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 😉

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!

Orient Land Trust, Colorado

naturist 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Orient Land Trust is an amazing piece of land between San Luis Valley and Cottonwood Peak of Rocky Mountains in Colorado; it encompasses wildlife corridor with numerous hiking trails to explore, pristine spring waters – including geothermal springs for you to relax, an abandoned mine that now hosts the state’s largest bat colony, and rustic cabins and camping area for you to stay. And what makes this place truly natural, relaxing and liberating is that it is very much nude-friendly! When we went there in July, the weather was just perfect for that – it only cools down at night, but then you’d hang out at the hot springs 😉

naturist 0015  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

We stayed at the Oak House community lodge, but if I come again, I think I’ll go for tenting next to one of those natural hot springs.

This place is perfect if want to connect with nature at ease – it’s everywhere around you, and even such luxury as hot baths are natural there. On my first walk around, I was amazed to see several deer right off the trail that seem to be quite tame. I didn’t have my camera that time, but when I grabbed it, there was a rabbit instead, but it was a bit shier.

rabbit 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USArabbit 0001  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

I saw quite a few deer on a random trail afterwards, and it looked like they felt pretty much the same as human visitors of OLT – relaxed 😉

deer 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Fawns, however, seemed to be more alert and cautious,

deer 0002  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USAdeer 0003  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

so as squirrels (unlike their Central Park counterparts).

squirrel 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

As I continued going up the mountain, I also apparently scared the whole flock of grouse, as they noisily took off the ground and sat on the trees around me.

grouse 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USAgrouse 0001  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

The views from the trail were beautiful: multicolored hills and mountains,

view 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

magnificent San Luis Valley,

view 0001  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

and cute tiny settlement of Orient Land Trust itself…

view 0002  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

At the top of the nearest peak to OLT, there was a primitive stone construction by a dead tree – not sure about its purpose, but it could protect you from the wind if you decide to camp there.

view 0004  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

As I looked down at the forest on the opposite slope, it caught my attention how various the vegetation appeared to be, with patches of different broad-leaf and coniferous trees sticking to each other, and other parts covered by grass or bushes.

view 0005  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Aspen trees with their white barks stood out in the sea of green.

aspen forest 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

As aspens let a lot of light to reach the ground, a lot of other plants can grow in such a forest.

aspen forest 0001  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

And if aspens caught my eyes’ attention, my nose was pleased with conifers –

conifer 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

many of them released sap on  their young cones, and it provided a pleasant aroma.

conifer 0001  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Too bad I didn’t see any edible fruits. This one below looked like a gooseberry, but I wasn’t sure.

gooseberry 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

This plant below had beautiful leaves,

plant 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

but the main attraction was of course flowers,

flowering plant 0006  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

which were in abundance all over the mountain but especially on non-forested slopes.

flowering plant 0010  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USAflowering plant 0009  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USAflowering plant 0008  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Colors spanned the whole spectrum.

flowering plant 0007  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USAflowering plant 0012  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USAflowering plant 0002  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

My favorite was probably this one below.

flowering plant 0004  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Flowers mean butterflies (and hummingbirds, in this part of the world, but we’ll get to them later).

holly blue butterfly 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

But not all butterflies were busy pollinating flowers.

butterfly 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Cactus flowers seemed to be more popular among bees though.

cactus 0003  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

I was surprised to see so many cacti species so far up north and at relatively high elevation,

cactus 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

but they were clearly at limit of their ecological tolerance,

cactus 0005  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

as all of them were very short.

cactus 0001  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

I wonder if sticking together helps cacti survive winter.

cactus 0004  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Well, at least some of them clearly showed their love to the place ❤

cactus 0006  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

And as much as I love cacti, I don’t like stepping on their spikes… oh, have I mentioned that hiked not only bare but barefoot too?

naturist 0016  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

The terrain was quite rough even without spikes, but all that pain made relaxation in hot springs only sweeter.

naturist 0009  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

So, finally I’m getting to describe you what Orient Land Trust is probably most known for – geothermal springs in truly natural setting! There are a few pools with different temperature of water, different levels of accessibility and seclusion. The uppermost of the upper three pools has an extra feature: air bubbles seep through its bottom caressing your body on their way to the surface.

naturist 0011  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

The middle of the upper pools is one of the smallest, but its depth is just perfect to lie down and enjoy the flow of warm water over your body.

naturist 0012  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

After that, I was ready for another hike! (I’ll get back to description of other hot springs of OLT in a bit.)

view 0006  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

At around 18:00, together with many other visitors and a guide, we headed out to the abandoned Orient Mine turned home to the largest bat colony in Colorado to see the spectacle of thousands bats leaving their cave to prey on insects at dusk.

view 0007  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

The views on the way were stunning again.

view 0008  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

The excavated red earth stark perfect contrast to the green, whereas the valley literally on the other side of the road was covered by dry grass.

view 0009  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Typically for OLT, we were greeted by a deer chilling by the bush.

deer 0004  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

I snacked on ‘Bear Naked’ energy bar (I see an ad potential here!)

naturist 0013  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

The trail was very easy, with only one decent uphill hike, after which we had a break at a cliff with magnificent view of the valley.

naturist 0003  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

The sea of dry grass  spotted by green trees and bush thickets presented a beautiful picture.

