Thursday, October 1, 2009

Freehiking Action Committee (FAC) - Important Freehiking Discusion

(Comment on Article: Eleven Mile Nude Hiking Trail)

Alan Palmer: Here's why I think this idea of a nude hiking trail is encouraging...

For one thing, I never thought of it before. I suppose that MANY nudists have never thought of it before. Just by virtue of the designation, it may raise interest elsewhere. Eventually, some of that interest may rub off on Americans.

Bear with me on this. One of the strong claims of advocates in the "free beaches movement" of decades past is that there are enough nudists in this country that a portion of public beaches should rightly be designated for nude use. This has been their basis for nude beach advocacy all along. It's a democratic approach: If there are X% of beach users that want to use a nude beach, then there should ideally be X% of beaches that allow nudity, in order to adequately serve the public interests.We've got a long way to go on that, of course. But even if only 1% of public beaches (just a wild guess) allow or traditionally tolerate nude use, can you imagine if that same 1% could be applied to the tens of thousands of miles of trails on public lands throughout the US?

Trails have the advantage of being more remote than beaches, and already enjoy defacto freehiking where no such designation or sanction has been applied. Hot springs do fairly well that way too, with "remote" and undeveloped hot springs largely allowing or tolerating nudity.I guess it's not as much about making more places where people can be naked, in the case of the trails - it's about designating a place where people can feel free to enjoy nude recreation without harassment. To me, designating a trail seems less problematic than trying to designate a beach. (Especially if the trail is very remote.)

I suppose that providing designated trails for nudists could have the undesirable side effect of making nudity on non-designated trails become perceived as a bigger infraction. But not necessarily. I think just the mere fact of their existence would raise interest levels in giving freehiking a try.

. . .

How about this...

What if ALL trails had a policy that allowed for freehiking, provided that you were a specific distance away from the trailhead?

How far away would you need to be, before people really wouldn't care enough for it to matter anyway? I'm sure Ben hits that point all the time, as do several others.

I'm talking in terms of genuine compromise, here. Obviously, we'd prefer that all trails allowed freehiking. But what would be a reasonable compromise? What might the other side see as reasonable? Already there is the general policy that nudity on public lands (National Forest, at least, and others) is not prohibited, provided no one complains. What would be the next step in the naturist's favor?

At the trail head to Olympic Hot Springs, there is a notice: "Nude bathing, while not sanctioned by the Forest Service, is commonly practiced." It's there as a public courtesy, but it actually provides legitimization for the skinny-dippers, and probably avoids a few misunderstandings. If you read the sign, go anyway, see a skinny-dipper and are offended, oh were warned.

I'd LOVE to see a sign like that at other trailheads, even if there are no hot springs or other natural water attractions. Or even, "Nudity is not permitted within view of the trailhead." Sounds like a policy against nudity, but in reality it implies that some nudity on the trail is expected, once you get clear of the cars.

Kenfreehiker: Is it better to try for an overall policy, or to designate certain trails and put up signs? Living part-time at a naturist resort, PJ and I can just start our freehikes from our front door - that's been great! But that fit's more into the idea of expanding the nude use of beaches to include parking lots. (Also a good idea.)

The idea of designating certain less-used trails for freehiking might get the ball rolling. After all, if enough people freehike on certain trails, there would be a precedent for expanding nude use off the trailhead on all trails. . . Maybe we just need to be a little more open and start putting up sign on the trails we use?

Here's an interesting, related post:

“Secure the area. When we freehike, we post very informative signs at the trailheads. This allows us to hike naked safely on trails that may see a few other visitors. After thinking about this, I've considered securing an area but not actually going naked on it. (Call it an experiment.) How would people react if it were a busier trail? Or a secluded park? Would people try the radios to make us get dressed? If not, we may be clear to freehike some much busier trails using this method. No matter if naked people are seen or not, the sign still plants the seed of naturism and makes them consider if they would actually be offended by simple locker-room style nudity.” – The Academic Naturist

I of course love the suggestion of creating and advocating for freehiking trails. How can we help implement it?

Alan Palmer: Well, I think that you, as one of the foremost freehiking enthusiasts in the region, are probably a good potential advocate. Obviously Ben is another. I assume that both of you know of others in several western regions who are "active" in this sport, and who would be passionate enough about it to advocate for it. You'd have to pick a few good targets, which are remote enough to be viable, but not so remote that they really need none of the protection that might be enjoyed by official designation. I'm thinking that a moderate-traffic area makes more sense. A low traffic, very remote trail just might not be worth the effort.

