It was my Birthday, a day to do just what I please. I took the day as my own, forgetting about anything that life imposes and did exactly as I pleased, a hike, natural communion and a sushi dinner in the evening.
I had wanted to try my new SUL, a super ultralight backpacking rig for months. It is for an overnight, but life has been busy. This wouldn’t be an overnight, but it would be an opportunity to try the rig out for weight, comfort over miles and mobility. I already know that the sleeping arrangements are solid. It is a bivy bag, quilt (if needed) warm clothes, no cooking set up, all weighing about five to six pounds, depending on weather. I’ll explain the equipment list later.
An Experiment with Equipment:
Access to areas of complete nude freedom, often require an overnight stay, otherwise it is a lot of just walking. Backpacking can be cumbersome, distracting from a freely nude experience. It is desirable to feel as naked and unencumbered as possible. Weigh distribution and constrictions can be impediments to climbing, too.
What I have done is take a 4 ounce dry bag with shoulder straps and turn it into a super light back pack. The straps tended to bind into a strip, digging into my shoulders. It isn’t designed, but to move more than from spot to spot, not an extended time. It folds into a tiny bag that will fit into my fist. It is very nice and air/water sealed, but it needed a tweak. I took foam from a sleeping pad and inserted it into a slit in the flat tube of cloth which makes up the shoulder straps. This has given me a comfortable cushioned strap. With such a light backpack load, it doesn’t take much. Still I noticed that the straps can nag after a while.
There was no weight belt to distribute the weight onto the waist. This made the center of gravity higher when climbing. Wanting to spoil myself, I acquired a cushy backpack waist band from REI. It is designed to attach to a 70 liter pack. It could handle 50 or 70 pounds. It also has some extra handy storage in its belt pockets for GPS, etc. I then wrapped a foam bed roll (4 Oz.) to it. This creates a platform supported by my waist. When I place the six pound bag on my shoulders, it rests on this platform. The weight, which is not much, is all on my waist belt. I don’t really feel the pack load at all. There is no strain on my back, I pretty much only know that it is there by feeling it on the skin of my back. What’s more it isn’t like a backpack rig, because it isn’t attached to the belt. It just floats, shifts and rolls on the platform. When I climb, or move in anyway, it conforms to the bend in my body and the center of gravity is still at my waist, not pulling my balance off. This also doesn’t impose the stiff structure of a pack frame.
On this day, I simply loaded it with an equivalent weigh, with extra water, to simulate the overnight load. Around this bag, I can carry two to four one-liter bottles of water on straps on my shoulders. Two can be placed in the back. These also rest on the rolled sleeping pad and my waist. Two can also be cinched and placed on my chest area, which balances the weight in back, unlike most back packs. There is more to experiment with this balance, but it is very comfortable.
So, with a foot long veggie sandwich, more water and snacks than needed, I took up Romero Canyon with a dear friend. DF had to be at work. We’d meet for dinner and an evening together, later.
Up to the Popular Romero Pools:
You may remember that I didn’t like this hike in an earlier post. It was too crowded by Oro Valley conventional minded folk who might be shocked by anything out of their presumed norm. The first 2.8 miles were filled with hikers. The constant rewrapping to cover up was too much aggravation. See here:
I meet my friend at a bank parking lot across from Catalina State Park late in the morning, after we have done last minute preparations. We had wanted to be out earlier, to make the ascent to the pools in the cooler part of the day. The temps will be in the high 80F’s. This is a pleasant dry heat to me, but in the direct sun and with exertion, maybe not my first choice.
We walk quickly; she is a bit of a mountain goat. I had been concerned about keeping up with her, but I am doing fine.
We encounter only two pairs of other hikers as they are coming down the hill. There are two other pairs heading in our same direction that tend to rest and pass repeatedly. I have on my new rig and a Hawaii shirt for my shoulder’s protection from the sun. My sarong is at my waist.
I am able to tuck the sarong into the belt in front and stuff it up in back. This offers me a remarkable immediate relief from the heat. The light breeze is significant on my newly exposed body. What a tremendous difference in comfort.
