A Naked Walk in the Woods

So when it comes to adventure travel, we tap out pretty quickly. While fit, neither of us are particularly athletic, nor are we into zip-lining, bungee jumping, or downhill skiing in the Alps. But a walk in the woods is one of life’s greatest pleasures – especially if it can be done without the burden of clothing.

The road to Iligas Gorge

The road to Ilingas Gorge

I realize there are entire books, blogs, and cyber communities dedicated to organizing naturist walks. These offerings have always looked intriguing to me, but rarely do they coordinate with our calendars when we’re not traveling. And reading an announcement for a “free-hiking” (a term coined for hiking in the nude) opportunity in the Austrian Alps when you’re currently in the Pacific Northwest, while enticing, is not so easy to navigate. There are dozens of organized naturist hikes in France each summer, and my sense is there is a wonderful sense of community there, but the ever looming language barrier will almost certainly be an issue as well.

The other significant trend is creating your own free-hiking in the Do-It-Yourself version; finding a little know trail on a weekday where you’re less likely to run into other hikers – especially families with children – which typically involves having some sort of clothing at the ready in case you decide at the last minute that it’s better to dress than dare as your approach unsuspecting passers-by. This sounds stressful to me.

Hiking the Ilingas Gorge

Hiking the Ilingas Gorge

Which finally brings me to the subject of this particular post – our recent journey down the Ilingas Gorge near Vritomartis Naturist Hotel on the southern coast of Crete. (You can read their description with photos here.) The hotel organizes the entire event, beginning with an open air ride up an incredibly steep and narrow road on bench seats in the back of a pickup truck where the road continues to narrow and deteriorate until even the goats decide – “Whoa, it’s too desolate out here!” We did, however, encounter something of a traffic jam when a sheep herder was moving his flock through a narrow passage.

Once near the top of the mountain, we walked a short while until our guide gave us the all clear signal, at which point, the whole group was naked within a matter of minutes. (There was one adolescent girl in our group who choose not to go bare – no problem.) While there were a few places that required a bit of scrambling over rocks, it was generally an easy downhill walk, frequently in the shade of the scraggly woods and the sheer cliffs as the gorge would close in around us. End to end, perhaps 90 minutes to two hours before we emerged into a clearing, got dressed again, and boarded the truck for the nearby town of Anapolis for lunch. You’ll also see on the Vritomartis blog that there were plenty of opportunities for photo ops, including the obligatory fig leaf photos that have great potential for that Christmas card you really want to get noticed. While respectful, nobody seemed particularly camera shy, and we seized the opportunity for a good bit of nature and naturist photography.

The road from Filaki to the hotel

The road from Filaki to the hotel

I have ranted in previous posts (See: Nude at 100 Paces) about what seems to me to be a disproportionate concern about random encounters with naked people, noting that by the time you come across a person donning hiking shoes and a day-pack, you really have to have a keen eye to determine whether that person is shrouded in fig leaves or not – never mind that fig leaves cover more skin that a typical bikini or Speedo – but that topic has been beaten to death elsewhere. That said, the Jeep and Hiking Safari at Vritomartis goes down in the books as one of our favorite naturist walks, devoid of the fear that we would unintentionally offend a local family of humans, goats, or geckos.

With that, here are a few other places that have made our Naked Walks Hall of Fame, with similar criteria for walking naked without worries for at least an hour round trip. I’m hoping readers here might be inspired to share others we should add to the list.

  • The beach at Naturist La Jenny (France): I have written volumes about our many visits to La Jenny, but one thing we enjoy the most is the fact that we’ve walked one or two hours up and down beach from the resort without ever feeling IMG_6524the urge to wrap up, even as we’ve meandered into textile beach areas. In short, nobody cares.
  • DeAnza Springs Resort (California): Hardly a walk in the woods, as this is high desert with lots of rocks and scrub brush, but we thoroughly enjoyed following the trail that weaved in and out of the nearby abandoned railway. You have to get the timing right as a mid-afternoon walk on a 100+ degree afternoon would probably loose its charm pretty fast.
  • Club Origan Village (France): A fairly modest naturist resort in the mountains above Nice, but one of the best features is a path that scales the mountainside and runs along the ridge for about an hour, providing breathtaking views of the valley below. When we stay there, we make it our morning ritual to do the 90-minute loop each day.France_U-Furu
  • U-Furu Naturist Camping (Corsica): A remote campground on the island of Corsica where you can take a fairly substantial hike back to a small stream that features some lovely waterfalls if there has been enough rain that season. Also a wonderful spot for naturist photography.
  • Ile du Levant (France): The coastal trail along the Mediterranean is simply spectacular, making you realize how silly it is to ever wear clothing when walking along the sea. I’ve written a lot about this little island near the French Riviera if you dig back in my blog.
  • Harbin Hot Springs (California): It’s been a while since we’ve visited, so I can only assume that policies regarding nudity on the grounds are similar to that of years past, which not only allowed for nude soaking in the magical hot springs, but also the opportunity to explore the paths on the nearby hillside sans clothing. Last time we did that, the few people we encountered on the paths were clothed, but scarcely batted an eye at our nudity.
Ile du Levant

Ile du Levant

Know a great spot we should check out for our next naked walk? Add it in a comment and we’ll put it on the list.

TRAVELOGUE: High Desert Hiking at DeAnza Springs Resort

Nothing says naked like the serendipity of a free afternoon in San Diego on a beautiful spring day!  A little too chilly on the coast to seriously consider Black’s Beach (which remains on my bucket list, but alas…) So the next logical choice was a one-hour drive into the high desert for an excursion to the DeAnza Springs Clothing Optional Resort!

