By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 1/20/2020
Posted: 7/27/2008
Topics/Keywords: #VerdeHotSpring #Arizona #Camping #UFOs Page Views: 2085
In which I bring another new friend to explore the marvels of the remote hot spring.

The reaction of my dear readers to my last post was, by and large, this: "Well, what happened after you left Verde Hot Spring? Did you spot another UFO? Whatever happened to Truck Guy?" But my readers were just echoing my own thoughts. And so, when I got off work Friday without having already planned a trip, and in fact I thought I'd just stay home and relax for a change, I felt a compulsion to return. Not to see a UFO, because I've already learned that they never show up when you're looking for them, but just because I had this nagging feeling of unfinished business. There was…something…going on at Verde Hot Spring, and I did want to figure out what it was.

David is a friend with whom I share interests in camping and UFOs; so he seemed a natural to take to Verde Hot Spring where I'd experienced both. Knowing that he'd recently returned to Phoenix from Washington state after an unfortunate experience with insane, drug-abusing roommates and the loss of a boyfriend or two, further suggested he'd appreciate a couple of days "away from it all". In fact, I wondered if we would spend the whole trip processing his disastrous time in Washington. However during the entire 3-hour drive we discussed the "Genesis Revisited" story of the extraterrestrial "gods" who founded the Sumerian Civilization some 7,000 years ago. So I put any possible loneliness on David's part out of my mind.

We passed through some rain and found Fossil Creek Road to be in some ways in worse shape than when Frank and I traveled it Monday, and in some ways better. There'd been a couple of landslides, but the more serious one I'd encountered a few days earlier had already been graded over.

We arrived at the primitive campground (a pit toilet is the only "improvement") around 3:30 pm and found that the best riverside campsites were already taken (which wasn't a big surprise). But having camped here "properly" (with a tent, camp stove, and so on) just a few days earlier, I had decided this time to just sleep in the SUV and eat fruit and trail mix instead of bothering with hot food. So we didn't need a fancy campsite, and I simply parked where there was some room at the north end of the campground, near the now-defunct Childs Power Plant and towards the hot Spring.

After a brief introduction to David of the wonders of pit toilets, and a minute or two spent loading ourselves up with water bottles (and my CamelBak) and some fruit, David and I proceeded on the easy one-mile hike to the Verde Hot Spring. When we came to the river crossing (the Spring are on the opposite side of the river from the road we hiked) we stopped for a lengthy dip in the deep pool just upstream from the crossing. The water temperature is, I would guess, about 75, which is perfect for a long soak on a warm day.

As we were about to leave, a dog trotted along the path—I dog I recognized from Monday. As then, his owner followed shortly after; but this time, the man was heading for the Spring. We were not more than a few minutes behind him, where we found two other guys already soaking in addition to Man With Dog. I guessed the relative coolness resulting from the partly-cloudy sky, in addition to the greater population at the campground resulting from its now being a weekend, explained why people were actually soaking in hot water on a Central Arizona summer's day.

David had never been in a hot spring before, but loved it immediately. We chatted with the other folks there, and within a half-hour another party arrived, consisting of a woman and two men. The woman couldn't get her clothes off fast enough, and quickly joined us in the warm water, her sunburned breasts bobbing near the top, seemingly keeping her afloat. She offered an explanation without being asked, that she'd been camping there for several days and had gotten too much sun the day before.

"But…she's…wear…ing…sun…block…to…day," one of her companions added, in an accent that sounded so much like a George Carlin druggie routine that it was hard to believe he wasn't putting us on. He kept his shorts on, possibly to make access to the silver flask of whiskey in his pocket a little easier. (It's true, the downside of being nude at a clothing-optional hot spring is the lack of pockets.)

The other man with her wore a rainbow wrist band, and eventually I was able to ask about its meaning. "It means I'm gay," he explained matter-of-factly.

"Oh, I'm family, too!" I exclaimed. So we congratulated each other, and a few minutes later the first guy said, "Oh…that…rain…bow…thing?" But by then then conversation had moved on.

It seemed that the guy with the wrist band, Eddie, was not actually with the woman, Deb, and her companion. He was camping with his friend Carl, who was still at their campsite fishing, and had simply hiked to the spring with the other two.

