Falling in LOVE

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Falling in LOVE

It is a known fact that the Finger Lakes are a travel destination for wine lovers and waterfall-loving people during the summer months. But, what about in winter? Have you ever seen the glorious Buttermilk Falls in the dead of winter? Or the transformation of the Taughannock Falls Gorge trail? Well here is your sneak peak...

 Buttermilk Falls 

Buttermilk Falls 

It is amazing how the power of water fluctuates throughout the year. Raging waterfalls in autumn transform into ice masterpieces. This supports a bountiful spring; then the sun begins to shine and turns the flow into a dribble. Check out this video of the mighty Taughannock Falls in all of its glory this winter. 

An icy Ithaca Falls showing us what real power looks like! It is amazing to sit beside and hear the roar of water as it makes its last plunge towards Cayuga Lake. 

Last but not least, the glorious hike through Robert Treman State Park will walk you down remarkable gorge staircases and over bridges. Various waterfall views keep you thinking "ITHACA IS GORGES!!!"

So, while we wait for summer to arrive, remember that you can BOOK NOW for the 2018 season at Firelight Camps!

Plan ahead to unplug and SPREAD THE LOVE!

 

 

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Firelight Camps gets Green Light for Eco-Friendliness: Part 2

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Firelight Camps gets Green Light for Eco-Friendliness: Part 2

Astrid Jirka is a Firelight Camp Host and Yoga Instructor, and enthusiastic eco-tourist

In my last blog post, I wrote about the many positive things that Firelight Camps is doing to help lighten its ecological impact on the earth by re-purposing previously built upon land, encouraging native landscaping, providing local and organically sourced ingredients for breakfast and so much more!  (See below to give it a quick read.)  All of these aspects situate Firelight within the ‘eco-tourism’ category.  But to be truly ‘eco’ or ‘green’, one also has to consider the social and economic aspects of running a business.  A healthy environment is all well and good, but we also need a healthy society to help nurture nature and create a truly sustainable world.

 2017 Firelight Team

2017 Firelight Team

In the world of tourism, many hotels have been criticized for the low wages they pay their staff while they tout their environmental policies, a marketing technique known as ‘green-washing’. Tourism establishments that are working within the realm of eco-tourism have the added responsibility of ensuring that their work not only protects the land and nature that their guests come to enjoy, but also that their business has social and economic benefits for the local community in which they operate.  

Here are a few more highlights that will make you proud to be an eco-tourist at Firelight:

Firelight Camps is located in the unique Finger Lakes region of upstate New York prized for its bucolic landscapes, agricultural lands, and rich watersheds. This ecosystem has created a region that is abundant in award-winning wineries, innovative small scale farms and culinary expertise and has become an important tourist destination.  When guests visit these establishments and enjoy our locally sourced foods and beverages they are directly supporting a vibrant local economy and with it local livelihoods.  (photo credit: fingerlakeswinecountry.com)

Similarly, the Camp’s food, beverage and retail programs are designed to give guests a taste of the region by featuring local products. In addition to local food, the camp store includes items made by local artists, such as handmade mugs by Julia E. Dean, printed with leaves collected from local forests, and Balance Aromatherapy’s bug-off spray using herbs grown on the grounds. Local artisans and carpenters were employed to create unique fixtures, such as Jake Hallagan’s beautiful reception bar and family-style dining tables and the innovative lobby sign which was created by talented local artist Ryan B. Curtis.

The points mentioned above define the  multiplier effect.  It’s kind of like the ‘trickle down’ effect, but we like to think of it as ‘trickling out’ as we partner with local businesses to support each other in our work.   Firelight Camps relies heavily on many local services to keep the Camp running and produce events.  Examples include Cornell Laundry (the never-ending cleaning of towels and linens!), The Liberation Supper Club which caters many of our special events, local interior decorators, florists, etc.  Together, everyone helps each other stay in business!

And where would Firelight be without it’s staff?  Firelight loves its employees and is doing its best to pay above average wages.  The City of Ithaca has been actively working towards enacting a minimum required Living Wage which Firelight will happily embrace once all systems are in place. 

Like many businesses these days, Firelight is also interested in supporting important local and global causes.  In mid-October, co-owner and culinary director of Firelight Camps, Emma Frisch, hosted a campfire dinner in honor of Sustainable Seafood Week.  A surprising number of Wild Salmon-inspired dishes (including Salmon Vodka!) were served alongside a screening of the documentary The Breach. Other local events help raise awareness about the importance of knowing where our food comes from.  Donations have also been made to places such as the SPCA and No Kid Hungry Events.  

One last thing to mention is the emphasis on personal health and well-being.  Along with the emphasis on time spent in nature (nature therapy!) and eating healthy, local food, Firelight Camps provides space for guests to practice yoga by offering daily morning classes, weekly yoga eco-hikes and occasional yoga retreats.  While practicing yoga poses in the fresh air, we hope that guests will leave with a refreshed mind, body and spirit!

From the hiking and yoga that can be done at Firelight, to the organic breakfast items we source from our farmer friends to the biologically friendly cleaning products we use, Firelight Camps is doing its best to keep its staff, guests (that's you!), and business partners healthy, fit, and financially secure.

 Photo by Kaylyn Leighton

Photo by Kaylyn Leighton

What you can do to help us:

- Dine on local food by choosing from a wide selection of local restaurants and eateries.
- Visit the wineries, breweries, distilleries and cideries that define the region, and purchase a bottle or two to enjoy back at home.
- Shop til you drop!  There are many retailers in the iconic and nearby local towns of Ithaca, Trumansburg and Watkins Glen, which feature products made by locals or with eco-friendly practices and which will beautify your home or better your life in some way.
- Join us for a yoga class or retreat, or book a yoga or wild foraging hike with one of our local teachers and guides.
- Choose your destinations wisely in the future.  Before you choose where to stay, consider all of the points in this blog and research to see how your hotel or glampground fits into the ecotourism category!

