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.
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 didn’t. 🙂 ) 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.
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 an serenaded by a pair of birds on adjacent treetops above my car. Perfect end to the experience.
Winter is a cool, grey season in southern California. If you want cold and snow you have to head up to the mountains. In March, we are starting to green up a bit. The deciduous trees are starting to bud.
It’s a warm but cloudy Tuesday. Nobody in the parking area guarantees I won’t meet anyone on the trail. The clothes come off the instant I’m out of sight from the road. If there were cars parked or a tent in the campground I’d have to hike a good mile down and cross the river to be sure to avoid contact. Not that I mind the contact but I can’t be sure the next person down the trail would be as tolerant as my blogging community. 🙂
Black sage, left. White sage, right.
Along the way, we have the traditional SoCal chaparral. Much of it has a lovely minty scent. There’s Yerba Santa, so named because breathing the steam from an infusion of it in boiling water is used for lung ailments. California sagebrush (which is not a sage but a sunflower relative) got the nickname “cowboy cologne” because rubbing it all over oneself was a substitute for a bath. Black sage and white sage, both used in native American ceremonies.
The willows are blooming with catkins. There are California tree frogs and signs of deer. Water striders skate about the calmer parts. Sugarbush is almost in bloom.
The first water crossing is a series of stones to hop across. I’ve got a walking staff from a yucca stave so balance won’t be a problem.
A year ago we had significant flooding. The trail through here is still gone. Where there was once sand with rocks is just rocky now. The brush is piled up here and there where trees created strainers. Some of the brush dams are taller than me. A new trail is barely starting to be established.
Poison oak is also just starting to bud out. The ants go marching. The bright red berries of the toyon are about the only bright color around.
I arrive at a place. It is a favorite skinny dipping hole of mine. The water is so clear this time of year you can see the bottom perfectly. It is deep and cold and inviting. But it leaves me shivering.
This is a place where young people go in the summer to have wild parties. The kind of parties you can’t have in a campground. There are multiple illegal fire rings. But it is neither summer nor a weekend. I might have had to make the next river crossing – or two – for privacy if it were.
Soon it starts to cool off. Evening comes early in the deep canyon. On my way back, I notice the water has risen. Apparently, the dam operators have decided to release more water The tops of my stepping stones are covered. Now I have to wade thru the torrent to go home. At least my clothes won’t get wet.
Oh wow! after a bit of a dry spell I have so much to blog about. Some of it might even be interesting! Today we’ll start with one of my favorite wilderness hikes, Piru Creek both north and south of Pyramid Lake.
Piru Creek offers an immense amount of hiking. Some of it on established trails and some of it is a mix of bushwhacking, stream crossing, and boulder hopping. North of Pyramid Lake you can go upstream, mostly boulder hopping, wading, and bushwhacking for a dozen miles into the western side of the vastness that is the Sespe Wilderness Area. It is there that I had to cross the storm-swollen creek on my way back from a backpacking trip cut short by historic rain. That section of the creek is extremely difficult to access and rarely visited by humans except to cross it. Years ago I backpacked down it with a wilderness restoration group cutting and uprooting invasive, water-guzzling, tamarisk. I have paid it a few visits since but that is another post.
Downstream of the dam, water flow is more constant. Sometimes in drought, they’ll cut the flow back a bit – but they can’t cut it to zero. There is a law that there has to be enough flow to keep the non-native trout alive for the fisherman. Other times it will flood, ten feet above the normal level. This could be the result of torrential rains or it could be the dam letting out water to simulate heavy rain. Some native species need this periodic flushing out to survive.
To get there you head up I-5 to the Templin Highway exit. Turn right and you’ll be going towards Fish Canyon. Turn left, go under the freeway, and you meet the Old Road. Turn right. Left doesn’t go anywhere.
A few miles up the road you pass the Verdugo Oaks Scout Camp. There is a ranger and a public campground there as well. Just beyond that is where I saw my first and only wild mountain lion. It vanished like smoke the instant it saw me. I informed the rangers about it and they said she was an old friend of theirs. Keep going and the road is blocked off and here you park.
I’d advise a Forest Service Adventure Pass.If you don’t the ticket is only $5, the same price as a day-use pass. Not a big deal. They have since gotten serious about collecting fees, esp. on weekends. The fine is now $99 and if you can later show you had one but just forgot it, the fine is reduced to $59. (Numbers subject to change without notice!)
I always buy a couple of yearly passes anyhow. I visit the National Forests a lot and I like to support them, especially since their funding has been cut drastically. I’ve since picked up a Senior lifetime pass that will get me into National parks as well. It’s a card on a cheesy hanger for your rear view mirror.
On the left side of the road are Frenchman’s Flats and a much mis-loved public campground. (This is the Google Maps link.) That’s the way I’ll be hiking in this blog. Go straight and the road becomes a much-in-demand movie set. Three miles of two and four-lane road in semi-perfect condition, very popular for television and film companies because it is a road with no traffic and is inexpensive to use.
It is also an incredible place to ride your bicycle with few pedestrians and rare traffic from trucks for maintenance crews for the dam.
On the east side, difficult to find and to get to, is a very old abandoned campground. with a memorial plaque set in a stone. The Old Road continues until it ends at an access road that climbs to Pyramid Lake Dam. I-5 parallels the Old Road and once it was constructed they were free to construct a dam in the valley thru which it runs. But that is yet another post for another hike.
Saturday I took my first hike there in a while. Since I have been thru there so many times I’ll be using pictures from many different hikes here. If there is nobody parked at the gated area and nobody in the campground, I will typically remove clothing and continue on “sky-clad” as soon as I am out of sight of the road. Otherwise, I stay clothed until I am confident nobody else has gone this way. I’ve discussed this in more detail here.
One must fly one’s freak flag whenever it is practical to do so, else one abandons the right to call oneself a freak and belong to the freaky fraternity. Doing so when it is impractical just pisses people off and could get you in trouble.
“Freak” here refers to an enthusiastically harmless & eccentric person, not a stupid one or a harmful one.
Heading west from Frenchman’s Flats, you follow a “use trail” created by fishermen. At one point the trail meets up with rock and water. You can either wade around or climb over. If you slip here (and it can be deep, fast, and slippery) everything you carry will be submerged and soaked. I always try to keep my feet and head covered, even if nothing else.
Climbing up this first rock face I once broke a bone in my foot for no apparent reason. I consider it a “freak” accident. (Laugh. That WAS a joke.)
Then there is a chute to be climbed down. (Easier to climb up.) Maybe 15 feet, so simple even people in worse shape than me can do it. Then… oh look… someone else has been this way recently and placed rocks to guide you along the correct path. (They might be gone tomorrow.) It is a nice spot here and you could just stop and do a bit of fishing but I’m heading on. Back up the side of the hill I go.
The trail climbs and then soon starts dropping. This section itself is on the side of a slope and covers a bit of talus. The view from the crest shows the trail ahead while looking down reveals some good fishing spots.
As you descend to the river start watching for poison oak. I have gotten to the point where I subconsciously avoid the stuff, not even aware that I’m doing this. This is a very good skill for a nudie to have.
A couple of hundred meters ahead the river makes an abrupt right turn. There is a spot where one could go swimming but I would not recommend it outside of early spring. The high flow of water flushes out all the accumulated organic crap and this place has a deep sandy bottom. You are now entering the far eastern edge of the Sespe Wilderness area but there is no signage to tell you that.
In the summer the flow drops and the water slows, becoming stagnant. Algae will bloom and die but can’t go anywhere and… just rots. In fact, the dammed lake upstream will often suffer an algal bloom during the triple-digit days of summer and become unsafe to ski or swim in. The river will often stink during the warmer days. You can cool your feet off or wade around but I wouldn’t swim in it. It will clog your filter very quickly so I always take lots of water and keep the filter for emergencies.
Even if the water is crystal clear and nobody is upstream you should never drink the water untreated. There are plenty of sources of fecal contamination.
Where the river turns, so do you. Just before it hits that wall the creek is wide and shallow. There are plenty of natural stepping stones. Once you cross that spot, the trail becomes sketchy.
Right now everything looks simple but when you return it is very easy to miss this crossing, keep going and end up in a world of cattails. (Speaking from experience here!) At this point, turn around. you have left the ideal crossing point behind. I would understand if you left some bright marker tape as a blaze here. Just be sure to remove it on your way back.
A word on cairns. There are bunches of cairns back here. Most of them mean nothing to you. Somebody wanted to mark a favorite fishing hole or crawdad spot. Ignore them unless you are curious. If you are having a hard time looking for an easy crossing, though, you might get lucky by looking around a cairn in a likely location.
You can’t “get lost” here. Just head downstream, picking out the bits and pieces of trail. Even if you “lose” the trail, you haven’t lost the creek. The trail will always be between the creek and the adjacent wall. The river crossings are always at or before the river meets the canyon side making it impossible to continue on without getting soaked. Blaze these crossings once you have crossed, if you must, but remove the blaze on your way back.
