Monday, March 23, 2009

Naked Came the Hiker

Well, now that spring has sprung, it's time to start thinking about shedding some of those winter garments, isn't it?

Personally, I can't wait to swap out those wool sweaters for cotton. To put away all those bulky scarves the length of a MiniCooper. To banish everything - well, almost everything: this is New England - made of polar fleece. And to start showing a bit o' flesh.

In my case, once I dig out my tee-shirts and bermuda shorts, that flesh extends from elbow and knee down. And, now that the weather is pleasant enough to allow me to permanently unwind that loonnnnggg scarf, and doff my North Face chapeau, without risking hypothermia and frostbite, from the neck up.

The only circumstances under which more of me is exposed are the trips to Cahoon Hollow Beach or Long Pond that I make when I'm at my sister Kath's on The Cape. Then I will be wearing an age- and flab-appropriate LL Bean swimsuit.

Having long ago reached the tipping point where you look better clothed than naked, that LL Bean swimsuit is about as close as I'm going to come to indecent exposure.

But, then again, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a naturist - even though the thought of roaming around in nature, au naturel, is kind of appealing. As long as the weather is pluperfect, the bug equivalent of St. Patrick has driven all the insects out of the country (except for butterflies), and there is not another sighted person within, say, 10 miles.

But, weather-schmeather. Modesty, schmodesty.

Nude hiking is "in" in Switzerland.

Okay, before you shake your image of the button-downed, button-upped, rectitudinous Swiss, not everyone in Canton Helvetia is doing it, doing it. And not everyone there is liking it, liking it.

Still, there are, as The New York Times reported last week, enough nude hikers out there to make their existence news fit to print.

In recent years, it has become fashionable for a growing number of Swiss and some foreigners to wander in the Alps clad in little more than hiking shoes and sun screen. Last summer, the number of nude hikers increased to such an extent that the hills often seemed alive with the sound of everything but the swish of trousers.

This is disturbing the peace of some Swiss, and deeply concerning the elected worthies of the Alpine town of Appenzell, who are "worried that the town might become a Mecca for the unclad."

Appenzell is an unlikely Mecca for nude hikers. The town is so conservative that it didn't grant women suffrage until 1990. (Yes, you read that right: 1990. Perhaps they feared that wanton women would vote in nudity.) So they're a bit alarmed that their town is popping up as the place to be in blogs and chat rooms frequented by nude hikers.

Nude hikers maintain that the folks they run into on the trail aren't bothered, although the one interviewed did admit that in winter he is often asked whether he's cold. Myself, if I came across someone in the freezing cold wearing nothing other than his birthday suit, boots, hat, and gloves my first thought might be "is he crazy?" rather than "isn't he cold?"

Local governments have been stymied by the fact that Switzerland, in 1991, took a law off its books that banned public nudity. (1991? The year after the women of Appenzell got the right to vote? Is there, indeed, a connection here? Probably not. I'm guessing that more men than women would be in favor of nude hiking. Just a guess.)

Appenzellers will be voting to outlaw - or at least fine - nude hikers, at the annual Swiss version of the town meeting: the outdoor, public assembly of the people. This is scheduled for late April.

Personally, I'm not planning on any nude hiking, in Appenzell or anywhere else.

Last summer, I took a dusk hike in the P-town dunes with my brother-in-law and nieces.

It was warm, and the girls and I had on shorts. Prudently, my brother-in-law had on long pants. Imprudently, we hadn't taken any bug spray.

While the hike was magnificent - the area is completely unspoiled, and we were rewarded for our calf-stretching efforts when we spotted dozens of seals frolicking just off the beach - the mosquitoes were out in full force.

Bitten alive!

Bad enough when it happens on your legs and ankles. I shudder to imagine if we'd been hiking in the altogether.

Make that a gallon of calamine lotion to go, please.

1 comment:

katrog said...

It's not just the bugs! Let them try hiking naked in the desert and see how they feel when the jumping chollas (a type of cactus that reproduces via leaping mini-cactuses hitching rides on passers-by) decide to latch on to their butts.

And it must be oh, so comfy, to slide down a pile of rocks, too.

I'll just add it to the list of apparel choices I don't understand like all those college girls on the streets in flip-flops all winter and their male companions in shorts during blizzards.