PAW PAW – It’s the perfect summer day. Motorcycle enthusiasts who’ve gathered for Avalon Resort’s annual Bikes, Blues and Barbeque event are happy after having returned from a scenic ride through the mountains to nearby Romney – especially because they’ve raised about $1,000 to be donated to Wounded Warriors.
Now that the bikes have been lined up and are ready to be judged, owners spend time sharing stories and swapping pointers about how to best maintain their beloved rides.
At one point, a man excitedly begins to share how he discovered that a certain type of cheap, cleaning pad works great to remove gunk from his Harley Davidson’s chrome parts.
No one in the group notices anything unusual as he leans way across the bike and begins pointing out various parts that can be cleaned this way.
Except—he’s totally naked. But his audience doesn’t blink, because they are also nude.
That’s the way it is at Avalon, the state’s only clothing-optional resort – where visitors and members can choose to wear as many – or as few – clothes as they wish.
“Nudity is just no big thing there. And why should it be anywhere?”
Far from being a “nudist colony,” Avalon is a community – with a growing membership that includes a variety of professionals, even the military is represented – that thrives on its appeal to men and women of all ages, because they choose to live au natural.
While some newer participants may be a little shy at first, that initial nervousness quickly fades and people are comfortable just being themselves, said resident Nevin.
“You see other people who are free to be themselves, and pretty soon you begin to understand what this is all about,” he said with a smile, gesturing toward other resort members who were simply enjoying the warm sunshine and gentle breeze while eating a barbeque sandwich, drinking a beer or even shopping at one of the vendors displaying wares at the annual bikers’ event.
A visitor amongst their ranks isn’t a problem – no one dives for cover or seems upset. In fact, there’s no reaction other than a friendly greeting. Even when a newcomer tours the community, nudist property owners – whether townhouses or private homes – continue with their daily activities (eating lunch, watering flowers, or just doing some sunbathing) as a visitor passes by their porch or yard.
It’s the same at both pools – one indoor, the other outside – and everywhere else on the expansive property that was once a Church of God camp – the same acreage that’s now devoted to nudists.
Ironically, there’s still a spiritual sense here because members maintain a healthy respect for all others (
and their bodies) because everyone starts out in life naked, said Steve, who is wearing only a Pirates baseball hat.
“We all come into this world naked, and it really is very natural. Here there’s no judgement, just people who share a common feeling – and actively help others also be themselves,” he said.
“Anyone who thinks this is about sex, or sees it for a place for hanky panky couldn’t be more wrong. And in fact, anyone who starts anything like that will quickly find themselves being shown out,” he said.
Nancy, a high-ranking military medical professional with a security clearance, said there’s a much more accepting attitude in Europe.
The resort has its own library, fire station, and TWO pools.
Lighting up as she spied a newcomer she’d just met a day or two ago, Nancy jokingly advised him to drop his towel and “just get naked.”
Despite being a few miles out of town (the community is actually located just across the Hampshire County line), members make a special effort to reach out to others and be part of the larger community.
They help pick up litter along a stretch of rural road, and also make it a point to participate in Paw Paw’s annual Memorial Day celebration – where they ride in golf carts in the town’s patriotic parade.
Resort members take pride in the quality of their July 4th fireworks display – and that a crowd of local residents usually gather along the road leading into their facility to share in the patriotic festivities.
There’s also been a good response to the annual music festival – this year’s event on Aug. 14-16 is expected to again draw several hundred people, mostly visitors to the community, and more than a dozen local businesses are helping financially sponsor it.
“I don’t tell people in my company. I don’t know for sure what they would say”
While members are proud of their community, and what it represents, they also know that not everyone appreciates their nudist way of life – and that can come back to haunt them locally, as well as in their real-world lives and professions.
For some, it means never revealing to outsiders that they are nudists – much less living, or at least spending extended periods of time, with others in a nudist community.
Take Chris, for example.
Dressed in a plaid shirt and shorts for a visitor’s tour, he’s obviously proud of his weekend and holiday home – the one he shares with his wife, who also has a leadership position within the community.
While driving a golf cart, he happily points out local landmarks – including camping sites, a library and fire department as well as various amenities such as lodging and athletic facilities.
“We’ve been here for 15 years, and really love it. We both started helping out, and before you knew it we were both doing just about everything,” said Chris, who originally visited nude beaches before deciding being a nudist was for him.
“It’s just very natural, and that’s a big part of the appeal for me,” he said.
But Monday is coming, and that means going back to a reality that includes clothes – and knowing that there’s still plenty of judgement against the nudist lifestyle.
“I mean, I don’t tell people in my company. I don’t know for sure what they would say, and I don’t want to find out. I work for a minority company, and I just don’t know how they would react,” he said.
An area teacher said he wouldn’t mind his bosses knowing about this hobby, but also fears the reaction of others – including some students’ parents – who don’t understand what a nudist resort is all about and would simply react without taking time to become educated.
“Much of that is rooted in ignorance, and peoples’ unwillingness to go outside of their comfort zone,” said Joe, adding that he feels rejuvenated after his occasional visits to the mountainside retreat (where cell phone service is virtually nonexistent).
“It’s like being off the clock, and being instead able to just relax,” he said.
“Much of that is rooted in ignorance, and peoples’ unwillingness to go outside of their comfort zone”
However, despite the nudists’ community outreach efforts, not everyone locally approves of this alternative lifestyle, another man said.
While there’s not been any outright problems, members know that a few of the local churches – remember, this is a remote, conservative part of the Eastern Panhandle – take a dim view of the resort and find its lifestyle to be “sinful,” he said.
The good news is that many are very supportive, he added.
Although community members remain optimistic and open to outsiders, not everyone who enters the close-knit community is as gracious – and some people use a visit as a chance to mock and make fun of its residents.
One delivery man is said to snap photos – the resort has a no-photo policy, choosing to instead rely on their own photographer – and then share them outside the community, in addition to making rude comments.
“Anyone who thinks this is about sex… couldn’t be more wrong”
Despite some others’ prejudice and poor manners, those who love the resort are still eager to share their clothing-optional message and invite others to join them.
An employee, who now considers the resort a kind of second home, said she originally took the job because she needed work close to where she lived – but wasn’t sure what to expect.
Although she now hardly even notices the naked bodies, Ann said it’s never a problem if she needs time off and there couldn’t be a better employer or place to work.
Even her minister agrees with her job choice, she said.
“We’re all like family here, it’s as simple as that,” she said with a smile as a member greeted her by name.
Community photographer Chris – who originated the resort’s Women and Men of Avalon calendar (July features men wearing red, white and blue cumberbuns strategically placed to still show each man’s genitals) – said he’s learned a lot about human nature by shedding his clothes.
Ironically, people are just people – especially when they are sans clothing, he said with a knowing chuckle.
Some are bigger, others are tall, while most are really pretty average, he said, recalling a man on a “nude cruise” who didn’t get a second glance as he removed a prosthetic leg to get into the hot tub.
Now that the year is already half gone, Chris is looking forward to the 2016 calendar featuring happy naked couples.
“People are already saying they want to be in it, and I think that says a lot about us here,” he added.