Monday, May 6, 2013

Scoping out Nude Camping Areas

How about an open invitation to plan a nude camping get-together in the next few weeks?

Option #1:  A rustic campground alongside the Beckler River
This campsite is about six and a half miles in along the Beckler River Road just east of Skykomish, WA.  The site is comprised of three tenting areas in very close proximity to each other.  Access is via a loop dirt track from the paved road . . . a few hundred feet into the treeline toward the river.

Once claimed, privacy is pretty much assured by the forest shrouding the campsites from the main  road.  All campsites front on the Beckler River with ample flat area for two to three tents each.

Little sand on the beach . . . mainly river rock and boulders attesting to the vigorous flow rate of this river, despite its' size.  There is a network of trails and open canopy to enjoy short strolls a'la natural, or more intense nude hiking opportunities nearby.

Option #2:  A "Secret Beach" Campsite along the Rapid River
Site # 2 explored, is what I call my 'Secret Beach' because there is no obvious turnout of indication of a trail . . . only a hint of the beach through fall and winter foliage to make it out from the road.  It takes a little bit of a scrabble down the embankment from the road to reach the beach . . . and sometimes a little wading, but it is well worth it.

This beach is perfect for camping because the flat area is located a couple of feet higher than the river and is covered with a deep blanket of spongy moss.  At the northern end is a sandy area to enjoy.

The beach is located 1.7 miles along FS 6250 (the FS road alongside the Rapid River).

Option #3:  Pack it in and up on FS6028 for some great vistas
The last option is not so much a car camping option as it is an option for some great, extended freehiking.  The FS road is gated just off of Hwy 2 . . . so any camping is going to require you to hike everything in for a couple of miles.  There are a couple of good tenting areas with great vistas over the Skykomish River Valley, but the real appeal of this long-legged series of upward climbing gravel road switchbacks is the opportunity to shuck everything and hike nude for miles and miles (if there are no other vehicle at the gate, you are pretty much assured you have the place to yourself.)  The entrance to this FS road is located about halfway between Baring and Grotto, WA

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Advisory: State Nudity Laws Enforced at Fire Island (Lighthouse Beach) National Seashore, NY

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A letter now circulating the nudist forums ...

United States Department of the Interior
Fire Island National Seashore
120 Laurel Street
Patchogue, NY 11772
February 5, 2013 
To Whom it May Concern: 

Effective immediately, state nudity laws will be enforced at Fire Island National Seashore. While state laws apply throughout the Seashore, the park will focus its public education and enforcement efforts of the existing New York State law at the following federally-owned areas: 
 - Lighthouse beach, from the western boundary of the park to the western boundary of Kismet.
 - The Sailors Haven tract, from Point O' Woods to Cherry Grove.
 - One half mile on either side of the Barrett Beach lifeguard stand.
 - One mile on either side of the Watch Hill lifeguard stand.
 - From the Wilderness Visitor Center to the breach at Old Inlet 
Public nudity has been prohibited in the State of New York since 1984 under New York State Penal Code 245.01. Fire Island National Seashore shares concurrent jurisdiction with the State of New York, which means that state laws can be enforced on federal lands by federal, state, and local law enforcement officers. Although the National Park Service (NPS) is focusing its enforcement on the identified areas, the law still applies park-wide, and may be enforced throughout the park. NPS policies favor consistent enforcement of state laws on federal lands, and disfavor the designation of clothing optional areas. Public nudity on Fire Island has resulted in conflicts of use, despite past park management efforts to accommodate clothing optional recreation. On Lighthouse beach in particular, the dense visitation invited by the previously-designated “clothing optional beach” presented not only a visitor use conflict, but created a public safety hazard due to the lack of adequate facilities for trash and human waste, in addition to the heavy recreation on a non-lifeguarded beach. Additionally, Hurricane Sandy leveled the dunes in this area, which increases the visibility of the beach from other public use areas. The sandy over-wash areas left by the storm created added habitat for sensitive species in the area. Finally, park employees have observed an increase in criminal activity in the designated clothing-optional areas, but have been unable to appropriately manage this activity despite significant attempts at education and enforcement. 
Violation of this law is a class B federal misdemeanor, and can result in fines of up to $5,000 and up to six months imprisonment.  
Fire Island National Seashore management recognizes that visitors have come to Fire Island to sunbathe in the nude for many years, and that many responsible and respectful users of this beach have provided support to the park through volunteer efforts over the years. Fire Island National Seashore management is focusing its enforcement only on those areas in which visitor use conflicts are likely—specifically, those areas that are heavily visited by members of the public who are generally not attuned to nude recreation. On all Seashore lands, however, other regulations such as disorderly conduct, creating an offensive condition, public intoxication, and drug and alcohol laws will be strictly enforced. Use and compliance on all park beaches will be monitored throughout the summer, with additional measures being taken as necessary. Should concentrations of nudity and/or lewd and lascivious behaviors increase in other areas of the park and cause similar conflicts with other visitors and/or protected natural resources, then the park may expand its enforcement efforts to other areas. 
Questions about these changes should be directed to Chief Ranger Lena Koschmann
at 631-687-4757 or
/s/ Lena Koschmann
Chief Ranger, Fire Island National Seashore
O:  (631) 687-4757

