Shelly S.
Bowling Green, KY
Joined June 2016
Been camping since I was a kid, got the “bug” from my mom;) Military taught me a different kind of camping.Now I’m back on my own with my three amigos
Call before you get there

Ranger Review of Mountain House at Beech Hollow Hideout.

Ranger Review: I recently visited Beech Hollow Hideout in/near Dowelltown, Tn. https://www.hipcamp.com/tennessee/beach-hollow/beech-hollow-hideout I discovered this listing on The Dyrt Pioneer listing page and used Hipcamp to make my reservation. This place is truly a gem in the Tennessee hollows! William and Sharon have lived in their little corner of the woods for over 19 years and have created an awesome little oasis of tranquility. LOL, sounds sappy, but I mean it!! Their cabin, which they built over three years is a work of art and they don’t mind giving you a peak. Williams workshop (which he also built)is up the hill and they host volunteers from WWOOF , I never heard of it either but I’m not an organic farmer. The Hideout is another climb further up the same hill. Mind you it’s not far, it’s also not too shy of needing a ladder system to get up to. Walkable but you may need a quick break on your way up and your calves will be speaking to you. Thankfully William has a four wheeler to carry the big stuff up. Once up there the first reaction I had was “this is just cool!” The Hideout is complete with porch , fire ring and open air outhouse that has a lived in wrens nest for “decoration”. Then you start exploring and realize the attention to detail William has put into this little hut. Cedar pleasantly permeates the air, a collapsible table inside the door. Mosquito netting on the door if you want to prop it open. A book shelf with a selection of books. Chairs and a flip water jug and cup. A ladder for the loft sleeping area. A little stove inside if your making a winter visit. Split wood already waiting near the fire pit. And a dozen other things I’m probably forgetting. If your going to sneak away to the woods to hide and unwind for a few days this is the place! There are logging trails to hike and a few state park areas nearby if you want additional recreation. You could easily park your vehicle and just relax right there your whole visit. One more note , stop in the last town you pass through and make your final tweets , calls and texts and make sure you have your directions available in your notes cause your GPS and phone service will fail you long before you arrive on site !

Ranger Review: As a Dyrt Ranger On occasion I have the opportunity to try out products. On this trip I carried along Mountain House https://www.mountainhouse.com/ for lightweight easy packing of a variety of meal options. Chicken and Rice is one of my favorites. I had my other favorite Granola, for breakfast. It is as simple as boiling water for your coffee and Mountain House Pouch, pouring it in the pouch , stirring and setting it aside for a minute or two. Enjoy! I always end up with leftovers when I camp alone due to the large portion sizes. I have a closet full of Mountain House for camping and Emergency Preparation as well as the Zombie Apocalypse:)

Squatters

Ranger Pioneer Mission Ranger and Product Review : RovR RollR 60 at Contryside Escape Worden, Il

Campground Review: I picked Contryside Escape https://www.hipcamp.com/illinois/grove-on-top-possum-hill/contryside-escape from the Illinois Pioneer List. The reservation was done through Hipcamp https://www.hipcamp.com/ which was fairly easy. Though in some cases you have to write something about yourself and be approved by the Host. Reminds me of a B&B but BYOT. The Host , was very accommodating and showed me the entire area as I was the only one camping and had my pick of the area. There is a secluded area on the backside of the pond near the road however I decided on a more open area under some of the trees because there was weather coming in. The host suggested I pull my truck in so I wouldn’t need to carry all my things in. Did I mention your camping around a pond?! Pro: sound#5 on your wave machine “croaking, chirping frogs” (bring ear plugs ;) Con: MOSQUITOES! Don’t forget your bug spray ! So basically your camping in the hosts front yard, to use the necessary you have to go in the house. The door was left unlocked, (I knocked every time and then entered) up the stairs , down the dark hallway (sorta scary movie-ish) and feel around for the light switch in the bathroom. Clean bathroom , HOT water, I would not take a shower , that’s just me and my creepy factor. (I’m not saying that the host or house is creepy I’m saying I make stuff creepy with my over imaginative mind.) The fence around the camping area is not complete , if your dogs mind they can be off leash. First night sounded like there was a shooting range nearby, and frogs . I visited St Louis ( about 30 minute drive) the next day and returned to sit in the shade and relax…….Once again , your in a front yard and there is a neighbor right there. I think he was working on a motor and then his mower. So not much peace and quiet until almost sundown. It was comfortable weather and enjoyable all the same. Second night coyotes nearby, and frogs. No picnic tables. Lawn chairs and a big fire area plus fire ring in the secluded area.$5 for a rick?? of wood. I would visit again with friends next time. No good State Parks nearby, you would need to travel over an hour.

