Jennifer G.
St. Clair, MO
Joined August 2018
Ranger Review: Midland Radio XT511 GMRS Base Camp Radio at Red Bluff Camp

Campground Review: 

We camped at Red Bluff at the beginning of the off season, so it was a lot quieter than I bet it can be in full swing. As everyone else will tell you, the sites on the bluff provide a fantastic view! Right now there are about 5 sites up there, but they are under construction for what appears to be adding an additional loop with a view and I heard rumor of electricity being added up there too. Because we wanted air conditioning, we opted for the lower sites near the river. We camped at site# 28 and it was just right. We were not on the river but close enough to hear it. With the camper parked to the left, we could not really see or hear the neighbors from that direction well. To the right we had a large and long site with a tree line and hill between us and the neighbors. We could see them through the trees but it was not like we were “hanging out together” close at all. Sites 27 and 28 faced the woods so another angle where you felt secluded. A few sites down was a little spot that you could walk right down into the water. It was a tad too cold for us but the heat of the day made us really want to wade in. It was crystal clear and you could see a gravel bar not far from there. I believe in another area of the grounds you can walk out onto one. They do have double sites, some of which were huge! The fire pit we had was awesome, it had a ring that lifted up or down onto a raised concrete circle and had a grill that you could turn out and away if not in use. We are actually going to look for a ring like that for our home. This site also had what we were calling a cooking station. It was a tall covered set of shelves. We put our cook stove on it. The site also had a lantern holder which we used to tie up the dog when we needed to too. While there were flood level signs everywhere and you coud see where flash floods had happened on the lowest level of camp, our site was high enough to not need to worry. One day while we were there we went to Dillard’s Mill- a nearby park with an old water powered grain mill on site. It was peaceful and pretty, no swimming there anymore though. Lots of picnic areas. There is no ATV use on the camp grounds, so we went up to an area of the forest that you can ride in. It was not far from camp. The camp host was very friendly. The only thing that could have made this ground better was a dump station. Maybe that is in the plan with the construction too. I was hesitant to try here at first because of all the raccoon complaints but we did not see even one the entire time. So don’t let those comments deter you! All in all a great site and we will be back with the kids, maybe hit the bluff next time.

Product Review: 

As a Ranger for the Dyrt, sometimes we get products to test from their partners. This radio is a fun and handy addition to our now growing Midland collection. It does ALL the things. We liked and utilized the NOAA Weather Alert Radio to help us to decide when was a good time to take our ATV’s for a ride through the National Forest. We used the AM/FM radio at the site for some tunes around the fire and the flashlight to take the dog for a nightly walk. The handle and shoulder strap made it easy to carry. Since we are new ATV owners, we were especially looking to test the range for this radio (because separation and possible emergencies seem inevitable lol). My brother in law lives near the campground so we set him up on his porch with the base camp and headed away to the ATV trails at the National Forest entrance. Every so often we would stop and check in “breaker niner niner…John can you hear me?” Sure enough, clear as day we got back a “YUP that’s an affirmative over”. So we got to the end of our trail, which we had mapped as 1.5ish miles as the crow flies and home could hear us, we got a response, then we spoke again and no response back (though he was trying). Occasionally in our trek the responses from home were a tad crackly but we still clearly got what was being said. There were so many features on this thing that we were not able to test them all in our weekend getaway, but I would recommend it if you have multiple radios from Midland in use. It has 5 ways to charge it, one being hand crank so it can be used in an emergency and a USB connector to recharge your phone with. My husband was excited about the eVox Hands free operation option. This will be great for camping and emergencies! We give it 5/5 stars for our needs.

https://midlandusa.com/product/xt511-base-camp/

Ranger Review: Fiber Light at Estes Park Campground at East Portal

Campground Review: 

We really enjoyed our stay at Estes Park at East Portal! I can’t say enough good things. We passed so many parking lot campgrounds and were so happy we chose here. We had trees! Our space was large enough to accommodate our 20 ft travel trailer with our truck next to it, still leaving plenty of room for the picnic table and a chair circle around the fire. We chose to park next to the camper so as to not obstruct the view. Water and electric and a large bear box were provided. Our spot A66 overlooked a little field that every morning a little fawn would come up out of and sniff around. My kids enjoyed playing with sticks and rocks in this little field-something every kid should get to do! We had beautiful views in 3 directions(bathroom behind us). Speaking of bathrooms, they were large and clean! Auto flushing toilets, toilet paper and hand soap! A cleaning crew came in often and quickly. Individual shower rooms make for a comfortable and private hot shower very welcomed at the end of a day of nearby hiking. Mule deer came through every evening right by our camper to eat grass. One morning 3 large Bull Elk and a young bull came through the valley and up through the campground. It was so surreal! The stars were stunning too. We saw shooting stars and even the northern lights (flashing kind not curtains). Then on our last day, a rainbow could be seen right next to the campground. We could not have asked for anything more! The camp hosts were all awesome and very helpful. The location was central to most things that we wanted to do. No cell service and it was glorious! But if we did need it, about a mile down the road we picked it back up. There is a geocache very near to the campground right by a hiking trail-my boys enjoyed marking it off their list . I could watch them walk to it from the site. On our first hike we saw horse back riders from the YMCA and stunning views including a small waterfall. Wildflowers were scattered across the mountainside and there is a small reservoir for fishing-though we didn’t. The air was so clean and you could smell the pines. The site next to us was a walk-in I believe as it cycled through a few times in a week. The playground was small but my kids were satisfied. There was a rock climbing wall and swings. My husband said the dump site was not positioned perfectly for our camper but we were so happy they had one. The office has a small little store with maps brochures and some essentials or souvenirs. If we go back to Estes Park, this is definitely where we will camp again.

