Midway between Welches and Government Camp, I picked Camp Creek as a my Mt. Hood hiking base for the weekend because of it's proximity to access Mirror Lake for a morning hike for a true test of my new vivobarefoot hiking shoes (see below) Note: Mirror Lake does have its own primitive walk-in campsites.
The campground is 2 loops. The loop to the left includes the day use area, and the loop to the right is smaller and quieter. It was still pretty cold at this elevation end of May, so most other campers here were RVs and we had plenty to pick from without reservations (this will not be the case in the summer or holiday weekends). Site 10 was our pick, on the quieter loop with proximity to the bathroom and water pump and alongside the creek. The water pump is an adventure. Recommend to stop by the Safeway in Sandy en-route and carry in your own water.
Nearly all of the sites are huge, and all include picnic table and fire ring. The first site when you enter the campground on the left has a gorgeous stone fire place/chimney that remains from an old building (a tradeoff for the high traffic). There is one toilet in each loop, so there is a bit of a walk to the loo from some sites.
This campground is a good National Forest campground. What makes it great to me is its location right off of Hwy 26. You can easily access Government Camp for supplies, and it's super accessible for an early morning start on any of the Mt. Hood hikes that get really crowded. Mirror Lake has very very limited parking and it's a super popular hike, so this was a perfect solution.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time - on this trip to Camp Creek I tested a pair of VivoBarefoot Primus Trail SG barefoot hiking shoes. SG stand for the Soft Ground sole which I chose since I'm Oregon hiking in often in wet and muddy areas.
Testing these shoes at Camp Creek let me try out the Primus Trail both for practicality in the campground as well as in action on the trail at the nearby Mirror Lake and Tom Dick & Harry Peak.
I hike quite often, and mostly do so in my running shoes since I really dislike really bulky and heavy hiking boots. I'm always searching for a better option, and have tried barefoot running in the past, so when the opportunity presented itself to test out a pair of VivoBarefoot shoes, I didn't hesitate.
I had a hard time choosing which shoes, but decided on the Primus Trail SG because of the extra traction on the sole, and I wasn't disappointed. (There is a water version as well that looks great for a SUP/Hiking/Camping trifecta, and a full ankle boot for hiking that also look amazing)
I loved that the vivobarefoot shoes are so lightweight. It truly is like you aren't wearing shoes, yet the traction of the SG is amazing. I tested them to the max by climbing up boulders, rocky trails, and navigating log crossings.
Since I'm not a regular at hiking or running barefoot, I followed the beginner instructions online to make sure I didn't over do it and get injured. I wore the shoes around a few days to get used to them before the trip, and around the camp ground with no problem. Since I didn't have time to break them in on short hikes, I did the first half of my 7 mile hike in them, then switched into my normal running shoes- which felt so heavy afterwards. Since this first hike, I've added a mile or two each time before the shoe switch. The goal is that I'll be able to do a full 10 mile hike in them soon. I've found it easiest to get used to the front of the foot strike going up-hill.
I really loved is that these shoes fold up to almost nothing. You could literally store these hiking shoes in your purse (which is totally something I'd do). They fit in the waterbottle pocket of my day pack, and in the pocket of my travel hammock (a big campground win for summer hammock camping shoe storage).
Wearing them around the campground, my favorite part was that they are so low profile that I could put on and take off my bottom layer of sweatpants over my shorts without having to take off my shoes. This came in really handy since it was chilly when we arrived and I didn't have to waste time taking my shoes off and doing a full change before getting set up.
If you're a cold person like me, it is worth noting that the minimalist nature of these shoes aren't exactly designed to keep your feet warm. When I was moving I was fine, but sitting at the summit of my hike (where there were still patches of snow), my sock-less toes were pretty cold (I wasn't wearing socks).
Size-wise, I ordered by European size off of the size chart and the fit is pretty true on this style. They felt a little big in the toe box when I first tried them, but that's just because barefoot shoes give your toes more space. Now that I'm used to them, they feel perfect.
The only problem is that I really liked wearing them around the house, and now they're all dirty from hiking. I'm thinking about getting the Primus Lite Women's next :)
Sipsey is one of the real jewels of Alabama for backpacking and you really feel like you are in another world while wandering though these woods. There are so many different trail loops and through each you can see lots of different streams and waterfalls. The major advantage to backpacking in Sipsey is that there are tons and tons of campgrounds. You hike along the river and almost every quarter mile you come across a set up campground and each is more beautiful than the last. We did a backpacking trip with friends here in the middle of the summer and it sure was hot. Luckily though the rivers made for a great way to cool off. Just make sure to check the weather in advance cause the rivers can be dried up the wrong time of year or you can get heavy rain. The weather in Alabama can change at any moment.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to test products. At this campground, I tested the Tentsile Connect Tree Tent. I got it as a graduation gift and it is one of the coolest tents I have ever used.