view 0010  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Then, the beams of sunlight coming onto the valley between the mountains and clouds created yet more splendid view.

view 0011  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

As the last sun rays of the day touched our skin, we hurried to the Orient Mine cave.

naturist 0005  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

While we waited for the bats to emerge, I was try it to figure my at-the-time-new-to-me camera settings, that would work well for a fast moving small object in dark conditions.

view 0012  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

I could certainly catch the colors of sunset,

view 0013  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

and an airplane gaseous trace,

view 0014  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

but I failed to take any decent photograph of bats.

bats 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

You’ll just have to believe my word or go to OLT webpage about their bats to see photos and videos.

bats 0001  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

It was a mesmerizing nature’s spectacle! As we were told by our guide, these bats were mainly males of a tropical species that migrate there for the summer, it was funny to think of the cave as a huge bachelor resort for bats and their huge night feast in the valley.

By that time, it got substantially colder and I was the only one left naked. It was still ok for me, especially after we started walking, but I was looking forward to the hot springs. At night, we only went to the pools that were closer to the campground, and although they were pretty full, it was still easy to find a nice spot for yourself. At the biggest pool, we were treated with yet another amazing nature’s spectacle: incredibly bright starry sky and fireflies ‘dancing’ around us. Unfortunately I didn’t even try to photograph this, but the whole experience was magic.

Next morning, we went to the upper pools again and enjoyed the views from the lowest of the three. By the way, there was mint growing right next to it, so it smelled nice around too.

naturist 0007  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

This geothermal infinity pool is just priceless, and I hope I’ll enjoy it again some day!

Right before our departure, I found hummingbird trapped in the bathroom.

saving hummingbird 0000  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

Luckily, I have a lot of experience handling birds,

saving hummingbird 0001  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

so I easily caught it while it was bumping into the window and set it free outside.

saving hummingbird 0002  Orient Land Trust, Colorado, USA

I must say that I myself felt pretty much free as a bird at Orient Land Trust, I wish there were more places like that!

Dream Canyon in Colorado

naturist 0008 Dream Canyon, Colorado, USA

We had a very short hike last summer in Dream Canyon, west of Boulder, Colorado, but it was clear why it was called so – breath-taking views awaited us there, and to add some more dreamy atmosphere, we hiked in the buff.

Dream Canyon has a bit of history of nude outdoor recreation probably thanks to the fact that it’s somewhat complicated to navigate there while also being close to Boulder, one of the hippest cities in America whose dwellers love outdoors. It took us a while to find a convenient parking lot with numerous trails coming down. 

view 0000 Dream Canyon, Colorado, USA

At first, the beauty of the canyon was  concealed by the pine forest. We took one of the least used trails, and after just a few minutes of pretty steep descent

naturist 0001 Dream Canyon, Colorado, USA

we got to an open space with the view over the canyon.

naturist 0007 Dream Canyon, Colorado, USA

But not only the majestic views impressed me, it was interesting to see such a multi-colored plant! (Which I later found out was Oregon grape holly.)

Oregon grape holly 0000 Dream Canyon, Colorado, USA

We continued our hike down, however,

naturist 0006 Dream Canyon, Colorado, USA

and found even better spots to enjoy the views and have our lunch, somewhere midway between the top of the canyon and the creek in its bottom.

naturist 0002 Dream Canyon, Colorado, USA

This place is well-known among rock climbers, and it’s obvious why!

naturist 0003 Dream Canyon, Colorado, USA

We didn’t have any climbing equipment, but it was also fun to run down and up those steep trails without it, and any clothes either.

naturist 0004 Dream Canyon, Colorado, USA

It certainly helps being flexible, and I can see why Mateo has a nickname of Spider-Man in some circles 🙂

naturist 0005 Dream Canyon, Colorado, USA

Next time we should spend a bit more time there and perhaps find a place for [naked] bouldering. When in Boulder… 😉

hiking and bouldering in Painted Canyon (California)

naturist 0015 Mecca Hills, California, USA

Painted Canyon in California is yet another place for a nice hike in the buff; it’s not an official naturist territory, but it has a history of naturist excursions and feels quite secluded.

view 0015 Mecca Hills, California, USA

This place is also known as Mecca Hills, but Painted Canyon makes better justice as its name – the rocks are quite colorful there!

view 0008 Mecca Hills, California, USA

Shortly after then entrance (parking), you’ll have to get up the ladders on another level of the dry riverbed,

naturist 0001 Mecca Hills, California, USA

but otherwise it’s pretty flat. Except for the vertical rock walls around! It’s difficult to imagine how this place is transformed when the river gets full here, but you can get a rough idea when you see the traces of its work, such as the base of this rock wall being washed off…

naturist 0000 Mecca Hills, California, USA

I posed both as a Titan supporting the whole thing and being succumbed to some kind of gravitational force pulling me deep in the Mother Earth…

naturist 0014 Mecca Hills, California, USA

We continued the hike,

view 0011 Mecca Hills, California, USA

and after a brief clothed break as we let some school group pass by, we got naked again.

Here is just a brief overview of the variety of rocks that you may see there.