Travel the world proudly as an eco-tourist and spread the word!

Thank you for helping us to make Firelight as Green and Sustainable as can be.  All the choices we make in life matter.   We’d like to think that together we can save the world!

ABOUT ASTRID JIRKA:  Astrid is a long time resident of the Finger Lakes, a Camp Host at Firelight Camps and the owner of Vahana Yoga & Eco-Tours.  She teaches yoga at the Camp, leads Yoga Eco-Hikes and will be hosting a GLAMPFIRE YOGA RETREAT at Firelight Camps this September 29th-October 1st.  Please check the Vahana website for more information.  She started her career in eco-tourism as a  guide in the VIrgin Islands National Park on the island of St. John and is an accomplished yoga instructor who coordinates a project called Yoga for the Earth to showcase the links between yoga, activism and environmentalism.   Join her if you can!  www.govahana.com

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Firelight Camps gets Green Light for Eco-Friendliness: Part 1

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Firelight Camps gets Green Light for Eco-Friendliness: Part 1

Astrid Jirka is a Firelight Camp Host and Yoga Instructor, and enthusiastic eco-tourist

 Photo by Kaylyn Leighton

Photo by Kaylyn Leighton

Have you ever thought of yourself as an ‘eco-tourist’ or considered the impacts of your travel decisions?  As a Camp Host at Firelight Camps, I have the rare opportunity to work in a place that’s been designed to be in tune with the natural world.  When I work the early breakfast shift, I breathe in fresh, misty morning air and watch colorful sunrises as I brew the first pot of coffee and light the campfire for the sleepy guests strolling forth from their elevated tents in the woods.  Working the rest of the day under the spacious lobby tent I experience the care that has gone into operating this luxury campground whose management has integrated the concepts of ecotourism into the Camp operations.  

The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of the local people.”  With hundreds of millions of tourists traveling the globe, hotel (and glampground!) operators are increasingly aware of their role in making positive contributions to the environment and society. There are many negative impacts that tourism can have - such as the overcrowding of beaches leading to coral reef degradation,  littering and overuse of trails in endangered ecosystems, unfair wages paid to staff or the outsourcing of goods so that there is little economic impact on the local community.  Ecotourism usually involves a degree of education or interpretation, as well.  With a great many miles of travel behind (and hopefully ahead) of me and a work life that has been centered around ecotourism, I’m particularly aware of how Firelight Camps fits into this category.

It’s not always easy to be eco-friendly and therefore it’s all the more remarkable and wonderful to find an establishment that is taking the steps to get there.  In this 2-Part Blog, I’ll focus on both the ecological and social aspects that Firelight Camps undertakes in its daily operations. 

Here are a few highlights that will make you proud to spend the night at Firelight and deem you an eco-tourist!

As Firelight Camps was being envisioned, the owners (Emma and Bobby Frisch) worked with the grounds owner, La Tourelle, to repurpose an extinct tennis club and old dairy farm. The unused courts were converted into a thriving social space, lobby and lounge, while the former tennis cottage was renovated into the bathhouse. Tents were strategically placed in the surrounding new growth forest to prioritize the local flora and fauna, while providing guests with serene forest views. Partially landscaped spaces on the grounds include local hardwood trees and bushes, and native flower, herb and vegetable gardens for guests to enjoy.  The result is a natural environment that attracts local wildlife such as butterflies, raccoons, rabbits, toads, deer and coyotes. The grounds are an excellent viewing place for devout birders and recently I saw a rare (and harmless) Ribbon Snake!  

Firelight Camps borders the famous Buttermilk Falls State Park, home to some of the Finger Lakes’ quintessential gorges and waterfalls. Like all parks in New York State, Buttermilk Falls serves to protect natural resources and make them accessible to the public for education about local ecosystems and cultural heritage and of course, recreation.  As a guest, you can literally step out of  your tent door and onto the trail for varying levels of hikes which will lead you to understand the famous local motto of “Ithaca is Gorge-ous”!

For those with a keen interest in the natural environment and health, Firelight Camps offers guided hikes into the Park.  Sarah Kelsen of Land Beyond The Sea, can take you wild foraging and I guide Yoga Eco-Hikes.  Both of these hikes will teach you about the local ecology and landscape and connect you more deeply to the natural world.   

 Photo by Allison Usavage

Photo by Allison Usavage

The tents which you will stay in at Firelight are made by a company called Colorado Yurts.  They are extremely ecologically minded, running their company primarily on solar power and sourcing the material for the tents in the most ecologically possible way, while still keeping them rain proof and made in the U.S.A. !

And you won’t believe the breakfast!  It’s sourced from almost 100% local and organic ingredients.  This includes pastries and bagels from local bakeries, farm-fresh eggs, grass-fed yogurt and milk, seasonal fruit and fruit juices, and more. Guests are continuously impressed by our delicious, healthy and beautiful breakfast buffet.  

Firelight Camps minimizes waste by composting napkins, wooden cutlery and leftover food, with signage that helps guests learn how to dispose of their garbage. We strive to Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, Repair and Recycle as much as possible and rely on our guests to help us!

While most of our furnished tents are off-the-grid (no electricity), Firelight Camps is currently conducting a feasibility study to power the lobby (we still need cold beer), bath house (and flushing toilets and hot showers) and other communal areas (yes, wifi too!) with solar energy.  

