It is a Birthday. It begins casually, leading to a brunch on a sidewalk café in an eastside strip mall. The food is good, but all of the hanging plants and wrought iron won’t escape the fact that we’re eating in their big parking lot.
Afterward, I use a door panel and the other cars next door in that parking area, to get out of my pants and into my hiking kilt. With the addition of toe shoes, I’m nearly ready.
We are near the base of scenic Mt. Lemon Highway, a long meander up into the Catalina Mountains. It starts in desert and finishes in alpine conditions at 9200 feet. Our destination is a beautiful 20 mile drive from the restaurant.
About half the way, we pull off into a familiar small parking lot on the side of the road, at around 7000 feet. This was the trailhead for our Lower Bug Springs Trail hike a couple of years back. With birthday celebrations in the order of our day, we have decided to do this shorter easier trail in the compressed time that we have. DF wants to feel nature, the solitude, the sensual nudity and be in touch with a grounding spiritual experience. It is her day, her celebration.
We have been on this trail, south, but this will be a new exploration. It leads to a popular picnic ground General Hitchcock, where it continues on up as the Green Mountain Trail. We did a backpack hike down the Green Mountain link, but didn’t pursue it further. Instead, we camped after our jaunt off to Maverick Springs. This should complete the trail in sections.
We haven’t been out much this year. This will be a test to see what condition our condition is in. The hike will be more of a long walk. Once we see what is happening around General Hitchcock, we will decide how we feel and if we want to pursue the trail past there along the creek. We are not in the mood for a real hike and there are time constraints. It is just one mile to General Hitchcock.
The elevation has given this day a windy low 70F’s. The chill factor has me in the shirt that DF brought back to me from Morrocco and kilt. The shirt from the Atlas Mountains tends to keep me both warm in mild chill and tolerant of the heat. DF has placed a warmer shirt over her sundress. This may not be a nude hike, unless the wind slows down. There is good news however, only one car in the parking lot and they are more likely to have walked the other direction, south.
We ascend the steps up from the highway. They are very tall, some knee high, but a good stretch for the rest of the walk, which wanders along the same canyon that the highway uses.
The trail is steep a first and we find it very much up and down. Need for those log and stone steps appear frequently. There are a few here and there. We both confess that we are surprised to feel tired. We wonder if it is that we are not used to the elevation, or if we have lost our good health from disuse! I consider secretly that my disappointment with wearing clothing has something to do with my enthusiasm and the accompanying strength deficient from that attitude. I wait for a second wind and a boost of spirit.
That breeze calms down as the trees get thicker. Most of the noise from the highway gets swallowed up, as well. There is some stripping amongst us. DF’s shirt and my kilt end up on shoulders, under water bottle straps.
As the air settles a bit, we detect the distinct smell of trees.
We’re in scrub oak forest. The fires didn’t completely engulf this area several years ago.
We are immersed in the nature, our purpose is met. We stop to enjoy the few flowers that show up from time to time. There is a dominance of lavender color.
It is dry from long drought. Still there are areas best described as “lush.”
The highway isn’t busy below us. It is a Tuesday. We can watch the cars, but they won’t see us for the trees. I keep thinking to take the shirt off.
Sparkling mica in the pathway, glitters like magic fairy dust where we step.
We are lead to Hitchcock, where usually many people picnic. We don’t want to be seen nude in such a public place.
As we approach, looking down through the brush, nobody can be seen. There is no sight of cars in the parking lot. While stopped to meditate on a rock by a tree, we hear a sneeze, but it is just a sound from the wind down there.
With a lighter breeze is a good time to take off the shirt.
We walk down into the picnic area and then take the fork up the now dry creek. There is nobody here.
I remember taking my very young son here many years ago, regularly. Back then, it was a lush forest trail, not too far from where we lived. We would sit on a picnic bench, meditating, using prayer in hard times. It was peaceful, with a special energy about it.
A fire came through above here. One day, too soon afterwards, a huge rain came through. The combination caused flooding. The trail had turned into a bare groove along the creek through the years. The overflow ran down the earthen trail, digging deeper and deeper. That washed the embankment away. Over two feet of topsoil, which took something like hundreds of years to accumulate was gone in one event. It felt tragic. It broke my heart to see a wider creek filled with bare river rock instead of calming forest with lush riparian vegetation. Our special place would not recover.
Soon after, we moved to Tortolita, another hour away and never returned together.
Up the trail, we find big rocks in the stream and a steep shelf, nearly a granite wall into the creek. It is time to rest, drink some water and have a snack.
We sit, now fully nude, on rocks that seem made for us. There is sun and shade.
My back hurts from digging a ditch the day before. It now aches from walking. I am soon stretching on the round boulders. My spine cracks as it snakes across the curve of one. I am bending backwards with my arms stretched out past my head. Then, my body relaxes in position for a while, but not too long. It all brings a smile to my face, after a groan.
DF sees the positive effects and decides to try the round boulder herself.
Some rocks are warm, some less so in the shade. Some are dark and warmer still, some not so much. We try a few, as trees cast unique shadows upon their surfaces.
DF wanders into a spot where the slope meets the collection of boulders, just to see, just to be there.
The wind is calm, now. We are not expecting company and resolve to not care if we do. We have a right to this.
It is a little playground for walking, climbing, taking pictures, whatever we feel like.
DF does a prayer.
We walk back nude. A small colorful bird flutters a few feet away on a very old log. DF attempts a picture when it poses, but then as things go, it doesn’t cooperate with the shutter.
Being naked, our only concern is at the fork, where the picnic grounds start. Arriving there, we find that it is not inhabited. Walking through the normally busy place, feels kind of like walking naked in a public place on a Sunday morning. Something feels awry, but it shouldn’t.
Down the trail, feeling entitled (and we are) and a bare minimum of risk, we turn off most of our alert systems. In this alteration of our state of mind, with a distinct lack of the notion of fear, we are free to just feel a part of nature with our inner nature.
Thoughts out of fear will pop up from time to time. Caution is a good thing. I take stock of the situation. We are next to the highway, but no one will see, when they are on a winding road and expecting only trees and magnificent rock formations. Nobody would, or just effectively complain, if they were weird enough to be offended.
This isn’t a particularly popular stretch of trail. Most will park at Hitchcock and head up Green Mountain Trail, or head down Bug Springs Trail from the trailhead where we parked. It is extra ground to cover that is just kept for thru-hikers, which may connect the two trails off of the highway.
The steps and a couple of familiar obstacles return, as we head back.
As we become close to the trailhead and are coming up a ridge, nearing the parking lot, a younger guy in a beard surprises us. We all smile. I mention, “Didn’t expect to see anyone else along here today.” He replies concurring, “Neither did I. I’d do the same.”
About 100 feet from the trailhead a mountain biker zips by, more concerned about his excessive speed and endangerment to hikers that our naked loins. He greets us friendly, probably his standard greeting.
At this point, we have to use the roadside parking lot soon enough. We put on dress and kilt, until we are in the car and on the road.
After a shower and an evening’s dancing and celebration, we resolve to get back into shape with more hiking.
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