A Guide to Glamping in New England

We sent our managing editor into the wild to give 'glamping' the luxe test.

Photograph courtesy of Maine Forest Yurts

Click to view larger. / Photograph courtesy of Maine Forest Yurts

I’m a three-manicure-a-month kind of girl who may or may not have considered calling 911 when a bat decided to stake a claim to my living room. In other words, I prefer savoring nature’s marvels from behind a solid sheet of glass. So when my editor asked me to trade my black pumps for bug spray, I gave her the stink eye. Sure, I’ve been “camping.” Twice, if you count the time my Brownie troop pitched tents in a suburban park.

Still, the growing glamping movement (short for glamorous camping) is luring amenity-seeking urbanites like me into the great outdoors with the promise of an overnight sans soggy sleeping bags, freeze-dried food, and lightning strikes. Websites like Glamping Hub now offer Airbnb-style booking for treehouses and blinged-out tents with all the comforts of home. Which is how I found Maine Forest Yurts in Durham, Maine, operated by “Survivor Bob” Crowley and his family. In 2008, Bob won the reality show Survivor at age 57, making him the oldest champion to date.

When Bob’s daughter, Page, delivered us to our digs—a kit-built yurt lacking electricity or modern plumbing on 100 acres—via ATV, my heart immediately warmed to the abode’s gleaming hardwood floors, wood-burning stove, two sets of handsome Bob-made bunk beds, and fully equipped kitchen complete with running water (courtesy of a cistern). But just an hour later, I saw the following National Weather Service warning on my iPhone: “This is an extremely dangerous situation. Seek shelter now inside a sturdy structure and stay away from windows.” Glamping emergency-preparedness measure number one: Curl up with a book on the futon, take a sip of hard cider, and brace for…the peaceful sound of the rain pattering on the clear dome above.

We’d survived the “storm,” and that’s when I began eyeing the private composting outhouse and outdoor “sun shower” with trepidation. The diminutive bag looked like it held enough water to wash half a Chihuahua. Later, when we tried (unsuccessfully) to start a campfire with soggy logs, I waved the flag of surrender and texted Page. Any tricks of the trade, or do you think it’s just too wet? I asked. Within 30 minutes, Survivor Bob materialized. “Room service,” he quipped as he unloaded dry wood from his ATV and got the flames going with flint and steel. As we toasted marshmallows over the fire, Bob regaled us with tales from his Survivor days. The dark woods surrounding us began to seem almost friendly.

Back at the yurt we played a round of War by the light of LED lanterns and climbed into a bottom bunk. It was a peaceful evening—no strange rustling in the bushes, no stiff necks come morning. And that tepid sun shower? You could call it an invigorating wake-up call.