Have I said this clearly enough? Remove that gawd awful bright orange marking tape on your way back! Please let the rest of us wander about lost and confused.
Perhaps a quarter-mile from the first crossing you come to a sandy opening with a large oak tree and a couple of large fire rings. If I’m not already in the au naturel, this is where it happens. It is the last place where people commonly go. Party central for local teens. There’s another creek crossing just up ahead, right by where the creek is hard up against a rock wall. In the spring it is a great swimming hole and deep. The rest of the year it is either too frigid or it is stagnant.
There are sections from here on where there is no real trail and you are left to walking on rocks (Great place to sprain ankle. Be careful.) and generally passing thru clear areas, simply seeking out the easiest passage.
Past this, we have yet another field of overgrown rocks. Cross and you are on the left side of the river (looking downstream) again. The rocks are a wonderful place to twist an ankle or fall and break something. I just go slow. The trail drops back to the river and passes another fire ring. The next river crossing is difficult to find but the rule is that if it is impossible to go any farther without wading in deep water, you missed it. And beyond that more crossings and bushwhacking for another 15 miles to Lake Piru.
Yup, that’s me. Click if you dare! This is “the end” of my story… for now.
For a more recent hike down Piru Creek click here.
There has been a dearth of anime in my life as of late. Nothing in the new season has excited me enough to write home about. The latest season of MHA is interesting but so many other people are writing on it that I can’t imagine adding anything to the conversation. I suppose I could go and review another classic. I’m just not feeling it right now.
Perhaps I’ll talk about my hike last Monday from the north of the lake. It was about 12 miles round trip and the weather was perfect.
Heading north of LA on I-5, continue on past Santa Clarita, Castaic, Lake Piru, Templin Highway, and finally the State Water Project Information Center. As far as I can tell, the center is a huge waste of money. I never see more than a dozen cars in a parking lot suitable for hundreds. There’s a multi-million dollar building housing a visitor center. I’ve been in it. Unless you were writing a report on the State Water Agency for school, it is about as dull as such a thing gets.
It does offer a really nice view of Pyramid lake. I’d have settled for a scenic outlook.
Continuing past that 3 miles or so and we come to Smokey Bear Road. Take the exit and go left under the freeway. Turn left again onto Pyramid Lake Road. (Straight ahead takes you into the Hungry Valley State ORV Park.) Drive south, just past the boat inspection lane, then a right onto Hard Luck Road. (Straight ahead takes you to the well developed Emigrant’s Landing Campground on Pyramid Lake.) It goes over a bridge, (with a power station to the left) and then turns hard right. It eventually curves westward towards a locked gate.
Along the way, you pass Los Alamos campground on the left, almost entirely used by people in the state park. When you come to a gate, there you stop. There will be a left turn to a National Forest administration building but you won’t take it. This gate has an opening to allow pedestrians and bicyclists thru.
Hardluck Road is closed past this point. Two and a half miles up ahead is Hardluck Campground. It is closed to motor vehicle camping to protect the endangered Arroyo Toad. You can still hike back there and backpack.
The road proceeds for about 3.2 miles climbing 470 ft. up a hill and then descending about 520 ft. where you cross Piru Creek to enter the campground. The descent is a bit steeper than the ascent. Roughly the first mile and a half of the walk is on CA State Park land, with all the rules and regs that go with it. Just beyond the crest of the road, you cross over into Los Padres National Forest land.
There is a bit of a shortcut, the route of the old mining road that once went back here. It is the yellow line on the map above cutting straight across and shaves maybe a quarter-mile off total distance and fifty feet of elevation. OTOH, it is a sandy and deeply rutted trail. A couple of short sections are “by guess or by golly”.
The advantage of the shortcut is really to get you away from pavement and into some really wild looking land before returning to pavement. (More naked time for me!) I didn’t take it this time but it is usually my preferred route.
The abandoned mining road. Finding it requires map skills and bushwhacking.
The entrance to the shortcut is easy to miss. Just a strand of fencing that is missing. It takes you away from the road and climbs through the sand. Once you reach the crest the world looks pretty wild. You wend your way down thru ridges and gullies and exit thru a gap in the fence to be on the road again. When Avery goes with me, she insists on going this way.
My understanding (I could be wrong…) is that nudity is legal here. This corner of the Los Padres is in Ventura County. IIRC, Ventura County has no general anti-nudity ordinance. Still, this isn’t a well-known nudist haunt and I’m not getting completely skyclad until I’m confident nobody else is there. Laws may keep you from being convicted but are no protection against harassment.
However, I have heard eyewitness accounts of nude bicyclists riding here. It would be a nice ride if you can deal with the steepness. Beyond my current ability. I’m thinking of a great place for nude night hiking and biking.
At the bottom of the decline, the road crosses Piru Creek. From here I can follow abandoned and nearly invisible truck trails upstream about a third of a mile to a great skinnydipping hole. It is an area only rarely visited by backpackers. You can even see a couple of abandoned mines along the way. There’s gold out there and as recently as the 80s there was a plan to use a dredging machine to suck gold out of the creek. Thankfully Forest Service put the kibosh on that plan.
One of several abandoned mines. And a nice skinny dipping hole in spring and summer.
My caution proved well-founded when I encountered the occupants of the vehicle. It was a married Hispanic couple, perhaps in their 50s or 60s, deer hunting. I had forgotten it was hunting season. (!!!) I was down to just my shorts by that time. We talked about hunting and the guy was very excited by the topic. They hadn’t seen anything but old tracks.
They were in head-to-foot camouflage with orange hats. I saw those hats long before they were aware of me. (Deer are colorblind so orange is just grey to them.) The one thing the lady asked me was if I wasn’t cold. It was 80 out and I’d just climbed a hill. No, I was rather hot. I can’t believe they weren’t exhausted from the heat.
Speaking of tracks, there was a great track trap, right where the creek crossed the road and spilled over. Difficult to get around and no reason to do so. Recent tracks confirmed two sets outbound and two inbound. One set of an off-road bicycle going out and then back but they’d started to decay, so that was probably over the last weekend. Confident I was now alone, off went the clothing and into my backpack.
Hard Luck is a huge campground, easily a quarter-mile long and a football field wide. Scattered throughout are outhouses, and disintegrating signs, and campsites. It has a vaguely post-apocalyptic vibe about it with decaying picnic tables, rusted iron fire pits, and grates, and broken pavement all hidden in well over a decades’ worth of bush. Many of the outhouses are unlocked and show signs of use. (BYO toilet paper.) At the southern end of Hard Luck is the Buck Creek Trailhead.
My favorite all-day pack is in real tree oak brush camo. It blends in perfectly with our chaparral. There is enough capacity for 3 liters of water, a full set of clothing, food and emergency gear. (There is an extra key hidden about the car in case I lose it on the trail.) I like to be able to hide it in the bush and be confident that nobody else will find it. That way I can stash it and be naked while I range about radially instead of having to wear the pack which, after all, does somewhat ruin the sense of freedom I’m after.
OTOH, were I unable to retrieve it, I could be screwed. In naked hiking circles (Such a thing exists!) there is a term for hiking naked without carrying your clothes on you. You are, “Flying without a parachute“.)
BTW, I am using the word naked, rather than nude, intentionally. I am being as vulnerable as a human can be out here. I want the sense of freedom and vulnerability, of having as little as possible between me and the world. I want to be exposed to sun and wind and water – and prickly things and insects if I am not mindful and to nature and God and the universe in general.
Buck Creek is really the trail I was after. It parallels Piru Creek for another 2.5 miles of fairly level hiking. Most of the time access to the creek is not easy. The creekbank is steep and filled with rocks and brush. For as much water as appears in some of the photos, there are places it disappears and hides. Proceed a bit further and it reemerges where underlying rock formations force it up again.
Along the way, I am forced thru narrow openings with rabbit brush on either side. The yellow flowers are alive with bees. You’d think a naked man would be nervous around bees.
Bees don’t bother me. I can shake off a sting very quickly. It has been a very long time since a bee has stung me. (Years ago I accidentally stepped on a yellowjacket in the mud barefoot.) But mostly I just give them their space. If they buzz near me I don’t swat at them. If they land on me I blow them off with a puff of breath or a gentle brush of grass. These are things bees understand. Waving hands and swatting are seen as threats needing to be punished.
The yucca bloom and the sunflowers are all long gone.
So I’m finally almost there. Three o’clock, the hot part of the day, and I perspire freely. There’s one small problem. I am developing hot spots under the balls of my feet. Hot spots mean only one thing in this situation and that is blisters.
