the dyrt
Elliott B.
San Francisco, CA
Joined June 2016
I'm a Biomedical Engineer Ph.D, Eagle Scout, who loves to travel, camp and learn. I've been to almost all of the 50 states and 30 different countries.
Ranger Review: Homestyle Turkey Casserole Dinner at Wildcat Campground

Ranger Review: Mountain House’sHomestyle Turkey Casserole Dinner at Wildcat Campground Point Reyes National Seashore: Great spot to watch the fog role in and explore some solitude on the beach…

Campsite Review: Wildcat Campground, in Point Reyes National Seashore, is located in an open meadow on a bluff overlooking the ocean with a short walk to the beach and a 3.2 kilometer (2.0 miles) round-trip walk to Alamere Falls, which is one of the main draws of this campground. The Falls will get extremely busy during the day as people start hiking in and this way you can head over for a little bit without too any people first thing in the morning. Tip: If you head in the opposite direction of the Falls, you’ll have miles and miles of no one around…

The campground is about 10 kilometer (6.3 miles) hike from the Bear Valley Visitor Center or an 8.8 kilometer (5.5 miles) hike on the Coast Trail from Palomarin.

Note: Reservation/Confirmation Notice ≠ Permit. So even though you may have already made a reservation online, you must stop by the Bear Valley Visitor Center on your arrival date to pick up your camping permit and parking pass.

So, if you want to drive back to the Palomarin trailhead for the “shorter” hike this could make your overall trip a bit longer as it can be almost a 40-minute drive. Also, you could bike to the campground, but the only bicycling route is via a strenuous 10.7 kilometer (6.7 miles) ride along the Stewart Trail from the Five Brooks Trailhead. The campground consists of five individual sites and three group sites; three of the individual sites only hold up to four people.

Vaulted toilets, and potable water! Campsites have charcoal grills, picnic tables, bear boxes/food storage lockers, and some sites have a little privacy due to the high grass. Because the campground is in the middle of a grass field, campfires are only allowed on the beach (You need to get a permit from the Visitor Center). That’s really a good thing as whom wants to wake up in the middle of a field on fire. Also, you might want to be on the lookout for small vermin running around the fields and looking to snag any food you’ve left out. We didn’t have any issues, but definitely heard them.

During our hike in and out we hung out at site #2 as this site didn't have people currently camping there. I'd be cautious about actually staying at this site as unfortunately it had the horse riders come right by as this is really the only way they can get to the hitches…I’d avoid this site at all costs if possible (unless you come in on a horse!). Also, it looked like sites #4 and #8 are basically connected and if you happen to be there in both sites with friends that might be OK, otherwise you’re staring at strangers the entire time…

Thus, from our exploring the campground I’d recommend campsites 6 &/or 7 as they provide a little more seclusion. Also, as I went in late July the majority of the campground seemed a little drab. Mostly brown dried out and dead glass, from what I understand this is typical of summer in this part of CA. I’d maybe try coming in spring (May) as the wildflowers in the area are amazing!! Saw them off the Tomales Point Trail, which I highly recommend.

While the campgrounds themselves are nice, and I appreciate not having to lug in all of our water and the use of the vault toilets I personally think that the amount of day hikers, and horse back riders detracts from the feel of this being a back-country campground. Maybe in the Fall/Winter or Spring it’s better.

Gear/Product Review: As a Ranger for TheDyrt.com from time to time I get to review different products and during this trip I got to reward myself for the hike into the campground with Mountain House’s new 2-Serving Homestyle Turkey Dinner Casserole. I’ll admit that after reading the description I was a little skeptical at first, however, I think the best way of describing this meal is that it tastes like Thanksgiving!!

I really enjoyed the combination of turkey, stuffing, vegetable and spices. They really did add up to what I think a true Thanksgiving day meal tastes like. While like any dehydrated meal you have to be good at mixing it, this one is no exception. If you don’t mix it up properly (they suggest at least twice in the directions) you could definitely find yourself with a ball of spice or a piece of stuffing that isn’t fully rehydrated, but that’s easily fixed by mixing it up some more.

The large chucks of turkey and what ends up looking like real stuffing was a very pleasant surprise to this meal. It was well deserved after an 8+ mile hike. The amount of carbs and protein are perfect for that post hike meal. Especially if you eat both servings like I did! Although, I think that a normal couple could easily share the meal.

As my final thought, I would definitely recommend that anyone looking for a meal that tastes home cooked with little effort, you take this one along with you on your next backpacking trip. As it weights less than 4 oz, you’ll be able to bring quite a few!

I give the Mountain HouseHomestyle Turkey Dinner Casserole 4.75/5 Stars!

Great location just outside the city on a Volcano!!!

Sibley Regional Preserve

San Francisco East Bay residents actually have a volcano in their backyard at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. Originally called Round Top Park, Sibley shares with Temescal and Tilden Parks the distinction of being one of the East Bay Regional Park District's original parks.

The Sibley backpack camp is a small, primitive hike-in site for a maximum of 15 campers (although this would be super cramped in my opinion, unless it a bunch of small kids), a moderate 0.2 mile walk from the parking lot (NO VEHICLE ACCESS). The site has basically 360 degree views of Mount Diablo, Vollmer Peak and Tilden Park. There are only two tent pads - approximately 10'x25' and 10'x20'. Site has 2 picnic tables, 1 serving table, and a pit toilet close by which was very clean and well maintained.

During the day you’ll have lots of people walk semi/sorta by the campground, but there is no reason that anyone would walk through your area as if they did they’d tumble off and down the side of a nice steep hill…

No wood fires or BBQs are allowed; only camp stoves are allowed for cooking, your night time enjoyment.

Drinking water is 0.2 miles from camp at the trail head so keep that in mind before it gets too dark to hike back and forth for a drink.

There are several trails providing tons of access throughout the preserve. The 31-mile East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail, part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail system, traverses the preserve along the ridgeline between Wildcat Canyon and Anthony Chabot Parks. Round Top Road goes from the Sibley visitor center to the top of Round Top. Round Top Loop Trail circles Round Top peak. Volcanic Trail, once a quarry haul road, contains most of the stops on the self-guided volcanic tour.

