BEWARE THE NAKED MAN! Literally, a naked man on trail!
What started out to be as normal a day in the Sluice Boxes State Park as five hikers could expect – cool morning but warm sun, little to no wind, autumn colors starting to peak through summer’s fading greenery – ended up with all of us having to process crossing paths on the return trail with a naked man. Yes. A naked man.
As I said, a normal beginning…met at 4B’s at 8:00 am; Gail, Karen, Vicki, Doreen, and I all comfortable and agreeable to driving personal vehicles in this time of COVID; arriving at the Overlook parking area where we all took note that we were the only hikers on the trail to start the day. There is something special, serene, and pleasant about having the day’s trail to yourself, especially in popular Sluice Boxes with its limestone walls edging Belt Creek. No swimmers, no floaters or fisherman on the creek, no other hikers. Or were there?
Two in the group, Gail and I, had been on the trail numerous times and were pleased to see that entering the park from Overlook has been made easier with a new man-gate or V-gate. No more bending and twisting to get through a barbed wire fence. Two of the ladies had never been on the trail before, so we passed on what we knew of the unique history of Sluice Boxes – the railroad bed, the trestles, the maintenance work that had been done to allow us to hike through to the tunnel. Little did we know how unique the day was going to be.
We made our way around the cliff and down the slope that takes hikers to the edge of Belt Creek and the former Central Montana Railroad bed. Our destination was the tunnel, approximately 2 miles upstream, where we would stop for a snack and then turn back. We would step over and on what ties remained in the ground, climbing down and up side slopes that used to be spanned by a trestle in the railroad days. Ghosts of former trestles are visible, even as Mother Nature reclaims the timbers, metal, and spikes used to run the railroad up the canyon on its way to Neihart, MT. The views and sounds of Belt Creek were ever-changing, now meandering lazily down the steep limestone walled canyon in the low water of late summer.
In May 2020, construction of a footbridge had been completed over the trestle that spanned Tiger Creek. We appreciated that the trestle was still there. Hikers could still see the massive beams that had been used in its building, the now rusted metal sheets that no longer safely covered the rotting timbers. The footbridge has been solidly built right over the top of the once grand trestle.
We had our snacks at the far end of the tunnel then started our return hike. This afforded us the opportunity to see the Belt Creek canyon from a new direction. The sun had warmed the air by now and it was refreshing to walk a long section in the shade under an impressive trestle that now had full grown, mature trees growing between its beams and timbers.
As we started on an open side slope, I was leading and had just commented how it was getting warm, even hot, and it was time to take off a layer. Looking ahead, I saw a bare-chested young man – a good looking young man with neatly cut and kept hair and beard. The thought “Well it’s not that warm,” came to me. Then I saw a bare thigh. Mmmm. That’s strange. Was he swimming? Mmmmm. It’s not that hot. Then I saw a bare flank leading to a bare hip, and a hand, then another hand, coming down to cover his privates. As I approached him, I hear him say, “Sorry about this.” As our eyes met, all I could muster for a reply was, “OH! OOOOKKKKKAY!” I thought I should shout something to warn the others, but what?!? I walked ahead as quickly as I could, not so much to get a backside look at the naked man (which I did!), but to look at the faces of the others as they passed him. I clumsily grabbed my phone with the intention of taking a picture – the naked man with five Grandmas passing by within feet of him (no social distancing in this encounter), but he turned and looked right at me, and I at him, and I put the phone down.
We all scampered on in a quickened pace holding our breath until we couldn’t hold back any longer. We all burst into a clamor of leg-slapping laughter, shouting questions, and giggling exclamations, each question and subsequent answer delivered in uncontrollable laughter:
“I have hiked hundreds of miles and I have NEVER seen a naked man on a
“What was in his hand?”
“He had a glove in his hand.”
“It was black and orange.”
“Did he have shoes on?”
“I didn’t look that far down!”
“I think he had some sort of water bottle, but nothing else.”
“I told him to be careful of the metal!”
“Where did he come from?”
“When we get to our cars, we’ll know if there is a sixth vehicle parked there.”
“Now we have to worry about bear spray and bare butts.”
“It’s not that I haven’t see a man naked before, but I’ve never seen a naked man before, if you know what I mean.”
The culminating comment was from Gail, “There’s no sign that says you have to wear clothes!” We think that should go on the GIG front page of recorded comments. That is one for the ages.
We found ourselves walking along in silence, then we’d stop in our group, pull our thoughts, comments, and questions together, laugh and giggle for a bit, then walk on, again in silence, only to stop, talk, and laugh again. We decided that this was necessary to process the odd, and even shocking encounter of a naked man on the trail. The heat of the afternoon was building and it slowed down our ascent back up the slope to the Overlook. Once there, I thanked everyone for coming and sharing the experience. We were each other’s witness.
There was not a sixth car parked at the Overlook.
Who went: Gail, Karen, Vicki, Doreen, and June