Harriman State Park? Anytime!

naturist 0028 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

I’ve written about Harriman State Park near New York City on multiple occasions, but I guess you won’t be surprised that I’m at it again, given that it is the most accessible location for me where I can enjoy and explore nature “as nature intended”. So as Sandy Hook has become my default beach and the latest post about it proved it’s good anytime of the day, Harriman is my default outdoors location, which I find to be great anytime of the day – and I’d like to say anytime of the year, but I’ll have to limit this statement to spring, summer and autumn, as I haven’t been there in winter.

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Last October wasn’t so warm, but we did snatch a nice hike with some skinny dipping. I have some pictures of autumnal skinny dipping in another post, but here are just great views all the way up to Manhattan (Didn’t I say it was close? The photo is pretty zoomed in though.)

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It was nice to see all those bright colors, though frankly I prefer summer green (compare to this photo of Pine Meadow Lake view from a previous post). (Not to mention that I like swimming in those lakes when it’s warm, but we’ll get there.)

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Still, the autumn colors were spectacular, especially in contrast to the dark sky on that day.

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But it’s not like summer doesn’t offer more colors than “50 shades” of green. Here is the photo of the same islet on the Pine Meadow Lake with mountain laurels’ white-pink bloom a week ago.

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And here is a close-up of one of those:

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these bushes provide a fabulous backdrop for naked hiking 🙂 (And again, you can see more of such photos in an earlier blogpost.)

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Pink and purple tones seem to be particularly fashionable in Harriman:

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I’ll be happy if my more botany-inclined readers will identify these plants for me,

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but anyone can surely appreciate their beauty.

These wild roses also smelled sweet,

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and probably to preserve that smell they close for the night, when insects wouldn’t visit them anyways.

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And even young oak leaves in the beginning of May were of purple tones too.

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But some berberis shrubs bring the intensity of the color to the next level!

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And you can see an occasional red-leaved branch in the end of the summer, standing out among the greenery of the rest of the forest.

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The leaves of the plant below are usual green, but the shape is quite interesting, as if the tips were cut by someone.

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And some more flowers from this spring-beginning of summer:

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viola,

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berberis (green this time),

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and multiple white-blooming trees;

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blueberry bushes also bloomed intensely this year, so we can expect a nice blueberry season later in summer.

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Plants aren’t the only ones to please your eyes with bright colors in Harriman State Park:

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orange juvenile newts (efts) are a common sight in the beginning of summer,

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and we also saw an orange frog!

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This frog from last summer was not conspicuous at all though,

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but I wanted to take a picture of it, as it still had not finished its metamorphosis and featured a long tail.

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But then there was also a lizard with an orange head, a broad-headed skink:

I waited quite a bit for it to come out from the whole between the rocks,

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and it was worth it.

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And again, for contrast, here is a less conspicuous reptile, but at the same time a lot larger and dangerous.

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Can you see it? If you don’t, check out another blogpost of mine, where I have much better pictures of it.

Usually insects are a part of my nature report, but this time they’ll be represented only by this vaguely seen dragonfly which photobombed a photo of a turkey vulture taken at the Turkey Pond.

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Here is a better picture of a gliding turkey vulture. I’ve also seen wild turkeys there but have never been fast enough to snap a photo of them.

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A lot more exciting though was a sighting of a bald eagle! It was soaring higher than turkey vultures, but its profile was unmistakable. It is even more exciting that I’ve seen this iconic American animal so close to New York City (so as a black bear 3 years ago).

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Even if you don’t see a bald eagle in the sky, the sky itself may present quite a spectacle.

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We witnessed a very colorful sunset last September at Pine Meadow Lake. Just scroll down,

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and see

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how

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colors change

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and eventually

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disappear!

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The sunrise (on another occasion, in July) wasn’t as nearly as colorful,

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but the fog made it mystical.

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Well, and I’m not even nearly done with nature photos for this blogpost! Besides purely esthetically pleasing sightings, Harriman State Park provides a few possibilities for encounters that may be pleasing for the stomach too 😉

I’ve already mentioned blueberries (and have some yummy photos of those in another post),

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but you can also find raspberries and blackberries of different varieties – look for those in the openings in the woods.

This kind of blackberry is my favorite. They usually ripen in August, after blueberries.

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Didn’t I say pink and purple were trendy in Harriman?

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Here is a pink raspberry with purple flowers!

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And even young grape leaves (early May) have a purple rim!

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You can see flower buds on this photo too, so hopefully they will develop into grapes by September, like last year. They aren’t as sweet as cultivated grapes, but you can’t be too picky while hiking in the woods – it’s great to have a snack courtesy of wild nature!

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These bright mushrooms below should probably have stayed in the esthetically pleasing category,

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as I am not sure if they are edible, but I want to think they are… I’d like to join the local mycological society to learn about mushrooms in the area on their foraging outings.

mushrooms Harriman State Park

The idea of foraging while backpacking is very appealing on many levels, but one has to be careful, especially with mushrooms.

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But I guess you can’t go wrong with the fish here! Although my father and grandfather are avid amateur fishermen, I haven’t learned much about it.

