Years-in-Review: Six states and 13 campgrounds


Short Campground ReviewEach year Kristin and I spend some time between Christmas and New Year’s Day reflecting back over the past year and setting camping goals for the next year. This year that conversation included The Touring Camper. One of our goals for 2014 was to post reviews of all the campgrounds that we have pictures and information for, going back to our first year of married life. As I have gone back through pictures and files, we had sufficient information to post full reviews for all of our trips in 2014 and 2013. Prior to 2013 we have enough information and memories to determine if we would return to that campground and what site we would select, but not enough information or pictures to complete full reviews for those campgrounds.

So for this final 2014 post, I have compiled impressions and pictures of campgrounds that we visited during the first eight years of our camping journey, starting in 2005. I have organized these campgrounds by state and then alphabetically. So as you reflect back on 2014, take a journey into our past … you will see some pictures of a very YOUNG couple dating back to our newlywed years!

Since this is a long post, the states are hyperlinked so you can jump right to what you are looking for:

Kentucky:

  • Corbin/Laurel Lake KOA (2011)
  • Kendall Campground CORPS (2006)

New York:

  • Four Mile Creek State Park (2006)

Ohio:

  • Guilford Lake State Park (2005)
  • Stonelick State Park (2008)

Pennsylvania:

  • Cook Forest State Park (2006, 2010)
  • Erie KOA (2011)
  • Old Mill Stream Campground (2010)
  • Ole Bull State Park (2005)
  • Raccoon Creek State Park (2005)

South Carolina:

  • Paris Mountain State Park (2011)

Virginia:

  • Fancy Gap KOA (2011)
  • First Landing State Park (2007)

 

Kentucky:

  • Corbin/Laurel Lake KOA
  • Kendall CORPS, Ky. (FYI: Our first pop-up is there, it's just so small behind the truck you can't even see it!)
  • Cumberland Falls, Corbin, Ky.

Corbin/Laurel Lake KOA (2011): This KOA in Corbin, Ky., served as a stopping point as we traveled from South Carolina visiting family to see more family in southern Ohio. While we only stayed one night, our recollections (and photos) indicate that we would return to this campground. I do recall that many sights were easy to get into and out of, and the staff members were very nice. What I recall most about our stay has nothing to do with the campground and more to do with our “neighbors.” The short version of story: He hooked the city water line to the “flush” valve instead of the “fresh water” connection. After about 20 minutes there was a large BOOM … followed by obscenities … followed by a huge clean-up process in the camper bathroom.

Kendall Campground CORPS (2006): This is a campground that my family frequented when I was a kid growing up. While the bathrooms did not receive Kristin’s stamp of approval, that was the only downside to this AWESOME campground. This campground is located in Jamestown, Ky., just below the dam at Lake Cumberland. This location along with completely shaded and private sites acts as a natural air conditioner as water is released from the bottom of a 200+ foot pool level at the dam. Lake Cumberland is one of the best boating and fishing destinations with almost crystal clear water and plenty of area to explore (the main channel is 100 miles and over 1,200 miles of shoreline). If you have a boat and are interested in checking out this campground, I have two recommendations: 1) while on the lake go to 76 falls to swim under an awesome waterfall, and 2) unless you are an excellent boater and know the dam release times DO NOT boat, swim, or wade below the dam. Adjacent to the campground is a National Fish Hatchery for Rainbow Trout. While you can’t fish in the hatchery, the stream leading from this hatchery back to the Cumberland River is filled with trout and they will gobble up red “salmon eggs” especially when the trucks are feeding the hatchery fish; something about the back up beepers makes the trout go nuts. Another side trip idea for this area is a visit to Cumberland Falls in Corbin, Ky., where sometimes you can witness a rare “moonbow.”
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New York:

  • Four Mile Creek State Park, N.Y.
  • Four Mile Creek State Park, N.Y.
  • Sunset at Four Mile Creek State Park, N.Y.

