2013 Summer Solstice Nude Hiking & Skinny-Dipping Trip
Guest blog by: Christopher Walter
The Ramapo Mountains were filled with the sights and sounds of life last Friday. Mother Nature couldn’t have put on a better show of her natural wonders for us during our summer solstice hike.
Introductions were made at the meeting point while we waited for everyone to trickle in. A short drive later we came to the parking lot by the trail head. As I stepped out the door of my car I was introduced to the first natural wonder I’ve never experienced. The 17 year cicadas greeted us with their musical mating calls. They continued to sing all day, much like crickets at night, but with a smoother more peaceful sound that can easily be left unnoticed in the background.
After a few words from our main guide our trek started. Right up a steep rocky climb for several hundred yards. I’ve hiked a lot of mountains so I would actually say it was a quick moderate slope, but for the less initiated it proved a slow start. However, our two first time guides proved worthy of their role. One took the lead while the other took the tail end until we were all together again at the top. Most of the remaining trip was much flatter and while we did spread out a bit from time to time our guides kept us corralled. But it did give me a chance to float back and forth and fall in with a few different people for some friendly conversation.
About half way along the first leg of our journey I was excited to see the second natural wonder I’ve never experienced, although others may not share my sentiment. I was secretly hoping to see one on the trip, but not quite as close as I got to it this day. One of our two fearless four legged companions named “Wolf” was sniffing through the short green undergrowth about two feet to the left of the person in front of me when he made a lurching jump back on the path. A timber rattlesnake was trying to hide while we passed by. As frightened of Wolf as Wolf was of him the snake tried to make a getaway right past me with his tail rattling away in warning. I instantly stopped in my tracks and yelled “STOP” and everyone halted. About 3 and half feet long, viper shaped head, with brown and black markings. I’ve never seen a timber rattlesnake before, but I can tell you, more than the markings, there is no mistaking that rattling tail when it slithers past you. Fortunately he quickly turned deeper into the woods and stopped about ten feet from the trail under a small bush. There he poked his head from the under growth and watched us until we left.
After about a mile we came to the end of the first leg of our journey when we reached the first lake. I have never seen such a curious but delightful sight. The entire lake was surrounded by Mountain Laurel in bloom with pink flowers. The swimming spot was empty so a few decided to jump in for a quick cool down before continuing. While we waited the cicadas finally decided to make an appearance. “They really do look alien,” Felicity laughed, as she snapped a picture of one that had landed on my shoulder. They continued to float down on us now and then throughout the day, and provided the dogs with some entertainment as they chomped at them.
Our guide informed us that the rest of our trail was used far less and one member said, “How often do I get to say I hiked naked!” as she undressed. I fully agreed and in a few seconds my clothes were off. So for few of us the second leg of our day not only turned into a skinny dipping adventure, but also a nude hiking, also known as “free hiking,” trip. About a half mile later, just before we reached our destination one of my fellow naked hikers just in front of me waved her hand in the air and called out “Hi!!!” I looked over and saw two hikers watching slightly befuddled as we passed. I smiled and carried on without a hitch, content and unashamed, happy to be dressed in nothing but nature. I imagine they had a story to tell when they got home. But maybe…just maybe that simple wave and hi from a naked hiker is all the love it will take to inspire one of them to find and join us for the next hike. And after all “It’s All About The Love,” right!
Finally we reached our destination. We spent the day at this gorgeous lake in the woods, exercising, skinny dipping, sunning, and enjoying each other’s company. A few brought rafts, two played paddle ball, I brought my scuba snorkel and swam with the fishes. We even saw two other skinny dippers down the way. Half the group stayed for two hours before leaving, the rest of us stayed for almost four hours before packing up to head back.
I don’t think it could have been any less perfect of a day! Many thanks to our organizers and guide who did a fantastic job. I am already looking forward to the next trip.
For those interested, here is an up-close-and-personal look at the 17-year life cycle of cicadas, made by Samuel Orr.