Monday, January 12, 2009

Day Ten: Bath Time

Sitting there on a shelf of rock in the cliffs behind camp, I sipped the beer given to me by Nick who was one of the baggage wranglers and watched people scurrying around like ants below. The conversation came easily and the pauses were comfortable as we overlooked the canyon like kings from a throne. Jurgen the German hiked up and joined us after awhile smoking on one of his big cigars that he always lit up in camp. I hate being around the smell of cigar smoke especially when enjoying all the clean, dry air here in the Grand Canyon, but he was always polite and sits downwind. Besides, he often passes around his bottles of very fine brandy in the evenings around the campfire that he brought along with him on the trip.

During one long pause in the conversation, Jurgen reached into his small pack and brought out a pair of binoculars. He glassed the horizon for a few minutes before coming to rest on one particular point. I stared intently at the little peninsula of rocks that stuck out into the river downstream of camp that Jurgen appeared to be looking at but couldn't see anything of interest. After about then minutes of silent looking, he handed me the binoculars and pointed in that direction. I raised them to my eyes and immediately saw what he had been staring at so intently. One of the women who was in our group, had taken a bath in the river and was air drying nude out on a nice flat rock beside a tiny sand beach nestled between alongside a large boulder that blocked the view from camp. Although she had a nice body for being thirty years older, I wasn't exactly interested in voyeurishly looking at her so I handed the binoculars back to the German who went back to watching her. But I did make a mental note of the location so that I could take a bath there later on in the evening.

Several hours later and back in camp, I noted that the German had made it back into camp with his binoculars and headed over land through the cacti and rocks towards the peninsula and the bath location that I had spotted earlier. I came out a little further downstream than I had anticipated and started heading back upstream towards the direction of camp. Soon I came to what I thought was the spot and disrobed. I waded thigh deep into the river which was an icy cold 48 degrees at this point having warmed up two degrees from where it emerged upstream from the bowels of the Glen Canyon dam. I dunked myself under the surface briefly before coming up for air. The extreme cold made only shallow breaths possible and the nether regions crawled up into my belly as my skin went numb. I quickly took advantage of my numbed senses in my extremities and finished the rest of my bath before the aching cold would set into my legs.

I climbed out of the water and walked across the small beach, which way maybe five feet wide, to a large flat rock in the sun and climbed on top. The warm rock, instantly drained the cold out of my feet and lower legs as I dried myself with a towel. I dropped the wet towel on the rocks and stared out over the river while letting the sun warm the rest of my body. I stood there for a couple minutes in silence admiring the beauty when I heard a soft sound coming from upstream to my right. I turned and saw to my horror, the same nude woman I had seen earlier only this time about ten feet away on another almost identical flat rock beside another almost identical sand beach. She had been lying asleep on her stomach and was in the process of turning over onto her back. I froze in my tracks wishing and hoping that my white skin would blend into the red rock but it turned out to not be necessary. She didn't even open her eyes and fell right back into the slumber that she had evidently been in.

Relieved, I turned around towards a downstream rock where I had left my clothes and froze yet again. There, sitting on a rock not twenty feet away painting a picture was Ote, the wife of the owner of the dory company that was providing me the opportunity to join them on this trip. I again tried to melt into the rocks but this time I wasn't as lucky. She looked up from her painting, waved at me and went back to painting. I couldn't think of what else to do so I waved back, quickly walked back to my clothes and got dressed. As I started to make my way back to camp, I turned towards her and said that if she included me in the painting, she had better make me look good. She just laughed as I scurried back to camp.

As the month long trip progressed, I became more comfortable with the whole nudity thing and didn't worry about it so much. The cliffs would keep us fenced in around our camps most of the time and getting out of sight of camp wasn't always possible. You either got used to bathing in front of others or you stayed dirty. I chose bathing and trying to keep my eyes focused towards the river.


Murf said...

This where my "It didn't seem like 7 inches" would work well also. :-)

That's funny that the German was watching for 10 minutes before handing the binoculars to you.

The Real Mother Hen said...

So you got a nude portrait done in the Grand Canyon? :) Seriously dude, you may wanna check on ebay and see if she painted you in and sell it as "Exotic Canyon" or what, haha

sage said...

A warm rock after a cold soak is nice... The German was a jerk--a honest and out in the open peeping tom

Ed Abbey said...

Murf - I pegged it as cultural differences or being a long way from his wife back home for too long.

Mother Hen - Ote never sold any of her work. From what I saw, she just kept them in her sketchpad. She showed me quite a few of them one day (I don't remember if it was before or after) and mostly what she painted was still lifes and not people.

Sage - I've known a few people like that.

Murf said...

How is he a peeping tom when she was out in the open?!?

Ed Abbey said...

Murf - That is a good point. I hope you remember that when you read Friday's post.

Murf said...

I have to wait until Friday?!?

Beau said...

Your descriptive writing was so good I wondered where the story was going! I would enjoy bathing in that water but 48 degrees is really cold! Wow. I remember a canoe trip somewhere doing the same thing. Nothing like warm sun on the rocks. I've enjoyed a cigar now and then outdoors in years past- I don't know why, but there's something about it, especially in colder weather or at night.