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sauvies Island (Collins Beach) in Winter

Collins Beach on Sauvies Island is legally clothing-optional and close to Portland, OR
The arrow above points to Entrance #2, the beginning of the nude beach.

Had the opportunity to head on down to Portland, Oregon a few days ago for a class.  Weather was overcast and generally miserable (threats of rain) but I found myself with lots of free time on my hands and decided to see what conditions were like at Collins Beach.

Collins Beach is within Oregon Wildlife land on the northern edge of Sauvies Island . . . which is located east,  not far from Portland, Oregon on OR 30 . . . right on the Columbia River.  Along with Rooster Rock State Park, these areas are legally-sanctioned clothing-optional areas for nude recreation.  Collins Beach on Sauvie Island, is a long stretch of wide, sandy beach . . . extremely popular during the warmer summer months.  Winter, of course, doesn't lend itself very well to being nude outside, but the beach is there anyway and who am I to argue with a chance to shuck the clothes and roam about nude . . . and legally!

One of the many entrances from the parking area . . . this one #4.
I entered at #2 which leads onto the beach at the beginning
of the clothing-optional area.
Parking at the Wildlife Refuge requires a parking pass . . . $7.50 at several different locations on the island or $22 for an annual pass (which is what I opted for since I always plan on a couple of trips to Sauvies every year).  Once past the entrance signage and down a short trail to the sand of the beach, simply shuck your clothes . . . you are legally-nude now and the wide open expanses of Collins Beach are yours to roam without fear or worry.

Brisk temperatures but not too bad when you are moving.

I was surprised at the amount of beach showing at this time of year.  Water levels in the Columbia River are at typical low summer rates (plus a low tide).  I suspect that with spring snow melt the river's flow will go up but right now the entire length and width of the beach is accessible.  The beach is in pretty good shape with very little litter.  Kudos to the cleanup crews of both AANR and ORCOBA.

No one on the beach right now (except myself).  I follow a set of dog prints followed by an owner boot prints.  In cooler months it seems that Collins is mainly used by the dog walkers but for those who can enjoy a cold weather nude stroll, Collins should always be on their agenda (if for no other reason than to continue claim and presence of nude recreation on this beach).  Later on during my return stroll I actually had an encounter with dog walkers and they were taken back.  I bemusedly informed them they were on a nude beach and what did they expect.  They turned around and headed back the way they came.  So what.  This is my beach and I intend to lay presence whenever I can.

A freighter's lifeboat deposited into the woods behind the beach
during some long-forgotten storm.

Long-weather-deteriorated breakwaters make for interesting
perspective images. 

Lots of interesting things to see on the beach and on the shallow, sandy bluffs above.  The sand is difficult to walk on in anything less than bare feet.  On the flip side this is wintertime and the sand and water are decidedly cold to bare skin.  The hiking shoes stay on.  Walking closer to the waterline is easier as the sand is packed tighter.

Past the remains of the breakwaters is the part of the beach normally favored by gays . . . Entrance # 2 where I came in at favored as more family-friendly.  The dog tracks continue north without a matching returning set . . . I wonder if I'll run into the owner of that dog eventually.

The end of the nude beach . . .

... and the flip side of that sign inviting everyone to get nude and enjoy.

