skinny-dipping in the Adirondacks

naturist 0001 Potholers, Adirondacks, New York, USA

The Adirondacks are great for hiking and kayaking, but even relaxing by a creek may turn out very special there, as it happened to us at the so-called Potholers on the East Canada Creek. One of the reasons was that it was secluded enough to have the spot to ourselves most of the time, so we stayed comfortably naked.

naturist 0000 Potholers, Adirondacks, New York, USA

Upstream from where we stayed, the creek was deep enough for swimming.

naturist 0010 Potholers, Adirondacks, New York, USA

Downstream were the rocks, flat and comfortable – you can’t ask for a better way of relaxation than chilling outdoors with the sound of running water.

naturist 0011 Potholers, Adirondacks, New York, USA

Well, maybe if you get in that running water for a shoulder massage!

naturist 0004 Potholers, Adirondacks, New York, USA

Some of the “potholes” create perfect natural bathtubs, where you could sit with the water flowing over your shoulders and massaging you! And the temperature of the water was (in July) just perfect – refreshing but not chilling.

naturist 0007 Potholers, Adirondacks, New York, USA

It was also nice to go behind that water wall and close yourself from the outer world for a moment.

naturist 0003 Potholers, Adirondacks, New York, USA

Of course you could still see through, even though quite distorted. But there were some very peculiar things to observe indeed!

Check out this video:

We are pretty sure this behavior has never been seen (or at least recorded) before, and we still don’t know its meaning. What is it?

Maybe that is what happens when naturists become naturalists and artists at the some time 🙂

On that trip, we also visited the G-lake. It was great for swimming, but while bushwalking around it, one of us got stung by wild bees!

naturist view 0000 G Lake, Adirondacks, New York, USA

And not to make you completely against the idea of visiting this lake, we also saw a leech there. But it was actually a pretty sight, because it swam gracefully at the surface and was brightly colored – green with orange spots; so I actually regretted I didn’t have my camera at that moment. Well, but at least we were lucky to record the elusive Homo tritonii at the Potholers!

trekking through a biodiversity hotspot in Costa Rica

español

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!

canoeing in the Everglades, part 2

naturist 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

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

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

view 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

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

naturist 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

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

singing bird 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

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

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

ibis 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

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

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

sawfish 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

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

osprey nest 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

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

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

view 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

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

view 0002 Everglades, Florida, USA

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

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

naturist 0005 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

view 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

view 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

view 0003 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

naturist 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

view 0006 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Maybe he also put this rock up like this?

view 0005 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

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

view 0008 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

view 0007 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

naturist Xmas tree 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

naturist Xmas tree 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

naturist Xmas tree 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

woodpecker 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USAwoodpecker 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

naturist 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

view 0009 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

naturist 0004 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

view 0010 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

or a Phallus temple?

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

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

turkey and mushrooms in the woods of Harriman State Park

wild turkey 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

wild turkey 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

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

snapping turtle 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

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

sponge 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

sponge 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

American five-lined skink 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

American five-lined skink 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

chipmunk 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

mushrooms 0004 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

e.g., chanterelles

mushrooms 0003 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

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

mushrooms 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

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

naturist 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

naturist 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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

naturist 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

I see some more photo opportunities for the future 😉

Harriman State Park? Anytime!

naturist 0028 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

autumn view 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

autumn view 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

autumn view 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

autumn view 0004 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist & mountain laurel bloom 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

mountain laurel bloom 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist & mountain laurel bloom 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

flowers 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

bush bloom 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

but anyone can surely appreciate their beauty.

These wild roses also smelled sweet,

rose bloom 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

rose bloom 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

oak bloom 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

plants 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

leaves or flowers? 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

plants 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

flowers 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

viola,

bush and trees bloom 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

berberis (green this time),

bush and trees bloom 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

and multiple white-blooming trees;

bush and trees bloom 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

blueberry bloom 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

eastern newt (eft) 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

eastern newt (eft) 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

and we also saw an orange frog!

frog 0003 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

frog 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

frog 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

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

broad-headed skink 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

and it was worth it.

