In Vermont, it is day two of the World Naked Hiking Day group hike. Day One has gone splendidly, sunny and friendly. Read all about it here:
There had been rain at dawn, but we’re going to get sunny weather today for the hike. In the tent, it was noisy enough to wake us up early, but we were dry.
Some quick oatmeal and we’re off.
We arrive to a full parking lot, again. There are twenty naked men. Several are new faces, today.
The number of women hikers has dwindled to one, which is DF. She is fine with that. As the only woman, she isn’t being treated with a whole lot of special attention. We are all focused on the day and the trail’s hike.
In a full lot, we move vehicles to fit in and then another one shows up. Once again it takes a while and some effort to sort things out.
Rick is excited to be writing the report of this for “N” magazine. We gather to get the pictures going for publication and posterity.
There are three clothed men who have been surprised by this spectacle. Rick is a boisterous guy and has a passion for naturism. He immediately begins greeting them as a salesman for naturism. He convinces two in that car to strip!
“Okay!” We cheer it on. There are high spirits in us all.
We meet someone else who recognizes DF and me from this website. He tells us that he loves our blog. This man, Roy, is another person that it is a pleasure to hike with. Otherwise, the term herding cats” keeps popping up. A trailhead has been chosen, which is more obvious than yesterday’s. Eventually, Milt manages to get us all aligned and lined up on the slope up and into the deep forest. It will continue to rise for most of our trek.
There are two routes to choose from. A flatter less challenging trail leads directly to a pleasant lake in about 1.2 miles. It is a part of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Canada. For this section it is also a part of the Long Trail, a lengthy route that stretches the length of Vermont. People usually take this shorter flatter route.
We are going the longer way over the hill, which they call a mountain around here. It will be a 7.2 mile trek, arriving at that same lake. It creates a loop trail for us. We do more Abbey Road poses across the road. Two cars pass by into this smiling mass of flesh surrounding them.
The purple clover is knee high here, something that I have never seen. Nothing around here seems starved for water.
We follow the leader up through a thick field of ferns under the canopy. This beginning is pretty humid and warm and muddy. I wonder if our day will be like this as I think about the morning rain, but up the trail around the bend the air is pleasant.
The slippery root and rock covering often gives way to a soft bed of pine needles and moss. It is so very thick that it is springy and spongy. My feet sink in a couple of inches at times. I debate pulling my toe shoes off to be bare on it. I could lay down naked and sleep on a carpet like this.
For a while, we walk with two guys who have waited 5 years to do this event. There is a sense of exuberance. I learn about hemlock around here. No other trees grow on the floor of a hemlock forest. We go through several patches of this ecosystem during the day. It’s such a distinct change.
Moss manages to make a living there.
A lot of time is spent talking amongst us. There are new people, new friends to meet. Milt is a curious host to the menagerie. For a while, he is “the sweep” in back of the line to make sure that no one falls behind getting lost, or injured. DF and I enjoy his company, as he asks us about trailing behind. I answer, “If you were to walk on a whole new planet, how fast would you walk?”
There is a thick covering moss everywhere. Tuffs of it, it climbs up trees and changes their entire character. This is what looks like a land where fairies are about. The light filters through the canopy creating beams of light, illuminating as well as creating florescent color all around. Where are the hobbits, in this emerald forest? Emerald, I find, isn’t just one color.
We cross no creeks today. The trail is uphill and I wonder if it is this as long a walk to get back down to the lake to refresh.
Through the thick forest above, is hidden a mass of slate protrudes. Debris rests along the trail. When light makes its way to it, a few white quartz rocks glow in contrast with the rich darkness and vivid colors.
One of us gets a cramp in a calve. We all wait, and there is much genuine concern within the group. He is treated with rest, salt and water. We finally reach a summit, after a steady elevation gain. We meander through the rock spaces in-between foliage, to discover a great grand vista, which overlooks the lake. Up here in the open, a perfect breeze cools us. It is flat and user-friendly. We have lunch.
Tiny objects can be seen far below in the waters of the lake. With telephoto lenses we see canoes and a beach on the other side. That will be our goal, but how far?
It has been a trudge up this hill. A few weeks ago, we were laughing out loud at the diminutive measurement that these Appalachian Mountains are above sea level. “You call those mountains?” I quipped.
Today, I break down and confess, “Okay, this has been a climb,” these are mountains to be respected. They are beautiful and they have shade all of the way.
We get a couple of very generous offers for places to stay in New England. It is great getting to know people around here.
At this point, I’m looking forward to wandering about Vermont for another week, or more. This state is comfortable. There are no laws against nudity. Unless we really push it around people with children with them, or blatantly set down Main Street, we will not be harassed by anyone for being freely practically nude. It is very nice to not have to have constant concern when nude. There are many miles of hiking trails. Although this World Naked Hiking Day hasn’t been quite a spiritual experience, more social, there is in Vermont solitude and camping to be found, in a relatively safe place. It is beautiful.
I have been hearing “deer tick talk”, tales of leeches, naked bike rides, and naked hiking all over the world. I take a moment after lunch to stretch and arc my back backwards on the rock slab. I enjoy the heat from its dark grey color, and my whole perspective changes. I’m without pain and the sky is big, 360 degrees.
I find that many of the trails are old logging roads. I learn that nearly all of Vermont’s rich old growth forests were clear-cut, more than a century ago. All of this diverse beauty is recovery. Some of the trails and many of the important roads are old Indian trails.
