We have backpacked into Arivaipa Canyon with two friends. See Here:
At this point, we begin our second day, an exploration further into the ten or twelve mile paradise.
Naked into the wilderness:
Sleep works out well. I’m happy with the new ultra-light housing from Six-Moons designs. Opening the flaps, the sunlight coloring the amazing cliffs is astounding, thus the exclamation in thought, “Am I still dreaming?”
The morning air is not yet warm in the shade. It is even more brisk after a morning’s winds.
Soon, sunlight reaches us, we shuck off our warm sleeping thermals and bask wonderfully nude in the glory of it all. I stretch out my arms and take a deep breath. I make my decision right then, that I’ll make a point to remain naked, not wasting a minute of this perfect day.
After breakfast, we have another casual start on our hiking. We leave all of our equipment at our base camp and wander off to explore. This time, without the packs, it feels much lighter.
My first thought is to find out just how far we are from that big campground that was so elusive at the end of yesterday. It takes a half of an hour to get there, more than we were feeling to walk last night. It is as beautiful a place as I remember. The trees are tall in the grove. There are logs to sit on and more of the magnificent views of canyon walls and sky.
Those other six backpackers have been here, plus an extra tent, housing another couple.
I wouldn’t expect any other people down here.
Soon, we are into parts that are new to us all. The terrain isn’t that much more passable, but here are a few more of the wide spots where shallow water sheets across hard packed gravel. As my feet skim in just inches of water, it looks as if I’m walking on it.
Out of the blue, from the recesses of the past, the Jerry Riopelle song lyrics “Walkin’ on water, and I’d like to stay in this state of mind” pop in. I can’t seem to remember the rest, but no matter, “Nah nah wa-ah ah oh” is enough to get me by. It feeds my mood, as the push through slog transfers to the free splash of shallower steps.
Probably not a World famous tune: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wx5g3u8UUUs
Each meander in the stream creates a faster current filled with larger exposed underwater rock. It is a sort of rapids. Here, we must cut across out of the stream, along the denuded dry areas. Then, back into the cool, giving reprieve. After the ankle stressing hard hot surfaces of exposed round river rock, the water is refreshing.
I learn to read the flow. Usually it is smooth and firm, or rough and rapid. The boulders create a washout and an ensuing sandy surface that gets into shoes. Every so often during the day, we must sit down and pull off our shoes and pull down our socks, allowing the gritty sand to wash out in the current. Otherwise, heels can get ground raw.
There is a structure where currents hit that surprises me. At one point I step upon what looks to be a firm sandbar, only to find myself calf deep in a quicksand and hustling to retreat.
Invasive species like the gritty green desert broom have been taking root. Many species must be pushed delicately aside to pass. The bushes, often head high, have become very thick, enclosing the trails.
My naked body has learned to distinguish the more abrasive branches and those that would latch on and rip the skin. Most scratches to my arms, legs and body are no more harmful than fingernails scratching an itch.
One learns quickly how to recognize a mesquite needle, a hackberry, or the hook of a thorned acacia and to delicately interact with them.
I watch my cohorts in the brush, getting caught in their loose clothing that hides the awareness that skin innately gives. He asks me how I can want to get through this naked and unprotected. I explain that the awareness in the nature of a body protects in amazing ways. I interact better.
Butterfly season is here.
Numerous fluttering beings are seen.
Many stop before us and spread their beautiful wings, as if to tell us something inviting. They flock around us. Groups are startled by our presence and surround our bare skin in a moment. The tiny breezes from butterfly wings are wondrous.
Everywhere, there is the constant treat of the ever changing cliff walls.
Their textures and colors change minute to minute, the layers uncovered by millennia of erosion and continuing.
They can be smooth and they can be sharp. Sometimes there is a likeness to crystalline shaped particles, only in a massive scale. We look very small next to the rising heights.
Debris from flooding is hanging high in the trees above us on strong branches, not on something flimsy, which bent down to catch it as it flowed past. There was massive water here.
We spend a great deal of time looking for a trail. Many of the usual paths journey into a pile of debris from the floods. There are several dead ends. Others are difficult to see. Because of the changing terrain and flora, new routes are being created by lost travelers and the multiplied choices are confusing. Washout and the rains, just days before, have made the trail more obscure.
