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Baring it All at Hippie Hollow

There’s no finer place to catch a few rays and perfect your line-free tan than Hippie Hollow on Lake Travis.

This bucolic area is a clothing-optional public park in Texas. When I mentioned that I liked going there, a friend asked if she could join me sometime. This was surprising, as she was going on seventy. She’s gone skinny dipping with girlfriends, but has never in her life been any place like a nude beach. Her husband of fifty years and her grown kids applauded her impulse to venture out with me. We packed towels, chairs, lunch and plenty of sunscreen—but no bathing suits—and off we went.

It’s a world away from the bustle of nearby Austin, a haven for those who wish to escape the rigors of modern life in a safe and comfortable nudist atmosphere. Hippie Hollow welcomes visitors from all over the world. The park of one hundred and nine acres features a steep, rocky limestone shoreline and provides some spectacular views of Lake Travis. Clothing optional means just that. You don’t have to take off your clothes. Plenty of people don’t. Only it feels a lot better in the water. And in the breeze. And in the sun.

On weekend afternoons, the rocks will be crowded with people sunning themselves with no inhibition, chatting, reading, snacking, and playing cards. Stroll past the second bathhouse and you’re in the gay neighborhood. Everywhere people are friendly, unusually so. A community has evolved that stays in touch with a forum on www.hippiehollow.com. (You’ll find directions and more information there as well.)

On that site, one denizen stated, “You can set up near others or tucked in a corner if you want to take tentative steps. As for body shape and level of attention, it’s simply not an issue. Folks you meet will be friendly and they’ve seen it all before, and there’s an infinite variety of people sun worshipping, swimming, relaxing and socializing. Just go ahead and get the first time out of the way, and you’ll be hooked.”

In my experience, there’s less of a sexual charge on a nude beach because nothing is hidden. When we wear bikinis it says, “I’ll show you most of me, but there are parts that I won’t show you, are secret.” But attitudes about being naked in public vary as much as the do the bodies on display: Rotund, lanky; with tan lines and without.

To see and appreciate the human form in all its variations is the main attraction, and some are forthright about it. One man, undressed and unnamed, says, “It’s so rare to be able to be naked with other people. I like looking at people. It’s stimulating.”

For some, to be out in nature in one’s birthday suit is only natural. “After any amount of time nude at the Hollow, I am loathe to put my clothes back on to leave,” states Jimbo9, moderator of the HippieHollow.com message board. “I hate it. I wanna be naked all the time, everywhere.”

Others find it a liberating challenge to disrobe. Gene recalls: “I used to think it was bad for a straight guy to go alone to a nude beach because I thought that people would think you were there just to gawk. Not so it seems. I felt so free taking my clothes off for the first time and nobody cared.”

Some worry about running into people they know. The first time we came there, my husband met a guy he used to work with at IBM.

Hippie Hollow used to be owned by the McGregor family and was legally a nude beach because it was on private property. When McGregor died he willed the land to Travis County, provided that it always remains a clothing optional beach. If the county ever tried to close it down, it would lose title to the property. The county makes far too much money on admission fees to do that.

At Hippie Hollow sexual activity is not just rude, it’s illegal. One can get ticketed, banned from the park, arrested or any combination of all three. Cameras are allowed, but it is a crime to take pictures without permission and for sexual gratification. This should catch a guy sitting concealed in the bushes with a telephoto lens, but should not affect couples or small groups of people openly and knowingly taking pictures of each other.

My friend was delighted by her first experience. She said, “It’s so freeing to be able to go in the water without anything on. It feels great to take a walk wearing nothing but a sarong and nothing underneath. I was glad you suggested I bring a sarong. They’re perfect when you want to cover up without effort.”

She said she’d have come much sooner, but she couldn’t find anyone with whom to go.

Jimbo9 states, “Hippie Hollow is perfect for showing up alone. After one gets comfortable with being a single party, then one begins meeting people. Meeting people in order to go to the Hollow is much more difficult.”

On our weekday morning visit, my friend and I found ourselves almost the only women there. When we showed any receptivity, men were quick to come over and chat. All left when we wished them a good day and said goodbye.

A couple of creeps made pests of themselves by walking by us repeatedly and too often saying hello. Pathetic! We’d have had a better time with more mixed company. Creeps who go there only to gawk can be real deterrents, but my friend laughed when she saw the lineup of boats motoring just beyond the buoys that rope off a swimming area. She said, “I hope they’re enjoying themselves half as much as we are.”

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