Milwaukee’s Former Nude Beach

I caught the following article in my news feed this morning: What Ever Happened to Milwaukee’s Nude Beach?

That beach existed well before my time, but it is an example of the things that ruin a public nude beach; namely, poor behavior. Unfortunately we saw similar behavior (to what extent is up for debate) leading to the closing of Mazo Beach north of Madison.

As much as I’d love to see the return of public nude beaches, I’ve found that I strongly prefer AANR sanctioned clubs. The day fees seem to keep out the “looky-loos” and I’ve never run into any unsavory characters at AANR clubs.

Still, the more naturist options the better and I wish there was a group in Southeast Wisconsin in charge of nude swims and education similar to those in other Midwest states.

A Visit To Lake Of the Woods

This weekend I had the absolute pleasure of visiting the good folks at Lake of the Woods Club (lowc.org) in Valparaiso, Indiana. Overall I rate this club to be outstanding and perhaps the finest example of a nudist club I have visited in my relatively short naturist career.

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Lake of the Woods Club

Getting There: Coming from Wisconsin, getting there was not an easy task and I would argue downright awful. Battling Chicago traffic for nearly two hours, I almost gave up halfway there to return home. But I really wanted to see this place! After three-plus hours of white knuckle driving, plenty of stopping in six lanes of traffic, a few “near misses” and a fuel stop, I finally got there with a high heart rate and a need to relax. The club is just steps south of US 30 in Valparaiso. Depending on the direction you are coming from, you may have to turn on a different road since US 30 has a barrier and you can only turn at certain intersections. GPS or smartphone apps would be recommended. Travelers from Michigan or Indiana would obviously have a much easier time getting there than I did.

First Impressions: Arriving at the gate, instructions were very clearly marked. Press 000 on the keypad to get someone’s attention. I told them I was a fist time visitor and they buzzed me in and instructed me to go to the main lodge with my drivers license and plate numbers.

Inside I met Louise, a wonderfully nice 60-ish lady who stood in stark contrast to my regular place in Burlington, Wisconsin. She was friendly, welcoming, and extremely nice to me. We had a great chat before she made copies of my ID and AANR card, took my payment (yes credit cards are accepted) and then proceeded to give me a short tour of the grounds.

The Grounds: In a word, beautiful!

Inside the main lodge there is a TV room, hot tub, restrooms, sauna, showers and a kitchen area that anyone is free to use on the condition you clean any dishes and label your foods in the refrigerator.

Outside, the pool is the first thing you will see as it is immediately adjacent to the parking lot. It has two outdoor showers with plenty of hot water and adequate seating in both sun and shade. The grounds slope down to the lake, which is the gem of the place. The lake is entirely within the boundary of the club and can be explored without worry of intruding on non-naturist grounds. Provided are canoes, kayaks, a small sailboat, fishing boat, and paddle boats to explore the lake. Oars and life vest cushions are kept in a small boat house off to the side.

There is a pier with a “mostly sun” seating area right adjacent to the lake with a great view and plenty of chairs. Shade seekers need not worry as there is plenty of it on the grounds immediately behind the pier with chairs and picnic tables throughout.

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The hiking trail is narrow and sometimes poorly marked.

Louise pointed out the hiking trail that goes around the lake is 1.5 miles total (map – pdf). Do bring shoes and a cover up! I tried without shoes and that was a major mistake as parts of the trail are gravel. Ouch! Also, expect to lose your way on the south side of the lake. The trail is very clearly marked in most locations, but on the south side there are so many different routes that you will get turned around. My best advice is to keep going, you’ll find the trail again. Cover ups are needed in three locations that are visible from adjoining properties and are clearly marked with fun signs.

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Signs mark where it is okay to be nude on the hiking trail. There are three places that require covering up.

As one hikes around the trail, there is yet another beautiful pier at the eastern end of the lake. A handful of chairs and an outdoor kitchen area with refrigerator and microwave were here as well. The view is beautiful and it was a nice little quiet place to get away from the main grounds.

