the dyrt
Erin H.
Cleveland , OH
Joined July 2016
I’m a mama who loves the outdoors! Camping, backpacking, horses, survival enthusiast (who isn’t, really?) and water activities! Bring it on, Nature.
Ranger Review: Warm Eats on Cold Days at the Greenbriar

The Greenbriar Campground was the Cadillac of campgrounds in the area, unfortunately we arrived on a weekend that would have been better suited to the “pontoon boat” of campgrounds.

Greenbriar is located near the Greenbriar entrance of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, very near the arts and crafts district of Gatlinburg. Access to the facility is by a small bridge that runs over the Little Pigeon River, which splits and runs around the Greenbriar, making it an island of sorts. This is notable as nearly every campsite backs up to the river. There are a handful of internal tent sites and rentable cabins as well. But the vast majority of sites have river access, including a fire pit mounted in the rocks RIGHT ON the river. Imagine yourself peacefully sitting out under the stars, mountain peaks in view, the rush of the Little Pigeon, illuminated by the fire directly in front of you. Though the water fluctuates with rainfall quite a bit, you can always hear it from your tent or RV, which was an added bonus. During warmer months, children can play and swim in the clear and smooth stoned river. There’s also an historic swimming hole on location. Several campers even had hammocks set up between trees that hung over the water on their sites.

Sites are narrow and fairly close together, although they’ve done an excellent job of maintaining the heavy trees around the river and on the “treelawn” area which separates each site. This helps to make a narrow space seem deceptively private. These sites also come equipped with water, sewer and electric hook ups, and even a cable hookup! A newer and clean picnic table is also provided. They designate those few interior sites as “tent” - not that you cannot reserve the other sites with a tent, but because the internal sites have soft, level grass to pitch on, whereas the outlying ones have level pea gravel across the entire site. Ample space is provided for your car to park at the edge of your site - they are long and narrow. I’d recommend a base padding or doubled tarp under your tent if you choose to go that route. Stakes may not hold well in the gravel and somewhat better in the “treelawn” dividers on either side.

Activities and facilities are aptly located in the center of camp. A playground, bath house, laundry facility, game room (with one game! - but to make up for that, it also has couches and a large flat screen TV which many campers happily watched March Madness together on), as well as campstore and volleyball and basketball courts make up the internal area of the camping island, keeping the sites themselves fairly free of noise and passers by. There is also free and reliable WiFi in the campground. This is notable because the area’s mountains make reception touch and go mostly.

This was a pet friendly campground, and many campers had their dogs with them. There was also a small dog park where owners could unleash their pets and let them roam a little. In spite of this, dog barking seemed to be kept in check. It was also a family friendly campground, and the kids seemed to really enjoy the playground coordinated games and socializing.

The bath house appeared to be newer, and will trump your home facilities in many cases! Within the bath house, there are several private doors leading to your own 3 piece bath with shelving and granite counters with outlets, and a stunning double shower. In spite of a very wet and cold weekend, we were pleased at how clean these were kept, as well as the whole campground - likely due to the fine, well draining pea gravel of all the paths.

As a Dyrt Ranger, I often get the opportunity to test products on our trips. This weekend we sampled the Mountain House Turkey Dinner Casserole. Despite traveling during the last weekend in March, we encountered very wet and cold weather for the region, and a warm meal was a welcome bonus. Mountain House has a simple preparation, all that is required is hot water to prepare, and the entire prep is done within the package itself, minimizing waste and cleanup. We also ate ours right out of the package as a bowl. The package also seals if you are hiking in and have to bring your rubbish back out in a pack. The meal itself was surprisingly good for a complete rehydration kit. My husband noted that it also seems as though they may have reformulated, the the veggies were brighter and the general consistency was more appealing than we’ve experienced in the past of these types of meals. It was quickly prepared and suitable for two adults.

