We have a lot of reasons to want to get away from it all, to disconnect from the daily grind or nightly news. Fortunately, we don’t have to go far in Monterey County to find a scenic hike or wander our coastal trails, witnessing the natural beauty of the landscape, hearing the rush of the river or ocean waves breaking upon the shore, and feeling the warm sunlight filtering through the redwoods.

Here, we exhale.

While we might not feel ready to head home once the sun sets on the horizon, taking its light and warmth with it, not everyone feels like pitching a tent, cooking over a fire, or sleeping on the ground. For those who want to experience the beauty and benefits of being outdoors but prefer the comforts of home come nightfall, “glamping” just might be the answer.

This is where nature meets nurture. Where folks can experience the wonders of the wild as well as the comforts and conveniences of indoor living. This is a hybrid of glamour and camping, where we wake up to birdsong, from the warmth of a bed. We shower inside. We enjoy the benefits of the “inhouse” as opposed to the outhouse.

For Charlene Webber-Schuss and her daughter Elie Schuss glamping meant an alchemy of long walks and short hikes, of roasting marshmallows by the fire. (Courtesy photo)

Reportedly, 30% of North American travelers have gone glamping during the pandemic. Further, in a 2019 report by Grandview Research, 83% of travelers who prefer not to camp said glamping enabled them to experience the outdoors in comfort, 63% also said it allowed them to enjoy services not typically associated with traditional camping, and 27% appreciated that it alleviates the effort associated with more traditional forms of camping.

Whether we prefer a small cabin, a luxury tent, a tipi, a treehouse, or a yurt — a round, portable tent constructed of lattice walls and radial rafters — we can expect to camp outside the norm.

Looking for a way out

Elie Schuss was ready for a break. The Carmel native, 28, who works in the Emergency Department at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, also is working toward her May graduation from Capella University, with a master’s degree in nursing administration.

“The ER has an air of intensity to it, which requires coworkers to work together,” said Schuss. “Traumatic events have a way of bringing us closer. When a patient is super sick, it requires immediate intervention by all of us, coming together to stabilize the patient.”

In the home stretch of her master’s program, which includes the completion of an internship and presentation of her final project, Schuss decided to get away from it all before her schedule really heats up.

After studying a series of hotel apps and finding everything either booked or beyond her budget, she made one last call to try to secure a weekend of respite. “Mom, are you free?”

Both Elie Schuss and her mom, Charlene Webber-Schuss, 59, are registered nurses. Both have served in the halls of Community Hospital —Webber-Schuss for 35 years, and her daughter, ever since she graduated from Monterey’s Maurine Church Coburn School of Nursing, in 2019— the year her mother retired from nursing. Theirs is a legacy that binds them.

A matter of months after she retired, once  COVID came into this community, Webber-Schuss felt the familiarity of her old nursing days, as she slipped into her personal protective equipment and returned to Community Hospital as a volunteer coronavirus vaccinator.

To date, she has administered more than 800 vaccinations.

Webber-Schuss had an idea for a little respite and rejuvenation. She and her husband, Matthew Schuss, having decided they weren’t going to just sit around during COIVD, had started camping. They’d shopped on Amazon for tents and other equipment, and had created online checklists, including a packing list and a grid that mapped out the food they’d need each day. They bought bins and kept them packed, labeled, and ready to go.

The couple camped once in Napa and several times in Big Sur. They’d made plans to camp in Yosemite and in Santa Cruz, but fires forced them out. They loved everything about their COVID camping, except for sleeping on the ground.

Elie Schuss, who hadn’t been camping since she was small, was thinking of a little more luxury. At the same moment, she and her mother said, “How about glamping?”

The luxury of leisure in the woods

To Elie Schuss and her mom, glamping meant an alchemy of long walks and short hikes, of roasting marshmallows by the fire, while looking up into the starry sky to find the Big Dipper, and then stepping inside a cottage or cabin and tucking into a warm, soft bed.

“I knew Elie needed a break, to disconnect, have some downtime,” said Webber-Schuss. “What better place than Big Sur to be off the grid, with no cell service for a few days?”

The pair chose Big Sur Campground & Cabins, where Webber-Schuss had tent-camped several times before. This time, they chose a small cabin, complete with a full kitchen and bathroom, a bedroom with a cozy queen-sized bed, and a futon in the living area, plus running water and electricity.

“The cabin couldn’t have been cuter,” said Webber-Schuss. “And, when we arrived, they gave us firewood, ice, and the gift of two tin mugs, a deck of cards, and a flashlight.”

During the day, the mother-daughter duo went for walks along the river and through Andrew Molera State Park. They stopped in at Big Sur Bakery and had lunch at Big Sur River Inn. They also sat, for five hours one afternoon, reading by the fire and periodically reheating their tea.

“Any time we walked outside,” said Webber-Schuss, “we could feel the fresh, cold air, smell the other campfires, hear jays argue in the trees, or the river flowing by. Inside, the only thing missing was a television, but we didn’t actually miss it at all.”

Although they made their evening meals in the kitchen of their little cabin, primarily from foods they’d prepared at home, for dessert, they tucked homemade chocolate chip-pecan cookie dough into foil pouches, heated them over the fire, and then ate their treat right out of the foil, topped with Madagascar vanilla ice cream. “Sorta like the chocolate-chip cookie skillet situation at Forge in the Forest restaurant in Carmel,” said Schuss.

“Each day, we built our own fire just outside the cabin,” said Webber-Schuss, “and we got darn good at it.”

Before leaving the cabin to return to Carmel, they asked each other to sum up the best part of their glamping getaway.

For Webber-Schuss, it was spending time with her daughter. “Having uninterrupted, mellow mother-daughter time, with the chance to relax and not worry about anything else was the best,” she said. “We felt such an ease of being together.”

Schuss agreed with her mother yet admitted that the only mistake they made was not booking a third night in the cabin.

“Had we stayed another night,” said Webber-Schuss, “we could have gotten in a bigger hike—if we wanted to.”

“If we wanted to,” said Schuss.

Big Sur Campground & Cabins is one of several sites available for glamping (or camping) in Big Sur. For more information, visit www.bigsurcalifornia.org.


published 2022-03-24 02:18:50