I offer the following as continuation of a discussion about urban attitudes towards nudity started by Shane recently here in his blog. Reading through his points and discussion that followed, crystallized in my mind a phenomena that I have been unconsciously observing during my nudist recreational visits to the State of Vermont in the USA, over the past several years. Vermont is one of those rare places on the planet where simple nudity is for all practical purposes, not illegal. I started this blog here to explore the notion that absence of repressive and outmoded law in a region may actually exert a positive influence upon the level of tolerance and open mindedness exhibited by the general populous in a given area. Places that come to mind: Vermont in the USA, New Zealand, Germany, and the Nordic countries. Perhaps in the UK as well though the seeds for change have been planted there only recently.
I also offer my apologies for feeling the need to insert a bit of trip report into this commentary about attitudes. I have just returned from a marvelous three day sojourn into that wonderful state, having only donned clothes for two quick runs from my parked car into convenience stores on two separate but brief occasions. Less than ten minutes of being encumbered out of nearly eighty hours of living naked, outdoors, and in surprisingly public bliss.
The occasion of this Solstice for me turned into a three day 30 mile slackpacking adventure up in the Big Branch Wilderness area in the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont, from which I just returned. I throw this in here because Vermont like New Zealand mentioned elsewhere on this forum recently and a few other spots on this globe has no laws that make nudity illegal. Yet on the surface nothing is very different there from day to day from the way it is nearly anywhere else. One does not see nudity very often in urban settings there. It's just not socially acceptable for some of the reasons that Shane cites in his blog about our disconnect from our natural environment when in urban environments. Perhaps also because of persistent patterns of social custom or "memes" as discussed in another blog here recently.
Yet as one moves away from the urban centers, differences between places with repressive laws in place and those that do not become noticeable, subtle but real. Still not much nudity to be found but tolerance is both there to be found, and it seems to be attracted from elsewhere.
I drove from my home near Boston to Vermont (about a five hour drive)in the nude, a pleasure as always when one can get out and drive free on road trips. The icing on the cake on this occasion, was that upon arriving at my trail heads throughout the three days that I was up there, all on remote dirt roads deep in the National Forest, I had no occasion to need any clothing whatsoever upon exiting my car, standing by the side of the road at the open hatch of my car making last minute changes to my backpack, walking down the road, sometimes a quarter of a mile at a stretch, etc the entire time that I was up there. Others drove by on numerous occasions including park rangers twice and observed me or me and/or our group as the case may be going about our business without incident.
Our club's annual Summer Solstice freehike this past Friday day had a great turnout,13 kindred souls in total some returning from last year, some new this year. We hiked the ten mile stretch of the LT heading southward between Wallingford and the Mt Tabor road, passing by Little Rock Pond. It was a smashing success by every account with the best weather for such an event in three years. The falling waters always abundant along parts of this section were impressively full this year, no surprise there with the wet spring that we have all endured.The foliage and understory were all gloriously lush. The forest glen filled with stone kairnes created by passing hikers every year was most impressive this year. Little Rock Pond was fabulous by the time that we arrived, all primed as we were, ready to jump in an enjoy.
We encountered relatively few people on the trail through the day all but us were textile, and most if not all of those were quite friendly to us, including a younger couple, who as in my case, were out for a few days of backpacking. The three of us had shared a tent site just upstream from the Big Branch hut on Thursday night. However,they recognized me that afternoon, only after I greeted them and their dog each by name. They laughed after fully comprehending for the first time, that this was the group and the hike that I had described to them the night before as simply "a celebration of the Solstice in its most proper of forms" and that it was me now in the daylight and in the flesh who had wandered over to their tent in the darkness the night before to greet their barking dog. Encountering one of our group near the back as we spread down the trail, the woman remarked to him "my, there are a lot of you", also commenting that she might like to try this next year.