broad-headed skink 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

hidden rattlesnake 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

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

turkey vulture + fly 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

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

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

bald eagle 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

sunset view 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

sunset view 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

and see

sunset view 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

how

sunset view 0003 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

colors change

sunset view 0004 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

and eventually

sunset view 0005 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

disappear!

sunset view 0006 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

view 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

but the fog made it mystical.

view 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

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

raspberry 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

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

blackberry 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

raspberry 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

Here is a pink raspberry with purple flowers!

https://farm9.staticflickr.com/8896/18500556378_c8e7a815af_z_d.jpg

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

grape vine 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

grape vine 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

mushroom 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

mushrooms Harriman State Park

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

mushroom 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0027 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

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

naturist 0011 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

If dogs can do it, why can’t we?

naturist 00000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0010 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

view 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

providing nice resting spots…

naturist 0013 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

or nude posing opportunities 🙂

naturist 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

If you will to carry a kayak with you,

naturist 0035 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0037 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

and a great exercise for the upper body too.

naturist 0036 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist-0043-Harriman-State-Park,-New-York,-USA

Nudity will make it a little more extreme and fun 😉

naturist 0055 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0065 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0063 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0056 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

Splashing

naturist 0058 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

and talking proved to be a great mix 🙂

naturist 0059 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0015 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0023 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0008 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0068 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

The terrain and surroundings are quite diverse,

naturist &0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

from soft soil of the woods to rocks and cliffs.

naturist 0066 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0067 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0070 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

view 0003 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0029 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0025 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

we were quickly reminded about fragility of the ecosystem,

burnt view 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

as we saw traces of the recent wildfire.

burnt view 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0030 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0031 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

Sometimes a cup of tea is the only thing needed,

naturist 0033 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0071 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0072 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0032 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

 

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

naturist 0034 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

burnt view 0003 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

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

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

burnt view 0005 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

rock art 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

rock art 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0075 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0074 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

naturist 0073 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

secluded spot at Key Biscayne (Miami)

naturist 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

Welcome to Miami! And if you think that glamorous and crowded Miami Beach is the only way to enjoy the tropical seaside, you are wrong. Key Biscayne island lies south-east of Miami Downtown, close enough to see its skyline,

view 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

but wild and remote enough to enjoy a small secluded beach with barely anyone else in sight, and totally naked if you will. (By the way, the first photo and the one below were taken at the same spot, just at different times of the day, so you can see how tides change.)

naturist 0001 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

The northeast point of Key Biscayne, right by the fossilized reef, has a history of nude recreation, but it’s not an official nudist beach, while Virginia Key just north of it did have an official nudist beach until 1980’s. The place is known as Bear Cut beach. Maybe “bare” would be more appropriate than “bear” here, though far not all visitors bare it all, and some – actually nothing at all: a couple of fishermen were covered entirely, face included.

fisherman 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

Besides humans, we also saw quite a few animals of the rare kind that actually wear something:

hermit crab 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

hermit crabs were all over the place there, from the size of a nail to the size of a palm. And luckily for them, there seemed to be no shortage of shells of various sizes.

hermit crab 0001 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USAhermit crab 0002 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

It was nice to wander through the mangroves and observe nature.

naturist 0003 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

Besides numerous crabs, we saw quite a few crab spiders (aka spinybacked orb-weavers).

crab spider spinybacked orb-weaver 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

Some of them built their webs quite high up,

crab spider spinybacked orb-weaver 0001 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

with an impressive span between the trees.

crab spider spinybacked orb-weaver 0002 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

I found these spiders pretty too, and hopefully there aren’t readers of this blog with arachnophobia :O (Does anyone know its scientific name btw? And if you like spiders, check this post out!)

spider 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

Well, the sight of ibises would probably be more commonly appreciated 🙂

ibis 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

As we walked at the fossilized reef,

naturist 0002 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

we also saw a heron. It didn’t seem to be bothered by our presence. I got pretty good shots of it resting,

heron 0002 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

hunting

heron 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

and flying.

heron 0001 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

We also saw flocks of pelicans pass by,

pelican 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

but only a couple of them rested nearby.

pelican 0001 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

Our neighbor at the cove where we stayed was an iguana.

iguana 0002 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

It  was climbing trees,

iguana 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

and Lee Roy followed its example.

