When I first heard of “glamping” a few years ago, the outdoor purist in me scoffed at the thought that a camping experience could be anything but dirty. The idea of combining glamor and camping under one tent seemed a little too millennial.
Recently, a place called Mendocino Grove popped back on my radar. The Grove, one of the pioneers of modern camping, had expanded, apparently adding a lot more shine to the camp. The description of safari-style tents, furnished with a queen-size bed and heated linens, bedside tables, reading lamps, lanterns, and beach towels, was quite appealing. A sauna plus hair and body wash in the bathhouse showers sounded like chic perks.
The website mentioned gas grills and cleaning stations dotted 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 drink bars, and s’mores kits, the less luggage I wanted to haul. The focus was on the equipment and a “camping box” with a tablecloth, dishes, cast-iron cookware, paper towels and even olive oil was rented. I didn’t know how fluffy the comforter would be or how fluffy the towels would feel, but if glamping was synonymous with traveling light, I was curious to see if the Mullally Package was for glamors. I booked a dog friendly tent and we headed north with our travel bag and cool box.
For us, a destination is also an excuse to travel to enjoy the familiar and discover new things. As a bread lover and baker hunter, I couldn’t drive past Point Reyes without a supply from the artisanal Brickmaiden Bread bakery. Further up the road, the dog-friendly Millerton Point State Park loop trail offers breathtaking views of Tomales Bay and the chance to be struck by the geological fact that this 15 miles (15 m) long bay is a submerged section of the San Andreas Fault. By the time we got to Bodega Bay we were starved and there’s no quicker, fresh tank stop than to order a soft bun with half a pound of crab meat from the Spud Point Crab Company.
Sixty miles north, Stornetta is a fabulous 1,665 acre hiking paradise. This coastal prairie has been close to our hearts since it became the first mainland unit of the California Coastal National Monument in 2014. Across the street, we took time to explore the 151 year old Point Arena Lighthouse and open air museum. The new Druid Circle, made up of five Mendo Blue stone pillars, is bordered by a stone path maze created as part of America’s Art Line’s interactive outdoor art program along the 39th parallel. The most impressive architectural addition is the stone entrance mimicking a coastal ranch fence that uses Mendo Blue boulders for posts and mica slate from the Mojave Desert for pickets, along with accents of pebble waves at the base of the posts.
We continued on to Navarro State Beach to admire the ongoing restoration of the 140-year-old Captain Fletcher’s Inn. We rolled into Mendocino at low tide, in time to let our dog Gem frolic on the wide sandy bank of the Big River along the breathtaking estuary. In town, we stumbled upon the Bee Day celebration and found out about the Bee Bold Alliance’s work to protect pollinators. (Beeboldalliance.org)
By then it was check-in time so we drove ¼ mile south to the top of a wooded hill where the personable masked camp host led us to our tent which overlooked a lush hill overlooking Mendocino to the west. We rolled the guest car to our glampsite, where firewood, storage box and S’mores kit had already been delivered.
I escorted Gem to the new dog wash station to lather her up and wash off the sand and salt from her previous frolic before taking a rejuvenating hot shower.
As the dusk chill rolled in on the Pacific, my husband David stoked the crackling fire, and I turned up our heated ceiling thermostat and buried our pajamas under the covers. Our pot of hearty chicken vegetable soup simmered on the open fire as our bed and PJs slowly warmed up. I tossed the salad, grilled the bread, and filled our bowls with steaming soup, the perfect meal on a crisp night on the north coast. We tidied up our camp and retreated under the blankets to breathe in the pine-scented evening breeze and listen to the roar of traffic that echoed off the headlands to the sound of the surf.
The next morning I went to the Meadow Commons for hot cocoa and snuck under the covers with two free bowls of yogurt with berries, nuts, cereal, and honey. As soon as the sun had melted the clouds, we set off for a day of hiking.
We stayed in the picturesque Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park, enchanted by the panoramic location and the restored lighthouse keepers, which are available as holiday apartments. At Fort Bragg, picturesque Noyo Harbor is a must-see stop for fish and chips on the rustic deck of the Sea Pal. The Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden is a four-season treat, but May was a kaleidoscope of colors and bouquets of intoxicating scents against the explosion of ruby, fuchsia and white rhododendrons.
Back in Mendocino, we strolled along the flowering headlands while we pondered the menu options for our last dinner by the open fire. We went to the Harvest Market and went with fresh enchiladas and a filling Kemmy’s blackberry cake.
Later that evening, when we were sitting under a starry sky debating the day and laughing at each other’s s’moring technique with sticky marshmallow fingers and chocolate-smeared faces, we had to admit that 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 on www.lindabmullally.com, Falcon.com and Facebook.