JACKSONVILLE — A new nature camp aimed at giving the LGBTQ community a safe place to experience outdoor adventures has opened on the site of an old nudist colony on Route 112 in Windham County.
The Base Camp at Beaver Falls had its soft opening over the winter, hosting private and public events, and is planning a full schedule of fun-filled adventures for the LGBTQ community and general public starting this summer.
SJ Lupert is the director of Base Camp at Beaver Falls, and one of the team members at The Venture Out Project, a non-profit based in North Hampton, Mass., to recognize the potential of transforming the former 40-acre Abbotts Glen Nudist Resort in Jacksonville into a hub of wilderness adventures for the LGBTQ community.
“We bought this property to serve as a base camp for our trips, multi-day backpacking, canoe, rafting, and wilderness trips into the backcountry,” Lupert said on a tour of the new facility. “This space is extremely inspiring. Almost every structure was already here. It is beautiful. We knew it could work when we first saw it.”
Venture Out, a 501C-3 whose mission is to get LGBTQ-plus people outdoors, comfortable in nature together, and provide safe and fun spaces for queer, trans, and LGBTQ-plus people to gather, bought the property in August of 2021 and has been renovating the facilities and grounds as they prepare for the upcoming summer and fall seasons, well into winter.
Besides the backcountry trips and outdoor adventure events, Base Camp at Beaver Falls does ‘front-country’ events as well, such as a woodworking classes for queer artists in the Fall, an ax skills workshop, a nature photography course with a transgender photographer who is also a world-class mountain climber, and a forest bathing seminar, which is a meditation retreat in the woods. Almost all of the events are already sold out.
“So now we are trying to figure out what our capacity is and what our community wants and needs,” Lupert says. “We had over seventy people here just this past weekend, both camping and staying in the cabins and facilities. It was awesome.
“We are trying to figure out realistically how many of these events we can do. We also want to include the people who might not be ready for a three-day backpacking adventure, so we have heated cabins and camping spaces for those people, too. We recently installed a hot tub, and he has a gym and a great outdoor sauna for people to use.”
Base Camp’s demographic is the 20-60 crowd, but they also plan on making some youth-oriented backpacking trips over the summer and have even booked a ‘Seniors Trip’ for the older crowd, but they aim to include everyone.
“We like that inter-generational mix. It provides a span of knowledge and experience that we think is great,” Lupert said.
They also plan ‘sober’ trips for those who don’t consume alcohol and other ‘niche’ experiences as time and staffing allow.
To keep the venture afloat and help with overhead, Venture Out also rents the facility out to all groups that would like to stay at the camp. They currently have bookings and interest for multiple weddings, corporate retreats, and family reunions, as well as for the adventures and classes they plan for the LGBTQ community.
“We are pretty booked up solid for the summer so far,” Lupert said. “We want to balance the private events with what we feel is our core mission, which is to create safe spaces for the LGBTQ-plus crowd.”
“We also recognize that not everyone will be able to afford a week-long retreat or event, so we created an enormous sliding scale and multiple scholarships to help with that,” Lupert said. “We want it to be as affordable as possible so everyone can be part of this.”
Lupert said there hasn’t been any response from the community so far but expects some reaction after they begin to publicize.
“I’m curious to find out what the reaction will be,” Lupert said. “I think we are still a little bit of a hidden gem. We have a lot of interesting neighbors with lots of opinions, politically diverse. I think, however, that Vermont is a ‘live-and-let-live’ atmosphere. I guess we’ll see.”
“I’m not sure there’s anything else like this anywhere,” Lupert said. “It’s unique. I think we can make an enormous difference here, and we want everyone to be part of it. Everyone is welcome. We specifically want the LGBTQ plus community to have a space where they can congregate outdoors in a beautiful environment where they feel safe and don’t have to worry about gathering in large groups,” Lupert said. “The feedback we’ve been getting is, ‘it’s just us, our own space. We didn’t have to worry about anything. We could shut the outside world out for just a little bit.’ That is so important and valuable. Straight people have those types of places all the time. We think it’s important to provide that to our community.”
For information on registering for any of the offerings at Base Camp at Beaver Falls, or to see a schedule of upcoming events, go to www.basecampbeaverfalls.com.