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

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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!

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

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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 😉

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

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

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Maybe he also put this rock up like this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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or a Phallus temple?

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

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

turkey and mushrooms in the woods of Harriman State Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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e.g., chanterelles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I see some more photo opportunities for the future 😉

Harriman State Park? Anytime!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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but anyone can surely appreciate their beauty.

These wild roses also smelled sweet,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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viola,

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berberis (green this time),

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and multiple white-blooming trees;

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

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

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

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and we also saw an orange frog!

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

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

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

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

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and it was worth it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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and see

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how

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colors change

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and eventually

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disappear!

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

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but the fog made it mystical.

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

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

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

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

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

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Here is a pink raspberry with purple flowers!

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

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

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

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

mushrooms Harriman State Park

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

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

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

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

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

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If dogs can do it, why can’t we?

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

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

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providing nice resting spots…

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or nude posing opportunities 🙂

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If you will to carry a kayak with you,

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

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and a great exercise for the upper body too.

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

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Nudity will make it a little more extreme and fun 😉

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

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

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

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Splashing

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and talking proved to be a great mix 🙂

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

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

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

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

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The terrain and surroundings are quite diverse,

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from soft soil of the woods to rocks and cliffs.

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

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

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

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

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

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we were quickly reminded about fragility of the ecosystem,

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as we saw traces of the recent wildfire.

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

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

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Sometimes a cup of tea is the only thing needed,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camping On Georgian Bay, Canada

There are about two hundred and fifty thousand lakes in Ontario, and about one hundred thousand kilometres of rivers. If I could, I’d explore it all. In the southernmost part of the province, where most of the people live, the landscape has long been clear-cut, land-filled, and turned into pasture – and is now being swallowed up by suburbs and roads. But go north of the southernmost ten percent of Ontario, into the vast Canadian Shield, and small towns and cities sit like islands connected by bridges of asphalt amid an ocean of water, rock, and endless forest.

001 Distance Picture 0000 Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada

At the very northwest edge of that southernmost, densely-populated part of Ontario begins Georgian Bay – the name of both the enormous bay itself, nearly the size of some of the Great Lakes, and the land immediately surrounding it. This part of Massasuga Provincial Park is a favourite area of mine to go camping and canoeing. While it can get very busy during the spring, summer, and fall on cottage- and fishing lakes, especially toward the south end of the bay, the farther you continue north, like the rest of Ontario, the wilder it becomes – and wild is the way I like it. So this year I went with my better half during the middle of the week, and we planned on a few hours of paddling and a couple of portages to find an entire lake to ourselves. We were not disappointed.

Isolation was especially important because, inspired by this site, I hoped to spend as much of the trip as I could in the buff. (Bear in mind that nudity and “indecency” are illegal in Canada, but the laws, confusing and open to interpretation as they are, appear classically Canadian: Please don’t offend anyone, thank you. Steer well clear of other people and you should steer clear of the law – though don’t mistake my advice for a lawyer’s.) Little did I know that my account of it would end up here, so pardon me if the pictures are more illustrations of what I saw than a documentation of the trip itself.

After a long drive through rain we came to our launch point and the clouds blew away as if the sun knew we were coming. We had arrived in the confluence of the northernmost reaches of the great eastern forest of North America -with its sprawling hardwoods and firey fall colours – and the southernmost edge of the continent’s boreal forest, characterized locally by towering windswept white pines that spring as if by magic from cracks in the earth, with blankets of ripening blueberries

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wild strawberries (now past their peak)

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and juniper berries around their roots.

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From this edible welcome mat we set off under the warm sun into lakes that were, considering the brutal arctic vortex winter that lasted well into spring in the area, surprisingly warm. Conscious that other paddlers use the launch – and being a little on the bashful side by nature – I left my swimsuit on as long as I was in the canoe.

The canoeing was, as ever, superlative, though we struggled at first against a quixotic headwind, from the port one moment, from the starboard the next. The landscape was pure Canadian Shield, a geological formation that extends far into the Arctic, created during a span of about two billion years beginning over four and a quarter billion years ago, about the same time life and liquid water were forming on Earth.

From under the thousands of lakes around Georgian Bay, the Canadian Shield wells up as sometimes-solitary, sometimes densely-packed islands in the water, like the backs of great stone whales – streaked with the pinks, blacks, and glittering whites of the planet’s younger days. We wound among those islands, marshes full of songbirds and basking turtles, and, in a bit of good luck, got to take some shortcuts through wetlands where the water was exceptionally high.

