Urban Camping

It’s not cheap to stay in Miami in February. What with all the snowbirds and events like the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. But we were determined to cheer on the Canes baseball team the final weekend in February as they hosted the Gators, without spending a fortune.

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With no state park campgrounds in south Dade, John found a county park, Penny and Larry Thompson Campground. The reviews looked good and he remembered his aunt and uncle camping there in the ’60s and ’70s so we decided to give it a try.

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For $17 a night (tent site), we paid less for our two night stay at Penny & Larry Thompson Campground than the daily $35 parking fee in Coconut Grove where we usually stay. And with nearly 300 sites, a community center, pool, showers and a laundry, it provided more facilities than we needed.

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We set up in the area designated for tents in less than thirty minutes and then we were ready to hit the road for a night of baseball.

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The campground is carved out in a residential area, and while it’s a little farther west than we’d like, at such low rates, how can you complain? We won’t be camping here in the summer months, but we’ve already scheduled another three days at Penny & Larry Thompson Park in April.

Stir Crazy

After four days confined to the house, I was going more than a little stir crazy so on Monday, we ventured to Camper World where we “window shopped” for about an hour. On the show floor were several models with doors open, inviting all to come have a look.

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We traipsed through these homes on wheels amazed at many of the features. An outdoor TV and wet bar under the cover of an awning tailor made for tailgating.

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Features not even found in my year round living quarters: a kitchen island, recliners, lots of leather, and even a fireplace. What luxuries compared to the Coleman stove, stadium chairs, nylon hammock and fire pit found at our campsites.

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A queen size bed would be comfortable after a day on the trails, but a trailer with a garage? That seems a little over the top.

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After checking out all the conveniences of these recreational vehicles, we now know how our camping neighbors are living it up. What a good way to put an end to stir crazy!

TBT Lesson #87

Yesterday we were invited to a friend’s house where got an up close look at the Winnebago Travato motor home she and another friend have been using as their headquarters for camping adventures. The vehicle provides all the comforts of home in a compact space, perfect for two people.

After touring Amy’s home on wheels, the four of us talked about favorite camping places, especially ones in Florida. So what better picture for today than one from 1990, taken in a motor home we purchased on the day after our youngest daughter’s birth. This motor home made it possible for us to continue traveling and make lots of memories on the road, even with three children under six.

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TBT Lesson #87: Children make good traveling companions.

Car Camping: Levy County

While investigating accommodations and transportation options for an upcoming trip to Iceland, I discovered several companies in Iceland that rent campers, but these are not typically the motor home vehicles available in the U.S., but instead vans or even cars that transform into rustic sleeping quarters. Since this seems like an interesting way to see the maximum amount of the Icelandic countryside, we decided to test our ability to “car camp”.

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Our Suburban seemed like a perfect camping vehicle. So we packed the bare essentials: sleeping bags, pillows, a single burner with fuel, cook kit, ice chest, battery operated lantern, a leatherman tool, and an inflatable mattress to covert the back of the SUV into a sleeping space.

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The campers in Iceland have been modified to provide storage space under the sleeping platform something we couldn’t duplicate, so the front seats turned into the holding spot for our gear.

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After setting up camp at Manattee Springs State Park, we enjoyed the park the rest of the afternoon watching a dozen manatee in the spring run as well as a number of birds.

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Just before sunset we came across deer in the woods bordering the campground and then watched the sunset from the bank of the Suwannee River.

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We purposely chose to camp on a very cold night, with a low of 25°, to see how we’d fare in temperatures similar to what we’ll experience in Iceland. Sleeping in our car camper proved to be a success. We stayed toasty in our sleeping bags and decided our clothing choices appropriate.

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Only our car battery failed the test, unable to start after a cold night spent outside the garage. Fortunately AAA came to our rescue.

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We’ll complete a couple more test runs to iron out details regarding packing, but a camping van is in our future travels.

 

TBT Lesson #84

This week we purchased airline tickets for a spring trip which will include camping in Iceland for a few days. We’re excited about an adventure in a foreign country  without the assistance of tour guides or buses packed with sightseers, but to be honest I’m a little nervous about sleeping in a van in a country with the word ice in its name. Are we going to be able to handle being outside exploring the natural wonders of this country 24 hours a day?

Just when I convinced myself the answer to this question is, yes we can; I find this picture of John wearing a down jacket taken on a winter day in Florida back in the ’80s. Good thing we got new down jackets for Christmas!

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TBT Lesson #84: Don’t let the weather prevent you from enjoying time outdoors.

11 Down; 4 To Go

Somehow I missed “officially” writing about adventure number 11 on our 15 in 15 list – probably because our plan for a fall camping trip changed drastically from when we first crafted our list on January 1st of this year.

We originally planned to camp in the Panhandle once the weather cooled. October or November seemed like the most likely time for such a trip. This all changed when on the spur of the moment we packed the tents and bicycles in the Suburban and headed north in search of fall instead of toward the beaches of the Panhandle.

