DF had a sudden very disappointing schedule change. Her four day retreat in Slow Low with a friend turned into one day. This caused our four days together, to be after their retreat, to become a week. I had to shuffle to leave four days earlier and decide where to go and what to do. Nude vacations, hiking and camping, especially during monsoon season need planning and contingencies.
I spent hours researching to figure out what the actual conditions were at various locations. I used topo, internet information and Google satellite. I had previously put together a list of nearly all of the perineal water creeks in the White Mountains. I went through 25. All but one was devastated by the Bear Wallow fire to some extent. It was very discouraging. If the percentage of Arizona Forests that have been consumed by fire and rancher alterations were to be applied to the Amazon forest, we would all be in trouble. So much is gone, except for patches here and there.
There was one untouched area with a creek. The site of the 1998 Rainbow Gathering. That would be our first destination. Later, we might head out on a backpacking trip. Two creeks had potential. But first we had to get DF to her retreat in a nice mountain home on Saturday night. She would have a full day Sunday….
Saturday, we have a later start that planned. It is very hot in Tucson and we will be pleased to escape the heat. All the way up it is very warm. It certainly is helping to carnude the three and a half hours while climbing to Show Low. The sun goes down and we travel in cooler evening air, as we climb up mountain roads.
At 10:30pm, we arrive at the community gate, waiting for a text from within the house. It is quiet and dark, but still we are naked and sitting in an SUV at a quiet exclusive neighborhood’s gate at night. We get some guy on the intercom, not our friends, using bad information that had been given us. Finally, our friend Nancy, who is also visiting, drives down to get us through the gate. It opens automatically when approached from the inside.
Parking on the driveway down a slope from the house, it is dark and quiet. Flashlights in hand, after a hugging good greeting, we just carry the clothes that were for backup during the drive in our arms up the path. Then we slide into bed. We’ll get our needed stuff in the morning. We don’t want to disturb the others with our late arrival.
SUNDAY July 24th:
Sun shouts in through open blinds. All I see is forest out the window. Our hostess beckons us out of bed. We have scored! The rest of the house is wonderful. We enter the great room with its tall ceilings and the western and Native American décor. This is spacious and well done. Barefoot all over, we explore. The porch/balcony is huge, overlooking a forested valley. It is quiet. There is a very good view shed, yet the adjacent neighbors on each side have no sight of us. The whole is private. We lean on the railing and soak it in.
We are with two of our sweat family friends and soon realize that there will be no need to be dressed during our stay.
There are chores. We need a few items and the food cooler from the truck. We now have a refrigerator instead of an ice chest. I wrap my camo kilt around me and descend a wonderful rock path barefoot. It is a treat. These large uneven surfaces are from the lot, which were saved during construction. They are raw and varied. It is fun to walk these steps and exercise my feet. The alternative is a nice wide winding sloping concrete grade with pea gravel. That would be boring.
It is after breakfast. I sit down and play my guitar softly. The others say that they enjoy it in the background, as they imbibe on the porch.
Our greeter last night, Nancy, has to return to Tucson this morning and we help her out. She struggles to break from the Beatles jigsaw puzzle that is still incomplete. After tea and cookies, DF and our hostess kick me out, as agreed. I’m to spend a few hours doing whatever, while two healers, and pals, go about doing what two healers share on a retreat.
I’m on my own devices for a few hours. I have a few errands, which are to buy a larger tarp and bottled drinking water for instance. I thought to drive out to the campsite to check, but instead, I find a great shopping center, or should I say a Mecca. On one side is Sportsman’s Paradis…er, Warehouse. On the other side, I find a Big 5 Sporting Goods big box. Between are a Dollar Value and a big box tool Mecca/store! I spend the entire afternoon wandering through, checking out the camping supplies and seeing what’s new. It is at times difficult, because I am tempted to buy, buy, buy. I didn’t purchase the gonga $300 kayak on sale. I stuck with a green tarp, instead of turning it in for the groovy priced 50% more camouflage model. I do well. I have fun. I do however, nearly forget about the actual shopping list.
I eventually return to the wonderful cabin/home in the woods, get lovely naked, create smoothies for us, and I am rewarded by a wonderful dinner out on the patio. I show off my authorship in “N” magazine, and spend some time learning some Rainbow songs for the sweat. I am shown massage devices, like roll-on balls and the toys that those two had been working with. Outside, the evening monsoon clouds open to the Milky Way. We watch stars and then, the moon arises.
