We have been camping since before we were married, when we’d go car camping with tents in Northern Michigan. We made the leap to a pop up camper when we had small children. Since then, we’ve owned a 17 ft Casita and a beautiful 26 ft vintage 1977 GMC motorhome and most recently, a 30 ft 2005 Airstream Classic named Iris after the spaceship from a podcast called Trader Tales by Nathan Lowell (Here’s a link to his blog).
I’ll share more about Iris in a later post, but I thought a great topic to kick off the Travel section of this blog might be to discuss the state of ‘camping’ in America today.
Here is what we experienced on New Year’s Eve at a campground in Lakeland, Florida. The camper in this photo was RIGHT NEXT TO OURS.
Our quiet New Year’s Eve was suddenly interrupted by pounding on our door. We opened it to see the camper next door in flames. Rob ran to move our truck, which was in imminent danger and I quickly trained our hose on the burning camper as fire trucks descended on the campground.
After a couple of hours the fire was out and only the fire inspector was left, but the smelly mess was horrific. Gawkers paraded all over our site, making the dogs crazy and our stay unbelievably abominable. Very fortunately no one was injured. We ended up leaving the next evening, spending the night in a Walmart parking lot. The park management did nothing to assist us during our stay and only gave us a refund after I complained on their web site.
Thank goodness we were home with the dogs that evening.
So with that memorable experience as an example of a ‘bad’ site, what is a ‘good’ campsite?
We have always been drawn to camping out in wild places and love to follow the adventure blogs of RV Sue and Crew, Gone with the Wynns (love their Alaska adventures!) and Long Long Honeymoon. RV Sue has probably had the biggest influence on our plans–we love the way she is able to find free to low-cost solitary camping in beautiful locations.
That being said, we have typically stayed in RV parks, county, state and national campgrounds. Why? Well up to this point, we haven’t had the time to look for great boondocking locations. We have spent most of our time in the Eastern US, where there are fewer opportunities for boondocking. Many RV ‘resorts’ we’ve stayed at are so very disappointing, filled with boxy RV’s, TV’s blaring and air conditioners running. Many of the fancy RV’s stay away from the Michigan state parks, but the sites are close together and too often our nights are interrupted by people having too much of a good time around their smoky campfires, loudly drinking the night away.
Our younger son is getting married and we need to be in northern California by mid-August. Rob is still working remotely, so we will need to find camping locations where we have good internet access, but we plan to seek out and stay only at beautiful, low- to no-cost sites.
In our view, this is what makes a site ‘good’:
That’s it. From what I read, it is very possible to find great camping–you just have to do your homework. We have found a few campgrounds that are amazing in our travels and look forward to finding more–Here are links to some we’ve enjoyed:
Blythe Island Regional Park, Brunswick, GA: We’ve stayed at the nearby Jekyll Island Campground, but found it crowded and overpriced for the quality of the site. Blythe Island is a beautiful county park with spacious, private sites and full hook ups as an added benefit! It’s in the coastal Georgia lowlands, and the moss-covered trees in the area give it a unique character. There is swimming and hiking at the park and so much to do in the area that we put it at the top of our list.
Little Brevort Lake State Park Campground, Brevort, MI: We found this little gem on a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a couple of years ago. It’s a quiet little state campground on a beautiful lake in the Great Woods of Michigan. It’s not far from the Bridge, and it’s an easy way to experience Northern Michigan at its finest. We were one of a very few campers there during a week in July.
Lower Pines Campground, Yosemite, CA: We camped here last year near the end of the season. Yosemite was dry and the facilities and trails were bit worn at the end of the season, but it was still incredibly beautiful. The campsites are spacious and there are enforced rules about generator use, which we appreciated. We saw a bear across the creek near our site fishing for its dinner.
We also have joined a group called Harvest Hosts, an agri-tourism partnership with farms, wineries and places of interest to offer ‘free’ overnight camping in exchange for making a purchase.
So stay tuned…we love to travel and will be reviewing our campsites and sharing our adventures with you!