My first aid kit is still sitting on the floor of my wife’s minivan 40 miles away. Last week my wife and I headed up to a park near Bakersfield where my daughter was at “War”, an SCA campout for Viking re-enactors. One of the Vikings got stabbed in the foot during swordplay and refused to go get medical aid. So as long as we were up there my wife, the RN, will see what needs to be done.
It wasn’t that bad and we patched him up. But I made the crucial error of not returning the kit to the backpack from whence it had come. Now I am six miles out and can sense a blister coming on with no moleskin or even duct tape. Heavy Sigh!
At one point the creek almost disappears. later it is 15 feet wide and a foot deep. Those tracks you see in the water are from a very recent bear, not a bare. The creek finally disappears into some boulders as it rounds a bend and enters the narrows.
What I should have done is remove shoes and socks, kicked back under a tree and been even more naked until everything dried out.
What did instead was to splash around in the shallow water of the creek just before it entered the narrows and goof off for a couple of hours. It felt good and the hot spot went away but I didn’t remove what was causing the hotspot to start with, moist feet and wool socks wet with sweat. Although, I must say that I’ve hiked in these shoes with hot sweaty feet before and not had this problem. Maybe their time had simply come.
Running thru the water and falling flat on my face. Oh yeah, there was a very fresh pile of bear poop on the far bank. I suspect the bear was searching for crawdads and slowly moving downstream to stay ahead of me.
I did try a couple of techniques for hotspots that had helped in the past. I swapped socks left to right. If there were a part that was rucking up, by swapping it wouldn’t be in the same place on the other foot. I also relaced the shoes differently so as to minimize my foot’s ability to slip. Neither technique proved effective this time.
Left: late afternoon approaches Hard Luck. Right: Sun has set and I have another hour of hobbling ahead. That set of hills midway up the picture is where I’m parked.
Still, the night was coming. It gets dark out here around 6:30 this time of year. I made the 6 miles back to the car in about two hours, hobbling badly the last mile.
When I got home I checked out the damage. My left foot has a quarter-sized blister in the center of the ball. Right foot had a silver dollar sized blister in the same place and it had burst. I treated them both with moleskin but I knew the next day at work was not going to be fun.
Another hike down Piru Creek. I love this hike but since last winter it has become a bit rough. Trees have fallen, rocks have slid and huge amounts of greenery have sprung up. I park at the usual gate. The paved road beyond goes to Pyramid Lake. Instead, I take the path downstream to a wilder country. (For an older post about the same area click here.)
Air temp in the low 80s with a gentle breeze. Bright sun and intermittent shade. Perfect weather!
First thing I notice is a fire truck and a crew parked at my trailhead. I enquired and there was no kind of fire danger. The crew is there to pick up the garbage left in the campground by all the Easter weekend campers, not to fight a fire. Whew!
Humans are absolutely filthy creatures. Even with dumpsters and toilets right there, the area is littered with garbage, broken gear, used diapers and bits of toilet paper.
Heading downstream, I soon leave the influence of the campers behind. I cross a small creek that still has water flowing. Beyond is a pleasant and shady oak savanna with wildflowers scattered here and there. Not a hundred yards from the campground the litter is almost gone
This is an area to be very snake aware. Often you hike right by very thick brush or high grass and you want to make sure what is next to your feet. There are rocks and logs you must remember to step onto and then beyond, rather than just stepping over. I’ll grab a dead branch or yucca stave as a walking stick and it will double as a snake stick. I’ll be poking it onto the ground ahead of me to alert anyone who might be relaxing there.
Ticks are another issue. They are a natural hazard of going thru dense brush or grass. On my previous hike up East Canyon, I discovered one in my hair. Somehow it had crawled up under my hat. On this hike, despite being naked most of the day, I found only one on my wrist. Ticks aren’t a big deal. It takes 24 hours for you to get infected by anything they are carrying. After scrambling thru brush or grass, even if you are wearing long sleeves and long pants you should do a tick check. By avoiding brushing up against plants, you can largely avoid ticks.
If you own a cat, be aware that permethrin and DEET are extremely dangerous to them. Tiny amounts can be lethal. Picardin hasn’t been tested. Wash any body part and any piece of clothing that has been treated with insect repellent before making contact with a pet cat.
I think this is Baby Blue Eyes I could be wrong.
I think this is Camphor. I could be wrong.
Possibly Baby Blue Eyes and Camphor?
Easy travel does not last long. The path turns into a mess of rocks. At one time there was a visible trail thru here. Large stones had been moved aside and the trail was flattened a bit where thousands of feet pressed down the smaller stones into the ground. Not any more. The floods and slides have left a fresh layer of ankle turners to contend with.
I don’t mind. It discourages the lightweights from coming back here. There had been a car and a motorcycle back at the gate. The couple from the motorcycle was at a picnic table. I met the other couple at these rocks when they’d given up going any farther. The trash crew was leaving. I was now officially alone.
To make sure it was ok to drop my clothing, in an abundance of caution I figured I’d climb up the rock ahead, down the chute on the other side and be free. As I came to the down climb, I saw a tree had been uprooted and deposited right where the trail would have gone. The root ball was about 5 feet high, a real PITA to climb over. Then I have to go back up the side of the canyon for a way.
But now I’m on safe, easy hiking. Flat with some moderate downhill as I approach the creek again. Well, maybe. Not all hazards are mechanically dangerous.
There is a stretch where I am walled in by the minty scent and blue flowers of Yerba Santa. I noticed something. I could not hear nor see any honey bees on this trip. All these flowers ought to have stirred up some interest, yet there is no trace of them. It bothers me.
Then I am surrounded by yet another native plant, only this time it is Poison Oak. Usually, I avoid it without even realizing I’m doing it but today it encroaches on – and occasionally across – the trail. Despite my best efforts, some manage to brush against my right calf. Not a big deal. I’ll be home to scrub any traces off soon enough. I decided to try an experiment.
The active ingredient in Poison oak is urushiol, an oil. Oils don’t come off well with just water. OTOH, the minty smell you get from Sage and Yerba Santa is also from oils. I “treat” the area by grabbing a bunch Yerba Santa leaves and smushing them together between my hands. Now I have a mass of crushed, moist leaves. I apply it to the area, then go down to the water and scrub it with more leaves.
So far, no reaction. Either it worked or the poison oak leaves simply didn’t deposit any oil on me. Or maybe I have been so good at avoiding the stuff for so many years I’ve lost my allergy. It can happen.
So I get thru the Poison Oak. This is my destination. Sunny in the am, but shady in the heat of the afternoon. Nice sandy area to relax on. The water is much higher than it would be later in the year. Because of all the rain, the dam can allow more to flow downstream which is beneficial to the flora and fauna. During the peak of the rainy season, the water reaches to that branch on the right and deposits debris there.
In April and May, this is a magnificent swimming hole. The section up against the rock face is quite deep. The water level drops a bit in June and you start to see more of the submerged rocks. Not a place to jump in without first checking out the bottom.
You still would need to treat it before drinking, even at its best. There’s a campground just a couple miles upstream and from all the TP I see scattered around, some people are too lazy to walk to the outhouse.
By the end of Spring, it loses much of its appeal. The flow slows down and scum starts building up. Algal bloom in the lake during the hottest part of summer makes the water toxic. This isn’t something the creek would have experienced naturally. Despite this, flora and fauna continue to survive and flourish.
I refuse to swim in water that stinks.
I stay here for a couple hours, in and out of the water, Need to get back by 5pm to pick up a car at the garage. Still, it was a great day, even if I spent the day alone. I hike back, reluctantly stopping to dress en route.
That night my wife and I headed out to the movies to see Okko’s Inn, a GKids film. It was a real tear-jerker. A child who suffers terrible emotional injury slowly heals with the help of ghosts only she can see and becomes well adjusted, productive and happy. And in the process heals everyone else around her. Disgustingly wholesome – unlike me. (I still enjoyed it.)
After this image, there’s a slide show. I think it is wholesome. You may not. You have been warned of NSFW content!
Continuing in my dearth of new blogs, I thought I’d reblog this, revised and with a few different photos – including one I just took on my visit to my families back east. It is one of my earliest posts, dating back almost 3 years. It has the most likes of any post I’ve done. If you don’t mind seeing the occasional nude, continue on.
The photo above was taken in Joshua Tree National Park, a great place for nude recreation. I’ve hiked and camped and even climbed a few boulders au naturel out there. (I learned the hard way not to climb decomposing granite in bare feet.) I’ve even seen a bit of casual nudity in the public campgrounds and it is a favorite location for photographers doing nudes against the rocks. It is a vast park with empty places even on busy days. There is also BLM land next to it to recreate in where there is no restrictions on nudity as long as you stay away from the main roads.
I love hiking naked. I enjoy the sensation of the sun and the wind on my full body. I love the freedom. Love the way it liberates my soul and brings me into direct contact with nature. My ancestors of a hundred thousand years ago had this as their birthright. Today’s world, in its perversity, would deny me this. (Just saw a poll in Backpacker Magazine that indicated 26% of respondents had hiked nude and another 17% would like to try.)
