Life Lessons Learned Standing Naked in an Icy Mountain Stream?

Find out What Frightened this Horse?

When my daughters were small our family often went camping. 

It was important to camp near a crystal-clear stream so we could have a source of drinking water and bathe once in a while.  These ice cold streams were fed by mountain top snow fields.  Bathing took hours—a few seconds for the actual bath, a few hours working up the courage to touch that frigid, icy washcloth to the skin.

But the hardest part was the rinse.The rinse involved pouring a pan of the ice-cold stream water over my body. This would make even a Southern Baptist dance. We always knew when someone was rinsing because of the scream. I never screamed, but I sucked in enough air to cause an oxygen shortage on the mountain for several days.

The girls hated high country bathing—partly because weren’t into  near-death experiences, but mostly because of the modesty factor.  I argued that in all our years of camping, never had a stranger, friend, or relative dropped by and said, “Hi, how are you?” during a stream bath.  One day, exhausted from hiking I walked several hundred yards from camp to take my own bath. I knew a secluded place where a beautiful stream ran just at the edge of a high mountain meadow.

I looked out over breathtaking mountain splendor and braced myself for the rinse. Covered only with biodegradable shampoo and soap, I closed my eyes and dumped a large pan of freezing water over my body. I whooped with exhilaration, scooped up another pan of water—and heard the unmistakable snort of a horse.

My eyes flew open. Ten horses had emerged from the forest and were walking past me on the trail not thirty yards away. I could only stand sheepishly as ten riders stared off into the valley pretending they’d seen nothing out of the ordinary. But I knew different. I was close enough to see their shoulders shaking with laughter, and I could see the fear in the horses’ eyes. As they disappeared into the forest on the other side of the meadow, the last rider turned and waved. I did not wave back!

I made the mistake of telling my family. From then on, the girls and Diane bathed with their clothes on.

So what are the life lessons learned in those moments standing clean and refreshed in the unspoiled beauty of God’s creation?

  • First, it feels so good to be clean—to know that the sweat and grime of the day are gone. It’s like being born new again.
  •  Second, it feels so good to be alive. Trust me: If you have any doubts that you’re alive, a quick dip in a snow-fed stream will convince you. The sound of your screams tumbling down the mountain will convince every other living thing.
  •  Third, it’s so thrilling to stand in the midst of so much evidence that God is alive. The innocence of the awesome unspoiled wilderness reminds  me of what the creator intended for our lives to be; spotless and spectacular! God knew what he was doing when he designed mountain streams. His son called the forgiveness he offers us “living water.”

When you drink of that forgiveness, you’ll know the refreshment of being totally clean. No mountain stream can match it. When you discover the hope and purpose He brings to your life, every nerve in your body comes alive. Dive in and be cleansed; drink deeply and live.

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17).

When have you felt new and clean?

Do  you remember bathing before tubs and showers existed?

What is the coldest bath you ever took?

Read more about the story of my journey to being fully alive. 


  1. ken, I have no idea why, but this post made me think back to the days of visiting my great grandparents (yes, I said great)…perhaps it was the question about remembering bathing before tubs and showers. Anyhow, bath night included pumping water (from an inside hand pump) into a huge pot, heating that pot on a wood stove, pouring the water into a smallish (oh so smallish — even for a kid) tub. I can remember the “feel” of my great grandparent bathroom, I can remember the smell (an even though they had a non-flush toilet with a pail that had to be carried out, for some reason it wasn’t a bad smell either…strange, that.) Anyway, thanks for inadvertently bringing back a memory that reminds me of some very special people and very special times…

  2. The coldest showers I have taken were on missions trips to the Philippines. The places I stayed did not hot water. Cold showers every day! I actually learned to like them!

  3. I love this article! Made me laugh right out loud! I don’t blame your wife and kids for bathing “clothed” after your experience! LOL!!! I am 70 now but when I was 3 to 6 years old we did not have electricity nor inside plumbing. We kids “bathed” outdoors naked, during gentle rainfalls; never thunder or lightning storms … and yes, we lived way out in the country with no one near us for miles. Other times we bathed in the river and got to ride the rapids.

  4. I can’t remember a cold bath but the coldest shower I remember taking was after I woke up in the morning drenched because of my first ever night sweat. Ahhh…that ice cold shower never felt better! 🙂

  5. Wow! Your story took me back to days when we spent summers with our grandparents. With no indoor plumbing, taking a shower meant hooking a hose over a nail and bathing in absolutely freezing water coming straight from a very deep well. Our screams could probably be heard throughout the entire county. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

  6. I used to attend a music festival called Cornerstone. The showers were nasty and you never felt clean. Coming home and getting in a real shower made me feel clean, new, and refreshed.

  7. Hi Ken,
    I have recently had a horrifying experience involving ice cold water. My dad had forgotten to order the gas so when we ran out, there were only cold showers to be taken…I was holding out for a few days until the gasman came but to no avail, I had to have a shower for my football team photos(AFL, different football to you 🙂 So I stepped into the water turned it on and felt like I had begun having an asthma attack, the water literally was ICE COLD. What I wanted to know is why the water from our fridge can’t be that cold and somehow my shower manages to whip up a liquid ice box for me…something seems wrong about this. Thanks again for your stories…

  8. Love the new “Life” lessons standing naked in an icy Mountain stream. You are such a good writer.

  9. At my grandparents, it was a galvanized tub, filled with water heated on the woodstove. Luckily I was the eldest and got the water first!

    1. Vesta,

      YES! That is my memory as well. How horrible it was to be the last one in that tub. I also was the oldest so I got the water before it was contaminated by my sisters. I thought I was the only one who ever did this.


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