Reprinted with permission. http://www.naturistsociety.com/
If your idea of a good weekend is to be surrounded by more trees than people, Western Massachusetts has what you want. Densely wooded green hills roll as far as you can see. Not too many miles from the hubbubs of Boston and New York City, the region known as the Berkshires draws enough culture-loving visitors to offer quality arts, history, and music, while retaining a rural peace and quiet. For naturists, one getaway jaunt begins and ends at Berkshire Vista Resort, a clothing-optional naturist park in Hancock, Massachusetts.
Berkshire Vista Resort
Open to visitors from the beginning of May through Columbus Day, Berkshire Vista (formerly Birch Acres) will satisfy many naturists with its standard amenities alone. A large pool, two hot tubs, clay tennis court, and pétanque are all that some would want. The 120 acres for tents and RVs, six park model cottages for overnight lodging, expansive lawns, access to clothed hiking trails, or the Saturday night DJ dances will draw others. The club offers lunches at the poolside bar on weekends, light dinners on Friday nights at the clubhouse, and breakfasts Saturday and Sunday.
The parks layout is divided roughly into four parts. The central area with pool, bar, and clubhouse attracts most of the attention during the day and weekend nights. Down the slope is The Ghetto, an area whose name, given in fun, contrasts with Snob Hill up the slope. Early club members and visitors camped on the flat area below the clubhouse. In time, the hillside above the central area was developed, and folks with trailers and RVs set up sites there, looking down on the tents below. Today the Ghetto has more trailers and RVs than tents, but, given the clubs sense of humor, the two names stuck.
Later still, the area above Snob Hill was opened to more sites, and was dubbed Heaven. Given the terrain and line of trees, it affords a sense of isolation from the rest of the park. All areas are open for quiet walking by visitors and members alike.
What makes Berkshire Vista a bit different from most nudist clubs is that its owned and operated by non-nudists. Birch Acres opened in 1956, but by 1994 the owner at the time had become somewhat disorganized in paying his bills, and the camp found itself in financial difficulty. When the property was auctioned, non-nudists Dan and Ginny Bookstein bid on the site primarily because of its wonderful view of the mountains nearby. At that point they didnt know they were bidding on a nudist camp.
Mike and Tracy step lively over a mountain stream in the back woods of Massachusetts.
The Booksteins won the bid, were told they had just purchased a nudist camp, and quickly conferred on what to do with it. Dan (a retired engineer) loved the scenery and was committed to turning the club around financially. Members quickly told him that the money woes were nothing that couldnt be fixed, as the previous owner had simply been disorganized.
Bookstein looked into the matter, saw that he had a steady base of happy customers, and with some investment in club infrastructure could turn the site into a healthy nudist enterprise. He told N that to start from scratch would take a lot‹they already had members. There was much to learn about nudism, like not using last names [initially]. It took two weeks to get used to walking my grounds. I didnt know where to look.
There are still a few nudists who do not quite know how to respond to the regularly clothed Booksteins, but that‹I think‹is really more their problem than Dan or Ginnys. I found the Booksteins delightful in conversation, and though Dan has his own kind of intensity and singleness of purpose, he and Ginny are fully supportive of how their club members and visitors wish to enjoy their idle hours. In 2008, they sold their home outside the club grounds and moved into the classic New England-style Kittle House near the clubhouse. Their clothes remain on, but the welcome mat is always out.
From the point of view of a naturist activist, pointing to a healthy relationship between non-nudist entrepreneurs like the Booksteins and the many naked visitors at Berkshire Vista is valuable naturist PR. Anti-nudity zealots across the country acknowledge that nudist club owners will support and promote nudist clubs, but non-nudists doing so? Nudists should be delighted with such examples and point to them regularly, for they show that nudists can co-exist happily among people who have little desire to remove their clothes.
To reach Berkshire Vista, find Kittle Road off Route 43 in Hancock, Massachusetts approximately three miles east of the New York State line. Drive Kittle Road 1.5 miles to its end and the club gate. Phone ahead for lodging at 413-738-5154; for more information, see www.berkshirevista.com.
All Photos: Mary StoryMike, Tracy, and Paul Rapoport of Canada, take a stroll through the area around the
Devils Den skinny dipping site.
Western Massachusetts boasts many swimming holes and river beaches on public and private lands to choose from. See Christopher Rowland and John Purbricks excellent set of articles in N 21.4 describing Heavenly Hideaway, Big Pitcher, Pond Brook Falls, Roaring Brook, and The Arches.
In the summer of 2008, three friends and I met at Berkshire Vista and decided to check out a site Id heard about, but which had not been reported on in N before. Devils Den is not something Id drive across the state to enjoy, but if I was a local, or staying at Berkshire Vista, Id give it strong consideration.
West Branch Mill River is one of many forested rivers and creeks lacing Massachusetts. Its easy to reach, so it may be crowded with local skinny-dippers or revelers on weekends. The Saturday we found it, there was one tent standing nearby, but no camper or others in sight. For a couple of hours, the four of us waded the creeks small pools, climbed rocks and fallen trees, and sought out allusive sunshine peeking behind passing clouds and hanging leaves.
Upstream is a jumble of rocks and brush, but additional pools await exploration. None of us could quite determine what was den-like about Devils Den, although the name may refer to the open area in the forest adjacent to the creek, or to the slightly overhanging rock looming over the water. A longtime New England naturist who had visited the site multiple times before thinks the name may refer to an alcove of rocks at a pool upstream. Whatever the origin of the name, its a pleasant idyll in a natural setting.
From the junction of Route 143 and Route 9 in Williamsburg (approximately 10 miles northwest of Northampton) drive west 0.8 miles on Route 9 to paved Old Goshen Road. Turn right (north) and drive 2.1 miles (veering left at 0.4 miles, and the road turning to dirt at 1.9 miles) to small turn off spaces to the left and right. Find a wide trail on the right side of the road, and walk it 0.2 miles past a small creek to a forest clearing, small pools, and patch of beach at West Branch Mill River.
Berkshire Vista owners, Ginny and Dan Bookstein (seated) talking with Paul Rapoport of the Federation of Canadian Naturists. The lower camping area at Berkshire Vista is in the background, framed by a view of the Jiminy Peak ski area in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts.
The Berkshires are wealthy in cultural excursions, so if youve had too much sun, if the rain is coming down, or if your travel partner wants to see the regional sights, theres plenty to do. Classic music lovers will enjoy Tanglewood Music Center, summer home of the Boston Symphony and the Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival will attract modern dance aficionados. For art fans theres the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (with the way cool nickname of Mass MoCA), the Clark Art Institute, and the Norman Rockwell Museum. Bibliophiles will wander Herman Melvilles Arrowhead home, while American history buffs will explore the Hancock Shaker Village. Everything is within an hour of Berkshire Vista.
[ Webmaster Note: Berkshire Vista maintains links to many of these sites on their web site. Click on the Tourism link below ]
The Naturist Society, of course, offers another good reason for going to the Berkshires, hosting for 11 years running its Eastern Naturist Festival at the end of June at the normally textile Eastover Resort in Lenox. Tied to a visit to Berkshire Vista or some of the many swimming holes nearby, a jaunt to Western Massachusetts is looking pretty good.
See ad in the Marketplace on pg. 86 (reproduced below).
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