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Luckily, my new naturist fisher friends were willing to share their catch! I’m yet to buy fishing gear, but meanwhile I’ll enjoy fish as a naturalist.

Most of the fish that you see in the video are sunfish species, and what I like about them is that they are quite tame and even curios about people – they often come close and stare at you, and sometimes nibble (not painfully, don’t worry). Snorkeling at the Pine Meadow Lake may not be as colorful and diverse as at the coral reefs of the Red Sea or in Hawaii, but those friendly sunfish spawning among water lilies make it really interesting.

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I certainly like swimming in the lakes of Harriman park a lot more than in swimming pools, which are easily accessible in New York (including my workplace). Besides having more space, beautiful surrounding and fish to observe, possibility to swim naked is of course another strong factor 😉

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If dogs can do it, why can’t we?

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These lakes are good size if you want to exercise swimming by crossing them forth and back,

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and some of them, e.g. Turkey Pond, have small islands

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providing nice resting spots…

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or nude posing opportunities 🙂

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If you will to carry a kayak with you,

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paddling around is another fun way to explore and experience these lakes,

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and a great exercise for the upper body too.

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And if you want some extreme (well, admittedly, just a hint thereof), there are cliffs at Pine Meadow Lake from which you can dive in the lake.

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Nudity will make it a little more extreme and fun 😉

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But besides exercising and observing nature, such naked outings by the lake provide nice opportunities for social bonding, and we kicked off this season with a good group of 8 butt-naked people.

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We had nice summer weather already in the beginning of May, and the water was warm enough for swimming.

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We were lucky to have one of the nicest spots at Pine Meadow Lake all to ourselves, with perfect flat rocks to sit on just above the water and in the water.

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Splashing

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and talking proved to be a great mix 🙂

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And if you can’t find such nice flat rocks for your rest spot, perhaps a tree will do 😉

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This one turned out to be good as a lounge chair and an observation deck alike!

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And if all those lakes are great destination points, journey to those (hiking) is just as good in its own merit. There are lots of well-maintained and marked trails in Harriman State Park, but bushwalking is fun too.

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Most of the time though we take known trails and consult with the map.

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The terrain and surroundings are quite diverse,

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from soft soil of the woods to rocks and cliffs.

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It’s hard to predict how many people you’ll encounter on the trails,

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but once we were lucky to have even this well-known rock formation all to ourselves.

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And just as a reminder of the “other world” (and proximity to it), once in a while you may get to a viewpoint where you can see Manhattan skyline.

view 0003 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

Such points are great for taking pictures (such as the first one in this post) and rest/stretching alike.

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The greenery of the forest provided a nice background, and while it appeared massive,

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we were quickly reminded about fragility of the ecosystem,

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as we saw traces of the recent wildfire.

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Luckily, it wasn’t that big (though it’s not the only instance, as you’ll see below), and we could continue our hike safely.

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But even the most active naturists need some rest after all this hiking and swimming 🙂

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Sometimes a cup of tea is the only thing needed,

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and sometimes nothing at all – you just feel blessed with what mother nature provided, especially when it is a thick soft layer of moss just at the time when you want to lie down…

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Though not for too long… and if we’re not moving forward in some way, we find another activity;

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trees, dead or alive, serve well as apparatuses for exercises 🙂

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When the evenings get cooler in the end of summer, it’s nice to get the last sun rays before sunset.

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Note the “obelisk”, an erect dry tree trunk in the background… This picture was taken mid-September last year, and this is what it looked like this May:

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Unfortunately, that little peninsula that we liked so much has burned out quite badly, though large trees have survived.

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We discovered traces of exploded camper stove, burnt batteries and parts of a tent, so we speculated that could be how the fire started, though we of course couldn’t tell if all this wasn’t actually the result of wildfire, simply having caught the flame. However, most likely it was a man-made disaster-ish. Regardless, hopefully nobody suffered seriously.

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Not all human activity is devastating of course, and here is an example of some rock painting art.

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Doubtfully it’s older than a century though; I couldn’t find any information online about it, so maybe for a moment we can think we uncovered art from the neolithic era… or maybe someone craftily imitated it last year 🙂

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Well, the ruins of what apparently used to be a pump house by the Pine Meadow Lake are certainly not that ancient, but I couldn’t find much information on that either.

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Regardless, the ruin inspired us for more exercising and posing 🙂

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I think there hardly can be any better combination for photography than decaying constructions being slowly overtaken by nature and nudes!

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I am happy to have captured all this and share it with you, and surely there’ll be more material from this summer!

Teufelssee lake and Grunewald forest in Berlin

naturist 0000 Teufelsee in Grunewald, Berlin, Germany

Grunewald area of Berlin offers another lake option, Teufelssee, and it is a very different experience from Wannsee. Teufelssee is a small lake in the middle of the woods, and there is a big grassy meadow adjacent to it. It’s easy to reach by bike or a long walk from S7 station Grunewald. No wonder, the meadow and lake often get packed with people when the weather is nice. And as many places in Berlin, the default status of outdoor recreation is clothing-optional (FKK).

naturist 0001 Teufelsee in Grunewald, Berlin, Germany

There is a floating platform in the middle of the lake, a great point for dives into the water or calm sunbathing.

