Last Tuesday, June 21st, was the Summer Solstice. Which means it was National Hike Naked Day! How many here knew that? I didn’t till two days before the Solstice last year, when a fellow Bay-to-Breakers naked runner posted his plans on our Bare-2-Breakers forum. Wow! I so wanted to join him. Which wasn’t too far-fetched, since he was in southern NH and I was in southern VT. As it turned out, though, his hike was far more ambitious than anything I could have managed. Here’s his report:
“Summer solstice is traditionally hike naked day on the AT and others. I did 28 miles in the Pemigewassett Wilderness in NH. Took me 13.5 hours with a couple swims and stops for 2nd breakfast and lunch. Weather was incredible. I met a few souls...very few...one guy asked to take my picture from behind, another said 'happy summer solstice', another said 'I'm glad someone's doing it'. One asked if it was hike naked day. At least 50% knew it was hike naked day. The rest was just a regular 'hello' in passing.”
I ended up celebrating the day last year hiking naked at Rock River Preserve, a few miles down the road from where we spend the summer. After a couple ‘family’ pools along the trail that follows a rocky stream, it becomes clothing optional. I do it often, so it was nothing special.
Any trail around the country will do for observing this national ‘holiday’, yet hiking the Appalachian Trail naked on the longest day of the year has become a well-established tradition up and down the eastern seaboard, from Georgia to Maine. Since some jurisdictions take a dimmer view about public nudity than VT and NH, hikers have found creative ways to skirt the law. Like covering their genitals with socks, or draping handkerchiefs over cords around their waists. There are plenty of photos online, which are great fun to browse.
Following my friend’s example, this year I decided to do it right. First, an early morning barefoot naked hike on the wooded trails in the village park behind the house we’re renting (I’ve done that before, never met anyone . . . thank goodness!). Then after lunch, a 25-mile/40-minute drive to where the Appalachian Trail crosses Rt. 30 just west of Bromley Ski Area. Headed south, soon finding a rock to stash my clothes behind, and continued on 2 miles out and 2 miles back in just my sneakers, carrying just a small bottle of red wine — to toast the Sun God at my turnaround. That was at a power cut affording gorgeous views of mountains and the valley below, where I sat atop a large boulder sipping my wine and greeting passersby with a hearty “Happy Summer Solstice!” Those, and others I met along the trail (a total of ten men and women in the 4 miles) all returned the greeting, with a smile and pleasant conversation. Some knew it was Hike Naked Day, others didn’t, but nobody took issue with my lack of clothes.
What a great way to celebrate the arrival of summer, hiking the AT naked! It’s just become a personal tradition I’ll repeat every year going forward, as long as I can. It would be even better with company, will have to work on that. But it won’t be with my wife. My lack of clothes was the one detail I left out of my trip report to her — she wouldn’t understand, and she would be angry!
UPDATE: I hit the AT on the 21st, celebrating the Solstice in proper style. Did an out-and-back from County Road in Stamford, VT to the MA/VT state line, 3.1 miles each way, plus a .4 mile round trip spur to visit the Seth Warner Shelter near the north end. Wore only hiking sandals, and carried my iPhone in my hand.
Met four folks along the way, including a thru-hiker going from Springer Mtn. in GA to Mt. Katahdin in ME. Nice chap, pleasant conversations as our paths crossed several times on my northbound return to my car parked at the trail crossing. Everyone cordial, none offended by my lack of clothes.
4+ hours hiking naked felt really great. Already savoring and planning next year's trip. I'll definitely go a lot further, and stay totally naked a lot longer. Meeting other naked hikers along the way would be a delight. As would having some coed company!