The campground is perfectly situated for an unending array of activities. Arts and crafts, shopping and the GSM park entrance are all within minutes, and trailheads abound. 15 mins away is Pigeon Forge and all the entertainment that area offers. Access to all is easy and straightforward. Note: Always check the Smoky Mt National Park page before heading out. Given the dramatic nature of the area, including damage and changes in the land and vegetation (which didn’t impede our enjoyment or the natural beauty of the area, by the way) from the recent fires have left some of the trails unstable and can close suddenly. Also - if you wish to hike with your dog, there is only one trail available to you which runs down the side of a beautiful river from the visitors center and lets out directly into the pretty mountain town of Gatlinburg, packed with dining, whiskey walks and various forms of minor entertainment. We went at the very start of their peak tourist season, in inclement weather, and the walks were still crowded. Further in, you will find abundant hikes of varied lengths and difficulties, and many features like waterfalls, rushing rivers, historical primitive sites and much wildlife.

Overall, it is evidence of a great campground and region that we were able to pack so much in over a 3 day weekend in spite of the poor weather and lower temps. All left feeling refreshed and happy from the Greenbriar and the Smoky Mountains.

Ranger Review: The Belmont Blanket at Red Oaks

Campground Review: Red Oak is located in the Alleghany River area of Wahyrren County PA, near the Kinzua Dam. It's a private campground with all kinds of amenities: a pool, gameroom, store, brick oven pizza shop, cermanics hut, activity center and large playground. They host activities like "yard sale weekend" and "mini-carnivals". A large portion of the campground serves as a seasonal campground for campers and other recreational vehicles, and has an adorable little side trail of newer "tiny home" style cabins available for rent. These areas are beautiful, quiet and treed, with large sites including ample space for campfire parties and hammocks. The owners live on site and are very gracious hosts and shop keepers!

The "tent" and daily camper camping area centers primarily around a very large open space, which houses a field, a little kids play area (many huge sized Legos for fort building mini-golf, horseshoes and an inflatable jump pad). This was amazing for my kids and they enjoyed every minute of their camp experience, however, for the adults, we found it a bit busy. Quiet hours are not really enforced, and bands of wild and (let's face it) thrilled, kids played until all hours of the dark night, illuminated at the playground by a bright street light. They are very dog friendly. Campers themselves were fairly quiet and non disruptive, but make no mistake, this is an activity campground focusing on kids and activities. The pool is sunny and well kept, with an added bonus of a lifeguard on duty. Bathrooms were very clean and newer, and the lack of showers didn't seem to be a problem, as most of the campers here use their own RV stalls, and so we never found a wait, which was nice.

Area: this area is unique. It's near a small industrial town on the banks of the Alleghany River, where you can find basic dining and stores for convenience, and is only about 25 mins from the Kinzua Dam Recreational Area which is lush and green and beautiful. Aside from the dam, which is one of the largest in the country, the accompanying reservoir is beautiful. Boating, fishing and relaxing are abundant on this beautiful quiet lake in the mountains. There's a small public beach, park area, and boat docks. The recreational area and surrounding forest include several trailheads for exploring, and mountain hikes at the top of which you can overlook the dam and reservoir. One hidden gem is a small parking area and trailhead just past the dam on the reservoir side, called Bent Run Waterfalls. A short hike in reveals a set of fairy-garden like waterfalls stepping down the side of a mountain that overlooks the reservoir. It's beautiful, and we even let the dog and kids play in their little pools of fresh water. This area is often uncrowded and a gem of the area.

Product Review:

As a Dyrt Ranger, I get the opportunity to review items from time to time. This trip we tried out the Belmont Blanket! First off, let me say that it was unseasonably cold and windy in the evenings for August, so this blanket ended up being a welcome addition to our trip. Deceptively thin and easily packable, this LARGE blanket unrolls to a really usable size of 5'x6' - and has a unique construction. It's outside layer is a soft brushed waterPROOF shell, which seriously works. It blocked out the wind and sprinkling rain of one of our campfire nights. I'll never use a poncho again. The interior of it is a VERY soft brushed fleece, which is shiny and actuallly feels more like a ultra-soft pelt. Its construction is wildly durable, and hand made (by someone who actually signed a little note inside the box!). Being so big, it was able to completely wrap around me, including a hood, and was shareable between myself and 2 kids seated next to me in chairs. Then I brought it home and popped it in the washer! Like new! This blanket is well worth the cost, but I likely wouldn't have known that had I not gotten the opportunity to try it out throughout Dyrt. I even used it over my bed while camping to keep the damp out and the warmth in, and it worked perfectly without unnecessary weight. This is an item that we have since gotten far more use out of than just camping. It's been to the beach, park, and even back yard and we just roll it up and keep it out at this point. I'd highly recommend the investment in this top of the line "adventure blanket". It's also kind of beautiful, with its bold colors and leather hook-loop and strap. Overall - we're huge fans of this über-functional blanket!

