I Went Glamping in Tucson and this is What Happened
Written by: Kenzie
Typically, on December 31, I sit on the couch with my mom and watch the ball drop on TV. Sometimes we drink a little, sometimes we celebrate a little, and then we go to bed. This year, my friend, Claire, and I wanted to actually do something. When we want to actually do something, we end up going on a trip because we aren’t really what one would call “party people”.
I’ve been wanting to try out glamping (y’all know what that is? It’s like camping but with a little more glam) for some time and just Googled good glamping sites in the US and found this great website, Under Canvas. They have several glamping sites set up throughout the US, most of which are in national parks. We chose the one in Tucson, AZ which is on the Tanque Verde Ranch property mostly because it was the closest one and we were too poor to fly anywhere.
So, we started off our fifteen-hour drive through the endless nothing that is West Texas. I’m talking dust, I’m talking actual tumbleweeds, I’m talking nothing fun to look at. We stopped in Roswell, NM for a night at pretty much the halfway point to try to find some aliens and there was snow on the ground! That was a fun surprise. There was also a homeless woman walking down the middle of the street with no one around screaming “Take me home!” so that was less of a fun surprise.
The next day we left super early to try to catch the sunrise in White Sands National Monument. We got there just in time, but turns out it was closed because of the government shutdown and we were unable to even drive in to look over some dunes. Thanks, Trump. Instead, we pulled off the road to enjoy the sunrise over the mountains before driving the final stretch to Tucson, and our Under Canvas experience.
We finally made it to Tucson and after one more long road through cacti and hills, we arrived at Tanque Verde Ranch and found our way to the Under Canvas Reception tent. My first impression was that these people were so nice! They showed us that they had complimentary hot cocoa and coffee and told us all the information we would need. Turns out, we couldn’t drive to the tents like I thought, and someone had to drive us back and forth between the main parking lot and the tents whenever we needed a ride. This meant we had to load all our luggage up and take a short ride on a bumpy path. But, again, the workers were so nice and helped with the luggage and showing us how to start a fire in our stove, which was our only source of heat.
The large canvas tent was outfitted with a king sized bed, wood-burning stove, two leather butterfly chairs, a wicker ottoman, two nightstands, two battery-operated camping lamps, a luggage rack, and two batteries capable of charging devices with a USB plug. Overall, it was very nice! The bathrooms, which were in a separate building some 100 feet away were also nice. Each stall had a toilet, shower, and sink, and towels were provided. There were a few issues (walking to the bathroom in the nighttime when it was cold and there was very little warm water which meant I had to rinse my shampoo with FREEZING water and cut my shower short) but overall, it was still very nice! They also had a community tent with more coffee, hot water for tea and cocoa, and a space heaters. There was a campfire pit out back with s’mores supplies and a great view. It served as a wonderful home base for our desert adventures.
The first night there was New Year’s Eve, and we kept it very low key. Rachel, one of the Under Canvas workers, had brought a bottle of champagne by earlier in the day and told us about the small celebrations both at the community tent, and at the ranch house. We opted to stay in our own tent, however, (it was cold and rainy), play a game of Monopoly (I lost), and watched the ball drop on Claire’s iPad. I lit a sparkler after midnight for nostalgia’s sake, we made one last trip to the bathroom, and hit the hay.
The next morning, I woke up around seven and the tent was so cold outside of the blankets (our fire had died in the nighttime), but I really had to pee so I suited up with house shoes and a hoodies and opened the tent flap to a gorgeous gray morning and a dusting of snow over everything! That was one of the best surprises. It quickly melted off and we headed out of the campsite for our first stop that was nearby, Saguaro National Park.
The national park was technically closed also because of the shutdown, but it was still open for people to drive or walk around in. This just meant there were no rangers on duty and the bathrooms and visitor center were locked. We drove an eight-mile loop through endless cacti and desert flora. As far as I could see, tall saguaros popped up across the landscape and up the foothills in the distance. I wasn’t quite expecting to love the desert landscape as much as I did! Every saguaro was different than the last and there was a odd but definite beauty in all of it.
That evening, we drove up “A Mountain” to watch the sun set over the city of Tucson. The drive up was a little terrifying (I’m talking I’m scared of heights and I was driving up a road with a literal drop off and no guardrail), and it was cold and windy, but definitely worth it! There was almost a complete 360 degree view of Tucson with mountains as a backdrop and fantastic colors in the sky. The desert definitely provides some gorgeous sunrises and sunsets.
Our next morning, we woke up to an actual blanket of snow on the ground! I mean, there was enough for a small snowball fight and a tiny snowman in the middle of the desert! The person that drove us back to the parking lot that day said this hadn’t happened in about five years which was pretty neat and the snow made for a stunning view.
We had to head into town to find a coffee shop for me to charge my laptop and camera so I could finish my part of the life update blog with reliable wifi. Just as we were leaving, I got a call saying our cave tour we had schedule for that day about an hour away was cancelled due to the fact that they were completely unprepared for all the snow. Since we didn’t really have backup plans, we ended up driving A LOT this day, just looking for cool things to do. We went to another region of Saguaro National Park and saw some more desert flora as well as prehistoric drawing on rocks which was pretty dope. We also stopped at a museum of wildlife that featured all kinds of taxidermied creatures.
That evening, we had a reservation for a cowboy cookout with the ranch that got moved into the dining hall due to the weather. I was thankful for the warmth and all the great food. Afterward, we caught a ride with Sheryl from Under Canvas back to the tents and she had another worker, Jared, making our fire to hopefully heat up our tent. We ended up sitting around the community campfire with the two of them for a few minutes to look at the stars (this was the first clear night since we had arrived) and talked about travel and Texas and all the things a group of strangers talk about around the campfire.
Back in our tent, we packed up and prepared for a LONG day of driving. We were making the whole trip in one day and we did it, kind of, since we arrived back in Conroe just after midnight. I was glad to be home, but soon started missing the road and new sights.
This trip was pretty spontaneous which I’m not used to, but I’m so glad we went. It showed me how I love being on the open road and taking in the beauty of different landscapes and new places. It taught me to be a bit more open-minded about beauty and to find it in places that may have seemed unlikely to me in the first place. It taught me I have great friends that have similar interests that I want to keep around for a long time.
Oh, and also, I got my first speeding ticket. :/
Where to next!?