Product Review: RovR https://rovrproducts.com/ I do like my RollR 60. LOVE the color and look. The add-on’s are pretty spectacular for convenience. There’s a cool selection of foldable box’s which I picked for an add-on. Now all that said, the price is a bit exuberant in my opinion. Compared to like coolers it’s about the same price range. I packed some ice the night before I left to pre-cool the cooler. Some melt but not bad. I packed the food and a cold pack and had room to spare. Cool feature is a “dry box” so any melt doesn’t saturate anything. The RovR is heavy before you pack it so the wheels are definitely a plus. The RovR rode in the truck so the temperature was kept moderate until we arrived. Once at the campsite it sat out , in the shade the rest of the trip. Everything stayed cold and two days later after traveling back home (5 hrs) there was still a frozen chunk in my cold pack.

Squatters

Ranger Pioneer Mission Ranger and Product Review : RovR RollR 60 at Contryside Escape Worden, Il

Campground Review: I picked Contryside Escape https://www.hipcamp.com/illinois/grove-on-top-possum-hill/contryside-escapefrom the Illinois Pioneer List. The reservation was done through Hipcamp https://www.hipcamp.com/which was fairly easy. Though in some cases you have to write something about yourself and be approved by the Host. Reminds me of a B&B but BYOT. The Host , was very accommodating and showed me the entire area as I was the only one camping and had my pick of the area. There is a secluded area on the backside of the pond near the road however I decided on a more open area under some of the trees because there was weather coming in. The host suggested I pull my truck in so I wouldn’t need to carry all my things in. Did I mention your camping around a pond?! Pro: sound#5 on your wave machine “croaking, chirping frogs” (bring ear plugs ;) Con: MOSQUITOES! Don’t forget your bug spray !

So basically your camping in the hosts front yard, to use the necessary you have to go in the house. The door was left unlocked, (I knocked every time and then entered) up the stairs , down the dark hallway (sorta scary movie-ish) and feel around for the light switch in the bathroom. Clean bathroom , HOT water, I would not take a shower , that’s just me and my creepy factor. (I’m not saying that the host or house is creepy I’m saying I make stuff creepy with my over imaginative mind.)

The fence around the camping area is not complete , if your dogs mind they can be off leash. First night sounded like there was a shooting range nearby, and frogs . 

I visited St Louis ( about 30 minute drive) the next day and returned to sit in the shade and relax…….Once again , your in a front yard and there is a neighbor right there. I think he was working on a motor and then his mower. So not much peace and quiet until almost sundown. It was comfortable weather and enjoyable all the same. Second night coyotes nearby, and frogs. No picnic tables. Lawn chairs and a big fire area plus fire ring in the secluded area.$5 for a rick?? of wood. I would visit again with friends next time. No good State Parks nearby, you would need to travel over an hour. 

Product Review: RovR https://rovrproducts.com/

I do like my RollR 60. LOVE the color and look. The add-on’s are pretty spectacular for convenience. There’s a cool selection of foldable box’s which I picked for an add-on. Now all that said, the price is a bit exuberant in my opinion. Compared to like coolers it’s about the same price range. 

I packed some ice the night before I left to pre-cool the cooler. Some melt but not bad. I packed the food and a cold pack and had room to spare. Cool feature is a “dry box” so any melt doesn’t saturate anything. The RovR is heavy before you pack it so the wheels are definitely a plus. The RovR rode in the truck so the temperature was kept moderate until we arrived. Once at the campsite it sat out , in the shade the rest of the trip. Everything stayed cold and two days later after traveling back home (5 hrs) there was still a frozen chunk in my cold pack.

