Bug Springs Trail in the Catalina Mountains of Arizona looked to have some good potential for nude hiking. It has a corridor of lush mountain vegetation and my investigation using google maps showed it to be a pretty significant stretch. It is less well traveled, perhaps because it is either uphill all the way, or at the other end, a trailhead rises steep, before slowly dropping over a couple of miles.
It looks best to use two cars, one at each end. Looking further on the HikeArizona website, I got the elevation and grade. I also saw that it has a great deal of popularity as a bike trail on internet, which could be a downside.
The elevation will make it a good cooler temperature today. We’ll find out.
We arrive at the upper trailhead, a small parking lot with four or five cars parked in it. There is room for just a couple more, one spot is a handicapped spot, which is never used, of course. State law compliance, I figure.
As we make ready, right next to us, a white truck stops. It is followed by a cop in a bad mood. The lecture is heated, as the cop writes his forms and we escape civilization, as we walk up the beginning of the trail.
The trail is well maintained. Most of the way up the long steep slope, railroad ties and rocks create an occasional stair-step construction.
About three quarters of the way to the top, I spot an obviously experienced hiker looking exhausted, his head is leaning on his walking sticks. The older man has official looking patches on his sleeve and a rake strapped onto his pack.
Still leaning, as I approach and stop, he looks and sounds very much like an elderly Bruce Dern, the actor. He explains that he is a volunteer, a trail-fixer. He tells us not to expect water, when water may be seen there, and that there are nice places along the trail to camp. As we leave, in a friendly manner he suggests that he may see us along the way. His farewell is, “See you on your way back.” The message for us is that there less concern for bumping into others on the trail.
My initial concern is always interference with our coming naturism. We are not sure what weather we may find, sun, shade, breeze, wind, all might create discomfort for nude hiking. For now, it’s me in a kilt and DF in a short summer dress and a white shirt.
Not long after, I am standing looking down toward the highway, considering the distance that we have climbed by the tiny size of the cars below, when he marches past us.
He appears to have enough packed for a night or two.
As we continue along, I notice him on the trail below. He is looking up and down the trail and then up a hill. He climbs into the vegetation and disappears. When we arrive, I’m curious as to what he is up to. It isn’t trail-fixing. He is on a stealth mission of some sort.
I look around as we walk. He may have something going on up a tributary canyon. Perhaps, I’ll explore that sometime. My curiosity has me speculating, prospecting, naturism, hunting, exploration, or solitude. What is he up to? Anyway, he will not interfere with our activity.
A hoodoo appears, we take a rest and explore the formation close up and observe the valley before us.
This place sustained less fire damage than much of the broader area, where there is some dark ashen wood and fewer tall trees.
The manzanita are blooming all over the hill, there are buds and flowers forming, giving our olfactory a nice bouquet. DF mentions an odd type of manzanita that we are not familiar with.
Can anyone explain these?
We walk up a rise into the forest and it is like walking through a door into another room. It is suddenly shaded dark and thick.
Four of five blue jays are complaining the way that they do, alarmed about our presence.
There are shade trees everywhere and no wind.
The forest expands as the canyon floor gets wider and still dark.
After a while a lush red blanket of fallen pine needles decorates the ground and we see the creek bed before us. The smell of the place is good, welcoming. We walk down the slope; the needles are soft and quiet under foot. It is a place to sit and snack.
We stretch out our clothing to sit upon nude and DF gathers our snacks from the pack. The warm sun heats up the pines, creating that wonderful earthy scent of the mountains.
We sit and snack and then just sit. We watch wispy clouds. Our backs are to the trail, we are within sight of it, but we have seen no one for an hour. DF gets up and wanders around, enjoying full on naturism.
I watch strange little bees with a needle-like snout. I pick up a decorative pine cone to photograph. It is a simple and carefree moment.
Getting on, we pass two kinds of those big bumble bees that just generally hover. Two are black bumbles. Soon, we see more hovering, but these with yellow bellies.
Two loud men are coming up behind us on the trail. They will drive away the nature with their boisterous noise. One has an accent, English, or Australian.
Going against my policy, I wrap around my kilt, as we wait for them to pass. One shows up with a bright hat, followed by the other, the listener, with just shorts hanging under his beer belly. We just want to get some distance from them. They can play through. We have been listening to them for a while, now.
