I did writeups on both trips for N. They are different from what I plan to post here, and include a few pictures with the articles. (If you want to see more, you'll have to meet us in person and ask for the "brag book".) I talked about the first one already, and the second one will (hopefully) appear in a future N. Since TNS basically owns the articles, I can't republish them verbatim here. I'm not sure if there's a legal binding for that, but I'm a nice guy and don't want to upset them. My two big reasons for sending them to TNS is: 1. to compete with Mark's freehiking articles. We hike in a much more populated area, more safely, and have just as good a time. We also encourage others to do the same. 2. It gets my foot in the door for more articles later, and ups my credibility since I'm published.
Anyway, lets talk about freehiking!
Our first trip was on an unseasonably warm day in March -- St. Patrick's Day to be exact. Temps that push 70 in March only happen every couple of years. After that is turkey hunting season, but I later found out that they have 4 days on and 3 days off each week. So it's possible to freehike, but it's also likely that we'll find people tweaking their hunting stands.
I had previously scouted out the trail at the Kickapoo River Wildlife Area - Wauzeka Unit. It has only one (reasonable) access point and a roughly 3 mile trail to the Kickapoo River, then another couple of miles along an old railroad through the river valley. If one is desperate, it's possible to loop back on some roads that I'm sure were last used 100 years ago. I hiked that part clothed, and decided to never hike it again.
My scouting was done after that one clothed hike (early March) and a few passes to see if any cars were in the lot. I never saw anyone else, so figured we'd be safe. That unseasonably warm day was coming up, so we made plans to spend it freehiking.
We dropped a sign and whistle on the ground (pictured below) and shucked our clothes after we were out of sight from the road.
We only hiked to the river, had a picnic in the "grass" (which was dead since the snow just melted), and hiked back. It was a very uneventful hike, but we loved it anyway. My girlfriend carried a sarong so she could cover up just in case. I was brave, I figured I could cover up with my hat if needed. Nobody ever saw the sign. Only the birds saw us. We were hooked.
Sadly, this trail is unmaintained. By the end of turkey hunting the weeds are high enough to make you say "What trail?" It's also warm enough for bugs. With standing water everywhere along the trail, I can imagine that the bugs are awful. This is a springtime-only trail. What was I supposed to do during the rest of summer?
I kept searching, and found a few maybes. There is one nearby at a county park, but it's short, also unmaintained, and only exciting if you love to look at trees. The Kickapoo Valley Reserve sounded nice. They are a co-op of sorts, in that it's a public park but not government owned. The website says "its...administration, and recreational diversity make it unique". It's possible that I could convince them to designate a clothing optional day where naturists can clean up the trail. It's a nice idea, but I'd need a group to help.
I scouted both of their hiker-only trails. The one that went to a lookout was OK, but in the sight of traffic half way to the top. It was also fairly short. The other trail that is longer is basically just a path that is unmaintained but used on occasion. I wasn't impressed.
The Duck Egg County Forest (and dam) was on my radar, and I checked it out after the KVR. The nice mowed trail and bridges over the stream seemed like a gift, and I knew instantly that this place would be perfect for freehiking. I didn't hike all the trails, only the main one. It was a Saturday afternoon and nobody was around. However, a car appeared in the parking lot during my hike. They must've been fishing, because I never saw them along the trail. Oh well, it was a Saturday. We aim to freehike on weekdays.
That's exactly what we did about two weeks later. On Monday, August 17th we planned a day of freehiking at Duck Egg. Through the weekend, rain was being predicted for Monday and there was a storm Sunday night. After that, it was beautiful. Because of the forecast, and it being a Monday, I didn't expect anyone to be there.
I made signs for three entrances, and bought four 2-way radios. I opted for the 2-way radios because they are less annoying than blowing whistles and allow actual chat. I left one by each sign. Our signs were much more informative this time too. They read:
[Front, in marker]
Beyond this point you may encounter Freehikers.
We're Nude but NOT Lewd.
- If locker-room style nudity serious offends you, turn on the radio and contact us (take with if needed) and we'll put some clothes on.
