the dyrt
Dave V.
FL
Joined August 2016
Outdoor enthusiast and lover of all things exploring, camping, backpacking, hiking, paddling and cycling. Spending 70-100 days camping each year.
Long, unobstructed views and refreshing breezes

CAMPGROUND REVIEW:: Mount Nebo State Park, Arkansas https://www.arkansasstateparks.com/parks/mount-nebo-state-park

Turning off I-40 at Exit 88, Mount Nebo is viewed less than 10 miles southwest…a stand-alone mountain.

At the base of the climb, signs posted numerous times, “Crooked and Steep, no trailers over 24 ft”. I have driven up a lot of steep and twisty mountain roads, and these warnings are to be heeded. Grades are up to 18%.

The State Park rests up its summit.constructed by the CCC, many of their stonework craftsmanship can be seen in the buildings and trail system.

The “Rim Trail” is just that…a 3 1/2 mile trail running the top rim of the mountain, with long views. There are two distinct areas of the “Rim Trail” that can be driven to…to capture those special photos…Sunset Point and Sunrise Circle.

Different sections of the Rim Trail range from easy to moderate to strenuous. They are marked. Bicycles are not permitted on the Rim Trail but are permitted on other trails as are horses. So know and exercise proper trail etiquette.

There are bear in this area, and precautions are taken by the park. Park staff informed us of numerous venomous reptilian, too…so be aware on the trails, or if you choose to wander off them.

A large rentable enclosed stone pavilion sits on the end of the mount, between Site 17 and the pool. Yes, a very nice pool (separate daily or annual fee). A standard picnic pavilion also sits out front of the larger stone pavilion beside public parking area.

The beautiful Visitor Center is deeper into the park to the right. You can sit on its back porch and look out over the valley. There are numerous cabins that are available for rental…and appear very inviting.

When you crest the top of the mountain, the camping area is directly to the right, as are the pavilions and pool. Cabins dot the summit, but private residences are interspersed among them. As mentioned, the Visitors Center is further up the road to the right…on the right.

Being on an 1800 ft elevation summit, surrounded by valley…its quiet and enjoys a constant breeze. Enjoying blue skies, the shade trees are appreciated in the camping area.

On a Wednesday, the 1st of August, we had our pick of beautiful and spacious sights. Very few campers on this day. So we chose site 17, directly on the Rim with unimpeded long views and unobstructed breezes. It was a toss-up between 16 and 17 …even 14 is directly on the Rim. $22 + tax a night.

Each of these sites had separate electric, water spigot, fire pit, standing grill, picnic table and lantern post. Metal bear cabinets and resistant trash receptacles were clustered conveniently among the campsites. Though I was surprised they didn’t have timber outlined leveled tent areas. In fact, you need to be somewhat creative in locating a level tent spot.

Restrooms are clean and stocked. The pool showerhouse has but one shower a piece for men and women. The entire park is well-maintained and clean.

Overall, a very enjoyable and relaxing campground.

Surrounded by pristine wilderness and High Sierra hiking

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: Coldwater Campground, Mammoth Lakes, CA

A beautiful 77 site campground nestled in at over 9,000 ft in the Inyo National Forest of the Eastern Sierras.

Amenities: large sites, modern restrooms spaced throughout the camp (two unisex doors, includes one sink with running cold water, a flush toilet, and metal mirror), water spigots near the latrines.

Each site has a large picnic table, a fire pit with sliding cook grate, a double door bear cabinet and small paved parking pad.

We chose site 66, as it sprawled to s mountain stream, nestled in shaded pines, had a couple flat tent spots and was relatively close to restrooms and water.

No electric, no showers (nearby Twin Lakes Campground Store rents shower time at $7.00…one person per shower.

Coldwater Campground is a short drive from Mammoth Lakes, which has all you should need or desire.

The trails from the back of Coldwater Campground go up, up, up…but offer spectacular mountain views, glacier lakes, picturesque alpine meadows, waterfalls and cascades. A short drive and bus ride away are trails to Iconic Rainbow Falls and Devil’s Postpile, among other ridiculously beautiful mountain trails!

Mountain bike trails are innumerable…and the paved multi-use trails are stellar and travel for miles. https://www.visitmammoth.com/blogs/top-5-xc-mountain-bike-trails-near-mammoth-lakes

There are rentals nearby for every sportsman. This is the active person’s Mecca! Also close-by is Mammoth Ski area that offers the downhill mountain bikers absolute Nirvana, during summer months.

https://www.mammothmountain.com/summer/bike-park-overview/mammoth-bike-park/mammoth-bike-park

At $24 a night, this seems to be the standard rate for this region…and that without showers.

Note: Even during hot summer months, it gets chilly at night. August 6, it was 50 degrees at night. A 40 degree dip from the cloudless daytime temps.

It did not take long to fall in love with the Eastern Sierra Nevadas. I would not hesitate to camp here again, and am already planning a return visit.

Mammoth Lakes offers it all and then some!

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: Coldwater Campground, Mammoth Lakes, CA

A beautiful 77 site campground nestled in at over 9,000 ft in the Inyo National Forest of the Eastern Sierras.

Amenities: large sites, modern restrooms spaced throughout the camp (two unisex doors, includes one sink with running cold water, a flush toilet, and metal mirror), water spigots near the latrines.

Each site has a large picnic table, a fire pit with sliding cook grate, a double door bear cabinet and small paved parking pad.

We chose site 66, as it sprawled to s mountain stream, nestled in shaded pines, had a couple flat tent spots and was relatively close to restrooms and water.

No electric, no showers (nearby Twin Lakes Campground Store rents shower time at $7.00…one person per shower.

Coldwater Campground is a short drive from Mammoth Lakes, which has all you should need or desire.

The trails from the back of Coldwater Campground go up, up, up…but offer spectacular mountain views, glacier lakes, picturesque alpine meadows, waterfalls and cascades. A short drive and bus ride away are trails to Iconic Rainbow Falls and Devil’s Postpile, among other ridiculously beautiful mountain trails!

Mountain bike trails are innumerable…and the paved multi-use trails are stellar and travel for miles. https://www.visitmammoth.com/blogs/top-5-xc-mountain-bike-trails-near-mammoth-lakes

There are rentals nearby for every sportsman. This is the active person’s Mecca! Also close-by is Mammoth Ski area that offers the downhill mountain bikers absolute Nirvana, during summer months.

https://www.mammothmountain.com/summer/bike-park-overview/mammoth-bike-park/mammoth-bike-park

At $24 a night, this seems to be the standard rate for this region…and that without showers.

Note: Even during hot summer months, it gets chilly at night. August 6, it was 50 degrees at night. A 40 degree dip from the cloudless daytime temps.

It did not take long to fall in love with the Eastern Sierra Nevadas. I would not hesitate to camp here again, and am already planning a return visit.

Blue skies, Emerald lakes, Refreshing creeks!

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: Big Pine Creek Campground, CA

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/inyo/recarea/?recid=20312&actid=31

As we traveled up Rt 395, along the Eastern Sierras, we searched for a campground offering trails into the wilderness…but also one with a shower, as they seem to be a rare commodity…and our last campground was primitive.

Reviews stated Big Pine Creek had showers and modern restrooms, so we drove through the night arriving at 7:00 Sunday morning…hoping for an available site. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

Turns out, the camper at site 2, beside the Host site, was packing up…so we claim jumped the site. Also turns out…after we paid $22 for the night…Big Pine Creek Campground does not have showers, nor modern restrooms.

So, to set the record straight…there are vault latrines and a river of cold glacier runoff of roughly 40F degrees. However, next to Big Pine Creek Campground is Glacier Lodge (they share the same entrance road and is privately owned)…and they will rent you a shower for $5/5 minutes. For that $5 shower, you can use the modern toilet.

Don’t let that run you off, though. We loved Big Pine Creek Campground. The sites are spacious and the backdrop is gorgeous. Not many campgrounds offer stellar trails into the Inyo John Muir Wilderness…more on that later. Mule deer roam between campsites, ground squirrels and magpies are everywhere. We also noted a resident lizard.

Most sites are somewhat tiered because of the sloped terrain. Site 2 parking pad was large enough for our SUV, but little else. You have a large bear resistant locker in front of a large fixed picnic table, situated on a large, raised, leveled pad that also has the fire pit. Up a few steps is the raised timber tent pad. Numerous large pines and smaller hardwoods populate the sites. Our neighboring site was visible with little obstruction, but was occupied by a delightful French family on holiday, that we enjoyed.

Big Pine Creek Campground is often filled with campers from all over the world and makes for interesting conversations.

Drinking water was a little walk. Last year’s winter had an avalanche destroy their water lines, so others were rerouted. No electric. Also, no cell service. Perfect for unplugging, relaxing and meeting your fellow campers.

There is a trout pond near the entrance that folks were capitalizing on. They were also fishing the creek. The glacier fed creek is cold…like 38 degrees cold. The trails…in a word…Epic!

The North Trail was incredible. We started late and only went to the first and second of seven alpine glacier lakes. The water is so emerald green, it’s surreal. We hiked out and back in 6.5 hours, taking an hour respite for a polar bear plunge in the near freezing lake. I was advised we missed the most beautiful third lake…also referred to as Emerald Lake. The North Fork Trail into The John Muir Wilderness does require permits for backcountry camping…an easy process and well worth it…https://www.recreation.gov/permits/JohnMuirTrailNorthOfDevilsPostpile_Aa10/r/entranceEntryExitDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=72203&entranceId=315543&permitTypeId=1009473747&entryType=1

Of note, along the way is Lon Chaney’s (of Frankenstein, Werewolf and Hunchback of Notre Dame movie fame) backcountry cabin. Lon Chaney would bring guests back by horse and mule train. Upon his passing, it was gifted to the parks.

One horse/mule train passed us on the trail, returning after they deposited their riders and goods out into the wilderness.