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Closer to the evening, when the crowds are gone, there is a different kind of visitor, besides few remaining naturists:

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wild boar.  They come very close to people but behave peacefully; they are more interested in the trash cans.

wild boar 0000 Teufelsee in Grunewald, Berlin, Germany

Unfortunately, they sometimes create a mess at this otherwise clean and orderly naturist location. But a naturalist in me was happy to see wild boars so close and undisturbed by people’s presence.

Proximity to the city made Teufelssee one of my most visited outdoor places during summer. And when spring weather turned unexpectedly hot, even in early April like in the video above, I would head out there to enjoy the sun and warm air all over my skin 🙂 Grunewald forest has numerous dirt roads and trails, and it feels amazing to cycle there naked with the first warm sun rays of spring. And similarly, I would go there for some last-in-season sunbathing during those golden days of Indian summer… combined with working on photos for my blog 😉

naturist 0003 Teufelsee in Grunewald, Berlin, Germany

Wannsee in Berlin: kayaking, swimming, biking, frisbee – you name it!

naturist 0002 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

Wannsee, or more specifically Großer Wannsee, is a relatively large lake in the westernmost part of Berlin. It hosts Europe’s longest inland beach – Strandbad Wannsee, but we usually hang out at more secluded spots north of it. Strandbad Wannsee is just one of  2 or 3 beaches in Berlin with an entrance fee, which I assume supports facilities and cleaning operation; naturist part (or FKK, as it is usually referred to in Germany) is in the northern side of the beach (i.e., to the right, if you face the lake). There are a few small beaches to the north of Strandbad Wannsee, which are free of charge and free of clothes as well 🙂

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River Snack boat delivers ice-cream, beer and snacks, including Berlin’s famous currywurst.

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As you’ve figured from the photos, our favorite way to get there was kayak.

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Kayaking in calm waters of Wannsee is easy and pleasant; it provides great views of the forested shores of the lake and good exercise for your upper body! Kayaks and canoes can be rented from Der Bootsladen upstream at a canal of the Havel river.

naturist 0008 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

You can also get there by public transport too, metro (S-Bahn) plus bus, but we often opted for cycling either all the way or from S-Bahn stations Nikolassee (nearby) or Grunewald (long ride). There are numerous dirt roads and trails that cross Grunewald forest on the way from S-Bahn station Grunewald to the sandy beaches of Wannsee. It’s more fun and refreshing to ride bicycle naked, and we’ve done it on multiple occasions – other people seemed to be cool about that.

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At our favorite spot by the Wannsee lake, there was a fallen tree that provided comfortable sitting.

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But we wouldn’t be active naturists, if we just sat there –

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how about some upside-down calisthenics exercises?

swan 0001 Wannsee, Berlin, Germany

Well, swimming is obviously another activity one would engage in at the lake. Swimming with swans is quite fun; swans often appear as curious about humans, as we are about them, and I tried to make friends among swans at Wannsee.

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Ducks seem to be more straightforward and approach to check if someone is willing to share their food with them.

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Seagulls are also common at Wannsee, but they prefer to stay away from people.

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In any case, before you go swimming, make sure the water isn’t green, as once there was an intense algae bloom. Algae blooms are not necessarily toxic and may happen during sudden changes in weather conditions and when phytoplankton is not consumed fast enough by zooplankton and mollusks.

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This terrestrial snail isn’t the kind of mollusk that would help with an algae bloom though. But I thought it’d provide a nice contrast to ‘active naturists’, as it is both sluggish and super-clothed, carrying its entire house all around 🙂

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We, on contrary, like to jump around totally naked, as you know, and shallow waters of Wannsee proved to be perfect for playing frisbee in water. It stays about knee- or waist-deep for 20m or so by the shore, and the bottom is sandy. As it is more difficult to run around in water, it provided an incentive to aim more precisely.

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Jumping out of water while tossing a frisbee disk proved to be a lot of fun,

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and again it was a good exercise for legs.

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And if that’s not enough for the day, we can always cycle naked through Grunewald on the way back home.

oil-Independence Night in Boston (WNBR)

Last Saturday, Boston had its own edition of the World Naked Bike Ride, when more than 200 people took over its streets.

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It’s my 4th city where I’ve done WNBR, but it’s the first one where it takes place at night.

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I won’t stop repeating that WNBR is probably the most cheerful and peaceful demonstration against oil-dependency, promoting human-powered modes of transportation as a healthy alternative. It serves as a fun bike tour too, and I think I’m going to make it a tradition to visit new cities for WNBR.

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I’m not sure that nigh is the best time of the day for WNBR, as we want to have a bigger impact on public, and Boston is not the city that never sleeps. However, we passed through both sleeping and bustling neighborhoods, with overwhelming support from the street crowd, especially on the streets with bars 🙂

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We had a couple of short breaks to catch the breath in parks,

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just to fill up the streets again with new power.

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Altogether we were riding for more than 2 hours through Boston downtown and Cambridge in our altogethers!

