If you love to explore remote areas in nature but don't care for sleeping on the ground or otherwise roughing it, glamping may be for you.
Glamping = glamorous camping
Glampour = glamorous camping tour
What is glamping
If you love to explore remote areas in nature but don't care for sleeping on the ground or otherwise roughing it, glamping may be for you. Combining camping and glamorous amenities, glamping is a growing trend in the United States and all over the world. The industry is expected to reach over $1 billion dollars in revenue within the next five years in the U.S. alone. You can put together your own glamping adventure or look for a travel group that takes care of all the details.
In New Mexico, you can experience a unique roving version of glamping called glampour that was created by Angelisa Espinoza Murray, guide and founder of Heritage Inspirations. Murray has developed a series of tours that take small groups to remote locations like Chaco Canyon and hidden realms near the rim of the Río Grande. Everything is provided by Heritage Inspirations including food, transportation, and special offerings like stand-up paddleboarding and yoga.
"We draw people into the magic of New Mexico," says Murray. "It feels like we are on the cusp of losing touch with the forgotten wild places of nature. People who may spend their days on computers and cellphones are craving this kind of experience; it's like a crash course in another time and another way of living." Her goal is to create an authentic and intimate experience for people to explore the dynamic history and natural beauty of our state.
At the time of the spring and fall equinox, Heritage Inspirations hosts tours to Chaco Canyon. Although mystery surrounds the exact purpose of Chaco, it may have been the ceremonial center of a vast civilization of ancient Puebloan people. Archaeologists say that the site was occupied between A.D. 830 and 1250. The people of Chaco built massive great houses and created markers of seasonal events that can still be seen today.
According to Heritage Inspirations, "Chacoans had such advanced astronomical knowledge, and they used it to carefully align their great houses with the sun, presumably to witness indications of important calendar dates. We observe the light stream through two perfectly aligned east/west doors at Casa Rinconada, the largest kiva in Chaco. Only two times per year, during equinoxes, does the sunlight pierce through the center of these two doorways - showing how the careful structural construction and the planned interplay of light and shadow functioned as a calendrical marker for the Chacoan people."
The equinox tours have proven so popular that the company has planned some additional dates to coincide with the new moon, when the stars are the most brilliant. A new moon tour has just been added for Aug. 30-31.
Because this is a glamping tour or glampour, accommodations are in large, comfortable tents and dinner is a five-course gourmet meal prepared by Chef Marianne Sundquist, owner of The Clarified Kitchen in Santa Fe. Nighttime entertainment is stargazing in the deep night of Chaco, so remote and dark that the area has been designated as an International Dark Sky Park.
Journey Within - Taos
If you want to experience the dark skies of Taos in a new way, the company offers tours that coincide with the Perseids meteor shower and the new moon.
"The August Perseids meteor shower is a great time to be in Taos," says Murray. "We are out at the edge of the Río Grande. We lay out blankets and yoga mats and settle in to watch the meteors. This is a portal for the people who travel with us. It allows them to drop boundaries and enjoy truly watching the stars in a supportive environment. We feel blessed to have this experience and be able to share it with others."
Murray has a special interest in the geology, flora and fauna of the area. "The land is pungent. We are part of the earth here and experience some of what has always drawn people to Taos like the quality of the light at sunset - the ethereal hour."
This tour has opportunities for hiking and optional activities like stand-up paddleboarding, yoga and meditation, along with gathering sage and piñon to make smudge sticks. A new feature is a visit to Taos Pueblo to learn about baking bread in a traditional outdoor horno.
"People can be very active on the tour or they can choose to sit and write in their journal with a glass of rosé from Vivác winery at sunset. People can do what is nurturing for them," says Murray.
Who is glamping
Glamping appeals to a wide range of people. Murray says that her guests range from young millennials to people in their 80s. Her goal is to create an experience for each person that is personal and impacts their life in a positive way. "One of the greatest experiences I've ever had was last fall when a man in his 80s who had been undergoing chemotherapy at the Mayo Clinic flew in on a Friday to join us at Chaco Canyon and was back at chemo on Monday."
Leave no trace
In all of the tours, there is a focus on respect for the environment. Murray's family has roots in the San Luis Valley, and she grew up fishing with her grandfather in the headwaters of the Río Grande. She points out that the Río Grande is the fifth longest river in North America and that we are fortunate to have this undammed river, designated federally as Wild and Scenic in the northern part of the state.
Murray was a travel guide for 17 years all over the world, but New Mexico always called her back.
She worked as a wilderness guide at in the Chugach Mountains of Alaska, where she met her husband, Tommy Murray, who assists her with glamping tours. She also worked for the nonprofit organization Wild Earth Guardians that protects and restores wild places.
Products like locally made organic shampoo bars come along on the glamping tours to make sure nothing artificial is put back into the earth when guests use the outdoor gravity-fed shower. "We need to be stewards and set an example. When we lose touch with our ancestral heritage, we can become disconnected from the earth. We always act with respect and leave no trace. When we are gone, you can't tell we've been there," she says.
One guest said that the only time she had a similar experience traveling to such a remote beautiful location was while she was on tour in Jordan. "We're basically mimicking what nomadic cultures historically did, like the Bedouins or the Mongols, by carting in fancy tents, with aesthetically pleasing qualities and useful amenities, and then setting them up in different outstanding settings," Murray has observed.
She sees that people come here looking for a quality that is hard to define. "People are crying out for authenticity," she says. "We have a passion to know the greater over-arching story. As a wise guide at Chaco Canyon told me: the story here is not about the architecture - it is about the people who created this place."
With these glamping tours, modern people have a chance to touch that story and experience something true in themselves at the same time.
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