It would appear that nude hiking or “naking” or freehiking is not such an unusual hobby. (Per Wikipedia: Freehiking refers to naked hiking as well as a form of hiking in which the participants intentionally avoid trails and predetermined destinations. I often fit both definitions of the word!) Seeing a number of posts regarding it on various travel sites makes me feel less “out there”, less “involuntarily unique”.
Not sure how I got started in such an unusual hobby. I grew up in the Northern lower peninsula of Michigan. My parents and the people of the area were pretty much fundamentalist Christians, anti-nude and anti-sexual, so it seems doubly odd. Longbefore puberty even thought of setting in, I liked being naked. It is among my earliest clear memories.
Perhaps it was my Asperger’s kicking in, making me “involuntarily unique”. Why did a child retain a desire for nakedness despite every influence around him indicating to the contrary? Hmmm… Maybe I didn’t absorb those social values and I had the freedom to indulge in it privately, so it didn’t go extinct. (God knows there were plenty of other social customs I didn’t pick up on.) Maybe it became forbidden fruit – an act of private rebellion? I dunno. But it stuck.
Lots of semi-wilderness in that area and no natural hazards to speak of. We had an 80-acre parcel of forest and field and the north branch of the Tobacco River running thru it. As a kid, I was pretty much ignored by my parents and very poorly socialized. Nearby were thousands of acres of national forest with streams and lakes and as long as I made it home for dinner, nobody really cared. I imagine that in that way it was a kind of “Tom Sawyer” life.
Today many would call it free-range parenting. It was how we were all raised back then. Today some might call it neglect. I’d wander thru the woods and fields and up and down the river (perfectly normal) with no clothing, (not so “normal”) despite the mosquitoes. (Mosquitoes have never bothered me much to this day.) Perhaps my Asperger’s caused me not to absorb the social injunction against nudity.
The things I did, even as a young child, that my parents never knew about! (Some of them were far more dangerous.)
From about age 10 thru age 18, sexuality was in the mix. I would get aroused for obvious reasons, stressful reasons or for no reason at all. That is one primary reason why teenage boys often drop out of social nudism. OTOH, I wandered alone with nobody to care. Eventually, the hormones began to settle down. I started modeling nude for art classes at 18 and social nudity quickly lost its erotic pressure. It was no longer exotic.
I have a little checklist I like to go through when hiking naked. I don’t like surprise encounters with the textile impaired. You don’t know who is cool and who will be mortally offended. I don’t care to have to deal with obnoxious people who think I’m the obnoxious one.
If you aren’t used to the sun, sunscreen is in order.
I try to time it when nobody else is out. That means midweek – and during the long summers out here – at night. (Be careful of rattlesnakes!) Weekends are not impossible but finding an empty trail on a lovely Saturday morning isn’t easy. (The exceptions to this are well-known clothing-optional backcountry locations like Deep Creek Hot Springs or Saline Hot Springs. Nobody there even blinks at a naked hiker.) Warm summer rains make for delicious hikes! Even short hikes in cold weather are great – just keep moving. Sunny & warm spring days with snow still on the ground are to die for.
Second, I make sure I’m not in a hunting season. (!!!)
Third, I pick trails that normally get no traffic. Either they are not easily accessed from main roads or there is a difficult stretch that hardly anyone goes beyond.
An example of the first is the Alder Creek Trail which requires a 10-mile drive down a bumpy dirt road to get to (but I still only do it midweek). An example of the second is Piru Creek Trail going downstream from the trailhead. There is much rock climbing and creek fording en route and eventually, the trail becomes just a suggestion. Almost nobody but idiots like me explore beyond the first two miles.
There’s also the Arroyo Seco for a remote hike/swim thru rugged terrain.
Acquire some topographic maps of your hiking areas and look for trails that are out of the way. Learn how to use a map and compass and you will never get lost. If you really plan on going deep, I have some handy wilderness survival suggestions.
Timing is important. Most hikers head out in the morning and are back by noon. I often head out to the trail late enough that they’ll be done before I start. It doesn’t mean I don’t do early morning hikes but it does make trail selection very important. Sometimes I go out with a textile group and when they turn back, I keep going, au naturel.
A good freehike should be several miles. It takes me a mile before I can unwind and leave my civilized world behind. Further along, you forget you’re naked. That’s when the best begins. Your life refocuses on the sun and the breeze, the flora and the fauna, the terrain, and the sky. All five senses reset. You rediscover how good it is to sweat and the rhythm of your legs. Now you are a part of nature, not apart from nature.
That doesn’t happen if you have to worry about other people.
If the trail is flat and the weather is good, nighttime hiking is a pleasant way to spend an evening. You are far more likely to find an empty trail at that time. If there were someone else out there they’d be using a flashlight. It makes it easy to spot people long before they get to you. Their night vision is fried and can’t see a thing beyond that cone of light.
I have great night vision and a full moon offers plenty of light for me on an open smooth trail. Out here you have to watch for snakes that come out at night so total darkness is not advised.
The trailhead tells you a lot. Let’s say there is a car parked there ahead of you. Yup, somebody else ahead of you on the trail. So you hike out textile until you meet the other party. Are you overtaking them or are they on their way back? Ask about trail conditions and if anybody else is ahead. From there you can determine whether to go on naked. Maybe you see five cars, a school bus, and some horse trailers. This would not be a good place for a naked hike.
A trail with multiple trailheads like the Fishbowl – Cedar Creek loop would require additional investigation. Some trails, like Piru Creek, have a parking area that services several different amenities.
Here is where a bit of bushcraft comes in handy. I check mud and sand bottlenecks for recent footprints. Every footprint going out should have a corresponding return print. Outbound tracks with no inbound tracks mean there’s people out there.
While you are out there, walk softly. Lose the earbuds. Open up your senses to what nature has to offer. Look, listen, smell, and feel. You will see more wildlife – not to mention avoiding snakes and other hazards. You will learn more of nature’s way and no textile will ever surprise you.
Look for tracks, obviously. Look for recently disturbed foliage or a spider thread across the trail. If the textile impaired come your way, a strategically relocated hat is all a guy needs to stay legally decent. (I do it for politeness until I can gauge the other person’s reaction. Courtesy counts!) Other guys carry a small kilt with a velcro fastener. A woman needs to cover a bit more then a man but is very much less likely to inspire anger if she doesn’t bother.
It appears from anecdotal evidence that a lone male is perceived as more threatening than a group and a female or mixed-gender group is least threatening of all. Not surprising. There are plenty of non-naturist males out there who would use this as an exercise in getting aroused. And a woman on the trail is primed to see any unusual behavior by a male she might meet as a potential threat.
OTOH getting such a group together is a major undertaking with scheduling and logistics and finding fellow freehikers may not be possible. It isn’t something you could do on the spur of the moment. You would be well served to join an existing group like the Siskiyou Hiking Bares or start your own.
I’ve freehiked and freecamped with groups. They are fine. I am not a social person by nature and the social dynamics of a group are beyond me. More people equals more noise and less wildlife seen. Not everyone is enraptured by silence. I prefer to be alone.
You take with you exactly what you would on a clothed hike. Shoes/boots, daypack/ fannypack with food and water, hat, emergency gear, and whatever else. Often, I’ll set up a remote base and leave the gear behind and just explore for a bit. A pack interferes with pure freedom. Sometimes even the hat and shoes interfere. They detract from the pure nakedness of it all but you do need them for protection
An ideal destination has water you can filter to drink and for recreation. Whether or not there is water in my itinerary I always bring 2-3 liters depending on the trip and the weather. Always be prepared for the bad things that might happen but also understand you were at greater risk getting to the trail than you are on it. Solo is good, couples are good and groups are all good. (I must admit I prefer solo, though. People crowd me unless they are close friends.)
One piece of gear I always take is my SPOT communicator. It is a satellite-based text message system. All you need is some open sky and you can get a rescue chopper out, anywhere, within a few hours. I’ll do another blog, eventually, on deep wilderness hiking. I am assuming in this blog the reader isn’t going more than a couple of hours into the bush.
I don’t necessarily worry about law enforcement because of the nature of where I take my nude hikes. California does not have a statewide law against nudity and there is no Federal law either. It is left up to state agencies and local jurisdictions to pass such regulations.
In Los Angeles county there is a letter from the LA Sheriff Department indicating that they will not enforce the county parks nudity law on National Forest land. The county ordinance only applies to county parks and beaches and NF land doesn’t fall under Parks and Rec jurisdiction. (They will still be more than happy to enforce other county laws.) The Angeles National Forest doesn’t have any regulations against nudity either. This would indicate your legal risk is very low on Angeles National Forest land in LA County.
The City of LA policy is identical. That’s why the World Naked Bike Ride can take place every year as long as it stays out of city parks.
