So, there I was, weaving through more naked bodies than I'd seen since the showers after high school gym class. Except there weren't girls in those showers (OK, maybe one time there was, but that's another story).
The scene is Paradise Valley, 110 acres off a winding mountain road near Dawsonville. On a chilly Saturday morning in April, more than 100 nudists were gathered for the Fig Leaf 5K. It was certainly a visual spectacle, ranging from the sublime to the ... um ... pendulous.
Until about three years ago, the resort was known as Hidden Valley. It was located here in 1978 by the Dixie Sun Club, after being run out of a nearby town, Maysville. "All we wanted was our own place," says Jackie. When I ask for her last name, she hesitates and turns to her husband, Donnie. "Do we want to use our last name?" She shrugs. "Sure, it's Johnson. We're retired, so who cares?" The Johnsons -- two of the few Paradise members who volunteered full names -- have been nudists since 1974, and they scouted out the land that became Paradise Valley.
"It took Donnie about six months to talk me into nudism," Jackie says. "I thought he just wanted to look at naked women. But the [nudists] are so nice. It's not at all what people think."
One member, Bill, says he attended a Baptist church near the camp, until the preacher started praying for "all of those sinners running around naked at that devil's campground." Which is why he doesn't volunteer his full name whenever he goes to Paradise Valley.
The director of the Fig Leaf race, Janet, is a computer programmer ("There are a lot of geeks here," she says) in Austell. "This is Georgia," she says, "so, no, please don't use my name. We moved here from California, where no one minded. We come here because ...," waving at the hundred or so nude runners surround by rich woodlands, "... where else can you do this?"
What is Paradise Valley? It's merely a resort, and a rather nice one, tucked into the Georgia foothills. You tend to see more flesh than at most resorts. But as Bill, a two-year member says, "After the first hour, you don't notice."
Three years ago, Joe Lettelleir, a St. Petersburg, Fla., developer, purchased the resort and began making major improvements. When completed, the existing campground and handful of motel rooms will be augmented by the $32 million construction of 152 condominium units and 45 townhomes. Lettelleir already has built a new clubhouse and indoor pool, and has revamped existing facilities.
In 1999, Lettelleir -- who isn't a nudist -- purchased America's most successful clothing-optional resort, Paradise Lakes, north of Tampa. He recently acquired three more nudist resorts in California and Arizona.
The Georgia mountains sport two other nude getaways, both near Cleveland. One, the Grove, promotes the swinging lifestyle. Serendipity, like Paradise Valley, downplays the libertinism.
Where to get nude
Paradise Valley's website (where you can get a free day pass): www.paradisevalleyresorts.com
Serendipity Resort (which even features nude weddings): www.serendipity-park.com
And, the more risqué Grove: www.pleasuregroveresort.com
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