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Glamping - Roughing it in style at Camp Orenda


Ever wanted to step into a Gilded-Age camping pho­tograph? You know the scene: fancy folks reclining on the porch of an Adirondack platform tent, servants waiting off-frame to see to their every comfort.

You don’t have to be a Vanderbilt to enjoy a little backwoods pampering. Up­scale camping, or glamping, is having a pop-culture renaissance. And what’s not to love? It’s na­ture without the heavy lifting, sleeping under the stars without bruising your bottom on rocks and roots. Add a side of gour­met grub and you’ve got Camp Or­en­da, in Johnsburg.

The restful resort offers four woodstove-warmed tents scattered over three acres on the banks of Mill Creek. The largest den can sleep a family of four; a more romantic creekside bower houses a queen-size bed piled with throws.

The delight of this place is in the de­tails: the smell of wood­smoke as you ar­rive, the crosscut timber that marks the path from your car, the handmade bridges over the bouldered brook. Each can­vas tent is packed with touches both hom­ey and handy, from candles and ?owers to headlamps and Camelbaks. In the common area there’s a heated plein-air shower and Adirondack chairs circling a ?replace, plus a metal-roofed outdoor kit­chen with a hemlock-slab island and tree-stump stools.

It’s all been a la­bor of love for 35-year-old backcountry guide David Webb, who crafted every rustic detail himself. The land—more than 40 acres in all—has been in Webb’s family for a half-century; he and his brother, composer Chris Webb, spent childhood vacations along this creek, which once hosted trap­lines and mills. When Chris died of cancer in 2008, David de­cided he wanted to share their favorite spot with others.

Within the next couple of years he quit his construction-management job in New York City and be­gan carving this cozy niche in the woods; Orenda opened July 2011. Webb is almost al­ways a holler from his guests, and three em­ployees help him keep up with cooking, guiding and maintenance.

Though visitors come to Orenda with varying degrees of wilderness experience, many are a bit green. Webb, a former Na­tional Outdoor Leadership School educator, shows newbies the basics of Leave No Trace, plus how to start a ?re or ma­neuver a canoe.?But his fa­vorite clients are the real babes in the woods—the kids who come to tramp along the trails and catch minnows in the stream. “I want to share with them what I experienced growing up,” he says.

There are two miles of paths around the property—one leads to an old maple  stand and syrup works—for families to roam while learning about lo­cal history, wild­life and plants. Tots to teens can pick berries, go geocaching, shoot archery or learn the constellations.

Webb has a “choose your own adventure” policy: he customizes stays for each visitor, from Camping 101 to hard-core backcountry survival, from canoeing on the calm waters of Garnet Lake to spe­lunking in nearby caves. “No two trips are ever the same,”?he says.

One popular excursion is 3,254-foot Crane Mountain, just down the road from Orenda. It’s a moderate hour-and-a-half climb with a pretty pond near the summit—perfect for a post-hike swim.

After the day’s exertions, and maybe a quick nap to recharge, guests can?watch as Webb preps dinner. A typical feast in­cludes blue cheese–stuffed bur­gers with applewood-smoked bacon, a Southwestern potato salad and cremini mushroom caps piled high with Nettle Meadow goat cheese from Thurman—all cooked over the ?re. Every evening wraps up with do-it-yourself s’mores.

Webb is a self-taught chef, though he did work over an open ?ame at Radegast Hall, in New York City, for a summer. His ingredients are as local as possible, in­cluding veggies and herbs from the camp’s kit­chen garden and ma­ple syrup from the next tree over.

It’s as delicious as it sounds, especially served alfresco with a congenial group of fellow campers. But for Webb that’s almost beside the point. “It’s not just about wining and dining,” he says. “It’s about this place—the Adirondacks … how special it is.”

A stay at the resort starts at $135 per night per adult. There is an extra fee for some guided excursions, such as rafting or caving. For more information call (347) 287-7359 or visit   

David Webb’s Rosemary Infused Campfire Pork Chops 
with Apple Chutney
Serves 4

4 boneless center-cut pork chops
2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
1 large McIntosh apple
1 cup apple juice

Rough chop rosemary and cover pork chops. Drizzle olive oil and add salt and pepper; marinate 4–6 hours. Dice apple and season with cinnamon and apple juice; saute in a skillet until al dente. Let cool. Cook pork chops over an open flame to medium rare. Cover and let rest for a few minutes. Plate pork chops and spoon a large portion of the apple chutney on top. Serve with grilled seasonal vegetables.


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By Niki Kourofsky