Because something is legal does not prevent harassment from those who don’t like it. I don’t push it onto unprepared people. I am uninterested in shock and there is nothing about me to inspire awe. Even though there’s no cell service where I go, there is nothing to stop an irate person from getting your license plate at the trailhead. So I avoid other people.
If nobody sees you, who cares? If someone really deep in the backcountry sees you, they probably won’t care. That’s just how wilderness goers are.
I strongly suggest you query your own local government and the administration of any government land you may use for their policies. This isn’t as easy as it might sound. The people you contact may not know what the policy actually is and give you erroneous information. That’s why the letter from the sheriff was so important. Deputies didn’t have a clue and were busting people even though it was against their own policy.
Failing this there are a few nude beaches around the country and a number of private naturist resorts with enough land to make hiking enjoyable.
Sounds like a lot of work but once you are familiar with an area, it becomes second nature. True freedom in the wilderness is yours. And don’t miss World Naked Hiking Day, unofficially and defiantly celebrated on the Summer Solstice every year.
So, in summary:
Check your local laws.
Hike very early before anyone else starts or later after everyone has returned. Midweek is your best opportunity. Or maybe a night hike.
Check the trailhead for fellow hikers.
Use trails that are less popular or not well known and not prone to boy or girl scouts or church groups.
Bring some gear anyhow in a pack. Food, water, first aid, and some minimal clothing. More if the weather could change. Shoes are not optional on the trail and a hat is highly recommended.
Or hike in clothed and set up a base camp to leave your clothes behind and do short hikes from there.
Skills like map and compass or maybe a GPS keep you from getting lost. Have gear to start a fire in an emergency or a Satcom device to call for help.
Sunscreen is your friend. Some places might call for bug repellent
Watch for thistles, briars and poison oak/sumac/ivy, poodle dog bush or whatever the local bete noir plants are. I’ve gotten so I do this without thinking. You may need to think.
There are creams specifically for chafing between the thighs. Most people won’t need them.
Single men are assumed to be predators. Excercise greater courtesy and double down on isolation.
JCS is a recent post with a lot of people attached to the JCS concept. I have so far received 23 submissions. It is going to be a nightmare to assemble all those links into a useful showcase and offer useful commentary. I am hoping to pull in a lot of new viewers who haven’t seen my work before. (I may regret that.)
GNGH is two years old, IIRC, and just keeps pulling in views. I think I may have become a nude hiking guru but those views are not turning into likes and comments. Should I write a book?
landscapes and flora along the way and the joy of hiking. There’s no NSFW content in it.
WNBR-LA 2019 is from ten days ago. B2B 2019 is from May. B2B 2018 is from a year+ ago. They are all about extended legal nudity in very public places and have NSFW content. There’s a lot of interest in this apparently.
Flower Hike is my most recent and has garnered a fair number of views. I think flowers are always a bit hit but they don’t have staying power. My freehiking posts are always the most fun to do. I get to relive and share doing the happiest activity I have. If it encouraged even one person to go hiking, I’d be a BIG winner.
My “About” page has a few hits and I suspect it is fallout from the JCS post. There’s almost nothing in it. People who go there can then conclude I’m a zero.
I’m getting most of my referrals from Google. People searching for “Nudist Angeles Crest”, no doubt. Has anyone ever considered writing posts just based on frequent search items?
But look what happened the day I agreed to do the Showcase. Maybe I need to develop a Twitter presence?
What I don’t see are lots of views of my anime reviews. I have far more anime related posts than any other. A large majority of my likes are for anime reviews and I have a fair number of likes on generic hiking posts. It would be good if I could bring up my anime post views to match.
Let’s look at the entire year:
On the left is the total number of views for the year. Given that this is early July, that’s a half year total. Not one single anime post made the list.
GNGH is still the champion while B2B 2018 (NSFW) hits number two. The B2B prelim is number 3 even though it was taken down and combined with the main B2B post. “Out of the Closet” was archived and still made the list.
In the middle is a fun chart showing the number of times a video has been viewed. I like to include short videos hosted on the WP site because I’m not yet interested in the PITA of doing Youtube or Vimeo. The slightly NSFW video of me conquering Throop Peak is far and away number one.
A quick freehiking video at the end of Piru Creek hike was number 2 and the close of Kara no Kyoukai was number three, the first time an anime showed up in my top yearly totals for anything. Bisexual Kokuto from the same post even showed up on the list. I
would have bet money that Kara no Kyoukai Fighting Zombies would have been the number one video from that post but it didn’t even make the list.
On the right, we have the year’s search terms. Bay to Breakers was in both of the top two terms. Also in number 5, 8 & 9. Once again I think I should write a book.
Now here is some fun! My fanbase spans the entire globe! WP lets you see where your views are coming from.
The data goes all the way down to single views but I figured this was enough to get the gist. The one surprise I see here is that Indonesia is so high. I have one follower from there but I can’t imagine that is where all those views come from.
I have views from Mongolia, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam. How cool is that? I have almost conquered the Americas, all of Europe and Australia only have a section of the Mideast (Admittedly a tough nut to crack.) left to take Asia. There’s a gap in the Southwest Pacific Islands. I am weakest in Africa where I suspect internet access is scarce and there isn’t a lot of interest in anime or the nude adventures of an old white American.
Reading public, I have some questions for you:
Should I unarchive a post simply because it had a lot of views?
Should I NOT archive old posts that are weak in views or likes?
Do I need to worry about NSFW posts scaring away some viewers?
How do I generate more interest in anime posts?
Ought I look into search engine optimization? Has it worked for you?
Tell me about what discoveries the WP stats page revealed to you about your blog. If you haven’t plumbed its depths, you really should!
Another nice day has popped up. The high is expected to be in the upper 80s, within my comfort zone for a hike. So I take my trusty Suzuki and even more trusty dog Avery, head out to Fillmore, turn north on A Street and head up to the Sespe Wilderness for some hiking on the Alder Creek Trail. I’ve blogged about this route before.
Along the way, I pass the now-closed trailhead to Tar Creek Falls.I was back there about 15 years agowhen it was still legal. Made it back there again about 5 years ago but stopped going when the signs went up.
Or at least it is supposed to be closed. Party people go back and leave all their mictotrash around. Condor chicks are attracted to the shiny, eat the stuff, and die. People are ignoring the signs and heading down there in droves because there is plenty of water at the falls and they have free time. The fine for using the trail is a thousand bucks but nobody seems to care.
Sometimes the last couple miles to the trailhead can be driven in an ordinary sedan. This isn’t one of those times. Only high clearance 4WD need apply. There’s one section where it gets really rough, both from the winter’s rain and from the lack of regular maintenance. Perhaps a dozer will come through this way later this summer before hunting season.
When I finally make it to the trailhead there are several 4WD vehicles already there. Most amazing was a pickup hauling a 30 ft, fifth-wheel trailer holding 3 horses. When I thought about it, he had much larger tires and more ground clearance on his truck than I did but the trailer must have scraped ground more than once. The long wheel-base would have minimized the bumps the horses experienced as long as they were positioned at the midpoint between the truck’s rear axle and the trailer’s front axle.
I followed him out at the end of the day just to see how he managed it. The word glacial comes to mind. He’d have got through the rough patches faster by parking his rig and riding the horses. Going around some of the tight curves involved stopping, backing up, having another go at it, stopping again and repeat.
It was good to get out here while it was still green. Most of the year, the grass is dead and the shrubs are dirty olive as 6 months of intense heat and no rain go by. Spring is a green time and the first hot cycle after the rain causes an explosion of growth.
This was probably the last good day for a long hike in this area with highs in the low 80s. The following week has been hot with highs in the high 90s and probably a hundred on Thursday. I usually don’t do vigorous hikes when the temps are in the 90s.
I might make an exception if there were a lot of shade or there was a lot of recreational water along the way. Not lots of shade here. There is some decent water down the Tar Creek Trail but as I noted above it is closed and it looks like a lot of people are already there. And if something is officially closed, I officially avoid it.
Of course, there are wildflowers to be seen. Not all of them are bright and showy and not all of them are big. The black and white sage are both in bloom. Walking by I let the plants brush against my body, releasing a pleasing minty fragrance. White sage has lighter colored leaves covered with fine hair. The local Chumash tribes use it for smudging and purification ceremonies. Black sage leaves are smooth and darker.
Black sage left, White sage right.
Sugar bush got its name from the berries which can be made into a kind of lemonade. Right now it is producing clusters of small white flowers. As a local scrub and chaparral native, it makes a lovely shrub for a xeriscape.
Yuccas are sending their staves shooting upwards at inches a day. Right now it is still young and tender. The heart would still be edible. At full growth, it may be as much as ten feet tall and will produce a large cluster of white flowers giving it one of its common names, Our Lord’s Candle.