DeAnza 5

The rugged desert terrain surrounding the resort

A brief disclaimer seems in order at this juncture, as I have to say, the people at DeAnza Springs are among the friendliest I’ve met at any American naturist site.  The word on the street is that they are even willing to let hikers in who wish to experience the southerly most entrance to Anza Borrego State Park, offering them a safe place to park the car for the day.  The park, stretching for hundreds of miles, literally backs up to the resort property line.  Having read this, my wife and I visited last fall to scope the place out.  But this time, I was traveling solo, so I emailed in advance to see if they had any of typically draconian policies limiting visits by single males.  No such policy exists.  “C’mon up.  Well be happy to see you!”

Deanza 3

Old Hollywood set on the “edge of town”

All that said, should you read this and suddenly feel inspired to drive to Jacumba, California, doff your clothes, and sprint into the desert, – especially if you’re a rookie at the clothing optional thing – be prepared that DeAnza Springs will likely exemplify every cliché you can imagine when people make water cooler jokes about “that nudist colony place out by the highway.”  The RVs surrounded by various landscape contraptions, goofy road signs like “skinny dip ahead” or “bare right,” and a variety of quasi-sculpture-caricatures of naked people with bicycles, walking sticks, and tennis rackets – each with somewhat exaggerated features and euphoric facial expressions that I think are intended to reinforce the subliminal message that nudists are familiar, friendly, and most of all, fun!  Every time I visit a place like this, I can’t help but relive David Sedaris’ account of his visit to a similar “nudist colony” in Pennsylvania. (See: David Sedaris, NAKED). It’s the stuff upon which satirical writers and water-cooler comedians thrive.

DeAnza 1

Trestle on the Carrizo Railway. Note the decaying Chicago Metro cars in the distance.

Strangely enough, on this beautiful May day, the sign-post caricatures were about the most animated beings on the property!  A few retirees were buzzing around in their golf carts, but by the time I got to the pool, only a handful of locals were to be found.  In other words… a real high desert ghost town!   I’ve always thought the desert to be a little eerie under the best of circumstances.  Even more so with this odd assemblage of pre-fab houses and mega-extravagant motor homes, along side a few old trailers, one of which must have fallen victim to some horrible catastrophe that caused one entire side to blow out into a pile of twisted aluminum; a heap of unsightly wreckage that appears to have been lying there for quite some time.  Given our visit last fall, and so many similar experiences at other US naturist vacation destinations, none of this seemed even remotely peculiar to me, though I always find myself playing the “I wonder what my friend “_________” would think of all this?”  Maybe not the place to bring the ‘first-timer – curious about social nudity’ friend for his first naked outing.

If you are a desert person, (and already comfortable in your skin),  the place sits in a remarkable location, near the town of Jacumba, literally a stone’s throw from the Mexican border (evidenced by the border control officers who patrol the dirt road that leads to the gates of the resort).  The famous rail line – at least amidst train buffs (no pun intended!) – of the Carrizo Gorge runs along the perimeter of the DeAnza Springs property.  Despite a plethora a faded signs and snarls of barbed wire that send the foreboding message to stay away from the tracks, the resort owner identifies the rail bed as the preferred local par course for the daily ritual of walking the dog.  To be sure, walking naked across a creaky trestle, measuring each step as some of the ties have simply fallen away, while others give noticeably under your feet, defines a whole new level of vulnerability.  But there are plenty of trails crisscrossing the scrubby, boulder-infested mountains, and there are many accounts floating around about those who have spent the day ‘free-hiking’ (a term that somehow got assigned to wilderness walks in the altogether) well into the Anza Borrego State Park with scarcely a nod from the seldom encountered rangers.

DeAnza 6

Overlooking the Carrizo Railway trestle

On this day, after nearly two hours of ‘free-hiking,’ I seized the opportunity to enjoy the more sophisticated amenities of this remote garden of Eden; a beer from the snack bar, a dip in the pool, and a soak in the hot tub, followed by a couple hours of reading by the late afternoon sunlight.  As the evening zephyrs started to chill, it was time to jump back in the car and make my way down the hill to San Diego to catch the red-eye back to the dreary weather on the east coast.

DeAnza 4

My official DeAnza Springs zipper compartment cap, answering the perennial question, “Where do nudist keep their keys?”

Despite nearly twenty years of what one might call research on this topic, I still struggle in my efforts to reconcile the differences between American and European versions of the nudist/naturist experience.  To be fair, were I to visit any of the French naturist centers this early in the season, it would likely be too cold to go au naturel, and they would also feel sparsely populated, I suspect, as it simply isn’t the season yet.  But there are palpable differences that transcend those attributes, much of which seem to be centered around ‘nudist colony humor.’  There is something in the American ethos that can’t manage to handle a conversation about “naked” without making some self-deprecating joke, even if you are the one who is advocating for the right and the privilege to be naked.  I don’t know that this is uniquely American, but with only a couple exceptions, it has been the common denominator in nearly every clothing-optional place we have visited in the United States.  I can’t imagine finding a seaside bar at a French or Croatian naturist resort with a name like “Bottom’s Up,” or making sure that everything on the lunch menu has some anatomical double entendre.  In this way American nudists have become the “butt” of their own jokes.

Which I think will likely segue nicely into my next intended post on this blog, lifted directly from that Hollywood classic, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and the famous line, “Everyone I know has a big butt!”  French, German, Asian, or American – this much we know is true.