The trail is the same mess as the last time. It is stair steps on sharp pieces of exposed bedrock granite and embedded rocks. It is not a trail so much as a washed out scar for most of the way. I am determined to reach the first shade under a tree about 3/4 of way up to the Romero Pools. My friend is a talkative person, so we converse most of the way. Often however, with my back to her, the wind direction and this and that, she can’t clearly hear me. This provides more mindful quiet times.
The idea is to reach the pools that are after the popular pools and then possibly go another two miles up a steep area to what is called “the Springs.” This is in the tall trees, I’m told. I wish to explore this and then know what I might expect in subsequent trips. The Wilderness of Rocks trail and a few others, link up to this trail. I could start on top of Mt. Lemon and drop clear to the desert. There should be water and pools all along this. It could be a great place for me to pop up to and do overnight nude hiking and camping. The trail once passed the main pools is much less traveled.
We arrive at the pools and my friend is reminiscing. She had been a regular personage here in the years past. She insists that she has to visit the pools. There are only two hikers there. We make our way down the steep rock climb to the pools. There, I see a pair of women, one in only black panties. This could be better than I expected, but still I wish to proceed up the canyon to the more remote private pools.
My friend gets stuck in an awkward position in her climb and one of the women, who is now dressed, answers her request for help. She extends her hand. When she approaches, in a small world, they realize that they had been dancing together near the stage of the recent Tucson Folk Festival. They know each other. I decide to just continue on. My hiking partner will be consumed for a while.
A Walk to Solitude in Nature:
I continue back to the trail and up the canyon. We have planned to meet at the other pools, when she’s done. The first thing that I discover is that the vegetation is dry and not nearly as tall and thick as before. I had figured that I might want snake gators to do this hike. The monsoon rains had caused much more growth during the previous hike in September. This is not a rattler risk.
I arrive at the pools. The waterfall is nothing like before during that monsoon period, but enchanting, none the less. It makes a lovely sound, as it pours over three shorter falls, which are now exposed. There are several pools. I strip and inspect my feet. This is also the maiden voyage for my new Vibram fivetoe shoes. I had found a pair on sale, but they tended to slip off of my heels because of my duck-like feet. Recently, I noticed how this was no longer so exaggerated in thicker socks. Wearing new shoes on a 8 to 10 mile hike could be trouble, but they are giving minimal stress. Still, I wouldn’t slosh in a creek in them.
Now, bare all over, I relished this place. I find a spot on the smooth bedrock to sit and soak my feet. As they dangle in the water, I watch them among the ripples, tadpoles, water insects, tiny fish and the rather idealic surroundings.
The water is very comfortable and the air just right, as I explore each pool, each direction and each subtle nuance in this creation. There are nearby hanging gardens, algae formations, currents in eroding granite, and the formations from centuries before. The skies are beautifully turquoise, and the rising rugged mountainsides green and distinctive. I watch the cloud’s shade, as it moves across the landscape of this amazing valley. The cloud shadows are creating spotlighting and revealing contours in the shapes of the mountains.
There are a few trees and I soon find myself in the shelter of one, which cast its shadow over a slab of smooth granite. This is a very special solitude, just what I live for in the fabric of nature.
I had left my belongings in an obvious spot were my friend could not help but notice. I didn’t want her to miss me and pass me by. She comes by, joining me on the rock for our lunch. We relax, sun and talk about life and tell stories, getting to know more of each other.
It is getting later. There isn’t enough time to reach the “springs”.
We decide to go ahead and hike past this spot until 4:00 and that should give us enough time to return and for me to meet DF. We explore our way up the trail, the magnificence never ending.
About 3/4 of the way up a set of switchbacks, it is 3:50pm. We turn back, deciding to take a bit more time dipping in the refreshing pools.
I have continued nude, but for pack and sarong on my shoulders. At this point, I decide to place the thin Hawaii shirt on my back to have the sarong available for my waist, because we will soon be returning to the main pool area. Sure enough, there are two people there. I wrap the sarong around my waist as we continue on. After this, it tucks nicely into my waist belt as we descend the mountains with no encounters.
