By James Farr
They walk among us. Nudists, transgressors of that great taboo, are here with us in our hills. They come clothed in our midst, but every so often they need to let loose. Why? As someone once bastardized Rousseau: “Man is born free and everywhere he is in Hanes.”
We’ve all heard the rumours. Somewhere on Trail 36 in Gatineau Park, down by Meech Lake, people are getting naked. It prompted the Low Down to send its fresh-faced intern deep into the woods Aug. 12 to uncover the nudist Shangri-La and ask the hard questions.
I made my way down the trail that was eerily abandoned for such a beautiful Friday. It was blazingly hot and I had elected, foolishly, to wear a Canadian tuxedo: denim all over. Sweltering like a pig on a spit, I realized that I, too, might become a nudist before the day was through.
After an hour of being lost in the woods, I finally found the right trail. I arrived at an old abandoned mill (known as the Carbide Wilson), and quickly spotted the nudists: one stood in full Edenic glory, perched on a rock among some rapids. Another was disrobing and standing beneath a small waterfall.
I approached the former for an interview, making determined eye contact. He smiled at me in a somewhat predatory way and began rubbing his genitals. Definitely not a good first impression, but once I told him I was a reporter and not a playmate, he failed to rise to the occasion and refused to answer my questions.
The second nudist was much more helpful, and far less creepy. A man in his mid-forties, who wished to be identified as “Jake,” said he had been coming to this spot since he was 11 years old. According to Jake, it is “the only spot left for skinny-dipping” in the Gatineau.
Jake revealed that it was “mostly men” who go to the mill, but it was often “mixed on weekends.” As for reports that Ottawa homosexuals mostly populate the area, Jake disagreed. “I’m not homosexual, and I come here,” he said.
He did, however, point upward over the ridge and say, “I don’t go up there in the bushes.” The all-important question – “Why?” – was also answered, albeit in a simple way. As Jake reclined beneath a cascade of rushing water, naked as the day he was born, he responded, “Because it’s refreshing!”
As the day wore on, it became clear that it was time for me to go. After my first encounter, I didn’t feel particularly like sticking around after dark. But I would always miss them, these nudists in the mist.