Timing is Everything in Paradise
Sunday morning we took off to Aravaipa Canyon. This is a wildlife preserve and designated protected wilderness area run by the BLM and The Nature Conservancy. Only 50 each day are allowed by permit to enter, 30 from the west and 20 from the east entrance of the ten mile, and more, stretch of canyon. On our days off, during the monsoon and summer heat, there were only two takers for the east entrance…us. There were a few coming into the west, which is a closer easier access from Tucson and Phoenix, but it is over eleven miles through wilderness with generally no trails. It is mostly slogging through the creek itself. The east requires high clearance, and this day, four wheel drive. I had just gotten a four wheel drive two weeks before. This was the first big trip. I’ve been without a 4×4 for about 15 years. Now, DF and I have access to remote PRIVATE areas, which have been missed for sooo long.
This being the first trip to Aravaipa, we weren’t sure what to expect. We had the website, some anecdotes and some topo maps. http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/arolrsmain/aravaipa.html
We drove in, realized the 4×4 was essential and drove into the canyon. Up Turkey Creek, there is a jeep trail called the Rug Rd. because of the number of old rugs that are along the road because of its difficulty.
We stayed within the easier part of this, looking to inspect seven turn out campsites along the creek, a tributary of Arivaipa Creek. There was no water running in the creek and this disappointed us. We began to refer to it as Turkey Wash.
We found ourselves driving up to the ancient ruins, a cliff dwelling/hunting shelter, left from the prehistoric 1300’s.
This marked and a short trail leads up an off shoot minor canyon into a cliff overhang, like many typically chosen to protect from rain and adversaries. A small squeeze in entrance brought us into the room size shelter. No one sliced our heads as we bent over and nearly crawled through this opening. I would have been very defensible. Inside, the old wooden rafters were still encased in the adobe plaster.
We had followed a set of tire tracks that only went one way out the trail, which ends up in Mammoth, around 40 miles away. The vehicle was nowhere in sight.
We decided on a camp closer to the Aravaipa Creek and Turkey Creek confluence. In the Turkey Creek Canyon, we arranged the truck and tent to block the road’s view, in case a ranger happened by.
Setting up shelter, it began to rain lightly and then quit. There was a lot of humidity. It reminded us of back east, like Arkansas in the summer, but nothing like Louisiana. It was a lousy place for clothes and this keeps dry textile Arizona people away at this time of year. We naturist have a suitable wardrobe however and can be much more comfortable.
It was paradise. Huge trees, diverse thick foliage growing into the trail, bird’s songs galore, with little other noise. This place was green like back east, only the huge and tall red and brown rock cliffs changed that imaginative perspective. Excited, realizing that we had this entire place to ourselves, we explored down the other direction of the trail walking where we had previously driven.
A deer jumped and ran. Cliffs tower above the trees and the meandering creek. A large egret jumped and flew away, alerted. Its long bent neck seemed like ancient prehistory with pterodactyls, Rachel Welsh and Ringo Starr dressed in furs. We ate and fell asleep quite early, for a 12 hour snooze. We were finally relaxing and unwinding.
The next morning…
…we took off down the Aravaipa creek canyon. There is no trail, the pristine area has dangerous snakes and the growth is thick. Most of the hiking has to be done by trudging through the stream itself. Sometimes it was like walking on water.
I started out with invisible shoe thin rubber huaraches, but the river rock surface proved too tough for them to comfort my feet. I switched to my KSO fivefingers, to a great improvement. I will be buying a pair of fivefingers with a thicker sole later. There are rocky surfaces here in parts of Arizona that eventually wear out a pair of feet, including this one. They did very well in the water.
We didn’t get very far, about a mile and a half, yet we were gone from camp about five hours. Being careful not to slip on the rocks, the uneven, mostly blind surface, under the water and needing to keep camera, lunch, etc. dry, slowed our pace. Every few feet was another photo opportunity. We got back with over two hundred photos. This was just fascinating. There was nobody but naked us in the wild.
DF hears something and waits quietly and cautiously.
DF examines a fun rock.
Everything has this primitive feel about it.
Just up a tributary canyon, we find a cave where water digs through each hard rain.
We returned to camp, ate and I lit a fire. The skies were clear. We played drums and guitar and watched the fire. The canyon walls began to get bright and the nearly full moon arose up over its ledge. The firewood burnt out. We had to squelch the hot coals. As we did, clouds came into the sky overhead. We could only see them above as our sight was obscured by the canyon walls and trees. There were more frequently occurring flashes of light. As we were done with the fire, we prepared for a possible rain. Just as we cozied up in the tent, rain drops began and within minutes a tremendous pounding torrent of a lightning storm hit the area. The rolling thunder and lightning were nearly continuous above us. We could only wait it out. The idea of flash floods was on our minds. The rain passed and lots of water could be heard in the creeks around us. I got up and took a naked flashlight walk to check for signs of a tidal wave flashflood. The creek begins miles upstream. It was full, but safe.
