Feature Image: The great outdoors for those who want to bring a little bit of class to their camping experience. / Photo by Carolyn Ray
Are you a glamper or a camper?
Imagine this: You’re sitting in a comfortable Muskoka chair, feet outstretched, looking up into a blue sky dotted with puffy clouds. Aside from the birdsong and the crackling of the fire, it’s quiet. You take a sip of your wine and turn another page of your book, enjoying the peace and stillness. Behind you, there’s a large, prospector-style tent nestled in the trees. The sun sets and the sky turns orange, then black as the stars and planets emerge.
Or this: You’re at a campground on a beautiful lake, sitting inside your mosquito tent. Everywhere you look, it’s a sea of RVs and tents, side-by-side, as far as the eye can see. Music, car engines and voices blend together, creating a cacophony of sound. There is a constant hive of activity, as people, cars and animals stroll into your view. A neighbour yells over to ask if you have ice or toilet paper. The sun sets and floodlights obscure your view of the stars. You retreat inside your RV to watch TV.
Is Glamping an antidote to an artificial camping experience?
For women who aren’t survivalists or extreme campers, and don’t want to make a huge investment in camping gear, glamping brings nature and convenience together in a way that gives you the spirit of camping, without the complexity. I’m not really a camper or a glamper. But after seeing the crowded RV site in Algonquin Park, I was grateful to be at one of five campsites spread out across hundreds of acres at Four Corners Algonquin in Whitney, just outside the eastern gates of Algonquin Park.
The road in from the highway is rugged and dusty. I’m greeted by a large shipping container where all the necessities of ‘glamping’ are stored. Within moments, tt becomes clear that this isn’t really ‘romantic glamping’ in the way I had imagined. This is a more authentic style of glamping, one where you feel closer to nature because you are literally in the midst of it.
It’s rustic, with enough necessities to ensure comfort. Deer flies relentlessly attack you on the dirt road, but once you’re inside the pine trees, they fade away. The tent is simple, with screened windows and a single zipper up the front that clicks shut with magnets. It’s built on a platform in the event of inclement weather, but is one step up, making it easy for any age. Once inside, there is lots of room to move around.
Outside the tent, there is a campfire, a picnic table, and plastic Muskoka chairs. Each area has its own BBQ and propane to ensure proper hygiene, allowing glampers to cook their own meal alone, instead of using a shared kitchen area. In addition to my personal items and cleaning supplies, all that I needed to bring was a cooler of food, bedding and towels.
Ah, the peace and quiet! Photo by Carolyn Ray
LOVE my headlamp! Photo by Carolyn Ray
Getting back to a natural state
Four Corners, now in its third year, opened late in June. Angela, the co-owner, envisions a place that helps educate tourists and residents alike on the area’s cultural heritage. Trained as a librarian in Kitchener, she and her family moved here to develop this site, which sits on land owned by her family for generations. The town of Whitney has been hit hard by the pandemic; small businesses are barely surviving and many restaurants have closed. It’s a tough place to be an entrepreneur, particularly when you’re so dependent on tourism. Angela’s husband, John, stops by three times in the evening to make light conversation and bring water, firewood and pick up the garbage. It feels like you’re part of the family, easy and natural.
One of the things that impressed – and surprised – me was Angela’s focus on accessibility that extends throughout the site. Wheelchairs are available for beach and trail, and there is a brand new, gender-neutral, handicap-accessible bathroom and shower with plans to build more. She has big dreams, and hopes to offer workshops and creative retreats for women who seek a simpler way of life.
There’s no electricity. Instead, cabins are solar-powered, with zero environmental footprint. At night, the site is pitch black, and is considered a dark sky area, where scientists come for unobstructed views and wolves gather to howl at the moon.
The Pros and Cons of Camping vs Glamping
My experience in both camping and glamping is limited, but here are my initial observations.
• More crowded, with lots next to each other
• More people sharing the same/less public bathrooms
• More expensive
• Better for longer-term stays
• Larger groups of people – tends to be noisier
• More space, larger plots of land
• Don’t need to bring too much
• Bring your own sheets, pillows, towels
• Affordable (approx. $80 a night for two people)
If You Go
- Four Corners website or on Airbnb
- Cost Approx $80-100CDN per night
- Order a free Algonquin Park pass in advance from Four Corners
- Watch the sunset at the local beach in Whitney
- There is only one grocery store in Whitney which is multi-purpose, so bring groceries or head to Barry’s Bay which has more selection
- Have your morning coffee at Opengo Outfitters, a short walk or drive away
- Read our COVID-Packing Tips article, and bring a headlamp for late-night walks to the bathroom and all your own cooking and cleaning supplies
When we hatched a plan to road trip around our home province of Ontario, stay in unique accommodations and evaluate destinations against new travel criteria, we never expected to learn so much about nature, our inner child, and the creativity and innovation of women entrepreneurs.
For the past five months, I’ve been in a small apartment where I have complete control over its cleanliness. The idea of stepping outside my comfort zone caused some anxiety, but once I had started planning my trip to Arowhon Pines in Algomquin Park, my spirits rose. I considered several new criteria in my decision-making process – not just the destination itself, but also how I would get there, onsite healthcare, nearby hospitals and mobility and access
I’ve always been hesitant to visit overcrowded The Grotto, an open cave hidden in the cliff face of the Niagara Escarpment near Tobermory. But when two adventurous friends and I started planning a girls’ road trip to feed our travel bug during the pandemic, The Grotto, with its timed four-hour parking slots operating at half capacity, started to look more attractive.
What’s next on our list?
In July, we shared our schedule for July and August, where we’re visiting places close to home to evaluate travel in a pandemic. You can check on our Road Trip progress here.