UNPLUGGED IN ITHACA: Firelight Camps

After a long New York City week of conferences and meetings, I was itching for some space and nature, and embarking on my first journey to Ithaca, New York would prove to be the perfect solution. Prior to my trip, I only knew of Ithaca as the home of Cornell University. Leaving this adventure up in the air, as I have many times before, often do with my adventures, I rented a car and embarked on a solo road trip north to spend a few nights of glamorous camping, or Glamping, at Firelight Camps.

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Walking from the check-in area to my tent, I glanced up and noticed the trees were just beginning to turn their brightest spring greens. I breathed in the crisp fresh air. The lack of noise was enchanting. Immediately the noise also clamoring in my head followed suit and began to quiet. This plot of land had something special about it. It’s calm, cool, and collected vibe began to rub off.

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Setting aside my suitcase, I loosely fell back and unfurled atop the billowy comforter. Relaxation hit me hard- the birds chirping, a slow and steady breeze blowing, and the sounds of absolutely nothing else- I didn’t want to move.

tent view

With eighteen tents in total, each complete with a forest-facing back porch and rocking chair, if you’d end up here by way of blindfold, you’d easily imagine you were in the middle of nowhere. The reality being you’re a ten minute drive from town, with the main road just up the hill.

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Firelight Camps offers a perfect stay for all types of travelers. For the food fanatics, breakfast is impeccable – homemade granola, local bread from Wide Awake Bakery, freshly baked quiches, and their special blend of Firelight Camps Nicaraguan coffee. Perfect fuel for a day in the outdoors.

Just outside of camp, I discovered a wealth of food and drink spots to visit in and around Ithaca. I enjoyed tasting Port at Ports of New York, grabbing a cider sampling at Finger Lakes Cider House, and tasting homemade cheeses from Lively Run Goat Dairy.

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For the active and early riser, you have unique access to sunrise trekking on trails, like Upper Buttermilk Falls, that lead to beautiful waterfalls with swimming holes.

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Those looking for family time there is plenty of community space where you can play bocce ball together or gather around a campfire sharing stories over dinner, a glass of wine and homemade smores. The latter is where I needed up my first night- spending time with someone else’s family, who immediately felt like my own. After all, community is what brought Firelight Camps to life.

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I had a chance to spend an entire day with co-founder Emma Frisch, a self-taught chef who appeared on Food Network Star. She and food and travel writer Simon Majumdar were sourcing and preparing dinner for a collaborative event the second night of my stay – part of Simon’s casual series #GiveUsABedIllCookYouDinner where he travels around when he’s not filming. When I asked Emma how her and her partner Bobby ended up here, she said, “We started this hotel so people could disconnect to reconnect – to tell stories to get to know one another.”

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couple campfire

After all of the literal tastes Ithaca and Firelight Camps had to offer, I left with a small taste of my own on what life might be like if I lived here – in a very comfortable tent. I’d return to experience this all over again in a New York minute.

event tent
campfire

Firelight Camps not only offers overnight Glamping, but hosts other events, packages, and retreats.

Kristen Kellogg

Exploring rugged to refined, digital storyteller and film producer Kristen Kellogg has a unique eye and flair for capturing the essence of a brand or destination that is immediately recognizable in the work she crafts through her Wanderlust Website + Creative Agency: Border Free Travels. Kristen’s work has been featured in Yahoo Travel, AFAR, and Microsoft among others. A Nantucket resident, when Kristen isn’t on the road, she is literally running around exploring her own backyard. Kristen is from Southern Illinois. Follow her daily adventures on Instagram here.

Top 10 Outdoor Activities for Glampers

City folks may be the ones who wanderlust about the great outdoors more than those who have it as their own backyard, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t explore new ways to have fun. Whether you are attracted to the water or rather stay on dry land, there’s something out there for you. There are many outdoor activities glampers can partake in during the summer and I have just compiled your guide to the top 10 adventures you should definitely check out!