Dogs are allowed throughout this section of the park and in camp on leash but are not allowed on the adjacent Huckleberry trails. Also, the EBRPD lists, dogs “must be under owner's control at all times” and must not disturb other animals or park visitors, but I definitely saw a lot of loose well behaved dogs running free.

Bikes are allowed on the fire trail, but there are lots of hikers and dog walkers in this park so be mindful. Also, Horses are allowed but there is no hitching rail and no water troughs in the park (or at least that I saw anywhere).

If you decide to try and bike be mindful that most trails are hiking and equestrian only. A few trails are multi-use. Bicycles are not allowed on narrow-gauge trails, except on the Skyline Trail between the Sibley visitor center and Old Tunnel Road. Bicycles are allowed on the wider-gauge fire trails and paved roads but are not allowed on Sibley Round Top from EBMUD water tank road junction to top of Round Top Peak.

Vehicles must be parked in the staging area and display a valid overnight parking permit: 3 parking permits are included in the reservation and will be mailed 5 days in advance. No additional parking permits are available. Otherwise, you can actually get here via public transport by Taking the AC Transit CB bus to the Mountain Blvd stop, them walk about 3 miles to the park.

While you can check if it’s already reserved online. Reservation must be completed at least 5 days in advance by calling 1-888-EBPARKS or 1-888-327-2757, press option 2.

Ranger Review: Midland – GXT1000VP4 2-WAY Radio at Alston Tract

Ranger Review: Midland – GXT1000VP4 TWO-WAY GMRS RADIO at Upper Hillsborough Preserve — Alston Tract

Campsite:

A free reservation is required and must be displayed or available at campground.

These (this) equestrian and primitive campsite(s) have several of your standard picnic tables under a nice large covered pavilion, fire rings and multiple grills. All nicely nestled into a set of large open areas under an abundance of shade producing oaks and some random pines. There is a portable ADA toilet and a non-potable water pump source available. So, campers will need to bring their own water or filtration system…

You’re situated right off to the side of some immediate access to 16 miles of partially wooded roads (“trails”) marked for multiuse, Biking, Hiking, or Horseback riding.

These “trails” at the Alston Tract of the Upper Hillsborough Preserve meander through pine flatwoods, consisting of both slash and longleaf pine overstory and floodplain swamp along the river.

On the eastern edge of Zephyrhills, the nearly ten thousand acres of the Upper Hillsborough Preserve protect the Hillsborough River as it drains out of the Green Swamp towards its destination in Tampa Bay. This preserve is divided into the Upper Hillsborough Tract and the Alston Tract. The Alston Tract is a gorgeous portion of the Upper Hillsborough tract. Protecting the upper reaches of the Hillsborough River, the river’s floodplain provides natural storage of floodwaters and acts as a filtration system for runoff. The property also serves as an important link in protecting wildlife habitat in the Hillsborough River greenway corridor. Thus, there is an abundant amount of wildlife and many nice views. The property’s roads and trails meander through pine flatwoods, consisting of both slash and longleaf pine overstory, palmetto/gallberry understory and hydric hammock and floodplain swamp along the river. An interesting note is that on a short hike, one can travel through three different counties.

The Alston Tract's hiking trails are nothing more than a series of roads within a labyrinth of other old roads, although because this land is a preserve dedicated to protect runoff from the Hillsborough River portions of the trails may be flooded seasonally. (For more information on this tract, visit Southwest Florida Water Management District's web page) Alston Tract also has dozens of geocache locations

Things to note:

  • Depending on where you go you can be in the sun for most of the hike.
  • Parts of these trails can be filled with water (large puddles).
  • The map has numbers that match small signs posted at trail junctions, making for easy navigation
  • The campground and associated trails are closed during different hunting dates. Take note…

Gear Review:

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time - today I am testing the Midland - GXT1000VP4 TWO-WAY GMRS RADIO

With 50 channels, this NOAA weather alert two-way radio gives you maximum output power with Xtreme Range Technology.

  • 50 Channels with Up to 36-Mile range communication in open areas with little or no obstruction,120V Charger.
  • NOAA/All Hazard Weather Channels with Alert and Weather Scan
  • 142 Privacy Codes,Frequency Band: 462.550 - 467.7125MHz
  • Vibrate Alert. 9 Levels of VOX for Hands Free Operation
  • SOS Siren allows you to send out distress/locator signals in an emergency situation, 10 different call alerts tones to notify you of incoming calls from your group

These “walkie talkie” and their headsets are wonderful. I got over 8 hours of use on a full charge, and they seemed to charge pretty fast on the desk charger.

Once you figure out how to set the radios to VOX then using either the built-in mike or the supplied headset for hands free talking is nice and easy.

The snug fitting earpiece is decent, if you can get it properly placed in your ear. It takes a little bit of wiggling to get right, and that's the only thing I'm not absolutely thrilled about regarding these walkies. Of course, it would be easy to just get a different ear piece, as these support standard earpiece inputs. Could be just me, but from what I experienced, I initially just got a little confusing on the menu when I first started playing around with them. Once you get used to them, they are fine. Remember, a full-featured radio must have some complications.

My main (minor) complaint is that you have to use the charging base with the proprietary adapter plugs, either the wall or car. It would be nice if you could charge the radios directly with a micro USB so there is one less charger to pack.

Some glaring advantages over other brands: (1) They cost less; and (2) Once you figure them out they are an absolute no-brainer to use. They have the simplest buttons and menu/interface plus the nicest large display characters of any of the inexpensive radios I know of. Mastering these units takes maybe 15 minutes reading the manual. Read the manual

The transmit audio was robust and loud, in my video I barely have the volume turned up at all. Whisper mode was interesting, as it really amplified quiet "whispered"….

Overall during several of my different tests audio reproduction was good and accurate, and they didn't clip anyone's speech. Use of whisper mode with a headset dramatically improved reception, as it increased microphone sensitivity as well as gain. When I tested in on the water with my friend the receive volume was good, except in the noisier areas (as we’re going full bore out to our fishing location), like one would expect. However, with the headset, this problem is eliminated.

