This post has its roots in a review of a campground.
You see, I’m the cautious type and like to know something about where we are considering putting down (tent) stakes for a few nights, so I looked at reviews online before making reservations for our most recent expedition.
Most were positive, extolling the privacy of the sites, the beautiful setting, and the plentiful recreational opportunities in the area.
However, the most recent review, posted that very day, was negative to the extreme, which I found a bit worrying … until I read it.
One of the reviewer’s main complaints were the fact there were no full hookups for RVs. I’ve just checked on the reservation form, and yes, it does give “full hookup” as an option, but when you look at the specific site (which comes up when you pick a date and spot), the spots for “Sewer hookup” and “Water hookup” are blank, which I would take to mean these services are not on offer.
Even worse (in the reviewer’s opinion), the electric power was such that campers are unable to use any appliances while running the air conditioning.
There were also no dumpsters or trash bins near the campsites, something I would take as a positive rather than negative due to smells and yellow jackets.
And apparently there were (gasp!) bugs in the shower, both dead and alive.
I’ll admit sharing the shower with six-legged creatures is not my favorite part of camping, but it’s something I’ve come to accept as part of the back-to-nature experience.
The last complaint concerned the water — apparently smelly and disgusting.
When I was young, my family camped quite a bit, and I’ve experienced enough bad water to take this seriously enough to haul some from home in case the reviewer wasn’t exaggerating.
Readers, I am not above enjoying modern comforts, nor do I begrudge others doing the same. It was hot enough the first few days of our trip that I’d have gladly availed myself of A/C if we had it. Also, I can understand someone wanting to use a crockpot or other convenience to make cooking chores easier.
But, if that’s the type of camping you require, perhaps it would be wise to ascertain that it’s available before setting out.
Please don’t think I’m criticizing anyone for their choices. It’s okay if you want air conditioning and to use your appliances. Just don’t criticize campgrounds for not providing the power you need when they’ve clearly stated they don’t.
Or maybe just check into a hotel. That’s the choice I make (and The Engineer wisely follows) when I’m not up for insects in my shower and having to walk a quarter mile to use the toilet.
I think there are two things people call “camping.” One involves a tent or small camper; the other uses massive trailer that requires a truck to tow the behemoth and/or another vehicle being towed.
When I talk about “camping,” I mean the former, but here in the US, when most people discuss camping, they generally mean the latter, something I call RVing.
Both activities involve traveling and setting up “camp,” but diverge widely from there, so much so that I find myself asking, “At what point does it become less like camping, and more like taking your home with you?”
That’s what some people — mostly retirees — do. They sell their home, buy a gargantuan trailer, and travel the country.
To this, I say, “More power to you!” If you’ve reached the age of retirement, you certainly deserve a few comforts.
The people I’ve known who made this choice don’t call it “camping” either; they call it RVing.
Okay. I’m climbing down from my soapbox now because I want you to know we had a great time.
Yes, there were a few bugs in the shower — a couple of small Daddy Long Legs and a cricket.
No, the water didn’t stink.
Yes, we had electricity, but we didn’t use it.
And, yes, the garbage bins were in a central place, away from most the sites.
You know what? It was a beautiful campground, with large private spaces and clean restrooms.
This is our new (to us) tent. It’s an 8-person Cabela’s Alaskan Guide and was a bit of an extravagance since we’d only replaced our old 4-person version with a new one a few years ago. I saw it on CraigsList, and the temptation of being able to stand inside our tent was just too great.
Plus, it was a deal and almost new.
We’re big fans of dome-style tents because we’ve had several, and they’ve held up in storms that took down most other nearby tents.
I was also eager to use our new (to us) Kelly Kettle which I’d recently bought on eBay. Naturally, we’d experimented with it in the backyard, but now, we’d be using it for the purpose for which it had been purchased. After years of pumping our little single burner camp stove for what seemed like hours, we would finally have hot water for tea in five minutes.
Kelly Kettles (and their competitors, Ghillie Kettles) are sometimes called “Volcano Kettles” because the devices “consist of a water jacket surrounding a fire chamber which creates an upward chimney draft ensuring efficient and rapid boiling even in windy or wet weather.” (Description care of Wikipedia. Click through if you want more info.)
They’re more common in England, and I’m explaining them here because they are brilliant — a simple design that works. And you can fuel them with almost anything, although we cheated a little and brought sticks and leaves from home.
I also took a hint from a YouTube video and lit the sticks with cotton balls rubbed with Vaseline.
Yes, The Engineer and I actually spent an evening watching Kelly Kettle videos on YouTube.
I know. We’re weird.
The other important thing is to point the bottom hole into the wind. In fact, it seems like the windier it was, the better the flame.
I was so excited, I brought one of my teapots so we could have proper tea each morning.
As an added bonus, I soon realized the kettle is also great for heating water for dishes.
One of my best buys ever. Seriously.
And while I’m sounding like a camping nut and bit of a spendthrift, let me tell you about my recently acquired Lodge Camp Dutch Oven.
It’s the smallest one, just big enough for the two of us, and I’ve been experimenting with cooking a variety of dishes on the fire. (Go here for details on previous meals, though I managed to erase the pictures on that post. :-%)
On Tuesday, we had burgers and local corn. We were going to have green beans with garlic and onions (all from our CSA share), but left the pot on the fire for too long. The beans were charred twigs with small other small black bits that had been onion and garlic. I’m not exaggerating, and I’m sorry for not taking a picture so you could see.
Wednesday, I licked my wounds and returned to an old favorite we’ve made for years called “Sausages and Other Stuff.” The recipe is sausage (usually bratwurst, but could be Italian or any other kind), and the “other stuff” usually includes potatoes, onions, carrots, a bit of butter, and whatever other vegetables we have on hand. In this case, it was zucchini and garlic. We used to make these by wrapping it all up in multiple layers of heavy-duty foil, but this time we used the Dutch oven. It was delicious.
On Thursday, I attempted pizza.
I redeemed myself because it was perfect! I made the dough at home using author Barbara Kingsolver’s excellent “Friday Night Pizza” dough recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, topped with canned sauce, fresh basil, onions, green peppers, olives, pepperoni, and Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
Maybe I only remember to take pictures of my triumphs?
As I mentioned, it was hot and humid the first few days (upper 80s and felt like 100% humidity), so naturally that was when we decided to cycle. We never found the actual rail-trail we were looking for, riding instead on a connector trail but never connecting. Instead, we did a few miles and had a nice picnic instead.
Since we were using the bikes to get to and from the shower and took another short ride on our way home, we did manage to get in about 20 miles total.
The day we chose to kayak was cloudier and a little windy.
The park was a marsh with abundant plant life, which meant some shallow paddling in places, but it was beautiful and peaceful, with Great Egrets, Great Blue Herons, some diving water birds, and many dragon flies.
The evening was lovely, cooler and breezy, a perfect night to sit outside, which is what we did, eating our pizza and chatting.
Some new “campers” had pulled in next door while we were gone, leaving their air conditioning running while they went somewhere because there were no people and no vehicle in sight. On their return, they apparently disappeared into the camper.
We never did see them, though they eventually turned off the A/C.
Yesterday, we packed up, returned to the marsh for our second little bike ride, stopped at another nature preserve for a picnic lunch, and met some more dragonflies.
On the way home, we stopped so I could get locally made ice cream.
It was delicious, a fitting way to end to a wonderful trip.