trekking through a biodiversity hotspot in Costa Rica

view 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

In the previous blogpost from Costa Rica, we teased you with a prospect of a naturalist report, so here it is: we had quite a remarkable expedition in one the most biodiverse locations in the world! And well, you guessed it – most of this trek was done by me (and to a less extent by my friends) in the buff – so once again, we were mixing naturism with big interest in natural history.

Costa Rica is a favorite for nature enthusiasts, with the highest percentage of protected land in the world; but even by Costa Rican standards, Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula is very special. There are simply not many places left in the world where tropical rainforest meets the sea, and this park conserves the largest primary forest on the American Pacific coastline. For better or worse, visiting this park is highly regulated, e.g., it is forbidden to visit without a certified guide. The good thing is that the number of tourists is maintained at low levels, so there is no risk of overuse, but this makes it expensive and dependent on finding a guide. In our case, this guide also had to be OK with the idea of free-hiking, i.e. hiking without clothes. We were lucky to find one (through CouchSurfing) – both open-minded and knowledgeable about local wildlife. If you want to have a similar adventure, we highly recommend Elias (you can contact him via WhatsApp +50683811556).

So, we could enjoy this amazing natural habitat in the most natural attire,

naturist 0000 Corcovado, Costa Rica

but thanks to our guide we could also see a lot of wildlife that would otherwise be nearly impossible to spot – like this Dendrophidion snake.

Dendrophidion snake 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

‘Hot lips’ of Psychotria elata plant were much easier to notice, and they seemed like a nice greeting in the beginning of the trail from Los Patos to Sirena station.

Psychotria elata – hot lips plant 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

The forest was dominated by massive trees,

tree 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

but during the first hour or so, there was also dense vegetation around the trail.

naturist 0001 Corcovado, Costa Rica

One has to be careful not to touch tree trunks and branches without looking at them, as they may be covered in spines,

spiny tree 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

and some look just vicious!

spiny tree 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

The first bird on the trail was crested guan (actually 3 of them).

crested guan 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Our guide didn’t seem too excited to see them, as they must be very common, but to me even this relative of turkey seemed like a good start for birdwatching (and guan is quite different from the turkeys we see in North America).

crested guan 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

The first section of the trail after Los Patos is quite hilly, so I was certainly glad to walk without clothes, as you get sweaty easily in those conditions (and I guess even more so when you go there after 3-4 months of the northern winter, as we did this trip in the end of March last year).

naturist 0002 Corcovado, Costa Rica

The next animal we spotted was a green parrot snake creeping up the tree (this was my first tree snake).

Leptophis ahaetulla – green parrot snake 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

This plant creeper’s movement we wouldn’t be able to detect unless we used cameras over long time, but it was interesting to see how it was able to climb up the trunk vertically, with one type of the leaves attached to the trunk.

tree 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

This lizard seemed to be quiet curious about us,

tree lizard 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

and it was posing well for the camera while climbing up the tree.

tree lizard 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Meanwhile, another kind of lizard seemed to be a lot more timid and preferred to hide in the leaves on the ground.

lizard 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Then we saw plenty of animals of a specific kind that are not only not trying to hide but actually clear their path from dead leaves…

leaf-cutter ants 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

while carrying freshly cut leaf pieces towards their colony for mushroom farming.

leaf-cutter ants 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

It was interesting to see the work of leaf-cutter ants at different stages

leaf-cutter ants 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

(though the final steps of mushroom farming are well hidden under ground).

There were probably many more insects that remained unnoticed, as most of them are well camouflaged

grasshopper 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

… unless they have outstanding pink eyes, like this grasshopper!

grasshopper 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

This shiny beetle didn’t bother to hide, but then it was quite well armored, as if made of metal.

beetle 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

After three hours of hiking, we crossed the first stream. It was shallow, but the water was clear and refreshing. It was full of small fish (also well camouflaged).

fish in the stream 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

After walking in the dense forest, it was nice to be in a more open space,

and even nicer – to cool off in the stream (skinny-dipping, obviously).

naturist 0004 Corcovado, Costa Rica

Here we saw another lizard, the iconic basilisk, but only young individuals (nothing like the dragon at the Villa Roca hotel).

basilisc lizard 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

One of them was on the hunt for dragonflies,

basilisc lizard and dragonfly 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

though not very successfully.

basilisc lizard 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Not too far from the stream, we saw a blue-crowned motmot (similar to the one I saw by the cenotes in Yucatan).

