In the southwestern New York, we came across an emerald gem. It has a grey bedrock channel through it. In some places it sparkles like tiny diamonds. It’s called Skinny-dip Falls. It’s a canyon gorge with a nude area about a mile long. Some sources say that it is designated, but it appears to speak for itself.
We sit in DF’s brother’s place, as I bring the topic up. I had seen this online and a writing pal mentioned it, just days before. I pull out my computer to look for notes of reference. I sit for several minutes looking at dead ends of information. Apparently, my notes had not made it onto the lap top along with the other guidance labeled, “Back East Trip.”
Not daunted, I gather my cell phone and sit down in the chair across from DF and her brother. I ask it simply, “Skinny dip New York.” They just smirk as my eyes light up. There is a list of references of the place. I blink, look down at the screen again, and announce in disbelief, “It worked.”
They, expecting an obscure secret path in the back woods near the Allegany Forest, look at me with big eyes as I begin to read a highly detailed description off of a website.
According to her brother’s phone app, we had just finished 8.6 miles and 41 stories of stairs in the Niagara Falls area. We are consequently looking for a light hike for tomorrow and here it is. The game afoot, we make ready for the morning’s start by going to bed. As we prepare for our night’s sleep, DF seems a tad troubled by something. I decide to see how she is coming along in the morning.
Having been raised together in a modest box of a home with three other siblings, it is amazing to me that this brother and sister had never seen each other without clothing. I can sense that they are uncomfortable in their thoughts. I suppose that sibling relationships like this are not an unusual thing in this peculiar world, but this is DF. She, who has been seen nude by so many in the pages of this site, magazines and most of our friends, is uncomfortable about her nude presence in the eyes of her own brother. There are some things that are family secrets and secrets from family, I suppose. They don’t make sense always, as do many other customs and mores that people get trained into at an early age.
The next morning, we are making our way down south about an hour from Buffalo. DF and her brother talk about how the water will probably be too cold to get into, the air is only 62F and probably wouldn’t get warm enough. They have other wishful excuses that might ward off nervous unclothed exposure.
As we make our way along the shores of Lake Erie, toward the Pennsylvania State line, I just let the cards fall where they may. The obvious hidden story that they tell is speculative hopes that the potential of skinny dipping is slipping away. I remain curious about the eventual outcome.
We cruise the New York Throughway, where only overpasses, farms and trees are found. One lone woodchuck stands and watches, as we pass. I’m thinking that I’m on just another Interstate highway until I see the sign and remember those words from Woodstock, “The New York Through way is closed, man!” After the exit, the road looks just like one of those New York country roads from the movie, before the traffic from hundreds of thousands of festive young people arrived.
The town looks cute and similar. A Welsh’s Grapes processing plant sits along the way. Every field is filled with vines.
We pass through town and over a river gorge bridge. As I look down through the tree tops, I wonder if this is the same as our destination.
The bucolic countryside reappears outside of town, a couple of bends and turnoffs and we’ve found Taylor Road’s end.
A wide paved lot has three other cars. One is in shade; two are distanced apart in the sun. As a typical Arizonan, I wonder which would be the best location. I’m accustomed to heat and coveted shade, not convenience.
When I open the door, a chilly breeze hits my bare legs, extending below the shorts that I’m wearing. We all quickly don what jackets that we have. The two sibling’s predictions may pan out.
I check the license plates. Two are from Pennsylvania and one from Texas. No plates from New York? Well us, but two of us are here from Arizona. Perhaps the locals work, as the tourists play. As we head into the forest, there is wonderment. There isn’t that defiled, conquered nature sense that I have felt throughout these last few days in New York. It feels healthy natural.
The directions mention a rental cabin, telling us to go past to the trail, but we soon figure out that isn’t what is meant. We are being told to go to the left of a sign to the cabin on an evident walking trail. This leads into the gorge. This old road of a trail would make a challenging traverse in my 4runner. It is washed out and steep. My concern isn’t about slippery grains in between pieces of granite, like Arizona. Instead, my feet have to grasp the soil in between slippery rocks.
