Garden of Eden trail in Iao valley, Maui

naturist 0000 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

How do you top an adventurous trail with four waterfalls that I described in my previous blogpost? Perhaps a trail filled with tropical fruit trees and breath-taking views will do! Just such a trail goes through Iao Valley in the western part of Maui.

Iao needle 0000 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

This is actually a popular spot for mass tourism thanks to easy access to the view of Iao Needle rock formation, but hardly any visitors go on the trail behind the viewing platform. That’s where it gets only more interesting. Of course, I took off my clothes to enjoy the nice weather – combination of warm humid air and fresh breeze – and feel at home in the lush forest.

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The view of the lush forested valley with dark vertical walls of mountains partially hidden in white clouds is exactly what you would imagine when asked to think of ‘magnificent beauty of nature’.

The trail was very easy, with a moderate incline.

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To add some more exercises to our hiking, we climbed  a tree.

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At first it looked like an easy tree to climb but we didn’t go much further than the lower branches.

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But trees provided much more than shade and climbing opportunities.

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Guavas were probably the most common tree along the trail, and they were full of fruit!

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That’s why I felt like Adam in the Garden of Eden! Perhaps I did not find the Tree of Knowledge, but I felt perfectly comfortable in the buff there and had no reason for shame. Quite on contrary, it was a pure bliss to walk around naked in the perfect temperature and eat all those fruits.

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Bananas weren’t ripe, but guavas were in prime condition. Besides guavas with yellow skin and pink flash, there were smaller but even tastier strawberry guavas.

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There weren’t any strawberries proper, but some kind of raspberry was abundant in one spot.

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Then I saw a passionfruit vine with a few green fruits,

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but luckily there was a perfectly ripe giant passionfruit lying on the soil beneath!

passionfruit 0001 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

By then, I wasn’t surprised to see coffee trees with ripe coffee beans (more like coffee berries). Raw (not fermented and not roasted) they tasted nothing like coffee, but it was interesting to try them just like that.

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I guess to make my ‘inner monkey’ totally happy I had to eat some leaves too. And my local companion pointed to a young unrolled fern leaf. While still in the ball, they are edible and quite tender!

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And there were plenty of ferns!

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When we got to the highest point on the trail, we enjoyed amazing views again.

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Waterfalls,

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forest with banana thickets

view

surrounded by mountains, what else would we need?

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Maybe a nice branch to seat on and enjoy the view? By the way, “Filium hominis” (son of man) was carved on that branch. Not sure what I felt more, a son of man Adam or son of monkey, but I definitely felt happily connected with nature on that day 😉

naturist  0004 Iao valley, Maui, Hawaii, USA

trail through a bamboo forest with 4 waterfalls, welcome to Maui!

On my very short trip to Maui, I had to be very selective as to what to visit from the wide range of adventures and fun that this island could offer. A rough trail through a bamboo forest with four waterfalls sounded too good to miss out. It’s a short trail (just 1km) that goes along Na’ili’ili-haele stream, but it is rightfully located in the adventures section of “Maui Revealed: the Ultimate Guidebook“, where I first heard about it. I was lucky to find an adventurous couchsurfer in Maui, who knew the island well but not that trail and was up for checking it out. So, we headed there almost straight away after he picked me up from the airport.

There are a few narrow trails that start off Hana highway, and they immediately bring you into a dense bamboo forest.

naturist 0000 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

The guidebook said that few people went beyond the second waterfall, but it wasn’t crowded in the beginning either and I couldn’t wait to get naked in that warm and humid weather. Bamboos greeted us with a pleasant noise when the wind made them move and hit each other.

bamboo forest 0002 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

Depending on the rainfall, I assume there may be more springs,

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but once you cross the main stream, turn left and walk on its right side upstream.

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At the first waterfall, you need to cross to the opposite (left) bank of the stream.