Rustic

I found Malabar Farm in Lucas, OH on my way home from Mom’s house. Never heard of it before and I have been this way for over 20 years now. Louis Bromfield was a conservationist and among many other things (including winning a Pulitzer) he was in the forefront of organic and self-sustaining gardening. This place is amazing! ( and would be an excellent home schoolers camping trip!) Not your typical going hiking kinda campground (there are trails but they are not “major”) you come here to step away from city life and tour a working farm. Ohio countryside at its best. Primitive camping with a gravel parking pad and water, fire ring, picnic table and hitching post. No reservations, this is a first come campground. There’s also a small rentable cabin open year round. Definitely worth a visit and very family oriented events. ( your teenager will roll their eyes at you but probably secretly enjoy the visit)

Wet Weekend

Visited in February and it was a wet sloppy weekend, LOVED IT ! Of course no water sports due to the weather. I saw some fishermen and I know they have paddle boats to rent. I also saw a handicap accessible fishing pavilion. At the campground I ended up with a pull through site . I love the set up of the campground. It is a winding, hilltop, one way road through the campground which adds to the privacy of the sites. There are double sites to pick from and a nice handicap site next to the showerhouse. At the far end there is a playground and one site right behind it. So be careful not to pick it if you don’t want to listen to the raucous noises of children. There are a couple of trails to pick from, two circle the lakes. One connects to the Pinhoute (don’t ask me to pronounce it)and there’s a trail to the Marble mine. The cabins don’t allow pets , they are nice structures with full amenities and decks. The pioneer structures would be cool for a group event. I did not hike to the primitive campsites. Rain, mud and mess aside we had a good time.

Blue, blue, blue, cold, cold, cold

Blue Spring is beautiful and cold! Aside from the over zealous teenagers jumping into the spring it was a nice visit.

This is a primitive camping area and there are a lot of partying people in and around this area plus frequent motorboat traffic. No amenities, many generators. Drive in, pick a spot and set up camp. There are so many areas to visit around the river this would be an excellent base camp or you could use it as a stop off on a float trip.

Eminence, MO is nearby and a good place to refuel and get stuff you need for your adventures. Make sure you get a paper map because phone signal can be iffy.

Moist

Love visiting this area. Big Spring Campgrounds near Van Buren, MO is still being renovated after the flood in 2017.

That being said porta pots are in evidence but they were clean. The showerhouse is crowded and old. The only one for the entire campground and three shower stalls. You have room to spread out in your site, privacy andshade if your on the outer loop. A short walk to the river to wade or swim but there is a good current so be aware and wear water shoes.

Pit stop

Smith Falls State Park in NE is a good stop over while floating on the river. An awesome waterfall to hike to and some interesting roads to drive in on. Not good for RV’s unless you have 4 wheel drive and a high clearance type camper. This is the typical basic campground. There was a group present on a float trip and I learned that this is the highest waterfall in NE, which just goes to show how flat the state is :) Seeiously though it is worth a look.

Saw no snakes

Snake River Area Campground near Valentine, NE is on the Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area.

Can you say sand! And fishing. The nice thing about this entire area is one: you don’t see much of the park employees, it’s pretty much all honor system based. Which means if you occupy an entire campground you can stay up as late or early as you want. You can also be as loud or quiet as you like too. Two: This is definitely a water based vacation. The reservoir offers plenty to do and the campground is shaded and did I mention sandy. Dark at night, like pitch black. Critters are around so secure your food. Picnic tables, pit toilets, fire pits and a trash receptacle.

There is the Niobrara River nearby which is the major attraction of the area for float trips. Valentine, NE has food and fuel plus events throughout the year.

Rude employees

Chewacla State Park near Auburn, Alabama was a nice place with some old architecture and nice mountain bike trails.

At the front gate the employee was so busy talking to his friend, possibly another employee, that he couldn’t be bothered to answer any questions. Then his friend felt the need to tell me make sure my dogs were on leashes in a totally snarky voice/attitude. When I stated my dogs would be leashed she said “yeah that’s what they always say”. That could have ruined the whole visit.

I attempted to have an enjoyable time exploring the trails and area and soon forgot about the evil female at the front gate. I really like the old bridges along the roadway and trails. I missed the falls :( The original CCC cabins are renovated and still in use.