Given the nightly atmosphere, it was nice to have some bright lights, which a friend of mine gave me as a present after I got hit by car; they are a bit too crazy to use them on a daily (or rather nightly) basis, but they served just fine for WNBR in NYC and in then Boston, and thanks to them I got on boston.com site – check out the photo gallery with yours truly.

Autumn colors at the Silver Mine Lake

naturist 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

I’ve been describing new spots around New York state in the last couple of weeks, but this is from a place that should be familiar to many readers – Silver Mine Lake at Harriman State Park. I just wanted to share some nice pictures with autumn colors, which are quite rare on this blog due to its temperature-sensitive theme 😉

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However, there was a very warm weekend in October that Ramon and I spent there. Saturday felt actually like summer, and I didn’t even take pictures, because I thought I had more than enough from this lake. Only on the next day, when it started raining and was foggy, did it occur to me that it was actually fall time.

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So here are the amazing multicolored leaves

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and the lake itself in the fog.

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It was still surprisingly warm, and we walked around in the buff, feeling the soft drizzle on our skin.

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Here are what Ramon called ‘blending’ photos – blending with landscape.

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The fogged lens gave a nice effect too.

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It was nice to close off hiking and swimming season at Harriman State Park on such a fabulous day! Looking forward to the next one!

official(!) naked-friendly trail and water hole in Mohonk Preserve, NY

I haven’t counted exactly how much but a good share of our blogposts is about hiking. This one is special because it is about a trail that is officially designated for nude recreation! Yes, there is one (hope not the only one!) – at Split Rock in Mohonk Preserve, New York! I heard about it from Young Naturists America, as they organized a couple of outings there; you can also read about their correspondence with the park officials as to why there is no information about this trail on their website. The bottom line is that this is a private land, and one of the conditions of the owners to give it for public use was keeping its tradition of skinny-dipping. Well, if only more land-owners were like that!

Unfortunately, clothing is only optional behind the actual Split Rock formation (the name speaks for itself – it’s a split rock with a creek and small waterfall in the middle), and the nude-friendly trail is just about 10 min walk of easy hiking. I had a bitter-sweet feeling about this place. On the one hand, it was exciting to finally find an official place for naked hiking. On the other, it also seemed unfair to not include the main attraction in the clothing-optional part. Come on, if you decided to give ONE single trail of a huge preserve for nude recreation, can’t you give at least this one entirely?

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Nevertheless, I was happy to see this sign – I could get naked in the forest, ‘as nature intended’, without worrying about rangers. I finally got relaxed, after spending several hours to get there! Long story short: I was supposed to go  with two buddies by train to Poughkeepsie and then bike all the way to Mohonk Preserve, but I got a flat tire, and of course it was the only time when I didn’t have a spare tire with me; I didn’t want to keep my friends for too long with me and let them go ahead, but by the time I found someone with a spare tire it was almost too late to bike to Mohonk… Luckily, I got a ride almost all the way to Split Rock! However, my friends were already leaving by the time I got there, so as most other visitors.

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I could see only one [naked] figure wandering in the evening fog. I found another split rock water hole, much smaller than the first one though. The water was clear but pretty cold. I guess that’s why it’s called skinny dipping there.

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A bit later, the only other visitor came by and we started talking about this place. He was surprised to hear that I was going to return by bike and offered a ride to the town of New Paultz. I actually wanted to ride my bike, as I didn’t get to do it much that day. Then, as I was unlocking my bike at the parking lot, the ranger on duty also raised her concern as it was getting dark and the road didn’t have shoulders. When I saw a ver dark cloud coming and heard thunder, I finally gave up. Few minutes later, on the way to New Paultz, a sever downpour started! So it wasn’t a bad decision to drive to New Paultz and stay in a hostel there… Next day, I hitch-hiked back to Split Rock and when checked on my bike, found this big (I thought at the moment) garden spider under my seat!

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The weather was quite good again, so I went to the creek once again. This time could sunbathe on the rocks, so refreshing in the water hole was more pleasant. Then I noticed something awesome on the bank of the creek:

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Now, that is a BIG spider! To be honest, I had no idea there were such huge ones in New York state (just look at the fir-tree cone next to it for comparison).

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Well, after posting this, I guess Split Rock won’t get any more popular… On the other hand, it’s not exactly the place that you want to get crowded, so it’s up to you if you want to face this monster! 😉

Another justification for writing about spiders now is that it’s Halloween! That’s my contribution here. I remember one of the readers wrote me he freaked out about the picture of harvestman (aka daddy longlegs) that I posted in my first story about Harriman State Park. Let’s see the reaction to these! It’s worth noting though, that while harvestmen are among the most poisonous animals out there, they are simply not able to bite a human. Unlike wolf spiders! (That’s the name of this beauty, if you haven’t guessed.) Apparently, nothing bad can happen if they do bite you, but it won’t be pleasant.

wolf spider 0002 Mohonk Preserve, NY, USA

I have to say some good words about wolf spiders though. They are actually caring mothers. The keep their their eggs in a special sac that they carry around everywhere with them; on the photo above you can even see how the sac is attached to her spinneret (silk-producing organ). And what’s even more remarkable, after hatching, little spiders stay on their mother for a week or so. Maybe I’ll see that next time.

