Friday afternoon, we set off to visit the Hot Springs. We had a long weekend invitation, but DF had to attend a workshop early Sunday morning in Tucson. We had been curious about this place for years. It is usually for retreat groups. This was a more casual group of friends arranged by a Phoenician a few times a year. We thought that we would just check it out, but ended up thoroughly enjoying ourselves.
The visitation is restricted, so there is no pint in showing up without a special invitation.
As we had hoped we arrived and found our host just as the sun set. We got through the unmarked locked gate and were able to do a quick orientation to the necessities, before hammering down a quick store bought sandwich as a dinner.
There had been a very cold wind, keeping us bundled, but it then died down. The temperature cools at night, but terrycloth robes made an appropriate mediation.
We joined our Tucson friends for a walk through what seemed a Hobbit like area in the dark, journeying to what we found to be a guitar shaped tub of stone. Along the way a mineral water brook made trickling music along the path in the dense foliage with the twisted tree branches. There was an occasional stone ringed hot spring tub along the way.
After disrobing (Ha! We were in robes), we settled in carefully. The stone steps were extremely slippery with algae and we had to hold onto the side for safety. The bottom however, was sandy and just deep enough to submerge into at the shoulders and stretch out. The initial sting gracefully disappeared.
Our friends began to tell tales and history of the hot springs, as we watched the nearly full moon rise over the hill and give light to the surroundings. This was perfect. The guitar shape was a story of legend. It had supposedly been constructed after the Rolling Stones purchased the property many years before. Well, legends are…well, legends. There is also another square pond on the other side of a tree called the amp (all soaking tubs have a name). A thin stream of water connects the two tubs, the cord. Another feeds it from a marked feeder source pond just up the hill.
The place was a hoity toity hotel many years ago, but a decade ago, the old hotel burnt down and all that remain are the casitas (some being restored slowly), a stainless steel shared kitchen and a toilet facility. There are numerous little amenities available, an adobe mud outdoor pizza oven which we were fortunate to try just before we left. There is a box sweat/sauna, the structure for a traditional Native American sweat, a kiva-like circular underground structure, a basketball court, chairs are found in quiet spots, and more, which I’ll get around to telling you about.
This is a free-range story, not particularly stealth, other than carnuding two hours and avoiding roads when we were exploring off property. For this group, the place is clothing optional. Most people stayed dressed and then about half dip in the springs nude. We were the only ones of maybe twenty who wandered everywhere nude. This of course depends on which group has the control at any particular time and the mood. Our preference, of course, is to remain nude, except when it is uncomfortably chilly. As a matter of course, we carnuded home.
I’m going to remind the reader that any picture on this site can be blown up and become more definitive just by clicking the image.
Quick and Easy:
When it was time to sleep,I had set up the SUV 4runner with pads and thick sleeping bags, folding down the back seat. I had tried this before at Redington Pass and decided to hone the arrangement as an easy alternative to setting up a big tent, air-mattress, etc. It was easy, and warm. When we left, I just threw everything in back and took off to sort out later.
This easy setup was handy, because we arrived and it quickly got dark. There was wind, which is difficult when setting up a tent. After that relaxing soak in that luscious hot tub, energy was way down, so sleep was quickly achieved. The water’s mineral balance there is much like a human body’s. I could smell some salt like an ocean at one point, but that corresponds also. The one thing that stands out is the spike in the mineral lithium. It is soothing to many. It makes it hard to get out of the pools. We wanted to just stay there. One of us commented that he could just fall asleep in the water. DF concurred. They looked drowsy. I joked that we could put water wings on them with one extra around their necks and they could nod right off.
The next morning there was a breeze which again disappeared, and the usual morning chill (it got down to around 40F that morning, but the day would be 70F’s). We had slept eleven hours and were in no hurry to climb down out of our wonderfully warm bedding. About 10:30 am we finally did, the robes stuffed away, because we neither wanted, nor needed to dress. To get my core temperature going, I immediately set off for the huge double Olympic sized swimming pool. There is a maybe 6 meter by 6 meter, concrete walled, shallow pool of wonderful water of around 100F to 104F. This feeds into the rest of the pools water, which felt chilly after dunking in the heat.
