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 in the United States – now, as we’re traveling coast-to-coast. 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.
Oaklake Trails: Midwest Naked Hospitality at its Finest!
Let me lead out with my wife’s observations first: “I don’t recall ever visiting a naturist place where people were more friendly and welcoming, while not trying to pressure you to join the club.”
That’s most certainly an accurate redux of what people seem to value the most at Oaklake Trails Naturist Park, located halfway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, where the logo on their branded merchandise assures you that this is a place “where every BODY belongs!” That was also well evidenced, making this an excellent choice for someone with body confidence issues that might make one reticent to get naked in public. Imagine the Saturday afternoon crowd at Walmart, without clothes, and completely comfortable in their skin, and you’ve got the picture. (Which, by the way, the Walmart in nearby Bristow has an excellent grocery store!)
Having made our way that day from suburban St. Louis, we arrived right at rush hour on the Thursday evening before Labor Day, just as campers were arriving for the long holiday weekend. A gregarious guy named Darren handled our check-in to one of the modest cabins, presenting us with a bit more than the typical paperwork in an effort to confirm our identities, cull out details regarding our state of health during these unprecedented pandemic times, and of course, the extensive list of rituals, rules, and regulations pertaining to nudist etiquette. Ironically enough, since there was a sense of urgency to make our way through the lengthy rhetoric of so many forms – each of which required signatures and initials – by the time we handed them all back over to Darren, we had no idea where to look when it came to policies related to open fires or bringing your own beer to the pool. (Inside trader tip: Take a picture of the rules and policies with your phone before you hand them back to reception.) Regardless, we were pretty sure we were still supposed to sit on a towel when we were naked, but sort of had to figure everything else out as we went along.
Most everything we had hoped to do here was implied in the name of the place, that is: walk on the trails, and get our inflatable kayak out on the lake. The trails are amazing, in and out of the woods to several small lakes nestled in idyllic ravines surrounding the resort, with Oak Lake being the largest of the lot. It’s funny the assumptions you make when imagining the dimensions and logistics of a place before you actually visit, as I had assumed that Oak Lake would be a major feature adjacent to the office, clubhouse and pool complex, much like that of Cypress Cove in Florida. As it turns out, all the lakes required at least a ten or fifteen minute walk in the woods (unless you have an ATV or supercharged golf-cart retrofitted to take on the trails), creating the most bucolic of settings, but not terribly conducive to carrying your boat down to the water-front.
We might have been willing to take on the boat cartage challenge anyway, if it were not for the vast array of insects and flying critters we encountered as we forged the trails along the ridges and valleys. I realize that the bug quotient is likely to rise and fall from one day or hour to the next, and that’s simply part of walking in the woods, but between those little guys that bite with a needle sting, and the horse-flies who seem to take wicked delight in dive-bombing your face, we concluded that our timing was less than optimal, even when bathed in insect repellent. We love naked hiking, but not when your main cardio activity comes from swatting at these small flying predators. Upon the advice of a local, we tried higher routes up away from the water our second time out, hoping to find the famous viewpoint that overlooks Interstate 44, but finally called the game when the horseflies seemed to be ganging up on us. Again, I’m sure timing is everything.
Sadly, the lake proximity and extreme bugginess thwarted our plans to get the kayak into the water, but as Labor Day was ramping up, there was plenty else to distract us, with two beautiful side-by-side pools; one for conversation, and one for a perpetual water-volleyball game. By Friday night, the Labor Day weekend celebration was well under way, with dances, auctions, poker tournaments, and a Survivor Tournament that has apparently become something of a trademark for Oaklake Trails. As we were on an extended journey that would culminate in visiting elderly parents in California, we ended up playing the role of “those stand-offish, first-timer visitors,” as we have adopted a rather strict self-imposed social distancing policy during our prolonged travels. While Oaklake Trails had clear policies in place related to COVID-19, there seemed to be a social contract of sorts in place where most of the regulars were a bit more comfortable with up close and personal than we were. I suspect that may well be a regional thing as well. We simply felt badly that we were a bit less than our typical gregarious selves, having already noted that this is one of the most friendly and welcoming naked places in the country.
If you’re traveling a distance, and plan on renting a cabin at Oaklake Trails, we learned a few things that might be useful to future guests. Our cabin was smallish with concrete floors, a dorm size fridge, coffee maker, and microwave. We were happy to have an en-suite bathroom, a luxury at most American nudist places, but a bit surprised to find the bathroom had no door! (Even seasoned nudists have a modicum of modesty when doing one’s business in the bathroom, we thought.) The limited amenities for cooking and bathroom privacy where ameliorated, however, by the beautiful clubhouse just across the way which had outdoor showers, bathrooms offering a bit more privacy, and a spacious communal kitchen that was a godsend for our self-catering needs. The resort manager told us they now have seventy-eight full-time residents at Oaklake, housed in a variety of RVs and modular homes, some of which appear quite luxurious. Seems there’s a lively tradition of shared meals between the residents and the regulars, while we were mainly sharing the kitchen with a few tent-campers. That worked for us.
While there were four or five families with children visiting during our stay, we’d have to say that represents a larger number of families than we’ve seen at any other American naturist place, and the kids appeared happy playing in the pool for most of the day. We were also impressed that while the demographics mimicked that of other AANR nudist resorts, predominantly 60-ish couples and single men, there were several younger patrons as well, some who appeared to be there with same-sex partners. If there is a case to made to the peaceful co-existing of MAGA hats, Donald Trump floaties, a clothing-optional chapel, and general acceptance for folks from all walks of life, this place does a pretty good job with that. I mentioned earlier that there wasn’t quite enough time to read the all the rules during check-in, but from our observation, one might assume that smoking, vaping, and talking politics were all forbidden near the pool.
A few friendly folks did ask us if we’d be coming back to Oaklake Trails again. Given the fact that it’s literally half way across the country from our home, we admitted that it’s a bit of a trek, and we’ve only been averaging a drive across the entirety of the United States about every ten to fifteen years or so. That said, we met several folks who had made a three to four hour drive to reach this naturist haven, (One enthusiastic fellow drove nine hours each way, just for the weekend!) as many have made this their go-to naked place, despite a plethora of nudist places in neighboring Texas. All said, given that our mission for this trip was to experience middle-America in full living color, we found Oaklake Trails a perfect place to do that.
That’s truly one of the unique benefits of naturist travel. How else does one come to know real people and real places along the way without dropping your clothes, jumping into the pool, and offering up a friendly, “Howdy! Where y’all from?”