We have made our way out to the Ironwood National Monument to camp and watch a full lunar eclipse.
I have taken a favorite side route that I have known for decades. I discover that it is now a side road that leads back to the west side of “Ol Ragged Top Mountain. I sit in my seat remembering when this was just an unofficial two track trail winding around the mesquite and Ironwood trees. I’ve been coming here since the 1990’s, originally with “The Southern Arizona Naturist Society” a now defunct non-landed club.
There are a couple of turnoffs to campsites. They are just a clearing with a fire pit of piled rocks where someone else has camped.
We choose one with a good view of the mountain and an unobstructed eastern look across the valley for the moon rise and eclipse.
It’s a warm mid-November and summer heat won’t last much longer. The evening will be warm enough this evening to not require clothing, until later.
Apparently there is nobody out here but us. We consider it our private domain and climb out, conducting ourselves without any inhibitions.
After a while, a lone Subaru plods past, heading up the road. The younger man doesn’t take notice of us, as we sit and stand, hidden by the SUV and a folding chair back.
I have been listening to his presence. Sound travels so well in the silent desert. He continues way beyond us, somewhere to what must be the end of the road. He doesn’t have the vibe of a party. I think it will just be him.
I rearrange the fire pit rocks, diminishing its size for efficient warmth and ascetic.
I don’t want to burn up too much desert debris. During my search for firewood, I look for broken scraps that are not disintegrating into the ground. I want things that are dry, but not with the direct potential to be precious compost and mulch. It is tough for the wild to make a living in this desert. It can take decades and centuries to develop enough top soil to grow a plant large enough to burn.
Cattle are limited by law decree and by rancher agreements with the Forest Service. Without the tromping from huge cattle hooves, each spring, tens of thousands of gorgeous flowers carpet this place.
I find a couple of choice pieces, not even a few hundred feet from the camp. One, I drag up a sandy wash. I don’t want to disturb the desert, I can use the sand for gliding and I don’t have so much brush to navigate in the channel. I leave some footprints and a couple of long shallow streaks dug by the branches, when I pull it. The next rains will take care of that disturbance.
My sense of the desert has grown since I was a teenager searching wood for bonfires for drunken booney parties. I think back, picturing the heavy old 1956 Chrysler that a friend had. Bouncing through the desert like a tank in the night, we would find dead saguaros standing, then take aim and smash into them with that heavy chrome plated steel bumper, toppling the dying creatures skeleton structures. We then would drag them back to stoke a huge bonfire.
It was so destructive, but now that once remote secretive party spot is in the middle of a fairway, in the middle of a dense subdivision. All nature is gone, bladed away as real-estate profit.
I break out my tomahawk and get to work shortening the wood and making a pile for later. About dinner time, I light the fire as DF gets food ready to eat. I watch our primal television.
A pastel pink sunset brings darkness.
This is a good place.
Still awaiting the moon, we are taken by a remarkably bright star above Ragged Top. We discuss whether it is a star at all, and if so, which one? Its trajectory brings it in an arc across a ragged peak, it then disappears behind another. It is so bright, it lights up the sky making a silhouette of the peak.
It then returns, nestled in a saddle between two peaks, before dropping behind the behemoth of granite. Perhaps it was a satellite illuminated by the coming full moon, or sunlight.
We sit in an iconic Arizona desert of saguaros as the moon makes its way above the distant mountains out near a horizon.
The orb is very yellow tonight contrasting with the royal blue sky.
As the moon rises, it begins to illuminate the Ragged Top Mountain, giving it color. Up there it makes distinct shadows on every sharp edge. The desert vegetation comes into view, some in silhouette and some illuminated. We can now see for miles in the night.
The warmth of the fire blends with the stored heat of the ground, as a light breeze sends a few moments of cool air through camp. Invisible things are shifting. Cool air falling off of the mountain is coming down the channel of the nearby wash. The sun’s setting warm air is retreating to the west as cool fills the gap.
I so love the desert, warm and at peace, the silence telling us that we are safe.
Something akin to fairies hover around as the campfire light makes them glow. They sit near us, by our shoulders and some stare us in the face. I smile and make a sarcastic quip about the protein content of fairies. They are undeterred.
I brought a guitar. While we wait, it is a pleasure to have a sing along, retrieving tunes from long ago. It is always amazing when dusty old drawers of the mind open to release long forgotten memory, They seem to jump out and be revived, lost friends happened upon. One old song awakens another, as we trade and remember.
We are drawn to the night and decide to take a nude walk down the barren road.
There is a sense of stepping out into freedom, a delight to roam freely unencumbered, knowing that this world is entirely here and ours. Rather than heading toward our neighbor, we head left and back toward the main road.
The conveyance meanders around the vegetation, errant rocks, hills and deep washes. Saguaros tower like creatures in the night, as our friendly neighbors, who too, are out for a stroll. Shoes and a flashlight protect us from the unseen. Occasionally a flash tells us that we can safely continue in the shadows. The moon provides the rest of our light and lots of it.
We feel warm pockets, hot pockets and cool flows, that only a naturist could know, when walking in the night without any clothes.
The saguaros contorted arms present many personalities, like huge beings dancing partying in the precious desert forest.
As the evening continues, there is chill enough to accumulate layers of coverings.
After spending more time staring at the fire, we head back out to take photos of the plants. They are like strangers in the night, different than the color of daylight.
It is late when the eclipse comes and we are both very tired. The tent has only a bug net top, so I watch from there. This one is very slow. I’m falling asleep. DF sets the alarm for the height of the event.
I wake up much later, having fallen asleep after midnight. I’m surprised to find that DF’s alarm didn’t go off. Oh well, only anther 650 years until the next event like this. She feigns an embarrassed coy chuckle and will receive periodic ribbing by me for weeks after.
In a few days, I’ll publish Part II, which will take you along for a daylight hike.
I am on the forum of FreeRangeNaturism.com often, if you would like to converse.
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