I’m in the Catalina Mountains for a couple of days. I’m on a retreat, a retuning.
I slept in the forest on a hill last night in nude seclusion. After a warm filling breakfast, I’m on my way to a more frequented trail that will lead me to Bear Wallow. It is Wednesday, the middle of the week and I don’t expect many people. I think to just leave all coverings and take risk in freedom, but I’m not absolutely sure what I will find. I don’t want to have my nudity keep me from an adventure into a new place. My journey shall be open ended. I opt for a sarong. I roll it up, place it on my shoulder and use it as a cushion for the straps for my water bottle bag and camera.
As I approach the trail, I see people sitting plainly in their passing cars out on the main road. It runs above, along this creek bed. Right now, I’m above them.
They pass, visible only for a moment through the trees.
I will be a downhill view for them, as the trail begins to parallel the highway. If they look, they might see a glance of me. Most don’t look. They watch the curve of the road.
As I begin my walk, I notice knobby mountain bike tracks. There is biker track degradation. On the forest’s floor, when the ground is wet and soft, treads are digging in and eroding the soils.
I continue on, strolling through a wonderful riparian environment. It is a beautiful day. There is no chance of rain. This is an in-between, a break during the times when a monsoon threatens to storm nearly every day.
I smell the pine, the earth’s soil, and the cornucopia of life. There are fun pieces of the life to see, the bark, a mushroom, a flower here and there. Then, there is the embrace of the whole of it, rich and abundant. I’m engulfed with this world, as nature myself.
I hear a sound beyond, up the trail. It is mechanical. There is equipment banging. It is a bike rider.
I take my sarong off of my shoulder and place it in front of me. I let the roll unravel, as I step off of the trail. No sooner, nor later, the biker comes around the corner of a bush and tree, stopping in the thin passage. “More back there,” he informs. He is gesturing back up the trail over his shoulder. He stands on his leading pedal and takes off, “Enjoy your hike.”
I begin carrying the sarong rolled up in hand, since there will be others…several others.
As I wander on, I come to the point where the water flow stops.
A ledge of pieces of layered rock become steps along the hillside as the trail meanders uphill, away from the streambed. This would be convenient, if there was water in the stream.
Above me, the road has become closer. I am safe from the view of most. Everyone is heading uphill at this time of day. This places them on the far side of the road from me. Just two or three have been heading back down this early morning.
I see a road-biker on my side of the highway, coasting downhill slowly, but he doesn’t notice this nude hiker.
I find a nice shady campsite. There are logs laid out around a stone campfire pit. I lay out my sarong for a nude sit. I write my notes, sitting on that sarong, on a log, in the sweet sunlight. I’m thinking that I might stay here camping, sometime. I raise my head and stretch, look around me and smell. Everything is pleasing.
As I am gathering myself to leave, I hear voices, probably those other bikers. They are louder and yelling. I listen. I’m looking to hear any children’s voices and for the intonations of adults talking down to them. I’m not sure about these voices.
There is a very fat, large tree. I stand behind it, leaning and waiting calmly. They won’t see me unless they stop. Next to me, one jumps a rock and gets air, then another. This is cool! I grab my camera and two more wiz by, but alas, no jumping this time.
There are two more.
About 60 feet down the trail, the last one wraps himself around a tree that sits very close to the thin path. Ouch! Clearly he is reluctant to move on. It obviously hurts. Will they glance this way? No, they are preoccupied.
His pal is sympathetic. “Yep. Gotta watch that one.” Obviously, one of them comes here often enough to know this idiosyncrasy along the way. His banged up pal, slowly pushes his bike through the bushes. It is too difficult to back up, he walks stiffly.
Crack, bang, two more pass me. I’m standing, leaning on the big tree, legs crossed and arms folded across my chest. I’m fancying myself like one of Robinhood’s men, watching silently in the wood. I’m feeling like a naked cocky Earl Flynn. “Hah, ha, haaa! On this up/down tree root laden rocky trail, they can’t sneak up on me like others have done.
I begin to continue, but then step back. One more zips by.
I come to a landmark. It is the curiosity of the tunnel below the highway.