My questions are answered, as we make a swift decent down the “mountain.” We must climb down rocks and boulders, holding on to trees whose bark has been rubbed smooth by passersby like us. I reached out in gratitude and touched them and I swear that they respond in kind. These are creatures of the woods. At one point, a hand down a steep boulder is appreciated by some of us.
There has been no wildlife spotted, I suppose that may have to do with the amount of talking going on.
Most of us carry no clothes for backup, for the rain, or too much sun. This shade is very handy. A hike can be done, if you know the trail, with a bare minimum, stout feet and absolutely nothing but water, naturally. We have encountered no one. We will be circulating around the north and leeward side of the lake. When we arrive, it is what I’d imagine the shores of Longfellow’s Gitche Gumee to look like. We stand on a boardwalk bridge, over a wet spot and take it in.
Here, there is more traffic. There are ropes and rocks to protect the plant life. There are long planks to walk on to keep muddy stretches from erosion and people stomping off of the trail across the plants.
It is a quick walk to the signs for the AT which extends from Georgia to Canada and the Long Trail which extends across the length of Vermont 272 miles. Here, they are joined. Further north, there is a lean-to for thru-hikers. There is evidence of trail angels.
When we catch up with our group, we are next to a volunteer, who stays there in a tent continuously, to help run the lake. The troupe of skinny dippers is taken with complete acceptance, as we all delight in the waters, swimming, wading and of course more walking.
I get in and discover leeches attached to the rocks in slippery spot, laying in waiting. They aren’t a problem, I find, as a cohort picks one up and demonstrates how they function. A couple that we met earlier at the trailhead is there, being discrete behind some bushes. She is topfree and he nude. But, when our group wades in in mass, they identify with the nudity as norm and join the throng unabashed. Rick explains that it is legal and that it is quite unusual to be considered a problem to hike naked. He finalizes another sale of nakedness.
We, with Lance, are the last to leave. The trail is busier along this stretch. We step aside for four thru hikers marching through with hiking poles working hard and fast to make time. There are others, and then we come across the unusual, which are two objectors to our nudity. This couple has just been passed by around 20 nude hikers, by the time they see us. All of the other hikers are likely to have been greeting them with “happy WNHD,” or “happy solstice.”
They say nothing to Lance. The young woman has her back to us, hiding her eyes. I suppose that her virginal sensibility won’t be compromised by the sight of our bodies. It is rather bizarre. The middle aged man has his head down averting his eyes. As DF and I pass, he raises his head, just enough to make eye contact and manages a labored friendly hello. He realizes that he isn’t really offended and that we are just harmless friendly other people on the trail and out having a great time, too. Much of the trail is covered by those plank covered bridges on the trails to avoid mud. The expense and service for something like this just wouldn’t happen in Arizona.
There is even a steel bridge of an I-beam that crosses the creek, which now meanders on one side or the other, of our trail.
The river rock is covered with emerald moss instead of water at this time. It is a treat to see the lush verdant surfaces.
By the time we get to the parking lot, my feet are angry with me. We make our good-byes and drive back to camp and then a few more good-byes. A few of us at core will stay on until tomorrow.
After dinner, a storm passes north of us. The lightning flashes spend a lot of time threatening our camp from the other side of the mountain’s ridge. We see it through the trees, but then the next hits hard and thunderous.
John P. has brought his 1996 Vermont mapping book with him. They show us several spots to visit and to hike. We want to do it all. We set up camp and discuss strategies for remaining in nudity with the others. These are partly demonstrated at our camp as we speak.
Lance has reception on his phone to see a real time grand orange blimp on the radar. There is impending doom to our warm campfire and conversation.
We decide to move our dome tent by the four points at the corners. It is emptied. We carry it to the lean-to shelter across the road. As we carry it, we four make jokes about, “This isn’t quite what I meant by backpacking!” Or, “Whose in that carriage with the four naked bearers?”
The storm shower hits quickly and we move our chairs, using them as umbrellas, until we are under the roof and elevated wooden platform of the lean to.
The storm hits right after that. During a bolt, the structure vibrates, as the world lights up. We sit well entertained. Lightning bugs survive under the canopy of leaves before us. The railroad track across the lake, that we thought was mostly dormant, hosts three trains while we wait there. There is an echo from the rock cliff that was carved out of the side of the mountain to accommodate it. It amplifies the sound of the train, directing it toward us. They add further rumble to the rolling thunder. At first we’re not sure which is which.
There are conifer silhouettes, but little else in the view down the hill.
DF and I lean back in our new REI chairs, holding hands, naked, watching the big screen framed in front of us.
I push the rubber button on my flashlight. A beam protrudes out, stopped by the wall of water that it hits. The rain is a waterfall coming off of the roof in front of us. It looks like a curtain of glistening jewels. The wind is blowing through it, effectively working like an evaporative cooler. What we call a swamp box back in Arizona.
Thinking of home, I quip to DF, “Remember this? This is rain!” We haven’t had any rain to speak of in over a year, back home.
As the lightning flashes, my mind flashes back to an old Disney series called Swamp Fox. It has a theme song that tells of the legendary hero of the Revolution who hid in the swamps.
I begin singing to DF,
Swamp box, swamp box, singing B flat. Everybody knows where the swamp box at.
Swamp box, swamp box, cooling all the air,
Coolin’ sunny times without a care.
DF says, that it is time to crawl into that cozy dry tent and sleep…or escape my humor?
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