When summer rolls around, outdoor enthusiasts often feel the call of the wild, complete with crackling campfire, twinkling stars and a bed of dirt and pine needles.
But who has the energy to pack up all that camping gear and food for a two-day trip, then tear it all down again? At the end of the weekend, you head back to the office exhausted but relieved. At least you can get some rest there.
Nowadays, with the rise of “glamping” resorts such as the Autocamp Russian River in Guerneville, you can have your s’mores and eat them, too. Instead of your butt grazing the hard ground when the air mattress springs a leak, you can snooze soundly inside one of 23 custom Airstream trailers or 10 luxury tents tricked out with high-end linens and blankets.
“My husband loves those outdoorsy vacations,” said Jennifer Jacobs of Phoenix, Arizona, whose family of four spent a couple of nights at Autocamp Russian River in late May. “Truthfully, I’m at the age now where I’m not going to camp anymore, so my husband thanked me for giving him a couple of days out in the wilderness … It was the best of both worlds.”
The resort, which opened last August, is both family-friendly and pet-friendly, which has helped keep it solidly booked, even on rainy weekends in February. Although not inexpensive, the marriage of the sleek, nostalgic Airstream trailers with the mid-century modern clubhouse set amid the redwoods seems to resonate across the generations, drawing everyone from millennials to baby-boomer retirees.
Ryan Miller, the 27-year-old co-founder of Autocamp, said the company does not view the “outdoor hospitality” business as a new trend. Rather, it is piggy-backing on the long-term appeal of outdoor recreation while tapping into a shift in lodging and travel tastes, which now align more closely with Airbnb and a desire for more authentic adventures.
With Autocamp, it’s an experience unlike any other. “It parallels the millennial ideals and values of experiences over things,” Miller said.
Mark Belhumeur, general manager for Autocamp Russian River, agreed that most people who come to the resort are looking for a unique experience, not just a place to stay.
“We are camping for those who don’t like to get dirty,” he said. “Everything is provided. All you bring is a couple of filets for the barbecue and you’re all set.”
Of course, it’s not going to appeal to the true tree-hugger looking for a wilderness experience, complete with a backpack the size of the Ritz, filled with bland MREs and stringy beef jerky. Still, it’s a good gateway drug for those craving time away from the incessant beeps and blinks of modern technology.
“It provides a turnkey opportunity to experience what we like to call ‘the spirit of camping,’” Miller said. “We make it easier for people to get outdoors.”
Susan Upchurch of Graton, who serves as district director for Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, has stayed at the Autocamp resort three times since it opened last August. Her first stay last fall was free, as a thank you for her small contribution to the resort’s crowdfunding campaign, This spring, she returned with a group of girlfriends and stayed one night in the luxury tents, then returned a week later to an Airstream for a birthday getaway with her husband.