naturist 0004 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

Although majority of trees there are represented by various mangrove species, we also saw papayas

papaya 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

and coconut palms.

coconut palm-tree 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

Too bad none of them had ripe fruit. These ants though seemed to be excited about something at the tip of the mangrove root, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. (BTW I later discovered that honey from mangrove blossom has a very particular fruity flavor, make sure to try it when you get a chance!)

ants on mangrove root 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

Plants and animals weren’t the only thing that drew our attention though:

trash 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

unfortunately, there was quite a lot of trash too. Most of it was probably washed off from the sea. On the way out, we collected plastic bags and bottles from the cove where we stayed.

mangroves view 0002 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

Some of the bigger bits of trash though found their new life as sitting surfaces among mangroves. That’s a good way of recycling too!

mangroves view 0003 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

It also turned out to be a great place for snorkeling. I hoped to see manatees,

seaweed & corals 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

but I had to be satisfied with their potential feeding ground only, as some parts of the seafloor were covered with seaweed.

seaweed & corals 0001 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

I was also happy to see that despite this place is known for its fossilized reef from several thousands years ago, there is some new coral growth – hopefully there will be a new live coral reef sometime soon!

seaweed & corals 0002 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USAseaweed & corals 0003 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

I saw quite a lot of fish, e.g. young barracudas (?)

fish 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

and a stingray.

ray 0001 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

There was a lot of small fish by the mangrove roots, confirming mangroves’ role as fish nurseries. Among the bigger fish, puffers were probably most common.

As you can see, the water is very clear there, and the seafloor is clean, but I did see some glass, so be careful when you wade.

hermit crab 0003 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

Overall, it was amazing to see this pocket of wildlife right off Miami downtown, great for naturists and naturalists alike!

mangroves view 0001 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

As we were about to leave, this crab wanted to give us a good-bye hug… We weren’t quite sure.

crab 0000 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

We also had a small video shot for something very special – stay tuned for updates!

naturist 0005 Key Biscayne, Miami, Florida, USA

For now, just enjoy this view of Eddy’s jump split trying to bridge Miami downtown (on the left) with Miami Beach (on the right).

טיול רגלי בסמוך לנווה מדבר בים ×”מלח

 English

אחרי , יומים של שנירקול במפרץ אילת המשכתי הלאה. התחנה הבאה במסעי ישראל היתה ים המלח. חברה שלי אירחה אותי אצלה בקיבוץ עין גדי (זה אותה החברה שלקחה אותי לחוף געש). הקיבוץ שוכן בשמורת עין גדי השלוה לחופו של ים המלח. הימה המלוחה היא הסיבה העיקרית לטייל במקום. אני ארחיב על ים המלח בפוסט הבא. בשמורה עצמה, המיועדת לטיול של יום שלם ברגל, אפשר לפגוש מגוון יפה של צימחיה מדברית ושערות שולמית. בשמורת עין גדי יש שני מעינות המפכים במשך כל השנה; נחל דוד ונחל ערוגות. נחל דוד הוא המתוייר מבין השניים ולא מומלץ להיסתובב בו בעירום. יש סיכוי גדול שתמצא את עצמך מוקף במטילים המגיעים לשם בטיולים מאורגנים.

view 0001 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

שמתי פעמיי לנחל ערוגות. שם יכולתי לפשוט את בגדי ולטבול בנקיקים מבלי לפגוש יותר מדי מטילים אחרים שעברו בנחל.

view 0000 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

נכנסתי לנחל שהוא נקיק צר וחרב. בהמשך הנחל מבצבצת צימחייה ירוקה לאורך המיים. אפשר ללכת על הגדה או לשכשך במיים הרדודים.

view 0002 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

לא יכולתי שלא לטבול את התחת הערום שלי בבריכת הטבעיות שבנחל.

naturist 0001 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

קולות רמים של בני תשחורת אמריקיים הפרו את השלווה. התלבשתי בחיפזון. הזמן חלף ונאלצתי לשוב למהר מכיוון שהשמורה נסגרת ב5 אחה”צ.