Blue-crowned Motmot 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Back in the forest, we were impressed again by the trees and their roots. Those intertwining roots may create cozy niches for other plants

palm tree in ficus 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

or anyone else willing to occupy them.

naturist 0021 Corcovado, Costa Rica

Some of those supporting, buttress roots were truly massive!

naturist 0006 Corcovado, Costa Rica

It’s worth noting, that to a large extent the roots wouldn’t be able to function without symbiosis with fungi, which do a lot of invisible job in the forest. We only notice them when they produce fruiting bodies for sexual reproduction, such as this purple mushroom.

purple mushroom 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

At another spot, the ground was covered in purple flowers.

view 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

This made us realize how much we were missing out by not being able to see the forest from the top. Quite a few of those trees must have been blooming, but the only way to see the flowers was when they would fall on the ground.

Besides the trees, lianas constitute a large and important part of plant life in the tropical forest,

liana 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

and we saw really massive lianas in Corcovado, as thick as trees. And some had to take peculiar forms on their way up (a U-turn?)

liana 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Many lianas interweave and twist their stems, and this one on the photo below reminded me the double helix of DNA.

liana 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Sometimes it was even hard to tell the border between neighboring trees, or where their roots ended and lianas began – as if they were all interconnected.

tree 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And of course there were plenty of tree-dwelling animals that like this kind of mess.

squirrel monkey 0005 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

As we got across a big group of squirrel monkeys, it was amazing and amusing to see how easily they moved jumping between all those branches and lianas (on the photo above you can see how the tail is used for balancing).

squirrel monkey 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And they were equally good at using those brunches lounging =)

squirrel monkey 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

It was hard to tell who was more curious: monkeys about us, or we about them?

squirrel monkey 0003 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

(Here you can see how the tail is used as a fifth limb.)

Though not all of them seemed that amused by the naked ape on the ground…

squirrel monkey 0004 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

While we were goggling at our fast-moving tailed and furry relatives, Elias noticed another creature in the trees – a sloth!

sloth 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

It was sleeping (of course!) despite all the locomotion around.

The monkeys were in no rush to move away, and we could have spent much more time staring at each other, but we had to continue our trek.

squirrel monkey 0006 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

By that time, the forest became much drier (by rainforest standards), and flatter.

liana 0004 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

We passed through a grove of bamboos that were very tall but much thinner than typical species, but they were all intertwined and thus supported each other.

view 0003 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Although by then we had seen and heard plenty of parrots, they were all in a distance; so when we encountered a scarlet macaw feeding calmly in plain view, it was a beautiful and rare sight!

Scarlet Macaw 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

The next birdwatching opportunity presented itself shortly after and was equally exciting, though the bird wasn’t as bright except for the red face. It was quite excited about something too, as it announced its presence by piercing screeches (was it a warning for us?)

Mountain caracara 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

It was a bird of prey, caracara, but I cannot tell the exact species. It looks most similar to mountain caracara, but this species is not known on the Osa peninsula… any specialists among the readers here?

The afternoon was quite hot, so when we crossed another river, it felt very timely.

view 0004 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

As the sun was setting, we had to continue to the campground at the Sirena biological station, but we were close already. That was when I realized I lost my shorts from the open pocket in the backpack! Unfortunately, the camp site is not clothing-optional here… but luckily one of my friends had a spare pair of briefs that looked like bicycle shorts.

