March 2010 Issue
Camping in Comfort
Ditch the tents and sleeping bags in favor of luxury accommodations in the great outdoors.
If you've never heard of glamping, you're not alone. Although the concept — the term combines the words "glamour" and "camping" — has been around for awhile, the idea of an outdoor experience without "roughing it" is growing in popularity. Glamping covers a wide range of lodging options and amenities, choices that will suit nearly any requirement for creature comforts.
In the 1970s, Ohio State Parks, 866/644-6727) initiated a “rent-a-camp” program for people who wanted to camp but didn’t want to invest in (or haul) all the necessary gear.
“If you’re not the sort of person who is comfortable [camping], it makes it easier to get outside, explore and get dirty a little bit,” says Jean Backs, public information section manager.
As the program grew, campgrounds added amenities, from upgraded tent sites and rustic cabins with microwaves to deluxe cabins with mini refrigerators. Some also feature televisions, ceiling fans and even air conditioning.
Some park properties offer even more creature comforts — like the “cabents” at South Bass Island that feature a tent-like roof atop sturdy cabin walls. Inside the cabents, guests enjoy an efficiency kitchen, private bath and television. Deluxe cedar cabins on the lakefront at Geneva State Park are heated and air-conditioned, and boast both a screened-in porch and a deck.
Kelleys Island State Park has yurts — soft-sided structures on wooden platforms — that sleep six, complete with a bathroom, efficiency kitchen and furnished living room.
Where the Wild Things Are
From the woodland yurts sitting on a hillside at the Wilds, (thewilds.org, 740/638-5030), Cumberland’s wildlife conservation center, guests can view animals not normally seen in Ohio, such as giraffes, Bactrian camels and Indian rhinos. Available from May through October, the yurts rent for $325 a night (per couple) and include breakfast, dinner, choice of safari tour and 24-hour concierge service. (The more private grand yurt offers additional amenities for $425 a night.)
The yurts, complete with bamboo flooring and Asian-style décor, offer campers the best of both worlds — luxury hotel amenities combined with the great outdoors. Guests can see the animals grazing and hear the call of the wild from the comfort of their campground.
While there are no phones inside the yurts, there are private bathrooms with soap and shampoo, high-quality linens and even alarm clocks.
A concierge will deliver a selection of fine beers and wine to the nearby observation deck, where campers relax around the fire pit in cedar Adirondack chairs.
Williamsburg residents Jerry and Beth Fitzgerald stayed in one of the yurts last year, and Beth says it qualifies as “luxury camping,” pointing out that even with all the amenities, you are still outdoors.
The couple especially enjoyed feeding giraffes and other animals and interacting with animal management staff during a Wildside Tour, which allows visitors to view rare animals in open habitats.
A Lock on Natural Beauty
When she bought a Lisbon campground in 1997, Karen Anesi wasn’t a camper, but she was enamored with the scenic property along Beaver Creek, which features remains of the Sandy and Beaver Canal.
“I bought the property because it had a mile of riverfront … because of the existing remnants of the lock and [because] the setting is just astonishingly beautiful,” the Youngstown native says.
To create Lock 30 Woodlands RV Resort (ohiorvcamp.com, 330/424-9197) and make it stand out, Anesi surrounded the Olympic-sized swimming pool with Canna lilies and lavender, and turned the shower house into a carpeted clubhouse featuring wooden game tables, overstuffed couches and a complimentary book exchange occupying floor-to-ceiling shelves. Old-growth pines surround oversized RV lots.
Each lot includes trees, gardens or shrubs, Anesi says, and guests are welcome to pluck herbs from the gardens to use for cooking.
In addition to RV campers, Anesi notes many conservation-minded primitive campers also enjoy the property. Some pitch tents along the river, where they have more privacy.
“But they have to pack in and pack out,” Anesi says. “I want to leave it undisturbed.”
At Boulder’s Edge (atbouldersedge.com, 740/385-0707), located in the Hocking Hills, supplies campers with equipment ranging from air mattresses to camp stoves.
“We get a lot of people who have never tried camping before,” says Renee Mareney, who owns the property with her husband, Frank.
Perhaps that’s why tepees with chimineas, air mattresses, solar showers and fire pits are so popular with guests.
Glampers who find tepees too primitive, however, can opt for cabin accommodations, featuring indoor and outdoor fireplaces, hot tubs and fully equipped kitchens. Really need to relax? Some At Boulder’s Edge packages include a chef to prepare your dinner and a masseuse to rub away all of your worries.
Adventure seekers can book packages that include tickets for Hocking Hills experiences such as the zipline canopy tour, ATV rides and air tours.
So, from gas-fired campfires to water slides, is glamping just camping for wimps?
“No,” says Ohio State Parks’ Backs. “Camping doesn’t have to be a hassle and it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. The important thing is to just get outside and enjoy life.”
So pack your — well, whatever you consider luxury camping items — and glamp it up.