We here in the Boston area have been enduring a repeated cycling between moderately warm whether and bone chilling cold…not the dry cold of winter, but that wet cold with temps hovering just above freezing that occurs here before the Great Lakes further west freeze over for the duration. This weekend just past, I escaped the misery for a time by heading north to the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont, just south of the Canadian border. Finally I have had the pleasure of settling if only for a couple of days, into the comfort of some true winter weather for the first time this season. Alas I have just returned home and the temps here are back "up" to 35F. Oh well!
It is becoming a twice a year tradition for me to join with friends on the Solstices, both summer and winter, and celebrate with special nude hikes to mark these culturally significant times of the year, so this weekend was no exception. The summer solstice hike in June is around 10 miles and the winter version every December is about 1/2 to 1 mile because of the more challenging conditions. These are understood to be "clothing optional" so that anyone who wishes may join in the fun and not feel pressured to remain un-clothed. I personally make it a point to do these hikes entirely naked but for VFFs on my feet. Both of these hikes are too long in their respective seasons for me to risk doing them barefoot. I generally carry nothing with me on either of these hikes except water and snacks on the summer version. Going without a net in this manner is my preferred way of observing these passages between the seasons. I can go without a net reasonably safely and others sometimes join me in this mode, because in a group, one person can carry what is needed in the way of emergency gear and we can share the carrying, passing it around in time and we can cover for each other in the event of a true emergency.
One of my friends, Jim Cunningham has been hosting a naturist Christmas holiday sauna party/potluck dinner at this time of the year up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont for many years. Several years ago, I started leading a Winter Solstice nude hike at his place for those who attend the party who are daring enough. We hike up into the hills behind his place which invariably feature some beautiful views across the valley heightened by the particular type of cloud cover and low angle sun light to be found only at this season. A few years ago, we even selected a Christmas tree, cut it and hauled it back down to the house. The weather varies from year to year, the lowest temperature for the hike that we have encountered yet is 0F two years ago and the highest has never been above 20F. This year we were greeted with a steady 10F and very little breeze. This icing on the cake for us this year was literally that, as in gingerbread fairy land. We were walking over about ten inches of crusted snow that supported our weight making for relatively easy footing. Every house, barn, bird house, tree branch, twig, pine needle, and cone as far as the eye could see was glazed in sparkling ice so we were treated to a magical view of winter wonderland as we walked along free climbing over and under numerous low hanging branches. The elusive sun poked through an otherwise leaden sky for a short time once for us yesterday. The view from the summit this year was one of feathery looking ice encased trees out across the valleys to the farthest summits on the horizon and several ridges in between. After yet another glorious Winter Solstice freehike, we joined the others back at the sauna at the conclusion.
I spent the weekend visiting Jim and his wife Linda and never bothered with clothes for two and a half days except for an hour this morning to go to Mass, just like a summer visit might be. When I arrive at 2:30am Saturday morning I unloaded my car in a bracing 0F night air while the great hunter Orion looked over my shoulder from above. Still naked from my three hour drive up from Boston it just seemed right to continue on without any adjustment.
There is always plenty of indoor and outdoor chores to be done when I visit and this weekend was no exception so I kept myself plenty busy when not socializing. By day, I found myself at one point in time stacking cord wood for an hour in 5F temps entirely naked but for my VFFs and still working up a sweat. Other times, found me moving stuff about the property outdoors, as well as doing some electrical work and other maintenance tasks for them indoors. At night, I couldn't resist going out for five or ten minutes at a stretch into the 0F darkness to marvel in the pin point clarity of the stars overhead and the pure crisp air, not being the least bit uncomfortable. Life this way is so brilliantly uncomplicated almost like summer, not having to take the time on each occasion to pile on layers of clothes, scarves, hat, boots, etc to go out and then just have to take it all off again to come back in, multiplied by numerous times each day. Just open the door and go out, do whatever needs or wants doing, turn around and come back in, naked the entire day….just that simple, so lazy and relaxing. My body gently says to me "its cold, turn up the furnace" as I first walk out through the door each time. It has learned not to scream this at me anymore. A moment later I am fully acclimated and comfortable, not struggling to keep the exposed parts warm in the face of what would be my warmer torso parts if I covered unevenly as most textiles do. Not cold, not warm, just evenly comfortable….as simple as that….and plenty sustainable for an entire day of mixed activity like this. To this day when I have to be textile in similar weather conditions, I experience discomfort struggling to stay warm around all of those places like ears, neck, wrists, ankles, and toes where the drafts sneak in just as most others do, thus I have come through personal experience to believe that naked is better in the cold for many regular day to day situations in the winter. I have also found that my ears, nose and extremities do not become numb or loose color when I am naturally exposed to the elements. This anomaly was made immediately apparent to me yesterday when I was stacking the cord wood. Normally, even if gloved while in textile mode, my hands would become hopelessly numb after a few minutes of handling the ice encrusted firewood and prying it out of the ground. I worked for an hour naked and of course without gloves or hat, and I experienced none of the usual textile induced problems.
I would of course take clothes with me and eventually need to put them on from time to time if I were setting out on an all day hike without occasional return to heated shelter. I have played naked in the snow in this manner as well in the form of seven to eight mile snowshoe hikes in the past without mishap and with much enjoyment of the special freedoms that winter offers us free range naturists.
Even after many years of being a year round naturist whenever possible, I come back from this relaxing weekend, still amazed at how well my body takes care of its needs when I don't meddle with the details by trying to force it into clothing in situations where it really is not needed. I would venture a guess that most any healthy person can do this and enjoy the unique pleasures that come along, given a bit of time to work into it. For reference if you care to experiment, I find that I am good for an hour or so at temps in this range that is well below freezing if I am doing something resembling physical labor, or five or ten minutes standing still as in star gazing. I can be comfortable and safe in either mode of activity for much longer naked if the temperatures are around freezing or a bit above. Wind and driving snow or rain are the deal breakers for this kind of winter activity just as they can be during the other seasons of the year. And of course you are advised listen to your body and don't ignore the possibility of hypothermia.
I have also dabbled at going barefoot in the winter as well including several times this past weekend. Feeling texture of the snow and earth under a bare foot and between ones toes is a most sensual experience of re-connecting with the earth as is the summer barefoot experience, though maybe not as safe. My limit is about five or six minutes so far in my experimentation with it, before I start to loose feeling, so I have not pushed much further into this frontier yet. My un-shod feet also don't gain any traction on snow. There is something strangely addictive about it all however I still find myself making do with my trusty VFFs through most of the winter for reasons of perceived safety.
I would be interested in reading of others' personal experiences along either of these lines of endeavor. I am particularly interested in whether there are any examples that can be pointed to in scientific literature, perhaps in native cultures around the globe where humans have adapted to barefoot in winter conditions. This has become a sticking point for me personally in my casual search for year round free range nudity. I may have reached some practical limits, but it both entertaining and rewarding to poke around the boundaries of possibility. Not a bad way to say hello to my old buddy SAD for another go-round
Naked cheers for the season to all.