Experience This

The Great and Glamorous Outdoors: "Glamp-sites" offer a chance to get close to nature, while still keeping the comforts of civilization (copy)

2013-06-24T17:30:00Z 2013-06-24T17:47:21Z The Great and Glamorous Outdoors: "Glamp-sites" offer a chance to get close to nature, while still keeping the comforts of civilization (copy)Carolyn Purnell nwitimes.com
June 24, 2013 5:30 pm  • 

Dazzling sunsets, the peaceful rustle of leaves, and the gentle sounds of crickets in the dark–these are just some of the joys offered by camping. But for many people, these pleasures are easily surmounted by the nightmarish prospect of mosquitos, sleeping on the hard ground, and pitching a tent. Ten years ago, this may have seemed like an intractable problem, but thanks to the new trend of “glamping,” one no longer has to make the choice between nature’s joys and nuisances.

“Glamping” is a portmanteau for “glamorous camping,” and as its name suggests, it’s a great option for people who love nature but detest being deprived of their creature comforts. At a “glamp-site,” visitors are set up in private accommodations, replete with the amenities of a luxury hotel. Each site is different, but some offer every frill imaginable: Bose sound systems, Wi-Fi, and spa treatments, to name a few. Others are more pared down, eschewing technology so visitors can more fully separate themselves from day-to-day life. Yet in all situations, guests are treated to warm showers, soft beds, and natural vistas.

As with camping, glamping appeals to those who want to slow down and to escape the noisy, harried bustle of the city or the sprawling concrete expanses of the suburbs. Fresh air, leisure, and tranquility are all key reasons for wanting a vacation that’s a bit closer to nature. Many feel that glamping, shorn of the stressors that can accompany traditional camping, allows them to truly relax and to enjoy their surroundings more fully.

High-end tents were a staple on nineteenth-century colonial expeditions in Asia, Africa, and Oceania, but the concept has caught on in Europe and America only recently. If a tent doesn’t sound appealing, the options for shelters are myriad: yurts, tipis, treehouses, Airstream trailers, huts, villas, and eco-pods are only a handful of the choices. Glamping businesses vary widely in size, ranging from small proprietors to large resorts, and accordingly, the prices also range widely, running anywhere from eighty dollars to thousands of dollars per night.

Many glampers seek out these less expensive options, relishing the fact that they offer a middle ground between traditional camping and the cost of a hotel. But for the occasional camper, even the more expensive options can be cost-effective, given that it is not necessary to spend a great deal on camping supplies that might be used only rarely. While a few glamp-sites require visitors to supply their own bedding, most provide everything necessary, and visitors aren’t required to pack any items that they wouldn’t need for a normal hotel-stay. Many sites offer kitchen facilities so campers can cook their own food, but one need not resort to standard campfire fare. Glamping-friendly cookbooks like Robin Donovan’s Campfire Cuisine (Quirk Books) feature gourmet recipes suitable for outdoor cooking. Grilled salmon with balsamic fig sauce, mustard and rosemary lamb chops, and orzo with wild mushrooms are just a few of the healthy and delicious options one can enjoy under the stars.

While glamping would make a great couples’ getaway, many sites offer accommodations sufficient for larger groups, making it an equally appealing option for a vacation with friends, a girls’ weekend, or a bachelor party. Many glamp-sites are located near national parks or forests, and in addition to peace and privacy, they can offer a great base of operations for more active pursuits. Skiing, hiking, kayaking, and biking are just some of the options available for glampers, and some locations offer more exotic activities like zip-lining, river tubing, or whitewater rafting.

The glamping experience can vary greatly from region to region, and even from site to site. In Caledonia, Illinois, one can rent a fully-furnished tent on Kinnikinnick Farm, an organic farm that provides produce to many high-end restaurants in Chicago (www.featherdown.com). There is no electricity in the tents, but they are far from spare. Spacious enough for six people, the tents come outfitted with beds, hardwood floors, a dining area, a cooking stove, a toilet, and all necessary supplies. This is an ideal destination for food enthusiasts, since guests are given access to the farm’s organic produce, fresh eggs and dairy, and free-range meat. Evenings are spent over lingering dinners, the warm glow of candlelight, and star-gazing.

Lodi, a small, scenic town in south central Wisconsin, offers multiple glamping opportunities. One can take in the lush hills, trout streams, and glassy lakes of Lodi from the comfort of wooden cabins, gazebos, yurts, or even a Conestoga wagon. Information on all these options, plus hundreds more around the country, can be found at glampinghub.com. Even more locally, the Indiana Dunes State Park occasionally hosts “Glamping Weekends” for women interested in getting a healthy dose of nature. Participants can partake in classes on jewelry-making, sunset hikes, and campfire gatherings.

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