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"Luxury camping" -no longer an oxymoron, those two little
words have given a whole new meaning to getting away from it all.
Plush linens, gourmet meals, spa treatments. You call that camping?
Yes, here's why.
BY PAUL GOLDSMITH
But instead of panic, a warm, sunny sense of calm followed the realization, and I couldn't help myself from thinking that after this trip, I might never touch that tent again.
Set in a lush grove of sycamore and oak, in a seaside pocket of the California coast 20 miles north of Santa Barbara, El Capitan Canyon and Ranch (pictured) represents the latest trend in outdoor travel: luxury camping. Designed for those of us who want to relax and enjoy nature without being sequestered in a sanitized new-agey spa, these modern campgrounds combine natural solitude with the sort of amenities you might find at a four-star hotel: plush beds, linens, packed picnics and gourmet meals. Others offer spa treatments and dataports. Some, such as Buck's on the Brazos in Rainbow, Texas, even have chef services. It's more expensive than a campground, to be sure, but more and more travelers are willing to pay hotel rates (up to $300 a night in some cases) to get a little comfort and convenience with their fresh air. No more sleeping on damp, hard ground. No more waking up mosquito-bitten. Even if the closest you've ever come to being outdoorsy is wearing a fleece vest, luxury camping puts nature within reach.
. Then you need a way to transport that gear. Our facility allows people to get an outdoor experience." Recent studies by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) show camping remains the most popular outdoor vacation activity for U.S. adults, with one-third of us having gone on a camping trip in the last five years. But unlike back then, more and more of us are opting for weekend trips rather than longer, more involved vacations.
MULTIROOM TENTS, MINI HOT WATER
HEATERS FOR WARM SHOWERS, EVEN
PORTABLE EXPRESSO MACHINES.
While campers may not be spending as much time planning as they used to, many are expecting an increased level of comfort, and camping equipment has changed as a result. "It used to be you brought a lot of basic stuff in a canvas rucksack with a pair of work boots, but that's changing - fast," says Jerry Mallett, president and founder of the Adventure Travel Society, a Colorado-based consulting group and trade association specializing in outdoor travel and eco-tourism. Today, campers can choose from multiroom tents, mini hot water heaters for warm showers, even portable espresso machines.
And getting away from it all used to mean being out of touch. No more. Campers are toting laptops and to meet the demand Kampground of America (KOA) is currently installing wireless Internet at many of its 5°0 nationwide facilities. Today, it's not a matter of whether or not you'll be comfortable, it's simply a matter of how much comfort you want to bring with you. But the allure of luxury camping is that travelers can choose to leave the usual camping gear behind.
"I think people like to travel light, but it's also the ambience," says Mallet. A lot of traditional campgrounds are nothing more than staging areas - combination parking lot/Hoovervilles where families crowd together, share bathroom facilities and recoup before heading off to the next point of interest detailed in stacks of pamphlets; the kind of place where cars and RVs stream out in the morning and straggle back after dark. One of the goals of luxury camping is to shift the focus back to the actual landscape.
A former campground and RV park, El Capitan Canyon once housed up to 3,500 campers a night. "We used to be a very compact environment, and the canyon suffered because of it," says Bowman. "We set out to make the new El Capitan more eco-friendly and less intrusive on the environment." In 2000, El Capitan Canyon began replacing its hookups and camping areas with Hemingway-inspired safari tents and Jacuzzi-equipped cedar cabins - strictly limiting the number of guests. "Now, instead of being an overflow area for the state beach, we're more of a destination."
By letting guests leave their tents at home and providing a range of dif- ferent activities, these luxury campgrounds shift attention to their natural settings, which too often become afterthoughts. At El Capitan, visitors can choose from surfing lessons, guided nature walks and sea kayaking. There is access to a wide range of trails throughout the 2,800-acre preserve, and plans are in the works for a ropes course. Bikes are available to cruise the beach trails or make the short trip to Refugio, the next beach up the coast. For travelers interested in exploring the rest of Santa Barbara County, there are guided wine-tasting tours of the local vineyards.
"Some people are more active and want us to set up kayaking or horseback riding for them," says Bowman. "And other people would just rather sit and read. It's adventure travel if you want adventure travel, or it can be a retreat if you just want to relax."
Despite the amenities and lush surroundings, El Capitan Canyon still has some of the best aspects of the traditional campground. Children roam easily, unencumbered by parents in most cases, riding bikes, playing games, catching frogs in the creek. For those souls not hearty enough for the ocean, there is a heated swimming pool. For meals, there is the Canyon Market, offering a full menu of sandwiches and salads, not to mention a wide range of regional wines. And while in-cabin massages are currently available, El Capitan Canyon plans for a full spa facility.
It all comes down to choosing the experience you want. "It's being able to say you had fresh shrimp for dinner or you had ice cream at the bottom of the Grand Canyon," says Mallet. "With luxury camping, we're seeing a merger of adventure travel and the campground industry. People are looking for something different, a nicer opportunity, and the industry is evolving to keep the public interest. It's just an evolutionary step."