The biodiversity is inviting, as our careful steps slow us down to allow us to observe our surroundings. After those 41 stories of steps not long enough ago, my calves feel the return of stress and I comment, “What goes down, must come up.” This may be a painful jaunt back up the hill.
Eventually, after a handshake with some tall florescent green grass that is smooth one direction and grabs the other as I caress it, I notice a glance of water through the trees below us.
Soon, things level off and we emerge out of forest, standing on nice wide sheets of the bedrock grey shale that is so common back here in the east. Water glistens in the sunshine, as it travels across in a thin sheet of rock. A bare wall looking like there has been an avalanche faces us. These canyon walls are steep.
That chilly breeze is still with us. It appears that our exploration won’t be nude. We soon discover that this place will not allow feet to remain dry. It is a lumpy sidewalk, but the water spreads out wide on such a level surface and sometimes bank to bank.
It crisscrosses and is just unavoidable. It isn’t but ankle deep generally and no problem in our five finger shoes.
The occasional funnel of fluid flow has made a deep chasm, but these are easy to jump or step over. Smooth and occasionally slippery shale river rock accumulates in spots, and sometimes we step stone across them. This stuff is nice and flat, so we won’t slip off.
When the flat stuff is wet and a thin layer of silty mud settles, which is a potential slip. We proceed with care, one step at a time. All in all, we are mostly assured of a safe walk and even more often effectively, a flat dry sidewalk.
I consider getting out of my toe shoes and enjoying nude feet.
I remove my sweat jacket and put my pack back on. The chill is gone down in here, where sun is on my body.
I see DF’s brother staring intently at something ahead. Thinking wildlife, I follow his line of sight. To me it is nothing as striking as wildlife; just two copper colored nude bodies walking away from us downstream. They have wooden walking sticks. All of their belongings, two packs and a bed sheet are left behind. This is obviously a safe, nude and comfortable place.
The wind has stopped and the sun has given us what feels like perfect weather. That chilly breeze, I surmise, may return, but then again, it may not and this is not a moment to lose. I ask DF to help me keep my balance, as I am beginning to remove my pants, while standing up. She has an uncustomary slightly alarmed expression. I suspect that she may be facing the fact that the brother/sister naked together taboo thing may become real.
Her brother, of course takes notice of me. He decides to drop trousers, getting out of his long sport pants and pulling a lighter shirt out of his bag. There is around ten pounds of stuff, mostly clothing, in his REI contraption. We prefer to backpack with less.
Continuing, we begin to take photos, and enjoy the gorgeous day. Where the water has worn out crevasses, it shoots at a more rapid speed. As it changes through the levels of the shale and drops, whirlpools and bathtubs are formed. I know that the churning white water is a jacuzzi effect and feels warm, as it beats on a bare body. DF’s brother vows to try one out, stating that he will pick the one most ideal.
Shortly, a boulder sits prominently in the streambed. Written on it is a defining message of demarcation, “Nudist Area Next One Mile.”
As advertised in the online write-up, on the right is the trickle of a 30-foot tributary’s waterfall.
Today isn’t the flow pictured, and the water doesn’t drop thirty feet below a chute. The water flows over a hundred layers of sheet rocks making hundreds of tiny falls, each providing a glistening choir of sound. The chorus makes its way down to where a beam of light illuminates just a section. Surrounded in shade and the deep green forest, it is just very special.
We have a bigger game to track down:
A lone nude man passes us going back upstream. He has nothing in hand. He must have stashed his belongings, or he is coming from them downstream. I ask a few questions. He comes across like one of those actors that pose as typical New York cop on the street, or a blue-collar kind of Joe in the movies. He’s got the accent and a friendly a matter-of-fact business way to his demeanor. He reminds me of that mail carrier fellow in the old sitcom “Cheers”, but this one is undressed and certainly very well-tanned.
This place captures an idyllic sense in me. Somewhere down the line will be a perfect skinny dip, something that has been there since before a nudist movement, something primordial, classic, and also Americana.