The radios are durable and well built. Not surprising, since Midland has some great commercial equipment. Battery life is good as well. Easy to use and carry. Weather radio is a plus, very easy to set up. I liked all the features, including the "lock" on the buttons. Overall you will really enjoy using these radios because they are light weight, easy to use, have incredible features and have great reception compared to any other brand I’ve used.

I give the Midland – GXT1000VP4 TWO-WAY GMRS RADIO 4.25/5 Stars!

PROS

  • Clear Strong Signal
  • Easy To Use: After Learning Buttons
  • Great Audio
  • Lightweight
  • Rugged
  • NOAA Weather

CONS

  • Dual-function buttons can cause mistaken actions
  • Too many features complicate programming
  • Lack of a universal charging connector

BEST USES

· Boating / Sailing

· Camping

· Families

· Hiking

· Hunting

· Ski Slopes

Ranger Review: Renogy – E.TUNES Solar Bluetooth Speaker W/ FREE Silicon Cover at Cypress Glen Campground

Campground Review:

Description

Cypress Glen Campground is part of the Silver Lake Recreation Complex and is located within the Croom Tractof Withlacoochee State Forest (Hernando County), and a short 5-mile drive from I-75. On the shore of Silver Lake, which is part of the Withlacoochee River system. The Withlacoochee River, Little Withlacoochee River, and Jumper Creek have all been designated as Outstanding Florida Waters, and each meanders through this forest which spans across 5 counties and exceeds 165,000 acres. There are some great biking paths and trails between the campgrounds which give you a wonderful experience of the wilderness region through the open pine sand hills, dense woodlands, and canopied roads and trails and complementing the natural water features. Some of the tree species found on the forest include slash pine, longleaf pine, pond and bald cypress, maple, southern magnolia, hickory, and various species of oak. These natural features create excellent habitat for bald eagles, fox squirrels, gopher tortoise, white-tail deer, and turkeys. For additional information about Withlacoochee State Forest, pleaseClick Here

This is a RV-tent camping site with all sites being a reasonable walking distance from the facilities in the center. Drive around to find the site you like. Due to state budget cutbacks, the gatehouse is closed (so it's all self checkin and honor system). They request payment within 30 minutes of your “selection”. With the increase of the price because of the ability to book online it used to be $15-20 dollars, but now that you can reserve on line they’ve upped the rates to $25, which seems a bit much to me…

Payment is on the honor system, bring cash or check because that actually saves you money versus the tax and fees for using the online reservation portal. The gates are locked at night, but the camp host can give you a pass code.

Facilities:

There is 1 bathhouse at Cypress Glen. The toilet facilities in the loop were clean, but could have used a good once over. They seemed to have been maintained, just not super regularly and thankfully no guests had come in and destroyed them. This time there was no hand soap, hand dryers, or paper towels available and it looks like they permanently removed the paper towel holder that used to be there during my last stay.

For you folks in an RV, there is a dump station located in Silver Lake Campground. Each site has a picnic table and a fire ring with grate and/or a grill. Cypress Glen contains 34 sites (#24-57)

Access to boat ramp and hiking trails including the Withlacoochee State Trail. Access to the lake for fishing, canoeing/kayaking from campground.

This is a great place to camp and lots of fun trails and exploring! River is easy to access and there are lots of areas to hang and picnic!

A rails to trails walking/bike path runs nearby. The biggest drawback is that it's located almost underneath I-75, so you do hear highway sounds all the time. It's not bad, but while it looks like nature surrounding you sometimes it definitely doesn't sound like it.

Facility

Bathhouse, Boating, Kayaking, Campground Host, Fire Rings, Fishing, Grills, Hiking Trail Kiosk, Parking, Picnic Tables, Restrooms, Showers, Potable Water Drinking, Pets Allowed.

Gear Review: As a Ranger for The Dyrt I sometimes get the opportunity to test out products and the highlight of my weekend at Cypress Glen Campground was playing around with the E.TUNES. “Where there is Sun, there is endless fun!” Renogy’s E.TUNES is a solar bluetooth speaker designed with portability and listening in mind. You’re able to stream your music seamlessly anywhere via Bluetooth or connect your phone to the E.TUNES by using the provided AUX cord. Weighing in at less than two pounds, this compact, splash proof speaker can be easily carried by the included strap or carried in your backpack. With a dynamic frequency range, an enhanced bass, and 10 hours of playtime, your ears are in for a treat with this powerful sound system. The E.TUNES also comes equipped with a built-in solar panel for charging convenience and a side light with SOS mode in case of emergencies. The E.TUNES also doubles as a 5000mah Li-ion power bank to charge your phone.

Pros:

  • Layout of all of the options and the features themselves all easy to navigate.
  • The sound quality is great, it amplifies loud, clear, and crisp. Even at the loudest volume, the sound is great.
  • Seems like it’s well construction. Although I thankfully haven't dropped yet to know one way or the other.
  • The battery lasts surprisingly long. We kept it going at medium volume for about 5-6 hours with battery to spare for the next day to play more podcasts.
  • I love that it’s water resistant but haven’t left it out in a rainstorm to truly test it (and hopefully won’t).
  • The flashlight on it is also super bright.

Cons:

  • For backpacking it’s pretty large and not as mobile friendly as I’d thought.
  • The strap is a cool, although, as you can see in my video one of the snap rivets that doesn't grab right and just comes off with virtually any weight on it.
  • Only seems to seat well on its feet on very flat surfaces. The base speakers are located on the backside where you’d expect to lay it on a table and the grooves are large on that backside allowing dirt or sand in it.
  • If you want to charge other devices (i.e. phone) don’t expect too much. It will drain the battery quickly to fully charge your phone.

Sorry folks, but I haven't sat there and watched it in order to tell how long it takes for the internal battery to charge on the integrated panel, but the indicator show that its doing its thing, flashing and lighting up more or less of them as it’s charging or being used. Having the charging input is neat although the battery pack isn’t sufficient for having a phone charging and the speaker going together for a very long time. If you personally have the option and can link to the alternative input with an addition solar charger panel that would definitely assist. (It worked for me!)

Overall, I like this speaker because the sound quality is good, and it does what it says so far. I like that unlike some of my other Bluetooth outdoor speakers I don’t need to bring an extra battery pack just to charge it, thus making it perfect for a basecamp or pullup campground.

