Camping in the mountains of Western North Carolina often calls to mind hiking through wilderness areas to locate overgrown ranger campsites, backing a motor home into one of the many national park campgrounds, and an abundance of pre-planning that can add to the stress of taking even the shortest of overnight trips.
Enter Asheville Glamping and JuneBug Retro Resort – two of Asheville’s newest businesses that blend the ambiance of spending the night outside in the mountains of Western North Carolina with the convenience and creativity of renovated RVs, yurts, and tents outfitted with modern amenities for guests.
Over the past few years, “glamping” has become a part of the American lexicon, referring to camping that balances the adventure of spending time outdoors in nature with the convenience of basic to luxury amenities.
In 2012, Joanna Cahill and Joshua Vanheusen opened Asheville Glamping, which provides guests with the options to rent everything from fully outfitted bell tents and yurts, to retro airstream trailers, vintage campers, and dome tents on a seasonal basis.
“Glamping has a wide definition these days,” said Cahill. “It’s anything from not sleeping in a sleeping bag on the ground to the highest luxury imaginable where you can stay in a tent cabin for $1,500 a night and enjoy catered meals and a personal s’more chef. Our glamping emphasis is still on camping, but with more amenities – like comfortable beds and seating, and sites that are already set up – but the heart of what we do is still focused on the outdoors.”
Asheville Glamping owns and operates locations at three separate properties near downtown Asheville. One location is home to campers cleverly named Rosie The Riveted and The Glaminal, in addition to a miniature airstream, tipi, mini yurt, dome, and bell tent nestled between mountain views, a pond, and horse and cattle farms just a mile from the French Broad River.
They also operate a 3-acre urban property – just 5 miles from downtown Asheville – that is home to some of their most popular rentals: The Silver Bettie, Deluxe Bell, The Rebel belle and Tent cabin.
All sites offer linens for guests, cooking spaces that range from grills to fully outfitted kitchens, comfortable bedding and seats, onsite showers and bathrooms (porta johns on the lower end, to private bathrooms on the higher end), with a few luxury sites offering air conditioning and hot tubs.
“The reason we started Asheville Glamping was because as kids, we are encouraged to explore open spaces and use our imaginations. As adults, we tend to be less encouraged to imagine and explore, so what [Asheville Glamping] tries to do is use adult imagery of what a fun, outdoor space would look like, and use that inspiration to cultivate an environment that gets people away from the grind of adulting,” said Cahill.
An alternative to glamping and traditional camping is just 12 minutes north of downtown Asheville in Weaverville at the JuneBug Retro RV Resort. JuneBug offers lodgers a respite from contemporary lodging in the form of 10 renovated and retrofitted mid-century campers and travel trailers on a 50-acre idyllic valley property that adjoins a ½ mile of Flat Creek and features a working organic farm.
The property has been designed around a retro, 1950s aesthetic meant to take guests back in time – Edison bulb light strands lace through the stationary campers, illuminating the custom curated and restored campers – each boasting a distinct size and aesthetic, down to the details including original appliances – one of which boasts the original tube lighting – light fixtures, and décor. Amenities include a vintage playground, working 1953 Ford farm truck that doubles as a stage when needed, 1949 Ford tractor, a fire ring, open field, and creek amidst colorful picnic tables and a 1952 Spartan trailer with an enhanced bathroom for guests to use.
Owners Tom and Charlene Pagano were inspired to create the space after embarking on a small home design project.
“We designed a small house with a retro kitchen,” said Pagano. “We renovated the kitchen with original 1950s metal cabinets with chrome trim and a vintage refrigerator. People went crazy over it. At the same time, we had fallen in love with 1950s travel trailers. The idea was hatched.”
From the initial idea of creating the first East Coast Retro Resort – one of three known in the country – until four years later at JuneBug’s official opening in 2017, the Pagano’s poured their energy and resources into curating campers that fit the 1950s aesthetic they were inspired by.
“We started accumulating campers and looking for the property – which was incredibly difficult because we wanted to find a property that was within 15 minutes of downtown Asheville so that visitors could be close to the restaurants and breweries,” said Pagano. “I used Craigslist with a national filter – Illinois, California, Texas – and started obsessively looking for campers and trailers, and depending on the shape that they were in, we’d send them to Scott Whitmire of Retro Modern – the true magic worker behind the restorations. We now have 16 campers, 10 of which we rent with a 32-guest capacity, total.”
Each camper boasts its own unique story – one was lived in by a preacher from Georgia back in the 1950s and 60s who would pull the trailer to Chicago each year preaching along the way. Several of our campers were made by the Spartan Aircraft Company out of Tulsa Oklahoma. Back in the 1940s the company was churning out planes that were used for combat during WWII. After the war ended they decided to utilize their factories and infrastructure to build travel trailers. They basically put frames and wheels on aluminum airplane fuselages sold them to Americans who wanted to travel the country. All of the campers have their own bathrooms and all include linens and bedding.
“This unique property has been designed to be the ultimate wedding/event space. It is ideal for family reunions, multi-day retreats, boutique concerts and of course weddings,” said Pagano.
JuneBug Retro RV Resort will be hosting a grand opening celebration for locals to come explore the property and vintage campers on Saturday, July 29 from noon to 7 p.m. The family friendly event will feature a food truck, local beer and live bluegrass music from the Ashley Heath Duo and Don Humphries and the Crimea River Valley Boys (featuring Tom Pittman founding member of the Austin Lounge Lizards who can also be heard on WNCW weekend morning show).
By Whitney Cooper