By Carolyn Patten
Teddy Roosevelt did it in Yellowstone 1903, regaling his retinue of camp attendants with tales of derring-do around the campfire. Affluent Europeans began doing it in Africa more than 100 years ago, seeking a rarefied experience of adventure and luxury far from the noise of urban life.
Today, glamping, a mashup term for glamorous camping, is one of the fastest-growing segments of the American travel industry — an outdoor, tent-based experience in the wild, with luxury amenities and service. Taos, with its wild rivers, star-filled night skies and miles of unspoiled nature, is now glamping central for two of the state’s most respected tour companies — Heritage Inspirations and Los Ríos River Runners. Between the two, glamping aficionados can find adventure, luxury, great storytelling and escape from both the digital and actual noise of daily life.
Angelisa Murray, co-partner with husband Tommy Murray, of Heritage Inspirations and guides for all of the company’s Journey Within glamping tours, spent years leading hikes and tours all over the world before founding Heritage Inspirations with Jim Long in 2015. They began offering “glampours” — all-inclusive, multiday excursions into the wild — in 2017 and quickly realized they were witnessing something special.
“People have the opportunity to connect deeply to the land, adventure into the wild and unwind from civilization,” Angelisa Murray says. “It’s an intimate time and also very relaxed. There is no set-in-stone schedule. If you want to do yoga, it’s there for you. If you want to sit back and enjoy a glass of wine, you can. The whole idea is to empower people and give them the tools to enjoy the incredible dark skies, the stars and the land. I love getting them out of Taos so they have a different view of this area.”
Murray structured the three-day, two-night Journey Within Tour dates to coincide with the new moon, when stars are most visible in the night sky, such as the Persieds meteor showers. During the Persieds, she says, “We take blankets and just spread out on the edge of the Río Grande Gorge. We wait, watch and do nothing. It makes for a very silly, happy time, watching ‘falling stars’ and gazing up at the sky. There’s a sense of ‘dropping in,’ but not in a contrived way — it’s easy. The dinners outside and all the other activities turn this into a real, authentic shared experience. I feel like we really hit it with this.”
These tours, Murray says, are loaded with luxury amenities, such as comfortable, roomy tents, chocolates on the pillows at night, four-course meals with wine pairings of New Mexico wine, hikes that allow time for exploration, optional yoga and fun activities like picking sage for smudge sticks and taking standup paddleboard lessons at Lake Abiquiú. There’s also the option of a post-glamping spa experience and special room rates at hotel partners El Monte Sagrado and Palacio de Marquesa in Taos.
Cisco Guevara, owner and founder of Los Ríos River Runners, has run the wild Río Grande and Río Chama more than 3,500 times in the past 51 years, first as a thrill-seeking teenager and later as a commercial whitewater rafting guide with the company he founded. “I’ve seen massive changes in the river-running world,” he says, “and one of those is that more people want to get out into the wilderness, but if they aren’t used to rugged conditions they are looking for a bit more comfort.” Los Ríos was an early adopter of the glamping trend, adding glamping components to some of their tours about 10 years ago.
Today, those who sign on for a tour with Los Ríos River Runners have the option of a wild ride down the Río Chama or Río Grande and overnight accommodations in a standard tent or, for those who want more luxury, the two- and three-day Comfort Camps on the Chama, which are becoming more popular each year.
Comfort Camps provide tent camping with chairs and a table, plenty of room to stand and move around, a stable floor, personal washstand and toilet and fresh linens. A valet brings hot water each night and morning and tends to any special requests. Valets will also carry bags and pitch the tent, much like bearers in a traditional African safari. Gourmet meals are standard. Guevara says these Chama Comfort Camps are perfect for families, allowing a gentle float with a few easy rapids, plus stops at a hot spring, ghost town and historic homestead, and opportunities to fish for brown trout. Los Ríos can also customize the trip by bringing in a yoga instructor, botanist/herbalist, gourmet chef, massage therapist, musicians and more.
Guevara guides many of the tours himself, and his reputation as a gifted storyteller is one of the highlights of any glamping tour he leads. His annual appearance at the Taos Storytelling Festival each October is the stuff of local legend. Named a 2018 “Unsung Hero” for his work in Amigos Bravos, one of the country’s preeminent river and water protection and restoration advocacy groups, he knows every twist and turn of the Río Grande and Río Chama. Following in Teddy Roosevelt’s path, Guevara packs that knowledge into a seemingly endless stream of reminiscence and entertainment.
Heritage Inspirations, LLC
Journey Within 2019 tour dates:
May 31-June 2 — New Moon
Aug. 12-14 — Perseid Meteor Shower
Aug. 30-Sept. 1 — New Moon
$999 per person plus tax. Single supplement $100 per person per night in a private tent
Pre- or post-tour hotel special rates:
El Monte Sagrado Resort — $149 per night plus tax
Palacio de Marquesa — $179 per night plus tax
Los Ríos River Runners
Season usually runs April to late June and early July to early September
2-day Comfort Camp (tent accommodates 4) — $495 per person plus tax
3-day Comfort Camp (tent accommodates 4) — $659 per person plus tax