Paddling down the Colorado River from the base of the Hoover Dam in a kayak, stopping in at all the various natural hot springs, beaches and caves, is one of the most AMAZING adventures that can be had anywhere…..and it’s all within an hour of Vegas! If you’ve never done this trip, check it out…it’s a really, really amazing adventure.
If you don’t like to read, here’s a video I made about the trip:
Otherwise, here’s a rundown:
The trip starts at the Hoover Dam Lodge around 8am (!!), where an outfitting company shuttles you and your gear down to the base of the Hoover Dam. You have to pay the outfitters for the ride, and also apply for a government permit, because the area around the Dam is US Gov’ment property with a high(ish) security clearance. But the total cost of the permit and shuttle ride was only around $37 per person, so it’s not that bad.
We saved some money because we didn’t sign up for the return shuttle — normally, the outfitting company picks you up downriver at the takeout spot, Willow Beach, the following afternoon. But we wanted to spend two nights down there and take our time, so we arranged ahead of time to park our own vehicle at Willow Beach. Also, we saved money by bringing our own kayaks and gear — you can rent those also, but then your costs go up. Out total cost on this trip was $37 per person, plus food/booze/drugs/gas money. What a deal!
Once the outfitter drops you off at the base of the Dam, you have something like 10 minutes to load up and GTFO of there — they’re very strict about it! They encourage you to just throw everything in your vessels and then paddle downriver a bit to this sandbar that is not on government property….where you can spend as much time as you like sorting out and packing your gear into everyone’s boats.
This sandbar is a good place to stop, anyway, as it’s near the first point of interest on the trip — a sauna cave! This long tunnel bores way back into the cliff face on the Nevada side of the river, and a hot creek runs through it, turning the entire tunnel into a hot, steamy, pitch-black wonderland. The floor is gravelly, and the walls are covered in mineral buildup; it’s really fun to walk all the way to the back without using a headlamp or flashlight — just your sense of touch and your ears! My friends and I went all the way to the back of the cave and sat there in the darkness humming “OMMMMMMMMM” all together, until the entire cave felt like it was vibrating. It was awesome!
The sauna cave doesn’t have a very big beach, and depending on the water level at the time of your visit (they periodically release water through the Dam, so the water levels on this part of the river fluctuate greatly), you might have to tie up to a tree and just wade to and from your boat.
From the sauna cave, it’s a short paddle of a few minutes to the next point of interest — Goldstrike Canyon hot springs! These are a fabulously beautiful series of natural hot springs in a semi-lush, almost tropical canyon, and there’s almost always plenty of gravelly beach to drag your kayaks up onto while you hike up the canyon to soak. You could easily spend an entire day soaking here, but my friends and I only stayed an hour or so, as there were more sights we wanted to see before reaching our camp spot for the night.
From Goldstrike, we paddled along with the current, stopping in at several “rain caves” — huge, dripping caves lined with tropical moss and ferns, all along the Nevada side of the river (there are some on the Arizona side as well). Some of these caves are seriously tropical in feel, like a little piece of Hawaii bizarrely transplanted outside Vegas. In a kayak, you can just paddle into the cave and sort of hang out — my friends and I used these opportunities to smoke a bowl 🙂
The next beach we came to was Boy Scout Canyon — a good-sized beach and a great place to camp, if inclined. Similar to Goldstrike, a hot creek runs down through a slot canyon, and is shored up in places to create little soaking pools. Because they are less frequently visited, these springs are generally not as well-maintained as the ones at Goldstrike — at the time of our visit, there were one or two pools that were OK to soak in, but not as picturesque/not as hot water as with Goldstrike. Still, it was a great stop and a nice way to stretch our legs.
After leaving Boy Scout Canyon, our next stop was our planned campsite for the night — Arizona/White Rock hot springs beach (also confusingly called Ringbolt hot springs, because the beach is located across from Ringbolt rapids) (side note: there aren’t any hardcore rapids on this stretch of the Colorado River — it’s fairly smooth and docile the entire length of this trip). This beach is the most popular place for boaters to camp for the night, so it can get crowded — but it’s worth it, since the springs are FABULOUS and there’s plenty of level ground on which to camp. There are even a couple of pit toilets onsite — especially important now that the park service requires all river campers to pack out their solid waste!!
My friends and I rolled into Arizona hot springs beach around 5pm, and we set up camp in a little side canyon straight back from the beach; it was supposed to be kinda windy that night, so we figured we’d be more sheltered that way. Plus, it sort of isolated us from the other, more innocent campers who were there — boy scouts and nice, non-drug-taking-hippie-types. We were doing everyone a favor by camping back there, trust me!
After setting up camp, we went up to the springs themselves for a soak. The springs are off to the left from the beach, up a different slot canyon that also has a hot creek running down it. Follow this creek up the canyon, climbing up some mildly treacherous, slippery boulders along the way, until you finally get to a giant, 20-foot steel ladder bolted onto a steep ledge, over which flows a hot waterfall. This ladder looks SKETCHY AS FUCK, but trust me — it’s securely bolted on at the top, so just go slowly and carefully, and maintain three points of contact the whole way. You’ll be fine! I’ve done it under the influence of all manner of intoxicants, and I’m still here 🙂
There’s also a warning sign here about Naegleria Fowleri — a brain-eating bacteria that can live in warm water. It can only enter through your nasal membranes, though, so just be careful not to get water up your nose — you’ll be fine.
If you survive the bacteria warning and the ladder, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most beautiful, relaxing soaks on the face of the Earth — Arizona hot springs!! The hot creek running down this slot canyon has been dammed up with sandbags to create a series of 4-5 pools, ranging in temperature from HOT to warm, where you can soak in the shade of the steep slot canyon walls. It’s fabulous!!! The pools have nice, clean gravelly bottoms and the water feels very clean due to the rate of flow through. My friends and I soaked here all evening and well into the night — for two nights!!!
One note: my friends and I are mostly nudists, and prefer to soak au naturel; most of the time, this is fine at Arizona hot springs…you just have to suss out the situation when you get there. Obviously, if the pools are full of underage Boy Scouts, you should reconsider…but after dark, it’s basically a guarantee that most soakers are nude. Just use your judgment!
Now, I was lucky; most of my squad had kayaked downriver to the campsite with me, but a few of the others had rented a power boat down at the take-out spot, Willow Beach…so they were able to blast upriver to meet us with all the heavy stuff like water, firewood, etc. But I’ve done this trip before with just kayaks, and it’s just as much fun. Either way, if you can, I recommend spending two nights at Arizona — it gives you more time to just chill out. My friends and I took a lot of drugs (including copious amounts of booze), had some nice campfires, and went on a couple little excursions in the power boat. It was fantastic!
It should be noted that my people and I were sure to pack out ALL our trash; we’re firm believers in the “Leave No Trace” school of ethics, so we even picked up some pre-existing trash from the camp area as well. Also, it should be noted that we saw a couple snakes on the beach, one of which was a rattler! So be careful down there; watch where you step, cuz it’s a looooong way to the nearest hospital!
Anyway, my group and I all packed up to leave around noon on a Saturday. It’s another 8 miles or so to the takeout spot, so we wanted to have plenty of time; we were lucky that day, as the wind was at our back most of the way, and blew us downriver toward Willow Beach…but I’ve also done this with a miserable headwind, which I assure you is NO fun! Along the way, we stopped in a few caves and on a beach or two to smoke more weed and postpone the inevitable…but finally, around 7pm, we hit Willow Beach and took all our gear out. And after packing everything up, we stopped in Boulder City for a delicious burger at Dillingers — we earned it!!
This was the second time I’d done this fabulous trip, and it most certainly won’t be the last! Like I said at the beginning of this blog — it’s one of the best adventures to be had within an hour or so of the Vegas Strip.
I make my living going into the wilderness with strange men.
That’s my niche; some Vegas models specialize in trade shows, some are bottle girls at nightclubs, some do webcam and some do promotional work. There are thousands of beautiful women in Vegas; the only way a short, flat-chested snark like me can carve out a piece of the action is by capitalizing on my assets: no fear, a sense of adventure…and a dossier of amazing outdoor locations.
I call these my secret locations; of course they are neither “mine,” nor “secret,” but they are far enough off the beaten path that I rarely get bothered when shooting at them. And I enjoy exercising a little dramatic flair; “I’ll take you to my secret locations” is more alluring to potential clients than “I’ll take you to Red Rock Canyon and we’ll shoot between tour buses.”
