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A few years ago I learned about a very remote cabin on public property reasonably close to home that rents cheap. A friend mentioned that they didn't see anyone for 2 whole days even though it is part of a State Forest and it was a weekend. Renters get a key and are encouraged to lock the "gate" (really just a steel cable across the driveway) to keep people out. The Forest Service gives the impression that it is solely your area for the length of the stay, and there are signs posted for "renters only".
With that in mind, I purposed to someday stay there and enjoy some clothing optional time with my family. This week (during the week so even less chance of an encounter with hikers) we finally did it, and I wasn't the only one who opted to be free.
Here is my dilemma...
About a day into our stay, I spotted a trail camera aimed at the door of the cabin--presumably placed to deter and/or detect unauthorized entry or vandalism. I assume it is motion activated, but I have no idea whether or not it was turned on or off nor any other optional settings. If it was set to capture motion, I'm certain it recorded some pics or video that I wouldn't want made public. I have nothing to be embarrassed about, but some people would pass judgement that I'd prefer to avoid. Plus, I'm a bit concerned about my kids' exposure.
Am I in any legal danger? Is there a chance that the Forest Service might hand the pictures or video over to law enforcement even though no one saw anything in person? In other words, is it indecent exposure if no one sees it (other than the one reviewing the footage)?
What do people do when they are backpacking and need to relieve themselves, bath or shower? Unless they are going to hitchhike into town, they do it all in the woods. Most Park Rangers have bathed/pooped, showers etc naked in the woods themselves, and take a don't ask/don't tell attitude re: nudity. Some are even nudists themselves. Of course, if the public complains, or you are nude near a populated campground, they will definitely enforce the law.
Remember that being a peeping Tom is illegal. Suppose the door is open and you aren't dressed. Now the camera is violating the law. I'd walk straight to the camera, examine it for evidence that it belongs to the Forest Service, and check if it's on. It may only be turned on when the cabin is not rented. Otherwise it would record every coming and going...a bit ridiculous and an invasion of privacy. If it belongs to the F.S., call and ask their use policy. If it doesn't belong to them, you can report it, or see if you can remove the memory card, but that may constitute tampering. I wouldn't sweat getting into trouble over it being nude outside the cabin in a remote location.
One more reason: what if you rip your clothes, get sick and soil them, or get sprayed by a skunk? You'd take them off and/or to wash them, right? And how many Rangers have been skinny dipping? I'll bet a huge number of them have. You are supporting their careers by renting the cabin. Worst case, you'd probably get a warning, provided you are polite during the lecture.
Another thought: Probably dozens of people have been nude outside that cabin (drunk or sober) and F.S. had no concerns. But you can put an opaque bag over it to prevent it recording anything during the rest of your stay.
Thanks, Joe. We came home a couple of days ago, but I just kept thinking about that camera. It was up high and aimed down, so I don't think I could have gotten up to it. I agree that it doesn't make sense to have it turned on for renters. I just don't know if they go back in there before and after each rental and get up there to turn it on and off. It may just take a still picture once each time it detects movement.
At any rate, it is comforting that you don't think it will be a big deal. I was thinking the same things while I continued walking by the camera for the second half of our stay. I don't imagine anyone will say anything even if someone does find pictures of us. I do hope that they simply delete anything they find, though, rather than post them somewhere for any reason.
Doug B. You are welcome... I think attitudes towards nudity have changed dramatically over time. With selfies being all over the internet, and apps like Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. allowing more or less nudity, I believe most people treat it somewhere between a hormone crazed teenager, a quirky hobby or an alternative lifestyle. Meaning most who wouldn't be nude outdoors don't care if others are in such a remote location as you describe (it's not like you went streaking on Main Street in Mayberry).
Suppose the pics do end up on the internet? I have been nude in so many forests that I suppose I'm on a trail cam somewhere. Yes it would be a little awkward to explain to some friends or co-workers, but it's only a crisis if you let it be. You did nothing harmful to anyone. While laws haven't caught up with the times, the human body is not lewd, and it's time for people to acknowledge that.
What about the children??? Well, I didn't see any in the woods, but if any saw me, they might become nurses or doctors, to help fix bodies like mine. Lol. Many people who haven't served in the U.S. Armed Forces don't know that every enlistee has a full nude physical exam on entrance. You don't get to choose the doctors' gender. In Basic Training, you have up to 70 trainees (same gender) showering in group showers (not mixed gender, of course) every night That's between +200k per year (all branches), being seen naked by strangers in this country alone. There will always be a few pervs & predators, but we don't ban driving b/c of bad drivers.
