Monday, June 9, 2008

So You Wanna Try Hiking Nude?

I got this email the other day from a reader who waffled and hemmed and hawed before finally asking the question he had wanted to ask in the first place. How?

Or more specifically, just exactly how would he go about hiking nude. Maybe a superfluous question . . . I could have simply said 'just take off your clothes'. However, you sense reading this email (which is rambling and pointless to repost here) that the writer is seeking reassurance and some advice for someone who has thought about hiking in the buff yet could never get up the courage to actually do it. Something we can all relate to . . . there was always that first time.

So, what do you tell someone like that? I've got all kinds of advice and tips . . . some of which I'll list here but I'll also throw it out to my readers. What would you tell someone who was thinking about making that first foray into nudism with a nude hike?

My first suggestion would be to relax a little, think honestly about why you want to walk about nude and take comfort it the fact that there are many people that really do enjoy the freedom and sensation you get from hiking nude.

Secondly, do some research and find yourself a trail or location where you are reasonably certain you will not encounter someone else. Then just hike it normally . . . well into the wilderness. At some point you are going to realize that you are, really all by yourself and there is no one out there to bring on those sudden panic attacks should you be seen naked. Perhaps a high alpine lake, sunning on a boulder while enjoying the majestic scenery. You're quite alone. Take off your clothes and enjoy the sun and breezes on your skin.

There is no doubt in my mind that anyone who has skinny-dipped or sunned nude in relative solitude, is well on their way to being a nudist. The next step is to seek the support of like-minded people. There are nudist clubs all over the place and a simple Google search will turn up one in your area. Do your research and assure yourself that they are associated or affiliated with one or both of the national nudist associations (the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) and The Naturist Society (TNS)). My home club is the Sun Lovers Under Grey Skies . . . the SLUGS, based in the Puget Sound region with members throughout the west coast. Contact a club and arrange to join them on an introductory hike. We are very cognizant that many first-timers are unsure of themselves . . . shy or modest. You will quickly warm to the support and encouragement these clubs have to offer.

So . . . that first hike:
  • Treat a nude hike much as any other hike. Carry the essentials.
  • Don't overdo it for the environment; use sunblock, drink plenty of water.
  • Pick a rarely used trail, perhaps an abandoned logging road. These routes are often unused by the general public.
  • If there is a trailhead, are there any other vehicles there . . . indicative of possible hikers already on the trail?
  • Avoid 'loop trails' that have trailheads or approaches from both ends. Someone could be hiking in from the other direction.
  • Wait until you are well onto the trail and attune yourself to the surroundings. Feel the sun and the breezes. Soon you will become immersed in it all, part of nature. Take a break and remove those last vestiges of clothing. Now is the time to hike nude.
  • Two approaches: You could be brave and safely stash your clothing just off the trail to continue hiking completely naked (the best way-often called 'freehiking', but only for a short stroll); or if you are still a little nervous, carry shorts available in your pack. The less available clothing is, the sooner you will relax and quit worrying.
Nude and immersed in your surroundings listen and see as you hike. Look for those clues that tell you if anyone else has been this way recently . . . footprints, broken spider webs across the trail, etc. Observing is not necessarily paranoia . . . simply a side benefit of enjoying the trail. With your senses open you should have ample warning should someone else come down the trail toward you . . . ample time to cover up, if appropriate.

Whether you cover up or not is up to you. Most people on the trail simply just do not care. But perhaps for you, not the first time until you feel more comfortable with being nude. In time, you will. The first time for me was when I was surprised by a friendly dog coming up to me on a narrow ridge trail . . . which meant the owner wasn't far behind. I scrambled wildly trying to pull shorts on over boots while hopping for balance. I must have looked silly when a lone hiker came around the bend and found me exhausted, but covered. Moral of the story . . . make sure you can get your shorts on over your boots while balancing a heavy pack on your back! Or better yet, just grin and bare it!

I've encountered a number of hikers on the trail while hiking nude . . . both male and female and mixed groups. Not one of them expressed outward disapproval. Most of the chance meetings turned out very cordial. It all depends on how you approach the situation . . . with confidence and a sense of humor. Don't go out of your way to meet oncoming hikers while you are nude (that is exhibitionism), but be confident when it does happen. You'd be surprised at how many people find it okay. You'd be surprised at how many have hiked nude . . . or perhaps are now inclined to perhaps give it a try themselves.

A great article on Nude Hiking by a friend, Mark Storey and a roving editor for TNS, is available here. A very good read.

So . . . I challenge my readers to offer their own suggestions or ideas. How would a neophyte take that first step toward hiking nude?

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