We’re up here in Northern Arizona around Prescott. We had been given directions to a piece of creek that is likely to have water. The proximity seems familiar. We have a back-up plan, if the situation warrants a change.
The story begins, with:
Last night, we fell asleep in a tent with a mesh ceiling watching the blanket of stars above. There had been smoke in the west and a thunder storm to the east. We remained untouched between these, in our open roofed nest.
The day before, we had attended a nude event of the Northern Arizona Naturists, a non-landed club. The event was hosted at Ken and Amie’s house on a hill in Dewey.
With the amenities of a karaoke machine, croquette on thick green grass (such grass is considered a luxury in Arizona), barbecue and jaccuzzi, we and the group were well entertained.
I was recovering from severe dental work, so our planned hike was set aside that day. Afterwards, we fell asleep on lounger chairs, until our hosts woke us.
We left the tent that we had set up earlier on that wonderful fluffy grass for later, dressed and went to Mexican diner, just down the road.
That night, we lounged with our friends in their living room watching a romantic-comedy.
This morning, we are enjoying the unique system of stealthy trails through the thick neck-high scrub on the side of their hill. See the write-up here:
Along the way, we stop at each meditation spot, which honor several religions.
It is fun to be freely undetected nude in plain sight of dozens of properties below. Today, the usually calm environment is disturbed by the sound of a Sunday morning backhoe at work. It is like the sound of the lawn mowers back east, one must manage to tune them out.
After a pleasant outdoor shower, we break camp and sit on the shady deck, putting on our shoes and watch the finches rally around the bird feeder. We had been buzzed by a baritone sounding humming bird’s wing beats as we awoke next to it. Two had been fighting over a red container of sugar water. Another would sneak a sip when they were occupied with each other. One bumped the other very hard and viciously. Finally four are dancing brawling, using untold energy to combat with each other.
Off to the Trail:
We follow our directions out past Link Lake and make our turn. We find that it is coincidentally where we had camped during our Free Range Naturist Gathering back in 2016:
We come to a barbed wire gate. The sign says no more motorized driving, which sounds good. We move into a level parking spot on the correct side. We begin to gathering our needs, me a sarong and DF a short sundress. Water and cameras will do for this hike.
As we’re about to leave, I hear the sound of a truck approaching from down in the hollow and must cover up. An older guy with a long grey beard pops out, his wife is driving. As he adjusts the gate, he mentions that a rancher has leased the area and wouldn’t want his cattle up on the highway. He also volunteers that they saw 6 or 7 cows and four to five miners, which he deemed” stupid people, anyway.” “They’ve been down there and left the gate open!”
He has delivered the information that any nude walker needs to know, with his added flair of judgemental sociology. I tell him that we are going to park on the other side of the fence and that we’d be glad to reattach the gate. He seemed a tad stunned and thoughtful, then he “Okays” my decision.
We fulfill our promise and begin our walk down the hill. Pleasantly naked, our coverings are at our shoulders, secured and comforting our water bottle and camera straps, if we need them.
The smell is delightful, pine trees mostly are wafting a bouquet everywhere.
The rain has been a problem for the locals. The monsoon is being called a non-soon. We don’t know what we’ll find in the stream, but by our friend’s observations, the odds are with us.
Very soon, at the base of the hill, we see three pickup trucks and a guy in baggy miners pants, but he doesn’t see us. Behind a bushy spot in the curve of the road, we find remnants of another old road. There are obstacles there to keep people from driving that way. It runs along a creek, with lush green vegetation and a trickle of water. It looks like a good walk for downstream. Choosing this path, we’ll avoid the miner.
Following this, we find familiar mountain enchantments. DF points out a backpack on the streambed’s rocks. It’s a miners pile of tools.
We see no miner at first, but soon after passing, I notice the return of that guy by the trucks in the blue pants.
We don’t get far before the thick of it becomes discouraging. Back tracking, we cross the stream where the miner had been and head up to the road.
There is a line of parked trucks, so we cover up in surrender to the potential of the hazards of objection.
There is a very friendly personable character that greets us with, “Are you having a great day?”
Yep, we will be soon enough, I think. He seems to want to talk. The curious and personable pick up tips from others. He is fishing in his pleasant way and we’re the pond. He tells us that he has been out panning for gold for the last three days, giving a look that assumes that we know what he is talking about, a look that says, that this is the best thing in God’s world to be doing.
