freehiking without a net….first of my season

A couple of weeks ago, I reported here on my first skinny dip of the season in nearby (to me) Ponkapog Pond in my hometown in Massachusetts. This past weekend, I enjoyed my first proper nude hike without a net for the season, in a patch of forest on the Connecticut-Massachusetts border adjoining the Solaire Nudist resort. Saturday morning, I had joined three other friends and my son, all members of our freehiking club ANANEC for an early season visit to this venerable facility in Northern Connecticut (USA). Since the weather that day seemed to us to be less than promising for any extended freehiking, our intent was remain low key much of the day, lounging in the club house, chatting, soaking in the hot tub, sauna, with some ping pong, and a short lived venture onto the rain soaked tennis courts thrown in to get the blood going. After enjoying our bag lunches, the sun made a feeble appearance, only long enough to entice us out of our indoor lounge chairs and onto a couple of the maintained hiking trails on the west end of the property. We had no sooner arrived at a memorial glen graced by a scenic if small waterfall out back behind the old clubhouse, when the dark clouds threatening us as we walked, began spitting rain. The others decided it best to retreat for another round in hot tub, but I was determined to seek the lay of the land for a time, this being my first visit there. So I wish them well and headed west out a dirt road past the old rifle range, and into the woods.

I immediately encountered some delightful old unused skid paths which lead me in a generally southwest direction hopping over many jumbled trunks of cut and long abandoned trees, and windfall both old and more recent, in numerous small clearings scattered throughout an otherwise dense and undisturbed second growth forest. These curiosities from a former time of hardscrabble farming, laced together by a confusing network of long abandoned paths, old stone walls dating to a prior century, and evidence of occasional door yards and cellar holes enticed me onward. Not having the sun to guide me, I can only guess as to my actual compass headings. Presently, I encountered the shore of a long swamp that cut through this area in a generally north-south direction. (I later confirmed via Google satellite view that this was part of the watershed for the Cohasse Brook Reservoir in neighboring Massachusetts) Not wanting to venture into that swamp and thinking that I would merely loop back and eventually return to the rifle range for a short pleasant loop walk, I turned left and followed the ridge above this swamp in a southerly direction for a while till I came to a large stonewall and decided to follow it “inland” for a stretch. After I became bored with the stone wall and after crossing a couple of low soupy areas infested with hungry mosquitos I came upon bit of more recent double track to my left which soon lead to a trail marked with red paint patches on some of the trees and occasional red ribbons. This trail showed some usage, so I decided to follow it till I came to something more familiar. Becoming progressively less heavily used, the trail became hard to follow at times and I lost it entirely at several turns only to find it again over the next rise. I even encountered a couple of forks where red marks beckoned off in two different directions. At times, I chose to follow only deer trails heavily marked with scat.

Those of you who have ever wandered off a trail in the woods may know where this is leading. For the past hour or so, I had been walking in ever widening circles, without any real clue as to where I was. I was totally without a net, ie. no clothes, map, compass, or provisions. Just a delightful overcast spring day, with temps in the sixties (F), and just enough rain to keep the tourists at bay, with just enough humidity to keep a light sheen of sweat upon my totally naked body. Like a kid lost in the largest candy store imaginable. The fiddleheads all around me had only very recently burst forth into foot tall proper green ferns of a most rich and brilliant green. Many species of bird call were to be heard overhead in a canopy only this past week changed from its winter form. In fact, the forest all around these parts has within the past two days, magically transformed into that lustrous green of early spring. Several crows raucously called out my location to anyone nearby to hear, however there was no one but me to hear their message. The crows most likely knew much better my location, then did I at that moment, but they gleefully kept the details to themselves.

I had cameled up well on water before I had left the clubhouse with my buddies, so I was not immediately concerned about hydration, and my friends know that I like to wander so I was not yet concerned about my absence raising any level of panic on their part. So it was my moment to savor and wonder in my good fortune to be out here and connected to our world in this most intimate way. My saving grace was that I would occasionally catch a glimpse of the large swamp far off through the woods over my left shoulder, when I would momentarily top a ridge line. Enough to assure me along with an occasional consult of the often unreliable moss to be found on the north facing side of tree trunks and despite my continued deprivation of nearly any other point of reference that I was now heading generally north, a direction that would soon take me into Massachusetts if I continued on. The worst that was likely to happen would be that I may stumble out upon a textile road and have to inquire of passerby the direction back to the “nudist colony” from which I had obviously “escaped” I might be excused in this case to use these terms for a moment to describe my possible salvation, as Solaire was founded in the mid nineteen-thirties when the textile world used such terms to describe the nacient nudist movement here in the USA. It is held by many to be the first and longest in continuous operation of any of the presently existing organized nudist camps in this country. “Camp” apparently also being a preferred wordage of the time. Fortunately for me, no such scenario played out, nor did the law from either state come looking for me. Just me alone, and naked in this magnificent New England forest dressed in its newfound spring attire.

