Sunday, 18 August 2019

WHAT’S BUGGING YOU NOW?

KNOW YOUR ENEMIES
The Flies of the New Brunswick Wilderness
also of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island



Walking about naked brings numerous health benefits, both physical and psychological.  This is indisputably correct – those who dispute the rightness of naturism usually fall back on superstitions about morality rather than dealing with real issues.  However, there are a few health problems too, usually resulting from sunburn and insect bites.  For sunburn the twin answers are common sense and appropriate sunscreen.  For the insects it helps to know your enemies.

If you’re a New Brunswicker, Nova Scotian or anyone else from almost anywhere except the inner cities of North America probably you already know everything written below.  But folks from far away – for instance, those who have been living in the depths of an urban area, or in a cave on Mars – might benefit from reading the rest of this post.

Here in New Brunswick (and adjacent provinces) the usual suspects bugging you are, in ascending order of size: midges, blackflies, mosquitoes, stable flies, deer flies, horse flies and greenhead flies.  Why does this matter?  It matters because these various sorts of flies are very different critters, respond to different stimuli, often attack different areas of the body and require different responses and preventative measures.

Disclaimer: What works for one person may not necessarily work for all others.  Personal body chemistry may bring about different results.  Some people are just naturally attractive.


MIDGES

New Brunswick has at least two kinds of midges the Chironomidae family and the Ceratopogonidae family.  Those of the Chironomidae family are non-biting midges, they simply lack the mouth parts to do it. In fact, adult Chironomidae do not feed at all, they spend their brief lifespan focussed on mating and reproduction, then expire and their little corpses feed other species.  Those of the Ceratopogonidae family are biting midges, the dreaded no-see-ums. 

Midges look a lot like mosquitoes but aren’t.  They are tiny, only 1-3 mm in length, but their bites still sting like crazy. Only the female midge bites humans.  Typically midges are grayish, becoming more reddish when filled with blood.  Their wings display dark patterns.  Ceratopogonidae midges, are creatures of the late afternoon and early evening and they are not at all particular about where they bite you. 

So what keeps midges at bay?  Well, 98% DEET seems to work but do you really want to do that to yourself?  I don’t.  The efficacy of lower concentrations of DEET is questionable.  Midges are nothing if not persistent.  However, they are weak fliers and do poorly in windy conditions so the siting of your camp can be an important factor.
 
Some people claim that 0.5% permethrin spray is a do-all for dealing with midges and everything else including deer ticks.  But permethrin is a problem in that it is a NERVE AGENT.  It doesn’t repel the insects, it attacks the little beggars’ nervous system and kills them outright.  Permethrin is intended to be sprayed onto clothing, NOT ONTO SKINSo permethrin isn’t a safe choice for naturists.  Err on the side of caution and don’t use it except on clothing.  As of 2019 permethrin is not approved for sale in Canada; it can be imported from the US but the price is startling once you’ve paid for shipping.  Maybe that is a good thing – I wouldn’t use it.  Call me a wimp but I just don’t feature spraying myself with nerve gas.

Other folks claim that picaradine is the good option – I like it.  Picaridin is synthetic piperine, an alkaloid extracted from the black pepper vine.  Like DEET it works by disorienting and repelling insects, not by slaughtering them wholesale.  Picaridin based repellents such as Icaridin and Piactive can be found in retail outlets such as Canadian Tire or the Temple of Wal.

What do I do?  When sitting around the campfire I rely of smoke from some sort of resinous wood – pine cones and cedar seem to be fairly effective but don’t keep 100% of them away.  I supplement the smoke with a picaridin based spray and that seems to work for me, but maybe that has more to do with the time of day than anything else.  They are attracted to light so one can hope that they fly too close to the campfire’s flames and meet a horrible fiery fate.

When it comes right down to it repellents provide only limited protection. The best way to avoid being bitten by the dreaded no-see-um is to schedule your outdoor activities in a manner that avoids the daily peak the midges’ activity.

Point of interest: I have yet to see a biting midge at Kellys Beach.
Midge in flight – Image thanks to ClipArtMag

BLACKFLIES

Folks from away might not know this but the blackfly is New Brunswick’s unofficial provincial bird.  Oh sure, the black-capped chickadee is a lot cuter but we have so many more blackflies that people have made up tales and (in Ontario) even a song about them.  If anyone should tell you to go easy on the poor little blackfly because he pollinates blueberry plants look them in the eye and call “bullshit.”  This is a silly folk tale and has been proven false, so feel free to swat the little pests.

These guys are small, not much more than 4mm long in a resting posture.  Black fly populations burgeon with the onset of spring and can last well into July.  The females of the species bite only during daylight hours and tend to home in on areas of thinner skin – neck, ears and ankles.  Of course, if you’re naked there are more such areas.  Blackflies are puddle feeders, what this means is that they gnaw a hole in your skin, wait for the blood to well up and lap up all that red goodness, possibly transmitting pathogens to you in the process.

