the dyrt
Ashley F.
Lawrence, KS
Joined September 2017
Always looking for a trail to hike, a mountain to climb, and a place to pitch a tent.
Primitive Sites & Beautiful Views

Sam's Throne Recreation Area really is a hidden gem, even for the non-climbers out there. We started a five day camping trip on a Saturday and sure enough, as we had already heard about this place's weekend popularity, the sites were packed. Many groups out there taking advantage of the beautiful March weather to hit the rock and explore all the many jaw-dropping routes on and around Sam's rocky Throne. Once the weekend ended though, there were an average of 2 or 3 other occupied sites in the area throughout the week.

Me, my boyfriend and our dog must have been the only non-climbers out there, which was completely fine because there really is SO MUCH to do and see. There are a number of trails outside the main established trails (see picture of trail map). Our second day there we spent eight hours skirting along the bluffs and exploring what looked like beautiful fairy lands.

The weather was perfect (high 50's/low 60's during the days and down to low 40's at night) and the bugs were almost non-existent (but we still defended ourselves from ticks with spray and covered legs).

We spent every day we were there exploring new spots and areas because the stretch of land is endless. What's nice is you can also drive 20 or so miles out to other beautiful spots like Pedestal Rock Scenic Area and Alum Cove Natural Bridge. We hopped on the Ozark Highland Trail for about six miles starting at the nearby Fairview Campground (which I highly recommend!).

And of course, don't forget to check out THE Sam's Throne, which is still accessible for those not harnessed and roped up. There is a climbable route that is fairly easy to moderate and allows you to access the throne and all it's glory. There are even a couple of fire rings up there which would definitely make for some breathtaking tent views. I may be partial to this place now because I happened to get engaged on the Throne at sunset during our last night there, and I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful experience.

I highly recommend this area, this forest, and hell the whole state for a great camping experience!

Beautiful Late Summer Arkansas Camping

Went with a large group out to the Buffalo River and camped at Carver for the weekend. Absolutely beautiful area! The entire campground wasn't that big, but that's probably because our group took up a majority of the sites. The sites has fire pits, picnic tables, and plenty of room to spread out and relax. Each morning after waking up and cooking breakfast we explored the beautiful bluffs, swam in the river, hiked the trails, and peered out into the majestic valleys from the mountain tops (especially Mt. Judea which is a good distance South of the campground). I definitely recommend this spot!

First to Review
Caney Bend in Early Summer

I had a nice, one-night experience at the Caney Bend campground. I did not take advantage of Copan lake, but I noticed there was a boat ramp which would be a great amenity for someone with a boat/kayak/canoe. Saw a great amount of wildlife such as birds, woodland critters and even a lizard. I saw one other camper during my time here. Beautiful, early Summer, Oklahoma weather and gorgeous night sky. I gave this site four stars because even though it was a nice experience it wasn't anything special, in my opinion. However, I would be interested in returning and having a full camping/hiking experience instead of just passing through like last time. Also hopefully my device won't be dead like last time so I can actually take pictures of the area. Give this place a try!

Ranger Review: Ledlenser MH2 Headlamp at Ozark Campground, AR

Ozark Campground is a simple loop of campsites with great sandy river beaches a minutes walk outside the campground. Nestled alongside the Buffalo National River, Ozark is accessible yet hidden at the same time. We chose this area for a perfect weekend getaway and for an exquisite Autumn camping trip. This was also the perfect time try out my new Ledlenser MH2 Headlamp.

Campground Review:

The sites are first-come-first-serve and cost $12 a night (with a maximum of 6 people per site). There are toilets and water spigots around the campground, but no showers. I set up camp at site #4 which was right along the treeline and had plenty of hammocking spots. Each site has a table, fire ring, grill and hook to hang your food or trash.

When we were there, the campground was manned by a friendly older gentleman who pointed us toward the vacant flat areas since we drove in late at night. The campground has a picnic/day use areas, beaches and lots of nature trails (for hiking and horseback riding). We went on a weekend in mid-October and there were probably about 10-15 other sites being used while we were there for 2 nights. So it is a pretty popular spot but I can definitely see why. The weather was fantastic with cool Fall nights in the 40's and nice warm days anywhere from 60 to 75 degrees. This is a great spot for a family getaway. I highly recommend it!

