When not hosting glampers, how to you treat or pamper yourself?

By spending a week like a gypsy with friends in Florida – camping and paddling first one river then pulling up the stakes and moving to the next campground and paddling another river, etc. Every couple years, though, I need to get back to the ocean and about every fifth year I travel to a country where I’ve never been but always wanted to see. I collect memories like others collect shoes, purses and clothing. LOL!

Tell me about the history of your land/farm/site and any possible future development of the land?

Castalian Springs was once home to Native Americans whose arrowheads and flint pieces remain on the farm where I live. Middle State Tennessee University funded a two year study of an Indian midden near the remains of Fort Bledsoe three miles from CAYAC. As the story goes, during the 1500’s two asteroids plowed into Castalian Springs. The Indians thought it was a sign from the gods and abandoned the area. One of the crater holes is in the woods just outside my front gate and the other up the street.

Fast forward: The land changed hands several times ultimately landing as property of the Haynes, a large realtor family in Gallatin. Recently they’ve generously, and I mean truly generously, begun proceedings to turn the farm into a Land Trust meaning it will never be sold or developed. For the rest of time, this little piece of heaven stays exactly as it is today.

Come As You Are Camping

Glamping has become quite the hot camping

option. Where do you see your place in the

spectrum from "roughing it" all the way

up to a cabin stay?

I opened my glamping business, Come As You Are Camping, in April of 2017 feeling my way in the dark. I knew the generalities but not specifics. For example: A must have - soft comfortable beds. Air mattresses? No, too fragile. Cots? Too confining. Foam mattresses? Yes, but on the ground? No. On cots? No. Each piece – type of tent and size, kitchen, shower – took weeks of planning, then discarding the plan and working a new one. Eventually I built a glamping experience summed up best by a customer: Smart, comfortable, welcoming, and easy. People are loving it!

How luxurious have you gotten with your services?

When I began, I thought about what I wanted to bring to the table: The high price tag of luxury that few could afford or a more along the lines of county comfort with a moderate cost. I opted for country comfort. I wanted customers to be more awed with the red and orange sunsets over the water, kayaking and hiking than with silver serving trays and chandeliers. With huge tents, matching bedspreads and matching rugs, thick soft beds, a camp kitchen set with everything you have at home and an outdoor shower fast becoming a legend, my glamping is in the middle between glamorous and rustic.

People especially love the added benefits at CAYAC: Free kayaks, fishing gear and bicycles. The marina--less than a mile away with a Tiki bar, indoor restaurant, karaoke and live bands--sees a lot of my campers.

From $45
per Night

From $45
per Night

In Leslie's own words

Glamping means glamorous camping - think cozy, comfy and inviting. No setting up or breaking down a tent because everything is done for you. Forget blowing up an air mattress or patching a leak in the middle of the night because you'll instead be sleeping on day beds softened with memory foam. The tents at Come As You Are Camping (CAYAC) are roomy and spacious, each with a waterfront view of Bledsoe Creek.

Inside the tents you'll find coordinated bedspreads, pillows and matching rugs, as well as drawers to store your belongings. Rather than zip the tent closed during the night, leave the windows open to breath the fresh breeze off the water while you sleep.

299 Lake Road, Castalian Springs, TN 37031  |  615 461 0711  |  lesliedunnauthor@gmail.com

Unplug and enjoy outdoor fun! Glamping - Everything provided - even spices! Just bring your toothbrush, clothes and food. PLUS free use of kayaks, bikes, and fishing gear.

What is your favorite thing about providing this service?

Several things. People’s reasons for booking touched me. The majority of people booked my place to celebrate a special occasion – anniversary, birthday, a promotion. I love the memories that people create with each other at Come As You Are Camping. For some reason, across the board, the men get really big smiles when they see the camping area for the first time. They look like big kids.

Also, who would’ve thought people from Alaska, Scotland and England would end up in Castalian Springs? To the other extreme, quite a few folks from neighboring towns like Hendersonville and Nashville made reservations. Also, quite a few outdoorsy people attended concerts in Nashville and spent their nights at CAYAC. They enjoyed the crowds and then were happy to retreat to a place of peace and nature.

An unexpected tradition began by the glampers themselves. It started with someone leaving behind a bag clip for others to use, then someone else left toothpicks. Skewers, coffee, citronella candles and even a lawn decoration flower followed by someone else’s “Welcome” sign they hung on the kitchen canopy. What’s most touching about these acts of kindness is that only I know what’s new. Each camper coming in has no way to know what I put out vs what someone else left behind. Don’t believe the news, there’s far more good people in the world than not.

What is Glamping?

73 of us representing Tennessee and seven other states gathered at Come As You Are Camping in Castalian Springs, Tennessee for a weekend of camping, paddling, laughing, consuming mass quantities, and eclipsing!

August 18-21, 2017 with Nashville Hiking Meetup