As I said earlier . . . I ran into an elderly couple walking their dog on the beach.  I guess I surprised them, they not expecting to see anyone nude on a nude beach (really?).  They abruptly turned around and headed back toward the adjacent textile beach from whence they had come.  Sorry to ruin your day folks.

I only had the one day to roam about.  Rooster Rock State Park was next to visit.

Rooster Rock State Park is located east of Portland . . . again, on Hwy 30/84 just past Troutdale.  The eastern section of the park is legally-designated as a clothing-optional beach and there are a lot of nude hiking opportunities and beach areas to be enjoyed.  Sand Island (within the clothing-optional area) shows vast, wide areas of soft sand during the summer months.  The usage fee for the park is $5 for the day . . . from there, drive east (right) to the very end of the parking lot and take the stairs or ramp down past the sign to the clothing-optional area.  The views of the Columbia River Gorge are worth the visit all on their own.

I was just about ready to head on down when it started drizzling with dark thunderclouds coming in.  I decided against going further as most of the trails, beach and Sand Island are inundated this time of year.  I did notice a few brave souls come and go, though.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Article: Forest Bathing (shinrin-yoku)

A Walk in the Woods

Evidence builds that time spent in the natural world benefits human health
American Scientist
July-August 2011
Volume 99, Number 4
Page: 301

For the month of April, I decided to visit the Haw River, which flows near where I live, every day. I wouldn’t hold myself strictly to this, but I would try, and I would observe—not impartially, of course, but closely—how I felt. Some days I took leisurely walks with friends, leaning over the railing of the pedestrian bridge to watch the river, high from recent rains, and to smell the distinctive, muddy smell of the water mingled with that of the banks overrun with invasive honeysuckle. On others, coming home late at night, I drove straight down to the bridge and walked out to stare down at the dark water, a move that felt a bit like the natural-world equivalent of visiting a drive-through restaurant.
I did this because I hadn’t been spending much time at the river, even though it’s only a short walk from home, and even though I like doing it. The results of my informal experiment? I did, in fact, feel better—calmer, more relaxed, clearer-headed. I suspect that many people have similar feelings about the effects of spending time in the wilder places near where they live. Perhaps that’s why Richard Louv’s 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, which explores the relation between the natural world and children’s development, became a bestseller in the United States.

But to know empirically that these experiences are beneficial—and to know exactly how they might help us—requires more than personal experience. A growing and varied body of research attempts to quantify how and why spending time in the natural world might have beneficial effects on humans’ physical and psychological health. One of the first and most well-known studies, published in Science by Richard S. Ulrich in 1984, found that patients recovering from surgery in rooms with a window facing a natural setting had shorter hospital stays and took less pain medicine than did patients whose window faced a brick wall. Since then, researchers have asked whether the presence of trees influences people’s sense of safety in inner-city neighborhoods; explored how gardening might improve quality of life for people with disabilities; and used physiolgical measures to test for restorative effects of natural environments. If some of these studies seem too specific to be useful in answering the broader question, their results in sum suggest that time spent in nature improves human health. The more difficult questions are how, and in what ways, these effects arise. These questions are not the kind that can be answered by a single, groundbreaking paper; rather, like so many of the subtle and complex problems science explores, the evidence is being deposited, small study by small study, like layers of sediment on a river bed.