Bottom line: Your body is one of 7billion on Earth, of which 50% have the same parts. It's nothing to be afraid of, nor is it worth anyone's time getting upset over, on the internet or in the woods.
Couple other thoughts: In re: to your kids, specifically, putting their pics on the web could be construed as child porn and you might have grounds to prosecute. But non-sexual nudity is again, nothing to be ashamed about.
I was bullied and picked on throughout high school b/c my parents were educators. You have 2 applicable responsibilities as a parent, regardless of whether your kids' pics end up on the internet: teach them skills to deal with bullies, and teach them to accept their bodies. Because so many kids grow up ashamed to be seen nude (including myself), once in school sports and they have to change in the school locker room, it leads to terrible insecurity and vulnerability to ridicule and teasing.
You can help your kids to be confident, and unafraid of criticism/teasing. Then, what the internet does or doesn't do won't matter, even when they make mistakes as they become young adults.
Thanks again, Joe. I guess the only thing to do is let it go. If anything ever does surface, I'll deal with it then. No sense worrying about it until such time.
I do wonder if we should go back or not, though. My wife enjoyed it (though she chose to stay clothed) so much that she suggested making a yearly trip there. I haven't shared my knowledge of the trail cam with her. I don't want to upset her regarding the kids possibly being on camera. I am thinking about calling to potentially make another reservation and asking about the camera at that time to see if perhaps it is turned off as you suggested.
I'd definitely ask about the trail cam before returning. I'd also ask if it was routine practice at other state forests or just there (perhaps they had theft at that one area/forest. That may help you decide whether to return their or visit elsewhere.
I'd call sooner rather than later, as you ought to have answers for your peace of mind and for when your wife presses you to decide on going back. You will want to share your concerns with her then if not before.
Best wishes to you for a productive answer.
In all honesty, IF any park staff saw them they'd likely just laugh and move on. Maybe roll their eyes and say to themselves, "Well there's ANOTHER nudie..."
Or maybe even, "Sigh... I wish I was naked at that cabin RIGHT NOW..." LOL
Depending on what state you're in I believe that most environmental enforcement require you to put your name on your trail cam. If there is no name on it I would personally confiscated and leave a note telling the owner why you confiscated it and how to get in touch with you.
As far as being penalized by the law. If no one sees you walking around naked then you haven't broken any laws. Anti nudity laws are only state laws there are no federal laws against nudity. And most state laws specify things like indecent exposure. Nothing indecent about being alone and naked
Actually there are federal regulations against public nudity in lots of places. Mainly they are in National Park and National Forest regulations. They can be very comprehensive. There are no conditions ever mentioned, such as "indecent" or "lewd" behavior. They simply state that pubic nudity is prohibited.
In some, chiefly for parks and forests in California, permissible public nudity is implied but not explicitly stated. One that I recall specifically stated that public nudity was not permitted beyond a certain point, which implied that it was okay within bounds. It was a place where there are hot springs.
It seems to be that it is specifically prohibited in more and more places, that is, mentioned in more regulations. Also, more places have signs that state that public nudity is prohibited. One place that I know of is on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, that part which is the National Seashore. We used to go there a few times every year. I'm referring to the part beyond Oregon Inlet. There are only a few good places to park along the road and at the parking places, signs are there stating no nudity allowed. However, supposedly a woman does not have to wear a top and thongs are permitted.
State laws still apply on federal lands, too, so be cautious.
Ramblinman Thanks for sharing Shane's website. I found it informative and well constructed, and I bookmarked it for use again.
I also thought the comments and suggestions on Shane's website were very good and accurate. Laws can be very complicated and at the same time, unevenly enforced. At one time I would have said that people wouldn't want laws enforced any more rigidly than they usually are but I'm beginning to change my mind. There are a lot of people that I think wish the police had even more power, provided they themselves are unaffected.
He mentioned shooting on federal land (National Forests, in particular). George Washington National Forest even has shooting ranges. But game (hunting) laws also apply, too. In some places, being in the woods with a dog constitutes hunting. See what I mean about complicated?
I've read of nude hiking groups, too, doing longish hikes with no trouble, with mixed groups, too (meaning male and female). But I don't think there's necessarily safety in numbers. Quite the opposite. In a few places along the Outer Banks, groups of nude swimmers and sunbathers did congregate on the beaches. It seemed to have attracted the attention of rangers who ticketed people. At least that's what I heard.
