Friday, August 17, 2012

Skinny Dipping for Prudes

At seventeen I was a good kid. I had wholesome friends and spent my weekends going to the movies, playing church volleyball, and any chance I could getting up into the mountains hiking and enjoying nature. My friends and I didn’t drink, smoke, party, or mess around with boys. The guys we spent our time with were mostly farm boys, all of sterling moral upbringing. It was a great way to spend your teenage years but didn’t allow much room for the normal rebellion that is known to well up in even the most well-behaved teens.

Granted, a little bit of that repressed rebellion was taken out on my poor parents. I made it my goal in life to drive them absolutely batty. If there was a curfew- I broke it, a chore to be done- I avoided it, an argument to be had about clothing choice- I made it. There was also a lot of talk on my part of trying the afore mentioned drinking, smoking, partying, and fraternization but my conscience and the influence of my friends always (and thankfully) kicked in before I ever really did anything newsworthy.

It was in this state that plans were made for a “girls trip” up to the family cabin of my friend Laura. There were five of us who wanted to go and after much begging and pleading by all of us our parents consented, with one exception. Laura’s mom would go with us to “keep us out of trouble”. Laura’s mom was somewhat of a free spirit and generally a fun person so we agreed to the supervision and packed up for the weekend.

The cabin was located an hour-and-a-half away from our homes in the central mountains of Idaho. Ponderosa pine that smelled like vanilla lined the banks of the Payette River which has one of the premier runs of white water rapids in the entire country. This river is fed by the crystal blue lake Payette that is the product of glacier and snow melt and the temperature of the water reflects its genesis. Water in that lake is somewhere between “burrrr” and “d@mn cold.”  It was a popular place for fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts of all types.

Once we had arrived at the cabin and settled in, our standard conversation kicked off. The “now what are we going to do” discussion. A few ideas were thrown out such as walking up to a nearby hot springs to soak, taking a hike, and putting together some tin foil dinners to cook on a fire.

And then someone came up with the suggestion of skinny dipping in the lake.

There were peals of laughter and then the dares began. “There’s no way you would do that” and on and on. We finally made a group decision that this was something that everyone needed to do once in their life and Laura’s mom, who I don’t think believed we would actually go through with it, agreed to drive us to the lake.

After searching for a secluded cove, out of sight of the sportsman and vacationers on the water, we finally found the perfect spot. As we stood on the sandy shore in the slant of the late afternoon sun my inner modesty program began to kick in. There was no way I was going to strip down in a public place in front of my best friends. I didn’t even like changing in gym class and usually waited for the locker room to clear out before I would show any skin. After some discussion about this it was agreed that we would each disrobe one at a time while everyone else had their backs turned. We would then get into the water and call all clear once in up to our necks and far enough away that no one could see anything. So much for carefree teenage rebellion.

One by one we each made our way into the frigid water leaving our clothes in neat piles on the shore. I was second in because I knew I was a strong swimmer and had decided to get a good ways off to make sure there was plenty of distance between me and any of the others. Laura’s mom even decided to join in and in a screeching white blur ran about knee deep into the liquid ice and squatted down. That lasted all of about 30 seconds and she bailed out declaring that frostbite was going to set in if we stayed in any longer.

By the time everyone had made it in my lips and a few other odds and ends had begun to lose all feeling and turn blue. With chattering teeth I agreed it was time to end this super fun and exciting activity. In reverse order we began to exit the lake while everyone again turned their backs.

As my turn approached I noticed a faint roar that seemed to be coming closer. I glanced over my shoulder and in horror watched a boat with several fishermen on board close in on my position. I treaded water while waiting for them to pass which they did. Again, just as I was about to head for shore I heard it again. The same boat had made a u-turn and was making another pass. Holy crap, this was a really terrible idea. Did the fishermen suspect what it was we were doing out there?

After pass number five it was pretty clear that we had been noticed. Luckily they were gentlemanly enough not to get too close and instead made a nuisance of themselves just going back and forth a couple of hundred yards out. I assume they felt that if they waited long enough the cold would drive us out and they would get an eyeful. Obviously they had no idea just the level of prudes they were dealing with. The Park Rangers would have to pull my dead body out of that lake before I would allow some random fisherman to see me in the buff.

Thankfully, just as severe hypothermia was about to set in the sun made its way below the horizon and the fishermen gave up headed home. I made my way out of the water and put my clothes on, all while everyone’s backs were to me.

Exhausted and half-frozen we drove back to the cabin secure in the knowledge that we could mark skinny dipping off our life long “to do” list.

That experience drove home some nuggets of wisdom that up to that point I had missed. First, was that things that sound exciting and dangerous always have unwanted unintended consequences. Second on the list was that all the rules my parents and society put out there were mostly for my good and protection. Last of all was that sometimes it is good for the soul to do things that are out of your comfort zone, at the very least you are going to learn something.

So, in life calculated risk and spontaneity are good things. Do I want you all to run out and go skinny dipping?

Sure, as long as everyone turns their backs as you get in.




  1. At first I was wondering who we knew by the name of Laura who had a cabin, and then I figured it out. And I see you omitted the mention of somebody's craggy bum, which was probably a lesson in and of itself. Probably for the best.

  2. That cragginess is forever burned into my memory.


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