By Bold Daniel from a set for Diverxity.com
Either way, my strategy seems to be working well — business is booming! Thanks to my cheesy YouTube commercial advertising my 8-hour modeling desert adventure tour, I’ve been swamped with work; I wish I would have thought of it years ago. Say what you will about its production values, it effectively communicates what exactly it is that I do — and how much fun it is. I’m sure there are still some people out there who think I’m a prostitute…but the commercial made it clear to just about everyone else.
Cheesy commercial aside, I’m usually pretty busy this time of year anyway due to the fabulous weather — this is one of the best times to shoot in the desert, with blue skies, balmy temps and blossoming cacti everywhere you look. There’s also a big photography convention that comes to town each spring (WPPI), so I usually get a few bookings from that crowd as well.
This year, my fellow Goddess Collective member and friend Miss Jill V happened to be in town as well, so I ended up doing a few shoots with her, which is always fun; she’s one of the kindest-hearted people you’ll ever meet, and exceptionally beautiful, too. One day our friend JCP Photography hired us for a shoot out in the desert north of Lake Mead, at one of the most beautiful locations I’ve ever posed in — a red sandstone slot canyon filled with beams of soft, golden light. Alas, this location requires a 4×4 vehicle to access, so I can’t make it a regular stop on my modeling tour…but if you’re in town and happen to have 4 wheel drive, let me know!
this ain’t no Samsung Galaxy SIII
This canyon is also in the vicinity of a few other breathtakingly beautiful rock formations of various shapes and colors, and one could easily spend an entire day shooting in the area — I shot out there last week with a guy who does large-format (8×10) contact prints, and he was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the landscape. (It was really to cool to shoot with this guy, incidentally — whereas most photographers use a DSLR and can blast away and sort it all out later, this guy had to carefully consider and compose each shot — so he only ended up taking a handful of photos over the course of the entire day!)
at a desert oasis
Anyway, I was lucky enough to shoot with Jill V on a couple other occasions as well. One guy hired both of us plus another model to travel all over the area for two twelve-hour days! It was exhausting, but fun — he basically tapped out almost every single location I know of in the area, from sand dunes to red rocks to an old abandoned farmhouse and my beloved cement plant. We even shot a bit at a construction site on the Vegas Strip, LOL.
We must have drove this poor man NUTS
The only stressful part of the shoot was, the photographer asked me if I minded driving. Now, I don’t mind chauffeuring a photographer around in my truck all day, but this guy was entrusting me with his personal SUV — yikes! Add to that the fact that when not photographing models he is a police officer, and I got really nervous — he made a few comments on my driving skills (“You don’t really stop at stop signs, do you?”) and it was definitely nerve-wracking. I mean, he saw my busted-up Ranger; I can’t believe he trusted me with his car and the lives of him and the other models! But I got us all out alive, and it ended up being two really, really fun days — he was a super nice man.
goofing around between shots
Now usually, for every additional model you tack onto a shoot, the drama increases exponentially; luckily Jill, Chelsea and I are all fairly low-maintenance, and got along well…but I still don’t understand how this poor guy didn’t go nuts dealing with the three of us for two solid days 🙂 And even crazier was another shoot I did with Jill a couple weeks later, where the photographer hired four models!
photo by 4 Horses Photography
This second photographer was also a class act — not only did he hire us for the day, but afterward he also took us to dinner at a very swanky French restaurant, and to the Cirque du Soleil show “O.” Besides Jill and I, he had also hired two very experienced traveling models — Candace and Jessamyne, both of whom were amazing to work with. We all went out to my favorite red rock area first, and then to a beach at Lake Mead.
I never really shoot at Lake Mead; most guys I work with are after more traditional desert-y landscapes, so I usually just stick to dry lake beds and such. But the area we shot at that day was amazing — the lake was an unbelievable shade of aqua-blue, contrasting starkly with the light-colored shore, making for some really dramatic photos. I would definitely consider shooting out there again…despite what happened next!
4 Horses Photography
As us models were all sitting there naked in the sunshine on the shore of Lake Mead, a big black dog wandered over from where his master was fishing nearby. Of course all us models are animal-lovers, and started petting and cooing to the dog, who ate it up. But on his way back around us toward his master, he stopped behind me and pissed all over the small of my back!!! Yuck!!!! Marking his territory, I guess — but I mean, jeez! What do I look like, a fire hydrant?!?
In the penthouse
I guess I should be flattered that out of all those beautiful models he chose me to piss on….but whatever; after that we wrapped the shoot anyway, and went back to the photographer’s hotel to clean up and get ready for dinner. The photographer had rented a beautiful penthouse suite at the Bellagio, overlooking the fountains, so we all enjoyed lounging around up there like 1%ers, and shot a few more photos for posterity. And then we went downstairs and enjoyed a fantastic meal at Le Cirque, followed by the show. What a great way to make a living, huh?! 😀
Now, lest you think I’m getting uppity from all the running around shooting large format/dining at Le Cirque /getting pissed on by dogs…you should know that I’m still the same humble hussy as always. Not all my clients are flamboyant and over-the-top; I also did quite a number of good-old-fashioned 8-hour modeling tours, with just me, the photographer and my busted-up truck. As mentioned, some of the photographers I’ve worked with lately were in town for a big photography expo — but I also typically shoot a lot with guys that are in town for other, non-photography trade shows and conferences as well. A decent chunk of my business comes from guys who just want to get away from the Strip for a day and go out to the desert — as was the case with this one photographer I shot with recently.
by Desierto Vistas
This particular photographer contacted me about doing a desert tour, but alas, I had already booked myself a trade show gig that week, and was unable to accommodate him. Of course I’d rather run around naked in the sunshine all day and make $500, as opposed to freezing my ass off in some boring-ass convention center making far less money for the same amount of hours…but I had already agreed to work the trade show, and I am a woman of my word. Besides, this particular show paid $350/day, which is pretty good for trade show work, and it was easy and somewhat fun, thanks to the other model I was working with.
4 Horses Photography
But funnily enough, when I got home from work on the first night of the show, I had an email from the photographer who had wanted to book me: “Hey, was that you at the trade show today? I think you handed me a t-shirt!” He hadn’t said anything to me at the show, as he is somewhat of a muckety-muck in his fairly conservative field, and can’t afford to sully his professional reputation by consorting openly with nude hussies. But LOL, what a small world!
I ended up arranging to shoot with him at his hotel later in the week, after the trade show ended, and he turned out to be a super nice man…so I forgave him his paranoia (he even asked if I planned to wear my mirrored aviator shades in the photos, as he didn’t want his reflection captured, haha). Despite myself, I sometimes take that stuff personally…but in this instance I totally got it: it was a very stuffy, professional conference, after all. But ironically, that stuffy, professional conference turned out to be a hotbed of covert hijijnks!!
The other model I was working with at the show, as mentioned, was super cool — and super beautiful, with a very marketable, classic trade-show-model look: blonde, big long-lashed eyes, white smile, etc. She was fresh from competing in a beauty pageant, so when I first saw her I thought she would be a total priss…thus I made no mention of my nude modeling. I try to keep things professional at trade shows, ever since getting fired from that one gig a couple years ago!
But on the last day of the show, things were a bit more casual…so I told her what I did, and she wasn’t fazed at all: “Hmm, I thought you looked familiar! I must have seen some of your photos somewhere!” “Yeah, maybe,” I replied. “They’re all over Facebook.”
However, that night she messaged me: “I knew you looked familiar!!” Come to find out, a few years back we had both worked for the same fetish website, LOL — back when I used to do those breath-holding videos!! Who knew?? Here was this fabulously beautiful, professional, well-spoken tradeshow model and pageant queen….and she used to do the same damn thing. Talk about a small world — and fuck, I bet at least 50% of the people at that “conservative” trade show had some kind of similar freakiness lurking behind their professional demeanors! In fact, that’s one of my favorite games to play when I’m bored at trade shows — try and guess who’s wearing women’s panties under their suit!!
Anyway, speaking of freaks and fetishes, I haven’t been shooting a lot of fetish lately; I’ve been so busy doing my artsy nudes that I haven’t had time! But recently, a guy approached Chelsea and I with an offer we couldn’t refuse: pop pool toys and get paid for it! Apparently there’s a huge fetish for women popping/slicing/destroying inflatable pool toys, and this guy had started a fetish website devoted to it. Hey, why not??