We rode our bikes in Virginia, Maine, Vermont and Pennsylvania.

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Hiked in parks.

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Visited more lighthouses.

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And covered bridges.

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And pitched our tent seven nights in three different state and national parks.

 

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Of course, we spent our fair share of nights in hotels on the way home due to rain since we decided long ago that camping was to be a fun activity, not something we’d suffer through.

Fall camping trip ✅

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Not along the Gulf Coast, but a wonderful unexpected adventure.

Chasing the Moon

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Photo of blood moon taken by John.

We decided to stay an extra night at Acadia National Park when we learned that Sunday, September 27th was to be the night of the blood moon.

I captured the rising moon over Bar Harbor on Saturday evening after dinner, and on our way back to the campground we made plans for joining the park ranger at Sand Beach the following night for the eclipse.

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Photo by Dee

What better place to watch the total eclipse of the full moon than over the ocean on a cool, clear night in Maine.

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Photos by Dee

However, Sunday night was more COLD than cool and with 20mph winds, we scratched the beach plan and instead parked overlooking the Atlantic and The Thrumcap adjacent to the Sieur de Monts entrance.

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Sitting in the car and out of the wind, we were able to watch the changes over a three hour period from full moon

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Photos by John

to blood moon.

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Photo by John

A moon worth chasing.

John’s photos were taken with a Canon G16 through the lens of a spotting scope.

Pitch a Tent

Fall, what better time of year to pitch a tent and enjoy spending time outdoors?

As we’re gathering our tent, sleeping bags, cooking utensils and backpacks for a camping road trip to Maine, I’d like to encourage you to go camping even if only for a single night since there’s really nothing like sleeping out under the stars.

So why is camping in the fall such a good idea?

1. It’s a cheaper way to travel. Campsites are much cheaper than staying in hotels, and you really only need a tent, sleeping bags and a few utensils for cooking. If you don’t have the basics, you can probably borrow from a friend or family member. Frequent campers usually have extra equipment they’re willing to loan.

2. The cooler weather makes sitting around a campfire the perfect outdoor activity. A pack of hotdogs, a bag of marshmallows and a couple of sticks…you’re ready for for campfire fun.

3. Campgrounds are less crowded since school’s back in session. Really, who doesn’t enjoy smaller crowds.

4. In Florida, the drier weather is more conducive to sleeping outside. The wet days of summer will soon be coming to an end. Typically, the state receives a third as much rainfall in October as in the summer months so in just a couple weeks, the weather will be more cooperative.

5. Numerous festivals and special weekend activities can guide your camping travels. Whether you’re ready for a festival celebrating music, pumpkins, art, stone crabs or bicycling, camping and fall festivals go together like cocoa and marshmallows.

6. It’s not as buggy. Drier weather means fewer mosquitoes making pitching a tent in the fall more pleasant.

7. Breakfast always tastes better when cooked outside. Bacon, eggs, hot chocolate…what a treat when cooked on a camp stove and eaten outside on a picnic table; but even a simple no-cook breakfast tastes better outside.

8. There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep in a sleeping bag curled up next to your best camping buddy. 

A longer trip requires some extra gear, but it's important to pack light.
A longer trip requires some extra gear, but it’s important to pack light.

Add a little adventure to the calendar this fall and pitch a tent.

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Mom

 

Let’s Go Camping

muirIt may not be the mountains, but John Muir is right. Camping, even in the modern-day version of wilderness, is a necessity.

I’m not sure he envisioned, battery operated fans and lights, and inflatable beds, but there’s nothing like sleeping out in the fresh air.

IMG_3831And enjoying the warmth of a campfire.

The crisp autumn weather makes this a perfect time of year to get a little taste of wilderness.

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Deep Creek Adventures

Beginning in the early 1970s, most summers were spent in the mountains of western North Carolina. Camping, hiking, tubing, river trips and escaping the heat of south Florida. In fact, these yearly trips led me to Western Carolina University where I spent my first two years of college life and met my husband of thirty-five years.

Many summers have been spent at our favorite campground, Deep Creek, a part of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This year Meghan and Jon joined us for a few days of camping in Deep Creek.

Campfires and breakfast cooked on the camp stove are among the highlights of the trip, but without a doubt tubing on the river is what makes Deep Creek a repeat destination. I don’t mean to brag, but I was the only one of the four of us to stay on the tube…Betty Falls proved too much for the others.

Unfortunately, the constant rain shortened our trip, but it was reminiscent of Meghan’s first camping trip to Deep Creek at age 2 months when she was the only dry camper hanging out in the back of our station wagon while the adults huddled under a tarp over the picnic table making the most of a camping trip in the non-stop rain.

 

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As Yogi Berra would say, “It’s like deja vu all over again.”