The host couple were very helpful and a joy to glean local and trail information from.

A wonderful campground to visit.

Historical significance!

Clayton Lake State Park, Clayton, NM…5200 ft elev.

Beautiful oasis nestled away in the windswept high plains of NE New Mexico. Not only for today's travelers but for yesterday's pioneers we take the Cimmaron Cutoff from the Santa Fe trail. We pitched tent at Chicano Beach site #2 (there are only two on that ridge), far away from any crowds upon a knoll overlooking a western "dog-leg" of the 170 acre reservoir. Even though the man-made Clayton lake was down from 32' to 19' depth…it was tranquil and bustling with wildlife. Coyotes barked in the distance, strutting turkey's gobbled, jackrabbit's darted, fish jumped and mule deer grazed the shoreline grasses and taking in late night and early morning drinks. Bring your binoculars to glass the shore and ridge lines. Fascinating park, the sandstone formations were varied and interesting…worn away by generations of rain. The rock garden is worth a scramble…very cool columns…(R4 campsite is nestled deep within them and the most highly coveted tent site). Highlight: The dinosaur tracks (uncovered at the spillway around 1982 after a flood) at the spillway are of particular interest. Informational signage lines the spillway and the small pavilion atop the levy. The 471 acre state park was quiet and peaceful. Mark, the park ranger, is full of great information of the area…and incredibly helpful, having spent his entire life in these parts…truly as nice a man you could meet (and the first ranger to ever return my phone message when calling for last minute availabilty). The visitor center and every other aspect of this park is spotlessly clean and meticulously maintained. The visitor center, though small, utilized every inch to bring you desired information of the park's history. New signage and informational displays were going in as we left. A heated restroom/ shower house was a wonderful creature comfort. Plenty of very new and clean pit latrines and water spigots dotted throughout the campground. If you don't want crowds avoid the fishing tournament the second weekend of June when about 900 campers descend to camp and fish…and most summer holidays. Other than that there is room….and no bad spots. I'd recommend using the online reservation portal. Tent sites are cheap($10 developed/$8 primitive)…actual too cheap, in my opinion…the state parks are nearly bankrupt, if not already so. Skeleton staffs are underpaid, yet they worked tirelessly to keep the parks to the highest standard. http://www.emnrd.state.nm.us/SPD/claytonlakestatepark.html

•A nearby highlight is the Capulin Volcano National Monument an hour away up Rt 87. The walk around the rim of the dormant volcano offers epic views of the surrounding high plains, Sante Fe trail and the jagged snow capped mountains to the West.

Mile High Camping!

Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Colorado Springs, CO.

http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/Parks/cheyennemountain

Made our way to Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Colorado Springs. The tent only sites are walk-in and $18…and by walk-in…between 10-100ft from the parking area depending on the site. By midday most were taken and we landed in the available #45 (which was handicap accessible). Pluses and minuses: close to the restroom. Convenience comes at a cost, a motion sensor light constantly tripping on and a tad noisy. Tent pads only…comprised of a small pea gravel base, but elevated two railroad ties high…you will not get standing water, that's for certain. #45 is a handicap site so it is all paved…walkway, picnic table, animal-proof food container and fire pit area…no dust or dirt. Could be a positive or negative depending on your expectations. In April the trees were just budding so there wasn't a ton of concealment or cover from your neighbors provided by the leafless shrubbery and mountain scrub. A water pump is ten feet away. Another site was handicap accessible like this one but the others were situated further back in the scrub in dirt trails offering greater privacy. Hammock hanging was limited on site #45 but could be creatively managed. Restrooms were very clean and well-stocked. The visitor center is beautiful, large, interesting and offers local trinkets to purchase. Camp registration office is located by the campground and also houses restrooms and the coin operated showers and laundry. Water appeared to be at a premium as the water fountains were not operating. Depending on the wind direction, and with no leaves on the trees yet…highway noise could be heard in the distance from interstate 25…but not loud enough to be an irritation… Not to mention the sound breaking the early morning air…revelee from the nearby Air Force base. Signage leaves little doubt where you are or where to go throughout the park. The trails are superb and offer a variety of high plains and mountain views. Trail markings are remarkable, offering both self-guided tutorial placards and strategically located gps coordinates, in case of injury. Runners and mountain bikers frequent the trails. Wildlife aplenty. Mule deer sauntered by throughout the park and tom turkeys strutted their stuff for all to see. Colorful songbirds dotted the trail (my favorite…bright blue mountain bluebird). Keep the elevation in mind when choosing activities. Being a "flatlander," it takes about 7-10 days for your body to adjust to high elevations, so allocate more time on the trails for recovery breaks and hydration. Definite plus or minus…dogs are allowed in the park, but not on the trails and must be leashed at all times. Even on a Monday night in mid April, the park was filled so reservations would be advised. You can choose electric/water sites but there is no privacy from your RV neighbor.

Creative mountainscape photos are necessary to avoid the mountaintop antenna towers from NORAD.

It was a pleasant camping experience and would visit again.

There is so much to do nearby that you need to stay in the area at least a week.

Here are a few of my favorite nearby hikes: -Mt Cutler trail, Mt Muscoco trail, Helen Hunt Falls, Seven Bridges Trail, Red Rock Canyon, The Manitou Incline (parking fee), The Barr Trail (to Pikes Peak summit), Garden of the gods, Palmer Park, and Stanley Canyon Reservoir (on the Air Force Academy grounds)…all are must do's! Only Red Rock Canyon and Garden of the gods are flatter and easy strolling. Countless other trails exist and would take a lifetime to explore…worthy reason to return again and again!

There are many campgrounds in Colorado, but only one Colorado Campground!

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: COLORADO CAMPGROUND PIKE NATIONAL FOREST

https://www.recreation.gov/camping/colorado-campground/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=70684

Colorado Campground is one of several campgrounds less than 10 miles north of the city of Woodland Park off Route 67 in the Pike National Forest.

Situated at 7800 feet elevation, even summer nights get cool. Nearby 5 acre Manitou Lake is a trail walk away. You can toss your canoe or kayak in, but unless you are simply trout fishing, it’s tiny size doesn’t offer much variation.

Numerous foot trails lead into the National Forest, offering wonderfully quiet hikes and exploration.

There are 81 sites available, but some are adjacent to highway 67, so periodic road noise will be heard. The ponderosa pines assist in muffling highway noise.

Neighboring sites are visible across the entire campground, but they are situated in such a way that you are not directly on top of each other.

The back loop sites are larger and set deeper (Site 19, 20,21, 22, 23) which are my choice. Sites can be secured on www.recreation.gov. There are double sites which garner double fees. At the time of this review, sites are $23.00 nightly (a bit pricey for no showers or modern facilities). When there during the week, not including the host and groundskeeper, only four sites were filled. Most sites were reserved for weekends and upcoming Labor Day holiday.

No RV/Campers over 36 ft permitted. Parking pads are gravel, a few are pull-through. Sites are non-electric with no hookups…no showers Water spigots, metal trash containers and pit latrines are spaced out through the campground. Each site has one stationary picnic table and a fire pit. Most sites appeared fairly level. No specific tent pad locations.

With the towering ponderosa pines, there is ample shade.

Plenty of trails permit mountain biking as well as the paved centennial bike path that runs along highway 67 from Woodland Park 15 miles north…that you can walk, in-line, cycle and even ebike.

You have plenty of local activities to keep you busy, including the Red Rocks a couple miles south…or drive east on Rt 24 to Pikes Peak, or further into Manitou Springs for the Incline, Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Garden of the gods and more!

Just six miles south into Woodland Park offers every food or shopping option.

All in all, a nice, clean campground in a great location.

Breathtaking Beauty!

RANGER REVIEW: Mountain House Spaghetti with Meat Sauce at Gladys Lake Backcountry Campsites, Ansel Adams Wilderness, CA

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: Gladys Lake Backcountry Campsite, Ansel Adams Wilderness

Backcountry camping often offers great hiking, epic scenery, serene solitude and otherwise missed sights. Depending on location, backcountry campsite locations can offer their own challenges, whether through the permitting process, preparation of gear and meals, logistics, or difficult terrain…but the trade offs can pay out big dividends.

Leaving behind the din of packed campgrounds…getting unplugged from electronic encumbrances…relaxing beside an untouched alpine lake where the only sound you hear is the whir of dragonfly wings as they dart about.

Only a set number of backcountry permits are issued daily, so crowds and impact remain minimal to nonexistent.

Permits are necessary for all backcountry overnight stays in the Inyo National Forest. https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/inyo/passes-permits

Whenever backcountry hiking/camping in California, do yourself a service and go online https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/passes-permits/?cid=stelprdb5139009 and take the California Campfire Permit test to acquire your certificate and possess it when in the backcountry.

Several ways to get to Gladys Lake exist…

1. John Muir Trail (JMT) thru-hike permits NOBO or SOBO

2. John Muir Trail section hike permits

3. Wilderness Permits Day hike permits

You could enter from Reds Meadows and follow the JMT north to Gladys Lake…or better from Agnew Meadows and follow the Shadow Creek Trail (https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/inyo/recreation/hiking/recarea/?recid=21272&actid=51 ) up and around Shadow Lake and then south on the JMT past Rosalie Lake to Gladys Lake. Each access trail has a daily quota…such as Shadow Creek, which has a daily quota of 30…18 secured through reservation and 12 walk-ups. So if you are choosing to walk-up, have some flexibility of starting days.

We had a JMT SOBO permit acquired six months in advance through the NPS permit lottery. But next visit, I will likely enter through Agnew Meadows via day permit.

Most hikers will stop and camp at Rosalie Lake, which is a wonderful option and a much larger lake. Some would suggest a more picturesque lake than Gladys Lake…but that is all in the eye of the beholder.