One last thought, it wanted to let you know how to access the volume up/down options on the speaker. They are actually the "Next" and "Previous" buttons. These buttons serve double duty as the volume buttons, you just need to hold them down for another second to switch over to volume and you can then have full control of your speaker while storing your phone away.

I give Renogy’s E.TUNES 4.5/5 stars.

Wilderness camping, not too far from the Interstate and near some amazing bike trail systems

Large sites, and well-maintained. Perfectly located just off the exit for Brooksville off of I-75, and right off the Withlacoochee Rails to Trail bike/hiking path and near the Croom Mountain Biking Trails. Friendly camp host and many like-minded cycling neighbors make this is a great spot to stop for the night! Watch out for curious rabbits, armadillos and enthusiastic (loud) screech owls if you are in a tent/bikepacking. All of the spaces are nicely spread out and are mostly shaded (needed here in Florida), there is electrical & water hook-ups and many of the sites have a partial view of Silver Lake. Water & electric at these sites are useful if you’re in an RV. However, if you’re in a tent I’d recommend the option of no electricity at Crooked River Campground just a wee bit farther into the recreation area and much nearer the river. While these are large shaded site with water, electric, and your standard picnic table, and a fire ring. The facilities were rustic and clean but by the end of the day they did need cleaning and the paper towels ran out. Would like it if they had reservations for the camp sites so I can use my credit card instead of bringing cash, though I know they will be switching to that later in the year!

Camping in a van down by the river

The Verlot campground is in a beautiful location within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. This small campground showed us that sometimes camping down by the river in a van isn’t really a bad life decision. The campground themselves are 2 small loops that were nicely laid out with a good number of the 26 sites being on the water. Some of the sites are more secluded than other, and a few are setup to be combined with their neighbors to accommodate large groups. Our site (#13) was one of the sites which is more separated from the neighbors on both the left and right by fairly thick underbrush and mostly shaded with the river side being left completely open. We then had a little path right down to the river. Within the site itself you get a nice decent flat area for a tent or 2 and your standard table and fire ring with a grill. There are tons of potable water spigots located throughout the campgrounds and the restroom facilities were simple but clean and fully functional. This is a great location for either just relaxing and taking in the quiet sounds of nature or as a jumping off point to explore more of the National Forest and eventually the Northern Cascades National Park.

Amenities: standard picnic tables, fire rings + grill, flush toilets, potable water

Prohibited: pets off-leash

Nearby Hikes: Lake Twenty-Two Trail, and the Heather Lake Trail

Ranger Review: ColdPruf men’s Zephyr tops and bottoms at Deception Pass State Park: Great spot to watch the fog roll in…

Campsite Review: When exploring the San Juan Islands in North Eastern Washington I suggest you definitely take a moment to visit Deception Pass State Park where camping might seem a little pricey, but your park admission is included in the cost of the campsite. This is a great location to start of your trip if your spending time up in the North Eastern portion of Washington. This campground is composed of several different loops with setups on both sides of the pass for every type of adventurer. There are over 300 different campsites and several that are hike/bike in only, as well as your standard drive up and RV. These sites are spread into different areas of the park, and we stayed in one of the lower loops of the Cranberry Lake campground where many of the sites have open drive ways, but then are really set into the old growth trees. Ours was a drive in which was a little uphill and then set back into the underbrush so you were nicely separated from your surroundings and felt pretty immersed in the forest. You get a decent flat area for your tent(s) with a standard picnic table, and fire ring. We checked in a bit later than expected and were in need of a shower. Thankfully there are pretty decent showers at this campground, though some restrooms were much nicer than others. Make sure to check out a couple before you decide which one to use. We found that the ADA showers were much cleaner and nicer than the regular shower by our site (#172). In order to use the pay showers you have to use a token (2 for a dollar) instead of quarters or dollar bills like most other places. You can get the tokens from the rangers or they have some vending machines on the side of the little camp check in area. There are plenty of excellent hikes you can access throughout the park and watching the fog roll in and out can be pretty awesome.

The one thing that you’ll probably read over and over again is about the jets from the nearby base…. Yes, there are jets and yes, they are loud, very loud. Bring ear plugs. Even if you’re a heavy sleeper, the way the noise bounces around through the valley makes them extremely loud. You never know how late they’ll hang around so just be prepared. They stopped fairly early (around 9:30pm) when we visited, but the flyover time seems variable.

Amenities: standard picnic tables, fire rings, flush toilets, potable water, & Pay Shower Prohibited: pets off-leash

Nearby Hikes: Goose Rock trail and Deception Pass Bridge and Beach Trail

We used this campground to not only hike around and explore the park, but also as a jumping off point to kayak around the island (where we picked up a hitch hiking baby harbor seal) and to head out on some whale watching trips. This is a really incredible area with lots to explore.

Gear Review: As a Ranger for The Dyrt I sometimes get the opportunity to test out products and what kept me warm as explored the northern waterways was the Coldpruf Zephyr crew top and pants. Coldpruf has designed their clothing to own the cold and yes, they do. I was kept quite warm with these base layers on. The only drawback I had with this gear was the length of the pants, not in the legs, but in the back rise… While they fit perfectly in the waist and leg length was perfect, the pants still came a up a little short in the back and I could not pull them up and prevent plumber’s crack while wearing them. I have other pairs of ColdPruf base layers which fit perfectly but these pants just came up a little short…Some of the features that I did like about this specific design was:

  • How lightweight, and unrestrictive the top felt. Really strong sturdy seams and didn’t mess with my mobility as I was paddling the kayak.
  • A really breathable base layer with the vented mesh underarm sections. This is usually a breaking point in wearing a base layer when doing activity as you can’t cool off the areas you need to while still staying warm.
  • I really liked the length of the top, this really helped to sort of counter the shortness of the pants.
  • The stretch of the material in both the pants and crew top were great for hiking and kayaking.
  • Designed and Knit in the USA!! Awesome.

I give the ColdprufZephyr crew top and pants 4/5 Stars!