So one afternoon, Chelsea and I gathered up our sharpest stilettos (plus an assortment of other sharp tools) and headed over to a suburban house with a beautiful pool in the backyard that was brimming with inflatable pool toys — floaties, air mattresses, beach balls, a giant soccer ball, a 6-person raft; even a life-sized My Little Pony — and over the course of the afternoon, proceeded to shoot a series of videos of us methodically destroying each and every toy. Bwahahahaha!
The storyline was, we sneaked into our neighbor’s backyard while she was out of town, to swim in her pool — but when we saw all the toys, we freaked out and couldn’t stop ourselves from popping them all! After flattening everything, we were relaxing in the 6-man raft in the middle of the pool…when the lady of the house unexpectedly came home and found us there, surrounded by evidence of our destructive orgy!! Enraged, she stabbed at our 6-man raft with a butcher knife attached to a pool skimmer; we desperately tried to plug the holes with our hands, but our stiletto heels only ended up poking more holes in the raft, and we ended up sinking like drowned rats, cursing her all the while! OMG….it was so much fun to shoot these videos!!!! And therapeutic, too — all that stabbing 🙂
Anyway, the only unorthodox thing about that shoot was, we didn’t get paid up front — instead, we were to make 25% of all monthly sales, which according to the guy running the site are already through the roof. But there was some kind of hold up with PayPal, so he wasn’t able to pay us for quite some time; working in this industry, in Vegas, as long as I have has made me pretty skeptical, and I was already a bit leery of the guy’s motives, as after the shoot he messaged Chelsea and I, asking if we had fun — as in, FUN-fun, not work-fun….like, we would do it for FREE? fun. Now, why would you ask a question like that?? Unless you secretly have a pool-toy-popping fetish and figured out an ingenious way to get chicks to do it for you, for free???
by Desierto Vistas
I’m telling you, doing this type of work has made me cynical af!!!
As it happened, sure enough my cynicism was unfounded…and I finally got paid. I feel bad for giving the guy such a hard time — he kept asking me to refer other models, and I kept refusing until I got my money! Ack! Sorry, man….for the record, he is a true professional and I sincerely enjoyed shooting with him. It was a really fun experience, and I look forward to popping many, many more pool toys for his site in the future! It’s called Twisted Playdates; check it out!
In the meantime, however, shooting artsy nudes out in nature is still my bread and butter — and not just in the area around Vegas! In addition to shooting locally, I also traveled to Arizona a couple times recently for work — one day I drove down to Wickieup to meet a photographer who ended up getting some gorgeous shots, and then I did a two-day trip with another guy in a different part of the state, where I discovered this beautiful tropical oasis:
This oasis had been on my radar for a few years now — I read about it online somewhere, and had been meaning to check it out sometime, just never got around to it. And guess what?! It’s amazing!!! A turquoise-blue pool at the foot of a cascading waterfall, all surrounded by lush, green vegetation. In Arizona!!! Unfortunately, it’s not a very good place to shoot, as it’s right under a freeway in the middle of Mormon country, and is a very popular spot. Plus, the hike down to it is treacherous and wet. But it’s a fantastic place to soak!
“OMG WHERE IS IT!!!?”
Anyway, when I got home I posted some photos to Facebook….and was immediately inundated with messages: “WHERE IS THAT OASIS?!!! OMG I HAVE TO GO THERE NOWWWWWWW!!!” But just as I was in the process of revealing all in the above YouTube video, I also got some opposing comments. “DON’T TELL ANYONE WHERE THAT OASIS IS! IT’S A SECRET AND WE DON’T WANT IT TO GET F*CKED UP!”
What a quandary! I’ve been in this situation many times — lots of old-timers at many of the hot springs I visit hate the fact that I share photos and video online; they feel that these are secret spots meant only for the privileged few to hear about through word of mouth, I guess. And to be honest, I totally get their point of view; Deep Creek Hot Springs (one of my favorites) is almost totally covered in litter on the weekends, ostensibly from half-assed partiers who read about the springs online and then come down to piss on them.
A rare non-nude shot By Mike M.
But on the other hand, guess what?! This new oasis was also covered in litter! I picked up and packed out several pieces myself; as someone who “read about the springs online,” I actually left them in better condition than I found them. So, who’s to say that future visitors to the site won’t do the same?
When all is said and done, I am a firm believer in sharing these beautiful locations. Sure, the occasional asshat might follow your directions down there and make a mess, but on the whole, anyone who takes the time and effort to get out there will probably be cool. Thus, I have blogged/vlogged/photographed most every hot springs/cool spot I’ve ever visited….with the sole exception of one amazing spot in Idaho that is still to this day the most beautiful place I’ve ever been (a hot local fireman showed me some secret spots up there on the strict condition that I don’t blog about it…and much to my chagrin, I have honored his request).
OPEN THE POD BAY DOORS, HAL By Perfekt Photography
Anyway, ironicallyas fuck, I found myself on the other end of the argument last week — I was in the middle of one of my 8-hour desert tours with a photographer, and we had just arrived at my beloved abandoned cement plant; since finding the place last October, I have shot out there at least once or twice a week, and have rarely seen another soul out there, let alone another photo shoot. But last week, just after we arrived and started shooting, two cars full of models and photographers rolled up — a workshop!
In the kiln by Mike M.
The other group was cordial, and we all stayed out of each other’s way, so no harm, no foul — but still, I felt a twinge of regret; before you know it, everyone in Vegas will be shooting out there, and it won’t be “my” secret spot anymore. It was bound to happen eventually, and honestly I’m surprised it didn’t happen a long time ago…but that’s the way it goes with shooting on public lands; they’re PUBLIC! Eventually, word gets around.
When I got home that night, I ranted about it on Facebook: “Which one of you loose-lipped mofos let the cat out of the bag????!! Find your own damn locations, ya lazy fucks! RRRRROWRRRRRRR!!!!” I was just venting in my usual crude style, and certainly meant no harm….and if you had bothered to read the comments below, you’d have seen where I came around and admitted I was being petty and selfish. But no one reads the comments — and unbeknownst to me, some sneaky devil screen-shotted my rant, and forwarded it to one of the models who had been shooting with that other group!
Now everyone in that group despised me — all the photographers, all the models, and all the one model’s Facebook friends. I was called “conceded,” a “delusional hoe,” “crude” and a “bish…” plus someone chimed in with “oh finally someone else who dislikes her.” Wow!! It’s a real eye-opener to hear what people say about you behind your back. The truth hurts!
In any event, I feel sincerely awful about coming off like such a petty bitch, so I reached out through mutual friends to apologize to the one model. I should have thought to ask her to reach out to the others in her group as well, because the next day one of the photographers then took to Model Mayhem to tell everyone over there what a greedy bitch I am. Yikes!!!!
I ended up posting a public apology to all involved on my personal Facebook page, my fan page, the Model Mayhem forums and in a private message to the one photographer; of course no location is “mine,” and I definitely came off as petty and selfish by having posted this online temper tantrum. Those who I reached out to accepted my apology, and I learned several valuable lessons about social media and ego — and also got an interesting new perspective into the minds of those who oppose my sharing of hot springs, etc.
It’s basically the same quandary, at the end of the day: there are all these cool places — hot springs, abandoned ruins, etc. — in the world, and one impulse is to share them with your fellow humans: “HEY! Look what I found!!” But the other, equally compelling impulse is to keep them a secret, because let’s face it — humans can be pretty shitty sometimes. (That’s why the Forest Service won’t disclose which ancient bristlecone pine is the 5,000-year-old specimen known as Methuselah — they’re afraid vandals/well-meaning mush-brained hippies will deface it/build shrines on it.)
So, if you really want to keep a place “secret,” you can’t blog about it or do photo shoots there; you just have to go experience it alone. But what’s the fun in that? Like I said, I am a firm believer in sharing — virtually every single cool place I’ve ever visited, I’ve found out about online or in a book or something like that; the information is already out there anyway. So I feel like I’m paying it back by telling others in turn…although I try to be careful to include a disclaimer about being respectful and not littering in my videos and reviews, because even an optimist like me understands that sometimes humans are shitty.
