FORT HILL, Pa.
There are a number of traditional campgrounds along the Great Allegheny Passage in southern Somerset County, but none quite like the "glamping" (glamour camping) site on the Campbell Farm, just 4 miles away from the trail parking lot in Harnedsville.
The site includes a 12-foot-by-14-foot white canvas tent on a carpet-covered wooden floor secured under a pair of sugar maple trees.
It has a queen-size bed, a night stand, a dresser and mirror, a wash stand, a side table, book shelves, two bentwood rocking chairs, two table lamps, a floor lamp, two fans, a foot stool and a luggage stand.
The covered black locust front deck offers views of the distant Laurel and Chestnut ridges.
An oak and hickory table and two comfortable wooden chairs invite guests to sit a spell -- and fall under the spell -- of this special place in the Laurel Highlands.
A few steps away is a fully-equipped kitchen with open-to-the-air views all around. It has a three-burner propane stove, a small refrigerator, an old-fashioned ice box, a double sink with hot and cold running water, an electric coffee pot and an electric toaster.
Around the corner is an open air deep claw foot composite tub with a white acrylic finish. White lace panels can be hung on a retractable clothes line for those who prefer privacy. The tub is recovery central after a long day on the trail.
"That tub really holds the heat," said Mona Rishel, co-owner of the farm with her husband Bryon Shissler, a multitalented mountain man.
Shissler built the wooden frame and platform for the tent, the kitchen counter and cabinets, the wooden surround for the bath tub, the wooden privy with an environmentally friendly composting toilet and all the stone walkways bordered with Mona's flowers. He also dug the ditch for the water line and a hand pump.
"He's a handy guy to have around," Rishel, a business manager, said with a smile.
"It's been a labor of love," replied a grinning Shissler, a retired biologist.
The couple, both 60, also rent a cottage at the farm. Their son Kaleb, 24, sent them an article about glamping "as a joke" several years ago.
A friend, Pam Hughes, encouraged them to do it, saying it was her idea of camping.
"We see glamping as an opportunity for people to stretch themselves towards new experiences while making connections with the natural world and the people they bring along," Shissler said. "It is an opportunity for us to provide them with a more intimate experience of the Appalachian Mountains and the culture that we value so much.
"We want them to be comfortable both physically and psychologically while sleeping, cooking, eating, bathing, relaxing and playing in the out-of-doors with a maximum separation from nature of only one layer of tightly woven cotton duck. We want them to fall asleep to the sound of birds going to roost, the wind through the pines and nocturnal insects beginning their 'day.'
"We have found that few things facilitate intimate conversation as much as sitting around a low-burning fire after dark," he said.
"Whether it's a couple together for many years or parents with children, the magic of fire, its warmth, the anonymity of dancing low light somehow makes it easier to verbalize thoughts and feelings they might otherwise keep to themselves.
"We want folks to leave feeling valued, empowered and grateful for the mystery of the world in which we live and of which we are a part.
"Idealistic, of course. Achievable, sometimes we hope. Worthy of our time, we think so."
Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.