We lost a friend, after eight years of battling cancer. Because she grew up in Benson and lived so many years in Tucson, it was decided that the memorial service would be held half way between. Happy Valley, is a good point. We hadn’t been back since our trip during the monsoon season in 2013. At that time, the rains had created a place green as Ireland and its rolling hills.
This weekend it will be a much drier place after months of drought. The contrast will be interesting.
Since we will be making the trip, we decided to spend a night and do a hike the next day. We also have decided to leave Tucson a little early and to see what we can do before the afternoon service.
On a day of mourning, the getaway will be a good therapy for the sadness that we would be often taken by. After gas and a bag of ice, we start out on our journey naked, intending to stay that way for the duration…of course not during services.
I know of a spot on the way, that I haven’t visited for probably 35 years. It is a deep wash, with canyon walls ten and fifteen feet tall. This is surrounded by an old mesquite bosque. The roots, as thick as tree trunks have been exposed and have grown bark. As one walks through the forest of bent roots, under trees, the effect is other worldly. I have a vague recollection where it is and things have changed out there dramatically, but I’m thinking that I’ll find it. As we are driving down the interstate highway, DF tells me that her daughter is coming to stay with her as a refugee from the devastation in Puerto Rico. As we talk about how that might affect our lives, it occurs to me that we may have missed our exit. I try another one. It leads us down an old two lane meandering frontage road and through a preserve. I recognize it. It was the setting of a Barbara Streisand movie, many years ago, “A Star is Born.” The drive is pleasant, but we have gone too far. Fortunately, we are on our way to Happy Valley, which is filled with places for naturism.
We wander down the dirt road, past the old Wild West movie set, and the taller trees begin to appear. We see a sign for the memorial, but casually continue into the verdant valley.
With our usual late start and off track excursion, we have a long hour, or so, left to find a walk, a hike, or scout for camping spots. Just before we cross over a cattle guard, we see a campsite with what looks like a jeep trail leading away further. It is just on the side of the road. I pull in to look.
Slipping on flip-flop shoes, we get out and stretch, as we listen for the sound of approaching vehicles. We decide to explore as we are. If it looks promising, then we’ll put on more practical shoes.
Heading up the hill, looking up at the magnificent Rincon Mountain’s east side, we find that the jeep trail quickly arrives at another more secluded campsite with a ring of rocks.
There are a couple of tracks leading off into the lush vegetation.
One trail goes down into a creek bed depression, through a patch of Manzanita.
We wander. On a mid 80F’s day, it soon blesses us with a cozy shaded creek side spot, but we are blocked by a cattle fence.
It is pleasant, but we are excited to find more.
The Other Trail:
The other trail leads up into the sun. It isn’t an unpleasant day, nearly perfect to be nude. The air is still. Among the tall grasses, we begin to see various agave and young yucca, which is the iconic state flower of New Mexico.
There are many manzanita trees, or bushes. We share how much we love their deep color, firm smooth touch and the contrast of the deadwood.
That barbed wire cattle fence greets us once again.
It rises up the ridge and the trail follows along it.
We follow the trail, still wondering where it will lead.
DF comments that we still have on the wrong shoes, but we have come too far at this point.
Our continuing depends on if we find a compelling sight ahead.
We can’t be gone much more than an hour and we have only committed a half an hour to this.
After a little this and that, we find a large and distinctive plant that is familiar to us, from our trip to the Santa Rita Mountains a couple of weeks ago. This one’s blooms have matured to a fuzz and are spreading seed like a daisy.
We reach the top of the ridge, about ready to turn back. Before us are large rock formations and exposed bedrock. We have gotten through the foothills and are gazing at the base of the rugged mountain. We see the trail heading down into a tree filled ravine and leading to a dry waterfall in the distance.
We have to check this out. We are concerned about being late, we have no watch, only our sense of time. We have no water, but we don’t feel dry. We have only cameras and these flip-flops, but this is too intriguing.
I scurry down the path, which is mostly from rock surface to rock surface. I soon find shade and a path. There is granite ascending up to a level platform.
Then another ascent to another, and another dry waterfall with its stains from flows past above that to the turquoise skies.
It looks a bit steep, but not overly so. Again I have the wrong shoes, so I discard them onto a boulder and barefoot all over, begin the climb of exploration.
As I make the first crest, DF comes up behind.
There is ponded water there.
I invite her up. Something about just the slightest puddle is noteworthy and makes an Arizonan excitable.
She has also left her shoes behind and I watch her carefully make her climb, suggesting the route that I took.
I look for a way to the next level, but it will be difficult. It is steep and slippery. I might take a grassy route off to the side of the hill, but that is not something for my bare feet. When DF arrives, we are delighted. We walk around, look at the water and the critters. There are different markings on this aquatic life than the other side of this mountain. We photograph everything and ourselves.
We stretch and walk over to a perch to imbibe the vista looking over the valley and off toward New Mexico.
This spot would be worth making the effort to get to, during more rainy times.
