Last year there were rumours, partly justified, that the venerable Berkshire Vista Resort
in Massachusetts was to be sold.   Happily, it’s still around and still open!

Article first appearing in Going Natural / Au naturel
Published by the Federation of Canadian Naturists, Vol. 23 No. 3, Fall 2008.
Reprinted with permission.
  http://www.fcn.ca

This campground was begun in 1956 and will be remembered by many as Birch Acres. But by the time Dan and Ginny Bookstein bought it, in 1994, it wasn’t in good shape.

You’d never know that by looking at it now. Just about everything works well. The Booksteins are very proud of that, including the highest standards that their water systems meet. (There are five wells on the grounds.) And there’s much more on these 50 hectares: clay tennis, p&egrav;tanque, sand volleyball, swings, picnic benches, outdoor showers, a very large clubhouse with kitchen and dance floor (seats 150 at a time for a meal), and many seasonal campsites and RV lots. Electric and water service is available at 144 sites (i.e. nearly all of them), of which 90% also have sewage service. “We can handle more crap than anybody,” jokes Dan.

Then there’s the fun water stuff. The pool, surrounded by large decks, is quite large itself, with a listed capacity of 63 people. The oblong hot tub seats 10, and the round one 6. When my friends and I visited in mid-June, the temperature of each of these was respectively 25°, 36°, and 40° [Celsius].

Open from May to mid-October, one of the thrilling aspects of Berkshire Vista is the Berkshires’ vista. Dan intones that this is the most beautiful place around. While anyone may argue that (no doubt in the fun and peculiar ways naturists may argue), there’s obvious basis for his claim in the Berkshire hills and mountains of western Massachusetts.

Things to do

Long a summer home of the rich and famous, this part of New England has so much to offer that you’d have to live here to see and do just a significant portion of it. One of the more attractive sights, meaning something you can actually see (well, glimpse) from the grounds of Berkshire Vista is the famous Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, one of the bestknown ski spots in the country. For the more artistically inclined (joke; inclined , get it?), the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is close by, as are the Jacob’s Pillow summer dance festival and more all-season historical sites and art galleries and museums than you can count.

Back to the scenery. Like Caesar’s Gaul and the classical syllogism, Berkshire Vista is divided into three parts. Each is on a different level and has many campsites. In the middle is Snob Hill , so called because some people moved uphill there from the lower ground and now look over those below in the Ghetto . All ghettos should look like this one... Meanwhile, those who really want to take the high ground may go farther uphill to Heaven . Heaven’s a bit of a climb but happily not as hard to get to as the legendary one is said to be.

Central in the grounds is the intriguing William Kittle house, an imposing restored dwelling dating back to the 1770s. The Booksteins live in it now; right next to it are seven eight-year-old park model cottages, fully furnished, for guests to stay in.

An immediately obvious curiosity about Berkshire Vista is that the owners aren’t nudists. Dan and Ginny bought the grounds, not the club, and initially didn’t realize it was a nudist place. Dan says it took them about two weeks to get used to what they had landed in. “I didn’t know where to look!” he explains.

Does it make any difference that the owners are non-nudists? Not that I could discover. There may even be some good publicity here: non-nudists not just accepting nudists but promoting them and everything they stand for.

Dan quickly realized that the client base should stay. It did and it grew. Now, though, Dan isn’t sure what will or should happen. Long an important owner amongst the American Association for Nude Recreation’s member clubs, he’s getting older, like the naturist movement in general. He thinks that older naturists demand more services and even different modes of living. So, satisfying the customers remains a challenge, as does satisfying rising environmental standards, especially in Massachusetts.

To get to Devil’s Den: from the junction of Highways 143 and 9 in Williamsburg, drive west 1.3 km on 9 to paved Old Goshen Road. Turn right (north) and drive 3.4 km (veering left at 0.6 km, with the road turning to dirt at 3.0 km) to small turn-off spaces to the left and right. Find a wide trail on the right side of the road, and walk it 0.3 km past a small creek to a forest clearing and small pools and small patch of “beach.”

Spaghetto

There’s no doubt that one of the more satisfying events of many Berkshire Vista puts on is Spaghetto. No misprint there; it’s a combination of spaghetti and ghetto , which tells you both what and where. All you need is when , and that’s Labor Day weekend’s Sunday evening.

For a fun time and community spirit, it’s hard to imagine better. Now more than 25 years old, the meal itself feeds well over 300 people, with over 60 volunteers preparing it. Tracy and Mike Horgan, who wrote about the grand Spaghetto tradition for The Naturist Society’s Nude & Natural magazine (Spring 2008), noted that the 2007 edition of this major food celebration required, among much else , 14 cucumbers, 4.5 kg of tomatoes, 24 heads of lettuce, 10 large bottles of salad dressing, 25 kg of pasta, 32 kg of sausage, and 200 jars of sauce!

Running through the grounds of Berkshire Vista is part of the Taconic Crest Trail, a major hiking route in the state. Expect to wear clothes on it. Nonetheless, in western Massachusetts, indeed much of the state, are more skinny-dipping holes than any one person I know has seen. (Start with www.swimmingholes.org/ma or various printed guides to naturist locations in the USA.) I reported on a couple last year.

Owners Ginny and Dan Bookstein, with the author (at right)
Places to go

One of the most famous is The Ledges ‹ okay, not in Massachusetts, but close by in southern Vermont. On our 2008 trip, we sought out two places. The second was Knightville Dam. All the directions we could gather led us to nothing that looked like a skinny-dipping place. Eventually we made an educated guess about where we should go and encountered a road no longer open to cars. We parked and walked along it. And walked along it. And walked some more‹until we concluded that it would take much more time than we had available to get down to the river below us to the left, to find who knows what.

So we turned around. If anyone knows exactly how to get to Knightville Dam’s clothing-optional swimming area, let me know! We did get to another known as Devil’s Den, a small, quiet, pretty spot that’s not hard to get to, with a wide stream, sunning rocks, some climbing challenges, and a sandy beach‹perfect in its 2-metre length for one or two people to stretch out on. Slightly upstream from the clearing where we were are more rocks and pools. Of course, you can’t expect signage on the roads directing you to this little place, skinny-dipping or not. My pal Mark Storey, with whom I’ve gone on a few summertime adventures, kindly recorded detailed directions, presented below.

Berkshire Vista is a good place to stay from which you may explore much in western Massachusetts. If Dan or Ginny comes across at times as a tougher character than some, keep in mind that many naturist owners are like that, having dealt with and sometimes fought conditions and people that most of us never encounter. Head on in, relax, and enjoy the view and the people.

- Paul Rapoport


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