I spent last Sunday thru Tuesday in Joshua Tree National Park. While I was there I met up with Dan Carlson of the Meandering Naturist. That little trip will have to wait for another post on another day as I am still digesting it. Instead, I’ll post on what I did yesterday.

There’s a touch of nudity ahead. That’s because I’m a nudist.

North of where I live, is a vast area encompassed by the Angeles and the Los Padres National Forest. Much of the territory is so remote that your chances of meeting up with a textile on the trail are negligible. Not quite freehiker’s heaven but closer than much of the country. Much of the world, for that matter.

I’ve hiked in this general area for a long time. Its relative lack of visitors makes it perfect for unrestricted nudity. I blogged about it before in “The Story of my Blister.” And I’ve blogged about the middle section of Piru Ceek many times.

Head north of LA up I-5, past Castaic Lake, past Pyramid Lake. You get off at Smokey Bear Road. Left under the underpass and then left again and go south about a mile. Just past a locked-up kiosk, turn right. Follow this road until the very end. The locked gate is where the adventure begins.

Today I am in luck. Despite the trails being swamped by COVID campers, there’s nobody there. Even if there were a car, I doubt that it would stop me. It hasn’t before. (Multiple cars would make me hesitate.) I’m leaving the road for a walk on the wild side.

This is what you see beyond the gate. The gate means nobody is going to drive up behind you unexpectedly. Bicycles are a possibility. The paved road curves to the right. About where you see a small white sign, I’m going left. Do you see a clump of junipers? The trail starts somewhere to the left of them and heads away from the road.
Can’t get my clothes off quite yet. There’s a Forest Service fire/administrative station that is manned all day right there. I know what I’m doing is perfectly legal but I’d still prefer not to be harassed. I have hiked the entire route nude, both by trail and road, before but it was in the evening after the fire people had gone home.
You kind of have to wander a bit to catch the trail. When you do it is a sandy slog. There is dry grassland at the beginning of the hike but it quickly turns into scrub. By the time you get to the clump of junipers, you’re safe to start freehiking.
When you get to the top, you will be tired. But in exchange, you get a wonderful view and pretty much guaranteed your solitude. Unless it is hunting season. Yup! That is snow on the mountain.
Heading down the trail, it is steep and sandy. It will be an effort to return this way. Looking to the right, you can intermittently see the paved road as it winds its way down to where you are going. Not a problem. Most of the way an earth berm and the desert scrub keeps you screened. And then you go behind a hill and it is gone.
Oh goody! Another canyon to explore.
The trail empties into a dry wash. Going right eventually returns to the road. Wonder what is up the wash to the left?
Suddenly it narrows. Would not want to be here during a rainstorm.
Now it is well over my head. Sure hope there isn’t an earthquake. I could be buried and they’d never find my body. But it is cool, both as a geological feature and temperature-wise. I’l take my chances.
Whew! made it out alive.
Juniper berries. They taste waxy and blah to me but are another important source of wildlife sustenance.
A quail. One of many but they were all too fast or hiding in the chemise for me to get a photo of. I could hear them calling back and forth with shouts of warning to other members of the covey. It was quite a chorus with the call being difficult to trace to any individual bird.
All is not dry and dead here. Deep underground there is still water flowing gradually through the sand. This willow sends her roots deep to find it and in the spring sends forth her catkins to be pollinated. The hum of bees is here quite noticeable. They are working overtime today. It has been an extraordinarily dry winter and spring here and plants like these provide what sustenance is available right now.
The blooms of the manzanita are emerging as well. These buds are immature but the open ones are receiving plenty of honey bee attention. Manzanita means “little apple” in Spanish. Later they will be an important food source for bear and deer.
Eventually, we return to the road. Boohoo! The trail crosses and continues on the other side but I’ve tried that route before. It was a nightmare of poison oak and thorny bushes that I didn’t want to tackle fully clothed. I am tempted to show up one day with pruning loppers and make the route viable. This little stretch is a little nervous for me because there is a non-zero chance of someone showing up at the trailhead for an evening bike ride as I’m heading down it.
I made it down to the bottom of this hill. If I continue on, I’ll be in the closed Hard Luck Campground. I wrote that place about one of my adventures, I should be really grateful for the endangered species act. It is because of this that the gate at the trailhead is closed and the huge campground up ahead is unused. Personally, I think it would be a great place to arrange nude bike rides. A decade ago when I was backpacking Piru creek with a group of people removing invasive Tamarisk, a woman mentioned that she’d seen a man biking nude out here. Nobody I was with seemed to have any problem with it. Except for the two teenage girls with us who rolled their eyes. Ewww!
But I’m not going straight this time. I’m going right. A long long time ago, Piru creek was a source of placer gold. Nearby there is at least one abandoned mine that I’ve found. There also remains of a camping area. That gate ahead is to the nonexistent road to those things. Notice the bicycle tracks? And the footprints? I suspect this place got some visitors Saturday. The weekenders are all gone on a late Sunday afternoon and I have it all to myself.
I follow the creek upstream and I find a slow spot.
This little guy was shouting at the top of his lungs. He’s perfectly camouflaged from most creature’s vision, calling either for a mate or to declare territory. If he hadn’t croaked I doubt I would have seen him.
I am not so well camouflaged. It has been a long hot trek. When I got home my wife said it was had gotten to 90F. I doubt if this area was much cooler. If you want to find the deepest spot in a shallow river, look for a large rock in the middle of the stream. The current scoops the sand out around it. This hole was just deep enough for a bathtub but I was hot and sweaty and wanted it.

I cooled off and wandered about for a bit then wandered some more. Hoping I got enough sun to begin a tan but not enough to get a burn. (Which I did. 🙁 ) Some of that time I was wearing a backpack. You can’t go on a long hike in the wild on a hot day without one. I’m wondering if I’ll get tan lines from it. (I did.)

Reluctantly I returned home. The best nude hike is one where you forget you are nude. No chance of offending anyone, just focusing on sun and wind and flowers and bees and berries and birds and frogs. Except for a short stretch on the road, that was this hike. Homeward the happy hiker hikes his hippy way!

As I close in on my car I am serenaded by a pair of birds on adjacent treetops above my car. The perfect end to the experience.