Ranger Review: Tentsile Flite+ at the Ridge Campground in Cook Forest State Park, PA

Campground Review:

This is our 12th Memorial Weekend spent at this campground in the rolling green mountains of Cook Forest, in the heart of the Pennsylvania Wilds. We have a group of about 20 friends who take over the back "cul de sac" of the campground (section 180s) each year. In spite of a completely booked holiday weekend (you'd do best to book 8-9, yes, 8-9 months out for this particular weekend) the campground is spread out, secluded and quiet. Our sites are hugged by tall evergreens and level ground, something not easily found on the mountain. Those on the outside of the loop back to the woods and a couple trail heads (not heavily trafficked) and those in the center are large and have quick access to the section's bath house, which is unfortunately fallen into somewhat disrepair over the last decade. The up side is that there is always hot water and they do clean them daily. There's also a nicely kept area to do dishes. This campground is huge, wood can be purchased on site, and there's a large volleyball court, field and playground. Also included is a stage where various forms of entertainment and education are held. Each Memorial Saturday, a meet and greet is recreated with an American historical figure. Good fun for all. There's an abundance of activities available within walking distance. The Clarion river leads through the base of the camp at the bottom of the hill, and kayak and canoe rentals are available everywhere. The river is slow and serene, perfect for families. There's various park/BBQ spots near the creek and guided hikes during the day out of the ranger station. A fully stocked fishing hole is also adjacent to it. The campsites are portioned off by type: motor home, pet friendly, tent only …and each area has its own bathhouse which is seldom over crowded. Note: this is a "dry" campground.

Product Review:

As a Dyrt Ranger, I get to try out great new products on our adventures, and this time was no exception. We brought alone the Flite+ tree tent from #tentsile - and it was the hit of the campground. First things first: this is a two person tree tent. It's not a hammock, but a true sleeping tent, with far more support at the bottom and a rainfly. The bottom floor strap serves as a good divider as well, so you're not rolling into each other in the night. You really have your own space and plenty of it. There are 2 exits which is also handy. The campers were lined up (literally) to try it out, each getting their 15 mins in the trees. Some brought books, some brought a friend, and all enjoyed it, noting how surprisingly comfortable it was. You cannot sit cross legged in a hammock - but in the Flite+ you and a friend can play a game of cards.

Pros:

No footprint. This tent really shines on sand and areas with uncomfortable underbrush. It's versitity opens up all kinds of possible campsites.

A mobile treehouse. Who doesn't want to sleep in a tree? The rainfly comes off on warm dry nights to reveal a flood of stars from the best bed in town.

Setup: You'll find this both in pros and cons. We found it initially easier than expected to set up. It was roughly as quick to put up as our pop up tent.

Weight: This tent would be ideal for backcountry. It's so light, my 6 year old could pack with it, and it compresses into a very small footprint.

No guff: the rangers not only gave us no hard time about pitching it to the trees, they commended the zero footprint and were unabashed in their own excitement to check it out.

Cons:

Dress for the weather: This tent is labeled as a 4 season tent, however, you should note that this is only when you pair it with appropriate attire, sleepsack and mat. Otherwise, it gets fairly cold up there. Great ventilation for warm evenings though. Really kept dry under the rainfly! Not a leak or drop got inside. It was actually kind of magical.

Setup: The rigging, angle and strain on the straps is key here. The first day, we thought the tent looked flat, tight and even, however, once an adult got in, it bowed like a hammock. The second day we found a better acute angle that lined up as directed, and found it to be a far better sleep. You could sit upright inside and only felt a subtle bow. With a mat, it would hardly be noticeable.