- Otherwise, we'll see you on the trail!
(Details on back)
[Back, in pen]
There is no law against simple nudity on public lands. Not long ago, skinny-dipping was common and widely accepted. The laws are against being "lewd" and "indecent exposure".
- We're not being lewd at all.
- This sign acts to avoid indecent exposure.
If you have any questions for us, try the radio or call us at our home number later: (number)
If a case went to court, this sign would prove vital. It says that we're not being lewd, and invites people to meet us on the trail without warning us. Also, if they consider nudity indecent, they can easily radio us. By passing the sign (which is very obvious at the trailhead) they are agreeing that they are OK with simple nudity. Also, the sign gives them enough information and incentive to be OK with our activities.
Duck Egg has 3 trailheads. That morning we drove by each of them to ensure there were no cars. The service entrance had "No Trespassing" and "Keep Out" signs all over it, so we didn't put a sign there. There was no reason the DNR would need to visit the site today, so we accepted the risk. We put up signs at the other trailheads. The one on the ridge wasn't the one we planned to hike, and I wasn't sure where the trails went up there. (I ignored my advice in the first N article, of knowing the area well before going naked.) The coast was all clear, and the trailheads were marked. This was now a clothing-optional valley!
The first bridge along the trail, which is around the first corner, makes a great spot to change to/from our birthday suit. We spotted several colorful birds, colorful butterflies, and a few bald eagles while walking the trail. A big difference from our last hike was that everything was green and grown in. It felt better this way -- more natural. I expected the bugs to be worse, but they weren't bad at all due to the heat. We didn't even wear any bug spray. Or sunblock. There were enough shade trees along the trail to keep the sun off us.
After lunch at the only amenity at the park (the picnic table), we explored around the dam. It's quite simple, but very neat as well. The high-schoolers have gotten to it though -- there is light graffiti on most of the walls. While we were running around and taking pictures, we noticed something odd on the bluff. A wooden structure of some sort. I zoomed in, took a picture, then zoomed in on the picture and concluded that it was either a deck or a lookout. Huh...maybe I should've walked those ridge-top trails too! If someone has a house there, I'm sure they are enjoying the view!
On the way out, I saw something on the trail that I knew wasn't there before. My girlfriend was in the middle of a story, but we stopped instantly. The trail takes a turn right there, and there was a bush right in the way. We knew a person was on the other side, but couldn't tell if it was one person, multiple people, man, woman, or kid. What is the safe thing to do?
"Did you see the sign?"
"Are you OK with it?"
"Yeah, I'm OK -- you guys are probably more comfortable than I am."
He was drenched with sweat, and averted his eyes as we walked by.
"Well we're not sweating at all at the moment. Deer stand -- I was wondering what that was! -- Good luck!"
Then my girlfriend started in again on her story, "Anyway...", it's like nothing happened at all. The rest of the walk back was uneventful.
When picking up the signs and radios at the two trailheads, I decided to try and find that lookout/deck/house thing. I kept my clothes on, which was absolutely horrible after we spent all day hiking in the nude. I found it and confirmed that it was a lookout along the trail. I knew that nobody was on the trail, so I whipped off my clothes and took a self pic with the scenery in the background. I at least put my shorts on while walking back to the car.
Literally two days later a new geocache was added in the valley. Of course, we had to go back and log it! (FTFN = First To Find Naked!) We did this on Labor Day evening. There was one car empty and one truck and horse trailer with a group getting ready to start down the trail. We weren't prepared to freehike, and it looked too busy anyway, but we had a plan! We hiked it dressed, grabbed the cache on the way, and took it to the least used trail for a quick nude photo. We had to hop around a lot of horse poop on the way so the trail was fairly busy over the weekend. I wonder what other geocaches we can find naked?
So what does next year bring? For sure another hike at each of these places. I also want to scout out a few new trails, just to see if there are other options. I'd also love to make it a group activity as long as there is a reasonable gender balance. (Girlfriend doesn't want to feel too outnumbered.) If you'd like to hike with us, let me know. admin -at- wwncw.org