Be judicious in your use of repellents.  DEET and picaridin are the most effective repellents, but they provide limited protection. However, blackflies like shade and are not strong fliers so even mildly breezy beaches are your friends in this matter.
Blackfly displayed – Image thanks to Google Free Clipart Library

MUSKY TOES

There are thirty-seven different species of mosquitoes in New Brunswick – Woo hoo!    No, not really woo hoo, more like “Yuck!”  Of these thirty-seven species, thirteen are considered to be major pests for human, one (anopheles) is minor and the remainder rarely bite humans.  Only one of the major pests (ochlerotatus cantator) breeds in salt marshes.  So, in terms of what you might encounter at Kellys Beach, this is the one. It is also the most common mosquito species found throughout New Brunswick. 

So, how do we deal with this pest, and all other musky toes?  Easily, it seems.  All mossies seem to be put off by the usual range of easily available repellents – DEET, picaridin, etcetera.  Besides, when the sun is out on the beach the mossies are cowering in the shade somewhere else.  Wind is another ally against mosquitoes which can make a maximum forward speed of five km/hr (3 mph) and a pleasant breeze on a beach usually exceeds that speed.  So you’re good on the beach but if you’re inclined to hike naked in the woods bring along some bug spray that doesn’t bother your skin.
Mosquito preying – Image thanks to Clipartbarn
OTHER SORTS OF FLIES

Some visitors to Kellys Beach whinge and moan about the flies, not midges, mosquitoes or blackflies, but deer flies.  Well, first of all, the flies that are sometimes a problem at Kellys are NOT deer flies. Yes, sometimes (rarely) there are a few deer flies at Kellys and some horse flies, particularly on the North Kouchibouguac Dune, but on Kellys most commonly the problem is either or both black stable flies or greenhead flies. See the pix in the text below.

Deer Flies and Horse Flies

Deer flies and horse flies are closely related, both being members of the Tabanidae family.  They are known for their speed (some species reaching 145 km/hr in case you're wondering – no, I didn't forget a decimal point) and aerobatic abilities.  Swatting a horse fly in flight is a good game to play provided you don't mind losing almost all of the time.  As with many other species of biting fly, only the females bite.  Adult female horse flies have mouthparts that are sort of the Swiss Army knife of biting flies: a strong stabbing blade, two pairs of sharp cutting blades and a sponge-like bit used to mop up the blood from the wound.  And it is a real wound that they inflict.  Horse flies can transfer blood-borne diseases from one animal to another.  If you get bitten, treat it as a real wound, clean it and disinfect it as soon as possible.  If you're at a sea beach and have nothing else at hand to do the job wash it out with salt water.  Sure, it'll hurt like stink but that's preferable to developing, for instance, tularemia.
Horse fly image thanks to Bruce Marlin and Wikimedia Commons

Deer flies and horse flies most often attack the uppermost part of your body, your head for instance. There are ways and means of dealing with this issue, for instance wearing long upright feathers or a fake dragonfly on your hat – yeah, you look like a dufus but you don’t get bitten. (Decoy dragonflies can be bought on-line.)  Or, speaking of dufusses (dufii?) you can opt to carry an umbrella treated with diluted Tanglefoot. Neither deer flies nor horse flies respond well to repellants unless you are using something that will probably kill you too – DEET has no effect.  Deer flies are quite fragile; horse flies are not.  Deer flies can be dealt with by means of a cheap swatter; horse flies seem to require a billy club.  No, seriously, a good smack with a baseball cap should incapacitate them long enough for you to beat them to death with the club.
Deer fly image thanks to Wikimedia Commons
Stable Flies

The black stable flies at Kellys are the primary cause of annoyance to sunbathers.  These critters are small all-black versions of the standard housefly, about 8-9 mm long from head to the tips of their folded wings.  They are quite sturdy little creatures and often need to be swatted then stomped because they will stagger to their feet and fly away from a swat alone. Like the blackflies they are puddle feeders.  They prefer to dine on the lower portions of the body – calves and ankles – and they don’t give a damn about DEET.  However, they do not like to chew their way through oil and a generous slathering of baby oil both puts them off and slows them down so that you can swat and stomp before they can bite.  Re-apply the baby oil after swimming or wading, and whenever you notice that it is losing its effectiveness.

Black stable fly image thanks to Fir0002/Flagstaffotos and Wikimedia Commons
 Greenhead Flies

Greenhead flies (Tabanus nigrovittatus) are the worst of the bunch. In fact they are a large type of horse fly so everything already said about that species applies to the greenheads.  Greenheads are BIG and they don't seem to have any particular preference about where to bite.  When they bite they actually take a chunk of skin out of you. Luckily they are slow to bite following lighting on your skin, stupid and surprisingly fragile. A simple swat usually kills them but feel free to give them a stomp to register your disapproval of their species. Also lucky is the fact that their season is short.  Repellents don't work against the greenheads any better than they do against the stable flies.

Greenhead fly image thanks to Maximilian Paradiz and Wikimedia Commons
However . . . one source recommends using Avon Skin-so-Soft bath oil.  Avon disagrees but . . . if a good coating of oil has the same effect on greenheads that it seems to have on stable flies maybe it is worth a try.

