“We’ll keep doing everything we love with the baby,” my husband continually insisted in the months and days leading up to my delivery day. “She won’t change anything about what we do.” Any parent reading this is probably laughing. But as avid, frequent travelers and nature enthusiasts, we’d fallen in love over dates that involved rock climbing, surfing, hiking, and camping in Joshua Tree, the latter a two-night excursion full of scrambling just three weeks after we met. He’d impressed the hell out of me with his organization and forethought, plus tent-erecting, fire-building and camp-cooking skills.
So, yes, I was all in for adventures with a baby. When Eddie Bauer invited me to test out some new gear in a tiny cabin in Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains, I thought, why wouldn’t we go glamping with our infant? After all, I was smart enough to know that our very first time in the woods with Indah Sage, our baby girl, should probably not be in our two-man tent with sleeping bags. An actual bed, plus somewhere to put her bassinet, would make for a much more pleasant toe dip into camping — and it would still be an adventure.
Around the same time, I caught wind of the new Huttopia Adirondacks, a 275-acre, French-owned tented resort by Lake Luzerne. We’d be in the Adirondacks with my family already, so it felt like the perfect progression into Indah’s outdoor immersion. I’ve glamped in tents across Africa — on the hot sand of the Sahara Desert and in safari setups from Rwanda to Namibia — as well as in Costa Rica and Australia, though many were so plush they hardly seem related to my notion of camping, ingrained as a young Girl Scout. In recent years, glamping — in highly curated, very luxurious canvas structures — has become ubiquitous, even more so it seems since COVID. These days, wide-open (read: safe) spaces and fresh air are in high demand, alongside a desire to disconnect.
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And that we did, happily, immediately upon discovering our slick black Getaway Big Bear cabin, named Willard, after the two-hour drive from Los Angeles. Inside, we found the cellphone lockbox; unyoking myself from my all-consuming device felt like a weight lifted — cheesy but true. (Plus, it was far more fun shooting photos on my Canon DSLR for a change.) Besides being incredibly photogenic, the cabin’s giant picture window reflecting a confetti of leaves dangling from surrounding trees, it was delightfully and intelligently designed, with all the modern amenities one could need for a mountain escape.
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At around 140 square feet, every minimalist inch was used incredibly well with a mini fridge, two-burner electric stovetop, shower, toilet, fluffy queen bed, dishes and pans, and even a few books on stargazing and trees. We moved right in, stashing toys, clothing, and new packs in abundant nooks and crannies, hanging our hats on hooks, literally, and setting up a diapering station on the wooden counter. With walls on three sides, the bed proved to be an awesome place for our wide-eyed little baby to bask in bountiful natural light and watch the swaying branches and aerial stylings of bright blue birds on the other side of the glass during tummy time — safely away from mosquitoes. (In retrospect, I should have treated her clothes with Permethrin ahead of time.)
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Temps neared the 90s, and we’d packed completely wrong, so we laced up our new Eddie Bauer hiking boots for an early morning walk around the property’s almost 60 acres, Indah strapped to my chest, sweaty and dozing. Later, we spread out a blanket on the pine needles and read books in the shade while the trees waving above captivated her. We took turns napping inside with Indah, the AC unit blasting. (The AC was a lifesaver those nights; pre-baby, we would have grinned and bore the heat, but no way we would have made it with a little one.) We grilled burgers and corn on the cob on the fire for lunch, composed a cheese board to munch as the light grew golden, and played cards before my husband built one of his roaring fires on which to cook dinner and s’mores, Indah intently watching every peak of the flames.
It was the perfect time to introduce her to the great outdoors and its pure, natural beauty — she had just reached the point of noticing and really seeing, her vision apparently sharpening to 20/40. As we watched Indah wake up to the big green world around her, it was impossible not to see things differently, too, tracking her gaze and trying to decipher what exactly had caught her attention.
I’ll admit, we only got one dream-filled night of sleep that weekend, but perhaps that’s impressive given that we were glamping with an infant in a brand-new environment. She woke twice on night two when we were sipping drinks by the fire, and with other occupied cabins within earshot, we felt hyper-conscious about affecting someone else’s night, so we ran in to soothe her.
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As some of the earliest guests at Huttopia Adirondacks a month later, that was fortunately not a problem. It was a saving grace there were no other guests staying near our spacious platform Trappeur tent, because as much as Indah was enchanted with her lush surroundings by day, she was not a happy camper after dark. We’d booked the resort’s baby kit, which included a high chair, baby bathtub, and Pack ‘n Play for our 425-square-foot tent. Our tent came with a wood-burning oven and two additional bunk beds, making it excellent for families with kids, but she seemed all of a sudden allergic to the latter and made it known every time her body touched the mattress, even from the depths of a milk-induced sleep.
Here, we had the opposite problem as in Big Bear — it was downright freezing at night. Or, at least it felt that way to this Angeleno. For this reason, the resort is open from mid-May to mid-October each year. We reluctantly closed the screened tent “windows” and bundled Indah in several layers beneath her sleep sack, hoping for the best. For the first time, we co-slept, our five-month-old secure and warm between us and the stove going until we ran out of wood. This slightly sleepless setback did not kill the vibe, however, and the three of us spent lazy mornings on our big wooden terrace, playing and loving the fact that we had nowhere to be. (That said, there are a slew of beautiful moderate hikes in the vicinity, a Six Flags, and attractions in Lake George.)
Huttopia is famously family friendly, with a plethora of games (both board and things like foosball and pétanque), a canteen selling supplies such as s’mores kits, and a forthcoming large, heated freeform swimming pool. The so-titled “camp animator” lines up robust programming, from candle-making lessons and scavenger hunts to magicians and live bands. And food offerings at the counter-service restaurant — sweet and savory crepes for breakfast and lunch, wood-fired pizzas for dinner — appeal to little ones or anyone who, like me, loves cheese above all else. We cooked juicy rib-eye steaks one night on our gas grill, under a string of bistro lights, and devoured them with summer corn and local artisanal cheeses from an afternoon visit to Nettle Meadow Farm.
At the creamery’s animal sanctuary, Indah saw her first goats, plus some mini horses, peacocks, and a cat. I’m under no disillusion that she’ll have any recollection of the cute creatures, or our verdant FernGully-like hike along the resort’s snowmobile trail, or the way her eyes lit up while practicing sitting on our tent’s deck. But we will, and I have to believe the more time she spends outside, the better off she’ll be. And maybe by next summer, all this glamping will have prepared her for an old-school camping trip, sleeping bags and all.