Volleyball au Naturel

John L. Ferri

August 1, 1997 (Arrival at Empire Haven)

We left for Empire Haven Nudist Resort & Campground just after lunch and arrived around four. It's not a four hour trip; construction and side trips added about an hour or longer. Empire Haven's address is Moravia, NY, but the park is actually six miles outside of the town. We followed the directions on their web page, but somehow missed a turn onto Lick Street from Church. We made a right on what we thought was Lick, but was actually a road that eventually led to an entrance to state owned lands. After traveling 2 or 3 miles, we turned around and stopped at the only sign of civilization on this road -- the trailer next to a shack that we passed after turning onto what we thought was Lick Street. In front and on the porch were appliances, furniture, a pickup truck in some state of repair, a few other vehicles that were the beginnings of a really nice junkyard, and several dogs. Two men wearing overalls were in the front yard. We asked if this was Lick Street; they asked if we were looking for the "nudie park". We said that we were, and they told us where we missed the turn. As we drove away, I commented to HelenRose, "Did that remind you of Deliverance?" She just laughed.

The entrance to Empire Haven is blocked with an automatic gate that requires confirmation by intercom to the office to open. Once in, we registered, found our lodging -- a large camping trailer -- and unpacked. We thought it would be easy to pack, but somehow we still filled the car even though we packed a minimum of clothing. I guess the towels and sunscreen made up the difference.

We promptly undressed and toured the grounds using a map from the office. We met several summer residents of the park -- all very friendly and willing to help with directions or other information. (Because Empire Haven is a nudist park, I won't keep repeating that people I refer to are nude. Assume that they are unless otherwise noted.) Among them were a man, maybe in his mid-forties, giving a massage to a women in a screen house attached to their trailer. We mentioned that we were here for the volleyball tournament, and it turned out that he was the organizer, or as we soon learned, the former organizer. He said that, unfortunately, the tournament was canceled because of a problem building additional courts (at least for this season), but that there were pick-up games throughout the day anyway. He also invited us to the nightly bonfire at eight.

Another couple strolling up the road said hello and asked if we were new here. We told them this was our second nudist experience and we apologized for the blinding reflections off of our white butts. They said that we were referred to as "cotton tails."

We continued the tour, and after following a road and circling the grounds, we headed for an area where four people - two men, two women -- were playing a game called Petanque (pronounced pe-tonk, rhymes with honk). They asked if we wanted to play, but we just asked about the rules. As near as I can determine, it is similar to bocci. We watched for awhile, then returned to the trailer to begin preparing dinner. HelenRose had precooked several meals for this trip, so we just popped some lasagna in the oven, then continued the tour.

We headed back to the Petanque court, where about a dozen people were now playing. They needed a player, and I was politely drafted. We lost both games. I would say that we lost our pants, but it just doesn't make sense here. At the end of about one hour of playing Petanque, the only thing I can say that I learned was that I could successfully identify which balls were mine. I'm still not clear on the rules. We returned to the trailer for the lasagna.

At eight, we started toward the bonfire area, but returned after a few seconds because it was cooler outside now. We both put on shirts and started again, but returned after we noticed that other people wandering around were dressed -- probably because they were cold. Not wanting to be the only nude people at the event, and also not wanting to freeze, we added shorts and light jackets, then went to the bonfire area where a fire was being started by Bob, whom we met earlier in the screen house. He had to leave for a short while, so he asked me to add wood to the fire when necessary, or at least until I could pawn the job off to another willing person. There were chairs available, so we picked two and sat near the fire. We were soon joined by Nancy, then others. Most were fully dressed, some partially, some not at all. As the fire grew, clothing was shed. Among the shedders were HelenRose and me. I always thought that sitting by a roaring fire was pleasant, but the experience when nude is magnitudes more sensational than when clothed -- as long as you pay attention to embers. While around the fire we attached names to people that we had met earlier: Bob, Irene, Rich, another Bob, Michelle, Larry, Ed, Deb, Ralph, Sue, Don, Ken, Christine, Jay, Jeannie, Anthony, and many others. I don't think that I can sit by a roaring fire clothed anymore.

