering where all the granite went to dig the road and here it was. Further, on the other side of this mess, was a hidden forest. We drove until two fallen trees blocked us. We got out continuing our exploration, not knowing how far that we might go. Just to check it out. We took our cameras and wore only our shoes. That was liberating. There is a circle and a very nice camping area at the end of that road. There is an old burn area that clears away to a vista to the west toward Tucson. We climbed upon granite formations to soak in the views. Clouds began to cover the sky above our heads. From our grey perch we gazed out across a blue vista. [insert 1540B}There was a magical special sense here. It was absolutely quiet except for a distant bird’s call. We realized that after spending so much time next to that brook, the silence was deafening!
Looking out toward Tucson out of cloud cover
We continued to explore haphazardly amongst the rock formations and silent forest as clouds began to gather quickly just above us and this mountain top, We came across what would make a great bear den.
Cautiously, just in case, we made our way listening. No bear today, just bareness.
We climbed through rocks, photographed huge trees growing out of solid granite, mushrooms and ourselves. There was a fine meditating quality to the journey, most of the time.
As we got back to the truck, we decided to have a snack. We caught a bird with telephotos and generally we were enjoying ourselves tremendously. All the way back to camp.
Our return to camp found an old Cadillac parked on the road. As we drove up the trail, we saw a family with two children set up to stay, but no tent. We continued a bit disgruntled. We began the process of fire and dinner as we listened to the two children shouting continuously. I resented them, even though they had a perfect right to be there. Sure enough the family came exploring up the creek across from us. Kilt back on, I went for more firewood. They circled us, coming back through our camp as it was getting darker. It is tough going through the creek. They apologized as they passed. Kilt off, T-shirt still on, I turned to DF and pondered, “Would I would resent them as much if it wasn’t that our nudity was being disturbed? How much is it a privacy noise issue?” I didn’t know.
There were some darker clouds that we noticed. We weren’t prepared for thunderous rain. Just to be sure, I re-rigged the tarp into a tighter configuration that wouldn’t pond water. It had the effect of making a nice porch for us.
In the middle of our meal the mother went up stream and came back through our camp. She had lost her walking stick. I could only stretch my shirt between my legs and continue to eat. They had moved their car, we noticed. The good news, they were leaving, day-trippers. Relief. Still, what had happened to our friends?
More clothing experiments into the night:
We went through the patience of another thicker log burning on the fire, wondering just what kind of hardwood that it was that burned so slowly. Fires are so entertaining.
This evening, I thought to try a different combination of clothing, I had been comfortable in just the sweat jacket and T-shirt the first night. I wondered if the lack of breathability had caused my discomfort the night before this. Tonight, just the hooded sweat jacket and T. The hoody would keep my hat from falling off. The silk pants and thermo-pants would be my bottom. DF had heating packets for my thick socks at bedtime, which only covered my flesh this night, the toe socks of the day discarded.
I had overcome my Morten’s Neuroma earlier in the year with massage and anti-inflammatory measures, but there seems to be a similar problem now. This time however, the pain and burning was in the adjacent set of toes. I spent the evening massaging the foot deeply. Eight hundred mills of Ibuprophen wasn’t lasting enough and had only the effect of making it tolerable. So I broke out an oxycodone pill at bedtime.
I had not been cold and I was very comfortable through the night, once in the tent. The conclusions are that the wind gear did trap in the body heat, but it also trapped the moister, which became cold. The camping quilt works wonderfully, and those packets got my feet warm in the dry thick wool sock after being chilled the night before. The sweat’s hood with pull cords kept the wool hat in place. The drawback is that the hoody weighs more to pack.
The pill was fun as well as effective, we both slept very well.
We felt great the next morning. Most travelers were back down the mountain at work and school. We had one of the best spots on the mountain, the gear works well, and my pain was gone.
The previous day the forecast of clear was broken by those clouds that were building up. We were in a gorge under tall trees and from our position, we couldn’t see in the distance. As we reveled, a dark cloud took the sun. It passed. Then another floated over. At mid-morning, a third cloud dropped a few large drops of water on us. Not much, but not something to eat under, sitting naked. We retreated with chairs to our little porch overlooking the brook. There was a new group of insects, like large ants or wasps about ¾ inch long. Some had wings and some not. They kept getting on us. We later discovered them swarming.They were newly hatched.
We decided to slowly break camp, ease out and have lunch down the road. There was another threatening and not forecasted cloud. Everything felt perfect in spite of that. We were packed and a drizzle began. We decided to take a naked walk in it. We ended up down by the road and then turned back. As we came to the rise we heard a car coming. We didn’t care, let ‘em see our butts, if they even notice. Like many other cars this one seemed to slow and stop to check out the potential campsite. This time, however, we couldn’t be sure if they had stopped dead in their tracks, looking at the two nudes in the woods. Bare butts are not technically illegal. Just as we were leaving, a rain, not a drizzle, started. Everything had been perfect synchronicity in the nick of time.
A Change with a whim:
We headed back down the dirt road. When we made the pavement, I got out resetting the front wheel lockers and getting into two wheel drive. We still wanted to explore one more short walk and have lunch. There is a turn off there and we took it, but ran into a fence with a gate and a group of hikers shortly up that road. I backed back down not wanting to hassle with being naked in the SUV and the hikers walking around us.
We decided to head back to the next campground, Treasure Park, and have lunch, head into Safford, see our friend’s newly constructed house, spend an hour at the hot mineral springs, have dinner and then head home.
As we turned off onto the road to Treasure Park, there was a truck that looked kind of creepy. It resembled our lost friend’s, but the wrong color, as I remembered. We made our way through the meadow; we wondered what two people were harvesting; we journeyed into the woods passing campers as we looked for a private spot. I knew one spot with a creek. It was there, just for us. Completely barefoot all over, we strolled back around the bend through this wonderland water course on smooth rocks. We found a large one to sit and eat on. It was all very pleasant, perfect. We finished our nude interlude and got ready to head down the hill carnuding.
As we got to the opening into the meadow and the loop road, there stood our lost friends! It had been their camper! I threw my sarong over my crotch and DF pulled a dress over her front, holding it in place with her arms and we drove over to them.
They had just arrived late the previous night and crashed at the first campground that they came to. They just happened to see us and had been chasing our illusive red SUV on foot. We talked awhile. DF’s cover was slipping. In her excitement to see them, she wasn’t noticing. I wondered which next second it would fall to the side, so I suggested getting out. They moved away as we slipped on what we had handy, me a kilt, she the sundress in hand. We hung out. It was sunny there, so we went off to sit on the grass on a slope in the shade.
We had to get going. He was kind of freaked out about the kilt, by his looks. As we left, I joked, telling him to be careful of hugging a guy in a dress. We laughed. We gave them explicit directions to the campsite.
We got down the treacherous mountain road and immediately felt the desert heat. We were greeted by our friend and shown excitedly a tour of her new home under construction. She has been living in two yurts there for 30 years. This is a big step. As we visited, a huge dark cloud and a storm began on top of the mountain. We thought about our friends up there and realized more good fortune of perfect timing…for us.The storm gusts blew around us as we visited. It looked as if it might get quite nasty, but then we saw it passing.
The Essence of Tranquility Hot springs were open and we soaked in the heart shaped tub and the Buddha room. It was lovely. It was just right. When we left, we saw that the storm on the mountains had cleared completely.
We had an excellent Mexican meal on historic downtown Safford’s Main Street. Monday night in Safford is dang quiet. The restaurant closes at 8:30. I was able to disrobe for the trip home right there on Main Street.
Thanks for the wonderful trip reports!!!