בהמשך הנחל ראיתי את הבריכה המפורסמת עם המפל אבל האמריקאים שפגשתי בדרך הגיעו לשם בהמוניהם ונאלצתי לותר ולהמשיך הלאה.

view 0003 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

סימנתי בריכה נוספת בדרכי כמעומדת למנוחה אם לא אמצא בריכה טובה יותר.

view 0004 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

המשכתי לצעוד מדלג בין השביל למיים בחיפוש אחר מקום מסתור. מצאתי בריכה מוקפת בעיצים ומוסתרת מעיני המטילים והאוטובוסים ונכנסתי ערום למיים להתרעננות נוספת.

naturist 0003 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

ניצלתי את פינת החמד לארוחת צהריים. סיבכי ובולבול גילו התעניינות בסנדויץ שלי ונעמדו ממש קרוב אליי

 

bird 0001 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

bird 0000 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

אחרי האוכל יצאתי לטיול נוסף

naturist 0002 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

פגשתי מעופף נוסף של נרתע מהמצלמה שלי.

dragonfly 0000 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

ואז חלפתי על פני המפל הגבוהה ביותר בנחל.

view waterfall 0005 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

לא התמהמתי שם כי רציתי לראות את כל המסלול.

view waterfall 0006 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

אייך שעברתי את המפל איש השמורה קרא לי ואמר שמאוחר מדי להמשיך בשביל ושצריך לחבור לכיוון היציאה. זה נשמע לי לא הגיוני אבל לא רציתי להיתווקח. שמתי פעמיי חזרה לכיוון ים המלח.

view 0007 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

בדרך חזרה במפל הגבוהה פגשתי קבוצה קולנית של חרדים צעירים ברובם. למה הם צועקים בשעה שהמקום כל כך רגוע. הצעקות שלהם החרישו את רחשי הטבע. נראה שבישבילם זה טיול לפרק שעשועים והטבע זר להם על מימו ובריכותיו הזקים. הבחנתי פתאום בקבוצת יעלים על ראש הקניון.

nubian ibex 0000 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

הם נראו כאילו הם מהרהרים בליבם ושואלים מה לקבוצה הרעשנית הזאת המשחקת במפל ולמידבר. טוב שהם כל כך רעשנעם. כך אני לא צריך לחשוש לפשוט את בגדי כי הקולות הרמים יודיעו לי מתי הם מתקרבים.

הבריכה שסימנתי מוקדם יותר עמדה בשיממונה ניצלתי את המגלשה הטיבעית להחליק על התחת לתוך הבריכה

אפשר לראות בסרט אייזה כיף זה לגולש על התחת במורד הזרם לבריכה.

מדהים – שרכים ענוגים מסוג שערות שולמית גדלים במדבר על קירות הנקיק מעל למיים עד לנקודה שבו התחיל המדבר

fern 0000 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

מדהים יותר לפגוש סרטן וצפרדע שוחים יחדו בבריכה בלב המדבר

frog & crab 0000 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

לא העלתי בדעתי שאפשר להיתרענן במחיצת חיות בר בים המות

nubian ibex 0001 Nahal Arugot, Dead Sea, Israel

Text in Hebrew by Dror

canoeing in the Everglades

You might have been surprised to hear about a hiking trail in South Florida in my previous blogpost, but did you know that you could go canoeing in the Everglades for a week or so without seeing any settlements? That is the largest continuous mangrove forest in western hemisphere for you! On our latest trip to Florida, Tam and I didn’t have quite as much time, but we ventured out to explore the southern part of the Everglades National Park for 3 days on a canoe. That’s where the “river of grass” I was talking about in my previous post meets the sea, but at this point it is no longer dominated by sawgrass but mangroves, a unique group of trees that can grow in brackish and even sea water (I wrote more about them previously). The canoe trail goes from Flamingo Visitor Center in the south to Everglades city, and there are multiple campgrounds along the way. As you may wonder how one would be able to camp in the mangroves, it’s better to reveal the solution right away – chickee.

