Lawn mowers are everywhere, everyone has a big green lawn. Dorothy, we’re not in Arizona anymore!
We begin with a slow easy start, meandering through the back country roads of Missouri, smelling the cool morning breeze as it wraps around our bodies.
There is a beautiful bridge that we use to pass over to “east of the Mississippi” a sort of demarcation dividing the USA in half. Western Americans know this concept as if pioneers embarking “out west.” We anticipate a change. Oddly, on the other side of bustling Cape Girardeau, sits a strip bar and gas station, surprisingly nothing else, just some fields and trees and the road.
We’re going across five states today, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and landing somewhere in the Ohio River Valley. I’ve checked the nudity laws. They vary from state to state, some more threatening than others. It is best to just use our regular carnuding strategies. We’ll be on Interstate highways mostly. Not much concern, but of the view of a bored truck driver who might awaken from his driving tedium.
I pull over for cell phone reception at a rest stop to make a telephonic doctor’s appointment. With that out of the way, we decide on lunch on one of the picnic tables and have a break from is longer day of driving.
The place seems odd to me. Each tree is perfect and uniform in shape and size. These clones have been here many years and manicured, probably planted at the same time. It reminds me of a Jetson’s cartoon that I saw years ago, where in the future, the trees are all gone. Their replacements are actually metal and uniform. I wander off to the edge of this park in fascination. I find much wild biodiversity attempting to creep in the empty space and take over. It is barely contained by perimeter fences.
As we sit and eat, we people watch. I contemplate that there is a defining identification regionally about clothing. Redneck chic is a big thing. Western outfits began to be replaced more by baseball caps with logos and tee shirts, as we have made our way eastward. Illinois seems more urban with paler skin from lack of sun. Indiana has the redneck look down pat. It seems like a tribal thing. My wrap around kilt, a convenient individuality, gets second glances. If only we would spend our summers dressed as human beings. There is much to do about really nothing.
As we continue back east along freeways, the trees have been getting taller in stands along the highway, Kentucky has a different vibe. For some reason, it seems that fewer people are overweight. As we approach Lexington, there is a distinctive gentile influence that I always enjoy. The blue grass, the horse owner properties and old mansions are numerous.
With the Interstate gone, the state highway is lined with stone walls.
A parkway with trees in the median, wanders up and down the hilly terrain through the countryside.
Memories of hanging out around this town in the early 80’s pop into mind. I think back on the ancient mansion that I used to stay in. It had its numerous tall rooms, each adapted to the various seasons. Eastern shade and cooler living was downstairs than upstairs, unless taking advantage of the breeze and the wide porches. Fireplaces were in some rooms for cold. Each room a deliberate strategy, some brilliantly passive. The family would move about, season to season. Then, I think of those same people dressed in those layers of stifling clothing, negating the gains.
We stop for a quick pizza and move on. The sun is going away. We need to find a campground in Ohio to rest up, relax, to meditate and to hike in a genuine eastern deciduous forest.
We enjoy a perfect sunset on a beautiful route enhanced by evening light. These elongated days of driving are getting easier, as I find my inner truck driver. Days, now turning into weeks, I notice myself beginning to forget that I’m not dressed. Sometimes, I look over at DF, sitting with something draped over her body dozing, being less vigilant. I can say that Carnuding across country is easy and comfortable.
We have crossed the Mighty Mississippi, the Wabash, then the Ohio River and plan to cross it again.
These rivers are just plain big. Crossing into Ohio as evening falls, there is an ancient town with a not so ancient bridge. The highway has wandered down the steep hills through this old town to the river banks where an important port once thrived.
We cross over and then meander with the road along a small strip of flat land next to the river. We find that the Ohio Valley is nearly a great canyon filled with water. Homes are backed up to the base of the hillside on what precious little flat buildable property there is. A couple of structures have been damaged by landslides and I suppose that there has been flooding at times. Today, the river is smooth as glass.
Searching in the dark, we find the turnoff into the hills. A poorly marked road takes us up a tributary canyon into a forest and a public campground.
We are not expecting such a manicured well-arranged place as this is. It is park-like compared to our rugged Rocky Mountain public campgrounds. Black asphalt parking, hookups and camp directors are here. This is a place where families might spend their entire vacation next to the lake with green open fields of grass, dads fishing, kids playing.
We drive around looking for privacy and actually find it. No reservations are necessary. The weekend is over. Pitching a tent in the night, the fresh air feels very different from nude bodies standing in Arizona. It is thick and humid, yet no rain comes.
A Sensual Morning Walk:
This morning, the fresh air greets us. It feels lighter than last night. Perhaps the morning sun lifts off some part of it.