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At the second waterfall, there were quite a few people, so I put on my clothes back. We found a ladder to the left of the waterfall that wasn’t described in the guidebook (I had 2005 edition) – it definitely made it easier to climb the rock, but use it on your own risk.

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While climbing that shabby ladder, I continued to admire the diverse plant life of this place. I could see 4 fern species within my hand reach (but the hand had to reach out for the rope!)

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When we got up and walked just a little farther, we saw a very different kind of fern, a tree fern that was truly majestic.

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As you can see, I got naked again. It started drizzling but was still very warm.

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That stretch of the trail goes through a more open area no longer dominated by bamboos. There were a lot of guava trees full of ripe fruit, so we didn’t need to worry about snack 😉

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Another edible plant growing in abundance there is ginger.

ginger 0000 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

As much as I love ginger, it’s not the kind of thing I would eat just like that.

ginger 0001 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

About 15 minutes after the second waterfall, the stream’s valley narrows and the trail actually disappears… Now, you have to swim to see the next waterfalls! That’s when a waterproof bag gets handy – I used it for my camera, and hid my shorts just under a tree.

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After swimming about half-Olympic-size pool,

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you get to boulder along the third waterfall, but it’s an easy climb.

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And, just a short walk later, you are at the fourth and the most impressive waterfall so far!

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The pool is surrounded by almost vertical cliffs which create a very pretty scene.

waterfall 0001 Na'ili'ili-haele, Maui, Hawaii, USA

We met a couple there who didn’t even blink at my nakedness. I hope they took a mental note that being naked was a good idea on a hot day on a trail where you have to swim 😉 The guy went for a dive from the cliffs, and then I followed.

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That was a perfect reward for the strenuous hike!

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The guidebook said there were more waterfalls, but they were “not possible” to reach. We did not have time to test that and headed back down.

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At the third pool, we had another chance for a dive.

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As the sun came out, I was shining with happiness 🙂

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On the way back, as it often happens, the trail felt much shorter.

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Almost at the trailhead, we discovered a viewing spot that we just missed in the beginning.

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It provided a magnificent view over the whole bamboo forest, and it was a perfect way to end our hike.

Scenic trail in Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

naturist 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

South Florida is one the most popular tourist destinations, but it’s not known for its hiking. In this blogpost, I invite you to join me on a scenic trail that proves that hiking in South Florida is exciting even though it’s as flat as it gets.

Florida trail view 0003 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

This 8-mile section of Florida trail goes through various landscapes of Big Cypress National Preserve. About a year ago, I went to Florida with my sister, and we stayed at the same CouchSurfing hosts, as in my first visit to Florida with Joe; Peter already knew we would love the idea of hiking in the swamp, so he got in touch with his friend Dave from Florida Great Outdoors group. Dave was an excellent guide, he knew every corner of the trail and told us a lot about the wildlife, of which we saw plenty!

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Just on the way to the southern trailhead, we saw various birds, from a cormorant with a fresh catch to great egrets wading between cypresses.

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Dave knew that we were unlikely to encounter too many other hikers, so, almost immediately after the start of the trail and getting ourselves familiar with its rules, we got naked. Given the muddiness of the trail and hot weather, it was clearly the best way to go!

Florida trail view 0002 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

In the beginning (coming from the South), the most typical landscape is grassland with a few scattered cypress trees. But unlike prairie or savannah, this grassland is flooded, with water levels varying throughout the year and depending on weather conditions. On this trail, we could really see why the Everglades are called the “river of grass” (the whole southern part of Florida practically represents a giant swamped slow-moving river). Besides the sawgrass marsh, we also went through the pine forest and cypress swamp. On the photo below, you can actually see the so-called cypress dome in the background. It is formed when pond cypress trees grow higher in the center than on the edges of the swamp, which can happen due to various reasons.

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Our first encounter with an animal on the trail was a snail.

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There were many dragonflies

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and grasshoppers,

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one of which devoured on a flower 🙂

Speaking of flowers, maybe we were lucky with the season, but there were quite a few plants blooming:

white star sedge (a sawgrass species),

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milkweed,

Hymenocallis,

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and marsh roses (Sabatia) – pink

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and light-blue.

