Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nudity and the Law in Washington State

A question often expressed in the various nudism forums:
I've hiked in the buff in Washington, but I don't want to worry about being seen because it's illegal. I've been to Rooster in Oregon and it was great. But I want woods and trails and legal nude hikes to lakes, rivers and hot springs. Legal to and from. Any ideas? Sure would appreciate any help.
Disclaimer: Legal information is not the same as legal advice . . . the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. Consult a lawyer for interpretation and information appropriate to your particular situation.

"It's Not Illegal, Therefore It Must Be Legal"

I've had many disagreements, with those whose opinions I respect, over the meaning of 'legal'. In our legal system it is accepted that what the government does not prohibit (makes illegal by a law, for example), is therefore permissible and legal. I accept that philosophical underpinning of our legal framework. Where my problem comes in is with the confusion and interchangeability of the term 'legal' and 'legal rights'. Lacking any specific law prohibiting nudity, going about naked may be legal in the State of Washington but that does not give you a 'legal right' to be nude in this state. Public nudity is not a 'legal right' anywhere in Washington . . . the term 'legal' implying a codification of a 'right'. On other words, your right to be nude in public is not protected by law anywhere in Washington State. Please do not confuse the two terms.

That said, anti-nudity statutes, making public nudity illegal, exist on the books in many municipal and county areas; so it is prudent to research and know the laws in developed areas. For practical purposes, it is not a good idea to go about nude where it is not expected or tolerated within the city (outside of your own home or secluded property.)


It is a rare town or city that has not promulgated an anti-nudity ordinance of some sort . . . or rapidly rushed one into being when faced with complaints of public nudity. Seattle has had anti-nudity ordinances in the past but presently doesn't have one, instead relying on the state indecent exposure law to prosecute nudity within the city limits.

Municipalities may also prosecute simple nudity under various 'disorderly conduct' ordinances. For example, this is Seattle's Disorderly Conduct ordinance (partial, relevant part):

SMC 12A.12.010 Disorderly conduct.

A. A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if he or she intentionally, maliciously and unreasonably disrupts any assembly or meeting of persons and refuses or intentionally fails to cease such activity when ordered to do so by a police officer or by a person in charge of the assembly or meeting.
While nudity is not mentioned, note that if you are told by a police office to put your clothes on and you refuse, you can (and probably will) be cited for disorderly conduct, at the minimum.

It is important that if you plan on getting publicly nude within the limits of a municipality that you have a pretty good understanding of what local law enforcement will tolerate. Festivals and events like the Fremont Solstice Parade (Solstice Cyclists here) or the World Naked Bicycle Ride are generally tolerated but if you walk naked as the day you were born up Main Street in downtown Everett you will end up in jail post haste!

County Ordinances

Every county is different on how they approach so-called public morality laws. Here in King County there is no ordnance prohibiting public nudity. Complaints of nudity are usually handled under municipal ordinances (if appropriate) or the state Indecent Exposure laws.

Just to the north, Snohomish County does have an ordinance (10.4.20) ) making public nudity within it's borders illegal. Passed to provide tools for the arrest of prostitutes and their 'customers', this ordinance has been used against simple expression of nudity within that county.

Washington State Code

The statute used most often in the State of Washington for prosecuting cases of nudity (simple or otherwise) is the Indecent Exposure statute, RCW 9A.88.010 and I'm going to quote part of it here as I think an understanding of this statute is very important as it affects nudists:

RCW 9A.88.010
Indecent exposure.

(1) A person is guilty of indecent exposure if he or she intentionally makes any open and obscene exposure of his or her person or the person of another knowing that such conduct is likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm. The act of breastfeeding or expressing breast milk is not indecent exposure.

In order to make a charge of indecent exposure, and to have it stand in court, all elements above have to be met:
  2. That it was done INTENTIONALLY, and
  3. That it likely would cause reasonable AFFRONT or ALARM
Whether you intentionally get naked with the knowledge that it is probably going to cause affront or alarm, the expression still has to be an 'obscene exposure'. There is a lot of confusion even in the law enforcement community over the difference between what we call 'simple nudity' and 'obscene exposure'. For most police officers, just the fact that you are nude is often enough for them to consider it obscene and arrest you . . . leaving it to the courts and prosecutor to sort the charging elements out. Of course, it costs you time and money, and sometimes your reputation, to defend yourself.

Much more onerous is that a police officer in the State of Washington does not need a warrant to make an arrest for indecent exposure . . . just probable cause and a complaint (RCW 10.31.100: Arrest Without Warrant). Most misdemeanor offenses are cited and the individual sent on his or her way with a promise to show up in court. Knowing that previous arrests for simple nudism under the Indecent Exposure statute rarely stand up (unless you plea the charge), the police have learned that as soon as they have one complaint this statute allows them to get the 'offending' person off the street with no repercussions. Immediate problem solved and the 'perp' is quietly released at the precinct a few hours later.