This place is pretty. A lawn mower keeping it that way, can be heard in the distance. It is taking away some of the tranquility, but as I go about our chores enjoying nudity, I can hear the maintenance coming, warning off surprises. Otherwise, we are hidden from our neighbors by tree growth and distance over the empty spaces. The planning and care of the night before, when everyone was sleeping, has paid off in daylight solitude.
I look up; a squirrel must be 100 feet up making enough noise to get my attention. I watch as the occasional dead leaf floats slowly down, drawing my vision back down with it.
I admire the florescence as the light shines down through the fronds of leaves.
There is always humidity here; I find the picnic table green from the forest’s stains. A mossy green is attempting to take back the concrete structure. I couldn’t imagine the threat of fire.
I step onto the bench seat, climbing up to use the table to stretch and do some yoga. Driving and sitting so long has its toll. On my back, I find a fantastic tower above me. I am engulfed in forest. I have peace. DF is asleep. I have no goals. It is a time to just be.
The campsites are like plots of real-estate with their driveways and manicured lawns. Maintenance men walk by, so I wrap on my kilt. The Velco clings quickly. I wave and smile.
The site is on a slope. Behind, the forest rises above. Once again nude and lovely barefoot, I walk behind the clearing where our tent sits, to the edge of this civilization. I discover how quiet, natural and dark it is back there.
It is a compelling curiosity that pulls me to walk up the hill behind camp into this forest. This is all new to me. Decades have erased the true memories of being immersed in places like these.
I remember poison ivy warnings. I wonder if I am still not allergic to it. As a teenager in Michigan, I once ignorantly rolled around in it naked with no repercussions. Out of these cautions, I’m careful with the lower leaves around my ankles and chins. I look for sets of three.
Dead wood is so wet that it bends under my foot. It keeps me silent. There is no snap, nor discomfort.
A coat of leaves degrading to topsoil is very wet. It’s not dry crinkling and crunching, announcing my presence like Arizona. It is much less the challenge, to wander in stealth and listen for the sounds of wildlife.
No prickers! I can’t remember a time with no prickers to be weary of. This place is soft; the branches extend out, caressing me as I pass by. I’m so used to avoiding the plant life, taking care in every move to get around another scratch and this place practically invites me to disturb it with my body. Nature feels cooperative, hospitable. After decades away, I am a fresh naked babe, a new kid on the block and learning, like it is my first time in the woods.
Mush, just mush. I remember mush is slippery. It can be like a carpet being pulled out from under my feet, sliding down slippery slopes. I take my time. With each step, a million sensations are coming up through my bare feet and limbs. I’m learning, my bodily systems are learning in millions of ways beyond comprehension.
There is a scent from the distant past. What is it, dogwood, or honeysuckle maybe? I’ll have to ask the manager, when we settle up.
I take to a pattern, three steps, stop, and then look like a deer does, then three more. I stand still, matching the forest’s calm, listening, smelling and very much aware. Small plants of all kinds grow in the shadows. One is just a stem with one big leaf. There are so many distinct shapes in the same green tones.
I step over a moss log, a thick moss, florescent moss. There is no sight of the log, but the shape is there.
I come to the maintenance road that I saw going up the hillside last night as we searched for privacy. Here, it does a switchback bend and continues on. I feel vulnerable out here barefoot all over. If those two workers were to be walking along here, I don’t know how to run in this kind of forest. Could I just say, “Hello, I’m out for a naked walk?” Would they think me a victim of dementia?
I see an old logging road taking off from here. I abandon the main road. I’ll try it.
Here the leaves hold thick slimy mud between them. My bare feet get a coating, even between the toes. I suspect that it could be a spring seeping out of the hillside.
I walk back on this trail, discovering incredibly tall trees. The canopy is even higher here. There is a chain to block me and a sign that the trail/road is closed for maintenance. I see that this has been going on for a while; the plants have been growing back taking advantage of the sunlight. To the left is a path. As I explore, I see that there are blue arrows on trees, a hiking trail.
A branch in hand, I use it to swish bugs away. I must resemble a Jain monk walking in the wood to temple.
I come across flat shale rocks along my path. They act as stepping stones. Many are with thick moss. It is so quiet, that I don’t want to disturb. I’m in wonder. I think about my neighbor who told me that he has never left Tucson. He has lived in the mostly urban areas all of his life.
A centipede is in the trail. This one is without pincher tentacles out to protect it. In Arizona, one snapped at my toe as it escaped from my foot step.
I step toe to heal, moving naturally. Movement is easier here, no sharp rocks, a smooth soft trail.
I make my way back and down the hill, excited to tell DF about my experiences. As I arrive, I see how things stick to a body. The humidity, moist soils, green and brown leaf matter, their clinging natures have attached to me. I’ve become more like a part of nature. Nature has apparently wasted no time in an attempt to reclaim me, bringing me back into the fold.
I’ll probably be able to post and show you our hike into the Ohio Jungle before Sunday.
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