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Glamping at El Capitan Canyon
April, 2009 - Issue #54
If you have your own shower, a king-size bed and a hot stone massage, can you really call it camping?

That's debatable. At El Capitan Canyon they call it "glamping," aka glamour camping.

Glamping mitigates the most objectionable aspects of traditional camping - pit toilets, minimal bathing and the obnoxious drunk people in the next site who play their music too loud - by providing the amenities of a hotel while preserving the more enjoyable aspects of a camping experience: fire, s'mores and fresh air.

The resort, or glampground, consists of 300 acres nestled in a canyon on the northern Santa Barbara coast. Stately oaks and grand sycamores provide shade for the collection of individual cabins, yurts and canvas tent cabins that sit above both banks of El Capitan Creek, which meanders through the middle of the canyon.

We arrived to find ourselves booked in a Canyon Loft Cabin outfitted with a king-size bed, kitchenette, shower and wide front porch with two reclining camp chairs. Laurel, Drew and Brooke were thrilled to find the upstairs sleeping loft was just their size.

While we settled in, they spilled outside and clambered down into the creek. The stretch in front of our cabin was dry, so they could hunt bugs, swing sticks and rock hop without getting wet.

Later, I chaperoned an expedition further downstream and we discovered a small pool with enough water to host some sort of water-dwelling bird. Upon seeing us, it paddled into the safety of a small cave created by the roots of a sycamore growing out of the undercut bank. It soon ventured out again, and we watched it dive for food.

Miles of trails meander through the canyon and climb the surrounding hills. We attempted a family hike one morning, but 4-year-old Drew and 3-year-old Brooke weren't willing participants. April returned with them to the cabin. Laurel, 6, wanted to continue, and 8-month-old Amber was content to ride in her carrier, so we went on for two miles or so to enjoy the views and spot lizards.

Later in the day we made our way down to El Capitan State Beach, which is just across the road. You can walk there or grab one of the free bikes available for check out. But we decided to drive since it was late in the day and the kids were tired. As the sun slipped beyond the horizon, we explored the tide pools at the south end of the beach. In between discovering anemones and sea stars, the kids gathered shells and unusual rocks.

Fire is part of the primeval attraction of camping. So each cabin at El Capitan Canyon comes with its own fire ring, with wood available at the glampground store. We cooked Trader Joe's gourmet sausages over open flame our first night and sat at the oversize picnic table enjoying a starlit dinner. Naturally, s'mores followed for dessert.

Like dirt and tents, cooking also is optional at El Capitan Canyon. The Canyon Market & Deli offers some welcome alternatives to hot dogs blackened on coat hanger skewers. Their broccoli cheddar soup was smooth and creamy, while the Rincon sandwich was a tasty mouthful, piled high with thick bacon, fresh avocado and roasted turkey.

El Capitan Canyon really puts the glam in glamping with its Canyon Spa, which offers hot stone and herbal massages. We didn't indulge. Children dramatically shorten the effects
of a massage.
Eric Harnish lives in Newhall.

Let's Go Glamping!
El Capitan Canyon

11560 Calle Real, Goleta
866-352-2729
www.elcapitancanyon.com
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