We arrive, having driven through the fertile Gila River’s valley with cotton growing right up to the side of the road. The big sky is wide open, decorated in the same turquoise color everywhere. We had gotten a start later than we intended, but accept our day as it is unfolding.
We are to spend a couple of days at the hot springs with a pair of guests. Here’s the tale.
I had thought that we might make an interesting hike through the Gila River riverbed, surrounded by mesquite trees and unsuspecting wildlife. I slow as we cross the bridge. We look down and discover bank to bank water. The rains have been generous. The hike will have to wait for a drier time.
After fiddling through old emails on my smart phone to find the forgotten gate code, we pull into the hot springs property. It feels as a familiar sanctuary.
The spot that we had hoped for was just recently occupied, so that extra two hours has cost us. The user is amiable and we park across the road to set up camp in the clearing under a sprawling old mesquite tree. There is room for us and our two guests, which will arrive in the morning. My first priority is to set up our camp before daylight’s end. The new tent sets up quickly.
We place towels on the low hanging branches, so that I wouldn’t bonk my head on them, “AGAIN.”
There is just enough daylight to make dinner.
As the sun drops, the bosque begins to chill rapidly. We are soon in thick terrycloth robes and heading to the hot waters to get out of the cold.
We greet friends that we know and then peel the robes off, baring ourselves to the biting air. We stand crouched in the dark night with fortunately no breeze. The contrast is alarming, my skin stings as I carefully drop one foot and then the other into the water. I squat down and slide off of the step to my shoulders, gasping and feeling like a sizzle. I am reminded of a lobster slipping into a pot, before the dial on the stove gets turned up.This however is a welcome little death.
I raise my head with DF to be awed. Above us is the thick trail of the Milky Way and so many stars .
Peacefully and quietly, we all sit and gaze. Occasionally there is an announcement reporting that someone has seen a shooting star. One after another, we all seem to get lucky enough to see one and then maybe another.
After a couple of hours, the hot lithium bath has reduced us to a less than a wakened state. At 8pm and now warmed throughout, we make our way back to our camp. We fall asleep without hesitation.
Evening into Morning:
I awaken in the night. It is before twilight. Having fallen asleep so early, I lay awake. A pack of coyotes have found something. All coyote bands have their own unique personal howl. These have wild and disparate communication. They are excited. They may have found a meal.
The noisy band passes into the night. I note just a hint of dusk out of the no-see-um mesh window. I breathe the fresh air and pass once again into sleep.
Not a Hurried Morning:
As the light begins to surround us, it is cold out there in the shade of the mesquite trees. The cold gets trapped in there. It is a microclimate. Realizing this, we find the perfect excuse to sleep longer in the warmth of our goose down cocoon. Our two body’s heat is nestled around us. We have the luxury to just wait for the direct sun to give enough warmth to comfortably climb out of our shelter.
As beams of light slide through the window, we know by the angle that we will now have enough heat from the sun. One and then the other, we crawl out through the zipper passageway and stretch. We have our robes from the night before. The monk’s garb is just enough to get us out and into the direct sunlight.
DF has decided to make eggs. We take a bag of necessities for an omelet and make our way to the community kitchen. I take my guitar. While she makes a wonderful meal, I poke at my strings, getting reacquainted with my old guitar. Tonight, we will have two guests with us. One is a musician. We intend to jam a bit.
After food and toiletries, we are ready for the day’s first activity, which is a soak. But, we are surprised when our two friends arrive earlier than expected.
They are new to this place, so we show them camp. We relax as they set up. They are a pair of experienced campers and quickly arrange themselves.
The sun has warmed the air, so we are all thoroughly undressed, smiling and on our way to tour the grounds. To acquaint them, our first stop is the kitchen. Then, we intend to do a sampling of several of the pools.
We walk under a tamarisk tree canopy and are startled by Geronimo Pool. It has been redesigned! The pile of rocks is gone, it is larger, there are now patios on both sides.
We give it a try. There are now flat stones leaning upright. We are able to rest on these as we soak with our chests out of the water. Languishing there, I notice that the old dilapidated sauna has also been cleaned. Perhaps there are plans for it, too.
We wander up the trail in due time, strolling through the grounds, noting changes in water flow and the seasonal changes taking place. The flowers are turned to seed, the tamarisk are beginning to get a yellow tint.
The next sampling is guitar pool…just right.
We make our way and soon it is time for lunch before our next soak. I suppose that you may be getting the jist of our day. After lunch, we climb into the grand pool and swim laps with intermittent climbs over the wall into the hot bath.