I have no idea of their composition and geological names, so I can only offer to enjoy the esthetic aspect of their colorful variety:

view 0002 Mecca Hills, California, USA

dotted

view 0014 Mecca Hills, California, USA

and striped,

view 0013 Mecca Hills, California, USA

green

view 0003 Mecca Hills, California, USA

and pink-red!

naturist 0003 Mecca Hills, California, USA

As we continued, there were a few bifurcations – dried estuaries of the dried river – and we were taking the left ones, but I imagine they all look similar.

view 0012 Mecca Hills, California, USA

I climbed up one of the hills to get a view from above, and it was quite spectacular with all those rocks zigzaggedly eroded by rivers.

naturist 0002 Mecca Hills, California, USA

After that we headed back, but then I saw something I’d been trying to photograph for years –

naturist 0016 Mecca Hills, California, USA

a hummingbird!

Anna's hummingbird 0002 Mecca Hills, California, USA

I knew that they could be around as soon as I saw elongated red flowers that this pollinating bird loved.

Anna's hummingbird 0000 Mecca Hills, California, USA

I managed to take a few pictures, as you can see, even while it was hovering,

Anna's hummingbird 0003 Mecca Hills, California, USA

but the light was quite low already, so given the speed with which hummingbird flaps its wings, they become invisible on the photo 😀

Anna's hummingbird 0004 Mecca Hills, California, USA

There was also a plant with red stems, but I’m not sure if that is to attract any kind of animal.

desert plants 0000 Mecca Hills, California, USA

Once I started paying attention to plants, it was quite fascinating to see such a variety,

desert plants 0002 Mecca Hills, California, USA

and many of them blooming, in such arid conditions.

desert plants 0001 Mecca Hills, California, USA

Some cacti though looked somewhat squashed, as if they used up almost all their water cache.

cactus 0001 Mecca Hills, California, USA

This one seemed to be very well protected.

cactus 0000 Mecca Hills, California, USA

Close to the exit, Don knew of another trail that was rather special. As all passages here, it was a dried riverbed, but the river that carved this canyon must have been nothing more than a narrow creek. It looked very surreal.

view 0004 Mecca Hills, California, USA

I’ve only seen such kind of terrain in the movie ‘127 Hours’. It was like a winding labyrinth,  sometimes very narrow,

view 0018 Mecca Hills, California, USA

where you never knew what you’d see at the next turn –

naturist 0006 Mecca Hills, California, USA

perhaps a naked man? 😀

naturist 0007 Mecca Hills, California, USA

Mostly the walls looked too steep to try to climb up, but in one place I was tempted to do so, as the cliff wasn’t entirely vertical and had a lot of dents and bumps.

naturist 0008 Mecca Hills, California, USA

It was quite easy to climb up,

naturist 0019 Mecca Hills, California, USA

but I didn’t dare to go all the way up that tower-like rock.

naturist 0013 Mecca Hills, California, USA

I still felt like king of the hill (or king of the castle?)

naturist 0018 Mecca Hills, California, USA

But as it often happens, it was much scarier to go down than to climb up, and the ground seemed suddenly shaky…

naturist 0020 Mecca Hills, California, USA

I made it down without problems though and even went back up half-way to take a picture of the slot canyon from above.

view 0006 Mecca Hills, California, USA

It was a lot of fun to walk through that labyrinth,

naturist 0010 Mecca Hills, California, USA

and it didn’t just turn all the time, we had to go up and down a few times too.

naturist 0021 Mecca Hills, California, USA

It was good though that there was a clear main path, as you wouldn’t want to get lost there.

view 0007 Mecca Hills, California, USA

After we reached a relatively wide part, we decided to turn back.

naturist 0012 Mecca Hills, California, USA

The sun was just about to set, but it was getting dark in the slot canyon already. We headed back fast, as we still needed to set up the camp,

view 0016 Mecca Hills, California, USA

but we still got the last sun rays.

view 0017 Mecca Hills, California, USA

I guess we were so inspired by the views of the Painted Canyon, that despite being quite sleepy we spent a couple of hours painting each other… with light! I actually posted the results of our light-painting frenzy a while ago.

Next day, we visited Morongo Valley,

naturist 0022 Mecca Hills, California, USA

where we could refresh in the remains of the river that was still flowing (and was very cold too).

naturist 0023 Mecca Hills, California, USA

The following night and morning we spent in luxury at Vista Grande Resort in Palm Springs; nudity combined well with luxury too, as it turned out 🙂

DeAnza resort, Heartbreak Hotel etc.

naturist Heartbreak hotel 0000 DeAnza resort, California, USA

In case you thought this photo depicts DeAnza Springs Resort, don’t worry, it’s in much better condition. This is just one of their sites of interest, where some scenes of a 1988 movie Heartbreak Hotel were shot. The resort hosts a resident nudist community, as well as a motel and RVs to rent; it’s actually the largest clothing-optional resort in North America, according to their website. Below is a photo with the view of DeAnza resort and its surroundings taken from a rocky peak nearby.

view 0003 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

But before I get to tell you how I got to that peak, a couple more words about the resort itself. Typically for a nudist resort, there is a sauna, hot tub and two pools – open-air and indoors, where water volleyball is played. There are also tennis courts, and perhaps the best equipped gym I’ve seen at a nudist resort so far!

