I’m going to put this trip into four parts and publish them with a more rapid timing than weekly. They lead up to a new discovery and the subsequent nude hike through a riparian wilderness.
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Carnuding with a Challenging Surprise:
After a quick trip to Sprouts Grocery and topping off the tank, we take off for the hot mineral springs. It is a bit chilly out there, but warm, nude in the shelter of the SUV.
Today, we exit town through the Davis Monthan Aircraft Graveyard. I hadn’t been this way in a while to see our tax dollars at work. It is several square miles of storage of government aircraft, mothballed and much of it antiquated. It can be seen across the valley as a white lake.
We continue through the vast Southwestern Arizona homelands on the interstate. Texas Canyon opens out into the Wilcox area and the salt flats. The Chiricahua Mountains grow as we get closer.
The contrast of white snow on the mountains as a backdrop to carpets of yellow flowers and blue bells is a fascinating juxtaposition.
Outside of Safford, we stop by Taylor Freeze. Swirling soft ice cream isn’t the best place to look for a roadside treat on a windy day with a chill factor, but with 34 flavors, I am fine with eating away in the warm cab. Bad for me and delicious, it was certainly worth dressing, which is putting on a sweatshirt and wrapping my kilt around my waist.
Just down the road, we find the old grain bin that signals our turnoff from the main highway and then through the cotton fields. Nearly to our destination, we cross the bridge to look and see how the rains and snowmelt have affected the Gila River. The flow is bank to bank, the forest of mesquite and tamarisk is flooded, but then abruptly, we have to come to a stop.
The road has a sign telling us “Do Not Enter When Flooded.” Then just past that, we see a yellow warning sign, “Flooded!” The dike has broken and the road is under water for a several hundred feet. In the middle, there looks to be a small current across where the road should be and it is flowing in an upstream direction.
We have a decision to make. These floods can have surprises under that water. The pavement may be washed away with a hidden deep ditch underwater. There can be debris, or hidden logs. It can also be deeper than it looks and float us off into a ditch.
A burgundy sport van is on the other side and decides to take a chance. It creeps out into the water slowly. About one third of the way, the water is up to the doors and it stops. I’m concerned for them, until the driver opens his door. It looks so foolish. Is the strategy to let the water drain out? The van backs out of its quagmire, defeated.
We have a four wheel drive, beefy tires, rear lockers and lots of clearance. There is extra weight today with our load of camping supplies. I look at the map finding the alternate route. We can go a few miles back down to the town of Pima, cross the river and take a backroad to the springs. Still, it is gnawing on me. The macho, the crazy, the guy thing, all of that, is telling me to forge ahead and cross that river.
Just as I’m pulling away, safe rather than sorry, I see a large rust colored Ford F-150 pull by. It has a lift and the big knobby tires. Inside, I see just a man’s head with a large Afro and a toothy grin. He looks wild, reminding me of the Tasmanian Devil. Without hesitation, he takes off across the small lake. The water splashes silty brown and steadily climbs higher and higher toward the bottom of the truck. It is deep. He is slipping a little, but makes it across victoriously.
I find myself embroiled with a sense of a challenge. I also harbor a sense of a deep muddy bottom and visions of myself wading bottom free in the cold water with its chilling ripples from the wind, out there in the middle in distress. I am torn. I can probably do this, but if I don’t… The Arizona State fine is over one thousand dollars just to get me towed out.
Ten minutes later, we are in the town of Pima on Central Avenue, which is the two lane highway. We make a left turn onto “Main Street.” This place never expected to be anything more than a small farming community. The only other significant road is “East Street.” Not east something, it is just East Street.
We drive down the winding back road to what is left of Eden. It is pleasant and safe, yet, still I feel plagued that I may have missed out on a memorable macho opportunity.
First Dip of the Year:
After visiting the remains of the old town of Eden, with its gutted post office and general store sitting among some quaintly attractive ancient dwellings and prefabricated homes, we’re in our familiar surroundings.
