There is a disparaging term used by models in the freelance modeling biz: GWC, which stands for “Guy With Camera.” It’s used to describe the classic stereotypical perv, often with little or no technical or artistic ability, who buys a fancy camera simply as a means to ogle naked chicks.
As a freelance model who has shot with hundreds of amateur photographers, I guess I’ve shot with more than a few who could be classified as “GWCs” — but it doesn’t bother me. I mean technically, all my clients are guys with cameras. Ultimately, art is subjective; who’s to say what separates an Artist from a hack? And who am I to judge, anyway — after all, I’m just a GWT — Girl With Twat!
Shutterbug Studio shot with Samsung Galaxy S3
Either way, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: as long as your money is green, I’m happy to shoot with anyone — from beginner to advanced. I don’t care what kind of camera you have or how big your lens is; this isn’t a dick measuring contest! We’ve all met that one guy who always has to have the biggest and best equipment; he’s also usually the one telling everyone within earshot how much this or that lens cost, as he lugs five bags of softboxes and strobes out to a slot canyon already filled with soft, natural light.
But while that guy may end up getting some great results…more often than not, I find it’s the guys with more modest setups who often get the best shots. In my experience, it’s like a watermark: generally speaking, the bigger and more obnoxious the watermark, the less accomplished the photographer. Often, I find this holds just as true for camera gear; though there is definitely some truth to the adage “You’re only as good as your glass,” in my experience, I have found that having a good eye can make up for a multitude of shortcomings, gear-wise.
Shutterbug Studio shot with Samsung Galaxy S3
Taking that line of thought to its extreme, when I made my new commercial advertising my modeling services, I even put a disclaimer at the end: “iPhone shooters also welcome.” LOLz! I was being semi-facetious; no one would really be such a half-asser…right?? HA! Little did I realize that only a few days later, I really would end up shooting with a guy who used nothing but a cellphone. And an old-ass Samsung Galaxy SIII, at that!
In the desert by JCP Photography
Just last week, one of my favorite photographers, JCP Photography, had hired me for a shoot out in a fantastic new part of the desert that I had somehow heretofore missed out on exploring: the area around Gold Butte and Whitney Pockets, off the northern arm of Lake Mead (more about this shoot coming soon). We had a great day shooting around the area, but didn’t have enough time to hit the beautiful, arresting rock formations of Whitney Pockets — and as we drove past it on the way back to town, I vowed to come back as soon as possible for further exploration. I love finding a new corner of the desert!
Shutterbug Studio shot with Samsung Galaxy S3
So I ended up going back out there several days later with my friend Randy a/k/a Shutterbug Studio. Now, Randy is no half-asser; I’ve shot with him many times, and he’s generally on top of his game. But he’d been having a rough time lately; on top of being stressed out at work, both of his personal cameras were in the shop…so he’d had to borrow a camera from a friend for this shoot. And come to find out, just as we arrived at Whitney Pockets, he realized there was no battery in the camera!!! D’oh!!!!!
Now, I can say without hesitation that Randy is one of the best photographers I’ve worked with — he understands natural light as few others do, and is able to get great shots outdoors, even in the harsh light of high noon. (In my experience, I find that the ability to see and appreciate “good” light is not universal; just as some are colorblind or tone-deaf, some don’t seem to notice nuances in light.) Anyway, semi-jokingly, I urged him to whip out his phone: “Just use your cell! It’s better than nothing!!”
Shutterbug Studio shot with Samsung Galaxy S3
To my surprise, he did just that — and even better, it wasn’t even the new iPhone or anything fancy like that; as in all things, Randy is unpretentious and carries an old-ass Samsung Galaxy S3. As the owner of a Galaxy S5 myself, I already knew that the camera takes pretty good shots; on all my adventures with my sister, I always have her use my camera instead of her iPhone when photographing me naked in nature (the latest iPhone is said to have a better camera, but I haven’t tried it).
Sure enough, Randy went in and made a few tweaks, bumping the file size up to the maximum….and then we proceeded to do our entire shoot with this little Samsung smartphone. If anyone happened to see us, it must have looked absolutely ridiculous — the ultimate in GWC amateurishness, with me balancing my naked ass on a rock while he clicked away with one hand in his pocket! LOL!!!
Shutterbug Studio shot with Samsung Galaxy S3
But, the photos speak for themselves — they came out great, proving to me that it is NOT just about the cost of your camera and the length and girth of your lens; if you are truly talented, you can get great shots with just about anything! You can even go into the camera settings on many smartphones to adjust the ISO, metering, white balance and more.
Now granted, sure he’s not gonna be able to blow these up to poster size…but let’s be real; how many of us really do end up making posters of what we shoot? Few people make actual prints at all, anymore; most of us end up enjoying our photos on a laptop or tablet….or even more often, on a 2.5″ smartphone screen. So realistically, very few people need a 5MB file!!
Shutterbug Studio shot with Samsung Galaxy S3
In any event, the photos he ended up getting were more than high enough quality for me to use on my Model Mayhem page and on my various social media platforms — and more than enough for him to use in his planned coffee table book, one of these days 🙂 So it was a win-win.
As a freewheeling adventuress, I take any most offer of fun that comes my way. So when my friend Dr. Kildare invited my sister and I to go camping with him in Key West, FL the other week…of course I said yes!
Dr. Kildare is a friend I met through this very blog, a couple years ago — he’d been Googling Saline Valley hot springs, had
read my write-ups, and then hired me to guide him back there in 2014. He and my sister and I all ended up getting along like a house on fire, and we all ended up going back there again in 2015…and now, he invited both of us to join him for a week of camping in the Florida Keys — all expenses paid! Wa-hoo!!
If nothing else, I was curious to see how the experience of camping was different east of the Continental Divide; I’m West Coast to the core, but wanted to see how the other half of the country does it. Prior to this, the farthest east I’d camped was Colorado (not counting Europe, where I camped quite a bit as a child). So I packed up my gear, gathered up my sis, and flew to Miami, where Dr. Kildare picked us up at the airport.
The cabins at Oleta River State Park
Before heading down to Key West to guzzle margaritas, nibble spongecake and boil shrimp, Dr. Kildare had arranged for us to camp out in North Miami for a couple nights, so we could check out nearby Haulover Beach — one of the most famous nude beaches in the country. That’s right — I said camping, in Miami!! Come to find out, you can basically camp out at Oleta River State Park, right in the middle of a North Miami mangrove swamp — they don’t allow tent camping, but they have these crazy little cabins you can rent, with firepits and picnic tables, and nothing but very rustic bunk beds inside.
So even though we were staying in a cabin, it was basically like camping…in the middle of civilization!! It was totally surreal –if you faced east, toward the ocean, it looked like you were in the middle of the wilderness, with only the occasional siren or helicopter alerting you to the fact that all around you is the urban sprawl of the Miami metro area. Bizarre!!
The only downside was, because everything is so dank and damp back east, we had a hard time starting a campfire with the soggy mangrove wood. Also, the weather in Florida turned out to be unseasonably shitty that week — during our stay, it was actually warmer in Vegas :-/ But we still had a good time, and I even sacked up and went nude at Haulover Beach, which was actually a super-beautiful, amazing beach which I can’t wait to go back to at a warmer time.
naked yoga on Haulover Beach
Incidentally, while at Haulover I also made a really fun video of my experiences running around naked, doing yoga and whatnot….but alas, I can’t post it here, as I made it under exclusive contract to a nudist website that has hired me to make videos for them — TrueNudists.com; check it out!
Anyway, after hitting Haulover, we all headed down U.S. Hwy 1 to Key West, where the weather was a bit better, and where Dr. Kildare had booked us a campsite at one of the few tent campgrounds in the area. Key West is super-small, and a true tropical paradise, so real estate is at a premium down there…and the options for us broke-ass fools are few. But Boyd’s campground in Stock Key ended up being pretty cool — for the low, low price of $80, the three of us were able to jam in between two other 10′ x 10′ waterfront sites, lulled to sleep by the comforting hum of RV generators and woken by the early-morning F-14s screaming off from a nearby air base. Cozy!
the mangrove swamp
Needless to say, I found camping back east to be MUCH different from camping out West — less open space, and much harder to run around naked! In all of Key West, in fact, it was close to impossible to find a nude beach…or anywhere at all where we could sun ourselves without fear of getting tan lines. The east coast is just not like the West, where you can hop in your truck, drive 20 minutes, and have the freedom to run around the vast, empty desert stark nakers as long as you want :-/
As close to topless as legally allowable
I don’t know how you easterners do it! I mean, I understand the tradeoff — you have beautiful, sugar-sand, palm-tree-lined tropical beaches…..while all I have is a parched dry lakebed. But, still — the freedom to run around naked in the sunshine under a vast sky goes a LONG way! Sure, the campground we stayed at had heated bathrooms with flush toilets and piping-hot showers….but I’ll take pissing behind a creosote bush ANY day, if it means wide-open spaces and F R E E D O M ! ! !
In any event, we did discover one place in Key West where we could drop trou and feel at home: the Garden of Eden clothing-optional rooftop bar!! This amazing little sanctuary sits on the third-floor rooftop of a downtown building, right on touristy Duval St…yet has somehow remained an unpretentious, fun little oasis of zany nekkidness amid all the pasty east-coast tourist families and rust-belt bachelorette parties crowding the bars below. It was fantastic!!
Garden of Eden with the Burt Reynolds of hula hooping
Dr. Kildare didn’t care to join, so my sis and I ventured up there alone on a Saturday afternoon….and were immediately welcomed into the leathery embrace of the local nudist scene. Wonderful people! We hadn’t been there more than 15 minutes when a hirsute, nude Burt Reynolds look-a-like showed up and offered us a hula-hoop; apparently, he’s THE naked hula hooper of the east coast, and has even given hula-hoop lessons to no less a personage than Kim Kardashian! We spent a pleasant hour or two hula hooping with him naked on the rooftop, chatting with other patrons and generally soaking up the vibe, and it was actually really cool.
For those considering a visit to the G of E, this was a Saturday afternoon in mid-February, and there were probably 5 nude women and maybe 7 nude men — a good mix! Not that it should (or DOES, to me) matter, but the other nude patrons were between the ages of maybe 30-60. Incidentally, my PET PEEVE is when people bitch about a nudist spot being “all naked old men.” If you’re a TRUE NUDIST, you’re not there to perv on anyone, anyway…so why would you care how old/what gender the other patrons are?!?!? Just get naked and be happy, for Dog’s sake!!!!
Drinks with Dr. Kildare!
Anyway, after a few rum & Cokes, my sis and I got dressed and headed back down to join Dr. Kildare for the whole tourist shtick on Duval St — the dive bars, the souvenir shops, the treasure hunting museum….and the holy grail of mid-life-crisis-escapism, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville!! (We have a Margaritaville here in Vegas, but it simply can’t compare to the Key West outpost; an even more heartbreakingly dull crowd of desperate, sunburned suburbanites drinking away their existential despair. Salud!)
But the most interesting interactions I had in Key West were with the locals: one night, taking the bus back from Duval St. to our campground, we encountered a group of local yokels who filled us in on the true Key West lifestyle: a sky-high cost of living based on a lucrative tourism-centric job market, where the biggest risk was contracting “Keys Disease…” which is an inability to/disinterest in work, due to the seductive allure of 11am margaritas and the classic Jimmy Buffett beach bum lifestyle. Apparently, Keys Disease affects MANY on the island….and if you can only avoid contracting it, you just might do OK.
Meanwhile, we were hearing all of this from a local ne’er’do’well on the 11pm bus back to Stock Key, which was full of down-at-heels unsavory types (people who can’t afford to live in Key West live on Stock Key). One of them asked what I did for a living, and when I answered “model,” the bearded bum seated in front of me slowly swiveled his head à la Linda Blair, affixing me with the most baleful, judgmental eye this side of Plymouth Rock!!! It was AMAZING — he put me in my place like no other, before or since.
In any event, however, even a hardworking sort can have a hard time making it in Key West — take this amazing biker couple we hung out with one day on one of the beaches. The woman was an acquaintance of mine from back in Vegas who had recently moved out to the Keys to enjoy a more unfettered lifestyle with her boyfriend — a burly, tough-guy-type biker who had traded in his Harley and given up the hardcore badass lifestyle of the West for a more laid-back, island approach.
Late-nite booze run to Jolly’s in Little Haiti
But the islands aren’t always as mellow as they seem — his first rented room had turned out to be a partitioned cubby in a dilapidated trailer shared by a colorful lot of transsexuals and grifters, all presided over by a hard-nosed Taiwanese landlady who demanded $800 in rent for what amounted to a glorified plywood broom closet! He’d been “Key Wested,” he admitted ruefully…but now, older and wiser, he and his honey had found their own, private trailer in a gritty part of Stock Key known as Little Haiti, right down the street from Jolly’s Liquor shop, where my sister and I had sought refuge a few nights prior when temperatures dipped into the 50s and we needed some peppermint schnapps to fortify our convenience store hot cocoa around the campfire.
Sailing on a Hobie Cat with Dr. K
But for some, being “Key Wested” is apparently an adorably humbling experience; either way, our formidably tattooed, former badass-biker friend admitted to his honey having turned him into a “marshmallow…” and as we said goodbye to them after our conversation on the beach, and watched them pedal off down the sidewalk side-by-side on puffy-seated beach cruisers, it was hard to disagree. They told us they were saving up their wages to buy a sailboat, and sail away into the sunset together, forever. Awwwwwww!!!! <3 <3 <3
I’d LOVE to come back!
Anyway, I found the people of Key West to be absolutely fascinating — from the naked hula-hooper to the bums on the bus to the marshmallow biker, every person I met was genuine, friendly and wonderful, and I declare boldly and without reservation that I will definitely return at some point….I’m just not sure when. Everyone keeps telling me I need to go back for Fantasy Fest — a huge pre-Halloween carnival when something like 100,000 scantily-clad revelers descend on the island for a week of booze-soaked hijinks and merriment. It sounds absolutely fantastic, and it’s something I will definitely consider doing this fall….if I can find a free place to stay!!! If you have any leads or hookups, let me know…..I’m definitely interested!!! 😀
I’ll be back
At the end of it all, Key West reminded me in a weird way of Vegas — both are escapist destinations fueled by drunken tourists dollars and the wholesale selling of baldfaced lies. One is surrounded by ocean, the other by desert….but both are basically islands, where a refugee can find safe harbor, so long as he has drinking money — or an entertaining enough shtick (ahem). Both have a way of getting the better of the down-and-out — you can bake to death on a beach, with a cirrhosed liver and an advanced case of melanoma…..or you can wither up on a barstool in front of a video poker machine in a dimly-lit casino; choose your poison!