naturist gym 0000 DeAnza resort California, USA

However, the most attractive thing about DeAnza Springs Resort is its nature surroundings and possibilities for outdoor recreation: bouldering, and miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails. I was a bit disappointed they didn’t have a bike rental – it would be useful when we explored the ‘rail-trail’, which I described in my previous blogpost. There’s definitely a lot of potential for outdoor activities at DeAnza, and I think they should put more emphasis on it on their website.

view 0005 DeAnza Peak trail, California, USA

The Peak Trail, which was called so for obvious reasons, is a lot shorter than the ‘Rail-trail’ (about a mile), but it’s very diverse in terms of sights and experiences that you get on the way. It starts right off that Heartbreak Hotel movie scene site and goes around a rocky peak.

view 0006 DeAnza Peak trail, California, USA

Right off the start, there are some enormous boulders,

Native American art 0000 DeAnza Peak trail, California, USA

and some rocks with Native American art. There is apparently a lot more of it, but we couldn’t find where… (Better self-guide maps and markings on trails would be my other suggestion to DeAnza Springs resort for improvement!)

plants 0000 DeAnza Peak trail, California, USA

The trail is quite easy to lose; it’s not like you can get really lost, as everything is quite visible and in the open there, but you should watch out for those cacti and other spiky plants.

lichen 0000 DeAnza Peak trail, California, USA

There’s actually quite a lot of vegetation. Lichens may not seem as interesting at first, but it’s quite amazing how they manage to live on bare rocks in the desert.

view 0001 DeAnza Peak trail, California, USA

We lost the trail a couple of times and my travel buddy decided to go back to the campground, while I was determined to climb up the peak. As I was coming up behind the peak, I noticed a few small caves, where I thought I might see more of Native American art or could pose for a picture, so I was looking for a rock on which I could leave my camera on self-timer… I reclined, trying to find the best angle, and then turned around

rattle snake 0001 DeAnza Peak trail, California, USA

and saw a rattle snake right behind me!

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I jumped away in a split second. Oh well, it was just chilling in the crack between the rocks and didn’t seem to be bothered by my presence. I spent quite a lot of time taking pictures of it, and it barely moved at all.

rattle snake 0000 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We were warned about rattle snakes, but after that I was certainly a lot more cautious even just stepping over rocks, as I was also reminded of my first encounter with a rattle snake which was also chilling behind a rock in a forest near New York City… Nevertheless, cautious doesn’t mean anxious, so I continued exploring and enjoying the surroundings.

naturist 0001 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

As I mentioned, there were a few small caves that looked very cozy with their rounded smooth edges. Now it was my time to chill on the rocks 😉

naturist 0002 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

This could be a nice little community of natural studio apartments 🙂

naturist 0003 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Well, I’m not sure about living in caves, but cooling down for a bit in one of those was nice.

view 0002 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The one on the photo above might be perfect for camping, maybe next time!

naturist 0004 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

I’ve seen pictures with nudes in the rocks of this sort by some photographer, but cannot recall who… I wouldn’t be surprised if the pictures were taken here (please leave a comment, if you know the artwork). So, even though this landscape was kind of desolate, it made me at the same time feel comfortable and willing to interact with it.

view 0000 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The next step was to conquer the peak itself. Here, I saw the rope I was told about at the reception, and it certainly made climbing a lot easier. Here is how it looked like and what I saw from up there 🙂

“Rail-trail” at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Southern California

naturist 0014 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

This post would have suited last weekend more, as there is a bit of a necromantic element to it… Better later than never, so here it is, another hiking story, but very unusual in a way, as the landscape through which this trail goes is deeply influenced and modified by people of the recent past. I call it a ‘rail-trail’, as it runs along an abandoned railroad, which in its initial times used to be called ‘Impossible Railroad’ due to difficulties with which it was built (in 1919). It was abandoned and then reused a few times in its history with last operation as late as 2011. As nowadays it is not in use, hikers and bikers are free to explore it. Although it might have been [nearly] “impossible” as a railroad, it is obviously very much possible as a hiking and biking trail, perhaps the easiest one in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, with as little change in elevation as it possibly gets in a mountainous terrain.

view 0002 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We started at DeAnza Springs Resort (I’ll review it in the next post), which is the largest clothing-optional resort in the US by territory. I don’t think I should even mention what option we chose in terms of clothing (none!) – the weather was perfect for that, as it usually happens in Southern California. Just the fist couple of minutes of the trail go away from the railroad through cacti and shrub.

view 0001 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The first ghostly train was already behind the first hill.

view 0003 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The train seemed so out of place there, that the fact that we were entering it in the buff didn’t make it much odder than it was…

naturist 0000 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

How often do you get a chance to ride a train naked?

naturist 0002 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

As it should be expected from a ghost train, there was a ghost floating through the aisle… 😀

naturist 0003 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The cars were still in quite solid conditions,

naturist 0001 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

but nature is slowly taking over. Clearly some birds were happy to have this shelter.

view 0032 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We felt like we could spend a lot of time taking pictures in the train, but our hike had barely started!

naturist 0004 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

This view from the back side seemed irresistible to pose with,

naturist 0005 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

so we had to stop for a couple more pics.

naturist 0006 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

It’d be fun to ride a train like this, but the train didn’t move.