The Tuesday morning the stream was no longer flowing, but signs of the storm were everywhere. It was quiet again (the Aravaipa Creek makes sound at all times; the Turkey Creek canyon is incredibly silent.
We took a walk up stream, barefoot naked, no water, no camera, just bare and free to experience the moment. Each foot step was a sensual delight. The trail goes through a forest here. I was able to experience what you back-easterners describe amongst the soft fallen leaves. I now understand what you mean about discovering broken branches or rocks or roots under the leaves. It does hurt. My bare foot would come down on the toes and balls and then the center of my sole would occasionally catch a very uncomfortable object, but that is just a part of it all.
It was a forest. It was incredible. Our foot steps were silent in the soil and wet leaves. Mud was cool. Shadows and then the warm sensual sunlight would come to us, as clouds and trees would stop shading.
We heard water, then discovered streams falling from hundreds of feet above, fed by the rains.
This experience made two things evident. This land, this earth, was here millennia before us. It exists in the observations of but a very few. It came before us and will exist without us in its plan. We were not made to reap the bounties of the earth as if it were made for us as a gift. Gift it may be, but we are only a part of something greater. We are not the center of the universe. We deserve no selfish dominion.
The other is that I have a natural right to be nude and experience my body as the sensitive awareness that it is. I am not obscene. My existence is incredible and that experience of existence is to be aware. ANY restrictions are highly oppressive of my spiritual nature and natural existence. Clothing keeps me away from my very self, awareness, place in the universe and notion of God in profound ways. Nudity law is so obviously contrary to the Bill of Right’s first amendment.
It was a different world and environment in prehistory. DF and I experienced some prehistory. We experienced a profound sense of ourselves in a higher spiritual humanity. We saw the environment as it was in prehistory, diverse, alive, astoundingly abundant and awesome. The experience of this place as a natural state of being was astoundingly profound….and fun…naked.
Some lessons learned…naked:
DF and I watched the tracks of the vehicle, whose tracks we had found, to decide if they had left or might comeback. We watched the footprints and their directions looking for signs of others in the mud of the creek. After the rains, we could understand how durable these tracks were and get a better idea how long they had been there. We used previous day’s history of weather, and watched erosion and how the sun baked the tracks and realized that they were older than we had previously thought. The thought process based on awareness can be very sophisticated. I stopped to think of the seasonal hunters in the ruins so many years ago. I realized that these were not simple times. Great knowledge was at hand and passed around.
NAKED WAS THE SENSIBLE NORM! It felt better. It made sense. It gave an extra dimension to awareness and spirituality that is essential to survival and the sanity of oneness. We have lost a great deal of ourselves, and continue to do so. I was more acutely aware of each step, my body’s adaptation, the sensory input of the constant changes, listening with my skin, and inside, the sound as I moved, the slip, the texture, the warmth and cool, the sharp and the embracing, the changes, the air, the smells, direction, bodily adjustments and more and more. All of this is useful information and so overwhelming that a different consciousness was needed to understand it. These were not simpler times. It was not just the wild pristine environment, but being naked there that was key to the profundity of the experience that we had.
John Muir wrote:
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountain is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”
“We cannot adequately appreciate this aspect of nature if we approach it with any taint of human pretense. It will elude us if we allow artifacts like clothing to intervene between ourselves and this Other. … To apprehend it, we cannot be naked enough. … In wildness is the preservation of the world.”
Post Script about the surroundings:
Someone asked about the little church and Klondyke Arizona. It was built and run by the family whose land it sits. I just happened to meet a relative two weeks later at a neighborhood party. Same people all of this time.
Klondyke looks to be nearly a ghost town. There is still community there. Here are a few buildings and a general store. All of it seems for sale.
A PHONE BOOTH!!???
It is waiting for Superman, I guess. There didn’t appear to be a phone. It is red. In the eighties when Reagan deregulation was on Ma Bell, an upstart decided to compete here. The booths were red, like this one, instead of the blue Ma Bell.
It’s like an antique gas pump now. I wonder if it is collectable? Maybe I’ll get me one for my yard. People will stop by and say, “A phone booth!!??,” every time and maybe want to get in and try ‘er out. That was my inclination, after I said, ‘Wow, a phone booth!?!”
I was naked in the middle of town and didn’t want to go to the trouble of hitching up my pants and doing the tour. My wrap around would just not come across correctly out in the country.
Poor Superman could never be a nudist, but at home with the drapes drawn. Imagine what it is like spending all day with a set of long johns under your usual business attire. That’s got to be icky and stuffy. In his shoes, I’d be out of everything, immediately, as soon as my front door closed behind me. I’d be Jonesin’ for a new adventure, just to free myself of the outer layer and fly around in my underwear-like costume, finally able to air out.
Next time, I may leave a pile of dirty laundry in it, an old sport coat and tie.
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