Arivaipa Retreat: A Trip Report


I had an invitation to join a weekend retreat in Arivaipa Canyon for one class, Sunday. I’m going to assist bringing the process/class to Tucson and needed some demonstration. We hadn’t been to the western entrance and this would provide an excuse to explore. If you remember we had visited the Eastern entrance Here:

This side is closer to Phoenix and Tucson and more frequently traveled. There is a permit required to travel into the preserve and limited to 30 persons per day. This weekend was booked up months in advance. The retreat was being held downstream from the preserve among some ranches. We didn’t know if we would have opportunity for a riparian hike or not.

img_1000b_1We arrived at the scenic canyon and continued driving through the lush canyon growth and cottonwood lined stream.


It is a thrill for us to see water flowing like this in Arizona. We arrived at our destination to see a yoga class being done out on the lawn in front of the retreat house. I pulled up by a tree, turned the key off and we just sat as not to disturb the class. We sat listening to little or nothing but birds and looked up at the magnificent cliffs above the canyon. This place even smelled peaceful.

The yoga would continue, so we decided to walk out in back of the house and enjoy the place, while we waited. We didn’t close the doors of the car, so as to be quiet. Barefoot, we padded along the fine dirt and grass. There, under a tree sat a small bench overlooking the stream. I sat down to quietly BE there.

Looking Up from the Retreat House Lawn

Looking Up from the Retreat House Lawn

As I sat, I noticed another occupant, a lizard, which was colored as the wood. It made no effort to move, seemingly giving a friendly invitation to share the bench. I respected the situation as that. The lizard and I continued to bask in the sun together. This is very un-lizard-like behavior. They are generally skittish. I wondered if it might have been drowsy and just emerging from hibernation.


DF joined us eventually. The lizard accommodated her, too. After a while, she thought to bother our cohort by placing her hand near him. It moved and traveled over to sit on my leg.

After a while, we went to be greeted by our host, took care of the business of making plans and experienced the process a bit, getting orientated to it. The process is a special prayer, so we were in a good state. This is a special place. We asked about hiking and found out that we were with permission to go up the creek. There would be ranches along the way, but we were told that they weren’t generally seen from the creek and we could pass through.

Angels in the Sky

Angels in the Sky

We took them up on this and were told that they might be along in a while, too. We took off, at first not getting our feet wet.

First Glimpse of the Creek

First Glimpse of the Creek

We expected frigid snow melt. We followed a trail up stream along the banks, but this dissolved. Like most of Arivaipa Canyon, one must travel in the creek through the water, mostly. We backtracked a couple of hundred feet, climbed through some brush and into the immediate stream area.


We were pleasantly surprised that the water was not particularly cold when we stepped in. Our VFF’s with extra wicking socks worked very well. We had on shorts, which got rolled up. I decided to eliminate the potential of wet pants and proceed in a long T-shirt.


Occasionally there are slight falls or small clusters of rock to create sand bars and the water gorges into it, becoming deeper. Sometimes there is a quicksand like ridge under the water to sink into. Mostly it is a stroll with a slight current resistance. We experimented with ways to be quieter and more efficient when walking in the water. Turning the foot sideways and out, seemed to quiet us up. It is a paradise.


Of course we were looking for a spot for nudity and maybe a picnic. The road is very close to the stream (although we saw no traffic during the entire excursion, Ah retrospect). There was very little traffic as it goes to a few ranches/homes and then the parking for the entrance into the wilderness area.

The Creek from the Road

The Creek from the Road

Still, we needed more information than we had and we hadn’t a clue what was ahead, but only what they had told us. Suddenly finding ourselves naked in someone’s backyard picnic next to a stream was the possibility that kept in my mind. We felt the need to be cautious.


There was also the possibility that we could be over taken by the retreat guests. img_1004_1

Eventually, I saw a spot where I thought that the angles would protect us from the road’s visual field. I climbed out and up the grassy bank to check this theory.


I was pleased to discover a small glade with the road beyond. There was a rock ledge between us.

Saguaro Grow out of the Rock Face

Saguaro Grow out of the Rock Face

The road had turned away from the creek and climbed up the canyon’s ridge. We were good to go. We disrobed immediately.


The wind gusts were less here because of the trees, the sun was warm and the temps were perfect mid 70F’s. We walked around exploring, but soon I discovered a fence. Moving a bit further, it was a boundary for an open area used by a local home/ranch. I could just make out the house in the distance. There would be no free range naturism going in that direction.

Still hidden in the brush, I discover someone’s yard

Still hidden in the brush, I discover someone’s yard

We returned to the stream bank, laid down our clothes to sit on and had a peaceful little snack lunch, while we sunbathed.

DF Readies Lunch

DF Readies Lunch

We could watch for our friends who might be coming upstream and any intrusions, which would be unlikely, from the ranch house. Everything was just right. I decided to get into the water a tad. It wasn’t more that six or eight inches deep, but I could still squat, or sit to refresh.

DF followed me and as we stood, we began to embrace. She then said that she thought she saw someone. We looked some more and confirmed that it was indeed someone in bright green yoga pants.