naturist 0007 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Even when we tried to push it!

naturist 0009 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

… after which we were too tired to hike, so we decided to hitchhike instead…

naturist 0012 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Our train never arrived, we had to walk after all.

view 0004 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The first bridge was soon followed by the first tunnel, of which I wasn’t aware at all. This was just the beginning!

view 0006 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

This tunnel was very short though,

naturist 0013 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

with enough light passing through. Tunnel’s repeating geometry and symmetry were sort of mesmerizing.

view 0033 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

After that straight tunnel, the road started winding quite a lot.

view 0008 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The valley of Carrizo Creek, which was dry at that time, was still relatively green compared to the rocks above.

view 0007 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Nevertheless, even the rocks were full of desert vegetation,

plant 0000 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

such as cacti and yuccas.

view 0005 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

This dead stem of yucca looked as if it was made of metal.

plant 0001 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

But then we saw a “skeleton” of a cactus!

plant 0002 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The skeleton was actually sticking out from a cactus that was still alive… so it was half-alive, half-dead… a ZOMBIE cactus! I knew something was wrong in that place…

plant 0003 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

But we continued walking, and there I remembered about an episode of ‘Walking Dead’ TV series that I watched on the flight… In those post-apocalyptic scenes, people were walking on an abandoned railroad towards a refuge center. Once they had to go through a tunnel, and of course there was a zombie ambush! If you look at this view below closely, you’ll see entrances to four tunnels that we had to cross…

view 0010 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Here is a zoomed photo of the farthest two, if you couldn’t see them…

view 0011 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

And just like in the series, there were encouraging signs on the way.

view 0012 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Luckily, these tunnels were pretty short and enough sunlight could pass to see without torches.

view 0013 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Here we saw another ghost train.

view 0014 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

And if that wasn’t odd enough on its own,

view 0015 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

this train turned out to have been used in the city of Montreal! This is probably the most unexpected place to see a metro train from Montreal, and we could only guess why this train was brought here from across the continent and then was just left in the middle of the desert…

view 0016 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We got creative again with photography, so here is a scene of me typically being late and trying to catch the train in the last moment (would the train be more likely to wait, if I were naked?)

naturist 0018 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

… and a bit of goofing around.

naturist mooning 0017 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

No zombies were spotted there, and only later on pictures did I notice that we were actually watched by the devil… However, judging by his mischievous smile, he was happy about the mooning 😀

view 0017 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We continued our walk and were approaching another tunnel. There seemed to have been some construction planned but never finished.

view 0018 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Here, the railroad was at the edge of a very steep slope, and this was clearly a site of an accident…

view 0034 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

After entering through that massive gate,

view 0029 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

we realized that tunnel was quite different from the ones we had seen before. It looked more like a cave.

view tunnel 0035 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

And it actually looked more like on the photo below, as brightness on the one above was adjusted. It was very dark, especially after leaving the bright sunlight, and we could hardly see the light on the other side of the tunnel… I wasn’t entirely sure if there was one at all…

view tunnel cave 0036 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

And of course we didn’t think of bringing torches, when we planned a day hike in the desert… In this cave, if anywhere, zombies would definitely have caught us! We had to rely mostly on the tactile sense in our feet and could only hope not to step on a corpse or bump onto some kind of “walking dead”! This tunnel was half-mile long! Luckily, pretty soon it was evident that there was indeed light on the other side of the tunnel. The only problem with it is that once you pass the middle of the tunnel and there is more light coming from the front than from the back, you practically can only see this light and nothing else around you…  Nevertheless, zombies missed all those wonderful opportunities to get us, and we were outside in the broad daylight again. Only cacti looked like they were gathering for an attack, but they were certainly not walking, and they were certainly not dead 🙂

view 0019 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We didn’t have to wait long for another tunnel, and then yet another right away, but these were much shorter.

view 0037 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

One more weird abandoned/unfinished structure…

naturist 0019 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Leaving the last of those tunnels, we came to a fork on the railroad with an option to either continue the road or enter yet another tunnel…

view 0020 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Although tunnels provided shade and coolness from blazing sun, we picked the open road, as that tunnel on the side looked particularly uninviting…  We were rewarded with a spectacular view,

view 0021 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

but soon had to go through a different tunnel. This one was was very short though, and we could see the goal of our hike right after it!

view 0022 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

I think I forgot to mention that our hike actually had a goal to see “the tallest curved wooden trestle ever built in the world”, the bridge over Goat Canyon. Yeah, it’s quite specific, but how often do you get a chance to hike naked to the biggest something of the world?

view 0023 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Here it was, but we decided to cross it, as the other side seemed to provide a better view. It was quite scary to walk on that grid 60m (200′) above the ground! And frankly, the fear wasn’t unreasonable, as not all of the grid plates looked stable.

view 0025 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

We saw a group of bikers who continued their way further (and who were utterly over-dressed for that place in my opinion!)

view 0024 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

For us though, it was the final stop, as we still had to make the way back before sunset.

graffiti 0031 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

It was funny to see those messages on the cargo container: “longest hike of my life… brutal” and “I’ll be back when there’s helicopter service”. I’d have to agree with the one in between, who called the authors of the other two “wimps”. 11km one way is a good exercise, but it was still more of a long stroll than a “brutal” hike!

