Naked hiker jailed for 21 months

naked hiker, nudismNudist activist Steven Gough has been given 657 days in a Scottish prison only a minute after finishing his previous sentence.

The BBC reports that the naked hiker has served numerous terms in jail for public nudity and appearing in court nude. He insists it’s his right to bare all wherever and whenever he wants. His refusal to wear clothes has led to an epic fight with the legal system in which neither side will back down. Every time he’s released from prison in Perth, Scotland, he walks out naked, straight into the arms of waiting policemen. Gough has spent much of the past ten years behind bars.

Gough once walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the nude. That’s the longest hike in the British Isles, going from the southwest to northeast tips, a distance of about 1,200 miles.

As an avid hiker and a big fan of Scotland’s and England’s trails, I have to say I’m impressed by anyone who has done this route, with or without clothes. Hiking in the nude is a legal gray area in the UK. Gough is generally arrested for disturbing the peace or contempt of court. While personally I don’t want to see Gough’s man berries while enjoying a view of the Highlands, I have to ask just who is he hurting? At a time when many thugs from the recent riots are getting lighter sentences, the persecution of Steven Gough seems a spiteful response from a legal system that doesn’t like to be laughed at.

[Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons. The man pictured is not Steven Gough.]

Hiking the Basque coastline

Basque, Spain
While the Sierra de Toloño offers some amazing trails and views, the most alluring sights I’ve seen in the Basque region are along its coastline.

The coast of northeast Spain and southwest France along the Bay of Biscay is part of the Basque heartland. Inland villages played a key role in keeping Basque culture alive, but it’s the ports–Bilbao, San Sebastian, and many smaller towns–that helped the Basques make their mark on world history.

Today I’m hiking a stretch of Spanish coastline east of San Sebastian and within sight of the French border. Much of my trail today corresponds with the famous Camino de Santiago. This pilgrimage route stretching from France to Galicia on the northwest corner of the Iberian peninsula became popular in the Middle Ages. It’s still one of the most popular trails in Europe, with a record 200,000+ hikers last year.

I can see why. Our route takes us past little towns where churches once offered medieval pilgrims spiritual solace, vineyards growing on steep slopes leading down to the sea, and wide views of the water. The coastline here is rugged, with jagged rocks jutting up from the foamy surf and numerous little islands, some topped by churches and homes.

%Gallery-124603%One of these islands has an important history. It makes up part of the little port of Getaria, home to Juan Sebastián Elcano, the Basque people’s most famous sailor. He was one of Magellan’s officers on the explorer’s circumnavigation of the globe.

The journey started in 1519 with 241 men. That number quickly dropped due to malnutrition, disease, mutiny, and storms. When Magellan was killed in the Philippines in 1521, two other officers took joint command. They were killed by natives soon thereafter. Another officer took over, but he proved unpopular and when his ship sprung a leak, some men decided to follow Elcano in the only remaining vessel. They finally made it back to Spain in 1522 with only 18 of the original crew.

His hometown, shown above, isn’t very big and probably wasn’t much of anything 500 years ago. I can imagine Elcano climbing to the top of that little mountain on the island that dominates Getaria and looking out over the sweeping view of the Bay of Biscay. It’s not surprising such a place produced one of the world’s greatest sailors.

Continuing along the coast we find a slope covered in thick grass. Looking out on the sea, there’s a good view of Getaria to our left and to our right, almost lost in the distance, we spot the coastline of France. It’s a perfect place for a picnic and we feast on Spanish tortilla (a bit like a thick omelet with potatoes), cheese, bread, and fresh cherries. I’ve been on a lot of hikes in Spain and I’ve eaten well on all of them. This picnic takes the prize for best view, though.

This coastline made much of its wealth from whaling. Whale oil used to be the petrol of the world, lighting up the streetlamps of Paris and London and used in a variety of products. While whales enjoy some protection today, they were hunted by the thousand until early 20th century and came close to going extinct. Basque whalers were some of the most adventurous. When stocks were used up in the Bay of Biscay and other parts of the European coastline, Basque whalers went further afield to Siberia, Iceland, Greenland, and even the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. In fact, they may have arrived in the New World before Columbus!

Our hike ends when we make it to the beach at Zarautz, an old whaling port turned resort. People are surfing and swimming, the smart ones wearing wetsuits to protect them from the cold water. When whaling died and the iron industry faltered, the Basque coast reinvented itself as a northern resort paradise for rich Europeans. San Sebastian, which I’m visiting in the next installment of this series, was one of the best. When you see the photos you’ll know why.

Don’t miss the rest of my series: Beyond Bilbao: Hiking through the Basque region.

This trip was sponsored by Country Walkers. The views expressed in this series, however, are entirely my own.

Chicago backpacker gets lost (again) in Alaska

When Into the Wild, the story of Christopher McCandless’ epic adventure in the Alaskan wilderness, was published, the idea of setting off into the wild with nothing but a few pounds of rice and your wits to survive seemed terribly romantic….well, except that McCandless died because he was unprepared for the harsh conditions. Despite (or I guess, because of) that minor point, hundreds of people have followed suit to gawk at the ruins of the bus that McCandless lived, and died, in.

Over the years, several people who’ve set out for the bus have had to be rescued, costing the state around $2000 each. Understandably, many locals have have come to dislike the tourists who arrive, unprepared and ill-equipped, and put themselves in unnecessary danger. So they probably hate Don Carroll.

The Chicago-area 19-year old went looking for the bus with a friend, found it, and then got lost in the woods for three days with no food or water. The two ate berries and drank river water before being rescued by helicopter on Monday. But this isn’t Carroll’s first time being lost in the Alaskan wilderness. Back in June, Carroll, a seasonal resort employee, was hiking alone in Denali National Park and lost his way. Wearing just jeans and a hoodie, he suffered hypothermia, but managed to lead rangers to his location through text messages. He was rescued by helicopter then as well.

Caroll will head back to civilization in mid-September. Until then, hopefully he’ll stay out of the woods. It doesn’t sound like he is welcome there anyway. “If police see me in the woods, they’re going to arrest me,” he said in a phone interview. “The chief ranger said he’s not going to come looking for me anymore.”

[via Daily Herald]