The lake is pieceful due in part to only non-motorized vehicles permitted. There is a nice beach area with sand and pavilion.

The campground has an old showerhouse but it was in good repair. Not totally creepy at night. The sites are level and shady and depending on which site you get mostly private. The tent area sits between the two RV loops.

Bring your netting

White Oak Creek Campground, is in Alabama…..I obviously missed the State Sign when I crossed the border;)

This was a quiet, low populated area when we traveled through. I should say low people populated, the bug population was booming! Gnats and mosquitoes, I can see why the frog population is so high.

The lake had several signs denoting the presence of alligators. I didn’t see any, but there in lies the problem! I’ve seen to many National Geographic shows where the unsuspecting gnu gets grabbed while try to quench its thirst. So my dogs were not happy with me because they were not permitted in the water. There were people in the beach area and their kids were playing in the water. There were plenty of people out fishing too.

The campground was shaded and I liked the double spots available for people traveling together. Some sites definitely had more privacy then others. When you don’t reserve ahead you get what’s left if anything. The facilities were not new but they were clean and the park was well maintained. This would be a water recreation style camping trip but you could walk or bike the road.

Seclusion and history

Old Stone Fork State Park in TN is my idea of good camping. It’s a good family campground too.

No big thrills and tourist attractions. You can”unplug” and pry your kids away from the electronics. Pre-historical sites and the river trail is very technical and scenic. You can stay at the top for an easy hike or crawl down to the river and follow the trail through the tree roots and rocks. There are informational plaques along the way and a small store/museum at the trailhead.

The campground has good shade and space between sites. The usual picnic table and fire ring. A few of the sites can become water logged if there’s a good downpour. Bike riding to explore the park is quite common so watch your speed when driving in.

We stayed here overnight and had a relaxing , quiet time after exploring the river area. It just has that old feel to it, like Duck River has been there forever and will be there long after us.

Backcountry camping

Green River is located in Mammoth Cave National Forest near Brownsville, Ky off I65.

This NF is within 30 minutes of my residence and I visit often. You can backcountry camp but first you have to check in at the main area. Then you are pretty free to camp where you want within the guidelines. There are some sites already out there , if you choose to make your own follow “bug protocols”! I messed up and got to suffer through chiggers for a week after our adventure, not fun.

Mammoth offers the cave and Green River of course but many people don’t realize how extensive and unique the hiking areas are. Get a good map and pack your bag you can hike, bike or horseback to several secluded areas that offer a backcountry feel, good for practicing for longer duration hikes. Once you cross the Green River by ferry you are in a whole other world that is not crowded with tourists (usually;)

We set up in chigger central and explored the area which had several small rivulets and a nice little pond that reminded me of some horror movie or other (lol) I saw a family of four and a couple hiking through but otherwise the area was mine.

All about your neighbors

Round Springs in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways of MO is one of the smaller campground areas but it still has some options.

Single or group sites with nearby put in to the Current River make it ideal. Unfortunately the party climate of the area can make it less then ideal depending on who you get in the site next to or across from you. I love this area but it’s popularity takes away from the charm. Some people don’t respect their fellow campers and realize everyone wants to have a good time. Not much problem with wildlife the crowds keep them away but raccoons are still prevalent so store your food properly ;) Saw some deer but that was about it. People also use generators in the non-electric sites so you may be unfortunate enough to be next to them.

That being said it’s still possible to find some areas that are less populated and popular but still interesting to explore.Or if you are going to party, you will be in like company. Plenty to hike, float and explore in the immediate area!

The past and the present

Alley Spring near Eminence, in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways of MO is in my opinion one of the best areas in this region.

There was a flood in 2017 which is a good and bad thing. Unfortunately MO has cut funding to the parks so prior to the flood the maintenance had dropped off considerably, many facilities had been closed and are no longer used due to the neglect. Since the flood there has been and is a lot of renovations going on. It’s not there yet. Some areas are still closed.

Alley Spring is somewhere in the midst of renovation. Still excellent area to camp in with mostly private sites. There are a few that aren’t so great but if you reserve ahead and stay out of the inner area you should be pretty happy with your location.

The nearby rental place for the river will come to you for pickup, there are some nice trails to explore and supposedly wild horses in the area. I’ve not seen them yet.