Hiking to Sykes hot springs in Big Sur

Our bike trip continued without much naked time as we were passing through farmland and coastal towns on the way to Big Sur. On our approach to the town of Marina, we had a very pleasant surprise at Del Monte Road. This amiable fellow on the photo below greeted us and offered some energy bars!

farmer 0000 Big Sur, CA, USA

He used to be an avid biker too, and now that is his way to contribute to the community. In his spare time, he goes out to local bike routes and supports bikers with some calories and a smile. That was a great encouragement of what was going to be our longest ride in one day – 85 miles (almost 140km). If you don’t think it’s that much, keep in mind that our bikes were loaded with camp gear and food, and the road along Big Sur coast was very hilly.

view 0001 Big Sur, CA, USA

We were constantly rewarded by such beautiful views. The weather was perfect for such a ride: warm and cloudy, with mild refreshing ocean breeze.

view 0000 Big Sur, CA, USA

The sun would appear once in a while briefly, and when it reached the silver surface of the ocean, beams of light almost seemed touchable… It was already getting dark though when we hoped to have reached a campground that would bring us close to something interesting in Big Sur. We settled on Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park campground and lodge right off the Pacific Coast Highway 1, it seemed to be pretty close to natural host springs of Sykes, another advice of Dan. We were greeted with a piece of pie at the entrance, which was prepared for the bikers of “AIDS/Life Cycle – Ride to end AIDS” that happened in the same time… We were setting up the tent in the dark and couldn’t wait use some of the lodge’s amenities: a very decent restaurant and a hot shower!

Next day, we started our hike by the Pine Ridge trail. It was easy to follow as it has clear signs for it… Or maybe not so clear, as some of the branches of the trail that looked very much like trails to us we marked as “not a trail” 😀

trail sign 0000 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

This trail goes along the Big Sur National Wild & Scenic River, and it was indeed wild and scenic!

view 0000 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

I was desperate to see an elusive mountain lion, known in the area, but it was too much to ask… and also, they usually avoid humans, so if you do see them, it’s not necessarily a good sign. The views were quite stunning anyways.

view 0001 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USAview 0002 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

It was interesting to see how different two slopes of Big Sur canyon were: the one facing the sun was almost bare, void of trees, and the more shady one facing north was covered with coniferous forest.  We could also feel that the climate was quite different from the shore shortly after beginning of the hike: the air was much dryer and the clouds didn’t seem to come up there often.

view 0003 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

Some trees were damaged by infamous Californian wildfires, but it was good to see that many of them withstood the fire and seemed full of life again.

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That was also where I saw my first hummingbird, but it disappeared before I could change the lens on my camera… So here are just its beloved red flowers of zauschneria that it fed on.

zauschneria 0000 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

Pine Ridge trail crosses a couple of springs of the Big Sur river basin, so we could refresh on the waynaturist 0000 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

and we didn’t have to carry much water with us (I have an ultra-fine water filter pump).

naturist 0001 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

We packed very light, Tam and I shared one backpack which we swapped carrying, so it was a very pleasant easy hike. It was 7 miles to Sykes springs, which we did mostly bare and barefoot too – Tam, part of it, and I, all the way.

naturist 0002 Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur, CA, USA

When the trail crossed the Big Sur river, we knew it was time to look out for Sykes hot springs and find a place for camping. We saw some tents along the river and continued towards the hot springs… and we couldn’t believe it when we found a perfect camping spot right across one of the hot springs! While two other guys enjoyed the hot spring, we claimed the spot and pitched the tent. Those two were heading back quite soon after that, as they came just for a day.

naturist 0000 Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur, CA, USA

After our 85 mile bike ride the day before and then 7 mile hike, we were happy to stay overnight and relax at the hot springs at full.

view 0000 Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur, CA, USA

Could there be a more perfect natural campsite? I would say it was like heaven, except that the hot spring was very much a manifestation of earthly activities, being produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater from the Earth’s crust. Neither its sulfuric odor was amongst the most pleasant smells you could think of, but we felt like in paradise.

naturist 0001 Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur, CA, USA

There are only 3 ‘tubs’ at Sykes, but we were lucky to have “ours” mostly just for ourselves.

fern view 0000 Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur, CA, USA

I couldn’t help noticing that the tubs were surrounded by ferns which always a prehistoric look… We had a very quiet, starry sky and babbling brook kind of night… followed by early morning warm up in the hot springs.

naturist 0002 Sykes Hot Springs, Big Sur, CA, USA

Too bad we couldn’t stay at the hot springs much longer, but the hike on our way back was great too. We didn’t see a mountain lion,

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but we did come across of mountain quails,

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western fence lizards,

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and a Steller’s jay dealing with its favorite meal, an acorn. We had our meal at the campground too, jumped on out bike and headed out South… Unfortunately, Niko’s bike broke and we could go as fast as we should. But luckily, as night was approaching, we got a ride from a very friendly couple who agreed to squeeze all our 3 bikes into their SUV and drive us to the next campground. This helped us to get back on schedule, and next day we rode to San Luis Obispo station to take the train all the way to San Diego.

