Hot Showers, massages, room service...yes, campings gone upscale, giving the wilderness-weary reason to celebrate.


When it comes to all-nighters in the Great Outdoors, there are two distinct takes: camping as we envision it, and camping as it truly unfolds. In the one, we sit in a flower-speckled mountain meadow while a merrily popping fire roasts our peppered ptarmigan and a full moon turns the world a silver hue. In the other, our tent leaks, the can opener never got packed, and the top soil in our hair would be the envy of farmers in Oklahoma.

Gritty camping has its magical, life-changing moments. I have watched lightning storms over the Peruvian Andes, been hypnotized by midnight-blue snow atop the Sierras, listened to frogs glump while satellites streaked the vast night sky of outback Australia - all from a tent flap. Such experiences are forever being romanticized by writers who lack the spine to add the truth. The Andean electric show, for example, required three 12-hour days of climbing, days that might have been shorter had my camp mates not had to dash into the scrub so often to deal with debilitating dysentery.

Nature is magnificent, but she is hard of ground and cruelly fickle, too. Which is why there are now tents at coastal Oregon campgrounds with bunk beds and skylights, and "tentalows" in the Virgin Islands with hot showers and flush toilets.

And at one recent overnight spot, arranged primly in our tent, camping essentials that included peach cleansing bars and a corkscrew for that chilled Chardonnay.

Yes, savvy entrepreneurs have turned our camping fantasies into reality. And the Costanoa Coastal Lodge and Camp in Pescadero, California (55 miles south of San Francisco) represents the latest wave in this Odd Couple merge - forays into nature, with respite for a full body Swedish and Shiatsu style massage at Costanoa's Spa, and you aren't required to hike to earn it.

"Adventure is a relative term," explains Eric Malone, Costanoa's director of adventure experiences. "For some people, adventure is climbing El Capitan. For other people, it's no TV."

Although Malone, a former Outward Bound instructor, has spent years roughing it in the outdoors, he chose to see this latest trend in upscale camping not in a snotty fashion, but as a new opportunity for folks who might not otherwise enjoy an ancient pleasure.