The spring is beautiful! Tranquility comes to mind when you see it. The trail that climbs above the spring to the overlook is moderate and unfortunately the overlook itself is damaged so you don’t get quite the same view as before. The trail also meanders around the mill and spring, if your lucky you will see the adorable muskrat that resides in the area.

There are pavilions for get together sand a small store with interesting things to see and a cold drink at the end of your journey.

Aqua central!

Van Buren, MO is in the midst of to the Ozark National Scenic Riverway. This whole area is party central for water lovers that spend their vacation time either motoring, floating or sitting along the Current River and the several natural springs that feed into it. 

Big Spring State Park is nearby with plenty of camping options. The campground is still under renovation due to the 2017 flood. There is a showerhouse used by all that is a bit cryptic and bug infested. There is one flush toilet in the first campground loop, the other two loops have porta pots. Picnic table, fire ring and lantern hook on semi-private, mostly level sites. Some have more shade then others. Also a group site is available. 

Skyline Drive is the scenic roadway through the Mark Twain National Forest in this area of the state. There are several areas that people camp on the Current River sand bars. If your looking to commune with nature it is possible even with the crowd, they stick mostly to the river.

Eminence, MO is the crossroads to several of the springs and Current River areas. Food , fuel and shopping.

Definitely a destination camping area.

Closed

Unfortunately PowderMill is closed due to the flood damage in 2017. The limited funding for repairs of the area has caused several sites to be left to the elements and they are slowly being reclaimed by nature…maybe not a horrible thing ;)

There are still several areas to choose from that are currently being rebuilt/reclaimed.

Bring your fishing gear

At Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area near Valentine, NE you have some choices to make. There are Merritt Main, Willow Cove , Lone Tree, Cottonwood , Pines, Cedar Bay , Beeds and Board Campgrounds to choose from. Each has sites near the Reservoir or further back in the scrub that have fire rings and picnic tables. Some have electric options, showers and boatramps. All have at least a pit toilet and dumpster. (And sand)

The state employees were a little scarce when I visited and the weather was not real inviting. I decided to not float on the Reservoir due to the low temperatures, but it would seem that the Nebraskans are a little hardier and used to the cold temperatures then me because there were a few out on the water fishing.

This area would be ideal for a large group get together and out in the middle of nowhere so any noise shouldn’t be an issue. I heard coyotes and it was pitch black at night, had the sky been clear the stars would have been amazing.

Valentine, NE is nearby for resupply and entertainment and there are some other recreation areas that offer hiking and of course floating on the Niobrara River.

Here to fish

Merritt Reservoir Main Area Campground in Merritt Reservoir State Recreation Area, NE is one of many camping options throughout the area.

This is the largest of the campgrounds in the State Recreation Area. There is a fish cleaning area nearby with camper dumpsite. A pit toilet and dumpster are available and each site has a fire ring and picnic table. In addition there is A LOT of sand;) If you are a fisherman this area is ideal for you! If your looking for hiking and land past times not so much.

About 30 minutes down the road is Valentine, NE for your food, fuel and supply needs. Otherwise this area is dark and quiet at night…..except for the wildlife of course.Bring your stargazing gear for additional entertainment and don’t forget lots of bug repellent:)

First to Review
Needs some work

Trace State Park near Tupelo, MS. Once you get into Tupelo the signage directing you to the park is easy to find and follow.

The road in is in terrible shape, the lake is missing, the levy being worked on. They have horse, ATV and mountain bike trails which are in okay shape but could use some TLC. There are rental cabins and the store is limited to souvenir type merchandise and disc’s.

The staff at the park were very helpful and the facilities, which included a showerhouse/multipurpose room and screened porch were very well taken care of. I definitely liked the large shower stalls!

The sites are spacious, including a fire area, picnic table, electric hookup, water and sewer hook up. You have some privacy and depending on your site sparse to full shade.

There is Disc golf, fishing, and currently limited water sports.We used the multipurpose room and a nearby site that had more then enough room for all of us to sit around the fire.

Tupelo, Mississippi is nearby with Elvis’s birthplace. In addition there are several recreation areas to visit on the Natchez Trace with historical information and trails to explore.