Teepees: An undiscovered delight
GEORGETOWN — Before my parents moved to assisted living earlier this year, my mother and I would go to Forest Glen Preserve every Sunday to hike.
We usually headed to our favorite trails near the Pioneer Cabin. The road to them leads through the campgrounds, which include three large white teepees for rent.
My mom and I never saw anyone camping in the teepees. I would always mention that I wanted to stay in one.
She would always say she didn't want me to camp alone.
So I finally asked my friends, Jean McManus and Corinne Suhm, both of Urbana, to rent a teepee with me. We stayed just one night, but it was a memorable one.
And little effort was involved.
We didn't have to pitch the teepee — Forest Glen staffers erect the three teepees every year around Memorial Day. They stay up through October, before being taken down for the winter.
All we had to do was register, pay the $25 rental fee for one night and obtain the door flap and ground cloth from the rangers.
The Colorado Yurt Company makes the teepees. The ones at Forest Glen are each 16 feet in diameter, sleep up to six people and are made in the Sioux style, with Cheyenne smoke flaps. The poles holding up the teepees are lodge-pole pines, grown at a tree farm in Montana.
"They're beautiful and feel really secure," McManus said. "They have a lot of airflow. And it was great because there was no one around when we stayed."
We rented the teepee farthest from the road, in an area a bit more shaded than where the other teepees are located. After we got up the next morning we cooked our breakfast of eggs and beans over the fire ring outside our teepee.
Then we laid under the trees and yakked.
Mark Lourance, a volunteer and donor to the Vermilion County Conservation District, gave the teepees to the district. The 57-year-old Oakwood resident enjoys the outdoors — hunting, fishing and teepee camping — and once built his own teepee.
"I like the way they're built and the fact you can cook inside them," he said. "They're the only tent that you can build a fire in." (The Conservation District does not allow renters to build fires inside the teepees.)
Originally, Lourance and the district put the teepees up for show on the banks of Lake Mingo at Kennekuk County Park north of Danville.
"Then we got to thinking we could rent them out too," Lourance said. "Kennekuk is not set up for camping, like Forest Glen is. They asked me if it would be all right to move them down to the campground at Forest Glen. I said, 'Sure, that would be a better place for them.' "
The teepees have been there for three or four years now but remain, for the most part, undiscovered by campers.
A few reservations have come in this year.
But not many.
"I think we collected about $400 in rental fees last year for the teepees," said Forest Glen superintendent Charlie Rhoden. "We're not near that this year so far. Usually more people rent them in the fall, when it's a little cooler."
Rentals are by reservation, or first-come, first-served. No pets are allowed in the teepees. Parking is not allowed at the teepees except for unloading. But the place to park is just a short walk away.
No electricity is available at the teepees either. The electrified campground is nearby; you can buy firewood there from its manager. The conservation district asks that campers not bring in firewood from outside Vermilion County.
Each teepee has its own fire ring and picnic table.
I hope to camp in one of the teepees again. And the conservation district hopes to see more people using them.
If you go
What: Camping in Colorado Yurt Co. teepees. Each sleeps up to six people.
When: Memorial Day through October
Where: Vermilion County Conservation District's Forest Glen Preserve near Georgetown
Rental fee: $25 first night, $10 each additional night
Ground rules: Must be 18 or older to rent. No pets. No fires inside the teepees. No parking at the teepees — parking is a short walk away.