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Product Review: 

As a Ranger for The Dyrt, I get products to test from time to time and this time we chose to review  Fiber Light.

https://fiberlightfs.com/collections/fire-starters-tinder/products/original-fiber-light-fire-starter

My husband has been showing our 12 year old some camping how to’s and this was a fun thing for them to mess around with. They used a spark wheel to get it going (survival mode they said lol) and it lit quickly and burned for a long time! We timed a large pinch and it burned for over 5 minutes. Lights immediately with a flame lighter. Comes in a large fully packed round tin with a thick rubber band around it to seal out moisture. My son was the first to try and was not able to get lit with his Firebiner (first time using that too), but my husband got it lit right away lighting the kindling and a log. I was impressed with how much time we had to get the rest of the fire set up! This will definitely be useful in a survival or long hike situation. Thumbs up from us!

Very fun area. Pretty normal campground

Nice park. It’s a pretty long trek from parking to the swimming area with young children and all your gear. I recommend finding a nice pooled in area to swim in. Moving from pool to pool gets dicey. There are some awesome deep pools and “natural slides” but it definitely gets very slippery and you really have to watch the kids. Campground is pretty clean but average for state park.

Great campground, close to so much to do!

We spent most of our time at the pet friendly beach. So many places to hike and so much fun to swim. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay. We hiked or swam, visited and attempted to climb the dunes lol, saw some shows at the amphitheater and saw a historic cabin on site. A firewood vending machine? Pretty basic camping but very nice.

Great beach, RV park basically a parking lot.

While not the most exciting campground, we thoroughly enjoyed the beach. We found Petoskey stones and other fossils and swam. It felt like being at the ocean! There were nice trails to walk and we could see a light house off in the distance. Our dog really enjoyed swimming. If we are ever in the area again we will be back. Clean bathrooms and friendly people.

Nice float!

My husband I visited here for a quick little getaway. We have a travel trailer and our own raft and had a friend drop us off up river. It was a very nice crystal clear float, not crazy with party crowds when we went in August. The office has a bar inside with a tv that looked nice enough if you want to be in a Smokey bar. Our site was pretty uneven and not as close to the river as we’d have liked. It wasn’t very busy when we were there but I bet it is pretty bustling in main season. All in all we enjoyed our visit. It was easy to get our raft out and back to our site (with a truck) and we will definitely come back. They had a pool but it was closed when we were there. Seemed like fairly nice facilities.

Nice float and campground- staff not so great

While having been greeted with pretty grumpy and demanding owners, who could not quite get their math right, this is a fairly nice grounds. We like to get the site right next to the float pull out so we can easily carry our stuff back to “home.” Tends to be a party and last time there, some locals who were not camping invaded our site and tried eating our food and just flat out would not leave. Staff were not to be found to get them to remove these guys. But we really like this stretch of he Meremec River. Pretty and predictable. Green’s cave is along the route if you can find it and lots of places to swim.

Floater campground

Nice green property, group sites. Pretty trench of river.

Nice float, but evening can be party central

Nice float on the Black River. Cool water and beach to sit and watch the floaters go by in as well! Group sites and were pretty large and mostly shady. This place is lit up fast after dark! Large stage with live music becomes a big party. In my younger days this was a blast! Now I opt for a site as far away from the stage as possible and do not bring my children here lol. Nice facilities, no real complaints. I bet weekdays are a lot more serene.

Basic Campground not far from Torch Lake

We enjoyed our stay, not much going on when we were there but it seems that this is a great spot for large groups and I have seen that sometimes they have live music or small festival type activity. Bathrooms were large and clean, water and electricity available. If you go by the bath house you can get Wifi. Little playground for my 4 yr old, not so much for 11 year old. Minus one star because despite the name, there is no access to any river. We stayed here not wanting to be in the tourist trappy areas nearby and it worked out great. Spots were not huge and also not very grassy. Geocachers, this is not far from a cache in a cemetery where the grave of a bearded lady is! Took a day trip up to Torch Lake and Petoskey to look for stones. Be sure to make sure beaches are dog friendly if you have one with you. Had we stayed in the camp, there was not a whole lot to do when we were there but not a bad place.