One important note on 'pleading the charge': Don't! If you meekly stand by and accept what the prosecutors and police suggest . . . plead 'guilty' . . . it's just a misdemeanor and a small fine . . . then you end up with a record for "indecent exposure" AND you could face the prospect of being labeled a sex offender and be required to register. Get a competent lawyer and fight the charge!

It should be noted (with limited exceptions) that state law does apply on federal lands (and I'll discuss that later in this article). If you are going to be cited and/or arrested because you are nude, it is probably going to be under the Indecent Exposure statute, RCW 9A.88.010. I've been told by the King County Sheriff's department that a complaint must be made by someone alleging affront and alarm; a deputy cannot be a victim of indecent exposure (aka nudity in their eyes). As the spokesman states, "I guess the courts have figured we've seen it all." Lost in most minds is that the exposure must also be 'obscene', a required charging element for indecent exposure in this state and most others. Without a complainant willing to testify before the court most indecent exposure charges are quietly dropped. Don't be coerced into admitting guilt.

Obscenity, Community Standards and the Supreme Court

In Washington State the Indecent Exposure statute states "any open and obscene exposure" as one of the elements for charging. In most other states, indecent exposure is defined as "exposing one's genitals under circumstances likely to offend others" following what are called 'contemporary community standards'. The judge (or jury) as trier-of-fact gets to determine what those community standards are. However, Washington State adds the words 'obscene exposure' which . . . at least in my mind . . . raises the standard to those defined by the Miller Test of Obscenity as defined by the Supreme Court.

"While public nudity is objectionable to many citizens, under Washington state’s Indecent Exposure Law, public nudity in itself is not illegal. The law specifies that ..." Kenneth R. Bounds, (former) Superintendent, Seattle Parks and Recreation, responding to a compliant, dated 12 July 2006, about World Naked Bike Ride Seattle

"nudity alone is not enough to make material legally obscene under the Miller standards." 418 U.S. 153, 161 (1974)

Obscenity, lewd behavior, indecent exposure are relative terms. As one Supreme Court Justice said, "I know it when I see it." (Justice Potter, 1964) Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964)

The current test for obscenity rests with the Miller Test (Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15, 24-25 (1973). The Miller Test requires a Three-Pronged approach for courts to determine whether an act or expression is obscene:

"(a) whether "the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, [Roth, supra, at 489,]

(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and

(c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

If a state obscenity law is thus limited, First Amendment values are adequately protected by ultimate independent appellate review of constitutional claims when necessary. [Pp. 24-25.]"
emphasis mine

The precedence of the Miller test holds in our state courts (see last para above). Lacking any patently offensive sexual conduct, simple nudity cannot be considered 'obscene'.

I'm not telling you to go out and test that defense (well, one, I'm not a lawyer). Just stating that this is how we need to approach the conundrum of simple nudity versus those who get nude in public for sexually-explicit purposes. It is our job as nudists to educate our politicians and law enforcement departments of the difference between these two mutually-exclusive activities; gaining wider acceptance of our lifestyle.

State Parks

Public nudity is specifically prohibited within Washington State Parks under an overriding state interest and authority of the statute creating the state park system.
WAC 352-32-100, Disrobing

State DNR Lands

The story behind Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) land is less clear. The WAC 332-52 (Washington Administrative Code) does not address nudity on DNR lands, leaving state statute to apply . . . the Indecent Exposure statute RCW 9A.88.010.

Federal Lands within Washington State

National Parks

Within federal public lands (the National Forests, National Parks and BLM lands) the situation is a little more muddied, additionally depending on the nature of who has jurisdiction. Within the State of Washington, National Parks (such as Olympic National Park, Rainier National Park, etc.) retain Exclusive Jurisdiction by the federal government to where state and county laws are not enforceable or applied by local law enforcement agencies. Although there is no federal prohibition against nudity, National Park Superintendents are empowered to set rules prohibiting nudity within their park boundaries, enforceable by Park Rangers.

Such is the ongoing up and down situation at Playlinda Beach within the Canaveral National Seashore in Florida wherein the Park Superintendent has been influenced to pass prohibitions against nudity by Brevard County Commissioners. National Parks/Seashores and Monuments are heavily visited places and like it or not, public nudity is frowned upon and if it becomes a problem, will have prohibitions made in the form of 'rules'. Some areas are set aside, or designated. Within our Olympic National Park, it is accepted that nudity will happen at Olympic Hot Springs and therefor a sign warning of the clothing-optional nature of the springs has been posted. I have never heard of a nude soaker being cited up at those hot springs.

The upshot, in National Parks, is to only get nude in specifically designated clothing-optional areas . . . or deep in the wilderness where the matter is moot.

BLM Lands

Bureau of Land Management lands (under the Interior Department) also retain exclusive jurisdiction over public domain lands under their control, although typically they have not made any 'rules' addressing public nudity within the areas they control. Federal land, wherein the federal government has Exclusive Jurisdiction, is not subject to the enforcement of the laws of States or Counties by local law enforcement personnel. Federal rangers enforce the law, including state laws assimilated as appropriate.

