From NBC's Domenico Montanaro
Check out this set of facts. Fact 1: Gov. Mark Sanford went missing Thursday and hasn't been seen since. Fact 2: His staff has since told us that the governor has been hiking the Appalachian Trail. Fact 3: Sunday was "Naked Hiking Day" on the Appalachian Trail. We kid you not.
The Christian Science Monitor: "We're not suggesting that the formerly missing Governor of South Carolina specifically ditched his family and security detail to go hiking on Naked Hiking Day. But that's what he ended up doing. ... But many wondered aloud how this traditional, family-loving, Republican governor of a southern state could miss Fathers Day. After all he's got four children! Was something sinister in the air? Then it took a Farrelly brothers screenplay type of twist. Sanford had not disappeared. According to his spokesman, he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Coincidentally, on Naked Hiking Day. It's a big tradition. Many hikers celebrate the summer solstice by hiking au naturel. It just so happened the solstice occurred on Fathers Day -- one of the days Sanford was hiking."
As the South Carolina blog The Palmetto Scoop points out: "The governor who dropped off the face of the Earth for five days was reportedly found Monday night by his staff hiking along the Appalachain Trail. That explanation of Mark Sanford's disappearance has puzzled many folks in South Carolina and across the country. Why would a sitting governor just up and disappear to the mountains without telling a single soul -- including his family? Well, The Palmetto Scoop have discovered the answer to all the secrecy: the governor may have gone for a naked hike. No, really. An Associated Press article from last week heralded Sunday -- Father's Day -- as 'Naked Hiking Day' on the Appalachian Trail. Yes, Naked Hiking Day."
The Associated Press: "Every year on the first day of summer, a few outdoor enthusiasts nationwide expose virtually all of themselves to insects, scrapes and thorns for the pleasure of bonding with nature au naturel. They call it Naked Hiking Day. 'There's no way to explain it until you experience it,' said Andrew Williams, 28, a machinist from Warren, Pa., who first hiked naked six or seven years ago. 'It's not about being lewd and crude and all that. It's just enjoyment.' This year, the summer solstice falls on a weekend -- this Sunday. Father's Day. Hikers who prefer clothes are not happy. ... 'It's just rude,' said Brian King, spokesman for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. 'People are out there hiking with their kids and families, and there are Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.' Law enforcement authorities say they see so few nude hikers, even on Naked Hiking Day, that they don't consider it a big problem. 'It's rare, probably because we have a lot of remote territory out there where one would not be detected,' said Capt. Woody Lipps of Virginia's George Washington and Jefferson national forests, which contain parts of the Appalachian Trail."
By the way, the Appalachian Trail received $613,000 in stimulus money, as confirmed by NBC's Mike Viqueira and first reported by the Huffington Post.