Camping's Extreme Makeover Luxury tents, king-size beds, gourmet chefs, Wi-Fi. Welcome to the new business opportunities of not really roughing it.
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Pepper Fewel got into the upscale camping business by necessity and personal preference. The overnight business at her Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn in Yakima, Wash., was spilling out of the farmhouse, so she started putting guests in 20-plus-foot-tall teepees that overlook a working farm and horse ranch.
"I'm not a true camper in any way, shape or form," Fewel says. "So I did what I know I would like to do. I love the shape of the teepee, and I thought, 'If I were to stay in this, I wouldn't want to stay on dirt.' So we put in a floor, then beds."
The teepees were meant as a practical solution to Cherry Wood's growing pains, but they soon became an attraction in themselves: They're booked every Friday and Saturday through October, and Fewel notes that bookings for horseback rides to the nearly 20 wineries surrounding the ranch grew 25 percent over the last year.
The transformation of Fewel's business is part of a trend called "glamping" (a mashup of "glamorous camping"). The trend has roots in the U.K., but in the U.S., savvy entrepreneurs are discovering that it can do what a 200-plus-year tradition of American outdoorsmanship couldn't: It's making the wilderness an attractive vacation getaway to those who've never pitched a tent or lit a campfire.