Friday, July 20, 2012

1st Annual Nude Campout at Scenic Hot Springs

An invitation to the naturist community and we had an informal test of the idea of an annual nude campout at Scenic Hot Springs this past weekend (7/13-14).  While not as well attended because of conflicting nudist activities, those who participated had a great time . . . enough so that this may become an annual event.

Since Scenic is private property where nudity is traditional and legal we could be nude from the moment we arrived until the moment we left and, enjoy the camping, hiking nude through the forests and clearcuts around the area, soak in the hot springs and just simply work on our tan lines.

Setting Up Camp on Friday

Our original site was changed to the clearcut dur to exccessive
winter tree-fall in the traditional area.
 At first we were going to do some serious toting of supplies to a traditional camping area under the canopy of the NW corner of the property.  Unfortunately that area had a lot of large trees toppled over the past winter and is in need of some serious clearing.  The second choice was a large, grassy flat area to the west (behind me in the picture above).  That area is closer to Scenic Creek and has seen a lot of hunter use as a campsite over the years.  While the area would have been perfect for a large grouping of tents, it also, unfortunately, was out of the way should I need to intercept and turn around any trespassers making their way up the opposing BPA road to Scenic.

We gave serious thought to backpacking our gear up to the springs and making camp there.  I can pack light but on Friday, not a one of us came prepared to hike all that heavy gear another thousand feet higher.  So we made camp  where we brought the cars in . . . at the beginning of the clearcut from the Forest Service road leading back to the gate.  True car camping and any trespassers would have to go right in front of me to gain the route to Scenic.

We got nude before even the unpacking and setup started (heck, I'd already been nude for the better part of the day leading to the camping).  Appropriate flat areas were few and our tents ended up scattered apart.  I'd arrived early and claimed the high ground of a grassy ramp leading up to a BPA tower.

Propane BBQ for the burgers (or in this case, boiling water for my coffee.)
 Dinner first.  Burgers with all the fixings . . . cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions . . . onto toasted sesame seed buns while we waited out the one remaining overnighter to arrive.  Eventually, we gave up on him and set off to hike (sans clothing, of course) up to the hot springs a mile away and a thousand feet higher on the mountainside.  Coming back down a couple of hours later, we met our wayward friend hiking completely nude up to the springs.  We could see in the distance that he had already set up his own tent.  His turn to enjoy the springs.  Later, we all met down below around the campfire we had started.  The sun was going down and evening bugs getting feisty . . . so the smoke from our fire came in handy to discourage their feeding on bare torsos.

Some Serious Camping Requirements (Smores, in other words)

marshallow on stick
An essential step to making smores.  I like my marshmallows burned
for that delicious charred taste!

Dinner done and food stuff secured prudently away from night-time inquisitive bears, it was time to stoke up that campfire up as twilight approached.  Mike was only tasked with one bring-along . . . the ingredients for smores.  And he did not disappoint us.  A few green-wood skewers prepped and sharpened . . . tips sanitized and hardened in the fire for a few seconds . . . and we were ready to try out our various techniques for making smores.  Al arriving late from a soak up at the springs joined us all nude around a welcomely-warm campfire.

If you have never tried smores in a camping situation you are definitely missing out in a time-honored tradition (not to mention a tasty treat).  So, I'm going to bore you with my technique for making smores around a campfire in the wilderness.  You need just three ingredients to make smores:
  1. Graham Crackers
  2. Chocolate Bars (Nestle's Milk chocolate seems to have become the de'facto standard)
  3. Marshmallows (the large ones . . . not the miniatures)
You'll also need skewers to toast your marshmallows, a good campfire, and friends to enjoy this traditional past-time in the silliness of the experience.   I say silliness in a most approving way . . . camping is supposed to be an escape from stresses of rushed lives.  What better way to unwind by doing something fun and maybe a little childish . . . but that's what makes it fun and relaxing.  Especially with friends (and even strangers who quickly become friends around a shared campfire.)

The Technique (a'la Banged Up Shins):

Take a graham cracker and break in two halves.  Place a square or two of the milk chocolate in the center of one of the halves.  So far, not a radical departure.  Here's where my technique comes in.  The manufacturer's of milk chocolate have become stingy with the amount of milk fat in their products, resulting in a chocolate that doesn't melt as well as it did in the past.  The traditional way to make smores was to place the toasted marshmallow atop the chocolate and allow the heat to soften the chocolate squares beneath.  But I've had very little luck even with well-toasted and presumedly hot marshmallows having much of a softening effect on today's milk chocolates.  I remain with the hard square of chocolate instead of oozing all three ingredients together that I remember from my childhood. 

So, that graham cracker half with the chocolate on it gets placed near the fire on one of the rocks ringing the flames.  The idea is to pre-soften the chocolate but be careful as you can over-do this step and end up with a dripping mess, laughter and scalding melted chocolate burns on your naked chest and abdomen.  (Hint:  lean forward when you take your first bites of a completed smore.  The drips of melted chocolate won't hurt the forest floor.)