The Assimilative Crimes Act

*Image is a citation written by a Federal Park Ranger pursuant to Title 18 (13)USC for violation of NY State Penal Code (245.01-Public Exposure (Nudity)). It is an example of the use of the Assimilated Crimes Act. No, it's not mine.

Let's muddy this all up a little bit more. In areas where the federal government exercises exclusive jurisdiction, the Assimilative Crimes Act allows the feds to to charge you with an federal offense under Title 18 for violation of state law (typically used for motor vehicle violations on federal park and forest roads).
TITLE 18, Part 1, Chapter 1, § 13. Laws of States adopted for areas within Federal jurisdiction

National Forests

National Forests in the State of Washington retain 'concurrent jurisdiction' between the federal government and the state . . . which means that National Forest land within the boundaries of a county is subject to state law. National Forest Regions (of which the northwest (Washington and Oregon) is in Region 6) can also publish rules prohibiting activities, including nudity. So far, there is no Forest Service rule prohibiting nudity within the National Forests in Region 6. However, next door in Idaho, of which the southern portion is in Region 4, there is a Rule prohibiting nudity in the National Forests of that region.

Since the state retains concurrent jurisdiction, the Forest Service typically contracts 'cooperative law enforcement agreements' with counties to patrol and enforce state law within national forest land. King County, for instance, has a Cooperative Law Enforcement agreement with the Mt Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest in which a part-time deputy patrols the Forest Service roads and trailheads during the prime hiking months (May - Oct). If you are observed nude by a King County deputy at a trailhead on National Forest land you will be approached. If there is a complaint (perhaps called ahead by cellphone), you could be cited under State statutes . . . usually 'indecent exposure'. Since the jurisdiction permitted is between the State and the Federal government, local law enforcement officers can only enforce state laws; not local county ordinances.

Does this mean I can't hike nude?

Not at all! Just use some commonsense when hiking. Local sheriff's checking the forest service roads and the trailheads under a cooperative LE agreement are not going to hike any respectable distance up a trail unless there is compelling reason to do so. They are patrolling to insure safety on the back roads and trailheads . . . while we enjoy the back-country. If there is a serious crime reported in the wilderness (the Mt Pilchuck murders in July of 2006, for example) you can expect deputies to be all over the trail. But they 'ain't' gonna hike in there to arrest a hiker enjoying the wilderness au'natural . . . unless there are complaints.

Most people in the backwoods don't care . . . or have skinny-dipped or hiked nude themselves. It's a mindset of the type of people who like to get more than a few miles into the forests and mountains . . . easy-going, let others be themselves. Most rangers take their jobs because they are of this same persuasion. At Olympic Hot Springs a Parks LE Ranger and his wife are frequent nude soakers in the springs. Rangers have more pressing jobs to deal with than naked hikers.

But Which Trails?

  • Consider the popularity of the place you want to hike. If it is very popular (say the Tonga Ridge Trail if it ever reopens), then you are going to run into the urban hikers who transplant their city thinking into the woods once or twice a year.
  • Is the trail popular for families with children? Parents get very protective around their children. Likewise, do not hike nude through a campground where others may be suddenly startled.
  • Hike on a weekday. Trails get less use on a weekday and you can usually tell at the trailhead if there is anyone else on the trail ahead of you.
  • Avoid 'loop' trails and those trails with trailheads at both ends. You're less likely to come upon a hiker from the opposite direction.
  • Wait until you are well on the trail before stripping down. The problematic people will not hike much more than a couple of miles before turning around. Try to avoid hiking nude from the trailhead unless you are reasonably sure you have the trail (and the trailhead) to yourself. Consider that the Forest Service is considering installing cameras at popular trailheads to cut down on vandalism.
  • Hike with your senses attuned for approaching hikers. Popular trail and the sight-distance ahead is suddenly gone? Consider putting on a pair of shorts . . . at least until you can see where you're going on the trail ahead.
  • Confronted? Grin and Bare It. Most people don't care. Many wish they had the guts to hike nude. Some will even strip down the moment you pass them and enjoy nature, likewise.
Perhaps the best way to break into nude hiking and benefit from the confidence and knowledge of others is to join a Nudist Travel Club such as the S.L.U.G.S. (or Sun Lovers Under Gray Skies). A travel club is often focussed on public lands nudism and the members are familiar with trails that are amenable to hiking nude.

So get out there and get nude. Quit worrying so much. Just use commonsense.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Be Prepared When Nude Hiking in Cold Weather

I've gotten a few emails from readers wanting to get out there and hike nude in the snow. For most of us the mere thought of getting naked in near-freezing weather does not sound like very much fun, but I can assure you that the human body is very much capable of dealing with cold weather and the experience can actually be very comfortable, serene, invigorating and freeing. You just need to take some commonsense precautions. If that weren't enough to get you out there, trails and routes that are otherwise too popular or overrun by textiles and families in the warmer months are often all yours with nary another soul to bother you (heck, the lack of tracks in the snow tells you no one is on the trail ahead of you!)