August of 2018 saw little precipitation and the winter snowfall was below expectations, so lake water levels were lower and surrounding shoreline not marshy or soggy. Which made for dry and mosquito free conditions.

The effects of local forest fires did cover surrounding mountain views during certain times of the day, and brought with it a bit of lung burning and eye stinging. Early morning and late evening hours brought clearer skies.

Be forewarned that seemingly every backcountry campsite brings with it a steep uphill slog, but worth it. Gladys Lake is at 9600 ft elevation.

I believe there was one other camper at Gladys Lake the night we stayed…but we neither heard nor saw them. It was a perfectly peaceful evening!

Amenities? Well, no showers…no toilets…no water spigots…no electricity…no picnic tables…one lonely stone fire ring but open fires are not permitted. No cell service or WiFi…no general store or local grocery store. However, Gladys Lake water was refreshing both to wade and drink (filtered). You are surrounded by fragrant conifers that buffer sound. A perfectly peaceful location to relax and dream.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Mountain House Spaghetti With Meat Sauce

https://www.mountainhouse.com/

As a frequent user of Mountain House freezes dried dinners, and being a creature of habit, I often settle into a couple favorite meals and don’t deviate to new offerings. Mundane and boring?…perhaps.

But…after winning $100 worth of Mountain House meals through an early season TheDyrt.com contest… and with my daughter as my hiking buddy, I selected several different meals to avoid mutiny.

One of these meal pouches was Mountain House’s Spaghetti with Meat Sauce.

I admit, I was a little suspect as to how freeze-dried spaghetti with meat sauce would taste, but we were both very pleased with the sauce flavors, seasoning and the amount of meat in the sauce. The only thing I would add is a couple slices of toasted garlic bread.

If the next rotation of Mountain House Spaghetti with Meat Sauce was easily located in our bear canisters, we would’ve likely had a second helping…but sadly, it was not.

In pairing down weight before our backcountry hike, I removed the contents from Mountain House’s original packaging and utilized a commercial vacuum sealer to make smaller, lighter meal packs as 11 days of food needed to fit in a bear canister. It worked, but the distinct drawback was not being able to prepare the meal in the resealable pouch. A pot was necessary to allow the freeze-dried contents to soak in the boiling water. So clean up was more extensive than it would’ve been by using the Mountain House resealable pouch. It was a trade off and we made it work.

If you are new to Mountain House freeze dried meals, directions are printed plain and simple on the pouch.

•Measure out the prescribed amount of water

•boil water

•open meal pouch and remove moisture packet

•pour boiling water in pouch and stir contents thoroughly

•seal pouch for prescribed time

•open pouch and stir contents

•serve and enjoy

It doesn’t get any easier.

Starry skies, rushing creeks and quiet nights!

RANGER REVIEW: MOUNTAIN HOUSE BEEF STEW AT UPPER LYELL CANYON FOOTBRIDGE BACKCOUNTRY CAMPSITE

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: UPPER LYELL CANYON Backpackers Campground, Yosemite National Park, CA.

Backcountry camping in Yosemite National Park allows total immersion into pristine wilderness…usually without neighbors.

It does take extra planning and effort, but the dividends are unmatched.

Extra planning involves forethought into exactly what gear and food you really need or want to haul on your back for the prescribed distance to reach your backcountry campsite. Planning is also involved in research and acquisition of backcountry permits (if required)…restrictions (open fires, pack out waste)…if a water source is nearby (and reliable)..if point to point, how to get back to your vehicle, etc.

Extra effort may be required by traversing rugged, difficult terrain. It is recommended you hone your orienteering and map reading skills. A GPS is also a good tool to use in tandem with the compass and map.

We acquired our JMT permit through the Yosemite NPS lottery procedure 6 months in advance. https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm

Leaving from Toulumne Meadows, the Upper Lyell Canyon is approximately 9 miles of backpacking. The first 8 miles are predominately flat, following a picturesque canyon valley alongside a meandering river, frequent mountain cascades and periodic wooded areas. The 9th mile is the kicker. For the first flat 8 miles our pace was swift and gait was long. Then it appeared the trail went completely vertical.

The final mile up to the Upper Lyell Canyon Footbridge campsites was difficult and slow going. For Florida flatlanders the abrupt ascent to higher elevation took the wind out of our sails. The “stairway” appeared and felt more like it was designed by and primarily for mountain goats or sure-footed beasts of burden.

After what seemed like a longer than need be ‘climb-rest-climb-rest-catch your breath-hydrate-rest-climb some more’ plodding…we reached the Upper Lyell Canyon Footbridge camping area by early afternoon exhausted and ready to relax. Elevation is right around 9,000 feet.

Campsites are on both sides of the wooden footbridge, well away from the creek, first come, first served. This is backcountry camping so there are no picnic tables, fire pits, water spigots, showers or latrines.

However, we enjoyed the frigid alpine creek for soothing feet and knees…and had the area to ourselves til early evening when a couple of ladies set up camp on the other side of the bridge.

Water for meals and hydration were filtered from the creek. Meal prep was done on a nearby boulder.

While we chose a tent, there were ample, nicely spaced trees should a camper prefer a hammock.

Forethought must go into location selection for your backcountry privy. Choosing a location at least 100 ft from a water source, and far enough away from tent areas or visibility from traveled trails. Know the park rules for this necessary function…some parks/forests require minimum of 12” cathole and pack out TP, some permit TP to be buried, some require it all packed out (ie. Whitney). Abide by the rules. Sadly, at nearly every backcountry campsite, save one, did I have to bury a previous discourteous campers waste and TP. Not cool.

Mule deer wandered inquisitively close as we relaxed. Pika whistled and darted from rock to rock. Ground squirrels scooted close in an effort to steal some tasty crumb if you turned your back. Song birds flitted from branch to branch and serenaded. The rhythmic gurgle of the mountain creek produced a mountain melody that relaxed the soul and brought peace to the mind.

Note: Roughly another mile up the trail is the Upper Lyell Canyon Headwaters camping area. A flat area with long canyon views and more open meadow.

Consider a few variables:

1. Depending on the previous winter’s snowfall and recent rains, the creek may be a raging and dangerous river. Crossing some parts may not be advisable.

2. Forest Fires. As they say, it’s summer in the Sierras…expect them and deal with it. If not a direct threat some are able to deal with the smoke and acrid smell.

3. Elevation. Every body deals differently with elevation. Some are unaffected until passing 12K feet, others experience headaches, sleeplessness and nausea at lower elevations. Some seem unaffected at all. Know your body and warning signs. Descending remedies most.

Backcountry camping opens up wonderful semi-remote wilderness opportunities, sights and experiences often not found at front country campgrounds…without the crowds.

PRODUCT REVIEW: MOUNTAIN HOUSE BEEF STEW

Mountain House freeze dried meals have been a long-time favorite, and while I have my favorites, I decided to branch out and add more variety to my often repetitive menu.

https://www.mountainhouse.com

I won a contest on TheDyrt.com for $100 of Mountain House meals. Cha-Ching! Timely, as I had a month-long front and backcountry trip forthcoming.

Among my entree choices, I selected several Beef Stew pouches.

https://www.mountainhouse.com/m/product/0059114.html

I neglected to do a video review while enjoying my Mountain House Beef Stew dinner perched atop my bear canister at 9K feet in the backcountry of the John Muir Trail, so you missed the lip-smacking and soup-spoon-slurping noises commonly associated with my food reviews. Rats, right?! I know.

Suffice it to say, the Beef Stew was delicious. The package had a balanced blend of vegetables, plenty of beef chunks, with a delightfully seasoned broth. Following the directions…in less than ten minutes after bringing your water to a boil…you are enjoying a tasty and satisfying, savory meal.

It should be noted, in my attempts to save weight and shave package sizing, I removed the contents from the original packaging and used a commercial vacuum sealer and repackaged it into a lighter, smaller pouch. This choice then eliminated the convenience of preparing the meal in Mountain House’s resealable pouch. It was necessary to pack everything out that was packed in…so, based on my chosen schedule, I had to cajole 11 days of food for one into each bear canister. No small feat. But then all meals had to be prepared in my pot (not as convenient or handy, but the stored empty packaging was small, dry and lightweight). I’m not completely convinced my choice was entirely advantageous.

The Beef Stew meal was sufficient a portion size to fill both my daughter and I. After a long and strenuous day of hiking, it was a delicious end to our day…and we both commented that we looked forward to the next Beef Stew in our meal rotations.

Five (5) Stars all the way around!

Solitude, Splendor, Serenity!

Thousand Island Lake is a backcountry camping area located at 9,839 feet elevation in Ansel Adams Wilderness within the Inyo National Forest, California.

If you desire 360 degree mountain beauty, a cool lake to fish, float, swim or reflect by, epic sunrises and sunsets, star-filled night skies…or just desire the unearthly quiet of being unplugged and being a speck in rugged vastness…this is for you!

This incredible dispersed backcountry camping area must:

  1. Be hiked into
  2. Possess a permit
  3. Use approved bear canisters
  4. Leave No Trace

There are a few methods of getting to Thousand Island Lake…all involve backpacks and hiking. First, if you are hiking the Pacific Crest Trail NOBO or SOBO, you will at some point of your journey reach Thousand Island Lake. Second, if you are hiking the John Muir Trail NOBO or SOBO, you will reach Thousand Island Lake during your journey. Third, you can choose a beautifully scenic 14.3 mile out and back from Mammoth, CA…the shortest of the three options. Fourth, there are horseback/mule train options.

We happened to reach Thousand Island Lake as part of our August 2018 SOBO John Muir Trail attempt.

Choosing to hike in by any of the options takes planning and preparation. This is beautiful country, but it is also rough and unforgiving. The trails are wonderfully cared for, but not groomed and flat…know this and adequately prepare.