While the chocolate is tempering beside the fire, skewer one or two marshmallows (one is usually enough and I just pop the other one in my mouth out of haste).  Hold the marshmallows near, but not directly in the flames and slowly rotate the skewer to evenly brown and double in size the marshmallows.  Try the skewer the marshmallows dead-center as they tend to rotate lop-sided down as they heat up (ending up with only one side toasted).  

Banged Up Shins preferred version . . . when the marshmallow has doubled in size, poke real close to the coals or flame to set them afire, and then pull back, letting them burn for a few seconds.  You should have a thin, crispy-black skin develop around the gooey center.  Blow the flames out and be ready to jump aside should a cremated marshmallow decide to drop to the forest floor and any bare feet immediately in it's path.  Cremated marshmallow (which is just sugar) can produce a nasty burn on bare skin.

Eat one of the marshmallows straight from the skewer (of course, that's why you greedily stuffed two on there in the first place) and then set the other one directly atop the softened chocolate.  Top with the other half of the graham cracker, wait a few seconds for the heat of the marshmallow to do it's thing to the chocolate, and then squeeze them together until gooey stuff oozes out the sides.  Bite in and enjoy.  We did and no inadvertent burn marks to our bare skins.  I'm happy to report that, unlike frying bacon, smores can be made while nude , , , and in fact, it is the only way to make smores along with a cheerful campfire and friends to go along.

Late Night Visitors

This kind of silliness went on for some time.  Well into complete darkness (except for a cheery campfire) on a moonless night.  It was in that darkness that we heard the somewhat excited squeals of "Ouuu a campfire" and we realized that we were not alone out there in the wilderness.

A campfire anchors us in the darkness of a moonless night

 A quick glance in the direction of where the forest service road comes into the clearcut revealed a small flashlight or two flickering.  We had visitors trying to sneak into the hot springs.  Ahh well . . .  was my job to deter trespassing and part of the reason I was up there.  Headlight on and directed toward the voices approaching.  I walk down to meet them.  It's a mixed group of teenagers . . . six or seven of them . . . and they don't know what to make of the situation, especially me standing naked on the road in front of them. They looked like deer startled in headlights when I challenged and asked them what they were doing on private property.

This group I'd never seen before.  Clean and not at all mouthy like the group I kicked out a week earlier.  First response . . . "Sir, we didn't know..."  Didn't know what?  How could they miss all the signs on the way in?  They had no answer and to their credit, they did apologize and accept that they couldn't go in any further.  I actually had a rather fatherly talk with them . . . and it was only after-the-fact that I realized how completely natural I felt to have been standing there naked in front of a bunch of strangers and turning attention from that fact to what I was chastising them for in the first place.  They actually thanked me before they turned around reluctantly and left back the way they came in. 

Back at the campfire both Mike and Al said I should have at least invited them over to the campfire and a chance to save something of their evening before being sent packing.  In after-thought, I think they were right, and at least by the end of the evening we might have made a bunch of youth just a little bit more comfortable around nudity . . . heck, possibly some converts. I might have even relented and allowed them a gratis soak up at the springs . . . they had been so chagrined but apologetically polite when I dashed their original plans.

A Late Night Soak

 My fellow campers turned into their tents soon after.  However, I have never been an early-to-bed, up at first light type of person.  I restoked the campfire and make myself another pot of coffee.  It was barely midnight and I knew that if we got any more late-night trespassers attempting to sneak in . . . they would be coming between the witching hours of midnight to 2am. The night air was just a little on the chilly side but surprisingly comfy when I set my chair next to the campfire.  There I sat and sort of dozed off in complete relaxation.  So much for guard duty . . . trespassers could have walked right by me at times and I would never have known.

Absolutely unproductive time but how relaxing ...
If you don't tend a fire . . . add more wood, move coals around . . . eventually it flickers down to a useless white ash.  And a naked person sitting nearby awakes to a chill . . . me.  It is after one in the morning.  I am not ready for bed.  I have more of a restless urge to move around  . . . probably more to get the blood moving and dash the chill away.  There is also the desire to feel the freedom of moving naked through the enveloping mantle of darkness covering everything.  Hiking into total darkness . . . even with the cone of a good headlamp to light your way . . . is something akin to a challenge.  Clothing shields some of us with a debatable sense of protection from that pitch-black.  Without that clothing you truly are vulnerable to whatever may be out there . . . and particularly more so when there is nothing between your bare skin and the chill of nighttime darkness.  A challenge that is both a little unnerving at times but very sensual in the interaction of your body to the night air.

Heading down to the gate half a mile away to see if there were
trespassers who had parked and snuck past me earlier.

