I was raised in a camping family. I grew to love the closeness to nature, the proximity to hiking and fishing, and the ability to unplug from life’s complexities. But I’ve had some uncomfortable experiences. I found a scorpion in my sleeping bag in Argentina, had my tent flood in the rain in Olympic National Park, gone through moments when I craved fresh food, a dry, comfortable bed, even a massage. Little did I know I could have had these things, if only I’d gone glamping.
A fusion of glamor and camping, glamping has been popular in Europe and the western United States for years. Glamping properties vary, but at their core, they are full-service lodging options with fine cuisine, thick duvets, and fully featured sleeping quarters. Some glamping facilities house guests in tepees, others in treehouses. Semipermanent canvas tent cabins are another popular structure, inside which fresh flowers and plush throw rugs round out the luxurious atmosphere. This is what Camp Orenda in New York’s Adirondack Park offers its guests.
Orenda is the first glamping property to open in the East. It’s in its third year of operation and sits in Johnsburg, west of Lake George and amid some of the Adirondack’s best outdoor recreation opportunities. An all-inclusive experience, Orenda spoils its guests by night and leads exploration into the surrounding wilderness by day. You can ride horseback or hike, kayak or fly fish, then settle into your cabin for a glass of wine and — yes — a massage. Glamping offers a luscious set of comforts at which even the most hardened backcountry enthusiast would have trouble turning up a nose.
According to David Webb, founder and owner of Camp Orenda, the goal is to “provide a backcountry camping experience within a very comfortable environment.” He went on to explain that “90 percent of our guests are from urban areas and don’t necessarily have the equipment or desire to camp in the backcountry without some of life’s amenities. Here, you can get out in the great outdoors and feel like you’re roughing it, but in the meantime everything is being taken care of for you.”
The Adirondack Park, or “Dacks,” is a 6.1 million-acre expanse of wilderness. Larger than the state of Vermont, the largest park in the Lower 48, it’s an evocative place that has inspired the musings of such figures as Henry David Thoreau and John Muir. Rippling mountains with giant faces of stone make for some of the most significant mountaineering terrain in the country. Gin-clear rivers coarse through the valleys, offering whitewater rafting opportunities on their roiling haystacks of rapids. Between the rapids, broad pools run thick with native trout. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. You could explore the Adirondacks regularly for your entire life and not touch every corner.
Camps like Orenda often operate through a relationship with local outfitters. Once you’ve settled into camp, you can choose from a potpourri of tours, ranging from guided hikes to rock-climbing lessons. There’s archery and lessons in camping skills and camping etiquette. Off-site and nearby, there’s ziplining, spelunking, horeback riding — even garnet mine tours. For kids, there are scavenger hunts and arts and crafts.
But you can also do nothing except read, nap, and relax. The vibe is pleasant and unworried, romantic and inviting, thanks to manicured paths, a warm-water outdoor shower, and crackling campfires at each of the five tent cabins.
A typical glam camping day starts with a fresh breakfast at the central dining structure. Farm-fresh eggs and bacon pop in cast iron skillets; buckwheat pancakes are stacked high next to mugs of gourmet coffee. There are flapjacks, muffins, omelets, cooked over an open flame and with ingredients from local farmers and an onsite garden.
Most guests then strike out with a trail lunch in hand (fresh fruit and paninis made with locally baked bread and Boar’s Head meats) for a day’s worth of adventure before returning in the afternoon to clean up, stoke the campfire, and prepare for dinner. Rosemary-infused pork chops, fire-roasted pizzas, and BBQ free-range chicken are just a few of the dinner offerings.
The evenings are spent enjoying the property and watching the sun set through the dense forest. And at Orenda, when the Adirondack mountain chill hits, fresh linens and comfortable bedding awaits, the nip in the air nipped in the bud by the warmth of a woodstove in each cabin.
Keep your ears peeled for grazing moose and your eyes open for eagles. And relax, knowing you don’t have to lift a finger other than to reach out and touch nature.