Camping at a State or County Park

By Christina VanGinkel

With summer still several months away, I am already looking forward to the weekends when we can escape to the woods for some spontaneous camping outings. We live in the north woods of Wisconsin, where campgrounds at state and county parks are in abundance, but no matter where you live, there are probably at least a few similar within easy driving distance of your home. Operated by the individual states and/or counties, park fees may differ but are usually quite affordable. Amenities will also vary, but a quick phone call to the park you are interested in staying at will provide you with the answers you need, and also alert you to the facts of whether they take reservations or not. If you plan to stay at a park during peak camping season or during any of the summer holidays, such as the Fourth of July, or Memorial weekend for example, reservations may be prudent.

Most state and county parks offer electricity hookups at a percentage of their spaces. Some offer bathroom access, but this can vary from flush toilets to old fashioned out houses. Some of the more modern facilities may even offer hookups for motor homes. Shower facilities are also occasionally available, but this is rare at those campgrounds close by to where we live. Many of these same parks also offer cottages on a rental basis. Surprisingly, the one closest to where we live offers two cottages for rent on a day or by the week basis, yet we never knew about them until this past year, as they do not advertise them locally. If you are interested in staying at a county or state facility but would rather not stay in a tent or camper, then be sure to inquire if the campground you will be staying at has any cabins available. Again, fees vary, but are usually much cheaper than if you rented a similar cabin through a private person or business.

Camping can be the ideal getaway if you enjoy the outdoors, and if you prepare for it in a practical manner. Too often, a camping expedition of a single overnight stay, or even one that is going to last two or three days, will account for enough supplies being gathered that you could potentially stay for weeks, and still realizing that you forgot essentials. Packing sensibly will not only make the getaway more convenient as you will have less to carry, it will also be friendlier to your budget, as you will not be paying high prices for forgotten items at a gas station or convenience store. Follow a few set preparations each time you plan to head out for the night or weekend, and you will be soon wondering why you do not do this more often. First, make sure the campground you will be staying at has openings. Check the equipment you will be using for sleeping. If it is a tent, waterproof it each season, and as needed throughout the season, depending on how often you use it. If you have a camper, at the start of each season, go through your checklist of what was closed down and prepared for winterizing at the end of the previous season. Drain any antifreeze that you poured into drains, check the gas levels on stoves, and go over any windows, doors, and the ceiling for any damage that might have occurred during storage. In addition, check tire wear, and remove any winterizing such as mothballs or mousetraps. Your local service provider can provide you with a more complete list of items to check each season. Keep sleeping bags clean and ready to go, and be sure to use those that are properly rated for the coldest temperatures you plan to use them. If you do camp often, a second set of sleeping bags may be a good idea, especially if you camp during more than one season. Keep your cooking supplies ready and separate from other household equipment. This will save you from arriving at your destination and realizing you forgot several pertinent pieces of cooking gear. Food will need to be packed each trip, and you will need to judge how long you will be gone, and how you plan to eat. We always fill up on lots of trail type foods that are easy to toss in a pack for a hike or that do not take a lot of preparation. Coolers are part of your cooking gear, and should always be cleaned and stored after each trip so they are ready for your next time out. Clothing will need to be packed each time, and you should pack in what I refer to as layers. Even if the temperatures are supposed to be warm, still take into consideration cold evenings and nights, and the unexpected downpours that are every camper’s best friend! Shoes should always travel in two, two pair that is, with extra socks. Shoes can become wet, and if you plan to hike, good quality hiking boots are a necessity.

Camping getaways are great stress busters and easy on a budget, especially when you plan accordingly. If you think, you would like to try a camping getaway, check with your local or county park for a list of those campgrounds within easy driving distance of your home, and get set to experience what relaxation is really all about.

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