Sanford disappears to hike Appalachian Trail (on Naked Hiking Day)

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    South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (not pictured) seemed to have disappeared over the last few days. After causing an uproar, his spokesman finally divulged that Sanford has been hiking the Appalachian Trail. Coincidentally, one of the days he was hiking was also Naked Hiking Day. The annual event is celebrated on the first day of summer.
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UPDATE: Governor Sanford has been found! Except he wasn't hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Instead, he was in Argentina. Perhaps the Appalachian Trail secretly winds its way down to Argentina? Click here to read the updated story.

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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. It's just that one of the days he hit the trail also happened to be the aforementioned holiday.

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Until late yesterday, no one would say publicly where he was. Poof. He just disappeared.

The story started to resemble a John Grisham novel. A southern conservative governor and very vocal critic of a popular liberal president eluded his security detail and completely disappeared with his last known whereabouts -- before he (or someone) turned off his cell phones -- somewhere outside of Atlanta.

Staff was silent. Some were talking about succession plans. The First Lady though said she wasn't concerned. "He was writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids," she said.

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.

Late last night his spokesman, Joel Sawyer expressed remorse for not divulging details earlier.

"The governor is hiking along the Appalachian Trail," Sawyer said. "I apologize for taking so long to send this update, and was waiting to see if a more definitive idea of what part of the Trail he was on before we did so."

If he did participate in the summer solstice celebration (which we acknowledge is not likely), he could get into some real trouble. Rangers and police warn that people caught outdoors in the altogether could be charged with indecent exposure. Managers of the Appalachian Trail, where the tradition is sometimes observed by those trekking from Georgia to Maine, also discourage nudity.

"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."

When will Sanford re-emerge? His spokesman gave no details.

"We knew he would be difficult to reach, and that he would be checking in infrequently. Given the media attention this has generated, we'll obviously update you once we have some more specifics to pass along," Sawyer said.

"He’s an avid outdoorsman," Sawyer added. "Nobody’s ever accused our governor of being conventional."

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