Someone called him "Mountain Man" as he often looked like he came out of a forest camp in the Cascade Mountains. He participates in some Bear Club activities, but, unlike most of the bears, he is slim; that is if you can make out the shape of his body under the layers of flannel shirts, blue jeans and rubber boots he wears on drizzly days.
I used to enjoy walking with him. Prepared for just about anything, he could walk right through the middle of giant puddles. Rubber boots were impermeable. While most people can seldom venture far from cars because flimsy suit coats are not prepared for weather, Dan was free to take on a rain storm.
When I knew Dan he was pursuing a Master's degree. It seemed like he lived in the laboratory. It was a special treat, the few days he came out from behind that wall of beakers and lab coats. Seeing him undress was another treat as behind all those layers of flannel and denim was a firm body. Besides loving to hike, he also worked out in a gym; a scientist and an athlete. Today, this man probably has his Ph.D. and last I knew was hovering around Colorado.
Hiking was one of the ways he would show off his body. While he scrambled over boulders with ease, most of the other men in our Gay Men's hiking club would be struggling. Hiking a mountain trail would be worth the toil when there was good scenery. The trails we took wondered through mountain vistas. As warm afternoons set in, Dan would gradually un peel his layers of clothing. One time he actually did it; he took off all his layers; everything except his rugged hiking boots. That strong body emerged and it was as beautiful as one would imagine while pondering what it might look like through those denim layers.
As we hiked along, we thought we had the trail to ourselves. In this alpine meadow, a few miles from the trail head, a group of women appeared. They looked our nude hiking partner, and gave a slight chuckle. One could tell, from the expressions on their faces, that they must have been thinking, "Okay --- what ever." The women continued with their hike. It was no big deal.
Hiking with other people can be quite revealing; in more ways than one. There is plenty of time for deep conversation. Conversations, on those long summer hikes, brought up some deep truths from under the layers of our souls. How often do people spend several hours together with out the distractions of television, work, telephones or clothing?
I would often tell people, on the hikes, that I was a voyeur who enjoyed looking at the shapes of healthy men's bodies. Some people might think this is strange, but Dan was very supportive of my fetish. One time he said that being a voyeur was really great, so I ask him what was so great about it. He replied, "I don't have to do anything." It's not like he was expected to write me an alimony check or something. All he would have to do is walk around in the nude, which he enjoyed anyway, and I could be satisfied. Some times he would comment about the expectations other people would place on him.
About folks who expect to have a committed relationship with someone they have hardly had the time to know, he would say this. "They are trying to build the TREE HOUSE with out the TREE."
Like a slowly growing tree, it takes time for a friendship to evolve naturally. People often try and build the house of a relationship before there is a tree at its foundation. The tree grows with time and a willingness to un peel some of the layers of clothing, and personality, that we build around ourselves.
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