At the approach to Sirena, we passed through a grove of fruiting pam trees with giant leaves.

palm tree 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

The last animal we saw on the trail that day was a quiet bird tinamou.

tinamu 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

But that wasn’t it for the day. As we were setting up the tent at the campground, a tapir ventured out in the open!

tapir 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

I was stunned – this was the largest animal I’d seen in the wild.

tapir 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

But the tapir himself couldn’t care less, was just passing the grassy area without much rush before disappearing in the forest again.

tapir 0003 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

As it was getting dark, we went to the cafeteria for dinner, where I had to explain that my boxers were shorts – you know, they still want to keep some style for dinners even  in the middle of the jungle 😀

At night we were enjoying our sleep despite the sounds of howler monkeys (which I first thought were jaguars!) and a thunderstorm. By the morning, everything was calm again. After breakfast, we ventured out to continue our trek.

view 0005 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Almost immediately after the station, the trail comes to the beach and it goes along the shore, but as I mentioned, this is a place where the beach and the forest meet – so here you can enjoy them both. The sand is mostly volcanic black, though not as pure black as at Kehena in Hawaii.

tree with yellow and red flowers 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

There was a tree with flowers that were either yellow or red, which seemed very unusual.

tree with yellow and red flowers 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

One possibility is that the color changes as the flowers mature, because the fresher ones tended to be yellow. Any other ideas?

tree with yellow and red flowers 0002 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

We had to cross quite a few river mouths, but they were all pretty shallow. I believe this may change quite a lot depending on rain and tide.

view 0006 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

This explained why there were so many birds on the beach that are more typical for fresh water bodies,

bittern 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

such as these bitterns.

bittern 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

At the beach frontline, coconut palms were often the prevalent species; we passed through a few groves of those.

naturist 0007 Corcovado, Costa Rica

And the conditions seemed to be good for coconuts to germinate there. We also found a coconut that was full of juice, and our guide opened it for us using rocks and a regular knife. That a was perfect refreshment.

coconut sapling 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

But here and there the trail would go deeper in the forest, with its giant trees and their intricate root systems.

naturist 0009 Corcovado, Costa Rica

Don’t be surprised if you see something like this golden orb-weaver spider on the web between those roots.

golden orb-weaver spider 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Though if you are lucky, you may see something prettier. You don’t see many orchids in the forest, because most of them grow higher in the trees.

orchid 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

But here at the edge of the forest, even epiphyte orchids can grow closer to the ground, with more light available.

orchid 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

There must be a lot of competition between plants in this dense habitat which we don’t notice, unless it’s something more obvious like this menacing strangler fig getting a hold of another tree.

strangler fig 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

The amazingly intertwined lianas allowed me to stay suspended in the air, and I let my inner Tarzan out =)

naturist 0010 Corcovado, Costa Rica

But this trail never went too far from the shoreline, so there was a refreshing breeze.

view 0007 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And on the beach, there was quite a lot of shade in the first half of the day.

naturist 0012 Corcovado, Costa Rica

So overall, this section of our trek went a lot more leisurely; just once in a while we’d need go over or around the rocks.

view 0009 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

Even though it’s a rainforest, there are some trees here that are adapted for periods without much rain by accumulating water in their thick trunks. These are ceibas, and they can get very tall too.

naturist 0013 Corcovado, Costa Rica

And if you smack their trunks, you can here a ringing resound because of their hollow nature.

Ceibas have beautiful flowers, but we only found their leftovers with stamens.

fallen flower 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And there were more trees with impressive buttress roots.

tree 0003 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

As we were approaching noontime, the sun was getting very strong, and there was less shade.

naturist 0015 Corcovado, Costa Rica

But we found a good spot to take a break, dip in the ocean and roll in the warm sand…

naturist 0016 Corcovado, Costa Rica

and climb a tree too.

naturist 0017 Corcovado, Costa Rica

Then the weather changed rapidly, and we were afraid to get in a rainstorm, but it never got stronger than some drizzle.

view 0010 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

So far, that day wasn’t very rich on animal sightings, we could only hope to see something in the ocean – Costa Rica is a known whale-watching destination after all, but there was nothing to be seen in the water from the shore… Then, Elias pointed at a whale on the shore itself!

Well, it was a dead one…

naturist 0019 Corcovado, Costa Rica

Very much dead indeed, but it’s as close as I’ve ever got to touching a whale. And we can only guess how it got this far in.

At the same spot, we saw a family of curious spider monkeys,

spider monkey 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

they might be wondering as to how we lost our fur 😀

naturist 0018 Corcovado, Costa Rica

But it’d be fair to say, I felt like they were recognizing some family resemblance. Later, we saw a much bigger group of monkeys, but too high up in the trees to take photos. However, they also got interested in us, and were throwing fruit to us (and it didn’t seem like it was done in an aggressive manner). This reminded me of a recent story of a girl that was lost/abandoned in the jungle but survived at least partially thanks to the food that monkeys shared with her. Unfortunately, the mangos that were offered by the monkeys to us were not ripe at all except for one that was only barely edible.

