Glamor + Camping = Glamping
“What’s not to like about glamping,” my friend Ashley exclaimed. “The tent’s already set up, you have a real bed, and you don’t get wet when it rains.” We were about to test her hypothesis. My hiking buddies and I embarked on our first luxury camping experience in the midst of a thunderstorm.
Glamping, a contraction of the words glamor and camping, is often referred to as elegant camping or luxury camping. Accommodations come in all shapes and sizes—from tents to tipis to yurts to treehouses. The amenities distinguish it from traditional camping. Instead of sleeping on the ground, we’d be in comfortable beds. Rather than a damp towel, we would get fresh towels for our hot showers. What we wouldn’t be trading would be nature. We’d be sleeping in the woods with the cool night air and the sounds of the forest surrounding us.
Even as the thunderstorms rolled through the Finger Lakes, we were optimistic. A break in the weather gave us the opportunity to hike in the nearby Finger Lakes National Forest (FLNF) before check-in at our glamping site, Seneca Sol (www.senecasol.com). Located on Satterley Hill, Seneca Sol is just a few miles from Watkins Glen, Seneca Lake, the Seneca Lake Wine Trail, and a host of restaurants, breweries, and distilleries.
Cameron Adams, co-owner of Seneca Sol, greeted us in the open-air tent that serves both as the check-in desk, lounge, and breakfast nook. This is the third season for Cameron and his partner, Christine McAfee. Cameron led us on a tour of the wooded property, which included tents, tipis, and trails, ending at “Oak”—our luxury tent, a large safari canvas affair that felt airy and sturdy. The furnishings included two double beds, a comfortable chair, and a writing desk. There was even a phone charging port on the camp light. Seneca Sol has an impeccably clean shared bathhouse for its guests with private restrooms and showers, sinks, fluffy white towels, and eco-friendly toiletries.
As we prepared our après-hiking hors d’oeuvres, the sky darkened and thunder rumbled down the lake. Fortunately we had a covered back deck equipped with patio table and chairs where we could watch the rain and enjoy our appetizers and a bottle of local Sauvignon Blanc.
We opted to eat at one of the many good restaurants on State Route 414, just a few miles from our glamping site. We enjoyed our meal at Dano’s Heuriger, a wine restaurant in the Austrian tradition, but had a difficult decision to make: indulge in one of Dano’s pastries or return to Seneca Sol for dessert. Cameron had promised a campfire and all the ingredients that we’d need for s’mores. We found the fire crackling and s’more packets—complete with graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows.
Our alarm clock the next morning was a cacophony of birdcalls; an intricate silhouette of branches and leaves danced across the tent walls. We joined other campers in the lounge for breakfast. The buffet included fresh blueberries and strawberries, Greek yogurt, granola, pastries, locally roasted coffee, and a selection of teas. We chatted with some of the other glampers, including a Danish family who had just visited Niagara Falls. Seneca Sol is committed to being both child and pet friendly, and the Danish toddlers were certainly enjoying their stay. Seneca Sol has hosted intergenerational family groups and international travelers who’ve tried glamping in their own countries and also folks who want an outdoor experience but don’t own camping equipment.
Although the word glamping is new to the dictionary, the concept isn’t. Adirondack guides set up elaborate campsites for wealthy patrons in the nineteenth century; thatched tents equipped with comfortable beds are a staple on safari tours today. The UK’s scenic Dorset County claims one of the earliest (2006) glamping sites. Here in Northern Pennsylvania and the Finger Lakes region of New York we have several luxury glampgrounds. The newest is Pettecote Junction (www.pettecotejunction.com/glamping/). Tucked in at Cedar Run, Pennsylvania, Pettecote Junction offers a range of options—from traditional campsites to cabins with modern facilities. Owners Jill and Doug Garman recently added two glamping sites with spacious canvas tents on raised platforms, queen-sized beds, artwork, and electricity. For hikers on the nearby Pine Creek Rail Trail who don’t want the burden of carrying their own camping gear, the glamping sites at Pettecote Junction provide just the right touch of luxury.
Emma and Robert Frisch, co-owners of Firelight Camps, were pioneers in the glamping movement in the Finger Lakes. Opened in 2014, Firelight Camps (www.firelightcamps.com) describes the experience as elevated camping. On the grounds of the elegant La Tourelle Hotel, Bistro, and Spa in Ithaca, New York, the campsite is adjacent to Buttermilk Falls State Park where guests can explore the park’s extensive trail network. Emma and Robert’s hospitality background includes owning a boutique hostel in Nicaragua and work with Contentment Camping, a glamping outfitter for music festivals and events. Firelight Camps hosts local musicians every Tuesday evening as well as morning yoga and eco-hikes. Emma, Firelight’s culinary director (and a finalist of the Food Network Star Season 10) initiated wild food foraging classes and wild food cooking classes. All glampers should sample the homemade marshmallows in Firelight’s s’more kits as well as the locally sourced continental breakfast buffet. Firelight Camps’ goal is “to create a comfortable, stylish, and revitalizing camping experience that awakens guests’ appreciation for nature, inspires adventure, and deepens connections with family, friends, and community.”
Glamping comes in all shapes and sizes with costs comparable to staying in a good hotel. Central to the experience is the pleasure of being in the woods. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a curious millennial, glamping takes away all the anxiety. Ashley was right—what’s not to like about glamping?