These are a few of the main points that contribute to Firelight Camps being a noteworthy Green and Eco-Friendly Business and you can be happy to know that your visit contributes to these benefits.  

Here are some additional items you can do to help us:

- Try to only use one towel during your stay so we can save money, water and energy!
- Read our signs carefully to help us compost and recycle.
- Carbon offset your travels to Firelight.   The only way to get to Firelight is by car.   Some of you may take a bus or plane from home, which contributes to carbon emissions and global warming.  You can pay a small sum to offset your emissions at a number of websites that will use your donation to re-invest in eco-friendly projects around the world.   Here are two examples:
https://sustainabletompkins.org/programs/finger-lakes-climate-fund/
https://www.terrapass.com/

With this said, I’m happy to report that the Camp is well situated within the eco-tourism industry, earning it – by my own standards – a bright Green Light, 5 Stars and Great Applause! We look forward to welcoming you and many more eco-tourists in the future!

For more information on ecotourism, you can visit:

The International Ecotourism Society
Sustainable Travel International
The UN World Tourism Organization
Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria
Center for Responsible Travel

ABOUT ASTRID JIRKA:  Astrid is a long time resident of the Finger Lakes, a Camp Host at Firelight Camps and the owner of Vahana Yoga & Eco-Tours.  She teaches yoga at the Camp, leads Yoga Eco-Hikes and will be hosting a GLAMPFIRE YOGA RETREAT at Firelight Camps this September 29th-October 1st.  Please check the Vahana website for more information.  She started her career in eco-tourism as a  guide in the VIrgin Islands National Park on the island of St. John and is an accomplished yoga instructor who coordinates a project called Yoga for the Earth to showcase the links between yoga, activism and environmentalism.   Join her if you can!  www.govahana.com

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Goodbye Heaters. Hello Rumpl.

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Goodbye Heaters. Hello Rumpl.

Attention All Glampers! This is a special notice to let you know climate changes are headed our way. Contrary to what's happening in the rest of the world, things might be getting a wee bit colder at camp. Sadly, we will no longer be able to offer portable heaters in our tents. We'll tell you why in a minute, but first, we want to put your worries to rest. 

No one likes sleeping outside when the temperature dips below 40 Fahrenheit. Ok, maybe some hardcore people do, but not us! So after testing a bazillion sleeping solutions, from igloo bedding to tundra sleeping bags and even considering coyote furs (#notreally), we finally found a solution.

Meet the Rumpl Super Fleece Blanket. It's heavy, it's warm, it's designed for outdoor comfort and that is what we're all about. On cold nights we'll add this layer on top of our duvets. We're pretty sure you'll be toasty, because we tried it indoors and out. We even had a dinner party to compare the Super Fleece alongside a double sleeping bag (too squished), a heat-reflective emergency blanket (too crinkly), and two heavy-weight wool blankets (too thin and itchy). Yes, there were brownies. The Super Fleece was the unanimous winner. (If you're still worried about being cold, we encourage you to bring a special someone or furry friend to help you turn up the heat.)

Why are we scrapping the heaters? Our guests' safety is our top priority in everything we do and our local code enforcement officers weren't 100% comfortable with our propane heaters. So we're following their lead and looking for safer, more effective heating solutions. We promise to send you updates! 

Now the thing is, truly cold you-can-see-your-breath kind of nights are not normal at Firelight. These nights are mostly reserved for the most adventurous of glampers in May and October, with some surprise dips in September. But in a way, the very notion of braving cold nights gets us back to our original vision.

When we opened Firelight Camps, our dream was to give more people a true, outdoor experience without the hassle of investing in gear and setting it up themselves. We called this "elevated camping," and accomplished it with plush beds, hot showers, a full bar in the lobby tent and other glamorous touches. We're still looking for ways to make our guests more comfortable, but we don't want to rob them of adventure. The best memories are born from adventure, and that my friends, often begins with the weather. Pitter-patter on the canvas, board games, thunderous downpours, slush, frigid snow, snowmen, chocolate mud, double rainbows, bursting sunshine, listless grey upon grey, crimson sunsets, firefly explosions, must-swim-humidity. The great outdoors would become boring very quickly if it were always sunny and 70 degrees with nothing to report on. 

The moral of the story is, "there's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing." So while we'll continue to do everything possible to make your stay as comfortable as can be, we've put together The Glamper's Essential Packing List to help you pack smartly and relish in Mother Nature's mood wherever you are: forest, lake, river, mountain, meadow or the shelter of our tents. 

We love each and every one of you who has been willing to pioneer glamping with us in the U.S. It is most certainly the greatest adventure of our lifetime, and we couldn't be here without you. Thank you for your understanding and trust in us as we grow. Please don't hesitate to send any questions or ideas - we love ideas! - to reservations@firelightcamps.com. If you want to stay in the loop on future heating solutions, join our newsletter.

With gratitude and campfire warmth,

Emma, Co-Founder

 

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Meet Emma Frisch: Co-Founder & Culinary Director

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Meet Emma Frisch: Co-Founder & Culinary Director

 Photo by Emma Pure

Photo by Emma Pure

Hometown: Wilton, Connecticut

Years around sun: 33

Happiest place outside: Somewhere with a high vantage point. Currently, a moss-carpeted ledge overlooking Lake Treman in Buttermilk Falls State Park. Depending on the time of day, you can see the sun rise and set from this spot. If I'm patient, a blue heron will eventually screech overhead, landing among the cattails to fish, while beavers wade through the waterways. Sounds magical, doesn't it? 

