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I went glamping by accident last summer. I was tenting with friends in Cape Breton National Park, Nova Scotia, when a freak wind came up overnight. The howling gale flattened our tents, with us still in them. By dawn, all three tents were damaged. We spent the next two days in an oTENTik.
An oTENTik is a cross between a tent and a cabin. It’s a wooden frame that supports canvas walls and roof. Parks Canada has been erecting them all over its national park system. It’s their entry into the world of glamping.
“Glamping” is a word combining “glamour” and “camping,” but it’s unclear exactly what qualifies as glamorous camping. It can refer to any style of rustic shelter that provides more amenities than what you would normally expect in your own tent. But that’s a pretty nebulous description. It’s been applied to cottages, tree houses, safari-style tents, Airstream trailers and even converted shipping containers.
The word glamping first appeared in print in 2005. Glamping wasn’t added to the Oxford English Dictionary until 2017, and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary added the word last year. It’s not yet a legal word in Scrabble.
Whatever glamping is, it’s popular, here and abroad. But is glamping a Maine thing?
Well, maybe, kinda, sort of.
Perhaps Mainers were glamping long before there was glamping. According to Glamping.com, Spencer Pond Camps northeast of Moosehead Lake and Eagle Lake Sporting Camps in northern Aroostook County are glamping destinations, even though both are more than 100 years old. Mainers have bivouacked in pop-up trailers and truck-top campers since they were invented. Many of our rustic cabins have been around since the 19th century. If that’s glamping, then we’ve been doing it.
Or maybe the rest of the western world is ahead of us. A Google search of Maine glamping turns up only a handful of possibilities. Sandy Pines Campground in Kennebunkport leads the way with an ambitious village of camp cottages on wheels, A-framed huts, and luxury glamp tents. The glamp-tents have king-sized beds, heaters and air conditioners, an indoor mini-fridge, and an outdoor beverage cooler.
No argument, that’s glamorous camping.
It’s a far cry from our glamping experience in the oTENTik. The tent cabin had a propane heater, but that was about it for amenities. Mattresses were small but comfortable. There was a tiny table in the cabin, but guests were asked to cook and eat outside at the picnic table. A charcoal grill on the deck provided the only means of cooking. I didn’t ask, but perhaps the Canadian park service just didn’t want bears to explore the cooking aromas emanating from cabins. The fabric door wouldn’t even slow a bear down.
I needed more data and found exactly what I wanted at Maine Forest Yurts. It was raining as I was led into the first yurt by Bob Crowley — yes, that Bob Crowley — winner of television’s “Survivor” in 2008. Some of his winnings from the show purchased 100 acres of beautiful oak forest on Runaround Pond in Durham. He built three yurts, soon to be four.
Yurts are portable round tents used by Mongolian nomads. Perhaps Mongols were the first glampers. The western version is permanently fixed on a wooden floor, with fabric stretched across a lattice frame in the shape of a traditional yurt.
This yurt was named Zen Den.
The wood stove was smoldering as we stepped in from the cold and wet. It was toasty and cozy. Solar cells powered LED lights. Gravity fed the water supply. Gas heated the cook stove. There was also a gas heater available to back up the wood stove, since the yurts are open year-round.
Bob Crowley says there are many reasons people enjoy the glamping at Maine Forest Yurts. His hundred acres of hiking and cross-country skiing delight some. Access to the pond is enticing. It’s close to the recreational offerings at Pineland Farms and Bradbury Mountain State Park. It’s just 15 minutes to L.L. Bean in Freeport and a mere half-hour to Portland. But the biggest surprise, according to Bob, is that women love the yurts for the comfort coupled with outdoor ambiance.
Zen Den was just an upscale tent. But it felt like my living room. It was a sweet place in the woods to curl up with a good book and a glass of wine after a day of adventure.
So this is glamping? I get it now.
This story was originally published in Bangor Metro’s January/February 2019 issue. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.