The Naked Truth

By Tim Kelchner |

Published 07/30 2014 10:39PM

Updated 07/31 2014 11:25AM

  Palmerton, Carbon County – Sunny Rest Resort is like most camp sites across the country. 
They offer residents an opportunity to soak up the sun by the pool, take a stroll on a nature trail, or play a number of games the whole family can enjoy. 
While the fun is in abundance, the clothes are not.
“It’s just a natural way of life,” says a stripped down Halsie Shoemaker. 
She’s the general manager at Sunny Rest Resort, and she oversees the 190-acre Carbon County campground that’s covered with cabins, courts, and not much else. 
This is her 12th year working at the resort, but the nudist lifestyle is all she’s ever known. 
“I’ve been doing this all of my life,” says the 30-year old.  “It’s a very relaxing lifestyle.”
What does the lifestyle consist of? 
First, let’s start with what it doesn’t.  Sex. 
“It allows you to see that nudity does not equal sex and they’re two totally different things,” says Shoemaker.  “Seeing a naked body does not equal sex.”
Another misconception is appearance. 
Some people think that a nudist has to look a certain way.  Not true. 
“It’s just like going to Wal-Mart, according to Mike Smihosky, laying out with fiance Amanda Wise. “It’s the same cross-section of people.  There’s old & young, they’re just not wearing any clothes.”
But what if it rains? Or if the temperature drops below the suitable birthday suit weather? 
As I heard many times during the day, they’re nudists, not idiots. 
“When it’s cold people put clothing on,” says Karie Vassallo very matter-of-factly as she enjoyed a refreshing cocktail at Streakers poolside bar.  “When it’s hot, they take some off.”
“Some people think nudist are naked all the time,” added Shoemaker.  “It’s about being comfortable in your own skin.”
And for Mike and Amanda, it’s about spending time together as a family.
“It’s just freedom, relaxation, a real tight-knit community,” says Smihosky.
It’s that type of family oriented environment that the Avoca parents want for their two young boys who are 4 years and 8 months old. 
“We want them to be comfortable with themselves,” says Wise.  “That’s why we brought them here.”
Some people may be stunned that the couple allows their children to be exposed to the nudist atmosphere.
They respect other opinions but Amanda says their potential problems are just the same as every other parent with a young kid. 
“Our oldest just started preschool, so we’re just waiting for the call, ‘your child’s naked again!’”
23-year old Karie Vassallo is a bar manager at the resort, but just like the others her introduction into the nudist lifestyle came as a family experience. 
“I started coming here in diapers with my grandparents,” says Vassallo.  “My parents would always bring us up to visit here at Sunny Rest.”
Growing up in that environment, Karie compared the desire to ditch her clothes to the thrill that someone gets from adventure sports like sky diving or snorkeling.
As she went through high school and college it also proved to be a pretty good ice breaker.
“My friends asked questions all the time, they wanted to know what it’s all about.”
Everyone we talked to says the best way to answer questions is to come check it out for yourself.
“People come for the first time and end up loving it,” Shoemaker says with a smile.  “And then they enjoy it for the rest of their lifetime.”

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