I see as grand of an orange/yellow face as I have ever seen. The moon is rising up along the side of the Catalina Mountains. As I look down the edge of the mountain range. A thin flat black shadowy cloud hangs across its lower breadth, just like Halloween. It just needs the witch on her broom. Ester creeps up through that cloud into a clear sky, as we attend a music show by a very original local band the Carnavaleros. We find friends and dancing at the metal arts complex. We are waiting for the moon to rise just enough to light our path.
A friend and I have decided to do a full moon walk up Sabino Canyon. The desert lights up like a black and white TV with a big moon like this. The canyon is majestic.
Sabino is a popular attraction with an asphalt paved road running up its length. Only a shuttle uses the road to carry a million passengers each year to various stops along the way. Tourists and locals have long used this oasis to swim in the natural pools and lay under a variety of large trees, which line the creek. The tall canyon walls are spectacular. All of this comes alive under the lunar lighting. It allows naturists to use the usually packed area as they used to do back when Tucson was much smaller.
We have decided to do the hike to a favorite water hole, sleep there, and then return in the morning. This gives us the walk up, the lunar bath, and the morning before the crowds arrive. An intention is to have the place pretty much all to ourselves. There is no camping allowed, so we are just bringing bivy sacks and blowup mattresses to lay out and sleep.
Our timing is impeccable. The illumination is perfect. Occasionally, the shadow of a tree covers the road. I scan there with a flashlight, making sure that there is no errant rattlesnake hidden there. The last time here, we had nearly walked over one as it slithered across the road, but for the torch light.
We march up the road. I’m looking for exercise and my partner tonight is a mountain goat looking for the same thing. The asphalt gets hard on our feet, but at night there is nothing to trip over during the 3.8 mile ascent.
I started out with a sarong around my waist and a long sleeve T-shirt. There have been a couple of sets of other hikers pass. We sit on a bridge to rest and I decide that it is a good time to liberate my body. The shirt isn’t needed. The night air is wonderful, our movement keeps my body warm from the inside. I could come here anytime, if I wore clothing, but nude enhances any good experience.
Twice the illumination of a bicycle headlight passed us. My companion is wearing a dress. Simply sitting down with my pack on can cover enough of me. All I need is my SUL backpacking gear.
We note the numbers at the tram stops as we get closer to our destination. We walk along, hearing the occasional sound of what is probably a great horned owl. The high canyon walls can be seen clearly. They majestically rise up to the full moon and sky. There are just a few bright stars. Orion pops up, laying across the top of the ridge and then slowly floats up as the journey continues.
There is water standing, but after a couple months without rain it isn’t flowing. The canyon is often silent.
We arrive at a tram stop. There is a convenient toilet, water faucet, and seating. Behind this is our favored spot. As we begin to travel through the path surrounded by tall grasses and rock, I hear the sound of running water. We are grateful. We have water and fresh flow to greet us.
The trail opens up into a field of striped granite in grey and white. In the middle is a pond and the source of the sound, a six or seven foot waterfall. It follows its predetermined course, carved by millennia into smooth, elliptic, wavy, shapes and drops into the pond.
My companion immediately heads to the sandy little beach, plops down, stripping the burden of her backpack’s weight. She then, pulls up her sundress and shuffles into the refreshing water in joy.
I drop off my load to a huge flat boulder at pond’s edge, one piece at a time. I feel lighter, and more lovely naked and unburdened with each article. I lay my nude body down on the smooth rock, leaning back and then allowing the contours to adjust my spine. I look up at the moon between the canyon walls and imbibe. I am so comfortable, I could fall asleep. Orion still looks down at me. He could be a starry reflection of my reclining body.
I attempt to get what I can out of my camera in this light, but decide to wait until morning. My gorilla pod is in the pack, but I would rather explore this world and the one inside.
I place my shoes on my feet once more to explore the area and get orientated. My course takes me through piles of large rocks and around onto the field of smooth strata. I find my way to the top of the ledge that descends to the pool. There is a nice slope to sit on. The surface is smoothly polished, clean and cool. I relish the dismissal of my shoes and socks. Setting them aside, I slip closer to the edge and peer down.
