Annie C.
St Charles , MO
Joined July 2016
I'm a hiker, explorer, road tripper, and camper with wanderlust in my veins.
Basic camping close to a cool town

Just outside Saratoga Springs, this campground has the basics on a lake. Tent sites are out in the open with no privacy and few trees for hanging a hammock. However, there are pretty good views of the lake. Sites have picnic tables and fire pits, and the vault toilet was pretty basic. If you need a shower, go into town to the free hot springs and take a shower for free (altho in a very prison like atmosphere). Be sure to spend some time in the hot springs pools, or go down to the river to soak in cooler water. Plenty of restraunts in town to get a great bite to eat, and there is even a microbrewery at the local spa/lodge/resort.

Breezy Green River camping in the Gorge

A great campground set down along the Green River. This is a loop set up, with each site nicely spaced with plenty of sage between sites for privacy. Most sites have their own covered picnic table (some share a covered area divided by a wall), and all have at least a picnic table and firepit. Some campsites have better views of the River (which kinda looks like a lake), but those sites seemed to be a bit more windy. The shower house was clean if a bit outdated. Nearby is a nice day use area with a boat launch and fish cleaning station. I stayed here two nights since I liked the privacy and quiet at night while I checked out the gorge and looked for wild horses in the day.

Illinois Berkshire Feel

This is an amazing full service type private campground. Everything you could want is here: there is a creek with tent sites along it, there are RV sites with full hookups, there are cute little cabins, and there are even yurts! There is a general store where you check in, and if you get there after it closes, they leave directions on the door for reserved sites and info on how to get a non reserved site. There is a nice pavilion, a game room/club house, basketball court, fishing pond, firewood for sale, and a few short trails. I felt like I was in the Berkshires instead of northern Illinois since most of the buildings down by the creek were whitewashed with green trim. Even though sites are close together, it still felt a bit private at the tent only sites on the creek. Up top it was more open with kids running around and playing everywhere. The rates are somewhat pricey ($28 for primitive sites), but include showers in the super clean (looks brand new!) bath house.

Camping in the woods along the Wisconsin River

On the Wisconsin River, there are four “loops” of campsites, with some on the river side of the road and some off the river. The main RV loop looked crowded, but it is also where the very clean bathhouse is located. There are restrooms on the other three loops, but they are not as updated as the main bathrooms and bathhouse in the RV loop. Most of the tents were put on the sites around the ballfield which is across the street from the river. The good thing about that is that the dust from the ballfield seemed to keep the deer flies at bay, which was not the case on the riverside sites. It’s a good thing the road is not too busy as you have to walk along the side of the road to get to the shower house from the other camp loops. There is a nice dock that is a good spot to watch the sun set over the river if you can stand the bugs.

Party resort camping

This is a private “resort” type campground with something for everyone, except peace and quiet and privacy. This is a mostly RV campground with a handful of tent sites wedged in almost as an afterthought. I stopped in and talked with the campground personnel for a while before getting a tour of grounds. There are several loops with lots of long term campers/RVers. There were some cute cabins and even yurts. Behind the office was a large pond with a sand beach, lots of blow up pool toys, a bar, and volleyball, plus there are trikes and bikes available after you play mini-golf. There was an extensive calendar of events for the campers to enjoy including a chili cook-off and activities just for the kiddos (including a water ballon filling station!). This is the place to go if you are looking for a party type campground. Be careful when you arrive and drive to your site as kids are running around and riding their bikes everywhere! The campground has several bath houses scattered between the loops and all were kept very clean.

City Campground on Lake Superior

Another great little “city” campground right on Lake Superior. This is a first come first serve campground- no reservations. However, campers have the option of staying the entire season if they want to pay up front for it (May to October). The bath house has pay showers and is cleaned daily. The sites are arranged in rows that work their way down towards the lake. There are very few trees and no privacy even though sites are large and well spaced. There is a nice play area and beach, and it is obvious from the huge carved trout which fish reigns here. Most of the campers were using trailers and RVs and taking advantage of the cable tv service that comes with electric sites, and all sites have access to the free wifi. There were few tent only campers, probably because there is no privacy at this campground and supposedly there are nicely treed sites at the nearby Memorial Campground (I did not camp there, so I am only going on what my host said).

Nice wooded campground

Stayed here one night while driving home from Lake Superior. I found this to be a pricey evening as you have to pay for a day use fee as well as a camping fee. But, it was all in all a nice campground. The shower house was clean, the campsites were wooded and well spaced out, and there were a couple of trails that went from the campground to the beach, boat ramps, or in the opposite direction, just nice walking/hiking trails. There seemed to be plenty of spots along the Wisconsin River or on Alexander Lake to fish if that’s your thing and you have a license. You can buy firewood up front at the ranger station. The park road went behind my campsite between me and the river, but it wasn’t too noisy as it was set back about 100 yards from the campground and there were plenty of trees to break the noise.

