Since I moved to Cleveland almost three years ago, I had made a decision to change things in my life. To start doing things that I may have been more afraid to, before. To work on my body image positivity and feelings of self-worth. And also, to work on being more present in the LGBTQ community at large. My blog was the beginning of the working on being more present, it is a way to share my experiences and views. It has gotten me the opportunity of writing an article about a new bar in Willoughby, OH for Prizm magazine. My blog has also been an outlet for working on my body positivity. And the trying/doing new things has come in many forms. Meeting new people that expose me to things I haven’t thought about or too afraid of doing. Going places to the able to share them on my blog has also helped.
Most recently I had the chance to do something I have never done but wanted to do. Never did it out of personalized fear of the place and situation and for fear of how I would be judged. This weekend my friends Bill and Brandon took me to a gay campground in Proctor, West Virginia. It’s a little place on top of a mountain that you may have heard of, Roseland Resort and Campground. I say small, but in fact it sets on about 222 acres of land in a West Virginia forest and meadows on top of a mountain. It is gay owned and operated and for gay men ages 21 and up. The amenities there are amazing, and they have did a considerable amount of upgrading over the last few years. The pool and poolside bar have been recently upgraded and there is also a poolside shop called the Male Pouch. They offer swimwear and gear wear just perfect for your visit at Roseland.
So yeah, Bill sent me a text Wednesday, May 22nd, last week, asking me what I was doing the coming up weekend. I said hadn’t really planned much. I was taking a small break from going out and maybe wanted to catch a show on Friday night. Him and his husband, Brandon, have been after me to go to a campground with them, knowing I had never been to one. He had me check out the website and I decided why not, let’s do something different and I agreed to go. Yes, my nerves were pumped to a 1000, after all the website boasts that they are a clothing optional resort. In my mind, and the quiet reprieve of where I live, I fancy myself as a beginning nudist/naturist. I, in fact, hate wearing clothing and do think that the negative stigma we have placed on naked bodies is what creates the self-confidence and body dysmorphic issues we see today. But I tried to stay out of my head, as much as possible, and just be excited for a chance to go camping and be around that many gay men in one place.
I already knew that I wouldn’t get nude, I am not that brave, at the moment. That being said, I did pack with the intention of taking as few of bulky clothing as possible. I limited it to swimwear for the pool, should I choose to swim, tank tops, and shorts. As the weekend advertised parties that were as bare as you dare, I did opt for more boxer briefs than shorts to be worn and of course one of my lighter kilts. Outside of being with friends and having a relaxing fun time, I made no preconceived ideas about how the weekend would play out. Yes, obviously, I did pack items in case some outside change an encounter were to happen. After all it is safer to be prepared and not use it than not have it and need it. Few other essentials, like alcohol, a tent, sunscreen, and bug spray and my packing was done.
I met Bill and Brandon about noon on Saturday, we consolidated cars and proceeded to hit the road. I was still a bit nervous over what to expect, but my excitement for it overwhelmed the insecurities. The three-hour drive down wasn’t filled with trying to make me feel comfortable in coming along, it was just the standard road trip with good friends. Music, singing off key, talking about past vacations, and how excited we were to be away from work and home. The last 30 mins of the trip was spent ascending the mountain in a trail of a road. Places where down to half a lane wide, where the road has started giving away, all thanks to the building of a pipeline and the constant traffic of heavy axle vehicles delivering needed parts.
The views only continued to increase and beauty and grandeur as we climbed. Thanks to the weather not being blazing hot, you could still see small patches of mists in a few of the valleys below. It was a nice country drive into the campground, reminiscent of places I grew up, just people living and being in the country. Pulling into the campground you are treated with the beautifully landscaped meadows and well-kept cabins. As we pulled up to the Town Hall, where we check in, there were people everywhere and in various stages of undress. We were treated with a bevy of shirtless guys in tight shorts, men coming out of the showers wrapped in a towel only or just tossed across the shoulder. I am pretty sure my chin was dragging the ground as I exited the car and followed Bill and Brandon in to check into our sites.
Quick disclaimer, as you are probably wondering where pictures of all these men are at, Roseland is a clothing optional resort that takes the privacy and security of their guests very serious. You are not allowed to take pictures of people unless all parties have expressly given permission. Top that with I only took my cell phone and there you have why there are no pictures. Honestly, I spent too much time whipping my head back and forth trying to not to miss even the slightest detail.
While checking in you are treated as if you are a longtime friend coming back to visit, no awkwardness from the staff at all. We were told where we would be camping and off we went. I won’t bore you with the tent set up, it took about ten minutes to get it completely set up. After that, Bill and Brandon took me on a tour of the campground. Let me just put this out there now, I fully admit I am out of shape and combine that with the fact that I have bad knees I can get a bit winded. Up the almost 8% incline of a hill at our campsite, they show me season trailers people have, cabins, and the varying tent sites. We see the upgraded pool, talk to most of the guys we pass, stroll by the barn that they insisted would show and tell me about later and back to the Town Hall, which doubles as a club for their sponsored events, all while sipping on a cocktail. We stopped for a bite to eat and relax before heading back to our site to prepare for the first night’s festivities.