The moon is reflected in the water. The ripples from the waterfall constantly change the reflections shape, as it glistens. I’m seeing the that moon is dancing. As I watch this, a shooting star flies from the moon across this aquafied picture of sky. It happens again and again. The trail of darting fish is giving away their secret position. These shooting stars continue, one further than the rest. Out of all of life in this moment, this is all I need. It is a peaceful display.
I continue to observe. I feel the world touch my naked body. I look up and once again explore the contours of the moon, like the first time, early in my life. This is a large place, a dramatic place, immense. My consciousness drifts back down to the small piece of this world of grandeur, the pond and its reflections. Here is a small island down there. It is just a rock surrounded by water, but all along its edge there are tiny lights, a coastline. It reminds me of passing above coastal areas high up in jet planes. It could be cities diminished down there. I could be floating naked in space.
I make my way through the maze of twisted granite shapes, shoes in hand. Until I hike out of here, I will be barefoot, enjoying each and every step. It is such a sensual grounding experience to walk bare in this lovely night air.
Back at the rock, my companion has already arranged herself into her bivy on the beach. We have spoken just a little since we arrived. We have just been experiencing peace and solitude. I decide to set my bivy across the granite slab. I have a foam pad to eliminate slippage. I have placed a blow up mattress in the bivy to cushion the less than even hard stone. Prepared for the night and a chilly morning, my head cradled in my backpack, I zip up my net covering. The gentle sound of another “Whoo” breaks the silence again. The moon is formed into a cross in the netting as my eyes fall closed for me.
There is a chill before sunrise.
Our 95F days drop down into the 60F’s before the sun gets to it with morning light. I have slipped a t-shirt and down jacket and thermal pants on during the night. I slip through the opening in my nest. I check to see if I had come close to rolling off into the pond in the night. The air is still chilled. The golden light of day has just begun to cast itself upon the tops of the canyon walls. I watch the beams of sunlight shoot through, slowly illuminating the western side of the canyon. They are descending and popping through lower points on the eastern side. The sound of owls is replaced by the scowl of an errant crow.
The sound of the waterfall has trickled comfort through the night.
I soon am exploring in just my long-sleeved t-shirt. I find a groove to recline and look up the cliffs into the turquoise heavens. I begin prayer. I shed a few tears for a passing loved one. I am comforted by a full sense of the world, being held nestling in the arms of this earth and the presence.
I am soon enjoying my nudity as I make my way to my camera. The light is difficult at night, but there is abundant natural beauty and light, now, to illustrate this article. I want to make the most of this opportunity. Already, I have heard voices up on the road, passing by. The shuttle will be bringing loads of visitors by 9:00am.
I enjoy this and snap off wonders in every direction.
There have been no pesky bugs, everything is seemingly clean and washed. Seven small pools have formed in the rock, each fed by the next slope of a trickling water cascade.
I attempt to photograph it, but I need DF’s wide angle camera. She couldn’t be with us.
As I sit and meditate on this place and moment, I hear the first shuttle. I grab my long t-shirt and pull it over my head. That is enough to hide my nakedness. My friend asks if I’m ready to leave. I know that the solitude is over and the desert heat is on its way.
We greet joggers and morning hikers as we walk down the road. There is a bench to the side. It is for weary shuttle passengers to wait. I use it to strip. I place my sarong around my waist and pack away my shirt. It will be much cooler, now.
My companion, who is more familiar with this textile venue, tells me of alternate trails. She points out a trail called phone line. It travels along the canyon wall above in a rather straight horizontal line. I see rock falls where there would be pools of water during rainy times. It is high enough that a naked hiker would be too small to effectively make out. It looks down upon the entire canyon and can be seen by the entire canyon. Another hike is added to my bucket list. Perhaps I’ll come up here another night and then walk downhill on it, shaded from the morning light, or warmed by the afternoon light.
During the last mile to the visitor center, after getting out to the desert floor, there is a trail through the desert that runs parallel to the road. I stop to get water from a faucet as my cohort continues. I see her ahead. She has walked with a grandma and grandson passing pleasantries, but now moves ahead, as I approach. As I pass the two generations, I see a young deer cross the trail not twenty feet behind her. It calmly meanders toward the road. I alert the duo to the deer and the toddler is fascinated. She thanks me. My camera is on the wrong setting. Oh well.