I recently read John Muir’s Wilderness Essays. When I read books written by some wilderness explorers I kind of want to quit. Quit may be the wrong word, I don’t actually want to quit anything. I read these essayists and sometimes I just have to close the book in appreciation of their adventures and their words. John Muir woke up very late one night while his party was still asleep out on Glacier Bay, AK in order to explore a mountain “standing guard” between two glaciers. As he began to describe the unimaginable beauty of this setting, he wrote “it seemed then a sad thing that any part of so precious a night had been lost in sleep”. I read this and for a second, I never wanted to sleep again. Ten minutes later as I lay in bed I wished that I could write like Muir. Sometimes I struggle with not being the adventurer or the writer that some of my role models are…but struggle is growth and it helps me to be the adventurer and the writer that I am.
Arizona Hot Springs: Beauty and Balls
We’d been traveling nearly two weeks, sleeping in tents and living off a diet of oatmeal, peanut butter, ramen and dirtbag tacos1. Mostly our days consisted of hiking, and rock climbing. Five people carrying full racks of gear two hours up a mountain to find a secluded wall can be exhausting, but there was never a moment in which the view from the top didn’t make every step worth while. But those steps up those mountains, with that diet, sleeping in tents amid sub-freezing temperatures took a toll, and eventually we needed a rest day. The destination was Arizona Hot Springs. Our “rest” day would begin with a two-hour hike carrying water and sundries through the mountains. We had the added stress of potentially being greeted by a brain-eating amoeba at the other end. This brain-eating amoeba, which finds the warm temps of our destination to be perfectly hospitable, was weighing heavily on our minds. However, the hike was beautiful and the weather was perfect, it was a tad chilly, but when you’re about to get into some hot springs, you wouldn’t want it any other way! By the time we made it to the springs we had all but forgotten about the brain-eating amoeba, except we didn’t forget at all, that shit was scary and we decided not to go in over our waists. We stripped down to our base layers and headed into the spring fed pools flowing with 110-degree water at a rate of 30 gallons per minute. For a group of climbers who hadn’t seen a bath or shower in a minute, this felt like heaven! We made our way to the deepest pool (less than 1 meter deep), and met a local man there who calmed our nerves regarding the amoeba; he was loaded with facts about the area, the springs, and the brain-eating amoeba. He was just relaxing in the deep-end, ready to share information with anyone willing to listen. Our group included Gaia, T, Kaitlin, and myself (Katie, our 5thcomrade took the notion of rest day a little more seriously, and stayed back at the car for some much needed R&R). The work that the warm water was doing on our worn down bodies was medicinal, and the beauty of the Hot Springs hugged between the red volcanic walls of the narrow canyon was magnificent. Looking up between the slender canyon greeted our eyes with a sliver of blue sky a hundred feet above, as the sound of trickling water dripped to the canyon floor 30 feet below.
I turned to Kaitlin ready to comment on the serenity of this oasis, and saw a look of sheer terror in her eyes, as I turned around to follow her gaze, I saw it too. Our friend, the man who quelled our fears of the amoeba, the man who we’d been sitting right next too, and talking to for some time stood up and left the pool. Kaitlin caught the worst of it, but when I turned around I was eye to brown eye with this man. Balls just dangling between his legs. None of us have anything against nudity, and I don’t think anyone would accuse any of us of being prude, but when you don’t expect balls, and then there are balls, it catches you off guard. I was actually more confused that this guy just left without saying goodbye, he just plopped the twig and berries in our faces and vanished. No sooner than we could say “that was interesting” the look was on Kaitlin’s face again. I learned from the last experience not to follow her line of sight; only I didn’t learn, and was greeted by another guy showing off the family jewels…this guy upped the ick factor when he started moaning with his hands beneath the water. Guy #2 leaves, and just as he leaves, guys #3,4,5,6,7,8,9, and #10 come in, I saw it on Kaitlin’s face for each one of them, as they made their way over the sand bags tea-bagging the natural rock along the way. This was the highest concentration of yam sacks and mushroom hats that any of us have ever been exposed to. Speaking of shrinkage, we were running out of daylight and it was time for us to go, as we drank in the beauty and horror of the scene one last time we made our way out of the pools and back to the trail. Heading away from the hot springs a gaggle of little kids crossed our path. They were excited to get up to the oasis, but Kaitlin gave them a warning “you better wait for your parents” they ignored our consult, and rushed ahead. The 1st girl to make it to the springs retreated swiftly, and the last thing we heard before they were out of earshot was… “we better wait for our parents” which roughly translates to…
“OH MY GOD THERE ARE BALLS EVERYWHERE, WHAT HAVE WE DONE…DIVERT YOUR EYES…FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DIVERT YOUR EYES…BALLS!!!”
As I laid in my tent that night I couldn’t close my eyes without visualizing balls and buttholes everywhere, and for reasons very different than John Muir’s I never wanted to go to sleep again.
- Dirtbag tacos are a staple of any low-end camping trip. A dirtbag taco is simply a piece of bread with cold Spaghetti O’s poured in the middle! Five Stars!