Every hiking/camping group must possess a permit, which for a short hike directly into Thousand Island Lake is secured through the Inyo National Forest office. PCT and JMT permits are primarily lottery based (although several walk-in permits are granted each day on site…but that's a gamble).Inyo National Forest website page states: "Groups cannot be larger than 15 people (includes day use). Quota of 30 people permitted to start overnight trips each day from May 1 to November 1."

This is active black bear country, so you must use approved bear canisters for food and odoriferous items (toothpaste, soap, lip balm, insect repellent, etc). Stiff fines by rangers (and they do backcountry patrols) await if you foolishly ignore this law…worse yet, you might receive a catastrophic visit from Yogi or Boo-Boo. We did not see any bear or evidence of their presence but I’m sure they saw us.

Leave No Trace…pack it in…pack it out. Yes, that means everything. Know the rules and abide by them. Nothing more distasteful and damaging to pristine wilderness are those that believe they are the exception to this rule and leave trash…worse, waste and TP dotting the landscape. Unfortunately, I found myself burying selfish stranger's waste. So bring a small shovel (www.tentlab) and a Ziploc freezer baggie to pack out your TP.

There is signage at Thousand Island Lake advising where to camp, which is far away from the main JMT trail. Again, abide by the rules and camp at least 40 feet away from the trail and 100 feet from the lake. Read and obey the list of rules on the website.

We camped on the northwest area of the Lake. Numerous hikers were there, some groups that hiked in for a day or two, others were thru-hikers. I enjoy the "community" of backcountry backpacker's. Day hikers can bring "Fido."

It is unnecessary to pack in hordes of water, as there seems to be streams and lakes aplenty. I'd recommend a reliable water filter or boiling the water to ensure a parasite free thirst quencher. We used a simple Sawyer Squeeze, which was both lightweight and effective.

Once camp is set, hike around the trails of this pristine wilderness and soak it all in…or just pull out your sleeping pad and relax.

I have read and been admonished to use 100% DEET for the mosquitoes on the JMT…particularly June-July, and though prepared, we experienced none in mid-August, nor at this elevation. The elevation should not be bothersome healthwise, as it is not above 10,000 ft. As Floridian Flatlanders, we had no adverse altitude maladies…other than being out of breath while climbing passes. June and early July hikers may experience snow at this elevation depending on the winter accumulations.

Several notable peaks shadow Thousand Island Lake, Banner Peak being one of them.

For those securing a day hike permit, search out several websites/blogs for the best starting locations (https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/california/thousand-island-lake-pct).

If you are looking for the best bang for your buck in backcountry short trips, file this one away as a "must do!" There are others in the eastern Sierra Nevadas…but that's for another post.

Ranger Review: Inno Racks INH330 Review at Slickrock Campground, Moab, Utah

RANGER REVIEW:

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: SLICKROCK CAMPGROUND, MOAB, UTAH http://slickrockcampground.com/

The Office/store/pool/hot tubs/laundry room/pool baths located to the right as you enter the campground..

The clerk was pleasant and informative. Registration was quick and you are encouraged to drive through the campground to choose the site of your liking. Tent sites were a flat $20.

PROS:

•Relatively inexpensive

•Pool

•Hot tubs (2)

•Stocked store

•Free showers

•Clean spacious restroom/shower house

•Close proximity to everything in area

CONS:

•Stacked on top of each other

•Tent sites aren’t clearly discernible

•Tent camping in Moab in August is unpleasant due to heat and blowing dust (campground cannot control this one)

•Road noise

•Pool is only open 10:00-10:00 (I really wanted to cool off at 2:00 a.m.😉)

If you are purely looking for an inexpensive place to plop your tent or RV/Camper that is conveniently located to all things Moab…choose Slickrock campground. Slickrock Campground is located directly between Arches National Park and the cool little town of Moab.

In mid-August, it’s hotter than hot…87 degrees at night with no wind (which may keep you up at night) as I write this at 1:00 a.m. 108 degrees during the day.

Very diverse crowd, as foreigners choose economy camping to tour USA. Which is pretty cool.

RV/Campers have full hookups/electric and are priced higher, and A/C Cabins are also available for rental.

Tent sites are entirely dirt/powered sand. No electric, no water. Some offer a corrugated plastic shed roof shelter, others do not. We were early enough on a Sunday to secure a shelter. We also waited until evening to erect the tent due to a fine dusty sand that permeates everything…and to attempt to keep things cooler. Each site has an elevated charcoal grill and a stunted picnic table. If you drive a small economy vehicle you park that between the grill and your tent for line of sight barrier from your neighbor. The slightest squeak is heard from site to site.

We chose site 126, along the back of the property, furthest from the roadway. We still needed earplugs. A property line wire fence separates from the neighboring company that just so happened to leave their overhead light on all night…a small annoyance. Site 127’s vehicle was a few feet from our tent. No measure of privacy. But again, the price for the area…and a pool.

Arches National Park is 3 minutes north, Trendy Moab 3 minutes south. We visited both. Being a cyclist,..it’s Nirvana. Never have I seen so many bicycle/outdoor shops within one square mile…I trembled with excitement.

If you are looking to get away, enjoy solitude and be immersed in nature…Slickrock Campground is not for you.

If you are looking for a place to lay your head with pretty decent amenities within a rocks throw of all things cool…Slickrock is a great choice.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Inno Racks INH330 Two Bike hitch mount.

Inno Racks is not new to the bike rack community. Originating in the 60’s in Japan, they have been in the U.S. for almost two decades. Inno Racks offers several dIfferent style bIke racks, as well as attachments for wInter sports, water sports and cargo boxes. http://usa.innoracks.com/

The INH330 came packaged lIke Fort Knox…every part securely In Its place. No assembly required. DIrectIons do come wIth the rack, but adjustments are intuItIve and simple. Pop-pIns secure the wheel trays either flat for mountIng bicycles or uprIght/folded for storage. A pop-pIn also allows for angled tIlt.

The Inno INH330 can fit eIther 1.25 or 2 Inch receIvers and comes wIth an allen key to help wIth that transItIon.

Also Included Is a four foot cable and keys to secure your bIkes or rack to your receIver via an integrated lock.

Adjustable Wheel Trays slide along the horizontal rails to accommodate bicycles of varying lengths. To adjust, simply unloosen a large nylon wingnut and slide…when the wheel tray is in the desired position, tighten the wingnut securely. That simple. Each Wheel Tray has a dual ratcheting strap that is slipped through the bicycle wheels spokes and over the rim to secure the bicycle wheels and prevent the bicycle wheels from bouncing out of the wheel trays during transport. Wheel Trays accommodate tire sizes from less than an inch wide to five inches wide.

Frame Attachment: The Inno INH330 utilizes two vertical telescopic/ratcheting center posts with swivel-style ratcheting adjustment strap for each bike frame. Directions display this attachment on the bicycle's "down tube." The strap has both a sliding rubber bushing and a rubber pad on the center post to prevent damage to the bicycle finish. I found that I could also utilize the "seat tube" for attachment to the vertical attachment posts…if a water bottle cage was not attached to the bicycle seat tube.

Once secured properly at the horizontal center post and each wheel tray, the bicycle was held fast…no movement was observed…which is imperative if you don't want damage to bicycle frame or finish.

Removal is equally quick and simple…both the bicycles from the carrier and the carrier from your vehicle. (See video below)

A single Pop-pin through each horizontal wheel tray arm pops out with a pull, which allows you to fold the wheel tray arm up and re-insert the pop-pin. A directional pop-pin secures the INH330 in your vehicle's receiver, a push and twist removes the pop-pin and the bicycle carrier can be slid out of the vehicle's receiver. A centered T-handle between the vertical/ratcheting posts allows you to easily carry the INH330 to storage. At 30lbs, the INH330 is manageable.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I liked the simplicity of the INNO INH330. Over the past four decades I have owned a myriad of different bike racks from various high profile companies…roof mounts, gutter mounts, window/trunk mounts, and hitch mounts. Some racks required removal of wheels with fork attachments. I suppose each have their place. For fuel economy reasons, I no longer desire a roof rack style carrier. The rear liftgate/trunk style rack has contact points on my vehicle's paint, which I no longer desire. The hitch style is my preferred method of attachment as it prevents the rack from stealing away fuel consumption, it doesn't mar my vehicle's paint or dent it's metal, furthermore, I have easy accessibility waist-to-shoulder height to my bicycles (a plus for aged and repaired shoulders).

I believe INNO Racks has a winner! (I would like to see the ability to add a third and fourth bike attachment, though😏).

Clean and close to the mountains and Albuquerque

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: Turquoise Trail Campground, Cedar Crest, NM

Turquoise Trail Campground is a small privately owned campground located five miles north of I-40 off Route 14 (exit 175) just outside the east side of Albuquerque. Tucked along the base of the Sandia mountains, at 6940’ elevation. http://www.turquoisetrailcampground.com/

There is plenty of visible signage to guide you down Snowline Dr into the campground.

As you approach the office/museum on the right, the RV/Camper loop is visible on the left (which appeared full). Behind the office building are two tent loops (upper and lower). There are two very clean bathroom/showerhouses located between the office and tent loops. A laundry room and dishwashing sink is located at the back of the office building. *This is also the only water access for the tent loops.

RV sites have full hookups. Tent sites have only a leveled, gravel tent pad, picnic table and standing grill. Only stove fires were permitted at our visit due to open fire restrictions.

Tent sites are separated by scrub brush, which offered partial privacy between most sites, but you will hear your neighbors. The outer tent sites back up to a residential area, with a fence separating. Bring earplugs for undisturbed sleeping, as road noise from Route 14 can be heard, along with local dogs randomly in the distance.

At $20 a night, the campground is convenient and sufficiently met our needs as we traveled west on a tight itinerary.

Shower tokens are provided with your nightly fee. Each token gives you 7 minutes of shower time.

