Keshia and Erik Joot gave us some time to look at one of the latest lodging options in San Juan County last week, Glamping Canyonlands.
The couple had been living in Las Vegas when COVID-19 hit but had already come up with the idea of Glamping Canyonlands. Although they got it off the ground rather quickly, concept to reality took a rather circuitous route.
“It all started in 2012 on our honeymoon.” Explained Erik. “We decided to do some backpacking in the Needles District of Canyonlands and fell in love with the place. I wrote an article for a magazine and said ‘our souls were connected’ (to Canyonlands) that ended up being the title of the article. We have visited a lot of National Parks, visited a lot of places and this just became the spot. Around five years ago we started trying to figure out, what can we do to get into the Canyonlands Area? What can we do to switch careers and make a living?”
They listed the house in Vegas and once it was sold they decided they would travel a bit, then find the piece of property where they could build their dream.
Keshia explains how they found the property. “We were staying in Dove Creek for a while and one day we decided to just drive and see what we could find. We saw this 22 acres with a for sale sign on it and we called.”
The travel had depleted their funds a bit but they still had enough to make a go at it. The asking price was higher than they were willing to pay so they backed off.
“At first we were like nah, it’s not going to work out, so we kept looking and then came back to this about a month later and pulled the trigger.” Keshia says.
The couple came to the realization that property isn’t cheap in southeast Utah. Or if the per acre price was affordable the size of the parcel sent the total price out of their reach. That little patch of land in Dry Valley was pretty much perfect for what they had in mind. Even though it was more than they could afford, some adjustment to the plan could be made and the dream would slowly start to become a reality.
“We spent every penny we had, that’s why we have just three tents right now!” Laughs Erik. But they are doing what a lot of people have done in this country. They put their shoulders to the wheel and made it happen. Expansion is already underway with more platforms for the tents under construction, and a Yurt is definitely in their future.
The tents are more reminiscent of the tales of the Arabian Nights than anything a girl scout or your garden variety Infantryman may conjure up when using the term “tent”.
Queen sized beds, carpets on the floors and creature comforts the average backpacker would never be able to lug along, make up the lodgings at Glamping Canyonlands.
And their timing couldn’t have been better. They opened for business last fall during the COVID related exodus from cities and traditional lodgings.
COVID restrictions also more or less forced their hand. Erik explains. “ We were traveling and had planned on traveling for several more months. We were actually in India at the time, and were evicted from the country because of COVID. If we had traveled those extra three months we would not have had the money to buy this property.”
San Juan County hotels took one on the chin at the beginning of the pandemic and really haven’t rebounded completely. Lodging options at first were hit by health department restrictions on the frequency of turning over rooms. As things moved to open, the popularity of RV camping or finding less congested isolated spaces, air bnb options and the like, became every traveler’s obsession.
This will make hotel owners cringe to hear this but as Keshia explains, “If we could be in any industry right now this is the perfect industry to be in. The fact is we wanted to be in the hospitality industry but if we had decided to buy an old motel or some other traditional lodging option that would have just been devastating. We opened a campground where people can social distance and be outside, it’s a huge thing. People are RVing, they are camping and visiting the national parks.”
Erik nods his head in agreement. “The bookings are the evidence. We opened for a month in October before we shut down for the winter, booked solid every night for the month we were open. We just reopened last Friday, every night, booked since we reopened. We have 93 available bookings for March and 89 of them are already booked.”
Keshia and Erik are proud to point out that they are off the grid. They haul water in so that their guests can enjoy a hot shower in their bath house, propane provides the heat for that. They did install a septic system for wastewater.
During the interview a fence was going up that is intended to keep the non paying bovine residents of Dry Valley out. Cows were visiting the establishment and not with respect. They will now be on the other side of the wire.
Glamping Canyonlands has some amazing views. A look from the front door of one of their tents reveals breathtaking vistas of the La Sals and the Abajos. How can you go wrong with all that sky?
To book a tent or find out more about Glamping Canyonlands click here or go to their website at www.glampingcanyonlands.com