Back at camp, we had an easy light brunch, just not concerned enough to hassle with the stove the mess, etc., there I something in that water. We sat, talking with friends and getting tips and more information. We decided to take a walk and explore. We took water, cameras and wore our VFF shoes.
We made our way down the side of the pool and onto a trail which lead us to a duck pond.
We disrupted the ducks and they took off in organized flight, circling around us a few times and finally settling down on the water further away.
We explored clearings in the reedy vegetation.
One led us to a table and chair. It was a quiet and cozy setting. It also makes a comfortable duck blind.
Off of the paths, we followed a trail through a salt bush landscape.
My orientation was only from the google satellite map. We took photos. DF was delighted by an old stump which she interpreted to be a unicorn head. Perhaps you will see it, too.
We came across a dumping area. Wondering about, it we began excavation. There were old tile pieces, scrap metal and the artifacts. These soon told us that this was where the burnt down hotel had ended up. I found melted glass and burnt wood amongst it all. It had been a hot violent fire.
A piece of old style tile and a centuries old pottery chard lay next to each other as artifacts.
We decided to wander on out into the desert finding our way on cattle paths, meandering through openings in the fauna and bushwhacking. We found more springs and attempted to find a way to a large cottonwood, but it eluded us.
Attempt to get to the cottonwood } There were thick walls of brush and mesquite, only penetrable by machete or some cousin. We could only go so far without heading up into the creosote forests, which were in the hills, out of the basin. There was much more that we wanted to explore, but there was only this one day. We headed back. The weather had turned dang nice.
We went back into the area proper and discovered a fine example of a Grateful Dead tour bus, truly a classic. What is it about this valley that attracts old hippie buses? This is the sixth that I have seen in the Safford area.
We circled around coming out in front of the main kitchen area and took photos of the rotting circus wagon, before heading to tubs and the area where we had toured in the dark the previous evening.
We checked out the wood fired sauna (not heated at that time) and around the bend to a clearing and over a quaint bridge to the first tub, Geronimo tub.
There were some wonderful ornate benches sat around this tub.
This was a good place to take a break. The water was very warm, 110F or more we were later told. Across some nice grass there was a massage table with purple sheet draped across. We soaked, got out and I invited DF to the massage table, where we made a loving trade.
DF was just about done with me, when our organizer stopped by. He told us that he was soon to meet a client there and wandered off with a friend. Just lay there with my head comfortably stuffed in the face donut and never saw, only heard, didn’t care. We began to soak again.
There was hot water flowing from the creek-like trough into the pool. I found a spot away from the direct current that was slightly more comfortable. As we sat there in peace, a woman stopped by, stripped and joined us. She was the massage client, soaking while waiting. She had an injured rib to be worked on. We showed her the discoveries in the tub. After a while, we gathered our things and barefoot all over, walked up the path.
The next tub was very hot.
Further on, the ground on the hillside was coated with white. The mineral rich water is so abundant that it percolates up through the ground when there are rains.
When we got to the guitar, we heard a lone woman singing at the top of her lungs, thoroughly enjoying her solitude. We attempted to sneak over the “amp” and leave her to her revelry, when she spotted us. She extended an invitation toward us, “Don’t mind me.” She told us that she was just about to try “the Amp” and came over to join us. It is nice to meet other nude people that are so comfortable with themselves and uninhibited. While she soaked there, we went around the tree to take a guitar picture for this post.
We wandered down the paths through the trees and thick brush, occasionally finding another pool, some active, and a few inactive from collapse.
One grew emerald.
As we photographed one, we felt the more extreme heat emanate from the water onto our bodies squatting near.
All in all this is a very pleasant stroll.
When we came across the old palm trees in their full dress that hadn’t apparently been trimmed ever, we knew that we were coming out of the woods and into the casita area.
There was a tub there. The water is about 120F and really too hot to get into, like scalding, but there is a shovel and an old claw tub there. You take the mud from the pool, place it into the tub, mix it around and take a mineral mud bath. We didn’t, but by that time, we realized that this would not be our last visit.
There is much to do naked and plenty of free hiking.
We wandered back to camp checking out the old casitas on the way.
I took a pic of the hot pool at our camp side. There is a rock up in the tree that it had grown around. This testifies to the age of the tamarack and the erosion of the years. The trickle as the water falls into the pool sung to us day and night.
