How Yonder Escalante, a glamping paradise in the Utah desert, melted my cynicism

In our year 2022, high desert “bohemian” getaways like Joshua Tree or Marfa are about to be overrun. The Airbnb-Instagram industrial complex and its host of venture capitalists, influencers, gurus, and influencer hunters have slowly begun stripping these places of their idiosyncrasies, turning them into Pinterest-ready havens for outfit fetishists. festival.

So when The Daily Beast was invited to experience Yonder Escalante, a swanky new camping resort in the southern Utah desert, with carefully designed A-frame cabins, restored vintage Airstreams and a drive-in drive-in parked classics, I must admit: I was skeptical.

My cynical ass hoisted itself up in the middle of nowhere at the end of this summer, expecting to be floored by natural splendor (which it wouldn’t be!) but with a nagging sense of distrust of another stylish and Instagrammable glamping retreat.

Instead, I gave up. And I found myself deeply enjoying a long weekend of wonder.

Yonder Escalante entrance sign in Escalante, Utah.

Kim and Nash Finley

Yonder Escalante is part upscale RV park/campground/lodge set on 20 acres along Scenic Byway 12 – focus is on scenic because damn it, this drive is just one breath after another.

The resort’s distance from major cities (Vegas, five hours west; SLC, five hours north) seems to weed out the trend-hunters I’ve so grumpily maligned, so much so that it feels like a veritable paradise for true believers and adventurers.

A relaxed, unpretentious and carefree experience makes sense given that the glampground was built by a father-son duo who lived the real life of VR and left wanting to create a space for fellow travelers looking for more than a single parking space.

And it is certainly much more than that. Accompanying the 22 cabins, 10 Airstreams and 35 RV sites, you will find a laundry room as well as a spa-like bathroom with luxury toiletries and private outdoor showers. A food truck offers burritos and oatmeal for breakfast in the morning; several delicious sandwiches, including a house burger, plus Dole Whip soft drinks and loads of tots and fries at all other times. A general store sells do-it-yourself meal kits, snacks, and alcoholic beverages. And a mid-century outdoor communal pavilion includes fire pits overlooking the vast, dusty desert landscape.

Over there Escalante in Escalante, Utah.

The nomadic people

The pool/hot tub is a welcome oasis before or after a full day of exploring the surroundings. Indeed, there are a lot of things to look at and hikes to consider. And Yonder Escalante is the perfect jumping off point for required day trips, as it’s within driving distance of Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef National Parks and their myriad sights, as well as the myriad of canyons within under, hoodoos and river trails that dot the Grand Staircase. -Escalante National Monument. A simple daytime drive east on Route 12 turns into a thrill ride on the Hogsback, a stretch of road that climbs to the narrow crest of a ridge with immediate drops over hundreds of feet on either side of the road.

On this particular trip, we hiked the combined Queens/Navajo loop of Bryce Canyon, which included the famous “Wall Street” and its tight, tight turns; the Devil’s Garden, a secluded playground of sandstone formations and arches several miles up the bumpy Hole-in-the-Rock road; and Lower Calf Creek Falls, a nearly seven-mile round trip to a 126-foot waterfall nestled deep in the canyons.

There’s nothing like hours-long treks through truly alien landscapes to reset the neurons in that media-altered brain, release dopamine, and experience pure, untouched awe.

But it was in Yonder Escalante where I was more surprised to capture some of that childlike joy.

Over there Escalante in Escalante, Utah.

The nomadic people

Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by Airstreams. Something about that retro-futuristic curved aluminum shape – like a sci-fi silver ball heading somewhere, everywhere it’s not here – has long caused me to stop and gape every time I spot one. (Thanks to whoever parks his on my favorite cobblestone street in Red Hook.) And so every time I approached our Airstream trailer, I felt really giddy to be there. Absolutely useless, I know.

I’ve been camping many times and I’m certainly guilty of grimacing at glamping as “inauthentic” or “candle”. But the Yonder experience doesn’t sacrifice any of the simple pleasures that make camping enjoyable in the first place. Like cooking over an open flame.

“There’s nothing quite like a campfire and a can of beans,” sang Tom Waits, and while sadly there are no cans of beans available, Yonder offers a delicious series of homemade meal packages: a local whole chicken, sprinkled and under a vacuum in advance so that it remains juicy and all you have to do is brown it to your liking; or a generous cut of steak from a family meat processor in Kanab; and sides of various fresh, fully seasoned vegetables with, of course, a kit of s’mores.

In front of each trailer or cabin is a fire pit and plenty of space to relax. And so we did it with pleasure for the three nights, almost like a ritual: come back from a long day of hiking, light the fire pit, sit for hours drinking beer, breathing the fresh air of the desert and stare at the darkest sky. I’ve seen some for years with a hazy strip of the Milky Way visible.

And then we go to bed and start again.

About Joyce Hill

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