Water

Scooba Diving – Misool Eco Resort
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Tubing – Jean-Michael Cousteau Resort

Kayaking & Canoeing – Pagoda Lodge
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Boat Tours – Orca Dreams Whale Watching Camp
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Surfing – Dreamsea Surf Camp – Cost Rica

Land

Adventure Course – The Resort at Paws Up13339479_1180965601934339_4476486668730478103_n

Zip-Lining – Dominican Treehouse Village

Target Shooting – Kessler Canyon
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Animal Rides – Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle
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Hiking – Yellowstone Under Canvas – Family Adventure
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Mey Martinez

Meyling “Mey” Martinez is a travel and outdoor enthusiast born in the tropical island of Cuba and raised in Las Vegas, NV. Consumed by wanderlust and inspired by nature and the fascinating world outside of her doors, she has set sail to visit new destinations. Mey enjoys hiking new trails and visiting national and state parks along with other wonders of the world. Forever an explorer at heart with an adventurous soul, she enjoys sharing her experiences and the latest on travel and glamping through blogging.

Final Morning and Parting Thoughts on Sierra Grande Lodge and Spa

The odorless geothermal waters did the trick and I slept soundly my second night at Sierra Grande Ranch. I woke up refreshed and a bit sad I did not have time for another soak and one of the massage treatments before departing.

bar

I took advantage of the coffee service in the lobby before heading downstairs to the restaurant for breakfast. Service was once again friendly.

Spending a few days glamping in Southern New Mexico was really enjoyable. I would recommend the Sierra Grande Ranch as a nice add-on destination on for anyone planning a visit to Santa Fe or Albuquerque. It was nice to explore a different part of the state. The geothermal spa waters are quite enjoyable and the privacy offered by the private pools made the experience very pleasant.

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Sierra Grande Ranch is intimate, friendly and comfortable but not posh. The casita offers the most privacy and space if you are staying for more than a few days or for families. The rooms in the main lodge are comfortable and have everything you need to be comfortable for a few nights.

Even if you don’t spend the night, I’d highly recommend a day visit to the spa ($30 for one to two non-guests) and a soak in the lovely scent-free waters.

cook your own food

The Restaurant at Sierra Grande is definitely worthy of a visit if you are passing through. Chef Tatsu Miyazaki’s menu was innovative and his food delicious. The dinner I had at The Restaurant at Sierra Grande was better than any I ate in foodie-centric Santa Fe. The restaurant expects to have it’s liquor license by the end of the summer.

Truth or Consequences is an eclectic little town and the nearby Elephant Butte Dam is beautiful and recreation area is worth exploring.

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If you get a chance to visit, I would definitely encourage you to organize a tour or activity with Ted Turner Expeditions (TTX). My tour of the Ladder Ranch was fun, interesting, and gave me new insight into the southwest and the history of New Mexico. It was the absolute highlight of the trip. TTX is working on more active expeditions including mountain biking adventures. They can work with guests at the Sierra Grande Ranch and Vermejo Park Ranch to arrange personalized tours and activities based on specific interests.

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The most popular time to visit is October through May. New Mexico’s “monsoon” season is June 15- September 30th. July is the hottest month with the temperatures averaging 95. It’s not surprising that the hot springs aren’t as popular during these months.

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burger

If you get a chance to visit, don’t miss trying the Hatch green chiles favored by the locals. They like to serve them on hamburgers and you can try them for yourself at the Owl Bar & Cafe in Sorocco if you are passing through on your way to Albuquerque. The locals like them hot so you might request mild if you are an inexperienced chile eater.

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Rates at Sierra Grande Ranch and Spa start at $155 for a Queen bedded room in the main Lodge. The Casita can be booked for up to four people with rates starting at $415 per night.

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The Ladder Ranch can be booked for $6,000 per night and is suitable for families or groups.

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Costilla Lodge at Vermejo Park Ranch is also part of the TTX property portfolio with rates beginning at $950 per night.