After using it both car camping and backpacking my favorite things about the tent are:
Sinkhole Campground is relatively small compared to most of the campgrounds in this area. There are a total of 26 sites, and 13 of them can be reserved online in advance. These sites are spread over 2 loops, and each loop has 1 bathroom building with a men’s and women’s side. There is a campground host at the entrance, as well as an above ground water source (it does not claim to be drinking water but the info on Recreation.gov says it is drinking water). There are also dumpsters, but they have a sign saying it costs $3 per bag of trash to use them.
The bathrooms are nothing fancy, but they were clean, had toilet paper, working locks, air freshener, and they were regularly maintained. The vault toilets have the smallest seats I’ve ever seen, but again… they were clean. There was a “sewage” smell for about 10 feet around the bathroom building, but absolutely no smell inside other than the air freshener.
The campground was laid out in a different way than I’ve seen in any other campground, but it seems to work. Each site from 1-13 (as far as I noticed) was designed to be passenger side facing in a circular design that means you are not walking out to face your neighbor doing the same. We stayed in site 5, which is considered a group site with site 4. Thankfully, we were there with 2 other families, and we had both site 4 and site 5. Honestly, if we had been in either site without being there with the other family it would have been awkward. I’ve posted pictures because it will be very hard to explain. Basically, it’s 2 parking spaces that are extra-long, and one has an extra 10 feet at the back so the idea is that both RVs will open about 5 feet apart.
The campground is roughly a half-mile walk from the Willow Springs Lake. We ventured to the lake a few times and I swear each attempt to get to or from the lake resulted in a different path taken. It was odd to think, but I do not believe that these are highly traveled paths since there are multiple places you can drive right up to the lake and many of the trails looked overgrown. If you stay at Sinkhole, I strongly suggest you check out the lake. It was very pretty even with the water being roughly 5 or 6 feet low. We went fishing a few times and caught a few small trout, hiked about a quarter way around the lake, found a geocache, and just enjoyed the scenery.
As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time. On this trip, I tested the Women’s OOriginal Sandal. The OOFOS sandals (or flip flops as I can’t help but call them) are kind of amazing. They claim to be recovery shoes. I had NO idea what that meant until I had them. Basically, these are meant to be worn after any type of high impact activity such as running, hiking or anything else that keeps you on your feet for an extended period of time. I’ve been wearing them daily for the last week. I’ve worn other shoes to work and then come home to my OOFOS… amazing. I’ve worn my OOFOS to work.,.,. amazing. I’ve gone hiking for a few miles then come back to camp and put on my OOFOS… amazing.
These sandals claim to float and be washing machine safe. I did actually put them in the lake, and, thankfully, they do float. They aren’t so buoyant that you can’t walk in the water with them but they aren’t like trying to step on a boogey board. Bottom line is if they end up in the water they will float. I think this adds to the “perfect” checklist for any boater because who loves being out in the lake and losing their stuff!? I’ve also put them through my washing machine and they have come out the other side much better than when they went in. I have a High Efficiency set which often means “really” dirty stuff like these shoes won’t come out clean on the first wash but these look pretty good! Also, there is no degradation of the material or the structural integrity of the sandal.
I can’t truly tell you what the sandals are made of… but it’s a high density foam of some sort. They are soft enough that you would want to believe they are memory foam, but they don’t hold your shape when you take them off. The shoes are very supportive and when you take them off they instantly retain their original shape. They have arch support, which for me is often a bad thing. I generally have flat feet but the arch support on these is comforting and actually worth wearing. There is a pattern on the inside of the sandal which gives you grip when your feet are wet or slippery. They also have tread on the bottom of the sandal that will prevent you from slipping in slick conditions. I wore them around camp for a few days and had no issues with the dirt, asphalt, pine needles, etc.
Overall, I have fallen in love with my OOFOS. They are great for day-to-day wear and amazing for recovery wear. The wide range of color choices means you can easily find a pair that will fit in with your style. The foam is supportive and easily beats out any general flip flop for comfort in daily wear. I’ve used them after 8 hours of standing on hard wood… I’ve used them after 8 hours at the office… I’ve used them after 4 hours of hiking… and I’ve used them just because… and all of these are amazing.
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.