MONDAY July 25th:
Getting up to the sun, we roll over, and then again. I take what might be the last real shower of the week. DF manages to finish John Lennon’s mouth on the impossible jig saw puzzle, while I get clean.
We pack up and help each other out to our vehicles. We say our parting goodbyes.
DF and I leave dressed, with a mission in mind. We have decided to have a Mom and Pop Place breakfast in Show Low. We have a big plate of veggie omelet and hash browns. We stop off at the Sportsman’s Warehouse and DF helps me choose a massage face cover/neck brace. After gassing up, I pull away from the pump and strip before returning to the road. My intention is that this is the last need for cover-up that I’d need for the rest of the week. Doubtful, but a guy can dream.
I drove by the old neighborhood where my folks had a summer house for 30 years and past the Hon-Dah Casino. We travel the two lane road through the forest through the Apache Reservation and McNary, which is an old logging town with its stands that sell homemade frybread.
We reach Forest Roads 117 A, B and C. I had orientated myself with satellite photography and I have memories of the Rainbow Gathering 18 years before. It is difficult to ascertain where a road goes under a forest canopy, when looking at it from above on a computer image. Today, I do manage to recognize where I had turned off and camped, so long ago. This leads out into a meadow. I soon discover that the old jeep road is gone and a fence has been put up. This would have been the way to any camping at the site itself. It has begun to rain.
We decide to try the springs area, our plan B. It may have other campers. I haven’t been there. The rain continues as I pull off of 117 and onto a non-road across a meadow. After passing a trailer with quads, I see the slippery conditions ahead of me and pop out to lock into four wheel drive. This route is muddy and slippery.
Across the meadow, the now rocky trail slips down a hill through some forest. There, to the right, we find a stream. It is beautiful, but there is some marsh, and potential for flying bugs. I grab my umbrella and investigate this beautiful spot.
It is the spring. The water flows right out of a rock face into gorgeous lush biodiversity. As I search for enough trees in a good configuration to support the new extra-large tarp that I had purchased, the world is lighting up and thunder is crashing to the point that it becomes unnerving. I look above to make sure that I am not near the tallest trees.
We want the best choice. Setting up this camping rig will take time and we only want to do it once. Across another meadow we enter a fence gate and drive through deep forest. Another fork in the road leads to another gate. There had been a campsite for the alcohol drinkers in a gully at the gathering. It could make for a good camp, if I can find it. We slip through the gate, this time on foot with an umbrella. The rain has eased somewhat. The exploration turns up nothing.
Near the spring, we had seen a nice camping area. I need a few well-placed trees to string the large tarp to. My old 9×9 three meter dome tent that I think I bought for that Rainbow Gathering, has leaks, besides, we could pitch and set up under tarp cover and out of the rain.
Finding that suitable space, we do just that in what has become a drizzle. I back up the SUV and attach part of it, creating a covered work area on the tailgate.
This will also make a visual blockade for passersby. The tent when erected, pushes the 14×20 foot tarp up. I arrange a chute to drain water. We soon discover that this also makes for a great water harvester, by simply placing a bucket next to it.
We make ourselves comfortable.
We have a full sized air mattress with layers of woolen and down sleeping bags spread out on it. There is a thick ornate wool rug next to it. The tailgate makes a great kitchen, which can be sealed up inside easily and secure, keeping bears and critters out when we rest at night or leave camp.
The rain stops. The tarp also makes a place to dry our wood. The sun will hit there each morning and most of the day. While DF makes a lunch, I find a pile of precut wood. I gather and split it, shaving off the fibrous bark to start a fire. A hole is already there. Some nearby volcanic rocks are perfect to set around the hole as a fire pit.
We have taken two hours roaming the area to find the camp. There is still more to do. During sunset, we take a stroll to gather our bearings and know our home of the next several days. This is a fabulous place.
With the foundation set, we know we will have an amazing day tomorrow. Dinner is a lentil veggie soup. The rain has made things colder. We slip into dry warm clothing, on me there are a couple of layers of long underwear, a long sleeve t-shirt and our tent. We enjoy hot tea and ginger snaps, a warm cozy bed and ….