There is plenty to do nearby, with bike trails and hiking trails…though nothing of particular interest in the campground itself.

The bustling city of Albuquerque is the next exit west, so you are still very close to shopping, eateries, and nightlife.

First to Review
Close to Everything Cool and Fascinating!

RANGER REVIEW: The New Gregory Endo 15 Mtn Bike Hydration Pack at Painted Rocks Campground, Woodland Park, Colorado.

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: Painted Rocks Campground

https://www.recreation.gov/camping/painted-rocks/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=70685

Painted Rocks Campground is located roughly six miles from Woodland Park off Route 67 on County Road 78 at 7800 feet elevation. Painted Rocks is considered rustic, in that it only offers centralized water and pit latrines (no electric, modern restrooms nor showers).

Painted Rocks Campground has two small grassy meadow loops…an upper (to the right) and a lower (to the left) as you enter the small campground proper. Each loop has one water spigot, one trash dumpster and one male/female pit latrine.

The upper loop to the right has eleven (11) sites and the lower loop to the left has seven (7) sites. Each site has one picnic table (buried and unmovable), and one metal fire pit. All sites have gravel/dirt parking spurs of varying length. The upper loop appeared to have shorter parking spurs and some were tent only. Site 9 has a 30’+ parking and very spacious for multiple tents. Most sites have Ponderosa pines, but some more than others. Site 9 had great hammocking trees. Picnic tables are large and in good shape. Pit latrines were very clean and stocked.

BrIef campground vIdeo revIew: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EjjNdSZg868

All sites are visible, line of site but are spread out enough to feel spacious and not “on top of each other.” County road 78 is not heavily traveled but you can both see and hear vehicles traveling by. It should also be noted that County road 78 is also dirt, so vehicles kick up dust…depending on wind direction…roadside sites will be coated with a fine layer.

There is a host immediately to your left upon entering the campground…who also sells firewood. A ban was in effect upon my visit. When the host is “off duty” you can self register or register online (recreation.gov). Cost is $23 nightly.

Note that the sole Campground sign on route 67 is small, thin and easily missed. Coming from Woodland Park you’ll pass Red Rocks Group Campground (more on that later), South Meadows Campground on your left and Colorado Campground on your right. The second left after Colorado Campground is County road 78.

There is not much offered at the campground itself other than relaxation. What is close by is the draw. Within a half hour drive: On a grand scale, you have two hiking routes up Pikes Peak (Barr trail and the Crags), drive up or take the Cog Railway. The Manitou Incline. Red Rock Canyon open space, Cheyenne Canyon, Garden of the Gods and a myriad of incredible hiking trails. Nearby is the Centennial Bike Trail offering 15 miles of out and back to Woodland Park and innumerable offroad traIls…and my favorite, Red Rocks Trail only a few miles away. All things outdoors are nearby: paddling, biking, hiking, scrambling, climbing, off-roading..

Check online or call before planning your stay as Painted Rocks Campground is only open during summer months…this year only til September 3rd. Mid-week (July 9-10) saw only four campsites filled, but weekends are ordinarily filled.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Pricey for no campground amenities, but what is close at hand makes up for it! I'll go again.

PRODUCT REVIEW: Gregory Endo 15 Mountainbike Hydration Pack

4.5 out of 5 Stars!

https://www.gregorypacks.com/hydration/endo-15-3d-hydro/91650XXXX.html

PROS

  • Superb Hydration Bladder
  • Multiple Storage Compartments
  • Padded zippered pocket
  • Dual zippered Hip-belt pouches
  • Magnetic sternum strap clip
  • Separate, removable Tool kit bag
  • Flasher attachment

CONS

  • Hydration hose tad short for sternum magnet
  • Hip belt pockets need to fit current smartphones in common protective cases

What a great Hydration Pack! I’m going to suggest it’s a perfect all-arounder for its capacity, comfort and secure fit. As a Review Ranger for TheDyrt.com, I received this pack for testing and evaluation.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=UBVsAd69qhc&t=10s

At 15 liters, I fit an abundance of necessity and unnecessary items for a day hike or ride.

Gregory’s main objective was to make a superior mountain biking hydration pack…and they have. But the Endo 15 offers much more versatility. While I haven’t climbed with it yet, it’s sleek design and clutter free frontage prevents snagging or getting in one’s way. I’ve put over a couple hundred trail miles since receiving this pack…and I’m appreciating it more each mile.

Once you don the Endo 15 and adjust the straps, it molds to your back with no movement. Whether cranking out the miles in the saddle or hoofin’ on foot, the Gregory stays put! No side swaying and little upward bouncing. So no worries of losing concentration on the technicals due to annoying pack shifting.

The Gregory Endo 15 materials are as durable and robust as its larger kin.

Feature-rich:

  • Molded Pull Tabs- no more frustration searching and fumbling for zipper pulls. The Endo 15 has convenient plastic molded zipper pulls attached to each zipper with durable cordage…permitting easy finger pass-through for a positive grip.
  • Belt Keepers-One often overlooked feature is the “strap keeper slides”. I don’t like dangling strap ends, so this feature cleans that all up and keeps them out of the way. It’s the small things in life.
  • RS Suspension - The Endo 15 with RS (Ride Stability) allows adjustments for near perfect fit and suspension for various torso lengths and users preference. Detachable hook and loop gives you the option to move the pack higher or lower on your back.
  • Eyewear Retention - The left shoulder strap has a loop to slide your eyewear stem through and a shockcord loop to pull over and secure around the nose bridge. Sunglasses don’t budge.
  • Crash Pad-Padded interior pocket. Printed symbol suggests eyewear or small electronics (such as smartphones) and is padded 360 degrees. Note: a second, small exterior zippered pocket is partially padded, as it shares the rear pad from the Crash Pad that separates the two pockets.
  • Dual Hip Belt zippered pockets- Both non-adjustable pockets are moved rearward toward the pack body, away from the gigline. This prevents impingement or discomfort when leaned over the handlebars.
  • Removable Tool Pouch-an excellent idea! A zippered bi-fold tool pouch that has two inner zippered pockets, one fabric covered and one see-thru mesh. This tool pouch slides neatly into it’s own center mesh pocket inside the pack, with two narrower mesh pockets on either side which I slide a mini pump in one and CO2 inflator in the other.
  • Exterior Breathable Stretch Pocket-a large stuff pocket allows for a windbreaker or rain jacket to be quickly stuffed. I learned to appreciate this same feature on my Gregory Paragon 58 while backpacking.
  • Bi-lateral Lashing Tabs- Dual web lashing points allow helmet straps to be run through and held securely…or whatever other item one would desire to lash securely to the outside of the pack. •Reflective Decals-cyclists of any kind can never have too much reflective material. Gregory’s use of reflective decals is stylish and subdued.
  • Flasher Tab-any cycling pack worth its salt will possess an attachment point for an illumination flasher. I tried several different brands and all fit effectively.
  • Compression Straps-two upper compression straps snug up contents tightly.
  • Magnetic Sternum Strap Button-a small magnet Integrated in the sternum strap attachment secures the hydration hose. Initially I was suspect how strong this magnetic union would be. It remained attached, even when motorcycling at 70 mph…impressive.
  • EVAP Back Panel-moisture wicking material, along with its tautness, keeps the pack body off your back and permits ample airflow.
  • 3D Hydro-hydration reservoir-utilizes a proprietary QuickDry soft molded technology, has an integrated hanger located at the base of the hydration tube, is a full 3 liters and best of all…is included with the pack! The pack uses a speed-clip to attach the reservoir to the pack, rather than a hook-n-loop tab or hook. This prevents the reservoir from sliding down into its separate sleeve.

Changes I’d like to see:

  1. A longer hydration hose. I am a fairly average athletic build, but I found when hooked into the plastic clip on the shoulder strip, I really had to pull on the hose to get the hose and sternum magnets to mate.
  2. A little larger hipbelt pockets. Neither my iPhone 7 in a Pelican Marine case nor in an Otter case would not fit.

Final Thoughts: I endeavored to put Gregory’s Endo 15 through its paces over several hundred miles…while hiking, scrambling, cycling on road and trail, and motorcycling. I am extremely impressed with how breathable, yet form fitting the Endo is to the body…and how much I can bring along. It’s my everyday favorite and I highly recommend it. Thankfully, No Endo's were performed during testing.

Let’s just hang out!

RANGER REVIEW: Mountain House New Homestyle Turkey Dinner Casserole at Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury, NC

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: HANGING ROCK STATE PARK

Locating Hanging Rock State Park was not a simple task as it is well off the beaten path… most great parks are…but once there, you’ve found a gem! (Google Maps directions were inaccurate).At over 8,000 acres…offering trails of all length and difficultly level, multiple waterfalls, lake, scenic long views and picnic areas…it is no wonder it is claimed to be the most beautiful park in North Carolina. https://www.ncparks.gov/hanging-rock-state-park

Rich in history, the mid 1930’s through 1942 saw the CCC construct most of what you still see and use here at Hanging Rock. Their stonework and creativity has stood the test of time. During an earlier war many elevated locations were were used as hideaways for British by sympathizers

Park roadway signage directs you to your desired destination within the park.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=CHLjG8FrpRg

There are 73 campsites, separated into two loops…sites 1-42 in the main loop and 43-73 in the second more linear “loop”. Campground loop roads are one way to eliminate confusion.

Individual camp sites are rather spacious, and offer 40-50’ between sites. Gravel parking pads are different lengths and shapes (most appear long enough for a pop-up or medium length RV/Camper) and are outlined by 12”x12” timber pylons jutting from the ground about a foot high. These short massive posts no doubt keep vehicle and trailer from wandering beyond the parking pad…but are a fantastic tripping hazard day or night. There is some “breakup” between sites from mature trees but your neighbors are still visible.