Perhaps I should call it "nude backpacking" as opposed to nude hiking or free-hiking. During the warmer months on shorter day routes I prefer to hike with the least amount of covering possible (a hat, hiking shoes and a fanny pack slung over my shoulder . . . sometimes absolutely nothing at all.) I've been known to take all my clothes off, stack them neatly and wander off completely naked as the day I was born. One writer describes that type of exercise as an epiphany for the now, newly converted nudist. You will never want to hike in any other form . . . except when the weather requires it.

In winter (or any weather that is likely to turn inclement) you'd be foolish to hike without the essentials to insure your survival should things go wrong. One reader commented on the size of my backpack, asking how much it weighed. Well, it does look big on my back but if you pack judiciously a 'survival' pack could weigh in about 15-25 lbs which is easily carried in a well-balanced backpack. For me, the most cold-sensitive portion of my anatomy is my back . . . a cold chill down the spine can instantly send me into shivers. Since the pack sits slung over my back I tend to stay warm in that area.

"Clothing" for when you need to warm up

Look at what it takes to keep you warm, dry and comfortable while standing in the snow next to your car at the trail-head and that is what you need to carry with you in your backpack. I pack (after I undress, no need to duplicate):
  • Thermal, wicking undergarments (remember, no cotton; it gets wet or soaked from perspiration and you freeze),
  • Two extra pairs of wool socks and an extra pair of wicking undersocks,
  • Wool Sweater (tight-weave, thick fiber has the best insulating properties and insulates even when wet),
  • Snow pants (insulated, the type you'd wear skiing or snowboarding),
  • Your windproof, water-resistant outer-shell parka,
  • A second pair of snow gloves or mittens,
  • A small towel to dry yourself off with should you get wet.
I carry these items in a 45-gal 3mil black plastic trash bag (the contractor cleanup type) stuffed back into the pack to keep them dry. The trash bag can serve double-duty as something to sit on, on wet ground or snow, an emergency shelter or as an impromptu poncho by poking three holes in the bottom and pulling it down over your head and arms. I also carry a second trash bag in the pack. Pack your clothes near the top where you can get at them easily should the weather get ugly or you need to warm up. A little trick . . . activate one or two of those foot or hand warmer packets and fold your inner clothes around them to keep them nice and warm for when you do need them.


Food is an essential even if you are only going on a four-hour day hike. What would happen if you got lost or were forced to weather out a sudden snowstorm. I carry the following supplies in a separate ditty bag in the backpack:
  • 9- Top Ramen (easy to prepare comfort food to warm your soul, body and spirit),
  • 3 foil-sealed packages of tuna (for protein), one of the cellopaks of saltine crackers from the 4-pack boxes, an assortment of individual-serve mayo, relish and salt and pepper packs shamelessly stolen from BurgerKing,
  • 9 hot chocolate singles, baggies of instant coffee, creamer and sugar, a few plastic spoons and forks,
  • 4-5 large bars of chocolate; full of slow burning fats and sugar energy . . . the hikers friend and an essential when you are burning large amounts of calories to maintain your body temperature,
  • My whisper stove and a few canisters of butane (above 5,000 I would carry a multi-fuel stove as butane doesn't work very well at altitude),
  • My trusty GI-mess kit,
  • The fire kit: A good supply of waterproof, strike-anywhere matches (make your own, coat matches in paraffin and store in a waterproof container. Add a striker surface (emery board, small piece of sandpaper). Add a 30-hour candle or two, a magnesium striker and tube of fire-starter paste and you should be able to light a fire in pretty much any situation.
I don't expect to have to dig into the food bag on a day hike. It's there on the off-chance that I'm going to have to survive on my own for a couple of days . . . and yes, I have. I overextended myself on one hike into the Glacier Wilderness, running out of daylight to the point where I had to stop and make camp out of my emergency supplies. It can (and will) happen.

I always practice bear-protocol, even when any sensible bear should be hibernating in winter. The food bag has a 50 ft length of strong nylon cord inside that can be used to raise it up out of bear reach. The cord would come in handy for a lot of other uses, as well.

Paraphernalia in the Outer Pouches

In the outer pouches of my pack I carry the paraphernalia of modern society. The most important one a First Aid Kit. The first aid kit doesn't have to be elaborate but should have a few hiker's-essential supplies like moleskin for blisters, band-aids, ointments, gauze pads, some safety pins, etc. to cover the typical scrapes and bruises all hikers get. I carry the old style styptic pencil that shaver's use to use to stop minor scratches from bleeding. A small roll of duct tape in the pack along with a couple of emergency mylar space blankets cover many other potential repair and emergency situations.

I carry my cell phone, my camera and my GPS unit when I hike. When I hike with friends I also like to hike with a set of FRS radios to stay in contact. I also carry one of those neon headlamps for nighttime use. All of these require batteries. You should have a set of backup batteries for all items and you should try to keep these batteries protected from the cold. Cold drains a battery in half the normal time.

