Ellen C.
Staten Island , NY
Joined May 2019
I've been tent camping for 46 years. We camp two or three times a year and stick exclusively to state/national parks. Happy Camping!
Ranger Review: Wenzel Ivanhoe 6 Tent at French Creek State Park

Campground Review: French Creek State Park Campground is located in Elverson, Pennsylvania and sits adjacent to Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. There are 200 individual sites in four loops, some with full hookups for RVs, some with electric only but mostly primitive sites. There are also several cottages, cabins and yurts available as well.

For this trip, my husband and I camped alongside our friends, which included three other couples and their children, so we took up two electric sites for the tent campers and two full hook up sites for our friends with RVs. We stayed in Loop C, which is the only dog friendly loop in the campground, on sites 35, 37, 39,& 40. Thankfully, a short walk to the bathroom facilities for us tent campers.

Normally site 35 would have been way too small for our usual gear– a behemoth 9X15 tent- but it was a perfect fit for the tent I was reviewing on this trip. Our friends, who have the same large tent as us, stayed on site 37 and had plenty of space to pitch it, but many of the sites surrounding ours were very rocky and left little option for a larger than normal sized tent so keep this in mind if you have a large family sized tent. I’ve included a few photos of the surrounding sites for future reference. The bath/shower house in this loop was adequate and includes two dish washing stations outside. The showers had good pressure and hot water. It was cleaned often throughout the weekend, however it is definitely in need of an update.

We also checked out the other loops for future use and found Loop A to have very spacious, less rocky sites, however, there was little shrubbery between each site, making them less private than the sites in Loop C.

There are two lakes in French Creek, Hopewell and Scott's Run and each contain many species of fish. We spent Saturday afternoon fishing but not catching anything at Scott's Run. It’s a beautiful location and it was still a fun way to spend the day with the kids away from the site.

We found several places nearby to purchase wood, besides the supermarket and a nursery in town, there are a few residents that sell it right on their front lawn so be on the look-out en route to the park entrance.

Generally, we camp in the off season, and usually have the whole place to ourselves, so I had some concern prior to arrival that every site in every loop was booked for the whole weekend and expected it to be noisy, however, I was pleasantly surprised. It was quiet and our neighbors were respectful of the quiet hours and our space. It was a wonderfully peaceful weekend for us all and we will definitely visit again soon.

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Product Review: Wenzel Ivanhoe 6 Tent

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I am occasionally offered the opportunity to test new outdoor products. For this trip I tested the Wenzel Ivanhoe 6 Tent https://wenzelco.com/ivanhoe-6/.

Generally, my husband and I use a larger ez up tent, but I liked this tent specifically for the design which is reminiscent of the tent my parents used when I was a child and figured it would be a good option for shorter weekend trips, rather than our 9X15 ez-up.

The set up was relatively easy, although one person might have some difficulty. It held up well during an evening thunderstorm, but for a small seam leak near the door. We believe this is a result of the fact that our site was slightly uneven and that particular corner was not as evenly pitched with the other corners of the tent which resulted in a bit of a gap in the roof.

The airflow is great, with the small vent in the rear, two side windows and the full screen door. There are also two smaller vents at the top- though neither seem seem to add that much airflow,- perhaps a design flaw or more likely the uneven ground it was pitched on.

I love the fact that there are awnings over the side windows, but in order for them to be effective one must stake out three guy lines on each side, plus the one on the front and the back. Knowing this I had purchased some small lights to hang on the lines to prevent tripping on them at night and it worked out perfectly.

The front doors are secured closed from wind and rain by velcro strips, rather than the standard ties. There are four side pockets and a handy troubleshooting guide sewn into the interior wall for any issues you experience while in use, such as leaking, condensation, or a faulty zipper.

I am very happy with this tent. For the two of us it was the perfect size for our ten inch high queen size air mattress and some minimal gear. The peak height was just over 6 foot, so we were both able to stand upright without issue.