Deb was quite the character, a larger-than-life single mother (she'd divorced her daughter's father a few minutes after the birth) who'd managed to provide for herself and her little girl pretty well. "It's not that I don't make mistakes—and lots of them!" Deb laughed. "But I learn from them, and I never make the same mistake twice."

By way of example, once she'd visited Las Vegas and inadvertently lost so much money gambling she couldn't return home. Driving aimlessly, wondering how to get out of this bind, she noticed that the neighborhood she was driving through had no peepholes on the doors. She quickly drove to the nearest hardware store, bought fifty $1.98 door peephole devices and the power tool to install them, and returned to the neighborhood where she knocked on each door. When the homeowner opened the door, she said, "You opened the door to a stranger, and the next one might not be as nice as me. If you had one of these," and she held up the device, "installed in your door, you'd be a lot safer next time. I can install one for you in less than five minutes for $20."

Only one person refused to buy Deb's peephole viewers. In a few hours she had sold all fifty, for a profit of $881—more money than she had lost gambling, and all tax-free.

"And if I hadn't been driving through that particular neighborhood, and noticed they had no peepholes, I might have been there yet!"

"You know what they say," I suggested. "There are no meaningless coincidences."

"You've got that right," Deb agreed. "And I've never gambled since!"

Those of us in her audience were suitably impressed.

About then another party arrived. This was a father and his three sons. However, this dad was no Fred MacMurray. He was well-built beneath his beer belly and generously tattooed, and the first thing he did was look over the side of the concrete platform at the river some twenty feet below and ponder jumping into it. We advised against it—what could be more foolish than jumping into opaque water before investigating to make sure it's deep enough?—but he didn't seem to hear us, took a couple of swigs from his beer before handing the can to his youngest son, and leapt off.

When we next saw him, he was limping slightly (trying to hide it) and urging his sons to jump in, too. "You can do it!" he declared. "Don't be a pussy!" Fortunately all three of the boys seemed to have figured Dad out, and refused.

I nudged Eddie and said softly, "I guess there's no bigger bully than a dad." Eddie laughed with some bitterness, as if he had already learned that. I learned later that his father had deserted him and his mother when he was only three.

Jerk Dad and His Three Sons left pretty soon, without ever getting into one of the warm pools. I wondered why they'd even come to the hot Spring if they didn't intend to soak.

"You guys are pretty cool," I said, generously including all my new pool friends. "But, I'm sorry, that guy is a jerk."

Man With Dog, who on Monday told Frank and me that he was a local, said, "I have found that's typical. This is a place that attracts the very nicest people—and also the worst assholes. I have very seldom encountered anyone here who wasn't one or the other."

It was well on its way to full-on dark when David admitted to being starving. I was hungry, too, having already eaten the apple I brought with me. Deb, her companion Vic, and Eddie decided to leave as well, so we went as a group. Vic made sure to wait for David and me to cross the river behind him. "Al…ways…make…sure…all…mem…bers…of…the…par…ty…
keep…up…with…the…others," he said, then staggered and nearly fell in. David and I helped him to shore.

Early on, we lost Eddie, who was running for the pit toilet after mumbling something about having had a generous helping of pork chops for lunch. And we quickly left Deb and Vic behind us, not because we weren't willing to help Deb get Vic back to camp, but because she insisted she didn't need any help—and we believed her, having heard her stories.

Back at camp, David and I rustled up a dinner of pre-packaged sandwiches and bananas, strawberries and green grapes. We then set out to find Eddie and Carl's camp, which turned out to be not far from where we had parked.

In addition to being gay, Eddie and Carl turned out to be very cool guys. And, wouldn't you know it, they were also interested in UFOs and paranormal experiences. In fact, Carl referred to himself as "an X-File".

"I was born in an Army hospital," he explained. "And when I tried to get copies of my health records a few years ago, it turned out they had lost all of them. Not anyone else's—just mine." He knew from his mother that his birth had been unusual, too. "She had surgery before I was born," he said. "They took me out, then put me back in. I can't help but wonder what else they might have done?"

