Host Spotlight: How These Texas Retirees Have Maintained a Perfect Rating for 7 Years

Landowners are partnering with Hipcamp to earn extra money by connecting their properties with folks looking to stay and camp outside. All you need to get started is a flat spot where someone can pitch a tent or park an RV, or a structure (such as a yurt, canvas tent, or cabin) for them to spend the night in.

It’s no surprise the location is popular: Hipcamp Hosts Sheri and Johnnie have shared their slice of Texas Hill Country with Hipcampers since 2017—a 20-acre property set in a part of central Texas that is lush with natural emerald green pools, moss-covered hidden caves, and rolling hills of oaks and juniper trees.

But beyond a pretty scene, these Hosts have achieved an impressive perfect rating from the 1,500+ Hipcampers who have stayed with them.

The secret to that kind of success? A lot goes into it, but above all, Sheri and Johnnie enjoy greeting their guests, whether they’re return visitors from nearby Texas cities or international visitors from Europe and beyond.

The pair treasure the bonds they’ve formed with others over the years. Among their favorite memories are the regular visits from a group of male friends who live around the world and descend upon Texas for an annual reunion; the notes from solo women campers who say they feel safe and comfortable on the property; and even a marriage proposal, which involved a “Will you marry me?” sign strung up over the campsite.

We caught up with Sheri and Johnnie to hear about their hosting experience and learn how they build such special relationships with their Hipcampers.

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Dalton Campbell

Hipcamp: What makes your land special?

Sheri: “We’re in a pretty unique part of central Texas. We’re very close to a lot of beautiful parks—Hamilton Pool Preserve is just a couple of miles away and also Westcave Preserve [both accessible by advance reservation only]. Milton Reimers Ranch Park is probably the most popular spot nearby, because you don’t need a reservation and it’s dog-friendly. A lot of rock climbers camp with us to go there—it’s a good place to go bouldering right on the Pedernales River. And also Pedernales Falls State Park is not too far away.”

The Hamilton Pool Preserve is open by reservation just 2 minutes down the road. // Photo by Thomas Brushel

Hipcamp: Why do you think campers opt to book with you via Hipcamp rather than at the nearby state parks?

Sheri: “The one thing we like about our site as opposed to a state park is that our campsites are not one right next to the other. There’s a little bit of breathing room. You can’t see into the other sites, so there’s more privacy.

When we walk people to show them all the different sites, we want them to choose the spot they want. Sometimes they’ll choose the very first one they see, but when they want to see them all, we get a chance to talk about what we’re doing out here.

They’ll see the beehives—we raise bees and we garden for them, trying to make the land more fertile. We’ll also tell them about the other animals that are around. They’ll often hear our neighbor’s donkey.”

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Dalton Campbell

Hipcamp: You have a 100% positive rating on Hipcamp, a difficult feat. To what do you attribute your success?

Sheri: “We greet every camper, and we talk to them. We get to know them a little bit, and let them get to know us. If they have anything that they need, we make sure that they can get to us at any time. For a lot of them it’s their first time camping, so Johnnie or I will help them set their tent up. We’ve helped people start their fires before too, because people don’t know how to build a campfire.

Or we’ll give them space if they prefer that. But a couple of days ago, we had people say, ‘Later on tonight, come out and spend some time with us at the campfire. We’d love to have you join us.’”

Johnnie: “The other thing I’m really proud of is that we have a lot of solo women campers that come out here. And they all tell me the same thing: ‘We feel so safe.’”

Photo by Hipcamper Caleb J.

Hipcamp: What is it about Hipcamp that makes camping feel more accessible to first-timers?

Johnnie: “When you grow up camping, you take it for granted. Most people didn’t grow up camping. It’s a new experience for them. We have people drive up from Austin, and they’ve just baffled to see the stars.

Everyone likes to read reviews and see a lot of photos, and when they come out, they feel like it isn’t strange or unusual—they’re aware of what to expect.

I admire Hipcamp for many reasons, but most of all because they’re getting people out to camp with their children. They’re showing them how to camp. Television almost ruined all that, but they’re turning things around, and I think Hipcamp is fundamental in that.”

“We have people drive up from Austin, and they’ve just baffled to see the stars.”

Johnnie checking out one of his many campers’ rigs.

Hipcamp: What do you love about hosting people on your land?

Sheri: “Johnnie has a motto—you probably can’t put it in your article—but he says, ‘Assholes don’t camp.’

Also, one of my favorite things about Hipcamp is hearing Johnnie tell stories. It just thrills me to death to hear his stories. I’ve heard most of them, but it makes me happy to hear them again when he gets a new audience.”

Johnnie: “We have all these rock climbers that stay with us, and I have not met one of them that’s not the most perfect human being. They’re good stewards, they’re clean, they love nature. They’re happy people. They like being outdoors. They’re not interested in messing with other people and judging other people.”

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Dalton Campbell

Hipcamp: What has Hipcamp allowed you to do?

Sheri: “Hipcamp allowed me to retire from my job. I really appreciate that more than you know. I was a data analyst sitting in a chair in front of a computer each day, and I drove an hour each way for the privilege. I am so much happier now. I’ve become a better cook. I get to spend more time outside. I’ve gotten to know my property more.”

“Hipcamp allowed me to retire from my job…I am so much happier now. I get to spend more time outside. I’ve gotten to know my property more.”

 Hipcamp: Why is sharing your land important to you?

Sheri: I feel so incredibly fortunate to live out here, and I feel like there are so many people who don’t have that. I know when I lived in Austin, I wished there was somewhere I could go out to just spend some time away from people and camp, but there wasn’t really camping out here. There’s nowhere to camp in this area, and the state parks are packed. So for me, I think it’s important to share what you have.”

Photo by Hipcamp Photographer Dalton Campbell

Hipcamp: What’s one thing you want Hipcampers to leave your property with?

Sheri: “Mostly memories of a nice time and of fun. Johnnie and I both are getting older, and we don’t get out as much as we used to, but we both used to camp and hike and do things a lot, and I really miss doing those things. I really want to be able to offer a place where people can do that and make some good memories that aren’t sitting in front of a computer and watching television.

Johnnie: “The best memories I’ve made in my lifetime are when I’ve met exceptional people. I love nature, but if I’ve met an exceptional person within a nice setting, it’s such a great thing because you take both those things away with you. And an exceptional person is someone who looks you in the eye and tells you the truth, and you walk away thinking they’re a decent human being. So that’s mostly what we want people to take away with them.”

How to start earning money hosting campers on your land

Inspired by this Host story to start welcoming Hipcampers to help pay for property taxes, home expenses, and future dream projects?

Cynthia J. Drake is a full-time travel writer based in Austin, Texas. She's a seeker of holes-in-the-wall, unbeaten paths, and interesting characters. She writes for Austin American-Statesman, Texas Highways, AAA, Family Vacation Critic, Cruise Critic, and other outlets.

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