Avid campers Brad Lockwood and Laura LaSpaluto, 48 and 37, met doing what they love but decided to take camping in a different direction — all the way off the beaten path.
Earlier this year, the pair opened Dirt Road Camp, described in a press release as a “truly off-grid, remote camping experience,” on 45 acres of elevated Delaware County land at 487 Dirt Road in DeLancey.
The process, Lockwood said, was not without bumps in the decidedly unpaved road.
“Laura grew up in Schoharie County and I’ve been camping the Catskills for almost 20 years,” he said. “We met camping and said, ‘Let’s do this.’ We started looking at campgrounds, which is really a difficult process, and then started striking out to raw land … but we actually gave up and totally quit.”
Lockwood said “fate stepped in” when a conversation in the Andes Hotel led to discussion of the DeLancey land.
“We learned that an (Andes-area realtor) had sold this land to a guy 30 years ago and he was just then considering selling it,” he said. “We saw it the next day and said, ‘Done.’”
“We started developing it right away in February with the snow still on the ground,” Lockwood said. “I was up here full time getting done what I could and then we opened with a giant family reunion right after the Fourth of July.”
Dirt Road Camp, Lockwood and LaSpaluto said, distinguishes itself from other campgrounds by pairing modern comforts with the rugged rigors of outdoor living in a spacious setting.
“We’ve got blazing fast cell service, which can be hard to find in the Catskills, you can recharge your cell phone, take a hot shower and you’re going to use an outhouse, but I built them out of cedar and they’re super-clean,” Lockwood said. “We are offering real, primitive camping but with some really nice amenities. We have people coming up who’ve never camped saying, ‘Whoa,’ so there’s a little bit for everybody.”
“The western Catskills were lacking a private campground where you can rent a site, sit by a campfire and truly appreciate the great outdoors,” LaSpaluto said in a written statement. “Most campgrounds simply pack in guests, campsites beside RVs, and we wanted to offer the opposite.”
“By the end of the year, we’re only going to have eight camping sites, so our campers get at least two to three acres all to themselves and that’s how we want to keep it,” Lockwood said.
Site-specific amenities vary and are listed at dirtroadcamp.com.
Dirt Road Camp further sets itself apart, Lockwood said, by remaining open year-round.
“We’re going to do winter camping,” he said. “Our wall tent is open year-round, our ‘Lean-Too’ cabin is open and we have four bluestone quarries on the land. And we have hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails, so we’ll be open (for) snowmobilers and hunters in winter.”
Full-mountain rentals are also available, Lockwood said, for weddings, family reunions or parties of 25 or more.
Campers, Lockwood said, have been impressed with Dirt Road Camp, coming from “all over the Northeast.”
“What’s really cool is that everyone who’s come to stay has come back. When you’re offering this kind of space and seclusion, people want it,” he said. “We’ve had people from Long Island, south of Buffalo, Rochester and a lot of people from Albany.”
Lockwood said locals have been “really supportive.”
Lockwood said he and LaSpaluto hope to expand offerings at Dirt Road Camp while deepening ties to the surrounding communities.
“We would love to start doing movies under the stars,” he said. “We’re going to bring in a giant display screen and watch movies in one of our quarries and have concerts in the quarry, which is basically a big amphitheater. And there are so many good beers and distilleries around; one of our big things is going to be partnering and offering an outlet.”
The grounds will host retreats, too, Lockwood said, beginning with a 25-person Native American Wellness Retreat, Sept. 6 through 9. In October, he said, former military personnel will lead campers in a winter wilderness survival training session focusing on “extreme first aid, hypothermia and what’s edible and what isn’t.”
For more information or to make a reservation, visit dirtroadcamp.com. Also, follow @campdirtroad on Instagram or call 607-287-8148.