It was in the spring of nineteen-ninety-something, that my then girlfriend and I got up early Sunday morning to drive out to one of the new ”National Monuments” that former President Bill Clinton had signed off on, at the end of his term. Ironwood National Monument is about 40 miles from my home. Our destination was right in the heart of one of the nicest Ironwood forest left on the planet. It’s where endangered Big Horn Sheep roam freely. The Ironwood itself is found throughout the southwest, but there are only a couple of intact Ironwood ecosystems left on our planet.
This spring, the rains had been unusually frequent and we found ourselves surrounded by a delightful carpet of flowers in yellows, purples, blues, oranges and white.
Once there, we meandered probably a mile down an “almost jeep trail,” putting lots of Arizona pin stripes on my girlfriends shiny clean van. We then met some friends who were participating in a nude campout by SANS. SANS was the Southern Arizona Naturist Society, an organization that I belonged to. We had a monthly newsletter, and usually house parties each month. The idea was to promote nudist and naturist values, give those curious a place to explore themselves and have some fun with others. Often, for our monthly nude campout, we used to collaborate with the Forest Service, making arrangements to let our presence be known and assure our fellows that there was nothing to fear from authorities. There is also the sense of safety in numbers. This time, among the foothills of Ragged Top Mountain, we had posted signs, so as not to surprise anyone with our nudity.
On this day, we only had time for a day trip on this outing.
We were discussing the sense of wonder in the desert with our friends, when a young woman rode by on a mountain bike like there was nothing unusual about a dozen naked people. She very soon found herself at the end of the trail and came back through camp, greeting us with “good morning” again. We thought it was very unusual to see anyone, even forest personnel out there.
We continued with our needs and made ready for a short nude hike to explore the surrounding area. As we were about to trek off, our camp was invaded by a group 15 to 20 flower seeking naturalist. We over heard them to realize, that they had confused the two terms ”naturist” and “naturalist” and so our signs lost their intended effect! Reading a sign that explains, “You May Encounter Naturalist Ahead,” they would think, “Welcome home!”
They just stood there, in their kaki shorts and sun shade hats, arguing about which direction to go. We were unprepared for this and just watched them for a very long ten minutes, or so. We had covered the pieces of our bodies used for sex, by standing behind vehicles and bushes. We just had to stand there, or receive that uncomfortable extra naked feeling, like that of being the only nude one in a grouping of textiles and assuming impending disapproval. There was that sense of concern for the assumption of the laws against simple nudity. It seems that the new “Monument” status and the profusion of spring flora were attracting more visitors than before.
We postponed our short hike for a while after their passing, We had decided that we should distance ourselves from them and lessen the chance of a complaint. They had taken off down our proposed route and the only trail.
As we began our hike into the hills, I began to empathize with how a deer feels when humans are around. We were also naked, natural and not knowing if the strange human beings would be doing something to harm us or not. Not that we were concerned about being shot for sport, but concern that someone might make an unreasonable complaint. As we walked on, we continued listening for them. We also avoided them by taking to the desert, using no trail and staying hidden behind various ridges, just like deer.
We did however, eventually, happen on to a sighting of them on a distant ridge and visa versa. I had come to the top of a hill, where I noticed an unusual rock formation and these clothed people on that ridge across the way. They appeared small, but I could make them out. Our previous actions showed them that we desired to be left alone, if not, desiring some solid privacy. I saw one of the men’s large telephoto lenses pointing directly at us.
I turned my back to them and bent over to get a good look at the rocks at my feet. My girlfriend mentioned to me about the view of my butt and the balls dangling between my legs. She explained that that was being presented to the telephoto zoom lens group as they watched us. I just smiled at her knowingly, as I bent over again. She smiled back. I suppose they found a better view to look at after that, because they left us alone.
From then on, we had a glorious nude hike. From up on these hills the vistas were vast and rich. The flora was diverse and the color was stunning.
When we returned to the van, my girlfriend reached into her sock and pulled out her house key, not her car key, her house key. She had that look of disbelief on her face that people get. Her jaw was hanging. Her were eyes wide and very thoughtful, very reflective. She was stunned. She told me she must have been “dis-com-bob-u-lated” by all of those people “with clothes on” in the camp area, before we left. She had locked us out of our van! She had the wrong key in hand.
Well, I understood that it was distracting, feeling a bit more naked than usual, as twenty observant clothed people had been standing nearby. At the moment however, I was feeling even more naked, as I looked in the van at my clothes, my cell phone, money, credit card, everything! We were in the middle of bum-f..k nowhere. I had only hiking boots, sunblock, and a towel so small, that if it covered my genitals, it only stretched over only one butt cheek, almost…period!
I mentioned my solution, “At least there are plenty of big rocks around.” Alas, she would have no part of a broken window. She said that she would have to call her brother and have him drive down with a spare key to my house. He would then give us a ride back out here to the van. He lived 140 miles and two hours plus away in the Phoenix area.
At this time, we had but two friends, who were left there. They were both nudist and of course, consequently they only had the clothes that they wore and none for us. I stood there thinking, even hoping, that the clothed group would come along, in the chance one would have a cell phone. Remember, this was the mid-nineteen nineties.
We began the long butt naked drive out of there. The little towel was now sitting between my bottom and the seat. It could no longer be used as a cover-up. I could see my Tortolita Mountains in the far distance, dozens of miles away.
We were, as I have said, way out there. We were tooling down the washboard dirt road out in the desert and we passed this sign that said, “Jardin del Sol Nudist Resort.” “No sh… am I dreaming?”
We stopped and pulled through the stainless steel cattle gate at the entrance. The two track road meandered back through the lush ironwood desert, coming out upon what looked like an old trail dusty town movie set. We were greeted warmly. I explained the predicament. They had a telephone to call her brother collect. They had a brand new landline phone. They only had had of the use of a “the brick” cell phone until fairly recently.
We two had just showed up naked and while we were there, our friends stripped down again. Since we were there and curious, the owner took us on a tour of the facility. I couldn’t dream up the convenience of it all.
The carnuding event continued mile after naked laughing mile. We had to go through the old town of Marana and then on the Interstate Highway with the truckers and anyone else with a vehicle taller than the mini pickup truck that we rode in. We then drove across the desert and through our foothills to my neighborhood.
Wouldn’t you know, every teenage girl in my neighborhood happened to have joined a group bike ride at that particular time. They passed us on the “go slow because of the dust” dirt road. I was thinking about how I know their parents and they know me. This was the coincidental luck of Murphy’s Law at play. I swear that was the only time that I have ever seen such a group in 20 years. Go figure. I didn’t think that they noticed my nakedness, as I waved to take their attention from my lower half and up to my hand.
After the 40 miles of road, we stepped onto the driveway and walked into my house to wait for the spare keys to arrive….
The Ironwood National Monument is on the hatchet list of possible monuments to destroy. It could use a letter of support. It is worthy. Years of effort, bringing together ranchers, mining interests, environmental interests, impact statements and a million dollars to preserve the endangered sheep went into the creation of the monument before the presidential papers were signed. It is worthy, it has consensus and the local support of a million locals. When these fragile desert places are destroyed around here, they never come back.
Please, write your congress. They all need to hear from their constituents.
There are articles hiking the area here at freerangenaturist.org. The first story,” Ol’ Ragged Top” is one. I’ll be publishing a couple of more trip reports at the monument, this year.