Remember, just click the photo for clarity and a larger image.
I wrote earlier in the week of a state of “No Backup” and my plans to experiment with that during this season’s hiking. There were many reasons. One set is the shedding of personal baggage, the knee jerk cover-up reaction that I have been conditioned to. I wish for the personal liberation from this social response and to experience awareness of the emotional confines fully, letting them go and hopefully to watch them dissolve. Am I truly in a natural experience out there, when inside I am still uncomfortable?
There is also the activist in me. I believe that the more frequency that people encounter others of their species naked, the more they will be used to it as okay. When many are given the opportunity to experience a nude person among them, they are exploring their own hang-ups, in discovery and thought, to realize how innocent and benign mere nudity is.
My intention is to not cover up in the backcountry, where it is essentially a legitimate practice. This is deep in a Federal wilderness, beyond concerns of the authorities, where convention is of a distant foreign land and tolerance is as natural as the wilderness itself. I am experimenting with brazen no backup out here and sorting my feelings about encounters.
We are presenting a website that teaches and encourages how to live in free range nudity. There is a point where one may want to feel more liberation on the inside, within the self, to feel less hindered and relaxed.
This Trip Report will often be in the context of my feelings during encounters with other people and the experience of the parties involved. It is also, a trip into a natural wonderland.
DF is in Puerto Rico and Georgia visiting relatives and new born babies. The temperatures are extremely high and unusual. In this valley, it is 115F today. There is a solstice tradition of a nude hike each year at this time, The World Naked Hiking Day (WNHD). Mt. lemon presents, at 9000 ft., a reprieve from the sweltering city below. There is a small town, an association of cabins that are called “Summerhaven.” The name is longer than the town. The temperature is commonly 30F degrees, or more, cooler than the Tucson valley. It is a scenic drive less than an hour from most places in our city sprawl.
Michelle, a friends daughter, is at DF’s, house-sitting. We stop in to borrow DF’s bivy bag. While my cohort on this adventure, the same one that ventured up to Romero Pools a few weeks ago, is transferring her equipment from her car to my truck, Michelle and I sit and chat. The topic of the heat is on everyone’s lips. She comments on how she “would like to just walk down the street naked on a day like today, but someone would arrest me. Why is nudity a moral thing?” I’m surprised by the remark. I don’t know her, but for a few conversations at parties. I reply, “Yes, and the arrestor would be wearing a black uniform with full sweaty body armor!” Well, it is a pleasant surprise to know of another kindred spirit under my nose. Perhaps someday, I’ll have the opportunity to explain to her that she is not under as much restriction as she supposes.
After my Wednesday night commitment, we are on the Mount Lemon Highway. The sunroof is open and some windows down. We are noticing the air cool as we climb in elevation. An occasional fragrance floats in. I love the bouquet of the pines.
I find a familiar easy to get to spot up in Bear Wallow, but in the dark, I am finding bumpy rocks under pine needles everywhere. A level place to sleep is not to be had. I just place the belongings on the roof and front seats and roll out the bivys in the back of the SUV. We are tired and just want an early quick start on the trail in the morning.
Out on the Trail:
We are up, but my friend, who has forgotten her air mattress slept horridly and restless on my blue pad, while I had the luxury of my own device. Looks like I’ll be on the blue foam tonight and she gets my rig. We gobble a few bites of a delicious sticky cinnamon raisin bread and gather our stuff. I’m surprised to not see the woods covered with campers escaping the heat, but this does leave us in a liberated position. Perhaps the heat is too much to bear. This place is to have a high in the high 80F’s or more. That may not be considered cooling off weather.
A young woman on a bike is nearly silently heading down the dirt road below and next to us. She is traveling way too fast, even for those extra fat tires on this slippery dirt road. Her focus on the surface ahead of her leads her to see nothing of me. I stand behind the door anyway.
Several minutes later, she is coming back up from her descent in a low gear; I am doing sit-ups and stretching in back of the opened tailgate SUV. She probably can’t see any genitals, just flesh at such a distance and at a glance. So, I continue my exercise in preparation for our WNHD. My friend gives her a shout, attracting her attention, “You go girl!” She looks up and smiles from her busy labors of the road.
