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

naturist 0003 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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 🙂

naturist 0008 Harriman State Park, NY, USA

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!

Palenque – hiking in the rainforest around ancient Mayan site

naturist 0024 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

I visited several Mayan sites throughout southern Mexico, and Palenque definitely stood out thanks to some of the most magnificent ruins surrounded by equally majestic tropical rainforest. It is a popular tourist site, so don’t expect me to streak right there.

naturist 0021 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

However, I didn’t miss the opportunity to explore the jungle right around Palenque ruins in the buff. naturist 0023 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Given the warm and humid tropical climate, this idea was nothing odd. The only tricky part was that I was going to get a guide, as I was alone this time and didn’t want to get lost on the unknown territory. Upon arrival to the ruins, I was immediately approached by one of many certified guides awaiting tourists. His name was Cruz; in case you happen to be in Palenque and find a guide with this name, maybe you’ll be lucky to have the same guy! He first offered a tour at the ancient site itself and just briefly mentioned the protected rainforest around it. I was intrigued about the latter, and he convinced me that it was actually one of the best preserved virgin tropical rainforests in the area.  However, I figured that I’d be able to get around the ancient site on my own and would rather need a guide in the forest. As we were discussing hiking in the areas where very few visitors ventured out, it wasn’t long till I asked Cruz my burning question: “Could I hike naked?” He seemed puzzled for a second, so I briefly explained him the concept of naturism. Also, in that weather, the clothes is definitely obsolete… “and, – I continued – that’s probably how your ancient Mayan ancestors explored the jungle too”. Cruz seemed convinced and even murmured that I wouldn’t be the first tourist to do so either.

So, after I was done with the pyramids, temples and castles, Cruz met me again, carrying a machete this time, and we headed to the trail. Well, actually there was no trail, we just walked by a small spring. There were clear signs of more ruins still covered by the forest, and Cruz said that was what satellite images suggested; the whole site was taken over by forest after it was abandoned, and only a fraction was cleared after its rediscovery.

naturist 0000 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

There were a lot of snails in the creek, and Cruz collected them for a later meal.

snail 0010 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

In some places, we had to do a little bit of rock-climbing.

naturist 0001 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Maybe it was the sweat after all that, or my ‘ancient Maya’ argument was so strong, but when I told my guide that he should as well hike naked like me, he liked the idea. It seemed to me he only waited till I would suggest him to disrobe.

Somewhere midway up the hill, we left the creek bed and turned right into the jungle. That’s where Cruz made use of his machete, although he still lead the path up the easier way, e.g., along fallen trees.

naturist 0002 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

We saw some beautiful flowers on the way, like this heliconia, for example.

heliconia 0013 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

However, these blue leaves appeared far more extraordinary, as blue is not a very common colour even among flowers, let along leaves.

naturist 0014 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Cruz told me a lot about local plants, but unfortunately I cannot recall most of it. I remember seeing papayas in places where sunlight wasn’t blocked by tall trees,

papaya 0012 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

but there were also some fruits that weren’t edible.

palm tree fruit 0011 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

I thought that this vine was a passionfruit, but Cruz said it was something else. I forgot if he said it was edible, although it did not look ripe in any case.

passionfruit 0015 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

It was great to see such a diversity of fruits, it made me confident that with certain knowledge I’d be able to survive there, if I were lost; especially papayas looked encouraging in that respect. That was a tropical rainforest after all! Though after very good blueberry season in New York last summer, I can’t complain here either.

Well, the forest wasn’t just full of plants, there were animals too, but most of them would rather avoid encounters with humans, especially during day. There was one notable exception, though – a spider monkey!

spider monkey 0000 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

We were already on top of the hill, and Cruz pointed up one tree. There was a spider monkey, really close to us, munching some leaves calmly. It was fascinating to see how easily he moved through the trees, not without help of his fifth “limb”, the tail.

spider monkey 0003 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

And it’s not like he didn’t see us, he stared at us curiously for a while and didn’t seem to be worried.

spider monkey 0001 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

He continued his business and then would only pay attention to us when Cruz imitated spider-monkey calls.

spider monkey 0004 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexicospider monkey 0005 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

According to Cruz, monkeys are the only wild animals in the area that feel at ease near humans, maybe because of our close evolutionary kindred. Then it definitely helped that we were naked. Have I mentioned he was naked too?

spider monkey 0002 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

After he left, I realised I was hungry too, so I happily got to my mangos and other local fruits.

naturist 0008 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Although we were on top of the hill, we could not see much around because of the trees, and I didn’t feel like climbing those.

naturist 0016 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

It was time to go down, but we went by the other side of the hill, and soon reached the dry bed of another creek.