008 Canadian Shield 0000 Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada

A quick note: Experienced canoers and back woods campers will enjoy adventuring out into Crown Land around Georgian Bay – leaving the busy cottage lakes and fishing lanes for bear country feels like heaven to me – but the less experienced have a bevy of Provincial Parks (clothes required) and naturist resorts to choose from in Ontario that offer a lighter introduction to the wild.

For me it was, as ever, a spiritual experience to explore the quiet coves and calm waters of the lakes and rivers we paddled through, each bent by eons of geological forces and scoured by receding glaciers into a kaleidoscope of shapes, like sworls and splatters on the map. There’s something sacred about them, a reminder of my place on this planet, a passing, precious second in a story longer than I can truly understand.

When we put in for our first night, it was in an out-of-the-way spot with a broad rock beach and a thick row of oaks, white pines, and juniper bushes that blocked the breeze from reaching our tent and provided privacy from the sum total of two canoes that passed by all day.

011 tent 0000 Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada

After paddling in the sun for the whole afternoon, and the wind having died back for the last hour, I was ready to swim as soon as we stepped out of our canoe onto the warm rock shore.

Still a bit skittish, and despite not having seen a human at least an hour, I got into the water with my swimsuit on after we set up camp. As soon as I got into the water I could feel my body asking me “what are you doing with these stupid shorts on?” So I took them off.

Bliss.

Well, bliss until a snapping turtle surfaced from the deep, I panicked, and in the confusion lost my rather expensive new swimsuit. I spent about an hour looking for it – which, as it consisted of swimming and diving for an hour in the summer sun in an isolated lake, was not any hardship at all – before my co-adventurer offered kindly “Maybe this is the universe’s way of telling you you’re not meant to use a swim suit for this trip.”

I choose to believe he was right, and dried off on the wavy slab of rock that sloped into the water where we set up camp. Sitting on that rock that was warm from the sun, that had sweetgrass growing from the cracks, that was older than the the oceans themselves, while feeling and watching the same breeze blow across the lake, the forest, and me, was a sensory experience I that I just can’t do justice to with words. If I wasn’t a naturist before, after that moment I don’t know how I couldn’t be.

007 Sky 0000 Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada

In the evening that first night, when the mosquitoes came out, I laid in a bowl in the rock, where I could see only treetops and sky, and where the gentle wind and emerald-coloured dragonflies kept the bugs at bay. The next day I woke up first and followed a brook back through the melange of maple, beech, and red and white oaks, and stands of enormous white pine and hemlock. The mix of forests makes the area great for tree lovers like me, who could spend hours wandering the woods and identifying species. In the quiet of the morning I felt more comfortable naked and confident that I was alone than I had the day before, and I worried only about the last of the mosquitoes that come out around dawn.

We spent the morning swimming and exploring the hills behind our campsite, and when I put a pair of shorts on again before we got in our canoe to move on through the wilderness, I must admit clothing felt entirely unnatural.

005 Hemlock Forest 0000 Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada

We settled down in a bay that day high on the Shield, set back in a forest of hemlock forest.

006 White Pines 0000 Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada

We shared the beach with turtles, crickets, various birds, and even a rare eastern ribbon snake.

010 Ribbon Snake 0000 Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada

009 Butterfly 0000 Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada

After hours of swimming and exploring the woods we had dinner and, tired from the day, strung our hammocks just back from the tree line. After dinner we read and talked until the mosquitoes came out to play.

That night the weather turned fickle again, and the unusually cool air returned. We canoed back to our car early in the morning, sad to go but with many stories and pictures to bring home.

Any many, many memories.

Perhaps my favourite is of lying on those warm rocks as the last light of of our first day seeped from the western sky and the stars revealed themselves in great swaths; of listening to ethereal loon song as the silver light of the moon held me, and knowing that I lay skin to skin with one of the most ancient places on Earth.

 

[Guest entry by Jacob]

Autumn colors at the Silver Mine Lake

naturist 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

food from farmers market 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

autumn view 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

So here are the amazing multicolored leaves

autumn view 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

and the lake itself in the fog.

autumn view 0001 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

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

naturist 0002 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

The fogged lens gave a nice effect too.

naturist 0000 Harriman State Park, New York, USA

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

kayaking the Sacandaga River and Good Luck Lake in South Adirondacks

view 0000 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

Besides hiking, Adirondack Park offers great kayaking too. Teddy, like many locals, has his own kayaks so we went to explore the West Branch of Sacandaga River and Good Luck Lake – with that name, you needn’t think twice about checking it out, and it turned out beautiful too! The banks of the canal that lead to Good Luck lake were full of blooming aquatic plants.

water plants 0000 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

The views from the Good Luck lake made us feel lucky!

