Orient Land Trust is organized to preserve the land around what was once known as the Orient Mine. There are several ecological layers creeping up the mountains, ruins, fun wildlife, a tremendous bat cave, and hot springs. The entire property, bordering on Federal lands is clothing optional. One overwhelmingly potent descriptive word for this place is “VISTA!”
We arrive naked and tired at the office, which is just before a gate, about 3:00pm. I’ve been curious to check this place out for myself for several years. I’ve heard many stories and high recommendations from friends. DF slips on her handy sundress, I emerge from the car completely bare and ready to stay that way freely for the next few days. DF opens the office door as I approach and whispers, “Everyone is dressed in there.” I’m taken aback and confused. Here I have traveled something like 800 miles nude to arrive at a naturist enclave and….
I head back to the car and grab my camouflage kilt and return. Inside, it is busy. The air-conditioned air is cold. I comment that there must be people here that are used to Colorado winter weather. I suspect that the cooling unit being down the hall, has to condition the whole of the old building and there are no central vents. It makes sense that people are not properly nude.
We check in and are given a personal orientation tour of the area on a large cartoonish map on the wall down the hallway. Dressed in only the kilt, I’m getting ready for a good shiver, as I wrap my arms around my chest. There is another grounds map and info sheet handed to us. Given a token to open the gate, we are off to explore and set up house.
We find the old house with its historic flare. This is where we will be staying our last two nights. As we search for our campsite, we notice the pool, orientate to the general area, getting the basic layout.
The camp is nestled in a shady scrub oak clearing.
It looks as I was promised on the phone, an excellent favored spot. We get the car backed in and begin the process of deciding how to orient the tarp and place the net tent. We will use no quick setup here. We are creating a room with a view and need trees to attach the tarp to. The picnic table is moved, the lines are creatively strung, and we set up.
There is a cloud of what looks at first, to be gnats. We soon discover that it is a swarm of mosquitoes. I live in the Arizona desert and at least one primary part of that decision is because I tolerate mosquitoes badly. Out in the sunshine, they are not the nuisance and I’ll explain more about them later. We have perishable food in coolers and need to find the community refrigerators for storage.
After a search, we find the most convenient situation. In the house, our future abode, the kitchen is found to be crowded and meat is being overcooked to getting smoky. The best place for us is up on a hill under a pavilion between the camp and future house. It is also next to a larger set of roomier refrigerators and storage.
We are tired and hungry. Between mosquitoes and setting up, there is stress in us. Perhaps we should have sat in the pools first, as planned. We set upon a meal of a curry potato soup and salad.
The pavilion is round and supported by large wooden beams. It is open on half of the walls, looking out into the valley and across to ranges of mountains and remnants of snow caps beyond. The view is quite magnificent.
As we prepare, a pair of deer wander up with no fear of humans. It seems that naturists are nice people and the deer have become neighborly. “They will come and eat out of your plates, if you leave them alone,” states a staff member, as he shoes them away.
Feeling more relaxed; we decide which of a plethora of pools to try first. The “top” pools call to us. We can work our way down. I tie on my homemade huaraches, grab a towel and we are off. As we cross through the shady areas, the mosquitoes are in wait, like bandits waiting for a train. It is irritating.
Like any mountainous area, we soon discover that everything is either up or down. The new high altitude, the steep climb and breaking leather straps on huaraches on the rocky path, slow our ascent. We’re surrounded by meadows, flowers, friendly helpful naked people and incredible vistas. Like three bowls of porridge, we test the three top pools.
The first, a tad larger, has a number of champagne-like streams of bubbles.
The water isn’t particularly warm. Not that they aren’t wonderful. We are expecting hot. A stream flows through these, making seasonal fluctuations in temperature. For instance, we are told in the winter, the ice and snow caps the flow. Then the temperatures and contrast go up. These are a favorite spot to move about naked when snow covers the ground.
We try the next two. They are pretty shallow and not very hot either. We find ourselves in awe of the setting, however. The stream has created a flowery meadow as it flows downhill to the valley below and out before us is a dramatic sunset.
The hot spring water doesn’t offer any particularly hefty mineral content. It is good, pleasant, healthy and warm. It doesn’t take people into lithium drugged states, but the pleasant atmosphere around the several ponds scattered about the property, makes them places one wouldn’t care to leave.
We decide to go try the more popular pool down the hill. We had passed it on the way up. We exchange smiles and answer and ask questions of peaceful naked people on the trail. This is very nice, except swatting the mosquitoes as we near the pool. By the time we get there, we are relieved to get safely under the water. Still, they are buzzing our heads and shoulders at every opportunity.
It is at this time, which in due respect and consideration of the reputation of OLT, that I must explain that THE MOSQUITO POPULATION at this time IS NOT THE NORM! After we get into the pool, we are greeted by conversation. Everyone is taking refuge under the water. They are staying away from a low hanging branch of foliage, where mosquitoes are congregated. Some frequent visitors and seasoned visitors of this time of year, claim with authority, that they have never seen it quite like this. Another notes, that a week or two before, there had been no mosquitoes.
As I mentioned before, the Orient Land Trust houses a huge bat cave. Each evening a quarter of a million bats fly in a massive formation from the depths of the mountain. These are however, migratory bats. They only were in the tens of thousands the previous week. It will take a couple of weeks for the bats to get the ecological balance of the mosquitoes and themselves under control. There is that grand slew of water through the sand dunes on the other side of the mountain. Next to that, there is a lake and a swampy area. One of the local towns is called Mosca. As I remember, that means small insects that bite and suck blood down in Mexico. We are all assured that this malady will pass. We are buzzed quite closely by nighthawks, which are after meals over the water. A bat or two takes a dip. Give time time. I massage my feet and relax.
As I sit there on a foam noodle, listening to noodle jokes, amongst the flow of comradery, I think I see a light under a dark spot, then, another. Lightening bugs are beginning to blink as it gets darker! As time goes on, the firefly’s quick beams become slower and their trail longer. In the adjacent hillside meadow they become profuse. I haven’t seen fireflies for forty years! I find myself reminiscing childhood and the excitement that they give. I sit, getting more and more wrinkled in the warm bath, for over an hour. I just can’t seem to get enough of the luminescent critters. When would I see this again? It was like Christmas lights blinking.
There are a couple of hot tubs that are heated, one to around 106F. With these in mind, we quickly jump out of the pool, wrap towels for protection and scurry off.
These hotter tubs are wonderfully relaxing. We crawl into bed and are brought to a quick knock out sleep… after discussing the comedy of 30 mosquitoes attempting to get past our net at once to disrupt paradise.
This will be a three part report…more soon.