naturist 0009 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

We heard some loud animal calls, so I hid under the huge leaf of anthurium.

naturist 0005 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

It had two holes that perfectly matched my eyes… but no one showed up.

naturist 0017 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

We continued walking, and I was mesmerised by some very tall trees.

naturist 0003 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Even some lianas grew as thick as trees.

naturist 0018 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

When we reached the spring, it was nice to refresh in its cool water,

naturist 0006 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

and we continued our hike down along it.

naturist 0007 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

We were approaching the border of the forest, however, so after some final naked shots, it was time to get dressed again.

naturist 0004 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Then I took photos of the ruins in the nice late afternoon sun.

naturist 0019 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

Now I had a pretty good impression of what that wooded hill next to the ruins was like.

naturist 0020 Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

It was hard to judge whether I was impressed more by the magnificent constructions or the equally splendid forest… Probably it was the combination of both that made Palenque very special.

hiking at Mount Tauhara, New Zealand

The central region of the North Island of New Zealand is known for its picturesque views of Lake Taupo, Rotorua, Mount Ruapehu, Waikato River and the famous Tongariro Crossing. While these places are worth a visit, there is another peak that is worth a climb.

naturist 0000 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

New Zealand does not have any specific laws that prohibit nakedness in public, so I decided to climb Mount Tauhara near Taupo nude on a recent sunny afternoon.

naturist 0001 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

The climb begins by opening a gate to a cow farm. The cows were staring and mooing at me as I passed. Watch out for the cow dung! The beginning of the hike is rather open, with little tree cover so I waited to disrobe until I was under cover (I forgot my sun cream). This section of the climb, through the farm, is the most strenuous as it is steep. This summer has been extremely dry and a drought has been declared in the area.

naturist 0002 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

Once I reached the watering tanks, I removed my clothing and started through the lush green forest that surrounds the mountain. It was much cooler and my non protected skin was happy not to be completely exposed to the harsh sun. The covered section of the climb has some very gentle climbs and others that get much more steep. There is a waterfall during the trek up, but the drought has made it more of a trickle.At several points on the climb there are fantastic views of the city of Taupo, its lake, and on very clear days the peaks of Mount Ruapehu, Mount Ngauruhoe, and Mount Tongariro.

naturist 0005 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

This day was a perfect. However, on cloudy or foggy days you can actually be above the clouds once you reach the top section. The 360 degree views are amazing. The peak has areas where you can walk and see other magnificent views.

naturist 0004 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

The walk up the 1,088 meter climb is considered strenuous and takes approximately 90 minutes. It takes 45-60 minutes to climb down.

naturist 0003 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

It is not well groomed and many locals are the people that climb it. Mount Tauhara is in a protected Maori area and access can be restricted by the tribe that protects it, so I was careful to have my shorts ready in case someone that protects the mountain objected to my nudity.

I have always had a meaningful experience on my 30 climbs of Mount Tauhara, and I am glad I finally completed the climb in the nude this time.   naturist 0006 Mount Tauhara, North Island, New Zealand

This a a guest post. Text and photos by Nick.

Orr Hot Springs and Montgomery Woods

While winter’s attempt to reinstall its reign over New York City on Monday night failed totally, with the morning rain washing down almost all snow and the afternoon sun dealing with the rest, my friends in Europe are still suffering from yet another particularly long and snowy winter. So, here is probably my last blogpost of the winter season. Well, this one is from Californian ‘winter’, so don’t expect anything like jumping in the ice hole in the Moscow River, or frolicking in the snow by the naked gym in Paris… but rather soaking in hot springs! California has lots of those, so Niko and I spent some time choosing which ones to visit on the way from Eureka to San Francisco. Orr hot springs called our attention by having a reputation of providing exquisite tranquility; it is a cute rustic resort with small cozy cabins, excellent self-service kitchen, and of course saunas and baths filled with natural thermal water.

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Orr hot springs are quite easy to reach from Bay Area, but seclusion is one of their key words. There is no cell phone service, no wi-fi, and actually, not even an official webpage! I don’t think there is a lack of visitors though, thanks to the word of mouth and reviews in Yelp… and websites like this one 😉 Therefore, to make sure there is a spot for you, reservations by phone are required +1 (707) 462-6277.

We arrived quite late in the evening and had the main bath for ourselves for a while.

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It was gorgeous full moon night, and mist gathering above the hot springs made the whole place look mysterious.

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In the morning, the mist highlighted sun rays peeking through bamboo.

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… and the mist that condensed on the grass around hot springs, provided another pretty display – hoar frost – and a proof that it did get down to freezing temperatures during the night.

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Not a problem though, if you are surrounded by hot springs and saunas.

