The idea of glamping has become almost a punchline in itself. Theoretically the glamper is presented a decadent resort surrounded by wilderness; the best of both worlds, where you can indulge in luxuries while basking in nature. The pushback usually falls somewhere between “Why didn’t you just go camping?” and “Why didn’t you just go to a nice hotel somewhere?”
It’s a conundrum that Brandon Dickerson, owner of Green Acres — a glampground just east of Austin, Texas — is deeply familiar with. After moving with his family from Boston, MA to central Texas, Dickerson fell in love with the 25 acres of land that would eventually become Green Acres. He named the property for the idea that he and his family were city folks giving country living a try (there was 60s-era sitcom of the same title). The idea started off with a couple of Airstream trailers before he added yurts and a 700-square foot lodge. Eventually, it became “a glamping retreat space that kind of took off. In short: It became a thing.
“It’s a starter drug,” explained Dickerson. “It gives an opportunity for people to come and start to get in nature, and for me, it’s all about unplugging. All the banter about social media and all of that is about the fact that I believe strongly that you need times of no WiFi and no cell service, and you need just a moment to be. Boredom is gone. There’s no reflection, no boredom, so the idea of people unplugging in nature is what I’m inspired by.”
The notion of people looking to better their personal lives by tuning out for a spell is something Dickerson sees all the time when greeting his guests. It even inspired him to write and direct a movie set at Green Acres — Amanda And Jack Go Glamping, about a married couple (Amy Acker and David Arquette) looking to save their strained marriage of 15-years.
While I didn’t have any major life crises to tackle, or a failing marriage to fix, my wife and I went out earlier this week to Green Acres to spend a night unplugged and basking in nature. I even left my just-delivered iPhone X behind as a commitment to the endeavor.
Heading out along the narrow, two-lane roads, it’s easy to miss the small wooden sign hanging above the entrance to Green Acres. Luckily, my wife brought her phone with her, so the GPS was able to point out the exact location — an address you only get after your booking is confirmed, along with a quick rundown of the rules and a layout of the area.
Upon arrival, we found that we were all alone on the grounds’ 25 acres. It was a Monday, so the lack of other guests wasn’t exactly a surprise, but there was no staff on hand to show us around, either. This was going to be a legitimately remote experience. Once parked, we unloaded the few items we’d brought, including a couple frozen jars of chili we’d made the week prior. The kitchen was stocked with assorted condiments and seasonings, as well as some coffee porter and an ample supply of s’mores ingredients. That and plenty of bug spray — which definitely came in handy. We filled the sink with water to let the jars of chili thaw a bit and went to explore.
When given the option of an airstream vs. a yurt, the choice seemed obvious. The food truck revolution has made airstreams increasingly ubiquitous, and though I’ve never actually stayed in one, a yurt just was just so damn appealing. A large, circular tent outfitted with wood floors, an incredibly comfortable bed, along with another single bed, a couple end tables, and a writing desk? This was glamping to the extreme.
It even had a mobile air conditioner for those warm summer nights. (Or, in the case of Texas’ climate, those warm November nights).
The pleasantly warm weather aside, the scourge of Daylight Savings’ “fall back” was upon us, so we only had a couple good hours of sunlight left to explore the rest of the grounds. Off the kitchen was a communal seating area, complete with a dart board and ping pong table. There was a loft above, accessed by a rope ladder hanging off one side. Nearby was a large fire pit, and the arguably key that separates glamping from truly “roughing it” — a bathroom with attached shower, outfitted with eco-friendly soaps and shampoos.
The real highlight for me, in all this, were the donkeys and alpacas, named Donkey and Yoti, and Laverne and Shirley, respectively. They lived in a fenced off pasture just to the east of the main grounds and were clearly used to hanging with gawking visitors. They eagerly trotted up to the fence wanting you to feed them from the nearby hay pile. There was also a warning that the alpacas can get jealous of the donkeys and spit on you, but we were lucky to have avoided such scorn. Though Shirley didn’t seem terribly interested in my offerings of handfuls of hay and mostly kept to herself.
As the sun started to set, my wife headed to a nearby grocery store to procure some additional supplies, and I was left alone with no phone to distract me, and surrounded by nothing but the stars above and the sounds of the crickets. I went back to the kitchen to start heating up the chili on the propane-powered stove when a snake fell from the ceiling into the sink — blurring the lines of a luxurious glampground and regularly old “getting back to nature, Texas-style.” While I was surprisingly unphased by the ordeal, I did vigilantly check the ceiling every time I returned to the kitchen throughout the rest of our stay.
With the chili on the stove, I strolled around the grounds, plugging in a few strings of outdoor lights where I could find outlets, and relaxed in a nearby hammock. A skunk skittered across my path at one point — but didn’t deem me enough of a threat to spray me (a small, but important personal victory).
Once my wife returned from her shopping trip, we ate the chili at a wooden picnic table before building the fire that replaced our nightly ritual of binging through our DVR. There we sat, cooking s’mores and talking at length about nothing in particular. My phone was miles away, and hers charging in our yurt on the other side of the grounds.
After burning itself out into a few smoldering embers, we doused the fire pit with water (safety first), and grabbed the bag of Bananagrams to play a few rounds, before turning in for the night. With the night air finally cool enough to turn off the air conditioner, we drifted to sleep in absolute comfort while serenaded by the sounds of nature.
As seems to be the case with camping, we both awoke early without the aid of an alarm clock and spent some time walking down the nature trail — and face-first into more than a few spider webs. I washed our dishes from the night before and placed them back in the cupboards (still checking the ceiling for snakes) before lazily packing up our yurt and heading back into town late enough to miss most of morning rush hour traffic.
All in all, it was a glorious 18 hours, and I found myself not missing the screens that seem to dominate my daily life, and only occasionally musing about the barrage of emails and Slack messages I’d come back to that morning. Green Acres seems to hit that sweet spot that offers a comfortable stay without removing you too far from nature. Kitchen snakes and all.
You can book a stay at Green Acres here, and check out Amanda And Jack Go Glamping when it hits theaters on November 10th