Our next encounter was not so sociable, but I was very glad to be able to see it – an anteater. It was a northern tamandua, which is not a rare species, but still very elusive, especially during day time.

anteater northern tamandua 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And it is quite an agile tree climber, using its tail as an additional limb.

anteater northern tamandua 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

We also saw two common black hawks.

mangrove black hawk 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

One of them was enjoying a meal.

mangrove black hawk 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

We saw a plenty of flying scarlet macaws again, which was a beautiful sight, but they moved too fast for taking photos.

Then we passed through a banana grove,  to which we probably wouldn’t have paid much attention, if only to check if for any fruit to snack on (and there weren’t any ripe). But our guide called us to look under one of the leaves. And there was a group of bats! Only one of them stayed for the photos though.

tent-making bat 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

These are called tent-making bats, as they roost under big leaves which they bite in central section so that it folds as if roof of a tent.

tent-making bat 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And since they a frugivores, bananas can provide both food and shelter.

By the way, although most of the Corcovado National Park is a primary forest, some sections on the shore, where this trail passes, go through former plantations. I’ve already mentioned mangos and bananas, and they are not native species there. And even though Costa Rica is the largest producer of pineapples, those are not native either.

wild pineapple flower 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

I assume this is a flowering pineapple plant, but it might be another bromeliad.

The last animal we saw by the trail before reaching La Leone ranger station was a coati.

coati 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

These relatives of raccoons are among the most ubiquitous mammals in Corcovado, and they usually live in groups, so it was ironic that we saw only one and by the end of our trek, after having seen plenty of more exotic animals.

After some rest at the ranger station (already clothed), we continued walking on the beach towards the nearest settlement – Carate. There, we had a nice dinner and a shower, and then camped on the beach (naked again).

view 0011 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

It was a pitch-black night, warm but with a breeze, and camping on sand was comfortable – all promised a good night sleep. But we didn’t realize that there were numerous crabs waiting to come out from their holes at night. And some of them happened to be under our tent. So if you camp on a beach like that, try to find a spot without any holes.

Next day, we planned to explore the forest along the river Rio Nuevo, but the car that was supposed to pick us up didn’t arrive, and there was no mobile phone service… Then someone came to let us know that the car broke on the way, so we had to take a bus to Puerto Jimenez.

Elias then organized another excursion for us in the afternoon. It was no longer within the park, actually next to cow pastures, but the prospect of skinny dipping in the river sounded good.

naturist + monstera 0020 Corcovado, Costa Rica

I found a fruiting monstera plant, and as I had tried this fruit for the first time just briefly before the trip and loved it (and it was very expensive at a NYC supermarket), I was eager to munch on this one in nature. Even its scientific name is Monstera deliciosa!

monstera 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

But unfortunately it wasn’t fully ripe, and it still had some irritating scales 😦

When I walked along the river, I saw a basilisk again.

basilisc lizard 0003 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

And this time, I finally saw with my own eyes, why it is also called a Jesus lizard – it can walk on water! Well, not really walk but rather run –

basilisc lizard 0004 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

and so fast, that you can hardly capture it with photography (unless you are well prepared for it).

I also saw a couple of tortoises in the river. But in a hole on the riverbank, there was another iconic reptile of the American tropics

boa constrictor 0000 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

– a boa constrictor. Unlike with the basilisk, I didn’t see it in action. I actually noticed a few ticks attached to it – so instead of a boa constrictor sucking life out of its prey, I saw those small arachnids sucking on its blood.

boa constrictor 0001 Corcovado, Osa peninsula, Costa Rica

So much wildlife in so many forms we saw in those 3 days in Corcovado National Park and its surroundings, it’s amazing! If you are a nature enthusiast, it is certainly a top destination. Hopefully, you’ll have a good guide too. And in case you lose your shorts, you may find mine somewhere on the trail 😉