‘4 mile beach’ full of sea life

Next day after visiting Big Basin Redwoods, we mostly stayed on the road heading south, but we had a nice memorable stop at Four Mile beach next to Santa Cruz. This is an official clothing-optional beach, as was designated on our bike map. It was recommended to us by Dan, the masseur from Burning Man who you might remember from my blogpost about acro-yoga in San Francisco. The beach looked beautiful already on our approach to it, and we could see just a couple of surfers there.

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As we came down, the beach looked even more impressive, though we were not sure if it was 4 miles long… or where did the name come from?

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Besides those few surfers, there were only some fishermen quite far out…

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and lots of birds!

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When we arrived, most birds moved from the sand onto the water, and we could see all beach covered in their footprints.

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Then we noticed there also was an airplane! No, just cliffs that look like one 😉 The cliffs were full of birds too.

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Gulls were the most numerous,

gulls 0001 4 Mile Beach, CA, USA

but there were many kinds of other sea- and shorebirds too, mostly grouped together. The photo below illustrates that indeed birds of a feather flock together.

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Cormorants were probably the second largest group,

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but there were many pelicans too.

pelicans 0000 4 Mile Beach, CA, USA

This was a clear indicator of richness of the ocean waters by this beach. To a large extent, it was probably thanks to the kelp forests, of which we could literally only scratch the surface.

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Low tide revealed the rocks covered with the densest mussel colony I had ever seen.

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That’s a lot of seafood!

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In just few minutes, Niko created this seafood bouquet. We didn’t feel adventurous to actually eat any of that, but it looked tasty 🙂

To make this place even more ecologically diverse, there was a freshwater pond too.

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A sandpiper and a group of ducks were hanging out there away from the seabirds.

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And aside from all these water birds, ravens apparently called this place their home too.

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So as this young snake, whose species I couldn’t identify – any serpentologist among my readers?

snake 0000 4 Mile Beach, CA, USA

With all this biodiversity, I thought that we only missed dolphins but Niko said it would be too much to ask from just a couple of hours at the beach… We played some frisbee, which went very well, probably because the beach is protected from wind by the cliffs.

naturist frisbee 0003 4 Mile Beach, CA, USA

And then we saw them! 4 dolphins were passing along the beach showing their back fins. I was happy and ran with my camera to the cliffs that went farther into the ocean to take a better picture, but they disappeared.

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And then I saw something that I didn’t even expect to see – a sea otter!

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It even showed me its cute swim on the back while opening a mussel with claws.

sea otter 0001 4 Mile Beach, CA, USA

Then I felt like we could leave the place with enough memories…

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And my boys were already checking out the map to see how we would get to the next campground… and we had to get dressed too.

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Redwoods of Big Basin

We spent the first day of our bike trip in California getting out of the urban agglomeration of the San Francisco Bay Area: by Cañada bike trail along the seismic Hayward Fault Zone, and then very hilly La Honda road, we reached a small settlement of La Honda; next day, we continued by Pescadero road towards the famous California State Route 1, aka Pacific Coast Highway (PCH, it’s worth noting that it has a bike lane on the side). There were some beautiful vistas on the way, forests and farmland, and we saw our first redwoods, but our first big stop was meant to be Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The spirit of Burning Man also followed us for a bit in the shape of surrealistic statues on some of the farms, like the one below.

naturist 0000 farm on the way to Ano Nuevo Beach, CA USA

By the way, some of my mates from Burning Man camp, which was Playa Bike Repair, knowing my tendency to spend time naked, that I might be able to bike naked in some parts of our route. I didn’t actually have much expectations for that, as most of our biking would be on the highway, but when we cycled down the small Cloverdale Rd and Gazos Creek Rd before hitting PCH, it seemed empty enough and I took my chance! There was just one car passing by and I was not sure they noticed I was naked. I had to put on my shorts when we got to PCH, but not for too long, as we decided to make a brief stop at the beach of Año Nuevo State Reserve. The beach was totally deserted, and all three of us got naked within a moment to enjoy the late afternoon sun after our first 2 days of biking.

naturist 0000 Ano Nuevo Beach, CA USA

Our rest stop was pretty active though: isn’t the best way to relax after a particular exercise, say biking, to do another exercise, say running? At least that’s what we did there for a bit, besides, some stretching too.

brown algae 0000 Ano Nuevo Beach, CA USA

Then we found different kinds of brown algae scattered by waves around the beach. This one above looked like a minimalistic copy of a tropical island covered with coconut palm trees. So-called bull kelp proved to be a great toy to play with (in this light, I definitely prefer its common name over the scientific Nereocystis,  which means mermaid’s bladder).

naturist 0001 Ano Nuevo Beach, CA USA

Niko found two specimens of the same length and gave the art of poi both naturist and naturalist perspective!

