Above photo: Brad and Tonya Clement enjoy champagne by firelight at their glamping accommodations.
Story and photos by Brad Clement
Brad is a photographer and filmmaker specializing in mountaineering and wilderness adventure. He is based in Boulder, Colorado.
An adventure-loving couple takes a more luxurious route to celebrate their anniversary.
When my wife, Tonya, and I explain the unique way we first met, we tend to get strange looks. Twelve years ago, we were introduced on Mount Everest and climbed together to the top of Earth’s highest point.
I’d been hired as a cinematographer for an expedition film project, and Tonya was one of the crew members. When we arrived in Nepal, romance wasn’t on either of our minds. But you can’t help but reveal your true personality in mountaineering, and our experiences on Everest helped us get to know each other. We’ve been experiencing life and going on adventures together ever since.
As we approached our 10-year anniversary, we wondered how we should celebrate. Tonya and I have a shared passion for mountaineering and have taken many wilderness trips together since our first meeting in the Himalayas.
We also both travel frequently for work, so spending time together was paramount in our anniversary vacation search. And while we both love nature, we thought it was time to experience it differently.
One word kept creeping into our conversations: glamping, aka glamorous camping. At first, we just joked about it, but the more we looked into it, the more we thought we should give it a try. After all, the idea was to relax and celebrate—so why not have our camping with a side order of luxury?
From five-star tents, to treehouses, yurts and luxury cabins, glamping has gained popularity in the United States and across the globe. Websites such as glampinghub.com and glamping.com list hundreds of destinations and are dedicated to helping people find suitable locations to meet their needs. Using one of these sites, we discovered a cabin in Manzanita, Oregon, along the coast that promised rustic luxury and close proximity to both the ocean and the mountains.
And so the adventure began. After a scenic drive from Portland, we arrived at our cabin as the sun was setting on a gorgeous August night. We could hear ocean waves crashing nearby, and a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers, were waiting for us inside. From that moment, I knew this trip would be a far cry from our typical wilderness camping experiences.
The furnishings within the little cabin made us feel pampered. Instead of a tent and foam pad with a sleeping bag, we had a comfy bed situated in a cozy loft. Instead of having to melt glacial snow for hot water to cook instant pasta, we had a stove and refrigerator and excellent restaurants nearby. We could even have a hot shower at the turn of a dial. After drinking prosecco by the fire pit, we set off to bed, anticipating the days ahead.
We enjoyed breakfast on our quaint patio and decided to head up the coast to find out what Oregon had to offer. Our drives along the Pacific Ocean and through the deep forests were breathtaking.
On our first day, we enjoyed kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding on the Nehalem River, crabbing in Nehalem Bay and exploring the famous Cannon Beach. Some of the secluded spots along the shore were incredibly beautiful and offered a chance to relax while listening to the ocean. At the end of the day, we headed back to our base camp for more wine, food and even movies on TV. Would we survive another day of such hardship? Only time would tell.
The second day was just as satisfying. We rode scooters along the beach and hiked gorgeous trails in Hug Point State Park, which featured trees and stunning fern forests. Along the way, we picked blackberries along quiet paths. We even managed to squeeze in a couple’s massage. Hunting for seashells, starfish and sand dollars along the beach was a big change from the days when we would toil across glaciers and spend hours hacking out tent platforms in the high-altitude ice.
This trip had no steep ice slopes or hidden crevasses on frozen glaciers. There were no cold tents or small stoves to light. Instead, we enjoyed our second evening by the fire pit with prosecco. The next morning, we packed and drove along scenic highways to Portland for flights back home.
Glamping proved to be the perfect way to celebrate our anniversary. Tonya and I experienced all nature had to offer against a vivid ocean and mountain backdrop, but we also enjoyed the luxury of our cabin by the sea.
Mountaineering represents the essence of who I am. It is a physical and mental endeavour that requires you to make serious decisions in risk-prone environments. Glamping can’t replace that thrill. However, I walked away from Oregon smiling and reflecting on what makes travel, nature and adventure worthwhile. It turns out that glamping and high-altitude climbs share something in common: The most valuable part of both experiences is spending time with people you love and respect.
Have we become soft? Hardly. Are we acting older? Probably. Is that a problem? Not so much. Tonya is sending me daily emails about our next glamping possibilities. Life evolves. Here we go.