Tyagarah lake, Australia

Tyagarah Lake is located in Northern New South Wales, Australia, about a 30 drive minutes from well known Byron Bay (and the very popular naturist spot Kings Beach). It is a picturesque small freshwater lake just minutes from the beach. A much larger lake is across the road next it but this is swampy and inaccessible.

view 0002 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Tyagarah Lake is a popular spot for locals and not a known tourist spot, as it’s off the main highway, on a dirt road and not near any towns.  But it is still easy to get to: turn off the Pacific Highway onto Greys Lane and follow it as it turns into a dirt road on the way to Tyagarah Nature reserve beach. Before you make it to the beach you will see cars parked on the road.

view 0005 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Look for the Tyagarah Nature reserve signs to find the path in.  It’s only a very short 3 min walk in to reach the lake.

naturist 0000 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

While I like it as the main destination for the day it is also a popular stop when driving back from Tyagarah Beach (also a naturist spot!) to rinse off the ocean and sand on the way home.  It is such a beautiful peaceful spot.

naturist 0001 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

The water is never too cold and is the perfect temperature to jump right in.

naturist 0003 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

The surrounding trees go right up the waters edge providing many shady resting spots.

view 0004 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

The surrounding trees are known as “Tea Trees” or “Paperbarks” (Melaleuca alternifolia).

Tea tree (paperback) 0001 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

This is what makes the lake particularly special. At first glance the water looks brown and barely swimmable, but it because when Tea Trees grow beside a lake, their oil drips down into the water making it look like tea.

view 0001 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

The water is very fresh and clean and the oil leaves a lovely moisturizing residue on your skin.

tea tree 0000 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Tea Tree oil has been used traditionally by Australian Aboriginal people as an antiseptic on the skin and as an insect repellant. Squeezing the small leaves releases the oil and a refreshing scent.

Tea tree 0002 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Tyagarah is named from an Aboriginal word meaning tussocks of sharp bladed grass. There is lots of grass of this description growing in the lake, so it is well named.

view 0003 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

Other beautiful sights on the lake are the water lilies and dragonflies.

dragonfly on water lily 0000 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

When it’s time to leave after a last swim and before you put your clothes back on, a short walk can be taken all the way around the lake and reveals and some smaller inlets and swampy areas.

naturist 0002 Tyagarah lake, New South Wales, Australia

NuDance class promo sale!

We’d like to remind that our NuDance class is live and kicking, and as a special promotion this weekend from Black Friday to Cyber Monday you can buy any class in December for just $5 – all 5 classes of December would cost you only $25! Not a bad deal, is it? Surely you can learn quite a lot in a month, so if you are in NYC and around – come and join the NuDance movement 😉

And yes, we are long overdue with our report re Burning Man experience this year, but it’s coming. And here is just another reminder about the nu-dancing video we shot at Burning Man last year with our instructor damoN – still can’t get enough of it!

 

Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress Preserve, Florida

And one more little adventure from my Florida trip a year ago. I already wrote about a scenic trail in Big Cypress National Preserve, but believe it or not, South Florida has a few more trails that prove that hiking on a flat terrain can be exciting, and here is one of them: Gator Hook trail. Maybe it’s for the better that Florida is not known for hiking, so you can often find the trail all to yourself… and enjoy it ‘as nature intended’, in the buff – as several of us did, lead by Dave from Florida Great Outdoors group.

view 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

We started off early in the morning,

view 0001 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

but by the time we arrived the sun was already pretty high, and it was obvious we’d have a hot day ahead.

view 0003 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

However, there was still dew all over the palm leaves

view 0004 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

and the cypresses.

view 0005 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

We were ready to disrobe right away, but then we heard cars approaching the trailhead, and soon a pretty big group of people arrived. Luckily, they didn’t go far, just to the nearest cypress dome (that is a grove of cypress trees around the swamp waterhole).

view 0006 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Afterwards, we had the trail to ourselves again.

naturist 0004 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

It was quite dry (for a swamp),

plant 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

but a few puddles were scattered here and there.

view 0008 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

One of them hosted a water moccasin, which was a lot calmer than the ones we saw 2 years ago.

water mocassin 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

This time I was a lot luckier capturing another local reptile – Carolina anole, while he was flashing his brightly colored throat fan.