The tent pads are elevated 3-4 inches, outlined by horizontal timbers and backfilled with fine pea gravel and sand. Easy on the knees, tent floor and when inserting tent stakes. Site 35’s tent pad was 13’x 19’ And fairly level. However, it appeared each site had a different sized pad based on terrain and available space. Some outer loop sites have some steeper drop-aways, so split-rail fences outline the tent pad, picnic area or both for safety.

The park is heavily forested, so shade is abundant. During mid-May, it was warm, dry and enjoyed a constant refreshing breeze.

Water spigots dot the campground loop roadway every few sites, so it is a short walk to fill up. Secure trash receptacles are spread out further but still plentiful. No electric and sketchy cell service (at best)…of which the payphone at the information board reminds you. Make the hike up to Moore’s Knob and you’ll find decent cell phone reception, if need be.

Reservations are recommended and online is suggested. Arriving during business hours, available sites can be reserved and paid at the Visitor’s Center. After hours, payment of cash or check only can be made with the campground host as you enter the campground area. Each numbered site marker has a unique flag that flips up and over it’s site number denoting the site is reserved. Site cost per night were $18, which is a great price considering what this park offers.

The centrally located showerhouse is clean and functional. The ladies called it ‘dated’ …but I liked the authentic retro look. The lights remain illuminated throughout, so it draws local insects…some monstrous! Huge beetles and stink bugs clung to the screen door desiring entrance. A hornet the size of a hummingbird circled the yellow porch light, with its buzzing eclipsing all other night sounds.

The second loop is more linear, has a newer showerhouse (with electrical outlets). Sites to the left have the campground roadway behind them, so they may experience traffic noise…but with gates locking at 10 p.m. traffic is halted…and those sites appeared to be closer together. The outer sites are more private and enjoy spacious forest behind them.

Shower houses are not open year-round, even though the park is. So there are still “outhouse style” singular pit latrines present.

Whitetail deer mosey past your site and linger during the evening…ample squirrel and robins, woodpeckers and cardinals compete for air time. Skinks, newts and salamanders populate these wooded lands and scurry about. There are snakes, some venomous, but unfortunately, none were observed on our visit.

The miles of trails are wonderful and well-traveled. Being known as “the mountains away from the mountains,” we did not hike any flat trails. Trails either go up or down…but each offer spectacular destinations and views. I highly recommend every trail and every waterfall. And yes, both Moore’s Knob and Hanging Rock are the highest elevations…offering fabulous views.

The visitor’s center is the hub where many trails originate…and is a tremendous little facility full of local information. Staff personnel and Park Rangers are extremely helpful. Restrooms and water are located inside and outside the facility. The parking lot is expansive and the large number of day-use picnic tables, grills and shelters let you know this park gets a tremendous amount of use during peak times.

Another, often overlooked feature is 7.2 miles of the Mountain To Sea Trail travels through this splendid park.

For a mid-May Monday night, we shared the campground with five other campers…but weekends and holidays are ordinarily full so secure your reservations online well in advance.

Hanging Rock State Park made my list for future visits!

PRODUCT REVIEW: MOUNTAIN HOUSE NEW HOMESTYLE TURKEY DINNER CASSEROLE

Having enjoyed Mountain House dinners on numerous camping and backpacking occasions, I welcomed the opportunity to try Mountain House's new Turkey Dinner Casserole.

Mountain House's heritage is a rich Red, White and Blue one. Many don't realize that Oregon Freeze Dry began making nutritious meals, named LRP "Long Range Patrol" rations for our U.S. Military Special Operations units. MCW, "Meals Cold Weather" were designed to meet the needs of Special Forces operating in every adverse climate and condition on the planet. As opportunities arose and civilian demand increased, Mountain House began labeling and producing wonderful meals for both the front and backcountry. https://www.mountainhouse.com/

The convenience of preparing a delicious meal by merely boiling water and adding it to the pouch is quick and easy. In fact, you can even eat it directly from the pouch without having to use a separate pot or bowl. Just open the pouch, remove the silica packet, pour in the boiling water, stir for a minute or so…seal the pouch with it's "ziplock" style closure…wait five minutes, open and stir again…Presto! Your meals awaits!

Mountain House's new Turkey Dinner Casserole is the real deal. I found it delicious and very much like a Thanksgiving meal. Let it be known, I do not prefer stuffing and don't eat it at Thanksgiving or any other time…but..I found it to be very tasty and satisfying in this meal. https://www.mountainhouse.com/M/product/homestyle-turkey-dinner-casserole.html?variant_id=235

My wife and I enjoyed this as our anniversary meal while camping…I spare no expense (free meal at an inexpensive campground…think frugal:) This particular meal provides two (2) servings, and if we had not been hiking most the day, it would have sufficed. I found myself desiring a bit more. Real chunks of turkey, stuffing, veggies, smothered in a thin gravy.

Mountain House offers various size pouches, some 1 serving, as well as, 2 serving, 2.5 serving pouches, Pro-paks, #10 cans, and multi-packs. They offer delicious breakfasts and delectable desserts.

“Where the Wild Things Are”

Collier-Seminole State Park, Naples Florida https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Collier-Seminole

It’s quite possible not many folks know about this State Park. The campground proper may not seem that large, but Collier-Seminole State Park is 7,271 acres huge! Almost all of it is part of the great mangrove swamp, one of the largest mangrove swamps in the world.

Even still, there are 105 camp sites tucked away on dry ground. All have electric and water, a fire pit and picnic table.

When entering the campsite area, the first loop to the right is a designated tent camping only loop. 19 sites in all. The sites are reasonably sized and permit two tents. There are palms and hardwoods providing canopy for shade above and undergrowth to give some privacy but you can still see and hear your neighbors.

The RV/Camper loop looks more like an inverted triangle with several loops within.

Three Restroom/showerhouse’s are strategically located so it is not a far walk to reach one from anywhere in the camping area. One of which has laundry facilities. There is also a RV dump station available. Firewood is sold in two locations in the RV loop.

**Read park rules and regs online…especially if you plan on bringing a pet or had thoughts of using a hammock.

Within the campground itself there is only one trail, but just outside is another 6.5 mile that winds through cypress swamps and offers a primitive campsite. However, you must register with the Ranger Station. Boating is the big draw and more specifically fishing. A fee of $5 gets you in the State Park for the day, and most Day users utilize the boat ramp. Canoe rentals are available as well as bicycles. Paddlers must submit a float plan with the Ranger. Mountain bikers have a 3.5 mile trail through a hammock and pine forest, again, you must register st the Ranger Station before use.

Don’t lose sight that you are in a very wild area. Bears, panthers, bobcat, gators, the invasive python, along with several poisonous snakes call this home. Also bring bug repellent! When there is a “skeeter-meter” on the Ranger Station wall, you had better be prepared.

Like most parks, a rich and varied history surrounds Collier-Seminole State Park. All of which is quite fascinating. Three distinctly different Seminole Wars took place here. The dredging and construction of US 41 which cuts across the Everglades that connects east with west began here. In fact, the only Bay City Walking Dredge in existence is found in this park.

The Collier-Seminole State Park is close to so many great SWFL things to see and do.

During what they refer to as “season,” Dec-Mar. you’ll be hard pressed to find a vacancy, as snowbirds migrate here in droves. But from May through October, you’ll find several vacancies.

Collier-Seminole State Park should be on your short list of places to camp!

“The Price is Right!...Come on Down!”

RANGER REVIEW: Primus Trailspork Tritan at Glade Creek Campground, Prince, WV

CAMPGROUND REVIEW:

Glade Creek Campground is located off Glade Creek Rd. further down and beyond Grandview Sandbar Campground…and is also part of the New River Gorge National River. https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm

During our visit, in early May, it had been and was still experiencing heavy rains and flooding. Even then, it is a beautiful location. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ieJ-SoMxsMc

The Glade Creek Road to the campground is not too bad but there is a narrow one-lane bridge you must cross.

Glade Creek Campground has six (6) walk-in tent sites and five (5) drive in sites inside the loop for tents or medium sized RV/Campers. Keep in mind there is no water available (unless you filter from Glade Creek or the New River, which is sketchy) or electric. The pit latrines are state of the art and newer. Drive-in sites are gravel, fairly level and have picnic tables, lantern poles and fire pits. Walk-in tent sites are sand.

The price can’t be beat-Free! Maximum length of stay is 14 days. There is definitely enough to see and do to fill 14 days! There are no reservations…sites are based on availability…first come, first served.

Glade Creek Trail follows an old RR bed with easy terrain. Being early in the spring, there was still some deadfall across parts of the trail that required some maneuvering and even though it is a raised old narrow gauge RR bed, it still got muddy. Several trails break off Glade Creek trail…and worth taking. https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/glade-creek-trails.htm Kates Falls being one of them. Bikes are permitted on the trails. There are plenty of additional noteworthy trails within a short drive. I always recommend stopping in at the New River Gorge Bridge Visitor’s Center…Rangers are a wealth of information for great local trails.

Home to the wood-warblers… birding is popular. Dedicated photographers were out in the downpour capturing photos of rare plant-life too. Pretty cool stuff.

A great campground to use as your base camp for checking out all the amazing sights in this area.

PRODUCT REVIEW:

Primus Trailspork Tritan

https://primus.us/products/trailspork-tritan?variant=38439223954 Note: This URL does direct you to the product listing. However, the first sentence is incorrect, this Spork model does not fold.

As a Review Ranger for TheDyrt.com I was provided the Primus Trailspork Tritan to test and review.

PROS

•Lightweight 7grams

•BPA-free Tritan

•Durable

•Won’t melt during cooking

•Won’t scratch pots or pans

CONS

•Not rounded enough

•Right edge of spork is sharp for plastic

The Primus Trailspork Tritan is a strong contender for the eating utensil “do all” category. The construction is robust…the girder style handle cutouts lighten it up but it doesn’t weaken the structure any. The cutouts resemble the pot cutouts on their Eta pots.