naturist 0003 Everglades, Florida, USA

These are simple above-water wooden structures consisting of raised floor and roof adapted from Seminole (local Native American tribe) design; porta-potty is an important modern addition, though. As we didn’t have time to do the whole trail, we just planned our route based on availability of chickees in the vicinity of Flamingo visitor center. It turned out to be a good idea to arrive in the afternoon the day before, so we could reserve our spot on chickees and have 3 full days of canoeing. We were told that it would take about 6 hours of paddling to get to the nearest chickee, in Hells Bay, but rarely people did paddle there all the way from Flamingo and preferred to be rather dropped off at a closer location, from which they could use another path. We were happy to do all the way by canoe though, that was why we came there for. It’s worth noting that the campground at Flamingo has the best kind of grass for camping, it felt very comfortable to sleep even without any mats. The night was pretty cold (by South Florida standards!), the first cold night of this winter, but the forecast looked promising for the next days. The morning was much warmer indeed, but there were some rain clouds around. Tam and I rented a canoe, and Peter, who could only stay for a day, got a single kayak. We also bought a very detailed map of the area, which is a must if you plan a trip like this. People at boat rental sounded a bit surprised that we were going to paddle to Hells Bay from there, but we trusted the park ranger who said we would be able to do it. Off we went, and it started raining. Luckily, I was clever enough to take my waterproof bike pannier “Ortlieb”, where we could store the essentials. Our food provision  consisted of dried cretan barley bread, banana bread, nuts and a box of tropical fruits that we bought at “Robert is here” farmer market.

It took us about an hour to go through the first canal, and somewhere midway I took off my shorts, as they got soaked in the rain and didn’t serve any purpose. When we reached the first area with open water – Coot Bay, Peter decided to head back to Flamingo. The rain was losing power and turned into a calm warm drizzle. Then I briefly saw a fin sticking out of water, and I was quite speechless, as it was very close to us and I couldn’t figure out whether it was a shark or a dolphin. But not for too long – we heard a sound of deep exhale and saw another fin, it was clearly a dolphin. We followed it for a while and saw that there were a few more closer to the shore. We even saw one jumping out of water in a distance. Then three of them were swimming towards the channel where we had to go too. It was amazing to see dolphins so close and hear how they breathed, thanks to quietness around.

dolphins 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

After that, we went through another, even bigger, Whitewater Bay and then East River. We enjoyed navigational aspect of canoeing both in the open water and narrow winding river. Overall, it took us just 4.5 hours to reach Hells Bay chickee from Flamingo, but we weren’t the only ones to arrive. Just when we entered Hells Bay, we saw a group of 5 canoes with 10 people  approaching the chickee too. They docked all at one side and we took the other. I was still naked and decided to give it a try – I really didn’t want to put on my wet shorts. I noticed a couple of stares and put on my sarong for a while, but it didn’t hold well while we were pitching the tent. One guy from the group came to us though, and asked me to put on some clothes in a semi-awkward semi-appologetic manner, explaining his request by the presence of “college girls”. Later he came back not but once but twice, as he wanted to stay on friendly terms with us. It turned out they were from Outward Bound School, and he said he and his fellow instructor were personally cool with nudity but the girls apparently weren’t; we didn’t feel like having a lengthy discussion as to whether girls of college age should be familiar with male anatomy and why the mere sight of a naked man doing random things like pitching a tent should be seen in any way offensive. On the second time, he gave us a compass; we had one too, but his was more convenient to use with the map. He gave us a couple of navigation tips too. Before the darkness fell, we went on a short trip to explore the surroundings and saw an alligator swimming not too far from the chickee.

alligator 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

Three more people came to the chickee in the evening, but apparently there was a mistake with reservations, as  such chickees are not meant for more than 12 people. Luckily those guys seemed to know the area and didn’t mind to go further to another chickee.

As we went to sleep, we realized that it was a big mistake not to bring any kind of padding to put under sleeping bags… Chickee floor is hard wood, and it’s not something I’m used to when I go camping, so it didn’t even occur in my head to bring something soft… Somehow, we managed to sleep well, probably due to tiredness from paddling, and by the time we woke up, the Outward Bound School team had already left. We started the day with planning out the route, Tam definitely liked to work with our new compass.

naturist 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

There were just a few clouds,

view 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

but one of them did produce a short rain.

naturist 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

It remained very warm, and we just enjoyed the sound of rain and the view of the bay from under the roof of the chickee.

view 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

As the sun came out, we gave it a proper salutation 🙂

naturist 0002 Everglades, Florida, USA

We definitely needed some good stretching, and partner exercises worked great for us.

