By Warren Woodberry Jr.
Pitching a tent in the backyard to spend a night outdoors with home just steps away isn’t quite the same as camping miles-deep in woods where animals lurk in darkness and being lost, injured or stranded to brave the elements can be an unpleasant possibility.
Somewhere in between your scouting memories and unwillingness to dare extreme outdoor adventure is Glamping (Glamorous Camping) for those who want to say they can rough it, without actually having to rough it.
Firelight Camps in Ithaca, NY provides such a camping experience unlike any you may have ever had before. Glamping is camping Paris Hilton style where cell phone chargers and full baths are just steps away from your tent.
Firelight in its pilot season last year was a success and this year, owners said, the camp has had 98 percent occupancy, drawing adventurers mostly from Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as Upstaters curious about this unique experience happening in their own backyard.
From New York City the nearly 5-hour drive to Ithaca is a scenic one which takes you up and down steep hills making highway driving fun and exciting. Viewing the fall foliage makes for an even more enjoyable trip through the country side. Nearing camp, directions will lead you down two-lane roads where lower speed limits take you on a tour of a slower pace of life with either side of the road adorned by acres of farm land, old country homes and relic structures of eras gone by.
When you arrive you will discover camp tents are pitched on the grounds of the iconic Tourelle Hotel. Behind the parking lot and just on the edge of the woods, stand 13 white large safari tents furnished with hardwood floors and 12 feet high ceilings. The tents, made of durable white rain proof fabric, are furnished with king and queen beds and private balconies. There is even comfortable seating and a work desk for those who just can’t pull themselves away from work should they get the urge to whip out their laptop.
Although you’re in the woods, with the sounds of nature all around you under a starry night sky, one could still hear vehicles roaring by on the main road or engines starting up and autos rolling over gravel in the parking lot.
Check in at the main lobby tent is at 3 p.m. where there is a complimentary wine hour 5 – 6 p.m. The communal tent hosts campers who connect and mingle where there may be local art on display for viewing and reading material. Outside the tents are two areas with raging fire pits with comfy seating and maybe alive band playing old time or bluegrass music. Around the fire, couples cuddle and girlfriends sip wine and there’s laughter mixed in with the crackling fire and music. The bar stays open till 11 pm.
Also at the main lobby tent there is free wifi and continental breakfast served 7 – 10:30 a.m. Dogs are allowed in the communal area and designated sleeping tents. Check out is at 11 a.m.
Add to the experience with a visit to the onsite August Moon Spa or John Thomas Steakhouse. A 10 minute trip north will bring you into Downtown Ithaca, a college town full of youth, restaurants, bars and art.
Go further and explore vineyards and the Finger Lakes Region. And if you’re not up for going that far, venture into the woods behind Firelight Camps for a stroll under the forest canopy on Buttermilk Hiking Trail.
Camp is open till October 31.
1150 Danby Road (96B)
Ithaca, NY 14850