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COVER STORY: Carefree Campground

Grizzly Pines is a clothing-optional haven for gay men.

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Guests by the campfire at Grizzly Pines (photos by Connor Thompson)

There is a forest in Navasota where you can find bears, cubs, otters, wolves—and maybe even a twink or two. These are just some of the types of gay men you may encounter at Grizzly Pines, Texas’ premier gay, clothing-optional campground.

Since it opened in 2015, Grizzly Pines has been providing a safe and affirming place for men to become one with nature. Whether you’re there to camp or glamp, the space allows visitors to disrobe and disengage from the hustle and bustle of the urban experience. Of course, disrobing is optional, but owners James Schwab, 57, Rigoberto Rosales, 49, and Connor Thompson, 28, opened the campground as a place where gay (or questioning) men can be themselves.

We purchased the Rockin R Campground in September 2015 from then-owner Todd Collins, and we reopened it as Grizzly Pines LLC. We used to come camping here, and we realized that if we didn’t step in to try to save the campground, then we would no longer have what I think is a safe space for us gay men,” Schwab explains.

Connor Thompson (l), James Schwab, and Rigoberto Rosales

Since its reopening as Grizzly Pines, men have been making their way to the campground year-round. Special events are held throughout the year, and the April events included a Fetish Weekend, the Houston Bears’ Bear Necessities event, and the Spring Fling Pool Party that was centered around the campground’s large new pool.

“Grizzly Pines has a very open atmosphere. We have two tent areas with electrical service and a water supply. We also have cabins and RVs that range in price from $50 per night for a comfortable sleeping cabin all the way up to a well-appointed two-story cabin at $150 per night that looks out over the pool. Grizzly Pines has additional showers and bathrooms for those who choose to tent stylishly with water and electricity, as well as for those who say they feel like roughing it,” Schwab says.

For many, the most intriguing (and sometimes the most stressful) aspect of Grizzly Pines is the clothing-optional opportunities. Schwab explains that guests need not worry about privacy being breached, or about any insecurities they may have about being naked.

“We have a strict rule: No cameras in the park. Yes, we realize that we all have phones with cameras, but for the most part our clients respect each other’s privacy,” Schwab notes.

Guests can also enjoy the space fully clothed, if they so choose. Nudity is not a requirement, but it might be a fun option. “Years ago, I was a bit more shy than I am today. To me, it doesn’t matter whether you want to be naked or hang out fully clothed. Grizzly Pines is a safe haven for you. We promote mutual respect, consideration of others’ feelings, needs, and desires, and an acceptance of who we are, no matter how different. I also found it difficult to overcome my insecurity, but I eventually realized that I only have what I have, and I am what I am. I decided I didn’t want to waste my life trying to be what someone wanted. I just wanted to enjoy my life. Since I quit worrying about that, I discovered it was much easier to just be.

The gay community is amazing—both for its ability to be so judgmental and its ability to be so accepting. We promote acceptance at Grizzly Pines. We do feel that freedom here in the woods, surrounded by nature.”

Unfortunately, Grizzly Pines is not currently open to women, with the exception of once a year during the opening of the Texas Renaissance Festival. On that weekend, men are allowed to bring their female friends and family.

“For the rest of the year, Grizzly Pines belongs to the men—whether gay, straight, or questioning,” Schwab says.

For more information visit grizzlypines.com.

This article appears in the May 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Ryan Leach

Ryan Leach is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine. Follow him on Medium at www.medium.com/@ryan_leach.
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