The clientele: Being in my forties I am usually the youngest one at most resorts. On a July weekend here, there was a nice range of ages, from about 30-70. I was one of the younger ones, but not the youngest! Surprisingly as a “single male” I was in the minority as most visitors were couples. One could be as social or quiet as one wants as the grounds are big enough. The few people I chatted with were very friendly, which is universal in naturism.

What I did: After leaving my clothes behind in the car, I headed out with a towel and water to the hiking trail to explore. There was plenty of wildlife and quiet places to sit along the lake. I explored the eastern pier and enjoyed some sun before continuing on my loop around the lake. At a few places, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be covered or not as there were some houses, but rest assured, they are on the club property and it is safe. After getting lost a few times I headed back for some reading in the shade while I gauged whether or not to be in the sun any more as I didn’t want to burn. A mix of sun and shade followed but I particularly enjoyed kayaking. The lake was so quiet (except as described below) and being naked in such a setting is indescribably relaxing. I’ve not yet figured out why that is but it is amazing nonetheless. Some more walking around and skinny dipping in the pool, and by 7pm the skies started to thunder. As usual, I hated getting dressed again but the skies opened up with a downpour of rain shortly after I left so I got the most out of my day.

I wish I would have referenced the map as in hindsight I missed a few locations along the way including the tennis courts and camping area so I cannot comment on those. But for $30 a day, I found this place to be excellent!

What the? The only thing I didn’t care for was something called a “gong shower.” At the east pier, about 15 people gathered at 5 o’clock and laid out in the sun while one of them banged the heck out of a small gong. As a conservative I’m not into the “hippie new age” part of naturism so I did not care for nor participate in this. I was in the kayak at the time trying to enjoy the quiet so I did overhear the gonging and I can only imagine I would have left with a headache after thirty minutes of that. But to each their own!

Overall: I would absolutely return to Lake of the Woods Club! A really outstanding place in a beautiful location and there is enough for everyone to do. The club has been here since 1933 so they are certainly doing something right. The only negative for me personally was the drive, but if I was ever in the area again, this would be a definite go-to place! I hiked, kayaked and skinny dipped. I met new people from all over the world and managed to not sunburn this time. Wonderful hosts and beautiful grounds, who can argue? Just go!

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Lake of the Woods Club as viewed from the dam toward the main grounds.

AANR – Midwest Site Improved

The AANR-Midwest site had been a mess for some time. Locations were out of date, information was poor and it really added no value to the Midwest Naturist. That has apparently changed for the better!

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It has turned into a beautiful site with great information and is well organized. The entire schedule for the 2017 convention is well presented and easy to read. The club locator is actually up to date and now in sync with the main AANR site. It is really well done and I hope they can keep it current! I highly recommend a visit.

I Am Not A Single Male

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I am very happily married, thank you very much. I do not go to naturist resorts (or anywhere for that matter) to ogle, look for a mate, search for an alternative lifestyle or “window shop.” I am only looking for a day of relaxation with like-minded people.

But many naturist resorts choose to not accept single males. If I were to bring along a woman, any woman, I would be allowed in. Essentially, the price of admission for men at these resorts is the day fee plus a woman.

If I were a single woman, I have no doubt I’d be able to get in just fine.

no-men-allowedClearly I do not own a naturist resort, so perhaps the gender balance is a larger issue than I am aware of. But at all the resorts I have attended (always as a “single” male) the ratio of men to women has always been very close to 50/50. I’ll concede the rules are in place for a reason, but I struggle to see what exactly that is.

There is always the argument that too many single men create an uncomfortable atmosphere for women. But I’ve met married couples that are just as creepy as any single male. Plus, any resort is free to do a background check on me. I have nothing to hide. I can even arrange for a permission slip from my lovely bride if need be.

So what can a “single” male do? First, join AANR or TNS. Holding a reputable membership card is more likely to get you into resorts that have a single male quota system. Second, be respectful of resort rules and quotas. Poor behavior and disrespect for rules sets a bad example for all males who are already under enough scrutiny in this lifestyle. Third, be friendly and sociable at these clubs. Do your part to change the stereotype associated with single males. Hiding in the back corner of the pool area with your mirrored sunglasses on does no good. Take off the shades, look people in the eye, introduce yourself and meet the regulars. As many naturist club sites say, “Your behavior is your passport.”

