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Sarah Jane Woodall: Naked comes the groundhog

<p>Sarah Jane Woodall</p>

Sarah Jane Woodall

SPRING IS IN THE AIR, and a woman’s thoughts turn to one thing: running around the desert naked. For the last few years I’ve worked as an artist’s model, traveling to rustic locations with amateur photographers, then reclining artfully amid rocks and cactus, soaking up the warm desert sun like a lipsticked lizard. It’s very liberating, and great fun.

Problem is, it isn’t all that easy to run around naked in the desert — there are these troublesome indecency laws, and they can really interfere with a good old-fashioned artistic nude photo shoot. I’ve been run out of a state park or two in my day — those rangers don’t take kindly to nekkid chicks scampering around even the farthest reaches of their parks. My quest for desolate locations has driven me farther and farther into the desert, trying to find a place to make Art (ahem) without fear of being hassled by Johnny Law. But I finally did find a fantastic place where a naked chick is always welcome: Gold Point Ghost Town.

I discovered Gold Point last October, when some traveling photographers took me and three other models up there for a two-day shoot. About three hours north of Vegas, Gold Point used to be a real mining boomtown, but had gradually fallen into disrepair … until one day, a lucky gambler used his winnings to buy and fix it up. He appointed himself sheriff and lives up there full-time, presiding over the Best Little Ghost Town in the West.

Despite some of the cabins having been converted into motel rooms, Gold Point retains that magical air of desert decay that so enchants artists and Europeans — rusted-out cars, trailers and fire trucks scattered about, weather-beaten wood exteriors on the buildings. There’s a little Main Street with a wooden boardwalk, a hangman’s gallows, a jail and a bordello — and every nook and cranny is filled with rusty, artsy bric-a-brac. It’s a photographer’s wet dream, especially because Gold Point can be hired out for photo shoots.

My first visit was magical. My fellow models and I had the run of the town, and the sheriff let us run around the musty old saloon buck-naked, cursing and swilling apple pie schnapps with the regulars (try that at the Griffin). We had a blast. But I hadn’t been back since; the desert is just too damn cold for nudity this time of year. But now the weather’s warming up, and last week two visiting Italian photographers took me up there for a day.

It was every bit as fabulous as I remembered, a real slice of Americana — and, boy, were those Italians in heaven. They actually exclaimed, “Mamma mia!” when they saw it. For Europeans raised on Hollywood depictions of the Old West, this is better than Disneyland.

I was excited to be back in the sunshine after our long, miserable, nine-week winter. I threw off my clothes, ready to make some Art with a capital A. Bathe me in the gentle warmth of your life-affirming rays, O Magnificent Sun!

But the second the air hit my bare skin, all my lofty pretensions of Art puckered up like my … well, you know. The sun might have been shining, but Old Man Winter was definitely still lurking. For once, I couldn’t wait to get my clothes on — like a goosebump-covered groundhog, I saw the shadow of my naked ass and ran for the car. And we all know what that means — at least eight more days of winter!

But once springtime is finally here, it’s game on. Catch me if you can, Mr. Park Ranger! I’ll be running around like the naked Roadrunner to your hapless Wile E. Coyote. Sucka!

SARAH JANE WOODALL gives readers the naked skinny on her blog,