There lay a basketball. I couldn’t resist some nude basketball. I felt unusual muscles as I tried my first lay-up shot in a decade or more. It began to come back to me, muscle memories and it was fun making shots. DF came over with the camera and I began to miss.
We had a fine meal, steaming corn tamales of green pepper and white cheese, with a mix of chard, kale and spinach coated with a dijon mustard seed sauce.
As we ate, a view of the Penaleno Mountains was before us covered with snow.
This summer, we shall get up there and backpack around the snowmelt streams.
Before the sunset, we took a walk. We had seen something on top of the hill from the distance during our walk (which was nearly four hours). We wanted to know what it was. The lady in the guitar pool had told us that the trail there went up to a place where people had created circles and monuments with rock. This still didn’t tell us what the tall wall was. There are lots of new age and woo woo retreats held here, it could be interesting fun.
We found an alternate trail, which lead past an old adobe well cistern. We were able to walk into it and standing in the middle, where the acoustic echo was fascinating. We had fun hugging and whooping many different sounds in it.
At the top we could see everything at 360 degrees. The sun was behind clouds and just popping out.
Sunset was nearing, the breeze up there was cooling down already, but still comfortable. We could see where we had been and found a better orientation to where our earlier walk had taken us.
The mysterious wall was what was left of two old water tanks. The round bases of these have been made into a fire pit and the other a design with rocks as a peace sign.
There were numerous symbols around the hilltop made with the color rocks. DF found what we thought was a very short crested saguaro until we checked the needles and they were of a barrel cactus. This was unusual. It was perfectly shaped as its desert counterpart. The same phenomenon affects both species!
We decided to watch the sunset at the hot tub in the pool. We wandered around the peaceful reflecting lake of a swimming pool taking pictures of the colors and the silhouettes of the barren although just budding mesquite lining the pool.
There was something swimming in the pool. The water seemed cold when I had stuck my leg in earlier as I used the hot spring pool. This person had snorkel gear. We discovered that it was the lady who we had met while waiting for her massage earlier, who was now skinnydipping with a snorkel. She told us that the water was good. We decided to try getting in there first, so it wouldn’t seem so cold after the hot part. We did. It was okay, especially for a swimming pool this size (we found out later that it is usually around 85F, very good). It was shallow and DF sat upon my knees as we I hugged her and shuffled us out into the pool. We were huddled just enough to warm each other, but we had a surprise. There were numerous pockets of very warm and comfortable water as we traveled along.
It got deeper. There was plant growth on the bottom. This explained the snorkel gear. Very nice. The lady came our way as we retreated into the hot pool. It was calm and beautiful as the sunset changed. We introduced ourselves better and talked together after she climbed over the wall to join us.
The pool has algae and growth which is sometimes cleaned out with machinery. There are bubbles in some of those hot spots, feeding the pool, probably through cracks in the concrete bottom, not just the creek that drains into it. There are three species of turtles that live in it. There is a lady who often feeds them, so watch your fingers. I considered my other appendages, guy that I am. This woman who had lived in Hawaii and now resides in Phoenix, but still a water person, told us that it is her favorite spot.
We relaxed in the mineral waters as the ducks performed for us. They fly in squadrons of about forty, three squadrons, each evening at that time before bedding down for the night in the reeds of the duck pond. They would loop and circle in aerobatic fun silhouettes against the spectacular setting sunlight. After they were done, the local bats came by, swooping down for a drink. Only about six tonight, but sometimes they come out of nesting in the boathouse in droves she told us. Standing at the window that they fly through, can be amazing as they all come at once directly overhead. We must return to this place, all of this and a huge warm swimming pond.
To say our good-byes, we walked into the gathering near the kitchen. There was a campfire in front of the pizza oven. There, we were given scrumptious tofu slices wrapped around brazed bell peppers, oiled and seasoned asparagus and of course a couple of slices of fire roasted pizza.
Time to go, it was a two and a half hour drive back home. We did stop for soft serve ice-cream at a 60 year old Tasty Freeze. DF had amaretto flavoring and I had black cherry. On the way out of Safford, I put on the cruise control and as DF took the wheel from the passenger side, I quickly slipped off my sweat shirt and pants and put the heater on.