Meanwhile, some guy in New Jersey has invented a device that he claims wards them off.  This is the "Greenhead Greenaid" which he sells from a website of the same name.  On this item I have no opinion.  I will reserve judgement until I have seen it work, or not.  If you try it please let me know if it was worth the $20 US.

So there you go, there is the line-up of usual suspects.  Have fun in the sun . . . and say a word of thanks to every dragonfly you see, they prey on every one of the pest species noted above.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

SHORT NAKED HIKES #2 – AQUEDUCT TRAIL

AQUEDUCT TRAIL

This is not an official hiking trail and it has no official name, these two facts combine to explain why it isn't overrun with hikers.  It is the access trail for the water conduit from the Ludgate Lake reservoir to the NB Power generating station at Coleson Cove . . . (water conduit = aqueduct – so I call it the Aqueduct Trail) . . . that works for me.

Where – Hwy #1, West of Saint John, NB – Lat/Long 45º11'49.57" North, 66º12'54.36 West .  Use these coordinates to look it up on Google Earth and get a god’s eye view of the lay of the land.

Access – Directly to the south side of Hwy #1 about halfway between the exit for the Spruce Lake Industrial Park and the exit for Prince of Wales.  If you can see Ludgate Lake on the north side of the highway, la,

Ludgate Lake to the North






look for this pumphouse and gate on the south side – that’s the trailhead . . .

If you are coming from Saint John take the Prince of Wales exit and come back on the eastbound lanes of Hwy #1 so you can park on the south side of the highway.

There is no parking area per se but the shoulder of the road is broad enough to safely park near the gate.   The trailhead is easily recognized but not signed.  Once through the gate, past the pumphouse and a hundred metres or so past the open area beyond (the natural gas pipeline right-of-way) you should be okay to get naked.

Length – Trailhead to turnaround point is approx 2.2 km, a nice short hike with the added benefit of it being all in the open so you can work on your tan while you hike.

Degree of difficultyEasy

Description – The trail is a single lane with loose stone cover, is wide enough for ATVs and shows clear signs of being used by them.  There is scrub vegetation to the left that gets bush hogged every ten years or so.  To the right there is mixed forest, fairly thick and owned by the Nature Conservancy of Canada – you’ll see their signs every now and then.  This photo shows the long views typical of this trail . . .

. . . so if you see someone coming in the distance you have plenty of time either to slip into something less comfortable or to step off into the forest and wait for them to pass by.

Suitability for naked hiking – I know that this trail is used by ATVers because I’ve seen the tracks, but having hiked there 25-30 times over the last ten years I have yet to see an ATVer (or anyone else) out and about.

Overnighting – not recommended.  However, I know that some people have camped overnight at Cheeseman Beach –see Note 2, Option C below and my Cheeseman Beach blogpost.


Important Notes: 

1.  About three-quarters of the way between the trailhead and the second set of power lines there is a forest trail branching off to the RIGHT, la:  



This trail leads to Connors Lake, a fairly substantial lake surrounded by bog, and with a disreputable shanty erected by some ATVers who obviously have no intention of ever removing their garbage.  Before you get to the lake or the shanty the forest trail turns LEFT to join the service trail beneath the power lines and takes you back to the Aqueduct Trail after a detour of 1.6 km.



2.  When you get to the turnaround point, easily recognized as a wide open area in the middle of nowhere, you have a number of options open to you:

Option A, turn around and go back to the trailhead. 

Option B, go straight.  This is NOT a good option.  Another 200 metres brings you to the Burchill Stream where, many years ago, the roadway had been washed out quite comprehensively.  Not recommended.

Option C, turn RIGHT and follow the overgrown road 300 metres to where the bridge that crossed Frenchmans Creek was washed away many more years ago.
At LOW TIDE you can easily walk across the stream without getting your boots damp.
At HIGH TIDE this is PERILOUS, read "STUPID" because the water at high tide can be 10 feet deep.
IF you intend to cross the creek check the tide tables to make sure you have enough time to get back before the rising tide starts to flood the creek.
If you make a low tide crossing another 600 metres of bushwhacking will bring you to Cheeseman Beach.
ONCE AGAIN, MAKE SURE THAT YOU HAVE PLENTY OF TIME TO GET BACK.
Vist this DFO website  for a current tide table.

Option D, turn LEFT and follow the much improved dirt track 800 metres uphill to the Burchill Road, which is a more or less abandoned paved road heavily grown in with brush on both sides (as of August 2019) and barely wide enough for a single vehicle.  However, it is sometimes used by the Coleson Cove workers as a lunch site, mostly at the dead end near Hwy #1. Sadly, some of the locals find it convenient to dump their junk on either side of the road – not very edifying.  From the Burchill Road junction you can exercise either of two options:

Option D1, turn around and go back the way you came, all the way to the trailhead.  This makes for a hike with a total return distance of 6 km; or you can try

Option D2, turn LEFT on the Burchill Road and follow it to the dead end, turn LEFT again and follow the ATV track along the pipeline right-of-way back to the pumphouse trailhead, a total return distance of 5.3 km.  The good thing about the brush growing in on the sides of the road is that you can get under cover in a moment if you hear a vehicle approaching.  Have a close look at this option on Google Earth before you decide to do it.

