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.