 I really didn't know if anyone had gotten past me earlier, so I ambled down the forest service road a half mile to where the gate blocked access to see if there were any cars down there.  There were none . . . a disappointment in a way because I would just love to catch the more despicable vandals and have them arrested.  The fact that I'm nude and not even carrying my cell phone on this particular jaunt doesn't even come to mind.  Looking for trespassers is just an excuse.

Well, heck.  Back in the clearcut and our camping area, I really don't have a reason or need to go up to the hot springs.  Nevertheless, I grab my backpack.  The least I could do is be doubly-sure . . . and maybe treat myself to a nice warm, relaxing soak.

Monster Tub:  106F in the near pool, 109F in the far one. High in lithium
and pH silky smooth.
I've already soaked once today.  This is a double-treat.  Hiking the two thirds mile up the mountainside in chill night air tightens all the pores of the skin  . . . goosebumpy.  All that is needed is the shucking of shoes and socks and it is right into toasty hot water to the neck.  Headlight turned off, stars above blazing in the gazillions . . .what could be better?  Half an hour is all I need and on the hike back down my skin wafts visible steamy warmth all the way back to my tent.  It's pack it up time . . . into the sleeping bag and a good night's sleep.

Awake at Dawn and a Morning Soak

The one thing I didn't pack and regretted was the pad for under my sleeping bag.  I slept warm but with the impression of every tiny pebble digging into my back that my site prep had failed to brush aside.  I awoke early, unable to go back to sleep.  Coffee was the first order of business in the cool and nippy morning air of dawn.  Not a sign of movement from any of the other tents.  After a quick breakfast I set out on the hike up to the springs, hiking this time with nothing more than my shoes, floopy blue hat and a small towel . . . about as free-hiking as possible (I'd be foolish to attempt that rocky path without something on my feet.

It's not very often I head out without a pack on my back.  Feels good.

Again, I meet my oversleeping companions on the way back down as they are heading up.  Someone has to meet the Saturday participants . . . mainly, Richard and Joe of the SLUGS.   Having time in the sun on my hands I check out places it's been a few years since visiting . . . the overgrown trail to the upper Scenic Falls . . . still very overgrown and unpassable without some serious clearing.

I had also promised to take a couple of them down to see the lower falls . . . a 150 foot sheer drop over a precipice . . . but that route was also overgrown.  Those ideas out of the way I again set to enjoying the sun amid people coming and going to the springs while I watched over the tents.

With my towel atop a large sunning rock
Joe and Richard arrived separately . . . Richard parking by the gate and hiking nude from there.  Joe had already headed up to the springs for a hike while I got caught up of the goings-on at the SLUGS with Richard.  Then it was Richard's turn to check out the springs.  I decided to head on down to the gate and check out the two cars Richard had said were there because i hadn't seen any trespassers attempting to get by me.  Again, I headed on down free-hiking style with just my shoes and hat.  I encountered no one and still wonder where the occupants of those cars got to.  They certainly didn't head in to Scenic.

Looking for a way down to the Lower Scenic Falls
On the way back from the gate  I decided to see if I could reverse blaze the route back down to the Lower Scenic Falls.  During the winter months this route is the easiest way up to Scenic from the Surprise Creek parking area.  However, once summer growth sets in the Devil's Club quickly takes over the entire area, making it impassable.  After only a few minutes of looking for a feasible route down, I gave up and returned to the Forest Service road and our campsites.

Everyone took their time enjoying the springs while I took care of things down below . . . most of the time working on the developing crispy red skin that I wasn't aware of developing.  I normally don't sunburn , , , my Greek heritage, I suppose.  So I had been a little arrogant about being out in the sun for two days straight without any sunscreen protection whatsoever.  But by the afternoon I could see that reddening of mild burning.  I could only hope that I hadn't overdone it . . . I didn't feel the burn . . . just the reddening of a large area of skin over most of my body with the sole exception of the thigh creases because of prolonged sitting.  A little sunscreen . . . better late than never.

Breaking camp and emptying any critters that managed to sneak their way in.

Drying out the bottom of the tent before collapsing and rolling up.

Toward five in the afternoon I broke down my campsite while still waiting on the rest of them still soaking away up at the springs.  They came down singly . . . timing just right and we did a general cleanup of the area.  After the last of my guests left I remembered the one treat we didn't manage to get around to . . .

Did you know that watermelons grew in the ice-cold stream of the Cascades?
Retrieving an ice-cold (by now) watermelon
Yeah, we had stashed a beautiful watermelon into the flow of a very cold stream to enjoy later . . . but we forgot all about it . . . until everyone had left.  Ah well . . . the treat's all mine.  I'm taking it home with me.  It's into the car, down to the gate, the heck with clothes. 

Those two cars are still there but no signs of their occupants.  I wave at Richard, who has hiked nude down to his car and is just getting around to getting dressed.  I won't bother with clothes until I get closer to Goldbar where I make a stop of pickup some Aloe Vera lotion as a preventative against deepening sunburn.  The weekend was fun.  Next time I'm going to put some more planning into it . . . get bigger participation.

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