Free Range Gathering Pt. 2: A Trip Report

2016-10-02

Back to the High Forests

This is the next part of the Free Range Naturist gathering in Dewey Arizona.  After deciding to split up, Ken and Amie head for dinner. Duane , DF and I are off to find a campsite before dark. The beginning of the tale and background to this, can be found here: https://thefreerangenaturist.org/2016/10/07/free-range-naturist-gathering-pt-1-a-trip-report/

We don’t know where we might end up, nor what opportunities might appear. We had abandoned a very good campsite in the forest this morning. These mountains are crowded with campers on weekends and we certainly can’t be assured of a spot. The following morning, our plan is to explore the head waters and the upper Hassayampa River.This is that tale.

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We decide to try back where we were, but soon find that that and every other site are taken. We have driven as far back as the camping sites go. Ultimately, there is a sign telling us “NO Camping Past This Point” As we approach the roadway again, knowing that we are running out of daylight, we see a turnoff just about big enough for a large RV. It isn’t a designated campsite and there have been postings about staying only to those. It does appear to be sort of attached to another site, which is very close. There is a lone pickup truck at the other site with gear spread out around it. We need to look at maps and figure something out.

Stopped, we struggle with the large map with its multiple folds. I approach the camper to ask if the space is attached and if we might use it. He is friendly, and confesses that he isn’t sure, but we are welcome to try it, as long as we aren’t loud and rowdy types. He even offers us a space at his fire, if we don’t want to build our own. We take him up on that and offer him dinner. We got dressed when we got out of the truck, me in my kilt. Soon mosquitoes had me in my thermal long-john’s as we set up tents and arranged the SUV’s. When we were situated, we joined the fire with a pot of a curry veggie mix and some properly chilled kombucha.

The fire is placed into a small but very effective portable fireplace that our host had created out of sheet metal and bolts. He uses small pieces of wood that burn warm. It can be dowsed quickly in a bucket saving water. I may make something like that. He is a gold panning enthusiast from Flagstaff. He shows us pictures of his finds from his hobby and tells how he goes about the process. He found a few flakes this day, nearby.

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With this background, we had begun to swap information. He is curious about out of the way spots and rumors of old gold mines in Baja Arizona and we are looking for remote water courses for our free range naturist activities. When I broke out my map and he showed us several spots where he had found water and beauty. We share our love of the yearly Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, of course, and tell Duane what may have sounded like tall tales of the world’s largest gem show, with the fantastically huge abundance and sizes of specimens.

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We swap stories and he shares his wine.

Hedgehog Cactus Growing in 7000ft. plus Forest!

Hedgehog Cactus Growing in 7000ft. plus Forest!

The next morning during breakfast, a white Forest Service truck pulls up and stops, calling out to us. He has brochures, maps and a presentation about “urban interface” and selective camping. We are told that we are in a no camping spot, forgiven, but informed. I begin to engage him with my map, fishing for areas to accommodate federal authorities dictates, but suiting our needs. This begins a lengthy discussion, marking spots and scribbling on my map the places that he knows, their qualities and suitability for “solitude.” I get several suggestions. With the gold panner’s tips and these, we have accumulated a treasure trove of potential naturist forays.

I also pump the Forest Service ranger for information about where we are going to explore with Duane on this day, which are the upper regions and headwaters of the Hassayampa River. I want to know about the camping, and where we might stay for a week or more, and the backpacking camping along the river. It is more of a creek in that area, but he disappoints me. The local authorities have taken this “urban interface” to even that remote area. I could look out into miles of forest, but it was all limited to use. Throughout these mountains, there are also many old mining claims which have been bought up and became summer cabin real-estate. It is a complex and troublesome weave.

We decide to give it a go. My research’s suspicions are confirmed true. There are swimming ponds and creeks and sunning rocks in that area. Duane has until just after noon to accompany us on an exploratory hike. We say our goodbyes and thanks and take off.

The Headwaters:

The roads are poorly marked. We are using my Forest Service map, my recollection of satellite images and a set of my own directions based on that. Some of the information is contradictory and misleading. We even stop people to ask where we are. Curiously, two sets actually don’t know where they are either. We find ourselves not at our goal, but at a dead end, with two private property signs.  When I get out of the truck to discuss what to do, or where we had gone wrong, there below, down a slope, I see water.

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It is a creek flowing through a granite slab, just like the satellite images! Time is disappearing for Duane, here we are. Let’s just see what we can find here.

Naked, we look for a passage down the slippery slope and carefully make our way to Rocky Mountain paradise.

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This little ravine of a valley hides a wonderful little bushwhack. We bend branches, jump rocks, look for anything that looks like a trail that locals use, or had once used.

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All the while, it presents us with a wonderful abundance of mountain plants and an enchanting environment.

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The clouds keep threatening and alternately the sun reappears.

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Rain is forecast for the afternoon.

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There is much moister trapped down in this place, but it all feels very good.

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DF feels some chill and wears a sundress and sweater.