The “fork” portion works as good as any fork, even with short tines.

The “spoon” portion is where I, personally, see room for improvement. To me, the spoon cup is too deep and narrow, causing the sides to feel high when withdrawing the spork from your mouth. Which accentuates another problem. On the right outside sidewall of the spoon, the outside lip is a beveled edge to mimic a knife or spatula and is rather sharp…which with a shallower depth wouldn’t be an issue (but then the spoon might be ineffectively shallow). But I felt like that beveled edge is slicing my upper lip as I draw the spork out of my mouth. This sensation certainly slowed my eating down (which necessarily a bad thing).

The aforementioned beveled edge worked effectively both as a knife cutting through soft items and also as a spatula when scraping the last remnants of fettuccini from the pot walls.

I liked using the Primus Trailspork Tritan for stirring pot or pan contents without concern of it melting or deforming.

I won’t deny that I may be an oddity, but when camping or backpacking, I prefer using a spoon over a fork or combination.

Final Thoughts

It is very apparent I am not an engineer, nor pretend to be. So take my thoughts with a grain of salt. The Primus Trailspork Tritan is a good product and worth a look.

Epic River Views and Access steps from your campsite!

RANGER REIVEW: PRIMUS 4-SEASON STAINLESS STEEL 0.3L MUG AT GRANDVIEW SANDBAR CAMPGROUND, NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL RIVER, WV

CAMPGROUND REVIEW:

Grandview Sandbar Campground situated along the New River, just outside of Prince, WV off Route 41 offers upclose and personal riverside camping. https://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/campgrounds.htm

This and the other riverside campgrounds in the New River Gorge National River offer a minimal number of sites, no water, no electric, no modern facilities…however, they are free and its all about location. Site availability is first come, first served. Length of stay is limited to 14 days.

On the higher, wooded loop to the right as you travel down a very narrow, serpentine gravel road, there are 10 campsites. There are gravel parking pads that could accommodate a small RV/Camper/Pop-up…and a couple Pop-ups were present. How they navigated the winding steep park gravel road, is a mystery to me…the rains were eroding corners causing my truck to scrape.

The sites do have a picnic table, lantern post and firepit. Depending on thr site you choose, the initial sites to the right are all below the campground roadway you wind down. The pit latrine is a short walking distance and directly next to the host site in the River Access parking lot and boat ramp area.

The 8 tent sites are located on the far side of the boat ramp parking area and all but the two Handicap sites require a short walk to reach.

Numbers are on the lantern posts and blend together but are distinguished by the firepit. These are directly on the sand "beach" area of the New River…and as seen in my photos are not only a bit angled, they can be a dangerous choice.

The two handicap accessible sites are bordered by timbers, leveled and much more desirable, but you must possess a handicap placard/permit. It is not permissible to utilize them as overflow without a placard/permit.

The walk-up tent area has its own pit latrine. Nothing special…but private.

There is a river trail that will take you to Glade Creek and additional trails. Within a short drive are several additional nice hiking trails in the New River Gorge and nearby State parks.

Note: This is a busier campground with the public access boat ramp and very busy on weekends. A very popular spot for locals. While alcohol is prohibited, there was substantial physical evidence to the contrary, mere steps from the dumpster. Also keep in mind, during rains, tributaries flow into the New River causing it to overflow its banks with some regularity in thr spring and early summer.

Spring weekdays still saw several campers, even with the torrential rains and flooding. Free is a big draw.

PRODUCT REVIEW:

PRIMUS 4-SEASON STAINLESS STEEL 0.3L MUG

https://primus.us/products/four-seasons-mug-35l-stainless-steel?variant=358039683090

The Primus 4-Season Stainless Steel 0.3L Mug is a great option for the outdoorsperson searching for a do-all cup.

With it's all stainless steel double wall construction, it offers rust resistance, a clean appearance, the ability to keep contents their desired temperature longer, and remains odorless/tasteless. The mug is lightweight at just under 4 ounces.

The 0.3L/10 oz. mug is convenient and held single servings of beverage and food. However, I might migrate to Primus' other offering in the 0.2L/8 oz. mug for the volume I prefer.

The only potential achilles heel, would be the same with any other mug and that is the handle. Though I experienced no issues and don't foresee any…if there were to be one, it's likely with a mug's handle.

All in all, a great mug choice!

Wild, Wonderful, and Whitewater Wet...West Virginia!

RANGER REVIEW: Midland X-Talker Extreme T77VP5 Dual Radio Set at Audra State Park, WV

CAMPGROUND REVIEW:

Audra State Park is located south of the city of Buckhannon about 15 miles, with 355 acres situated beautifully along the picturesque Middle Fork River.https://wvstateparks.com/park/audra-state-park/

Owned by the state since the late 40’s and opened in 1950…time has wonderfully stood still at this park. Well-maintained and operated…Audra has been our favorite over the past four years…tallying 60+ days camped in the months of May, August and September.

The staff is spectacular! Friendly, informative and over-the-top helpful. This is my second TheDyrt.com campground Review on Audra SP, but felt it was well worth a fresher look.

Audra State Park property sprawls across both banks of the Middle Fork River, in areas…so it remains quite linear along the river valley. Campground elevation is around 1750 ft.

Spring and fall rains attract whitewater paddlers from the world over as the Middle Fork River rages…feeding the Cheat River. During other times the river is crystal clear with anglers trying to hook rainbow or golden trout. Locals flock to Audra S.P. Day Use areas on weekends to cool off at several park swimming areas.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VLUEBlIxHpo

Trails undulate with the terrain. The short trail within the campground area is steep in areas but offers some nice views. Both the upper and lower Alum Cave loops essentially end at the furthest point of the state park property along the river and then offers a sharp right turn that climbs up and back to both of the picnic area loops in big circle. From the campground the entire loop is just over five miles, offering epic views along the river. The forest teems with wildlife.

The campground offers 67 sites. In mid-May 2018, electric was in the process of being run to nearly all the inner loop and most river sites. Water is still located throughout the park. Two showerhouses have modern conveniences. The biggest park news was the installation of cell phone service, which is virtually nonexistent in WV other than in big cities. I personally prefer the “unplugged” version so people don’t have their faces glued to a screen.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BM9V_IhGDzc

Campground sites offer some foliage to separate from site to site with a fairly dense forest canopy, but you can see and hear your neighbor. There really aren’t many unfavorable sites, but #3 offered the largest area with wrap around foliage for great privacy. The area in the second loop where we normally choose to camp was temporarily closed for the addition of electrical posts (to be completed by Memorial holiday weekend).https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qq4bndH_IsA

A few things to keep in mind:

•Big/long RV’s (driven or pulled) have difficulty navigating this narrow, curvy campground road pocked with rocky outcroppings. Park in the day use parking by the bridge or picnic area and scout it out first to avoid frustration and personal property damage.

•Riverside sites can and have flooded during high rain periods as the Middle Fork swells its banks.

•Nice weekends from May to October fill up fast and Day Use areas are packed full. The park may start the reservations program in the future, but it’s first come-first served presently.

Bikes are permitted on the trails according to the state park website, but realistically only in a few areas would it even be feasible…let alone enjoyable.

The river views are amazing along the Alum trail. Alum Cave reminds me of Ohio’s Ash Cave near Hocking Hills…as both are very similar. Alum Cave has experienced erosion. Water constantly passes through the sandstone, so when it freezes it can cause large chunks of rock to fracture and drop. It’s fascinating but walk under it at your own risk.

The Civil War history that surrounds this area is incredibly interesting, and the first land battle was not too far away in Philippi…along with its historical covered bridge.

Camping is wet, wild and wonderful in West Virginia!

PRODUCT REVIEW:

Midland X-Talker Extreme T77VP5 Dual Pack Radio Review

As a Review Ranger for theDyrt.com, Midland https://midlandusa.com/ provided this product for review.

Contents

•Secure Plastic case

•Two T77VP5 radios

•Charging base

•USB charging cord

•USB AC outlet adapter

•USB car adapter

•Two Detachable radio clips

•Two Rechargeable battery packs

•Two boom style earpiece/microphone

The Midland X-Talker Extreme T77VP5 features and specifications can be found at: https://midlandusa.com/product/x-talker-t77vp5/

Having spent my career dependent on “hand transmitters,” I know, firsthand, of their benefits and importance…I have also learned of their strengths and shortcomings.

I am also realistic in my expectations when it comes to the differences between recreational and professional grade “hand transmitters” (HT’s).

The Midland X-Talker Extreme T77VP5 occupies the recreational radio spectrum.

First and foremost, do your homework when considering portable radios. Don’t expect a recreational radio to perform like a professional radio, especially professional one that operates with repeaters…or you will be sorely disappointed and wrongly blame the product. I have lost reception with teammates when using professional HT’s separated by multiple floors in concrete structures.

Also read the manual and all the small print. Midland X-Talker Extreme has “38 mile range,” on their packaging but smaller print defines “up to” and “line of sight.” Deceptive? No. Partly smart advertising and partly the results of Midland’s product testing and development.

Know that obstructions such as buildings, dense forest, humidity, fog, and mountains all limit distance of use. Also realize that when inside buildings, clarity and transmission diminishes with each additional floor that separates. In a motor vehicle communicating with someone inside a concrete block home only worked effectively within a mile, in my trial.

Personally…I believe the Midland X-Talker Extreme T77VP5 has a solid place in the outdoor, backpacking, camping world. I can name 25 campground and Wilderness areas in West Virginia alone where cell service is non-existent…yet you can still communicate with this Midland radio (within certain distances). Communication is life…and a huge part of survivability. It certain career fields, you do not proceed with a mission without comms.

