No Backup in the Tortolitas


The weather is great, irresistible. It is mid-week, a Tuesday. We have had a cold stretch and I am tired of shivering. I just have to get some sun and hike. The days before, I have been only able to take less than an hour to walk around amongst the sixty acre area just behind my house. This is an opportunity.

I decide to drive up to where the target wash is. I need to run in 4×4 some each month for the maintenance of the truck. It will also save the time and effort of climbing the hill. With this distance covered, I can then hike that much further and deeper into the Tortolita Mountains.

I want that sense of unabashed freedom that a completely nude commitment gives. As the old border rat smugglers used to say, “I feel like throwing my balls over my shoulder.” There is less likelihood of meeting someone by taking the route up the wash. It would be risky to hike up the hill further, following the road with nothing to put on quickly. I leave all back up covering behind, taking only fivefinger shoes, one bottle of water and a camera. I would take less, but this is a desert and I have chosen this hike to feel remote and alone. It is my mood, my whim. I guess that I’ve been too cooped up for too long. If I have an encounter, then there is nothing to be done. I could put a bottle in front of my crotch and smile, greeting whoever, pleasantly. That would make me technically legal. The odds are fully in favor of having no encounters today. I will risk the outside chance of an encounter with a neighbor, or another hiker.


I find a place to park. It is only about a 200 foot walk to the wash and off of the shabby road. The wash then is a climb over mostly large beds of rocks, at first. This part can be viewed from the continuation of the road for a few hundred yards, but only if observers are there and if they were to look. I could hear them and see them and find a boulder to hide behind. The warm sun is out, the sky is purely turquoise, and I am going to enjoy this. There’s no stopping me.

I am surprised to find many pools of ponded water along the way, although it hasn’t rained for more than a week. I have to climb under branches and sometimes up and nearly out of the wash to get around some of them. There is no sound except the occasional tribe of bees or flies around the ponded water.


I climb up through where the granite rock waterfalls have created a rise in elevation of probably forty feet or more in say around 100 ft. of distance upstream.  Climbing, it seems more slippery this day. The lack of pack and clothing make for a more fun climb. I’m not so top heavy. I’m just naturally nude with the natural balance of my body. I’m convinced that those fivefinger shoes, that were made originally as deck shoes, grip better. My bare feet might have had trouble with slipping. Sometimes, I have found, there is slipping coming from combinations of smooth surfaces, perspiration and oils on my bare soles.

Further upstream, I get to the spot where there is a barbed wire fence to keep the cattle in their designated area of State Lands. I find that the fence has been trampled down. They have obviously been coming through for a while. These huge animals are highly destructive in the delicate area.  I take it upon myself to prop up the fence and jam the posts in, as best as I can. My being naked and with no gloves is a hindrance to more effectively tackling of this responsibility.

I eventually get to a cairn. I have to decide whether to either head out “the sort of trail” over a knoll to the petrogyphs, or upstream to the old windmill. I decide to continue up the stream, because I haven’t ever gone all the way in that direction. It just seems more appealing at the moment.


I also have a rationalization. When I had last ventured the area where the wash comes out and meets the road, I had then come down from the other direction. At that time, I had realized that I wasn’t sure which wash that it was that I needed to take downstream. On this day, I’d like to mark in my mind where this is confluence is. Someday, I’ll want to take this route from the north, or upstream. There is no sense wandering down the wrong desert wash from the road in another direction and then having to turn around and while being far from water.

I have seen only one set of shoe prints, probably a male about size 9 or 10, heading upstream. I decide not to let that deter my plans. I don’t know how old the prints are.

There are also, Pima mountain lion tracks which have been made very recently. They are still wet from where they had sunk into the sand and left moister near the ponded water. They seem so fresh, that the huge cat might be near and watching me. I find no scent of it in the air.

I have mostly had the camera and water bottle straps across my shoulder away from the sun. This is a tan line thing. I’m out to receive a healthy all over tan. As I head more north than east, I take these two articles off to hold them in hand. The water bottle has become much lighter during the hike. I hang them back on my shoulder only at times when I have need of two hands and balance. I have to climb up, or down, the occasional rocky dry waterfalls.


During the last half of a mile, or so, there have been gun shots echoing around me. They seem to permeate the canyons and the plateau for miles around and echo. I can’t tell where they are coming from. I think about how this might affect the local wildlife, possibly driving them out of the area. I’m to go out target shooting black powder rifle with my in-law, later this week. I had originally thought that these hills would be a good place for that. Imagine the noise erupting from a semi-auto here and there. It goes on for an hour, surrounding you. Imagine when you are an ignorant creature formerly living in pristine quiet.

I reach the windmill and take note of my bearings. Now, if I ever decide to hike downstream from here, I won’t follow the wrong wash.

I also realize that it would be a long way out of the way to drive to the windmill and hike down that way to get to the petroglyphs.  I know now, that the way DF and I went to the petroglyphs the last time, is best. We simply bushwhacked and followed cattle trails around another hill more directly. All of this exploration is bringing me better information for future nude hiking.


I’m sitting on a bed of a boulder, surrounded by hills in all directions. I begin to wonder if I could be getting too much sun. I haven’t been out much in a while and the effect of the milder winter sun is difficult to predict. There is no one to check me and it will be more than an hour and a half back to the truck. I have also neglected to bring my protective hat. There is something to bringing covering, instead of totally nude. I decide to ere in caution, just in case. I don’t want a mid-winter burn on my shoulders, or nose.

I take a quicker pace on my way back. It is good exercise. I have less concern and give less consideration of bumping into someone. I focus more on just moving, nude, across the varied terrain. I watch my movement as so many automatic displays of human motor adapt to the various aspects of the terrain.

I see no one. I get in the truck and carnude home freely.


A Short Associated “No Backup” Anecdote:

The next Sunday after this hike, DF and I carried a storage bin out to the shed/shop and found ourselves standing there, just enjoying the sun. It all felt wonderful. Spontaneously, we took off naked down the old jeep trail. There was nothing in mind, just an intention to enjoy the moment. There was no goal. Just the spirit of the moment brought about by a beautiful day and a sense of appreciating being alive that a naked body brings.

We turned left off of the jeep trail and took a quiet walk through a small wash area.  No one uses this but deer, etc. There in the sand, was another footprint, just like the others up in the wash last Tuesday. Either it is a popular size and brand or ….

Up that dry wash, we happened upon some nice rocks, decided to collect some and carried a few back home. With one in each hand, we pumped them with our arms for upper body exercise, as we stepped through the varied surfaces, over rocks, onto rocks, through sand and the hard packed dirt road. Our spontaneity was a rewarding pleasure.


This concept of “no backup” is about freedom to roam. It is not just as nude. It is a way of being that is even more naked. It is augmented liberation.

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