PAUL GOLDSMITH is a frequent Spirit contributor and also writes for the New York Times.
Southwest Airlines SPIRIT
433 Amon Center Boulevard
Fort Worth Texas 76155
4-Star Wilderness Camping. Enjoy the quiet and beauty of untrammeled Nature in considerable comfort with no equipment and no experience required. View the Graphic Amenities Summary for heating, lighting, kitchens, water supply, screened porch or deck, and more. Get help deciding which Fourpeaks Cabin is right for you.
#1893 "So close to its natural state that you can imagine yourself as a pioneer just discovering the area."
Subject: Guestbook Entry
Date : 8/29/2004
Name : The Abrigo Family
Email : email@example.com
Location : Staten Island, New York
Comments : Dear Martin,
You are a very lucky man. Fourpeaks is a unique place of great beauty
that's been kept so close to its natural state that you can imagine yourself
as a pioneer just discovering the area. One way you could determine if
potential guests would appreciate the experience would be to have them stop
at Lake George Village first and have a look around there. If they tell you
they actually like the crowds and commercialism, then tell them to forget
Fourpeaks. It takes a different mindset to go into the woods and spend the
day picking up frogs instead of cruising the T-shirt shops in Lake George!
As much as we loved Fourpeaks, though, we weren't enthusiastic about
the outdoor privies! Chemical toilets are definitely the way to go (pun,
ha-ha) and we would immensely appreciate this amenity on a future visit.
We're contemplating a return visit with some friends to share a bigger
place than Thoreau House. Ridge Camp was really attractive and I'll bet the
fall foliage season there would take your breath away! Would you be willing
to get a couple of chem toilets there for the fall season? Let me know and
I'll see what's doable on everyone's schedule (possibly around Columbus
Regards, The Abrigos
More about this. (Keep reading.)
Subject: Thanks very much for your thoughtful Guest Book entry.
Date: Sun, 29 Aug 2004 16:25:37 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Martin (Your Adirondack Guide)"
To: firstname.lastname@example.org Hello Frances, Joselito and Valerie!
Thanks very much for your thoughtful Guest Book entry.
The comparison with Lake George Village (or for that matter) downtown
Lake Placid is a good one. There are after all many (the majority of
vacationers really) who don't value privacy and are even scared to be
where there aren't A LOT OF PEEEPLE around. Asking them if they like
LG or LP village is a good way to figure them out. I'll try and
Quiet (no audible sounds except natural sounds like birds and insects
and wind in the leaves and such) is really scary for most people. They're
used to cars and planes and radio and TV and peeeple and even sirens.
A guest who just came down from Ridge today commented about that. He
couldn't hear any highway sounds at all or even airplanes. He says
he's visited lots of "wilderness" or "backcountry" places where city
sounds and sounds of motors still get in and spoil the quiet.
Yes. You can have the use of a chemical toilet while at camp. I mentioned
that in the "Thank you" letter that I sent to you following your visit
(see copy below). It's part of several new upgrade offers in my "Luxury Camping"
program. I don't want to be left behind with all the progress that's being
made to put "NATURE WITHIN REACH" to anyone who wants to take a look at it,
even for just a weekend. It's not so scary after all.
You can read something about what is "Luxury camping" and where to find it
in a magazine article from the Southwest Airlines In-flight magazine
(Fourpeaks is mentioned). Just click http://4peaks.com/fluxury.htm
Along with that "Luxury camping" page is an (almost finished page)
"Luxury Camping at our Adirondack Backcountry Camps," including a list
of new amenities available to Fourpeaks visitors, free phone service,
running water, flush toilets, hot showers, outdoor screened dining (some with
small fee) along with the already available complete kitchens, outdoor grills,
table and hammock, scenic private hiking trails, and pet-friendly accommodations.
Read about the new stuff at http://4peaks.com/foamen.htm still somewhat
"under construction" but due to be finished soon.
Thanks for thinking about coming back. You will have to remind me (my new
inquiry form will provide for it) that you want the flush toilets for your
visit. I'd love to have you back. Maybe I'LL MAKE YOU a meal to pay you back for
your friendly hospitality while you were at Thoreau.
The calendar http://4peaks.com/femail2u.htm shows Ridge is available
for Sept 11 for 3 nights and Sept 17 for lots of time, but Labor Day weekend
is already booked. Sorry. Please consider those alternate dates or maybe
Sugar Camp for Sept 2.
Hope to see you soon. (20% discount off posted rates apply for a second visit
#0461 "I loved the quiet. Even hauling water was fun. I took a shower and loved every step of the process . . ."
Subject: RE: YOUR FOURPEAKS RESERVATION
Date: Mon, 30 Aug 2004 13:25:22 -0400
From: "Al C***"
Ted and I had a great time, Woody too. I loved Ridge and can't wait to
return. I think you have a great place. I loved the quiet. Even hauling
water was fun. I took a shower and loved every step of the process,
heating the water, filling the little shower pump and was
hing down. In
the words of Arnold S. in The Terminator, 'I'll be back'.