Was camping a part of your childhood, growing up? Every summer Mamma enrolled me in Mountain Workshop's Awesome Adventures, an outdoor recreation camp that covered all the bases: rock climbing, kayaking, bushwhacking, spelunking, orienteering, hiking and overnight camping. Apart from occasionally camping in the backyard or the basement, depending on the whether, that was where I learned to pitch a tent. I imagine with four kids spaced five years apart, it was daunting for Mamma to wrangle all the gear we'd need to camp (too bad glamping didn't exist in the U.S. back then!). Family vacations were always grounded in the outdoors: hiking, picnicking, swimming, skiing. Back at home, we weren't allowed to watch TV, so instead, we made kingdoms in the woods behind our house. There was a wide bend in the river that we called the "kitchen," with a family-sized, flat rock "table" and two smaller rock "stools." We pounded dry mud to make chocolate and fashioned sugar from ice crystals.

What is your favorite moment as a chef? As a cook, the sense of coming full circle excites me most. It's my responsibility to stay in tune with our food system, from seed to table and back to the earth as compost, and to find ways of bringing this awareness to the people I serve. There are so many moments wrapped up in this beautiful cycle: picking fresh herbs or unpacking a delivery from my farmer; feeling the "a-ha!" spark of inspiration in creating a unique recipe; relishing the first bite of a new dish; feeling honored when people come together to celebrate the harvest and my cooking; watching the embers die with my feet on a chair and cold beer in hand; sweeping the last crumbs from the kitchen floor and collapsing into bed; waking to repeat the cycle. It's a process that demands being present physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. It's good practice for me. 

What is your favorite fire-licked meal? Easy, kale. Wash the leaves and pat them dry. Drizzle and massage gently with olive oil to coat. Slap them over a high-burning fire and char the leaves. Let them cool, strip the leaves and toss with your favorite dressing (or a squeeze of lemon juice), salt and pepper. Voila! It's primal. Michael Pollan says, wood, fire and smoke are cooking's primary colors. It's true. If you're planning to cook over fire, all you really need is olive oil, salt, pepper and extra-long tongs. 

Try also: charred bread with charred tomatoes, olive oil and a smattering of fresh herbs.

I'm working on a cookbook with Ten Speed Press called Feast by Firelight, to be published in Spring 2018. It will feature over 75 recipes for cooking outside, including some of the recipes I've created for Firelight events and our breakfast program. (For updates, you can sign up for my very-spontaneous-but-always-juicy newsletter.) 

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Is there a special outdoor tradition that you want to pass down to your daughter, Ayla? Hm, great question. When Bobby and I go rock climbing we play a game to see who goes first. We pick a place on the ground at least ten feet away and take turns tossing a pebble with the aim of hitting our target. It's makeshift bocce. The person with the closest pebble climbs first. When Ayla starts climbing with us, we'll pass that down. And in the meantime, we'll stick to our usual MO: get outside at least once, every day. And be playful about it!

You have to build a fire in under 60 seconds. Describe how you do it. GO! 

Before the clock starts ticking, I'll run through this checklist:

  • Can I start a campfire in this location? What does Smokey Bear say?
  • Is the area clear of any leaves, twigs, grass or other materials that could catch fire? 
  • Do I need to create a new fire pit or is there an existing one I can use?   
  • Collect my materials: dry tinder (pine needles, leaves, etc.), dry kindling (small twigs and branches; nothing green), dry logs.

Ok, 60 seconds...GO. I like the teepee method. I make a small pile of tinder with a teepee of kindling overtop. I light the tinder and blow gently, igniting the kindling. When the kindling catches fire I make a teepee of logs over top, making sure there is enough space for air so the fire can breathe.

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Flower Art: Its All About The Small Things

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Flower Art: Its All About The Small Things

Do you remember those days when your mom said “go outside, and play,” but your friends weren’t around and your older sister was doing “cooler” things? That’s when I started paying more attention. I explored my backyard in Elmira, NY and I collected small samples of every plant in my path. I noticed how many different species were growing all around me. Tiny leaves, flower petals of every shape and color, curly twigs as well as straight, reeds of grass- all of these would become the makings of my art.

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As I grew up, I began traveling with my art, seeking out tiny palettes in every new ecosystem. Each masterpiece was infinitely different, not only rooted in the materials I could find, but the creativity I was feeling that day.

When I’d gathered enough materials, making sure that I didn’t lose one tiny berry, I found a quiet place and a flat surface to “paint a picture” with my collection. I began linking together the dainty pieces to form the letters of my name. It was time consuming, being gentle and precise with every move, for a picture-perfect creation. Eventually, it would blow away with the wind.

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As my art improved, I created pieces for the special people in my life using materials from their own backyard. I loved the idea that the petals and bright little berries could represent the space shared by humans and plants, living and growing together.

When I began working at Firelight Camps, I was overwhelmed with inspiration. Not only is Ithaca, NY a haven for nature lovers, but Firelight’s beautiful glampground was perched at the top of Buttermilk Falls State Park, one of my favorite outdoor sanctuaries. It was a match made in heaven.

The décor at Firelight Camps gave me plenty of material to work with, in particular, the hand cut bouquets from Plenty of Posies flower farm. Every morning I pruned the dead flower buds, giving new life to the bouquets. The petals were not wasted on me; they were gold for a flower artist.

I couldn’t wait to repurpose all the flecks of color, mixing them with other gems grown right on the property: Tulsi basil leaves, Dill pollen, Lavender buds. In the same way I loved to make art for friends, I began leaving flower art on the grazing table for our guests. I would arrange the entire continental breakfast around a campfire scene, or write messages on the reception bar such as “Good Morning!” Sometimes a guest would catch me in the act and ask, “What are you doing?” I would smile, and say, “Oh, you’re in for a wonderful surprise!”