And what can resorts do? Conduct background checks ahead of time. I don’t mind calling ahead with my information. Enforce your rules liberally. Any gawkers or disrespectful behavior should result in immediate dismissal and potential ban from the club. There can even be a nationwide “ban” list to keep creeps from going elsewhere. If any guest complains about another guest, it should be taken very seriously. And strongly encourage guests to speak up as well. No one should feel uncomfortable in this environment.

Fortunately I’ve never seen any questionable behavior in my naturist life. But I’ve read enough stories online from both men and women to understand it occasionally happens. Yes, absolutely eliminate the men with ill intent and questionable behavior, but don’t judge all of us by their actions.

Additional Reading:

Naturism and Body Image

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A paper published last January in Britain looked into the effects of naturism on body image and self esteem. They correctly site the problem: “Negative body image in both women and men derives from exposure to, and pressure to achieve, unrealistic ideals of attractiveness.”

We are bombarded daily with perfect body shapes in advertising, television, movies, and magazines. The new biggest culprit? Social media. This false ideal of perfection is an impossible standard to live up to. And yes, even as a male, I’ve had my own share of issues to overcome.

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Two Examples of Pectus Excavatum

My mother has photos of me naked in the backyard as a child. I recall swimming with friends in the public pools on hot summer days. So indeed at some point I didn’t care what I looked like. But puberty hit and that eventually changed. I consider myself a fairly attractive person, but my chest wasn’t like everyones. I have pectus excavatum, where my sternum grows slightly inward, and as I got older I went out of my way to never be shirtless around anyone. Ever.

When I met my wife all those years ago, she claims she never noticed my chest until I pointed it out. So perhaps I over exaggerate my own condition. But other than her, no one saw me shirtless until I discovered naturism.

You wouldn’t think it, especially here in Wisconsin, but not a single person has a body that looks anything like the ones in Men’s Health, Maxim, or Hollywood movies. Everyone has their own dings, dents, scars, and other imperfections. And the first time on a clothing optional beach led to a sense of freedom I’d never experienced before. I could be shirtless – heck, completely naked – and no one cared. No one stared or pointed. It was incredibly liberating.

I’ve since been shirtless in front of many friends who agree with my wife that it is not as noticeable as I make it out to be. And while it is certainly nice to hear, it also angers me that I hid myself for as long as I did. How many fun swim activities did I weasel out of over the years? How many times did I back out of going out with friends – or girls – because there was a chance I’d have to take my shirt off? I wish I would have discovered naturism earlier!

So even as a male, naturism has led to a very positive change in my own self esteem and body image issues. Now I cringe when my wife has the same negative body image comments about herself. If I could only talk her into trying naturism as well, she could understand when I tell her just how beautiful I think she is!

Sun Ray Hills Day Pass Now $45

Sun Ray Hills in Burlington, Wisconsin, has raised their day pass rate for singles, couples, or families in 2017 to $45, making it the highest rate of any naturist location in the midwest.

Being the closest naturist resort to my house, I find this particularly unfortunate.

Sun Ray Hills is in a beautiful location with plenty of hiking trails, golf, a pool and volleyball courts, camping, and a restaurant open during the summer. It has great visitors from throughout the midwest and enough space that one can be as social or as introverted as one wants. Everyone I ever met there was incredibly friendly and despite the drawbacks described below, it was my go-to place for a day in the buff.

While I have no doubt they will still have plenty of visitors, it had a few negatives. It was never particularly busy any of the times I have been there. The owners are not naturists and somewhat unfriendly, which was always a concern of mine. And after losing their affiliation with AANR, I started to question their business practices.

So to add to that, the price increase means I am unlikely to go back. I personally do not feel $45 per day is worth the cost, and I feel they have now priced themselves out of a lot of budgets. And being no longer associated with AANR, there are no discounts for anyone other than seniors.

For those looking for cheaper alternatives, Valley View Recreation Club ($40 or $30 AANR) is 50 miles west, and Toadally Natural Farms ($20 single, $30 couple) is 70 miles north.

While I certainly wish them the best and hope Sun Ray Hills continues to succeed, they are certainly pushing the limits of what a midwest naturist is willing to pay.