In the end, it comes down to this tired old saw: THIS LAND IS OUR LAND. We’re all lucky enough to be here at the same time in history, so we might as well get along and share it; so long as everyone is respectful and cleans up after themselves, there’s plenty of room for all.
Photographers ask me about shooting in Death Valley all the time. And while it’s certainly an amazingly beautiful place…it’s really not ideal for shooting models. Not only is it a National Park (which means you need a permit, and nude photography isn’t allowed) — but it’s also an exceptionally popular destination, which means you’ll be battling crowds of tourists. Add to that the vast distances between attractions (DV covers over 5,000 square miles) and the limited services (no cell coverage, extremely limited Wi-Fi throughout, scarce water and scant gas/food/water)… and it all adds up to being rather unconducive to shooting models. And I haven’t even mentioned the extreme temperatures!
Badwater basin by Sheryl Hess
That being said, if you really want to shoot in Death Valley, I’m game…so when a group of photographers recently contacted me about modeling for a 2-day fine art nude workshop out there, I agreed, and drove out there to meet them.
This group was a class act — a group of upwardly mobile professionals who dabble in fine art photography on the side, and like to get together in exotic locales to shoot. Interestingly, there were more women in the group than men; this was one of the only times I’ve ever been photographed by a woman, let alone several women. It was a real trip!
by Sheryl Hess
This group was so classy that not only did they hire me and another art model to come out from Vegas, but they even booked us each a room at the motel in Stovepipe Wells, so we could stay overnight. The last time I stayed in DV for a shoot, I had to share a room with the photographer — which was fine, but honestly I really prefer having my own private space at the end of a long day, so I appreciated this new group even more.
Anyway, I drove out from Vegas the night before the shoot, to meet up with the group at Stovepipe and check into my room. The problem was, there is basically zero cell service in Death Valley, and the Wi-Fi isn’t much better — so when I arrived, I had no idea where in Stovepipe to meet up with my group! There’s not all that much to Stovepipe Wells Village — I poked my head in the cafe, the saloon and the motel lobby, but no one knew anything about it. And there was no room under my name at the motel.
by Sheryl Hess
Hmmmm! Had I been stood up again? As a freelance model, that’s part of the risk you take — last summer I went all the way out to Lowman, Idaho for a shoot, and to this day I still haven’t heard back from the photographer. But I hesitate to ask for a deposit for shoots, as most photographers would balk at hiring such a demanding “diva.”
In any event, I wasn’t really worried — a hippie friend from Burning Man, who resembles nothing so much as a 700-foot Viking Jesus, happened to be camping nearby at Furnace Creek, shooting the spring wildflowers — so I figured worst case, I would head over there and camp the night with him. In the meantime, I emailed the photographers to let them know I was there, ordered a drink and settled back at the saloon to wait and see what happened.
Tomiko and I in Death Valley by Sheryl Hess
After sitting there a few minutes, I saw a familiar face — Tomiko, the other model who had been hired for the shoot! I already knew Tomiko from past work I had done for her fetish websites — she runs a veritable fetish empire where she wrestles men and women, and shoots videos of girls being eaten by giant fuzzy monsters. Come to find out she’s also a highly accomplished fine art nude model, and we would both be working together the next two days. Fun!
Anyway, the photographers eventually found us in the saloon, and all was well — except the motel had screwed up the room reservations, and Tomiko and I ended up having to share a room (and a bed). It was OK though — we both got along, and didn’t mind spending the extra time together. Roommates!
So, starting the next morning at sunrise, our little group proceeded to travel all over the park, shooting undercover art nudes at many of Death Valley’s best-known attractions: the low, rolling Mesquite Dunes, the harsh white Badwater basin (lowest point in North America, at 282 feet below sea level), Salt Creek….and of course, the wildflowers.
By random coincidence, our shoot happened to coincide with a once-in-a-decade spring wildflower “Superbloom” — thanks to exceptionally heavy rains last fall, this spring the Valley floor was carpeted in colorful blossoms. It was absolutely beautiful, and really cool that our timing had worked out so perfectly — but it also turned out to be a huge pain in the ass, because thanks to all the national media coverage of the Superbloom(™), every asshole and their Aunt Mildred was out there with a tripod, trying to capture the beauty.
I’m not kidding — the park was jam-packed! Finding a quiet spot to shoot nudes was problematic — even at sunrise out at Salt Creek, we were stumbled upon by a surprisingly angry hiker, who bitched us out for shooting “those kind of photos” in a public place. (He was a 60-ish male, if you’re wondering.) Worse, there was a sense of entitlement with many of the visitors, as though they expected a show, goddammit — I went into the convenience store at Stovepipe Wells to get a cup of coffee one morning, and some Coachella-type chick was relating her disappointment to the clerk: “I’m from L.A., and I’m like, ‘Where’s these fuckin’ flowers?!'” I guess the Superbloom™ wasn’t as Super™ as she expected.
No wonder I can’t sleep! by rafferty_photographs
Anyway, despite the crowds we managed to get some quality shooting time in, thanks in part to my knowledge of the park; come to find out, none of the photographers had been there before, so it fell to me to act as location scout. Most of them were from back East, so of course they wanted to hit up a classic Western ghost town; there aren’t really any great ghost towns within the park boundaries, so I took them out to Death Valley Junction one afternoon, to shoot around the Amargosa Opera House…and then another day, I took them to Ballarat.
Ballarat…where time passes in a different way
Ballarat is a ghost town just outside Death Valley’s western boundary; I had camped there once before, when I visited Barker Ranch last fall, and knew it to be pretty half-assed in terms of ghost towns — a few busted up old buildings, some rusty old cars, and an assortment of weathered desert bric-a-brac. Its pièce de résistance is an old truck said to have belonged to Charles Manson — whether or not this is true, the Manson angle is pretty much the bread-and-butter of Ballarat; “CHARLES MANSON” is also carved into the wood above a doorway in the old jail building, allegedly by Charlie himself, and they get a lot of mileage out of that whole shtick.
me and Rock, caretaker of Ballarat and standup guy
In any event, our photo group ended up having a fantastic time in Ballarat — the caretaker, a local desert rat named Rock, came out and gave us a tour of the grounds, pointing out various points of interest and even letting us taste some home-brewed booze whipped up from corn feed sprouting in a wet burlap sack under an old sleeping bag. Yum!! You could tell hanging out in a ghost town drinking moonshine with desert rats was way outside the usual scope of these nice, bourgeois photographers…and they loved it.
Anyway, according to a hand-lettered sign hanging on the front porch of the “General Store” (a converted old gas station covered in anti-government propaganda and pinup posters, with a cooler full of sodas as its only inventory), Ballarat is a “Freedom Zone;” in that spirit, Rock let us shoot nudies all over town — on Charles Manson’s truck, in the jail, and on the charmingly dilapidated front porch of the Store. I even posed for a photo with Rock himself, and to thank me, he gave me a quart of moonshine and a bottle of Malibu Rum. Score!! It was a fantastic afternoon, and every one of us enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I really, really liked that group of photographers — they were wonderful.
Before we left, Rock also gave me a stack of hand-printed fliers he had made copies of, advertising the upcoming “FREEDOM DAYS” celebration he was about to host at Ballarat — a sort of four-day libertarian blowout in the desert, where all comers were free to do as they pleased: camp out, shoot guns, blow up fireworks, run around naked and play music: “For those want to creat there own music festable. BringItOn.” FUCK!! How could I say no to that?! It sounded like something out of the early days of Burning Man, before all the ravers and douchebags took over; could this be the new Burning Man?! I vowed I would come back and find out!
But before I hit up Freedom Days, I had another Death Valley adventure on the agenda. Ever since I visited Barker Ranch last fall, I had been wanting to go back — but this time, instead of coming up super-treacherous Goler Wash from the Ballarat side, I wanted to approach from the Vegas side, up Warm Springs Canyon. At Saline Valley Hot Springs last October, an old hippie had tipped me off to the existence of some abandoned stone cabins out there — one of which, the Geologist’s Cabin, was said to be really nice, with a stone fireplace and a fully-equipped kitchen, including 100-year-old pots and pans….and a sound system! I found this extremely hard to believe….but my curiosity had been whetted, and I really wanted to find out for myself.