In another pouch I carry my maps and charts, compass and a few other essential items.

My Bear Deterrent spray and my hunting knife seem to permanently be on the belt of my backpack. I leave them there . . . never had to use the spray.

On the back rigging I carry a small, collapsing snow shovel.


While it may seem that with snow all around there is no need to carry a lot of water, dehydration is a serious problem for cold-weather hikers . . . and even more for nude, cold-weather hikers. Very cold air is also very dry air, as moisture condenses out with dropping temperature. That dry air sucks moisture from your skin and breath very efficiently. Constant hydration is very important. So three important points:
  1. Carry plenty of water and be prepared to obtain more. My backpack has a three-liter hydration bladder built into it, which is normal enough for the typical day hike. A hose snakes out of the top of the pack within easy reach to draw a sip on. I also carry a Sweetwater Filter to filter water from opportune sources along the trail. Try to avoid eating snow to hydrate yourself as all you're doing is lowering core body temperature to melt that snow. The hiker's rule-of-thumb for sufficient hydration is that if you are urinating clear you are sufficiently hydrated.
  2. Your exhalations are the largest source of dehydration in cold weather. Just look at your breath and see all that moisture condensing to a fog. You should avoid breathing through your mouth in cold weather . . . your nostrils are far more efficient at retaining body heat and moisture. Cold weather often induces a stuffy nose so carry decongestants in your first aid kit.
  3. Your skin transpires as much water out of your body in cold dry air, as it does trying to stay cool during hot weather. You lose both water and body heat. An answer I've found is that if your keep your skin moisturized ahead of time you will feel a whole lot warmer and less chill-bound (a sign that your skins is transpiring moisture). Take care of your skin and it will take care of you. Moisturizing your skin also makes it somewhat water-repellent . . . melted snow flakes and rain will ball and roll off your skin quickly without wetting large areas. Remember, water conducts heat away 50 times more efficiently than air.

    When I shower I liberally moisturize myself with simple ole baby oil . . . mineral oil. You can find fragrance-free baby oil if the aroma seems too childish . . . doesn't bother me. The treatment makes my skin feel alive and aware. Prior to a hike I rub in some of the leftover suntan lotion I always seem to accumulate in squeeze tubes in my car. The lotions have an efficient moisturized content as well as the UV-protection . . . which mustn't be forgotten, even in winter.

What this Nude Hiker typically wears on a cold weather hike

You've got your backpack set, you've reached a spot where you feel the desire to be free of the bulky clothes and hike naturally. Put as much attention to undressing and packing for need as you did for the rest of your supplies. Despite how careful I try to be, I have fallen through weakened snow-bridges on several occasions and appreciate being able to find dry clothing quickly in my backpack to warm up. Set your pack down where it won't get wet or tip over and carefully undress and fold your clothes in a logical order . . . the order you'd want to retrieve them in a hurry. The last item to come off should be your top . . . gives you a chance to acclimatize yourself to the sudden cold, which is a shock to everyone. You will quickly warm as your metabolism kicks into higher gear.

With my clothes packed safely away and the backpack slung over my back, this is what I'm typically wearing from top on down:
  • A knit wool cap (60% of your body heat is lost through the top of your head; more for balding people like me. That is a fact . . . wear a hat!),
  • Sunglasses on a retainer around my neck. Snow blindness is not fun! Get a good pair of mountain glasses,
  • The pack on my back. I typically do not belt mine as the weight is easy to carry and I enjoy the extra skin exposure,
  • My thermos in a water-resistant carrier bag looped over head and shoulder. I either fill mine with hot chocolate or coffee. Coffee is a no-no, as it's a diuretic but I love my coffee,
  • My digital camera attached to a very light-weight collapsing tripod slips into the side rigging of my backpack. With exposed metal surfaces, try coating with the plastic dip used for tools. Helps to prevent cold-contact discomfort when you have to handle those metal surfaces,
  • Gloves. Mine are thermal Thinsulate gloves which convert to mittens easily yet give the dexterity of a warm glove. Fingers, poorly supplied with blood, are quickly affected by the cold,
  • Two pairs of socks (an inner wicking pair under woolen hiking socks) keep your feet warm and dry, and resist blisters as the two pairs slide against each other rather than your feet,
  • A good pair of leather hiking boots . . . pre-worked in and treated with water-repellent. The tongue should be continuous to keep out snow and moisture. Choose hooks rather than eyelets for the top to make tying easier with cold hands. The boots should also have the heel catch for use with snowshoes,
  • Over the boots I wear calf-covering gaiters to keep snow off my lower legs and out of the top of my boots. The REI branded ones I bought have a reflective insulating inner surface that keep my lower legs and feet toasty warm,
  • Snowshoes (mine are Denali Evo Ascents). Don't skimp. These are what keep you up above the surface of the snow instead of post-holing to your crotch with every step. Choose snowshoes designed for your weight and the type of terrain you typically hike in (flat, alpine) . . . and for the weight of the snowshoes. Technical use of snowshoes is beyond this article. Learn to use them ahead of time . . . it's not that hard,
  • Poles. Forget expensive trekking poles unless they already have snow baskets. I use my ski poles.