The tent shelter goes up and first things first, we are in the hot mineral baths and double Olympic size swimming pool.
I try the pool first. I know from experience that after the pleasant scalding from the hot tub, that it is perceived as “kinda chilly” in the pool. It feels wonderful, as I test the waters. There is a cold wind today, which is blowing across the area and my bipeds notice the contrast. As I step in, I receive a slight tingling sting on my bare feet at first. The rest of me, previously wrapped in a thick terrycloth bathrobe, only briefly meets the cold blast of air. I quickly submerge my naked body into the safe harbor of mineralized love.
This is my first skinny-dip of the year and it is wonderful. At first, water is barely deep enough to cover my shoulders when sitting on my butt, but it ever so slowly deepens. There is a slippery layer of algae on the bottom, I’m careful not to slip, but then begin to use this to my advantage to glide across the sloping shallows to a more suitable swimming depth.
I begin to gently frog kick my way across the expanse of the huge pool, traveling slowly. I notice the warm water giving way to a cool pocket and then back again in this double Olympic sized playground. It is respite to a day of packing and over two hours of carnuding across Baja Arizona. I have arrived a bit stiff from sitting with little change in my driving position. I have set up and secured camp. I’m ready for this.
I have a gentle calming workout. My breath is just a little more effort than I recall. In time, I notice my neck getting stiff and that my muscles are not as strong as last fall. I stretch and gently workout in the healing waters.
At the other end, I stop to check my condition and just appreciate my surroundings. I’m grinning and inspired. I make my way back to where I began and then begin another long meditative liberating trip across the pool.
Having crossed, I find the stair steps to squat on. I once again sit by myself in peace, listening to the water rushing out of the pool to the rock pond below.
I see a pair of green head to toe mud zombies waddling toward me. This couple has basted themselves in the hot mineral mud and is making their way across the property naked to the cleaning pool next to my perch. Of these two, one is carrying a guitar and one has clothing in her hand. They look as though they are the dead having just been drug out of a scum pond after a few days, but for their smiles and the conventional articles. As always, everyone is laughing and smiling at the comical waddling beings from the lagoon.
I make my way back across the pool to the 25 foot square hot tub. DF has been sitting there up to her neck, relaxing in hot mineral water. I slip over the wall and receive my second sting of the day. My tensed grimace doesn’t last but a couple of seconds. I slide in next to DF, our backs to the short wall. We bask in gratitude.
In the Hot Playpen:
There are others here. They introduce themselves by name and we respond in kind. It is friendly. It feels like those friendly waves from passing motorists on a rural road. Whether you live there or not, you are treated as if you are home. I feel as though I am home. This is naturism.
The pools dee-stress us and makes the world a playful exercise with no real meaning, other than the moment and its delight. We roll over and hook the tops our feet on the short wall, suspending ourselves. Our arms easily support us, so our chins just rest on the top of the water. A little push and butt buns float out into the open air. A flex of the lower back musculature and we are under warm water again, stretching like cats. Friendly conversation comes out of this and drifts on to other topics, like the water’s current.
We make our way out of the hot pools. Our bodies are warmed up from the heat. The pool is gauged to be “not as hot as usual,” by our discerning bodies. The chilling wind, which is blowing across the area, is having its effect on the waters.
Stepping out into that same cold wind has been dreaded for over an hour. We have delayed getting out of a most comfortable position.
Pulling on the ledge of the pool, climbing reluctantly out of the liquid shelter from the storm and standing up into the crisp breeze, we are surprised. Our bodies still have a good charge, our warmer core withstands the onslaught of air, which is coating our bodies and evaporating the water dripping from us. I dry off with a towel and place the windbreak of a terry robe over me. I’ll make it back to camp well adjusted.
A NOTE FOR THE FUTURE:
This will be in four parts. I’m going to put the installments out about twice as fast as the usual weekly. The next piece in just a few days.