Ranger Review: Beyond Clothing A5 – Rig Softshell at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort Campground: Camping in the rain forest

Campsite Review: This campground in the Sol Duc Valley is composed of several different loops and setups for every type of adventurer. In addition to the lodge with a general store and restaurants, there is an RV only parking lot which seemed a little different as it’s just a parking lot with hookups and a table at the end of each space. There was no separation whatsoever between them. However, the loops are more set into the fairytale-like forest and you feel much more like you’re actually in the rain forest. The campsites themselves seemed to all be kind of small, and a little close together but with nice flat areas, tables, fire ring, and lots and lots of underbrush you can’t really see your neighbors. We stayed at site 38 in loop A which had a nice tent spot set out under the trees along with a decent table and fire ring set back from what is basically a parking lot that was open to the road. When getting your site be careful about the exact size allotment if you’re in a larger vehicle, because these sizes didn’t seem correct. This site is listed as being a 35’ back-in, but it really is just a shared parking lot between this and the site next to it (37) across from the central restrooms. While the site might say it’ll fit your vehicle, the roads are narrow and there are a good number of trees and branches around which may impede your maneuvering if you’re in something large. Because our site and the one next to it have “spaces” for 2 vehicles each, we did have a few people whom would pull up park in the “lot” and then explore around the campground and loop at the board for available spaces which was a little annoying, but at least they aren’t walking through our site.

The toilet facilities in Loop A were clean, but could have used a good once over. They seemed to have been maintained, just not super regularly and thankfully no guests had come in and destroyed them. There was hand soap but unfortunately the hand dryers were broken (which I normally like because of the reduction of trash, but dislike because of the increased noise they produce). You have some potable water/dish cleaning spigots, but nothing is there to catch the waste. There are also a couple of bear proof trash cans and the camp host sold fire wood (pricey at $8 a bundle). However, you can collect downed wood whenever the host isn’t selling wood.

Amenities: standard picnic tables, fire rings, plus flush toilets, potable water, & bear/cougar proof trash cans |Prohibited: pets off-leash

Nearby Hikes: Sol Duc Falls, exploring some old growth forest with a waterfall (highly recommended), Lover’s Lane, Ancient Groves, a self guided nature trail, & a couple lake trails

You’re also just down the road from the Sol Duc Hot Springs, which is 3 different pools with the water pumped into them. At $15 a person, this seemed a little pricey, but you do get access to the showers, so if you’re really desperate it might be an option to clean up and then relax after some strenuous hikes.

Gear Review: As a Ranger for The Dyrt I sometimes get the opportunity to test out products and the highlight of exploring the Olympic Peninsula was getting to test Beyond Clothing’s A5 Rig Light Jacket. Beyond clothing designs their clothing to be survival clothing layered for whatever potential challenges may come your way. Knowing that it can get a bit cooler in the PNW, but we’d still be hiking and exploring around I decided to try out the jacket from the A5 – Softshell section of their system. I found this to be a fantastic jacket. Several of the features I really enjoyed about this jacket were:

  • This jacket was very lightweight, but also felt sturdy. Really seemed to be put together well, with strong seams and solid sticking.
  • It was a breathable jacket that still kept me warm. While exploring the wilderness coast of Olympic NP I was glad to have this jacket as I didn’t feel any bite from the cold winds coming in off the Pacific, but also didn’t sweat while hiking around.
  • Excellent pocket placement. Having your standard waist pockets isn’t always enough, and the bicep and breast pockets were perfectly placed and easy to access while on the move.
  • The stretch of the material was great for climbing around and didn’t restrict my movement at all which sometimes happens with having on a jacket.
  • I really liked the design and coloring.
  • Made in the USA!!

I give Beyond Clothing’s A5 Rig Light Jacket 5/5 Stars and wear it literally every day even when not camping!

Ranger Review: Leatherman: Signal at Ohanapecosh Campground: Relaxing views of the old growth forest, however you can see every campground

Campsite Review: This campground is really in a nice area of the old growth forest but it's camping amongst crowds when we went in the high season, the entire 188 sites were filled. There were very few walk-up sites and the rest of the campsites themselves are a decent size but not spaced far enough away from other campers and there is no underbrush to separate you from each other at all. We stayed at site 54 in loop A and had people constantly walking through/by both sides of our campsite to get to the toilets which were located on the next level higher than us. People literally walked right by our fire ring and through our chairs at one point to then hike up the hill instead of traversing around to the right for some stairs. If you can go off season by all means try and do it, but avoid this particular site at all costs…

The toilet facilities weren’t the nicest ones I’ve been to and could have used a little TLC. The facilities right by us were dirty and a bit rusty. They also had no soap or hand drying instrument what-so-ever (neither paper towels or hand dryer). Thankfully we had these things ourselves, but usually in NP campgrounds you don’t have to bring them yourself to the restroom.

Amenities: not sure if every site had one, but lots of bear boxes (you’re in bear and cougar (mountain lion) territory), your standard picnic tables, fire rings, plus flush toilets, potable water, & dump station for you RVers |Prohibited: pets off-leash, & firewood gathering (The camp host drives around selling wood if you haven’t already gotten some at a store) we came right during a fire ban, but as soon as it was removed they drove around letting everyone know. There then seemed to be a truck driving around with firewood for sale, I wasn’t able to confirm though as we were headed off to Paradise and then the Olympic peninsula.

Nearby Hikes: Grove of the Patriarchs, & Silver Falls and not too far from Paradise which is a must do if you happen to come in wild flower season

Gear Review: As a Ranger for The Dyrt I sometimes get the opportunity to test out products and the saving grace for this particular camp site was my testing of the Leatherman Signal (Designed for adventure!!). This is a truly fantastic Leatherman and even if you’ve had them for years you should really check out the newer lines of specialized gear. I had an old PST (pocket survival tool) as a boy scout and had upgraded to the original WAVE, but hadn’t checked them out in years as I still have them and thought what could be better than what I already have. I was wrong. This tool and many of the other lines (skateboarding, surfing, skiing, hunting) are also really worth checking out.

