Sunday, September 26, 2010

Freehiking Barefoot, Part Two

I enjoyed my barefoot hike so much on Thursday that I decided to try it again on Saturday. It was a chilly morning in the high fifties, but after a few minutes I was feeling pretty comfortable as I started the climb up the trails.

When I got to the horse meadow I again took off my shoes, and probably did about a mile barefoot, around the horse meadow and the overlook trail. It had rained the night before, so the ground was cold and damp, with squishy leaves. It was completely exhilarating. Feeling all the sensations of nature through the soles of your feet adds more than merely another dimension to the hiking experience, it transforms it.

And after the second barefoot hike, my feet once again showed no signs of abrasion, and were not tender. Maybe I'm already toughening them up.

This morning about 8 AM I decided to go for another hike, but the temperature was only about 50 degrees, probably colder in the woods. I went for it anyway. Initially I was pretty chilly being completely nude except for hiking sandals and a fanny pack, but as I began the climb up the trails, I began to warm up, and jogged part of the way to fire up the furnace.

I went about three miles, and when I got back, only my hands were a bit chilly. The above photo was taken about an hour after I got back to the trailer. Again, completely exhilarating.

Next year I will be helping with the maintenance of the paths at Cedar Trails and will keep barefooting in mind for anyone who wants to try it. Again, be careful before you try something like this, because injury is a real possibility, especially on public paths.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Freehiking Barefoot

It's something I've long wanted to try. While walking the wooded paths of Cedar Trails in Ohio, I've often been struck with the thought of removing my shoes and hiking barefoot, but one look at the many twigs, leaves, dirt, plants and who knows what else, the thought soon passed.

Not today. The trail was very dry from extreme lack of rain, and I was by myself for a little afternoon exercise. With temperatures soaring to the mid-nineties, I was very appreciative of being able to be nude and let what little breeze there was keep me somewhat cool.

Now the paths here at Cedar Trails are very clear, wide and well maintained. The trailmaster, who unfortunately recently had to relinquish his membership for personal reasons earlier in the season, had the goal of making the couple of miles of paths suitable for barefoot hiking. His efforts are clear to see, but the dry weather has caused the trees to shed many branches and leaves, making it very noisy underfoot.

So when the barefoot idea struck me at the very beginning of the walk up the perimeter path to the meteor crater overlook and the horse meadow, I decided to carry my shoes along with my small fanny pack in case my feet could not withstand the path surface.

Now I'm not necessarily recommending this to anyone, but I was somewhat surprised and pleased that my feet held up quite well. I made it all the way up to the horse meadow, whereby I decided to leave my shoes and fanny pack at the side of the trail and proceed without them. I was naked as the day I was born.

The perimeter path at Cedar Trails, meteor crater to the left.
It was a glorious feeling, being completely nude in nature, and all alone. My pace was somewhat slower than usual due the fact that I kept my eyes downward to avoid any obvious obstacles. I was pretty certain that I would not escape without some cut or abrasion.

I think we don't give enough credit to our feet, which are quite capable of functioning on nearly every type of surface. The sensation of being able to feel each and every leaf, twig and texture of dirt was remarkable and added immensely to the hiking experience.

Now I thought I was pretty special with my barefoot hike, but it turns out that it's really quite popular, as evidenced by a New York Times article here.
The hikers of the barefoot world tramp not only through mud and dust, but also over rocks, tree roots and the frosty ground of autumn (though they usually draw the line at snow). Yet although they may bring to mind tales of fakirs or extreme-sports enthusiasts, barefoot hikers are neither ascetics nor thrill seekers. Almost universally, they say they go shoeless for a sense of communion with the earth and for the sheer pleasure of feeling more of the world with their feet.
I completely agree. The barefoot hike will now become part of my regular routines here at Cedar Trails.

I made it all the way back to the bottom of the trail, still barefoot. I examined the soles of each foot, and other than a little dirt, there was no damage. A little tender, perhaps, but hours later writing this post I don't feel any the worse for wear.