Acclimatization to cold weather is a 'learned' response over time. The Inuit of the arctic have a markedly lower core body temperature to what we consider normal (95F to our 98.6F) and have tuned their basal metabolism and circulation to be as efficient as ours at this lower temperature. They can withstand cold temperature far more efficiently than us 'southerners' can.

The metabolic response to temperature changes is a complicated one. Simply stated, we, as warm-blooded beings, can only burn fuel (food) for cell energy within a narrow range of temperatures . . . the core body temperature. Our body will go to great biologic and physiological extremes to maintain that core body temperature. Understanding this metabolic response is important to knowing your limitations and the dangers hypothermia represent . . . especially to a nude hiker totally exposed to the elements. Acclimatization increases your metabolic efficiency and allows you to stay warm for longer periods of time. Remember, clothing does not warm your body . . . clothing simply reduces the loss of body heat. Any and all heat you experience (short of warming yourself by a fire or slipping into a hot spring pool) is generated by your metabolic processes burning the fuel (the food your eat) into energy. Know the signs of hypothermia and your limits:
  1. Your skin tightens upon exposure to cold; body hairs stand on end to more effectively trap an insulating layer of air next to the skin,
  2. Blood vessels initially dilate under the exposed skin surfaces, warming the skin and giving the rosy-cheeks syndrome. As more heat is lost, this process shuts down;
  3. Goosebumps forms and tiny, consciously-controllable shivering may commence;
  4. The skin becomes a pasty white . . . chalky in later stages; blood supply to shell skin areas and extremities is reduced. Shivering becomes more intense as the body fights to maintain the inner core temperature of the internal organs and the brain. You are entering Stage 1 Hypothermia;
  5. Arterial shunting reduces blood flow to the extremities, leading to cramping and uncoordinated use of leg and arm muscles. Shivering become continuous, tiring and intense. You are in Stage 2 Hypothermia and need to preserve the remaining body warmth before you lose the ability to act;
  6. Violent, uncontrollable shivering ceases as the body preserves even this expenditure of scarce energy to keep the heart, lungs and brain warm and functional. You are disoriented to the point of not even being aware of the cold, tired and wanting to sit down and sleep. You are in Stage 3 Hypothermia and in a medical emergency. Your body is losing it's ability to produce heat and will slip rapidly into a fatal coma.
Know the progression and signs. Shivering is normal . . . violent shivering that is impairing and beyond your control is a serious warning sign that you've passed your limits.

Acclimatization to Cold Weather

Acclimatization is the increasing of your body's heat-production and retention efficiency. As you slowly expose yourself to cold weather in longer increasing periods your body responds by burning foods more efficiently. As we go into spring and summer and are no longer exposed to these colder patterns, we acclimatize in the other direction, slowing the efficiency down to maintain that 'normal' 98.6F core body temperature. Vitamin B6 is an excellent supplement to increase the efficiency of our metabolism and I take it regularly in the colder months of the year as I'm working my naked body to withstand and enjoy nudity in the cold. Omega-3 fatty acids are not only good for your cholesterol levels but induce a high level of cold resistance. Get them through eating cold-water fish like salmon or taking flax seed oil capsules.

The key is to acclimatize over time. Do not shock your system by heading out on a long nude snow hike without some period of adjustment to your system.

When exposing you body to cold weather . . . particularly when you must be able to keep yourself warm without the insulating-crutch of clothing . . . eat easily digested foods such as carbohydrates and sugars; adding smaller amounts of fat and protein to balance the digestive load. Digestion consumes up to 30% of all available energy after a large meal. That's energy not available to keep you warm. Avoid large and heavy meals full of protein and fats immediately prior to a hiking expenditure. Carb-load the night before and keep your trail eating to small and frequent snacks.
  • Sugars are the high-octane fuels and produce a quick burst of energy and a falloff just a quickly.
  • Carbs are more complicated sugars (starches and such) that burn slower and over an extended period. Carbs are the basic sources of energy to fuel metabolism.
  • Fats (such as chocolate) are an excellent source of stored energy that can be called on as the body needs. However, if you don't use fats, guess where they go? Don't go overboard on fats as a high-fat diet takes weeks to adapt to and can lead to abdominal stress; something you don't need on the trail. However, fat reserves within the cells of our body are very important both during the acclimatization phase and when the body calls on energy reserves to bolster core temperatures and maintain glucose levels.
  • Proteins are the structural components for the body. However, in need, proteins are metabolized (burned) for heat energy because they produce a large amount of heat. However, they are difficult to digest and leave many undesired byproducts when burned for fuel . . . such as salts which will lead to increased urination and dehydration.

