It’s a chilly, wet, wintry day in Park City.
We enjoyed an overnight mini staycation at Snowbird Resort last night. We tucked into a room with a view of the steep peaks of the Wasatch Mountains. We visited the day spahhh and munched on a tasty supper in the Aerie (hello, salted caramel ice cream). We slept late and woke up to a snowstorm. I love little getaways that feel distant… when really, we were just 40 minutes from home.
I’ve been doing a pretty good job of enjoying all of the good stuff about the current season. Living in the moment! Instead of wistfully daydreaming about summer, I’m trying to embrace the beauty of wintertime in Utah with snowy dog hikes, time on my snowboard, candlelit meals of hearty comfort food, and reading by the fire. Oh, and hours in my beloved slippers! But let’s be real. We all know that I will welcome spring with open arms. I might cry with joy when I see the first flower in our yard. I’ve been rotating through the same three pairs of jeans for months now- dress season can’t come soon enough. And I can’t wait to get out on the road with my family in Betty for the first camping trip of the year!
The other day, I posted a photo of probably the best camping surprise John and I have experienced in all of our adventures in Betty. A couple of readers asked for more info, and as I looked back on the photos of that two-day period, I knew the Fernwood Adventure Tent needed a special post, all to itself.
The 2 ½ week trip was Betty’s first. We’d already towed her through the Southern Utah desert, the mountains outside of Las Vegas, survived Area 51 AND Death Valley (118 degrees!), paid a visit to my Grandpa, spent a few days on our friends’ farm, done some Central Cali wine tasting, and barked back at a couple hundred sea otters. It had been a fantastic voyage so far. Our ultimate destination was San Francisco to see one of our favorite bands play, so we turned north and headed up the coastline.
We’d traveled by the seat of our pants, making no reservations at campgrounds ahead of time, using an arbitrary tent symbol we found in the map book each day as our goal. We’d had spectacular luck so far (knock on wood). We took our time driving up the rugged coastline of Highway 1, a twinge of disappointment in the fog during such a glorious stretch of ocean. We stopped at Shell Beach and watched surfers. We snapped photos of wildflowers. We had a bowl of clam chowder at a random joint called the Whale Watcher Café. By the time we rolled into Big Sur, it was happy hour. Time to find a temporary home and call it a day.
Note to self: Big Sur in June is, um, busy. (Serious understatement.)
We drove through two campgrounds (Limelkin and Pfieffer Big Sur State Parks) with fingers crossed, hoping the “full” signs were false. We went on a wild goose chase to Kirk Creek Campground after a ranger had mentioned a potential open site there. At one point, we stopped for gas and I asked the attendant behind the counter if she had any suggestions. She laughed at me. Knowing that after Big Sur, we’d be an hour or two away from another batch of possibilities, we decided to start looking for a motel room. Maybe we’d been a little too blasé about reservations.
Across the street, we saw Fernwood Campground and Motel. I waited in the car with a plastic cup of white wine in my lap, arguing with my inner planner and hoping we had a bed for the night. I could smell campfires, envisioning happy families prepping for dinner. They probably made reservations.
John came back out, a binder in his hand, and delivered the news: there was one tiny motel room left, or something called the Adventure Tent. Intrigued by the name, we looked at the dingy photo in the binder. It looked like some kind of canvas-walled tent with a bed in it. It was cheaper than the hotel room and it sounded like we could park Betty nearby, so we said YES to ADVENTURE.
Best decision ever.
We turned down a dirt road behind the motel and followed the highlighted line on the campground map through insanely tall redwood trees. The campground was awesome- quiet, spacious, shaded from the trees, and there was a river running through it. After passing lots of trailers and tents, and even a few tiny yurts, we saw two larger canvas tents tucked back away from other campers. We were home for the night.
A quick glance at the site’s layout made us think we could back Betty up right next to the tent and be able to use the kitchen in the trailer. We got out, opened the padlock and unzipped the opening to see what the Adventure Tent as all about. It was positively magical.
