Headwaters of the Metolius

Camp Sherman, named for the Sherman County residents that built this mountain retreat in the late 19th century, continues to offer a riparian pine forest getaway with a bygone era feel to it. The sites themselves are fairly Spartan, but the nearby camp store and post office provide sundries, a deli, some contact with the outside world and WiFi, coin op laundry, and showers. Sites are near the water… but many are also near the roadway. This is a heavily visited area in the summer, and reservations can go quickly. Fly fishing anglers wanting to try for rainbow trout, whitefish, bull trout and kokanee salmon should check online for licenses prior to arrival, as the store no longer sells these and online services are hit and miss. Hikers have a mix of riparian and subalpine forest trails to checkout the heavy influence of the Cascade Volcanic Arc. The Metolius itself rises from Springs at the foot of Black Butte, traveling North and East to join the Deschutes. Horseback riders can take advantage of the Metolius-Windigo trail, which winds 100 miles from the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness to Windigo pass near Crescent Lake, roughly paralleling the PCT, which is 12 miles west of here.

Great camp spot on the Emerald Coast. Near the city but a world away.

Newly renovated following Hurricane Michael, the camp boasts great shower and laundry facilities, electrical hookups, back in and pull through sites among the quiet of the beach dunes and palmetto swamp… a great natural area minutes from Panama City/Panama City Beach. There’s great opportunities for beachcombing, snorkeling and diving, particularly on the south end of the park on Shell Island, which is accessible by water taxi shuttle during the season. Recent viewing includes the lower mount and traverse rings of gun turrets constructed 1942-43, when the 166th infantry regiment was stationed here to guard Gulf shipping from German U-Boats.

Night Sky, Boondocking at its best in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Here on the Great Southern Overland Stage Route well off the beaten path is a dispersed camping area that allows you to enjoy the solitude and explore a bit. Ochre petroglyphs, fantastic night sky views, a variety of flora and fauna, hiking, and some challenging 4x4 lines await you here. Access is not always assured, check the local park conditions as well as the weather report. Washboard, softer sandy sections, and flash flooding may make the area difficult or ill advised to travel to. There are some public restrooms at the entrance, and some cell service, but not much else in the way of infrastructure at first glance. Yet the land was inhabited for thousands of years by the Kumeyaay “Those who face the water from a cliff”, Ipai, Kamia, and Tipai people. In the surrounding rock formations you may find morteros and metates used to process piñon, chia, and acorns that served in making dietary staples like shawii, known elsewhere as wiiwish. In addition to hunting and gathering, complex agricultural projects to cultivate maize, teparies, and beans.

Great rest stop along the Natchez Trace

One of three first come first serve free camps on the Trace. Potable water and flush toilets, fire rings and tables, pull through and back in sites. There’s relative privacy, though that’s largely dependent on seasonal deciduous canopy. The campground sits next to a creek cascade and some hiking trails, including part of the old Trace. The Trace today is a far cry from the early days of interstate travel with sunken roads, mud bogs, and bandits. The two-lane is closed to commercial traffic, making this a fun alternative route for a leisurely paced road trip.

Hohenwald, the “High Forest”, holds an Oktoberfest heritage festival and craft fair highlighting the Swiss-German Community that was established here, which is an excellent opportunity to get a feel for the local culture. It was in nearby Grinder House on the night of October 11,1809 that the tragic last chapter in the life of Meriwether Lewis unfolded. Following the Corps of Discovery Expedition, Lewis had been appointed second governor of the Louisiana Territory, and turned his hand to expanding the road networks, negotiating treaties between Native American nations and managing the encroaching settlers moving west. In response to political infighting over his policies, including an expedition to return a Mandan chief to his people, the War Department refused to reimburse him for debts incurred in office, threatening personal financial ruin. The state of the mail led Washington to believe him incommunicado and, on the brink of insolvency, he set out to the Capitol with receipts to make his case. Rather than continuing by boat via New Orleans, Lewis elected to travel the Trace. After finishing a meal at the roadhouse and retiring to his room, shots rang out, and Lewis was discovered by the innkeeper’s family shortly before he passed away. Over a century of dispute followed, with competing narratives of suicide, robbery, and even assassination. His gravesite was lost among the final resting places of the pioneer cemetery, and a monument to one of the great explorers was later erected in his honor.

Perennial Favorite

A trip into the Sawtooth mountains and a visit to Redfish Lake has been de rigeur for any visit to Grandma’s for as far back as I remember… beginning with a trip in ‘84 when my younger brother heeded the call of the wild spirits and disappeared into the forest for hours, only to be found munching happily on the assorted snack foods of a group of elk hunters he had surprised. This area still retains a wilderness experience despite numerous infrastructure improvements and new campground development. Of note, Redfish lake is within the 1416 square mile Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, the first Gold Tier site in the United States. The result is world class spectacular night sky astronomy unimpeded by light pollution, and makes this area a top pick to do some star gazing or meteor watching.

Fauna is abundant in the surrounding area. Deer, elk, bear, marten, moose, and pronghorn antelope all made appearances during my last rip to the area. Fishing at the beginning and end of season might net you Dolly Varden, Rainbow Trout, and Kokanee. The general store has some basic tackle, but the nearest gear and license is in Stanley.

The lodge, separately owned and seasonally operated under USFS special permit, has been in operation since 1929 and offers day rental bicycles of multiple types, horseback riding, boat/canoe/kayak/SUP rentals, a general store, a restaurant, and minimal WiFi and cell service, staying true to its roots wherever possible.

Pro tip: Enjoy the 17 1/2 mile lake loop hike, but if you’d like to split that distance or have other destinations in mind, the marina operates an on demand boat shuttle for hikers to the trailhead at the far end of the lake during daylight hours. No reservation is required, but you can call to schedule pickup.

Great basecamp

Whether you’ve arrived on foot, by car or by rail, Apgar places you in an excellent position to take advantage of what Glacier has to offer. This is particularly true for first time visitors, and those seeking to avail themselves of regular access to park amenities, which are predominantly concentrated here in West Glacier. Apgar is walking distance from the Apgar Visitor Center and park shuttles, as well as Apgar Village, camp store, equipment rentals, etc. I was privileged to camp here near the end of season, and fortunate to arrive with spaces open, and the adjacent loop closed for the season and maintenance. Traffic near the entrance can be relatively heavy in the morning, drivers trying to get a jump on limited parking for hikes elsewhere, leading up to checkout.

Situated near the southern outlet of Lake McDonald into McDonald Creek above the middle fork of the Flathead, it worked well as a great jumping off point to explore landmarks on the West shore like the Apgar Fire Lookout tower and Fish Creek camp, and then push North and East into the park visiting the Lake McDonald Lodge as you climb toward Logan Pass. Recommend getting here around checkout, it fills up fast on a first come first serve basis. Same for the shuttles, particularly if you’re planning a longer outing like the Highline Trail. Parking fills up quickly at Logan Pass, shuttles fill up quickly here. Pay attention to schedule changes for both directions of your journey, give yourself time to enjoy the park, and get to the shuttle stop before the last shuttle.

Pros: Newly remodeled hot showers, which are apparently free to use for through hikers as well. Well maintained sites, helpful host staff. Close to park infrastructure and Lake McDonald

Cons: Busy, fills up quickly. Farther away from the park’s major trails.