brown-anole-0000-Gator-Hook-Trail,-Big-Cypress-National-Preserve,-Florida,-USA-s

Besides this unidentified monster everything went quiet,

view 0007 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

and we enjoyed the tranquility of the place.

naturist 0006 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

We also paid attention to the local plants and were hoping to see a blooming orchid.

naturist 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Some plants were rather typical for a tropical rainforest, like this strangler fig, reminding that South Florida is a tiny outcrop of the tropics in the continental US.

strangler ficus 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

This palm seemed to attempt a similar take-over of another tree, though without strangling roots, it would probably end up just growing next to it.

palm tree 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

There were also quite a few fern species,

fern 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

and the one below had leaves reminiscent of snake skin.

fern 0001 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Typically for this part of the world, many trees were covered by bromeliads.

naturist 0001 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Some were blooming,

bromeliad 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

others were already releasing their airborne fruit.

bromeliad 0001 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

… and they provided a cozy habitat for grasshoppers.

grasshopper on bromeliad 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

We also saw a beautiful blue iris,

iris 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

I wish I could capture its sweet smell in the photograph too!

iris 0001 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Then we found orchids with their fruits already dry and open, so I though it could be too late to see any with flowers…

orchid 0004 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

But then we saw quite a few blooming ones!

orchid 0001 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Not quite as spectacular as the orchids sold commercially, but it was exciting to see them in the wild. (I think this is a dingy flowered star orchid).

orchid 0002 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

Not sure what kind of plant is this one below, but its tiny flowers were very pretty too.

flower 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

And hanging on it, there was another interesting encounter – a semi-transparent spider. What a way to blend in with the environment!

spider 0000 Gator Hook Trail, Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida, USA

So did we feel very connected to the natural environment during our naked hike!

canoeing in the Everglades, part 2

naturist 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the naked volleyball tournament at the Lake Come Resort in Florida again, but as much as it was an amazing weekend of fun and games, I don’t have any footage to share (though there was a photo art project – still need to hear what came out of it). Well, I still have some material from my last year’s journey, however. So, here’s a report from a 2-day canoe/kayak trip that we did in the northern Everglades (you can see the trails on our map).

We started off at the Everglades City, and after paddling about two hours in the open water, we got a bit lost in the mangroves… Until I remembered that I had an offline map on my phone that could still use GPS to tell the location (there’s no mobile service). With this delay, we’d need to really rush to make it to the chickee (a platform above water) where we planned to camp overnight, but luckily there was another campsite on our way at the Lopez River, and there was nobody staying.

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It was great to be on the solid land after several hours of paddling against the current! So we decided to camp there, although I wanted my friends to get an experience of camping on a chickee, which Tam and I enjoyed thoroughly.

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The birds were singing in the sunset rays, and everything seemed perfect.

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But then came no-see-ums (sandflies), and our evening was cut short, as we retreated to the tents after the dinner. Though we still enjoyed the full moon, and it was peculiar to see a lot of locomotion in the river as the night came – it must have been a spawning season for some fish.

Next day, we continued paddling upstream, seeing quite a bit of wildlife around us.

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Well, if ibises is nothing special for Florida, the next encounter was truly exciting – a sawfish!

I noticed it next to my kayak and called the canoe crew to come to see it. It stayed still, but I was a bit shocked by its strange appearance, so it took me a few more seconds to reach out for my GoPro to take an underwater shot… by which time it left :-/

sawfish 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

It’s probably rarer to see sawfish than manatees, and the ranger station even asks to report their sightings. After this, spotting an osprey nest didn’t seem like a big deal at all.

osprey nest 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

Then we reached the chickee where we were supposed to stay overnight, had lunch there and shot some videos, a few seconds of which became a part of our promo for the NuDance class with damoN.

After that, we decided to split, as I wanted to return by a different route, but the canoe crew wanted “to stay on the safe side” and took the same way back. In the end, it wasn’t a good idea for them, as that route went a lot more through the open water, and the day was windy – so they gladly took an offer of a ranger passing by on a motorboat who gave them a lift. I myself went in a kayak via Turner River and then a canal along the bridge/road to Chokoloskee. My highlight was a little diversion that I took there in a narrow canal on the side.

view 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

This allowed me to see the dense mangrove forest from the inside.

view 0002 Everglades, Florida, USA

So, this trip was from the opposite side of the Everglades of where Tam and I had a 4-day adventure in 2014. I hope to do the whole canoe trail through the Everglades some day – still need to see what’s between the two areas I’ve visited.