Downstream toward where we saw Green Pants

Downstream toward where we saw Green Pants

Oh well, back to the clothing and to unhurriedly get dressed. We got back in our clothing bonds, expecting them to be arriving soon, but all that we saw were, in the distance, the yoga pants posing leg out on a boulder in the stream. We wondered if we had been seen. We could hardly see her, but there were a number of shady spots along the creek and few where we were. Perhaps that was enough cover for us in her cluttered vision.

We decided to return. We never did see the others. This one had apparently only come that far and also, returned before us. The walk was still pleasant, even though not completely experienced due to the confines of clothing. Exploring this natural plethora of wonder inspired us to return to the canyon preserve.

We found this atavistic throwback along the creeks edge. It was a small snake of a creature. It had useless diminished legs and feet dangling from it, as if its species would evolve into a lizard, or had devolved.


The cars were gone, the retreat was over, and we left the site, too.

We continued the mile or two further up the road to the parking lot. This was on a hill and the terrain was more Sonoran Desert with Saguaros. We read the information at the kiosk, a map (You are Here), a warning about bears recently spotted and the permit requirement. We decided to have a full tailgate lunch, sitting out of the end of the 4runner. I put out a couple of chairs and DF put together a fine spread. We sat eating looking out at the vista before us, the colorful cliffs defining the buttes, the florescent green cottonwoods below and speculated what was what in the distance.


Two cars came from a gate behind us, someone who owns a ranch just up the road. We sat on beach towels, having removed the disgust of the confining pants we wore. We simply threw our towels over our laps. They just smiled and waved. I had placed my pants on the rearview side mirrors as if to dry, a practical ruse for acceptance. People often do such things when hiking. That way, there would be no alarm about, “The Nudist People have invaded!”


A pair of hikers came dragging themselves out of the canyon trail entrance. The weight on their backs looked tremendous. That was confirmed when I saw one strain to lift it into the bed of his pickup truck. As he lifted, he commented about how the US army has people carrying around 100 pounds. I told them that we had our loads down to a ten pound base rate. The guy was shocked. He said that he had “a few light items, but…” He mentioned his desire to carry his axe regardless of weight, and I confessed that, Yup, I have my tomahawk and that is extra weight. I didn’t question his need for “two” knives, or the reasoning for each to carry two identical loads. Maybe he’ll continue to rethink his backpack. As we talked with them, DF cautioning me to cover myself from an up-skirt viewing by them under my towel.

The thing that stuck out about the conversation to both DF and myself was that they mentioned that they had been back into the canyon many times and generally, had hardly had seen a soul. This time they had seen more than ever. They had been about halfway through at times and had not seen anyone for days.

Our ears picked up and naturism wheels churned visions in our brains. I had seen on the internet and heard accounts of nudity and skinny-dipping along the creek. Perhaps there would be no problem. It is designated wilderness. Even though there were supposed to be up to 30 people in there today by the permit board, we were looking at only five vehicles in the parking lot. We high-fived, as we decided to come back again, this next time with ultralight backpacking gear. We will go deeper into the canyon instead of car camping and getting only so far in a day, just going out and returning.  The western entrance is a place where one would have only a slight chance of encountering a disrespectful textile, with a certainty of no one to complain to. Nudity is not uncommon. Once we would get to the canyon base, we’re most likely good to go freely nude. Then again on a hot summer’s day, the eastern entrance wouldn’t require much more than a sweat shirt for the night air.

We didn’t get dressed again on our way home. We stopped off to appreciate a narrow bridge’s simple and effective construction.


We watched and listened to the stream below.

A day with a forecast of showers was spectacularly pushed aside for perfect weather, a place to wade and hike, at least a short naturist experience and enlightening information. If we all just keep open and on the lookout, there are many naturist opportunities to be had. I have a list of great places to free hike that we haven’t even been to…yet. We have just skimmed the surface of the well.


In the next month, or so, I’ll post our return to the Arivaipa Canyon area, as we make use of this information and more. We have reservations and will soon nude backpack the Western end of the canyon. Another report will then follow.


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One thought on “Arivaipa Retreat: A Trip Report

  1. Eric

    The lizard you photoed and describe as having useless and diminished legs and feet was most likely a skink. Arizona has several varieties, but according to my reptile book, a skink inhabiting Aravaipa Canyon would probably be either a Many-Lined or a Great Plains skink. I’ve always wondered in which direction their evolution is going — toward or away from legs. Maybe they haven’t yet made up their minds.

    I’ve day-hiked and backpacked in Aravaipa Canyon several times from both ends over the years. I much prefer the upper canyon, but getting there requires a long drive through Willcox. Since you have 4-wheel drive, it should be easy for you to reach the upstream entrance. The narrower upper canyon is much more intimate and private, and there are side canyons like Deer Creek, Booger Springs, Horse Camp, and Virgus where you can be alone. I’ve seen bighorn sheep along the cliff edges nearly every time, and once we met a group of eighteen coati mundi. It’s a beautiful, wild place, and I’m glad the BLM requires permits that limit the number of visitors.


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