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After absorbing the heat of thermal waters, it feels just great to walk around butt-naked despite the cold.

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By the way, the whole resort is clothing optional except for registration desk.

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We explored the territory of Orr for a bit,

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and after the check out time in the cabin (noon), we decided to go for a hike.

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Unfortunately, there are no trails starting at the resort, but there are some in its vicinity, in the Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve.  The afternoon was getting quite warm, and as we turned away from the main trail, I felt comfortable to get unclad.

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This trail mostly featured young redwoods, as the area was probably still recovering after logging. One of the huge redwood stumps looked like a stage.

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We didn’t see much wildlife except for a few birds and a couple of these ancient-looking creatures, red-bellied newts.

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It was the first time when I saw an adult newt, as previously I only saw juvenile forms (efts) of a related species in Harriman State Park, NY. Adult forms aren’t that bright, except for the belly in this species. By the way, only preparing for this blogpost did I find out that their red belly “serves as a warning to potential predators, as [they] have enough of a neurotoxin … in their skin to easily kill an adult human”.

Speaking of warnings, soon we reached a fence with a sign saying that there was private property further up the trail and no trespassing was allowed. Why wasn’t there any warning in the beginning of the trail? We turned back and went down to the main trail, which went through old growth redwoods, including some of the tallest trees around!

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We didn’t have enough time to explore the whole trail, but even the trees near the beginning were impressive.

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In this forest of giants, we looked somewhat Lilliputian, but it made us appreciate only more the splendour of nature.

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Blueberry season in Harriman Park

Our blog has seen a slow start this year, but at least I’ve decided to kick off 2013 with a long and colourful post… about Harriman State Park again! When I wrote about it last time, you’d think we wouldn’t collect so many new stories and photos for the new post. I find this place really amazing in terms of rich wildlife, especially given proximity to the megapolis of New York. So, here is the summary of the past summer, so needed a recollection of nice warm memories on these cold days (in this part of the world)…

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While winding on the hills of Harriman park, make sure to get a chance to stop by points of view, as you’re likely to see Manhattan skyline,

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which, depending on how you look at it, may comfort you or may make you feel somewhat confused as to how these two worlds can coexist so close to each other.

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Otherwise, it’s going to be a pretty impressive sea of green around you.

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But don’t forget to look down either, for there may be… something tasty.

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Last summer, we had a very fruitful (quite literally) blueberry season. Sometimes we couldn’t help but stopped to get a mouthful of blueberries, which hindered hikes quite a bit.

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Again, this is a very pleasant memory at the time of the year when blueberries sold in New York come from Chile… There are different species of blueberries in the area, with the most notable being the northern highbush blueberry, which mostly grows by the lakes.

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Lowbush varieties grow throughout the forest. One of them was tastes quite differently from those you get on the market: it is sweeter but also much dryer and its seeds are more noticeable; the berries are almost black.

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But the best way to pick blueberries that I can think of is probably when you stand in shallow water and have a row of highbush blueberries in front of you (like here at the Pine Meadow Lake).

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You might need to share the most fertile bushes though 🙂 Having known only European varieties of blueberries, I was really impressed that here they can grow so tall.

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Well, but not as tall so that you could climb them. But some trees looked quite inviting…

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to climb and pose on them.

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Well, I was able to climb this giant with a smooth and straight trunk and stand on it in a triumphant pose, only because it had fallen.

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But this one had some curves that was too easy to grab and rest on.

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Despite constant stopping for enjoying the views, picking blueberries and climbing trees, we covered quite large distances on our walks. We really took it seriously to explore hiking routes of Harriman Park. Unlike in the previous 2 summers, when we usually came with MTA trains to Peekskill or Garrison and then travelled within the park by bikes, last summer we came to the borders of the park by car or NJ transit trains (e.g., to Suffern or Tuxedo), and then explored the park by foot.

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It was a good idea to get maps from NY-NJ Trail Conference. The trail system is extensive, but most of the trails are clearly marked and it is pretty easy to follow the map. It’s worth noting that there is no cell service throughout most of the park, don’t rely on mobile maps.

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So, after staring at the map for a couple of minutes, most of the time, we knew where we were heading to. There is a colour scheme for the trails, so look for colour signs on trees and rocks. I think there might be another, more natural way of labelling the trails – by planting mushrooms of different colours. This silly thought appeared in my head when I saw a yellow mushroom growing on yellow trail.

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Last summer was also a good season for mushrooms and they came in all shades.

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Not all of them were that bright, of course, but overall, we wished we knew about local mushrooms. I bet we missed some tasty ones.

