On the Trail: To bare or not to bare
August 18, 2005
I don’t know how much my swimsuit weighs, but while cramming things into my backpack this summer I decided it weighed too much for an 18-mile round-trip hike into the backcountry.Modesty, I decided, is optional in the middle of the woods. It’s so easy to make these decisions in your living room. But having exposed myself to maybe 13 people at the Conundrum Hot Springs earlier this summer, I’m still trying to decide if it mattered that many of these people were wearing suits.My operating theories about swimsuits and woodsy hot springs were these: In the middle of nowhere, surrounded by strangers, your level of insecurity about being naked is directly linked to the appearance of the most attractive person in the pool. I also think that if you have the cojones (figuratively) to bare it all, your status in the hot springs rises exponentially. Suits are for sissies, I concluded.But fearing I was wrong about this last theory, I brought this topic up for discussion as a campfire chat with friends. Is there hot springs etiquette?There wasn’t really a consensus answer – it seems there are a million different ways to interpret hot springs behavior. Anything goes if you’re in the middle of nowhere, they seemed to say, but baring it all may be questionable at Penny Hot Springs, right next to Highway 133.Time of day is also a factor, they said. After-sunset skinny-dippers have plenty more leeway than those naked swimmers in broad daylight, when it’s not cool to perch on a rock in plain view, just hanging out (literally.)But do whatever is comfortable to you, one friend said. It wasn’t really an answer to my question, but it made me feel better. There was a lot of alcohol around the campfire during the conversation, but I think most of us agreed that we (humans, Americans, whatever) could stand to relax when it comes to nudity at the hot springs.Uh, as long as you’ll never see any of those people again, right?