Remember to click the pics that don’t show the pics at first. There lies some of the best of the stuff.
We get up early Saturday morning to go car camping. The “big top” tent, the air mattress, the cooler, wool rug, candles, chairs, etc., all for camping in luxury. The destination is upstream from Chebo Falls, again. The previous story is here: https://thefreerangenaturist.org/2017/01/21/chebo-falls-journey-part-i-a-trip-report/
Part II is here: https://thefreerangenaturist.org/2017/01/29/chebo-falls-journey-part-ii-a-trip-report/
The immediate goal is to get to that huge canopy of a tree before someone else does. It had rained thunder and lightning hard up there, the night before. There would likely be no one camping already. The next goal is to visit the 80 foot waterfall. I haven’t seen it in 30 years. There have been monsoon rains, so the water should be flowing strong. This is exciting to us.
There seems, as we travel, to be a much more sparse number of other vehicles all of the way out there. When I get out to lock the hubs, it is casual. Usually, I’m looking for a place off road behind some bushes, or hurrying so I may jump back inside the cab, before anyone comes upon us.
Most of the tracks have been washed out, when we get off of the main road and begin to travel the extremely rough unmaintained 4×4 Forest Service trails.
This gives us a pretty good idea how many others may be out here. There is just one set of tracks when we get on the last section of jeep trail. Our purpose is to go where most people don’t get. The marks are of a large radical tread, but the wheels are spaced similar to mine. Most likely a jeep and so, most likely, a day tripper doin’ some 4×4 trails and a small party. Typically this is not someone who might compete for the space under the huge tree, which we desire.
After inspecting those tracks, I get back into the 4runner and tell this to DF, with a Tonto accent. She looks at me funny, like, “OH sure.”
“Hey! It’s Tonto. Take it to the bank!” I smile.
Our Destination and Disappointments:
After getting off of the main dirt road, it has taken us an hour and twenty minutes of difficult driving, mostly at a crawl and me on a mission. I pull up under the huge old tree, relieved to finally relax. However, my dismay is everywhere. Every couple of feet there is a cow paddy. It smells like fertilizer, a stock yard. We knew cattle had been here before, but this place is devastated. The entire area is trampled, the small trees picked to nothing, or mashed. It is difficult to walk in the mine field.
I can understand the cattle liking the shade, but this is ridiculous. This is also the only and best spot for at least 30 minutes of very tedious and hard driving.
Then DF points out the attraction, a salt lick, right under the tree. The ranchers, who lease some use of the land from the government, are destroying the camping for everyone. We look and look for a camp spot, but bullshit, or the rough terrain leave us with none. Everywhere, it is steep and rocky. There is one unshaded spot, just up a slope from the creek, but the climb down on slippery rock to it, is just too risky to make in the 4runner. We will be alone out there, with no one to drag us out of a fix or even tumble.
There are only two spots that are flat and the cattle have been attracted to both and ruined them. The other has no shade, but a nice view, there is no reason for the cattle to be congregating there. The local ranchers are apparently systematically destroying the camping on these public lands. I am feeling a great deal of anger. It is mixed use and the arrogant ranchers who pay very little for the privilege of running cattle there, are attempting to drive out campers. I’ve got phone calls to make. There are restrictions on off-road traffic to protect the environment, but cattle are much more destructive of the critical, most special areas. I suppose that I’ve had it with this myth of the family ranchers. Most of the ranches that destroy public lands are owned by pig leaches of huge corporations, not some “stewards of the land” that have been there for a hundred years. The attitude is exploit the natural resource, until it’s gone. We other people are a nuisance, which need to be discouraged. We are only in the way, as if they own the realm. I digress.
We go over to the other large tree, which sits in the middle of a wash and has fewer paddies, so that we can eat our lunch.
We then walk over to the stream which feeds Chebo Falls.
We do happen see a group of five 4×4’s up on a ridge. We judge that we would be out of their view before they could get over to us. We are not completely alone, yet.
The water is flowing, warm and fresh.
We enjoy ourselves. We are graced by the natural solitude.
We soak in granite pools filled with water.
The waterfall cascading on the slope above is a slippery challenge to climb, but fun.
The whole of life here is sensual.
We observe wildlife.
Eventually, we come back to the mess that used to be paradise. It is a hard 30 minute drive back to where there MIGHT be a camping place.
Island in a Storm?