Four Mile Creek State Park (2006): This was our destination for our second anniversary and our main goal for this trip was to visit Niagara Falls. The campground, located in Youngstown, N.Y., provided quick access to both Lake Erie and Ontario. Additionally we witnessed some spectacular sunsets from the campground shoreline of Lake Ontario. While our memory of this early camping trip is foggy, here is what we do remember: most sites were in an open field and we don’t remember any gravel or paved sites. At the time, the bathrooms were not as nice as some of the campgrounds we have stayed in since.
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Ohio:

  • Stonelick State Park, Ohio
  • Stonelick State Park, Ohio
  • Stonelick State Park, Ohio

Guilford Lake (2005): As newlyweds we were on a pretty tight budget, so for our first anniversary what did we do? Went camping. This small state park in Lisbon, Ohio, was nice, bathrooms were clean, and we did enjoy exploring this part of Ohio. What we also remember: Sites were very close to each other and this part of Ohio has frequent severe weather (we spent one evening on standby in case we had to seek shelter in the bathhouse). For our anniversary dinner, we went out to eat at the Spread Eagle Tavern and Inn. Nine years ago it was a fun experience and we do plan to return at some point.

Stonelick State Park (2008): We camped at Stonelick when Sweet Pea had just turned 1 and we were visiting some family in the Cincinnati area. Our memories of Stonelick, which is located in Clermont County about 25 miles east of Cincinnati, are not positive: Other campers were loud, the bugs were really bad, dumpsters were overflowing, and the bathrooms were dirty and did not have toilet paper! The experience was so bad we wrote the state park superintendent about the visit, but we never received a reply. Things have hopefully improved since then!
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Pennsylvania:

  • Cook Forest State Park, Pa., 2006
  • Cook Forest State Park, Pa., 2006
  • Cook Forest State Park, Pa., 2006
  • Cook Forest State Park, Pa., 2006
  • Cook Forest State Park, Pa., 2010
  • Cook Forest State Park, Pa., 2010
  • Erie KOA, Pa.
  • Erie KOA, Pa.
  • Erie KOA, Pa.
  • Old Mill Stream Campground, Pa.
  • Old Mill Stream Campground, Pa.
  • Ole Bull State Park, Pa.
  • Ole Bull State Park, Pa.
  • Ole Bull State Park, Pa.
  • Ole Bull State Park, Pa.
  • Ole Bull State Park, Pa.
  • Ole Bull State Park, Pa.
  • Wellsboro gas lights
  • Leonard Harrison State Park, Pa., overlooking the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon
  • Leonard Harrison State Park, Pa.

Cook Forest State Park (2006, 2010): We think we went to Cook Forest, in Cooksburg, Pa., more than twice in the past 10 years, but we can only find pictures and records of two visits. This is one of my favorite parks in Pennsylvania, although Kristin is not a huge fan of the older bathrooms. The campground is large and fills up on holiday weekends and peak leaf weekends. Some of our favorite activities include canoeing on the Clarion River, biking River Road, climbing the fire tower, and hiking in the park (especially the old growth “Forest Cathedral”). If you are looking for a week-long destination of outdoor activities, this would be a great place to visit.

Erie KOA (2011): One of our family’s favorite touring locations is Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pa. We typically make at least one day trip to this state park each year (along with over 4 million other people annually). In 2011 we decided to tour the Erie area for more than just a day. After copious amounts of research and driving through several campgrounds, the Erie KOA seemed to be the best bet for families wanting to camp near Presque Isle. The Erie KOA was very clean with great bathrooms. There were a ton of planned activities including a goat parade for the kids. We did enjoy the Sunday Pancake breakfast and the kiddos approved of the playground. Our only negative is that the sites are very close together and do not offer much privacy. However, it was no closer than many of the other KOAs we have stayed at. While touring Erie, here are a few of our recommendations: When headed to Presque Isle make sure to stop at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center. If you aren’t planning to swim at the lake, we recommend the beaches between the lighthouse and beach No. 9, which are unguarded and therefore not as busy–you can also have your dogs on these beaches. While the Presque Isle beaches are the main attraction, we have also canoed and kayaked the ponds, and there are plenty of biking routes. On the way into the park there is a fun place to eat: Sara’s diner (be sure to get a milkshake). And finally, for a change of pace, we have also enjoyed a fun evening at the nearby Lake Erie Speedway.

Old Mill Stream Campground (2010): This great campground is located in the heart of Lancaster, Pa., right next to the Dutch Wonderland amusement park. We were headed to Strasburg for the Day out with Thomas experience when Sweet Pea was 3 and Flash was not even 1. After reading reviews and looking at maps, I was skeptical about the campground’s location, but I decided convenience and location trumped finding a campground outside the city. We were shocked when we arrived: Old Mill Stream Campground is a GREAT little place. We requested a site along the creek and had an awesome view of Pennsylvania farmland. For being in the middle of the city, evenings were quite quiet. We have very fond memories of this trip and if we were ever in the area again we would stay here again.

