Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Nude hike in a Thunderstorm?

How's that for craziness? Worse still, a nude hike in a thunderstorm as night falls, without a flashlight. Wish I had a picture of myself doing it.

It all started when I arrived to give my class and found that it had been cancelled . . . only someone had forgotten to tell me. And that after spending the entire day cramming and rushing to get the Power Point slides and handouts completed.

Hadn't eaten anything all day . . . had survived on dozens of cups of coffee . . . and the class was cancelled. I was stressed. My gut hurt, acid roiled, nerves jangled. And it was already drizzling in Everett.

So I'm driving back from Everett and now I have to deal with traffic which is snarling up. I'm wired, Tums don't work anymore . . . one of those moments you say 'F**k It!' I start driving toward the mountains instead. There's still some sunlight left . . . I just needed to get out of town and unwind a little.

An hour and a half later I'm driving up the Forest Service road to the Iron Goat Trail head and further on the logging roads beyond it. Eventually I stop and park. A short hike. It's still light enough and there's barely any rain. Do me good.

I undress. Hadn't planned for this hike so I don't have the standby shorts to carry . . . but who am I going to run into out here anyway. Fortunately, my backpack and hiking boots are still in the back seat. So is the emergency vinyl poncho that I've never used. Well, that'd keep some of the water off my back and I can toss the front part over my shoulder to enjoy the cooling night air. Just a short hike up and back. Off I go wearing just the poncho with the entire front twisted and thrown over my shoulder . . . and my walking stick. I forgot my headlamp.

Night falls fast in the mountains. Real fast and pretty soon it's hard to make out the road surface. But I've been up this trail before and the steady patter of raindrops on my chest and thighs feels great. My stomach is settled, the exercise is doing me fine. You hike a little . . . turn and think should I turn back . . . then turn forward again and say to yourself 'just a little longer'. That little longer turns into several miles of hiking and it's raining harder. There is no way that this poncho is going to keep any water of the naked body underneath. I don't even try. As long as I keep the back covered I really don't feel the cold. I love the sensation of the raindrops hitting my bare skin. I actually stand out there turning into the wind with arms outspread and legs planted apart inviting the breezes and rain to sensate me.

A flicker of lightning on the peak above suddenly strobing unknown shadows all around. Water riveletting down the gravel-topped road toward me, soaking my hiking shoes, the wind picking up and the raindrops now getting very cold. Time to turn back . . . my exposed arms are feeling cold-numbness as is another essential part of my anatomy, which is feeling anything . . . it's all shrivelled up (foreskins are good for something).

There are energy reserves there. I could pull the thin plastic down front to somewhat protect that part . . . but I don't. I'm obstinate . . . stubborn. I open myself up to the downpour and trudge on. Eventually I come across my car in the darkness, thankful for the keys slung around my neck.

Inside, in the darkness with the ratcheting pounding of rain on the roof, I sit there naked and suddenly shivering. Now I'm cold. But I'm renewed and totally aware. The engine is started, heater going and a towel left over from another trip is dry and usable. After five minutes I can drive the several miles back down to the Old Cascade Highway and Highway 2. I drive it nude, knowing there is no one crazy enough to be out to offend. Just short of the highway I put on my nice city clothes, dry my hair one more time and turn right, rested and relaxed for the hour and a half drive home. Taco Bell/Pizza Hut in Monroe made a tidy profit from my ravenous hunger long the way (six jumbo tacos and a personal pepperoni pizza . . . just what I needed.


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