West Side Road
Alas, every time I tried to plan a trip up Warm Springs Canyon, I was thwarted by road conditions. But I finally got it together when a friend of a friend randomly emailed me proposing another trip out there — he’d read my previous blog, and was down to try the eastern approach. This guy is not only a pyrotechnician and stagehand for a famous bad-boy magician, he’s also a seasoned backcountry explorer with a 4×4 Jeep…so I knew I’d be in good hands. To round out the expedition, I also invited a few other people…who ended up inviting other people…and so it ended up that a group of 8 strangers met up one afternoon for this trip into the one of the most remote corners of the backcountry anywhere. But, hey — why not? A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet!
Disparate band of intrepid adventurers!
Seriously though, I was kinda nervous about how this disparate band of adventurers would get along. Aside from me and the pyro stagehand, I also invited my sister and this handsome, strapping kid from Montana I met at Deep Creek Hot Springs a few weeks ago, along with a brainy sometime-NPR journalist friend of mine and my hula-hooping acidhead travel companion of late, Ms. Firecracker — who in turn invited a stoner kid she knew from the drum circle, plus her pro-adventure-tour-guide friend, who travels around in a fully-outfitted Sprinter van, which he intended to drive all the way up the canyon to the cabins. I was the common thread, but even I didn’t know everyone — so it really was a group of strangers who met up in the desert that day.
the best adventures are down THESE roads!
We all met up at the Furnace Creek Visitor’s Center — my sis from L.A. in her 4Runner, the pyro guy in his Jeep, and the rest of us in the Sprinter van, packed in like a nomadic band of murderous hippies. After introductions all around (“Pyro, meet Sis, Firecracker, Stoner, Sprinter, NPR and Montana”) and a brief map consult, we headed down Badwater Road — past the Lowest Point in North America™, where Aunt Mildred and all her pals were still photographing wildflowers, and off onto the desolate dirt roads leading into isolated Butte Valley. Turning off the pavement onto the dirt of Westside Rd. was an amazing feeling — we left the madding crowds of the perfumed bourgeoisie in the dust, and careened forward into the wilderness, to meet our destiny.
Warm Springs pool
The road wasn’t too bad at first; after a bit of deep sand, conditions evened out and we were able to make good time about halfway up the canyon, to the abandoned, fabulously dilapidated Warm Springs Mine compound, where there are several old buildings still standing, some of which are in surprisingly good shape. There’s even an in-ground swimming pool filled with warm spring water flowing down the hillside from a mountaintop source — totally unexpected, and totally surreal!
Warm Springs source
After poking around the grounds awhile and hiking up to the source pool, we took note of the astonishing number of people around (for such an isolated area, it was pretty busy, thanks to the Superbloom) and figured we’d better get back on the road, so we could reach the cabins before they were all taken! We only had another 10 miles or so to go, but because the road was so shitty, the van couldn’t go very fast; the road got really rough after leaving the mining camp, but Sprinter didn’t want to leave it parked, so he kept inching on up the canyon.
And so our little caravan poked its way further up into Butte Valley, mile by mile, in the gathering gloom of a chilly, blustery Death Valley twilight. The road finally got bad enough to where Sprinter had to park the van, and we all piled into the Jeep and my sister’s 4Runner for the rest of the journey. Pyro had done a lot of research and was confident of the route, but the rest of us were getting kind of nervous — well, all of us except Firecracker and Stoner, who had dropped acid sometime after leaving Warm Springs.
It was getting dark in Butte Valley
FINALLY, just as the sun was setting we arrived at the famed Geologist’s Cabin — but it was already taken 🙁 There were cars parked out front, lights in the windows, and a plume of smoke wafting cheerfully from the chimney. Dammit, I knew it!! Would we ever find a place to shelter for the night?
Knowing that there were two lesser cabins somewhere ahead, we soldiered on through the dark…and just a half-mile or so past the Geologist’s Cabin, we came upon a gate — it was Mengel’s Cabin, a/k/a Stella’s Cabin, the least-nice of the three, but at this point we were just stoked to find shelter for the night! By now it was really dark, really windy, and really cold — we just wanted a place to stay!! We pulled into the front yard, closed the gate behind us, and started unloading our gear.
In our desperation, this busted up little cabin looked like the Ritz-Carlton! It was rustic as fuck, but met our needs: a wood-burning stove, a rudimentary kitchen with sink and (unplugged) refrigerator, some bookshelves, a table and a few chairs. Pyro set about building a fire and NPR whipped up some Blue State hors d’oeuvres in the form of tapenade- and avocado-topped water crackers, while Montana strung some Christmas lights, Firecracker busted out her LED hula hoop, and I broke out the mushrooms. The party was on!
We really did have a great time in that little cabin that night — we sat up talking and dancing and listening to music, reading the weird old magazines and notebooks that had been left behind by past overnight guests, trying not to be freaked out by the various accounts of sleepless nights due to the scurrying sound of rats in the attic. We knew there were rats around because of the poop pellets in the corners, and signs posted warning of Hantavirus — but we just tried to be careful, and not stir up any dust. (So far none of us has exhibited signs of Hantavirus…fingers crossed.)
Hantavirus cuddle puddle!
After the conversation finally ran out, we lay down a huge tarp on the cement floor and then piled all our blankets, sleeping bags and air mattresses into a huge sort of cuddle puddle in the middle — as far away from the walls and corners as possible. I hate to think what all kind of bugs, spiders and rats were running around that place all night as we slept…but we all woke up in the morning no worse for wear, so it was all good! Character-building, I guess you could call it 🙂
the beauty of Butte Valley
The morning sunshine revealed our little cabin to be just as busted-up as it had appeared in the firelight the night before — if not moreso — but the valley we were in was absolutely amazing. The Superbloom may have been at its tail end down in Badwater, but up here in vast, desolate Butte Valley, there were wildflowers everywhere! It looked like something out of the Sound of Music — you half expected Julie Andrews to come cartwheeling out at any minute. It was spectacularly, breathtakingly beautiful — way out in the boondocks, far from Aunt Mildred and the impatient L.A. hordes. Where’s the fuckin’ flowers now, bitch?!
Warm Springs Canyon Rd is pretty burly
After frolicking about in the morning sunshine awhile, we packed up all our gear (and trash — plus some pre-existing litter, in the spirit of Leave No Trace) and headed on. The original plan had been to either drive or hike up the rest of the way over Mengel Pass to Barker Ranch, which no one else in my group had been to…but because Sprinter’s van traveled so slowly on those mountain roads, we had to leave that excursion for another day, and reluctantly decided to just head back down to the Warm Springs Mine encampment for a leisurely picnic lunch, instead. There was goat cheese and a baguette and stuff waiting in the van, so that sounded pretty good to all of us!
the Geologist’s Cabin
But before heading all the way down, we decided to stop off and see if the Geologist’s Cabin was available; even if there were still people there, we wanted to check it out anyway. As it happened, the previous occupants had already left…and we had the place to ourselves. And O……..M………G!!! That guy at Saline Valley Hot Springs wasn’t kidding!!!!!!
inside the Geologist’s Cabin
This little cabin in the middle of nowhere is amazing — tightly chinked stone, with nary a rat dropping in sight, and a fully-equipped kitchen including well-stocked pantry, stone fireplace, sink and formal dining table and chairs in front of a picture window looking out over all of Butte Valley. A bookshelf holds books, games, knick-knacks….and sure enough, a solar-powered sound system!!! My Deep Creek friend hooked up his iPhone, and before you know it, the sweet sounds of house music were echoing through the cabin and grounds — there were also speakers on the front porch, by the firepit, overlooking the valley. Fantastic!!!!
Geologist’s front porch
The solar panel also powered electric lights — in the cabin and in the outhouse, which was the cleanest outhouse I’ve ever had the pleasure of pissing in. I’m telling you, this cabin was out of this world!!! We all got so excited, we started immediately planning a return trip — next time with the ingredients for a fancy, formal dinner at that fabulous dining table! Maybe a sort of Mad Tea Party, with mushroom tea!
It was really hard to tear ourselves away from the surreal luxury of the Geologist’s Cabin…but we finally did, and headed back down the valley to the Warm Springs Mine, where we all enjoyed a fantastic lunch in the sun. We were all abuzz with plans to return to Butte Valley ASAP — but you know how it is. Realistically, we probably won’t be able to get back there until the fall — but hey! It’ll be an amazing reunion, for sure 🙂
This is DEFINITELY Bat Country
After lunch, we cruised down the rest of the way to the paved road, and finally went our separate ways — my sis back to L.A., Pyro back to his place, and the rest of us back in the van to Vegas. We were sunburned, slap-happy and totally exhausted — but guess what?? Freedom Days in Ballarat was just around the corner. No rest for the wicked!!