The time must be getting close, we have to leave. We climb and slide down the rock slope where at another time, water will cascade.
The trail hasn’t improved for our shoes.
Have you ever been out nude, warmed by the afternoon sun and a nearly still air flow, when suddenly, a breeze pops up and the refreshing contrast nearly makes you shiver all over?
Back at the SUV, we search for our clothing to go to the memorial down the road. I decide to take a leak first. I listen for vehicles as I stand there. Sure enough, as I am taking relief nude and natural, a truck approaches. I quickly and carefully duck behind an opened door. DF is already street legal on her side.
The service is very casual. We know a few friends and part of her family. There is a large screen TV with photos of a life. DF keeps popping up in them over twenty years. Arm in arm, a tear drops here and there. Goodbye.
The situation is a booney party, potluck, drinks and porta-potty. We discuss ourselves with others catching up and reminiscing about our departed. It is a testament to a good life that 140 people showed up in this relatively remote spot for this.
A woman shows up, sits down next to us and begins mentioning this website and last week’s adventure up Sabino Canyon. I’m startled, have we become recognizable cyber celebrities?
“How’d you find the site?”
“He googled nude hiking and there you were.”
Soon, it begins to click that I know this couple, and didn’t recognize them at first. We certainly had met before. They are members at Mira Vista Resort. DF had been surprised to meet them there at the pool, which was a couple of years back. It is always an adjustment to get to meet old friends’ nude for the first time. As that all slowly clicked within me, we enjoyed talking of our naturist commonalities, until other friends came around and set with us. Most in this group don’t know our mutual secret, so we are discrete.
They read our blog…Greetings, you two!
Around 4:00, the sun is approaching the mountain tops to the west of us and they will snatch the sunshine, the air will chill, and eventually dusk will fall. We have to begin to say our goodbyes and find a place to nude camp.
We walk back to the SUV parked on the side of the road. I remove my pants behind my open door, as other guests approach. They won’t notice and I’m not wasting time. We turn around and very soon resume our adventure properly nude.
We will climb Miller Creek Trail tomorrow. Tonight, we want a site close to the trailhead and with big sky. We have been told of a meteor shower later tonight. This place has dark skies.
The sign for Miller Creek gives us notice and we turn off to the trailhead.
We get out nude to walk, to inspect and to search. There are three cars there, but no one is around and none are camping. They are day hikers that are about to return, or weekend backpackers, which will arrive back tomorrow. We see a lovely spot with everything that we want and need, but a Toyota SUV is parked in front of it. DF peaks into the window and declares that there is no camping equipment at all. These people won’t be spending the night.
With DF’s hand waving directions, I back our truck into the camping area, leaving enough room for the net-tent and space to make the tailgate a small kitchen. We are surrounded by vegetation, tall trees and our truck. We have a view looking up at the rugged mountains. We have lots of sky and more if we take a short walk this evening. We set up the net tent. There will be no rain and we want the abundant stars of the new moon.
There is no cell phone signal here. While DF climbs a local hill to see if she can get her message that her daughter has arrived back in the USA safely, I set up camp.
We can walk around freely, expecting no one really and if we do encounter a returning hiker, well, odds are remote that they would object to coming upon a nude way out here. I roam around the area gathering firewood and carrying and dragging it back.
I dig a pit, place a ring of large rocks around it and set up the folding chairs. I see DF as a small figure way upon the hill, holding up her arms searching for signal, or holding the phone just so to keep one. Latrines are dug. A rug, then mattresses, with the camping quilt and pillows are laid out on the net-tent floor. I lay out the door mat. I chop up the wood with my tomahawk. I see DF begining her decent.
Text messages have told her that all is well and safe. It helps her to relax. We dine on the left-over pate from the potluck. We are still a little full from that. Pair of hikers with hiking poles and packs walk by. We smile and wave as if nude is not of a matter. They smile and wave back continuing to their camp.
It is very nice out, no wind, a pleasant temperature. A group of coyotes howl not far from us. A steer moans in the distance. Occasionally, we hear the voices of those two hikers, not too far away as the crow flies. Their sound carries up the dry creek bed in the silence. Sometimes there is a rustling in the brush under the bushes near us.
It is peaceful and I light the fire. One match. I am proud that I have constructed it so well. It is small. The foliage is close and the fire danger high in this drought. We talk, we listen, we look up at the stars, and of course spend much of the time star gazing.
After a while, I slip on thermal long-johns and place my down jacket over a t-shirt. The fire is unusual. It burns very hot. There is a swirling vortex swishing the flames around and then up. We look above. The firelight in the tree reveals dancing leaves. The wind is calm; the rest of the tree is still. There is a vortex up there. The wood seems to have multiple torches popping out of it. This is a small fire. We have two and three inch diameter pieces of mostly dead manzanita. It is a fascinating dance.
Hand in hand, we mosey out into the big sky. The stars are sharp and bright. Pleiades, a dipper and Orion are old friends. The Milky Way runs across it all.
I’ll post our amazing next day relatively soon.