When our granddaughter’s camping trip with us was cancelled, our plans evaporated. We had an invitation in Prescott as a backup.
As we leave home in Tortolita, we are given a sendoff by a new neighbor. A young tortoise is passing through on the front patio. It is small, cute, but now big enough to be established. We make an offer for the tortoise to house sit and take off.
As more backup planning, I have made a completely different itinerary based on the current weather patterns. We now plan to be doing day hikes in the Prescott area. With this Friday off, we set out for an old stomping ground of mine, one that I hadn’t visited in decades, Grasshopper Point, up by red rock Sedona.
Back in the days of pearl inlay snap buttons on stomper shirts and custom boots, I would get together with friends at Northern Arizona University. The core were pals from Tucson, who I had skinnydipped with since high school. They had expanded to a group friends in Flagstaff. We would arrive in Flag, party in the bars, dancing to swinging live music, then retire to the shelter of the women’s dorms, sneaking around, or as time went on, someone’s home. We might spend the next day’s hangover in the sun and nature of a remote freely nude creek.
Grasshopper Point was a favorite haunt. We would walk the trail downstream, finding a private spot and settle in. We could wander further without any encumbrances, if our states allowed the pleasure. There was a generally smooth path that would accommodate bare feet, but the main activity was perching on flat rock surfaces and using the water to cool off after the sun’s warmth.
This was decades ago, back when Sedona seemed to consist of a Dairy Queen drive-up and a real-estate office. In the years since, the town has exploded as a major tourist center and a major woo woo capital of the world. It is now difficult to avoid the crowds of roaming tourists and stay in a free range naturist framework.
So the question is, can we still wander downstream from Grasshopper Point and find some peace in this day and age?
I found Grasshopper Point on the map and read through some websites and reviews. It had always been a second to Slide Rock, less popular and consequently more subdued and private. Both sit on Oak Creek north of Sedona.
The reports told me that it is still like that, a second fiddle. The good news is that this makes famous Slide Rock the magnet for the tourists and the masses, which distracts from Grasshopper Point.
Arriving on a Friday, a week day, there is usually an advantage to solitude. The temperatures are high, in the 90F’s. Another hope for an edge toward privacy, the kids are back in school.
The place begins to feel familiar in the bend of the road and the loop, as we park. The first notable change is a manned hut collecting a nine dollar parking fee for a day use. There are maybe eight, or ten other cars here. It isn’t full most certainly. That gives me a guess-timate as to our chances of seclusion, which I suspect is good. It is time to explore.
An asphalt trail leads down deeper into the canyon, as we hear the sound of water and river rock.
It leads to a layered wall of red rock that is next to a reasonably deep pool. We can hear the yelling and splashing on the other side of the trees below us. This is where most everyone goes. This is why I figure that we will be able to have a naturist experience downstream on the less traveled route, but I’m still in hope, not fact.
We stand and watch the kids jumping off of rock ledges and yelling in and around the waters. Some, jump, some are steeling themselves to jump. Some just wade and swim. We take a quick couple of snaps, but now, we have been there, done that and naturism beckons.
Behind us there is a quiet trail leading into a tree bow arch of riparian woods.
The whole of the area we find, is a walk on rounded river rocks. The trails have fewer of the big ones and often some sand is in-between them.
Very quickly, the trail becomes a stepping stone affair with these hazardous rocks.
The trees and foliage impart a vague route. The sound is of the creek itself and thick trees in sharp canyon walls have smothered the sounds of the revelry behind us.
I am looking for signs of the old trail, something familiar. My memories of details have been in an old drawer with dust on them in the back basement of my mind, for many years. I soon realize that it was an easier trail back then. Back in the day, we had been wearing cowboy boots and then once we got established in the sticks, barefoot all over. Both would have a problem here, today.
A bend in the creek has narrowed the walking area, and we must make a crossing. It hasn’t been far, but I am feeling comfortable enough to unhitch the kilt that I’ve been wearing and get the bundle high up into my arm pit.
This crossing looks deep and I don’t know how deep. There are obviously slippery rocks covering the creek bed here and these must be carefully traversed. I see the potential for an unknown flow that might be just enough push me to slip and dip inadvertently.
I step in, noting that one website said that the water is a tad warmer here. It is a refreshing chill which continues to creep further up my body with each step. Tortuously, I gasp at my waist area. Still, it isn’t cold enough to make me want to hurry and I am getting used to it quickly.
After I have blazed the trail, guinea pig style, DF is stripping off her sundress, to take her turn wading to the dry side of the colorful collection of river rocks.
As we make our way further, it becomes evident that there has been a major flooding event here. The soil that we used to tread on, that took decades, or even centuries to build up, has been washed away. The grass is not a dominate feature, now. This will not be the pleasant stroll that it once was. This will be slower and more strenuous than a walk in the park.
This, on the other hand, will be less attractive to the masses. Our odds of finding seclusion just multiplied and we are probably safe and free to be without covering, right now.
There is a flat spot across the stream. It looks like a beach, backed with a granite wall. As we get closer, it is found to be a rock slab and what could be a nice spot.
I wade over to see how it is. It is a rock surface sloping into the water for several feet. The alga has however built up on the submerged spot and it is as slick as ice. I see no place to get purchase, or bypass to get to the slab. We’ll just look elsewhere.
