Looking for glamour in camping – Monterey Herald

When I first heard about “glamping” a few years ago, the outdoors purist in me scoffed at the thought of a camping experience being anything other than getting down and dirty. The idea of putting glamour and camping under the same tent seemed a little too millennial.

Recently, a place called Mendocino Grove reappeared on my radar. One of the pioneers of modern camping, the Grove had expanded and apparently added a lot more glamp to the camp. The description of safari-style tents appointed with a queen bed and heated linens, nightstands, reading lights, lanterns and bath towels was rather appealing. A sauna plus hair and body wash in the bathhouse showers sounded like spiffy perks.

The website mentioned gas barbecues and clean-up stations sprinkled around the 33-acre site and that each of the 60 glampsites had a wood fire pit grill.  The more I read about sundecks, hammocks, games, hot beverage bar and s’mores kits, the less baggage I felt like hauling. The emphasis was on the accouterments and they offered a “camp box” rental complete with tablecloth, dishes, cast iron cookware, paper towels and even olive oil.  I didn’t know how downy the duvet was going to be or fluffy the towels would feel, but if glamping was synonymous with traveling light, I was curious to find out if the Mullally pack was cut out to be glampers. I booked a dog-friendly tent and we headed north with our duffel and an ice chest.

For us, a destination is also an excuse for a journey to enjoy the familiar and discover the new. As a bread lover and bakery hunter, I couldn’t drive past Point Reyes without a stash from the Brickmaiden Bread artisan bakery. Further up the road, Millerton Point State Park’s dog-friendly loop trail boasted sweeping views of Tomales Bay and a chance to be awed by the geological fact that this 15-mile long inlet is a submerged section of the San Andreas Fault. By the time we reached Bodega Bay, we were famished and there’s no faster fresher refueling stop than ordering a soft roll bloated with ¼ pound of crabmeat from Spud Point Crab Company.

Sixty miles north, Stornetta is a fabulous 1,665-acre hiking haven. This coastal prairie has been dear to us since it became the first mainland unit of the California Coastal National Monument in 2014. Across the road, we took time to wander around the 151-year-old Point Arena Lighthouse and the outdoor museum. The new Druid Circle built of five Mendo Blue stone pillars is adjacent to a stone path labyrinth created as part of America’s Art Line’s interactive outdoor artworks program along the 39th Latitude. The most impressive architectural addition is the stone entry that mimics a coastal ranch fence using Mendo Blue boulders for posts and mica schist from the Mojave Desert for pickets along with accents of pebble waves at the foot of the posts.

Onward we stretched our legs on Navarro State Beach to admire the ongoing restoration of the 140-year-old Captain Fletcher’s Inn. We rolled into Mendocino at low tide with time to let our dog Gem romp on Big River’s wide sandy shore along the stunning estuary. In town, we stumbled on the Bee Day celebration and learned about the Bee Bold Alliance’s work to promote the protection of pollinators.  (Beeboldalliance.org)

By then it was time to check-in so we drove ¼ mile south to the top of a forested hill where the congenial masked camp host directed us to our tent overlooking a lush hillside with a peek of Mendocino to the west. We rolled the guest cart to our glampsite where firewood, camp box and s’mores kit had already been delivered.

I walked Gem to the new dog wash station to suds her and rinse off the sand and salt from her earlier frolic before I indulged in a rejuvenating hot shower.

As the chill of dusk began to creep up from the Pacific, my husband David stoked the crackling fire and I cranked our heated blanket thermostat and buried our pajamas under the duvet. Our pot of hearty chicken vegetable soup was simmering on the open fire while our bed and PJs were slowly warming up to toasty. I tossed the salad, grilled the bread and filled our bowls with steaming soup, the perfect menu on a crisp north coast evening. We tidied up camp and retreated under the blankets to inhale the pine-scented evening breeze and listen to the hum of road traffic recede under the roll of the surf echoing off the headlands.

The next morning, I walked to the Meadow Commons for hot cocoa and slinked back under the covers with two complimentary bowls of yogurt topped with berries, nuts, granola and honey. As soon as the sun melted the clouds, we left for a day of wandering.

We lingered at the picturesque Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park enchanted by the panoramic setting as well as the restored lightkeeper houses available as vacation rentals. In Fort Bragg, the picturesque Noyo Harbor is a mandatory stop for fish & chips on the rustic Sea Pal’s deck. The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is a four-season treat, but May was a kaleidoscope of color and bouquet of intoxicating fragrances against the explosion of ruby, fuchsia and white rhododendrons.

Back in Mendocino, we meandered along the blooming headlands as we mulled over the menu options for cooking our last dinner over the open fire. We popped into the Harvest Market and left with fresh enchiladas and a sumptuous Kemmy’s blackberry pie.

Later that evening as we sat under a canopy of stars debriefing from the day and laughing at each other’s s’moring technique with sticky marshmallow fingers and chocolate-smeared faces, we had to admit this was a pretty idyllic glamping groove.

Linda B. Mullally and husband David share their passion for travel, outdoor recreation and dogs through articles, hiking books and photography at www.lindabmullally.com, Falcon.com and Facebook.

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