We tell him that we met someone here the last time, who told us all about gold hunting. His ears perk up, asking where the best place was. I just said, “Well, he was here.” He smiles and tells me that he likes the spot, that he always finds something, maybe just a flake, but something.
I can’t remember if that other guy had found anything or not. He had shown us his very first lucky nugget, which he kept close to him.
He tells us to, “Have a good day, I know that I will. It’s my plan.”
It occurs to me that gold panning is something like fishing, just more active. It is probably healthy to squat and move rocks, and lift, rather than to sit in remote nature. Both have nothing in mind, but for another small catch, fished out of the earth, an awaited personal buzz.
We intend to get on our way. We know about how many are out there to disturb our nude exploration, but he has to ask us about our shoes. “What do you call them? Where do you find them?”
“Five finger from Vibram.”
Around the bend, we disrobe and feel like staying that way.
We continue into this small valley corridor. It is pleasant.
I’ve had a hard week. It was a difficult pain filled tooth pull. It stopped my momentum cold, as I laid about under the influence of opiates.
I’ve been hearing sound for days, but here, there is quiet. A calm peaceful quiet pervades everywhere, from the tops of the tall red pines and across to the other side of the opposite hill, there is calming mindful peace. Occasionally, a bird calls, once or twice the breeze may come up on this journey, but there is the hypnosis of doing what is in front of me. I have little concern for the outside world and its stressors.
There is a trail here, but small fields of rock surfaces break up the terrain.
The miner had mentioned that there were only a few ponds to be found. These are not swimming holes, but puddles, which have been left in a time of severe drought.
Round river rocks are everywhere with soil and sand implanted into the banks of the creek.
Eventually, we hear the tapping of a miner. He is digging across the way through the trees and piles of river rock. They seem to be uncovering old deposits of sand and looking for flakes of gold like animals looking for bugs living under the rocks. The first miner seemed excited by a flooding which had uncovered old soils and redeposited the potentials of a small strike. He is so busy and focused that he never sees our brief passing of visibility, flesh through the trees.
Up ahead, there is what sounds almost frantic moving of stream boulders and a pair of shouting workers. I suspect that it is a young boy and his father. There’s a high pitched voice and a deeper more authoritarian one.
They are hidden behind a large mound and can’t see us. I suspect that they don’t want to be seen either. From the sound, they are being very destructive. This is National Forest and supposed to be left as you find it.
It is not long, when we find an old cement dam. It has been broken in the center. It hasn’t held water for some time. This is probably a destination, one of those psychological spots that people just naturally use as a goal.
The easy trail disappears and it becomes a rock hop through vegetation after this. This is a good sign for our quest for solitude.
It is still an easy flat trail-less bushwhack as we continue, just slower. We believe that there will be no more encounters from here, no floods of tourist, walkers, or people with families. It is rugged with each step taken in care, so as to not slip and sprain an ankle, or stub a toe. There is also a sense of liberation and the wild. Where few go, natural abundance follows.
I have a devilish thought. We are within shouting distance of the frantic workers. What if I were to shout, “Gold! I found a nugget!” How would the poor frustrated folks react? Jealousy, or come a runnin’ to take part in the big strike, pushing us aside with wide eyes? DF smiles and reprimands me.
We wander on, slowly, the floor of the streambed opens up and then constricts.
Fun rocks are found here and there, a different flower, and different frequencies of ponding. Cattle have been here, but they only destroy some of the ponds.
Their presence is identified by the algae. There are simply too many puddles for them to drink in. Perhaps that is good management.
We find reeds and oddly shaped trees. Tall red pines sometimes are fused together at the base and then grow high and straight. There are no significantly large trees here. There must have been a fire, or excessive logging at one time.
Today, there has been a sort of logging. There are piles of potential firewood, set up like huts or a boy scout’s fire, only in more grand proportions. The clearing is for fire control. The suppression of fire has created too much undercoat to fuel fire. This forest has been thinned, but it helps our walk. The shade feels good, the forest smells good, the calm is the best of all.
We walk on rocks and we find stretches of freshly deposited sand to walk on like a soft beach. We find pine needle hillsides. We find a pleasant spot made up of all of this and decide to rest. The splash of cool water on a bare body is wonderfully refreshing.