As for me, I’ll just keep skating along…just out of reach of greedy landlords and emasculating girlfriends. I’ll take the west coast, though — I’ll never be truly Key Wested. But I’ll be honest; I might have already picked up a slight case of Keys Disease. I feel it in my bones….
Apologies, friends…..I haven’t had time yet to blog about my recent trip to Key West, Florida…nor about my hijinks at the Nevada Democratic Party’s Caucus…nor about my latest trip out to the Wonder Valley rave shack, where I danced naked with two rubber titties stuck to my asscheeks.
But I *DID* make time to film this promotional ad for my modeling business! Times have been tough lately, and I need to book some more photo shoots, ASAP…so check out my commercial, and CALL NOW!!! 😀
Just the other day I was naked as a jaybird, soaking in the warm winter sunshine at the Tecopa mudhole with two girls from Arkansas named Lisa — friends of mine who were in town to sell weapons at a gun show along with a third colleague, a beautiful blonde pageant queen named Savannah. Savannah, being somewhat less adventurous, had opted to stay back in town…but the Lisas had implored me in their honeyed Southern accents to “take us somewhere iiiinteresting!” They come to Vegas all the time, and were tired of the same old shit on the Strip; they wanted to see something different.
the Tecopa mudhole in winter
So I took them on a modified version of the Mojave Mystical Tour I’d gone on myself, back on New Year’s Day — we cruised out to the desert, stopping at Cathedral Canyon and the China Ranch Date Farm, before ending up in the sunshine at the good ol’ Tecopa wallow. We had a drink and a smoke, then laid back to bask in the winter sunshine with the usual collection of kooks and oddballs who frequent that lonely little soak: that day, our company included a poker player, a poet and a beautiful, busty Dutchwoman who only removed her bikini top once she saw that I was nakers (the Lisas, being nice Southern gals, kept their swimsuits on).
Also joining the crowd at the mudhole that day was a friendly retired couple from Montana who were traveling around Death Valley in a beautiful vintage Airstream trailer. When they saw my Wonderhussy-branded trucker hat, they were thrilled: “Oh, we watched your video last night when we were looking for stuff to do out here! That’s how we found this place!”
nudity Photos by Kevin
Come to find out, the poker player had also been to my site! It seems like everywhere I go lately, I run into people who have checked out this blog; it’s really cool…but also kinda weird, especially with that nice Montana couple, knowing that my ass and twat are plastered all over the place in between my hot springs reviews. I mean, I have no problem with nudity…and the rational part of my brain insists that no one should. But the sad fact of the matter is, some people are put off by nakedness. I don’t think the Montana couple was….but it made me wonder how many visitors to this site I alienate because of it.
In a weird Catch-22, however, I’m sure I lose even more visitors because there’s not enough nudity — my site isn’t porny enough to satisfy the likes of these pervs who stumble on me looking for stuff like this:
The fact is, I’m in a real existential quandary: these days, I get as much traffic from desert adventure seekers as I do from mouth-breathing “gost” porn fans…but to whom should I be marketing myself? I’m tired of being broke; I want to make some money off this bitch, already!
You can’t HANDLE the truth! By Mike M.
The whole mess is of my own doing — ever since I started blogging back in 2000, I’ve been posting nude/salacious photos to generate traffic, hoping that at least a few incoming pervs would stay to read the shit I write. And it’s worked; this blog generates a respectable amount of traffic on a daily basis. But the problem is, it’s tough to monetize.
Because of the nude photos, my blog is considered “adult” content, and thus ineligible for Google AdSense. But when I look at using one of the AdSense alternatives, the reality is disheartening: do you (or I) really want shitty webcam/escort service/penis pump ads popping up on my page?
I don’t! So for the past few years, the only money I’ve made from this blog is when someone hires me for a photo shoot, or when the occasional generous reader makes a donation — which is depressingly infrequent. Most of the time, I bust my hump posting this shit for nothing. It’s a labor of love….but love doesn’t pay the phone bill.
I’m caught between a rock and a hard place — the no-man’s land between Art and porn, and I need to shit or get off the pot! And so, rather than wading into the murky waters of porn…I’m caving. I hate to kowtow to the bourgeois moral code of the day…but I feel I have no choice.
I’ll continue to maintain this personal blog, for fun…but I’m also starting a new site, along with my sister, devoted exclusively to desert adventuring. This new site will be PG-13: no nips, no twats, no drugs…just 100% adventure tips. Yay!! Um….right?
My sis and I, fearless desert adventurers
You see, my sister and I have been traveling around exploring the kookiest depths of the desert for the last few years now, and my posts regarding these excursions have been among my most popular (incoming search terms notwithstanding). So in the depths of broke-ass desperation one day, I decided to try a little experiment, and bought the domain name LasVegasOutdoorAdventures.com, with the idea of turning it into a sort of guidebook for the Vegas visitor who wants to see more than just slot machines and shitty Elvis impersonators. I already have most of the content here on this site, under my “desert sites” and “nude modeling location guide” tabs; it should be fairly easy to sanitize it, re-format it, and post it up on the other page…and see what kind of traffic we get without the T&A.
At the same time, my sis and I aren’t idiots — we know sex sells, so we can’t be too bland. My sis thinks we need to come up with a more interesting, quirky brand name than “LasVegasOutdoorAdventures” — something with a broader appeal, that covers more territory but also makes us sound fun and interesting. (I suggested Twats R Us, Desert Poontang, and Ghost Town Vaginas…but she nixed them all. Sheesh!)
Non-nude adventures, for the win!
If you have any cool ideas for a name we should use, message me at firstname.lastname@example.org…I sincerely appreciate any and all input! In the meantime, please forgive me for slacking on this blog; I’ve been pouring all my time into writing shit for the other site, as well as hustling to pay my bills the old-fashioned way: with my twat, ass and nipples. Sometimes, it’s all a gal has to fall back on.
To than end, the weather is finally getting warm(ish) enough to where I can get back out into the desert and start doing my nude photo shoot tours again; this past week, I had a booking from a delightful photographer from back east, who had traveled to Vegas with another model, and hired me to take them out for one of my day tours in my busted-up pickup truck. I advised them that they should probably rent a car, as it would be a tight squeeze for the three of us in my Ford Ranger…but they insisted that part of the experience was being in my truck! So I picked them up at their hotel one morning, we all piled in….and off we went.
It turned out to be an absolutely fabulous day — unseasonably warm and sunny, with not a cloud in the wide, blue sky. We headed out past the last suburbs on the edge of Henderson and into the wide open desert — and they loved it!! I’ve lived here so long that I often forget how astonishing our wide-open vistas are to those from other parts of the country; to me, it’s just desert. But to many, it’s amazing…and I get a genuine thrill watching other people’s enthusiastic reactions to it 🙂
Why do I always have to be the naked one?! Pic by Photos by Kevin
Our first stop was my favorite secret red sandstone location, a place with lots of caves and slot canyons with all kinds of interesting shapes and nooks and crannies to pose in. This location is so breathtakingly beautiful, that many photographers want to spend the entire day shooting there — it’s like Disneyland! But my clients this day had read about some of my other fabulous locations, and wanted to see more…so we headed on after only a couple of hours.
Rogers Spring by Shutterbug Studio
Along the way to the next location, by request of my passengers we stopped at a little warm spring out in the middle of nowhere. This place is a true oasis — in the middle of the vast, barren desert on the north shore of Lake Mead, a sudden cluster of palm trees and grasses appears out of nowhere, and there’s a beautiful little warm spring pond! This isn’t one of my regular soaking haunts, as the water is only about 80 degrees… and it’s not on my regular photo shoot rotation, either, as it’s not classic “desert”-type scenery. But it’s a beautiful spot, and totally surreal — like a tiny piece of Hawaii, in the middle of the desert. After the Martian-like landscape of the first location, it made for an interesting contrast — and we were lucky, as it was a weekday in January, and no one else was around. Usually, it would be tricky to shoot nudes here, as it’s a fairly popular stopping point for tourists…but this day, we had the place to ourselves 🙂
With @LovelyHoa at the abandoned cement plant by Photos by Kevin
After posing in the waterfall for awhile, we headed on toward the next stop on the tour: the abandoned cement plant. This location is so dramatic and ginormous in scale that it pretty much blows everyone away, and my two passengers this day were no exception. As with the red sandstone location, a photographer could easily spend an entire day shooting here — the options are limitless!
But again, my clients wanted to push on and squeeze in one final location before sunset — the ever-popular dry lake bed. This is a classic desert landscape that every photographer and model wants in their portfolio, and these two were no exception. So just before sunset, we rolled out onto the desolate, cracked plain and banged out a few more shots before we lost the light completely and had to head back into town.
Dry lakebed Photos by Kevin
But…what a day! Total time elapsed: 8 hours, from pickup to drop-off. Total locations shot at: 4. Total photos taken: 100s! Total fun: UNQUANTIFIABLE! My passengers couldn’t emphasize enough to me how much fun they’d had, and the photographer in particular kept singing my praises as a tour guide, even more than as a model. It was really cool, and it made me feel really good about myself! I got to show these two a little bit of the awesomeness outside Vegas…I love doing that 🙂
I’ll pick you up! Photos by Kevin
And guess what? You, too, could have this experience! For the very reasonable price of $500, I will pick you up at your hotel, take you around to these same spots, and spend an average of 1.5 hours posing nude at each location before moving on. It’s a wonderful way to spend a day touring the desert; next time you’re in town for a convention or a conference, why not take an extra day and bring your camera? It’s either that or piss your $500 into a slot machine or the coffers of some douchebag celebrity chef!
Anyway, my experience playing tour guide on the photo shoot hearkened back to my experience earlier in the month, with the Lisas from Arkansas — I got the same satisfaction showing those two around the desert! After hitting the Tecopa mudhole, we headed on into Shoshone for a late lunch at a dusty little saloon called the Crowbar, which they absolutely loved. Just being in an area with no cell phone coverage was kind of a big deal for them — the sight of the old-school phone booth outside the Crowbar was a real novelty, LOL.
I’m cleaning up my act by Shutterbug Studio
And after lunch at the Crowbar, we headed on back across the desert toward town, making one final stop at the summit of the mountain pass separating Vegas from Pahrump, to have a nightcap at one of my all-time favorite biker bars…a rustic old-time saloon nestled in a grove of Ponderosa pine, where I’d stopped off at the end of my previous Mojave Mystical Tour.
This time, the bartender remembered me….and introduced me and the Lisas to the owner, who bought us a round of shots. Uh oh! Before you know it, we had ordered another drink…and next thing one of the other grizzled locals came over: “Hey, do you girls wanna smoke some weed?” Hi-Yo!!!!!
As the designated driver, I couldn’t really smoke or drink much…but this didn’t really seem like something I could say no to, so we followed a group of the local mountain men up the hill behind the bar in the darkness to the converted chicken coop where this super-cool hardcore rock climber lived; one of those guys who lives for climbing. He was around 60 years old, and his entire cabin was basically a shrine to climbing — gear hanging ALL over every wall, with nothing but folding camp chairs and ashtrays for furniture, and a climbing movie on silent repeat on the TV.
In Joshua Tree last December By Shutterbug Studio
The Lisas, being in the self-defense industry, were a bit apprehensive at being locked in some converted chicken coop in the woods with a bunch of burly mountain men and nothing but sinister S&M-looking climbing gear all over the walls…but it turned out great! We all hung out and socialized, and the climber guy in particular turned out to be super cool! He told me his whole life story, how he was in something like 23 foster homes by the age of 14, and how learning to rock climb at one of those summer outdoors programs for troubled youth basically saved his life; the state sponsored him on a climbing trip to Mt. Thor on Baffin Bay one summer, which he had to take a dogsled for two weeks to reach, and it basically changed his whole outlook on everything, and fueled his lifelong passion for the outdoors and for climbing. He had a really cool philosophy about climbing and life and everything, and I really enjoyed talking to him!
Even better, he said that any time I happen to be up there at that saloon, I don’t have to worry about drinking and driving; it’s a long, winding road back down the mountain to Vegas, so usually I limit myself to just one or two drinks up there, even when there’s a rip-roaring party going on and I’d like nothing more than to get royally shitfaced…but now, I have a standing invitation to crash out in the hammock on the front porch of the chicken coop cabin any time I want. Hells, yeah!!
Take this to the bank, mofos! By Shutterbug Studio
Anyway, that’s the reality of my life: nudity, drugs, booze, cussing….and adventure!! Monetization or not, never fear… I will continue to blog about it here at wonderhussy.com as long as I can — you can count on that! No matter how many others sites I start, you can guarantee that my twat, ass and nipples will continue to grace the pages of this website until they put me out to pasture — and you can take that to the bank!
Meanwhile, alas….the number of twat, ass, nipple and porn references in this blog entry alone is probably gonna garner a whole new legion of clicks from horny pervs. And to them I say, WELCOME! And….
In one corner: Wonderhussy…armed with 100,000 watts of Def Leppard, four bottles of cheap champagne and a stack of red Solo cups. In the other: a stretch limo full of dour Indian executives in town for CES. Some destination management dipshit had booked them a one-hour Vegas Strip tour, and my mission as hostess was to make sure they had FUN — of the “Vegas, Baby!!!” variety. Wooooo!
Talk about a challenge! I guess that’s why they called me — they knew there was only one woman for the job. And sure enough, despite the polite protestations (“Thank you but I do not drink!”), obvious lack of enthusiasm and probable exhaustion of my charges, I made sure those fuckers had fun —without blowing a single one of them. Mad skills, I tells ya!
Having Fun in Vegas a few months ago
Seriously though, I find this kind of manufactured merriment depressing as fuck: go to Vegas, get in a limo, blow out your eardrums, poison your liver — that’s Fun™! Disneyland, cruise ships, Hawaii…it’s all the same: Fun Places™ where people go to have Fun™, as dictated by the media and the Fun Industrial Complex; it’s more of a parody of fun than actual fun. And guess what? Your Fun™ is really just some douchebag corporation’s bottom line. Enjoy your McFun, fuckers!
