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In West Texas, take a tipi for a spin

Basecamp Terlingua offers upscale, unexpected lodging

Pam LeBlanc
pleblanc@statesman.com
Visitors to Basecamp Terlingua can spend the night in a tipi. [Contributed by Pam LeBlanc]

I shacked up in a tipi in Terlingua the other night, the first one I’ve slept in with a king-size bed, cushy pillows, a coffee maker, sofa, lounge chairs, lamps and a small evaporative cooler.

I stepped inside the towering, cone-shaped tent at Basecamp Terlingua after dark, flipping on a few lights and flopping my suitcase on the sunken concrete floor. Then I stood for a moment, amazed.

The last tipi I slept in — and I consider it pretty swanky, as tipis go — was at a state campground in Michigan. It came with four rustic cots (I supplied the sleeping bag) and a single naked lightbulb dangling from the ceiling. It also came with a dirt floor.

This tipi blew that one away.

For one, it was huge. I could have organized a desert house party if I’d felt like it, inviting guests to take a seat on the sofa, dance on the cowhide rug or sip coffee from the coffee maker in the intimate seating area.

The evaporative cooler gurgled away, exhaling a constant flow of chilly air, a nice thing to feel when you’re in the Big Bend region of Texas, where it gets really hot.

A few things of note: The tipi flaps don’t lock or anything. You just kind of pull them shut, with more or less success. I suppose a tarantula or coyote or other desert creature could saunter in if it felt so inclined, though that wasn’t a problem during my stay. You might not want to stash piles of gold doubloons in a rental tipi either if you plan to leave it unattended.

Finally, if you tend to get up in the night to pee, pay attention. The bathhouse, a spotless structure with three separate restrooms, each with its “rain shower” that sprinkles water right from the ceiling, is located a short walk from the tipis. I wear contacts, which I removed before going to sleep, so I had to stagger around among the cactus to find my way there. The stars looked cool, though, and I’m happy to report that I didn’t encounter any snakes or scorpions during my foray.

The best part of the experience arrived at dawn, when I got out of bed and peeled back the tent flaps in time to catch the rosy glow of sunrise.

A couple of Adirondack chairs outside the tipi are angled to soak up a spectacular view of the Chisos Mountains at nearby Big Bend National Park. (As a friend who lives in Terlingua tells me, this is one of the rare places where you can also get a great show by looking east as the sun sets, lighting up the Chisos Mountains.)

In a nutshell? The tipis at Basecamp Terlingua aren’t your typical tipis. If you like glamping, you’ll like them.

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IF YOU GO

Rates for the tipis at Basecamp Terlingua start at $109 per night; the Yucca tipi where I stayed rents for $129 per night. Kids 12 and under stay free. For more information go to basecampterlingua.com.