By Rick Coates
This weekend kicks off National Nude Recreation Week across the country.
Now, while shedding your clothes in the privacy of your own home is okay,
doing so in public is not, so while this might be a week-long celebration
of doing things in the buff, be sure to be in a place where such
activities are acceptable.
For example, Spruce Hollow Campground in Mesick is the only place for
nudists to go in Northern Michigan to legally practice their lifestyle out
in the open. Opened eight years ago by Pat and Jan Bell, the campground is
private and for nudists only. Spruce Hollow is one of 226 affiliated clubs
and resorts with the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR). They
will celebrate National Nude Recreation Week with an assortment of
activities starting with their Third Annual Skinny Dipping event on
Saturday, July 2 and closing out the week with massage and body treatments
on July 10.
Jan Bell remembers her first public nude experience.
It was in the early 80s and I was invited to go to Otter Creek near
Empire, that place was legendary as a nude beach in those days. I was
nervous but once I shed my clothes for the first time in public it was a
freeing experience, said Bell. I felt like the weight and stresses of
the world were off my shoulders.
That is the common attraction for all nudists according to Carolyn
Hawkins, director of public affairs for AANR, which has over 300,000
It is about being comfortable in your body and accepting of your body. It
is a natural thing. Think about it -- one of the first things everyone
does when they get home from work is slip out of their clothes, said
Hawkins. There is this misconception that this is about sex, but it is
not at all -- it is about enjoying activities without the constricting
feeling of clothing.
Both Hawkins and Bell are seeing increased interest in nude recreation.
Nude recreation enthusiasts are a cross-section of North America,
representing a variety of ages, careers and socioeconomic levels.
Typically, members are active, college educated individuals between the
ages of 35-65, said Hawkins. They are people who enjoy outdoor
recreation and activities such as swimming, tennis, volleyball, walking
For the Bells they started their campground to give Northern Michigan
nudists a private and safe place to enjoy.
What we found after awhile was that Otter Creek wasnt very private and
people started complaining to the park rangers, said Bell. Eventually
the rangers started issuing tickets and people stopped going so we started
thinking about the campground and club idea.
Spruce Hollow opens the first weekend in June and stays open through the
second weekend in September. The Bells offer annual memberships for $400
per year or a person may pay a day fee which is discounted if they are a
member AANR or Naturist Society. Spruce Hallow has several amenities
including a pool and RV and tent camping.
We also have a lot of day visitors, nudists who prefer to stay at area
hotels or B&B, said Bell. We are close to Crystal Mountain Resort and we
will get people who are staying there for conferences to stop by for the
When they first opened their campground their guests were primarily local,
but that has changed.
When we became a member of AANR the word got out and now we have guests
from all over the country, said Bell. We just had a couple in from
Seattle and another couple is coming in from Europe later this summer.
Of course, besides being concerned about how they might look in public
nude, another concern for first-time nudists is the perverts.
We typically dont get those types of people. Usually people that come
here for the wrong reasons are easy to spot, said Bell. I think we have
had two in eight years and since we are private we simply ask them to
While Michigan law prohibits public displays of nudity in most situations,
the Bells are able to operate their club and campground because it is a
private entity. For those who are interested in trying the nudist
lifestyle for the first time, Jan Bell suggests a visit.
Come and visit us for one day, just a day visit. What you will find is
that nudists are welcoming and accepting, not judgmental. The bottom line
is no one has the perfect body. Once you start walking around doing
activities in the nude from swimming to hiking to horse shoes to simply
laying and getting that no tan-line tan, you will start to wonder why you
didnt start doing this long ago.
For more info on Spruce Hollow go to their website at www.sprucehollow.org
or call Jan and Pat Bell at 231-269-3209. To learn more about nude
recreational opportunities around the country visit the American
Association of Nude Recreation website at www.aanr.com and as far as going
nude at Otter Creek, the National Park Service has said no and they will