This is an article that I wrote for “’N’ Nude and Natural” magazine, the quarterly magazine published by The Naturist Society. It appeared in issue 35.3, during the summer of 2016.
During the coming year, I’ll be providing several trip reports that take place in different seasons, over the years and in several parts of Redington Pass. It will provide a more detailed experience with, of course, photos. Here’s my introduction to Redington Pass.
Redington Pass: Tucson’s Free Beach
Redington Pass is a steep walled canyon between two mountain ranges outside of Tucson, Arizona. The flow of water has created a multitude of formations there. Boulders sit upon smooth fields of granite and quartz in many colors and tones. Here and there, reed bushes or trees will take root and a sandbar will form.
There are trails leading down from the adjacent dirt road. To the most popular area, the trek down in the morning will be pleasant, although care must be taken as the sandy surfaces are often be slippery. Occasionally a rock may become unstable. The climb out can feel like a thousand stairs and in the heat of the afternoon, it may be arduous. It is an amazing place. The rewards are worth every step.
As is the nature of the desert, everything changes with seasons and the water falling from the heavens. The two tall mountain ranges collect snow, or rain miles away. These flows accumulate in this gorge before it spreads into the valley of Tucson below. Sometimes the flow becomes a cascade. During the summer monsoons, flash floods can appear out of nowhere. One day, as I rested during the climb out, I looked down into the canyon at the serene beauty. Rain was approaching, falling down the mountains high above. I heard a thunderous roar. From around the bend, an awesome wall of brown water, a wave, taller than me, appeared from wall to wall to cover the canyon floor.
In contrast, drought for weeks into months is a part of desert life. Sometimes, the water will flow, causing difficulty traversing the uneven surfaces, the smooth rock becoming glasslike slippery. At other times, one can find a pleasant stream meandering there. Then in time, only ponds exist, perhaps some moisture seeping out of a crack in the granite walls. As these diminish through the days, green algae grow in clumps. Eventually, one might only have a place to cool feet where there once was a swimming pool.
Life survives these changes. Tiny fish and similarly sized tadpoles jockey for life. Harmless little snakes, frogs and toads of perfect camouflage, cling to the surfaces near the ponds in the sun. Wildlife comes from miles around to drink. Hikers climb from rock to rock, surface to surface, leaving sand with their steps, waiting for the next rain to wash it away.
It may sound like a harsh environment, but with care, it is fun to climb barefoot all over, traversing the rocky surfaces. I have never tired of this. It is a new joy each time. I love removing my shoes, rendering me completely free and natural to experience the plethora of experiences of bare feet on the various rocks, boulders, sand and pebbles. It is joy to observe that all parts are connected in our twisting bodies, maintaining balance, shifting, to climb up through, down into and onto. It is a complicated concert of movement in the moment.
There are smooth grooves and many a crevasse to lie in, which engulf a body’s form. One particular spot that I like, is a swirling bubbling spa when the conditions are right. As water shoots through the rocks, the flow is enhanced. It blankets bodies, feeling like a furry puppy’s coat. Just placing my hands creates wonderful curls and designs in the flow of the delightful white water and foam. It massages better than a Jacuzzi.
When there is snow melting, any waterfall will provide warmth, as the water cascades with force over the body. Often the sun heats the shallow pools to comfort. One can always climb out to melt into any smooth sunbaked slab, after a brisk dip.
The canyon gives wondrous moments. The sensual treat of climbing through the water flow is something like swimming upstream. In places, there must be a healthy stretch to grasp a boulder and pull a body through. Standing, taking a deep breath of life, nude, as the canyon air currents wrap around the body, directing ones hair, is enchanting. Laying, looking up through the white and grey hues of towering canyon walls and into the rich turquoise blue contrast of the Arizona sky, is mesmerizing.
One morning we arrived at sunrise. There was an overcast lifting above, as the sun came up on the other side of the mountain. The sky turned golden. Then, as we looked around ourselves, all of the granite imitated the clouds with refection. All that we could see in every direction were the golden hues that Francisco Coronado had lusted for.
I began my relationship with Redington Pass in the late sixties. Then, the idea of fair was he who arrives first would be free to dictate the dress code. If we arrived first, by this dibs system, we would be free to dictate the option of clothing. If someone came upon us, we had possession. None of this may have made any realistic sense to anyone else, but to young Arizona hippies, those were the rules.
We would cavort tracking barefoot on the smoothed surfaces. Waterfalls from five to forty feet are in numerous places. At the base of each fall, there is a pond and many are wonderful swimming holes. These were respite in the desert heat as we dripped and then sunned on these comfortable natural surfaces. We would drink fruit concoctions that someone had the gall to call wine, sharing bottles, always vigilant to not drop the bottles, or let them roll on the uneven surfaces. Not only was broken glass an issue, but liquids for drinking were not only a steep upward climb out of the canyon, but miles to a convenience store. It might cause the early end to our sojourn.
We would find purchase on the rock cliffs and jump into the pools of water, a dangerous activity, as every surface is unyielding stone. It seemed that each year someone would accidently slip, or jump to their deaths. There have been over thirty deaths there since 1970. None the less, it was a remote anarchist playground, of peace and freedom.
During the years, Tucson has grown from a quarter of a million, to well over that seven figure mark of a major city. The population of Redington has increased as well. Much of the areas where we once had freewheeling times in pristine magnificence, are now packed with the less tolerant, the destructive and unappreciative.
There had been an area upstream which was difficult to get to, where we naturists could always take refuge. This is still the unofficial nude area. It is now years ago, that a trail was constructed leading down to this. It was constructed by the nakeds who frequented it and there was a sense of ownership. After all, few would have access without those efforts. The forest service erected a steel sign warning of the dangers of flashfloods and slippery rocks. This has always been maintained as the warning sign proclaiming a clothing optional area and that nudity may be encountered ahead. Someone always scratches this deeply into the steel surface.
Through the years, there has been an ebb and flow of organization among the naturist’s community. The forest service has mentioned nudity at Redington in the media, on occasion. I found an old TV youtube interviewing local naked guys. An official stated that there was no law against nudity there, it was traditional, and they don’t interfere. Now, organization is not particularly strong publically. There is only the comradery and proclamations of the nude users there in the canyon. Shared are directions, tips, water, food, smiles, well wishes and history. A few regulars know each other’s names, or faces as friends. At this time, there is no website, list of interested parties, or effective network. It is vulnerable.
To preserve this place as a peaceful place of naturism, we have to frequent it and populate it with naked friendly people. We must always outnumber the textile intruders. I’d like to encourage every naturist to come and enjoy this place. The trail to the nude areas and upstream is a relatively easy quarter mile or so. On the way out, after there is a brief stair step climb, this trail is level most of the way, meandering through lush Sonoran desert and vistas.
For a while, there was the rumor that the Canyon’s nude area had been “taken over by gay men,” as if it had become some kind of a pickup venue. Contrary to this, there are gay men there, but there are also pairings of straight men. There is a tendency to project fears. Somehow, this perception got out of control. We are all there for naturism and a sense of solitude.
Please, come visit and enjoy.
There were only a few photos used in the magazine article. The text was embedded beautifully into these, used as a background.