  • This is designed specifically with camping in mind.
  • Really impressed with the new ability to change out components from this and other tools are you wear them down.
  • The hammer is great for knocking in tent stakes into some stubborn ground or breaking up that giant block of ice into some manageable pieces.
  • Great locking functions on the blade, saw and hammer section - nothing comes loose as you’re cutting/hammering away
  • It’s really all the little touches that make this an awesome tool. Like having a sharpener, a built-in fire starter and emergency whistle. These are things that might end up saving your life if you happen to get stranded while out in the woods.

I give the Leatherman Signal 4.5/5 Stars!

Ranger Review: Belmont Blanket #AdventureBlanket at Coho Campground: Great secluded campground far off in the National Forest

Campsite Review: The Coho campground in Olympic National Forest is pretty interesting as it’s just off Lake Wynoochee, formed by the Wynoochee Dam (I don’t think I ever really got the Indian names down quite right). This portion of the National Forest is really cool and feels very secluded as you drive for miles and miles from any real civilization into some wonderful old growth forests. The 46-different pull-through, back-in campsites are all fairly separated and you’re not at all bothered by your neighbors. There are also 10 walk-in tent only sites and a handful of Yurts (which looked interesting). Since you are off quite a way down an old logging road (paved one way, unpaved the the other) you have absolutely no highway noise to deal with and no one is coming and going at all hours of the night. All of the campsites themselves are a decent size with nice flat areas, huge tables, fire ring, etc. We stayed at site 41 in loop B which was open to the road, but we had no one behind us or on either side. When getting your site be careful about the exact size allotment if you’re in a big RV or have a 5th wheel, etc. Felt really bad for the guy trying to back into site 38 beside us. He tried for 30+ minutes pulling around and trying to get a better angle 2-3 times before they found the camp host and to move to site 40 which was empty. While the site might say it’ll fit your vehicle, the roads are narrow and there are random boulders here and there which may impede your maneuvering. The sites which are “on the water” aren’t really on the water, but overlook a pretty steep decline to the lake with the 16-mile lakeshore trail in between. If you’re a boater you’re also not too far from the boat access ramp.

The toilet facilities in Loop B were nice and clean. The facilities right by us seemed to have been properly maintained and no guests had come in and destroyed them. There was hand soap and plenty of paper towels and toilet paper (in case you forget to bring your own).

Amenities: Definitely larger than standard picnic tables, fire rings, plus flush toilets, potable water, & trash cans which were emptied first thing in the morning |Prohibited: pets off-leash

Nearby Hikes: Wynoochee lakeshore trail, which goes by a couple waterfalls & Working Forest Nature trail, which gives you a little insight into the life cycle of the forest

Gear Review: As a Ranger for The Dyrt I sometimes get the opportunity to test out products and the highlight of this particular camp site was my testing of the Belmont Blanket #AdventureBlanket The best all-purpose blanket ever!! This is a truly fantastic blanket and completely different from the other “outdoor blankets” which either are supposedly waterproof or keep you warm. This blanket does it all. I felt like this was designed specifically with mastering the outdoors in mind.

  • I was really impressed with the size that this rolls up into. Was thinking it wouldn’t be nearly as warm with such a small packed size for a 6’ x 5’ all weather blanket.
  • Similarly, this blanket is huge. I’m 6 feet tall and this blanket can cover me from head to toe. So many times with an “outdoor” blanket, I can’t fully stretch out.
  • The #AdventureBlanket is really soft on the plush inside, it’s very comfy and has actually become not only our outdoor blanket, but also our couch blanket.
  • Can’t attest to the waterproofing in the wild (thankfully haven’t yet had to test out if we’d get ‘wet butt’ or not), but our makeshift water bottle rain test proved the blanket was fully waterproof (not resistant) which is awesome.
  • Really like the design with the awesome leather accents. The colors are really sharp and make the blanket pop.
  • Probably one of the best features of this blanket is that it’s Handmade in the USA!! How many companies or products can claim that now a day.

I give the Belmont Blanket #AdventureBlanket 5/5 stars and it's my go to "blanket" for any picnic/fest/outdoor activity and I actually got myself a second one!

Nice, but really for RVs and too near the interstate...

The Silver Lake Recreation Area offers three different campgrounds to stay at, depending on what you are looking for. The Silver lake is the most RV friendly with huge shady campsites under large oak trees and each has plenty of grassy field area to make up each of the the sites at Silver Lake Campground. From most of these sites you can get some views of the water. Silver Lake campground along with the Cypress Glen campgrounds are the 2 of the 3 in the recreation area to include water and electricity hookups.

The sites, while covered and under the oaks are really open and include your typical picnic table, fire ring, etc. with easy access to restrooms and showers located nearby.

Due to state budget cutbacks, the main gatehouse to the recreation area is actually closed (so all of the campgrounds are self-check-in and/or honor system, although there are camp hosts whom can check up on you) and the campsites were in need of a little cleaning, but not bad. That could be easily remedied if everyone just picked up a little bit of the trash and took it to the provided trash stations.

The biggest drawback about this location versions the other campgrounds in the recreation area is this has the closest proximity to I-75. You’re really close and you can (and will) hear the traffic noise all night long.

For tent camping, this/is could be a deal breaker. However, as this location is more geared towards RV with the water, electric hook ups, and dump station. You’ll have to decide which you value more.

Features

· Nature trail and boardwalk

· Fishing

· Picnicking

· Canoe trail

· Leashed pets allowed.

Facilities

· These are really pretty developed campsites with electricity, water, picnic table and fire ring with a grate and/or a grill.

· Decently clean restrooms with flush toilets and warm/hot water showers

· Dump station in campground for you RVers

Nice campsites, but the park can get extremely crowded

Stayed over mother's day weekend at Lithia Springs. The sites are nice and spacious, have really excellent tree coverage (this is a MUST during Florida "summers"). Although, $24 to camp seemed a bit much. I felt that the spaces in the back loop were a little more secluded and were really nice because they were closer to the water. They all have fire rings, tables and power. The best thing about the campsites was that the restrooms back here were way nicer and cleaner than the main park bathhouse which was a mess. That was probably because the park itself got incredibly busy (guess the secret of this park is out). Maybe the park itself would be better in the "off" season when it's not so packed. The trails are nice, but there's not a ton to see and they aren't super long.