Spectacular scenery and great access to hiking trails

The entire Gooseberry Falls State Park and campground were built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The stone work is amazing! There are great hiking trails along the waterfalls as well as away from the water along the Superior Trail (which was developed long after the CCC work ended). The campground has nice sized private campsites, newer and clean modern showers and bathrooms. The campground is very popular and fills up fast, so you might want to make reservations. Supposedly there are one or two kayak in sites at the mouth of the river, but I did not check it out. This park is VERY busy with visitors who want to see and play in the falls. But it is easy to escape the crowds- just head out on one of the hiking trails away from the falls and you will have the place to yourself.

Everything you need on the lake

Two Harbors is a neat little deep port town on Lake Superior with a very busy campground just on the edge of town. The campground overlooks the lake and a few lucky sites have lake access. Most sites in the main campground are tiny and on top of each other, and most people were camping with RV’s or campers, though not all sites have hookups. There is an auxiliary RV area across the street from the beach where all sites have hookups, but it is in the full sun and the pull through sites are right next to each other. The bathroom is clean, considering how many people have to use it. It seemed that there were campground staff buzzing around on golf carts constantly to see to the needs of the campgrounds. Firewood, ice, t-shirts, and other sunderies are available for purchase at the campground store, but you are not far from the grocery stores for your bigger needs. I found the campground to be loud, but that might just be because there is nowhere for noise to dissipate between sites since they are on top of each other.

Busy City Park

Wedged between the St Louis River, the highway, and a ceiling tile factory, this campground has four tent sites on the edge of the river with the rest of the campground having full hookup sites for RV’s. It is a popular campground as I got the last tent site- the last site in the entire campground- at 2 in the afternoon. There is a snowmobile trail going over the river and into the woods that is a nice walking/hiking trail in the warmer months. The bridge over the river is too high to fish from, but there seemed to be lots of places along the river that you could toss a line from. Watch out for ATV’s and bicyclists as they also use the bridge to access trails. The camp host will get you the code for the really nice, clean bathhouse that has free showers for campers. If you are tent camping you will need to park either at the bathhouse or in the park lot outside the campground as you cannot park in the tent sites, which are essentially walk in. But it is a short walk. There aren’t any hammock appropriate trees in the tent area which is basically a mowed lawn, but there are a few trees to provide some shade.

Fish and camp on Rend Lake

One of the first campgrounds that you come to at Rend Lake when you get off the highway, this campground has lots of positives and few negatives. Among the positives is that this is a large campground with two loops and two spurs for camping. It didn’t seem to matter where your site was, each was fairly small, on top of each other, and lacking the privacy I like when tent camping. That being said, every site has electric (a plus), and every site looked well maintained. There are quite a few sites on the lake or with lake views, and these seemed to be the most coveted sites. My site was on the lake with a down slope reaching down to the tent/picnic pad (a concern if it was going to rain hard), and littered with sweet gum balls that had not been swept up yet. However, I had plenty of space at my site (#79) to spread out and relax. It was pretty neat to look at the exposed roots of trees along the shore, erosion at work. Not far from the campground is a picnic area and the boat launch. One of the down sides is that you can clearly hear the highway from the campground, and of course if you have a lake site, you will have plenty of boat noise. Speaking of boats, most people seemed to be fishing. The campground does not have a fish cleaning station in it but up near the golf course (you drive past it to get to the campground) there is an almost new looking fish cleaning station.

Great lake views here

I tried to camp here in the primitive tent area, however the primitive campground was closed and I could not find anyone who could tell me when or if it would reopen. There was a sign stating it was closed in October due to staffing issues. So I took a drive through the Class A campground just to see it. Here’s what I discovered: the primitive section is far removed from the Class A (by a mile or two). The Class A section is HUGE! There were several loops and spurs, including one set aside for volunteers only and one that was for Reserve America only (I’ve never seen that before). I am guessing that the primitive section has some lake access or views like the Class A section does (and the lake views are great!). Looks like a burn was done recently to clear out brush and fall leaves along the backs of a couple of loops.  There is a bike trail that seems to go throughout the park but is in pretty bad shape. I would not use a good bike on this and would bring some patches and spare tubes. All sites had the requisite picnic tables and fire rings. There were two campground host sites, but no one seemed on duty to answer my questions. All of the spring flowers were blooming in the woods along the bike trail, which was nice to look at as I bounced down the lanes.

Working on being spectacular

This is a beautiful park with tons of great hiking trails and amazing waterfalls. The campground is also really nice, and very popular. It was sold out the day I was there. I was surprised it was sold out considering there was no water, no showers, and no toilets due to major construction to fix the plumbing of the entire campground and to build new bathrooms. The campground is set up with a series of loops in a wooded area, so most campsites have nice privacy. You need to check in at the ranger station to get your campsite and learn about the water problems/solutions, as well as pay for your site and pay for the day use permit. I was kind of glad it was sold out as I found it to be very pricy for a campground that had no water or toilets (they did have porta potties). But, the hiking trails and waterfalls were definitely worth the visit.