New Year’s Eve is the worst for this. Most years, I cynically capitalize on the Fun-seeking masses by hiring myself out in some capacity — last year I served cotton candy to high rollers at a party at the Bellagio. But that turned out to be super depressing, so this year I opted to remove myself entirely from the equation, and get the fuck out of town. New Year’s Eve in Vegas is total amateur hour — 100,000 belligerent mooks and underdressed skanks coating the Strip in a sticky layer of piss, puke and pheromones. Screw that! Instead, I packed a bag and hauled ass into the hinterlands to spend the weekend far from the madding crowds…in one of my favorite lonely desert outposts, Tecopa.
Winter sunset in Tecopa
If you’ve never been, Tecopa is a sunbaked collection of trailers and shanties clustered in the middle of a windblasted, lunar landscape just across the California state line, on the eastern edge of Death Valley. Thanks to a proliferation of natural hot springs in the valley, a few shabby little resorts have sprung up over the years, and people come from all over to take the “healing” waters and drink the mud, which is said to have one of the highest mineral contents in the world.
I don’t know about all that…I usually just go out to soak and party; the all-natural mudhole on the outskirts of town is one of the best places in the Western Hemisphere to shroom out. The water is hot, the mud is thick, and the sky is a ginormous bowl of stars; you can lie naked on a blanket and astral project from here to Uranus and back, all night long.
This time of year, however, it’s too chilly to really lay around naked in the desert…so my sister and I booked a cozy cabin atDelight’s, one of the resorts in Tecopa. A cautionary word: this is no “resort” in the Fun™ sense of the word. The rooms are shabby, the kitchens are decrepit, the mattresses are saggy and the bathrooms are spartan, to put it charitably. But the heaters work, the sheets are clean, and in my opinion the place has a quaint Bonnie-and-Clyde vibe. It’s as good a place to spend New Year’s as any — especially since it’s 90 miles from the idiocy afoot in Vegas.
Across from the Internet Cafe
The plan was to take mushrooms and party around a bonfire or something — several friends had ventured out for the night as well, so there was a sizeable group of us. One faction had signed up for the New Year’s Eve steak-and-lobster soiree over at the Tecopa Brew Pub, and the hippie contingent was across town at the new Death Valley Internet Cafe, streaming the Phish concert live from New York. I started out my night out with the hippies, since I don’t like beer — I’m not into Phish, either, but I am into the excellent fucking food they serve at the Internet Cafe! Two young guys from Vegas recently opened that place, and despite the unassuming name, they serve up the most amazing, high-quality foodie-food; the special that night was an amazeballs Beef Wellington. Seriously, if you’re passing thru eastern Death Valley, you must stop here for a bite; it’s that good, and the ambiance is unparalleled — totally Georgia O’Kesey, if ya know what I mean.
Road thru Tecopa
Anyway, around midnight all the various factions congregated around a bonfire for a few glasses of champagne and several tokes on the old pipe…but it was really a pretty mellow happening and not all that exciting, to be honest. I felt kinda bad, since my sister had driven all the way out from L.A…and it ended up being as anticlimactic as every New Year’s Eve, ever. But fortunately, things got way better!
The following morning, I woke up groggy as fuck, still high as a kite from the pot cookie I’d eaten the night before to help me sleep — that’s the trouble with edibles; you never know how long the effects will last. I hate being high first thing in the morning (especially on New Year’s Day), so I brewed up some black coffee to try and clear my head…but no sooner had I taken the first sip, when my friend Jag burst into the room asking if I wanted some mushroom tea.
Welllllll…..why not??? A group of us had planned another trip to Barker Ranch that day; sobriety wasn’t exactly essential. This time, we planned to approach via the eastern route, thru Death Valley, where we could attempt an overnight stay at the Geologist’s Cabin — an old stone volunteer cabin open to campers on a first-come, first-serve basis. This cabin is said to have a huge stone fireplace and a fully-stocked kitchen, full of 100-year-old pots and pans…and I’ve been dying to check it out!
At the Crowbar last summer
So we packed up all our gear and headed eastward, intending to stop for a breakfast planning sesh at the Crowbar in Shoshone. Alas, a group of 10 European bikers had arrived just ahead of us, and the harried waitress informed us matter-of-factly that it would be an hour’s wait; I’ve never been impressed with the food or service at the Crowbar anyway, so this was really no surprise or disappointment, and we decided to just grab some muffins and coffee across the street at the Chas. Brown gas station and market, instead.
But astonishingly, that place was jam-packed as well — this was when the Powerball lottery jackpot was getting up there, so every half-assed Social-Security-sucking-senior-citizen from Pahrump had driven out to buy a ticket. (It’s true; despite the plethora of legal gambling options in Nevada, we have no lottery….so hordes of NV residents make the trip out to the CA stateline to buy lotto tickets whenever there’s a big pot. It’s truly bizarre; there are little quickie marts that cater specifically to lotto players just across the border in California, Utah and Arizona.)
Anyway, we finally got our meager breakfast and headed on our way. But no sooner had we turned off into Death Valley, than we were stymied again — this time, the main road we needed to take was closed off due to flood damage!! (Death Valley had historic rains back in October, which also screwed up my November Barker Ranch plans. D’oh!! Looks like I’ll never get to stay in that fucking Geologist’s Cabin!!)
the first of MANY roadside planning seshes — planning is half the fun of off-roading!
So we all pulled over and had another planning sesh at the side of the road: me and my sister, my limo-driver friend Jag, and his neighbors — a super-cool off-roader couple who were driving an adorable little Suzuki Samurai, which they had hauled out from Vegas in their RV. Jag pulled out the first of many maps, and we all huddled around for a consult and a toke; since it looked like we wouldn’t be able to make Barker Ranch after all, it was decided we might as well just spend the day tooling around the backcountry, high as fuck!
Time to break out the mushroom tea, then! We passed around the bottle, taking a healthy swig or two apiece, and piled into two cars: Jag in the lead with my sister and I as passengers, and his neighbors following along in the trusty Samurai. We turned off the pavement onto the nearest dirt road, and headed deep into the heart of Nowhere for a leisurely Mojave Mystical Tour.
I’m here to tell you — driving around Death Valley in the winter sunshine, high as a kite, with the Beatles’ White Album playing on the stereo is nothing short of fan-fucking-tastic. A desert shroom cruise beats a Vegas Strip party limo ANY day of the week — if I’d have been able to take those Indian executives on this tour, they’d have enjoyed themselves 1000x more, guaranteed. In fact, if there was some legal way of starting a business where you gave your passengers drugs and then spent all day driving them around the desert in a minibus full of cushions and pillows with floor-to-ceiling windows and the Beatles playing on the stereo, you’d make a million bucks — GUARANTEED! Screw those Grand Canyon helicopter tours — this is the way to experience the desert.
We spent the entire afternoon cruising around dirt roads in the middle of nowhere, stopping every now and then for a powwow to consult our maps and to take another hit on the pipe and/or swig from the tea bottle. Jag had also brought along his old rifle, so some of us also took turns firing shots off into the desert: part Charlie Manson, part Zabriskie Point, part Happy New Year — 100% ‘Murica. Fuck yeah!
Sunset at the Amargosa Opera House
Sunset approached just as the shrooms were hitting their peak, and as luck would have it we happened to be right near the tiny little desert outpost of Death Valley Junction — home of the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, this bizarre, supposedly haunted old building where a 90-year-old ballerina from New York performs every Saturday night (she even painted murals of a fake audience on the walls of the opera house, in case no one shows up to watch her performance) . It’s a fantastic place — I’ve stayed there a couple times; and I definitely recommend it if you’re into weird desert shit.
My fabulously witty and entertaining friend Jag — gourmand, raconteur and adventurer extraordinaire!
I also recommend it if you’re shrooming out of your brains — especially at golden hour on New Year’s Day, with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot in hand. My friend Jag is classic Vegas, from an old school Italian showbiz family with excellent taste (his father was in Louis Prima’s backup band; his mother was a showgirl and one of the first female maître D’s in Manhattan, at the Windows of the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center) so he has excellent taste in food and drink, and only Veuve or better would do; we cracked open a bottle on the front porch of the Amargosa Opera House, and toasted the first fabulous sunset of 2016 in mad style. Viva La Vida! Viva Everything!!!
Death Valley Junction
After polishing off the bottle, we wandered around the ruins of Death Valley Junction awhile — there’s an old abandoned Epsom salts processing facility, as well as a roadside Peter Lik pop-up gallery — and then finally piled back into our cars and convoyed back to the Death Valley Internet Cafe for another fantastic dinner, followed by a healing soak in the hot tubs at Delight’s. I had intended to drive home that night, but ended up bunking with my sister in the back of her 4-Runner — cozy as fuck, despite it being 30 degrees outside.
Jag takes the reins
In the morning, I definitely intended to head straight home…but then Jag started talking about whiskey and coffee — a hardcore cowboy combo I’d somehow never really tried, but was now suddenly very thirsty for. Well, shit; it was only Saturday, and no one in our group had to work, so….it was all too easy to give in to the siren’s song of the desert, and keep the Mojave Mystical Tour rolling. So we packed up camp and headed back to the Internet Cafe for one more fantastic meal and a cup or two of whiskey-laced black coffee, and before you know it, Jag had laid out another fantastic itinerary for the day. I swear, that guy should be a cruise director!
Jag proposed we take the leisurely route back into Vegas, stopping along the way at Cathedral Canyon, then the Mountain Springs Saloon for one last drink, and then at a friend’s art studio on the outskirts of Vegas in Blue Diamond, before hitting a phở joint for dinner and finally, officially calling it a day. My poor sister was supposed to be heading the opposite direction, back to L.A….but found herself seduced into following the Pied Piper, at least for a little while longer.
Leaving Tecopa was hard enough; the Gypsy Time Travelers were wintering in town, and had their fantastical rig parked nearby, with a performance scheduled later that day which I would have liked to check out. Even worse, as we were heading to our cars we stopped to pose for some photos on an old stagecoach, and a gregarious and oddly charismatic local methhead happened along, tipping us off to all kinds of local wonders including a secret hidden bathtub-sized hot spring out in the desert, and a mountain shaped exactly like a 3-mile-long “corn-fed” woman — “ya can’t miss it!” This guy was amazing — I wish we’d run into him earlier, like maybe when we were shrooming! He would have been a great addition to our squad!
But finally we did break away, and all piled into our respective cars to convoy back toward Vegas. About halfway to Pahrump, just past the state line, we pulled off for a toke break at Cathedral Canyon — this decrepit old religious monument built back in the ’60s as a memorial for some poor guy’s dead daughter. Back in the day it was a real showpiece, lit by colored floodlights, with statuary and bathrooms and an Astroturf-covered suspension bridge spanning the canyon…but these days, the statues are mostly gone and the place is basically ruins. It’s still an eerie, evocative place to stop and drink a beer/smoke a bowl, though…so that’s what we did. It’s also the site of Quehoe’s grave; Quehoe, according to his grave marker, was the Last Renegade Indian of Nevada; he “survived alone” until 1919. As a half-breed, he never quite fit in himself, and was doomed to life as an outlaw, terrorizing the white settlers of the area; his grave was marked with decorative stones and a big, fat spliff. Far out!
It’s THAT kind of place!
Next on the tour, we continued along the Old Spanish Trail Highway and took the main road back to town, which goes up over the Spring Mountains before descending back into the Vegas valley. At the summit, we stopped in at the Mountain Springs Saloon — a sort of Wild-West biker bar in a small Ponderosa pine forest, just 20 minutes outside Vegas but a world apart. It’s one of those biker bars with dollar bills and bras stapled all over the walls and rafters, but they had a roaring fire going in the stone fireplace and the place was packed. What a party! We ordered up a round of whiskey and coffees, and before you know it we were back in the groove. Jag cranked up some David Bowie on the jukebox and I started chatting with some of the regulars; come to find out the bartender was a fan of my writing back from when I had a column in one of the local alt-weeklies. Small world!
Finally, my sister had to leave — it was faster/less traffic for her if she went back the way we’d just come, through Tecopa, so she very reluctantly broke away from the Mystical Tour and headed back home. The rest of us saddled up and continued on with our itinerary. Next stop: the tiny bedroom community of Blue Diamond, hidden in the canyons just outside Vegas, where Jag had an artist friend who’d invited us over to hang out in his studio for a while.
Holy hell, what an amazing place!!! I’d been to Blue Diamond before, but had never fully appreciated it; a collection of funky little houses right outside Vegas, but totally hidden from view by a low-lying mountain range, so it feels like you’re out in the middle of nowhere, tucked between Red Rock Canyon and Mountain Springs. It’s gorgeous; I need to get a place out there!!
Blue Diamond Phillip had this poster on the wall of his studio, which is where I got the name for this post
Jag’s friend had a badass little studio with floor-to-ceiling views of the dramatic canyon escarpment, so we lit a fire in his potbellied stove and then lit a pipe, and spent a happy hour or two jamming away on his collection of musical instruments. The artist, whose name happened to be Phillip (Blue Diamond Phillip…get it?) played an acoustic guitar, and the rest of us took up drums, glockenspiel — whatever happened to be handy! I myself jingled my keychain, which made a really cool rain-stick-type sound, and we all danced around in the fading light, watching the sun set in the canyon. Blue Diamond Phillip and I bonded over our love of old-school physicist/bon vivant Richard Feynman — who, incidentally, would have been an excellent addition to our squad. If there’s one person from history I wish I could have met, it’s Richard Feynman; not only was he a mind-bendingly brilliant physicist, but he was also a concert-level bongo player (no joke) who had a lust for adventure and a fondness for drawing nude models. Plus, he was hot as hell!!
Anyway, the sun went down and we finally piled into our cars to cruise back into Vegas proper. What a great two days! I didn’t want it to end, but we all had to get back to the real world: Jag had to be up at 5am for his shift driving New Year’s revelers to the airport from a certain upscale Strip hotel, and I had to get ready for CES — the Consumer Electronics Show, the biggest and most loathsome tradeshow of the year, where I’d been booked to work as a booth model for a Chinese tech firm. The others had to get back to real life, too, so we made one final stop for a delicious Vietnamese dinner, and then said our good-byes.
Leaving a Wonderhussy sticker on a signpost in the middle of nowhere….let me know if u find it!
