As a personal favorite of gay campgrounds everywhere it’s impossible to complete this piece without mention of Jones Pond. Located in rural Western New York an hour southwest of Rochester and an hour southeast of Buffalo, picturesque Angelica is a nearby community.

Though not in Florida, Jones Pond sets the standard for every gay campground I have visited. Jones Pond is a premier property and fosters a strong sense of gay community in its seasonal campers; the campground is open May through September. Each block of seasonal campers hosts a block party in the summer, raising money for donation to local organizations. These events also serve to inculcate newcomers into the embracing culture. Being a stranger and being recognized serves the dual purpose of feeling included and wanting to come back for more. Many businesses of all kinds could learn from this simple tactic.

The park is a beautiful property from the moment of arrival at the store to register. Acres of lawn fall away to a line of stately pines that define the clothing optional demarcation line. Past the pines the land slopes gently, until Cardiac Hill, and is populated here and there with seasonal camps set on huge lots. Some lots are in full sun, some under the shade of an area of pines, some up a sloping reach almost surrounded by marsh. Below Cardiac Hill camps are set along a bold creek that flows through a viaduct serving as a bridge carrying the road up the far hillside. Set among the hardwoods of the hillside are camps carved out of the forest. Nature trails surround the hillside camps wandering from the bridge to an open sunny meadow at the top of the Fruit Loop.

Jones Pond features early season specials. Park wide Wi-Fi is coming in three stages, the first stage to be completed this year. The huge pool is now heated with new pool heaters. The Barn, the social center of Jones Pond, got new sound equipment for the 2015 season opening. On the list for completion this summer is a complete remodeling of Fluff and Fold, the laundry room, and a new camper kitchen for tenters including a microwave and dishwashing station. An entry gate now stands sentinel keeping the curious and gawkers from wandering the park.

Owners Bryan and Matt were instrumental along with Freedom Valley, Ohio, and Riverside, ON Canada, in beginning Friends With Benefits. FWB is an organization of gay campgrounds whose members offer half price memberships to campers who own a valid membership with another FWB member.

If you haven’t experienced gay camping it’s time to get out and give it a try. You don’t need much; most gay campgrounds rent cabins, though check before you go as many don’t provide linens, towels or blankets. Many have on site food service and bars, though again, check before you go because some are a great distance from retail services. You don’t need many clothes or personal items; gay campers tend to be much more interested in who you are than what you wear or drive.

Gay camping can be about sex and some gay campgrounds are clearly set up around that notion. For most gay campers it’s about community; new friends, old friends and permanent friends. It’s about meeting new people, exchanging ideas about campers and camping, inviting friends to a campfire and having a few cocktails under the moon and stars. Gay campers are a community unto themselves and when traveling I often see campers I have met in a different place and time. Travelling can be a lonely proposition on long or dreary days and arriving to find a familiar smiling face with open arms is a certain comfort.

Removing the strings, drama, expectations and familiarity of day to day life in the home zone and replacing that with relaxation, camaraderie, freedom of spirit under the stars and new experiences in a less controlled environment delivers a sense of comfort and inclusion rarely experienced in everyday city life.

Pick a date, take a break, and get your gay camping on.