Eddie and Carl were, putting it simply, an adorable couple. They did little things for each other, and gave each other sweet little kisses whenever they passed. They were also the most atypical gays I'd ever met, in that they had no gay mannerisms at all, and were totally into camping and fishing. "That's how we met," Eddie explained. "I was in a club called Body Positive, and I went to my first meeting and there were all these guys there. So I called out, 'Does anybody here like to fish?' And most of them were like, 'You mean in a river? Outside? Would there be a hotel nearby?" And Carl was the only one who said, 'Hell, yes!' And we've been together ever since."

Telling us that they'd met at a Body Positive meeting was another way of announcing they were HIV positive, not that it mattered to us. But when I mentioned that on an earlier trip I had underestimated the amount of water I should bring and was forced to drink from the river, Eddie shuddered. "Well, I couldn't do that," he said.

"Yeah, I know, the water's dirty and there's probably giardia and all…" I agreed dismissively, but he shook his head firmly.

"My immune system is completely shot," he said. "I'm not just poz, I have full-blown AIDS. I can't drink anything that isn't absolutely clean."

"Well…you look healthy enough," I said, trying in my Mary Sunshine way to make light of the conversation. And he did; he had broad, powerful shoulders and muscular arms, though a paunch suggested he ate a few more pork chops than he absolutely needed. On the other hand, I thought, it was a blessing he could eat at all: the medications used to treat HIV are notorious for making the patients nauseous and unable to keep their meals down.

The deep-throated roar of an old car saved me from further awkwardness. "What the heck is that?" David asked.

"Sounds like a 1960's Chrysler," Carl declared without hesitation.

"Christine!" Eddie declared. And, sure enough, as the vehicle in question made it's way down the rough and primitive hairpin turns to the campground, it turned out to be 1968 Chrysler—not quite the 1958 Plymouth Fury of the Stephen King novel and 1983 John Carpenter horror movie, but close enough.

Quite close enough, since the car rolled to a stop at Eddie and Carl's campsite. The driver got out, a young, tall, blonde man with a scruffy chin beard, and said, "Good evening, gentlemen! I'm Nick. Do you know how to get to the hot spring?"

We assured him we did and I provided directions, while thinking to myself that he'd be lucky to find the place at night. He seemed in no hurry to go, though. Instead, without being asked, he volunteered details about his car, the trip to the river ("I hope I didn't tear up my transmission"), his career ("I was in the Army, over in Iraq, but I didn't want to get killed so I let them think I was crazy and they discharged me"), his motor home ("I'm having them replace the transmission and also check the propane hoses"), his arrest ("Four days in jail for going 80 miles an hour in my motor home! Thank God they didn't find my stash, or my unregistered antique rifle"), and his journey ("I'm taking time off to see the country. Then, as soon as I'm old enough, I intend to run for President. I'll win, too!").

All this was before he had a chance to sit down. He did offer to make coffee for everyone, and then to share some of his pot.

"I can't," Carl declined regretfully. "I'm on TASK until October, and they can give me a drug test any time."

"I won't," Eddie said. "Not until Carl can."

"There's no point," I shrugged. "I've never had any luck with the stuff. It would just be a waste of perfectly good marijuana."

Shooting star above Fossil Creek road.Nick clearly didn't mind smoking alone if he had to, and lit up. Carl didn't want to even inhale the stuff from a distance, so he and I moved camp chairs to the other side of his truck and we sat talking and watching stars fall.

"I have neuropathy," he told me. "In my legs and even my arms. Like, right now I can't even feel my fingers. I've had it for years, it's not related to the HIV. But the only thing I've found that eases it is marijuana. And they caught me with it, so now I'm on TASK." I gathered that was a sort of suspended sentence or probation that depended on his staying clean to keep out of jail.

"I thought the voters of Arizona twice passed legislation making medical marijuana legal," I said.

"They did," Carl agreed. "And then, in 2003, the law was overturned. So now I can be arrested for taking medicine that does what no other medication can. I have to suffer so the fucking Fundamentalists can have their way. I wish the Rapture would go ahead and come already, and take those bastards so we could get on with our lives."