Like camping in a city park, the beach cottages are the highlight

My husband and and I camped one night at this newly reopened park over the weekend in Long Island just to check it out and were pretty disappointed by the tent camping area. There are 69 tent/trailer sites(no hook ups). There is no distinguishing separation between each site nor a designated driveway for your car- you merely pull up on the grass. It's basically like camping in your local city park. People park wildly all over the place, which also makes it more difficult to determine which site is which by the number painted on the roadway. Each"site" has a picnic table and an barbecue grate on a post. There is one bath/shower house in the center of all of these sites with no path provided for folks to walk to and fro, so naturally people will walk right through your site randomly rather than around the road. While the bathroom building itself is in decent shape and has a large amount of toilet stalls and about five showers, the condition of women's room was absolutely ghastly inside.

At some point during the evening, a maintenance worker on a golf cart showed up with a mop and some cleaning supplies and cleaned the men's side of the building. I was so relieved when I saw him, but he seemed to neglect the women's side completely, so I resorted to using the men's facilities all night.

There are no fire pits on any of the sites, although I learned afterwards that they do allow you to bring your own metal fire pit as long as it is elevated off the ground. There are large dumpsters located throughout the camping area and a large trash bag is provided (if needed) at the camp office when you check in.

The highlight of Heckscher State Park is the newly constructed heated cottages located on the shore of Nichol's& Great South Bays.. There are currently 11 cottages--- with more under construction. There are cottages suited for two, four, and six people and range in price from$225-$285 per night during off peak seasons and$250- 320 per night during the peak seasons.

The cottages are fully furnished, with a full kitchen and large bathroom with a walk in shower. The cottages are a short walk from the beach and also include a fire pit with Adirondack chairs and an outdoor shower on the exterior each property. I do not have photos of the inside, but they do have them on the Reserve America website if you are interested.

While the cottages are lovely and their location is fabulous  they are quite pricey and  no TLC was spent in the$22 tent/rv camping area, other than a new registration office which is not yet completed as of this weekend. I do hope they invest some funding in the primitive area to add fire pits,more water spigots, clearer site markings and for the continued maintenance& upkeep of the bath/shower house.

* I emailed the parks departement about the issues mentioned above about the camping area and received this reply:

I am sorry that you are upset with the conditions in our recently opened campgrounds. We have replaced all of the picnic tables. Although, they may look old because they are weathered since these picnic tables were put together during the Winter, however, they are brand new. All of the barbeques are also new and were installed during the Winter. We have changed and modernized the light fixtures and we will be replacing the rusted doors that you mentioned. There are also plans to install a playground within the campground beginning this Fall and we are looking for other improvements and additions to the campgrounds. As you probably noticed there is a new building under construction, at the entrance to the campgrounds, and it will serve as a check-in area, as well as, additional comfort stations, including family restrooms. Your suggestion of fire pits is a good one and the Park Managers will evaluate the feasibility of installing these. Lastly, I have spoken to the Park Manager who will review the cleaning operation to ensure the restrooms are appropriately maintained. I apologize for our employee not cleaning the women's room. Again, I am sorry for your negative experience but we are continuing to make improvements to the campgrounds.

Sincerely, George Gorman Regional Director New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

I will check back later this year to see if anything was changed and report back.

Deep in the beautiful woods

Camped here two nights in 2015 en route to Maine.  Located in a 10000 acre forest preserve, the campground is heavily forested and very secluded from civilization.  We stayed on site 22, which was spacious and private from the other sites on either side. 

We were there in the fall but the swimming area at the pond looked very  inviting for summer time campers.  I also liked the sites across from ours near the ball field and thought they would make a nice place for a large group of friends to pitch their tents  (Sites 31, 32, 33, 34) 

The bath and shower house was well maintained and a short walk from 22. 

The camp store carried some great souvenirs, snacks, ice cream and even had a coffee machine for those traveling light and in need of a hot cup of coffee.