There is a stand of very old cotton wood in the middle of a fairly wide wash. This is the convergence of two roads and two streams, or river washes. Everyone meets up here, passes through, or stops to relax and get under some shade, after the long drive into this Chebo Falls area. It is not a likely spot that would attract a free range naturist. There are no other spots to camp. The cattle have made sure of this. Only this island is available.
What’s more, as we had been driving here, the National Weather Service broke in on the radio with a severe weather warning. There are winds, up to sixty mile per hour, in the next county, which are heading southwest. It’s a monsoon. We can see the dark clouds and lightening to the southeast and northeast behind the mountains. North of us the same is heading west behind the Catalina Mountains, which often changes and comes our way.
We have to decide whether to stay, or drive home. The storm is supposed to pass south. There are mountains in the way. The forecast is only 20%. There is thunder to be heard in the distance. We would be next to a wash, where flashfloods happen. The warnings on the radio were about flash floods. After observation and searching intuitive prayer, we decide to risk it.
Still naked but for shoes, we pitch the tent and set up our luxury camp.
A few stragglers go by, and we just casually stand behind the cover of the trees, or truck, etc. for cover, until they are gone. The quads, motorcycles and 4x4s are all loud and we can hear them better than we can see them. We don’t even have to look as they approach. The only flat level spot in this small grove happens come with a helpful strategic stealth cover, along with the trees and bushes. We arrange the tent and park the truck accordingly, so as to circle the wagons for privacy and windbreaks.
DF begins a nice salmon grilling process. I create a campfire and finish the set up. I sit down in a folding chair and begin a guitar session as she cooks, watching the fireworks in the distant sky. It still feels very iffy.
The wind comes up and lifts the canopy rain cover that sits on top of the tent. The elastic ropes that hold it down stretched a foot as the wind attempts to kite it away. If a storm hits the rain might hold it down. If this roof goes, we’re a wet mess.
Rain drops and wind drive us into the truck to eat. We gather anything that might blow away.
Then that piece of changing weather stops. The sunset seems to draw the storm away and defuse it.
After a while, the sunset’s light is beautiful and to the east, there is a wonderful promising rainbow.
We walk around nude in the warm breeze.
Most likely, anyone smart enough has left for home. The place is all ours.
There are huge birds nests of debris, a dozen feet high, violently wrapped around trees, from during a previous flashflood. An event like that would be several feet above our heads.
Where we are camped on our high ground, we would be an island in a flood. BUT this is unlikely. We are risking bad weather, but that kind of severe flooding comes from the 100 year floods.
As darkness comes, the fire is doing great, but then a drizzle begins. We sit probably looking bizarre in our folding chairs, naked. We watch the flame and embers. A table is between us, which holds DF’s wine, my seltzer, a candle and work gloves. Our arms are extended, holding umbrellas, as we laugh at the incoherent sight that we are. In bad English accents, we complained that we had no proper bowler hats.
Early start, long day, time for bed.
I read from a book of campfire stories to DF by candlelight, then roll onto the mattress with her. It is nice and warm and very pleasant.
Instructions from the Subconscious:
For some reason, DF uncharacteristically awakens at about 4:00am for plumbing issues. I decide to join the foray into the night. As I stand there, rain starts quickly. We find ourselves dashing back into the tent to escape it, as it begins, just that quickly. We are getting a storm after all. We didn’t expect one so late, nearly dawn, that’s not the pattern.
The storm hits. We lay there, listening to the creek flowing in the wash, as it becomes louder. The old bigtop is leaking from the stress of the pelting of rain and wind. We can feel a light mist falling on us, as the pelting rain sifts through the tent wall. Our naked bodies are covered by a single sheet. I wait for a while before placing the down bag over us. Down doesn’t dry well. DF spoons me. I can feel her heart beating, probably three times my rate, against my back. It is scary.
I lay there speculating, planning and waiting to see what happens. We listened to the stream. If there is a flashflood, it will come quickly. We both wonder, that if it came up over the ground we are on, would the truck hold against the large trees. We are cut off from the higher ground. It is a wide spot in the river/wash, not a narrow flood path. We can’t see what is happening, but only listen and be aware of the intensity of the storm and lightning flashes. Two of the trees had been hit by lightning in the past. They are the highest things around. As the morning sunlight comes, the storm dissipates, and we listened to it heading off in the distance. I daub a couple of puddles accumulated in our tent. It is time to reseal the old tent. We drift back into our interrupted sleep.