To make a longer story shorter, I spent the next couple of hours roaming with calculated aimlessness in a generally northerly direction eventually arriving at a good size stream with a brisk current, not what I had expected, but later determined from my consults with Google view to be an inlet for the reservoir in Massachusetts. At this point I decided to backtrack along the mysterious intermittent red trail that I had been following for some considerable time and to continue to look for anything promising to my left, which would now be due East. Presently after a good deal more of walking, I came to a trail of decidedly different character that branched off to my left, so I took it. Within a couple of tens of a mile, I spied a small sign nailed to a tree that said “Solaire” in small hand printed letters with an arrow that pointed straight ahead. Sure enough, within another tenth of a mile, I encountered some yellow markings, the markings of the better known of the two on site resort hiking loops…. the “Yellow Trail”. The red markings that I had encountered much earlier on in my roamings, I thought at first may have been those of its lesser used sister trail, which is why I followed them. However, I had soon grown suspicious of my initial guess in this regard because of the discontinuity that I encountered while attempting to follow it, and because of the red ribbons attached to some of the trees which I later took to be possibly marks for selective future lumbering. A later consult of Google view showed me that the red resort trail was well east of anywhere that I had tramped on this adventure. The same map views also confirmed that I had most likely covered three to four miles, while touching upon two states, all within an area not much more than three quarters of a mile wide east to west and perhaps a bit less than two miles long south to north. Through the duration, I was not certain at any given moment whether I was on club land, private property, or public lands, however all three types are represented in the area, and all looked the same to me. I am certain that I traversed all three types during my unfettered hike. A fun adventure without a net, and a fitting start to what promises to be a great freehiking season through the coming months.

After stopping to chat with one of the resident members who I encountered sitting upon his porch during my jog back to the clubhouse, I reconnected with my friends and relished a relaxing skinny dip in the still bracing waters of the ample club pond followed by a marvelous soak in the hot tub. What more could a nudist in denial through the winter just past ask for? -freewalkerma-

16 thoughts on “freehiking without a net….first of my season”

  1. Ah…the great boots vs sneaker debate! I completely agree with your reasoning Richard F, but have no use for boots. Once wet, wet forever. I need something that I can slosh through a swamp in while becoming totally soaked and be completely dry in within half a mile of emerging from the other side! Also boots are way to much unsprung weight as the race car suspension designers refer to weight not carried directly by the chassis. Weight that is in constant bur erratic motion, whether it is car wheels and brake rotors, bicycle wheels, or hiking boots just cuts way into the efficiency of your attempt to maintain forward progress. It feels like so much excess baggage on your feet, far more than that which you may be carrying on your back, especially at the end of a 10-15 mile day.

    Light weight sneaker type hiking shoes have always served me very well on our brutal New England trails until I became interested in extending my nudity to my feet. There is nothing like the freedom to be felt while hiking naked and barefoot. Alas, after a few years of toughening up my feet as you say Richard J, and enjoying countless miles of hiking either barefoot or with VFFs (Vibrams toe shoes), I have had to put my sneakers back into the mix, for the time being alternating, depending upon the mood of my feet, between them and the VFFs. What forced me reluctantly back into sneakers was a case of Plantar Fasciitis which has taken over a year of patient acceptance to resolve, and a couple of broken toes (different occasions) suffered ironically, not on the trail but in my workplace and at home, while wearing my VFFs. The VFF's are still my first choice at the beginning of my typical day when I must put something on, and I was wearing them on the day of my hike without net, but I will probably be wearing sneakers on the upcoming 10mile Solstice nude hike, and during at least some of my trail time through the course of my nude week with friends in the mountains of Vermont later in July. I do not wish to repeat another year of hiking through the pain of PF which is still with me a bit, and my toe, still on the mend needs some TLC. So as both Richards suggest, take care of your feet with whatever works for you.

  2. I agree that you need strong, tough feet to hike nude but it isn't daft to work towards getting your feet tough. I have been working towards being barefoot most of the time for 9 months now and it has paid off in many ways. I still do need protection from sharp stones but get this with minimalist shoes. Currently Xero's but I am researching others.
    For me this is a health issue not a nudism issue.

  3. Traditional nudists often complain to me that I'm not "really a nudist" when I go hiking in the mountains with boots and a rucksack. My reply is that you'd have to be daft, (or have feet like leather!), to go walking anywhere outside of a nudist club, without shoes on to protect your feet against sharp rocks, thorns, and the like.

    I might be crazy, but I'm not stupid 🙂

  4. Thanks Nik. Though I would be remiss if I did not point out to everyone reading this, that I am not advocating for this type of adventuring in writing this blog. Nearly every summer I read of someone, always textile so far, having unintentionally spent a night lost in the woods sometimes not more than a mile from their doorstep in my home state of Massachusetts.

    Most of my freehiking and freepacking takes place on the long distance trails up in the hills and mountains of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, where a summer day can turn winter like in less than an hour. It is rare that I would set off on any type of hike in these parts without wearing at least a CamelBack with 2-3 liters of water, a bit of food, space blanket, compass, knife, and matches. Add to that, a sweater and my running kilt (loin cloth), if there is space left in my pack. For overnights and longer, I pack as most any ultralight textile backpacker would pack. I just don't wear those clothes to be found in bottom of my pack often, preferring to keep them dry in case of dire need. The above is the "do as I say, not as I do" part of this blog which I adhere to rigorously most of the time.

    However, every so often, going without a net just feels so right. Just don't say that I told you all. -freewalkerma-

    • Daniel, it's absolutely right to point out the potential risks, and ensure that this type of adventure should be done only if you know what you're really doing. Taking the essential type of things you mention is always sensible.

      Even walking locally in places I know well I usually take those items, and a bit more.

      However, hiking without a net 'just feels so right'. I'd most likely go to a few places that we know reasonably well, places that are fairly quiet, but not isolated. I enjoy hiking solo, but doing it with others when traveling light in more remote places is always the sensible thing to do.

  5. I can really relate to the thrill of a year's first true freehike without a net. I love the freedom of hiking nude in nature without carrying any clothing, the first such trip of the year is something I look forward to. It is a big step away from winter, the season I dislike most as a nudist.

    Thankfully you found a route back and avoided the need to find some textiles to explain your situation to in requesting help. Not that we should need to explain our nudity in such situations, but sadly may well find ourselves being asked about it.

    Hopefully that is the first of many more proper nude hikes without a net for you this year.

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