If you come from the west beware of 129 aka the dragons tail. It is a very windy road. To get to the sites you turn on Joyce Kilmer road from 129. You will pass a few houses and several spots that looke like they almost could be camping spots but wait until you get to the official marked spots. The spots were amazing, beautiful views, lake access, nice fire pits, good tent pads. One of the best free sites I have stayed at. We stayed for two nights in August and had a fantastic time. Many of the sites were full but never all. The waterfall is on Joyce Kilmer road before you get to the campsites.
Campsite L8 was one of 30 something dispersed primitive sites scattered around Lake Santeetlah, and it was an amazing place to spend 4 nights. Our site was a quarter mile peninsula that we had to ourselves. All the sites very in size, shape, and proximity to the road and lake, and they all were nice. The lake itself is absolutely gorgeous and crystal clear! We had lots of birds and butterflies around camp. Keep your eyes out for the Tufted Titmouse a cute little grey bird resembling a Cardinal. Included in the site were a fire ring with cooking grate, picnic table, lantern pole, grill, lots of wood on the ground for fires, and trees to hang hammocks from. No toilets or water besides the lake so plan accordingly. We arrived on Thursday and all 9 sites in our area were full by Friday afternoon, so I’m guessing it tends to fill up quickly when it’s nice. Also the sites are free
This campground is absolutely gorgeous, the views of the lake are breathtaking. Especially, in the early morning. We ended up staying an extra night here because it was so peaceful and laid back. Dog friendly. The bathrooms & showers (free) can be a bit of a hike, but the lake makes it all worth it. There are sites you can boat up to and keep your boat “docked”. Had some severe thunderstorms in July.
The Nantahala National Forest, due south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is chock full of free semi-developed campsites – some are drive-up, some are boat-up, and are there are even a few large enough for sizable RV’s. J8 is one of those larger sites.
Our site has been very well-kept and is right next to the boat launch on Lake Santeetlah, at Avey Creek. This is a beautiful reservoir for fishing, canoeing, SUPing, or sea kayaking, and very close to some great hiking in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. The famous Tail of the Dragon (Highway 129) between here and Tennessee, with twists and turns and beautiful views…very popular among both cyclists and motorcyclists. The closest town is Robbinsville, NC which is about 30 minutes away and has all the basics you need. Nothing fancy or special, though the people are extremely nice.
Each of the free sites we’ve seen appear to be well-maintained with nice flat, well-drained tent pads, a fire pit, a picnic table, and 2 poles to hang lanterns, shower bags, etc. Lots of trees around for hanging hammocks, too. There are no toilets or drinking water available, so just come prepared! And, please Leave No Trace!
No reservations necessary, or even possible. These are free first-come, first-served campsites which probably fill quickly during the main season. Given that we are here in early March, the skies the limit! Check out our blog on The Dyrt's Online Magazine about our experience in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
As Rangers with The Dyrt, we’ve been taking this solar panel out on a test drive as we’ve camped in various places throughout the southeast this winter. It plugged right into our existing system, and after some retrofitting needed to attach it to the tonneau cover on our truck, we were good to go! So far, we love it!
We’ve been traveling across the country with one 80-watt solar panel mounted on the back of our Nissan Frontier for the past 5.5 years. This panel charged a deep cycle marine battery, and we used an inverter to convert the power to AC to run some of our lights, charge our laptops, charge batteries; or we simply used DC power directly from the battery to charge our cell phone, run our 12-volt fan and lights. We like having it on our truck (and removable) so that we can park our camper in the shade during the warmer months, but put the panel in the sun with an extension cord. Whether we are parked at a campground or driving down the road, if the panel is illuminated, we are gathering solar power.
The amount of power is a simple equation between how much you can collect (with your panel) and store (with your battery), and then how much you use. If you need to convert the type of electricity to AC to charge up something with a standard 3-prong plug, you lose a bit in the conversion from DC to AC. If you just need DC power to run a 12-volt fan, lights, or charge your cell phone with a USB, you get more bang for your power buck.
What we like about this product:
· It has a larger capacity than our previous panel, but with a slimmer profile and just a slightly larger footprint.
· It’s easier to manage because it folds in half for storage, if that is what you plan to do when you are not using it, and it comes with its own carrying case.
· It comes with its own kickstand! Previously, we used Hutch’s guitar stand and bungee cords to put the panel in the right orientation to the sun. Now, we just pull out the stand, set it up, and start charging.
· The carrying handle is firmly integrated into the side, making for an easy place to loop a cable through to lock it down when we leave for the day.
What could be improved:
Honestly, so far…nothing that we’ve found. It’s easy to use, robust, and does the job of collecting power from the sun.
Product Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8udSRefnwmQ&t=78s