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As to the trails themselves, they are pretty diverse too. You can have some nice flat grassy trails,

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sometimes steep uphills,

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and downhills, 🙂

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rocky slopes

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and flat rocks – usually along the springs

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or on hilltops

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– have I mentioned the views?

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Some trails are pretty wide and could even fit a car, because they are actually descendants  of roads that served the mines in this area decades ago.

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In some places. the trail appears almost man-made, as it goes on a smooth flat rock surrounded by grass. I appreciated those parts especially when I was walking barefoot, which I’ve been practicing actively for 2 summers now.

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And speaking of rocks, there are some quite spectacular ones. This one looks as if fallen from out of space with such force that it was split in half.

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This one reminded me a fish head.

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Others might not be that eye-catching but were nice to rest on.

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If it’s too small to lie on it, it may be good enough for planking. I never considered the trend of planking (even naked one) particularly entertaining, but somehow I got inspired for it seeing all those flat rocks.

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Still, sitting and observing a beautiful lake sounds more appealing.

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It’s hard to resist to go for a swim after a hot day even if you’re tired 😉

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Later on, we the sky turned into a bright palette of red colours.

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But if there is no lake nearby, you’re like to stumble upon one of numerous springs.

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Many of them are deep enough for a [skinny] dip.

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By the way, our affection of swimming didn’t go unnoticed. Once, when my friend Sasha and I were about to leave the Pine Meadow Lake, two guys from India approached us and started a conversation. You might think that they were curious to see two naked guys in the woods – and indeed they were 🙂 – but one of them didn’t know how to swim and he asked us to teach him.

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Maybe I look professional in my goggles, or maybe they just saw that I was away in water for half an hour. In any case, I am glad he got inspired and I guess we’ll continue his lessons next summer.

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Another highlight was discover of a shelter.

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Later, we found on the map that there were a few of them in the park, which is good to know in case of unexpected bad weather.

The Pine Meadow Lake was definitely our favourite hangout in Harriman Park last summer.

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Besides aforementioned blueberry bushes, it attracted us with its beautiful views, as well as with minuscule islets where one could pose like a stork,

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or imagine yourself a Gulliver.

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And of course we had many opportunities to observe and photograph wildlife again.

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However, last summer, it wasn’t the mammals that caught my attention most of the time.

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Dragonflies seemed to queue up to get photographed,

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sometimes even two at once.

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This is some kind of blue wasp.

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And this is a parasitic wasp that was looking for insects in the bark to lay her eggs – I noticed it while climbing that curvy tree that I mentioned above.

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Butterflies were abundant too. It was interesting to see tiger swallowtail

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next to its relative spicebush swallowtail with almost inverted colours.

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Although butterflies are the easiest to spot among insects, it’s not that easy to take a decent photo of them due to their unpredictable movement pattern. This grasshopper turned out to be a much better model!

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It jumped on my shoulder and waited patiently while we were photographing. Too bad the light was low.

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Another great poser was this northern water snake.

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Once it went in water, it revealed its bright skin.

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It was circling in the same spot and seemed to be looking for something without paying too much attention to us.

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Soon we saw what it was up for.

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There was a pretty big American bull frog hiding quietly under grass.

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Then slowly it moved away. On another hike, we witnessed a less lucky situation (for the frog). I heard a squeaking sound from under a rock and saw a snake swallowing a frog (well, lucky snake then).

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OK, enough of this wildlife drama for the start of new year! I just wanted to say again that  were happy to explore outdoors next to New York City, happy to see that the park seem to be in a healthy condition (except for some spots where people leave their trash, as I mentioned in the previous post). Lichens covering rocks and trees are a good indicator or clean air.

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I’m so looking forward to the summer and exploring Harriman park further!

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Queer Woods of Pennsylvania (part I)

Once, on a hot summer day, we went for a hike in the woods of Delaware Water Gap. We just picked a random trail on the map and had no idea what lied ahead.

Blackberry bushes provided a sweet start! But in about an hour after we left the road, we noticed some houses in the middle of the woods. Who would live there without proper road access??

Right, no one! Those were haunted houses!

What was especially weird that there were some gardening tools and equipment around, as if the settlement was abandoned in haste.

There is definitely an interesting story behind all that, perhaps a car with several bullet holes in the door could provide a clue as to what might have happened…

The door was invitingly open, but I don’t think it is going anywhere!

We left the place puzzled; in a few minutes we were more keen on pretty plants around us,

and soon the trail brought us to the Delaware River.

We couldn’t find a proper trail to get down to it, so we had to go through the bushes and ferns. But we managed to get a nice spot for a lunch break and just needed to make sure we would remember where to go back to the trail.

Wait for the next blogpost, those Pennsylvanian woods will only get queerer 😉