Friday, July 28, 2017

Atop a Bluff and In the Buff

Today seems like a good day to tell the story of our overnight camping trip at a clothing-optional campground. Why today? Well I was born 51 years ago today, and on that day I came out just as naked as some of those campers we met.

A few days before reserving a campsite at this location, I was driving back along Hwy 14 from La Crosse. Hwy 14 between Madison and La Crosse is one of my favorite roads in Wisconsin. It takes more time than the interstate, but if you can afford the extra hour's drive, it's worth it. At Mazomanie -- about 25 miles west of Madison -- I left Hwy. 14 to avoid rush-hour around Madison. I shot up north along Hwy. 78 to Roxbury and thought, "What a cool area. I need to come back here and explore." (This area is considered the Lower Wisconsin River Valley. The valley and views between its expansive bluffs are beautiful.)

A few days later we decided to pack up our gear and camp for a night or two in this region. I navigated Google maps to the area and then searched for campgrounds. One appeared in the exact place where I was most interested in exploring. I'm not going to say the name in this post, but it's a few miles north of Mazo on Hwy. 78. I visited the campground's website and saw nothing unusual. It sounded like a nice place. I called to make a reservation and was asked, "This is a clothing optional campground. Are you okay with that?" I was left momentarily speechless as that was not a question I was prepared to be asked, but I finally stuttered, "No problem."

I hollered upstairs to my wife, "I'm not sure what I just committed us to, but the campground I just reserved is clothing optional. Are you okay with that?" She was as surprised as me. "I dunno. I guess so."

So the entire drive there we wondered what we were in for. My expectation was that it was just like any other campground, but occasionally you'd see someone's bare butt. The instructions to get into the campground should have been my first indication that my expectations were incorrect. To enter the campground I was told to drive up the gravel road to the gate and then call the number posted on the gate. When doing so I would be instructed to punch in a code and the gate would open. We did just that and drove up a washed out gravel road to the top of a bluff. Along the path were lots of camping trailers that looked like they hadn’t been moved in years.

At the top a man pulled up to us riding a 4-wheeler ATV. He asked us again, “This is a clothing optional campground. Are you sure you're okay with that?” Again we nodded in the affirmative, still clinging to the thought that this was like other campgrounds, and that occasionally we’d catch a glimpse of a naked ass.

“Find a spot anywhere and pop up your tent,” we were instructed and so we did. As we were putting up our tent, my wife says to me, “Now don’t freak out, but that guy sunning himself over there is totally naked.” I caught a glimpse. Yep. This wasn’t just a butt, but the whole front part too. After the tent was up we took a drive around the grounds. There were lots of dudes sunning themselves naked. Well, naked except for Crocs or flip-flops, but the most surprising part was those not sunning themselves but those just walking around doing normal stuff completely in the buff. I’ve seen a lot of dudes naked in showers in high school and college, but this is the first time I’ve ever seen a fully de-clothed man in the presence of my wife!

Anyway, we left the campgrounds and explored the area. It’s a cool place and after your done hiking up Ferry Bluff, I strongly suggest you slake your thirst at Roxbury Tavern or Woodshed Ale House. I loved ‘em both. While we enjoyed our drinks we coined a name for our overnight home: (are you ready for this?) Schlong Island.

Back to the campground we went. It’s now nighttime, so we shouldn’t expect any more unexpected views, right? No, not so. As we got our campfire going, a dog-walker approaches us and says hello. I glance up from the blaze and sure enough, naked as a jaybird. We exchanged small talk like nothing was unusual at all. Me in a t-shirt and shorts and him naked as the day he was born.

Other than that, the only other interesting thing that happened that evening was a torrential storm that raged overhead and put out our campfire. Our tent, too, became flooded with water. Good thing we had an air mattress because otherwise we would have been sleeping in a puddle.

The next morning we broke camp and laid out our gear in a sunny spot to dry it out before rolling it up. A gentleman approached me (clothed -- both me and him) and introduced himself. He says both he and his wife love it up here and he’d be glad to show us around. We agreed. “Just let us pack up our stuff and we’ll come over to your camper.” (Sometimes, honestly, the stuff that comes out of my mouth. I mean really, “Just let us pack up our stuff and we’ll come over to your camper” is not something a straight couple should ever say at a nudists’ campground.)

So we did. This fellow and his wife were truly a joy. Super friendly and “normal” considering they always kept their clothes on but enjoyed hanging with others who preferred to party naked. They took us to numerous residents’ weekend homes. (You’ll notice here I used the term “residents” for the first time in this blog. See, this isn’t so much a campground as much as it is a commune. Most of the recreational vehicles here were moved once: one time to the campground where they were parked and left in place for years as their owners created their own little piece of naked heaven around them. Many people stay the whole summer or every possible weekend here -- it’s their home away from home.)
Wisconsin River Valley from the campground; this is the campground owner's deck
Some of these spots have to-die-for views of the Wisconsin River Valley down below. One couple with this amazing view built their own mini golf course. These two were a trip. The dude opens the gate to allow us to enter. He’s got a Pabst in his hand, flip-flops on his feet, and seven teeth in his mouth. Other than that, he's all skin. This was the moment I wondered, “What the heck am I doing with my life?” Six of us, three women and three men, all standing in a circle talking about the beautiful view but only one of us has his wee-wee out. I felt like reminding him, “You know you are not wearing any clothes, right?” but I think he already knows that.

We continued on our campground tour. Another fellow was doing yard work. Shovel in hand, he was turning up soil to plant flowers, His attire? Boots. Yep. Just boots, because not wearing boots while shoveling would be just silly. I cannot remember his name, but this is one of these other so bizarre moments. For a while he just kept on working while two strangers passed right on by and offered him a cheerful good morning. Again, odd.

We visited so many campsites that I lost count, but two fellows with the most fantastic view and decorated space (all cowboy themed) at least wrapped themselves or put on shorts when we were introduced to them.

We finally said our goodbyes but only after visiting our host’s camper. I can see some parts of why they like coming up there. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and I’m told their parties are insane, (“Straight guys just bring a bag of chips, but gay guys go all out and spend a week preparing their dish!”) but I was done with Schlong Island and ready to return to the valley of the clothing adorned.

Oh, and you may be wondering, did we ever spy female nudity? Only once, and from far away. All I could tell was that she was topless, but not Full Monty like many dudes.

And that’s the story of our night at a nudists’ campground (commune, actually). Welcoming and open -- very open -- folks up in these bluffs, but it’s not really our thing. The next time I return to this region, I’m going to stay at a campground named after a cartoon character or a Motel 6. I had enough male nudity to last me for the rest of my life.

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