Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Helping visitors enjoy the peace of the desert and the immensity of the night stars guides Jody and Xochitl Wodrich in their quest to develop an upscale camping experience in Rancho de Taos.
A special-use for the Desert Flower Camping Resort project that would cover nearly five acres of a 10-acre tract was recently approved on a 3-2 vote by the Taos County Planning Commission, although detractors had vowed to take the issue to the Taos County Commission.
The Wodriches, who plan to move from California to the Taos area to raise their three elementary-aged boys and oversee the project, are looking to a build a “glamping” type of campground. It would start with a dozen 16-foot by 12-foot tents, each of which could hold as many as five people, although they generally will hold less.
Described in a letter to the planning commission as a rest and retreat, the site would include permanent wood platforms for each tent that would also serve as decks, a bathhouse/restroom, common areas with picnic tables and barbecue grills, as well as individual, metal fire rings/pits for each site. The site also would include an office trailer and a storage shed. Tents, which will have electricity and fans, will be set up a minimum of 50 feet from each other.
A second 12-tent stage and second bathhouse/restroom is planned for not less than two years after opening the first stage.
The idea was borne out of the family’s ill-fated attempts to get back to nature.
“When we go camping, try to do our camping experience, more and more the experience becomes one where we would put up our little tent next to giant RVs with their loud noises and big screen TVs,” Jody Wodrich said. “We got farther and farther from the nature we were looking for, and getting farther and farther away from the experience we wanted.”
Xochitl Wodrich, who was born and raised in Albuquerque and has relatives spread across northern New Mexico, said she understands detractors’ concerns.
“We were a little bit surprised, but at the same time, it shows that the community really cares about the land. They want to take care and preserve what is beautiful about Taos and we respect that.”
The Wodriches plan to run the operation with a mom-and-pop feel, although the family will not live on site. They will, however, have staff on site 24 hours a day to make sure stringent behavior rules are followed – like respecting quiet times and use of light that could harm the night experience.
“There might be some misunderstanding that we’re a corporation looking to drain the resources,” Xochitl Wodrich said. “But we’re being very mindful of the land use, fires and water. We’re very aware of all of that. Any change is hard. Glamping, it’s hard to understand what that is. But we have safari tents with a low profile and tarps over them. People just don’t completely see the vision. When you see glamping resorts in Yosemite and Zion, they’re very beautiful.”
Especially given the stressful times of the past 15 months, people are looking for ways to retreat to nature as a rejuvenating experience, the Wodriches said.
“When you’re trying to get out into nature and get out and get away and breathe in nature, that’s the experience that people are looking for,” Jody Wodrich said. “We want to create an experience where we have some of the luxuries that people like, like a nice soft bed and a tent that’s already set up for them.
“People have very busy lives and it’s hard for people to get out and enjoy nature the way it was intended,” he added. “When people go out and they have a tent already set up for them and a nice, soft, cushy bed, a little porch to sit out on, they get to experience all the fun of nature quickly without all of the other hassle of getting it ready.”
The couple chose a desert location for the project, as opposed to a forested location, because they felt the desert was more cleansing and healing.
“I told Jody, he was used to camping in the forest, you have to get out into the desert,” Xochitl Wodrich said. “I feel like there is this connection with the earth that is really magically healing and restorative. We wanted to start this to help others feel the restoration. The world is so divided and tumultuous right now. Going out into nature and the desert, I personally find very refreshing and rejuvenating.”
Detractors expressed concern the project does not fit in with the rest of the area’s residential zoning, although only two homes are in the immediate vicinity. The Taos Country Club is less than 2 miles away.
Then there’s the ever-present argument of straining the area’s resources.
“With any tourist town, there’s a love-hate relationship with visitors,” Xochitl Wodrich said. “Any tourist town is going to have that friction. That’s why we don’t want to do a huge place. Some of these places have 100 tents. Twenty-four tents. That’s it, no more. We may just find that the 12 is good. We’re not trying to max out and capitalize on that. It’s tough in a tourist town so it’s a matter of sharing.”