Nick had no sooner finished his "fatty" and Carl and I returned to the campfire, when Jerk Dad and His Three Sons approached. They introduced themselves, and immediately began competing with Nick about their respective ex-girlfriends. Each tried to outdo the other with a story of the horrendous thing his ex-girlfriend had done to him, until finally the oldest of His Three Sons topped them all with, "My ex-girlfriend got a restraining order against me. I had to leave the county."

"The whole county?" Nick gasped, thus passing the invisible My-Ex-Is-The Biggest-Bitch trophy to the young man, who couldn't have been more than 19.

Jerk Dad shook his head. "They're all bitches. Women, ya can't live with 'em and ya can't shoot 'em. All ya can do is get stoned and try to survive."

"Hear, hear!" Nick agreed.

"Do you have any pot?" Jerk Dad asked. "'Cause I don't, and I sure want some."

"Do I ever!" And the next thing I knew, Carl and I were back looking at shooting stars while Nick and Jerk Dad got His Three Sons, the youngest of whom was about 14, high.

They then decided to hike to the hot Spring, which Jerk Dad was confident he could find again. The camp became quite quiet with their departure, to our collective relief. We decided that Jerk Dad would probably jump into the river again at night, hit his head on a rock, and be killed. "It'll all end in tears, I just know it," I said.

We continued to talk, letting the fire go out and watching shooting stars until the moon rose. Carl had seen a UFO the night before, which he described. I told the guys about the UFO Frank and I had seen on Monday night. (They were different; the descriptions didn't match.) Finally, unable to keep our eyes open, David and I returned to the SUV to turn in and let Eddie and Carl get some sleep.

In the morning we had breakfast (yogurt, more fruit, and trail mix) and decided to soak in the river rather than bothering to walk to the hot spring, as the day was already getting warm. Deb and Vic, who were camping just south of Eddie and Carl, had placed iron porch chairs in the river and invited David and me to use them while they crossed the river to obtain an abandoned water jug they saw there.

David and Paul in the Verde River.

We also waded upstream a hundred yards or so, and sat partially submerged on the rocks, letting the current pour over us. It was completely delightful and we did not want to leave, not even after we ate lunch (the last of our sandwiches) and were now out of food.

I moved the SUV to a space next to Eddie and Carl's camp, so we could make use of their egress into the river. Deb came over and mentioned her daughter, who, it turned out, was in a recovery home dealing with her addiction to methamphetamines.

I got a funny feeling. "Where is it?" I asked.

"It's in Prescott," she replied. "Uh, I can't remember the exact name…"

"It's not Women In New Recovery, is it?" I asked.

"Yes, WINR's! That's it!"

"That's the recovery home my daughter manages," I said. "Not the one in Prescott, but the same company."

"What are the odds?" Deb asked, astounded.

I shrugged. "Higher, when you're in a high-frequency place like this," I said. "According to The Celestine Prophecy, high-frequency areas are hotbeds of meaningful coincidence."

"Meaningful?" Deb repeated. "You mean, there's a purpose to us finding out my daughter's in the same recovery organization as yours?"

"There could be," I explained. "We should at least keep talking about it and see what comes up."

Deb didn't need much urging. She explained how her daughter had originally been in a state-funded recovery home, but had been seduced by one of the instructors. "He should've known better, the bastard!" Deb was clearly still upset over it, and I agreed.

"She could have gotten pregnant, or contracted a sexually-transmitted disease," I said supportively. "Hopefully, she didn't."

"No," Deb admitted. "But it didn't help her recovery any. They fired the bastard, but I didn't think much of the place after that and neither did my daughter. So I moved her to WINR's. It wasn't cheap, either, but I sold everything I had to pay for it and it seems to be money well-spent."

"Well, hopefully when you win the lawsuit, you'll get that money back," I remarked.

"What lawsuit?"

There was a sudden pause, and I said, "You sued the state recovery place, didn't you? After all, they're responsible for selecting and training their instructors. Your daughter should have been safe in their care."

Deb looked stunned. "I never thought of that," she said. "I never thought of that. It just never crossed my mind."

I smiled. "Then that's what the coincidence was about."

"I am going right back to my tent to write this down, so I don't forget!" Deb announced, and ran off in that direction, leaving David, Eddie and me in camp chairs while Carl fished from the river bank a few yards away.