I’ve noticed how my flower art brings nature to life for our guests, giving them a taste of the season, the gardens and the trails. It becomes the basis for a whole conversation, and inspires our young guests to try making their own. There is so much possibility in each tiny canvas. So next time you visit, take a walk outside, slow down, and pay attention to the miracles unfolding all around you. Beauty is everywhere.

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Meet Bobby Frisch, Co-founder & CEO

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Meet Bobby Frisch, Co-founder & CEO

 Photo by  Emma Pure

Photo by Emma Pure

Hometown: Potomac, MD

Years around the sun: Almost 33

Happiest place outside: Next to a swiftly moving stream

How'd you land in Ithaca, New York?

I came to Ithaca to get my MBA from Cornell. It was a big move from living 4 years in Nicaragua, but I was ready to come back to the states. Emma and I had heard so many great things about Ithaca as a town, and I was excited to also be able to take classes at the Hotel School while getting my MBA, so it was a great fit. Oh, and I was crazy lucky to be awarded a scholarship through the Park Leadership Fellows program ... it was a no-brainer.

Can you remember the first time you slept outside? 

No ... but I do have a vivid memory of a very early 'outdoor' experience - I must have been about 6 at the time. I was standing next to a river fishing with my dad and my brother and I was totally freaked out by these little green grasshoppers that kept smacking into my face. I started crying and had to wait in the car until they finished. Manly huh? 

Do you have a favorite story about one of our glampers? 

We had a young, wide-eyed couple drive up from the Bronx one weekend. They immediately started asking questions about the dangers of deer, raccoons, and coyotes as they were checking in, and it was obvious that they were pretty nervous. They were hanging around the fire pit in the evening, and we discovered they had never been camping before or ever tried a s'more! It was so sweet to see the other guests get very excited to show them how to make a s'more and give them marshmallow roasting tips. The couple ended up having an amazing experience and it was so rewarding for me to see how Firelight can make the outdoors a little more accessible and comfortable for first-time campers.

Tell me about the best hotel you ever stayed in and three words that describe why it was such a memorable experience.

I don't know about 'best' hotel but a very memorable one for me is the 'Buena Vista Surf Club' in Nicaragua. The name doesn't quite do it justice, but it had an incredible juxtaposition of ruggedness and luxury (something I love). There were only about 8 cabins with thatch roofs spread over a hill overlooking the pacific. They were very private and open to the elements so you would wake up to the sound of the waves and look out over the jungle canopy at howler monkeys right from your bed. There was an amazing huge deck and common area where all the guests came together each evening over a home-cooked meal. Three words or phrases to describe it? Monkeys, honor bar (!), and gracious hosts.

You have to build a fire in under 60 seconds. Describe how you do it. Go! 

Easy. Whistle the top secret Firelight staff birdcall and watch a camp host jump into action. Then saunter over to our beautiful stone fire pit and say something slick to the lounging guests like "getting a little chilly? Would you like to warm your toes?" Assemble the kindling. Crumple the newspaper. Light the match. Toss in the nicely seasoned hard-wood.

What is your dream adventure?

High up on my list at the moment: taking my 1-year-old daughter, Ayla, on a real multi-night camping trip (she's only been glamping to date). Another dream is to go on a multi-night Norwegian sea-kayaking trip with lots of cool little Scandinavian cabins involved. Oh, and a Moroccan desert Berber tented camel adventure with lots of carpets, darbukas and strong coffee.

Bobby and Ayla Glamping at Conestoga Ranch in Utah.

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Eat Wild, Save Wild: The Story of Salmon

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Eat Wild, Save Wild: The Story of Salmon


"We’re all worried about making sure our farm-to-table is really from farm to table, or that our beef is really grass-fed. What if they would just make the same efforts with fish like salmon?" - Tom Douglas

 Photo by Emma Frisch

Photo by Emma Frisch

Since our earliest ancestors, we have relied on the ocean for sustenance and honored a long-standing relationship with one of its most precious resources, Wild Salmon. Salmon can be a study of perseverance and patience, a balance of beauty and strength, and ultimately the “circle of life.” Salmon are born in the same rivers where they return - upstream! - to spawn their young and die, giving their body back to the creeks and forest after a lifetime at sea. It could be said that salmon run in the trees, replenishing an entire ecosystem. For Firelight co-founder and culinary director, Emma Frisch, food is a powerful link between humans and nature. Eating wild, native and locally cultivated ingredients can help us taste the very essence of the natural world around us, and in some cases, help protect wild species and places.

In August of 2015, Emma traveled to the Sitka Seafood Festival in Alaska, a window into the world of Wild Salmon and sustainable seafood. Wild Salmon represents the greatest fishing industry in the U.S., providing a source of food and livelihood to thousands of local and indigenous communities. For the Pacific Northwest, Wild Salmon is at the core of local lore and identity. As famed chef and Wild Salmon advocate, Tom Douglas, says "Think about salmon in the same way you think of a jazz band to the people of New Orleans or the Cubs to the city of Chicago. It’s part of our identity. It’s part of who we are. It’s a natural resource and we are very proud of it." 

During Emma's trip, she followed Wild Salmon from river to sea to table, beginning her journey at the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau where Salmon had just returned to the forested creeks. In Sitka, she ventured out to fishing boats at sea with the Seafood Producers Cooperative and Alaska Gold Brand, observed the production line back on shore at the processing plant, and dined on a multi-course Wild Salmon feast prepared by Alaskavore Chef, Rob Kinneen. It was beautiful to behold how fisher(wo)men, plant workers, chefs, diners and local families gave gratitude and respect for Wild Salmon at every stage of the process.