Still, there is some caution to take if the urge to hike barefoot strikes you. At Cedar Trails, which is all private property, the chances of finding a nail or broken glass on the trail are slim to none, but on public trails it can be hazardous. Even so, I'm hooked, and cannot wait to experience hiking shoe-free once again.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Legislating the Human Body

Just when you thought the culture wars were over, the sexually-repressed among us rear their ugly heads with more ridiculous attempts to further control the human body, and, in the process, actually widen the spectrum of human skin areas which are defined as being sexualized.

In Federal Way, Washington, officials are considering changes to the public morals code in order to stop the spread of "bikini baristas", women who serve espresso while scantily clad.
If approved, the amendment will classify indecent exposure as a misdemeanor offense. It will prohibit a person from intentionally exposing any part of the genitals or pubic area, parts of the buttocks, the areola, nipple, or more than half of the breast area located below the top of the areola in public. Streets, sidewalks, driveways, parking lots, automobiles (whether moving or not) and businesses open to the public, including those containing a drive-through window, are considered public places.
The amendment would address risque attire, such as pasties, associated with bikini baristas. Body paint or dye, tattoos, latex, tape or similar substances applied to the skin to mask any of the above anatomical areas will not be permitted in public. Substances that can be washed off the skin and those designed to stimulate the regions would be banned as well.
I guess police will now have to carry around human anatomy charts and tape measures to determine whether or not a plunging neckline or hot pants make the wearer a dangerous criminal.

I have news for you. The entire human body is covered with skin, which has many erogenous zones. Have you ever kissed someone on the neck, or nibbled on the ear? What about a foot massage, or a caress behind the knee? And is their really anything more arousing than a full mouth-to-mouth kiss, with tongues playing tonsil hockey?

No, this sort of legislative mapping of the human body, with the intent of making criminals out of anyone who dares to expose certain parts of anatomy, is way beyond reasonable government activity. This is legislators gone wild, so intent on protecting "public morals" that they are willing not only to trample on basic human rights, but directly violate the 14th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution by discriminating against women.

And not only are these people trying to make the sight of a female breast illegal, they want to lock up "any person who touches, caresses or fondles the genitals or female breast, whether clothed or not..." So, will it now be illegal for a woman to adjust her bra in public, or scratch an itch, and will high school boys now have to grin and bear it when the urge to adjust their jock straps strikes in the middle of a game? And what about pinning on that corsage for the senior prom?

And is there an age restriction to this proposed amendment? Will 2 year-old girls be forced to wear tops while running through the backyard sprinkler? And what about women who have small breasts, or men who have large ones? Would a woman with a double mastectomy be allowed to be topfree? What about a man in the process of transgendering, who has both a penis and an ample chest? What if a man walked down the street wearing only pasties or tassels above the waist? Would that be worse than being totally topfree?

And how will areola size and location come into play? Any nudist knows that breasts, both male and female, come in all shapes and sizes. Who will be appointed nipple and breast judge in Federal Way?

And they won't even allow the sight of a breast which has been painted and taped over the "offensive" areas? Who is going to determine what these "similar substances" are? And what about see-through materials? Will it be OK for a woman to be completely covered in flimsy gauze, or clear plastic, even though the skin underneath is visible?

The arguments against this amendment are seemingly endless. It's simply stupid legislation, a knee-jerk reaction to what is perceived as a problem, but is really just overreaction to harmless human activity. By specifically targeting women, the proposed law is clearly unconstitutional, and will undoubtedly be challenged in court if it manages to pass.