One such body of work is accumulating in Japan, where researchers are investigating the physiological effects of shinrin-yoku—“forest bathing,” or, to put it plainly, taking walks in the woods. Qing Li, a professor in the Department of Hygiene and Public Health at Nippon Medical School, Tokyo, has been involved with several such studies. He and his colleagues recently measured specific physiological markers before and after study subjects took walks in a forest and in an urban control environment. The study’s sample size is small—16 male subjects—and the timescale short—effects were measured after one day trip to the forest and one to the city—but the results suggest that the forest trip had positive effects on health. Subjects’ blood pressure measured in the forest was significantly lower when compared to measurements taken in the city. Levels of the stress hormone noradrenaline, measured in urine, were also significantly lower after the forest walk than after the urban walk. And blood levels of the adrenal hormone dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) and of adiponectin, a hormone secreted by fat tissue, were higher after the forest walk but not the urban walk. The authors note that DHEA-S may contribute to heart health, among other benefits, and that lower levels of adiponectin are associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Li and his coauthors, whose study appeared in the European Journal of Applied Physiology in March, speculate that the forest trip’s effects on blood pressure may be related to phytoncides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that plants produce and release as protection from fungi and bacteria. In a separate study for which Li was also lead author, researchers unsurprisingly found higher concentrations of several phytoncides in a forest than in an urban area of Tokyo.
Another recent study, by Juyoung Lee, a researcher at the Center for Environment, Health and Field Sciences at Chiba University, Japan, and others, offers similar results. In this three-day field experiment, 12 young male subjects visited forest and urban environments. The study, published in February in Public Health, found that in the forest, subjects’ parasympathetic nervous-system activity was heightened and their sympathetic nervous-system activity suppressed. Pulse rates were lower, as were salivary levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol, which is associated with stress. Participants reported that their positive feelings increased, and negative feelings decreased, in the forest. Blood-pressure measurements, however, did not differ significantly between the forest and urban locations. The authors also measured phytoncide levels in the forest study area and found 10 different compounds, ranging in concentration from 0.3 micrograms per cubic meter to 1,336 micrograms per cubic meter.
In support of the idea that phytoncides may be responsible for some of the health effects seen in Li’s study, he and his coauthors cite a 2003 paper that found that inhalation of cedar-wood oil lowered blood pressure. A review article of forest-bathing studies, published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine in 2009 by Yuko Tsunetsugu and others, notes several laboratory studies that tested human responses to inhalation of plant VOCs. The results included such positive effects as lowered blood pressure and improved task performance. But to find a correlation between the mixture of phytoncides in forest air and physiological changes in humans would require experiments of more complex design. So although the idea that the very scent of the forest might improve health is appealing, determining whether it’s true and the extent of any effects will need more study.
This is just one of many avenues of inquiry that forest-bathing research opens. Can the physiological effects of studies like Li’s be replicated in larger studies, and in women and children? Do effects differ across gender and age? Do forests in varied bioregions, with different microclimates and compositions of tree species, vary in their effects on health? Do people who have grown up in one region experience different health effects in forests in their home bioregion than in other forests?
Policy questions abound as well. Carol Colfer, a cultural anthropologist and senior associate with the Center for International Forestry Research in Bogor, Indonesia, studies human use of forests in developing countries. “I suppose the logical result would be developing more or at least maintaining existing parks in cities, and expanding protected areas—but with much more serious attention to the human rights of people living in these areas,” she says of Li’s study. “Even better would be encouraging in situ conservation on people’s own lands.” Li is interested in exploring how his results could be used in medicine. “I am planning to develop forest bathing to be a preventive measure for some diseases such as depression, hypertension and cancers,” he says.
What’s clear is that trying to quantify a seemingly intuitive claim—humans benefit from spending time in the natural world—is turning up more complex answers, and more resulting questions, than a fir tree has needles. If policymakers take note of this work as it emerges, they might be better equipped to improve public health. For my part, I’ve extended my efforts to visit the river each day into the month of May. The weather’s better for swimming now, and the air smells as good as ever.

And how much nicer would a walk in the forest be when done au' natural.  Thank you Paul for the tip to the article . . . Rick

Soaking the tranquility of the forest on a previous
nude hike in the Deer Flats area

Friday, January 11, 2013

Getting Nude Where You Can

Soaking au' natural in a Boise, Idaho motel's hot tub.

On the road in the middle of wintry blizzard conditions (it was minus 14 F in Pocatello for a few days), there are not too many opportunities to enjoy being nude.  But one I found at almost all of the motels and hotels I stayed at over the course of the past two months, is that of the hotel spa / hot tub.  Underutilized, tucked away in alcoves at the far reaches of the pool area and, in most of cases, out of direct or indirect observance from the staff or hotel guests.

A hot soak at the end of a day of working outside in subzero temperatures was frequently soothed by a late-night relaxing soak in the hot tub . . . often sans that pesky ole swimsuit (of which I don't own one, a towel suffices to get me back and forth, and cover up if need be.)

I did make one attempt to visit a hot spring . . . Skinny Dipper Hot Spring (aka Milepost 4 HS) north of Boise, but that trek was cut just short of the hot springs by the need to help an injured hiker back down the mountainside.  Hot springs would have been preferential over the heavily-chlorinated waters of a hot tub!

On the easier part of the scramble up to
Skinny Dipper Hot Springs (the springs are
tucked in that ravine just behind me.)

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