This past Saturday marked the longest day of the year. Of course the day was no longer than the usual 24 hours of any other day, however astronomically speaking we in the northern hemisphere experience the most daylight on this particular day, so it is as worthy as any other day of celebrating by forgetting where one's clothes are. The Summer Solstice actually occurred some time during the early morning hours of that day while my two friends and I were breaking camp up in Vermont and heading out to meet with some others to continue our clothes free three day celebratory weekend with a ten mile nude hike on the Long Trail. I have not written with any detail about this event in the past so I apologize in advance for the length of my story to follow. However, it is in keeping with the significance of the day.
June 21 is traditionally observed as "Nude Hiking Day" on the Appalachian Trail, though the typical observation amongst locals and even many naturists often consists of making jokes about it rather than doing it! However, in beautiful nude-friendly Vermont, a group has been walking the walk, not just talking the talk, for years now. The summer solstice nude hike is both a long standing tradition of Naked Hiking Day amongst some of the through hikers on the AT as well as our informal group of freehikers from around the Northeast that get together on this day every year to celebrate one of our favorite passions. Our local tradition was started around ten years ago by my good friend Ed, who hails from upstate NY. We come out sometimes twenty persons strong for this one day, and hike a particularly appealing and relatively easy ten mile stretch of the Long Trail. We were an intrepid six by 9:30am Saturday morning this year, some of our previous participants were apparently deterred this year by the run of cool nights that we have had recently and perhaps due to the fact that the Solstice this year fell upon a Saturday which would beg the question for some of obligation to other family commitments. Participation does vary from year to year, so nothing out of the ordinary for us.
We met at a trailhead and parking area near the Big Branch Wilderness on the Long Trail, just east of the villages of Danby/Mt Tabor. We left some of our cars there, piled into two and drove north up route 7 to another trailhead on route 140 near Wallingford. Some of us have found it possible most years for this hike to leave everything behind in our car, thus I have always embarked upon the day's adventure wearing only my shoes, and carrying only water and lunch in my Camel Back. This for me has become an annual opportunity for me to be romping about for so long for and so far away from my clothes without a net. This year I had my doubts upon starting in such minimalist form because of the coolish weather but my early fears proved to be unfounded. The weather proved to be near ideal the entire day for nude hiking. The humidity remained low, the breeze remained pleasant, and the temperature though starting out in the mid 50s, just topped 70 degrees at its warmest. We have been very fortunate in the past with our luck in regards to rain and this year was no exception. Perhaps the coolest temperatures in the ten year history of this hike, but undoubtebly one of the finest days that we have had over the years in terms of hiking comfort.
Our adventure started at our chosen northern trailhead with us all tumbling out of the two cars, some of us already naked, the rest of us quickly becoming so, as we shouldered our miniscule packs, much to the bemusement of some northbound hikers who were passing through just then. After a quick photo op in the parking lot we commenced heading southwards for a hike that was to encompass about ten miles in total for the day. The hike begins by recrossing route 140 which was free of traffic at that moment this year. Years past has found us waving to passing motorists as we began our trek into the waiting cover on the far side of this road. The first part of this hike is a pleasant warm up, taking us up a half mile incline, in time taking us past some falling water quite impressively swollen this year due to recent heavy rains in our area. The excess water made for a picturesque New England style waterfall that tumbled down a multiple cataract some 75 ft in height through the forest to our right. I normally jump with glee into one of the bracingly cold jacuzzi pools here every year but opted out this year as did the others in our group, not knowing what the uncertain weather conditions of the morning would bring us further down the trail and remembering that I had virtually nothing packed along with which to warm up if necessary. A lost skinnydip opportunity this time my price this time for carrying on with my personal without-a-net tradition for this event for yet another year.
After a further long steady upward pull of about a mile and a half from the trailhead, our little band of nekkid warriors arrived at another interlude, a ridge top tree shaded meadow filled with a multitude of wondrous stone cairns, assembled over the years by passing hikers fascinated with the abundance of broken white stone laying all about. At this point we detoured northwest along a side trail and back down losing some of our hard-won altitude to enjoy the gorgeous westward view from atop the White Rocks bluffs, to stretch out for our first bit of open sun of the day and to bask in the much appreciated warmth. After an extended photo op, we scrambled back uphill to the Long Trail and resumed our trek southward and our climb to the highest part of our hike to a viewless 2500ft summit attained after some 1500ft of climbing from our morning’s starting point at the lot. Our route then took us on a gradual downhill cruise from there over some gently rolling forested ridges and along some enticing quiet bits of trail over the next couple of hours. We elected to take our lunch at a second field of rock cairns that we encountered shortly before topping the summit prior to the start of our extended descent.
