Welcoming you all to that "other" freehiking season

The slightest of breeze whispers oh so gently through the balsams overhead. My feet, shod only in my trusty VFF KSOs gently crunch into the frozen lichen underfoot which cushions and cradles my every step forward; like walking on clouds. My clothes…..oh where are my clothes? I must have left them somewhere. Hunting season Down East is over. Other then these two faintest of sounds, the woods is totally quiet. I can distinctly hear my breath mimicing my favorite easy mantra…..huum…..sa…..huum…..sa…..huum…..sa……in the absence of any other sound. My soul willingly obliges and finds the moment. A heady scent of sweet spruce greets my nostrils. Christmas in the air! It is Black Friday, do I care? Should I care? I should think not!

The deep golden glow of the setting sun casts long purple shadows on the ground extending out to the right of every tree ahead. I take a few more steps forward and suddenly I am standing totally naked in a massive clearing of windfall. The storms the past three winters in these parts have been intense. This patch of leveled forest is up immediately behind my Mother's house, yet I barely recognize it for its former self in my mind's eye, in contrast to that which lays about on the ground before me now. The woodland creatures that make up most of the population here about obviously have no trouble with orienteering and getting around this area in its new configuration. As I cast my eyes about, deep hoof prints of passing deer suddenly become an object of my attention. Interspersed amongst the prints, I spy little piles of scat. Just over to my right, a large mound of bear scat. Aha, there must be other bares in these woods besides me. To my left upon a small patch of deep green moss, a few brown and white owl feathers are tossed about….dinner was served here not too long past, perhaps a plump little grey mouse. Looking straight ahead, following the line of deer scat and hoof prints, now in the process of freezing into permanent cast into the soil, I locate the old trail that I have been looking for. I eagerly follow it up into a stand of spruce, still standing tall, not touched by the storms past, awaiting the winter to come. Now a subtle chirping sound overhead. I look up and see nothing at first, then I notice….one particularly slender tree sawing against another accompanied by the same sound. Fooled again. Just then out of the low cover to my left, the same sound. I look and see the eyes of a little red squirrel peering out from under a spruce seedling at this naked stranger standing in his woods. He puffs out his cheeks and emits the same sound, just to mock me. A "nutty-hatch" (my mother's name for the species) swoops by in a gentle sinking arc just inches from my face and lands upon a knot on an ancient oak which marks a turn in the trail as it swings from the northwest to due northeast. From his perch just about at my eye level and not more than my arms length distant, he studies me with little apparent concern.

I move on. 3:30pm and the sun is not waiting for me at this hour upon this day, only a couple weeks out from winter Solstice. Over the next rise in the trail and a gradual swing to the west, I arrive at the shore of Penobscot Bay, the sun now upon the horizon, its enlongated and choppy reflection, a deep red swatch directly before me across the water to the opposite shore. It is only now, as the breeze kicks up out of the north across this suddenly forlorn appearing body of water, that I notice my personal fuel gauge rapidly sinking, like the battery gauge does on my smart phone, while I am intently trying to get just one more message through. The temperature this fine day in Maine has not topped the mid twenties (F) and it was no more than 22 degrees (F, -4deg C ? ) when I left the house the same number of minutes ago. I must conclude that one does not venture forth naked into such weather in search of outer warmth as one does in the summer. The surrounding cold sucking away the heat is not to be denied. Yet, one can remain surprisingly comfortable in the nude for short times even in such temperatures. The body readily adapts and takes it in stride, if only for a modest time. What one finds in return though is an inner warmth that may be difficult to find in most any other way.

Time to hustle back with haste. Not to worry, my way back is quick, very familiar to me, and protected from the rising breeze. In the gathering darkness, I will soon be sitting, still naked in front of the wood stove with another serving of pumpkin pie in hand.

Life is short, play naked. May you all have a great Thanksgiving weekend.


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