But what an amazing way to start off the new year! Since coming back into town I’ve been mired in tradeshow hell pretty much every day; it’s the busy season for that type of work, so I’ve been making hay while the sun shines, so to speak — socking away cash while I can, biding my time until I can finally get away from the shitty fluorescent lighting and canned air, back out into the wide open spaces of my beloved desert. I can’t wait to resume the Mojave Mystical Tour!
And if you yourself are interested in such a tour, contact me for booking 🙂
One of my favorite photo shoot locations used to be this fabulous old abandoned silver mine out in the desert — all weathered wood and beautiful rust patterns, with nothing but Joshua trees and cactus for miles around. It was the perfect complement to succulent naked flesh, and every photographer I brought there absolutely loved it.
But over the years, the place has been steadily declining, slowly and surely falling apart — the facade is sagging, gusty winds have blown off most of the roof panels, and one of the walls is completely gone. What was once charming dilapidation has now veered perilously close to total collapse; sooner or later, I was bound to drag some poor photographer all the way out there to find nothing but a pile of rubble.
Don’t think I don’t see the symbolism!
the cement plant by Shutterbug Studio
But you know me; I’m proactive as fuck. Between punishing sessions at the gym to stave off any personal dilapidation, I also took the initiative to scout the desert around Vegas for a replacement location to that old silver mine — which is how I discovered the abandoned cement plant. Screw the silver mine — this new site has proved to be something of a gold mine for me personally; everyone wants to shoot there!
When it comes to my favorite locations, I usually keep them pretty close to my chest, only sharing them with clients who have hired me for a shoot. The last thing I want is every half-assed bozo on Model Mayhem cluttering up my workplace; before you know it, some dumb nitwit will trip on her stripper heels, fall off a rock and break her neck…and my beautiful ruins will get torn down for being a hazard.
Thus, I’m pretty cagey about sharing these favorite locations — and can you really blame me? After all, I’m running a business here! Take a quick look at the Las Vegas Area Nude Photography Location Guide on this very website — I already give out a TON of free information; why should I give up all my hard-earned trade secrets?
Infrared by Stenstrom
Alas, however, I underestimated the craftiness of certain dogged motherfuckers in town.
One recent afternoon I was out at the cement plant with a really cool client who was shooting infrared film. Mid-shoot, I had just climbed up on top of a ginormous section of the old rotary kiln, when off in the distance I spotted another car approaching. Shit!
In my past experience, on the rare occasions other cars had stumbled onto the site, they had usually just been curious looky-Lous who drove around, gawked, snapped a pic or two and then continued on their way without really interrupting my shoot. Assuming this would once again hold true, I advised my client to just pretend he was taking photos of the industrial wreckage, and I would stay put, sort of molding my body to the top curve of the kiln, camouflaging myself like a chameleon.
Well, imagine my consternation when the car drove in, cruised around as expected…but then pulled right up and parked directly underneath where I was hiding! Holding my breath, I peeked over the jagged edge of the kiln and watched as a guy in a ball cap got out and started snapping photos with a small point-and-shoot. Come on, man!! I thought to myself. Get outta here and let me finish this damn shoot! I’m freezing my ass off up here!
Then, he looked up.
Peering over the edge, directly at him, I had to laugh. Not only was it someone I knew from town — it was a photographer I’ve shot with many times, and consider a friend.”Hiiiiiiii,” I drawled, dangling one leg over the edge. Well, at least I didn’t have to worry about being reported to the police for public nudity! “How the hell did you find this place?!”
It turns out this motherfucker was even more determined than I — he had taken what scant information I’d made public about the site, and had logged six solid hours on Google Maps, scanning the desert in all directions around Vegas until he’d found it. Now, that’s dedication! I had to hand it to him.
in the kiln by Marshall Bradford
To his immense credit, after chatting for a few minutes, this classy gentleman got back in his Jeep (which I thought I’d recognized) and drove away, leaving me to finish my shoot in peace. But, dammit…..the cat’s out of the bag 🙁 Now it’s just a matter of time before every Tom, Dick and Harry starts bringing every Barbizon dropout on Instagram out there for edgy portfolio shots.
Anyway, I didn’t have much time to fret over it because soon afterward the weather grew too cold for outdoor shooting anyway, and the 2015 Outdoor Nude Modeling Season basically came to an end. I don’t usually shoot outdoors at all in December; not only is it too fucking cold, but most guys have more important things to spend their money on that time of year than photographing naked ninnies in the desert. So I generally end up taking most of December off.
This year, however, instead of just sitting around guzzling spiked eggnog and stuffing cookies in my face, one of the readers of this very blog alerted me to a competition in which I might be interested: the annual hunt for the $10,000 Jingle Bell Rock!! Apparently, every December for the last 13 years or so a local radio station has hidden a giant rock with their logo on it somewhere in the desert within the Clark County boundaries…and the first person to find it wins $10,000!!!! OMG — how have I never heard of this contest before?!?
the actual rock, from the jinglebellrock.info website
Because I had all this time off, I decided to devote my energy to finding this fucking rock. It’s been a while since I won any big money — my last windfall was at the end of 2012, when I won $10,000 in that Downy fabric softener scavenger hunt. I teamed up with my friend Shutterbug Studio — what with all the remote outdoor shooting we do, the two of us know the desert around these parts better than most. In fact, it was with Shutterbug that I discovered that damn cement plant!
I just knew we were gonna find this fuckin’ rock — I could already hear the voice of the radio DJ announcing it: “A nude model and photographer with a long shared history of exploring the desert are this year’s winners of the $10,000 prize!” What a great story it would make! And what a great blog!!!
Shutterbug and I are always poking around the desert
The way the contest worked was, every day for three weeks they would read clues on the radio at certain times, plus post additional written clues at various sponsor locations around town. Shutterbug and I listened religiously, writing down every clue and driving ourselves crazy trying to figure out what they meant. The clues were intentionally very vague, but at first we thought we had it narrowed down to somewhere in North Las Vegas (which is a separate city from Las Vegas). One of the clues was “in friendly surroundings,” and Shutterbug had seen an Internet meme where a sign reading “Welcome to Friendly North Las Vegas” was juxtaposed against a photo of the North Vegas police beating the shit out of some guy — aha!! Another clue was “circle gets the square,” which we figured referred to the old Hollywood Squares TV show; Hollywood Blvd. is a street that lays partly in North Vegas…so we just knew it had to be around there somewhere. Especially when another one of the clues was “let’s spoon,” and we found a place called Spoon Exhibit Services up in that same area.
you never know WHAT you’ll see in the desert
Shutterbug works a full-time job, so most of the actual searching fell to me — I spent my days running, walking and biking every damn trail and park in North Vegas; any public area where a rock was likely to blend into the surroundings. But aside from gaining a newfound appreciation for the astonishingly nice and sorely underused trail system in northtown, I came up with nothing. Another clue showed a bowling alley in an Elks Lodge, so I spent quite a bit of time searching around the northtown Elks Lodge, too…probably freaking out the old people. But after awhile, I gave up looking….aside from sitting on my ass at home poring over Google Earth (I should have called my other photographer friend, haha).
As the contest wore on, the clues now seemed to start pointing south, toward the Hoover Dam: there were clues like “row, row, row your boulder” (Boulder City is the town by Hoover Dam — and it has its own Elks Lodge) and “power to the people” (the Dam, of course, generates a shit ton of electricity). Many of the clues also referred to writing and ink — so I started focusing in on Hemenway Wash, an area of open desert down by Lake Mead just west of the Dam.
I thought for sure I was on the right track when I went down there one morning and saw several other idiots out hunting around the same area; my heartrate skyrocketed and my blood pressure went through the roof as my insane competitive instincts kicked in. I had to find that fucking rock!!!! Then it got even worse — as I was casually bumbling around the desert pretending to be “jogging” (have to throw those other fuckers off the trail, ya know) I saw a metal spoon stuck in the ground!! And it was right next to a broken section of chain-link fence — other clues had been “the weakest link” and “back on the chain gang.” HOLY SHIT! The $10,000 was so close, I could taste it!!!
Alas, though I searched around for hours that day,I came up with nothing. When Shutterbug got off work that evening, even though it was pitch black and freezing fucking cold outside, he insisted we go back down there with flashlights, and search some more!! We were stumbling around in the darkness like idiots when a security guard came up to us: “Can I help you??” Apparently, we were near some kinda storage facility for Hemenway Harbor, and he thought we were trying to rob the joint. “No, we’re just looking for the Jingle Bell Rock,” we assured him.
“Oh, was that you guys down here last night, too?”
I thought for SURE the rock was hidden near this abandoned power substation in Hemenway Wash
So others were onto this area!!!! Now we knew for certain we were on the right path, and our efforts became even more frenzied. I actually got up the next morning at 6am (!!!) in order to get down there by daybreak, and beat any other fuckers to the prize. I had to find that rock!!!!!!!
It was so cold, my Electric Vagina froze and I becamse Jackie Frost: Ice Pussy! I queefed frigid basts of Arctic air…making what happened to that kid who got his tongue stuck on the flagpole look like NOTHING
But curiously, when I got down there the following morning, I spent all day searching around…and didn’t see another single person looking. Hmmm! Had someone already found it? Or…was I looking in the wrong area, after all??
Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t dedicate as much time and energy to this treasure hunt as I would have liked, since I kept getting interrupted by photographers wanting to shoot with me! In December! As previously mentioned, I don’t usually shoot much at all that time of year, let alone outdoors — but this fucking cement plant was proving to be so alluring that I ended up going out there what felt like every other day!
And boy, was it cold!! You might not realize it, but despite its being in the middle of the Mojave Desert, Vegas gets chilly in the winter — there’s no moisture in the air to hold in any warmth. Daytime temps get down into the 50s and 40s…which may not sound that cold, but when you’re standing or lying around naked, I’m here to tell you — it’s fucking freeeeeezing!!!!!
Latex gimp selfie
One guy hired me to wear a latex gimp hood while he shot me on some kind of weird, super-arty large-format film….so with the latex at least keeping my nose cozy, that wasn’t so bad. Then another guy hired me to wear a sort of slutty Russian scientist getup while he backlit the crumbling Chernobyl-esque scene with eerie red light — and again, the scraps of sexy clothing helped insulate me somewhat.
But then this other guy rolled in from Minnesota, with three other models in tow who were from Michigan, Wisconsin and Denver. Uh oh!!!! I thought I was totally fucked, hanging with this crew of ice-people from the frozen tundra…but fortunately for me, naked girls from Wisconsin get just as cold as naked girls from Nevada, so we were all equally miserable. And the photographer was very cool and very understanding, and didn’t torture us too much 🙂
the Ice Girls
Anyway, with all those lucrative interruptions in my hunting schedule, I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to search for the fuckin’ Jingle Bell Rock….and next thing you know it was the last day of the contest, December 21st. No one had turned in the rock yet; it was presumably still out there. And to make matters worse, they released a final clue: a photo of a bag of Blue Diamond almonds. Blue Diamond is a major highway on the southwest side of Vegas, and also the name of a small town on the outskirts of Red Rock Canyon– about as far away from Hemenway fucking Wash as you could get. Dammit!!!!!
Another shot of my Ice Pussy to numb the pain
But since I hadn’t been concentrating on that area, I had no clue where to even begin looking; worse, I was supposed to drive up north to my mom’s house that very day for Christmas — a ten-hour drive, so I really couldn’t leave too late, as we had planned to celebrate the Winter Solstice the following day. But how could I give up hunting now?!?!?! With my truck packed and ready to leave town, I wasted a few final hours tooling around Blue Diamond in a vain, last-ditch attempt to find that fuckin’ Jingle Bell Rock…before finally, über-reluctantly giving up. I hate giving up on stuff; I hate losing!! ARRRGHHHH!
As I made the long journey north, I kept checking the radio station’s website — and sure enough, a few hours out of town, it turned out that someone had found the rock — the previous day!! @#$#%#$#%!!!!!!! I knew I’d been wasting my time, dammit. To make matters worse, because I’d needlessly pissed away so much time hunting that morning, I was really late getting to my mom’s house, and almost fell asleep at the wheel.
I had OTHER things preoccupying me at Christmas
Thankfully, once I got to my mom’s and started celebrating the holidays, all the wine, cider, eggnog and assorted other booze helped ease the sting of my miserable defeat. Still, for a while there I didn’t think I’d be able to even write about the whole mess, at all — I hate losing that much. If I’d won, it would have made an awesome blog — but who wants to read about some idiot losing a contest?! No one!!!
But when I finally sat down and looked back at the events of the past month, I realized something: the real treasure wasn’t the Jingle Bell Rock at all. Sure, it would have been nice to win half of that $10,000 — I could have bought a new camper for Burning Man, and paid for the $700 worth of fillings that my dentist claims need replacing. But I was trying to be all forward-thinking and Zen, and look at the journey as the reward in itself: I got a lot of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise, spent a lot of quality time with Shutterbug, and discovered a lot of fun new trails around town. That in itself is a reward…right?
the real treasure by Shutterbug Studio
Um, yeah….sure. Zen, I am not; I’m not talking about the fucking journey, I’m talking about the cement plant! That fucking location is the gift that keeps on giving; the goose that lays the golden egg. Every photographer wants to shoot there; if I can only keep all these other meddlesome motherfuckers out of the way, I should be able to milk that location at least until next summer….by which time I will have made more than my half of that paltry $10,000 prize. Fuck the Jingle Bell Rock; Shutterbug and I had found the real prize months ago!
As with many such greed-crazed harebrained adventures…the treasure had been under my nose, all along. And I’ll be happy to share it with you…..if you hire me 🙂
As a nude model specializing in outdoor shoots, I do a lot of posing in traditional desert landscapes — dry lake beds, slot canyons, sand dunes. But my most popular locations are ruins — abandoned buildings, old mines, the abandoned waterpark, the old cement plant. There is something about decay that really seems to appeal to many photographers; the juxtaposition of succulent nubile flesh vs. rusty old ruins is a time-honored trope that will probably never go out of style. Dudes will always have an inexplicable hardon for a tight ass in a busted landscape.
The deserts of the southwestern US are a real bonanza of postapocalyptic ruin– thanks to our vast empty spaces and sunny climate, old shit tends to linger longer out here than in other areas of the country. With a little exploring, you can find some truly exceptional wreckage to photograph….and when it comes to ruin porn, the area around the Salton Sea is pretty much the gold standard. It’s like a Disneyland of tetanus and despair!
by Shutterbug Studio
If you’ve never heard of it, the Salton Sea is this giant lake in the southeastern corner of California — a sun-nuked, dusty, forgotten part of the state that is as far removed from Hollywood as Uranus. It’s the biggest lake in California, but few have even heard of it because the entire area has basically been forgotten and abandoned due to its being a malodorous environmental catastrophe and architectural eyesore. Have I sufficiently whetted your appetite?!?!