Great camping near the Apostle Islands

Right on Lake Superior! The campground name was a bit confusing as it is also called The Town of Clover Campground, but most of the signage seems to say Herbster Campground, so that is what we will go with. The RV campground section is up front on a large lot with views of the lake (if you are in the front row). Across the street are a few tent sites right on the beach, as well as a few on the main campground side of the street. There is a nice loop going back into the woods that has most of the tent/small trailer sites. You get your pick- sand flies on the beach or skeeters in the woods. The campground overall is well maintained and very private- everything was well mowed to keep bugs down, and the sites in the woods were well spaced so that most sites are out of sight from each other. The shower house is in a newer shower trailer- sounds weird, but they were actually very nice and obviously cleaned daily. There was a sink station outside the shower trailer for cleaning dishes. I think I saw a fish cleaning station too. Most tent sites seemed to have electric (bonus!) and all had picnic tables and fire rings. They are pretty strict about firewood- it must be local! They have some wood for sale but also had recommendations for where to purchase nearby. This is a first come first serve campground that doesn’t take reservations, which is nice so close to the busy Apostle Islands. This is the place to come as it is much quieter than some of the campgrounds closer to the Islands. There is a boat launch about 5 minutes away that is reasonably priced if you have your own boat for exploring the islands/sea caves.

Nice little county park

This was an interesting little campground sandwiched between the road and the Trempealeau River. The backstory on the park is that the gentleman who originally owned the land had asked that when he died that it be preserved as a wildlife area. His death came much sooner than anyone thought, and the family worked with the county to donate the land to the county as a park. There are about six tent only sites set back near the river, with three of them in close proximity to each other (I think it is used as a group camping area). When I was there the sites were poorly maintained and only had two fire pits and tables for all six sites combined. There are 25ish RV type sites with either just electric or electric and water. Some of these sites are set up back to back in an open field, which is not very appealing. The grass had been let to grow very long before the recent cutting, so it was like walking through freshly mown hay. There is a horse arena (very muddy when I was there), and it looks like you can camp with your horses on the edge of the RV area. The showers were really nice and fairly new.

Great Privacy in Great Park

I set up in site 110 for the night at this nicely wooded campground. My site was very private, set back in the trees and very clean. I had large and small trees and underbrush making it impossible to see the site next to me in one direction, and no one occupying the site on the other side. With the car in the drive blocking the road, I had complete privacy. There was a short walk to porta potties and a nice walk to the modern, clean bath house. The site had the usual picnic table and fire pit and plenty of space to put my tent. There were some sites that sat in a meadow that completely lacked privacy, but with tons of space for kids to play. There is a camp store near the entrance to the campground, but I didn’t go in so I’m not sure what it’s stocked with (besides the ice in the cooler outside). Campers who like to imbibe beware: NO alcohol is permitted at this campground. There are some GREAT trails for hiking in the park, but be prepared for lots of stairs on the boardwalks that take you in and out of the canyons/ravines. I didn’t hike up to the actual “Starved Rock”, but you can observe it from the river bank.

Lakeside camping

Ranger Review Primus LiTech Trek Kettle at Dam West Campground

Campground Review

What a great campground on the shore of Carlyle Lake! Right next to the marina and with many sites right on the lake, you can’t go wrong here. Sites looked a bit more level on the inside of the loop than the lakeside sites, but I guess that’s the price you pay for real estate. My site was not the most level, but only steps from the beach with a few trees that might work for hammocking. The site was really clean and had plenty of space, with a nice paved parking pad, fire pit, picnic table, and electric hook up (all sites have electric!). Across the drive was a nice amphitheater and playground and a basic bathroom. The fairly clean shower house for the whole campground is up near the entrance (it also has a laundry room, but I did not check it out). The campground host for this summer is super nice and is likely to visit for a bit as he buzzes around on his scooter. There is a bike path that goes right past the campground that was busy all weekend with bikers, runners, and walkers, and takes you from the shower house to the marina in just a short walk.

