(I had the following article published in the May 2008 issue of N Magazine.)
“I love to hike nude!” “Me too; it’s the feeling of sun and the breeze on my whole body – nothing like it.” “Yeah, the feeling of hiking without sweaty clothes – they’re so yucky.” “If I couldn’t hike nude, I don’t think I’d hike.” “I love the exercise – freehiking makes me healthy.” “So much beauty – I feel one with nature. “It gives me a spiritual feeling too. “And I enjoy talking with others as we hike.” “I’ve made so many close, really life-long friends hiking nude.”
How It All Started
I love everything about hiking nude – the feeling, the exercise, the beauty, and how it’s fixed my head. I frequently hiked nude on my own when I lived in Southern Utah from 1995-2002. Nude hiking became such a wonderful, freeing experience that I call it freehiking.
Maybe individuals have always freehiked (hiked nude) in the Utah valleys and mountains? After all, it’s something nude you can do in Utah where there isn’t much water - no one swims in the Great Salt Lake anymore. Now, I think Utah might be the freehiking hiking capital of the United States.
I’ve heard that a group called the Utah Naturists took a few group freehikes during the 1990’s. A fellow called Edge who’d freehiked the mountains above the Salt Lake Valley for years announced informal, small-group hikes starting about 2000. I first learned of the group freehikes first in 2003 when Lee Penrod announced them on several local egroups; he posted a monthly schedule in 2004. I couldn’t attend as I’d moved to California, but I understand the hikes attracted 4-8, mostly men who only attended once. Oh well, it was a start. Lee kept hiking.
Organization and Growth
I moved back to Utah in June 2005, and decided to attend the first scheduled group freehike of the year. I almost chickened out; it was cold; besides, this was my first group nude experience even though I’d freehiked alone for years. But I knew it was important for me to experience a GROUP nude hike.
Lee Penrod met me near the Great Salt Lake and the clouds parted just long enough for the two of us to the brave the cold and head out to Stansbury Island on the shore of the Great Salt Lake. Getting undressed at the trailhead – I’d done it often alone; it felt strange doing it along with someone else. But as soon as we started hiking the strangeness disappeared. The sun, the breeze, being one with nature, and something new – someone to talk with - what a wonderful first group hike.
I attended again and again. That year I met several other hikers - some came once, some twice. Lee, Steve, and I became the consistent core group members. That year Lee traveled to Vernal in Eastern Utah to hike with several others; it was the group’s first travel hike.
Our schedule expanded in 2006 to include one hike a month near Salt Lake City and a second travel hike at another Utah location. Something else very important happened that year - I met and married PJ. You should have seen her on our first freehike together, just the two of us. She’d been nervous. Then she took off her clothes: “Wow, what a great feeling.” Off we hiked. She hasn’t stopped since; she got it - lucky her - lucky me.
PJ’s attendance at the hikes changed things – women and couples showed up, and kept coming. Something else happened; I started writing and posting reports of our hikes, and we took photos to combine with the reports. (We had been reluctant to shoot photos assuming some hikers would object - none have; they’ve felt safe as long as we only use back shots - no face/front photos. So we’ve kept that policy; it works well for us. Most of our members are unable to be open about naturism; we’re in Utah after all. Besides, we use photos mostly to establish context for our reports.) We became known as the Freehiking Utah Group. The reports and photos added interest and attracted more new people. At least 3 couples and 5 individuals consistently attended during 2006. (The photos included with this article are just a few from past Trip Reports.)
We changed the schedule some in 2007, planning two hikes a month (a local Salt Lake City are hike during the week and a Saturday travel hike hoping to involve more people). Our first hike of 2007 set a record – 14 attended. The group continued to grow and change. Hikers from as far away as Alabama, Minnesota, and Michigan attended.
Some members expanded our group hikes to include other activities – canuding, nude houseboating, hotspringing, and visiting resorts around the Western U.S. In July 2007, about the same time Lee and I gave a presentation on forming a nude hiking group at the TNS Western Gathering at Lupin Lodge, we formed the Skinny Trippers Club to encourage and help organize naturist travel and hiking wherever interested members live. With that, our name changed. Skinny Trippers focus on planning, participating in, and reporting naturist travels and activities (especially freehiking) – as groups or as individuals. Our reports are called Skinny Trip Reports or Skinny Hike Reports or Skinny Event Reports or just plain Skinny Reports. While still reasonably small and personal, the Skinny Trippers Club now has members from around the world. Anyone with interest can join (http://www.groups.google.com/group/skinnytrippers).
The Skinny Trippers’ 2008 schedule includes regular monthly hikes around Utah, other naturist activities, and a full travel agenda. We still don’t have formal leadership, just interested participants and volunteer Skinny Guides. The Club’s plans always include meeting new hikers and freehiking with them.
What have we learned as we organized a freehiking group? First, we’ve learned where to hike. That always seems to be a topic of interest – “Where should I go?” It’s pretty simple really – hike where others don’t hike; we’re naturists after all, not exhibitionists. Don’t hike the “pretty” established trails. Pick seldom used trails, dirt roads, washes, or get naked a long distance from the trailhead. These seldom used places have their own unique beauty. Pick areas with little underbrush, few trees, and few bugs. The Utah valleys and mountains are perfect.
What days are best to hike? We seldom see anyone on weekdays. Weekends can get crowded near the cities so we plan our Saturday travel hikes to places away from others. That has worked well.
How long should group hikes last? An hour, maybe two, three at most. If you want to retain women and couples, don’t kill them off with long hikes, and set a slower pace - put the fast guys at the rear. We’ve found we can meet, drive about three hours, hike, and return comfortably on a Saturday. Longer than three hours and we need to plan camping as well. (We’ve done that; it’s fun for sure, but fewer people can attend.)
What should hikers wear? Nothing of course, but it’s important to have something available should you run on to a textiled person. We’ve found that a wrap (PJ makes them for both men and women Club members) works better than shorts. You can whip a wrap on in a moment instead of dancing all over the place and falling down trying to put shorts on over hiking shoes – how embarrassing.
Finally, and really most importantly, you must plan, schedule, and DOCUMENT your hikes with a report posted on interested egroups. This takes commitment and time, but I’m convinced it’s the only way to build and maintain interest. And one final, related thought – the documentation of hikes can’t include sharing peoples’ full names or face photos. (That’s why this article doesn’t include frontal photos.) This has nothing to do with being embarrassed or hiding, but with privacy, and it's not an excuse - its reality (ask any celebrity). Privacy is totally necessary for most of our hikers. Without a promise of privacy and trust our group would have never grown.
Call to Form Other Freehiking Clubs
The Skinny Trippers would like to encourage others to form Freehiking Clubs around the world. Let us know about your group. Contact us with questions at the Skinny Tripper egroup: http://www.groups.google.com/group/skinnytrippers. We’d love to visit and hike with your group. Sharing hikes with others expands freehiking opportunities for all. Freehiking with friends – what an amazing thing to do!
Here is a link to the photos published with the article: http://imageevent.com/kenandjane/nmagazinearticle )