Lucky Lake 0000 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

And we were indeed lucky to see a family of elusive loons. Their calls echoed because of the hills surrounding the lake, it sounded quite spooky.

loon 0000 Good Luck Lake, Adirondack Park, New York, USA

We stayed at the lake till sunset, and next day returned to explore the Sacandaga River more.

naturist 0009 Adirondack, NY, USA

That part of Sacandaga River is just perfect for laid-back kayaking: the current is not too strong, and the width allows easy maneuvering and yet being close enough to the banks not to miss any wildlife, that you’re likely to see there.

However, there are some places that hard to go through because of fallen trees.

kayaking 0000 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

Still, we managed to get through without too much hassle.

kayaking 0001 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

The bottom was mostly sandy, but in some places there were algae that looked like smooth golden-green hair.

water plants 0001 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

Going further up from Good Luck lake, we had more and more places that were too shallow to paddle easily,

view 0001 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

so the best way to continue was lifting up and crawling with the arms while still seated in kayak.

naturist 0003 Adirondack, NY, USA

But after the bridge, it became too rocky and shallow to continue in kayaks. We walked for a bit, but there was no sign it was going to improve any time soon.

naturist 0008 Adirondack, NY, USA

I think I forgot to mention, that ironically, Teddy’s dog was the only one clothed 😀 Teddy just didn’t want him to get lost.

blackberries 0000 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

It was nice to make a pause from rowing and get some blackberries. After that, we headed back downstream, and stopped at a little sandy beach. There was a fellow kayaker passing by, he seemed cool with us being naked but wondered why we didn’t have any ladies with us. We suggested him to work on that next time 😀

view 0002 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

Down another bridge, the flow was even calmer. We tried to go through a small channel, but it was blocked by a beaver dam.

beaver dam 0000 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

Well, it turned out that main branch was dammed by beavers too, just a few feet up!

beaver dam 0001 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

But it wasn’t too difficult to get over it and was actually fun!

naturist 0004 Adirondack, NY, USA

We heard some big animals running through the bushes – could be deer or bears – but the only wildlife we were lucky to see that time was a blue heron.

heron 0000 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

It seemed to be pretty busy fishing and didn’t pay much attention to us.

heron 0001 Sacandaga River, Adirondack, NY, USA

Given that Adirondack Park is ‘the largest state-level protected area in the contiguous United States’, there is obviously more to explore. Looking forward to the next trip to Adirondacks!

hiking to the Tenant Creek Falls in Adirondacks

naturist 0000 Adirondack, NY, USA

Sorry for having been quiet for the entire month of November, but hopefully we’ll be more active at blogging this month. Luckily, there’s never a shortage of what to post, just the lack of time. After writing about the hike in Mohonk Preserve in New York, I thought I should add a couple more stories from Upstate this summer. My friend Miguel, an avid naturist himself, connected me with his buddy Teddy, who seemed to know the southern portion of the Adirondack Park well. So, after a couple of weeks planning, I was on the train from [former] New Amsterdam to Amsterdam, NY.

Tenant Creek Falls 0000 Adirondack, NY, USA

Teddy brought me to his favorite hiking trail along the Tenant Creek.

naturist 0001 Adirondack, NY, USA

There are three waterfalls, but most people don’t go beyond the first one. We had the third waterfall all to ourselves!

Tenant Creek Falls 0001 Adirondack, NY, USA

The hike took us about an hour, but as we started pretty late, we had just an hour of sunlight left to set up a camp and go skinny-dipping.

naturist 0005 Adirondack, NY, USA

It was easy to find a spot for out tent, but the place is certainly not mean for a lot of campers, so we were lucky to not have any neighbors. The sound of the waterfall was a perfect accompaniment for otherwise quiet night!

Next day, we went to explore the forest around, and it was so worth it. Butterflies and flowers greeted us, and we had some hand-picked blackberries for breakfast :p

butterflies 0000 Adirondack, NY, USAbutterflies 0001 Adirondack, NY, USA

… and then I saw a coyote! He definitely saw me too, and even let me to take a picture of him,

coyote 0000 Adirondack, NY, USA

though by the time I focused well, he was scared by Teddy getting out of blackberry bushes and ran away.

coyote 0001 Adirondack, NY, USA

But even so, it was a big luck to have seen a coyote in New York state!