The afternoon presented us ample time to quietly lose ourselves into the moment as we walked along. More time along the way was also spent swapping tales of past nude adventures through pleasant conversation as the spirit moved us. In time after following a jog in the Long Trial a bit further to the west at a confusing intersection with a snowmobile trail, we began hearing moving water once again. As we continued along we spied deep down into a tree filled ravine some 150 ft below us one of the outflow streams from Little Rock pond tumbling through the deep green understory. Knowing that we were near one of our favorite high point memories from previous years, our pace quickened, though almost imperceptibly. In a few more moments we descended down to our destination, Little Rock Pond which has always provided us a most welcome swim. This year, the swim was waiting for us as always, but the coolish weather discouraged all but one of us. No matter, the sun was warm by that time and we all eagerly stretched out upon a vacant trailside tent platform by east shore of the pond for a heavenly vitamin D fix. Our pleasantly sore bones and muscles were rejoicing over our wise choice from the available options to us for that moment.
The setting of this pond deep in the hills of mid-Vermont is idealic. The breeze was exceptionally light this particular afternoon and the surrounding hills towering over the waters reflected a soothing deep green within the muted blue of the surface of this pond. I can seldom walk past a good skinny dip opportunity and I was not to walk past this one this day despite my lack of acquired sweat. After I was suitably warmed by my sunbath, I hoisted myself up from my place of repose amongst the others, and walked down into the waiting waters without further hesitation. My determination was richly rewarded. The water, though brisk by previous years standards, was clear and inviting and uniquely soft. I swam two thirds of the way across the pond then rolled over floating motionless on my back and marveled at the endlessly changing wisps of high clouds that had just then resumed their journey eastward overhead. The water in this pond has a particularly soft feel to it making it always a joy to swim in. I am glad that I did and sorry that others missed out.
After we had all had our fill of rest, relaxation and refreshment in our spot nearby a gathering group of hikers preparing for the night up at the hut just above, we scooped up our meager belongings strewn carelessly around the periphery of the tent platform and resumed our joyous march southward for our last two miles of naked bliss. Now our pace was slowing quite noticeably, not because of fatigue, but because we all sensed that soon we must each contend in own way with our impending re-entering of the textile world around us. Presently we arrived back at the Big Branch parking area where we had left our cars some six hours before. None of us was in any hurry to find our clothes so we just stood around naked in the middle of the lot amongst the parked cars and bid our goodbyes and hugs for the year before gradually one by one, getting into our waiting vehicles and departing.
Some folks on the forums that I frequent and have promoted this event have expressed concern about the Solstice being on a Saturday this year. The 21st has come on a Saturday or Sunday before, and it has not been a matter of more notable concern for any of us on those occasions. As with any year, we did encounter some textiles along the way, and met as is usually the case, with generally favorable or at least neutral response. I believe that is in part because we are a group who are obviously enjoying ourselves in a most innocent way which serves to put to rest concerns that those we meet may have about our nudity. It is Vermont after all, and we are centering our activity upon a less used part of the Long Trail. What was unusual for us this year was that because there were no doubt more people on the trail than usual, word of our presence moved swiftly up and down the trail. Some of the people that we met had clearly heard about us and were not surprised upon encountering us. Some even had something in mind to greet us with including one group who sang us a round of the happy birthday song.
I have always driven up to Vermont from Boston for this event the day before, hiked in, and camped at one of the trail side huts in the Big Branch area. It is only about a 2 mile hike out the next morning to our meet up with the group. This year was different, only in the fact that I was able to share the journey up from Boston with my good friend John who lives near by to me. Also the two of us had arranged to meet with a third friend who drove up from his home in Connecticut by way of a side trip to Pennsylvania for a quick drop into the Eastern Naturist Gathering this year. So the three of us met at the trailhead late Friday afternoon, shouldered our tents and gear and enjoyed our two mile nude hike into the Big Branch Wilderness for what turned out to be a splendid if chilly evening sleeping under the stars to the soothing sounds of tumbling waters of the Big Branch Brook that night before the Solstice. Upon arriving at our chosen site just upstream from a trail bridge crossing, our tents went up quickly and we had our dinners to an extended twilight. By the time darkness overcame us around 9:30 pm we had a nice fire going which we lingered around before turning in, enjoying its glow upon our unclothed bodies to ward off the approaching mid forties lows predicted for the night,
Having carnuded from our homes, and still naked the afternoon before as we left our cars behind, and arriving back to the parking lot the following morning for our meet up with the rest of the group in the same state of attire, we had only been obligated twice to don any cover briefly, each time just downstream from our camp as we walked past a family of six that was occupying the trailside hut for the night, once while coming in and then again when going back out. They offered to share the hut with us for the night but we were more comfortable declining their generous invitation. So as we met the others for our annual hike at 9am Saturday morning we had already been off to a good start for what came to pass as a great three day clothes free weekend.
Once again, a great time was had by all this year. Start planning for next year. We do this hike every year on June 21 and all are invited to join us in the welcoming state of Vermont. I will post advance notice as we approach the date at this time next year.
John and I, both great procrastinators at some matters, had difficulty finding any of our clothes so the two of us were obligated to spend yet another night in the accommodating hills of Vermont, which I will cover in a post to follow.