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For those of us seniors whose best camping-on-the-ground experiences are far behind us, the mere thought of sleeping in a sleeping bag—even with an air mattress—makes us wince. Our bodies are no longer supple enough to get back up, let alone get a good night’s sleep lying that far down.
And we just might not want to deal with the schlepping gear. But we still crave the closeness of nature and the multitude of stars above us, with a lake or river just out our door. We still want the quiet peacefulness and a sense of privacy and “roughing it.”
You can’t get these at a motel, and recreational vehicles require very serious investments.
Glamping, or glamorous camping, may be the ideal go-between.
Stay in a furnished, bell-shaped tent on the shores of a lake, or in a cowboy-themed ranch, or raft your way down through thrilling whitewater to where your tent, beds, and a chef-prepared meal await you at camp.
But glamping is somewhat of a compromise. You won’t find complete hotel amenities here, such as bathtubs, TV, or reliable Wi-Fi. The shower and bathrooms are outside, similar to a campground, and you might be pumping your own fresh well water. But you will find kitchen amenities, comfortable beds, and fresh, clean linens to accompany your experience.
Some sites go beyond well-appointed tents to include rustic, remote camping cabins stocked with basic necessities.
Billie Jean Gerke runs Twin Cedars Camping and Vacation Rentals in Sandpoint, Idaho with her partner, Mike. Her rental properties include bell tents at Lake Pend Oreille—Idaho’s largest and deepest lake—a camping cabin, a western-style home, and five RV sites.
A “dream come true for glamping lake lovers,” the bell tent on Lake Pend O’reille sits on the shoreline at Hawkins Point near Sandpoint. Designed for up to four glampers, with three beds and a nearby bath, the tent sits on a private beach with dock and beach access, a beach shelter, fire pit and firewood. It has an outdoor shower, porta-potty and sink, and access to an outdoor hot tub. It includes a mini-fridge, pots and pans, bbq grill, coffee maker, and a heater for chilly nights.
The Gypsy bell tent for two, Gerke said, is furnished with a queen bed in a living room-like setting, overlooking Lake Pend O’reille. It has a fire pit and mobile outdoor camp kitchen. The camp bathroom features a shower and flush toilet.
The western rustic camping cabin, a few minutes from Sandpoint and the lake, sleeps up to six and is situated on 10 private wooded acres with views of the Selkirk Mountains. There’s an outdoor hot tub, shower, and fire pit.
For some, glamping is a continuing family tradition of fun and memories. Shirley Lectka and her family have stayed at Twin Cedars three of the past four years for a week at a time. They don’t feel the need to leave the site, except for an occasional pizza. With fishing, floating, and relaxing all built in, why leave?
“This makes it special,” Lectka said. “Seeing my grandson watch the sunrise, husband and friend floating, and the fishing is amazing.”
Cyndi Stary, who comes from Missoula, adopts older yellow Lab dogs and brings at least three on her glamping trips. She’s stayed at Twin Cedars for a week or two at a time for five years straight, but missed this year due to an injury.
She said she likes being self-contained with everything she needs in a small area while “looking out at an expansive view, swimming, and having my beloved dogs as company.”
Bess Byers said she and her mom, Mary Jo Abatt, stayed at the Gypsy bell tent as part of a road trip to celebrate Mary Jo’s retirement. The tent was cozy with plenty of kitchen accommodations and lots of hot water, she said.
“The view is breathtaking day and night and there were deer to greet us every morning and evening,” Abatt said.
For Gerke, who is a backcountry horsewoman, downhill skier, and bicyclist, hitting the trails brings supreme satisfaction. Her guests frequently use the glamping experience as a jumping-off point. Skiing at Schweitzer Mountain is virtually within the neighborhood, and a host of nearby trails offers great views and adventures.
Nearby, she said, a short trail, suitable for anyone, takes you to Grouse Creek Falls, Wylie Knob, and Strawberry Mountain. The Hemlock trail will take you into the backcountry. Fault Lake, in the Selkirk Mountains takes you to “a really spectacular alpine lake,” and on the way you pass big granite cliffs and slopes.
For those craving even more outdoor adventures while enjoying the glamping experience, consider sites strategically located near river-rafting experiences. You can float mighty Idaho rivers and splash through the rapids during the day, then end up at a shoreline camping site, where your tent is already set up and furnished, and a chef prepares a gourmet meal.
Far and Away Adventures based in Sun Valley offers what it calls American Safari wilderness luxury, with personalized, guided adventures on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Week-long trips include tents set up and ready to use when you arrive in camp. The guides prepare dinner while guests relax in comfortable chairs.
Similar trips are available on the Owyhee and Bruneau River canyons. The glamping experience includes the comforts of “civilized” camping placed in a secluded, wild location to which rafters float.
Chefs prepare meals, staff sets up and breaks down camp, and the tents feature beds, carpeting, and nightstands with lanterns.
Guests can imbibe wines during tastings on site.
Riverdance Lodge, based in Syringa, Idaho, claims to have the best glamping experience in Idaho. Situated next to the Clearwater River, the site is home base for those heading for hiking trails and mountain and river adventures including rafting, fishing, and horseback riding.
Situated by a swift creek, each of their glamping tents are furnished with a king-sized bed (which can be separated into two twins), antique chairs, a small table, and a wood stove. They feature a back porch area with an antique clawfoot bathtub and a front porch area.
There is a cook table with a gas stove, and each tent has a picnic table. A nearby shaded area hosts grills and a fire ring. A shower and bath facilities are close by.
They also have small and large custom log cabins.
Linn Canyon Ranch in the Teton Valley of Idaho offers three glamping tents and a timber-frame cabin, all with an eye toward privacy. They specialize in adventures on horseback, with gourmet dining at the ranch and evenings around the campfire (linncanyonranch.com).
For more details on glamping, visit glampinghub.com. ISI