I have done all of these options at one time or another and have confirmed them all on 03 August 2019.  

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

SHORT NAKED HIKES #1 – MOUNT DOUGLAS BALD TRAIL

Mount Douglas Bald Trail a.k.a. Bald Peak Trail

Where: Welsford, NB

Access – Burton Lane, to the right off Hwy 101 immediately past the Hwy 7 overpass
There is a parking area there and nothing else, with the trailhead easily recognized but not signed.

Length – Trailhead to summit approx 1.25 km, not much of a hike but pretty good cardio due to the vertical, and the view from the summit  is, I believe, well worth it.




The view from the summit looking south
Degree of difficulty – “Moderate” with the following caveats:

– for the most part the trail is more like a dry stream bed strewn with small boulders and gnarly roots than a trail – footing can be tricky by times;

– the trail is not groomed at all and is absolutely unfit for mountain bikes or baby buggies;

– the probable demographic for this trail is “younger & decently fit.” Because of the treacherous footing the trail is unsuitable for small children or older people, and impossible for anyone with impaired mobility; and

– this trail absolutely should not be attempted in the dark, fog, rain or while under the influence of anything.

The trail has a great deal of vertical, rising 180 metres over its total length.  Almost all of this is in the shade of thick mixed forest -- nice! 

Only the summit is open to the sky and an army helipad there makes an excellent sundeck.  The summit provides great views to the south of Mt Douglas looking down the Nerepis Valley.

Suitability for naked hiking – If there are NO other vehicles in the parking area you are likely good to hike the trail naked . . . I did.  Just keep a good pace so that you don’t get overtaken from behind.  If there are other vehicles there you are taking a chance as this can be a fairly popular trail on nice days.


Looking up to the summit from the plateau
Overnighting – not recommended but possible.  There is no camping area at the top or bottom but there is a plateau below the summit that has been used by campers in the past.  There are no facilities and no water sources near the plateau.  A campfire gone wrong here would be a disaster.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

RAMBLING THOUGHTS

I’ve been off my game for some time and haven’t posted anything.  I’ll try to do better from now on.

I am, for lack of a better term, a naturist advocate.  That is to say that I advocate on behalf of the naturist lifestyle.  I would like to be able to claim that I am a naturist organizer, but I can’t.  I learned a long time ago that it is very difficult to organize naturists.  Every one of us has our own schedule and conflicting priorities that make organizing any group event an iffy business.  When you add the vagaries of weather to the equation it gets much worse.

Since I cannot manage to organize group naturist events I settle for advocating in general terms.  I have no difficulty talking to anyone, women or men, about naturism.  In doing this I have learned a few things.

First, women are an easier audience than men, most are willing to discuss it, at least on the theoretical level, and many want details. 

Second, talking to women about naturism can reveal some of the problems they have with participating.  Many, maybe most, of those problems deal with the men in their lives.  This is enlightening because conventional wisdom tells us that women do not participate because they lack confidence due to body image issues.  Some women see it differently.

A few have told me that they couldn't go to a naturist beach because their partner won’t.  When asked “Why not?” the usual response is “He’s too shy.”  Further probing reveals that the man has body issues, usually relating to fear of having a penis smaller than other men on the beach.  Oh the fear of comparison.  HINT FOR GUYS: Stop looking closely at people’s fun bits, it is rude . . . and weird too.

Other women have told me that they would be happy to go to a naturist beach but their partner is just “too sexual,” unable to separate the concepts of nudity and sex.  HINT FOR GUYS: Grow up!  There are times and places for sex and a public beach doesn’t provide either.

Still other women have told me that their partner is simply too possessive and would object to other men seeing “his woman” naked.  To me this seems to be an extension of the problem of being too sexual, projecting that same attitude on all other men.  HINT FOR GUYS:  Naturism is by definition non-sexual nudity.

All this information gained from chatting with women helps me to explain some of the behaviours I have noted at the gym: guys getting dressed or undressed in a shower stall; guys coming into the sauna fully clothed.  (Yeech!)  These behaviours have often made me ask myself “What the hell is wrong with men these days?”

I got some potential answers to that question the other day when I left the beach and went to the showers.  In the change room I witnessed three different scenes of hysteria (there’s no other proper word for it) from small boys as their fathers tried to wrangle them out of their swimsuits and into the showers.  “I hate being naked,” one little boy screamed.  “Huh!” I thought, “that’s weird.” When I was a kid nobody batted an eye about swimming naked at Scout camp, YMCA camp or wherever.  Half of my boyhood fishing trips ended up with skinnydipping, it was simply the done thing.  Apparently these days are gone, replaced by early childhood education in fear and loathing.  It seems that we are somehow training boys from infancy to be ashamed and afraid of their own bodies.  This is a very unhealthy situation.