It is below a bend in the two lane highway. A short distance from here, is a turnoff for the dirt road for Bear Wallow recreation area.
After the nature trail, this big man-made structure feels very different. It is a large rounded corrugated structure. No trolls here. There have been some taggers, who have spent a lot of effort decorating the walls. I think, “Where is DF’s wide angle camera lens?”
I walk through, where nothing grows, a typical dusty tunnel. On the other side of this, it will get familiar. The Bear Wallow road will be closer to where people park and enjoy the nature. Campers may be heading up into the hillsides. It can be busy like a trailhead anywhere along there. Even children may be there. I am always careful to not be seen naked near the trailheads, as I remember the advice of a forest ranger.
In the light at the end of….
It is beautiful here, with thick yellow flowers among varieties of deciduous and pine. I see a truck parked up on the road. I stop to think it out. It may be the biker’s truck. It is quietly sitting empty. I hear nothing.
I walk on. The grass is so tall and healthy that I can be hidden from the road, at least to my waist. The wheat-like tops of the grass tower high above my head.
I pass by a familiar area, where I have sometimes come when there was snow up here. It is a popular spot for people to tobagan and ride any makeshift kind of trashcan lid vehicle, slipping and sliding down the hillside. I reminisce a particular snowman that DF and I once made, losing a snowball fight, and snow angels. She likes to keep little snowmen in her freezer.
When there is snow up here, often it is warm down in the valley. I once brought a truckload of snow down with me. I threw a snowball at my neighbor’s front door. He quickly opened it wide to catch the vandal who did it. I clobbered him with another. We and the neighborhood kids had a great deal of fun with the snow on a warm day in the desert.
I hear a loud voice, perhaps the party from the truck. It is coming up behind me fast. I turn around to watch, as well as listen, as my sarong passes from my shoulder again. The echoes and volume tell me that the sound comes from up on the road. The loud voice is huffing, as they make their way uphill. The bikers are returning, this time not on the trail.
Just then, I’m startled by another walker. It’s an older guy with full equipment and walking poles coming out of the bushes.
My wrap hangs in front of me, “Having a good day?”
“Yea, good to be away from the city.”
I wait to watch him pass from sight. I don’t want to catch up with him. I just want to roam freely naked in nature. I’m not looking for company. This place is starting to feel busy.
The loud voice up on the road, which I can now see, is the biker from my first encounter. He is boastfully discussing his expertise and knowledge of the area and of biking.
I have found a great place to sit. I’m unwrapped. There is a concrete water saving cistern with a steel hatch. It makes a perfect writing table. This place is feeling crowded, as the other bikers soon follow above me. They are wrapped up with the dirt road and their exertion, so they don’t notice me sitting happily in the sun.
I continue on strolling unwrapped. I come to a huge clearing.
It would be good for a massive campout. To the left, there are three trucks parked on the far side of the road, just a small distance away.
I see no activity there. It has to be the bikers reconnoiter. As I turn and head away from them, I use angles to hide myself, a berm, a tree trunk, the high edge of the road. At places, I could be seen, but no one is looking.
The trail continues through the forest. Soon, the road becomes very close. Then, it becomes right next to me, maybe only twenty feet away. I’m walking along, looking down, rearranging my sarong around my waist, just in case, just to be ready. I’m surprised, when I look up at a VW sedan! It’s right next to me in this thick area of the forest. It appears that nobody is there and I relax again.
I make my way up the grade and cross the road to see what more there is to explore. I’m looking to find privacy and comfortable seclusion.
The trail is getting rough and it becomes evident that it will soon end up in a steep ravine. It is time to stroll back down.
I decide take the road for this part of my return. It isn’t so dusty today, if a car comes by. I look around and recognize where I am.
I have pictures of me here. This is where DF and I stopped years ago during our first free range outing together. DF and me, the first time! I’ve come across the pictures a few times, but lost the recollection of where they were taken.
I wrap and not a moment later, hear the motor of a moving truck. It’s just down the way. I discover that it is leaving, not coming my way. This feels fortunate.
