This is our 12th Memorial Weekend spent at this campground in the rolling green mountains of Cook Forest, in the heart of the Pennsylvania Wilds. We have a group of about 20 friends who take over the back "cul de sac" of the campground (section 180s) each year. In spite of a completely booked holiday weekend (you'd do best to book 8-9, yes, 8-9 months out for this particular weekend) the campground is spread out, secluded and quiet. Our sites are hugged by tall evergreens and level ground, something not easily found on the mountain. Those on the outside of the loop back to the woods and a couple trail heads (not heavily trafficked) and those in the center are large and have quick access to the section's bath house, which is unfortunately fallen into somewhat disrepair over the last decade. The up side is that there is always hot water and they do clean them daily. There's also a nicely kept area to do dishes. This campground is huge, wood can be purchased on site, and there's a large volleyball court, field and playground. Also included is a stage where various forms of entertainment and education are held. Each Memorial Saturday, a meet and greet is recreated with an American historical figure. Good fun for all. There's an abundance of activities available within walking distance. The Clarion river leads through the base of the camp at the bottom of the hill, and kayak and canoe rentals are available everywhere. The river is slow and serene, perfect for families. There's various park/BBQ spots near the creek and guided hikes during the day out of the ranger station. A fully stocked fishing hole is also adjacent to it. The campsites are portioned off by type: motor home, pet friendly, tent only …and each area has its own bathhouse which is seldom over crowded. Note: this is a "dry" campground.
As a Dyrt Ranger, I get to try out great new products on our adventures, and this time was no exception. We brought alone the Flite+ tree tent from #tentsile - and it was the hit of the campground. First things first: this is a two person tree tent. It's not a hammock, but a true sleeping tent, with far more support at the bottom and a rainfly. The bottom floor strap serves as a good divider as well, so you're not rolling into each other in the night. You really have your own space and plenty of it. There are 2 exits which is also handy. The campers were lined up (literally) to try it out, each getting their 15 mins in the trees. Some brought books, some brought a friend, and all enjoyed it, noting how surprisingly comfortable it was. You cannot sit cross legged in a hammock - but in the Flite+ you and a friend can play a game of cards.
No footprint. This tent really shines on sand and areas with uncomfortable underbrush. It's versitity opens up all kinds of possible campsites.
A mobile treehouse. Who doesn't want to sleep in a tree? The rainfly comes off on warm dry nights to reveal a flood of stars from the best bed in town.
Setup: You'll find this both in pros and cons. We found it initially easier than expected to set up. It was roughly as quick to put up as our pop up tent.
Weight: This tent would be ideal for backcountry. It's so light, my 6 year old could pack with it, and it compresses into a very small footprint.
No guff: the rangers not only gave us no hard time about pitching it to the trees, they commended the zero footprint and were unabashed in their own excitement to check it out.
Dress for the weather: This tent is labeled as a 4 season tent, however, you should note that this is only when you pair it with appropriate attire, sleepsack and mat. Otherwise, it gets fairly cold up there. Great ventilation for warm evenings though. Really kept dry under the rainfly! Not a leak or drop got inside. It was actually kind of magical.
Setup: The rigging, angle and strain on the straps is key here. The first day, we thought the tent looked flat, tight and even, however, once an adult got in, it bowed like a hammock. The second day we found a better acute angle that lined up as directed, and found it to be a far better sleep. You could sit upright inside and only felt a subtle bow. With a mat, it would hardly be noticeable.
No ladder attachment: While other treetent models have hookups for their rope ladder, sold separately, this tent has none. Not ideal when wishing to hang it higher than a few feet off the ground. We had to hoist each other up into it at the near 5 ft height we arranged it at. After all, what good is a tree tent if it's almost on the ground?!
Overall, we loved this @Tentsile product and cannot wait to take it beach camping and see what other inventive places we can sleep with it! Whether your goal is the serene or extreme, this tent is a great item to have in your reputoir, and I'd take it over a typical ground backpacking tent any day - especially since it does come with stakes to go ground if you'd prefer.