Overall, I'd try going back when it wasn't so busy

Easiest of the Cumberland Island sites to reach

Nice secluded campground where each site is set back and nestled into a saw palm clearing and equipped with a picnic table, fire ring/grill and food cache box (an elevated roofed chicken wire cage). This campground is super easy to get to from the ferry, less than a mile walk (about ½ mile). You are responsible for carrying all of your own gear to the campgrounds so you’re want to pack it all in a backpack, bring your own wagon or hope to try and borrow one of the wagons they have at the ranger station (they do have a lot, but they get taken pretty quickly). Once you’re in the campgrounds there is a nice short trail directly onto the ocean side beach, which is wonderful for catching the sunrise. Another nice feature about this (compared to the other north primitive sites on the island) is that they are the closest and a relatively short walk/hike to the Dungeness Ruins. If you stay for a while or have the time head up to the northern end and visit the Plum Orchard Mansion (14 mile round trip) as most people don't and you'll likely get an almost private tour (we thought we would right up until the very last moment when another small group showed up). If you want to explore more of the island in a short period of time I’d suggest biking. You can bring your own ($10 fee) or rent bikes from the ferry personal ($16 day, $20 overnight). If you are renting, I’d suggest renting them the day before (overnight) so you can then explore a lot more of the island first thing in the morning before the day trippers arrive on the ferry.

This campground is the only campground on the island where you’ll have access to potable water, restrooms and cold showers so if you want to stay here definitely make reservations. The 16 smaller & 2 group sites are all located off some main paths situated in little clearings of the saw palmettos giving them a little bit of privacy. The northern half of the loop is more separated than the southern but all the sites are located under the trees so you'll get a decent amount of shade/wind cover no matter where you.

You don’t reserve a specific site when you make your reservation but get to pick your site from the remaining open sites after a nice long introduction/video from the camp host once you arrive. So you don’t fully know what you’ll be able to select until you’re there.

Facilities

· These are tent only primitive campsites with the standard uncovered picnic table and fire ring with a grate and/or a grill and your chicken wire cache box to keep they racoons out of your food.

· Camp fires are only permitted at Sea Camp & Stafford Beach campgrounds. You must use designated fire rings. You may gather dead and down wood or purchase bundles of firewood on the ferry.

· Flush restrooms and potable water.

· Dish/food washing sink area

· There are actually some electrical plugs hidden about that I say someone charging there phone in at one point.

· No Pets: Only service animals are permitted in campgrounds.

One of the largest contiguous recreation areas in Hillsborough County

The Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve is one of the largest contiguous recreation areas in Hillsborough County.

There are lots of different parks and areas all contained within the Preserve with all park sites managed by the Hillsborough County Conservation and Environmental Lands Management Department.

You can only camp within 2 of these areas, the Oak Ridge Equestrian Area and at Dead River Park.

Other parks and trails are located at the Wilderness Park Off Road Loop Trail System, Flatwoods Park, and the Jefferson Equestrian Area. The Morris Bridge Park, Trout Creek Park, and John B. Sargeant Park, offer day use areas and boat/canoe launch ramps.

The multiple purposes of the LHWP are easily overlooked while enjoying the natural beauty of this suburban woodland. Here one can paddle waters of the Hillsborough River amongst wading birds, turtles, alligators, lilies and cypress swamps; explore over 60 miles of forest trails; fish from riverside boardwalks; or enjoy a relaxing picnic or cookout.

Adjoining the Wilderness Preserve is the 3,000-acre Hillsborough River State Park, which in itself is an area of beauty and tranquility known as the Seventeen Runs of the Hillsborough River. This park also has wonderful camping.

Camping

Dead River Park

· Camping fee.

· Campsite available to youth groups by reservation only. Minimum of 6 and maximum of 30 campers allowed. Groups must have their own insurance.

· A 0.25-mile hiking trail for use by campers located adjacent to campground.

· Bathhouse and picnic facilities provided.

The Oak Ridge Equestrian Area has 2 different campgrounds.

The Oak Ridge Primitive Campgrounds and the Washburn Primitive Campground

· Camping free.

· Campsite available by reservation only and is required and must be displayed or available at campground

· Over 16-miles of equestrian/hiking trail for use by campers located throughout the campground.

· Sites have picnic tables, fire rings and/or grills and there are ADA portapotty and non-potable water available.

· The Oak Ridge Campground also has a pavilion

Nice semi-primitive camping in the wilderness

This campground is part of the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve within the Oak Ridge Equestrian Area. You’re a little closer to the road (about ¼ to ½ miles away) than if you stay at the Oak Ridge Campgrounds about 2.5 miles north on SR 597 “Morris Bridge Road”. Although this isn’t a terribly busy road so you shouldn’t hear too much traffic sounds, especially at night. You do need to get a freepermit to camp from the South West Water Management District here. The campground here is also huge as you can use it either as a primitive site or an equestrian site. Although it's nice and open you have a ton of tree coverage. Within the campgrounds themselves you do get a nice mixture of oak and pine tree coverage, so if you want to hang anything from the trees you’ll have plenty of options.

This campground is also a lot harder to find as there is no signage from the road and Google Maps is currently trying to take you to the main entrance which is where the sister Campground “Oak Ridge” and main entrance to the equestrian area is located. The GPS location for the entrance is: 28.1189, -82.2975 or the address is 14501 Morris Bridge Road Thonotosassa, FL 33592. I also have a photo of the street number sign you can see from the road. It’s basically right across the road from the Flatwoods Wilderness Park. I was all alone, and if you camp in the summer you probably will be to as it gets hot, really hot and humid. You need to make sure and bring lots of cold water to drink, because the pump isn’t portable and I doubt you’ll be feeling great after boiling it off. You can also filter it, which isn’t as bad as the water is relatively cool.

Facilities include:

Picnic tables, fire rings, a non-potable water well, and a clean (actually smelled clean) ADA portapot. No trash cans or drinking water.

Over 18 miles of Equestrian/Hiking trails

Old-Florida-style camping at its best.