Control heat loss at the vulnerable points. The head, which loses 60% of all body heat through the scalp (the seat of our intelligence is in the brain and the brain requires a huge amount of energy to function.) Likewise, wear good boots to keep your feet warm and wear gloves. The under-supplied toes and fingers quickly go numb and useless in cold weather.

My back is decidedly sensitive to a cold-shiver, and I suspect that's the case with most of us. Cover your back in some manner (coat slung over the shoulders, backpack, in my case). Our nipples (in both men and woman) suffer painfully when it really gets cold. Likewise the genitalia, particularly men, will feel the painfully numbing cold eventually. Recognize what's happening and don't suffer needlessly. The layering principle applies to nude hikers as well . . . except we might need to put on that first layer as needed.

It is often said that women, with typically thicker subcutaneous fat layers, are better able to withstand the effects of cold weather . . . and that makes sense as adipose fat is a great insulator. You only need look to the ability of marine mammals with their thick blubber to withstand the numbingly frigid waters of the Arctic. But what I've noticed is that the same insulating nature of adipose has a rebound effect . . . those same layers of fat become cold reservoirs and resist warming up or letting external heat through after a hike. I noted that effect several years ago after a challenging nude snow hike that I pushed despite the winds and snow turning ugly. Once back in my car with the heat going full blast, much of my body quickly warmed up . . . except the areas where adipose fat underlay my abdomen and 'love-handles' (yeah, I got lazy that year and let my spare-tire get ahead of me.) Those areas of my body stayed icily-cold for the next few hours despite clothing, heat and a general rewarming of the rest of me. The fat was a great insulator but insulation works both ways! The upshot, some body fat is okay but a lot of adipose can become a liability if you push the limits of your cold exposure.

A note on frostbite . . . can't get it unless the ambient air or wind-chill temperature is below freezing. The laws of thermodynamics plainly state that you can not reduce the temperature of an object below the ambient environment . . . except under certain, unique circumstances . . . supercooling. Supercooling happens under high wind, high humidity conditions. Don't hike nude in such conditions . . . please. Even I'm not that stupid and will put on clothes when the wind picks up much beyond 5-10 mph. When it is below freezing your extremities (particularly toes and fingers, and since we are nude, the nipples and genitalia) are very susceptible to damaging frostbite. Watch for painful, chalky white skin progressing into a lack of pain as frostbite happens. Don't let it get this far!

Last Thoughts

Did I forget anything? I'm sure I have.

While I enjoy endless roaming around the mountains nude in the balmier months, taking off my clothes in a wide-open and pristine snowfield and hiking free is a unique and almost spiritual experience. Also, while I consider hiking nude in the snow a personal challenge, I temper it with the realization that I have to be aware of how my body is responding. But what else is a nudist good for than being aware of his or her body interaction with the environment. We nude hikers know how sublime the experience is . . .

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Just Another Nude Snow Hike

The Surprise Creek trailhead is easily accessible in the winter so it becomes a natural for a winter snowshoe hike. I got to the trailhead and found no cars parked there (well, it was a weekday) so, as soon as I was out of sight of the highway and the railyard, I stripped down and continued my hike on up the Surprise Creek Trail toward Surprise Lake. It was a nice day for a hike . . . a rare break in the snowdumps, no wind, and just enough sunlight to feed vitamin D to my sun-starved skin. What a glorious feeling . . . damn the cold!

Once out of the lower canopy the trail travels through, you get the open slopes like above and can only find a route by knowing the landmarks of your destination. The slope above is the final rise to the saddle in which my destination, Surprise Lake, sits in. Unfortunately I did not make my target as I was beginning to worry above unstable snow and thought better of continuing up.

As soon as I made that decision to turn around and stopped the cold began to hit me and I put on some clothes, hit up the thermos of hot chocolate and rewarmed myself. It took a good half hour before I felt the chillbains leave my muscles and bones enough so that I was confident I could enjoy hiking nude once more.

I never attempt to overextend myself on my hikes. Even though I think I know my limits I carry full survival essentials in my pack. Never attempt hiking nude in cold weather without those cold weather essentials at hand . . . even if they never come out of the backpack!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Winter Visit to Scenic Hot Springs (Jan 5, 2008)

Looking out over the Tye River Valley
from above the hot springs

The trail may be blazed up but that doesn't make the going any easier. However, the springs sources are running a toasty 115 deg F. Well worth the effort.

This view looks out to the north over the Tye River valley. To the right, Highway 2 makes the final climb to Stevens Pass. For those of you interested in history, you can easily make out the scar and avalanche chute in the far background. In 1910 a fully-loaded passenger train became snowbound after coming out of the first Cascade Tunnel. During the night the accumulated snowpack gave way and carried 100+ souls to their deaths far down the mountainside. The Wellington Train Disaster remains the deadliest avalanche-train accident in U.S. history.