Two handmade wooden chairs with little attached side tables were ready for fireside lounging. The tent’s doors opened out onto a big wooden deck. Inside the tent, we saw a queen bed with a beautiful rustic headboard and soft, cozy linens. We saw fresh, clean towels and bath products for our use at the showers. We saw electricity for charging phones and cameras. We saw a big wood stove and a fresh pile of redwood to keep us warm.
Just behind the tent was a private “outhouse.” I think I squealed when I opened the door. Electricity. Hot water. A true flushing toilet. A gorgeous painted ceramic sink basin. After days upon days of campground living, this could have been the Taj Majal. This was truly glamping.
Positively giddy at our luck, we didn’t stop to wonder why this camping gem was available. We poured drinks and set up camp. John put on some music, rolled out the rug on the deck, and set up our lounging chairs. As is my custom at every new campsite, I filled a tiny vase with local greenery for Betty’s table. We set up our two coolers (one for food, one for beverages).
After contentedly chilling out on our fabulous deck for a bit, we decided to walk to the river while we still had daylight.
The shade from the trees darkened our stroll through Fernwood Campground, but the sun peeked through the trees. We crossed a bridge over the river, John pausing to stalk fat trout. Eventually, we came to what appeared to be the end of the campground and the start of open space. We followed a trail through a warm and sunlit field, stopping to toss back a rogue Frisbee to a family enjoying the sun’s last rays for the day. This was summer at its finest.
The trail led us into a grove of younger trees. Flanked on either side by a carpet of clover, John and I separated and quietly experienced the magic of the forest on our own for a few minutes. We savored the feeling of awe and commented on what a cool perspective huge trees brought. I felt tiny. I couldn’t resist a gratitude-filled hug.
Back at camp, we got down to business: cheese and crackers warmed over the campfire, bacon cheeseburgers with Caesar salad and fresh avocado, a little mood music, and delicious red wine. We sipped our wine late into the night, watching the fire crackle from those cool handmade chairs.
Before bed, John worked hard to build a fire in the woodburning stove. The idea of sleeping warm and cozy in a real (spacious) bed was the icing on this glamping cake. Whether the wood was stubborn or the stove didn’t cooperate, we snuggled closely through that extra-chilly night. There’s something to be said for a sleeping bag. But we woke up in our happy fairy tale-ish campsite and sipped some French-pressed coffee from our kitchen in Betty before taking advantage of the hot showers. I can clearly remember flip-flopping back from the shower building, my wet hair wrapped up in a soft, white towel, my body feeling that warm buzz from the steamy water. A shower is a precious gift when you’re living in a 13-foot trailer for a couple of weeks. I gazed up at the bits of sky through the trees, so high above me. What a feeling of peace.
When we emerged from our hidden paradise, Betty back on the road, John and I both felt sad to have only spent one night in the Adventure Tent. It was too special of a spot not to want to stay there forever… or at least another day.
But maybe it was better that way.
We’d already had some awesome adventures on our trip. Ahead of us still lay the true magic of the Pacific Coast Highway’s stunning vistas, my favorite lunch in Carmel, a date with seahorses and jellyfish in Monterey, sunny vistas at Half Moon Bay, toting Betty across the Bay Bridge, amazing fun with friends on the waves in San Francisco’s bay, and an insanely cool concert evening that ended by clinking glasses with band members in the private below-stage bar. Every phase of our trip had been unforgettable; each campground was its own experience with a unique story and memory lodged forever in our brains. Maybe part of what made the glamorous tent under the redwoods so enchanting was because we were only there for one extraordinary night. Maybe the circumstances that led to us discovering the shady nook of Fernwood Campground made it that much more pleasurable when we did. Maybe the element of surprise made it seem better than it was. What if we went there again and didn’t feel the same?
I can tell you this: I’m up for the adventure.