The Sea was created by accident back in 1905, when irrigation canals fed by the Colorado River overflowed and flooded the Salton Sink — a vast dry lake bed separated from the Gulf of California by a godforsaken stretch of desolate borderland. Over a period of about two years, the Colorado river basically poured straight into this desiccated basin, and the Sink became a Sea.
The deceptive beauty of the Sea
In its early years, the Sea was an astonishingly beautiful anomaly — a vast, brilliant blue lake in the middle of the sun-drenched California desert, not far from Palm Springs and within jaunting distance of L.A. As such, it soon became a popular recreational getaway, and before you know it scores of motels, resorts, marinas and housing developments had sprung up all along the shore to meet the needs of fishermen, boaters and water-skiiers.
by Shutterbug Studio
Over time, however, the Sea deteriorated into a stinking morass of dead tilapia and existential despair; because there is no natural drainage, and the only incoming source of water is agricultural runoff, municipal discharge and industrial dumping courtesy of a couple of heavily-polluted Mexican rivers, the salinity of the water has increased over the years. The fertilizer in the agricultural runoff adds massive amounts of algae and bacteria to this foul soup, to the point where few life-forms can survive in it; mass quantities of tilapia die off in periodic waves, perfuming the air with the unmistakable stench of failure. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!
the reality of the Sea’s beach
But from a distance, the Sea is beautiful. Its immense glassy surface reflects the region’s amazing desert sunsets, and sparkling white beaches beckon like a travel brochure; it’s only upon closer inspection that you realize the beaches aren’t sugary sand at all, rather acres and acres of crushed tilapia teeth and bones. Far out!!!
Anyway, as mentioned there are tons of abandoned settlements dotting the perimeter of the Sea; once the stench grew unbearable, the various motels, resorts and housing developments gradually shut down, and nowadays everywhere you look it’s nothing but crumbling, graffiti-covered cinderblock walls and busted-up trailers strewn with broken glass and the indomitable plastic detritus of crushed lives: scratched CDs, unspooled VHS tape, World’s Greatest Grandpa license plate frames.
by Shutterbug Studio
Jarringly, amid the chaos you’ll spot the occasional well-maintained home — there are still people living on the shores of the Sea, hanging onto whatever semblance of normalcy they can salvage; either they sunk their life savings into the property they’re tenaciously clinging to, or they simply can’t afford to live anywhere else, so they’ve dug in their heels. These poor souls water their plants and mow their lawns and wearily tolerate the crowds of ruin-porn tourists and looky-Lous intrepid enough to wander the streets of their mostly-abandoned developments; to them, this is home…so if you do venture out here, please respect them.
My own history with the Salton Sea area goes back to 2010, when an ex-boyfriend and I stopped in a for a couple days. We checked out all the usual sights — the abandoned housing developments, the tilapia-tooth beaches, a nearby Arts & Crafts religious monument called Salvation Mountain and the neighboring permanent-itinerant encampment known as Slab City. On the last night of our stay, the miasma of doom took its toll and we ended up having a horrible argument and breaking up; beware! The Salton Sea is that kind of place.
by Shutterbug Studio
I went back a few years later with my sister, but had not returned since then — and had never done any photo shoots out there, though I’d long wanted to. So when my friend Randy a/k/a Shutterbug Studio informed me that he had some time off work and wanted to go on an adventure, I knew exactly where to go: to the Sea!!!
From Vegas, the best approach to the Salton Sea is through the Mojave National Preserve, so we started our trip cruising through that barren wonderland, stopping off at one of my favorite abandoned farmhouses along the way. This farmhouse was especially poignant for both of us, as we’d done one of our first-ever shoots together there back in 2008 or 2009; we made a point of reprising some of the exact same poses we’d done there back then, as most of the decay was sitting there baking quietly in the sun exactly as it had lain seven years ago. Like I said…..shit lingers longer out here!
by Shutterbug Studio
From there, we continued south to historic old Route 66, stopping for a few photos at the iconic, über-Instagrammable Roy’s Motel before heading on down to the Sea via my all-time favorite kooky corner of the desert, Wonder Valley. We didn’t really have enough time to stop in Wonder Valley, but I’m sure I’ll be back out there in the spring when and if my friends Käpt’n Rummelsnuff and First Mate Christian come out from Berlin for their annual desert retreat at the Cat Ranch.
by Shutterbug Studio
Anyway, thanks to our lollygagging we didn’t roll in to the Salton Sea area until sunset — with barely enough time to find a suitable chunk of wreckage at which to exploit the fabulous light of golden hour. Thankfully, you can’t walk 100 feet without tripping over a fantastic location out there, and we got some amazing shots in Salton Sea Beach before heading up north to nearby Palm Desert, where our hotel was. We grabbed some dinner and hit the sack early, in order to be up in time to fully maximize the following day’s planned itinerary of shooting at Salvation Mountain, Slab City and Bombay Beach. So much to see…so little time!
by Shutterbug Studio
So the next day we headed off to the eastern shore of the Sea, toward the little semi-abandoned town of Niland, where there was said to be an International Banana Museum, with amazing banana milkshakes. Alas, however, apparently the proprietor was in Costa Rica or something…and according to the lady at the adjacent liquor store he’s hardly ever around anyway. Boo!
But our disappointment was short-lived and tempered by our subsequent discovery of an amazing abandoned warehouse just down the road, which was full of creepy old dolls and fabulous graffiti, and which in and of itself would have made the entire trip worthwhile. That place was amazing, and we got some really great shots in there! Now completely fired up, we continued east through Niland toward Salvation Mountain and Slab City, where I knew from personal experience there were plenty of cool photo ops.
We ended up bypassing Salvation Mountain, which as mentioned is a sort of ginormous Arts & Crafts monument built of plaster-coated hay bales covered in colorful latex house paint to reflect a variety of hippie-Christian ideals — God, Love, Jesus Saves, etc. It just didn’t seem very respectful to pose nude around there; say what you will about me and my lack of class, I do have restraint when appropriate! But I have toured this astonishing monument in the past, and I highly recommend stopping here, if you’re in the area. The wonderful kind old man who built it has since passed away, but you can still drop in for a tour from one of the volunteers who work to maintain the space. It’s a really, really neat place.
From Salvation Mountain, we continued eastward to Slab City, also bypassing the local hot spring pond — which, even for a hotsprings fanatic like me, is simply too gross to consider wallowing in; first off, the bottom is carpeted (?!?!!), and secondly, the pond is basically the town bathtub for all the filthy hippies and off-grid methheads squatting in Slab City. Shudder!!
by Shutterbug Studio
Instead, we tooled on into Slab City itself, which as mentioned is a sort of permanent-itinerant encampment of hippies, bums, RVers and on-the-lammers who have built an unofficial community on the concrete slab foundations of a long-demolished and abandoned Marine base. The land technically belongs to the state teachers’ retirement fund, but since it’s so remote, bleak and inhospitable, no one wants anything to do with it, and squatters basically have the run of the place. There are tons of unofficial ramshackeldy compounds scattered about, including an internet cafe, a library and a main stage area which is apparently host to a Saturday-night open mic jam that I have always wanted to check out; aside from these rickety structures there is little else out there but RVs in varying states of driveability dotted among creosote bushes and piles and piles of trash. There’s no running water or electricity, but people live out there for months or even years at a time, for free, with no fear of government interference. It’s really the final frontier of the old Wild West!
by Shutterbug Studio
Shutterbug and I dicked around Slab City for a bit, but our real interest lay on the northern outskirts — a little enclave of found-object/mixed-media artists known as East Jesus, which is basically like a giant, permanent Burning Man camp with all kinds of the most astonishing art strewn about. I mean, there is some really, really cool art out there! When I visited with my sister in 2014, one of the residents gave us a tour, and even showed us the “backstage” area where the caretakers live, and it was actually amazingly nice; they had a solar power setup, raised beds where they grew veggies and whatnot, outhouses and a really gemütlich common lounge area (for TONS of photos from that visit, click here).
This trip, we didn’t take too many photos as the midday lighting was pretty unforgiving, so we mostly just looked around for awhile before continuing on. A friend had tipped me off to the existence of some supposedly amazing graffiti murals on the side of some water tanks on the backside of Salvation Mountain, so we headed south a few miles to see if we could find them. After passing the outskirts of Slab City, we continued on along a fairly well-graded dirt road before ill-advisedly turning off onto a less well-used dirt road into the desert, where we could see the water tanks off in the distance.
Bogged down again
Now, a word about my friend Shutterbug and his off-road cred: he normally drives a Jeep, and in fact is the one who eventually came out to extract my truck from the mud where it had gotten bogged down on a “dry” lakebed outside Vegas a couple months ago. But his Jeep was in the shop, so on this trip we were driving his backup car, a 2WD Pontiac Aztek (basically sort of a crossover-SUV-type car made famous as a hideous failure; a metaphor for the Salton Sea if ever there was one). Anyway, the Aztek doesn’t have the Jeep’s capabilities when it comes to driving on uncertain ground…..and sure as shit, wouldn’t you know it, just when we had decided to turn around and go back, we got stuck in the soft sugar sand. And I mean stuck! The front wheels were sunk in up to the axles — it was hopeless!!!
by Shutterbug Studio
So there I was, stuck in the middle of nowhere for the second time in 6 weeks. I know what you’re thinking — what a dumbass!!! But in my defense, at least I wasn’t driving this time! In any event, this situation was much more dire than my previous jam, as the dry lake bed I’d gotten bogged down in was only 45 minutes from Vegas; the place we were stuck in now was hundreds of miles from ANYwhere!!!
Well, no use sitting around fretting — might as well get to work trying to dig ourselves out! The worst part was, we were just far enough from the Slab City outskirts that there wasn’t even any of the ubiquitous garbage laying around; if we’d been closer to “town” we could have grabbed some old carpet or something to get some traction. As it was, the only thing for miles around was creosote bushes and a few spindly tamarisk trees; we gathered branches from those and tried to jam them under the wheels along with the floormats, but it was no use. Despite our best, sweaty efforts, we only managed to dig ourselves in deeper.
by Shutterbug Studio
Now starting to get worried, we considered our options. We were miles from a paved road, so roadside assistance wouldn’t help….and we didn’t feel like shelling out hundreds or even thousands to a tow company in the area. Vegas was 5 hours away, so calling any of our friends for help was also pretty much out of the question. Slab City was about a three-mile walk, but the residents we had interacted with that morning were either prickly and irritable, or reeked of booze…so neither of us really felt like throwing ourselves on their mercy, either.
by Shutterbug Studio
Meanwhile, my sister had just moved to the L.A. area, about 3.5 hours away…so one idea was to have her drive out in her 4×4 4 Runner and maybe try to pull us out. To her credit, she was willing to drop everything and come on out….but that whole plan was super-iffy anyway, as her rig is only a V-6 and as mentioned, we were stuck up to the axles. What to do?!?!
Thankfully, at least we were in cell range; there was a tower nearby, and in fact I had full 4G reception. So in desperation I did what I always do in times of need: I turned to my vast network of Facebook “friends,” on the slim chance that someone would know someone in the area who would be able to offer some assistance.
Now, I put “friends” in quotes because I know how it is with Facebook; people who are your friends on there aren’t necessarily real friend-friends; for example I personally have close to 5,000 Facebook friends, but still usually end up driving myself to the airport. You know what I mean! Just as the ancient Greeks had multiple words for “love,” I feel that modern times call for the coinage of a new word for a “friend” of the Facebook variety.
But I’ve had great success in the past when calling upon my Facebook network for help, so I figured I’d at least try. So I put up an SOS post….and then went back to digging. Shutterbug and I took turns scooping out sand on the sunny side of the car; it was in the 70s that day, and kind of hot. In no time at all we were both sweaty, filthy and had sand in every crevice (thanks to being mid-photo shoot, I was just wearing a loose sundress with no underwear or anything, so my ass and pudenda were out for the world to see).
by Shutterbug Studio
After digging to the point of exhaustion, I stopped to take a brief break and check my SOS post to see if there were any leads. And would you believe that by some astounding miracle, it turned out that one of my Facebook friends was actually in Slab City at that moment, less than 3 miles away?!?! Even better, this guy had just gotten stuck in the sand himself the other day, so he was sympathetic to my plight. And even better, he happened to be driving an immense 4×4 F-250 with a tow strap at hand!!! Hallelujah!!!!!!
by Shutterbug Studio
Best of all, this was a person I had actually met in person on several occasions, so I knew he was good people; many of my FB friends are people I’ve never actually met in real life, and that can go either way. But this guy used to work for a certain famous magician at whose show I used to take souvenir photos, so we had interacted in real life back in Vegas. Nowadays he runs a zipline operation out at the Sturgis bike rally every summer, and had traveled to Slab City to help out a family of hippies who had worked for him at Sturgis as temp labor refurbish their schoolbus home.
Anyway, my friend and the bad-ass mom from the hippie family came out in his truck to help pull us free. The hippie mom had spent a lot of time at the Slabs, so had quite a bit of experience extricating vehicles of all kinds from the sand; apparently it happens all the time out there. And sure enough, in less than an hour they were able to free us completely from our hopeless predicament . YAYYYYYYYYY!!!!!
by Shutterbug Studio
Let it never be said that social media is a waste of time; in my experience, time and again it has proved its worth as an invaluable resource — sort of like an online village. Sure, all the villagers might not know each other personally…but when crunchtime comes, they’re generally willing to help each other out. And as I have learned the hard way by now….it takes a village to be me!!!
After we were freed, we gave my friend a wad of cash to thank him for his efforts, and followed him back over to the hippie family’s schoolbus encampment in the Slabs. It was amazing — mom, dad, kids and something like 4 full-grown Great Danes and a puppy were all living in this converted school bus. Meanwhile, my friend had this badass new 5th wheel travel trailer he’d just gotten at an auction, which is what he uses to stay in at Sturgis, and he invited me to come up and work his zipline operation next summer — apparently the RV sleeps 6 people, so there’s plenty of room. Hmmm!
