From rustic glamping to ‘rugged’ camping, Elba campground…

From rustic glamping to ‘rugged’ camping, Elba campground…

ELBA, Minn. — Chelsi Low’s goal is to “really, really get people in nature.”

As a nature enthusiast, she offers campsites at Aefintyr for the curious, or for the ones who used to own camping gear and long to stretch their camping muscles again. Low said the different styles of camping, including outdoor beds, bell tents and bring-your-own gear spots, encourage people to try camping at their experience level.

“I love seeing people here,” Low said from the cabin porch near the campground’s entrance. She opened the campground in May 2023. “I have people, too, tell me … that they’re like, ‘I just needed a break. I needed to get away. I just needed some peace and quiet’ and the fact that they were able to come here and find that means a lot to me.”

While immersed in the peaceful sounds of nature, the sites have a “rugged” style of camping with a quarter of a mile hike into the sites, though the provided firewood, composting toilets, showers and beds show the site’s rustic glamping side. It’s aimed at people’s “adventurous spirit” and “restless curiosity,” as Low shared in her description of the old Norse word Aefintyr.

The themes match her own enjoyment of wandering and observing specks of nature, such as the mushrooms tucked beneath leaves. The mushrooms are only a slice of the elements she’s learned in the “nooks and crannies of the woods” since purchasing the land about three miles from Whitewater State Park. Low said the quiet of nature, too, refreshes her mental and physical health.

After 10 years of owning the site, Low explored how to share her connection with nature with more people and started down the road of creating campsites in 2019. The sites fit the mold of the leaf-built structures one imagined as a child more than a spot to drop your camper or RV for the night, Low described. She invites people to listen for the calls of wildlife and look up into the trees, out into the fields and deep into the starry night sky.

“I just wanted to create something that was adventurous, a little rugged but still inviting,” Low said. Her campground is listed on her website as well as the Hipcamp and Airbnb websites.

The campground, at 1155 West Center St. in Elba, has six sites with the potential for eight. She opens up the sites while keeping the trees rooted in place and following the wind’s patterns in choosing areas for firepits. Each site has a firepit (dining room), sleeping area (bedroom) and table (living room).

The evening air cool with touches of the firelight’s warmth. The soft crunch of the leaves. A trail guided by your lantern’s soft glow. The coziness wrapping around you. It’s these aspects that Low enjoys, and recommends as one of her two favorite seasons to camp, about fall camping. And as the trees pop with color, hike-in sites like Carya share the valley’s sweeping beauty.

While sharing her “happy place” with guests, Low also loves seeing the “highway” of animals, from deer to turkeys, racoons, bunnies and squirrels, through her limited trail cameras. (The trail cameras are not on guest paths.) She hears the call of the coyote, too, though the animals have evaded her sight. Low hopes the campground doesn’t change the animals’ patterns, and through her first season the animals have remained in their patterns.

“I’m just really, really trying to learn about the natural environment that’s here,” she added. The sites’ names, inspired by local tree genus names, nod to this desire to learn and share about nature.

Aefintyr Campground

Chelsi Low, owner of Aefintyr, shows one of the campsite names during a tour of the campground Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, near Elba. The names of the sites are inspired by local tree genus names. The Ostraya, or ironwood, outdoor bed site is the most popular since the campground opened in May.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

The newest tent, a winter canvas hot tent, rests just inside the treeline of the property off Elba’s Main Street. As a partnership with the Winona Outdoor Collaborative, the tent again includes the options of rustic glamping, adding rental gear or bringing your own gear. Each option includes the interior wood stove. The hot tent will open Nov. 1.

For winter camping, Low said it’s beautiful to see the topography of the land through the bare trees and spot the creatures’ paths in the snow.

“You also can see all of the stories of all of the creatures, like they leave their tracks. … You can see everybody who visited, where they went,” Low said. “I really enjoy going out and seeing where the animals go, where they’re sleeping up on the hill.

“The snow is like a canvas for all of these stories of what is happening outside,” she continued.

Her “first flavor” of camping popped up as a child on the sandbars of the Mississippi River on trips with her parents. She’s continued to feel a draw to nature throughout her life, and as a teenager experienced a “life-changing” backpacking trip in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana. Now, she pitches her tent along the Boundary Waters with her dad and any area she can kayak camp in Southeast Minnesota.

Aefintyr Campground

Chelsi Low, owner of Aefintyr, shows one of the shows one of her outdoor beds Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, near Elba. The two outdoor bed sites include a closet tent with additional storage space and sleeping bags.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

“I love the connection with nature, and it usually involves family and friends for me too, so bringing people together,” Low described of her camping experiences.

She said the campground’s “final form” will have two additional cabins, and bring more people the “joy of being outside.”

“(Aefintyr is) making a place where people can get a little flavor for that type of an experience,” Low said, “but again if you don’t know all about camping and you’re not a camping expert that’s ok we want to invite you to have that even first experience if you haven’t done it before.”

Aefintyr Campground

Chelsi Low, owner of Aefintyr, gives a tour of one of her glampsites Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at the campground near Elba. The Quercus site, a bell tent, was one of the first sites she built as well as one she considers “really true to the vision” of Aefintyr.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Aefintyr Campground

A circle of tree trunk seats creates a living room feel around the firepit at Aefintyr campground Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, near Elba.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Aefintyr Campground

The community firepit and gathering tent at Aefintyr campground Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, near Elba.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Aefintyr Campground

A view of the surrounding bluffs from the hiking trail to Aefintyr’s hike-in glampsites Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, near Elba. The hiking trail runs about a quarter of a mile.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Aefintyr Campground

Signs point in the varioius directions to Aefintyr’s hike-in glampsites and campsites Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, near Elba. The names of the sites are inspired by local tree genus names.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Aefintyr Campground

A stargazing area at Aefintyr campground Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, near Elba.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Aefintyr Campground

A cabin at Aefintyr campground is pictured Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, near Elba.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Aefintyr Campground

Chelsi Low owns Aefintyr. Low is pictured at one of her glampsites Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023, at the campground near Elba.

Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

from www.postbulletin.com Source link

[2023-10-10 19:38:55

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