naturist 0004 Everglades, Florida, USA

We were almost sad to say good-by to our first chickee, but we knew we had a great day ahead.

naturist 0005 Everglades, Florida, USA

We stopped by for lunch at another chickee, in Lane Bay, and then continued our way towards Whitewater Bay. We noticed that for some reason one bank of the channel had smaller and younger mangrove trees than the other.

mangrove 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

When we entered the Whitewater Bay, it was much more difficult to paddle due to wind and currents. It was also more difficult to navigate with few landmarks around. But at least the day was a perfect combination of clouds and sun.

view 0002 Everglades, Florida, USA

We didn’t see that many birds to our surprise (apparently, there are some bird colonies further up north of the Whitewater Bay), but there still was some variety.

great egret 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

A great heron let us approach it pretty close.

american white ibis 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

We saw quite a few american ibises but those were a lot warier. I managed to snap some nice shots of their profiles, though.

american white ibis 0001 Everglades, Florida, USAamerican white ibis 0002 Everglades, Florida, USA

We also saw ospreys by their nests

osprey 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

One pair seemed to be happy: they were sitting together in the nest watching sunset,

osprey 0002 Everglades, Florida, USAosprey 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

whereas the other pair seemed to go through some issues, as one them was out of the nest and they looked in different directions. Well, I’m just making things up, but it’d be nice if could observe their behavior longer.

We also saw dolphins again, they passed by us very close.

view 0003 Everglades, Florida, USA

As the clouds turned white, we finally saw that Whitewater Bay deserved its name. After that, we went through another channel, Joe River, and then entered its smaller branch that was supposed to bring us to the next chickee.

view 0004 Everglades, Florida, USA

Our timing was just perfect,

view 0005 Everglades, Florida, USA

a beautiful sunset view opened before us, and then we saw the chickee. We arrived just as the sun touched horizon.

chickee 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

We still had enough time to pitch our tent in light, but then mosquitos became quite brutal despite the repellent.

view 0006 Everglades, Florida, USA

This didn’t last too long, luckily, mosquitos mostly disappeared after nightfall. We saw an amazing starry sky. We also heard familiar breathing sound close to our chickee but we didn’t see any fins sticking out of the water. So, my guess was that it might have been a manatee, which Florida is famous for but are not easy to spot in the wild. By the way, we were quite annoyed to see some speeding motorboats despite the signs warning about manatees. And even more so, it was annoying to hear how far their noise travels in otherwise amazingly tranquil environment. Here is another paradox for you, how come something like a speedboat is allowed in this national park, despite it is known to be hurtful to the endangered species the park is meant to protect, whereas something as innocent as a sight a naked human wouldn’t be accepted… These were some topics we talked about before we had our early night sleep; again on the hard floor, but we seemed to be getting accustomed to it.  We heard alligators or crocodiles grunting at night, so my first thought in the morning was to go around the bay and try to see any.

mangrove 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

It was a nice quiet morning, mangrove trees with their white trunks reflected beautifully in the still dark water.

mangrove 0002 Everglades, Florida, USA

When we approached the place from where we thought the grunting was coming from at night,

naturist 0006 Everglades, Florida, USA

we indeed saw a middle-size alligator! It was looking at us for while but dived when we approached closer.

alligator 0001 Everglades, Florida, USA

When we got back to the chickee, we saw a few juvenile needlefish – mangroves are important fish nurseries after all.

juvenile needlefish 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

We didn’t linger much after breakfast, as we had a full day of paddling back to Flamingo and we didn’t know how the wind and currents would be. On the way to Whitewater Bay, we went through another smaller channel where we were supposed to see marshes according to the map. However, both banks seemed to be entirely taken over by mangrove trees. This must be a recent change, as those were small trees.

mangrove 0003 Everglades, Florida, USA

The weather was just perfect again. We saw rain somewhere afar, but it didn’t come to us.

view 0007 Everglades, Florida, USA

Despite the wind, we were doing very well in terms of timing, so when we reached Coot Bay, I thought we should divert to Mud Lake, as it was connected by a very narrow channel, which sounded like fun to go through.

