We acquired a three day, two night permit into Aravaipa Canyon’s west side about 13 weeks beforehand. They are in demand. We have traveled into the eastern entrance a few times previously. We have only been to the trailhead of the western entrance. Time and circumstance fall into place and we have realized that we can also spend the two days before this trip, at the Hot Springs.
I have reported on our trips to the Hot Springs before. I don’t want to be redundant, but it has been a favorite spot for our naturism when it is available for us. This time, it is the prelude to a much needed get away.
We travel up through Globe, stopping on the way to note the time and mileage. We will take this route to return and reach the western entrance to Araviapa Canyon. The hot springs are nearly out near the eastern entrance.
We find a wonderful campsite in the shade of a mesquite bosque. Aahhhh….Perfect! There is a pleasant shortcut to the double Olympic sized heated mineral water swimming pool.
A dip, a swim, a soak and we decide to investigate a chant gathering. I have only the shoes on my feet, so that I relish the sense of unencumbered nude relaxation. DF has been thoughtful enough to bring a towel with her shoes. We stroll peacefully toward the green grass glade near what is called Geronimo Pool. We say hello to familiar faces and new ones.
There at the glade we find eight variously dressed people sitting in chairs or on the ground in a circle. Our host is leading this, explaining a meditation to a woman who asks questions with a heavy Russian accent. Soon, we spread the towel and spend 20 minutes in a sitting position just in awareness. Afterward, the Russian lady mentions an ailment and DF happens to be a practitioner, a healer to her needs. A massage table is conveniently there and DF sets to work. I add an energy augmentation, which after that meditation sets me into a fine state of consciousness. I wander off across an arched oriental style bridge and into a field of green plants and white flowers, which are surrounded by thick mesquite. I am fit for just to being.
I’m in a wonderful simple and aware state, in an Eden-like setting, barefoot all over. So, this was what Adam was up to?
I return and slip slowly into Geronimo pool’s hot mineral waters. There are now two tables, but they are set up low for chiropractic use. A man is going between the outstretched face down patrons, performing a form of acupuncture and chiropractic blend. He is giving free samples. I’m about to begin a three day backpacking adventure in the wilderness and my sciatica is acting up…perfect. I am told that I am his first naked male back adjustment. Obviously several naked female clients have been adjusted. Several of us try the offering, probably 20 people over a couple of hours, all pleased.
A young man comes by with a large glass bowl filled with water and the flowers from the field next to this, where I had been trying my hand as Adam. He passes the bowl around a gathered circle, each person taking a sip in turn. From the reactions, I gather that it is a wonderful concoction. I step out of the tub/pond and take my place in line. It is a truly distinctive, pleasing and exceptional beverage to imbibe. I begin to ask about it. He makes many of these drinks from various in-season flowers as a business. It is a simple process, like making sun tea. I’m sold. Next monsoon, I’m going to make some of this stuff myself.
Having returned back to the swimming pool, we peacefully swim down to the deeper end. There is a cloth band across its width. Each end has a come-along attached to this tough strap. I reach up. It is extremely taunt and supports my pull. It is a tightrope. Soon, a friend is stepping out holding onto an overhanging mesquite branch. Balance is not yet attained and he is soon falling into the water. Throughout our stay, we will see many attempts and many a spill.
Just before sunset, we put shoes on and walk up to the top of a hill. Here is an old round water tank foundation that has been made into a scared looking circle with an expansive 360 degree view. As we ascend the hill, the horn of a conch shell greets us, letting us know that something is up. As the vista of the terrain changes into colors in hues of orange, we play drums. There is a crystal singing bowl, tambourine, rattles and the chiropractor has brought two hollowed agave didgeridoos. He plays one, then sets it down and picks up a larger more bass toned one. Generously, he allows me to play the lighter one. We duet.
This collaboration of spontaneous impromptu musical expression continues until we all somehow know to slowly end as the sun sets behind the silhouette of the distant mountain range. Male, female, children and crippled old it is magical.
I am told of a less tedious way to produce the agave didgeridoos as we descend the hill in twilight to prepare for the potluck meal. The food and the company is fun. I learn of a source of fermented food recipes after sampling four treats in jars.
We adjourn to the big pool and its hot mineral water corner pool. Twenty to thirty of us are in our naked bodies, talking, reminiscing, and joking. Some of us swim out into the expanse of water to a more peacefully quiet experience. There is a fire pit near us where a man with a Johnny Cash voice and a beautiful sounding guitar goes through a varied songbook and serenades us.
Above us, the full moon is passing over, illuminating everywhere just right. We sit and stare out into the night from the warm waters waiting for the promised meteor storm. There is no disappointment from the celestial show. One of us has a green laser pointer, making fascinating shapes in the many trees at poolside and the smoke from the fire. Everything feels like a convergence, the perfect storm of abundance and enrichment. At one point DF and I float and look into each other’s eyes. Without speaking, we both begin to belly laugh. This is just too good to be real.