Peaceful retreat, depending on your site if rain is in the forecast

Camped here Easter weekend 2019 for three nights in loop 162 -186, on sites 165 & 166. Upon arrival, we were surprised at how small the sites were in person, but luckily, they allow you to move the table and the fire pits to accommodate your equipment if needed. You do have to return it to its original location before departing.

It rained fairly heavily during our first day there and the sites became extremely muddy, so be prepared if rain is in the forecast. Some of the sites were covered in gravel which aided the muddiness.

The remainder of the weekend was lovely and the lake was packed with people fishing throughout the day. I took a walk around our loop on Sunday to see if there were any larger sites for a future trip and the sites in the 180’s (along Locust Creek) were severely flooded due to the downgrade of the loop, which levels off as you get closer to the creek, even after two full days of sunshine and warmer temperatures. Literally inches of water throughout the entire row of sites. I figured I would mention it here since otherwise they would be desirable sites due to the close proximity of a near constantly babbling creek.

Otherwise, the bathroom/shower facilities were adequate, albeit in need of a paint job. There is a roadside stand and then a bait and tackle place that sells wood on the road leading to the park, but downed wood was plentiful at the time of our visit. I would imagine by the summer, it won't be so easy to forage.

Simply Amazing!!!

As a youth I camped in Big Meadows for two weeks every summer with my parents, and this was my first trip back in nearly 30 years. We booked walk-in site number 35, which is the first site off the parking area. Despite being so close, it was secluded and well shaded. This site does not include a bear box due to its close proximity to your car, which is a minor hassle when preparing meals, but you absolutely must adhere to the rules regarding food storage when not in use within your vehicle or bear box (where available).

During the week of our stay we saw bears daily, hunting for acorns in the forested areas surrounding the sites that were slightly further back from ours. I've attached some photos I'd captured of them, as well as, some deer that paid us no mind as they meandered right through our site several times a day. The bears were active mid afternoon to shortly before sunset and are very skilled at climbing trees. When we left the site to run errands and such we would check the trees before we walked in, as one afternoon we were sitting by the fire and unbeknownst to us one had climbed up a tree during our absence. He decided to high tail it out of there after we settled in. The tree was a mere 40 yards away in a nearby site. They generally want nothing to do with us humans but if cornered they will feel threatened and become aggressive.

The showers are absolutely the best I have ever encountered in all my years of camping, so I happily paid the $1.75 for 5.25 minutes. The water is hot and the stalls are clean and much nicer than my own bathroom at home.

The laundry facility is $1.00 for each unit and the washer takes :30 minutes to complete and the dryer cycle is about the same, although I had only done a small load towards the end of our trip, and it was completely dry in :15 minutes.

The wood sold at the shower building is hit or miss, they sell two types one in yellow nets and one red. According to the attendant they were the same kiln dried wood but just from different manufacturers. The wood in the yellow burned better and sold out faster during our trip for whatever reason. The Walmart in Luray sells wood (which is okay to use in the park, provided it has the USDA symbol on the packaging) and at nearly half the price burned a lot longer and better.

The camp store is well stocked with camping gadgets, canned goods, bread, snacks, toiletries and cleaning products. There is a small freezer section with individually wrapped meats, such as, burgers, steak and chicken breast which was a plus. They also had a nice beer selection. Prices are reasonable, similar to that of a convenience store. Gas was only .10 cents more than the valley which isn't too bad considering. We had a meal each at both the wayside and the lodge and they were both good and a nice change from prepping meals at the site.

The rangers were great, helpful and informative. I was mildly worried after reading some of the reviews here, because our group included a few musicians and guitars were played and songs were sung. As long as you adhere to the quite hours you will have no issues.

Ranger programs were offered every other day at the amphitheater and there were various presentations at the visitor center

The utility sink near the bathrooms that are scattered throughout the campground is very handy for washing dishes but do not throw food out there. Scrape the food off your dishware/cookware into a bag and throw it out at the trash bins before washing. Twice over the first weekend the sink was clogged and completely unusable and had to be cleared by park maintenance. It can and WILL attract bears if left in that condition.