naturist 0007 Everglades, Florida, USA

The sign saying “No motorboats” sounded promising. This was a path similar to the narrow kayak trail I took in Yucatan last year, but mangroves were much bigger here. It was quite a lot of fun to maneuver in this channel, challenging our coordination,

naturist 0008 Everglades, Florida, USA

while we had to watch out for low branches

naturist 0011 Everglades, Florida, USA

and mosquitos at the same time. As mosquitos couldn’t reach us in the open water, they must have felt lucky that we decided to go deep into the mangrove forest.

mangrove 0004 Everglades, Florida, USA

We managed to pass through the channel quite fast and were rewarded with seeing the particularly peaceful Mud Lake with several herons ashore and young alligators swimming at the surface.

naturist 0010 Everglades, Florida, USA

As we came back to the main route, we were still naked, but when a couple of tour boats were passing by we covered with shorts to avoid possible confrontation. But we couldn’t really complain, as the previous day we spent naked entirely, and on that day we did 14 out of 15 miles of canoeing in the buff! Sadly, but our naked adventure was over. People at canoe rental seemed to be surprised that we made it 😀

We were happy to have a warm meal at the restaurant in Flamingo, although we both agreed that our self-proclaimed ‘eat like a bird diet’, consisting of mainly fruits and nuts, was just fine and we didn’t get tired of it in three days. Now that I think of it, this was more like our ancestral ‘monkey diet’, no wonder it worked well for us. What we were really looking forward to was sleeping on that amazing soft grass of Flamingo campground! During night, the temperature plummeted as a result of the infamous polar vortex which brought freezing temperatures down to central Florida. It wasn’t quite as cold in South Florida, which hardly ever gets freezing temperatures being at the tip of the tropical climate zone, but even 15˚C  felt chilling after the previous three hot days. Wind was more of a problem though, as we had to cycle about 45 miles to Florida city. Because of the constant  headwind, what could be a pleasant leisurely ride of 3.5h across the flat plane of the Everglades, turned into an exhausting 5h trip that felt like a never-ending uphill.

view 0008 Everglades, Florida, USA

This part was no longer naked, of course, but it’s worth mentioning that on one of our brief stops, at Nine Mile Pond, we were almost eaten by saw a huge alligator,alligator 0003 Everglades, Florida, USA

which we noticed in the last moment… It seemed to be sleeping.

alligator 0002 Everglades, Florida, USA

I wonder if those black vultures noticed it too, as they were coming very close to it, but we didn’t have time to wait and see…

american black vultures & alligator 0000 Everglades, Florida, USA

Actually, we had a chance to eat some alligator meat as we stopped at Gator Grill diner after exiting the Everglades, but I went for local frog legs instead and they were amazing (Tam had a veggie burger). We definitely would love to make another similar trip and do the whole canoe trail perhaps. Let’s see who eats whom next time 😉

Well, after making this joke, I feel I need to refer to some of the comments made to my blogpost about hiking in the Everglades:

airseatraveler:

Wow… I could never venture to a place that had snakes alligators, and many other creatures that could KILL me, much less naked! Good on you, and awesome pictures! Thanks for sharing!

My reply was:

… thanks for your comments about my bravery, but here is some food for thought for you. So, you say you “would never venture to a place that had… many… creatures that could KILL” you, but I’m pretty sure you drive or at the very least cross streets where others drive. How many people did die from cars in Florida? 2500-3500 per year between 2005-2009. Now, how many people did die from alligators? Between 2000 and 2007, there were 0-3 fatal alligator attacks per year, and none at all between 2007-2014 so far! In the whole of US, on average 5 people per year die because of snake bites. Of course, you could argue that a lot more people drive cars than wrestle with alligators, but nevertheless these numbers show that many more people suffer from cars than from alligators, and yet it’s only the latter that scare you!

And sadly, in the end of our vacation in Florida, well in the ‘safety’ of Miami urban jungle, I only confirmed the statistics with my own example – I was hit and run over by a car, but luckily not with a fatal result, or even, at least as it seems now, any lifelong injuries. I have a few fractures but they are supposed to heal fast… So, I don’t think I’ll stop hiking or canoeing anytime soon, just like I’ll continue move around in big cities such as my current hometown New York.