Campground Review: Alta Mons Campground, Shawsville, VA
A Shenandoah Valley goldmine! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5wV2aoJo
•close to Salem/Roanoke
•clean and cared for
•limitations of use during youth camps
•some “amenities” unavailable to campground users
I wish I would have found this campground four years earlier! We find ourselves in the Salem/Roanoke, VA area each spring for my daughter’s collegiate athletic post-season play. Finding a campground with a showerhouse within a half hour drive to the stadium is limited…and noisy, as they often are perched along one (or more) highways and wedged in a small valley between mountains.
Enter Alta Mons Campground! Tucked away in Shawsville, VA just outside Christiansburg. www.altamons.org
Alta Mons Campground enjoys a rich history, which I enjoy uncovering by talking with staff and locals. Two such Springs brought folks from near and far to gain benefit from their apparent “healing” spring waters. These were huge resorts complete with lavish hotels to pamper such guests during a bygone era. Nearby was Allegheny Springs and this, Crockett Springs (owned by…you guessed it…the Crockett family).
Lore has it an ailing Shawnee Indian Brave, injured during battle, healed himself via the water from these Springs. These very spring waters then shipped the world over for their medicinal properties. A campground staff member shared that the waters actually flow from or through an arsenic mine and was believed the arsenic cured cancer. The hotel resort no longer exists, but there are a few old buildings and log cabins that dot the property.
In the late 50’s, the Roanoke United Methodist Association began purchasing tracts of land and ultimately transformed Crockett Springs into Alta Mons Campground. The name Alta Mons meaning “high mountains.”
It should noted that there is s differentiation between the actual campground and the youth camp. Of greater note, during youth camp weeks most of the land, trails, falls and streams are off-limits to RV and tent campers. Wisdom says to call ahead and inquire, lest you be disappointed. This particular year youth camps run weekdays from a June 24-Mid August, so there is plenty of availability.
Camping here midweek during shoulder seasons…we enjoy the camp to ourselves…literally. We are the sole campers of this paradise midweek. The weekend saw two RV camp closer to the bathhouse. Though the RV/Camper sites across the Allegheny Springs Road along the river filled up. As with most mountain/valley campgrounds, you do hear some sporadic local traffic noise during quiet hours. I have an uncanny knack of camping the same times and locales of area Scout Troops and this was no exception. They enjoyed a separate camping area on the opposite side of the creek…having fun while learning of the great outdoors.
There are 37 RV sites with water and electric, and 7 tent sites (along a creek). With the exception of tent site 7, no foliage separates or secludes one site from the next. RV sites are $25 nightly, tent sites $15. Each site has a fire ring and picnic table. There is one bathhouse…clean and well-stocked but small…possessing only two shower stalls. I can only imagine most campers are cooled off in the streams and falls.
In addition to the bathhouse, there are a couple portable outhouses in the camping area. Several pavilions are throughout the grounds.
Various activity areas exist…basketball court, volleyball court, horseshoe pit, playground, catch and release bait pond (loaded with fish lined up to be caught), interpretive trail. The pool and high-ropes course are by contract only, so I don’t expect admittance for campers.
A church building was built in the early 70’s at the front of the entrance and is not part of the camp…and you’ll either enjoy or be tolerant of the early afternoon chimes.
Being adjoined to a youth camp…read, know and follow the campground rules and restrictions
.The property trails are open to the public. Visitors have available parking and must sign-in to use the trails. Most come to see Stiles Falls. Stiles Falls derives it’s name from the untimely demise of a young Confederate Navy soldier who fell to his death while horsing around at its top. I would put the hike to the falls moderate to strenuous with three creek crossings and some boulder scampers…give yourself an hour each direction from the parking lot.