Welcome to Ballarat
Now, I’ll be honest with you — I was so worn out, the thought of skipping Freedom Days did cross my mind. But then I remembered how much fun I’d had in Ballarat during my photo shoot, and I knew I couldn’t miss it! I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect — would it really be the new Burning Man? Or would it just be a bunch of cranky rednecks spouting anti-gov’ment rhetoric between rounds of target practice?? Only one way to find out — so I gathered up as many people as I could from Vegas, and headed back out to Death Valley.
This time, I was joined by the feisty Ms. Firecracker (who hates to miss a party even more than I do) and strapping young Montana; everyone else from the Cabin trip had to work. But a few other Vegas hippies from the drum circle crowd planned to meet us out there, including this fascinating dreadlocked, pierced, combat vet hairdresser/drag aficionado who I had somehow never met before. All in all, it was shaping up to be another good crew.
A zany crew
Firecracker, Montana and I got there first, and it was awkward as fuck — we rolled into Ballarat on Friday afternoon, and there wasn’t really anyone there, other than a few old guys drinking beer on the porch and some RVs parked off in the distance in the camping area. But the guys on the porch were super cool (probably because Firecracker and I were basically naked, celebrating our Freedom to do so) and we made friends in no time, setting up our tent in the little area beside the store next to all their RVs and toyhaulers. Still, you could tell my squad was like, “WTF? You dragged us all the way out here for this?!”
You are now entering the Freedom Zone
Fortunately, before long a bunch of other nutters rolled in — two gay guys on their way back from photographing the wildflowers, a couple of Marines up from Twentynine Palms, a group of artists from L.A. who set up camp across the way in front of Charles Manson’s truck, and a few assorted dirtbikers and off-roaders. Meanwhile, one of the old-timers who had been there when we arrived also had his young sons running around…so by the time the rest of the Vegas crew showed up, it ended up being a bona-fide party. An unconventional crew — but a party nonetheless!
Checking out the desert behind Indian Ranch with the kids
The first order of business, after making some drinks, was to take a ride out to Indian Ranch — come to find out, the guy who owns Ballarat used to come out there as a kid because his parents owned nearby Indian Ranch, which in those days was a true oasis-style sort of RV park/summer camp complete with swimming pool, cabins, clubhouse, bar and grill. Unfortunately, some years ago the local Native Americans demanded their land back, and the compound was dismantled…and now sits rotting away in the baking desert sun, abandoned and forgotten.
Anyway, we all piled into the one old-timer’s truck and headed down the road to check it out, me bumping along in the back along with a pile of firewood, gas cans, the little kids and one of the gay guys. What a fun ride!!! Those little kids were really cool, I have to say — even riding in the back of a truck with a semi-naked hippie freak and a gay guy didn’t faze them. That’s Freedom Days for ya!
Little bit of this, little bit of that
After we returned from Indian Ranch, we made some more cocktails, built a campfire, and a couple of the old-timers fired up their grill to make everyone cheeseburgers. Meanwhile, me and a couple of my squad ate some mushrooms — and before you know it, the party was on again! I’m here to tell you, no one parties like they do in Ballarat — we had moonshine martinis and maracas, fireworks and LED hula hooping, pot-smoking and mushroom-eating, beer-drinking and ass-shaking…with the nasally twang of Tom Petty presiding over it all: “YessssI’m FREEEEEEEEEE……..FREE FAAAAALLLEEELLIN’!” Ain’t no party like a ghost town party!
it looked better at night, but my camera couldn’t capture the low light
In true festival style, there were options — if you got tired of the Tom Petty jamboree at the General Store, you could walk across to the L.A. artists’ camp, where they had a separate campfire going in the shadow of Charles Manson’s old truck. Those artists had their own, totally distinct vibe going on over there — otherworldly music, moonshine-infused pineapple chunks, and a trunk full of costumes that the one guy was supposedly going to bust out at some point to take artsy Polaroids in. WOW!! I’m here to tell you, until you’ve danced by a campfire in the shadow of Charles Manson’s truck wearing nothing but a cowboy hat and a sheer kimono under a sky full of stars…you haven’t lived!!!
Naked in the firelight
Then the moon came up, bathing Ballarat in a silvery light, and it was even freakier! The General Store crowd put on some slow, old-time Louis Armstrong, and Ms. Firecracker danced to it with her LED hoop in the fireglow, while somebody set off fireworks into the desert night above us. At some point, a couple of the L.A. artists got into a squabbling match, broke my hand drum, and then one of the guys busted the other guy’s arm. Far out! It’s not a party until someone gets hurt…ya know?
Around this time all us hippies retreated into our 6-person cuddle puddle tent. We hadn’t put the rainfly up, so we could see the moon and all the stars right through the mesh roof… and we drifted off one by one, bathed in the magical glow. What a great night!
Ballarat General Hospital
In the morning, things were even better. One of the L.A. artists started a bluegrass jam on the front porch of the store with one of the locals, and the other two squabbling artists made amends, with the one guy bandaging the other guy’s arm with a cardboard splint. Awwww! Then Rock (the caretaker of Ballarat) lit a fuse around the neck of a beer bottle, breaking it off to make a bottleneck slide, so that
Making a bottleneck slide
the guy with the newly-splinted arm could join in the jam on his guitar as well. I joined in on maracas, and it was one of the best jams I’ve ever been party to!
Then, the Marines from 29 Palms brought out their AKs and ARs and whatnot, and we all went out back to the desert for a little morning target practice. There’s nothing like the smell of gunpowder in the morning, I tell you — there were half-naked chicks with guns everywhere you looked, just like the Manson days. That’s Freedom Days! We blasted off a few rounds into an old barrel, then marched around waving a Gadsden Flag singing the Star Spangled Banner. All of this, incidentally, still wearing nothing but a cowboy hat and a sheer kimono. What a morning!
Just like the good old days
Now, I know I say this about a lot of places I go to — the Cat Ranch and Deep Creek come to mind — but Ballarat is one of those places that’s really hard to leave. You can sit in the shade on the front porch out there for hours, just waiting for new people to roll up — even when it isn’t Freedom Days, all kinds of people from all over the world come through on their way into Death Valley, so you get to meet all kinds of interesting characters!
Gadsden Flag FTW!
On this particular morning, a guy rolled in to park his car for a run up Surprise Canyon to the Panamint City ghost town — a total distance of 16 miles there and back! He was one of those nutty fitness freaks who live for running; he sold everything to buy a camperized Sprinter van and is writing a book about summit running, which is the practice of running up and down mountains all over the west. Sometimes, he straps a paraglider on his back and simply flies back down the mountain — how about that?! He invited me to join him on this morning’s run (he supposedly had extra shoes for me), but although I’m fit, I ain’t that fit; instead, we made plans to go paragliding when he’s in Vegas later this summer.
Good times in Ballarat
With people like that rolling in all day, you can see why it was hard to leave! To make matters worse, more and more locals were starting to arrive for Freedom Days, bringing with them an assortment of drums and musical instruments for the big Saturday night jam sesh — one guy rolled in with a huge sort of glockenspiel he’d made from PVC pipe in the back of his truck, and another chick brought her congas. This being my first Freedom Days, I didn’t realize that Saturday night was the big night — the old-timers were planning to make steak and potatoes and homemade macaroni and cheese, and it was shaping up to be another fantastic evening! Alas, the rest of my crew wanted to go back to Vegas for a drum circle that night, so I had to tear myself away…but I vowed to myself that I’d be back.
An armed artist is a polite artist
Before rolling out, we all got together one last time for a big group photo on the front porch of the General Store — one of the L.A. artists took it with his camera, and I sincerely hope he sends me a copy, as it was a great testament to everything I think is right with this country TODAY. We were a really diverse, rag-tag band of kooks — lefties, righties, hippies, rednecks, kids, old-timers, gays and straights — but by golly, we all got along swell, and had a fantastic time partying together, celebrating our freedoms. And guess what?? I can’t wait to do it again next year! Now that I know what to expect, I’m already making plans for a comeback — in mad style. WHO’S WITH ME???