Although I've always suggested caution and discretion about outdoor nudity, that never stopped me from doing long nude hikes. I've been "caught" a few times, never with any problem, but I've always covered up and I'm sure that takes the edge off the encounter. I've even been seen sitting along on a rocky lookout when someone came by (a woman) who apologized for intruding. But that was only one incident and all the incidents were few in number. But if you pick your trails, you'll probably meet no one and have no issues.
I've always wanted to do a long nude hike without take any clothing at all, just so I could say I did. But so far, that's still on my to-do list.
While I don't go looking for a fight, if enough people cared to go nude on secluded beaches, they could effectively push back against police state tactics. This was accomplished in the former East Germany and for all our problems, the United States is not what that country was to its own citizens.
In the United States, our business leaders are the ones with disproportionate power to influence laws, including laws about nudity.
The two main places where beach nudity is officially sanctioned, Haulover Beach in metro Miami and Gunnison Beach in northern New Jersey, it seems that nude recreation is enough of a moneymaker that it has NOT been shut down, rather has been accommodated liberally. Other factors contribute, no doubt, but making friends with the business community seems critical for nude recreation to be a success.
Nudists, naturists, people who simply don't like wearing swimwear on the beach or perhaps free spirits who don't indulge in it themselves but want others to have this right can make a difference. Some of us are business owners and would gladly help kindred spirits. In some areas this needs to be done with a bit of discretion and other places it can be done openly. It does take courage on the part of the business owner, but private venues are all we have in some parts of the nation.
Shane said that on some western trails, nude hikers sometimes outnumber clothed hikers!
In some areas, nude recreation would trigger a backlash from a large prudish community. In other areas, the opposite would happen. It might help a tolerant community get comfortable with bare skin and grow more favorable to designated areas for nude sunbathing and swimming.
At beaches and trails that do tolerate nude recreation, it may be helpful to do so in an organized fashion. Clubs that travel to a beach as a group for mutual support. Solitary couples or a woman alone on a beach may be harassed in a way that would not happen in a tight gathering of a beach club.
The travel club I used to participate in would sometimes float down a river nude in rafts and canoes (putting clothes back on before arriving at a somewhat public landing). Strength in numbers!
Didn't work in North Carolina. In fact, large groups of nude people draws park rangers with tickets. Probably wouldn't work in South Carolina, either.
I think it's worth pointing out that toleration of something is not the same as approval of something.
However, we don't get to the beach so much anymore, since the family cottage on the Outer Banks was sold a few years ago. I also don't get out to the woods for long hikes and the like anymore either, mostly because of the last of opportunity. I'm 71 and still working. Our doctor, who is older than I am, advises against retiring.
It's been my experience that instead of being for or against, people are more likely to be totally uninterested. I guess that's a form of toleration. But when you push the issue, they resist. But you never know. People can also surprise you with their degree of acceptance and in which toleration plays no part.
As an example, I went away the summer after I finished high school to work on a farm in Massachusetts. I went with a large groups (say, a busload) of other boys from the county where I lived. We lived in a two group houses. We had some recreational activities that included swimming at the local university pool. To our surprise, bathing suits were not worn in the pool. When I mentioned it back home, no one so much as raised an eyebrow. The net response was "So?" But by then, when I was back home, it was practically ancient history and I never even thought about it for years.
The point is, it was the sort of thing that today would have caused a moral panic at home--maybe. Of course, I wasn't out to convince people of the joys of swimming nude, which was have been pointless, there being no place to go swimming, nude or otherwise. By the way, I lived way out in the country at the time and much to my disappointment, there was no skinny-dipping anywhere but probably because there was really no decent place to swim within walking distance. It wasn't something I ever asked anyone about, though. There had been a mill (a water mill for grinding grain), which naturally had a mill pond. The all traces of the mill were gone but you could tell where the mill pond had been. That might have been a good place for swimming but that was long gone by the time I lived there.
I know I've been caught on camera cycling late at night, but so what? If (as is probably unlikely) anyone was monitoring the video, I reckon the police have better things to do than try to hunt down a naked cyclist unless they receive a complaint. Of course, on a bicycle I'm manoeuvrable and elusive rather than in a cabin in a known location, but as you weren't doing anything wrong, why worry?
Don't kid yourself. There's the joke about the police being told there's a man with a gun and another man who is naked. Which one would they go after first?
Thanks, Ramblinman for the link to Shane's site. He really cut through the fog and helped make sense of the rules and how common sense plays in.
As I'm sure no one is surprised, I've not been contacted by the Forest Service. I have not called them to ask about the camera either, though. I'll let you know what I find out if I do.