At the end of summer 2022, the Berkshire Vista Nudist Resort closed its gate to nude use. Formerly known as Birch Acres, it had been in operation since 1955. The proprietor, Daniel Bookstein, passed away, and as happens these days, circumstances did not favor a new generation stepping in to carry it forward.
As a social movement, Nudism remains vibrant and evolving, but for many of today’s nudists, the traditional family friendly camp is an anachronism. This is unfortunate because something vital is lost each time a nudist community dissolves. Those who take the opportunity to visit or become part of such a community learn that these are special, perhaps even precious, social landscapes that offer a rich, recreational alternative to what is common in our society.
Birch Acres was the very first organized nudist venue this writer paid a visit to. As such, it provided an important introduction to social nudism and an education in ethical nudist culture. The announcement of Berkshire Vista’s closing brought back wonderful memories of that first visit. This post shares a few of those recollections as well as some lessons learned from that adventure.
Long ago, in the 1980s, a newsstand issue of Clothed with the Sun magazine (now called Nude and Natural) led to a membership in The Naturist Society and knowledge that there was a nudist camp not far from home. I was a young man, not yet married. I had enjoyed skinny dipping all my life and had even ventured to the nude beaches of Long Island’s south shore. The logical but BIG next step on my Naturist journey was to visit a camp. I have always been innately Naturist. The act of stepping into a genuine camp community seemed like a threshold that would fully realize and complete this reality. This proved to be the case. The experience was transformative.
Naturally, the camp was at the end of a long country road. The moment I turned off the highway, serious jitters set in. “Oh God, I can’t believe I am doing this.” The road felt like it lasted forever and yet it ended too soon. Several times I slowed down ready to chicken out, turn around and go home. Then, I ran out of road…
Upon entering the camp, my first sight was a woman, fully nude, sitting on what were the office steps. Recognizing that I would look foolish if I turned the car and bolted, I parked, took a deep breath and stepped out. “Can I help you?” she asked. No turning back now… To my astonishment, this lady gave zero indication that there was anything out of the ordinary. While I, still dressed, had butterflies in my stomach, she was completely unfazed. The check-in process was strictly business. I did my best to act calm, cool and collected, naturally, but my mind raced. I thought wow, right, OK. This is the way it is supposed to be. I get it. This is right and good. It is funny how one can fill with panic at a new thing that is nothing to fear at all.
The Stained Glass in the Bar
After check-in, I set up my tent high on a hill in a camp neighborhood referred to as Heaven, a fair description given the scenic view of the countryside. I stripped and headed to the bar figuring a cold beer would settle my nerves. I encountered a friendly group inside, and conversation was easy. Again, but for the lack of clothing, the atmosphere was strikingly normal. What did seem out of the ordinary, or perhaps a different kind of ordinary, was a stained-glass panel in the décor. It featured a nude family holding hands. To find a piece of art… like that… in a bar… was a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment for me. I think it moved me because I associate stained glass with church. The windows of a church are evocatively beautiful and generally present an image of religious significance. They teach. Here, at Birch Acres, light was illuminating a stained glass, symbolic presentation of a nudist ideal. I got the message. I am a Nudist now, I thought.
Later in the weekend, an afternoon thunderstorm came through, and it was a boomer. I took refuge in my car as my tent was under assault. Suddenly, someone appeared in the torrential rain knocking on my window. The folks at the site next to mine had taken pity on me and were kind enough to invite me to weather the storm in their comparatively comfortable pop top trailer. The ensuing conversation was pleasant, and their hospitality was gracious. The occasion extended to an evening barbecue after the storm passed. It was great fun. Perhaps the same thing would have happened at a textile campground, but I wonder. Nudists are nice. Sure, there are exceptions, but there is something about Nudism that is humanizing and cultivates a friendly demeanor in people.
Give It a Try
The rest of the weekend was filled with standard summer recreational stuff. The highlights above are just a few awakening moments from when the Ethical Naturist first took the plunge. Private pools, nude beaches and other naturist activities are great, but discovering the rich, healthy culture and beneficial way of life at a family friendly nudist resort was a gift. All active and aspiring Nudists/Naturists should give it a try.
It is the nature of things to wax and wane. While Berkshire Vista is done, a solid core of clubs and resorts continue to thrive and endure. Given the unique benefits these communities offer, it should just be a matter of time (perhaps a long time) before the cultural cycle turns enough for a new generation to embrace this great idea and initiate new communities. That is my hope anyway.
Those who were graced by summer days, bonfire nights and spaghettos in the ghetto at Berkshire Vista carry with them great memories. Those who never got the chance should find a resort and visit as soon as seasons permit. It is not our practice to post photos on this site. However, this piece of nostalgia, as a wave goodbye rather than hello, called for an exception to the rule.