Free Range 101 at the Hot Springs


It’s another day in Eden at the hot springs. We’re walking out for an exploration into the desert foothills.

We start with another meditative breakfast at the duck pond. It is warmer today.

We want to do the hike that we had planned the last visit, then return with enough time to indulge our senses in the various waters as they call to us. We will have to drive home tonight.

North of the hills where people set up their prayer circles of stones, there is the distant valley. We have seen it as a green ribbon of mesquite along a dry wash. It looked to be an inviting hike. There was a sense of “out there”, to go trekking into the wide open spaces, liberation.

SEE the story where this one picks up here:

We begin to pass through the familiar and then make our way into an exploration.

REMEMBER that you can enlarge by clicking any picture.

We start by walking through the property toward the fence. Along the path there is along a channel of hot water and several lovely pools. One is particularly emerald. We had had our picture taken here a month ago, but a whole new world has developed in its clear, rather hot, waters. There lies a kind of an algae community, a miniature world.  The color is fabulous.

We squat down for a closer observation. Strings of green slime float, anchored to the bottom. Bubbles accumulate and slowly work their way up stalks as they sway like seaweed. Some pop out into the fresh air. Shadows dance. It is beautiful. DF tries to capture some of it in a frame. We both agree that it needs a movie.

There is a piece of stretched out barbed wire to crawl through to get off of the property and onto state lands. We carefully slide through, so as not to get scratched. Then, we are off up the hill and across its ridge. We find a landmark, a square with a crossed path running through it. The four directions are represented. A different pattern is represented in each quadrant. I take an entrance in from the north, my palms clasped in a prayer position before me. I will swear that I feel a personal energy, but as I explore each direction, there is a subtle difference perceived. When I ask for a second opinion, DF concurs “Yup.” She responds in a convincing matter of fact tone.

We make our way to the farthest point that we have taken, which is a tallest hilltop. There is a vista beyond this. Stretched out across several square miles in a grand bowl, we see our destination.

I find a gentle slope down to the waiting wash bed. All during this day hike we will be in a field of exposed rock. The fun geology here gives us a fascinating variation. There are volcanic rocks, even obsidian from when this was once an ocean bed.  The mineral springs have made other contributions. Also, this has been an ever lessening swath of the Gila River. Sedimentary rocks are in all forms, composites, crystalline pieces like from geodes, and a variety of quartz. Prehistoric animals have been found out here in these foothills. It is an abundant plethora.

We find the wash’s bed to be a relatively solid conveyance. There is a layer of silty hard sheeting. We have a wonderful variation of slightly uneven texture for our feet and are making good time. We are able to spend more time looking out, than looking down to check our footing.

Only every so often, the wash is of soft sand that has been churned up by cattle. These places can feel like taking one step forward and two back; trudging through them feels like an endless sandbox.

We follow the meanders, taking advantage of the firm surfaces. It is often much like walking on a wide beach here, just no waves pounding. Instead, there is the calming silence and the intermittent wind. No seashells, just fun rocks here.

We come to the first of the sheared off pieces of the surrounding hills.

These look as if partial buttes. This one feels much larger than it seemed from up above on the hill as we took in the vista. It is a mass of ancient mud, which has hardened. It is rock like, but it is breaking down.

It creates that layer of silt downstream, I suspect. The cliff face has pieces at its foot caused by erosion and crumbling, but it is solid to touch.

We see deep sunlit slits and cracks in the surface, which will someday cause huge pieces to fall. There are layers of various textures built up over millennia. I’ve never seen such a formation of such a solid mud-like structure.

The layers have been compressed, but not quite to the rock stages, like for an example, sandstone.

We continue on, our next goal in the distance is a taller mesquite that appears to have been completely engulfed in mistletoe. Mistletoe here is a rude desert parasitic growth. This tree has survived a harsh dry life. It has been weakened by these conditions. Again, we walk along as if on a beach, searching for the more solid meander formed by dissipating water flow.

When we find a dirt road crisscrossing our route, the tree is to the left, out of the wash. We find that the road goes to this tree and a few steel tubs to water cattle. Again, we are seeing long black tubes to transport water across the desert.  These tubes must be sold by the mile.

The tree is struggling to make a living with the onslaught of the predatory parasite and giving little shade.

We are surprised at how little shade that there is. The green ribbon should be a canopy, but spring leaf growth hasn’t appeared fully. This morning DF had cut an old Izod shirt for me to protect my shoulders. I received a bit much sun the previous weekend and I don’t want to overdo it. I’m attempting to feel this place with my full sense of nudity, but to protect the body’s spots that burn easiest. We joke about me showing under-boob.

Laughing about Under-boob

I’m grateful for the experiment, but still it doesn’t make me bullet proof. It is time to turn back.  The most intense rays of the day are approaching. Noon is just an hour away.

The area is devastated by the hooves of cattle. A skeleton of ribs and jaw is still holding together in one piece by a little gristle. It is a very curious remnant.

Even the indigenous, when caught out after sunrise can succumb to the hot rocky terrain and become a bleached out skeleton.

Dead Sun-bleached Millipede

Walking up ”just one more rise” we see that this road heads out and up a distant hill. From satellite mapping, I know that this is probably the road that leads to the cold mineral springs, which is just west of our basecamp.

The story of the Cold Springs can be found here:

We can walk this graded road fairly quickly and then cut over to get back to shelter.

We take off marching.

We are in a sea of blooming yellow creosote.

There is however a rather barren area ahead. We discover that it is around a wash. It is silty and feels odd. The ground is caving in like sink holes.

It is subsiding and nothing grows, it’s a moonscape.

There is no time today to investigate further with the sun’s rays pressing down on us.

Our march continues southwest. The hot springs and camp are directly south. At the top of that once distant ridge, we decide that it is too far out of the way to go to the cold springs. We will cut across the raw desert through the creosote bushes.

Original Cliff from a Distance

Eventually, we are in familiar territory. On a small hilltop, I get a sense. This bump is coated with volcanic rock, like a nipple. This is like a dome. I climb up and feel it. It is an obvious vortex. The feeling of wellbeing keeps me, even after I leave.

We like to collect a fun rock here and there. I have waited so that I don’t have to carry around a load. Now is the time. When we finally return, I have my fists full.

We at last are sliding through the barbed wire fence once again. Our short cut has taken us an extra hour in the most intense sun of the day. I know that I have had too much sun. Free range 101, take care about that sun. I have protected my shoulders, but had no other backup for protection. I wanted the freedom and expected to be back safely, by carefully watching the time. For several days, I will sit in concern that I have burned my skin. After a week’s time, I will be relieved to know that my skin won’t flake.

Two women are stretched out enjoying the guitar shaped pool of hot mineral water.

A Natural Picasso

We join them.

The water feels so good after the exertion of a good march.

Feeling Haggard

After our cleansing relaxing soak under the shade of a tree, we are to head to camp, but DF is feeling ill. I leave her to go to the kitchen to make up a cup of sea salt water.

A Cairn by the Pond

After a cup of “medicine” she recovers in a few minutes. Desert nude hiking does mislead. The perspiration evaporates so quickly that one doesn’t think that it is happening. Sometimes, just water isn’t enough.

DF Cleans Her Saltwater Cup in the Community’s Kitchen

We dine on our left overs, sauerkraut, kimchi, jicama, guacamole, goat cheese, salmon, blue corn chips, kale/broccoli slaw. It is all good stuff, but combined, this potluck is not a digestive delight. There is nothing to do, but let the discomfort pass as we sit in the mineral baths and float in the pool, enjoying the company of friends, old and new.




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