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
Time to eat!

Ranger Review: Grubstick at Holiday KOA Greenfield, Indiana. Campground Review: So, I’ve said it before, KOA’s are not my kind of camping. However I find myself once again with a KOA yearly membership. Why? Because several of the people whom I camp with enjoy the WiFi and other perks of staying at a KOA. I met my brother and his wife at the Holiday KOA https://koa.com/campgrounds/indianapolis/ right outside Indianapolis, Indiana for a very wet tent camp out. I towed my redneck “tent platform” and brought along plenty of tarpage. No kayak, the weather actually dipped into the high thirty’s and I am not a cold weather kayaker. Perks of this KOA are a very nice playground and wading pool area. So if you have younger children, ideal for you. There is a nice size dog park and you can get a nice walk in around the campground. They have delivery style pizza right on site and some planned activities on weekends. There is the aforementioned WiFi and the latrine is newer but lacking in hooks ( I’m a big hook person, where else am I supposed to hang my bathroom bag and clothes while showering or grooming at the sink?) The other issue with the latrine is there is only ONE for the entire campground. This is a nice size campground and it can be a good hike from the backside to the latrine, I know this because I had to make that hike more then once. The other issue with that is not everyone is willing to walk that far when they need to go, so where do you suppose they take care of their business? …. exactly! And then there’s my same old complaint of they fit a camper or tent into every square meter of this park, it can get very full and crowded. Excuse me while I look in your window or can over hear every word you say. Holiday was very well maintained to the point of mowing while I’m trying to set up my area and blowing grass all over everything, please don’t run over my dog…Otherwise we had fun looking for area happenings and shopping. I visited Fort Harrison State Park which was nearby. Product Review: As a Dyrt Ranger I get the opportunity on occasion to review outdoor oriented products. I had the chance to try out Grubstick https://grubstick.com/ and I can say I was excited! I am a campfire cooking kind of person and have tried out many contraptions, the Grubstick is a long time in coming. I say that because this ain’t your grandma’s wiener roasting stick or your moms wicked pointed metal fork that can put your eye out or trip you when it slides down the side of the chair leg. The most phenomenal part of the Grubstick is that the handle is…..RETRACTABLE!!! No more wedging the fork in the most inconvenient place or trying to fit it in your cooking box. The handle when not expanded can fit easily into your pocket, day pack, backpack, fannypack !!! To me that is AWESOME!! Revolutionary! Seems to be sturdier then ones I’ve seen in camp stores. Along with the handle comes two attachments and a easy open handle in a nice, durable carry bag, LOVE IT. Christmas gifts all around! And this was before I checked it out. I have two “sets” and unfortunately one of the sticks broke after only a few retractions and extensions. Perhaps I was too vigorous in my extension technique? So carefully extend your grubstick when using. Otherwise it worked like a dream! And the other stick had no issues, so maybe just a flaw in that one stick? I haven’t contacted the company yet, but I will see how they are about returns or replacements. I roasted some sausages and we toasted some marshmallows for s’mores. The pack up was easy too, nice carry bag to put it all in, I usually carry or reuse a freezer type bag for “dirty” silverware etc. I removed the fork head off the Grubstick and it went right in. No MESS! No Long Pointy Stick with goo at the end to wrap and store. Love it! I didn’t use the Grubstick basket while camping so I pulled it out at the house to add some footage and testing. If Grubstickadds a pie pan attachment, I’m one of the first in line to get it!! Happy Camp Cooking ;)

First to Review
Negative 5

This is not a campground. It’s a mobile home park and I would be afraid to park my camper here!

Parking lot

This is your typical military PCS campground for people in transit. No shade! Cement pads to park on. A laundry room, pavilion and showerhouse. There is a dog park and you are off the beaten path. Which makes it a little difficult to find the first time. But when you do your like “Duh! It was right here.” So useful for an overnight if you have a military/retired ID.

Always something new

Ranger Review: Aftershokz at Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville, Alabama

Campground Review: First before I get into my review, I am TOTALLY BIAS at Monte Sano SP ! I LOVE this park, the only thing that could make it better is if there was a lake or attached watercourse. The hiking is moderate to extreme up and down some interesting rock formations. The mountain bikers and bikers seem to enjoy themselves too, flying down the closed roadway or the steep roadways and challenging themselves on the rocky terrain. I’ve been several years now and still haven’t gotten around to all the trails. The campground is laid out in two loops and a dirt loop for tent campers. I was in site 19 which was in the way back, unfortunately near a “pond” so a few mosquitoes were about. Otherwise pretty spacious sites. I hung my hammock and could have put up a tent. Pretty quiet though the campground was close to full. The showerhouse has a pay washer and dryer in the front. Older building but well maintained. Coded gate entry and plenty of trail access right from the campground. Some excellent overlooks a cool waterfall hike and an adjacent land grant. I’ve run several trail runs here and you always see something new. I also found ANOTHER excellent hole in the wall restaurant in addition to several others in the area. https://www.poboyfactory.com/ Worth checking out ! Monte Sano SP has so much to do you could easily spend an extended time there and not be bored, unless you want to be. I mentioned water at the start of this review, though there are no water sports within the park there is more then one option available not very far away. Definitely worth visiting again!

Product Review: As a Dyrt Ranger I get to review interesting products. I had the most excellent mission of trying out Aftershokz https://aftershokz.com/pages/technology. I am not a fan of headphones, they don’t fit well in my ears, they are in my ears, I can’t hear anything else, SO I don’t use them. Enter the Aftershokz! Different take on headphonz, on their site you can read about how they work, in laymen terms (my take) the Aftershokz sits on your bone and the vibrations create the sounds that you hear….It makes sense to me but you should read the information on the site, lol. So anyway, nothing in my ear, I can hear what’s going on around me and no worries of them falling out of your ears. I wore my Aftershokz for a trail-race in Monte Sano SP. Once I put them on I pretty much forgot they were there. I could hear my music and hear what what was going on around me. The sound level is adjustable on the headphone. I also checked the reception distance while working in my backyard. I had good sound at about 50 yards without anything in between. Rechargeable, flexible and sweat proof are additional plus’s.

Lotsa trees

Ranger Review: Primus at Harmonie State Park

I recently visited Harmonie State Park near New Harmony, In. https://indianastateparks.reserveamerica.com/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=IN&parkId=570048 Just a heads up when camping in Indiana there is a fee to visit the State Parks. I always carry cash for that , laundry and in some states bathroom use. So, the number one thing that stuck out to me about this campground was the shade. For the most part it’s level (floodplain…I saw no standing water) And all the sites are nicely shaded (we are talking full growth) and good size. The sites are electric only, no water, no sewer. There are centrally located water hydrants and a dump station on the way out of the campground. The campground wasn’t very full when we visited, but there is a plethora of activities to enjoy. An Olympic size pool which back in the day my kids woulda loved. Hiking paths (very wide), one right by the campground and a connector trail to the mountain bike trail area. There’s also a bike section on the paved roads. You could spend a comfortable week here and not be bored.

Product Review: As a Dyrt Ranger I get to occasionally try out outdoor products while camping and this trip I brought along some Primus “kitchen gear” https://primus.us/ . Primus is known for its camping stoves , the kitchen accessories are pretty sweet too. I have the Trailsporks , a long spoon , a spatula for grilling , campfire plates and a campfire knife. These are very sturdy made accessories and pack in my kit without taking up a lot of space. There are a lot of options on the site to fit your packing needs too, from family fireside to fastpacking . I’m building my fireside kitchen kit .

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.

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.