The disaster was the impetus for the Great Northern Railway to start construction on the new railway tunnel, the current Cascade Tunnel under Cowboy Mountain and Stevens Pass. The town of Wellington was also renamed to Tye in a public relations move. Tye no longer exists but as an Interpretive Center for the very popular Iron Goat Trail along the abandoned railway grade.

A blazed path through Rock Alley and 8-10 feet of snow

Fortunately I didn't have to deal with any avalanches or snow disasters . . . but I certainly had to deal with a lot of snow. It's amazing how the human body acclimates to the conditions so fast. Though it was in the mid thirties for most of my trip up (and didn't dip down into freezing temperatures until close to sunset), as long as I kept moving and exerting myself I was not feeling the cold. The magic rainbow at the end of that hike was a long, leisurely soak in the hot pool . . . and guess what? Superwarmed and reheated, the hike back down was even more comfortable . . . at least until whatever light there was faded and the air began to get really cold. By that time I was back at my car and enjoying the heater at full-bore.

There is a special magic about hiking in the snow (and especially so when you can do it nude and exposed to the elements). The sensations are hard to describe. Certainly the tightening of the skin pores and the stiffening of body hairs. Then there is the serenity and quietness of the pure landscape all around you . . . the steady 'crunch' 'crunch' of the snowshoes. You have it all to yourself.

It's illusive, of course. There is always the allure of wanting to lay down in the crisp snow and take a nap . . . dangerous, for sure. But you think about it and then start kicking yourself to watch for signs of hypothermia. But the hike is a short one and I have plenty of warm clothes and survival gear in the backpack. This day I didn't need them. No disasters across the valley from Wellington.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Smile, You're on 'Critter Cam'

From appalachiantrail.org

Wildlife Survey

For more than a month, dozens of motion-sensitive infrared cameras were posted along the Trail corridor in Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland, to capture images of wildlife and provide better information on the animals that call the A.T. lands their home. The project involved the impressive collaboration of the National Park Service Appalachian Trail Park Office, the U.S. Geological Survey, National Geographic, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and the Smithsonian Institute.

Volunteers also played a key role in the study, as a total of 50 cameras were distributed and placed. By project completion, more than 350 sites will have been monitored, and volunteers will upload the images about once a month to the National Park Service Web site. Volunteer Master Naturalists have also lent their expertise to the program.

Counting large mammals and especially predators is one way of determining the health of the East Coast’s ecosystems, which are increasingly affected by sprawl, air and water pollution, and invasive species. To date, animals captured on film include the elusive bobcat, as well as red foxes, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and even a few curious human beings.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

BFC Nude Swims in Seattle

The Body Freedom Collaborative (BFC) is going forward with these dates and times for its 2008 BFC Swim Nights season:

  • Sat, Jan 12, 2008, 8-10 PM Ballard Pool
  • Sat, Feb 09, 2008, 8-10 PM Ballard Pool
  • Sat, Mar 08, 2008, 8-10 PM Ballard Pool
From the BFC Swim Nights Naked Wiki:
To gain admission into their first BFC Swim Nights event, individuals must bring their up-to-date membership card from any recognized naturist/nudist organization, or be recognized as an active participant in a Seattle-area event promoting non-sexualized social nudity, or be a guest of one of the former. They will then purchase a participation card (see sample images on the right of the page) for the BFC Swim Nights for $5. The BFC Swim Nights participant card (along with a photo ID) will allow access to any of the 2007/08 NBFC Swim Nights. Each swim costs an additional $10 per person. Thus if you were to go to all six swims, it would cost $5 for the swim card and $60 for all six swims. If you go to one swim, it would cost $5 for the swim card and $10 for one swim.

Directions to Ballard Pool

View Larger Map

New Hot Springs Forum

A new hot springs forum has been established to share information of places to soak. Soakers Forum was started by a friend, Eric, of the North American Hot Springs Association (NAHSA) to take the place of the venerable Soak Net long run by Jim Lange. Soak Net has become unreliable and overrun with spam posts . . . often unreachable. Eric started Soakers Forum to keep continuity and to archive all the valuable information posted over the years. Come visit us there, join in on the discussions and find a great hot spring to soak your worries away.

The other venerable soaker discussion board, Northwest Hot Springs has also been rebuilt after a meltdown last November. NWHot Springs focuses on natural hot springs in the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada. Members and moderators of both boards work well together.

So visit both boards . . . and Soak Net when it's up. The members are very nude-friendly!!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Rooster Rock Polar Bare Dip - Jan 5th

Help bring in the New Year with other brave Northwest Nudists at Rooster Rock State Park.

Those brave ones dedicated to keeping the tradition going will meet at the East end parking area January 5 at noon. Depending on the level of the river it can be a rather fun hike into the polar dip location. Bring your flags, noisemakers and join others to ring in the New Year.

Shirley Gauthier is searching for nudists to carpool from Eugene and share the expense of gas. Cost of the trip from Eugene runs approximately $50 so lets try to fill a van.

It would be helpful if you would contact Shirley at sherbog@msn.com if you plan on participating.

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