My sarong and DF’s dress make for a nice seat that keeps debris from collecting while sitting. We listen and watch, and notice. DF takes an exploration down below.
She looks through tree roots that still grasp the rocks that previously anchored to it.
I find a shiny green rock and a gold one. I use my spit, my fingers and their oils to polish then. We both wonder what gold looks like in the raw. We have no tools, nor clues.
I have been pondering climbing up the side of these hills for a while, just to see. I just want to find a panorama, but DF doesn’t want to hassle the slippery pine needles on steep slopes. Here, the hill is less and she reluctantly agrees.
We begin our ascent, but are quickly stopped, when I find an errant trowel of great quality sitting in my path. We place this trophy below, to pick up when we return.
It isn’t far up the hill through the overgrowth of shrubbery. We find a rocky pile at the top, surprised to find it decorated with cacti. A prickly pear, a barrel-like hedgehog and some tiny new agave, just big enough to stab an ankle like a dagger.
There is also no panorama.
There are more hillsides and from what I gather and more of the same creek. We just took a shortcut over a hill, as the streambed bends around it. Having left our belongings, we’re quite naked. DF has left back her camera, we have no water strapped to our shoulders, just shoes. We decide to explore on as we are, rather than go back.
We find another dam, which is still intact, but it is filled with sand and debris. It would seem a good place to search for recent deposits of gold that would wash in.
There’s a contraption there, too. It is a piece of drainage pipe with doors to it. I’m not sure, but it could have been for sleuthing particles.
Eventually, following one bend leading to the next, one more goal after another, we find an open area. It’s a hollow of sorts, like places that we roamed when I was a kid in Virginia and French hills near Versailles.
We rest briefly, noticing a barbed wire fence ahead. I was told that there was some private land up stream, eventually. I go up a rock outcropping to have a look at where the creek straightens out, asking myself, why is it more lush out there.
I see a wooden fence arching across the green area around the creek. Well one more, curiosity, follows another.
There is this wood and wire connivance and off to the side on the bank, a stile for walkers.
We pass through and I chance to explore just a few feet more looking out from a ridge. We find an area where the streambed becomes quite wide and is filled with new deciduous growth. In the distance we hear what may be a quad. There will be a road out there.
We have had enough. It will be at least another hour out of here at a clip and then four hours of driving, with a diner in between us and Tucson.
We take the creek bed back around the bend this time and find our stuff, our collected rocks and that high-end trowel…if I ever care to hunt for gold….
Those miners have worked their way up the creek. The frantic ones are behind the wall of the broken dam.
The meticulous one is just below where they had been. I see him through the trees with his huge fuzzy grey beard and hat, pounding down with a bar to move rocks. He is intent. I don’t know if he saw the two nude forms, but his pounding doesn’t stop. These people are more intent on gold that us. We feel little worry of being seen.
We make out way back to the trucks and are having no desire to dress. I’ve gotten used to this and nobody would care. One truck is gone.
We do hear a car door slam on the other side of the brush, where that first old road was. There is a Jeep SUV parked. I wrap the sarong; DF pulls over her dress. We see a peaceable guy with a pan, sifting sand in a minor water gully. He gives a blissful greeting. We are up the hill and undressed when he is out of sight. We then make our way back our car.
We need to eat, but this is a bad place to cook. We begin the ascent out of the area, looking for an empty campground to park, but all are still occupied on this Sunday afternoon. At the edge of the highway, there is a clearing about 30 feet from the asphalt.
DF gets out to set up the stove, while I write my notes for the day. I notice that the traffic is mild here. There is just enough lull between each car and enough advance warning of the sound of their coming through the forest, that I can do what I need to do without dressing.
When I am done, I get out to help and to eat. It works our perfectly. I am nude in plain sight, with a car door, or something, when a car passes by. I notice that each car has faces forward, not looking our way.
We sit to eat in the canvas chairs, our bodies concealed in their fabric. And have dinner. Three times a car turns in, or pulls out as we sit and wave, me nude, she has the top of her dress dropped. They just can’t tell what we aren’t wearing.
One stops, a young man gets out and walks around to get the door for a young woman. She waddles her very pregnant body around to the passenger seat, and they drive off.
I don’t get dressed until Eloy, where we have a treat and a rest, switch drivers and head home, nude.
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