Remember the episode of Duck Dynasty where the guys are out camping in the woods and Willie shows up in an RV? And when Jase chastises him for not “Roughing it” enough, Willie quips back with, “Jase, I AM roughing it! I got no cell phone service…(looks at his phone)…well I got one bar…I could call but it wouldn’t be as clear.”
There is a name for the Willie Robertson approach to the wilderness and it is GLAMPING: Glamour + Camping = Glamping. And guess what? He’s not alone. The fact is, there are a growing number of us campers-in-waiting that are in essence, chill-seekers rather than thrill-seekers. While the “Jases” of the world can only enjoy nature after hashing out a camp site and staking up a tent, there are those of us content to simply gaze upon the sights over a stout plate of hash while tending to our steak. Personally, I love going into the woods to see the sights, hear the sounds, and smell the scents; but after three or four hours of it…I’m ready for a shower. And a latte. Preferably Pumpkin Spice if it’s in season.
To be clear, authentic glamping involves a “pre-glammed” bedroom (usually called a Yurt) decked out in a clearing amid the woods like an island in the sea, with an air-conditioned canopy, 500-count Egyptian-cotton sheets, and ice bucket refreshes around the clock.
Sounds perfect! Except that since there are not yet oodles of these ivory towers available, there is often a line to metaphorically stand in until the stars of their schedule align with your own. And we couch potatoes aren’t big on standing in line (or for that matter…standing). Fortunately, the East Alabama style of glamping is done entirely from the comfort of your SUV; as in rolling down the windows on the side of the road, and soaking in the sights to the sound of your car stereo. GLAMPING LITE(…ER), you might say. It’s for those who don’t want to bother with the fuss of fitting into an itinerary, and are game for going when they are good & ready…wherever sounds appetizing. And with the bookoos of beauty of spots Alabama has to offer, it’s an easy, low-budget outing that delivers the deskbound from their dilemma.
Off the beaten ‘bama path, you will find scenes along the back roads that clamor for your attention, most of which are not even marked, much less mentioned on a map. Babbling brooks and creek beds can suddenly pop up unannounced along these roadsides, like postcard panoramas straight from a fairytale. These hidden gems are ideal for the inert because they can literally be seen from your passenger seat, and admired over a blueberry scone as your zoom lens does the legwork.
A perfect attraction for the kinetically-phobic is the unsung treasure trove of Beaver Ponds. East Alabama has scads of these microcosms thanks to the falling price of beaver pelts in recent years.
The heron pictured here was photographed literally from thirty feet away, via driver’s seat alongside a Clay County back road. And as it was happening, a hawk swooped down unexpectedly and scared a covey of mallards into the air. Really. If you tried to plan these scenes out in advance, something would go wrong; but left to serendipity, these backroad bonanzas create themselves, and leave you grateful you were just there to see it. And all without working up a sweat.
So why force yourself into the fury of a tent-raising or entangle yourself in a web of mosquito netting if that isn’t your idea of getting away from it all in the first place? Instead, I invite you to simply be yourself and idle along with your engine. Hit the open road with no more shock than what your suspension can suppress. (Somebody invented shock absorbers for a reason, right?) Take in the scenery while you take a selfie. Take a moment between beauty spots to check your fantasy football score. Take six seconds of your time among the trees and Vine it up to Twitter.
To sum it up: there is just no need to rehash what’s“roughing it” when you can share your tranquil treasures on a hashtag of #EasingIt . Those like you need your presence there. No matter what you do, just be you. Channel your inner Willie Robertson, inflate that lumbar cushion, and put it into park. When you get back home, you’ll be glad you did.
(Views expressed are those of the author Vaughn Samuels, and not of any employer.)