The Ski Inn
Anyway, we hung out bullshitting for a while, basking in the glow of adrenaline and relief, and then took off to celebrate with some food and drinks — we were starving after all that!! We had planned to wrap up our day of shooting with a sunset session in Bombay Beach (another one of the deserted settlements along the Sea shore), but we were both too dirty and tired to even think of shooting any more photos…so instead, we headed to the legendary Ski Inn — a quaint little watering hole serving the remaining locals in Bombay Beach, Niland and the surrounding areas. OMG was that place amazing!!!
Here’s to survival!
The Ski Inn is one of those picturesque little local-color bars you see at the side of every lonely desert highway, like the Palms in Wonder Valley or the Bagdad Cafe in Newberry Springs — full of interesting locals, walls covered in signed dollar bills and other passing-thru-tourist memorabilia. And I am pleased to report that just like the Palms, the Ski Inn definitely delivers!! We had a couple of really good cheeseburgers cooked to order by the owner’s awesome wife, and enjoyed a couple celebratory cocktails served by a super-nice bartender named Steve. I’m not just saying that because I’m happy to be alive; those burgers were amazing, and Steve was one of those people with whom I felt an instant affinity — someone I really liked on a weirdly deep level. If you’re reading this, Steve, know that a shameless hussy named Sarah Jane in Vegas thinks you’re amazing, and will definitely be back to visit and talk longer! <3
Our dollar bill
After finishing our food, we signed a dollar bill, stuck it to the jukebox, and hauled ass back up to Palm Desert to soak in the Jacuzzi and decompress. I had a glass of wine and a pot cookie, and never felt better — what an amazing day! I still couldn’t get over my insanely good luck; I guess all those deposits I’ve been making into the Bank of Karma finally paid off. Maybe the $150 I lost in Ballarat ghost town last month tipped the balance in my favor; who can say?
by Shutterbug Studio
In any event, the day hadn’t gone as expected, but still turned out wonderful…an incredible adventure, and we got a shit ton of amazing photos to boot. In retrospect, it’s probably a good thing we got stuck in the sand; as it was, Shutterbug was busy editing photos for the next two weeks with what we’d already shot…he couldn’t have handled much more! Plus, on the way home we stopped off in Joshua Tree, at the Noah Purifoy outdoor art installation,
by Shutterbug Studio
and shot a bunch more pics…so it all worked out perfectly. We rolled back into Vegas late that afternoon, tired and sore and with a few grains of stray sand still in our asscracks (well, at least in my asscrack)…and chalked it all up to another fantastic chapter in the Book of Wonderhussy.
photo by Shutterbug Studio graffiti by Aware/Indecline
People are often ashamed to be seen with me.
Don’t get me wrong — people enjoy hanging out with me, because I’m attractive and charismatic and fun as fuck. But because I live such an openly unorthodox life, many are skittish about being publicly associated with me: they don’t want me to post about them, they don’t want to be in photos with me, etc. I totally understand that not everyone lives by my policy of radical transparency, so I always honor these requests, but…sometimes it gets lonely, being me.
The irony is, many are attracted to me because of my freewheeling existence; I am often told “I admire your honesty so much!” and “I live vicariously through your adventures!” Well, guess what? Vicarious is so 2014!!! Why not tell society to fuck off, and put your money where your mouth is??
My mouth by Scott Krammer
Well, recently, one guy did put his money where his mouth was — but in an unexpected way; he actually paid me for my discretion. To honor his request, I am purposely fudging the dates and have waited a considerable amount of time to blog about my experience with him…but, now it can be told.
Several months ago, I received a booking request from someone with an anonymous hush.com email account. According to their website, for as low as $34.99/year Hush.com provides “Secure email with built-in encryption, no advertising, and unlimited email aliases.” Hmmmmmm.
I’m just a model by Marshall Bradford
As a freelance model, this set off alarm bells — the email address I was contacted by sounded very swinger-y/cheating-on-my-wife-y…and despite public opinion, I really am a MODEL; nothing more, nothing less. I am not a prostitute, I am not a swinger. I just pose for nude photos, theoretically in the name of art. I do not have sex with photographers.
But over the course of our email exchange, I came to believe that this person (who called himself “Steve,” which I have since learned is not his real name so I feel fine using it here) was legitimately interested in booking me for a photo shoot — no more, no less. So I agreed to shoot with him on two occasions one weekend — first, I was to pick him up at the airport on the afternoon of his arrival, and take him out to the desert for a sunset shoot…before stopping off at Walgreens so he could buy V8 and such, then dropping him at his hotel (what am I, an Über driver?!). Then, two days later, we would shoot together for a full day, after he had completed an athletic competition for which he’d traveled to Vegas. For the second shoot, he had also hired my fellow Goddess Collective member Lolita…so I felt comfortable knowing there would be someone else onboard who had my back (even someone who only weighs 98 pounds, lol).
by Mike M.
But when I picked this fucker up at the airport, things were tetchy from the get-go. When I pick up a photographer to go out on one of my desert location shoots, it can sometimes be kind of awkward at first; I’m in the car with a complete stranger for up to an hour, but I’m pretty good at making conversation, so things usually warm up after a few minutes. Not so with this guy!
I started in as I always do: “So, where are you from?”
“Ehmmmmmm……..” he sort of hemmed and hawed in his distinctive European accent, finally coming out with “Perhaps I pay you for discretion??” What he meant was, he didn’t want to tell me anything about his personal life, as apparently his entire world would be shattered if it were to get out that he was photographing a nude model…even for Art’s sake.
Well all right then. I thought I recognized his accent, so I tried again: “Well, where are you originally from?”
I don’t care by Shutterbug Studio
Stymied again! The most I was able to get out of the cagey fucker was the country and region of his birth; I have no idea where he lives now — I forgot to snoop on the baggage claim tag dangling from his suitcase. In any event, between his nervous paranoid giggling and his Über demands, I was starting to get annoyed…so I basically gave up trying, and left the conversation up to him. Honestly, WTF do I care? As long as your money’s green, I don’t need to know your life story — I’ll drive in silence, if that’s what you want. And this guy paid me CA$H, up front.
Fortunately, he was actually a fairly personable, intelligent guy, and we were on the same page politically speaking…so in a real switcheroo of the usual, politics turned out to be the one thing we could talk about. And he really wasn’t bad to talk to — so long as you didn’t try to pry any personal info out of him! I’m telling you, out of all the photographers I’ve shot with, this guy was the most paranoid ever. He had several friends in town that same weekend, and apparently if they found out what he was up to, his life was over…so we basically had to sneak around like we were having an affair or something. It was creepy and kind of depressing — I’m already sensitive about not being a “real” model, and this only exacerbated my sense of self-doubt. But my bills have no such existential qualms — they need to be paid, by hook or by crook. So to speak.
by Scott Krammer
So after dropping his cagey ass off that first evening, I came back to his hotel a couple days later for our full-day shoot. In the interim, he had not only completed his athletic engagement, but also sent me a text or two asking if I could go buy him a battery charger, as he’d forgotten his at home (I didn’t have time, so said no). Jeez!! His sense of entitlement led me to believe he must have been well-off, and used to having people do his bidding (he must have been well-off to hire both me and Lolita for a shoot — Lolita doesn’t work for cheap!). Now I was getting curious about this guy — what the fuck was his deal?
To his credit, like I said he ended up being a pretty cool dude; he mentioned more than once that he’d read and enjoyed this blog, so I knew he couldn’t be a total dumbass. Indeed, once I was safely in his room, away from the prying eyes of his other friends that were in town, he loosened up considerably. Because the weather was shitty that day, we decided to just stay in the room and shoot there; he had some far-out ideas he wanted to try with lighting, etc, so it worked out fine. And as the day progressed, he let his guard down a little — he still wouldn’t divulge many personal details, but when I went to the bathroom I saw his name on his toothbrush (HA!), so I felt I knew him a bit better.
My back by Shutterbug Studio
The shoot went on in a fairly typical fashion; he was really into musculature, and in particular my back (I do get a lot of compliments on my back), so we mostly did art-nude bodyscape-type poses, against this super-funky backdrop he had fashioned out of athletic accoutrements. Curious, I asked him what he planned to do with the photos; since he couldn’t display them anywhere without shattering his reputation, what the fuck was the point? He said he might release them in 20 years…but until then, they would be locked away on come encrypted hard drive somewhere that could only be seen by someone with a subpoena (his words)! I’m telling you, this guy was paranoid!!!
In any event, after awhile I inexplicably warmed to his weird nervous giggle and paranoid shtick, and started to feel sort of sorry for him. I’m sure whatever he had going on that would be ruined by his association with me was fabulous — family name, professional reputation, jealous wife, whatever — but I’ll take my life of open transparency any day of the week over whatever it was. I may be broke, directionless and single…but I’m free.
Fill me with your puke by Mike M.
And interestingly, as I warmed to him, apparently he also warmed to me. I don’t judge, and I can be very discreet when needed…so I guess that’s why people (often total strangers) tell me their deepest, darkest secrets; I can’t tell you how many weird personal details people in the community (sometimes semi-high-profile people) have confided in me. It’s like I’m a safe place for weirdos — for better or for worse, I’m basically a trash can waiting to be filled with the puke stream of any given id. And so it was that finally, even this cagiest of all cagey motherfuckers warmed up enough to tell me what he really wanted to do — and surprisingly, it wasn’t have sex/suck my toes/have me kick him in the balls…or anything sexual at all, for that matter!
All he wanted was to be naked in a photo with me…and he asked if I would be OK with that.
Now, I’ve seen so many naked bodies of all types at hot springs and Burning Man and places like that, that being naked around other naked people doesn’t faze me at all — women or men, young or old, fit or fat. It makes no difference to me — it’s just flesh! Moreover, I’ve actually been shot by at least two other photographers who were also naked at the time, and everything was totally cool — no hanky panky, no weirdness. Some people just like being naked!
Just to clarify, however, before agreeing I asked him to specify exactly what type of poses he had in mind — I wasn’t into any kind of romantic/erotic stuff. But all he wanted to do was stand next to me naked — in his weird, ultra-nervous, paranoid way, he was trying to make some kind of artistic statement about physical beauty and nudity, and in fact trying to desexualize nudity. So, why the fuck not? I saw no harm in it. I mean, I’ve posed nude with male models before…so what was the difference?
Before he took his clothes off, he warned me not to be alarmed by a certain distinguishing physical characteristic he had (he made me promise not to mention it here, as it’s very identifiable) — and I wasn’t, but it was a very noticeable characteristic that some might find embarrassing. But apparently not this guy! As nervous as he was, he was oddly confident in his nude state; as an athlete, he was fairly fit, so I guess that might have been part of it.
Anyway, he tried to take some photos of us together doing really weird poses like making funny faces, pretending to box, flexing our biceps, etc. but it was too hard to do it in the mirror. So when Lolita finally arrived for her part of the shoot, he asked her if she would take the photos!
And so it was that I ended up being party to one of the (if not THE) weirdest photoshoots I’ve ever done — me and this paranoid, giggling bundle of nerves, flexing our biceps naked, while one of the most beautiful nude models in Vegas photographed us. Bizarre — and not wholly unenjoyable (it was a little creepy, as I was constantly expecting him to try and cop a feel or something…but I kept a polite distance, and nothing ever happened).
by Marshall Bradford
Now, I know many of you reading this probably think there is no way this guy had no ulterior motives, and that he must have gotten off doing this; but if he did, it was not apparent in the least, and he displayed no outward symptoms of arousal. I think he just genuinely enjoyed the freedom of being naked in front of a camera, in front of people who wouldn’t rat him out or mock him. I mean, this guy was goofy!!!
Anyhow, the shoot went fairly quickly after that — after our joint nude session he put his clothes back on and shot Lolita and I together for awhile, and then we all three just sat around talking; he had apparently really warmed up at this point, and let slip a few more tantalizingly vague details about his apparently high-profile life. But I didn’t press him, and he never offered up anything concrete…so I still have no fucking idea what the fuck was going on there.
Afterward, I went to the ATM and deposited my cash, and went on about my business living my life of radical transparency. Sure, I’ll never be a teacher, a mainstream sitcom star or an elected official of any sort….but who gives a flying fuck?! I’ll take an open life over all that bunk any day! I always feel so bad for those poor assholes at Burning Man who freak the fuck out whenever someone busts out a camera; apparently the “Ask Before Photos” policy up there is in place because many Burners would lose their jobs if a photo of them in a tutu were to get out. I would hate to live my livelihood hinge on something so innocuous as a tutu!
photo by Shutterbug Studio quote by F Nietzsche
And really…why all the shame? What is so evil/dirty about a naked human body? How the hell has this fucked-up society evolved to a point where it’s perfectly acceptable for people to know you shoot African rhinos/drink whiskey/believe that a talking snake gave a magic apple to a woman made from a man’s rib……but people seeing you without clothes is a LIFE-ENDING DISASTER? Whence the baseless shame?!
I’ll tell you whence: FEAR. As good old Nietzsche said, fear is the mother of shame. I guess people are afraid to be seen stripped bare, without the protective armor of clothing. Afraid of being judged, afraid of being laughed at. Afraid of being vulnerable.
Well, guess what? I’m as vulnerable as the next person. Ever since I was 13, I’ve been self-conscious about my flat chest — when all the other girls were developing, I was sitting there frantically stuffing Kleenex into my bra and doing pectoral exercises: “I must — I must — I must increase my bust!” But try as I might, my tits never did grow beyond a 32AA.
Despite my mosquito bites, years later I somehow ended up pursuing work as a nude model — against all odds. Now I was even more self-conscious about my breasts — but the nice thing about modeling is, it makes you insecure about all your body parts…so my proportionally short/stumpy legs took some of the heat off my tits. I’m really not built to be a model…but I have succeeded (more or less) by dint of sheer determination.
And now, after modeling for 7 years, I find myself constantly scrutinizing my face and body for signs of decay. Each and every new wrinkle, dent and pockmark impacts my saleability…a reality of which I am fully aware, and which makes me more vulnerable than ever before.
photo by Shutterbug Studio quote by C.G. Jung
But per my m.o. of radical transparency, here I am…admitting my vulnerabilities to the world, because I will not let fear rule my life! Fear of getting old, fear of being mocked, fear of someone seeing me in a tutu…or in a porno movie…or standing naked with some giggling paranoid freak in a dimly-lit Vegas hotel room. I will not be afraid, and I will not be ashamed.