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Tam was just swinging the longer one above his head,

naturist 0007 Ano Nuevo Beach, CA USAnaturist 0006 Ano Nuevo Beach, CA USA

which Niko then used to hit against the sand as a whip (here comes another common name of this algae, bullwhip kelp).

naturist 0003 Ano Nuevo Beach, CA USA

Not surprisingly, they both had to fight for in the tug of war game after that!

These algae can actually grow even much longer and they form underwater kelp forests along Californian coast. Too bad the water was too rough and cold to snorkel and see them, but we couldn’t stay much longer at the beach anyways, as we still had to find a campground at our next stop, Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The promise to see the forest with some of tallest and oldest trees in the world was good enough stop our frolicking in the sun. It was an easy ride after that, but we hardly managed to set up our camp before darkness. By the way, it felt rewarding to have come to the park by bicycles, as the camping fee was just $5, as opposed to $35 for those who came by cars.

Here, I need to give a preamble as to how I actually ended having the idea of hiking naked in the redwoods and choosing this forest in particular. When I went to the Spring Bash with Florida Young Naturists, I got a copy of “N, the Magazine of Naturist Living”, which featured an article about hiking in Big Basin Redwoods State Park by Bill Schroer. The article said it was possible to find some secluded trails and also mentioned Cahill policy that determined that simple nudity in State Parks was not a criminal offense. Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest State Park (since 1902) and home to the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco. So, inspired by the article and by the magnificent redwoods themselves, we were eager to explore the forest “as nature intended”. We decided to hike Skyline-to-the-Sea trail with diversion to the Berry Creek trail, following advice of Bill Schroer.

camping 0000 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

We woke up shortly after sunrise, and the sun was reaching out from behind the surrounding mountains and tall trees, it was getting warmer.

raccoon footprint  0003 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

Tam found his biking shirt to have been tried and tested by a local raccoon… Aren’t they supposed to wash things, actually? And there was a spring nearby. Well, not like we were going to wear clothes that day, anyways.

horsetail 0000 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

In the beginning of the hike, we were welcomed by pretty tall northern giant horsetails, a ‘living fossil’ plant, but they were not nearly as tall as their long-extinct cousins and of course nothing to compare with the giant redwoods.

naturist 0005 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

Redwoods, being one of the most massive and tallest trees in the world, impressed us from the very beginning of the trail. I climbed one of the stumps to embody the strength of these giants… but still looked pretty small.

naturist 0009 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

Well, there’s one natural power that may be stronger than redwoods – lightning. There were quite a few that seemed to be struck by lightning and partially burnt from inside but still withstood it, but many weren’t that lucky and fell.

naturist 0007 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

But even when fallen, redwoods look majestic!

naturist 0006 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USAWalking on a fallen redwood gives you a good perspective of their height (and a pretty way to cross a stream)…

naturist 0008 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

so as sitting under or on these fallen giants makes you appreciate their huge mass.

naturist 0010 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

And yet they look prettiest when they stand tall.

sequoia 0001 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

Looking up in the redwood forest, it seems like green canopy and blue sky are at the same height.

sequoia 0000 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USAsequoia 0002 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USAsequoia 0003 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

If you want to celebrate the tree-hugging day with redwoods, you would need more than one person to hug a big redwoods properly…

naturist 0013 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

even two would be hardly enough!

naturist 0000 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

Skyline-to-the-Sea trail and its branches go along springs with clear water, so you don’t need to carry much water with you (we used a filter, however)

naturist 0011 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

and can refresh on the way once in a while. Looks peaceful, doesn’t it?

naturist 0001 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

Until you notice this monster hiding on top of the stream! 😀

Pacific banana slug 0000 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

Another ‘monster’, a giant Pacific banana slug, seemed much less menacing. Where did it get its beautiful golden color? Maybe from this spring?

naturist 0002 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

We had no clue why that spring had such a color, but given that California Gold Rush times were long gone, we were doubtful we found a source of wealth…

naturist 0012 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

The trail was well-maintained and even had stairs at steep inclines. By the way, we did encounter quite a few fellow hikers and we behaved like being naked was the most natural thing in the world (isn’t it?) – and it seemed to work well – we were often greeted with smiles and witty questions.

It was sad to depart from the redwoods, but we hoped we would see them again, it was a memorable first encounter with wooden giants!

Philly Naked Bike Ride bigger than ever?

Philly Naked Bike Ride is Philadelphia’s own edition of the World Naked Bike Ride; as their website states, “PNBR is about: Riding together to promote fuel conscious consumption, positive body image, and cycling advocacy.” From my first experience of the World Naked Bike Ride in Madrid in 2009, I also learnt that it is the best way to have a bike tour through the city – with hundreds of fun people as a company and central streets being cleared of cars. So I thought it’d appropriate to visit the first historic capital of the United States on such an occasion. In most cities in Northern Hemisphere, World Naked Bike Ride takes place on the second weekend of June, but Philadelphia hosts one in August, so I wouldn’t have to skip the ride in NYC this year in order to go to Philly. Although I was happy with how New York’s naked bike ride went this year, I have to admit it is dwarfed by the ride in Philly with its 3000+ participants.

