We get up early Saturday, after finishing our late night last minute packing. We have to drive through Phoenix on the freeways, finding our way to Cave Creek Road. I’d never been this way, nor knew anyone who had. All that I had was the view from google satellite and some instruction to the petroglyphs and ruins from my son.
We are beginning a four day back road exploration in the Verde River area known as Bloody Basin. Bloody for the red rock there. We are looking for naturism with water features and shade trees, free range playgrounds.
We pulled into the last gas station before the dirt roads and wilderness. I followed DF to get a key to the restroom, asking the guy behind the counter for directions. We were confused, having found the designation of Pima Rd. assigned to two areas. I had just slipped on my kilt and a black long sleeve T.
This fellow in his twenties asked, “Is that digital?” He was glancing down from across the room.
I replied, “Uh, yes, digital camo.”
He looked at me seriously and volunteered, “That’s sick!”
I didn’t know what to think. Why would a guy behind the counter be discourteous to a customer? Not knowing what to think, I asked him, “What?”
“That digital is sick…I think that it’s badass.”
“Oh! Well, it is comfortable. Where’s the restroom key?”
Perhaps, I am still a bit too self-conscious of wearing a “dress’ in boot country.
I finish the stop contemplating how gas has gone up nearly 100%, a full dollar in just one week. Harrumph!
We find ourselves traveling out through the Cave Creek area’s burgeoning wealthy sector, where people are more concerned with the price of their energy stocks than the cost of a tank of gas. Here, the desert is being gobbled up by sprawl of exclusive communities and golf courses.
The road thins out and meanders miles through an up and down course through the grassy mountains of Tonto National Forest. There are huge powerlines and occasional vistas out here. Eventually, the pavement ends and the steep winding road becomes more slippery. I pull off to get into four-wheel high for better traction, climbing out to lock the front wheels barefoot all over, with nobody insight to trouble me.
A few miles later having been bouncing quite a bit, I find a field on a crest, where I can spot any other vehicles from a reasonable distance. DF warns me of the possibility of being charged by one of the grazing cattle.
Undaunted, I take to my task. I have just added two new all-terrain tires to my SUV the day before, keeping the two older but good ones that the salesman insisted were almost ready for replacement. He of course thought that I probably should add two more, right then and now. I check the pressure before I drop it. There is fifty-two pounds, in the front where the older tires are. Fully ten pounds more that practical. It seems that the tire company is into sabotaging my remaining tread.
The vistas are good and the breeze pleasant as I perform my task, unencumbered. DF entertains herself, taking pictures of me with my bare butt bent over as a steer looks on.
The road continues for many more miles.
It is a hard drive, twisted, sometimes steep and slippery.
There are a couple of stretches of pavement where it wanders next to a thick tree lined creek.
One is with cabins and one a public camp ground with a park-like atmosphere. Then, the surface gets worse.
It had been awhile, when DF exclaims at the passing of a sign, “Wow, civilization!” We soon arrive at an intersection and I recognize it as FR269, our next road. I am pleased, thinking that I had more driving to do before arriving here. There is a kiosk announcement here, but also a car with a man standing, reading. I know where we are. We certainly have no interest in the hassle of getting dressed, so we continue.
Encouraged, by the freshly graded road and figuring 11 miles to go, I press on. This soon dissolves with the passage of a sign stating, “Warning, road width varies next six miles. Stay alert.”
The road width does vary, with steep inclines with cliff drops. It has been graded to about the width of my thin 4runner with the addition of steep shoulders.
I notice how these are so steep, that with the sandy, shifty rock surface its slipperiness can draw even my serious tires off of the road. The same slippery surface make the downgrade dangerous, as well. It is stressful.
When I discover that the landmark to the next road is another four miles than anticipated, I feel discouraged, but we finally arrive at the little kiosk on the side of the road, which marks our turn off.
We look at the instructions and alas, five more miles of an unmaintained, jeep trail. This is even slower going. All that we have is a crude map that I had created out of observation of satellite images to distinguish the main trail from the offshoots.
About two miles in, we are met by a train of off-road vehicles. We pull over, relieved by the temporary end of the bumps and ruts that we have been traversing, to let them pass. Although they are passing close on the narrow trail, we have no need to cover. The angles and the need to concentrate occupied the other drivers. I notice that the passenger’s full body could be seen, but they pass so quickly that they would only think that they might have seen a nude body. I place my hand in front of the side window and wave in greeting, creating further distraction and obstruction.
Wide open spaces, this is definitely a place where one will pee in the middle of the road, casually. We arrive at the circular loop, ending this journey. I have been driving for over six hours mostly in 4×4 high. The next stop would be 25 miles more of this. I have no inclination to leave this place. I step out of the cab, delighted to walk on two feet.
I had placed a grounding pad under my bare legs on the way up to see if I might have less fatigue after long hauls. I think it worked. I don’t feel stiff and the need to stretch that I usually experience. I walk around relieved, sun and breeze comforting me.
The ruins sit on the top of a butte in the middle of a grassland. The rock is volcanic black and crumbling. As with places like these, there is a breezy wind flowing across it, probably most of the time. Today, there was a forecast telling me that there might be next to zero wind, an unusual occasion. We decide to stay and camp here. The timing is perfect to avoid a chilling wind.
Walking around the truck, I immediately notice an unusual hollow metal quality to sound vibrations, like wandering among steel rocks. I couldn’t find any reason why. The ruins, looking to be a pile of rubble are to the west. My directions told us to walk 199 ft. (a silly number) to the due east and there would be a cliff with numerous petroglyphs. We decide to explore these first, as they were getting into afternoon shadow.
With the late/mid-afternoon time in this remote spot, I decide to carry no backup clothing. DF carries a shirt, but soon leaves it behind on a rock. We begin our search, soon discovering that we would have to climb down a part of the rock face to see anything.
