It's been said that if you really want to get to know your significant other early in your relationship, you should travel together. Having tested this statement, I can vouch that a few of my wife's and my differing ideas of leisure were brought into focus when we decided to take our first camping trip.
Both of us checked off camping experience on our recreational resumes prior to meeting each other, so our shelter and sleeping essentials were already tucked away in our closet. This allowed us to divide-and-conquer the remaining weekend essentials:
Me: Two gallons of water per person, per-day; MREs; first-aid kit; a machete…
My Better Half: Rosé in a can, cookie dough, iPad, a battery-powered fan…
Clearly, when I heard the word camping, my mind went to Rambo: First Blood, while my wife was thinking Wet Hot American Summer. But the mistake was mine: We weren't invited to go "camping," we were going "glamping."
With its etymological origins dating back to the early aughts, glamping is defined by dictionary. com as a "blend of glamorous + camping." However, the activity's justification for a hybrid new induction into the Queen's English is best captured by the site's example of its use in a sentence: "Imagine glamping in a carpeted tent with a comfy queen-sized bed." It sounds as if the Kardashians sent out an invite for a The Revenant-themed Halloween party.
What is an urbanite, who wants to dwell in the still of nature but still feel pampered and protected from the elements, to do? Enter Stella Plantation. Set on 1,500 acres of picturesque landscape in Braithwaite, Louisiana, the 200-year-old establishment sits just off the Mississippi River, a mere 20 miles outside of Downtown New Orleans. Already a venue and seasonal sporting destination, Stella opened a five-cabin glamping site about a year ago. Each A-frame cabin is solar-powered and furnished with a queen-sized bed, nightstand, phone charger, lights, fans, and more. The houses are all equipped with porches overlooking Paloma Lake, a vast private lake constructed to please the water-sports enthusiast.
Any skepticism concerning the destination's natural Louisiana authenticity vanished during the 40-minute drive from our Uptown home. It is not uncommon to pass the unfortunate animal killed in traffic on the side of the interstate while traveling outside of the city. What is uncommon is when the roadkill is an alligator-we passed two of them.
Having arrived at our cabin, unpacked, and settled into our lawn chairs with cold drinks in hand, we felt a sense of jetlag beginning to set in. My body was going into withdrawal from the usual interminable IV of stimuli constantly pumping adrenaline through my veins. Texts, chores, meetings, social commitments, social media, and an onslaught of news notifications were all silent and invisible outside the distant fog resting over the Mississippi. I found my senses heightened to the elements around me-the touch of the breeze, the gentle massage of the sun on my skin, the ambient symphony of chirping birds and furry creatures prancing through the leaves. We spent the first hour of our getaway soaking in the surroundings in a comfortable silence, detoxing from the stress of our daily routines.
Stella's sprawling terrain and voluminous Paloma Lake provide the outdoor enthusiast's imagination with an endless landscape of recreational possibilities. Several activities are also conveniently provided for guests, including kayaking, archery, and fishing. Supplies are available upon request onsite, located a short walk from the cabins housed alongside a series of pristine indoor bathrooms and shower facilities-possibly the most "glamorous" touch to the "camping" experience. We enjoyed a long kayaking trip during the late afternoon, watching the reflection of the sun in the water as it set from the center of the lake.
As we docked our kayaks, a member of Stella's staff came by to light a campfire for us, centered between a circle of sitting stumps. Dinner was provided in a large Yeti cooler outside our cabin: steaks, potatoes, and a pre-made salad. A basket with all the cooking essentials, including charcoal, tinfoil, and cleaning supplies, was also supplied for us, for use with a nearby grill overlooking our campfire. Unbeknownst to me, sharing camping recipes is a huge hobby, with endless posts on Pinterest and BuzzFeed. Taking some tips from the experts, we cooked our steaks to perfection and then indulged in a camping must: s'mores for dessert with marshmallows roasted over
Rising early is no one's jam, especially not on vacation. However, you really are committing an unforgivable glamping fail if you don't get up to watch the sunset on your dock. First, whether you're a seasoned photographer or a casual Instagrammer (and aren't we all?), the scenery is ripe with framers. The sun paints the sky a lush gradient of blue and magenta, backlighting the clouds with a violet glow as it peeks its blood-orange head over the horizon. Also, much of the nocturnal wildlife is still at play during the dawn hours. Drinking iced coffee on our porch, we checked off various birds from an animal-sighting checklist in our nightstand while a school of baby catfish congregated near our dock.
Anytime of year, the conditions at Stella Plantation are perfect for a weekend getaway. Why not enjoy them with all of the heavy lifting of camping already done for you?
Individual cabins at Stella's Glamping on Paloma Lake start at $150 a night. Learn more at stellaplantation.com