Because as another famous Teuton said… shame is a soul-eating emotion 🙂
As you know, I love exploring all the funky little corners of the desert. And one oddity I’ve been wanting to check out for years is Barker Ranch, a/k/a the last hideout of the Manson Family — an EXTREMELY remote cabin on the western fringes of Death Valley where law enforcement officials finally apprehended that rascal Charles Manson. For whatever reason, I’ve long been fascinated by the story of Charlie and his family of killer hippies… so Barker Ranch has long been high on my list of places to check out.
The main thing stopping me from going out there all these years has been the road — all the websites and books agree that Goler Wash (the main access route to Barker Ranch) is super gnarly, and should only be attempted by an experienced off-roader with a HARDCORE 4×4. Since my little truck is only 2WD, I just kinda figured I was shit out of luck….until one night last month, when — against my better judgment — I got high and decided to post on social media:
“ALL YOU ASSHOLES WHO ARE ALWAYS SAYING YOU WANT TO GO ON AN ADVENTURE WITH ME — HERE’S YOUR CHANCE!!! WHO WANTS TO CHECK OUT BARKER RANCH?!?! MUST HAVE SUPER-HARDCORE 4X4, GOOD OFFROADING SKILLS, AND ENOUGH INTEREST, TIME AND MONEY TO GET THERE! NO FLAKES!!!“
Or something like that.
Ruins at Ballarat ghost town
As predicted, the next morning my inbox was flooded with responses from interested parties….around 90% of whom were total flakes: “I’d love to, but I don’t have a 4×4” and “OMG I wish I could get the time off work/gas money/permission from my mom.” This kind of dumb shit was exactly what I’d expected, so I immediately deleted the post…but fortunately, there were a couple legit responses in there that I was able to salvage. And so it was that I made plans with two total strangers to meet up at Ballarat ghost town one chilly November evening, and head up to Barker Ranch from there.
Now, you might find it weird that I would agree to meet up with two total strangers in the middle of nowhere with a half-baked plan to head up a super-gnarly road to a murderer’s hideout. But for me, that’s just a Wednesday! You have to take a few chances in life, if you want to have any fun at all. Like my Starbucks cup once said:
Besides, they weren’t total strangers — they were Facebook friends! And as I only have around 5,000 Facebook friends (add me!), I felt that was credibility enough for this kind of trip.
My fellow adventurers, features obscured to protect their identities (my own features blurred because it was an unflattering photo)
My two fellow adventurers — the only two respondents who ended up not flaking — were a guy from Southern CA, and a girl from here in Vegas. I had never met the Vegas chick in person or even really interacted with her online, but a quick perusal of her Facebook profile proved her to seem pretty cool; I’d met and hung out with the guy for about 15 minutes at that Burning Man campout I went to in San Diego, while I was high on mushrooms, and he seemed legit, too. I won’t say too much more about either one of them, since the Vegas chick works at the front desk of a very swanky Strip hotel and could get in trouble for the stuff we did, and the guy works in a VERY cool outdoorsy capacity with kids, so he could get in trouble, too. Guilt by association! Normally I get kind of offended when people don’t want to be mentioned in my blog…but in both of these people’s cases, I completely understand. But at the same time…..I’m glad I’m ME, and don’t have to kow-tow to any bourgeois moral code. I YAM WHAT I YAM, MOTHERFUCKERS!
The Ballarat General Store
Anyway, the Vegas chick and I headed out from Vegas last Wednesday afternoon, headed for Ballarat, a tiny ghost town on the western edge of Death Valley that was sort of near the entrance to the dreaded Goler Wash, where we had arranged to meet the guy, who was coming from Santa Barbara. The plan was to meet up and camp out overnight at Ballarat, then head out in the morning for Barker Ranch, and camp out a second night up there before heading back home.
Of course, we ended up getting a late start out of Vegas: I had ill-advisedly agreed to play Secret Agent Hotpants in a scavenger hunt that morning, and when I was finally done, the other chick had to go see her weed man in front of Bally’s before we could finally set off into the desert. So by the time we rolled into Ballarat it was almost totally dark.
Having never been to Ballarat, I was unsure how to proceed; I knew from online research that there was supposedly a campground onsite, but despite driving around the desert in the dark for 30 minutes I was unable to find it. I finally went into the “General Store,” which is more a creepy collection of dusty artifacts than an actual store, and which was completely dark and deserted, despite the front door having been left wide open with an “OPEN” sign hanging crookedly nearby, creaking eerily in the night breeze. I tiptoed cautiously inside and deposited the $3 camping fee into a rusty coffee can provided for that purpose…and then sort of drove over to an area where a few RVs and toyhaulers were parked, and found a spot with a picnic table and a fire ring. I guess that’s what they meant by campground! It was pretty rustic — no bathrooms, just a single port-a-potty about 1/8 mile away — but I’m used to camping in the boonies, so it was no big deal.
Another view of the “campground”
The other chick and I set up camp and built a fire, and waited for the guy to arrive. It gets dark really early out here at this time of year — around 5pm — so it seemed like we sat there in the dark forever waiting for him, her getting baked off her freshly-scored weed, and me drinking hot cocoa with peppermint schnapps. Around this time I mentioned to her that we were probably the only two chicks in Vegas who would do something like this — go camping at a ghost town in the middle of nowhere, alone, next to the cemetery, no less. And it was probably true!
But around 8pm we saw a pair of headlights coming our way, and our guy finally rolled in, true to his word. I couldn’t then (and still can’t) believe that two people actually stuck to their word and went on this adventure with me! I’m so used to people flaking out on me (remember my Saline Valley trip last month?!) that it was really a bizarre experience to have TWO PEOPLE — strangers, no less — actually follow through!! Maybe my luck is changing 🙂
Anyway, we all hung out by the fire and engaged in semi-awkward getting-to-know-you-type chit chat — remember, we were allbasically totalstrangers! But we pretty much hit it off OK, and after a few hours we were fairly comfortable with each other, and went to bed with the intention of getting up early and heading off toward the ranch. It was really cold that night in Ballarat — in the 20s — so I shoved HotHands in my sox and wore a knit cap, but still ended up freezing my ass off. That’s just the way it’s gonna be until spring, I guess :-/
The Liberace of Death Valley
In the morning, we broke camp and piled all our gear into the guy, who we’ll call Shaggy’s, car — a 4×4 Toyota 4Runner with fairly rugged tires, which he seemed confident could make the trip. I decided to leave my truck parked down at the campsite, so went over to the General Store to put another $3 in the coffee can before we left. That store was even wackier during the day — full of random weird shit piled up everywhere, and an old-timey refrigerator which I assumed contained cold drinks for sale…but turned out to be full of someone’s actual food and leftovers 😮
Charles Manson’s old truck
Also, in the desert out front of the store was this rusted out old Ford truck that legend has it belonged to Charles Manson himself…so I figured I’d better pose for a nudie or two with it. It was sunny and fairly warm by now, so I stripped off my clothes and went to town, hoping to have poor, beleaguered Shaggy bang out a few shots before the General Store proprietor came out and gave us hell. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, in my hurry to get dressed afterward I somehow dropped the wad of cash I always carry in my bra for emergencies — about $150, I reckon. D’OH!!!!!
Fanboy art at the entrance to Goler Wash
Anyway, after getting dressed again we all three piled into Shaggy’s car and headed off for the Ranch. From Ballarat ghost town, you take the fairly smooth, gravelly Wingate Road south for about 15 miles, and then turn off to the east toward the Panamint Mountains onto Goler Wash Rd, which runs up a canyon, eventually leading over Mengel Pass and back down into Death Valley proper.
I had done quite a bit of reading on road conditions, and knew that Goler Wash and Mengel Pass were supposed to be über-gnarly routes that were often impassable by all but the HARDEST-CORE 4x4s — so I was well prepared for the possibility that we wouldn’t be able to drive up, and would simply have to hike in. Of course I was hoping we’d be able to drive up, as I really wanted to camp out at the Ranch but didn’t think I could pack all that firewood and booze in on foot — but I was open to anything, at this point.
Incidentally, the best route to take on this trip would have been from the east — inside Death Valley park. If you take Warm Springs Road up from Badwater, and approach Mengel Pass from the east, not only is the road much less intense, but there are also several abandoned cabins you pass along the way, which are open to camp in — FOR FREE! The Geologist’s Cabin in particular is supposed to be really nice, with a big stone fireplace and a fully stocked kitchen, with pots and pans dating back 80-100 years!!! There’s also an abandoned mining encampment along the way, with a warm spring swimming pool (!!!!), and you don’t even need 4WD until about halfway up the mountain. I really wanted to go in that way, and stay overnight at the Geologist’s Cabin…but alas, due to the recent heavy rains in Death Valley one of the access roads had washed out and was thus impassable 🙁 But, as Dog is my witness: I hereby VOW to return to Barker Ranch next spring via Warm Springs Rd., and I *WILL* stay overnight at the Geologist’s Cabin!! (As long as no one else beats me to it; it’s on a first-come, first-serve basis.) WHO’S IN??!?!?
Goler Wash “Road”
So anyway, it was with no little trepidation that we set off up Goler Wash toward Barker Ranch that morning. At first, the road was gravel and washboard, and not all that burly. But once the canyon walls started to close in, conditions became much worse — loose sand and gravel, with ginormous boulders strewn about here and there for good measure. I knew from my research that this super-gnarly portion only lasted about 1/2 mile or so…but getting through it was a real challenge. I kept thinking back to how the wacky Manson Family somehow got a freaking school bus up there (!?!?!) — I guess the county or the Park Service does occasionally grade the road, and back then it must have been in much better condition. And the recent rain storms must have adversely affected conditions, too. Either way, it made the road into Saline Valley look like the Las Vegas Strip!!!
Anyway, Shaggy kept doggedly driving his 4Runner up the wash. I reminded him a few times that he didn’t have to impress anyone; the other girl (who I’ll call Velma) and I were perfectly happy to hike up if we had to, and it would still be an amazing trip. But Shaggy is a real hardcore outdoorsman, and he took it as a challenge, figuring out ways to navigate each difficult portion as it came along. I learned on this trip that many offroaders simply enjoy navigating difficult roads, viewing the experience as a problem-solving adventure! I don’t totally understand it myself….but I’m glad there are people like that out there.
the road mellows out after a bit
I was especially glad about 5 minutes later, when we finally hit a portion of Goler Wash that was so burly that even Shaggy conceded that we’d have to turn back; it was basically a vertical stair-step situation with some giant slippery boulders in the middle where his tires simply couldn’t gain traction. But, wouldn’t you know it — WAY OUT THERE in the middle of nowhere, there just happened to be a retired couple in a super-hardcore offroad Hummer that had a winch on it! And we just happened to encounter them right at the difficult part!
It was really astonishing — if we’d been just 15 or 30 minutes later, we’d have missed them altogether, and would have had to turn back. But as it was, they were more than happy to winch us up over the difficult portion — in fact, I’d venture to say that helping us out made their day! Again, I don’t fully understand it myself…but apparently these hardcore desert off-roaders really get off figuring out these tough roads, and helping their fellow man triumph over nature.
Big Brother is watching you…even way up here!
In any event, we got over the last bad section and the road mellowed out — somewhat. We followed Goler Wash up into the mountains another 3 miles or so, passing all manner of abandoned bull dozers, mine shafts and other weird desert detritus including a bathtub that had somehow gotten wedged into a ravine (how the hell this shit gets up there, I have no idea — this place is REMOTE as FUCK!). And finally, we crossed over the Death Valley National Park boundary. It was kinda surreal to pass an official sign like that after traveling through such desolate, rugged backcountry…but there it was!
Old junk pile near Barker Ranch
From the park boundary sign, it was only another mile or so to Barker Ranch. The last part of the turnoff road was pretty steep, and Shaggy felt unsure about trying it in his 4Runner, so we decided to just park there and hump all our gear in the last 1/4 mile or so, past this giant pile of rusted-out old garbage: cars and tin cans and old soda bottles, and all kinds of crazy old junk that looked to have been there for at least the last 50 years. Far out!!!
Barker Ranch from above
So Shaggy, Velma and I carried all the firewood and camp gear and booze and whatnot to the Ranch, and set up camp in the afternoon. I had heard that the Ranch had burned down back in 2008, and was afraid I’d missed all the really good stuff — and while much of the building had indeed been burned, there was still plenty of stuff standing. The original cabin was half stone anyway, so the walls and foundations and stuff were still there, and it was really fascinating.
Entrance to the Ranch
Of main interest to me was the bathroom, which is where Charles Manson was finally apprehended, some two months after the famous Sharon Tate murders were committed. Ironically, the cops who arrested him and the rest of the Family didn’t even realize they were responsible for those murders, which were as yet unsolved; they were raiding the cabin for something completely unrelated — the torching of a bulldozer way on the other side of Death Valley! It was only after they brought these Earth-defending vandals into custody that all their other nefarious hijinks came to light.
Moreover, Charles Manson himself very nearly evaded being caught during the raid! 5’2″ Manson had hidden himself in a tiny cabinet under the bathroom sink — which was so tiny that the arresting officer later said that he never would have even looked in it, if not for a single lock of Manson’s hair that was accidentally hanging out the door. D’OH!!! Just one more reason not to be a long-haired hippie!
Look Ma, I’m Charles Manson!
Anyway, the infamous cabinet where Charlie hid was long ago stolen by enterprising souvenir hunters/fanboys, but you can still see the corner of the bathroom where it stood — and you can still crouch down there as Manson himself did in October 1969. Trippy! We all took turns doing so, and went around the grounds taking photos and stuff until we decided it was time to really get the party started. Shaggy started a campfire, and I busted out my baggie of mushrooms!
Let me tell you, there is nothing like eating mushrooms at the top of a remote mountain pass in the middle of nowhere at the site of a murder’s den on Friday the 13th Eve with two strangers! It was magical! We took our medicine at golden hour, and the shrooms kicked in just as the sun began to set. We sat there marveling at the beautiful autumn sky as the colors all came to life, and then when the sun sank below the horizon we hunkered down around the fire, and talked and talked and talked late into the night. It was amazing.
