Paul Andersen: Fair Game | AspenTimes.com

Paul Andersen: Fair Game

Paul Andersen
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

It used to be that Conundrum Hot Springs was a place where you could see more of your friends, where mountain folk would get down to the bare essentials. Wilderness celebrants marched eight miles to timberline, stripped to the buff and reveled in hydrothermal splendor.

There aren’t many places where you can strip down in front of God and the whole of creation and feel OK about it, but that was Conundrum Hot Springs, where you could really get yourself into hot water.

I never thought modesty would rule at Conundrum Hot Springs, but that’s the way it is today. This sad state of affairs is either a statement of absurd modesty among formerly free-living mountaineers, or it’s indicative of the suburbanization of wilderness. Strip off your clothing at Conundrum today, and you feel like a flasher.

Back in the ’70s, we baby boomers cherished nakedness as a rite of passage and personal expression. “Streaking” was a common offshoot of the jogging craze, and skinny-dipping was a national pastime memorialized at Woodstock.

Conundrum Hot Springs used to be a mecca for nudity. Getting naked with friends, new and old, was a pagan ritual that removed the barriers of clothing and social mores in about the time that it took to unlace your hiking boots.

Today, nudity has become passe, unless you’re an airport security agent with a lascivious mind and a carefully tuned body scanner. I have always thought Superman made poor use of his X-ray vision simply by staring through brick walls. Didn’t he ever check out Lois Lane?

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For me, nudity lost some of its appeal on a bike tour through Yugoslavia, when I was almost cured of my intrigue. Most of the beaches my buddy and I visited were nude beaches. We would ride up, strip down and stretch out for the full body tan. We felt free and easy about our nakedness and the naked bodies around us.

One day, we biked several miles out of our way to visit a “naturist” campground. Not only did this visit hamper our own nudist tendencies, it confirmed that middle-aged Germans should never be allowed to go without their clothing.

We had assumed that the campground would be popular with shapely young women cavorting about like nymphs. As we paid our money at the gate, we expected to see bronzed babes bouncing about the beach. Sadly, the first nude person we encountered was a fleshy, beer-bellied man polishing the mirrors on his mobile home camper. As he polished, everything jiggled. Sexy, baby!

Next, we saw a woman who was shaped like a pear. She was walking her toy poodle on a leash, and she was wearing only slippers. The dog barked hysterically at our bikes, causing her to turn. She shrieked, picked up “Fufu”, and attempted to cover her nakedness with this yapping patch of white fur the size of a powder puff. We couldn’t stop laughing until we were 10 kilometers down the road.

Perhaps the modesty now exhibited at Conundrum is based on a similar repulsion at the sight of middle-aged baby boomer flesh, which seems to be in copious supply these days. Maybe it’s time to face the fact that few of us boomers have the body tone we had 30 years ago and that it’s our aesthetic responsibility to keep it wrapped.

For the faint of heart, the glories of wilderness could be tainted by sagging cellulite and bulging bellies. Some of us may pretend otherwise, but age is only appetizing, or even palatable, when applied to wine and cheese. One visit to the Yampa Hot Springs in Glenwood will prove that point.

Still, for old times’ sake, and just to keep things loose and free, it’s every boomer’s duty to ignore convention and proudly wear our birthday suits into the Conundrum Hot Springs. Not only will it show the younger set the way it ought to be done, it will clear the crowded pools and make room for more of us old-timers.

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