No one steals my sunshine!!
Anyway, I finally rolled out of Ballarat, and left Death Valley for the third time in recent weeks. In the rearview mirror, Aunt Mildred and her pals were still photographing the dregs of the Superbloom; the summer heat had already started creeping in, and the wildflowers were wilting one by one. Before you know it, they’ll be gone — and with them the crowds, and Death Valley will go back to doing what it does best: baking quietly in solitude and scorching heat. The kangaroo rats will take over Stella’s Cabin, the rattlesnakes will have the run of the Warm Springs pool, and out in Ballarat, Rock will sit sipping a beer in the shade of his front porch, waiting for the next tourist to come through: “Ya see that? That’s Charles Manson’s truck over there.”
Where’s the fuckin’ flowers, you ask? They are all over the place.
You just have to get out there and open your eyes!
The kind people at TrueNudists.com allowed me to share this video I made for them of my visit to Haulover Beach in North Miami, FL last month! Check it out….it was one of the best nude beaches I’ve ever been to!
A few weeks ago, I went to a Donald Trump rally at a local casino — mostly in the spirit of rubbernecking at the Great American Train Wreck that is the 2016 election, but also out of genuine curiosity as to just exactly what type of person would vote for Donald Trump. His televised rhetoric sometimes comes across as mean-spirited and thuggish; surely there wouldn’t be many conservatives with enough spare time on their hands to support this kind of shtick in the middle of a weekday afternoon. The Republican party is the party of business, right??
angry and apparently unemployed
The casino was packed with Trump fans, so much so that the ballroom where the candidate was speaking quickly filled to capacity, and the rest of us shiftless schmucks had to watch the speech via close-captioned TV in the sports book. My impression of the crowd was: angry, frustrated, old, white…and, apparently, unemployed.
I have a diverse circle
Before long, they were also heavily drunk; I myself ended up downing a few Bloody Marys at the bar with one of my Donald Trump supporter friends, an ultraconservative cowboy named Reagan (I have a diverse circle of friends)….and kicked back to witness the mêlée firsthand.
It was a real eye-opener. I actually understand most of the Trump supporters’ frustrations — and to be fair, I’ve seen and read some of Trump’s positions that are actually not all that kooky. But the kooky stuff is what had these fuckers all fired up — and it was actually kind of hilarious!
Take the guy who was working the crowd, trying to sell Trump hats, scarves, shirts and buttons — he came over and tried to sell us a “Make America Great Again” hat for $25, which you would assume was a fundraising effort for the campaign. Wrong — this guy was hawking the shit for personal gain; he was unemployed, and had traveled all the way from his home in Sacramento to try and make a buck selling tchotchkes at this rally. I guess he was doing OK, because he had two beers in one hand!
But when I told him I had seen the same exact hat at the Indoor Swap Meet for $3.99, he grew incensed — “SWAP MEET?!!!” — blaming the “damn Mexicans” for undercutting his prices. “No, no!” I reassured him — “This was the custom embroidery shop when you first walk in the door — it’s been run by a white family for years!”
chaos is my game
When he heard that, he calmed down long enough to get the address from me, so he could go over and stock up for cheap before following the traveling circus to its next location…and to thank me for my All-Amurrican intel, he gave me a Trump ’16 button — a $5 value!! I ended up wearing it to Trader Joe’s later that afternoon, just to see what all the granola-munching liberals would do (alas, they are such tolerant pacifists that no one reacted).
Anyway, the whole Trump scene was a gas, and like I said, I totally understand why white people of a certain age and socioeconomic status are pissed off/wallowing in victimhood. But what I don’t agree with is the whole “Make America Great Again” shtick. If you ask me, America still IS pretty great fuckin’ great — and if you take your head out of your ass, turn off the naysayers on TV, and take a look around….you’ll see what I mean! This is the greatest country on Earth — and I should know; I’ve been running around it naked for years. Where else can you do that?!
Beautiful country around Old Man Bundy’s ranch pic by JCP Photo
Ironically enough, one of the best new backcountry spots I’ve discovered to run around naked is the very same BLM land where Cliven Bundy’s cattle used to graze. You probably remember the whole Bundy Ranch fracas from a year or two ago, when the prickly rancher refused to pay his grazing fees, and all those nutty militiamen showed up for a standoff with the Feds — well, I’m here to tell you that there is some beautiful country not far from where his cattle used to mow down tortoises! I don’t care much for Bundy and his crew of Y’all Qaeda freedom fighters…but I do understand why he loves the land up there. It’s beautiful!!
Come back Jimmy Carter, your country needs you
A photographer friend introduced me to the area, and it’s now one of my favorite places to shoot — not only is there astonishing natural beauty (all the photos from my last blog were taken there) including the Whitney Pockets and an abundance of fantastic red sandstone formations…there’s also an abandoned ghost town of old stone cabins nearby that are absolutely fantastic to shoot in! I guess the cabins used to house some kind of hippie artists’ colony or something, because they’re still full of weird old rusty junk and artsy bric-a-brac, including but certainly not limited to this fantastic Jimmy Carter découpage. Finding this location was a real bonanza, as all of it is well within a reasonable driving distance from the Vegas Strip; if you want to hire me for a shoot, I’ll be happy to take you there!
And as a bonus, you’ll also get to pass right by the now-historically-significant Bundy Ranch, and the protest area where all the militiamen and kooks amassed to wave their flags and guns and dicks around in front of the media. It was fascinating to see, from an anthropological standpoint; there were banners and sun-baked American flags left strewn about on the ground, with a faded quote from Thomas Jefferson hanging on the fence presiding over all that remains from the standoff.
I took one of the American flags as as souvenir; it seemed like a cool artifact for a true patriot like me to keep in the cab of my pickup truck…a little reminder, as I make my naked rounds, that all the freedoms I enjoy aren’t free 🙂
To that end, I even brought it with me to the Democratic Caucus the following weekend; because of my extreme social liberalism, I had registered as a Democrat, which meant that after my experience at the Trump rally, I now got to see the other side of the electoral shitshow — which in its way was even FUNNIER than the Trump rally!
I went into the caucus still undecided; I appreciate Bernie Sanders’s honesty and independence, but I felt/feel that he is unelectable in America today…and besides, I have no real beef with Hillary Clinton; she hasn’t done anything worse than any other politician, as far as I can tell.
But I live in downtown Vegas, in one of those neighborhoods being gentrified by earnest hipsters. And since the caucuses were organized into geographic precincts, all my fellow caucussers were earnest hipster Bernie fans; I sat there for an hour waiting for the thing to start, the whole time being bombarded by bearded Bernie supporters who basically browbeat/peer pressured me into caucussing for Sanders. (I’m being semi-facetious…I ended up going for Sanders because of his unflagging honesty, on principle.)
But it was really interesting to see how the caucus broke down by age: the Hillary side of the room was much older, and the Bernie side was all beards and ironic mustaches. There were three undecideds at the end, so an earnest hipster from our side got up and extolled the virtues of Bernie, and then a passionate matron got up and harangued them on behalf of Hillary. The younger undecided came over to our side, but the other two — a black and a white guy, both in their 60s — went almost sheepishly over to the Clinton side, as if they were used to being henpecked into obedience. Too funny!!
Anyway, shocker: our precinct ended up going for Sanders, because of all the hipsters downtown. But out in the suburbs, where it’s all retired people, Clinton won handily…and of course, ended up taking the state. I didn’t stick around to wait for the results, though, because I had more freedoms I was in a hurry to exercise — namely, running around naked, smoking weed, eating mushrooms and dancing all night! OK, so those are actually NOT freedoms we in America are officially permitted to enjoy….but in MY America, they’re all A-OK and actually somewhat de rigueur. (And that’s why you should vote Wonderhussy for President — just kidding!)
The party in question was my annual pilgrimage to the Wonder Valley Rave Shack, out in the desert near Twentynine Palms — some German artist friends have a sort of getaway compound out in a very remote part of California sort of near Joshua Tree National Park called the Cat Ranch, where they spend several weeks every year escaping the miserable Berlin winter — just hanging out naked, lifting weights, listening to music and enjoying the in-house sauna. It’s all very rustic — no running water, no electricity, not much going on — but it’s always a good time out there. They make their own fun!