What remains of Barker Ranch
I’m here to tell you, there is no DishTV or anything that can compare with real life stories! As you might guess, I have few doozies myself….but my camp mates had some amazing tales to tell, too. First Shaggy regaled us with an ultra-dramatic near-death experience he once had while hiking in the mountains one winter’s day, and it felt like I was watching the Travel Channel. Then Velma started in with an amazing story from her high school dropout hoodrat days, when she and her little thug boyfriend stole cars and sold drugs and ended up living with a generous tweeker down in Tijuana. That Velma was a real enigma: she looked like a little gangster chick, but she was one of the most astonishingly well-informed, well-read, progressive people I’ve ever met! I mean, she had to have been pretty progressive to volunteer for this fucked-up expedition in the first place…but it just goes to show, you never know who you’re dealing with. She was absolutely wonderful — and a bad-ass hiker/camper, to boot. She never complained for one second about anything, even when carrying a heavy load up a steep hillside. Now that’s a badass bitch!
Informative Park Service plaque at the site, LOLz
And Shaggy, of course, was equally amazing. He really was one of the best possible people to go camping with, as he’s one of the most seasoned outdoorsmen I’ve ever had the pleasure of hiking with, and he was full of fascinating, useful information about the backcountry and nature in general. Super cool people, both of them!
Anyway, we talked late into the night, until the mushrooms wore off and it started to get REALLY cold. The plan was for everyone to bunk in Velma’s tent, but I have a really hard time sleeping so I kind of killed the party by sleeping by myself in my little Boy Scout Walmart tent, off to the side. But I had my mom’s old 1975 down mummy bag, with HotHands in my socks and a warm knit cap, and shockingly I stayed very warm and cozy, and slept reasonably well.
In the morning, we woke up pretty early and broke camp, and set about the slightly daunting task of getting back down Goler Wash to Ballarat, where (hopefully) my truck was waiting for me and where I was also hoping to find my missing $150, which I had only just then realized I’d lost. Of course if I’d had my druthers we’d have continued on eastward over Mengel Pass to the Geologist’s Cabin, and spent another shroomy night camping out there…but as it was, I had to be back in Vegas by a reasonable hour for a photo shoot the following day. So I was really hoping we wouldn’t have any problems like a busted tire or broken axle getting down Goler Wash!
Fortunately, gravity worked in our favor and we made it down the wash just fine — it was MUCH easier going down, in fact! Along the way we encountered a group of Jeepers heading up the wash — apparently that weekend was Panamint Valley Days, a sort of offroad rally that takes place near Ballarat every year, where all kind of crazy 4x4ers take their rigs out exploring in the desert. Ballarat campground was FULL of them!
My money was long gone, eaten by a burro or snatched up by some lucky offroader
My truck was still there, unmolested….but alas, my $15o was nowhere to be seen 🙁 Oh, well — I wrote it off as a sort of Adventure Tax; $150 is a small price to pay for the fun I had on this trip. Although when I think of how freezing f*cking cold I probably was, laying naked on a rock to earn that $150….arrrrrghhh!!!
Anyway, back at Ballarat we all said our good-byes, Shaggy going on his way down to Southern California while Velma and I headed back to Vegas via this weird, desolate sort of sun-nuked town on the southern edge of Death Valley called Trona. OMG, was that place WEIRD!!!
Where the Trona Tornadoes play football
Apparently, Trona was once a thriving mining town situated on the edge of a vast dry lake bed on the most desolate, arid plain this side of Tattooine. The mine has seen better days, and the town is about 3/4 deserted…but there are still people living there, hanging on by their toenails with that hardcore desert determination you see in towns like that. The town itself is basically a cluster of cinderblock shanties in the shadow of a giant sulphur-belching factory, and the local high school has the distinction of being the only high school in the country whose football team plays on a dirt field — they can’t even grow enough grass for a football field out there, it’s THAT arid! It was fascinatingly grim.
The Trona Pinnacles
Then, on the outskirts south of town are these astonishing natural formations called the Trona Pinnacles — giant tufa spires, similar to those at Mono Lake…only instead of poking out of water, these jagged peaks rise out of a dry, barren moonscape of a desert. It’s truly surreal, and in fact the area has been used as a backdrop in movies like Planet of the Apes and Star Trek and whatnot. What a great place for a future shroomy campout — I totally bookmarked it 🙂
Anyway, Velma and I finally rolled back into Vegas around sunset, exhausted but exhilarated from a fantastic few days. This little adventure may have been a little chilly and a bit uncertain, but it taught me one valuable lesson: it’s definitely worth it to take a chance, and meet up with strangers for a bizarre campout in the desert. You never know what might happen! Sure, you might get murdered….but you might also make some really bitchin’ new friends!!! 😀
Just the other week I was ass-deep in Death Valley sunshine, hiking around naked with a rum & Coke in one hand and the other firmly on the throttle of life. My truck had made it down the 50-mile washboard “bullshit filter” road to Saline Valley Hot Springs, I was with *both* my sisters (even the sister who never comes out for anything)… and everything was A-OK.
Old Man Winter forcing me close to the fire
Then overnight, it changed.
I remember the exact moment: we were sitting in the Wizard Pool one night, shrooming out of our gourds. The moon was full, and cast an eerie light on the scene as sudden gusty winds rustled the palm trees, blowing in ominous scattered clouds from parts unknown. “Old Man Winter is a-knockin’ at the door,” I intoned shroomily. I may have been high….but I could still read the writing on the wall.
My Saline Valley sojourn was the last gasp of summer — a four day interlude of sunshine and nakedness with both my sisters at one of my all-time favorite spots: an ultra-remote natural hot springs oasis out in an extremely remote, barren valley on the western edge of Death Valley (for more info, click here). We were joined by our friend Dr. Kildare, who camped with us there last year around this time, and by the one friend from Vegas who actually came through and made the trip. Side note: my PET PEEVE is people who whine about wanting to go on an adventure with me, but then puss out when crunch time rolls around. I invited several people who claimed to be interested in this trip, but every single one of them flaked except for my wacky friend Lenny — an ex Bikram yoga instructor and BDSM enthusiast who works as a lighting tech at one of the titty revues on the Strip. He’s always a good time!
With my sisters
Anyway, as mentioned my truck made the 50-mile washboard road into Saline Valley just fine; I take the South Pass, and at the time of my trip that road was in excellent condition! How excellent? Well, I was able to travel at speeds up to 30mph on much of it; contrast that with my first time to Saline back in 2010, when it was so bad I could only go 5-10mph the entire 50 miles!!! (It rained in Death Valley right after I left, though, and I hear the road is bad again. Check before you go!)
My poor tires have been through a lot lately
In any event, it was really lucky for me that the road was so good, as unbeknownst to me I was riding on a tire with a slow leak the entire time! It’s basic dogma that Saline Valley Road should not be attempted without two cans of Fix-A-Flat and a full-size spare…but that whole fiasco with my truck getting bogged down in the mud right before my trip fucked things up so that I didn’t have time to take care of my tire situation before leaving to meet my sisters in Panamint Springs. I had intended to get my tires checked before leaving, but ended up having to just kinda keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. I was following my one sister in her 4×4 anyway, so it’s not like I had zero backup…but still.
Saline Valley showdown
And as it happened, I was fine — at first. We met up with Dr. Kildare, who had already been at the springs for a few days, and commenced partying. One of the regulars at Saline, a sunbaked bosomy blonde named Florida, invited us over for a fish fry one night — she had just been fishing up near Yosemite and had caught a mess of ginormous, delicious trout which she was willing to share. YUM!!! She cooked it over a fire with just butter and salt — all of her other spices had been lost when a latch on her RV busted open coming down the North Pass Road — and OMG it was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. Granted, I was baked at the time (Dr. Kildare loves edibles, so I had brought a bunch)….but it really was fantastic.
We were joined at the fish fry by a couple of other boozy regulars, and they filled me in on some of the Saline Valley gossip that I never knew: apparently, there’s a sort of friendly schism between the regulars who camp at the Lower Springs and the regulars who camp at the Upper Springs. At the big Presidents’ Day weekend get-together every year (when hundreds of people show up at Saline), they even have a golf tournament and a softball game between the two factions. And the distinction between the two factions is very interesting!
With one of the many wild burros at the Lower Springs
The Lower Springs is the original oasis, where most of the trees are — there’s a nice shady lawn, a shaded pool for day soaking, a couple other tubs, an outdoor shower, a communal bonfire, a little kitchen area and even a lending library. The (un)official host of the springs, Lizard Lee, lives in a charmingly ramshackeldy compound down there, and according to my (admittedly boozy) source, the Lower Springs is where the old-timers like to camp — and the vibe can be a bit New Agey and sanctimonious. Either way, I’m a huge fan of the Lower Springs — it’s where I stayed the first time, and I just really dig the environment down there.
But Dr. Kildare prefers to camp out in the desert up closer to the Upper Springs, so that’s where we’ve stayed on my last two trips. The Upper Springs are fantastic, too — according to my source (and in keeping with my own observations) the crowd up there is slightly looser: boozier, slightly rowdier, friendlier. It actually makes perfect sense for me to camp there, because I am all of the above — and then some!
COME BACK SUMMER ALL IS FORGIVEN photo by PacificNW Photography
The other thing the Upper Springs has going for it is the Wizard Pool, which sits near a small grove of palm trees but has an unobstructed view of the nighttime sky, so you can look up at the moon and stars while you soak. It was built by a guy called the Wizard, who sort of broke off from the Lower Springs faction back in the day and started the whole schism. There’s a second pool up top as well, but the water isn’t as hot, so it’s better as a daytime soak…but in any event, both Upper and Lower springs are fantastically beautiful, and we spent plenty of time soaking at both.
Anyway, everything was going great until Tuesday morning, when Lenny rolled in…and pointed out that one of my tires was totallyflat!! I hadn’t noticed, what with all the boozing and getting baked…so now of course I went into panic mode: YIKESOMG WTF HOW AM I GOING TO GET OUT OF HERE ALIVE?!?!?! I’d been so busy, I hadn’t had time to get a full-size spare, and all I had with me was my emergency donut…and that wasn’t likely to get me very far — certainly not down 50 miles of rugged washboard:/ Thankfully, earlier this year Dr. Kildare had given me one of those air compressors you plug into your car battery; we hooked it up and filled the tire, hoping the leak was slow enough that I’d be able to get out on it….and then with the aid of shrooms, pot and booze, I was able to more or less forget about it and resume partying.
Ominous skies over Saline Valley
So I ran, did some writing, took a few hikes, and even did Bikram yoga on the lawn down by the Lower Springs….and all in all, it was such a great few days that none of us ever wanted to leave. The weather was warm and kind of overcast most of the time, sort of blanketing the valley in an eerie stillness broken only by the screaming afterburners of the occasional F-18 fighter jet (Saline Valley is a designated low-level flight corridor, and Navy pilots buzz the hot springs all the time, sometimes coming down really low) (probably to perv on all the naked people out there).
Unrelated pic from a recent shoot by Marshall Bradford
But on the last night of the trip, as we sat around our campfire eating Frito Pie, an ill wind blew in from the west. It got so gusty that I had to drop everything and pack up most of my camp ahead of time — Old Man Winter had arrived, bringing with him chilly temperatures and even a few drops of rain. It was actually kind of fortuitous, because the change in the weather made it easier to leave — in fact it was so windy the following morning that we were actually glad to go!
Meanwhile, my tire had lost a little bit of its air since we’d filled it…but I just topped it off again and took ‘er easy on the road, and was able to get back to town just fine. (It turned out I had a nail dead-center in the tread, which was easily plugged when I got home.) But ironically, one of Dr. Kildare’s all-terrain tires blew out and was totally shredded on the way out!! Luckily he did have a full size spare with him, though, so we managed to get out OK, and celebrate over burgers at the Panamint Springs cafe. Yum!!!
The Last Night Fremont Street Was Cool
From there, Dr. Kildare went on his way back toward Georgia, and my sisters and I headed back to my place in Vegas for Halloween. We had planned to go downtown to the annual Las Vegas Halloween Parade, which is normally a big affair full of Burning Man art cars and tens of thousands of people partying…but for whatever reason it was cancelled this year, so instead we just took mushrooms and went down to the perennial shit show that is the Fremont Street Experience, and walked around looking at all the freaks. OMG, it was epic! That has to be one of THE greatest places to shroom, hands down; we had a blast!
Unfortunately, however, that was the last night you would have been able to have that amazing experience; the very next day, the city enacted some bullshit new regulations regarding the buskers (a/k/a street performers). If you’ve been to downtown Vegas in the last few years, you probably noticed the proliferation of freaks and weirdos in costumes, standing around posing for photos with tourists in exchange for tips — everything from Rick James and Mr. T look-a-likes to contortionists, drummers and the occasional half-naked fat-ass in a nun’s wimple or Cupid costume. I personally loved it; I felt the buskers added quite a bit of outlandish ambiance to depressing-ass Fremont Street with its shitty old smoky-smelling casinos and crappy kiosks selling overpriced plastic tchotchkes.
But apparently, people complained about the buskers “ruining” the “family-friendly” experience (?!?!?!?!), so the city enacted new regulations that took effect Nov. 1st, limiting the number of performers and the types of performances, and also requiring that all buskers register for a permit. So now all that’s left are a few assholes, a bunch of sad alcoholics and the usual gaggles of ghetto-ass hookers. LAME!!! (Fortunately, the Strip has no such regulations….so if you’re looking for a shit show, you can probably find all the evicted buskers down on the sidewalk in front of Planet Hollywood or Bellagio.)
Freezing my ass off at a nude shoot the other day by Marshall Bradford
Anyway, my sisters and I were lucky enough to enjoy the last night of magic down there, and it really was something special. The weather was even fairly mild; Old Man Winter was apparently still hanging around Saline Valley, and hadn’t made his way out to Vegas yet. But all that changed a couple days later, after my sisters left — a cold front blew in with a vengeance, and I’ve been chilled to the bone ever since. I had to go out and buy a bunch of jeans, hoodies and boots, and even then I froze my ass off; you can’t exactly wear jeans, a hoodie and boots at a nude photo shoot 🙁
So the weather is turning, and it’s a real bummer…but I’m trying to be positive about it, and instead of cursing Old Man Winter, I’m trying to embrace him — or at least just live with him. I have a camping trip planned to the Manson Family’s old hideout in Death Valley tomorrow, and even though the overnight lows are projected to be
Late night munchie regrets
in the 20s (!!!!!@%^&$#!!!!), I’m packing up my Hot Hands, my peppermint schnapps and my down jacket, and heading out anyway. I’ll tell you all about it soon — if I don’t freeze my ass off, first.