We make our way downstream, and soon find yet another spot where boulders and vegetation narrow the path. It is where one must wade through the creek, as it meanders. I scout and see slippery rapids to the right and a slow deep spot to the left. On the other side of this pond, there is a very large boulder that looks smooth, but lumpy, like one of those loaves of bread that got stuck on the bottom of the bag on the way home from the grocer.
We slide carefully through some seep willow and sink into deeper waters again.
I begin to look for fish through the very clear waters. This looks like one of those great fishing holes where they rest away from the current in the shade getting fat and staying happy. Could ‘Ol Grandpa be down there watching me?
I take my free hand and tether myself to the solid rock wall face of a huge partly submerged boulder. We must wade out onto still more river rock. I manage to keep everything that I carry dry.
We climb up the low side of a friendly granite behemoth.
This has numerous spots of slope for sitting, meditating, lying about. It is just smooth enough and not too gritty. There are a couple of bowls in its surface a couple of feet wide that still house water. I take off my gear. This is it.
We are tired and tired of moving. It was nearly a four hour nude cruise up here from Tucson, then through the confusion and traffic of Sedona and then this walk, all non-stop. We are a sitting and stripping off our wet shoes and socks. In no time we are loving a sense of being naked in nature, no baggage, nothing but bodies.
Obvious to the sensuality, this more porous rock isn’t hot in the sunshine. This is certainly it!
The boulder provides a view of the rapids upstream and downstream. The glow of the sunshine glitters silver in the waters. Trees are everywhere with the rich red canyon walls above them. This contrasts wonderfully with the turquoise sky. All we hear is water. Occasionally a bird’s call will be loud enough to flavor the song of Oak Creek.
We lie together and sun, without a care that we may be disturbed. It isn’t likely here. Back in the day, the unwritten rule was that if you found your seclusion, it was your claim to privacy. The onus was on the others to move along.
In time, I wonder if I have fallen asleep. I find DF below me, standing in the river’s cool and watching the cascade. Her palms are up in front of her. She senses the energy of it all and listens to the music of the moment.
She sees me stirring and then shows me the clear glass beer bottles that she has found. Earlier, on the other side of the boulder, we had noticed an empty cardboard case of “Modelo” Mexican beer. We nod our heads, as we both agree, speaking with no words.
An alternative route between two boulders to the other side is found.
A steep climb down won’t be necessary. Rounding the route, there are more bottles and one is broken. I fix a hole in the carton and begin to carefully gather the glass.
DF brings the rest of her found bottles. We stash them on higher ground. We hope that the fee money is being spent to clean up after the ignorant loose pigs who wreck wondrous places. Just pack out what you pack in. We wish we had thought to bring a plastic bag.
We wander further, leaving our belongings behind, like the old days.
There is more of the same. I finally see a familiar spot. It is a boulder where people used to congregate on the grass. The rock is still there, but the soft grass is gone, replaced by thick foliage and trees. The floods took the soil.
I remember an incident, when I was passing through town and looking for Dyana, my dear friend from Tucson. I had been told that she was here. I was walking, certain that I’d find her in the narrow chasm and inquired of some college kids there at that rock with its grass.
There was one obstinate angry looking guy who accused me of being a voyeur and getting kicks from the “naked chicks.” He assumed that Dyana didn’t exist. I remember feeling wronged and offended, but I wasn’t there to deal with obstinate strangers. I was there to find a pleasant peaceful afternoon with my friends. I went on.
I never found Dyana on that day. She had actually been elsewhere.
Fond old memories in bits and pieces flow in, as I visit this place today. I remember our two friends showing us how to sneak into the indoor pool at one of the motels along the strip near the tracks in Flagstaff. How the night manager would make rounds and we would make our move when he was done. How she had gotten a key to get past the locked door. We enjoyed the warm waters for a short while, but the timing had been changed and we were discovered by the security on duty. He watched as we all got out, dressed and then he banished us to a sentence of “never return.” We still had a key and a free range attitude.
We discover a discarded water proof blanket.
It is a perfect surface for picnics. It folds up and seals with Velcro. We wonder why it was left here. I look for flaws, infestations of bugs, a drunkards mess, but there is no negative. We know that there is no one here but us. It is better to be used than to be discarded as trash in this beautiful place.
The sense of the place is wild and unused. There are fallen trees and always the care that it takes to traverse round smooth river rock. We ponder what the bundles of leaves above our heads may be.
They look like bird nests. Finally, it occurs to us that these are left over from the flooding. Not that the water was so high above our heads, But these small trees were bent over as the material collected upon their branches. Afterwards, they straightened back up.
The sunlight dances through the shady canopy and up from the water’s reflections. Nature’s rock art presents its displays.
The mystery of what is ahead, what is hidden behind the next bend, or the thick vegetation, continues.
We come to what feels like the end.
We have a dinner appointment with our hosts for the evening and still, an hour’s drive back down south to Prescott Valley.
It is a short trek out.
I find myself nearly to the parking lot, when I finally feel a need to wrap in my kilt. The start of sunset light is flowing through the mountains of the Mogollon Rim all around us.
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