naturist 0020 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

By that time, we forgot about threat of zombies, but I was a little afraid to look inside that wagon. There was… nothing! A much scarier sight revealed on now the opposite side of the Goat Canyon – a crushed tunnel. It was actually that same side tunnel that we saw at the railroad fork a little earlier… I hope no one was hurt in that disaster.

view 0026 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

But then, from the corner of the Goat Canyon, we could see the bridge in its full glory.

view 0000 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

The tallest curved trestle in the world!

view 0027 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

Certainly not recommended for people who are afraid of heights… or zombies!

view naturist trestle bridge 0027 DeAnza railroad trail, California, USA

hiking up the hills around Athens

After posting about our splendid hike at Mt Olympus, I probably shouldn’t call the activities I describe in this post ‘hikes’ – a ‘stroll’ may be a better word. Regardless, Athens has quite a few hills at its borders, and they provide magnificent views of the city and an easy escape into the wild-ish. Not many people seem to be aware of that, so it was easy for us to find trails where we could hike naked without “disturbing” anyone.

naturist 0001 Alsos Skopeftiriou hill, Athens, Greece

Alsos Skopeftiriou hill at the eastern edge of Athens provides an immense panoramic view.

view 0002 Alsos Skopeftiriou hill, Athens, Greece

It’s covered by a nice mix of trees, shrubs and grasses.

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It is nice to sit and relax there on a later autumn or an early spring day, which would be too cold for a beach but good enough to sunbathe there.

naturist 0000 Alsos Skopeftiriou hill, Athens, Greece

There are lot of different flowers,

flower 0002 Alsos Skopeftiriou hill, Athens, Greeceflower 0003 Alsos Skopeftiriou hill, Athens, Greece

some manage to thrive just in a crack in the rock!

flower 0000 Alsos Skopeftiriou hill, Athens, Greece

We weren’t the only ones enjoying those flowers though 🙂

flower 0001 Alsos Skopeftiriou hill, Athens, Greece

Just in case you don’t like sitting in the grass, there’s a cozy rock that lets you to recline and enjoy the perfect view of Athens!

naturist 0002 Alsos Skopeftiriou hill, Athens, Greece

Then we also found a base a column – doubtfully from the times of Ancient Greece, but it gave another opportunity for nude photography with an obvious influence from Greek statues.

naturist 0006 Alsos Skopeftiriou hill, Athens, Greece

It’s certainly worth staying there till sunset, as you’ll be rewarded with yet another beautiful view with a silhouette of Acropolis!

view 0003 Alsos Skopeftiriou hill, Athens, Greece

Oros Egaleo hills lie in the opposite part of Athens, at the western boundary of the city. So, you’ll have a view of the city and aforementioned Alsos Skopeftiriou hill as well as mountainous area of Dasos Kesarianis behind it.

view 0000 Oros Egaleo hills, Athens, Greece

This time, I was under Ancient Greek influence too: wearing nothing but sandals. I got a pair of Spartan-styled sandals from the ‘poet shoe-maker’ in Athens, Stavros Melissinos.

naturist 0000 Oros Egaleo hills, Athens, Greece

This hill was full of flowers too, but interestingly of mostly different species than at Alsos Skopeftiriou.

flower 0001 Oros Egaleo hills, Athens, Greece

And again, we weren’t the only ones enjoying those flowers 🙂

flower 0000 Oros Egaleo hills, Athens, Greece

There’s a pretty dense coniferous forest at the foothills,

naturist 0003 Oros Egaleo hills, Athens, Greece

so you need to go higher to get the best views.

naturist 0002 Oros Egaleo hills, Athens, Greece

With numerous trails and intersections, it may be hard to choose where to go,

naturist 0001 Oros Egaleo hills, Athens, Greece

but it probably doesn’t matter much – as long as you go up, you’ll end up with magnificent views of Athens.

naturist 0004 Oros Egaleo hills, Athens, Greece

Although I am not a big fan of using nude imagery in advertisement of clothing, I think it is very appropriate to give some props to Stavros Melissinos‘s sandals again with the photo below (I hope he’d approve it :-)). I really like how light and open they feel, and yet they stay firmly on your feet thanks to long laces. You will have to visit Stavros Melissinos‘s store in Athens to buy them, as he wants to make sure they fit well to every customer.

naturist 0008 Oros Egaleo hills, Athens, Greece

In any case, whatever you wear (or not wear), I highly recommend hiking up the hills around Athens.

on the way to Greek gods (hiking up Mt Olympus)

view 0000 Litochoron beach, Greece

Most of our Greek adventures have involved sea and beach in some way, and this one is no exception, but the primary goal was to hike/climb up Mount Olympus. It is also the home of the twelve Olympian gods (according to Greek myths, that is), most of whom, at least male ones, used to hang out naked; so, no wonder Joe and I wanted to visit them wearing that divine attire. Mount Olympus is also among the most topographically prominent mountains and is located next to the sea, so we decided to go all the way from the sea level (at 0m) to the top (at 2,917m).

naturist 0001 Litochoron beach, Greece

We just checked out the beach right across the road from the Litochoro train station, and it was fantastic! Long beach edged with wooded cliffs and just a few people around. What could be better?

