Allentown Naked Man

A typical white AT blaze along the tr...
English: A typical white AT blaze along the trail in Pennsylvania. Typical blaze on the AT. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My wife and I were hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. It was early August and it was hot. We were hiking southbound and had made better time than we had planned. In fact, we were about a half day ahead of schedule. So when we arrived at the shelter, where we had planned to stay the night, and it was not even 1 PM, we decided to move on to the next shelter. This was an easy choice because the water source at this shelter had dried up in the hot summer sun. The next shelter was only a few miles away and so we pushed on. Around 3:00 when we arrived, we went for water right away. The water source here was still there but there was very little water. In fact it was just a trickle. So we slowly filled up, but about the time when we were half way done the water ran out. We had enough for dinner and maybe breakfast, but not much more. It was still early, so we moved on, hoping to find more water.

The next two water sources were dry and we were beginning to worry a bit. At around 6 PM, we were still about three miles from the Allentown shelter when my bride asked if we had enough water to stop before we got to the shelter. She was tired and did not want to hike any further. I assayed the water supply. We had enough for dinner and enough to make her oatmeal in the morning, but barely. So we found a clearing and settled in for the night. We had a nice dinner with enough water to wash it down, but there was not enough to spare for anything else. We skipped our nightly tea and went to bed thirsty.

In the morning she wanted to skip breakfast and share the water with me, since we only had 3 miles to go before we hit a ‘reliable’ water source at the Allentown shelter. That worked for me, as my mouth felt like the Arizona desert. Before we set off, I realized that in a mile or so we would cross a road, and according to ‘The Philosopher’s Guide’ (old time AT guide book) there was a restaurant about a ¼ mile down the road. It said they catered to hikers.  They would have water. YAY! We splurged and drank a bit more water than we might have, if the restaurant had not been there. And then we started hiking.
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When we got to the road I could see the restaurant in the distance and I knew immediately that it was out of business. I am not sure how I knew, but the place just looked vacant, even from that distance. We walked to it anyway, just in case my Spidey Sense was wrong. It wasn’t. We were crushed. I looked for an outside spigot and found it almost immediately. I turned the valve with a great sense of expectation. Of course no water came out of the spigot. It was as dead as the restaurant. Oh well.

We retraced our steps and continued on down the trail. The trail followed a woods road and, except for our thirst, the hiking was easy. We came to a turn that indicated that the shelter was just up ahead. We paused and decided to proceed to the shelter, drop off the packs and bring the water bottles down to the water source. We would also bring down the dinner pots and utensils to clean, since we did not have enough water the night before to accomplish that task.

Just then, a man appeared, walking down the trail towards us. He had on a pair of boots, socks, and an old leather knapsack and nothing else. Startled I greeted him. He said hello in return. I tried to avert my eyes, but I did notice that he had a nice tan.  He then greeted my wife who seemed a little flustered. Since he was in our path and we in his, we had to side step each other all while making small talk. Talking about the weather and trail conditions seemed contrived, but what do you say to a naked man? I was beginning to think that this might turn into a bad situation as he kept up the inane chatter, when just as suddenly as he appeared he bid us adieu and left.


We started up the trail to the shelter. My wife decides to ask me a question, “How big was it?”


“You know. How big was it?”

“I don’t know, I wasn’t looking, and isn’t that more your department?” I queried.

“I was too startled to look.” She replied.  We left it at that. When we got to the shelter, we got the water bottles out and decided that since we only had a few miles left to go to our car that we would spend the rest of the day hanging out at the shelter. So we leisurely took our time gathering the water bottles and headed back down the hill to the spring on the Blue Blaze trail. Halfway down I realized that we had forgotten the dirty pots from last night’s dinner. I started to go back but the wife said, “Go start pumping. I‘ll get the dirty stuff and bring it down”.

So there I was all alone, kneeling by the gently flowing spring, swatting mosquitoes, sweating and contentedly pumping water from the spring when the naked man reappeared. I was not thrilled to see this potential nut job again but in keeping with the spirit of the Appalachian Trail I decided to be very tolerant and I gave him a friendly hello. He began to ask me questions, “What was I doing?”, “What was the thing in my hand?” (It was a water filter). “Was the water OK here since it wasn’t a pipe spring?” And on and on and on…. I answered most of the questions but I began to get a little annoyed and suspicious. I mean, if you are going to hike naked in the woods, I would presume that you would have achieved a comfort level or even a basic familiarity with the woods. I mean I think you should really know what you’re doing if you are walking around with your ‘willie’ hanging out. And this guy didn’t seem to know SQUAT.

I am beginning to think that he is not just a nudist, but a wacko. I am beginning to worry that my wife will return soon and I do not want this to get out of hand. But, “how do I get rid of him?”, I wonder to myself. I don’t want to be rude; after all, he is only naked. More idiotic questions ensue. I am becoming more wary. And do not think for a minute that I am not aware of the surreal aspect of this whole situation. I decide that if necessary, I can easily lop off a certain exposed piece of his anatomy with my 3-inch Gerber LST knife. I am surprised at how calm I am when I reach this decision. No sooner had I reached this decision when he says, “Good bye” and he leaves. I am very relieved to not have to perform a ‘willie-ectomy’ on this loony tune.