All this coming on the heels of a ruling by the Indiana state appeals court which ignored the 14th Amendment and decided that banning the baring of female breasts in public is not discriminatory.
In the appeals court decision, Judge Cale Bradford wrote, "In the end, (the girl) would have us declare by judicial fiat that the public display of fully-uncovered female breasts is no different than the public display of male breasts, when the citizens of Indiana, speaking through their elected representatives, say otherwise. This we will not do.
"We conclude that Indiana's public nudity statute furthers the goal of protecting the moral sensibilities of that substantial portion of Hoosiers who do not wish to be exposed to erogenous zones in public."
I guess that the good folks of Indiana will not have to start covering up a lot more than their genitals and nipples. According to Discovery Health:
Other erogenous zones include the eyelids, the ears, and the shoulders. Many people also find that having their feet stroked is arousing. Stroking, caressing and massaging of erogenous zones can be titillating forms of sensual pleasure in and of themselves, or they can be invitations to further sexual activity.
The mouth, including the lips and tongue, for most people, is an area of high erotic potential. Kissing is one act that uses the sensitivity of this region in a sexually stimulating way.
France just banned the burqa, but Indiana is now apparently embracing it.

These attempts at controlling what people can or cannot wear are examples of the power of the state over what are generally understood as being freedoms of expression and speech, and in the case of the burqa, freedom of religion. We have plenty of things to be really worried about on this planet, such as nuclear war, climate change, AIDS, poverty, hunger, disasters, etc., but somehow in our feeble attempts to control the uncontrollable, we settle for regulating things that make us "feel" safer, or better, but in reality we are merely fooling ourselves.

Locking up women for showing a breast in public is not going to solve any of society's problems. Defining the parts of human anatomy which are unacceptable for public viewing is not going to stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases, halt teenage pregnancies, or lower the divorce rate. It's just more examples of impotent government unable to solve real problems, running around shooting straw men and flailing at windmills in order to present to an uninformed and fearful public an illusion of competence.

The rise of a dangerous politician like Christine O'Donnell who wants to abolish masturbation and lust, yet hasn't a clue about fiscal responsibility or actual governance, is an example of a frightened and frustrated public, looking to people who preach about angels and demons instead of policies and decisions. Perhaps emboldened by this new breed of morality warriors which are capturing the hearts of the fringe right-wing, the Montana GOP is actually discussing once again making homosexuality a crime.

And does anybody think that 17 state attorneys general putting pressure on Craigslist to censor its adult section is going to have any affect on prostitution or sex trafficking? Of course not, but it makes headlines and people think that these elected officials are actually doing something to "protect" society from demons.

Take a look at this chart. The government's expensive and foolish war on drugs has resulted in nearly triple the number of arrests for marijuana since 1990, while the number of pot smokers has not gone down, and might have actually increased a little. But somehow ruining the lives of nearly one million people in this country is justification for what is, in truth, abject failure to actually solve the problem.

It seems to be the fate of all big governments, from the ruling emperors of ancient Rome to the juggernaut which is our own Federal system, that in order to protect the people from themselves, a few heads must roll, and it's always the heads of the weak which are the first to fall under the knife. In dealing with the bikini barista "problem", the authorities in Federal Way haven't a clue about what to do, so they take out their frustrations on the women, who have no money to defend themselves, and are merely trying to earn a living. Whether or not this is exploitation is beside the point, because everyone is exploited to some degree in society. The issue here is equal treatment under the law, and this amendment specifically targeting women is government by men at its worst: sexist, cruel, discriminatory, and oppressive.

This is precisely why I get so angry at our nudist organizations, AANR and TNS, when they let their egos get in the way of the common good for nudism and naturism. If you think that nudist resorts and clubs are exempt from this sort of government overreach, then think again. All it takes is one emboldened, crusading moralist in a position of authority to start railing about the evils of nudists and the danger they pose to the general public, and specifically to children. It will matter not if there is any truth to the demonizing, or any shred of evidence - what will matter will be the public reaction and the ensuing actions of the legislators and judges, who have shown at least in the Indiana case of the topless girl, that the 14th Amendment does not matter when the "moral sensibilities" of the people are at risk.

Our government has shown that it is willing to ignore our Constitution when votes are on the line. On one hand laws and ordinances are enacted and clarified to prevent any display of public nudity, but on the other hand, in the interest of "national security", all airline passengers are going to be stripped naked electronically to be examined by security personnel. Our bodies no longer belong to us.