The flowers are edible as well as the seeds it will produce. The pointy leaves are good for needles and if you pull them off with care they will have a fiber suitable for a sewing thread attached. Or you can work the fibers into very strong cordage.
The roots can be eaten if cooked and you can make beer out of them. The sap from the plant is used as a natural soap with antibiotic properties. After they die off and dry, the staves are excellent walking sticks and are used in lightweight construction.
Small creatures like to live within yuccas because the sharp spines protect them. Yucca points are every bit as sharp as a hypodermic needle and if you are stabbed by one you will regret it. They are covered with a mild toxin that is highly irritating.
Yuccas were sacred to the indigenous population of SoCal because of all the uses. Traditionally they would never harvest more than half the plants in an area. A yucca only blooms once in its lifetime and then dies. The only pollinator is the yucca moth, a unique example of symbiosis. However, yuccas also reproduce by cloning so you will often see younger plants sprouting from the base of an older one.
Yerba santa is another local medicinal with a minty scent. Natives would use it for a “smoke bath.” It got the name of “holy herb” from the Spanish who learned of its use in treating respiratory issues. Until the invention of antibiotics, it was the only effective therapy for tuberculosis. It is still in use today by many as a folk remedy. Soak a crushed hand-full in a quart of water and breath the steam.
I’m not sure why but this year’s crop doesn’t smell as minty as last year’s. Maybe it was the late rain in March and April.
Holly leaf cherry flowers with bee.
Yelow yarrow… I think
Clematis with light green flowers
Of course, there were lots of flowers!
I keep heading on my way. Not a good day for freehiking, what with all the other people at the trailhead. On the trail, I met a family on their way to a picnic, two backpackers who said there were several more up ahead and a trail runner.
I have to be careful about rattlesnakes. there were a couple along the road up here that slithered away before I could stop the car to get their picture. There was another on the trail someone had crushed with a rock. Very sad. Probably the horse people that did it. Rattlesnakes really spook horses.
Fortunately, Avery is snake-avoidance trained. She is a smooth-haired border collie mixed with some kind of a pointer. Every time we’ve encountered a snake (that she noticed) she has gone into a point and backed away from it while issuing the most blood-curdling sound I’ve ever heard from a dog.
OTOH, she has stepped right over a snake that did not move. Fine by me because a snake that does not move is a snake that does not want to be noticed. You see, a rattlesnake knows that in a fight with a dog, the snake will likely lose. Coyotes eat them all the time. Even if it gets a strike in, the dog could kill the snake long before the venom does its job. It makes perfect sense for a snake to remain perfectly still unless that it is clear a predator has noticed it. Rattlesnakes don’t have a strong odor and a dog will cue on its movement and not its scent. They don’t have the same pattern recognition ability we do.
This hike involves a section with a 500 ft. elevation gain over about a third of a mile. That’s enough to generate some serious sweat and heavy breathing. Avery insisted on stopping part way up and I obliged her.
To our north is a short section of the Sespe Formation, layers of sedimentary rock that have been uplifted along a fault. I never get tired of photographing this particular rock formation.
I try to imagine the layers of sediment going back in time. There is a trove of fossils there, mostly ammonites from a long-dead seabed. I understand at one point they found a fossilized whale around here. They would naturally keep the exact location a secret to keep fossil hunters away.
The Sespe Condor refuge was set up in 1947 and the much larger Sespe Wilderness area in 1992. Prior to that, it was known primarily as an oil field going back to World War I and empty ranch land before that. This area of the Sespe used to be a trove of Indian artifacts until in the 60s people scoured the area for anything that looked saleable. The wilderness is still publicly accessible to foot and horse traffic while the refuge is restricted to authorized people only.
The trails that we hike today only exist because they were cut by oil men looking for that black gold. Throughout the Sespe you’ll see little mounds of dirt with little vegetation on them. That’s dirt that was brought up by drilling. There are wells that were capped long ago and flat spots where it logically shouldn’t be flat. Even a long fallen derrick the oilmen left behind. It is visible from space in Google Earth.
Some of those roads have been allowed to fall into disrepair and have disappeared. Others have been included in the national trails system where foot and hoof traffic and the occasional illegal dirt bike keep them open.
If you look at the map, those trails have been given an easement through the condor refuge of about 1/8 mile either side of the trail. You aren’t restricted to the footpath. During quail and deer seasons there’s more than enough huntable area. Nobody out there with a tape measure to see if you’ve strayed too far, either.
About 2/3 of the way up, there’s a fork in the trail. Going left continues you on Alder creek Trail to Cow Camp, then Alder Creek, and then on to the Sespe River. Going right begins the elegantly named Bucksnort Trail. It eventually takes you to Lake Piru on the obscure Ant Trail Agua Blanca Trail. Everyone goes left. So few people go right the trail becomes overgrown for lack of traffic. You can see where the rights of way through the sanctuary abruptly end on the map where the trail leaves the condor refuge.
Taking Frost’s poem literally – and not figuratively as was his intent – I took the path less well-trod upon.
I haven’t been this way in several years. It is like visiting a long lost friend. Very shortly, to my right I see Bucksnort Springs. It is a reliable source of water in all but the driest portions of the driest years. I’m thinking someone lived back here once. It could have been an abandoned oil company shack or maybe a rancher’s cabin before that. There are the remains of a concrete pad and trees that don’t look native.
If you look at Google maps, it shows Squaw Road going all the way back here. Sometimes auto GPS units will show phantom roads like this. If they appear navigable people will become hopeless stuck. Never trust your GPS on rural roads.
The water coming from the spring makes a pleasant rivulet. Of course Avery has to enjoy it. In just a month – or maybe two – the surface water will be dried up with a tiny flow underground. The grass will be dried and apparently dead. In the fall even the underground flow may be gone. It is time to enjoy life to its max.
Of course it is also tick season. 🙁
Bucksnort Trail ends and Ant Trail Agua Blanca Trail begins and heads downhill to Piru. But I’m not heading that far today. I go another mile and take some photos and head back.
The trail goes on and on and on. I have to turn around somewhere. This is as good a spot as any. We have a picnic lunch and Avery grabs my slice of SPAM. Obviously, I wanted her to have it or I wouldn’t have held it near her nose, right? It is OK. I have more. And I share my cheese and jerky. The diced peaches and Nutri-grain bars are MINE!
I have to concern myself with Avery. She is getting on in years and probably has worse arthritis in her hips than I do in my knees. I don’t put a pack on her or make her pull me up the hill anymore. I also know that she’d go on until her legs fell off if I were willing to. She’s a great trail dog and hardly pulls on her long leash – unlike a certain other dog I know.
Round trip was 7 miles with about a thousand feet of total elevation gain in addition to an hour each way on dirt roads in addition to another half hour each way on surface streets. I’ll need to wait for the temperature to dip into the 80s to do this again. Maybe I’ll get out earlier and stay later for a few more miles.
A distant view of a tiny white flower carpet with a closeup
The trail I identified as Ant Trail is really the Agua Blanca Trail. Ant Campsite is at the intersection of the Bucksnort and Agua Blanca trails and I confused the camp name for the trail name.
Quick warning here. If male nudity bothers you, go no further. There is some – and it is anatomically correct.
I’ve been some kind of nudie as far back as my earliest vague memories. I don’t know why. Naked was somehow… better… more fun. My home was in the land of the Church of God, cold winters, moderate summers, and vast clouds of mosquitoes. My naked places were full of briars and sand burrs – and guilt.
When my parents were out I’d live around the house naked and when they were home I’d head into the forest, the river, and the abandoned fields that constituted our property at the time for summertime nudity. Sleeping naked even on the coldest winter nights and feeling pleasantly guilty about it. Streaking when I was a teenager and feeling rebellious about it. Nude modeling in college and feeling very cold on winter days.
I have long since given up any attempt to figure out why I have this drive to be naked. Probably at least related to my Asperger’s and my failure to socialize “properly”. My informal understanding is that quite a few Asperger children have a strong dislike for clothing. Perhaps I resisted the reeducation camp that is socialization.
I saw no harm in it. Aversion to nudity seemed illogical. However, being different from everyone else in yet another way – in a way that I couldn’t rationalize – made me feel perverse. I had to keep it hidden or some people would be happy to destroy me for it. It is was as fundamental to me as being straight or male, defying all efforts to change it. God said it was evil and sick. There were days I hated myself for it. It was far from my only stress but it made things worse.
A quick aside on terminology. There is a good deal of argument over what the differences are between a “nudist” and a “naturist”. You won’t find any good solution in a dictionary, it is all personal opinion. “Nudist” is the traditional term while “naturist” is a more recent creation. I think the only real difference is that “nudist” is a term more associated with a developed resort with a formal membership list. “Naturist” is more associated with nature lovers, environmentalists, and off-the-reservation nude recreation. Clubs that do not own land are more likely to call themselves “naturists” but there are no rules.