I pass the VW sedan and look it over. Nobody is sitting in there hidden in tinted windows.
Back at the grand campground, two of those trucks are missing, one still remains. I think about taking the trail that is there, but decide not to. I don’t want any more encounters and wrapping up to be legal. I’ve had too many encounters in my day. It has often felt more like a park, than solitude.
I am about to sit down at that concrete writing table that I rested on before. I have my sarong and I’m making it ready to sit on, when suddenly, a lady walker and her two golden retrievers come out of the bushes. I change to wrap up like a towel around my waist and do, but she has already seen me.
She greets me in a pleasant voice, “Did you take a dip in the swimming hole?” She is looking at a puddle of water that a cement catchment creates. “Nope” I explain that it is a tad too mucky for me. One of her dogs dips into the pool. She talks to it, “Not as much water as yesterday, huh.” The dog looks back at her standing in the water as if he understands, and is perplexed, or disappointed.
“Have you been here before?“ She wants to talk. I don’t. I probably just missed an opportunity to spread the word about nude hiking, but I’m feeling attuned to being quiet. There have been too many close encounters today. I just want to be alone in peace.
She can figure out what I’ve been up to. There are plenty of clues for her. She strolls on up the trail.
There is another time that I wrap up, when five very old, very tired, potbelly men with walking sticks come by in a broken line. These guys are making me feel young. They have obviously been spending their retirement on a couch. I take note, “Get into the groove and stay off the couch, before that happens.” They are way deep into an uphill battle. A couple of them look as if they are struggling, so much, as to not enjoy where they are.
Then the personal note in my mind continues, “Be like them and keep truckin’ no matter what. Keep moving even as it hurts when age comes.”
The last leg:
I go on for a good ways. The trail is going by quicker. I’m taking fewer photos now. I’m moving generally downhill. The numbers of encounters going this way are less.
I’m considering how different it is today, how I feel when I’m a single nude out here, where it is surprisingly busier. I haven’t been out without DF in a new place for a while. It is different as a lone naked guy. When others start to pop up, I feel less confident. I still have fun, it’s spiritual, but not as much as in a wilderness. There have been within me, many different reactions to the many different encounters. This trail experience has been less the retreat often, but I’ll take what I am handed and figure it perfect.
Speaking of feeling like a lone wolf. I see one of those grey wolf-like dogs on the trail below me. I wrap up expecting the owner and continue. No one comes. I walk a fare distance wrapped up and ready, but it soon becomes evident that no one is coming.
The animal went off trail and disappeared. I should have such stealth. I had heard a howl in the night. Could it be someone’s lost pet? Domestic dogs don’t hide like that. Could it be a feral wolf dog?
I saw a wolf downstream from Sabino Canyon decades ago. There aren’t supposed to be wolves in this whole region. It was like a very big long legged coyote, its head down watching my truck approach in the night. Today, this was more like a grey wolf, but smaller. All of the Mexican Grey Wolves are tagged.
I remember that I left my food in the tent. The notion alarms me enough, to get to thinking that I should get back to camp. I pick up my pace, but my stoic sense still holds, que sera sera.
Naked and feet silent on the soft dark soil, my steps fall further apart. My eyes watch for rocks and bare roots. The ears listen to it all and wait for any odd unnatural sound. The breeze and my locomotion communicate, as my body twists where it needs to. Just walking fast, noticing breath, in a forest, naked and no more.
When I get to it, the previously secret turn off to where my secret area heads off, now looks more like a fork in the trail after years of the less stealth walkers. I make a note to come back and place wood and debris across the site. I scrape a few leaves and hope that winter, rains and snow pack will make changes with that help.
I’m tired when I return. The altitude wears on me. Climbing that last very steep hill, my hands are on my knees. I’m breathing hard. A two and a half hour stroll and fast walk during the last half of an hour have given a workout at 9000 feet. I arrive at my tent, my lunch safely intact. Warm curried chili in the ambience of this beauty…is very good.
Be sure to click any image to enlarge it as you desire.
© The owners of TheFreeRangeNaturist.org as of the year 2015 declare. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to TheFreeRangeNaturist.org with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.