Late, our soak wrinkled feet take us back to our tent. We stay comfortably nude throughout the evening. The air temperature is, shall I say, perfect.
Birdsongs awaken us. One sounds curiously like a faucet of water. One starts out bold, but seems to lose steam as it goes along, slowing down and out of breath. We sit to a raw cinnamon, almond and apple pate mixture. We finish a fresh mango.
We step through the brush along a trail with its bridge of upended severed logs, arriving in the swimming pool area. The wind is up today, but the thick trees break its effects. With temperatures in the 90F’s, the breeze is refreshing when nude.
While floating through the luxurious waters, we hear the sound of a Huey helicopter. We look toward the sound expecting a surprise to appear downstream. We are surprised as the noise dies down and then reappears. The wind blowing through the tight band that is across the pool. It takes in air like an airplane wing’s Bernoulli’s tube. This causes it to vibrate up and down in a high frequency. It becomes a blur as it creates this loud distinctive sound.
I try a new friend’s water raft. It is two cylinders with a mesh connecting them. It is extremely comfortable. Eventually, I have to offer it back.
I make my way to the taunt strap, reach up and grab a hold. I swing; I pull, moving my bare alert body through the water. Our other host shows me how he monkey climbs, hand over hand on it. Soon, I am exercising with this new toy. My body glides, rocking back and forth in waves in the water, as I reach hand over hand, pulling myself across the width of the pool. I continue, discovering many tricks.
As I get out to go for lunch, I notice that the chiropractor has his table by the pool and is again giving free healings.
As I wait my turn, a half dozen blonde naked mud people appear. They all have the grey/green camouflage color of the mud drying at different rates and making a camouflage-like pattern. They have been coated at one of the pools in hot mud. They lay around, looking like alien beings, drying in the sun. Two men, covered head to toe, look like the naked Sadhus of India. Others, including a cute little boy, head over to the pool’s drain to rinse off in the warm waterfall.
We are reluctant to pack up, but we need an early start to make the most of our allotted time in Aravaipa Canyon. It is a two hour drive, our 4:00 target departure time has crept to 5:00 due to excessive pleasure in the hot springs. We hurry to the campground near the Aravaipa ranger station.
The sun has already set as we arrive at the camping. We are alone here, overlooking the vast desert vista, which is interrupted only by the local mountains. Bright yellow palo verde trees dot the hillside, and the succulent cacti are now presenting their late spring flowers. There is little chance of others happening by, as it is now getting late. We will hear anyone before we see them out on the road. The lights are not on at the ranger’s home, nor do we see her truck. This allows us to stay nude in the twilight, as we set our tent in what is essentially the public parking lot.
We settle in arm in arm, laying in the tent, somewhere around 9:00. We fall asleep, watching the moon above through the mesh window of the small dome tent.
Monday, Heading into the Canyon:
I’m awake before the alarm. It is so very quiet and calm here. We want to pack up and make the most of the day and our permitted time in the canyon. Two parties stop by to check the signs at the kiosk and then they take off. DF slips on a sundress and I wrap in a sarong while they are there. We are all smiling in greeting and enthusiastic about the coming adventure. We lift the last perishable treat out of the cooler, the leftover apple almond cinnamon pate and drive off into the last three miles to the trailhead.
Arriving, one of those previous two parties, a tall man in an SUV, is still preparing. The only place to park is next to him. There are about eight empty cars there, plus the Forest Service truck. The Ranger is still out in the canyon and has spent the night. There are apparently many others. The tall guy is right there on the other side of his SUV. It is probably best to wrap the sarong around me and see how things turn out. DF opts out for shorts and t-shirt! I haven’t seen that for a while on a trail. I haven’t seen her wearing anything at all since Friday afternoon. I place an old Hawaii style shirt on my shoulders and back to ease the backpack straps abrasiveness from friction with my skin.
We stroll down the trail through the Sonoran Desert fauna, getting used to the packs. Eventually, we arrive at the base of the canyon with its tall trees and flow of water.
There are two signs, which will be the last civilization in the wilderness to see. It is a place with no designated trail. With the limited space to walk in the canyon filled with vegetation, much of the travel is by slowly sloshing upstream and finding ankle deep water with less resistance.
We high five and ceremoniously take our first step into the water to cross the stream. It is cold, but after getting out, the next step into the water as we cross is comfortable. We have quickly adjusted. Islands of gravel occasionally help progress. We see more worn trails and collections of foot prints on these, assuring us that we are taking a popular route and won’t end up bushwhacking. Here and there, we find a trail through the reeds or other forms of vegetation that the riparian atmosphere makes. These usually are just along the stream, but we make better time on them and get acquainted with the non-water area.
The place is filled with a plethora of fun healthy smells. We know that we have two young guys behind us that will catch up. They are hiking quicker, and we are just exploring with no place, but the current place, on our minds. Then there is another, the tall guy. This being Monday, and the car park filled, we expect to see people returning home, but none pass us. Except for the three hikers, we are alone. I pull my sarong up into the waistband of my pack. The light breeze makes a difference from the short skirt to bottom freedom.
