JUNE 21st–Hike Naked Day on the Appalachian Trail!
Tomorrow, June 21st, is the annual Hike Naked Day on the Appalachian Trail (AT). All across the 14 states and 2,180 miles of this famous national scenic trail there will be un-clad, two-legged beings galloping gleefully through the wilderness. What could be better?
Well, let me first disclose, I am all talk no action. “Come on, Skywalker, what have you got to lose,” I was repeatedly prompted on June 21st, 2006. Nonetheless, I opted out of Hike Naked Day when I thru-hiked the AT. By June 21st of that year, I was already down 30 pounds; I might have scared my fellow hikers even more than a bear. Besides, political correctness has set in to the point that Hike Naked Day is now called by many, ‘Clothing Optional Day’.
This great AT tradition was established around the turn-of-the-century to symbolize the beginning of the summer solstice. It has been wildly successful, to say the least. The biggest disappointment is the gender gap that has opened up. Male participation rates are now approaching 50%, but women are only at half that level. Some hiking groups have chosen to vary up their routine. Normally, females hike in front, with males anchoring. But on Hike Naked Day, the roles are reversed.
Opinions vary on the virtue of hiking naked. Legendary AT hiker, Colin Fletcher, thought hiking in ‘the altogether’ actually enhanced one’s appreciation of wilderness. Naturalists such as Henry David Thoreau and John Muir were great believers in not allowing anything to come between humans and wilderness. However, AT official Brian King rebuts all this. “It’s rude. There are families, and Boy Scout and Girl Scouts out there.”
Later on in their thru-hikes, hikers will get a chance to attempt the 4-state challenge (Hike in Va., W. Va., Maryland, and Pa. in the same day–42 miles in total). Also, there is the half-gallon challenge at Pine Grove Furnace State Park, which is the halfway point on the AT. As you can see, the AT culture is rich indeed. That’s one reason why the Appalachian Trail is, in so many ways, America’s great trail of the masses.
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail (2008). He is also the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail (2010), as well as’The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago (2012).Walker, who is just shy of 7-feet tall, is currently working on a book on the subject of height.