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Safari Tents And Starry Nights: Highwood Retreat's Rustic Luxury

When you think of a safari tent, images of roughing it in the wild might come to mind. But what if we told you that you could turn this rugged shelter into a luxurious five-star vacation? It's not a fantasy; it's a reality at Highwood Retreat in Southern Vermont. Unveil the secrets to transforming a canvas shelter into a haven of luxury and adventure with Highwood Retreat husband-and-wife team Sam Parsons and Katharine Mangold.

The Canvas Tent: A Blank Slate

Safari tents, originally designed for intrepid travelers in the African wilderness, are celebrated for their blend of durability and simplicity. These rugged structures are typically made of canvas, a material that stands up to the elements while providing a sense of connection to the natural surroundings.

The origin of luxury safari tents for vacation can be traced back to the 20th century when African safaris became a popular trend among the wealthy. These safari expeditions were equipped with upscale tents, including generators, folding baths, and nice linens, as these affluent travelers were not willing to sacrifice the luxuries from home.

Today, luxury canvas tents are available in various styles and sizes, and they come equipped with cozy comforts, such as full bathroom facilities, plush beds, and indoor/outdoor kitchen capabilities. At Highwood Retreat, the canvas tent is the foundation for a five-star experience. With a spacious 400-square-foot interior, it's a blank slate transformed into a canvas cocoon that offers the best of both worlds — the allure of sleeping under the stars and the comforts of a five-star hotel.

From Big City Lights to the Solace of Nature

Sam and Katharine are both veterans of the entertainment industry. After building their careers in Los Angeles, New York, and London, they yearned for a new chapter. Though thrilling, the hustle and bustle of urban life left them craving solace and creative rejuvenation. So, Sam and Katharine did what many only dream of: they traded their 900-square-foot apartment in LA for a sprawling 90-acre property in the quiet embrace of the Green Mountains.

Katharine explains, “During the first lockdown at the start of the pandemic, Sam and I were living in our studio apartment in downtown Los Angeles, and our sweet group of friends were trying to figure out a safe way to socialize and stave off isolation. There was a small, overgrown area in the front yard of our friends’ house. We volunteered ourselves to transform it into an outdoor bar and lounge space. We spent months digging up bamboo roots, building furniture, and landscaping.”

“During this DIY project, it became very clear that Sam and I work spectacularly well together. We found creative fulfillment and freedom in the project together. The combination of hard physical labor, problem-solving, and artistic sensibility made us buzz,” adds Katharine.

“We started brainstorming ways to build a life around the burgeoning and compatible skills we were discovering. We wanted to create a future for ourselves where our work and passion could sustain the family we wanted to start while also satisfying our need for creativity and artistic expression.”

With backgrounds as a camera operator and actor, respectively, Sam and Katharine embarked on a journey that combined their unique artistic talents. They set out to craft Highwood Retreat, a sanctuary for those seeking respite from the chaos of modern existence and a deeper connection with nature.

“Our mission is to create a haven where our guests can disconnect from the chaos of everyday life and connect with nature,” says Sam. “We want guests to indulge in a luxurious camping experience, so when they leave here, they feel rejuvenated, inspired, and connected to the wilderness in a meaningful and memorable way.”

Layered Luxury: From Bed to Plush Bathrobes

The cornerstone of any five-star experience is a sumptuous bed, and Highwood Retreat doesn't disappoint. The queen-size bed boasts Brooklinen's Luxe Sateen Sheets, an over-stuffed down comforter, and layers of soft quilts. An electric mattress heater ensures a cozy night's sleep, even when the Vermont mountains bring a chill to the air.

Guests enjoy plush spa robes and exquisite furnishings that elevate the ambiance. It's a far cry from roughing it in a sleeping bag on the ground.

Creature Comforts Off the Grid

“The balance of rugged and luxurious is the cornerstone of the experience here. There is something inherently rugged and memorable about staying in a canvas tent,” says Sam.

He continues, “We are not trying to mask the fact that you are not in a building on the grid with running water — we want to highlight that — and then delight you with luxurious and creative solutions.”

Highwood Retreat champions the idea of being off-the-grid without compromising on creature comforts. Solar panels provide electricity for lighting and charging devices. An electric kettle and pour-over coffee carafe are stocked with locally sourced ground beans, offering a taste of the region's flavors. A Vermont Castings wood-burning stove serves both as a source of heat and a fireplace, casting a warm glow across the tent's interior.

But the luxury extends beyond the canvas walls. A private outdoor cedar shower with hot water, towels, sandals, and robes allows guests to enjoy the thrill of an open-air rinse while remaining pampered. The adjacent composting toilet and off-grid sink are testaments to sustainable living without sacrificing convenience.

Outdoor Oasis: Decks and Fire Pits

Outside, a spacious deck beckons guests to enjoy the fresh mountain air. A cooler has refreshments, and Adirondack chairs invite you to lounge in style. A private firepit sits nearby, creating the perfect setting for stargazing and marshmallow toasting. It's the ideal spot to connect with nature without compromising on luxury.

And Highwood Retreat isn't just a haven for humans; it's dog-friendly, too. A one-time $25 pet fee welcomes your four-legged companions, and amenities like a comfy dog bed, raised food and water bowls, and a large furry blanket ensure that even your pets experience the lap of luxury.

Secluded Serenity, Effortless Convenience

Drinking water, washing water, shower water, fuel, firewood, dog beds and bowls, linens, and bath towels are packed and brought out by hand. Highwood Retreat guests enjoy all the little extras of a 5-star hotel — well-stocked fresh tea and coffee, special occasion amenities such as champagne on ice, floral arrangements, balloons, cheese and charcuterie boards, and local beer. As a guest, you can also enjoy craft cocktails delivered by moonlight, shuttle service for your luggage, and even a last-minute gourmet s’mores basket order if you choose.

Katharine says, “We are currently building the second of three planned private camps with canvas tents, anchoring themselves in prime positions in our beautiful glade. We love the vision of soft, glowing light from each site, creating a sense of community without ever sacrificing the privacy and seclusion you feel when you stay with us.”

In a world that often rushes by, Highwood Retreat invites you to pause, connect with nature, and indulge in the kind of adventure that only five-star luxury can offer. It transforms a canvas shelter into a haven of opulence, a place where the rugged and the luxurious coexist perfectly. So, if you're seeking to turn your next getaway into an unforgettable experience, consider the canvas of a safari tent for your next masterpiece of a vacation. To learn more or to book your next escape, visit



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