Monday, 16 October 2017

RULES FOR HIKING NAKED


I was asked in a semi-oblique way to explain about hiking naked.  Some people have a great amount of trepidation about hiking naked – the fear of ‘getting caught,' among other things.  So I have decided to write down my own rules for hiking naked.  Please bear in mind that these are my rules, not THE RULES, and you are not governed by them unless you choose to be.  So they are not rules per se, they are more like guidelines.  Feel free to adopt any or all of them, but when you are done they will be your rules, not mine.


MAXIM

If God had wanted humankind to be naked we would have been born that way.

 GENERAL

Get naked, keep calm and have fun.

The purpose of hiking is to hike, to get out in the open air and expose yourself to the natural world, to see a new trail or revisit an old one.  It is just a hike and, hopefully, not an adventure.  For most guys, whether or not we are honest enough to admit it, true adventure requires an even chance of death – sort of like any visit to the United States these days.  Women are usually much smarter about such matters.

The purpose of hiking naked is to maximize your own personal freedom and to be closer to nature.  Its purpose IS NOT to shock, dismay, annoy or alarm non-naturists.

DO NOT hike naked in hunting season.

Numbers matter.  Numbers are self-validating.  Hiking as a couple or in a group is far better than hiking alone.  Hiking in a mixed group is by far the best option.  There is a calculus of suspicion within the minds of non-naturists that runs something like this:

    – one man hiking naked alone is a pervert of some kind
    – two men hiking naked are gay
    – a group of men hiking naked are probably a gay gang
    – one woman hiking naked alone is a target for harassment or worse
    – two women hiking naked are much less of a target for harassment
    – a group of women hiking naked are far less of a target for harassment
    – a mixed gender couple hiking naked is self-validating and not dangerous
    – a mixed gender group hiking naked is self-validating and not dangerous

In terms of traffic volume on the trails weekdays are far better than weekends.  Holiday weekends during school vacation are the worst possible times to hike naked.

THE LAW

I am not a lawyer.  The following two observations are, I believe, correct.  They do not constitute legal advice.  If you want legal advice go to a lawyer.

Under Canadian law as it exists currently the following are your best bases for a successful defence in the unlikely event of prosecution:
1. that the location was sufficiently isolated that you felt you had a reasonable expectation of privacy. This point has already been established in law as a legal defence; and
2. that you did not intend to insult or offend any person and either covered up or offered to do so.

Women who choose to hike topless are breaking no law.  This has been affirmed in principle by the Ontario courts and upheld in the courts of British Columbia.  In keeping with the Common Law the same should hold true in all provinces except, perhaps, Québec, which has a different legal foundation.

LOCATIONS

Know the area in which you are hiking.

DO NOT hike close to inhabited areas.

Know the route, the access points, the relative frequency of usage.

Use trail maps of the area if they are available.


Have a careful look at the area on Google Earth.

Long horizons and open spaces are good but be aware of your environment and be prepared to react appropriately.

Once you have found a reasonably workable area for naked hiking DO NOT BLAB it all over the internet or you will no longer have it.  Feel free to share the information with friends whom you actually know IN PERSON – imaginary friends on Facebook don’t count.

BEHAVIOUR

On arrival at the access point if the parking lot has several cars in it be aware that you are not alone on the trail. You might want to reconsider the project for the day.

If the parking lot is empty and the trail is a single track in and out, you’re likely golden on the outbound leg; use greater caution on the return trip.

If the parking lot is empty and the trail is a single loop in and out you’re likely golden as far as the midpoint; use more caution on the back half of the route.

Act naturally!  What you are doing is perfectly natural, just somewhat unusual.  If you can think outside the box you can live outside the clothes.

Be polite. There are two universally polite greetings along the trail: “Good morning” and “Good afternoon” – being naked does not change this.

If someone says something ignorant to you gently return the favour by ignoring them.  DO NOT engage in a slanging match.

DO NOT annoy the textiles!  Cover up when you have time to do so.

When you don’t have time to cover up step off the trail and put a respectful distance between yourself and the textiles.

Watch your back, so to speak, check your back trail from time to time in case there is a troop of Girl Guides or a hungry bear coming up from behind.

Don’t annoy the bears either, ditto all other wildlife.

Keep your eyes open and your ears too.  This is no less important when hiking clothed as naked.  When you are in the forest and you hear the approach of hoofbeats moose are far more probable than horses.

Keep your eyes on the trail ahead.  Be aware of your “meeting distance” – the farther you can see down the trail the more time you have to react to someone coming toward you. 

Meeting distance is also important when encountering wildlife.  Bears and moose are not uncommon, coyotes somewhat less so and cougars are rare but not unknown – know how to deal with all of them.

If you do ‘get caught’ don’t worry too much about it, it is a very strange naturist who objects to being seen naked.  Offer to cover up and if the textiles decline your kind offer just keep calm and carry on.

Any thing that you take into the forest with you should leave with you.  Don’t throw your crap into the forest!  Feel free to pick up and pack out crap left by morons.

EQUIPMENT

Some free-hikers insist that the only way to hike truly naked is to do so barefoot and without a pack.  There is a word for this.  That word is STUPID.

Carry a pack with some reasonable survival equipment and supplies in it, just as you would for any hike.  Include an Ace bandage or two against the possibility of a sprain. 

