Saturday, May 21, 2005

Nude Snow Hike on Tonga Ridge Friday Afternoon

Just before my totally nude hike up onto Tonga Ridge to the snow and freezing rain. Posted by Hello

Before I get into my nude snow hike I'd like to share something totally crazy that you may (or may not) have noticed in the picture above. Seeing as summer is approaching and the hair on my abdomen is not that noticeable but nonetheless is dark, I took a trimmer to the hairs with the intent of trimming them. Of course, I failed miserably and kept correcting until in the end I had no choice by to shave the area completely. I feel kind of naked there . . . a days worth of stubble but basically a naked stomach that draws attention to it. So forgive me . . . now all I can do is wait for it to grow back. Kind of funny that I walking around naked all the time and the only thing I can worry about is my denuded abdomen . . .

Anyway, if you remember correctly, I did promise the volunteer ranger (you remember, the cute one) a trail report on Tonga and so I headed out that way on Friday . . . interested in seeing just how big this boulder is that is sitting in the middle of the forest service road. BTW, it wasn't that big . . . about half the size of my car and easily driven around. Curiosity resolved I continued on up to the trailhead five mile further up thinking snow . . . is there any?

I also had an itching for a hike and Tonga has always been a favorite of mine 'cause I love to get out on the open ridge for the spectacular views. Friday was forecast for thunderstorms in the Cascades . . . which I knew, but what the heck. The hike isn't overly long.

Nude hiking in the rain is a penchant for me. I enjoy the feel of rain drops on my bare skin. It's also a foolhardy thing to do because the chance of hypothermia is very real when wet skin braves gusting winds. (see my article on hypothermia here) But I do it anyway.

I have a little trick that helps and I used it this time as I sat in the car removing all my clothes in preparation for my trek. Waterproof yourself! Suntan lotion (the waterproof type) is great for this. I apply it to every exposed part of my body and I fine it helps shed the cold rain instead of wetting me down and sapping heat.

It wasn't raining much yet . . . sprinkles and mist mainly . . . but the thunderheads were on the way. The ridge is about an hour hike in, dally fifteen minutes or so and then hike back . . . two hours exposed. I debated whether to wear a jacket or just carry one. But standing outside the car in the elements I felt the challenge. Screw it. No clothes at all . . . just my hat, my hiking stick and fanny pack. The rain suit got tossed back into the car and off I went . . . taking a real chance of freezing my buns off.

Hiking generates a lot of heat, so staying warm isn't a problem as long as I'm moving. I suspect snow up ahead . . . and I find it quickly, hiking though it and playing around in it. The snow is cold but it really doesn't seem to affect me once I brush it off. But it's fun and exciting to be able to say I've frolicked naked in the snow . . . in late May, no less.

Still a lot of snow up on Tonga Ridge. I make terrible snow angels Posted by Hello

Then on to the ridge. Under the canopy you are protected from the wind and most of the drizzle. The hat deflects most of the coalesced larger drops of rain and the worst I have to deal with is the squish squish of my shoes in the saturated trail. I don't care much for the canopy. It's confined . . . sort of claustrophobic. My real goal is the ridge which I reach in good time.

As soon as I step into the open slope the rain comes at my like a fine, heavy mist, occasionally swirling around my torso by the wind gust sliding up the slopes from the clouds down below. I won't dally here long. Already my fingers are feeling numb and another appendage feels nothing at all. I'm getting soaked in the fine mist that frequently turn to a heavy pelting and then drops back to the drizzle again. My legs and torso are fine and I don't feel the cold at all there. Just my wet fingertips. The fanny pack is soaked, as are my shoes. I should have worn the boots. Still, I'm here and I love it.

Light is going. Dark masses of grey fulminate into the valley from over the far ridges. A distant flash and crack of thunder . . . close. Time to get off this exposed ridge and head back. The temperature is dropping rapidly as that mass descends on my position. The rain takes up again . . . a steady shower now pushed by strong breeze. Is that snow? Yes, it is snowing along with the rain . . . sleet almost. I tarry a moment to challenge Mother Nature with outspread arms . . . and then turn to scurry into the cover and protection of the forest canopy once more.

The hike back is a dreary one for I'm feeling the cold now. I think warm . . . heat. Will blood into my fingertips to revitalize them. Behind me the thunder rumbles menacingly by I'm almost back to safety. I cross the snow zone under a driving downpour. The heat is drained from my body. The shivers start . . . a warning. Gratefully, I make it to the trailhead and fumble the keys out of the fanny pack. Before anything else, the engine and the heater . . . and then a towel to dry my goose-bumped skin.

Heater on full, rain pounding the roof, I suck in the heat for a full half hour or more before I feel warmed and in control. I love these kinds of hikes.

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