No ladder attachment: While other treetent models have hookups for their rope ladder, sold separately, this tent has none. Not ideal when wishing to hang it higher than a few feet off the ground. We had to hoist each other up into it at the near 5 ft height we arranged it at. After all, what good is a tree tent if it's almost on the ground?!

Overall, we loved this @Tentsile product and cannot wait to take it beach camping and see what other inventive places we can sleep with it! Whether your goal is the serene or extreme, this tent is a great item to have in your reputoir, and I'd take it over a typical ground backpacking tent any day - especially since it does come with stakes to go ground if you'd prefer.

Ranger Review: CRKT Birler Axe at Mammoth Cave Campground, KY

Never a Dull Moment at Mammoth!

Campground/Park Review:

We first entered the park via the "secret" entrance, byway of a narrow road at the very north of the park, in which we had to take a single car automated ferry across the green river, which was enjoyed by all, and we appreciated avoiding the main entrance besieged by spring break campers!

The Campground itself's best feature is its proximity to the main park attractions. It's a few minute walk to the visitor's center, from which you can catch daily tours of all types ranging from themed cave tours to botony forest walks and guided history walks. Our normally restless kids were so taken by the 2 hr cave tour that they remained in near total silence and awe as we tunneled through this slow moving guided cave walk. You've got to make a reservation for tours - be warned, they fill up quickly. I recommend making a reservation at least a week before in the busy season (March-Sept), although up to a couple days before, you can usually get in, albeit not at your ideal time, most likely. Adjoining the campground is a more than adequate camp store, with all the common items and a few groceries you may need while there. Across a short walkway from the visitors center is also 2 restaurants, if roasting dogs on the fire isn't you thing, one cafe style with an ice cream shop, and another more formal table service in the historical Lodge.

We went in April, one of the area's wetter months, and found the campsites to be well maintained, drained and free from debris. While no one enjoys wet camping, the great thing about this park is that the main attraction is always the same comforatable temp and weather year round - and you can spend a dry several hours while you avoid the rain spurts outside. The camping was quiet although crowded for spring break, sites were averagely spread apart (those near the front and the store had a bit more room) and included hook ups for campers. There's even a place to park your horse if horsecamping is something that interests you, very Kentucky, indeed. Bath houses are average but well maintained as all the park is.

Product Review:

Being a Dyrt Ranger, I sometimes have the chance to try out new products on our adventures. This time I was able to test out the Birler Axe by #CRTK.

As anyone who's ever had to camp in moist conditions will tell you, it's no fun having to cut through a damp piece of kindling or wood. While we could purchase dry firewood at the campground, we had to chop our own kindling, which we found dry on the inside and wet on the bark…the Birler cut threw it like butter.

It's compact size was easy to pack, and while I'd guess it weighs in at about just over a pound, and wouldn't be ideal for most backpackers, it was perfect for some average campsite wear. The quality was high, and it split a log like no body's business. There's enough heft behind it to make chopping easy, yet a short enough handle to maneuver. Balance was great. A leather sheath is sold separately, and while the axe comes with a rubber blade guard, is highly recommend a sheath for it as it's extremely sharp, unlike our old axe which had a hard time cutting through a carrot. We were the envy of the campground.

Rustic, beautiful

Walk out to the outcropping of land and you'll find the most beautiful site - bring your bird watching gear!

Adirondack camping village

Like the Bentley of campgrounds. Beautiful location, so clean you could eat off the bathroom floor (if you felt so inclined) and beautiful lakeside pools!

Campers Cove

Thunder Bay is amazing, and I'd never been on the MI side and it was peaceful and beautiful! Campers Cove was also a canoe livery, so you can take out a boat for the day right at your site! Indoor pool (helpful at Thunder Bay) and lots of extras like mini golf. Clean restrooms. Friendly staff.

A little piece of heaven...

I have to say that when it comes to mountain lake island camping, NY is tops! Nothing quite like being able to kayak with your pack out to your own island and overnight there! Lake Saranac is beautiful, and you have to hit the Saranac Brewery!

Mountain biking Camp out!