Not So Bad a Place

Not So Bad a Place

We don’t get very far, just a quarter of a mile. With all of the obstacles, it is slow going, but very fun.

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Waterfalls and smallish swimming holes are found.

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The water is too cold to climb in without a dependable warm sun to dry off in.

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In places, it reminds me of the Virginia creeks that I used to frequent as a kid.

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There are remnants of what probably was an old mining spot.

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We find old pieces of rusting metal, sometimes covered with refuse turned to soil and buried in moss.

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At last, we find remains of an old road coming down the hillside, probably a part of that private property sign. There is a large hole which isn’t natural being taken over by nature. Our time is running low.

We return and decide to stop off at a designated camping spot and have a lunch before Duane hits the road. Off of the tailgate DF gathers guacamole, brie, baby greens, tomatoes, and smoked wild salmon onto plates. I scout for a suitable place to sit, preferably in the sun. The camp spot is littered in toilet paper and the soil saturated with black ash. Our chairs had broken the day before after years of use. Instead, I find a nice grassy slope and lay down blankets for us.

We take our nude noon meal in the sun and discuss the last 40 hour’s events. I break out the gorilla pod and take a blurry picture of us. It focuses on a closer blade of grass that I missed. Posterity…oh well.

We take photos of ourselves walking freely in the middle of the road and then say good-bye, until next time.

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Finding Our Way: The Hassayampa River

I am determined to explore the potential of the area and find the way to it. We have some ideas where we got lost. Sure enough, we find out what we didn’t do and continue. When we arrive at the crossing of the upper Hassayampa, we miss it at first. I couldn’t believe that that was all that there is to the flow.

It is beautiful.

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After the crossing, the road becomes very rough. I switch to 4×4.

We come across a parking area, after making a couple of brief turns to nowhere. The forest Service guy had showed me how the area is geared for horses, but everywhere, it is just being used as a grand quad track, digging in and eroding the road surface. We hear the roar of packs of quads bounding through the previously peaceful woods. The potential for camping is nothing like what we are interested in.

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Backpacking is discouraged by the authorities and then there is harsh sloping terrain.

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There are no trails near water.

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I stop at a parking area. We decide to have a look downstream. There is another car there. The tracks indicate that there is one large male in sneaker shoes, which tended to just storm through stepping on anything, leaving a very easy trail to follow. This is the only sense of a trail, a suggestion to go where it worked for the previous person when everything got too dense.

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We also decide that to carry no back up clothing would be no problem, but it is cold. I put on that long-sleeved t-shirt and DF a light sweater.

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Most likely, at his rate, we will not have an encounter.

Occasionally, there is a chilly breeze.

We had been reminded by the Fall colors in many of the trees of what cold that the night might bring, the last weather report that we read and the last couple of nights.

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There we find a couple of wonderful larger pools surrounded by sunning rocks, although the sun’s rays are sparse.

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It is picturesque and lush. We wander along in pleasant contemplation of the moment, only disturbed by the fleets of quads a couple of times, as they storm past up on the road.  Still, this is a peaceful spot.

We are feeling our solitude.

We return through a swarming flock of lavender butterflies. img_3735t_1

 

We walk across a forest road to upstream.

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A beautiful glen-like area presents what would be a nice spot to pack to.

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Agua Fria:

With a storm predicted and cold winds, that sense that the Fall is here and we both feel that Summer is suddenly over, we decide to head to warmer climates.

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Weather is Unpredictable in the Mountains} The gold panning host, last night, suggested a spot along the Agua Fria canyons with swimming ponds. The lower elevation promises warmer weather and maybe a different forecast for the rains. It would be no more than an hour’s drive, giving us enough time to make camp and settle in.

We work the new smart phone to find out what the forecast will be. There is a 40% chance of rain tonight and a high of 81F tomorrow. We find the trailhead and continue in 4×4 across a sandy wash to a mesquite bosque.

I set up the tent for a storm while DF makes up the last of our dinner meals from the cooler. As we sit down in our precarious, yet comfortable camping chairs, naked, I look around me and take stock. We had been in a green mountain paradise for the last couple of days. It had been pleasant, but there were lots of cold and clothing issues. Here, I look around me at this scruffy stand of mesquite trees, which look starved for water for some reason. The leaf canopy is sparse compared to mesquite at my place. The entire landscape is dry and sparse, but I am comfortable here. My body is dry and warm. I am amongst the familiar and I have a sense of returning home, again. It brings the realization that we are a pair of desert rats, most comfortable in our own skin. DF concurs.

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There are no clouds this night, other than the cloud-like Milky Way, which stretches fully from north to south. About 3:00, it begins to sprinkle. After about five minutes a pour comes. The sprinkle returns for maybe two minutes.  Morning’s light brings a pure azure sky.

 

I’ll report on the incredible Agua Fria and Black Canyon in a couple of weeks. There are a few loose ends that need to be published first, like part 5: A Week in the White Mountains.

 

 

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