Overall, this is a beautiful and well maintained place to place to pitch a tent and I highly recommend it.

Wonderfully wooded sites

We stayed here in 2014 with a seven friends and family.  We had four sites - 26, 27, 28, 29.  It was the first time in my life I was handed a bear waiver that needed my signature upon check in, but we weren't deterred.

Although, we did not encounter any wild animals during our four day stay, I did see bear scat in several locations.  We followed the rules, and kept all food and scented items in the car when not in use and utilized the very convenient wash sink behind the recycle/trash building. 

The sites were beautiful and spacious, the others around us seemed a too close for comfort but these four sites were spaced out very well. 

The fire pits were amazing, the temperatures dropped on our last night and the heat radiated off the concrete encasement wonderfully.

Our usual spot for a quick weekend trip that's close to home.

I have stayed here many times over the years, usually for a long weekend.  Longer trips were spent there with my parents when I was a kid.   I prefer the south shore campsites to the north shore.  The sites on the south shore offer a little more privacy and aren't as crammed.  I'm particularly fond of the dog friendly loop, its a newer loop and the bathrooms are more modern than the others scattered around. 

We have also stayed in the camping shelters a few times and a cabin once.    The shelters offer no frills sleeping quarters with two bunks beds, so four beds and closet/pantry on both sides in the rear for food and gear, a wooden table in and pot belly stove for warmth or a one pot meal in the front room.  Bathrooms are in a separate building across the road and are shared with the other shelters occupants.  The exterior includes a fire pit, picnic table and a fire ring for larger meal prep.

The cabins are a two steps above the shelter with a full kitchen and bathroom with shower, but otherwise rustic, with three sets of bunk beds, a wooden table and two Adirondack chairs in front of a fire place.  The screened in porch at the rear of the cabin overlooks the lake and has plenty of room for camp chairs.   There is also a picnic table and a charcoal grill outside.

The beach is home to the cleanest, most wonderful lake I have ever set foot  in.  There are picnic tables and grills scattered all around the beach near the parking lot and it does get crowded in the summer months.  There is also a concession stand open in the summer months, serving light fare -- burgers, dogs, ice cream, soda & chips.

Nice sites for tent camping, great fishing!

We only stayed here one night back in August 2017 en route to South Carolina.  The tent sites were nice, wooded and spacious, but there was not a whole lot of privacy between each site.   We were there on a weekday, thus there were only about three other campers in that loop, so it wasn't a big deal.  The bathroom facilities were clean and the shower was spacious.  

There is a great fishing pier and a little gift shop that had some camping supplies, ice cream, snacks.  The RV sites left something to be desired - no shade whatsoever and not much spacing between the sites.

One of my favorites!

We stayed here twice, once in September 2013 and then again in September 2018 and it is one of my favorites.

In 2013  -site 25 was a little challenging since it was on a downgrade and we were hit with a an unexpected 36 hour downpour and there was only one suitable spot for our tent since the terrain is very rocky.  After a few hours of constant rain I realized the water runoff from the road above and the driveway all ended up flowing right under our tent into the lake. At least I was able to experience a water bed for the first time in my life.  

The closest bath/shower was well kept, with four bathroom stalls and the one huge shower, I imagine that the wait times in the summer months might be a hassle but in the off season it was hardly used. 

In 2018 we stayed in sites 110 and our friends stayed in 109 on Big Island.  Those were wonderful sites, level with great views of the lake and are situated  right across from the bath/shower.  It was in need of an upgrade but with several facilities throughout the island we had other nearby options for a shower.

I forgot the daily visits from the ducks, like clockwork morning and dusk a family of ducks visited looking for grub and although most feed them bread, I know that's not good for them so they left unsatisfied.  

The next day I bought uncooked Quaker Oats and some grapes  that I cut in quarters for them, after that visit I realized that they would never leave so we became less generous.  Eventually, they realized we were on to them.