I resume pumping, and almost immediately my wife returns and begins doing the dishes, all the while being careful not to contaminate the water source. While I am pumping, I tell her of the naked man’s return. Immediately she asks, “How big?” but I ignore her. And for the record I do not think I looked.

After she is done cleaning the pots she tells me that she is going to bathe. She grabs both pots, fills them and walks off a ways, strips down and begins taking her bath. I continue pumping water. After her bath, she announces that the naked man had a good idea. I look at her questioningly. “It’s too hot to wear clothes today, he was right. I am going topless the rest of the day!”  I am of course secretly thrilled with this decision, but my first verbal reaction is one of caution, “We might meet some more people today.”.

“They can handle it”, she replied.

I am beginning to have conflicting emotions. On the one hand, my male, macho-guy side has no problem with a well-endowed, young topless woman in camp. In fact, it seems like a dream. On the other hand, it is MY wife. And I know what trouble a naked woman can cause and I do not want to calm or fight some rabid smelly hiker dude who gets agitated by her exposed breasts.  On the other hand, I have lived with her long enough to know that once she makes up her mind, any indication by me to the contrary will only strengthen her resolve. Realizing the folly of even trying, I give in.

“Well, OK, if that’s what you want.”

“It is”, she says, with an air of finality.

Knowing I would never change her mind, I gathered up the now full water bottles and pump. And we head back up the hill towards the shelter. I am about a foot taller than my wife and consequently my stride is a bit longer, so I quickly was ahead of her as we headed for the shelter. She had the pots, the utensils and a towel. As we approached the shelter I could see a through-hiker headed towards us. I gave him a loud hello. This not only greeted him but also served to warn my wife that someone was approaching, just in case, she had second thoughts about her nudity. The through-hiker greeted me, but I could tell as we approached that he was looking past me at my wife. As we got closer, he exclaimed in a very surprised voice:

“Holy crap! Is everyone naked around here?”

I smiled and looked back at my wife. She had apparently felt some embarrassment because now she had a pot handle in each hand and had a breast in either pot so they were covered, much to my relief.

“It appears to be contagious” I said. “Be careful.”

NOTE – Many years later, while working in our retail store on a busy Saturday, a woman came in with an Allentown PA T-shirt. I asked her if she knew the naked man. She gave a hearty laugh and said, “Everyone who hikes around Allentown knows the naked man.”

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  • Awol

    Good article, Roger. The description of your unease with the nudity, in both cases, is easy to to relate to. Exactly how I would’ve felt.

  • Quiet man

    Ran into a naker hiker on a trail in Colorado at around 11,000 ft,he put on short once he saw us

  • Kris H.

    I live in this area. I can not find the Blue Blaze trail? Or the area your talking about on the map. I walk the Ironton Rail Trail a lot, but have never seen a naked man. Been here over 40 yrs. Do you have more specific location , streets , landmarks? what was the Restaurant’s name that was closed? Great story just loved it !!

    • ED

      They are alternate trails, as per wiki- Side trails to shelters, viewpoints and parking areas use similarly-shaped blue blazes..— “Purists” are hikers who stick to the official AT trail, follow the white blazes, except for side trips to shelters and camp sites. “Blue Blazers” cut miles from the full route by taking side trails marked by blue blazes. The generally pejorative name “Yellow Blazers,” a reference to yellow road stripes, is given to those who hitchhike to move down the trail.

    • Hey this was at least 18-25 years ago and to remember the name of a restaraunt that was out of business when we went to it is not going to happen. In fact I am not sure I ever knew its name, The blue blaze ran from the shelter to the water source. I have no idea if it still exists. The dry camp was near some power lines. And the road was the 1st road north of the shelter.

  • Ed

    Cap Field, the original Trail Conference ex. dir., claimed to be the first person to walk the AT nude. Not sure when. They don’t make ex. dir. like that anymore.

  • Lee

    “Welcome! Our experts will be providing you with how-tos, tips, ideas, and recommendations for the perfect outdoor adventure…..”. Not sure how much expert advice this story offered…. Not sure why if your wife was that curious about size she didn’t just look for herself, or why if you thought he was a whacko, you would think it appropriate to follow his example ( save for the pots of shame)…. In any event, the gory details of your adventure seem in somewhat poor taste… The naked guy, ok somewhat amusing, the fascination with his genetalia, just plain disturbing.

  • Plenty of naked spots on the PCT. Warner hot springs comes to mind. The PCT comes to a spot on Deep Creek between the San Bernadinos and the San Gabrials where a lot of locals come to “air out their junk”. Why is it that most naked people have bodies that should NOT be seen naked? I myself go naked on the trail but not while hiking. Lots of times, especially in the desert I would take skinny dips or lay out on my ground cloth. Recognize that on the PCT, most of the time there is nobody for miles around.