Nobody glamps alone. This occurred to me only after I’d booked three nights sans partner or friend at Dunton River Camp, a former cattle ranch turned luxury resort in southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. A look at the property’s website the day before I went confirmed my hunch: I was going without a glampmate to a place where glampmates were de rigueur. Photographs of sumptuous-looking king-size beds, double vanities in the en suite bathrooms—and the pair of mountain bikes that came with each tent—drove the point home. At meals, which the website informed me would be eaten at communal tables, I’d be the third and fifth and seventh wheel among honeymooners and babymooners and retired couples and women friends on girls’ trips.

As I pulled up to the camp, which lies in a high valley some 8,500 feet above sea level, I saw that even the horses were paired up—two black Percheron drafts named Pat and Paul grazed in the vast meadow that rims the banks of the river that snakes through the property, their twin equine forms making the already breathtaking landscape even more beautiful. It was late May, and the resort had just opened for the season. So I could only laugh when, over lunch, the general manager, Sarah Cruse, told me I’d actually be alone: No other guests were expected until after I had left.

Truth be told, I was thrilled. Earlier in the day, as I’d driven my rental car the hour and a half from Telluride along the scantly trafficked roads, I realized how much I ached to be left to my own thoughts and wanderings for a while. As Sarah and I ate peach crumble, we charted a course through my stay. I would take a yoga class and get a massage. I would go hiking and fly-fishing. But most of all, I would do nothing at all.

Which is something.

A portmanteau of the words glamour and camping, glamping has been around for centuries, though the word itself is only a little more than a decade old. While its history is steeped in luxury—think extravagant African safaris taken by the wealthy in the last century—modern-day glamping spans a wide spectrum of amenities and price tags. You can sleep in yurts, tepees, tree houses, tents, travel trailers, and even igloos. A two-bedroom tent “suite” with a soaking tub at the foot of your king-size bed is $1,555 per person, per night, at Montana’s The Resort at Paws Up; a traditional covered wagon at the Conestoga Ranch Glamping Resort in Utah starts at $110. Some glamping sites have WiFi and cocktails; others have a fire pit and no electricity.

Unlike camping, with its long and noble tradition of nature lovers who rough it with the intention of getting away from civilization, glamping is about bringing civilization into the wild. Its promoters say it offers the upside of camping without the downside—namely, one can experience the splendor of the wilderness without suffering its punishments. Any camper who has ever spent a miserable night in a sleeping bag drenched from a leaking tent in a rainstorm (and isn’t that every camper?) knows what this means. Its detractors say glamping isn’t camping at all.

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As someone who has had a lot of experience solo camping with nothing more than what I could carry on my back (23 years ago I hiked 1,100 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from Southern California to the Oregon–Washington border, so as to shed my skin and reckon with myself), I’ll admit I felt a bit snobbish on the subject. To camp solo is to foray into wilderness that’s made wilder by the fact that one is alone in it. It’s to challenge oneself by going outside one’s comfort zone—and getting comfortable there. It’s to scare oneself and make oneself brave. It’s to experience the deepest silence, out of which rise the most insightful thoughts. And perhaps most important, it’s to give oneself the opportunity to tap directly into the profound understanding that under these vast stars we—humans, plants, and animals—are all connected.

But to glamp solo is to . . . what?

I pondered that question as I was given a tour that began in the Farmhouse, a building that sits on the site of the original farmhouse of the Cresto Ranch, the former occupant of this 500-acre expanse of mountains, forest, and meadows. Here, guests—or make that guest—can gather inside by the fire, or outside on the wraparound deck overlooking the river, to eat farm-to-table meals that manage to be both healthy and indulgent, as well as drawing on the region’s culture (lamb mole Navajo tacos and green chile omelets; heirloom-tomato salad and seared venison tenderloin). A small bridge leads to eight large white canvas guest tents on wooden platforms tucked beneath the dappled shade of aspens and pine trees, each a mash-up of a Western frontier lodge and a luxury-hotel room, with cowhide rugs and soft white linens. The walls of the bathrooms are corrugated tin, and the bathtubs are glossy white six-foot soakers; an outdoor platform has comfortable chairs in which to lounge.

It was here, on the porch of my tent, that I spent my first hours at the camp, doing little more than breathing in the dry and fragrant alpine air and gazing at the view of the mountains both near and far. In the foreground, I could see glimmers of the narrow river cutting a meandering swath along the edge of the green meadow where Pat and Paul roamed from one spot to another as the sun shifted. In the distance, tucked among layers of mountains, I could see the rocky peak for which my quarters were named, El Diente—“the tooth.” My tent was at the end of a row. Beyond it, there was only wilderness for miles.

It wasn’t in the wilderness that I found myself the following morning, but in the wellness tent that looked out on the same spectacular view. I was there for a one-on-one yoga class, and I was terrified. Years ago, before I had children, before I had a busy career, before I stopped including myself on my list of things that had to be seen to, I did yoga regularly. But now I was out of shape. My worry increased when I set eyes on Andrea: impossibly lean, clad in leggings and a tiny top to my baggy hiking pants and loose T-shirt. I needn’t have worried. She had the body of a yogini but the heart of a cowgirl. By the end of the hour, after she’d led me through breaths of fire and sun salutations and downward dogs and warrior poses, I felt the way I forgot yoga always makes me feel: like my teacher was a magic person, and a little bit like I could be too.

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I still felt the benefit of the yoga in my knees later that day, as I hiked a loop trail that follows the river before climbing into the forest and meadows. Sarah’s nimble hunting poodle, Toby, came along as my companion. I paced myself as I walked, sometimes gasping for breath, my lungs not yet adjusted to the elevation. Periodically I paused to holler for Toby, who would gallop ahead on his own explorations, then dash back to me. My calls weren’t only to keep track of him; I was also warning off any black bears in the vicinity. Though I saw no signs of the free-range cattle that still graze here, I felt a sense of the land’s history, imagining the cowboys, miners, and homesteaders who lived here long ago, and the native Ute people before them. Near the end of the trail, I passed the remnants of an ancient cabin, its gray, weather-battered logs slowly decomposing into the soil from which they sprang.

The next morning, I staggered into the river, in waders and clutching the arm of my fly-fishing guide, Wyatt. The rocks shifted and wobbled beneath my feet as the robust current pushed against my legs, unsteadying me. Once I got my bearings, I cast my fly into the water. Minutes after I confessed to Wyatt that I truly didn’t care whether or not I caught a fish, that I was perfectly happy to wade from place to place in the rushing water, casting my rod, I caught something and reeled it in. It was a rainbow trout about the size of my hand, which I released back into the river after Wyatt gently pulled the hook from its mouth.

That evening, after I’d fished and eaten lunch and retreated to my tent to check my email—and then decided not to, because the way the sunlight was hitting the mountains on the other side of my canvas walls beckoned me—I found myself back out on the porch, where I’d sat on the day I arrived. By day, this spot had been so warm in the sunlight that I’d worn only a T-shirt, but now I was swaddled in a wool coat against the crisp mountain air. As I gazed up at the stars I realized I felt slightly altered from the version of me who’d stood here a couple of days before.

The only sound was the wind rustling the leaves of the aspens nearby. The moon was just two nights past full, and I wondered if I should take a photograph of it, though the thought evaporated a moment later. The beauty that surrounded me was so grand that I knew I couldn’t possibly capture such magnificence with my iPhone camera, so I didn’t even try. It could not be captured. It could only be felt.