Personally, I kind of like the term “nudie” as an even more generic and informal term. I am too undisciplined and rebellious to adhere to a long set of rules or to pay dues. I use all these terms interchangeably – unless otherwise indicated by context.
And don’t you dare refer to resorts as nudist colonies. Sounds like a bunch of lepers.
I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian family and neighborhood so it behooved me to stay in the closet (even in the era of Woodstock) until I left home. The closet is an important resource for people who would suffer extreme consequences if their secret got out. However, you need to keep trying to leave that closet.
I did some modeling in college. The first time round I had a minor anxiety attack, based on what I thought was going on inside the artists’ heads and the kinds of experiences I’d had in the locker room as a young teenager. It was very embarrassing but I overcame it. Soon I became an in-demand model at both local colleges I attended and other nearby community colleges.
Part of me still felt perverse. I was still different in a “strange” way. Even as a model I wondered if I were posing for “bad” reasons. The best of people will doubt themselves if they are an outlier.
Once I had moved from conservative northern Michigan to “progressive” Southern California, the actual need for a closet was gone and I proceeded on that basis. As an adult, I made sure there was nobody close to me who would dis me for my (legal) life choices. I chose new friends who at least were tolerant of the idea and the surviving parent I left behind could stay in his bubble. I remade my personal world in order to be true to myself and to hide no more. Or at least not as much.
Forty+ years ago. A “model” student.
What inspired me to rethink things was an odd situation. When I first arrived I was still tweaked in the head, desiring social nakedness while at the same time feeling I was a “pervert” for wanting to do so. I saw a psychologist about this. She was convinced that I would overcome my “problem” if only I could work out all that pent up anger at my parents. She had me reciting every evil thing that happened to me as a child and beating the crap out of her sofa with something she called a “bataka“. This was a club made out of very soft foam covered by fabric. One couldn’t have injured a mouse with it but it made very satisfying thuds.
I felt remarkably silly doing this. She said to do it, so I did and she was happy. I mean it was a fun thing to do but if taking out my frustrations that way really helped, I doubt I’d
needed to see her.
What I did get from her was the importance of protecting and nurturing my inner child. Once I accomplished that, she felt my desire to “act out” would recede. Well, there was a problem with that. It was my inner child who wanted to run naked and free in the fields and streets and everywhere else. I wasn’t rebelling against my parents, I was suppressing the real me.
Once I accepted and loved that inner child I still enjoyed nudity, social or solo. I just stopped feeling guilty about it. I came out of hiding and started seeking kindred souls. I was as matter of fact about it as my love of photography or my love of nature. I would now seek the freedom to be me – and acceptance of the real me.
Boy, was she surprised!
The bottle was uncorked and the genie got out. I did strip-o-grams and erotic dancing in my 20s. (I have a wild side and am a bit of an entertainer.) Haunted nude beaches and a local naturist club called Elysium, out in Topanga Canyon. (No longer in business.) Modeled for anyone who’d draw or photograph me. If there was a party and there was a pool, my first question was if it was clothing optional. (They almost always said yes.) Pushed the limits around Halloween. The one thing I always tried to do was make sure no one present would be offended. (At least not seriously so.)
Sometimes landed nudist resorts remind me a bit of reservations. Or to use a harsher term, ghettos. They are places of safety, communion, and confidentiality but they are also closets, tho large and comfortable with all the amenities.
It is altogether too easy to imagine you still need the closet when you don’t. Closets offer so much emotional comfort that one can voluntarily turn into an agoraphobe. It is easy to build up a life in an unnecessary closet that makes it necessary again. Don’t do it! If you don’t currently feel that you are free to be you, your priority should be to change your life so as to have that freedom.
This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.
I think it is wrong to get all evangelical about nudism. I think it is misguided to try to coax other people out of their clothes. (And it is easily misinterpreted!) I certainly don’t want people trying to coax me into getting dressed. How would it be any different? Freedom is all about letting people come to their own conclusions. The struggle is the freedom to be me, not trying to make you more like me.
It doesn’t happen just in nudism, it happens in any belief system. I’ve seen it in every area of public affairs and it is little different than the pressure applied by a religious proselytizer, political radicals of all stripes, or a hungry used car salesperson.
The best sales tactic for an idea is simply to be a good person who models the idea in a
non-threatening way. No sales pressure needed. Or allowed. That is why opportunities for nudies and textile impaired to mingle in a non-threatening way are so important. You can’t “model” something if nobody is there to see it.
I don’t care if you are a nudist. I am not about to try to convert someone or even raise my own children to be nudists. All I care about is that you don’t care if I’m one.
If you know me for any length of time it is likely you’ll know I’m a nudist. If you can’t deal, you’re not going to be an important person in my life. And I deliberately do not make forays into social groups where disapproval would be likely. Why court enmity? (I have yet to meet anyone out here who simply can’t deal with it. They may think it humorous but I’m not feeling a lot of moral judgment.)
There are nudists who refuse to coexist with clothed people. I think it a mistake and a residual effect of the closet.
Probably a much higher percentage of the textile impaired refuse to coexist with the nude. It isn’t like vast numbers of nudists suddenly appear and push the textile impaired off the beach. What really happens it that some self-appointed moral guardian or an overprotective parent or a pandering politician will see a beach that is traditionally clothing optional and decide to use local indecent exposure laws to get the nudies fined, driven off and maybe jailed. Or maybe a developer who thinks the nudies lower the value of their property.
At the time I moved to California (the late 70s) it was a lot easier than it is today. “Clothing optional” was comparatively popular out here. Only a few years earlier nudity had been legal on Venice Beach. The Elysium club was going strong just out by Topanga. (It closed.) Unofficial nude beaches lined the coast.
I was also in an organization called Mensa. It was full of Aspie’s like me. This club had many special interest groups within it and some of them were specifically naturist and some were clothing optional. (Today, Los Angeles Mensa is a shadow of itself.)
All the local colleges of the day needed nude models for their art classes, something much less common today. Hell, even cold conservative northern Michigan colleges used them. Educational cowardice now runs rampant in academia. Can’t afford to offend anyone. Hecklers’ veto wins.
Male strippers for ladies’ parties were all the rage and I took advantage of it. Cal. State University Northridge even had an official nudist club called Au Naturel. It is gone too.
Used to be, unofficial clothing optional beaches could be found up and down the coast. I
still have a 1980 Guide to Nude Recreation by Lee Baxandall. At least in the southern half of California, almost all locations are gone. Between Black’s Beach in San Diego and Pirates Cove near Avila, there isn’t a single place you can go without risking ticketing or arrest.
There’s one beach by UC Santa Barbara (More Mesa) where the students go without being hassled (much), and another out by Gaviota that is simply so isolated nobody notices, but it is still technically illegal and tickets could potentially be given, should the sheriff get a fly up his/her butt.
What happened was that in the 70s, under the Jerry Brown administration, there was something known as the Cahill policy. (Named after the then State Parks supervisor.) Essentially, nudity was accepted on State Park land. If someone objected, the ranger could ask you to cover up for the day. No ticket unless you refused. To me, it sounded like a reasonable compromise so, obviously, it couldn’t last. It led to there being many small isolated beaches on state land where nudity was common.
It didn’t. They rescinded it. State Parks and Rec Dept. now has a “no nudity” regulation. It also has the option of creating nude beaches but refuses to do so.
There is no state anti-nudity law in California, only local and departmental ordinances. And a lot of places didn’t have a local ordinance. Since then the counterculture has abandoned their roots, freedom of expression has become a lot less important and the religious right has received a heckler’s veto. A lot of local ordinances have been enacted.
What we have left are landed clubs, non-landed clubs, private homes (with high walls), special events and backcountry locations. I have little patience with landed clubs. Too expensive, too far to drive, too worried about “gender balance”, too many rules, and too many people. Gates and security may keep you safe but they are also very limiting. That’s not real freedom.
But for what is lost, something is often gained. Today we have the internet.
It is easy to find fellow citizens with common interests in the most uncommon fields. Nudism, even though the participation rate is probably well below 1% of the general population, has a strong web presence. (On most social media it is a Bowdlerized presence.) Even if only a tenth of that could be reached, that makes 8000 people just in the Greater Los Angeles area.
Don’t do a Google search. Most of what you’ll get is porn. Hentai.
Non-landed clubs like the Southern California Naturists hold events at friendly locations. A group like that can rent a facility for private nudist use. (I got involved in nude theater and acting through them). Typical tract construction does not allow for the kind of privacy you need if your neighbors are pissy about it but people with high walls, money or acreage can pull off outdoor home nudism.
Special events are vitally important. How else do you demonstrate peaceful coexistence is even possible? Local ordinances can be ignored or amended to allow for them. Examples of such events include the World Naked Bike Ride, which takes place in many cities annually, even a city as constipated as Los Angeles. (Cities in the Pacific Northwest seem to be a lot friendlier to this sort of activity.) This year’s in LA was be on 6/22/2019.