NuView from NuDance

Our NuDance project has become a regular feature now, with nude dance classes on Friday nights in Midtown Manhattan. We have fun trying to imitate and learn from our instructor damoN, and then sometimes going out together to New York City’s nightclubs (where we do have to wear clothes, though). Our long-term goal is to stage a performance, perhaps also attracting external professional dancers, and also organize a naked dance party in the city. If you are interested, let us know and get on our  e-mail list for updates as well as to find out the location and timing of the classes.

Meanwhile, enjoy our new video, which is a sequel to ‘Bare Beach Piano‘.

Happy Nude Year! (after a somewhat pagan Xmas celebration)

naturist 0005 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

I rang in the New Year just as you’d expect me to do – in the nude! It was a fun Naked Comedy Show, and perhaps I’ll write about it in more detail later. But here’s a report from my Christmas day celebration, which came unexpected event to me – it was a naked hike in my beloved area of Pine Meadow Lake in Harriman State Park. With the current temperatures almost at their seasonal norm levels (cold!), it’s hard to imagine that we had those almost summer-warm days just a week ago. You might have heard that this December has seen record-high temperatures in NYC, so I decided to take advantage of the freak weather and get out for my first winter hike in Harriman park. I thought the previous post would be the last one about this place from 2015, but thanks to this winter adventure I can now say that it’s truly great any time of the year!

view 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Well, there were no blueberries or raspberries, but quite a lot of other small fruits decorates the bushes.

view 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Otherwise the forest appeared pretty dead… which felt even weirder because it was as warm as in late spring. Just a few trees kept the leaves, while almost all were naked – and we followed the case 😉

view 0003 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

It was actually nice that the trees were leafless, because the sun could go through – in summer almost all of this hike is in shade, but this time it was good to feel sun rays throughout the hike.

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The forest was very quiet and besides this friendly prehistoric crocodile that let me pose with him, we hardly saw or heard any animals.

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Maybe he also put this rock up like this?

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Mountain laurels were the only green bushes (besides coniferous), and they looked somewhat overoptimistic about the weather… Well, maybe they can keep their buds safe throughout the winter, but they looked like they were ready to open and grow.

We then noticed one tree had its tiny flowers open – most likely confused with the weather…

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Others were decorated with fruits that seemed to be more suited for winter.

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But once we got to the lake, we decided to decorate a small “Christmas tree” – with what we had: food, and berries from the plants around.

naturist Xmas tree 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Before you call our decoration blasphemous, you should know that it was approved by Jesus. And before you think I’m crazy, that’s a true name of my friend (too bad he didn’t want to appear on photos).

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In any case, the tradition of decorating trees has pagan roots, and our phallic theme referred to fertility and revival…

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Too bad there weren’t many fellow hikers to appreciate that, and we soon ate our decorations. There was a small group of hikers though, who seemed to be genuinely interested in why we were naked. We explained a little about naturism, and how we wanted to enjoy the rare occasion of being able to be naked outdoors in December in NYC area. I have a feeling I may see them hike naked next summer! Otherwise, our company was limited to squirrels, chipmunks and a woodpecker.

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We walked around Pine Meadow Lake a little more, and discovered two interesting places. One seemed to be like a secret meeting point of a Stone Age tribe… or dwarves?) With stone chairs around a fire pit, it should be a great spot to camp out with a group!

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Then we saw a strange structure on the neighboring hill. This was particularly surprising, as it was in a part of Harriman State Park that I knew very well, having hiked through these woods many times. But only now, with the forest being naked, did we notice it. When we got closer, we started guessing what it could be.

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It was not an abandoned mansion, as we first thought, but rather a water tower.  Just to make sure it wasn’t some kind of giant sacrifice place, like mayan cenotes, we wanted to look inside.

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There was a fallen tree leaning against the wall, so we could actually climb it and have a look. No, it was a water tower after all…

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or a Phallus temple?

