It was time I ditched my hiking boots and oversized backpack and gave it a go…
I remember the sky as a place of quiet. It was inhabited by colorful dreams and elaborate stories; it authored tales of adventure out of slow moving shapes in the stratosphere and fed me robust ruminations. Now in my twenties, I reside in a small, cluttered apartment where fluorescent lights pollute the night and fast-flying technology stifles all stillness.
So I wait anxiously at my desk with the same excitement as visiting an old friend. I sleepily take to the road at 5 o’clock sharp with no other agenda but to head west. I watch dust collect on my feet as I stomp through trails of rusted earth to get where my imagination can run wild again. I’ve crowned myself a Weekend Warrior.
The idea of “glamping” never quite lit the same fire under my feet. I have no desire to ride into the wilderness on an enormous RV with five flat-screen TVs; I look absolutely ridiculous in a flower crown; I can’t play the banjo, let alone whistle any resemblance of a musical tune; and frankly, the closeness of campers has always turned me off. All I’ve ever wanted is the freedom of the open air—could expanding my camp amenities really heighten my experience of the outdoors?
When I arrived at Collective Retreats in the thick of Vail’s rustic ranchlands, a sphere of gray gloom hovered over our canvas tent. Smoke from the barbecue blended into the heavy atmosphere and raindrops began to fall over my plate. Panic spread across my cheeks as I watched the most stunning meal I’ve ever had prepared for me soak up the moisture—knowing this could all be ruined if I don’t act quick, I started to wonder if luxury and nature could coexist cooperatively.
I immediately ran inside, noticing the mahogany leather chairs, the ornate chandelier of antler sheds and pure white down comforter. It was all calling my name! Just then, a roll of thunder echoed against the knotted floorboards, and my frenzy followed. Underneath a rich oak dresser stocked with fresh fluffy towels, first aid supplies, and homemade snacks and sparkling water, I found exactly what I needed to shield my trout from the weather: the umbrellas. In fact, it was all there—everything I could possibly need for my stay. A heavy exhale left me. I jumped through the field of sage and tall grass spikelets where our dinner table was nestled against the pasture, relieved to have made it in time to protect these gourmet gifts.
Bellies full and hearts happy, we watched the skies part to unveil its greatest wonder. I’ve called Colorado home for as long as I’ve been alive, yet seeing the alpenglow off the New York Range was like seeing mountains for the first time.
At night, the cool high desert wind seeping through the mesh doors calmed me into a deep sleep under an even deeper bundle of heated blankets. At daybreak, a howling voice flew by on an ATV and into the hills. With enough time for me to resurrect myself from my cocoon, pour steaming water into the French press and look up from my concoction, I watched a band of nearly fifty horses sprint past the campsite into the corral down the road.
I’ve collected many memories sipping my morning Joe in solitude next to the sound of a clear alpine lake. I’ve even greeted the sun with my toes in the mud as I crawled out of my tent. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never felt the footprints of an unwaveringly powerful creature through the ceramic of my mug. I might never again. And this time, I shared with complete strangers neighboring me. Somehow, it was more profound that way.
It’s true. I’ve always been a diehard proponent for earning your outdoors. There’s something about melting into the dirt like an ember in your fire after a long day fighting to get there. But in all honesty, sometimes it just feels good to be taken care of…It feels good to know that everything is taken care of. Collective Retreats did just that.
The time I spent there allowed me to experience nature in a way I haven’t been able to since I was a child. I wasn’t thinking about whether or not I forgot something; I wasn’t putting my brain into overdrive, planning my every move. I was just living in it. Wholly.
Maybe that’s the art of glamping.