A smile on the face of the woman grew into a giggle there on the trail in front of us in the first part of the group when I noted after our initial moment of mutual recognition that it was I who had been "mooning the moon" the night before as I made camp next to theirs after sunset and as I had crouched next to their tent for an easy twenty minutes in the darkness around 10:30pm petting their dog through the bug netting as they all three sat there inside of it looking out at me. We had spent that time joyfully conversing about our respective days' hikes, plans for the following days and we had made introductions all around. All the while they apparently remained completely unaware of my nudity just as they had been unaware of my arrival in the darkness.
Following our planned club solstice freehike on Friday, a new found friend from the group and I decided to overnight in one of the trailside huts about a mile in from a nearby trailhead. A dad and his son who had seen the two us standing naked by the side of the road behind our cars gathering our packs as they drove by earlier were at the hut later when we arrived . They had calmly parked just after driving by us and departed their car and hiked into the hut ahead of us. We lagged behind wanting to complete our day in the nude, covering up only when we arrived within 10 meters of the hut. Though I hike all long distance trails in the region naked, as a matter of trail etiquette I always approach a presumed to be occupied hut with cover. They greeted us in a friendly way as we emerged from the woods and approached the hut and invited the two of us to share the night with them, even though they had previously seen us butt naked and probably assumed that we had hiked in naked.
After gathering firewood and making camp together, the four of us went on to become great, if temporary friends through the evening. My friend went to sleep quickly but Dad, son, and I talked deep into the night about many things, camping, fishing, comparing gear, family life, sport etc. I asked the dad at a discrete opportunity away from the other two while we were gathering wood, whether our nudity at the trail head had been of any concern. He laughed and said of course not, not a problem for him, though he had had to patiently answer questions from his son not accustomed to such things in his daily life. Sensing a bit of the old "not in front of the kids" irrationality even though Dad seemed ashamed to admit it and probably could not explain the phenomena to himself or me, my friend and I chose to remain covered in our minimalist loin clothes while in their waking presence for the duration. An unspoken compromise which proved acceptable, even though my friend and I were clearly hanging out of our garments when various activity and movement made it unavoidable. Our mere gesture seemed enough to both Dad and son for the occasion.
I had occasion to continue the open dialogue with this same father and son pair the following day, as we met once again later on four miles up the trail at Griffith Pond where I once again encountered them there for a day of fishing. My friend had earlier departed to report to his dayjob. Though nudity was not discussed directly any further in my time with this pair those two days, it was no secret to them by the time it was all over that we both are nudists, hike nude, swim nude, drive nude, etc. That fact never came between us nor prevented an easy comaraderie from developing. These folks incidentally were from the nearby state of New York, not from Vermont.
On my last day in the same area by coincidence, another visitor, this one from the state of Connecticut, eased by me in his car, as I stood at the rear of mine in full view once again, gathering and rearranging my daypack in preparation for another freehike up to Griffith Pond. As I walked past him moments later, me still without a stitch as he was parking his car, we greeted each other and he asked me if I would like to share the first stretch of my walk with him. He was up for the day looking for an easy hike, getting back into shape after knee surgery and felt better not going it alone. So there we were for the next mile and a half, textile and nude, talking topics including hiking, fishing, and raising family like old friends. The two of us passed a couple of fisherman at different points along the way as they made their way back down to their cars. All taken in stride by everyone.
The aspect of all of this that allowed our club group and me to feel comfortable on these various occasions totally ignoring any social custom for clothes amongst passing textiles, was our perception that we were back here on these remote roads and hiking trails, accompanied by gorgeous falling water and northern forest vistas the entire way, all for similar reasons: to be away from the normal crowds of less connected city tourists to be found on some of the more accessible trails. We were all back there to hike, fish, camp, and do whatever in the name of healthy enjoyment, and not to pass judgement on how we each chose to do so.
Vermont seems to draw in its fare share and more of accepting folk, many from surrounding states. The reason may be for the fact that Vermont law is quietly tolerant of free behavior, leaving it as a matter to be socially moderated. Such blatantly free behavior is not something that I or many of us here would likely throw into peoples faces in a more urban public setting, again for reasons cited by Shane and others above. But it all worked out there in the back country just fine for all of us in this altered social setting.
There was respect, respect for each other, respect for the environment, and freedom from threat of arrest may be at the root of it all.