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Product Review:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to test products. At Ozark Campground, I tested the MH2 Headlamp by Ledlenser. I happen to already have a headlamp, which I got for cheap at a local outfitter store. The MH2 blew my headlamp out of the water! I decided to do the nice thing and give the MH2 to my partner in crime since he has yet to own a headlamp, but by the end of the trip I was full of regrets for not giving him my old one! :)

What I loved about this headlamp:

  1. The focus is unbelievable. First of all, my old headlamp has zero focusing capabilities. The MH2 allows you to target anything in the distance. At our campsite, we spotted with the bright setting an animal in the bushes. We were able to focus the beam on whatever animal it was and we were able to see perfectly a little armadillo staring back at us! I looked at the same thing with my old headlamp and barely saw anything but its eyes.
  2. Bright as hell! Enough said!
  3. So easy to use, with its tilting head for seeing the ground in front of you as well as the three easy-to-set settings (bright, dim, and strobe).
  4. It's so light and comfortable for being such a handy piece of equipment!

We will be definitely be using the Ledlenser MH2 for all of our outdoor adventures in the future!

Ranger Review: Ledlenser MH2 Headlamp at Steel Creek Campground, AR

Steel Creek is a simple strip of campsites with a beautiful backdrop of the Ponca bluffs. Nestled alongside the Buffalo National River, Steel Creek is accessible yet hidden at the same time. We chose this area for a perfect weekend getaway and for an exquisite Autumn camping trip. This was also the perfect time try out my new Ledlenser MH2 Headlamp.

Campground Review:

The sites are first-come-first-serve an cost $12 a night (with a maximum of 6 people per site). When I arrived the board read CAMPING FULL, but when I went to the campground I found it to be pretty empty. There are toilets and water spigots around the campground, but no showers. I set up camp at site #16 which was out in the open and provided us the best seats for the nighttime sky. Each site has a table, fire ring, grill and hook to hang your food or trash. Most sites had good trees for hammocking! The sites along the treeline were just a minute's walk down to the river.

The campground is well maintained with lots of picnic/day use areas, a beach and lots of nature trails (for hiking and horseback riding). We went on a weekend in mid-October and there were probably about 5 to 8 other sites being used (with plenty of vacancy still). The weather was fantastic with cool Fall nights in the 40's and nice warm days anywhere from 60 to 75 degrees.I noticed that other campers brought their dogs and one site even erected a volleyball net. This is a great spot for a family getaway.

My favorite part of this campground though were the trails, which we actually researched on the Dyrt and planned our entire trip around them. Right from the Steel Creek campground we took the Old River Trail (abbreviated as ORT on trail posts) up to the Centerpoint trailhead, which happens to have its own parking lot since it is a pretty popular hiking trail. We then took Centerpoint all the way to a crossing with multiple trails in multiple directions. However, the Goat trail was the one we were looking for as it had been described as a difficult trail with a breathtaking view. Please refer to the pictures I have posted to see how narrow this trail is along the face of the bluffs with a sharp drop down the mountain. Watch you step!! At the end of the goat trail, we took the Buffalo River Trail (BRT) right back to the campground. This was such a great experience. I would love to try more primitive camping outside of the campground off the trail as I did see a number of fire rings in some very ideal spots. Again, take a look at the pictures and give this campsite a go!

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Product Review:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get to test products. At Steel Creek, I tested the MH2 Headlamp by Ledlenser. I happen to already have a headlamp, which I got for cheap at a local outfitter store. The MH2 blew my headlamp out of the water! I decided to do the nice thing and give the MH2 to my partner in crime since he has yet to own a headlamp, but by the end of the trip I was full of regrets for not giving him my old one! :)

What I loved about this headlamp:

  1. The focus is unbelievable. First of all, my old headlamp has zero focusing capabilities. The MH2 allows you to target anything in the distance. At our campsite, we spotted with the bright setting an animal in the bushes. We were able to focus the beam on whatever animal it was and we were able to see perfectly a little armadillo staring back at us! I looked at the same thing with my old headlamp and barely saw anything but its eyes.
  2. Bright as hell! Enough said!
  3. So easy to use, with its tilting head for seeing the ground in front of you as well as the three easy-to-set settings (bright, dim, and strobe).
  4. It's so light and comfortable for being such a handy piece of equipment!

We will be definitely be using the Ledlenser MH2 for all of our outdoor adventures in the future!

Caves, Boardwalks, and Turtles - Oh my!