After walking in the sun, it was nice to come back to our camp and enjoy skinny-dipping.

naturist 0007 Adirondack, NY, USA

In the waterfall, there was even a deepening that looked like a perfect bathtub, but the water was too cold to really sit there for a while.

naturist 0002 Adirondack, NY, USA

We could swim in the pond below, however.

naturist 0006 Adirondack, NY, USA

On the way back, we saw these amazing colorful mushrooms.

mushrooms 0000 Adirondack, NY, USAmushrooms 0001 Adirondack, NY, USA

Near the first waterfall, Teddy knew a tree that grew right on top of the rock with its roots twisting down. It was almost the point to put our clothes on, because there might be more people coming, but we couldn’t resist snapping a couple of photos.

naturist 0010 Adirondack, NY, USA

What a great place to enjoy the beauty of the forest and meditate.

naturist 0011 Adirondack, NY, USA

This toad seemed to do the same, and lucky him, nobody would make a fuss for him being naked!

toad 0000 Adirondack, NY, USA

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

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

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

naturist 0000 Mohonk Preserve, NY, USA

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

naturist 0001 Mohonk Preserve, NY, USA

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

naturist 0002 Mohonk Preserve, NY, USA

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

garden spider 0000 Mohonk Preserve, NY, USA

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

wolf spider 0000 Mohonk Preserve, NY, USA

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

wolf spider 0001 Mohonk Preserve, NY, USA

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

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

wolf spider 0002 Mohonk Preserve, NY, USA

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

Awesome bouldering at a foursome date

This is a guest entry from my friend Ben who you might remember from the post about Burning Man, where he joined me for a naked round of capoeira game 🙂

I was visiting a couple in Grass Valley, CA, that my wife and I had been skyping with for a possible polyamorous relationship. When we arrived, they showed us around town and took us to this beautiful place at the South Yuba river where people of all ages were skinny dipping, and I thought to myself “how often does one get the opportunity to go bouldering naked?” So I chose some short cliffs that wouldn’t pose too horrible an injury potential and let my wife and the other married couple bathe in the sun and take pictures while I “crazily risked my life.”

naturist bouldering 0001  South Yuba River, CA, USA

It was definitely a memorable experience, and more so for the bruises on the soles of my feet afterward. I’d love to go back again and find an area with an overhang so that I could fall off the rock purposefully into the cool summer water.

naturist bouldering 0000 South Yuba River, CA, USA

Rattling around in Harriman State Park woods

I though I had seen all what Harriman State Park near NYC provided, but a week ago, I saw something there that gave me goosebumps… and the urge to post about it, as a warning to other hikers in the area. So, this is what awaited me at the white trail right by the Pine Meadow Lake:

rattlesnake 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Yes, a rattlesnake! Curiously enough, when we were hiking towards the lake the day before, Sergei wondered if we should watch out for snakes. None of us had seen venomous snakes in the area (but I did report on non-venomous snakes in the previous blogpost about Harriman), and I noted they were actually pretty rare in New York State. But I was lucky to see one on the way back.

rattlesnake 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Well, when I said  I was ‘lucky’ to see it, I really meant it and for two reasons. First of all, if you see a snake, you are more than likely to be safe, unless it is a spitting cobra. Snakes don’t have any reason to bite humans unless they feel threatened… which mostly happens when we do not see them and step on them. Second, it was a rare for New York State timber rattlesnake, a threatened species actually; threatened, in wildlife conservation terms, otherwise it looked magnificently calm. This was probably the third reason why I felt lucky to see it, I was thrilled to take some photos of it, there was indeed something hypnotic about its gaze.

rattlesnake 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Was it daydreaming looking in the clouds?

rattlesnake 0003 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Or was it waiting for a hiker to bite? Seriously though, I was concerned that the next hiker might be not that attentive and could step on it. I hesitated on whether to try to scare it off the trail or just leave it alone. I took a loooong stick and knocked on the rock near the snake, to which it moved slowly and took the tongue out to get a sense of what was happening around.

rattlesnake 0004 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

It still seemed to be very calm, so I decided not to disturb it anymore and leave it alone without making it aggressive (and feeling threatened!). The best thing I could do was warning the next hikers on the trail about it (just one couple), I hope they took it seriously coming from a naked guy! But again, if there was anything that the rattlesnake wanted to get a bite of, it was rather something like this toad – easier to swallow and digest.

toad 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Later on the same trail, I saw a much more dramatic episode from arthropod life. See this little hole in the ground covered by moss? It’s a home of a cricket, but not for too long!

ichneymon wasp, spider, cricket 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