I was able to communicate effectively at varying distances with the Midland X-Talker Extreme. The myriad of channels assists in finding one where you aren’t “stepping” on someone else’s communication, and you can enjoy a somewhat ‘private’ conversation. These channels are not encrypted, so transmissions can be heard by others that have the same channel availability. However, if you have several Midland radios on the same channel, you do have the option of privacy codes to limit listeners within that select group.

I will not dispute Midland’s “range” claims, but I was unable to duplicate it’s distances. In heavily forested eastern mountains with dense understory, a half mile of clear reception was all we could pull from the pair of HT’s with fully charged batteries.

We also tried my own version of ‘line of sight,’ along a long, curved stretch of Gulf beach. These were my results:

• .5 mile excellent reception

• 1 mile excellent reception

• 2 mile was unreliable…hit and miss

Scientific results? Nope! Only what I experienced. Humidity, impending storms, pressure, and sea state may have caused ducting affecting range.

Negative results? Nope! You learn to work within the parameters dealt. The Midland X-Talker Extreme T77VZP5 is still an effective, feature-rich hand transmitter set!

Trying to keep tabs on the kids while camping, give them a radio, operational instructions and clip it to their belt or pack. Kids love electronic gadgets, so it’s likely they’ll quickly be instructing you of its many features and usefulness. Peace of mind and quick communication…just a button push away.

Vehicle caravanning and communicating with the Midland X-Talker Extreme works easier, quicker and far more effectively than cellphone communication. If you utilize the earpiece/boom mic, it’s easier still.

The NOAA weather channel is invaluable. I received two different weather channels. Both of which gave pertinent local area information. Wherever you choose to camp, hike, bike or paddle, being informed of current or future weather can be critical.

Other features include:

•VOX

•Privacy Codes

•36 channels

•Selectable call alerts

•Vibrate alert

•Silent alert

•Battery level indicator

…and the list goes on.

For the dollar, value and worth is high for this pair of full function radios.

History, Beauty and Serenity...it’s all here!

Bulltown Camp, Burnsville Lake, WV

https://www.recreation.gov/camping/bulltown-camp/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=73106

Bulltown campground, is adjacent to the Bulltown Historic Site of Civil War significance. Civil War buffs and historians alike will thrive at this location! Research dates/times for Civil War battle re-enactments. Also check days/times when the historic buildings will be open and tourable…rather than peering wistfully through the windows as we did on a weekday.

Bulltown Camp is at the headwaters of Burnsville Lake and the Little Kanawha River. Another incredible Army Corp of Engineers Campground.

This is an unbelievably beautiful, thus an immensely popular RV/Camper campground. Reservations are highly suggested if you want a site.

Part 1 https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Lv9ZURGhTf4

Part 2 https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aXOvWzCp-80

All the grounds are meticulously maintained by Army Corp of Engineer personnel, hosts and volunteers. In fact, one entire camping loop (Volunteer Village) on the hill is for volunteers. I really cannot overstate how impeccably clean all the facilities are here. Whether it’s the Bulltown Historic Area, the showerhouses, bathrooms, grassy areas, pavilions or playgrounds…great pride has been taken to keep this campground a showcase.

Each loop has its own showerhouse, remarkable children’s playground, and pavilion. Out of nearly 200 sites most sites have water/electric and numerous full sewer hookup. The way in which they laid out the loops, most outside loop sites sit on the water…most having their own boat mooring post. Along with lantern post, fire pit and picnic table. Sites are moderately sized with a smattering of singular trees here and there. You will both see and hear your neighbors if you are outside your RV. Depending on the loop chosen, Site costs are either $24, $26 or $30 …which also dictates simply electric or full hook-up.

Be aware when reserving that two loops are not pet friendly (E and F).

This is a large meandering lake that permits power-boaters, but during our visit they were quiet and conscientious. You can also paddle the Lake.

The campground host is to your immediate right once you enter past the entrance office…but there are also loop hosts and numerous volunteers…all nice and helpful.

Bulltown Camp is close to a major highway so access is quick. Plan ahead and enjoy a great stay!

Ranger Review: Renogy Solar Power Bank at Riffle Run Campground, WV

RANGER REVIEW: Renogy Solar Power Bank at Riffle Run Campground, Army Corp of Engineers, Burnsville Lake Dam, West Virginia

Campground Review: Riffle Run Campground, Burnsville Lake Dam, Army Corp of Engineers

Riffle Run Campground, Burnsville Lake, Orlando, WVhttps://corpslakes.erdc.dren.mil/visitors/projects.cfm?ID=H102270

Riffle Run Campground is located on the northern end of the Corp of Army Engineer’s Burnsville Lake. A 60 site campground just beyond the dam and nestled in a mountain valley. Fifty Five sites have water/electric/sewer hookup…and five “primitive” sites (55-60) are allocated to tent campers beyond the turn-around. All sites have a lantern post, fire pit and picnic table. Parking pads are gravel. A centrally located showerhouse is as modern and spotlessly clean as one could want. Water for the primitive sites is located partway to the showerhouse between RV sites combined with a drinking fountain.

The grounds are meticulously maintained (as all Corp of Army Engineer Campgrounds are here in WV) and the grass looks like golf fairways. Campground hosts and volunteers work diligently to keep up the beautiful appearance.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_W3j31xkKf0

$30 nightly for RV/Camper sites with full hook-ups, and $20 nightly for the primitive sites. Check-in was self service only on our visit in early May.

Burnsville Lake is a popular power boating and fishing lake, so even on weekdays there is ample activity on the water.

New state of the art playgrounds for the kids. Two exist in the campground and a third playground is located in the Day use picnic area just outside the campground entrance to the left…and a fourth playground in a day use picnic area just below the dam on the right as you enter the Burnsville Lake area. If you have kids…it’ll keep them busy. Both day use loops have restrooms and picnic shelters.

There are several trails that meander around the mountains…some are relatively steep but I would rate them as moderate. However, they are not well-marked or often used in early Spring, so it is very possible to get turned around and onto longer trails. They are exceptionally wide and grassy. Some of the steeper uphill/downhill areas are grassless. Bring a trail map and compass.

Wildlife abounds! Birds of every feather, deer, turkey, reptiles…yes, even copperheads (but we only saw black racers). There is a rather large pack of coyotes in the park that compete for night air-time with the owls.

Currently, this is one of the only campgrounds in West Virginia of the two dozen or so we’ve visited that has cell service. They still offer pay phones like most others, but we were able to send and receive messages, along with checking the weather. Remarkable!

Product Review: Renogy Solar Power Bank

Renogy Solar Power Bank 15000https://www.renogy.com/

PROS

•Small

•Lightweight

•Versatile

•2 USB ports

• Integrated LED light

•Additional detached light

CONS

•No instructions

•Finicky USB ports

The Renogy Solar Power Bank https://www.renogy.com/renogy-15000mah-solar-power-bank/ is a relatively small portable 15000mAh source of energy for handheld personal devices. Boasting a 2W solar panel with two USB outputs of 5.0V each.

As a Review Ranger for TheDyrt.com, the Renogy Solar Power Bank was provided by the company for testing and review.

Box contents:

•Renogy Solar Power Bank

•USB charging cord

•Carabiner clip

•Flexible USB reading light

The unit itself has a short lanyard attached to a plastic tab on the backside “top.” The tab does not appear too robust so I suspect this will be the first area of failure if attached to a backpack and bounces against the pack during hikes. However, there is a duplicate plastic attachment tab on the backside “bottom,” also. I will likely always secure the solar power bank to my pack utilizing both tabs with para cord.

On the “bottom” end of the case are two (2) USB ports, the charging port for AC charging of the power bank and four (4) LED lights that indicate what the current charge level is. As the power bank’s charge capacity diminishes, one or more blue LED lights will blink.

On the opposite side of the solar panel is an integrated six (6) LED light. An “on/off” button is located on the side of the case. A quick double tap activates the light, an additional tap activates the strobe function. I am uncertain of the exact lumens, but it is bright, lighting up an entire room.

The additional and separate light is 7” long, plugs into a USB port and has a flexible rubber shaft for adjusting the light where you desire it. I would describe the illumination more for reading, as it does not project a beam, but rather a soft glow.

At 15000 mAh, there should be plenty of juice to power up several handheld devices before needing recharged itself.

At a single full charge from an electrical outlet, the Renogy Solar Power Bank charged an iPhone 7

•First charge 23% to 100% in 1:35.

•Second charge 19% to 100% in 1:40

•Third charge 14% to 100% in 2:00

•Fourth charge 17% to 100% in 1:30

•Fifth charge iPad 41% to 65% (when the Solar Power Bank ran out of charging power)

Interestingly, the integrated LED lights still illuminated brightly, but it would not charge any devices after five heavy power outputs.

Charging in direct sunlight for 18 hours failed to yield positive results on this unit. Only producing one flashing indicating light of available power. Uncertain what the problem may be.

With continued usage, it appears that direct sunlight charging works, the blue LED charge indicator lights may be the issue. With one intermittent flashing indicator light a full charge on an iPhone 7 was complete in 1:15 from 11%. Upon calling Renogy tech support, they were unaware of any problems as this a new product.

I plugged the Renogy Solar Bank into an outlet shortly after and it fully charged displaying four solid LED indicator lights.

Final Thoughts

When fully charged from an AC outlet, the Renogy Solar Power Bank performs well, charging several handheld devices. When in direct sunlight, it produces a slower, but consistent charge. However, as previously noted, it does not utilize the solar panel to charge itself sufficiently in direct, consistent sunshine to be useful in that way.

On this Renogy Solar Power Bank, the USB ports felt a bit sloppy…as if there is not always positive contact. I found myself unplugging the USB cable and reinserting to receive s positive charge reading.

If used solely as a power bank that I powered up via an outlet and took into the field to get half dozen power-ups on my handheld devices it’s worth consideration, as it was very effective. The jury is out on relying on its solar charging capabilities in the backcountry.