“Did you see the naked runner?!” asked one of the bewildered day-hikers. I laughed, “No, I haven’t seen a naked runner.” I was sitting on a rock contemplating cutting holes in my boots to set my little toes free from their smelly prisons.
“I don’t know how you could have missed him, we just passed him a minute ago.” My smile broadened as I realized I knew exactly who they were talking about. “He wasn’t naked when he went by me… He’s naked now? That’s awesome!”
He’d run by me about five minutes ago, and as he passed I had warned him that it was “hike-naked day” so he was likely to encounter some naked hikers ahead of him. As he’d jogged off down the trail he’d said, “sounds like fun, maybe I should join in.” I, of course, told him that he definitely should, and that was the last I saw of him.
I explained to the day hikers that hiking naked on the solstice is a thru-hiker tradition, and that I’d already seen one naked thru-hiker and had heard rumors of three more behind him that they were likely to encounter as they headed south.
“Well, I didn’t mind the naked runner,” said the woman, “he was kind of cute.” She was right, he was cute… I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see the naked version, but I was incredibly entertained that I’d inspired him to join the solstice festivities.
I wish that I felt comfortable joining in the solstice celebration of nakedness too, but since I was hiking alone (and rather close to I-80) it didn’t seem like a good idea to me. Instead I was going to celebrate the solstice by enjoying every moment of sunlight I had since it was the longest day of the year.
I had started my day by watching the sunrise over Lake Tahoe at Barker Pass, and now I was hoping to find a nice place to watch the sunset. Tinker’s Knob sounded promising. It would mean a fair amount of uphill at the end of the day, and Guthook’s Guide said there was no official trail to the summit, so it was a bit of a rock scramble, but the 360 degree view including Lake Tahoe sounded like it would be worth it. The only remaining wild card was whether or not I’d be able to camp up there. It looked both wide and flat enough on the map, so I was betting I’d be able to find a spot that was good enough for me. Especially since my main requirement was a good view of the sunset… I’m not very finicky about how flat or soft my campsites are.
As the day neared its end the winds picked up and Tinker’s Knob finally came into view. It looked like the final ascent was very steep indeed… Maybe one of the stands of trees on the ridge would make a better campsite? At the top of the ridge there was a big patch of snow… As I detoured to the left of it I caught a glimpse of Lake Tahoe behind me… If the view was this good from here, what must it be like from the top of the knob?
I decided to hike just a little bit higher… Sure, it involved some rock-hopping, but it was worth it, the views were getting better and better. It wasn’t clear yet how I was going to scramble up to the top of the rock face because it looked impossibly steep, but each time I scrambled up five feet, the next five foot scramble became obvious. Compared to some of the scrambles I’d done in the high Sierra this was easy!
Hand over hand, I pulled myself up and over the rocks for the final ascent and made it to the top… It was gorgeous up there… The late afternoon/early evening sun lit my face almost as much as my smile. It was perfect!! Sure it was breezy and kind of chilly, but I had the summit completely to myself and there was a little rock nest there that I could cowboy camp in.
I settled myself in and watched as the sun sunk ever so slowly into the western horizon. Some days and some moments are just so perfect that you can’t stop smiling. This had been one of those days and this was one of those moments. This was what it was all about… The moments of perfect happiness… When absolutely everything was right with the world… I sighed with contentment as I watched the sunset. I couldn’t imagine how the day could get any better.
The pink and purple hues of the sunset still tinged the sky as I curled up in my nest of rocks… It seemed like my campsite could have been the sight of one of the epic battles in The Lord of the Rings… The only way up here was the way I’d come, otherwise it was cliffs, and with all the loose rocks if anyone or anything tried to come up I would hear them from a mile away… It felt very safe and cozy, and at the same time very epic… It felt perfect…
Somewhere in that perfect moment I fell asleep, because the next time I looked up the sky was full of stars highlighted against the backdrop of the Milky Way… The night was turning out to be just as amazing as the day had been… The 360 degree view of daytime turned into an amazing dome of stars in the nighttime, complete with two beautiful and bright shooting stars. As I drifted back off to sleep I knew that next time I woke I would either see the starscape or the sunrise, and either way it was going to be amazing. It reminded me how grateful I am to be on the trail where I can watch every sunrise and every sunset and have the chance to see so many amazing things in between!
P.S. Back at Lost Lakes I was adopted by some jeep campers that had come up with a concoction that they called the skip-and-go-naked… It seemed appropriate to include the recipe with this post (if any of you know the proportions please comment below)!
The Skip and Go Naked
1 handle of vodka
X bottles of beer
X liters of lemonade