Crooked River Campground is located within the Croom Tract of Withlacoochee State Forest (Hernando County), and a short 5-mile drive from I-75. Thankfully the furthest away from the interstate which remains busy 24/7. The complex is on the shore of Silver Lake, which is part of the Withlacoochee River system, this campground is part of the Silver Lake Recreation Complex. The Withlacoochee travels around the different campgrounds here and there is a large day use boat ramp onto the lake away from the campgrounds.

At Crooked River (The Native American name for the Withlacoochee) it seemed like every site was surrounded by dense undergrowth which really added more privacy. You can see from my campground and another random site I took a photo of that you are really nestled into the underbrush. If you want to get to the water there is a staircase which provides access to the Withlacoochee River for small boats. I took my folding kayak out and the water was very nice and refreshing against the unbearable heat of Florida. I think there was only 1 maybe 2 other campers while I was there and saw more people on mountain bikes going around the roads than anyone else.

Local Features and Activities

· Nature trail and boardwalk.

· Fishing

· Canoe trail

· Sorry, no pets allowed

Facilities

  • These are tent only primitive campsites with the standard uncovered picnic table and fire ring with a grate and/or a grill.
  • Flush restrooms and warm/hot water showers
  • The campground also is available for organized youth groups, but requires a reservation. You can’t do this online (at ReserveAmerica) like the normal sites. For reservations call (352) 797-4140.

Directions: Take I-75 Exit 301 onto US98/SR50. You'll then turn east (away from Brooksville) and go about 1 mile until you reach the second stoplight at Croom Rital Road. Turn left and proceed north. Follow the signs to the Withlacoochee State Forest Silver Lake Recreation Area and turn right into the complex and follow the signs to the campground.

Nice and secluded.

The Hog Island Recreation Area is located on the eastern bank of the Withlacoochee river close to the small town of Nobleton. Part of the recreation area includes the Hog Island Nature Trail, part of the Trailwalker Program and officially certified as part of the longer Florida National Scenic Trail. The Hog Island Campground (fl-dof.com) provides nicely shaded and dry campsites for tent and RV campers with picnic tables and fire rings at each site. These sites are amazingly screened from each other with natural understory vegetation and access to the Withlacoochee River. Restroom with showers (which could use a little love and care), water spigots and a dump station are located nearby. Campers arriving by canoe can stay at a riverside campsite that includes access to drinking water.

This is a good campground with pretty decent warm/hot showers and electric hookups, so you aren't going to really be spending a few days completely off the grid. Although, cellular service is spotty, but mostly usable. The camp hosts were really nice and supposedly no pets are allowed, but I definitely heard some dogs at night. Just a few steps away is the Hog Island boat ramp, nature trail and a section of the Florida National Scenic Trail leaving you with lots to do.

You get your standard nice campground features

· Large shared picnic area

· Good fishing

· Canoe and boat launch

· No pets allowed.

*I heard some dogs and there were basically no one around, so maybe the host let some people get away with it…

· 2-mile loop Nature Trail.

· Hiking trails:

  • - River Trail/Sumter is 7.2 miles.

· Equestrian trails:

  • - Hernando Main Loop is 18.65 miles.
  • - Hernando is 36.35 miles.
  • - Sumter is 7.70 miles.
Nicely maintained and secluded

This campground is an excellently maintained recreation area part of the [SouthWest Florida Water Management District](http://SouthWest Florida Water Management District). With the OakRidge campground being wonder part of the Lower Hillsborough Preserve just outside Tampa, FL.

The campground here is huge as you can use it either as a primitive site or an equestrian site. Although it's nice and open you actually have a ton of tree coverage. You can get the combination for the lock when you make your reservation (required) or just hike yourself in from the large lot off Highway 568 "Morris Bridge road" which is only about 3/4 of a mile.

While hiking in I came across several deer and some gopher tortoise.

This campground has 3 "sites", with tables and fire rings, and one nice pavilion. There is a good water pump (non-potable) which you'll need to boil or treat and an actual clean ADA toilet on site.

You then have access to miles and miles of trails and can really enjoy yourself out here.

Nice large sites with decent tree coverage

Not too shabby of an area, with nice access to the center of the NP. You are right behind the Byrd Visitor Center and there is actually a nice paved path the entire way from there back to the campgrounds. Across the Skyline drive from the visitor center is a "Big Meadow" (which because of the waning moon when we visited was really crowded) where you can get some awesome, unobstructed views of the night sky. Bring a blanket or chair.

You do get to be in some pretty large sites which are a mix of secluded and open (see photos) Unlike some of the other campgrounds this one is definitely ADA accessible at all the restrooms and a good number of sites.

The "hike in" sites aren't as close together as in Loft mountain, but they woods are also a bit more open here. That way you can see it someone is actually at these sites and inversely you lose some of that privacy and some of them back up kind of close to the road and you definitely 100% have to walk through some of the sites to get to other sites, which is a poor design.

Because this is the largest and most "reservable" campgrounds it's also seems like the one to get filled up first, which in turn makes it really crowded. Also, because it has a large number of bigger RV spaces it also seems to be a bit noisier during the allowed generator hours.

Good mix of open and secluded RV and tent sites

Liked this campground a lot, while not as intimate as Lewis Mountain, with a couple hundred sites you can luck out. While there are awesome "hike in" tent sites some of them are a little hard to determine if someone's already down there occupying them (See photo) and you may have to basically walk through someone else's site to get to yours. Saying that a lot of these sites are actually pretty nicely spaced out from each other, especially the pull through and back-in. There was a nice amount of Ranger presence as you saw them drive through every so often, so most people seemed to be following the "rules" pretty well. (or at least i didn't witness anything like at Lewis mountain)

We were a little worried before we went through after reading some recent reviews where people were complaining about super high grass and ticks, but we found neither of these to be an issue during our visit.

You will want to make sure and know where the bathhouses are ahead of time if you think you might head there after dark as they are all a little hidden away and so you will want to make sure you know where you're going initially. Although once you find it they are nicely maintained and very clean despite the large number of people using them.

Depending on where you are, the campstore can be a nice long hike in of itself. This is the only location with showers (pay) and while there are a good number, can still get pretty busy with the large number of possible campers.

Like the other campgrounds you have "easy" access to the AT, but unlike the other sites, you kind of have to walk through the "hike in" tent sites which some people might not mind doing, but I felt bad…..