The Sitka Seafood Festival concluded with a screening of The Breach, tying the various activities and sights of the week together. In his provocative documentary, Mark Titus sets off on a quest to answer this question: “Once we [salmon] were so many we couldn’t be counted. Can humanity learn enough from its past to save wild salmon?” He carries the audience through a stunning portrayal of Wild Salmon's last stronghold in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska, and the perils they face by dams and proposed energy projects like Pebble Mine. The film leaves the viewer with a deeper understanding of a simple truth: wild salmon are endangered, but if we eat them, we just might be able to save them.

Photos by Jessie Johnson and Elaine Bobkowski

Back in landlocked Ithaca, Emma felt pulled to keep the spirit of Wild Salmon alive despite being many miles from the nearest ocean. She wanted to share her extraordinary sea-to-plate experience with the local community and spread awareness about how to source and eat sustainable seafood. She teamed up with local food blogger and founder of The Seafood Blog Project, Jessie Johnson, to launch the first Ithaca Sustainable Seafood Week and a capstone event at Firelight Camps, a Wild Salmon Campfire Dinner & Movie. They brought together local activists, Alaska fisher(wo)man, chefs, and (salmon-loving) glampers and special guest, Mark Titus, for an intimate and magnificent fireside feast under the stars.

Photos by Jessie Johnson

On October 5th, guests gathered under the lobby tent around family-style grazing tables for a multi-course campfire meal. Emma Frisch and Food Network Co-Star, Nicole Gaffney, prepared a variety of courses featuring Wild Alaskan Salmon and other Alaska and Finger Lakes-grown products. They paired dishes with specially brewed beer, local hard cider and Smoked Salmon Vodka cocktails (yes!). After dinner, guests watched The Breach and followed the film with a lively Q&A around the campfire.

Some of the burning questions were: 

  1. How can we take action to help protect our oceans?
  2. How can we buy and eat seafood more sustainably? (Oh hey, need a salmon-buying guide?)

The next morning, guests smeared Wild Smoked Salmon Spread on their bagels, lingering around the grazing tables and and continuing to muse on how they could support Wild Salmon back in their own kitchens. Salmon has a way of tying people together, in the same way it serves as a link to the sea, rivers, trees, offspring and indigenous communities of its ecosystem. 

 Photo by Elaine Bobkowski
 Photo by Elaine Bobkowski

Photo by Elaine Bobkowski

At Firelight Camps, we are constantly thinking about how we can be better environmental stewards and invite our guests to join us in preserving the natural beauty around us. We do this by serving locally and sustainably produced food at breakfast, building our tent platforms and other amenities with minimal damage to the land, choosing to keep our tents off-the-grid, composting food waste, and making it easy for guests to find their way onto our backyard trails in Buttermilk Falls State Park. But our vision is global, and we want to connect our own efforts and the experience of our guests with like-minded people around the country and the world. We want to be part of the global change and build solidarity. We want to create a space for people to converge, no matter what their backgrounds, and celebrate the very essence of life: food, love and laughter! This is why we chose to celebrate Wild Salmon and all it stands for.

Thanks to the partners and people who made this event possible: The Seafood Blog Project, Alaska Gold Brand, August Island Pictures, The Breach Film, Wild For Salmon, Alaska Birch Syrup, Alaska Flour Company, Full Plate Farms, Alaska Distillery, Lucky Hare Brewing, Good Life Cider, Serendipity Catering, Forever Wild Seafood and Taku River Reds.

 Photo by Jessie Johnson

Photo by Jessie Johnson


Check out these additional resources to learn more about wild and sustainable seafood: 

  • SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD PROJECT. An informational blog providing multiple ways to learn about sustainability and a valuable links to businesses that can deliver sustainable seafood right to your front door! (winning!)
  • SEAFOOD WATCH by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. They provide guides, websites, and apps for your mobile devices to help you choose the best sustainable food options as well as what to avoid.

Have ideas for a future Firelight event that can help us learn how to better take care of the planet? Tell us in the comments below!

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Moosewood Restaurant's Famous, Classic Tofu Burgers

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Moosewood Restaurant's Famous, Classic Tofu Burgers

When I moved to Ithaca I followed my nose to Moosewood Restaurant, the iconic restaurant that revolutionized vegetarian cuisine across the country. For locals, it was a matter of stopping in for a meal. For vegetarians flung afar, it became a necessity to collect Moosewood Restaurant's cookbooks as they came out. The most recent 40th Anniversary Moosewood Restaurant Favorites is a staple on any cook's bookshelf, vegetarian and omnivore alike. This compendium of creative, plant-based dishes will inspire you, starting with a perfect creation for Labor Day Weekend - the Classic Tofu Burger (recipe below). 

As part of our Big Giveaway (ending in JUST 3 DAYS on September 1st), Moosewood Restaurant is including a signed copy of the book, a market tote bag and a "Dinner for Two" gift certificate (valued at $80)... alongside an amazing package of other Finger Lakes gifts and experiences. 

Moosewood's Classic Tofu Burger

Yields: 8 burgers

Note: Tofu burgers have been a favorite at the restaurant since we can remember ... Because of the increase in the number of our customers who are either gluten intolerant or trying to reduce their consumption of wheat, we've developed ways to make our various kinds of tofu burgers without the bread crumbs we used to use in our published recipes and in the restaurant. Dicing the vegetables small, finely grating the tofu in a food processor, and grinding the walnuts all help to make a mix that will hold its shape.