But first, we have the better part of a mile to wander the myriad of ebbs and flows, as this peaceful canyon meanders.
Occasionally, a trail into the forest presents itself. These are quad trails, which signage tells us is illegal here. DF and I follow a couple of these. They are an easier more surefooted walk which brings us deep into the darkness of the thick canopy of the forest at the edge of the steep walls.
These however, can make one miss a waterfall, or other tranquil liquid gift. Every so often, DF’s brother gets ahead of us, or we are hidden by forest, or a meander. DF then drops her coverings and we snap a few pictures. Now, most of her clothing is draped around her, or in my pack. I’m waiting for her to get comfortable enough to present her hidden naturist self to her brother, but again and again, she slips something back on. I won’t push her. She enjoys a few minutes of naturism each time, although one eye over her shoulder.
We pass that couple that we had seen at first. They quietly smile a greeting, seemingly absorbed in the naturist experience, as they dip under a tree branch where shale meets soil. Down the way, we hear a stronger flow, but take a trail up a knoll into the forest on the inside of a meander. There, with a beam of light shining down onto it from a break in the canopy, sits a folding chair next to a campfire site. A pair of logs has a flat piece of that ever-present shale on them. This creates a table top. It looks like an illuminated message from God. Stepping into that spotlight, we see hanging in a tree, a grill sheet and a pot. It is obviously THE place to camp.
Looking down back into the creek a waterfall drops three of four feet uniformly across the channel, bank to bank. A swimmin’ hole sits at its feet. Yes, it’s big enough to swim in. This must be the first of the two.
We look, but decide to go the distance and then choose the best place to sit and lunch. The route keeps its meander.
We walk past another golden man, lying flat on his back, sprawled out comfortably, like he has just washed ashore. He doesn’t bat an eye, or acknowledge our presence. He is in complete trust and security. This continues. The mile passes slowly, step by step, sight by sight, wonder by wonderful wonder.
The canyon opens up where a large piece of the wall has fallen over time. A shelf of rock cut sharply into ledges and steps has water flowing across. There are a few small dry islands in the shallow flow. A rise in water level of an inch would probably cover it all. DF and I take an island and drop our feet over the edge, placing them like a bench on the next step, sitting.
Her brother has found his island several feet behind us. He apparently is enjoying his solitude. We are like toads on lily pads.
I take off my pack and then the rest. DF finally disrobes, but leaves on a pair of bikini panties. I glance behind, Jamie has followed my lead. We have lunch. The water isn’t cold at all. It has been traveling at a shallow depth, in the sun, slowly, for many miles. I slip into the swimming hole and make my way down the slippery rock to where the gravel is collected and flow meets pond.
The glassy fall feels smooth and silky, as I slice it with my hand, my leg, and then my body. Tiny dace-like fish swim nearby, gathering where my foot stirs up the silt, for a meal, I suppose.
DF’s brother smiles and suggests that we take a picture of us naked and text it to their very conservative sister. DF laughs. One thing, which I find to my delight, is these rounded off by the current flat pieces of broken shale. They make the best skipping rocks, ever.
When it is time to return, it is a good distance back, not too far, just right. We stop at the other larger falls and enjoy the idyllic serenity. It has a beautiful backdrop upstream. The verdant trees arch over the glassine brook and layers of shale.
Upstream, I taunt her brother to try one of the jacuzzi tubs, but he doesn’t.
Perfectly, as we reach the end of the nude area and it is time to trudge up the steep canyon wall, the sun is overcome by overcast. I encounter a lone traveler. He tells me that this is his first time this year. He greets me with a handshake and I disclose that this is our first time here. He has information about the place that comes from time spent and many trips here. He mentions how it might be dangerous alone, to slip and fall naked, then have a cold night arrive. We reluctantly dress. It will be cooler in the trees and where the winds blow above.
It is a trudge. We are soon joined by the other traveler and enjoy his company, until we part at our cars.
In the next post, we will arrive in Vermont for two days in a group hike, the World Naked Hiking Day 2021.
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