Monday, July 9, 2012

Vermont - The Ledges - The Good Old Days

(UPDATE: 7/26/14 We were at Lake Harriman in Wilmington yesterday and while it is peaceful and serene, it is not what it used to be. It was a cool summer day, so maybe that's why there were so few people there. If this were in Connecticut, it would be packed, especially as there is no parking fee. Nice place to swim, but the rocks seem to be less comfortable the older I get! We like it because the dog gets to come along and swim too.)

Leon and I met at Rock River in Vermont nearly 24 years ago.  I remember because he asked how old I was (how uncouth) as we were hiking the trail out and I replied, holding my hand over my mouth to muffle the word "Forty".  (Oh, to be forty again!  But I'm still hiking the trails!)
An Old Couple Tooling Around In Vermont
We have returned there many times over the years.

We've also frequented our other favorite swimming hole - Lake Harriman in Wilmington, VT otherwise known as "The Ledges". 
Lake Harriman From The Ledges
Wild Lilly At The Ledges
The past couple of weekends we were staying in our camper in Vermont and did some reminiscing - or rather lamenting about how so much has changed.

Harriman Reservoir is primarily used to control water flow to a power generator downstream from the dam.  The Ledges is a section of the lakeside accessible by way of a long woodland path or by boat.  The rock ledges where nudists congregate has been a popular spot for many years and when we first started going there, the crowds were substantial.

The water level back in the late 1980's and 1990's was always kept lower than it has been for the past six or so years since the reservoir is under the new management.  There used to be a much larger rocky beach and a much greater area of exposed rock ledge for people to gather.  Hence it could accommodate a lager crowd.

You would have to get there early in order to find a parking spot and when the lots were full, cars would park along a mile stretch of the dirt road leading into the park and make the long hike even longer.

The large rock Ledges area was always considered the "straight" area with the "gay" area further along the path (naturally) occupying smaller rock ledges all along the waterline.   As years went on, the path got extended further and further along the lake shore until it nearly reached a privately owned home on the lake.  
Benni On The Main Trail
In addition to the main path, there were many hiking trails off to the side and up the hill.  Lots of guys liked to hike there, but I can't imagine why.  Guys would seem to all leave their towels on the rocks, get up, and start hiking in the woods, usually, it seemed, around 11, then around 1 and again around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, but mostly all day.

We would usually go to the Ledges with friends. Along with a large group of other "regulars" we became quite a community.  Some people had regular names: Joe, Doug, Pete, Rodger, Marty, etc. but those who we were never formerly introduced to had acquired names -the names we gave them: the landscaper, bikini boy, cigarette man, pretty-boy, Sherwin-Williams, bearded lady, and some I'd be better off not mentioning.  

They were all pretty friendly and easy-going guys, but every now and then some attitude would show up and insult one of the average-looking guys: "I wouldn't do you if I was drowning and your balls were full of oxygen."  Now that is just not nice.  

The guys we knew would all bring food and drink and there was one guy who always had a large backpack with more food than could possible fit in it - he reminded me of Jesus feeding the crowd with a few "loaves and fishes".

The rocky shoreline was strewn with large and small flat rocks, many the size of small cars.  Unfortunately when they made the reservoir, they didn't bother to place all the rocks with a flat surface in a useful horizontal position.  Some of us who like such things, spent many hours creating multi level terraces out of those flat stones that we could move.
More Than A Few Years Back, Just Before The Ordinanc
Our regular lakeshore "site" which we were guaranteed to occupy if we arrived early enough, was one that I had helped to landscape.  It had steps down to the water and several patios on which four or five guys could sun their bodies, have lunch, and stash coolers and backpacks.

When we acquired Leon's dad's 12 foot aluminum john-boat with a put-put motor we would sometimes boat in from the boat launch area in Wilmington, a good half hour trip unless you had a real motor.  That way we could bring our cooler, a gas grill, cushions and all the things we'd possibly need for the day.  And, once out on the water, we could go naked boating as well.

When, back a few years, rich people began acquiring property around the lake, one uptight homeowner got her hairs in a knot when some guys wandered too far from the main path and displayed overt, ostentatious gayness adjacent to her backyard.  (A book on nudity in Vermont, written for and by "straight" people described gays at the Ledges as "overt, ostentatious, homosexuals" and then went on to disparage us and  our "lifestyle".)  She, the homeowner, then got it in her head that nudity should be banned in Wilmington.  Well, Vermont is known for its indifference to nudity, so this proposal was a big deal.

Wilmington passed an anti-nudity ordinance.  The following summer, the area restaurants were not too busy and the motels had vacancies.  Gas stations, souvenir shops, Vermont crafts, all saw business slack off. I think even Ben and Jerry decided to sell out that year.

Well, the ordinance was overturned prior to the following summer, but things were just never the same after that.  They replaced the ordinance with some law about "lewd and lascivious behavior".

Besides, the water level was kept too high, parking was restricted, and most of the gay guys went to play at the Rock River.  Too bad, because the lake is great for swimming and boating, whereas the River is more for wading and dipping.
Lake H From Whitingham Side
Nothing stays the same.  We were nostalgic for the past but just grateful that we were there when The Ledges was in its heyday.  And we still enjoy an occasional day of hiking and swimming there.

Us At The Ledges In 2011


  1. Cool memories, and sad to hear that it's all changed now.

    The last pic of you two is a good one, I see there was patchy fog at the lake that day. But what's that long white streak down Leon's body?


  2. Just beautiful memories and still wonderful experience now. Too bad about the "smudge" on the photo from 2011. Couldn't you clean that up in Photoshop???

    San Geraldo asked me how old I was when we met (he was 32): "Not that it matters, but how old are you?" I responded, "How old do you think?" He said, "Either 22 or 27." I said, "27." He said, "Oh, good." I said, "Not that it matters."

  3. The picture with the "fog" was the only one I could put in without causing a fight. They haven't invented a Photoshop program that would help eliminate fog and extra pounds at the same time.

  4. I went in July of 2013 and 2014 on a couple different days and it seems to be regaining its popularity. It wasn't packed, but there was a nice size grouping.



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