I’ve been going to the Cat Ranch every year since 2013, and it’s become a sort of rite of spring for me — one of the first chances I get to be naked outdoors in the sunshine after the long, miserable winter. Talk about freedom — the Ranch is so remote and in such a desolate, dogforsaken part of the desert that you’re pretty much free to run around naked all day, every day, without fear of interference from Johnny Law or the Moral Majority. It’s fantastic!!
at the Ranch
The last couple of years, my friends Christian and Käpt’n Rummelsnuff were in residency at the Ranch — you may remember them from past blogs. This year, unfortunately, it wasn’t in their budget, so the lone German refugee this year was Jan, the actual owner of the property. I hadn’t seen him since my first visit to the Ranch back in 2013, but he’s the reason the Rave Shack is called the Rave Shack in the first place: he likes to hang out naked drinking Tecate and eating pudding cups, listening to techno and house music, and inviting people over for “raves…” which are actually usually just intimate get-togethers with a few friends and neighbors over food, booze and smoke, with techno or house music playing softly yet insistently in the background. Sort of a cocktail lounge rave, I guess you could call it.
Now, for the last couple years my sister has accompanied me to the Cat Ranch…but this year, she happened to be in the middle of a 10-day silent meditation retreat up in the Sierras, so I had to find another friend to join me. Unfortunately I don’t know too many adventurous chicks who would go out to a vaguely-described overnight”rave” in a cabin in the middle of the desert…but I put up a casting call on Facebook, and this chick called Tati Firecracker said she was in. I had never met her before, but she ended up being super cool — as soon as I was done caucussing, I drove straight over to the tidy little mobile home park where she lives in a restored vintage trailer (she restored it herself; how badass is that?), picked her up, and we were off.
Me and Tati Firecracker
Tati took to life at the Cat Ranch like a duck to water — in no time at all she was hula hooping naked to Jan’s ever-present techno beats, joining us for several hot, steamy sauna sessions throughout the night, after which we all bathed in the cold water outdoor shower. It was fantastic! In the morning, we all went down to the nearby Palms Restaurant — a fabulous, dusty little desert dive bar that serves amazing Bloody Marys and breakfasts — and hung out on the sunny back patio, soaking up the wonderful springtime air. Jan’s parents were visiting from Germany, and his dad bought us all breakfast, and it was fabulous. But brunch at the Palms is tricky — after one Bloody Mary you never want to leave, and it can be next to impossible to tear yourself away and depart wonderful Wonder Valley. Alas, I had work booked back in Vegas, so we had to go…but we made plans to come back again, in a couple weeks.
Our second trip out to the Cat Ranch was even better — my friend Justin had just come back from a month in Mexico City, and he had brought along this amazing new friend of his. Justin has MANY talents…but meeting interesting new people is probably his best!
In the sauna
When Tati and I rolled up to the ranch that evening it was already dark, and everyone was already in the sauna, so we dropped off our bags, got undressed, and headed straight back into the tiny little cedar-lined room. I pulled open the door and was greeted by the sight of one of — if not THE most — fascinatingly fabulous people I’ve ever met, Justin’s new friend, who we’ll call Sodapop.
The reason we’ll call him Sodapop is that he has very meticulously cultivated an aesthetic mimicking that of Patrick Swayze circa 1984, when he starred as the character of that name in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders — I mean, perfectly calibrated to the letter! Digital wristwatch, Wrangler-brand yoked western-style work shirt, tight jeans and a fabulous golden mullet atop his handsome head. I have never seen anything like it — I was instantly infatuated! Fortunately, he also turned out to be a super cool guy personality-wise — polite, articulate, smart and just as eccentric as the rest of us, if not more so.
Anyway, we all got along famously and enjoyed another intimate mini-rave in the Shack that night, in between rounds of sauna and copious amounts of booze (me) and weed (everyone else). In the morning, Sodapop got up before everyone else and disappeared….but then, just as we were all sitting around on the front porch blinking in the morning sun, he returned with armloads of styrofoam to-go containers full of omelets, French toast, hash browns and biscuits. SAY WHAT?! It was paradise!!!
Deep Creek hiking posse
After stuffing our faces, Justin, Sodapop, Tati and I all headed up north toward Apple Valley, for a visit to one of my all-time favorite places, Deep Creek Hot Springs, where I had planned to meet up with some friends from L.A. and San Diego for an overnight campout. Justin and Sodapop didn’t stay the night, but we all hiked down for a fabulous afternoon soak together, and had a really nice time.
This was one of those weekends when the crowd at Deep Creek happened to be exceptionally fantastic. You never know what you’ll get down there, especially on the weekends, when all these party kids come down and trash the place — but this time, the crowd was solid. Aside from my L.A. crew, we met some really cool people from Vegas, a super cool chick from Montana, a bunch of BDSMers from Black’s Beach in San Diego and a superhot local redneck who comes out three times a year, like clockwork, to megadose on mushrooms and have a spiritual odyssey. He was amazing!
Naked hiking with Tati Firecracker!
Then there was this adorable little Marine with the most beautiful, innocent, freckled Boy Scout face; he was stationed nearby in San Diego, and enjoyed coming out to Deep Creek on his days off to soak in the nude. His time in the Marines was just about up, so this was one of his last trips before heading back east, where he and his wife planned to buy some acreage in the Wisconsin woods and live outdoorsily ever after. Awwww! The kids really are alright…ya know? All this shit-talking in the news about Millennials and Marines….pshaw! I spent quite a bit of time talking to him about his time in Guantanamo Bay, and he was just absolutely wonderful. This all goes back to what I was saying — America *IS* great…you just have to look in the right places!
Who, me?? Naked???
Also, a big group of day hikers came down the trail mid-morning — maybe 30-40 Hispanic hikers speaking Spanish. They all stripped down to their bathing suits, but didn’t seem to mind at all that there were a bunch of naked hippies soaking nearby. In fact, they even invited me over to pose for several photos with them….the best of which was a group shot, of all 30 fully-clothed hikers, with my lone naked ass in the middle! I warned them not to post in on Facebook (lest they get suspended)…but I think they misunderstood me, and thought I didn’t want them to post it out of modesty! On the contrary….I sincerely hope one of them DOES post it somewhere, one of these days….and I hope someone sees in online somewhere randomly, and forwards me the link 🙂 You never know where it’ll pop up!! 😀
Tati and I were on the fence about staying a second night, as a storm was blowing in from the west, and we didn’t want to camp in the rain. But just like Wonder Valley, Deep Creek is one of those magical places that is REALLY hard to leave! We spent the entire day lazing around soaking, smoking and talking to all the fascinating people at the springs, and then around 4pm my L.A. crew built a campfire and we roasted up a huge feast of ribs, bacon, roasted potatoes and vegetables. Our new hippie friends from Vegas kicked in some spinach cheeseburgers, and the little Marine even helped out by sawing up some logs for us with his collapsible bow saw (he really was a badass outdoorsman.)
Deep Creek crew!
The only downside is that my friend who was in charge of cooking the meat was WASTED, and pretty much burned it all to a charred crisp…but we all stood around the fire anyway, gnawing on charred meat, naked, as ominous clouds gathered over the mountains to the west. It was really a fantastic time, but after cleaning up all our trash — we were meticulous about cleaning up after ourselves; my pet peeve at Deep Creek is all the garbage people leave behind — most of us decided to hike back out and leave.
A few of the others stayed behind, but I’m glad we left when we did — a nasty storm really did blow in, and the weather was so bad that some Forest Service rangers even hiked down and ticketed everyone at the springs (you’re not supposed to have a campfire or camp out overnight near the creek; you’re supposed to camp up top, in the parking lot). Just as we got to our cars, we saw the rangers heading down the trail with a K-9…but there was no way to call down and warn our friends — there’s no cell reception at the springs 🙁 So they got a $175 fine. Booo!
Pay the piper! by JCP Photo
Anyway, it was a fantastic weekend overall, but after all the fun enjoyment of being alive, it was time to head back home, take a hot shower, and get cleaned up for the week ahead. Thanks in part to the YouTube commercial I just made for my modeling adventure tours, I was facing a solid week of non-stop photo shoots…and I needed to get prepped! Time to pay the Piper, ya know?
Because like I said earlier…freedom really ISN’T free! I have to pay for all this gas, firewood, booze, shrooms, Bloody Marys and bacon cheeseburgers somehow 🙂
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 🙂