As my friend from Philadelphia who gave me a lift to the city wanted to volunteer before the ride, we arrived a couple of hours before the official start. There were numerous signs and volunteers on the bike lanes that directed bikers towards the starting point.

naturist 0000 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

The lawn next to Penn Treaty Park was already filling up with people, and as soon as the first one got naked many others followed the trend; body painters were getting busy too.

naturist 0002 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

Then more friends from NYC arrived, and after we covered ourselves with enough glitter (with the assumption that there is no such thing as too much glitter),

naturist 0006 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

we went on to make new friends and share glitter.

naturist 0008 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

Green, for the political statement.

naturist 0015 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

Meanwhile, the lawn got really packed and the bikers were lining up in preparation for the ride. This was another opportunity to make new friends, like this fellow in romper suit.

naturist 0016 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

The organisers and volunteers of PNBR were dismantling the stands and cleaning the park, a good tone for environmental demonstration.

naturist 0023 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USAnaturist 0024 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

Some participants had to do last minute fixes…

naturist 0025 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

So the delay time was not wasted,

naturist 0020 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

and the energy was high when the ride finally started.

naturist 0000 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

The work of volunteers continued in regulating the traffic and directing the ride, and they did a great job, all went smooth. This is quite impressive given the mere number of cyclists. We filled up the street as far as you could see in both directions.

naturist 0046 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USAnaturist 0050 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

That’s what you call a critical mass! In the tunnel, it was even more evident.

naturist 0114 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USAnaturist 0115 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

Below is an arial shot.

PNBR air view

By the way, although the vast majority of participants rode typical bicycles, you could see a wide spectrum of  engine-free modes of transportation.

naturist 0026 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

Of course, there was a tandem bicycle – perfect for a well coordinated couple, as it provides better power-to-weight ratio.

naturist 0030 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

And this guy on the tall bike certainly had the best view.

naturist 0096 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

Those two ladies had a leisurely ride without having to pedal at all, thanks to a friend who didn’t mind being their rickshaw.

naturist 0111 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

There were some BMX bikers too, but unfortunately there was not much chance for them to show their skills, but I’m sure it was a pretty intense exercise anyways, as most of the time during our 2-hour ride they had to pedal standing.

stepper bike at PNBR 2013

So as this guy on a stepper bike (not sure which is more difficult).

naturist 0119 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

But why limit yourself with bicycles? Roller skates

naturist 0121 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

and skateboards were a popular choice too and proved to be good alternative for commuting in Philly.

But I saw a couple of people who went even further: they ran the whole route. One of them, even barefoot. Why not, human body is capable of amazing physical endurance.

I myself was ‘just another’ cyclist on the ride, except that I was busy taking a lot of pictures for this report (most of the photos here are by me, but some are from the PNBR flickr pool).

And there were a lot of notable characters worth mentioning:

naturist 0009 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

The Mexican wrestler;

golden lady (I know how it feels to be covered in gold 😉 )

and the winged lady;

the romper suit guy again;

the naked chef;

naturist 0102 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

pink-red guy and his dog;

naturist 0072 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

the tall bike guy again (he quite literally stood out in the crowd);

naturist 0094 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

Deadmau5 (or rather his fan, judging by the absence of the tattoos);

naturist 0086 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

and this fellow with the first aid kit was conveniently easy to spot too (not that anyone ended up needing it, as far as I know)… Oh wait, I think he just missed this dude who seemed to have got himself seriously wounded before the ride even started…

naturist 0010 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

Don’t worry, he was actually just promoting the ‘Naked and Scared Challenge’ at Shocktoberfest, “Pennsylvania’s Premier Haunted Scream Park.”

By the way, the success of Philly Naked Bike Ride has drawn an even bigger company to promote itself by distributing free drinks to energise the participants. Nothing wrong with that!

naturist 0001 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

And definitely there was an impact on other citizens of the city.

naturist 0051 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

Most importantly, car drivers seemed to be happy with the ride, even though we took over the streets for a while.

naturist 0054 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

Some cheerers had even prepared quite affirming posters for us.

naturist 0123 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

And even entire families went out of their houses to cheer to us!

naturist 0068 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

I’m pretty sure those tourists on the bus got some good memories; and perhaps next time, they will take a bike tour instead. Speaking of which – as I mentioned, it was my first visit to Philadelphia,

naturist 0039 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

so I enjoyed the views of the city on the way,

naturist 0048 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

especially when we rode between Philadelphia Museum of Art

naturist 0063 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

and Logan Square and the City Hall;

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riding through some narrower streets was fun too.

naturist 0088 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

The ride ended at a parking lot near Piazza.

naturist 0125 Philly Naked Bike Ride, Philadelphia, PA USA

Here is the view from above.

Unfortunately, unlike in previous year the after-party was no longer clothing-optional, as the condominiums surrounding Piazza pressured its owner to make participants of the Philly Naked Bike Ride to be no longer naked around there. The party at PYT bar was still fun, but there was a rumour that Piazza owner also has a swimming pool, which would be a great alternative for the after-party next year. That would be great, but regardless of that, Philly Naked Bike Ride has established itself as a massive event with a lot of fun and big impact.