naturist 0002 Litochoron beach, Greece

Some fresh blackberries perhaps? We didn’t have too much time stay at the beach, however. After a brief swim, we were ready to walk up to the village of Litochoro.

view 0001 Litochoron beach, Greece

Almost immediately after we got on the road (not naked), we got offered a lift to the village on a pickup truck by three brothers from there. Since that would have been the least interesting part of our trek anyways – just some fields at the foothills of the mountains, we took on the offer, which saved us an hour or two of walking.

view 0000 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

We got some more food at the village and headed to the start of E4 trail (it’s a trail that crosses most of Southern Europe, and we’ve used it in Crete too).

view 0001 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

Shortly after the entrance into Olympus National Park (at ~400m above sea level), I felt comfortable to get naked again. As we started our hike quite late in the day, we didn’t expect to encounter many people on the way. Also, from what what we read online, it appeared that most hikers preferred to start much higher, driving up first to Prionia; to me, this part of the trail – from Litochoro to Prionia – seemed actually the most beautiful.

naturist 0000 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

On this trip, I mastered the technique of traveling really light. The only unnecessary weight was the clothes, though the weather in mountains is unpredictable… I liked the idea of carrying some stuff on the belt, which released a lot of weight from my back.

naturist 0001 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

My backpack was very small too, and I appreciated Deuter’s ‘aircomfort’ configuration: it leaves space between the backpack and back for airflow and distributes some weight from shoulders to lower back.

naturist 0002 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

Some parts of the trail are quite steep and aren’t very stable,

naturist 0014 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

but overall it’s a very pleasant hike of moderate difficulty.

view 0003 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

Views like these make any challenges on the way rewarding.

view 0018 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

As the trail got more comfortable, I even took of my sandals and hiked barefoot:

naturist 0004 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

I wanted to experience this legendary place with all senses.

view 0005 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

If you divert for any reason (like we did on a few occasions),

naturist 0015 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

make sure to go down to E4 trail, which is marked regularly.

view 0004 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

Even though it feels like summer in most of Greece till mid-October or so, at higher elevations autumn colors appear earlier.

naturist 0003 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

On the other hand, there were also a few pretty flowers along the trail as well.

flower 0000 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greeceflower 0001 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greeceflower 0002 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

The trail winds along the Enipeas river crossing it several times.

frog 0000 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

So, you’re likely to see some frogs and maybe even salamanders too (we weren’t lucky enough for the latter).

naturist 0005 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

After sunset, we decided to camp at the first place with flat surface, preferable by the river. We were lucky to find a spot like that pretty soon!

naturist 0007 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

It was a perfect quiet night only interrupted by the river murmur and occasional noise of falling rocks (somewhere far!)

naturist 0008 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

We woke up to see the sun shining over the mountain slopes already.

naturist 0009 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

After a brief refreshment in the river, we took off.

view 0019 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

The trail went through the woods for a while, opening to some more stunning (and now sunny) views.

view 0006 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

The next river crossing was via pretty wooden bridge.

naturist 0011 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

At this point, we realized we had lost our map. Although, it was pretty clear how to follow the trail without it, I decided to run back, as we looked at it not too long before that. I heard many voices approaching (it was the first big group of people on that hike), so I put on my shorts, but it turned out to be a bunch of Czech guys, who probably would have been only slightly amused if they’d seen me naked. Turned out they picked the map, so I didn’t even have to look for it. We let them pass ahead and enjoyed the trail to ourselves most of the time again.

view 0020 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

As the day was warming up, it was nice to refresh in the river again.

naturist 0012 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

The natural views were amazing,

view 0021 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

but it was also nice to see a bit of old (medieval) craft  – a tiny monastery Agio Spileo.

view 0007 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

Here we saw more people, as it was already pretty close to Prionia, so some of the hikers who started/finished there might go down to see this cave.

view 0022 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

Still, the trail up from there was not crowded at all,

naturist 0013 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

and we took advantage of those small pools in the river for some more skinny-dipping.

naturist 0017 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

The last and best spot was at the Enipea waterfalls.

naturist 0022 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

We had just a brief return to civilization at Prionia (at 1100m), as we aimed to reach Spilios Agapitos Refuge aka simply Refuge A (at 2100m) by night.

view 0008 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

This part of the trail is probably the most visited,

view 0010 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

we didn’t dare to hike naked for the most part. I didn’t mark it on our map of naturist locations either, but this bit and other trails from Prionia are shown on google maps.

view 0024 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

The sign indicating that we were on the way to gods was encouraging,

view 0009 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

so as the views, that indicated that we were approaching the forest borderline.

view 0015 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

One of the meadows had plenty of raspberries that were in their prime ripeness and tasted divine!

raspberry 0000 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

Among the few animals that we saw around were a friendly robin

robin 0001 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

and a timid lizard.

lizard 0000 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

By nightfall, we reached the refuge, totally exhausted. It was really cool to be able to see our starting point – the sea and the town of Litochoro.

view 0011 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

In the morning I felt a bit mountain-sick, so I had a slight envy to those lazy hikers who trekked with/on donkeys 🙂

donkeys 0000 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

However, we took off shortly after breakfast, as the gods were calling us 🙂

view 0012 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

We knew they must have been somewhere close!

