The coronavirus pandemic set Stephanie Marchesi and her family on a new path, one that led them to an unexpected adventure in Humboldt.
Marchesi and her partner, Kathryn Frick, developed the historic Myers Hotel Bar in Tonganoxie into a cocktail destination, attracting visitors throughout the Kansas City Metro area and beyond.
“The bar was going great,” Marchesi said. “We were getting a lot of great music shows.”
Then came the COVID-19 shutdown. They weren’t sure the bar could recover, so they closed it.
That’s when friends Paul and Alana Cloutier suggested they try something a little different. Come to Humboldt, they said, and serve as the live-in caretaker for Base Camp, a new bicycle and camping destination adjoining the Southwind Trail.
Marchesi and Frick had been to Humboldt before, as guests of the Cloutiers. They knew about the various development projects planned by A Bolder Humboldt, which includes the Cloutiers, members of the Works family and others. Base Camp is designed and led by Beth Works Barlow.
Marchesi and Frick visited Humboldt and learned more about Base Camp. They were especially impressed by the Workses’ warmth and dedication to improving their community.
“We saw some of the projects and we got even more excited about this place,” Marchesi said. “I’m a cyclist and I love meeting new people.”
It seemed like a perfect fit, and they moved to Humboldt on Sept. 1. Marchesi is the caretaker, while Frick is involved in other projects. They have a 7-year-old daughter, Henrietta Brubacher.
Almost immediately after it opened, Base Camp became a popular destination.
Its first guests came for a yoga retreat.
“I moved here on a Thursday, and by Friday I was flipping cabins,” she said.
And while the pandemic may have doomed the couple’s bar dream, it proved to be a tonic for their new endeavor.
“In my mind, it’s exactly the kind of place you would want to come at this time,” Marchesi said.
A camping destination, it seems, is an ideal year-round vacation spot to escape the virus. It’s secluded. Most activities are outdoors. It adjoins a walking and bicycling trail that leads directly to Iola, Garnett and Ottawa. It’s a short car ride from many major cities.
“It feels like this is the perfect getaway, especially for someone who doesn’t want to travel too far. It’s two hours from everywhere: Kansas City, Joplin, Tulsa, Wichita, Topeka,” Marchesi said. “And yet, it doesn’t look like Kansas. It’s just a really unique property.”
Since September, the cabins have been booked most weekends. All weekends in November are booked, as well as several days in December.
Word has spread quickly, especially in the cycling community. In fact, Base Camp was so popular that organizers had to cancel a planned open house because thousands of people had declared an intention to come. They didn’t want to draw such a large crowd during the pandemic, Marchesi explained.
BASE CAMP currently offers three cabins for rent. Each cabin varies slightly in sleeping options, with a loft and either a Murphy bed or a futon that can be converted to a bed, allowing for up to four adults in each.
Each cabin offers heating and cooling to allow for year-round camping. There’s even WiFi access.
The cabins also include a full-sized bathroom and kitchenette, with a small outdoor grill, fire pit and picnic table. Each has skylights and sliding glass doors that provide a view of the nearby pond.
The cabins are private, but everything else is open to the public.
The pond is available for fishing, canoeing, kayaking and more, with amenities provided at no charge.
A large “bike barn” offers additional bathrooms, a vending machine, a full-sized kitchen and plenty of gathering places. It also offers a place to store your bicycle, borrow a bike or repair one.
Nearby is a BMX bicycle skills course, and access to the Southwind Trail.
Still to come is a parking lot with RV hookups, primitive camping sites, A-frame structures with a platform bed and a shower house.
Marchesi is excited to see what else may come.
“It’s the kind of place where you can keep on dreaming.”