In the parking lot at the trailhead, my friend begins to talk up a young couple who are in town looking to move from Pennsylvania and have questions about Tucson. My friend tends to have conversations with anyone around her and on the trail. During the exchange, I mention that after the saddle up on the trail, that, “it will be World Nude Hiking Day.” He just doesn’t get it, but is reluctant to ask what I am talking about. He doesn’t “get” that I am standing there with only a sarong wrapped around my waist and a back pack. They exchange phone numbers for future use and we are on our way.
We decide to take the lower trail, which runs along the creek and doesn’t climb as much as the newer “high road.” Someone has placed several logs across the trail on a slope. It is like climbing through a lean-to with packs on. After that, we are enjoying the lush creek side walk up Marshall Gulch. If this is a new Forest Service conservation policy, then the blockage may present opportunities to enjoy the frequented area in a more private nude state in the future. We’ll wait and see.
Crossroads into the Wilderness:
As both of us sit on a large log at the convergence of five trails at the saddle, the highest point of our trek. We have seen no one on this usually busy day hike. Maybe it is the heat, maybe we have beaten the crowds, by having slept up here. This is where I figured that I would be most likely to bump into someone. The crowds might come up behind us.
I am disrobed, unpacked, and standing naked, but for my shoes and socks. I am beginning to turn my sarong skirt into a shoulder pad. I see them. They are looking down, huffing in ascent. I sit down and place my bag on my lap becoming legal, but obviously naked. They are all business. They turn in a 90 degree military marching band style, in step and head up another trail. It appears that there is no notice of us.
I have placed my covering over my shoulders and secured it under pack straps to protect me from the sun. From here, we are getting into the Wilderness of Rocks and its primitive status.
I am determined to face my shadows, apprehensions and habituated responses. We continue seeing no one. We stop for lunch on a familiar boulder, before continuing.
Soon, my first big test is just over a knoll. We are coming upon two bearded young men with their hair tied up in buns and a young woman. They are sitting in some shady grass resting. I feel apprehensive, but I walk right into the situation bare and feeling a tad exposed. I am just not used to this. As we near, I find a problem with lack of a way to greet them without looking a bit insecure. My need is suddenly taken care of for me. Hidden among them unnoticed, is a white Pitbull, which jumps up to bark. I of course have to exchange greetings with the pup, as they apologize for his rudeness. I find myself reacting, as if I am actually fully dressed and they are responding in kind.
After the encounter, I reevaluate my reactions. I noticed that I didn’t maintain eye contact, kept a bit more distant than usual and we didn’t stop to talk with them. Being honest with myself, my inside liberation has a way to go.
At the convergence of the last intersecting trail, we find a red haired bearded fellow standing alone in a camping area. We ask about water and his reckoning of the trail distance. I am wondering why these people are heading back so soon. He tells us with authority that, “If you are going to the pools, there is no water.”
“Huh? No water!” Then, I think, “That’s hard to believe.” I suspect that he is just one of those fools who like to act like they have all the answers, but have few. There would be water in the pools. He probably just doesn’t know where the pools are. Later, I find that I am correct about my reading of him…jerk. Anyway, throughout the conversation he is engaged and doesn’t seem to pay any mind at all to my lack of dress, as if unawares because he is being engaged by the conversation. My own behavior is similar, after passing a slight initial apprehension.
I check my water. I can get there and back, to refill at the creek just upstream from here, if necessary. I have taken note of where the water puddles are.
Arriving, we do discover that the creek is indeed dry, but for literally a couple of puddles. We rest, feeling tired. The elevation at 9000ft. does slow an unaccustomed body down. We enjoy the shade and tranquility.
Better Next Time:
There has been a warning of a poor black Yogi Bear that has gotten too friendly near here. So, there has been much concern about leaving gear around, or sleeping with it. I make an attempt to hang the bags on a branch, so we may explore less encumbered. My cohort is adamant to not leave her valuables hidden in the brush. There are no well-placed branches here anymore, but I do find one over the creek. I unravel my 25 foot cord and search for a river rock for just the right weight and shape to wrap the cord over. I try two before I find one capable with bearing edges. I toss it aloft and give the experimental tug. It seems strong and it wraps over two younger branches to combine and carry the weight.
