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.
Bare House Cottage AirBNB: Could THIS be the Future of Naturist Travel in America?
Oklahoma has a huge naturist park. Texas has a gaggle of them. Arizona and California have a couple upscale resorts that are among the most luxurious naturist destinations in the country, if not the world. But New Mexico? Perfect climate. Dramatic and varied landscape. And quite literally the center of the Southwest as delineated by the Continental Divide. But almost no place to go on nakation!
Having recognized the need, gracious AirBNB hosts Mike and Lori have come to the rescue in decisively advertising their two AirBNB mountain cottages as “Clothing-Optional,” a strategy that becomes even a bit more complicated by the fact that the two cottages are adjacent to one another, sharing a common deck space with Adirondack chairs and loungers. With an emphasis on the optional part, their AirBNB profile makes it clear that you, as a guest, are not obligated to doff your clothes, but you should simply be aware that the people staying next door may well and will likely be textile-free.
Having cycled through every combination of web-search descriptors I could imagine, it seems that only Bare Cottage, along with one other secluded property in Florida, are brazen enough to market themselves on a mainstream platform to guests who’d rather vacation naked. In this case, while the owners thought they might risk scaring off would-be patrons, they seem to have stumbled into something of a niche market, particularly given the fact that the options for naked-friendly accommodations are far and few between in their part of the country.
But here’s the ironic part. Depending on your adventurous spirit and risk tolerance for getting caught naked in the woods, there are few places in the world that lend themselves more readily to clothes-free recreation than the northern expanse of New Mexico. In this case, the property is surrounded by the Santa Fe National Forest with innumerable hiking trails of varied difficultly, that, at least during shoulder season, (we visited in mid-September) are remarkably remote. The word on the street is that being caught naked in a US National Forest is not a punishable offense, though I have heard tales of forest rangers who had not been fully “debriefed” in the nuances of such legal status. But regardless, we met only a few people on the most popular of trails, and none at all on others. While my wife tends to be a bit more cautious – or as she would say, “considerate” of other hikers – I simply kept my most unflattering man-skirt at the ready should we hear people on the approach. (A simple pareo will also do the trick!) A rule of thumb in the wilderness: be on the watch for rattlesnakes, bears, and those pesky humans who insist on wearing clothes!
As for the cottages themselves, I have to say that the images on the AirBNB listing simply fall short of capturing how smart and thoughtfully designed each unit actually is. I had not detected online that they are of recent construction with an emphasis on economy of space with nuanced accents that capture the very best parts of living in the woods. “Bare Cottage,” our unit, had a separate bedroom with a spacious kitchen/living area, while “The Treehouse” situated across the shared patio space, was a studio floor-plan with a stunning wrap-around porch that, sure enough, made it feel like you were staying in a tree house – albeit quite a luxurious one. Both cabins have wood-burning stoves and Mike laid in a generous supply of firewood, though sadly, it never got cold enough to fire it up. But since they rent all-year long, I suspect that’s a central feature between October and April, as the cabins lie just below 8000 feet. We enjoyed early autumn days in the mid-80s (Fahrenheit) despite the fact that a freak storm had dropped four inches of snow just a few days before.
Each unit had plenty of porch space to facilitate a living environment in which you would scarcely even see your naked neighbors. During our stay, there was an older French couple next door who seemed particularly fond of the midday sun in the Adirondack chairs, but by the time we returned from our daily explorations, they had usually turned in for the day. That was when we were just settling in for naked grilling accompanied by wine and cheese on the porch. The good life.
If you’re “naked hiking curious,” but you’re not ready to brave it out on the open trail, Mike has blazed one path out past a homemade tree swing to the ridge, overlooking the mountainous landscape, and another that makes its way down the hillside, past a small wooden fort, down to the creek that marks the back of their property. We were startled once or twice by the free-range cattle who graze their way through the woods each day – a particularly compelling reason to keep the driveway gate closed once you’ve parked the car for the night.
Most intriguing to me is that Mike and Lori have turned their own love of naturism into a targeted business plan, and that it seems to be working! In fact, it occurs to me that their potential clientele through AirBNB has a much larger audience than other properties that are advertised only to those who already know they are naturists. (I’m thinking Naturist-BNB, Clothing-Optional Home Network, and various naturist publications such as those produced by AANR and TNSF.) We had an opportunity to chat with our hosts at check-in as Mike shared his bemusement regarding odd questions, particularly from Millennials, about this idea of taking your clothes off during vacation. Their guestbook, however, suggests they’ve won more than a few converts over the past two years as newbies have summoned up the courage to exercise the option to go bare, expressing joy in their new found freedom in the woods.
I should mention what is not an option at Bare Cottage is making “new friends with benefits.” At the end of our stay, Mike and I bantered back and forth a bit via text about their plans to add a tiny house to the property to meet the increasing demand. He went on to mention that he had just fielded an inquiry from a gentleman who proposed a room for three, asking if a “threesome with the hosts” was an option. Mike thought I might wish to reiterate that of the many fine amenities on offer at these beautiful little hamlets, he and his partner are not to be considered among them. C’mon America! Can’t we sort this out? Clothing-optional means just that! Nothing less and nothing more!
A few pragmatic things worth noting: The cabins have WIFI, but streaming more than a two-minute news-clip is about the best you can hope for on a satellite dish in the wilderness. Don’t even think about attending ZOOM college courses from here! With a full-size fridge, a nice selection of cookware, gorgeous dishes, and a small grill, you’re good to go on the self-catering foodie front. And the bed is fresh, firm, and comfy, best appreciated when reading the morning news while taking in the sunrise before starting your day.
We’re eager to see what happens with Mike and Lori’s naturist endeavor, thinking that if the clothing-optional AirBNB thing became a trend, that could be just the catalyst we need to build a bridge between the older, traditional nudist parks, and a new generation of people who might be open to giving clothes-free living a try, if even by themselves in the bucolic middle of nowhere. If you’re reading this, and that happens to be you, we simply don’t think you could find a better place to spread your naked wings than at Bare House Cottage. Life is short. Run naked in the woods.