Nice Shady spot, great service and float!

Nice large shady spots, water and electricity. Staff was very friendly and only charged a small fee to take our own blown up raft up river to float down to camp. They do rent as well. River was very cool and clean. Not too deep in July and we had lots of places to swim and fish. Slow enough that my 4 yr old was able to wade with out problems many places. We really enjoyed our stay here and had we not also booked elsewhere we might have stayed! Playground, shop and basketball hoop available. We saw a lot of wildlife including deer, turkey, herons, black squirrel, frogs, and crayfish! We had a blast, nice place.

Very friendly and accommodating, kids loved it, beautiful lake!

We enjoyed our stay at this campground. The gift shop met most of our needs and the owners were very friendly. The kids and dog really enjoyed the playground, swimming in the lake and jumping off the floating pad. There were little cabins and trailers for rent but we had our own camper. There were also canoes and things to rent but we did not partake-fairly priced. One star removed due to the close proximity of the spots. But all in all we had a really nice time and will go back if in the area. Some geocaches near the campground and hit up Bullseye Market Place in Vandalia MI. Awesome meat and produce, bakery and local goods! We went back twice.

Nice campground and beach!

We had a very nice time here. Everything was very clean. We camped on top of a hill from the lake in an RV site and with being completely surrounded by neighbors, we had enough space not to feel crowded. You could not easily hear your neighbors conversations. We almost stayed an extra night and had we not booked somewhere else ahead of time we would have! Nice spot.

Nice little campground and float

We came in for a weekend in July. It was a little muddy and gravely due to rain but we still had a nice time. The boys fished right across he street from our campsite. And there was a gravel bar that we were able to walk up the river a tad and swim. Nice cool water. It was pretty quiet when we were there. Only a few other campers/floaters. I can see how when the season is in full swing it could be pretty tight quarters but not a bad spot. Some amenities and great accommodating staff. May be back if around that neck of the woods again.

Nice campground great cave!

I think I like this cave better than  Meremec Caverns nearby. Much less of a tourist trap and just a nice cave tour! They also have bats and that’s cool.  I don’t have any complaints about the campground but I can’t say anything of particular greatness stands out either. Nice campground, great cave!

Fun and plenty of amenities

Great staff and gift shop. We once camped in the late fall with our pop up camper and it was very quiet and green. We saw deer and my husband talked back and forth with an owl in the woods. We chose an electric site towards the back to avoid most people. I was pregnant and they had already winterized the back bathroom/shower house but opened up a room for me to use so I didn’t have to shlep my belly all the way across the grounds. Tent sites are very close together and this campground is very crowded in the summer with parties and floaters. I would not call this a family float trip personally but I do see many people bring their kids. Gift shop has basically everything but you pay a convenience price. I enjoy this float route a lot and I hear they have a kids tube loop but I have not experienced that. Multiple bath houses, as clean as you expect a campground bath house to be. Bring your own soap for hand washing. In the summer they have a restaurant with campsite delivery and sometimes live music. Last I saw the playground was not huge but my kids still enjoyed it. Rock beach for wading and swimming. They have small cabins and a pool but we use our camper or tent and swim in the river. Nearby is Onondaga Cave which is a nice experience especially when it is blazing hot outside.

Nice little adventure

This is a nice place to go for a quick adventure with family. Especially on a hot day. A little more expensive than I would expect, but still worth doing at least once. My kids and parents enjoyed our last trip, however there is a spot that was too steep for my dad. They did warn ahead of time when we were coming to that point and he did not miss very much. They have a route around it to catch up and enjoy the light show at the end. Light show is pretty but was also very “AMERICA!” but some people are all about that. They know their crowd I suppose. They have a snack shop with ice cream, zip line across the river, and a boat ride also available but we have not experienced those yet. I would say allow about 2 hours or so for the cave tour.

Lots to do and see

Can be quite crowded in the summer and only a few secluded sites that we found of use. This is to be expected as one of the more commonly known campgrounds in MO. But overall a pretty park with lots to do and see. Green hikes that my young kids can handle, swimming, tubing/floating, and of course the caves. We like to put our tube or rafts in the river at one park ramp and float to the next one to take out for a quick shot of nature. That is about a 1-2 hour float depending on water level. This is a nice park even to just spend the day in. Hike swim eat and repeat. There’s usually deer abound. As for camping I can mostly speak for the fall, during that time it is fairly open and easier to relax. Less partying going on and more space in between campers. Bathrooms are fairly clean, staff are fairly accommodating. I would recommend this campground.