It was the first good Sunday in a while. We were committed to making the most of our opportunity. We gathered some clothing, thinking that it could turn cold with just a change in the wind.
We drove up to the trailhead and began the ascent up the jeep trail into the Tortolita Hills. My plan had been to run up the hill. Having been laid up with sciatica from a back injury three months back, it had just started to feel mostly well. I am determined to get well and in hiking form. Spring is on its way and I have missed these forays into nature, deeply. We soon realize that we are getting a tad winded at even a slower pace. We are out of shape. We trudge on, slowly, feeling more invigorated just by the spirit of this exercise of naturism.
We turn off the jeep road into a wash. Extreme rains have blessed Tucson during the previous week. A stream meanders across the dilapidated road.
When it rains heavy, either sand is deposited, or washed out. This had been a depositing flow. Many familiar rocks in the streambed are now buried. The invasive pompas grass which has been clogging this route is also buried beneath the sand, pushed under and occasionally uprooted. It has been increasingly a hazard, as it hides rattlesnakes curled underneath its shady plume. This is a welcome sight to see the verdant pests destroyed.
I had already draped my kilt on my water-bottle strap as I had walked along. I stop to free myself of the warm sweatshirt. The air is calm and warm and I feel quite alive. DF too, removes her coverings. We feel that we have waited so long for this. The bulk of the clothing gets me to thinking that I might just stash it where we plan our first stop.
In recovery, I’m not sure when my physical limitation might dawn on me. I don’t want to overdo it. The first stop may be the last stop.
Along the way the sand varies from firm to quicksand mush. The patterns of meanders are beautiful, fun and pristine. It seems a shame to place a foot print on it.
Over and again, we have to step into the water, but our fivefinger shoes and socks don’t leave any chill. There are small waterfalls cascading in miniature as we climb over and through the many rock formations. We see that the taller waterfall is running. The granite surface is smoothed and slippery. Caution must be taken. I get a good stretch out of what has been a tight leg and body, as I crawl around the face and step up. I feel gratitude that finally I can do this, but in the front of my mind, I am concerned that one of those automatic springing reactions in the nerve might come at a crucial time. A fall from this spot would be dramatic and injurious.
As I stretch, grasping the rock ledges and pulling/pushing upward, the lack of restrictive clothing makes all of the difference. DF follows and as she gets clear, grabs my offered hand. I mention, “Hmm, we have to get back down this way.”
“Well, that’s for later,” we agree.
This is a favored first stop, but today, we will just imbibe it and hike no further. I don’t want to overdo it and invite back the pain.
In the past, it has been a great place to lie on our backs upon the granite slabs and watch the moon and stars. Today it is wonderful to gather sunrays and rest. I feel that I have gotten away from the torments of life that have sprung up lately. This is where my soul lays, nature, clean air, warmth, texture and only this moment. I find a smooth place and nuzzle into the subtle grooves, acute awareness focused on the textures and the interaction of my body with this place. I stretch; I feel no pain where I have suffered for months. This walk has my muscles burning just enough, stretched and more flexible. So now, I’m working on my tan.
We lie about. DF takes a walk upstream.
She returns to report that a saguaro, an old friend with drooping arms has died.
We are quiet. There is only the sound of the trickle of the creek and our occasional movement.
I walk through the desert up to a hilltop where there is no trail. This is winter; there would be no surprise encounters with snakes, the foliage is sparse and easier to get through. I see DF way below. I decide to get her attention. She has her arms raised, blocking the direct sun from her eyes, looking around at nothing in particular, only what takes her attention at the moment. I yodel. She soon waves.
I return, we stand there hugging, expressing our affection of each other and embracing the wonderment of the place in the moment’s bliss. I notice something out of the corner of my eye. It is that neighbor, the one who we bump into so frequently up here. He has caught us. We are surprised; we just didn’t expect to see anyone up here at this time. I shout over the little cascade of water, “Well, you caught us! It’s okay.” I expect that he might feel welcomed, but he gestures to the east and proceeds to climb up a nearby hill, keeping his back to us. It is apparent that he perceives that he has happened onto something that deserves privacy. We don’t own the place. Next time I see him, I will directly mention that it is okay. Not wearing anything is just another way of dressing for us. There is no need for evasive measures.
We realize that it is getting to be time for us to head down the hill. We gather our stuff, packing the worthless clothing out. The taller waterfall is traversed easily, this time. Hugging tight to the surface, we get a bit wet, but there is no chance of soggy pants. It feels very good actually.
We take a few photos along the way. I am surprised to see two hikers with walking sticks up on the road. We are exposed where we stand and DF slides behind a large boulder. They are watching down at their steps and moving quickly, as they have a conversation. They appear to have little awareness other than that. I just stand where I am, in plain view, watching them pass, smiling.
We continue. When the confluence of the road and wash can be seen by us, I hear something above us on the road as it climbs up the steep hillside. It is a mountain biker and then another. DF turns her back. I stand waiting to see if he notices. He doesn’t.
His eyes glued to the sandy, slippery, dirt and rock surface. As the second rider passes, I start taking pictures of him. DF stands in the foreground naked and grinning.
This has been a fine and too long awaited outing. The clothing that I have is dark and would be hot in this afternoon sun. I don’t want to dress and sweat. Lugging layers of clothing seems ridiculous when I am already in the perfect outfit. DF has a light shirt that is long enough to cover her to the legs.
There is more chance of an encounter along here on the jeep road. Sure enough, as she takes a photo of me with the snow covered Catalina Mountains in the background, I notice another mountain biker down the hill. She snaps a couple, as I go for my kilt.
He looks my way. When he arrives in passing, he stops. He is breathing strongly and looking at me weird. I wonder what his reaction to seeing my distant nudity could be. Could he be one of those one or two percent, that reacts negatively to nudes? He just wants to talk. There is no mention of me getting my picture taken naked in nature. He tells us that he lives about a mile from me and has been coming up here for 25 years. We discuss right of way, legal correctness, and the current events to our easements in these hills.
From nobody all afternoon to an encounter every few minutes, it feels busy. I even have to cover myself as I carnude through the neighborhood, as the neighbors are out walking. It is a glimpse of spring, and we are all taking advantage of the wonderful opportunity.