Off to the Falls:
The next day, we awaken from hearing two guys on mountain bikes. They are talking about our campsite as they pass by. We emerge out into a beautiful day. The rains have cooled the air. The clouds that remain are beautiful and fluffy. Everything is clean and clear. This place is beautiful. We discover a new creek flow from the rains and there is water flowing elsewhere, as before.
We decide to eat quickly and hike over to Chebo Falls. There is now a closer creek to clean up in.
I hadn’t been there since 1984 and only a couple of times at that. It is something that has to be visited when there is water flowing. This will be a premium opportunity.
Thirty years ago, there was a road to drive out there. Now the off-road traffic and erosion has made it impassable. Only those in special rock hopping vehicles could make their way to the falls themselves. We leave the camp with the truck and hike. It is pleasant. We take water, and just enough clothing for quick lawful cover-up. I wear a light shirt because I had gotten rosy the day before and don’t wish to sunburn. The two bicyclists are not to be found. The falls are ours.
One of the worst parts of the old road is a steep hill. Where there are no large pieces of granite to grip. There are mostly fragments, pieces which are shale-like and very unstable. It is extra-steep.
It is slippery to walk on, let alone risk sliding in a truck. It is just chards and gravel crumbling.
We look for camping for ultra-light backpacking spots along the way. We think about where flash floods couldn’t get to us and where there is level ground. There is one at least next to the flowing creek. It has a small beach. Maybe we’ll use it another time and with another tent.
As we approach, the streambed, water, beach sand and boulders become accessible. We climb the granite until there is nothing to climb on. We then have to barefoot through the water.
Suddenly the waterfall shows itself to us through the trees and boulders.
Excited, I climb through a granite passage, which brings back to memory, traveling there many years ago. It opens out into a spectacular grotto and a fifty to sixty foot waterfall. There is a nice warm pool. The air is refreshingly cool as it floats a mist across the pond at us. Still in the shade, we find a huge flat rock to lay upon, next to the falls.
We watch. Perceptions change from staring at the water falling. DF experiences a hypnosis, so when she moves her sight, the rocks begin to appear to move. For my illusion, the intensity of the formations become more evident.
We wade in the swimming hole. Our sight follows the drops from the top and down to the splash. We freeze them in our vision, over and over, as snap shots. I stand in the pool, before the falls, naked, screaming, howling, listening to the echo of my voice.
What a fine spot. It is idyllic and so refreshing. It was worth the risk and the storm.
As the sun creeps over the ledge high above us, the shade disappears. I am concerned about overexposure to the sun. It is 11:00am and getting hot away from the waterfall. I noticed a rose tint and whiter finger prints when I touched my shoulders.
We hike back, encountering two men, a woman and a boy. DF pulls her dress up over her breast. I pull on the wrap that I have been using to protect my forearm and place it on my hips. They tell us that they have hiked from the main road that morning and ask how much further. “Only fifteen minutes,” we tell them. They wonder if it is filled with 4×4’s and rowdy people. I tell them that they will have it all to themselves and that we had been naked there. After the encounter, DF and I discuss how I would have best used the word skinny-dip, rather than naked. Skinny-dip sounds more innocent than naked to textiles, or so we suppose. I had gone out of my way, to mention the nudity to them. The conversation could have ended before. It is good to let people know that friendly helpful people get naked in nature.
Back at camp, we have a wonderful naked lunch.
The place is ours! About noon to 1:00pm, a sudden influx arrives. We are surrounded at times. Still we don’t get dressed, because they are passing through and we have objects in the way of their line of sight. We sit in chairs with backs to them to block their view. We relax, because we don’t really care about discovery. It is perfectly executed stealth nudity in public. We relax nude, while people are all around us.
A party, with blaring Mexican music, place a couple of trucks in the stream to make their own territorial spot to bath in and be near. They have a pavilion for shade.
Other bikers, and quad parties stop and then drive on. It is weird how people stand right next to each other and yell in excitement and story. It is no longer peaceful.
Maybe that is why the cattle hadn’t totally ruined it? Were they spooked by loud people?
After a fine lunch and a rest, I wrap my skirt around me and begin to tear down the camp and pack up.
Still, there is little need for the wrap.
DF warns me that when I bent over, I flash. I figure that is okay. It looks inadvertent and wouldn’t it be okay for a woman in a skirt to accidently flash the rowdy party crowds? Let ‘em look.
The drive out is, again, long and difficult. Our changed plans have worked out very well, at times seemingly perfectly. The crowds of rowdies didn’t arrive until late, we had had an exceptional time at Chebo Falls.
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