Gear Review

Primus LiTech Trek Kettle As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I get new gear to review. On this camping trip I tested out the Primus LiTech Trek Kettle. I have to say, this may be my new favorite cooking pot. It is the perfect size for one person (which works well as I frequently camp solo). I used it to heat up some frozen chili for dinner and then used it again in the morning to heat water for oatmeal. Here’s what I liked:

  • The kettle holds just a bit more than a liter of water (or chili), which is about all you need to make coffee, heat large single servings of food, or just about anything
  • It’s non-stick, so clean-up is a breeze and doesn’t retain odors
  • The handles fold out and are easy to grip, and fold around the pot for easy out of the way storage
  • Its super light weight (perfect for backpacking)
  • Even though it was taller than wide, water heated up in it very quickly
  • My little fuel canister fits inside perfectly with almost no rattling
  • Primus included a nice carrying bag that fits the pot and has a small bit of room to spare Here’s what baffled me:
  • The lid doubles as a tiny nonstick frying pan. But it is big enough for maybe one egg. It is so small that I am not exactly sure what you could make in it. I understand the desire to make the lid “usable”, but maybe a regular lid with a colander built in would have been more useful.
  • The lid is not a great fit, and when packing up for storage, it kept sliding off.

Despite the weird frying pan lid, I am really happy with the LiTech Kettle. It meets all of my needs in a lightweight package. It is easy to clean up, packs small, has good handles, and is a great addition to my camp cooking arsenal.

Ranger Review of Rom Outdoors Vertical Limits Ski Pants at Lake Glendale

Located in the Shawnee National Forest, this sweet little campground has it all. Wooded, semi private sites (at least for tents), full hook ups for RV’s, great campground hosts, CCC buildings, new shower house, amazing trails at Lake Glendale and other nearby areas. Even on a rainy afternoon, there were plenty of campers at Lake Glendale, which resulted in us not getting a preferred site (46) but a perfectly good site instead (49). The sites were spotless and well maintained, with some having space under the trees for tents and some having just gravel pads. Our site was close to, but not on, the lake with easy access via trails. There were a few sites with good lake views, with the majority of those in the RV loop. The trail around the lake is about 3 miles; a nice hike that really gives you a good look at the park. On the hike you pass two large shelters built by the CCC as well as the boat ramp, damn, and swimming beach. For more wild hiking, go down the road 15 minutes to Bell Smith Recreation area (which has its own campground) and hike to the natural rock bridge (and climb the steel ladder), springs, or Devils Backbone.

Rom Outdoors Vertical Limits Ski Pant

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, from time to time I get gear to test and review. On this trip I tested out Rom Outdoors Vertical Ski Pant. In the midwest we rarely get snow before Thanksgiving, and our little ski hill usually doesn’t open until close to Christmas (when they have been able to make enough snow for skiing), so I felt really challenged with this product. However, with a full day of cold rain and overnight temps in the low 30’s, I gave it a real go. A few weeks later we had a sizable snow (for early November and the St Louis area) and was able to further test these out. Here’s what I found: The pants are really waterproof! I didn’t get wet at all even after setting up and taking down a tent in the rain, hiking through tall grass in the rain, and later, hiking several miles in the snow. At first I thought the pants were a bit short and almost exchanged them for a larger size. But then I realized that they are designed with length in mind for wearing ski boots. And I could adjust them a bit by adjusting the suspenders. Overall I was very happy with the ski pants, if only we could have real snow and real ski hills.

Pro’s:

  • Waterproofing is solid
  • Tons of storage pockets that have double closures (zippers and velcro) to protect your stuff; side pockets are deep and large
  • Cuff zippers to help with putting on/taking off ski boots and to vent
  • Zippered vents on insides of the thigh area
  • Adjustable, removable elastic suspenders
  • Fleece lining is super warm and removable if too warm
  • Adjustable waist with velcro as well as belt loops

Cons:

  • Unisex sizing (women are shaped different from men!); no tall sizes for slim builds
  • Only comes in one color, black
  • No reflective areas
  • The adjustable waist is only adjustable by two inches overall
Dispersed camping on the North Platte River

This tiny dispersed site is on the North Platte River with boat access and a few weedy, private sites spread out in this area tucked inside private property. Since you have to drive over private property to get here, be mindful of speed on the dirt access road and clean up after yourself. I did not camp here as all of the sites were taken but I did visit with a couple traveling from Canada. They liked how quiet it was and loved how secluded it was. They said the mosquitoes were horrific, but worth dealing with to camp in such a great spot. Just up the road is the actual public access to the river, but in the campground there is a small boat ramp that you could use to launch a small boat or canoe. I'm keeping this one on my list for future reference- free, beautiful, and secluded. Hope I can get a spot in the future.

Free camping downtown

In the city of Lander you can camp for up to three days for free at the city park. It’s a pretty good deal as the the tent area is set back behind the stadium in a nice grassy area with access to flush toilets in the parking area. It was pretty busy while I was there, with quite a few families and cyclists taking advantage of the free camping. The Popo Agie River runs next to the park which makes for a nice sound machine to fall asleep to.  If you need a shower head over to the Recreation Center and pay $5 for use of the facilities. In town are some great restaurants (Cowfish is my favorite, with a microbrewery attached), and outside of town is some great hiking in Sinks Canyon and the Shoshone National Forest.