If free beaches are any indication, you'd want to start your advocacy on trails where nude hiking is frequent enough to be a known tradition. (Does such a place exist?) I would guess that the access trails to some popular hot springs destinations would go on the short list. I'm thinking of Deep Creek (CA), in particular, but also Jerry Johnston (ID), Bagby (OR), Cougar (OR), Olympic (WA), and Conundrum (CO). All of these are remote enough, are openly accepting of nudity at the destination itself, and most of these already see some nude hiking (not sure about Conundrum, but it wouldn't surprise me if it's so).

I'd love to see Diamond Fork on the list - even if just for the upper trail, but I think that even the status of the springs themselves as being nudity-accepted is too much in dispute. (In spite of the prevalent practice.)

Trails adjacent to resorts would be the other obvious target. For example, the fire road that Fraternity Snoqualmie uses each year for their Bare Buns Fun Run. It's a known quantity, and already enjoys some tolerated use each year (I assume that some hike it nude at other times of year too.) If it could be designated as a nude hiking trail, then people could use it throughout the year without concern. (Would probably bring in some additional revenue for the resort too.)

It seems like an obvious one would be the popular trail originating at De Anza. Doesn't Glen Eden also have a trail starting at their property? How about Olive Dell? I know I've heard of others, but they aren't coming to mind at the moment. Maybe Bare Backers, outside of Boise (I haven't been to that one yet.)

Okay, that's a start.

. . .

It seems like a "Bare Buns Fun Run", with nudity being temporarily sanctioned might be a good way to help establish a nude hiking tradition on some trails. The World Naked Bike Ride has even done that somewhat with some of their routes. In Seattle, they've been able to start/end their rides several times at the popular Gas Works Park, with a traditional stopover at the giant water fountain at the very public Seattle Center. They've also used a couple of bike trails, with consent of the city.

To me, it seems like trails could be used the same way, hosting BBFRs for 5k runs. Might be even better if you're able to use a public park, as Seattle has done, as the start/finish of the course. (Using a naturist resort as a base isn't really pushing the edge of the envelope by much.) The WNBR approach is free and open to all, whereas a resort-based BBFR takes more planning, preparation, and cost. I think it would be great to have some free Fun Runs in a less structured format - or even as fundraisers for some worthy cause.

. . .

How about this...

What if you were to organize a group nude hike, and seek approval from the local governing agency (Forest Service, Sheriff's Dept., other) beforehand? What I mean is, that you pick a popular, interesting trail - one where you wouldn't ordinarily risk hiking nude - and let the authorities know that you have a club/group that would like to hike it, and ask if they could do so without concern for being cited. You'd agree to post signs at the trailhead/s indicating the fact that nude hikers may be encountered, and you'd probably have to opt for a lower traffic time of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, perhaps). Maybe you could offer to do it as a trail cleanup, if litter is a problem there.

Would it be worth doing? Would it be positive or negative to seek to get permission first? It seems to have worked well in Seattle (for public streets, parks, and bike trails, even) - would it work elsewhere? For hiking trails? Wouldn't forest rangers be even more tolerant? (Knowing that there are fewer people to potentially be offended?)

A couple of Augusts ago, my son and I climbed Mt. Baldy (10,068 ft) in So Cal. It was a nostalgia trip for me, as I'd climbed it several times in my Boy Scout years. It's a great hike with phenomenal vistas, but it's a hot, dry, sweaty hike too. I would have LOVED to have hiked it naked, if I felt I could have. If a group were to nude hike Mt. Baldy, San Gorgonio (11,503), or San Jacinto (10,834), I'd seriously consider making the trip down to SoCal just to do those hikes.

Interesting... I just discovered that San Jacinto (located between Palm Springs and Redlands, CA) is rated as the 6th most "topographically prominent" peak in the 48 states. I haven't climbed it yet, but have long wanted to.

Gee... I now I wanna go! (Late September is a great time to climb these 3 peaks.)

Marty: Designating a trail or two for nude hiking all the time might be easier from a political and PR standpoint, but always hiking the same trail over and over would bore me.

Rather than trails designated for nude use, I'd like to see days designated for nude use. There are seven days in the week. Select seven trails, and assign each trail to one day. On that day, nude hiking is allowed.

The trails are clearly posted for nude use on that day, and the day never changes so people get used to the schedule. This also avoids closing one or two trails forever to people who don't want to see nudity.

Kenfreehiker: What do others think of these suggestions? I'm interested in taking action. Why not start by forming a freehiking advocacy group to help with implementation? How about a takeoff on the "Naturist Action Committee" (NAC) called the "Freehiking Action Committee" (FNC)?

I agree to be the first committee member. Anyone else willing to join the FAC?


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