Nearly a year ago, I was working on a story about unique bachelorette party ideas for a local women's magazine. One of the out-of-the-box celebration suggestions that I ended up writing about was glamorous camping. I had heard of glamorous camping, a.k.a. glamping, only once before when it was featured on an episode of the "Real Housewives of Orange County". The concept of a luxurious wilderness sleepover was intriguing, but I figured it wasn't something that would be accessible to regular people in the middle of Missouri. Nevertheless, I did a bit more digging and found out that glamping opportunities, while limited, are available in the Show-Me-State. Last weekend, I finally had the chance to try this vacation trend for myself at Redbeard's Ranch in Lebanon, Mo.
My glamping adventure began on Friday afternoon. My fiance and I met up with our friends, another couple, that joined us on the trip. It was about a two hour drive from our home to the campground. We had to take two vehicles because we were loaded up with supplies for the weekend. Once we got to Lebanon, it took an additional half hour to actually get to Redbeard's Ranch as it is located at the end of an extremely long, winding gravel road. It was a relief when we finally got to the office/general store to check-in. Our glamping tents were conveniently situated less than a minute walk from the office and the shower house. The 14X17 wall tents have wood plank floors, queen size beds, air conditioning, heating, lamps, tables and chairs. All of the decor follows a rustic, cowboy theme, and the pleasant aroma of cedar and pine permeates the structure. There was also a small front porch on our tent. The day was dreary and rainy, so after we got settled into our tents, we decided to stay inside and play some board games. A couple of hours passed and the rain let up enough to have dinner. Our friend had prepared some chili at home and all we had to do was heat it up outside on her portable camp stove. For those who don't want to worry about preparing meals during their glamping excursion, Redbeard's Ranch can arrange catering service.
After dinner, the weather was still clear. We decided to venture out and explore. It was just a short walk from our tents to the banks of the Niangua River. The beautiful stream is clear enough that you can see straight to the bottom at the shallow parts. It is surrounded by lush vegetation and rock formations. Unfortunately, it was still too wet for a campfire that evening. We stayed up late playing more board games inside our tent before heading to bed.
I was up before sunrise on Saturday for our first full day of glamping. I sat outside and took in the foggy peacefulness that engulfed the ranch. When my fiance woke up, we walked around the ranch and saw the horses relaxing in their paddock. The owners recently shut down their horseback riding operation, but there are still many activities to do at Redbeard's Ranch such as fishing, swimming, hiking and bow hunting. Redbeard's Ranch also rents canoes, tubes, kayaks and rafts for float trips.
Our original plan was to canoe down the Niangua from Redbeard's Ranch. But, we found a Groupon for tube rentals just a few miles away at Riverfront Campground & Canoe Rental. By noon, we were ready to enter the water. Our transportation for the day were inflatable tubes with bottoms, cup holders, headrests and kayak paddles. The tubes were long enough to stretch out in for a comfortable and leisurely ride. This was my first float trip, and I had no idea what to expect. The Niangua is a class I river which means the current moves slowly. The were a few spots along the way that picked up in speed and added a fun contrast to the otherwise quiet ride. During our 3.5 mile journey from Fort Niangua to Sand Spring, we were passed repeatedly by people in canoes that were moving along at a much faster pace. I would love to try canoeing someday, but it was nice to just dwadle this time. Along the way, we saw a variety of wildlife such as frogs, turtles, fish, dragonflies, damselflies and birds. We also had views of a steep, limestone bluff that was hidden among the trees. It took us about four hours to complete the float. I would highly recommend this stretch of the Niangua River to anyone who is looking to avoid the partying crowds that can be found on other parts of the waterway.
That evening we were able to get a campfire going for dinner. We roasted hot dogs and S'mores while enjoying the warmth and the beauty of the flames. The night sky was pitch black, and we could see what seemed like a million stars in the sky. At bedtime, we were treated to a natural soundtrack of tree frogs, crickets, cicadas and toads croaking and chirping.
We departed from Redbeard's Ranch on Sunday morning after breakfast. It was a great weekend, and I was happy that we had the chance to get away and try something new. Redbeard's Ranch is a safe, clean and well-maintained campground with a friendly staff that provides excellent customer service. Glamorous camping is a great way to experience nature without having to rough it too much. I like being outdoors, but I also like my creature comforts. Glamping is the ideal compromise.
Hello! I am Porcshe Moran Murphy. For nearly two I've created print and and digital content for brands and organizations, cover food & wine, travel, home design, weddings, healthcare tech, business and more.