Koomer Ridge campground has a great location for mountain biking (what we went for), hiking, fishing - anything really! The Daniel Boone Nat Forest is, I think, at its most beautiful in late spring. Nice campground and some of the nicest people you'll want to meet while camping too! Lots of friendlies!

Like a postcard!

Watkins Glen State park is a must see for NY campers and hikers. There's the waterfall which is easy for even children to get to, and several beautiful hiking paths in all seasons. The state park campground is like a postcard, especially in fall. The Seneca Lake Wine Trail runs right through this area and makes for a fun diversion to your hiking trip!

Nice area for camping

This was a pretty basic campground, but the staff was friendly and helpful and the access to the lake was great. Nice Cabins and boats for rent and a fully stocked store for all your beach needs! There's a pool if the lake water gets too much for you and I give the bathhouses a 6/10. Campground is on a peninsula, which is nice. I recommend the west side of the sites.

Great Find!

Here's what's great about this campground situated at an easy drive from major cities like Columbus and Cleveland…its scenic, a fully loaded campground with bathhouses, parks, hiking paths, swimming resivoir with boat rental…we highly recommend renting a pontoon for the day and hanging out in the resivoir for swimming and lounging! It's both relaxing and nice to get away from the beach crowd!

Clean and pretty

Quiet little campground we used for passing through. Well kept and wooded. Good sized sites. Showers were cleaned each morning and accessible.

Wish we could have stayed longer!

We hit this campground on our way through to Lake George, and I was genuinely upset that we couldn't stay longer. So many fun amenities. It's like a water park, meets campground. Games areas, activities galore. Expect to pay higher rates, however, because you are being charged for more than just a campsite. There's all the "extras." Would not recommend to someone looking for silence or just passing through however!

Beautiful scenery

Showers and bathrooms are 6/10 here, but functional. The water areas range from nice sandy beaches to more marshy but scenic beaches, great for dog walking and enjoying birdwatching and sunsets! The state park itself is near East Tawas which has all the comforts of a town and activities and rentals for the lake!

Island camping!

When camping on lake George, staying on an island to camp is a must-do. We rented kayaks and actually reserved a spot on our own private island. It was little, slightly wooded, and private. There are also other islands in the park - Glen and Long, etc, where there are more sites in a group setting, but nothing beats being alone and hearing only the tide crashing next to you all night. We went for July 4th and got front row seats for their fireworks over the lake from our private shore. It was beautiful. Spent the rest of our time kayaking, swimming, hiking in the mountains and eating at our favorite local joint, George's (we recommend the prime rib and salad bar with their carrot slaw - it's amazing.) Best kayak rentals at Bolton Landing a short drive down the coast!

Heavy summer crowds, but lots to do

This place was fun - pool with slide, access to the lake, surrounded by mountains and quick access to town where everything you need is at your fingertips. Ice cream shops, stores, outfitter, restaurants…but beware in your time of year choice - it gets loud and crowded!

Fun fun fun!

Ohiopyle is pretty much a camping family's delight. Aside from the rock water slide, which is burned into the kid's memories, there's great, easy hiking trails and a pet-friendly campsite. Late spring is my favorite time to go because the water is at its highest and everything is lush and green!

KOA - Pigeon Forge, TN

Similar to most KOAs we've stayed at, and this one does have a real "lazy river" along side - but is otherwise not the greatest place we've stayed in the area. We have a pop up, and it's difficult to level them in your site. The bathrooms are touch and go. They do clean them well, but it's the overly-careless campers here that are to blame. No one seems to care. Tent camping would be way to uncomfortable in these sites in my opinion. Large, enclosed RVs are the way to go, because even a pop up is a little loud. There's a pool and hot tub, and playground. Overall, good location but not great.

Holiday Park Campground

Silver lake is one of the most beautiful areas you can go in all of Michigan. With dunes of it's own, & a perfect, calm crystal lake - it's great for swimming, kayaking and photography. Holiday Park campground was on the south shore of the lake, had a swim area, boat launch, and was immaculate. Pets were allowed and sites were very level for trailers. All sites had electric hook ups and they are sectioned out by environment, like woods, lakeside, up on the ridge line, and there's even island sites. I prefer the lake and island sites if you can get them. There's something about waking up to that lake that is dreamy!