When I turn my back, I listen to the backpack thump as it hits the dry creek bed. The last chance branch just isn’t up to task. I’m tired too, but I must carry the pack further, my tail between my legs, my woodland craft a failure. I take note, find a longer cord and keep a smaller bag just for food for the next tree, like the one in my other less Super Ultralight rig at home. The rest can be buckled around a small tree. Mine is water proof and bubbles up with air like a balloon, when I seal it up.
We then head toward the pools and find more water waiting there.
We decide to take a hike further through Wilderness of Rock. After a steep trek, up a granite hill and seeing the promise of more difficult up and down in the sun warmed terrain, we decide to just head back to camp. We are tired and my friend complains about altitude.
My friend falls asleep like some elf under some ferns by a tree.
On the dry creek bedrock, I lay out on the blue foam pad and the sarong.
I stretch, I do yoga, and I imbibe the moment, quietly. A string of tiny ants trail along next to me, but are too on task to be bothered. I finish my sandwich, massage my bare feet and love this place. I lay and watch the tall pine tree’s swing with the wind in their canopies. Down below, here, is a gentle breeze, refreshing my naked body. I write down my notes.
After a while, I further explore and then my cohort awakens. I grab my tomahawk and gather firewood. After a small fire and conversation, I set up the bivys over the pine needles that I have piled up to cushion my pad. We fall asleep early, under a starry night.
The thin pad and concerns of the reported curious bear have my unconscious busy through the night, but I sleep well enough in spurts, dreaming heavily of events that happen right where we are. Morning sunlight comes over the mountain and through the trees.
After breaking camp, we spend a half an hour looking for the elusive other water pools in the rugged terrain.
None are found and I am out of water. I know that they are there and one day….
We decide to collect water in the one pool that we know. It is pleasant there. The trees and sky reflect in the water, under shadows across the surface. The color is fragmented like a Monet, yet crisp, clear and it shines. The scheme is Escher.
With the water process done, we sit and converse on a flat rock. She breaks out a map and shows me her favorite hikes in the Catalina Mountains and her bucket list in detail.
On the Trail Again:
We decide to start up the trail. She tells me that she is feeling the altitude and an easy pace will help mitigate that problem.
We haven’t seen anyone since the red haired fellow with the ego problems. We stop off in a favored glade of tall pines to have a burrito. I have rehydrated refried black beans and hummus. This sun heats the food in a baggy and it rolls into a whole-wheat tortilla easily.
She has found a nice tree to lean against. I decide to try that, too. It has been many years since I have done that. In the desert, there is a tendency to have ants and insects crawling and not so thick a form. The ground here is filled with grass and pine needles. I lay out my blue pad and sarong, creating a chair and sit down to luncheon. Soon, I see a quiet form behind me, she is apparently sleeping. I love this place. I lay out my pad. I do the sit-ups that my stiff body refused to do this morning. I do stretches, and meditate, and yoga. I lay there watching treetops and ponder a life like Siddhartha living in the woods naked in personal evolution toward finding bliss.
I notice the Earthy energy of the tree.
A 30’s something hiker comes marching by. He doesn’t look well, He is hunched over with his hiking poles. He seems determined. I lounge away, watching. The one man parade passes, never noticing the nude soul on the red pine carpet. I stand up and practice some chi-gong, then relax into some fresh black grapes and dried fruits.
In a couple of hours, my friend is awake and buggy eyed. She is anxious and politely refuses a second burrito. She says she will see me on the trail, up near the water. She wants to keep moving while she has energy.
And Again on the trail:
In about ten minutes, I am on the trail again. Not having my conversational friend with me, nor in a hurry to find water, it is a different, It is a more casual, more aware experience. I delight in the hobbit-esque mountains, the gigantic trees, tall brush and ferns, the stepping stone stairs and the silence.
