Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Solstice hike on the AT

From a posting to the Naturist-Hikers Yahoo Group

Nine men showed up for the summer solstice hike, June 20, traditional naked hiking day on the Appalachian Trail. We were on a 6-mile stretch of the AT in Md., just north of Harpers Ferry, WV, a section that has been used as the solstice hike a number of times before, without incident. We stripped early and stayed naked until the very end. The day was perfect for hiking and we moved along at a good pace, getting mostly friendly acknowledgments, particularly from the through-hikers, the intrepid hikers going from Georgia to Maine. In fact we didn't meet as many hikers going north as we have in past years.

One older couple, not through-hikers, kept their eyes down and didn't respond to our greetings. We stopped for a break at the Garvey shelter a little over halfway along, and asked the 2 textile hikers already there if they would mind a group of naked men joining them. We sat on benches outside the shelter, while they were on the deck in front of it. Everything seemed to be fine, although we discovered after they left that one of them had written in the shelter log book words to the effect that in 1900 miles of hiking he had never seen any naked hikers before and hoped that he never would again. I for one had no idea that he was harboring such thoughts. We resumed the hike and took a short side trail out to the Weverton Cliffs, a spectacular overlook of the Potomac from which one can see 3 states, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. After the steep switchback descent to where we had parked a couple of cars to take us back to the starting point, we covered ourselves before leaving the trail for the cars.

There, however, we were confronted by Officer Boback of the Maryland State Police, who read us the riot act, claimed that there had been complaints, informed us that what we were doing might have been acceptable before 9/11 but not after (although how our naked hiking impacted national security he failed to inform us), threatened us with $120 fines, but gradually calmed down and let us off with warnings. (Of course his witnesses to our nudity were no longer available. From his description of the complainers, it was clear that they were the couple and the textile hiker we met at the shelter.) As he began chatting and joking with us while writing out the warnings, he gradually relaxed, and ended up telling us that while he was professionally required to disapprove of what we had done, in fact personally he rather admired it, and ended up wanting to have his picture taken with us, (for "prosperity" he said) although of course we were fully clothed then.

So, as Mark Twain said about golf, we had a good walk ruined. Cell phones have been around for some time now and we are all aware of their usefulness in calling in the law when this would have been impossible on remote hikes in the past. I guess, sadly, we should take this possibility into account. In any case, I doubt if it would be advisable to use that bit of the AT for future solstice hikes.

Personally, I would have been more discrete in hiking a popular trail but I do laud the participants for their courage to continue an annual event.

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