If you do not know what constitutes reasonable equipment and supplies DO NOT go hiking, regardless of your wardrobe choice, until such time as you learn.

DO NOT hike without something at hand with which to cover up quickly.  A hiking kilt is a good choice.  Remember, 'a man in a kilt is a man and a half.'

DO NOT think that you can somehow wriggle your legs into a pair of shorts in quick time.  More likely you’ll end up arse-first on the ground with your shorts caught on one knee and the other boot.  This is not an edifying sight but it is funny for spectators.

DO NOT hike barefoot!  No matter what the so-called free-hiking purists say hiking barefoot is deeply, dangerously, irretrievably STUPID.  If you injure your feet at some point distant from your car you have a long and painful hobble ahead of you.

Always carry a hiking staff or a reasonable facsimile thereof.  Collapsible nordic hiking poles are NOT a reasonable facsimile, they are useless crap as they will likely collapse just when you need them.  I carry a walking axe most times.  If I plan to go stream walking I bring a two metre long staff instead. 

SUMMARY

So those are my own rules, so far at least.  Who knows what new rules might be added with further experience.

Get naked, keep calm and have fun.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

The FCN does not represent naturism within Canada

The Federation of Canadian Naturists (FCN) does not represent naturism within Canada.  This claim is axiomatic and is easily proven to be so.

As one member of the FCN Board of Directors has recently pointed out on Facebook, there is not one Federation, but two.  True.  There is the FCN, which purports to represent all naturists outside of Québec, and there is also the Federation of Quebec Naturists (FQN) which claims to represent all naturists within Québec.  But it is worse than that because of a split between eastern and western Canadian naturists way back in the late 1950s, a rift that has never healed.

It started out sometime after World War II with individual 'sunbathing' clubs coming together to form some sort of umbrella organization, the Canadian Sunbathing Association.  But, as in most extended families, there were disagreements, the sum of which was the split and the formation circa 1960 of the rival Western Canadian Sunbathing Association (WCSA) and the Eastern Canadian Sunbathing Association (ECSA).  As if this wasn't enough, the ECSA embarked on its own internecine fights that resulted in the entire thing imploding in 1978, with the FQN having hived off from it the previous year.  Meanwhile out west, the WCSA carried on and has since changed its name to the American Association for Nude Recreation – Western Canadian Region, which of course isn't a Canadian organization at all, but an adjunct of the much larger US association.

Some years after the demise of the ECSA, in 1985 the FCN was formed with the encouragement of the FQN.  It is largely an Ontario-centric organization cooperating with the FQN along the interprovincial boundary and having little to do with naturists beyond those two provinces, but with a few affiliated clubs out west and one in the Atlantic region.

I can't speak for the situation out west but that in Atlantic Canada is pretty clear to me.  Basically, Atlantic Canada is terra incognita for the FCN.  The FCN website is chockablock with errors concerning the region, errors that they adamantly refuse to correct.  No, that isn't quite true, they don't refuse because they don't bother to respond, they just take no action and the errors persist for years on end.

Requests for FCN assistance in forming a non-landed club within NB have met with similar indifference.  The FCN just doesn't affect to care.  That is certainly the way the FCN has come across during the tenure of different presidents.

This shines a light on yet another group, or should I better say number, of naturists that the FCN doesn't represent, the independent naturists.  These are those naturists who don't belong to any existing club, and there are a lot of them.  Some are 'at-home' naturists enjoying the lifestyle in the privacy of their own homes or cottages.  Others are 'away' naturists, enjoying the lifestyle when on vacation somewhere distant where they won't be recognized.  Still others 'free-range' naturists enjoying the lifestyle while camping, hiking, boating, etcetera.  Some few of all of these categories are members of one of the three naturist organizations in Canada, the FCN, FQN or AANR-WCR, but by informal poll of those I have met, most are not members of any organization and see no benefit in becoming members.

Being a great believer in strength in numbers I used to advocate on behalf of FCN membership.  I WILL NOT DO THIS ANY LONGER, and this is why:

In 2017 the FCN Board of Directors decided to participate officially in the Toronto Pride parade under the banner of the FCN.  I object to that and I am not alone in objecting.  However, I do not object to the Toronto Pride parade, I support the concept, if not the actual presentation of the concept.  People are people and should not be discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality.  Those who wish to parade their sexuality with Pride should do so with pride.

However, the FCN is not all about sexuality, or at least it shouldn't be.  Really, how can it be?  One of the very fundamental principles of naturism is non-sexualized social nudity.  I support that principle  fully.  I believe that sexuality and sex are private matters and that sex must remain as a private matter between consenting partners of legal age.  So I have trouble with the FCN deciding to parade within Pride, thereby conflating the very separate issues of nudity and sex.  This will confuse the public at large and will harden the prejudices of those already opposed to either or both ideas.  What FCN participation within Pride will do, whether they intend it or not, is to confirm the commonly held public perception that nudism / naturism is just one sexual fetish amongst a host of others.  I don't believe that FCN participation within Pride is good for naturism and I don't think that it is good for Pride either.