view 0013 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

Most hikers traveled in huge groups,

view 0023 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

so we decided to divert onto a side trail.

naturist 0023 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

Now we could see top of Mt Olympus and its base all the way down to the sea in one view!

view 0016 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

At this point though, the only way up to the top from this side trail was to climb up.

view 0017 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

We saw a couple of guys do that in the distance but decided not to follow: we still had to go down all the way to Litochoro on that day, and I felt pretty weak from mountain sickness at this altitude. We’ll have to return on another occasion to go all the way up and say hi to the Olympian gods.

naturist 0019 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

As we turned around,

naturist 0018 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

we saw the sunlit valley in mist, a view that could be appropriately described as divine.

naturist 0020 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

Now, if we only could fly!

naturist 00201 E4 trail, Mount Olympus, Greece

Sima bog near Moscow

 Русский

naturist 0000 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

There is a very pretty bog not too far from Moscow, and it was one of the most interesting places where I’ve enjoyed outdoors the natural way, naked. It is a peat bog called Sima at the Zvenigorod Biological Station of Moscow State University, where I spent quite a lot of time during summer practices in my student year. It was so nice to come back there a few years later. Student excursions aside, it’s an ideal place to find oneself at peace with nature.

view 0000 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

Sima is a relatively small peat moss bog surrounded by fir-tree forest.
view 0001 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

The bog is outlined by a stretch of smaller-than-usual birches and pines, as well as blueberries and rhododendron. There were no berries of course, when I visited in May, but rhododendron bush was in full bloom.
Rhododendron 0000 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

Though transition between the forest and the bog appears relatively smooth, there’s no transition between the bog and the lake in the centre of it: the mire just ends abruptly and the lake is over 1-1.5m deep already at the very edge of it. This used to be a peat pit. Thus the lake looks like a huge pool with black water.
view 0002 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

Of course, we couldn’t help swimming there on a hot day like that.
naturist 0004 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

Such a dark water surface reflects exceptionally well.
naturist 0008 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

We didn’t see any fish in the lake, but there must be some, as a couple of seagulls hang out by the lake too.
seagull 0000 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

In any case, it is the bog that makes Sima so special. If from the photos you might think it wasn’t much different from a meadow, this animated picture will assure you that it was a true quaking bog.
naturist-quake-0000-Sima,-Moscow-oblast,-Russia

You can feel like a giant quaking the earth! It’s a funny feeling to walk on that jelly-like surface, you just need to make sure not to sink into it. The trail is enhanced with wooden planks, as you can see on the first photo and the one below.
naturist 0006 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

But if you get off the trail, stay closer to the edge of the lake, where the mire appears to be more solid.
naturist 0001 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

Although this place feels secluded, some people just can’t get out of touch with the rest of the world thanks to their mobile phones… However, we did spend most of the time with various activities and observing the nature around.
naturist 0005 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

There were many things to marvel at even at our feet. Besides sedges, cranberry plants and peat moss, we found quite a few carnivorous plants.
sundew 0000 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

This plant is called sundew due to obvious reasons; this ‘dew’ is used to catch small unwary insects.
sundew 0001 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

They are not alone in that quest, having to compete with frogs
frog 0000 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

and other insects, such as dragonflies.
dragonfly 0000 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

Not all dragonflies, however, were busy preying: some demonstrated amazing stunts of sex in the air! (I would explain the fact that camera focused on their reflection in water as a mode of censorship blur, but the reflection was just as sharp and clear!)
dragonfly 0001 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

In any case, we weren’t disturbed by any mosquitos an flies on that day.
Considering the soft and flat surface of the quaking bog, I decided that it was finally the time to practice some gymnastics after half-a-year break due to my ankle injury.

naturist-flip-0000-Sima,-Moscow-oblast,-Russia

Even though I wasn’t in the best shape, I jumped to my heart’s content.
naturist 0002 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

I almost got stuck in the mire after one jump 😀
naturist 0003 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

Actually, there were no issues with that. It was a unique experience of gymnastics in its authentic meaning – exercising naked – in a completely natural setting with a natural bouncy floor.
naturist 0007 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

Thanks to this soft spring floor, Sasha even mastered a headstand for the fist time. Then we switched to acro-yoga, doing both core-strengthening
naturist acro-yoga 0001 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

and relaxing exercises.
naturist acro-yoga 0000 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

Altogether, we had a glorious day in our altogethers.
view 0003 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

I hope Sima will keep its uniqueness, although bogs are prompt to changing due to natural reasons and man impact. Unfortunately, we saw some deep potholes at bog and the trail leading to it that resulted from an overuse by quad-bikers, and later we saw two such all-terrain vehicles on the trail. ATVs are certainly not an eco-friendly way to explore outdoors, and I hope the trail entry will be gated properly. The forest, as in many areas around Moscow, has been also infested by a fir-killing bug.
view 0005 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

I’ll end the story on a pleasant note, however. We also saw quite a few flowers on the trail,
plant 0000 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

such as this exotic-looking spurge,
plant 0001 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

an aromatic and bright-flowered bean plant,
Convallaria 0000 Sima, Moscow oblast, Russia

and an even more aromatic lily of the valley. Thus, Sima is an excellent place for naturists and naturalists alike!