Ironwood National Monument was created by President Clinton’s signature at the end of his term. It was a long process of ranchers, mines, naturalist, several government entities, the University of Arizona and all of the various parties with a stake in the area coming to a satisfactory solution. It was created to preserve a treasure. There are just two intact ironwood forest ecosystems left on our planet. We want to share with you the beauty, the awe and the grace of this natural monument. Its status of being protected is in jeopardy. The current federal administration has been ordered by the president to review it and potentially place it on the chopping block. We hope to inspire you to write your congressman, and appropriate administrators, talk and network among those that you know. Your letters and comments do have influence.
So in celebration….
We load up and carnude out to Ironwood National Monument, which is northeast of Tucson. We are to meet a pair of friends out there and stay a couple of days and nights in their 31 foot motorhome, camping in relative luxury compared to the backpacking that we have been getting used to. The temperatures, will be highs in the 80F’s and lows in the 50F’s, then moving into mid’90F’s for the first time in this unusually cool May.
The evening is approaching as we arrive. The sun is beginning the drop into the middle of the road before us. It is making it difficult to see the sometimes rugged dirt road that travels through the monument among towering saguaros and ironwoods. There is a general biodiversity of Sonoran vegetation; most typical are the many palo verde trees, but a curious lack of mesquite. The floor will vary from seasons and conditions. One visit there may be a dominate color of soil to contrast with the larger green plants. Another visit may find a carpet of flowers. In May and June, for a few weeks, pastel lavender, pinks and yellows coat the larger trees under the rich turquoise sky.
There is one huge feature, Ragged Top Mountain, which dominates. Most of the area is the bajada, or flood plain, which slopes out from this monolithic jagged castle. High above, it hosts the few remaining bighorn sheep of the region. Back in the 1990’s, a one million dollar water tank was set up by helicopter to preserve them.
We continue looking for our friend’s motorhome. The exact location has been lost to us because of the poor telecommunications of the area. We have to locate them the old fashion way. There are washes in the dirt road, occasionally quite a bump, to slow down and ease over. I am racing the sunlight’s diminution and blinded by it at the same time, as we searched for them. I come to a halt. We have nearly driven past them. I haven’t seen the vehicle, but at a glance before, so I’m not quite sure if I have the correct one. We slowly drive down the dirt trail in hope that we have the correct place.
We don’t want to intrude on to the wrong campsite naked.
Things look quiet, the passengers are inside the ship of the road, but to our relief we see two pink signs in the window signaling nudity to be encountered, another features a naked Betty Boop.
This is an old habit from our days of SANS (The southern Arizona Naturist Society), an organization that he and I had met through and participated in, back in the late nineties. We get out with relief and abandon. We’re soon greeted with a warm naked hug by the female half of the duo.
We get orientated and loaded into our part of the accommodations. With the expanding side walls out, it has the feel of a boat, maybe a little tight, but comfortable and cozy. This boat has large windows peering out, looking like it is in dry dock, however. It is in a beautiful area with a scenic view, a classic Sonoran Arizona.
I had been told by the forest service that the Ironwoods were blooming and would be when we arrived. They are a like a mass of cherry blossoms, but are shades of pink and lavender pastel mostly. Many variations abound, clear to purple. Because of the more frequent rains and the cooler temperatures this year, very few of the Ironwoods are blooming. Also the saguaros have no blooms to a very light output of buds and flowers. “We can’t ask for our money back,” one of us quips. There is no sense of loss either.
I had been searching for a place that would accommodate a 31 foot monster like that and would afford us the privacy that we need to live nude. It is Memorial Day weekend. The place could be crawling with people. The gamble is that it is a fairly unfrequented area normally and the rising temperatures would send the campers to cooler places, or they would stay home. The gamble has paid off as I’ll reiterate later.
I gather and chop firewood. We eat, and watch the silhouettes in front of a vast sky next to the campfire.
The stars come out with half of a moon. We play with cameras, tripods and spotter scopes. We generally enjoy ourselves until we are surprised that it is already midnight.
I awaken at sunrise and peep out at an unfolding day through the porthole next to my pillow. Our bed is the loft above the driver’s cab. Still naked, I uncover myself and quietly climb down the ladder, leaving DF behind in her snooze. Rather than make morning noise disturbing the others, I slip outside the door into the morning air. It is clear, the quail and turtledoves banter. It is not crisp, as I expected. It is just right. I slip on an awaiting pair of flip-flops and stroll toward the emerging sunrise. The golden ball is still hidden behind the distant Catalina Mountains. Wandering enough to be away from camp in this heaven, I find my spot and enjoy my morning contemplation. Ah, such peace to start a day properly. Sometimes, the best thing about properly starting a day is the climb back in bed, cuddling with one’s lover and snuggling back into rest.
When we all are motivated, we have a breakfast, and decide to make a hike, or should I give a better descriptive a “walkabout.” We have our destination as “out there.” We are heading toward Ol’ Ragged Top. There is no trail per say, just a wandering in the moment to see and be what we shall find.
All of us with cameras, water, five-toe shoes, or sandals and shoulder coverings, if we needed them. We start out no-back-up, heading south toward the view of Ragged Top.
There is frequent stopping and photo opts, exploration of the smaller sights and the wondrous details of the desert.
Out here, we find and photograph different forms of familiar plants.
Some species are new ones to us.
There are the remains of saguaros, their skeletons.
A white powder remains of the skin, outlining the form like a chalkline at a crime scene.
There are tracks of a number of species.
Always there is a vista.
We photograph each other in our delight and comradery.
All is beautiful.
The vistas are highlighted by the shadows of the myriad of fascinating cloud formations.
These cloud formations are spectacular and unusual.
At one point, we discover a band of rainbow up in them.
There is no typical arch. This is just a colorful band floating above among the clouds, no strong primary colors, just pastel.
No one is familiar with the phenomenon. I have no memory of ever seeing something like that. It is a look of pictures that I have seen of aurora borealis .
A great bird hovers and glides before it.
Quizzically, we surmise what could be causing this phenomenon. We all pull out our cameras to capture the sight, maybe just to prove what we are looking at.
Lenses zoom in to capture the graceful bird.
There is no clear trail.
We are just doing a desert bushwhack, that is, not cutting through, but finding a winding zig-zag path through the growth.
We are able to follow a wash for a while, a veritable freeway in the desert, the sand is still fairly firm to walk through.
Then, we must make use of ridges,
When the dry wash conveyance narrows and the vegetation becomes too thick for our vulnerable nude forms to pass, then, we must make use of ridges.
With the many twists in direction, the sameness but subtle differences in the world around us, our best marker is that white topped motorhome below in the increasing distance.
This dawdling, and a late start, combined with the creeping higher temperatures, don’t get us very far. We are less than a mile and a half out and then that back in two hours.
It is a very well spent two hours dawdling.
After a big salad and cheese smorgasbord of a lunch, we squeeze onto the small couch and look over the images that we had all taken.
The laptop sits upon the legs of our host, as we, shoulder to shoulder, point and exclaim in delight, until it is time for a siesta.
I’ll post the continuation of this outing in a few days. We will four-wheel drive to a dramatic sunset and then there is wondrous day two.