For those naturists who adhere to the principle of non-sexualized social nudity the FCN's decision is anathema.  I'm one of those people.  Others have had their say in other places, this is mine.  How can we as naturists either expect respect from society at large or hope to convince the nudism-curious that nudity does not equate to sexual conduct when the FCN, the supposed guardian of naturist ideals within Canada, is giving out the exact opposite message.

Needless to say I registered my disapproval with the decision on the FCN Facebook page, as did others.  These were valid concerns and quite well articulated I thought, and were supported by other readers.  The response from one of the Board of Directors was abuse and personal attacks.  When I appealed to the FCN President, I was informed that since I had declined to accept a position on the Board in 2016 I had no right to an opinion on the matter.

This brings up a whole new category of naturists that the FCN does not represent, all those who fail to agree with the Board and therefore are not entitled to hold an opinion or have it heard.  This, I strongly suspect, is by far the larger portion of the FCN membership.  And this is why I cannot support the FCN in any way, it represents nothing but the opinion of an inner cabal.


So, what should a national representative organization for naturists be doing in order to further the cause of naturism in Canada and to represent the interests of all naturists?  I have a few ideas on that but, as the FCN President has pointed out, my opinion doesn't count within the FCN.  That being the case I offer these ideas not to the deaf FCN but to the majority of Canadian naturists, people who may as well be the silent majority because the deaf FCN does not trouble itself to listen.  They are like the hedgehog in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books, they just can't be buggered at all.
1
In the considered opinion that I am not allowed to have within the FCN, first and foremost, I believe that a true national representative association for naturists should concern itself with working towards the decriminalization of simple public nudity through the repeal of Criminal Code S.174 and the rewriting of SS.173 and 175.  This requires work, lots of work, not just playing volleyball.
2
Second, and further to the first goal, or perhaps as an avenue towards it, the association should be willing, able and prepared on short notice to intervene in Canadian court cases concerning innocent public nudity by submitting amicus curiae briefs whenever such intervention is warranted. 
3
Third, and still further to the first goal and as an avenue towards it, the association should be willing, able and prepared to intervene with print and broadcast media whenever the words naturism/naturist or nudism/nudist are bandied about in error with a well grounded refutation of the published errors.
4
Fourth, the association should undertake a program of public education so that the general population understands that the naked human form is neither an invitation to have sex nor a threat to society.
5
And fifth, but not last, the association should provide a secure home with secure principles for all Canadian naturists, whether or not they choose to be members of the association, and a  secure forum in which all are able to state their case and be listened to without being denigrated by some jumped up Facebook page administrator and without being ignored by a self-interested Board.

If secure personal nudity is the ultimate expression of personal freedom then the proper environment of such freedom is one of guaranteed democracy.


Monday, 4 July 2016

2016 Halifax World Naked Bike Ride

I went to the 2016 Halifax World Naked Bike Ride this year.  I support the idea behind the WNBR and have participated in other cities.  As noted in a previous posting within this blog, the WNBR is most definitely NOT a naturist event per se.  The WNBR is really about bicycle safety, with nudity used as a graphic demonstration to car drivers of just how vulnerable bicyclists are out there on the road.  That was how it started, but along the way it has become a stage for protest or consciousness-raising for a wide variety of issues including (but by no means limited to)  petroleum-dependency and legalization of public nudity.  It is a house of many mansions.

I set off for Halifax with mixed feelings about the ride in that city.  Previously, I had been told a number of horror stories about it by people whose opinions I respect, and I had seen YouTube video of previous rides, video that was rather cringeworthy in places.  Despite it being a house of many mansions it should certainly not be a stage for the exhibition of bad manners.  LESSON: If you want respect you have to give respect.

The run-up to the 2016 Halifax WNBR was sketchy.  One of the things that was wrong with the 2016 ride was the poor communication plan, compounded by the existence of two separate FaceBook pages with not-so-compatible information on each.  The FB page “World Naked Bike Ride – Halifax” is a public group that has been around for a long time and is no secret.  The 2016 Halifax organizers launched their own event page “Halifax World Naked Bike 2016, 9th Edition” then largely ignored the original public group.  This was a fatal error as confusion resulted, leading to uncertainty, leading to non-attendance.  The organizers should have monitored posts on both pages in order to correct any false impressions and provide timely info.  LESSON: Pay attention to your primary means of communication.

Then there was the problem of the route; there were two versions of it.  When v.1 was published it was far too long – people pointed this out and the organizers responded positively by issuing v.2 a day or two later, a route only half as long as the original.  So far so good but people were still discussing v.1 on the WNBR-Hfx page and it was not being corrected, leading to the fatal error noted above.  LESSON: If there are two active info sites, put your info on both sites, then monitor and make corrections if necessary.

Also, on the HfxWNBR 2016 page there was much dithering by the organizers about the weather.  Folks, if you’re going to dither, dither in private, not on social media.  If you dither on FB it confuses the issue and causes people to stay away.  LESSON: Don’t dither in public.  Think it out, make a decision and then stick to it.