So I hope these bikini baristas in Washington state stand up for their rights, and in Indiana, the case of the topless woman should be appealed to the state supreme court. Moral "sensibilities", crusading politicians, the "will" of the people, and cultural norms should not be the basis for ignoring the 14th Amendment, which is clear as an azure sky in its simplicity: "... nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Equal protection to any person, man, woman, child, black, white, Hispanic, Muslim, Jew, Catholic, gay, lesbian, and so on. There is no way anyone who believes in the Constitution of the United States can argue that the Federal Way amendment, and the decision of the Indiana appeals court, are in harmony with the basic law of the land. If a man can walk topfree in public, then a woman is guaranteed equal protection, and damned be those who would seek to legislate the human body and subvert the Constitution merely to curry favor with voters and protect his or her phony-baloney job.

So when you hear talk about repealing the 14th Amendment, be very, very afraid. These people not only want to control your body, but your heart and mind as well.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Better Off Dead

The Skinbook experiment seems to have come to a bitter end. All the tell-tale signs predicting doom were there all along, from the ill-conceived (and probably illegal) "Name and Shame" blog, to their infantile response, and not to mention their warped intentions for founding the site in the first place. When the Ning network pulled the plug on any nudity throughout their network, the Skinbook admins tried to start something from scratch, but apparently their egos clashed, as evidenced by this statement released yesterday:

A message to all members of
It is with much regret that I have come to the decision to bring Skinbook to an end.
Afterall the effort (and money) we have put into saving the Skinbook network; the complaining, negativity, abuse and general lack of support we have recieved from our users has been quite frankly, disgusting... I am no longer prepared to provide the Skinbook network to any members past or present.
As much as we have attempted over the past couple of years to bring together the naturist community and give the naturist lifestyle a positive public image, the treatment of my team here at Skinbook has finally made it clear (to myself at least) why this lifestyle is both fragmented from within and ostracized from without.
What you take this to mean is up to you to speculate individually. For me this revelation doesn`t require an explination, it requires merely a reaction; my reaction being that from now on I see fit only to completely distance myself from this lifestyle (from both a philosophical and physical stand point) and most certainly from ANY medium which serves to promote it.
Good luck in your quests to find unity within your chosen lifestyle... you need it!
Karl Maddocks
For the purpose of legal matters we would like to make clear that we retain all rights to the Skinbook name, logo and any other associated media.
Anyone with an ounce of intelligence can see the hypocrisy in this statement. As a network set up to be apart from the existing naturist and nudist organizations, Skinbook BY DESIGN was divisive. In a Time Magazine article, which claimed that Skinbook was the "only genuine" nudist social network, Maddocks is quoted as being repulsed by "single elderly guys in sandals and socks", clearly drawing some sort of line in the sand between young and old, labeling existing nudist resorts as being "cultish and weird".

In addition, Skinbook only accepted 10% of its applicants, certainly rejecting a lot of real nudists. One has to speculate whether or not their membership, which they claimed averaged between 35 and 40 years of age, was deliberately skewed by the administrators.

In the case of Skinbook, I'm don't mind saying "I told you so." Maddocks' bitter and vitriolic diatribe, blaming his failure on the nudist community, is despicable. People by nature are divided, it takes leadership to bring them together. What Maddocks and his buddies did was further fragment people who practice the nudist lifestyle, and present to the public a false image of what being nude in social situations is all about.

Just go back to why Skinbook was created in the first place, and you will see why it was doomed to failure. Maddocks explained, "We couldn't communicate on MySpace and Facebook about nudism since we were all kind of embarrassed. So we said, 'Let's start our own forum and call it Skinbook.' The rest is history." People who are embarrassed by their own lifestyles have no business trying to become leaders.

So, good luck to YOU, Karl Maddocks. The nudist community is a lot better off without you now that you have decided to completely distance yourself from the lifetsyle. You were never a nudist, only an opportunist looking to exploit a sincere lifestyle for your own self-promotion.