We soon had to leave as it was getting dark and cold, but we still hiked naked all the way back. I think it might have been my most memorable Christmas day so far! And having spent the New Year’s Eve at the naked comedy show, I am sure this year is bound to have lots of fun in the buff, which I also wish to all of you!

PS Of course we also skinny-dipped, and the water was shocking-cold, so it was literally a dip. I plan to go to Sandy Hook on Sunday for Polar Bare Plunge for a more social winter skinny-dip – is anyone else up for it?

turkey and mushrooms in the woods of Harriman State Park

wild turkey 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

After seeing the title of this blogpost, you probably pictured a naturist picnic at Harriman State Park for Thanksgiving – but no, this wasn’t the case. I had a traditional (and clothed) dinner. However, the Thanksgiving meal reminded me of sighting a few wild turkeys in the woods of Harriman park this past summer, so this is kind of a bonus to the previous post about my favorite outdoors spot around NYC.

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This was a fairly large group of adult females with the offspring – I shot just a few of them (I refer to photography). How many can you spot here? Turkeys camouflage pretty well, and if not the noise they had made running away from me, I wouldn’t have noticed them. I had seen wild turkeys on other occasions, but this was the first time I managed to take a photo of them. It could be sharper, but in my defense it was getting dark and they moved fast.

Another animal that I finally saw and photographed this summer was a snapping turtle.

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I can imagine a few male readers cringe thinking that this is the same lake where we swim naked, but snapping turtle is quite a secretive animal and wouldn’t try to hunt you. I was happy to snap a photo of this prehistoric-looking creature though.

And if we talk about ancient animals, there are some more peculiar creatures, like the pretty impressive moss animal Pectinatella magnifica!

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Here is a pretty big colony from the Turkey Pond (I have some photos of us swimming there in the previous post, but that time we didn’t have a waterproof camera).

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These look somewhat like corals but are not related to them (well, not any more than us).

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And here is an American five-lined skink. It’s a young individual, as it still has blue colors. Adult males apparently have a red head, similar to another species of skink that I showed in the previous post.

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Chipmunk is nothing special in North America, but I like this photo of one sneaking out from under the rock.

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And again, with the reference to the previous post, I just mentioned there that I wished I had known local mushrooms – and this summer I finally started using the Audubon app to detect mushrooms, and we collected quite a lot of them on several hikes:

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e.g., chanterelles

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and various boletes in June around Pine Meadow lake. Actually I used some of the boletes right away for making a soup there.

In early October, Li and I ventured to a new lake for me – Island Pond, and one area on its shores was incredibly rich in boletes!

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These are no magic mushrooms, but they make a great soup.

Well, enough of naturalist photos, here is a couple of naturist ones:

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On the way to the Island Pond, there was a tree of a weird shape – almost perfect for taking a nap, if only it was softer.

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And right by the lake, there was the most interesting ruin that I’ve seen in Harriman park so far – a pretty well preserved fireplace with a chimney.

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I see some more photo opportunities for the future 😉

bare dance on a bare beach

Many of you are eagerly awaiting updates from our experience as a theme camp at Burning Man, but it will take some time to get through all the amazing photos and videos – stay tuned, it’s worth the wait 😉 Meanwhile, enjoy our new video from the NuDance project.

We see dance as a celebration of human body in movement, and what a better way to celebrate and appreciate it than in the nude? Beach provides a great setting for dancing in the buff, and those old poles remind of piano keys, referring to the soundtrack by Eric Prydz – ‘Pjano’. We experiment with masks here to shift focus on body expression.

By the way, we will have our last beach session of this summer at Sandy Hook this Saturday – Gunnison Beach on the right side at 16:00. Then we plan to start again regular weekly classes in New York City; if you are interested, get on our  e-mail list for updates and find out the location and timing of the classes.

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.)

autumn view 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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.

rose bloom 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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:

flowers 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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.

frog 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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.

https://farm1.staticflickr.com/423/18688531185_f9068c5495_z_d.jpg

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.

view 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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),

raspberry 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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.

blackberry 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

raspberry 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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!

grape vine 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

mushroom 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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.

mushroom 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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.

burnt view 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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.

https://farm1.staticflickr.com/297/18067815753_227f559a38_z_d.jpg

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.

burnt view 0005 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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 🙂

rock art 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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!