The first bear of the season was spotted the morning we arrived and promptly skidaddled back into the wooded mountains. Song birds are prolific and wake you early with their welcomed chorus. The chortle of raccoon was heard but none spotted, as the cackle and call of elusive turkey. Surprisingly, I was unable to find any reptiles.
Bring your bug spray, mosquitos here swarm you in apocalyptic proportion at nightfall. Also be prepared for rain, lush green meadows and sod farms give indication of ample rainfall.
The Alts Mons staff are exceedingly helpful, pleasant and eager to answer any question. Plan ahead…I’m told weekends are usually sold out…I can see why!
A wonderfully tranquil campground that I would highly recommend.
Product Review: Brunton Echo Pocketscope 7x18
Brunton Echo Pocket Scope 7x18
•High Density Bak-4 Prism Glass
•Multi-coated High Contrast Glass
Field of View-181 ft at 1,000 yards
Exit Pupil 2.4
Eye Relief 12mm
Weight: 1.8 oz.
•Echo pocket scope
“Let nothing stand in the way of adventure” is Brunton’s catch phrase.
The diminutive size and feather-light weight of the Brunton Echo Pocket Scope surely won’t stand in the way of any adventure! You won’t be aware of its presence until you are ready to use it.
As a Review Ranger, the Brunton Echo Pocketscope https://www.brunton.com/collections/optics-1/products/echo-pocket-scope-greenwas provided by the manufacturer for review.
There are those that resist bringing certain items into the field based on size, weight and durability. Oftentimes magnified optics are one such item. Unless you are a bonafide birdwatcher or hunter…which high quality optics are the first thing in your kit. But in the case of the Brunton Echo Pocketscope, you have no viable excuses. Brunton’s warranty claim is strong…”buy it, try it, bust it, return it-no questions asked.” Can’t argue with that.
Someone might argue that 7x18 isn’t a powerful enough offering. Depending on its application, that argument might be accurate. But for the weekend explorer or the ultra-light thru-hiker stowing this minuscule lightweight into a pack or pocket would be unnoticeable until you desired to see an object 7x closer than your naked eye.
In layman’s terms, that first number is magnification and the second number is the front objective size (diameter in millimeters). So with this particular 7x18 monocular, 7 being the magnification…as stated, it will bring objects 7 times closer than the naked eye. The 18 mm objective is fairly small which limits both light transmission for low light conditions (dawn and dusk), and your field of view.
The Brunton Echo Pocketscope also provides a rubber diopter ring to adjust clarity for optimal viewing of the subject matter. Brunton does make other monoculars with both greater magnification (in fact, one model has a zoom feature) and larger objectives.
Brunton utilizes BAK-4 prisms, which simply put, incorporate higher quality glass resulting in sharper images from edge to edge. A nice touch for a tiny, inexpensive package.
A monocular can offer a challenge to those raised solely on binoculars. Though I may prefer the ease, comfort and stability of binoculars…I have used monoculars an entire career for discreet observation and appreciate the advantages.
The lanyard and case are nothing to write home about and I wouldn’t place my full trust in them, such as lashing the case to my pack or anticipating the lanyard to maintain its retention integrity for too long.
I like Brunton’s Echo Pocketscope and look forward to using it a great deal on the trail. It fits nicely into my backpack’s hipbelt pocket for immediate access.
Nearly unnoticeable, I hiked a beautiful 6 mile river gorge trail with lanyard about my wrist and the Pocketscope between my first and second finger.
As inexpensive as you can find the Brunton Echo Pocketscope online, it’s kinda silly not to have one.
Campground Review: So I would like to start by saying that camping here was not the original plan. We had a backcountry trip that we sadly underprepared for (ran into about three feet of snow right at the beginning of the trail and finally decided to come back when either it's a little warmer or we're a little more prepared. Whatever comes first.)
So we trucked our old, three season boots back to the car and hit the dilemma of where to set up for the night. Luckily -- we were only about ten minutes from one of our favorite campgrounds in New Hampshire. Let me tell you why we like it so much.