First, I noticed an ichneumon wasp carrying a paralysed spider heading towards the hole. I immediately recognised it, because by coincidence, ichneumon wasps were mentioned in the chapter of the book that I was reading on that day in the morning – ‘The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution‘ by Richard Dawkins. He mentioned that young Darwin was disgusted by their behaviour, which made him wonder about presence of any kind of ‘morality’ in nature, as they lay eggs in paralysed but still alive victims that are later being eaten alive by the larvae! But in the end, nature is neither moral or immoral, it is amoral…  So, my amoral ichneumon wasp left her paralysed spider aside and went to check on the hole.

ichneymon wasp, spider, cricket 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

That’s when I saw the cricket, the wasp clearly didn’t want its company, and the cricket left.

ichneymon wasp, spider, cricket 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

By the time the wasp went to pick up the paralysed spider, the cricket returned to the hole; now the wasp put the spider closer and went into the hole again.

ichneymon wasp, spider, cricket 0004 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

It must have been much clearer with the cricket this time, as it left the hole and jumped away immediately. Finally, the was could bring the spider in the hole…

ichneymon wasp, spider, cricket 0003 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Well, if it was only that easy! She didn’t think much about what side she should have carried it first (I bet she should have pull it from the head first), but eventually she managed to pull it down in the hole… and do her dark deeds, for which I (thankfully) couldn’t be a witness anymore.

ichneymon wasp, spider, cricket 0005 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

To continue with the insect topic, there was one type that I was particularly hyped about this summer – cicadas. 2013 was the year for the East Coast brood of 17-year periodical cicadas to come out.

Here is a great video about them.

I thought Harriman State Park would be an ideal place to camp out with the cicada noise on the background, but we haven’t found a place where they’d be as abundant as on the video above.

cicada 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

However, we saw some blueberry bushes with a lot of exoskeletons shed by cicada nymphs after molting, and I even noticed one on the top of a dry tree at the final stage of molting (just like the video explained),

cicada 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

but there was no such overwhelming background noise as I expected; maybe our timing was wrong.

Now, periodical cicadas are gone underground for another 17 years, but while hiking in Harriman last time, we noticed that the grasshoppers were particularly plentiful.

grasshopper 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USAgrasshopper 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USAgrasshopper 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

To finish off with the insects for now, here a pretty furry moth – looks more like a winter outfit to me.

moth 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

By the way, blueberry bushes were not only full of cicada nymphs but of the fruit too! I’m not posting more photos with blueberries as I did enough last year – luckily, these do not come about only every 17 years! There are also some other fruits that will ripen later in summer.

hickory 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

These are fruits of hickory; they are related to walnuts and pecans, but depending on a species may be too bitter to be eaten… there is only one way to find out.

witch hazel 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

And these are witch hazels; despite the name, witch hazel is not related to hazelnuts but is edible and has some medical properties too.

Here is a couple of odd trees from the last hike.

bizarre tree 0001 Harriman State Park, NY, USAbizarre tree 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

I mentioned Canada geese at Silver Mine Lake in my first blogpost about Harriman, but this summer we saw some young ones too

canada goose 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

and they were really cute.

canada goose 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

It is funny though, that in my first blogpost I used Canada geese as an example of an animal less menacing than a bear (we saw one in Harriman in 2011), and I still think they are, but one of them got particularly friendly with us, especially with Christian. Well, friendly is probably not the right word as it was very attracted to his toes and a couple of times tried to bite them! Christian was lucky though it was a foot fetishist goose 😀

canada goose 0004 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Not that it looked really dangerous, but it might have been a serious bite, judging by the strong beak and spiky tongue of the goose.

canada goose 0003 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

After that scary incident, I had to meditate in tranquility to feel safe again.

naturist 0002 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

You can actually find some very cozy places to sit and reflect about life

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or simply enjoy the view.

naturist 0004 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Mountain laurels were in full bloom by mid-June, and Lake Skannatati looked particularly picturesque.

naturist 0005 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

This summer is apparently wetter than usual, and you could tell by the waterfall at the dam of Lake Skannatati. Not that it couldn’t be blocked by two strong men 🙂

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We also noticed some drastic changes downstream, probably due to the storm Sandy, but it still provided a great background for photos.

naturist 0007 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

Well, that’s about it for now, it was quite a diversion from my plans to start posting about my bike trip in California last summer. This was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen, I loved it how the sun was going down behind the trees on the hill and you could still see it.

sunset 0000 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

PS There probably will be another blogpost before Californian series, as I just got fully body-painted at Times Square yesterday!