15** Broadway 36th floor
NY, NY 10036
212 277 **** phone
212 719 **** fax
#1532 "We had a WONDERFUL time this year, notwithstanding the pump situation."
Subject: Re: Your Fourpeaks visit 08/09/04 to Sugar Camp
Date: Sun, 29 Aug 2004 16:30:03 EDT
Thanks for your note. We had a WONDERFUL time this year, notwithstanding the pump situation. We also couldn't get the
electric shower to work, although we replaced the batteries. You might want to check that out, too.
We left a couple of leashes, as you probably figured out, but don't worry
about it. Keep em or throw em out, whatever. Betty and Rudi have fancy new ones.
We no doubt will return next summer. I want to use my new kayak a lot, so
we might do some lake camping as well.
More about this. (Keep reading.)
Subject: We had a WONDERFUL time this year, notwithstanding the pump situation.
Date: Sun, 29 Aug 2004 17:15:36 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Martin (Your Adirondack Guide)" To: Mamemail@example.com
Thanks very much for you email about your stay at Sugar Camp.
I'm glad you had a good time and I hope you'll make it again
next year. As I mentioned in my [Thank You] note (copy below)
the hand pumps can be frustrating at times, even with regular maintenance.
Next year the option of "running water" will be available at
Sugar Camp and several of the other camps. It's part of my new
"Luxury Camping" program to put "NATURE WITHIN REACH" to anyone
who has an interest in it, for a week or just a weekend.
There's was a magazine article recently about "Luxury Camping," what it is
and where to get it (Fourpeaks is included) and you can see this at
now "NATURE WITHIN REACH--'Luxury camping.'" CLICK http://4peaks.com/fluxury.htm
Aside from "running water" there's the new option of flush toilets
(portable chemical toilets) and outdoor screened dining and more.
A graphic chart of these additions is on a new page "Luxury
Camping at our Adirondack Backcountry Camps" http://4peaks.com/foamen.htm
(still a bit "under construction" but to be finished soon).
I'm sorry your portable hot shower didn't work for you. (I wish you had
mentioned it as I have spares.) It turns out the fault is in the switch
and the manufacturer (www.Zodi.com) has an upgrade version. I just
ordered four of them. It's black instead of green. And these will
be in place shortly instead of the original showers. I'm sorry you missed
the fun of trying this! "Luxury camping" for certain and really very
simple to use.
Thanks again for writing. Hope to see you next year (or even sooner).
Dear Carey and Mike,
Re: Your Fourpeaks visit 08/09/04 to Sugar Camp
Mike--Sorry you had the problem with the hand pump. I
figured out later that it needs priming (water poured in at
the top) to insure a good seal. Next year I'll have more to
offer: gravity water in holding tanks, so no pumping at all.
. . .
An Adirondack Miscellany Newspaper and Magazine articles, Books and lots more.
Ice storm of the Century Devastates Northcountry.January 1998
Town of Jay Happy 200th Birthday Party at the 1829 Southmayd Stone House May 1998
Natives and Outsiders at the Jay Old Covered Bridge. June 1998
Jane McCrae Murdered by Indians in Ft. Edward NY. July 1777
Adirondack Great Camps: Adventures in the Wilderness.
Miss P, the famous www.Internet web purrcat, interviews Tramp, our Fourpeaks barking cocker.
Ironman USA comes to Fourpeaks.
Chickadees In Winter
Flying Critters on your Adirondack Vacation.
Adirondack Letters: "Hints of Balsam and Pine from our corner of the Adirondacks."
AuSable River Swimming: Where the Pools Are Never Crowded, And Water Slides Are Nature's Own (New York Times)
A new novel about Fourpeaks: Moss Krupnick's Daughters of Utopia, 196 pages, $9.98
For your Adirondack experience--"Stay Awhile In Style!" Plattsburgh-Republican November 2002.
NATURE WITHIN REACH: Luxury Camping. (July 2004, Southwest Airlines SPIRIT (In-flight Magazine.)
Annual Jay Yard Sale. (First Sale August 19, 2006.)
Glamping. (Glamorous Camping.) (Jan-Feb, Nov-Dec 2008, Women's Adventure Magazine.)
"Imagine a place that preserves the charm of the nineteenth-century back-country dwellings . . ." ADIRONDACK LIFE, 2006 Collectors Issue.
Are you in this picture? Fourpeaks hosts now welcome paying guests to a 700-acre rest and playground for vacations in the Adirondack Great Camp tradition. Couples appreciate Fourpeaks secluded settings. Outdoor loving families have fun exploring our accessible wilderness. Folks with dogs enjoy the open spaces to run their pets. A private nature rereat. For a vacation away from it all. Are you in this picture? CLICK HERE to find out! [More about this at Frequently Asked Questions.]
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"Hints of Balsam and Pine from our Corner of the Adirondacks"
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