A judge ruled somewhere that organized nudity for the purpose of political protest or art was a form of protected speech but just being naked wasn’t. (Spencer Tunick breathes a bit easier.) And in LA, with the right permit, you can do almost anything.
Another event is the Bay to Breakers race/parade across the city of San Francisco (3rd Sunday in May) which, thru benign neglect by the city government, allows participants to be nude. World Naked Gardening Day (first Saturday of May) never really caught on here like it did in Britain. The Summer Solstice has become a kind of informal World Naked Hiking Day where the daring doff their clothing on the national trail system. Events like this are important because they allow the general public to see and associate with nudies and learn it ain’t no big deal. With clothing optional beaches taken away, there is no other way to show that nude is just another fashion choice, no other way to integrate with the clothed world.
I have been known to throw “birthday suit” parties where I invite my friends to a clothing-optional birthday party at my residence. They can decide for themselves what they want to wear. They have turned out to be a lot of fun.
My personal first choice is backcountry naturism. The other people who go deep into the wild aren’t the kind who care. (If you get far enough into the bush, there is nobody to
care.) The times and places I go there are few people and no cell coverage. Only been completely surprised twice in 50 years so I’m not too worried. (Actually the same person, a bird watcher, on two consecutive weekends. It was a positive experience.)
Even if I do encounter someone, what would they do? There’s no state law against nudity and the local national forests or BLM lands have no anti-nudity regulations. The county of Los Angeles even conceeds that simple nudity is not illegal on local Federal lands.
I’ll give anyone I encounter their space, even do a quick cover up if a close encounter is imminent. I’m doing this to respect their potential insecurities – not mine. In the absence of objection, the “cover-up” gets dropped and conversation ensues. I want the encounter to be as free of perceived threat or animosity as possible. (I’ve talked about my proclivity for nude hiking in greater depth in another post in my blog.)
Unlike nude beaches (which local entities can instantly shut down) there are hot springs and known skinny-dipping holes on Federal land beyond the reach of the local sheriff. Some of them have large numbers of both nudies and the textile impaired mingling together in perfect acceptance. Sadly, like the very few beaches we have left, they require hundreds of miles and hours to get there.
Two of them are Deep Creek Hot Springs and Saline Valley Hot Springs. Both of them get a lot of tourists from Europe and East Asia. There are also quite a few hot springs along the eastern Sierra, especially around Mammoth and Bishop (Welcome to the Long Valley Caldera, America’s forgotten supervolcano.) and along the Kern River. The Transverse ranges also have a few hidden gems.
Nudity isn’t asexual. It is just as sexual as clothing – no more, no less. People will still get just as excited about a possible mate whether they are clothed or nude. The fact is that the more you hide the sexual cues that bodies put out, the more everyone becomes hypersensitive to them. The face, by itself, becomes more and more important as the rest of the figure is hidden. We start looking for proxies for the visual and pheromonal cues we are denied. Status, which is easily expressed in clothing, also gains in importance. Take this to its ultimate expression and we will all wear burqas but will be still just as sexual as we ever were. This contradiction is a recipe for disaster. (Sharia law, anyone?)
The nude life desensitizes one to those visual cues. If you see (or are) something often
enough, it doesn’t pay to get all hot and bothered about it because there is nothing special about it. Arousal becomes a product of context and contact – instead of speculation over visuals and negotiations over revealing them. Guys who don’t get this will be ostracized very quickly. Even apparent “oddities”, like piercings and jewelry in unusual places and shaved pubic regions, disappear into background noise. They only matter if you care about them.
Yes, I know. People fear there’d be mentally unbalanced people out there that would see this as an opportunity to go masturbate in some girl’s face. You don’t see this in Europe (where there are vastly more naturists and the people much less prudish) or on the few nude beaches in the US so, I suspect, the fear is far greater than the reality. My suggestions for an appropriate response are hysterical laughter, pepper spray or a kick to the groin, in that order. The few square inches of fabric in a swimsuit is not what prevents this from happening on a clothed beach. It is, rather, social stigma and fear of retaliation.
And of course, the inevitable shrill screams of, “What about the children!?” If you teach your children that being seen naked is traumatic, then nudity will be traumatic. If you teach them it means nothing bad, then it becomes… nothing bad. Same thing about teaching them that seeing someone naked is shocking or… nothing to get worked up about. Do you want your child to be easily shocked and traumatized? You don’t have to be a nudist or even want to raise your child as a nudist to do this. Lack of body shame is a good thing for everyone.
This is where nudist resorts are the most useful, in providing a controlled environment for nudist parents to let their children experience social nudity. (Nudist training wheels?)
Good clubs heavily vet their members and your kids are safer there than a city park. Still, the distance of the commute is often great and the cost of the dues are considerable. Parental supervision and instruction are always required for children, nudist or textile impaired, in ANY public venue. (Wish I didn’t have to emphasize that!)
Even children who have spent their formative years in a nudist environment may push back, if not when they realize that this isn’t what their peer group is doing, then when they hit puberty and things start going out of control. I think parents are duty bound to place their child’s need to fit in with their peer group above the more abstract benefits of nudism. If they reject the lifestyle, then so be it. They may well return to it as adults. Even though my own children sometimes ran around naked and went skinny dipping with me, once they went to school, fitting in was more important.
From about 10 to 16 I was probably erect more often than I wasn’t. I had some exceptionally wild hormones going on. Might be fine for solo nudism but other people likely would not have been forgiving.
Clothing is one way of denying the aging process and all the other “faults” we imagine in ourselves. (Along with plastic surgery, Botox and Photoshop.) Sagging breasts, small breasts, missing breasts, graying or too much body hair, stretch marks and wrinkles, large moles, birthmarks, extra weight around the middle or butt, jiggly thighs, man boobs, shrinking musculature, small penis, operation scars. Yup, a cover-up for all these things, a way to pretend we are not all bound by entropy.
An expensive suit is still attractive, even if the sagging paunch it conceals is not. (Perhaps another reason nudism never caught on big.) Easier for someone to hide their wrinkly patchy skin when picking up on someone 20 years younger. He doesn’t have to worry about his penis being compared and found wanting before he can even deliver the pickup line, while the correct bra makes her sagging boobs look perky. It grates on me that others’ insecurities dominate my own choices. Heavy sigh!
One day, millennia ago, the goddesses Truth and Falsehood went for a swim. When they emerged from the water, Falsehood took Truth’s garments, leaving Truth a bit chilly. But rather than don Falsehood’s trappings, from then on, Truth went naked
It may be inevitable that humans with something to hide would want to make truth illegal.
Most nudists are older people who have come to accept and love their imperfections. Mayhaps the time for game playing is over and clothing is just another tool in the game. They earned every one of those imperfections. They are proof of having lived.
There areyoung nudists, though not as many. (I think I was one from birth.) The perceived physical and social vulnerability and the fear of not measuring up to an impossible ideal keep younger women from baring all. And due to mini-cameras and the internet, even same-sex nudity in locker rooms is all but extinct.
On a positive note, “Free the Nipple” is catching on as a feminist issue using the “Equal protection under the law” clause of the 14th amendment for legal cover. The Venice Beach community association voted to allow top-free on Venice beaches once again and there is every reason to hope the LA city council will concur.
Young men are just as averse to being compared to an ideal as women (usually penis size and muscle definition) and conflate male social nudity with being gay or a sexual exhibitionist. They may also have an exaggerated fear of spontaneous erection. (It rarely happens and is easily covered by a towel or a jump in a cold pool if you are not in accepting territory.) Over the long haul, it is just a matter of acclimatization to a novel environment.
Middle age is also a time of greater freedom and greater personal resources for most. (Did I mention that club memberships are expensive?) The kids are out of your hair, maybe even off to college. You are probably hitting your peak earning years. Time to join the club you’ve been denying yourself. Visit a clothing optional B&B. Maybe even time to go on a nude cruise ship to some warm and exotic port. Nude cruises have become a growth industry.
So, here I am in my retired years. (And broke.) My wife isn’t a nudist but doesn’t have any problems with me being one (unless I get arrested). My children are both grown and not an issue. I wish our yard had a taller wall. I am tired of driving hundreds of miles just to be free and au naturel but I have more time to do it.
I do nude singing and acting in a little theater and have good friends from there. I hike often and if the weather and trail traffic permits, I hike nude. I am a member of a couple of naturist clubs that hold events and camping trips and whatnot. I see it as a good thing that I want to expand freedom of choice in clothing or the lack thereof. The laws against simple nudity and the public uneasiness regarding it arise from the same constipated attitudes that the old laws against gays and unease with LGBTQ+ issues did. They need to change.
Just because you can’t deal with freedom doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be allowed to be free.