Ole Bull State Park (2005): Kristin and I spent a week at this campground in July of 2005 between weddings: I was in a wedding in Philadelphia one weekend and Kristin was in one the next weekend in Rochester, N.Y. The drive from the Philly area up the Susquehanna River into north central Pennsylvania was beautiful. This campground, in Potter County, Pa., is by far one of our favorites! It is a smaller campground with only two loops, and it is located a good 45 minutes from most anything. In 2005 the bathrooms had just been remodeled and truth be told were so nice that this early camping experience in our marriage spoiled Kristin and became the standard that she based all other campground bathrooms on. Both loops are in an old pine grove, which does make for some sap issues, but also helps keep the campground cool even in the summer. We used Ole Bull as a launching point to explore this remote part of PA. We highly recommend touring historic Wellsboro, where gas lights still illuminate the streets. (Need a place to eat while visiting? The Wellsboro Diner offers amazing pies!) For an evening/night excursion check out Cherry Springs State Park, one of the best stargazing spots on the east coast. We also enjoyed the Leonard Harrison State Park, which is at the top of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon–a beautiful gorge and overlook that really looks nothing like the real Grand Canyon. We are hoping to go back to Ole Bull in the next few years now that at least one loop will accept pets according to the new campground maps.

Raccoon Creek (2005): We spent a rainy memorial day weekend at this campground and regardless of the rain we were not impressed. There are only 12 electric sites that allow pets and 26-35 are in full sun. We were in site 22 and we barely fit our 8-foot pop-up on the site! Many of the campers in the pet loop had VERY noisy dogs and the park rangers at the time did not enforce quiet hours. Additionally the campsites were overgrown and the bathrooms were not Kristin’s favorite.
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South Carolina:

  • Paris Mountain State Park, S.C.
  • Paris Mountain State Park, S.C.
  • Paris Mountain State Park, S.C.

Paris Mountain (2011): We stayed at Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville, S.C., for almost a week while visiting family in the area. We have very mixed feelings about this park as we loved some aspects but were not pleased with others. The park itself is very beautiful with a small lake  and tons of hiking and biking trails. The park is heavily used in the daytime by locals but at night the gate was securely locked and campers are given an access code (this means on your first day make sure to check in before dark when the gate locks). There is easy access to shopping and gas near the park. The first downside: If you have a large rig I would not recommend attempting the access road. There are some VERY tight turns. While driving very slow in our current van with the second pop-up camper, it activated the traction control and anti-tip features. Additionally, the bathrooms were not to Kristin’s standards and during that week there was no hand soap in the bathroom. When we returned to Greenville a few years later, we decided to stay farther away in the Spartanburg area to avoid staying here again.
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Virginia:

  • First Landing State Park, Va.
  • First Landing State Park, Va. (Notice bunk-ends tied down!)
  • First Landing State Park, Va.
  • First Landing State Park, Va.
  • First Landing State Park, Va.

Fancy Gap KOA (2011): This was a stop-over on our way to South Carolina. Make sure to ask for directions or follow signs from the highway since it is not as close as most KOAs to the freeway, but once you get in the park it is really a nice facility. While most of the campground is on the side of a hill they have done a great job leveling most of the sites. We requested a site away from most others (since Tornado was a baby and was not sleeping well), and they were great at making the accommodation so we were at the very top of the hill. Bathrooms were very clean and private. We did spend a good deal of the night in the van while bad storms moved through the area–this was one of the first times we started thinking about the virtues of a hard-sided travel trailer.

First Landing State Park (2007): We traveled to this Virginia Beach campground over Easter break in 2007 while Kristin was pregnant with Sweet Pea. We liked this campground and had planned to return this past summer but unforeseen circumstances backburnered those plans. One thing that we did not expect at the campground was that the showers were open air at the bottom and top … which made for some cold showers in late April! I also suggest being prepared for WIND! This campground is right on the bay and we had a snowstorm blow in the one day. I literally used sand stakes and rope to tie down the bunk-ends of the pop-up as the winds were lifting them. Some of the things that we enjoyed touring were the park itself and the nearby Cape Henry lighthouses. We also ventured down to Back Bay NWR and False Cape State Park.

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