Two 14- to 16-ounce blocks firm tofu

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 cups diced onions

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 cup grated carrots

1⁄2 cup seeded and diced bell peppers (any color)

1 cup coarsely ground toasted walnuts

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

1⁄4 cup tahini

1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1⁄4 cup chopped fresh basil

1. First press the tofu for at least 30 minutes.

2. While the tofu presses, prepare the rest of the burger mix, and when you're ready to grate the tofu, discard the expressed liquid.

3. In a covered skillet on low heat, warm the oil. Add the onions, sprinkle with the salt and oregano, and cook on low heat for 7 or 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots and bell peppers and cook, covered, until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl.

4. Finely grate the pressed tofu in a food processor and add it to the bowl of cooked vegetables along with the walnuts, soy sauce, mustard, sesame oil, tahini, pepper, and basil. Mix well and add more soy sauce to taste.

5. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

6. Using about a cup per burger, shape the mix into 8 burgers. Set the burgers on the prepared baking sheet and bake until firm and browned, 30 to 40 minutes.

More notes:

The burgers will be a little sturdier if you use bread crumbs, about 2⁄3 cup for this recipe, especially if the tofu you use is soft. Gluten-free bread and bread crumbs are available, so if you're avoiding wheat and gluten you have that option.

To freeze these burgers, simply wrap cooled, baked burgers in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer. To reheat, bake on an oiled baking sheet, right from the freezer, at 350°F for 20 to 30 minutes until heated through -- the time will depend on how fat your burgers are.

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The Barebones Porter: Cooler Than Cool

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The Barebones Porter: Cooler Than Cool

FIRELIGHT CAMPS, BAREBONES, ITHACA BEER, RUMPL, MOOSEWOOD and more... We've got the Labor Day essentials all bundled up, and now we're giving them away. It's a late summer dose of R&R:  2 nights at Firelight Camps (for two) — 2 Barebones travel coolers — 2 folding camp chairs with a case of beer and a growler stuffed with weekend tour vouchers from Ithaca Beer Co. — AND — one of Rumpl's limited edition blankets to keep you toasty while you're eating Firelight Camps' famous, s'mores.  Did we mention that the 2 Barebones Coolers are full of surprises too? 

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A Glamping Bridal Photo Shoot

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A Glamping Bridal Photo Shoot

With seven weddings at Firelight Camps this season, we're quickly become a wedding venue for brides seeking a laid-back and rustic yet elegant affair. We're honored to host so many happy occasions ... to infuse this place with love. The natural, outdoors setting makes it easy for friends and family to unplug from their busy lives and come together in celebration. However, the glamorous elements of "glamping" lend to keeping your heels on and dressing in high fashion - if that's what you're seeking. Alexandra Elise, of Rochester-based Alexandra Elise Photography, was inspired to merge forces with several neighboring companies to create this Bohemian wedding shoot on our grounds. Here's what Alexandra said about the experience, with a sneak peek of the shoot: 

Firelight boasts intimacy and community. From the glamorous tents with queen beds, living space, and a back deck overlooking the woods, it is the perfect hideaway with all of the comfort you could imagine.  After you sleep in and walk the trails out back, relax the rest of the night away with small bites and a glass of wine by the fire pit, cozy with lots of pillows and comfortable seating.  

Glamping has received a lot of excitement over the years and I am so happy that the Finger Lakes has a wonderful location in the heart of Ithaca.  When I first heard about Firelight Camps in Ithaca, I started to envision an amazing bridal styled shoot with other amazing vendors based out of Rochester, NY.  Together, we created a mood board that resulted in a bright, boho vibe with exotic florals, and bright silk wrap custom skirts.  

We started our shoot with an intimate tablescape off the back deck with gorgeous natural light illuminating the entire area.  Then we walked out back to the trails to continue our shoot in the lush greenery.  There is such a sense of calm at Firelight with the crackling of the fire and the birds chirping.  What better way to celebrate your wedding than at a glamping destination in the Finger Lakes where you can have your ceremony & reception right on-site-- minutes from Buttermilk Falls--  and also have your closest family and friends stay on site to continue the celebration!

Alexandra-Elise-Photography-Ali-Reed-Film-Wedding-Photographer-Ithaca-New-York-Firelight-Camps-003.jpg

The following companies' products and services were featured in the shoot: Lovely Bride, silk wrap skirts and paper goods by Louelle Design Studio, flowers by Stacy K Floral, Special Occasion Hair & Design, Sunless 2 Go, china and glassware by Petunia Rose and Hank Parker Rentals.



 

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Simon Majumdar: Give Us A Bed I'll Cook You Dinner

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Simon Majumdar: Give Us A Bed I'll Cook You Dinner

When my friend Hillary saw Simon Majumdar speak about his #GiveUsABedI'llCookYouDinner tour, she immediately thought of Firelight Camps. "Why not give him a tent!" Of course I was immediately taken by the idea; a tent in exchange for a meal prepared by this world-traveling food-monger and Food Network celebrity cook? Yes please! Maybe I could ask him to cook over the fire...maybe I could even cook with him...!

 Photo by  Kristen Kellogg

What began as a simple trade, turned into a full-fledged fireside dinner prepared by the two of us for a full house of glampers. But that's not it! Leading up to the feast, I whisked Simon and his wonderful wife Sybil away on a culinary treasure hunt, picking up ingredients from some of my favorite producers in the Finger Lakes including The PiggeryGood Life Farm, Finger Lakes Cider House, Wide Awake Bakery, Lively Run Goat Dairy and Ports of New York. We were fortunate enough to have Kristen Kellogg of Border Free Travels join us and document the experience (check out her article on Glamping.com - Unplugged in Ithaca: Firelight Camps). 