In order to avoid parking problems in Halifax I biked in from Bedford and, having arrived quite early in the day, took the opportunity to scout out the route chosen for the ride.  This wasn’t entirely without a selfish motive, the morning was a little cool and the exercise would help keep me warm.  The route was quick enough, even with a couple of side trips, because traffic was minimal and I was lucky enough to catch nearly every green light.

When I had completed the route and arrived at the gathering place on Fern Lane (at 12:45) there was no sign, no one serving as a greeter and no one who seemed to know what was going on, or at least they weren’t telling much.  The organizers were largely uncommunicative, almost non-responsive.  But kudos to the guy with the music machine, he was cool.  LESSON:  An event like the WNBR requires a feeling of welcome, of inclusion and a little animation would have helped too.

I killed some time by wandering about Fern & May trying to keep warm enough and could not help but observe and reflect upon the organization of the event so far.  That reflection was making me bite my tongue because it wasn’t really any of my business.  Besides, things could still have turned out okay – only they didn’t.  I’ve organized lots of things in the past and the hard truth is that it takes work, engagement, communication, enthusiasm and teamwork.  Frankly, standing about looking taciturn, like a captain pacing the quarterdeck of his burning ship just doesn’t do the trick.  It seemed clear to me that the 2016 Hfx WNBR was a shipwreck in progress.  (Were those seagulls circling overhead, or vultures?)

At T minus 15 mins and counting there was no sign of either welcome or animation, except when the media showed up and one of the organizers began holding forth to one of the reporters.  I had previously spoken to one of the media guys and he told me that the organizers had told him that their “minimum number” for riding was twenty – if they didn’t get twenty they would cancel.

At this point there were nine prospective riders and four media people, the total of which was already outnumbered by pudgy camera-wielding perverts gathering near the corner of Fern and May like so many crows on a wire, eager for the first glimpse of (Gasp!) naked flesh.  I’m sorry to say that they would have been very disappointed by it as almost every rider there was an old guy.  Most of them had the sort of pasty complexions that had never seen a ray of sunshine.  Clearly few were naturists or they would have been tanned, at least somewhat.  It made me wonder just exactly what demographic we were dealing with and none of my conclusions were particularly complimentary. No women riders had showed up by that time, although one had stopped by momentarily and said she would be back.   As noted above, I have participated in other rides in other places and this one had no oxygen in it.  It was all too tawdry for me. At T minus 9 mins I got on my bike and biked back to my motel in Bedford.

On the trip to Bedford I decided that perhaps I hadn’t given the event a completely fair evaluation so, on reaching my motel, I got in my car and drove back to town.  That was when I realized they had cancelled.  (I learned later they had cancelled at T plus 2 mins, ostensibly because of inclement weather.)  Small wonder!

They rescheduled to the following day, Sunday July 3rd, but let us be crystal clear about the real reason for rescheduling – very few people showed up!  The ride was cancelled due to lack of interest.  It did go the following day, still with lack of support – apparently the smallest Hfx WNBR ever – when there was no bad weather to use as a codpiece to cover the failure.  But really, cancelled for fictitious bad weather?  C’mon guys, try to butch up a little!  Don’t blame your own shortcomings on Mother Nature.

Yes, I suppose you could say I should have taken that same advice and stayed until the bitter end, but I didn’t help organize this clinker and I could pedal away with a clear conscience.

In my opinion the 2016 Hfx WNBR failed for several reasons:

(1) delayed decision-making that led to a late announcement.  How hard is it to get together in the late winter or early spring and choose a date, make an announcement and proceed from that firm base;

(2) a poor choice of date.  The “official” date for the WNBR is the second Saturday of June, delaying until early July is not a good idea.  So too, holding it on a long weekend is not a good idea as it conflicts with too many other events and personal plans;

(3) poor communications and apparently no communications plan;

(4) bad route planning and the confusion resulting from it;

(5) very poor attitude at the start point;

(6) and, in very important measure, because of the hangover from the 2015 ride, a debacle in which the lead riders, in a stunning display of bad manners, invaded the Canada Games Team announcement on the Grande Parade.  This is not the first time some bonehead in the Halifax ride took the lead and dragged the rest of the riders into places better avoided, something similar happened with a street hockey tournament in 2013.  To reiterate a lesson noted above -- If you want respect you have to give respect.

Personally, I am neither here nor there with regard to the Halifax WNBR as it is presently organized.  In theory and in practice I support the WNBR.  But the Halifax ride?  I won’t bother wasting time or money to go to the 2017 ride – if they have one – so long as it is being run by the same people with the same bad attitudes.

But, returning to the issue of bicycle safety for a moment, like car drivers everywhere else those in Halifax are a mixed bag.  The majority seem to have no problem sharing the road – or at least they don’t want a bicyclist splattered all over their Lexus – but there is an important minority that certainly needs re-education and a tune-up of their attitude.  This was made abundantly clear to me on my trips back and forth from Bedford when I became aware of just how nasty some Halifax drivers could be – cutting cyclists off, crowding them off the pavement, invading the bike lane (or parking in it) or sneaking up close before blasting cyclists with car horns.  These people definitely have a head-space problem.   If the WNBR can help raise consciousness regarding this issue then rock on!