The first night’s party was a swimwear or bare as you dare party. So, I decided to don a kilt for my attire. Brandon wore a wrestling singlet, I had brought, and Bill in a pair of shorts. We did a round of shots and couple more cocktails before we set off. Now, I did mention that I was out of shape and we all know that exercise raises your heart rate, that combined with the drinks we had, and trekking up that 8% incline hill, by the time we got back to the Town Hall, my subtle buzz became flat out drunk. Thankfully, I wasn’t sloppy drunk, just dazed. Lots of water and watching the guys helped to slowly bring me back to focus. We went inside Town Hall to listen to the music a bit, talked to some guys outside and decided to hit the hot tubs. That was the only times that I was completely unclothed in a public area, to the best of my recollection anyway. Bill and Brandon talked to a great many guys, but I was more zoned enjoying the hot tub. I am the consummate wet blanket that way. About one am, we decided to head back to our tent. Once there I ripped off my RRRip kilt (thanks to kiltedbros.com) and passed out.
We woke up to a beautiful morning on Sunday and decided to go have a shower and get some breakfast. After breakfast, we went down to the pool to check out the upgrades. We hung around a bit, talked with some friends from the Cleveland area and decided we wanted to go get towels, appropriate clothes, and sunscreen and hang out by the pool. On our way out, we stopped by the barn to check it out. It was empty at that time but got to see what all it had to offer. A wall of glory holes, a heavy-duty sling, stockades, and a few empty wooden spools with rubber mats on top. I won’t go into detail of the barn, so you can use your imaginations to conjure whatever you like. Then back down the hill to change for the pool.
It had rained early in the morning and heavy clouds rolled in and out for a few hours as well. We got back to the pool and it was a tad bit over cast but that quickly passed over us and the sun came out in all its glory. As it did, more and more men flocked to the pool. Speedos, thongs, caftans, and nude, it was a smorgasbord of flesh for the eyes. As the temperatures rose, the clothes came off faster and faster. I don’t swim, so wasn’t that ready for the pool and just wanted to lounge and soak in the rays to get some color. Bill brought over cocktails while they were taking a break from the pool. Mango slushy and rum, very delicious. Was like drinking a tropical vacation beside a pool in West Virginia. Laying there I was amazed, not by the nudity, but the acceptance of it and the lack of self-deprecating body images that these men seemed to have. As the sun was kissing my body, I thought how amazing it would be to have that kind of confidence and why couldn’t I. No one was shamed for their stage of undress, no one pointed and laughed, and there was no negativity to be had. It was amazing and uplifting.
There were men in all shapes and sizes laughing and talking to one another as bare as they were born. The bonds of being gay men and liberating themselves of the daily routines for the briefest of time while at Roseland. For me, being shirtless is a HUGE point. But due to the accepting nature of where I was, I was without a shirt most of the weekend. In large groups, I have a hard time engaging with people, so I mostly stay quiet and to myself. I decided to slip into the pool with Bill and Brandon for a bit, to cool off. The whole afternoon was astounding to me and I only hoped that I would be able to carry that kind of acceptance with me when I left.
We showered and back to the campsite to change for dinner. Once we had dinner and wandered for a little then we decided to head back to the camp to get ready for the events of the night. We got back to the campsite stripped and decided we wanted to build a fire. Since the previous night was rainy, the options of finding dry wood was limited, which made the fire a bit of challenge. I finally managed to get a few flames started and began to catch the dry twigs we had gathered to light. Our neighbors offered us some fire starter and paper bags. The fire starter did the trick and our fire was going nicely. As we were enjoying the nicety of a camp fire, we heard the rumblings of a storm coming up the valley. We hoped it would bypass us, but the skies darkened, and the wind started picking up. Then the sky just opened up and the rain started to fall. We ducked into the tent to try to wait it out, this was at eight pm. Two hours went by wit pretty steady rainfall and slowly we drifted off to sleep. The rain continued steadily until after midnight. At which point, we decided we would pass on the nights events and just sleep. Around one am, the storm broke enough for the campground to set off the fireworks display they were planning. The guys stirred slightly during this time but shortly were back to sleep. Just after the fireworks ended the next line of storms rolled in.
I didn’t sleep that night and the guys woke up around seven am. They went off to shower as I started packing clothes for leaving by 11 am. They got back to the site and discussed just heading out earlier. We all agreed we were pretty wet and ready to get to someplace dry and we would have to be out by 11 am anyway. We began our three-hour drive home and slowly reality started to slip back into our heads. It is easy to get caught up in being surrounded by people similar to you and comfortable to be who they are, we forget about the stressors in the world, and the feelings of not fitting in. All of this washed back on us as we moved further way from the campground. All in all, it was an amazing weekend.
If you haven’t been to a gay campground, for whatever reason, give it a try and hopefully your visit will be as eye opening as mine was. Check out Roseland Resort and Campground. Try to keep your mind open and just enjoy the time. It definitely was a new perspective for me, and I hope the feelings I had there will follow me into the rest of my journey. Maybe, if I am lucky, help me with some of the negative feelings that I do carry. Thank you, Bill and Brandon, for bringing me along and getting me outside of my box. It was an amazing weekend.