Back into “Civilization”:
I don’t remember that the trail was so uphill before the descent. I figure that I must be getting tired and it just feels that way. We discuss how some trails with the same mapped elevation gains are more strenuous than others, because of the condition of the trail. We deem this a hard trail. We also notice that time has disappeared and I need to get back for dinner. We put our tails on high and begin to glide down the mountain, stepping more quickly from one rock to the next.
The lack of a top heavy backpack makes a big difference here. With no one encountered, I am able to keep my wrap tucked comfortably in my pack belt, stay cooler, and have no restrictions of movement.
The sun is setting as we arrive at the trailhead. We had watched the mountain western face change colors and ridges become more distinctive in shadow, as the sun descended. We have also taken an hour longer than anticipated during our return. Was it bad planning, or just that good? Maybe it was both.
I am encouraged. On this week day, there were many fewer others. Absolutely none during the three hours spent past the main pools. The canyon is remarkable in its grandeur and I will look forward to returning for overnights and hiking on further into the Catalina Mountains, staying healthy and being amazed.
There will be no cooking and little gear, just me, nature and food. I’ll be able to sit in comfort. I can simply lay my bivy down in a small space and go to sleep with little preparation. I could hike two or four hours in, stay at a nice spot, or pools for hours, on each of two days and then walk out.
All the while, I can feel as if I have pretty much only a comfortable belt on. As I am sorting and loading my stuff in the car, I stop to remember where I have placed my backpack…It is still on my back….
SUL Backpacking Gear List:
8.7 oz. Ghost whisper jacket
2.6 oz. thick wool socks
6.1 oz. Long Johns
3.6 oz. silk underwear
10 oz. T-shirt (faithful old grey long sleeve T)
3.5 oz. backpack, Sea to Summit dry bag
4 oz. Sawyer Water filter with spare
15 oz. bivy (REI Minimalist Bivy)
2.5 oz. pillow
1.5 oz. drop cloth
8 oz. or less (approx.) stuff: mirror and tweezers, wash cloth, baby wipes, hand warmer, piece of dental floss, toothbrush, matches +lint, spoon, duct tape, cord, watch, TP, snow stake for digging.
The total weight is 64 oz., or 4 lbs. This is plus the belt and 4 oz. rollup pad, but these provide structure to take the weight away, rather than add to the weight.
I have the option of a 17 oz. Klymit Static V Inflatable Sleeping Pad for comfort and insulation, if cold. This becomes 5 lbs.
If it may be cold, under 50F, I’ll use my 20 oz. Enlightened Equipment Revelation, 30F quilt:
Total 6.3 lbs.
If there will be cold wind, I use 3 oz. Montbelle wind pants
On my feet are shoes and socks. I wear light shoes. My trail clothing, not in the pack, is a 7.6 oz. sarong worn on my waist or covering my shoulders from the sun.
If the monsoon rains are out, I can hunker down for a couple of hours with a 2.5 oz. backpack cover by MyTrail.com over my face and shoulders. The rest of me would be inside the rainproof bivy.
I have a titanium mug for warm things that weighs nearly nothing.
This rig will handle any of the six to eight month, summertime, high mountain weather at night in Arizona, at around 8 to 10,000 ft. The days are usually 70F to 80F. The temperatures will drop down to the thirties, but usually I can expect a low of 40F to 55F.
Water is carried in one to four one liter bottles which strap over my shoulders. The two in back are supported by the belt and sleeping pad. Then I put two in front to balance this weight at chest height. If there is creek water, I can filter and need to carry only a one liter bottle.
Food overnight would be dehydrated snacks, nuts and maybe a foot long subway sandwich. I leave the trailhead with a full belly and come back the next afternoon fed, but ready for a nice diner. I take extra snacks, like dehydrated refried black beans and hummus and place it, rehydrated, in a tortilla, or two.
Hiking along a creek, I’m carrying maybe three pounds more than the basic pack in food and water, because the water is 2.2 pounds.
I’ll usually carry a pair of leather gloves.