In planning the dinner, it was important to me that we preserved the core experience of Firelight Camps: bringing people together around the campfire. We wanted the meal to be a vehicle for relishing the primal joy of living through food, stories and the great outdoors.

The setting was a casual affair. We lay sheets of butcher paper across picnic tables and grazing tables, serving as a picnic-friendly landing pad for heaps of Grilled Bread on which guests liberally spread Wild Violet & Lemon Butter, "Smoked" Bone Marrow Butter and Garlic Mustard Pesto. Pre-dinner nibbles were mostly private, with couples and groups of friends savoring their first bites and sips together. Dinner - the grand majority prepared right on the fire (see menu below) - was served buffet-style, and we noticed guests begin to mingle and share tables. Dessert was served quite literally around the fire pit. We baked three luxurious Strawberry and Black Currant Crisps in the coals, and dished out dollops straight from the steaming dutch ovens, bathing the toasted oat topping with heavy cream. Then came more dessert in the form of stories. A healthy crowd lingered on as the sun set and the coals turned to ash, listening to Simon's tales of travels gone awry and memorable meals abroad. 

From the moment I connected with Simon, I thought, "now this is a man who is grounded and humble, but full of life!" His passion for travel and food felt kindred to me, and in the course of dreaming up our feast, his sense of adventure proved true from visiting farmers to scraping the last of the crumble from the pot. Simon has a knack for connecting with people at a fundamental level, and makes those around him feel instantly comfortable and at home. He taught me more than a few tricks in the kitchen, in particular with how to prepare the sixteen pound pork belly into an outrageous crispy, wild herb stuffed porchetta. At the end of the night we stood back to take in the scene. "Now this is what it's all about," Simon said. "People gathering together to share food and stories." 

See Kristen Kellog's full photo album here.

 

 

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How To Throw A Glamping Party

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How To Throw A Glamping Party

By Emma Pure

Every year, we kick off our season with a glamp-orous bash, welcoming guests of the hotel and community members alike to join us around the campfire. Our intention is simple: to celebrate the wonderment of being outside and alive in our bodies. We express this in various ways: a pie carousel that spins with an array of homemade flavors, a firelighting ceremony, hot air balloon rides and whimsical face painting. Music is in order, and we try to host our favorite dance-worthy acts. This year we asked our Camp Host, Emma Pure (I know, amazing name, right?), to cover the event with her knack for writing and photography. Below is a taste of how we heralded the 2016 season.

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On the last night of May, Ithacans from all paths of life gathered under our twinkle lights to celebrate the successful beginning of the Firelight Camps 2016 season. The warm evening air was alive with excitement and summer joy, accompanied by good food, live music, and whimsical face paint- all locally sourced, of course!

The crowd danced to the funky tunes of the popular soul/R&B group, The Jeff Love Band, with local drinks in hand, served by camp hosts right at the bar in our bustling lobby tent. Locals mingled with our Firelight Camps guests, as well as the owners and camp staff, enjoying the lively music and hearty food as the sun began to sink behind the trees.

The line was long for homemade wood-fired pizza, served fresh with a variety of toppings, made by local duo and pizza extraordinaire, The Rusty Oven. The pizzas were delectably made, topped with fresh tomatoes, garlic, asparagus, chives, and radishes, to name a few. At Firelight we support all things local, and this event was a perfect blend of delicious goodies, music, and community all born right here in our beautiful Finger Lakes region. It only seemed fitting to be surrounded by local flavor as we celebrated our growing Firelight community, the sky turning to pink and purple, and the next phase of the night beginning.

As the sun sank lower in the sky, the music paused and people gathered around a few experts from Primitive Pursuits, a local nature education organization dedicated to teaching young people and adults necessary wilderness skills. Upon instruction from the skilled leaders, the crowd learned how to make a giant bow drill, a natural and ancient method used for starting fires.

This method usually can be done with one small bow drill made and used by one person, but for the purpose of this demonstration our friends from Primitive Pursuits brought out a large bow drill, which could only be operated by the teamwork of the crowd. With ten eager participants lined up holding the rope on either side of the giant bow, they began to push and pull against the wood, eventually creating enough friction for a tiny coal to be produced. Placed on a bundle of tinder and passed around the circle to be breathed into, the bundle became a flame that was placed into our stone fire pit and grew into a beautiful roaring fire. (Primitive Pursuits wilderness immersion programs are so aligned with what we do at Firelight Camps, that we donated 25% of our sales from the evening to support them!)

Local artist Ryan Curtis made guests feel radiant as he painted our faces and bodies with unique and mystical patterns, accompanied by incense and whispered words of wisdom. Ryan’s art symbolizes all that Firelight Camps encompasses, and having him be a part of this special night was just another magical touch to a beautiful evening.  

The event wrapped up as the last rays of light faded into a velvety blue and the stars began to dot the darkening sky. The fire continued to burn steadily as guests headed back to their warm tents and locals toted their sleepy toddlers and worn out dancing bodies to their cars. The fire light bounced off the lobby tent and the crickets began their nighttime song as everyone wound down from yet another successful and beautiful night at Firelight Camps. This was just the first of many Firelight Live Tuesdays, where people will come to gather around a crackling campfire, drink wine, roast s’mores and enjoy the simple pleasures of summertime in Ithaca. 

As a camp host at Firelight Camps this summer, I am feeling infinitely grateful to be part of a place that fosters such a joyous and loving community, surrounded by people who show nothing but support for all that is sustainable, beautiful, and local.  Cheers, to a summer filled with an abundance of these things! 

Visit us on Facebook for more pictures from our 2014 Inauguration Party and 2016 Opening Party.

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