Around sunset, I leave the others to head to the hilltop to begin to reacquaint myself to my didgeridoo. There will be a sunset drum circle soon.
Two women arrive. One has a Native American drum that is half of her small size. Boom, boom, boom, and she lets out a wild cry from deep in her belly. I love her spirit.
Soon, another 20 or thirty people are climbing the thin trail to the hilltop. The day is cooling off and most are dressed in something, but not me. After a short while even DF covers as we dance and drum, me on the didge.
Everything is coated in red hews, as the shadows get longer and more distinct. The red light becomes deeper, richer and darker.
The sun drops on the Santa Teresa Mountains, a golden ball in a saddle and then it is swallowed by the peak, as our drumming calms and stops with the end of the day.
The air does cool off and we put on our long wool cloaks.
We instigate another round of drumming, this time at a quicker pace. I grab a tambourine, giving rhythm like the sound of bells on primitive native ankles as the drums pound in various rhythmic complements. There’s, of course, some dancing
We all make our way down the hill with dusk to prepare for the coming potluck feast. Our friends have brought sweet potato curry from their garden, our slaw gets compliments. There are several Birthdays to celebrate and a different kind of cake for each one. I take a small sliver of each to try them, but I find that my dinner plate is quickly filled with the sweets…oh well.
My friend and I have never played music together. He eventually breaks out his mandolin with me on guitar. After a little adjustment we manage to get an applause.
The next agenda item is to melt into the pool and hot tub…again. A thick Milky Way is out once again as we lounge in the calm lithium waters. My friend plays guitar and sings in a very polished fashion at the nearby firepot.
I have a shiny stainless steel bowl tonight. I have placed sand in it for ballast. A couple of rocks support three candles and five sticks of Genesha incense burn next to them. The floating vessel glows in the dark water. A flick of the finger on the edge gives us the gong sound of a toning bowl. It is sent from person to person, each in turn plays with the sound of the gong with a flick and a gentle push with an appreciative smile. Steam and the scented smoke of incense, mist across the water, adding to our senses.
Eventually, we are in bed.
We again wait for the sun to make all warm as we rest and lounge in our cozy tents.
Breakfast is faster today, so that we can all head out for a short hike out into the desert and atop a hill. The others are still in shirts to stay warm for a short while. It is often shady walking through the property, not quite comfortably warm enough, unless we stand in the direct sun.
As we leave the property and exert ourselves going up to the ridge, we each find comfort in stripping. We are on the familiar spot at 33 degrees latitude, where people have created circles and patterns for meditation in prayer. Thirty-three degrees is where the Egyptian pyramids and some other sacred sites are located. This is believed to be a part of a worldwide grid.
Our cohorts are geology people. We find ourselves on a rock buff’s tour of the abundance of finds, dressed in the buff. Everywhere, there are rocks littering under our feet. Sedimentary, lava, quartz, granite, igneous, and mineral springs collections which were deposited at various times over the millennia.
We speculate and trade ideas. This was an ocean and then a changing riverbed, now foothills. Lava flows and caves have sprouted here. A mastodon skeleton was once found.
We have no plan in particular, but just to enjoy our friend’s first nude hike. We see the wash downhill, just to the east of us. I know that it will have to meet the road into the springs at some point. I’ve seen the satellite images. We now have an exploratory plan to try.
There is a community of low tiny plants from the rains. They are miniature, as we walk down a gentle slope. Cumulatively, they create a colored grassy texture to the field before us.
We find an easy walk.
Along the way are geological deposits, layers through time. Some of the ancient river rock is laid out such that it looks to be a man-made wall. There are clay deposits that have made fine sands.
Our guests are enjoying their first naked hiking experience. As we walk along down the wash, someone mentions, “Ever notice how the shady side of the body stays cooler while the other is basting in the sun?” We all check our butts and take note. My shaded butt is certainly cooler, while my front is warmed. Naked, bodies are fascinating as they cope with cavorting naturally.
We cross a cow trail. They seem to know where they are going, water or a trailer filled with feed.
Finding the fence, and then the road just feet beyond, we hold the barbed wire up for each other as we pass under.
We take the road that leads into the hot springs area. We are at the twin teepees marking the old resort’s entrance.
The gate isn’t far behind us. I notice a car or truck in the distance. Can they see us?
One is at the gate. We stand and wait. It is a friend, Don and his 9 year old daughter. We are gathered next to the road. As they pass us, they smile and wave.
Before Christmas, I’ll post our last hours there, as we smear ourselves all over with hot mineral mud.