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Bromelias were blooming too,

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but even when they weren’t, they served as a nice decoration on cypress and pine trees.

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At some point, palm trees appeared more frequently between the pines, but we could tell that the first one wasn’t in the best condition… which made me look like a giant next to it.

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That’s where we saw some Carolina anoles too. I was too slow with my camera and only got one hiding in a hole in the tree and missed how it changed colors while moving across different surfaces (for this ability, they are nicknamed american chameleons).

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Midway, pine and palm forest got denser and we stepped on solid soil for the first time in a couple of hours. This is also the only place on the trail that is suitable for camping; we had our lunch break there.

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We couldn’t rest for too long, however, and soon followed the trail further through the swamped cypress forest.

Florida trail view 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

When we reached the cypress dome, we could see how the tallest pond cypress trees indeed surrounded the central pond, with many tropical understory plants mingled between them.

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We almost missed our second reptile encounter, a snapping turtle, as it was well-concealed in the mud. Being much better protected than a lizard, it didn’t feel the need to run away from us but looked cautiously; considering the name of the species, we didn’t approach it too close though.

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Then there was a stretch of the trail that went through fern thickets taller than human.

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And some open water again, where we could see the odd cypress ‘knees’ (I saw many more of those in the Mississippi swamps near New Orleans).

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Usually, I don’t post pictures of people in clothes due to the nature of this blog, but my sister deserves a credit because later on this trip she did get naked in a public place for the first time in her life (at Haulover beach), and here in the swamp she looked pretty cool and odd at the same time in her white night dress (she thought if she didn’t get naked she should wear the lightest thing she had…)

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The rest of us were content with our naked attire… As you can see on these photos, the cypress forest after the dome became more flooded, and the rest of the trail we hiked in ankle-deep water, which actually felt nice.

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Then, we had our third reptile encounter, or actually two but of the same species.

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This was a venomous snake, water moccasin. They are territorial and feel safe with their venom-filled fangs, so they didn’t show a sign of retreat, but thankfully they did show their warning display. So we just stood there and looked at each other for a few minutes, and who knows who of us was more scared… Well, there is no use for them to bite humans unless attacked, so I guess we could call it mutual respect.

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It also provided enough time for taking pictures 😉

Water Moccasin 0001 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Soon after that, we could hear the noise of Tamiami road; it didn’t make sense to put on clothes in the end of the trail just to make it dirty, as it was still muddy, but that’s what we had to do.

In the pond by the visitor center,  we had our fourth reptile encounter. A group of american alligators were sunbathing and just waiting to be photographed.

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Thus, we saw representatives of the major groups of reptiles on one trail!

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And as a bonus, while picking up the car, we saw some more wading birds: wood stork (above) and great blue heron (below).

great blue heron 0000 Big Cypress Preserve, Florida, USA

Florida doesn’t really need much publicity for tourism with its climate, beaches, festivals and Disney World, and it probably has more nudist colonies than any other state, but there is definitely more to it! This trail was perfect to discover Florida’s wild side and see the “river of grass” that it really is. Next, we’ll show you the place where this river meets the sea.

PS Keep in mind that Big Cypress National Preserve is also a home to black bears and  elusive Florida panthers (a subspecies of cougar)!

Hiking to Sykes hot springs in Big Sur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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but we did come across of mountain quails,

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western fence lizards,

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

Redwoods of Big Basin

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

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

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

naturist 0000 Ano Nuevo Beach, CA USA

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

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

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

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Tam was just swinging the longer one above his head,

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

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

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

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

camping 0000 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

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

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

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

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

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

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But even when fallen, redwoods look majestic!

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

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

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And yet they look prettiest when they stand tall.

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

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

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even two would be hardly enough!

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

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

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

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

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

naturist 0012 Big Basin Redwoods, CA, USA

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

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