We aren’t sure at times, until then, a random human foot print shows itself. I look for broken branches and mashed grasses where more than one person has gone before.
The tracks of large birds, ring-tailed cat and a wandering javalina are seen in the mud. I recognize some of our fellow hikers by the impressions of their shoe soles.
The canyon lives up to its designation, “wilderness.”
The conglomerate layers give us caves.
Some have obvious qualities of human habitations.
One tributary is called “Cave Canyon.”
We stop at one distinctive tributary where boulders at its mouth are shaded by trees. It is time to sit and have lunch. While we snack, we hear the “whoop” of revelers. At first it is taken as a strange animal, but we soon find the explorers who have been frolicking in a 12 foot deep swimming hole.
Our feet once again tired and worn, we head back.
At the large campground, we decide to find a rock to lay upon and rest. There is a boulder in the creek that is a chosen candidate. I approach it from its steeper side and by now, I’m very tired. I lean on what is just a massive smoothly worn river rock. I’m considering how I’ll traverse what I am perceiving as a wall with its height at about my chest.
Out of the corner of my eye, in the blinding afternoon light, well after noon, there is a human figure approaching. I’m too tired and occupied to care, as DF comes up behind me. I squint, wondering who it is. As the figure approaches, I see that he, or she, has the green and kaki clothing of an official.
I turn to DF, “We should cover up.” I pull the sarong out from under the strap of my shoulder bag and DF begins to get into her light dress.
I have to unfold the covering. I am general covered by the boulder, from the waist down. DF is covered by standing behind my body.
We make our way across the top of the boulder with our extra adrenaline, dismissing our exhausted sensibilities.
We smile, she smiles. She is similar in stature to the local ranger. She’s doing that job, inspecting the permits, being a host and answering questions. She seems indifferent to our previous nude state, showing pictures on her phone and telling of her volunteer status and job. People do skinny-dip in the wilderness. Nobody wants to interrupt the privacy of another’s moment.
She has left us a note at our camp, she says. Our tents are too close to the trail. The trail that she refers to isn’t being used by anyone but her. The floods have changed the course of passersby, but we don’t confront the issue.
She also alerts us to a cave near our camp.
Back at Camp:
When we return to camp, we stop by the cave in our midst. We have been made curious from the description of the ranger assistant’s enthusiastic voice. It has a prehistoric sense to it. There are two large sitting rocks and a log there. It would make a great campsite with its primeval appeal.
We take a few pics.
There is an eroded wall similar to one we saw near the San Pedro River last year.
A tarantula is about, uncharacteristically out in the dry of the day. This one is rare to me. Black legs, and a two tone body, part red and part tan. Usually they are black, or blonde in my experience. It is a beautiful non-threatening critter.
Delicious hackberries are ripe, just ready to fall off of the bush-like trees surrounding the cave. They make an enclosure.
Back at camp, we filter more water and I gather the fixings of a fire for us. Our boulder has become a dining room, star gazing center, entertainment center and a groove in it is at perfect place for a living-room fire pit.
It is another wonderful evening. This time, the weather, which has turned warmer, allows for longer nudity in comfort.
Morning Number Two:
Our friends are off earlier than us as the sun reaches the bottom of the canyon and warms us. They have an Alanis Morisette concert in Phoenix that they had tickets for before Covid. As they leave, I entertain them with word of her nude proclivities. She’s our kindred spirit.
Warmth brings the decision to remain freely bare all of today, too.
The dozen, or so, others in the canyon have seen us and are not bothered. No more should arrive on this Sunday.
There is nothing to stop us on a perfect day, in a wet stream.
After a few hours bushwhacking back toward the trailhead, we finally see a person far in advance, standing in the stream. The figure seems to be heading our way. We can’t make it out, but figure that it may be the volunteer again. We begin to gather clothing, when we recognize our cohort! They have been lost, not sure if they have gone too far, or in the wrong direction. It is the same trouble that we experienced our first time here.
I guide them, as we make our way. At the trailhead, they decide that they may miss the opening acts, but Alanis will wait for them to show up in the neck of time. It works out.
We head for Tucson, stopping for a nice restaurant meal. We’re a tad messy and haggard, but manage to keep our faces from dropping into our plates.
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