In the month of August I took a solo trip out to Columbia, MO to spend the entire day immersed in the beautiful Columbia landscape. I first heard about the cave systems, especially the infamous Devil's Icebox. And I had seen pictures of these beautiful wooden boardwalks that meander through the trees. When I arrived, I noticed that there were a ton of beautiful primitive trails besides the well-constructed boardwalks. And I also learned that there were even more caves, such as Connor's Cave. A number of families with little children ran around enjoying the boardwalks, ascending and descending the stairs built into the hills. I found the Devil's Icebox and was rejoiced by how remarkably cool it was (56 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact!) compared to the thick, humid summer air. I explored some of the extensive primitive trails, first by hiking and then by trail running. There are beautiful sights along the way, from wildlife to old, abandoned silos. The trails were marked by distance and difficulty, ranging from easy to challenging. I have yet to take on any camping out here. I had read that they charge non-profit groups and scouts a very small fee per person. I will have to go back and set up camp in these woods. I highly recommend exploring this park for the adventurous as well as the next family outing!

Grabbing a quick cabin

Me along with four other friends spent several days tent camping around the Colorado Springs area. On our last night of travel, our camping plans fell through and we needed to find a convenient place late at night to rest. We ended up at the KOA and took advantage of one of their adorable little cabins. All five of us spent the night, actually pretty comfortably, and got a great night's sleep. All and all a very positive experience at the KOA's wonderful, clean facilities.

Tucked away lakeside

This has been a favorite spot of mine since I was in college. From hauling a 30pk down to the water in my 20's to hiking and exploring this beautiful expansive area in my 30's, I have to admit that Rockhaven is a special place that never disappoints. Now I have yet to camp out here mainly because most of the official campsites are non-primitive, but also we haven't taken the time to clear out our own space off the trail. The trails are fantastic and winding and give you a relaxing hike with a sweat. Until I go find that perfect campsite, I'll rate this a 4 due to my lack of full experience. But don't miss out on these trails and on this hidden gem.

For your next family outing

A large group of us reserved one of these sites for a big ole campout. Our spot had a shelter with multiple tables, a grill, and a fire pit. We were tucked away and not too close to neighbors. The water was easily accessible from the trail nearby. I definitely recommend this area, especially if you plan on a fun family bbq and camping trip.

That view out your tent

We stayed here for just a night but this spot really won my heart. Open space, clean showers and facilities, a cute cafe and even a gift shop. But nothing beat that gorgeous view of the Tower right from the comforts of our own tent. Then hiking around Devil's Tower the rest of the day was icing on the cake. Definitely my best KOA experience, hands down.

My go-to campground in the mountains

This past August was my first time experiencing this Homestake Reservoir area. Homestake Road is your gateway to a variety of off-road and primitive camping sites in the beautiful White River National Forest. We spent two nights here, each night at a different campsite. One site was just right off the road and the other was one that involved walking up the mountain onto a beautiful, scenic landing. We found one trail and spent the day ascending the gorgeous mountain, which I believe was Homestake Peak. The change in landscape ascending the mountain was one of the most beautiful sites I've ever seen. I plan on returning to this area the next several times I visit Colorado because there is too much to see and experience at the beautiful Homestake Reservoir.

Serene paddling

This park is one of my favorite nearby spots to take the kayak out and just float. Paddling through these channels is such a dreamy experience. Kayaks and canoes are available to rent as well. I have yet to camp out here but I'd love to crawl out of my tent and spend dawn out on these waters.

Custer and all its glory

The center lake campground is the only spot I've stayed at in Custer State Park and I hope to get to camp at all the other campgrounds. This was such a wonderful experience. I personally prefer primitive camping but this area was so beautiful and the campsite was so easy to reserve. Each little site had its own picnic table and fire pit. We had to set up camp and cook dinner late at night, but the campground was so organized that it made it simple to navigate in the dark. There are endless trails and areas to explore in the entire park that it deserves a good whole week to experience it all! I look forward to making our next trip back.

Home away from home

This place is definitely a weekend destination for my little family and I. The trail is probably easy to moderate and there are an endless number of areas to explore. There are several campsites in the parking lot area and then there are 15 more primitive sites along the trail. It's highly suggested that you explore off the trail though so that you can 1) see all the creative campsites that campers have built and established and 2) you can create your own living space. Woodridge is never over crowded unless it's a holiday, so more often than not you could camp the whole weekend and potentially not see another person. I highly recommend you to take a little vacation at this park and enjoy what nature has to offer!