I am nearly out of water again and have some concerns of that. I am being very observant, not to miss the few pools that I can filter out of. As I am about to come over a small ridge, I hear voices of children. I turn around and backtrack about 20 ft., deciding to cover for these people. People with small kids can be weird about the lone naked guy. I don’t want complaints starting discourse with a negative note. I sit by the trail on grass and place a wash cloth which had been drying on my belt, over my crotch. My knees are up. Quickly, I have dropped my “no back up” experiment. I don’t know to be disgusted with my chicken-out self, or the pleased at my cautiousness. I am letting people know that there is nude hiking in this world. I am obviously nude, but I am complying with the law.
A father, a young boy and a teenage boy walk past me. I ask if there is water ahead. His eyes forward, he says, “Yes, there is water ahead.” I don’t know how to read him. I wait and then wait some more, getting impatient. The rest of the group, of which I can see their head’s tops, are doing something in the middle of the trail with a walking stake. Finally, two women, two small girls and a small boy walk through. I greet them. The last woman in line gives a pleasant hello in return. I look around and realize that this is the very same spot that DF and I encountered a family with young kids when we were through here the last time. Murphy’s Law at work. What are the odds?
A lovely hike up and I spot something bright yellow in the foliage below me. I soon see my friend getting back on the trail and then discover a man with a great brown dog, who is laying in a hammock. He has taken residence at a water pond. I grab a tree and begin to swing down a boulder to the water. Stopping, I ask, “Do you mind naked?” and smile.
I am given a relaxed, “Nope.”
I strip off the pack, bottles and camera. I begin the slow process of filtering water. As I proceed, I notice that he watches me. I mind my own business, not to disturb him. He looks away as I turn my head toward him. His pleasant verbal “nope” and his offer of some of his own water have comforted any apprehension that I had.
I continue up the trail, with my friend for a while, but then getting ahead of her. I pass a horny toad. I am in wonder how is it that they live up here in this high perch, covered with snow so much of the time.
The Crossroads and Last Leg:
I decide to stop for that second burrito, as I near the crossroads. My partner decides to continue with her momentum. There is a very nice overlook with a shady patch on a large granite patio.
There is a breeze. It is a wonderful break.
As I begin to wrap my pack belt around my waist, I hear voices. An older man and a teenager have repelling equipment on their backs. He is getting lessons on the steep surfaces there. They notice naked packed up me, smile pleasantly and continue with their own business.
I cross paths with a young man coming down the hill. He pays me little mind, as he is watching his footing. We exchange greetings.
As I approach the crossroads, a lot of my mind is swept up in “shall I put on the sarong?” My liberation still has a ways to go. I decide to grab a triangled bandana as a loin cloth and attach it to my pack belt. I’m legal.
All the way, it is very pleasant. There isn’t another person down the Marshall Gulch trail. The sun is creating golden light and shadows in the fairyland atmosphere. About half way, I see my friend passing parents, two boys that look like a Peanuts cartoon strip and a babe in a papoose pack. I decide that I might as well drape the sarong at this time. I’ll be at the trailhead in a half a mile. I stop on a favorite rock, overlooking the creek.
I over take my friend at the fork of the two trails. She is confused and asking questions of a couple. There is a laminated sign stating “trail closed” on a huge fallen log across the trail. It has no Forest Service logo, just a computer printout. He gives a strange look as I climb over the log. She is unfazed. We take the fun way, again.
There is an injured bird in the trail. She is taking pity upon it, looking desperately for something to do to help it, when a friend of ours pops up. He is in rubber flip-flops and a pair of loose gym shorts. What a surprise. We discuss the days, the heat, of course and the fate of the bird.
Two days later, a Facebook post comes up with a poster for World Nude Hiking Day. I respond that I did it. He pops up and responds that he did, too, and was pleased to see us on the trail. We are not alone out there.
I drive home to DF’s place, naked, no stopping, not wanting to be in the heat any more than I need to. We unload, naked. We shower. She is off to a dancing engagement and I get to greet DF at the airport with a warm passionate hug.