First of all- it's first come first serve and only open to the tenting community. This weeds out most screaming children, humming generators, and loud TVs. It's also a pack in- you have to carry your stuff to whatever spot you choose. Generally it's not that much of a hike. We prefer to go as far away from the lot as possible for maximum seclusion, but that didn't happen for us this time around because of all the hardcore early spring campers.
The best part of this camping ground is its views. On a clear night, you can see a ton of stars encompassing around you- the only light pollution coming from you and your fellow campers fire. The river flows right through the campground and makes for some excellent ambiance. Five star for about 12 of the camp spots. The other ones have access to the river but are not directly on top of it.
There are only pit toilets, but there is potable water just at the top of the campground. The fee per night is 24- which it worth it in my opinion because of the spectacular surroundings.
If you want to be close to a ton of great hiking trails, right on the Kancamagus highway for pretty cheap- this is your spot. The friendly campers are just extra.
GRAND TRUNK REVIEW:
As an official Dyrt ranger, I get to test out some awesome gear. So now let's talk about this amazing hammock. The only problem I had with the thing was committing to a color. They've got color combos, patterns and even state flags, which is pretty cool. I went with the turquoise with the Bright orange Trunk straps- and I was extremely pleased with how brilliant the colors look together.
I was a little confused with picking out the tent because I've only ever had ones that come with pretty much everything- but the Grand Trunks are a little different. They come with two carabiners- and the Trunk Straps you can add on (and I would totally recommend this unless you can magaiver something yourself.) each strap can withstand 200 pounds. I got the open double hammock.
This hammock is more than likely intended for warm day use- the fabric is very breathable, which makes it a great choice for hanging out at the beach or at your camp after a nice day. But I wanted to test its limits a little further- so I decided I would spend the 30 degree New England night in the hammock to see how it held up.
Best night sleep of my life! I put a buffer blanket under my sleeping bag just for some extra protection from the cool air coming up, but me and my Dog Sadie slept soundly, warmly and comfortably in our big bright Grand Trunk hammock. Not to mention safely- those trunk straps are so secure! My friend has a four season sleeper hammock and had to go inside the car at 2:30 AM because she was too cold- and her hammock is MADE for that purpose! I was definitely proud of my gear- which is very important to me.
It's also pretty packable. The straps come in a different package- but There's enough room to consolidate into the hammocks main stuffer pouch (especially for backpacking like we were planning). If I had one criticism it would be that the hammock is kind of heavy compared to the ones I've had before. But they also don't have the hardware that Grand Trunk offers or the weight capacity- so I guess it's just a trade off. Totally fair.
All in all- I'm so happy to have been given the opportunity to test this company out and give it a 5 out of 5 ranger review. The hammock did great in below freezing weather, is easy to set up, jazzes my campsite right up and most importantly- My dog loves it. Will most certainly be recommending it to my Friends. Grab your own Hammock Here:
There are 2 Bally Creek sites…this is the NORTH one. Just off the Superior Hiking Trail and about 1/4 mile from a parking area.
When you get to the site, you ascend up a little hill to an area that has plenty of trees for hammocks. Not to mention, a great big pine that's perfect for hanging your food, because it's a decent bit away from the tent pad area and fire ring. Up another little path, you get to the tent pads (1 bigger and potentially 2 smaller) and more trees for hammocks. The fire ring has a nice little bench around it, and there seems to be a resident chipmunk that thoroughly enjoys sharing your meals. The privy is just down the hill and is very clean and private.
The only complaint I have (and it's not really a big deal) is that the trail is so close to the site, that if it's a busy weekend, you can see them coming down the hill behind the fire ring, and they all want to stop and see if it's available. But beyond that (and I'm just glad people love to hike and camp!), it's not really a bother so much as a minor thing.
Oh…and it's super easy to get to! About a 1/4 mile from a parking area, so just far enough off the road, but close enough if you need something. Great for a family with little ones! Water is just down the path in a little stream.