Author’s Note: My next installment related to a previous post called “How Do I Get Naked in America?” Long-time readers know that my wife and I have developed quite an affinity for naturist travel to international destinations, with a particular fondness for those in France and Croatia. But in this most unusual summer of 2020, the immediate prospects for getting on an airplane to go anyplace are somewhere between dicey and impossible. And thus, the Meandering Naturist has adopted a new mission of becoming more familiar with naturist places within driving distance of the greater New York Metropolitan area. This post is another chapter in a quest that seeks to encourage family naturism here and abroad, based on the presumption that knowledge is power – and the more you know about where you’re going, the more likely you are to have an enjoyable experience once you get there.
Lake O’ the Woods: A Super Friendly Club Right on the Edge of Town
I’ve spent most of the summer blogging in a series of posts called Naked in America, as we’ve set out to discover clothing-optional destinations in our own backyard in the absence of international travel. Other than a week-long diversion to Florida, all of our other travels have been confined to the greater northeast region, as far south as White Tail Resort in Virginia and north to Coventry Resort in Vermont. There have been a few serendipitous discoveries along the way, along with a few stark realizations as to the unique attributes of naked places in the United States. At this writing, I have a back log of places we have visited this summer for which I have yet to review, but for now, we’re headed west! I’ll have to resume the travelogue from our summer expeditions once we return home
With our sights set on California where friends and family await, we plan to take a leisurely four weeks to more-or-less trace the remnants of Route 66, jumping out of the car to doff our clothes when it seems we can do so without risking incarceration. Were it not for a global pandemic, we might have made it coast to coast with clothes-free accommodations at every stop on the way, but many nudist destinations have limited admission to resident members this summer, while as many again failed to open to the public at all. Literally, we’re all undressed and nowhere to go.
Nowhere to go, that is, until we made it to Indiana. When I think of the Hoosier state, I think of industrial America. suburban Chicago. America’s bread-basket, or maybe even landmark universities like Purdue and Notre-Dame. As we drove into Valparaiso after ten hours on the Pennsylvania and Ohio turnpikes, the final stretch hardly seemed memorable as we found our way to a hotel on the south end of town – except that our urban stopover was less than four miles from the main gate of Lake O’ the Woods Club (LOWC), one of the legacy nudist resorts of America established in 1933, reportedly, the second oldest in the country.
Unlike most naked places of that era in the United States, the management has invested in the most precious commodity of a fully functional website. Their web presence is so compelling, in fact, that it captured my imagination enough to chart our course a bit north before plummeting into the heartland on our cross-country sojourn to the West Coast. We were hoping we might rent a cabin with indoor plumbing right on the grounds, but there was only one option on offer in that category, and it was already booked. So, we did the next best thing: A Marriott Fairfield Inn a mere four miles away. Four miles away? How could there be a major chain-brand hotel just four miles away from a nudist resort? This may be one of the few nudist places in America that one could reach by public transportation. (For the record, it’s about a 25-minute walk from the nearest city bus station, and a 20 minute walk from Valparaiso University. Seems like marketing potential on both fronts to me.)
Having called ahead, we learned that the gate-keeper would be at her post by 9:00 am. Simply drive up, ring the buzzer, and she’d trip the lever for the big wooden gate to let us in this quiet naturist haven just off the main highway full of gas stations, auto parts stores, and the CSX railroad mainline. Astrid, a kind woman of German descent, who just discovered Lake O’ the Woods a couple years ago, put us through the typical nudist club ritual of copying our licenses, having us sign the appropriate waivers, and issuing stickers to put over the camera lens of our cell phones should we seem threatening to one of the other half-dozen patrons here on this sleepy Wednesday morning in early September. I would later learn that Astrid had been “naturist curious” for most of her lifetime while living in America, but only found clothes-freedom in recent years here in suburban Indiana. Ironic, given her German heritage.
Once checked in, we settled at a table near the lake, marked our loungers with towels, and set off to explore the Circle Trail that guides you around the lake in about forty minutes or so. As there are two places along the route, at each end of the lake, where you need to cover up as not to offend the locals, I found myself wondering about how that worked when LOWC first opened in 1933. Was this place all but inaccessible back then? Did people walk here from the old Valparaiso train station?
While few are available for rental, it turns out that the woods around the lake are chock full of cabins and RV sites, though seemingly quite a lot more modest that those we’ve seen in the northeast and Florida. There was a friendly air about the place, despite the fact that it was midweek and only a few residents were here and about, beginning to winterize their properties I suspect.
Once back from our trek, and after a picnic lunch (No food amenities on weekdays – at least this time of year during COVID) we settled in for a nap. A cloud cover was gathering which was just enough inspiration not to get out on the lake with either our inflatable kayak or the little paddle boat tethered to the shore. We had to make our way to St. Louis that night, so we took the chilly breeze of the lake as a sign to keep moving – which we did.
A follower of my blog wrote to me that he visited LOWC last weekend with his wife and kids to find that there were several families there with their kids, resulting in the best family naturist experience they’ve had in the US. (He is also an avowed fan of the French family naturist resorts, and like myself, has been longingly seeking an American equivalent.) They compared the place to a nearby “nudist” venue that has gained something of a reputation for holding events that cater to the “lifestyler” crowd. [SEE: What Does the Word “Lifestyle” Mean to a Nudist?] Astrid was adamant in her disdain for some other “nudist resorts” in the region that send mixed messages, as such establishments give places like LOWC a bad reputation, while outright confusing would-be naturists about the very intentions of social nudity. That seems on point.
Is Lake O’ the Woods a vacation destination worthy of a ten-hour drive? Maybe not that, especially if you don’t have your own RV and you’re not keen on roughing it. But then again, with the wooded trails, the long narrow lake, the sandy beach and pool complex, there is hardly anything more you could want in a naturist resort, at least when it comes to the American variety. For that, we give both the website and the resort two enthusiastic, naked thumbs up!