We do encounter two middle aged women, they smile and exchange remarks as we stop. I have let the front of the sarong back down to give me legal covering. They seem to note the covering curiously and continue on. DF is about a hundred feet further downstream when they pass her. When she catches up with me, she is laughing and informs, “The girls were checking you out.” The back of my sarong has been left up. My cheeks are exposed below the backpack. Oh well, no complaints and they enjoyed the novelty.
After an hour or two, we have stopped streamside to replenish our water bottles with the Sawyer filtering system. From there, we see a couple of washed logs to sit upon in some shade amongst some boulders for a lunch snack.
We take off our packs and settle on a log. It is a relief to have even the ultralight weight off of our shoulders after time passes on the trail. My wrap falls back down without the waist belt and I use it to sit on. Just then, there is a feminine voice coming from behind a boulder, “Excuse me, I hope that you don’t mind me invading your space,” she explains as she climbs through the drop between two boulders. It is the ranger. We talk. She asks if we have gotten an updated weather report, and we tell her our brief information and speculate, concluding that we get what we get. There have been dark clouds traveling above and across the canyon, but we have only a thin piece of sky between two canyon walls to observe.
We tell her that at one point, it had begun to rain. We had run under a tree to get some shelter and dig out our rain ponchos. The forecast indicated that there would be no rain today. As we scrambled to find our plastic coverings; pea sized hail began to bounce at our feet. I turned and watched as golden light illuminated the pellets as they pinged into the waters of the stream. In moments it was gone.
We ask about a report of “renegade squirrels” that a salesman at the Summit Hut store had mentioned. They have been raiding people’s packs, even chewing into tents. She confesses with concern that they would be around Horse Camp Canyon, which is a tributary. She asks our name and checks us off on her clipboard as permit holders. She tells us, as best as she can, places to camp if it floods. The weather tomorrow will not be good. She warns us to get drinking water replenished at the first sign of flooding, as the water will become very muddy and clog up a water filter. I ask about people ahead, and campsites, piecing together the potential for a nice nude travel and camping for the next three days. Her information is clouded, because we are not familiar with the area in this western part of the canyon. It is difficult to know how much distance we cover with its twisted bends and erratic progress in the difficult terrain. It is not a walk in the park. I have a GPS and a map, but she informs definitively that, “GPS doesn’t work down here.” She makes it sound crowded up ahead with a cluster of campsites and rain is threatening.
A ranger will respond to people looking for solitude and privacy. They don’t need to know that these questions come from someone wanting to practice naturism. There are many leading questions that may be asked. Some of my best free range nude hikes have been given to me by a ranger, when I ask. If they happen to see me covering, I figure that they would probably want to help me find a place to be discrete, rather than have a potential hassle from a complaint. These days, rangers are very busy because of funding cutbacks. They are spread thin and often unlikely to make rounds again soon. They are generally friendly and helpful. They will likely be apt to give you as much of their time as the can, rather than be bothered again, and again.
Covered in rain ponchos, not knowing how far to a good camp spot and there have been few, we decide to quit early and take the bird at hand. This is a particularly narrow bend in the creek. The canyon walls raise strait up, except an elevated beach surrounded by trees. There are a pair of cottonwoods, and one of the weeping willows, which is expelling a sticky film at this time.
We can find no purchase, for even my “designed for sand” tent stakes, to set our tarp. We run out of local rocks to anchor with sticks and begin to gather river rocks, two at a time. A chilly wind is up and we have noticed a pattern where the wind portends a rain passing through. We want shelter before a sustained pour.
As we gather rocks in a stream two men in water boots come through. I recognize one of them as a guy that I used to work with! He had helped me place the drywall on the ceiling of my bedroom. I hadn’t seen him in about 15 years. Small world. We catch up briefly, about kids and life’s course, but the coming weather cuts our talk short. Had it been a warmer time, we would have surprised him with nude rock collecting.
The wind subsides again and as we are gathering water, I am bottom-free. DF stands beside me holding the water bottles, as I gather creek water into the bags and squeeze it through the filter into those bottles. I see a party of three coming up behind DF. I am covered by her body for now. As they near, I squat to get more water from the creek, this covers my genitals and makes me legally modest.
With a burst of sunshine and warmth, we decide to take a short walk upstream to scout and determine who may be near to disturb us and to just enjoy this wondrous place.
Everyone must pass through this narrow bend in the canyon in a noisy parade, sloshing loudly through the water. We see them all and hear them in advance. They all smile and wave. This warning would be good for us normally, but that the benefit is lost in bundling up for the cold weather.
We hunker down in the net tent under the warm down camping quilt. The returning winds die down in time. We rehydrate and warm our spaghetti dinner, adding parmesan sprinkles and have cookies for dessert. We listen to the many varied bird songs, their conversations and the creek’s ripples in its consistent flow. It is cozy for two.
Next week, we continue in Aravaipa Canyon.