"I know how tricky those group situations can be," Eddie commented. "Before I met Carl, I lived in a group home, and…"

I didn't hear what followed, because the following thoughts ran through my mind: Eddie's HIV positive, and lived in a group home. That means it was probably a home for poz guys, like Lloyd lived in… Lloyd was a young man who rode as a passenger in my truck in 2003 when I was driving a big rig. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, "You don't happen to know a guy named Lloyd, do you?" And I included Lloyd's last name.

"There was a guy named Lloyd there," Eddie said, "but I don't remember his last name."

"Tall, with light brown hair?" I prompted.

"Yeah, and a little oversexed," Eddie filled in.

"That's Lloyd," I laughed.

David looked stunned. "Another coincidence?" he said.

"I guess so," I acknowledged. "What are the odds that, here by the Verde River, I'd encounter a guy who used to live with the fellow I took as a passenger for three weeks in my truck? Or that the topic would even come up?"

"So, what does the coincidence mean?" Carl called from the river bank.

I shook my head. "I don't know," I admitted. "Maybe just an underscore to what I was saying before, that coincidences are more likely to occur in high frequency areas like this one."

The hour was growing late and David and I finally packed the SUV. It didn't take long, and when we were done it was truly time for us to leave and yet, and yet, I felt that something had been left undone. I suddenly realized my hands were hot, pulsing, and I felt myself drawn to Eddie, who had stood up to hug me goodbye.

"I have to do a little energy thing," I blurted, somewhat embarrassed. "Just relax." And I held him, my hands throbbing with some kind of energy, pushing that energy into his back, and then his throat—most of the ONA "centers" or energy points. Moreover, I felt energy coming from him back. This continued until my hands cooled and I felt that it, whatever it was, was done.

"One more thing," I said. "Each day, tap twelve times on this spot just below your collarbone, like this." And I demonstrated. "That's the location of your thymus gland, which has an important role in the regulation of your immune system. Tapping on it like that can activate it if it isn't working properly." I paused. "And, after all," I added lightly in my best Grouch Marx voice, "…it couldn't hoit!"

"I'll do it," Eddie promised. He gave David a hug, and Carl came over and hugged us both goodbye, and we exchanged email addresses and agreed to try and get together for some future camping trip, especially if it was to be here. Then David and I got into the SUV and drove out of the campsite and onto that steep, wild road.

"I love the energy here!" David exclaimed.

"I think that guy yesterday was right," I remarked. "The energy attracts jerks, because they need it so badly even though they don't know what to do with it. And it attracts people like us, and Eddie and Carl and Deb, because we do. This road keeps everyone else out."

I began to enthuse, again, over the marvelous way coincidences can guide our lives, if we allow them to. "Obviously, the coincidence of Eddie knowing Lloyd was meant to get my attention so that I would offer him that healing energy," I said. "I just hope I can find out if it did any good, 'cause usually I just never know."

"Paul, I don't want to offend you—but I don't think the coincidence of meeting Eddie and Carl was about you, at all. I think…" David's voice trailed off shyly, then continued with more intensity. "I think it was a message for me."

I took my eyes off the road long enough to look at David's face. His eyes were moist. "And that was…?" I asked.

Voice trembling only slightly, David replied, "That it's possible."

I shook my head in lack of understanding.

"That's it's possible," he repeated. "That two guys who are right for each other, can find each other. That two guys can really love each other, be there for each other, even when the chips are really, really down. If it could happen for Eddie and Carl…maybe…" David swallowed. "Maybe it can happen for me, too."

And then my eyes moistened as well, and I had to blink furiously to keep the road in focus.

The Universe works so skillfully that nothing is wasted. A message to me might be carried by a coincidence, but there's a message—a different message—carried to everyone else involved. I had mine, Eddie presumably had his, and David had his. The beauty of it is that each of us got what we most needed from our seemingly chance encounter in the Arizona wilderness.

And even away from the river, as we bounced and jounced along Fossil Creek Road, we still felt the high frequency; it made the tortured landscape around us glow with beauty in a way that made our souls sing.

The buttes along Fossil Creek Road seemed to glow.

I didn't care whether my blog gets repetitive or not—I knew I'd be back.