While by the fire, Ed and Rich mentioned that they play volleyball regularly and I said that I hoped to see them on the court tomorrow. We also learned that Rich, Ed, Deb, Bob, Michelle and a few others had attended the "Volleyball Superbowl", an annual highly attended nude event, held near Pittsburgh in early September. We knew about the Superbowl from the Web and had tentative plans to attend, but their endorsements and comment that it's like a "nudist Woodstalk" convinced us that we have to be there.

August 2, 1997 (2nd day at Empire Haven)

As I write the next few paragraphs, I'm sitting near the pool with HelenRose. After safety rules, the pool rule is "nude only" inside the pool enclosure. Of course, we were both nude along with about a dozen other people. Most were either swimming, sunning, talking, or reading. An interesting poolside couple arrived on a Harley with the license plate "NAKED". We met them earlier on the nature trails, then again at the pool. After a swim, they dressed, mounted their bike, and rumbled up the road to continue their trip.

The major activity for us today was a pickup volleyball game. "Volleyball at one o'clock," was the announcement over the public address system. Anyone interested in playing showed up at the sand court; teams were picked, and play began. The only rule that varies from regulation play is that players must be nude. HelenRose was my cheering section while I played in six games. Both men and women were on the court, and all adhered to the rules. There were no rules about the dress for the cheering section, but HelenRose is now a true nudist and dresses accordingly. I don't think that I can play volleyball clothed anymore.

After the volleyball games, we both needed showers and so headed back to the trailer. However, I forgot to flip the switch to turn on the water heater. And even if I did, water pressure was sporadic at best and currently was at its worst. We decided to use one of several common showers available, the closest being at the entrance to the main office. It had two showers, two sinks, and two toilets -- all very clean, modern, and spacious. We left the trailer with only towels and soap for the one minute walk to the showers. While HelenRose showered, the other shower was occupied by a man. As I entered the shower stall after HelenRose had finished, a statuesque redheaded woman was entering the toilet stall. We said hello to each other and went on with our business. The showers are behind translucent doors, the toilets behind half doors, and it is very obvious when they are occupied. Yet, this whole experience lacked any embarrassment on the part of anyone. HelenRose and I toweled ourselves dry outside to make room for others who needed the facilities.

At four thirty, the campground social committee held a spaghetti diner. The price was reasonable, we didn't have to prepare diner, so we went. It was held in the clubhouse and I would estimate attendance to be 50 to 75. Dress ranged from full to none.

At eight, there was a DJed dance in the pavilion next to the bonfire area. The evening temperature was quite cool, so I wore jeans, shirt and jacket. HelenRose wore shorts and a shirt. When we arrived, music was playing but no one was dancing. Most people were around the beginnings of the nightly bonfire adjacent to the dance pavilion. As I mentioned, it was cool to cold, so most were dressed. As the fire grew, clothing was one again shed by most, and people were regularly shuttling between the dance area and the fire. HelenRose was now topless and I wore only an open-front shirt. When we heard a song we liked, we moved to the dance floor, danced, then returned to the fire. The only difference between the activities on the dance floor here and those on any other dance floor in the clothed world (referred to as "textiles" by nudists) was, for the most part, the lack of clothing. And if you really want to enjoy the Macarena, you have got to do it nude. We danced to fast songs and slow songs. HelenRose was impressive at both. I don't think that I can dance clothed anymore.

August 3, 1997 (3rd day at Empire Haven)

After a quick breakfast in our trailer, we walked part of the nature trail, which extends from above a small pond back to the center of the park. Next was lunch at the clubhouse, then more volleyball. This time, as I played, HelenRose watched the continuing Petanque tournament and picked up a few more rules for the game. After volleyball, I showered in the area described above. As I entered the shower I heard someone say, "You looked like you were having fun in the volleyball games." It was Christine, who was in the Petanque tournament. I commented that I played mostly for fun and a little for exercise, then I showered and she did her thing. It's going to be lonely showering in an empty room.

We left Empire Haven at 4:00, and arrived home at 6:30. On the way, we both commented that clothing is a real pain in the ass (and adjacent areas.)

Our next stop is "Volleyball Superball XXVII" at White Thorn Lodge, Darlington, PA, Sept. 6 & 7, 1997, (412-846-5984). The level of play ranges from novice to AA. See you there.

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John L. Ferri

(Background image courtesy of NASA, Pioneer Space Probe Plaque)