They ask us how far it is to the road, I estimate three miles more and the hill between. They continue on. It appears that they haven’t a clue about what they are doing. They seem to be framed into something like, “Let’s go for a walk in the woods.” They found a trail and know that it ends, nothing more.
We decide to wander off of the trail, down into the creek bed and then up a granite hillside. The climb on the huge slabs of rocks is fun. It is easy to climb, grippy.
There is too much lichen to avoid stepping on it, but it is tough to damage. Up higher, we will be seeing the vista, where we are and how much more there is of this valley.
Different plants grow in the warmth of the southeast facing sun’s baked rocks. There is mostly meager soil to root. This makes for nice wide granite paved walkways for us.
We take photos, DF poses some on top of a rock, as she observes the tributary valley across the way. Its hills are solid as to leave most of it bare. It would be easy to explore up there. I snap away, but I’m not realizing that I have my new camera on the wrong setting, which I’ll realize too much later.
There are always many hoodoos above and around us.
This valley has some easy off trail romps, without getting tangled in thickets of brush and cactus.
We hear three gun shots down the canyon. I hope that they are careful. I hope that they are not hunting illegally.
It isn’t long before the two loud wanderers can be heard coming back. From a distance, I can listen in on their conversation. They have figured out that they would have to hike back to their car. Yes, where you walk, you must return to your car. Clueless!
I ponder if they were spooked by the gun shots, or if they had the gun. I stand nude on a rock outcrop watching them pass below on the trail.
They are aware of nothing, but their voices and their goals. Why come out here to walk?
I mischievously consider throwing a rock down on them and then dart from sight. Cowboys and Indians, like Cochise and the soldiers below.
I look over to the next small ridge and see a glance at a deer sized animal with a large white back end. I can’t be sure. “It looks sort of like a pronghorn, but do they live up here?” It is exciting. The animal is also spooked by the noises, and now, probably us. (I checked it out online later. I saw my first big horn sheep ewe!)
DF is hungry, so we make our way down the hill to some shade. There is a spot just up the trail next to a tributary. A little bushwhack and crawl through the lower branches and we find solitude, shade and silence. Clothes are again handy to roll up and sit on.
We have a slightly belated birthday lunch, sandwich, dark chocolate and a lemon bar. We have disturbed a troop of five squirrels in a nearby tree. They are playing chasing games. They are jumping like monkeys from thin branch to branch, swinging, and running up the trails of thicker conveyances. Two are on the ground a few feet away. At first their voices were just the chatter of their objections to our presence, but it isn’t long before things return to normal. They are a matinee floor show to our lunch.
Satisfied, we wander down the valley some more. We’re not expecting anyone and not encountering anyone.
From the trail, we see a campfire set up below at creek side. Large logs are squared around to sit on. A large fire pit is centered. This unnamed valley would make a fine campout when the water flows.
I notice large boulders at the creek. We think that we hear the sound of water and we wander off the trail again to investigate.
There is an enchanting pool in amongst the rocks and a waterfall.
It is now just trickling. The smoothed funnels where the rainwater cascades are bare.
A very old ponderosa pine comes out of the rock, having survived several major events and damages. We just have to respect these old tough beings.
Down the trail, it seems to be going up again. This is probably the end of this lush area, where it heads up and down to the other end of tall grasses and scrub. We decide to turn and make our ascent back casually.
We decide to climb down to that camping setup next to the creek.
It is a little higher than the creek bed. It could flood in a strong storm. The small pond and waterfall are very close. Perhaps another time.
Heading back up as the trail steepens, a biker busily rides past, heading down the hill. He smiles at the two nudes standing out of his way off of the trail and greets us with, “Have a great day.”
There is no sign of the trail master. I’ll have to come back someday and explore where he went. There must be something special up there.
Before long, we hear two guys coming up behind us. We decide that we should now cover up some. The trailhead isn’t very far away. They have come from the other trailhead and ask, “Is it far?”
“Thanks for the hope. We are tired and can use that encouragement.”
We follow, enjoying how the afternoon sunlight shines through the manzanita bush’s leaves making a glow.
It takes one methodical footstep after the other on the slippery slope down the last of the hill. It gets done.
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