We find many of these rock carvings.
They are mostly just depictions of deer in many different styles.
Most critters have horns, including obviously big horn sheep. I surmise that a young man might be honored to draw his first kill to mark the occasion, but what do I know? There are sun signs, some strange people, one looking like a space alien.
There is an intricate cross, which DF identifies as the Native American four directions. Some are done in difficult areas, some large, some diminutive, some had been done while lying about casually.
We climb and shoot pictures all around the wall of ruble, until we come to the other side and are able to get back up to the top of the mesa.
Anatomy of an Encounter:
Just as our heads rise above the flat plain, we hear a voice, then, two. A couple are heard. We creep up peering over the black rock ledge that hides us and see them. He is pointing down in some discussion of the petroglyphs. They might be heading to where we had descended. DF reminds me that her camera bag and covering is over there, on the other side of them in plain sight. We have ourselves trapped, naked, wondering what to do. We couldn’t be sure if they were alone, or a part of a party of four wheelers.
After watching, we begin to move north, away from them, thinking that if they go down where we did, that we could get back to the SUV and get body covered, circling around. It is giggly. It is not like we care about being seen, and way out here in Federal territory nudity is lawless. We don’t carry shame, nor embarrassment from nudity. I had considered a cover-up and the odds, but still accepted the risk as minimal. What could happen? Better than 95% of reports of encounters in remote areas offend no one. Still something says inside that there may be embarrassment in one of the four of us, perhaps old conditioning. The situation brings about a host of contingencies and plans to mind. We are naturally thinking fast, assessing the situation. Waiting and seeing no movement, we decide to just walk to the north, our backs to them. We hope to let them see that we are just enjoying being naked on this fine day, thinking that we are alone, as if we hadn’t noticed their presence. We start out, moving about twenty feet. His head looks our way, I can’t know if we are actually seen, but they just up and leave. Perhaps they politely, but unnecessarily, thought that they had intruded onto a more private matter. People do associate nudity with privacy, not wanting to embarrass others. Maybe they had seen enough petroglyphs and decided to move on. We go back into hiding, behind a dead tree and watch their vehicle leave.
We are not used to being seen, proud of our stealth. We probably could have just gone about our way, greeting them, putting them at ease, demonstrating freedom. Most likely, it was much to do about nothing, but we didn’t play it that way. It was kind of fun hiding there.
We go back to gather DF’s shirt and bag.
More petroglyphs are discovered at the top. I find a place to sit next to some of the ancient carvings. It’s a large flat rock. It looks out and down into the deep valley below. Together, DF and I sit from this perch, lovely nude, watching these people travel out the jeep trail far below us.
We’ll never know if they saw us there, or before we saw them.
The next stop is the ruins. I walk over to the barbed wire fence that separates them from the road. The pottery chards are thick and somewhat varied. Most have very smooth outsides, showing great care and craftsmanship. We carefully (naked vs barbed) step over the fence. These are piles of fallen stone walls.
There are numerous rooms. This would have been extensive.
There is a pretty clear view to other piles of volcanic rock and mesas miles from here. The other significant ruins would be a bonfire sighting, or a smoke signal away. That is the only good reason that I could see why they would live up here, protection. There was more rain back in that period, but water could be sparse. Many questions arise.
I attempt to place myself in my ancient probably naked counterpart’s bare feet, as I stand up here looking across a vast greenish grey expanse.
DF whips up a bowl of guacamole with corn and black beans for our blue corn chips. We dip, carrots and yellow bell peppers, too. We couple fresh raw asparagus tips with a kind of bread that I had made from carrot pulp, walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds and sundried tomatoes. The quick and easy dome tent is erected for shelter, and we watch the sun setting. It places a bright orange hue on the landscape for miles and miles.
As night falls, we bundle into our warm coverings. We climbed into our shelter, intending to get up in a while to see the display of stars from atop the hill in the middle of nowhere. We fall asleep and I don’t wake until after sunrise.
As I awake, I hear the sound of something below me thumping. There are cracks in the ground and broken volcanic rock with crevasses. Animals bore dwellings under there. This continues on and bumps away.
The forecast holds true. It is absolutely calm and quiet, perfect for stripping off and climbing out of a tent into a wondrous day. We have discovered that the ground is perfectly hospitable to bare feet.
There have been crickets around us. At times they will stop. One might hear quiet, one cricket and the rest join in, orchestrated. They continue into the heat of the morning sun.
DF stands looking into the sun, intensely focused on her chi gong movements, gathering chi energy.
I pack up, wander and awaken. When I feel the inclination for my own meditation, I head over to where she had been standing and place my feet onto the mashed grass that marks her foot prints. I can feel the energy there, her residue. I’m grateful that such a person is near to me.
I learn something this morning. A water bottle had leaked onto my fire starter newspaper. I decided to place it on my chair to sit on. The wet paper leaves a tattoo, a pattern of ink on a bare butt, which takes a couple of days and some DF rubbing to fully remove.
We have been sitting in these chairs, in the calm morning, observing, as we eat pieces of cantaloupe. The soft texture allows the luscious sweet juices to slowly flow, filling every crevasse in our mouths. The grand vista and solitude still delights us.
A large bunny has been making its way. There is a string of dead pinion pine. A fire had been through here, probably just a few years ago. The bunny knows to go from one canopy to the next. Suddenly, it runs, darting, jumping across the road and stops under the barbed wire fence. It has wisdom about the predators in the sky and has grown large with that.
Later, packed, I sigh as we drive off. I have nearly 35 miles of rough slow roads and trails before we get to Sheep Bridge on the Verde River.
If you are interested in the archeology of the Perry Mesans: