Month: June 2011

North Rim Campground (AZ) review

Solitude/privacy: 1
Environment & Nature: 5
Available Activities: 5 (hike, hike, & more hike!)
Staff & Park Officials: 5
Accessibility: 5
 

Karen and I got a chance

to go to Las Vegas for a week in August of ’10 & going for a road trip to North Rim was the highlight.  We ended up planning out our trip around April, and when we tried to book a spot on the campgrounds on the North Rim we ended up with two possible choices: a spot by the bathrooms or…. yup, you guessed it, another spot by the bathrooms.  Right away I knew that might suck, but hey! it’s the Grand Canyon, who cares about crappy camp spot.. right?

 

We rented a car in Vegas (Vegas is the closest airport to the North Rim btw) and a 500 mile round trip that took us from Nevada, into Utah, and then down into Arizona, began.  When entering the park we thought we had finally arrived and could set up, no longer be on the road… but alas, we still had about a half hour ride to the campgrounds.  Upon entering, to our surprise, we spotted large, furry, and very calm wild buffalos.  I think this is actually my first time seeing a buffalo, considering I live in Brooklyn, NY.

When we finally did arrive

at the campgrounds the staff was very nice and helpful with surrounding area and wildlife info.  But when taking a ride
through the loops, scouting for our camp sight, I noticed something frightening… RVs & Mobile Homes on top of tent sights.  It’s as if the park thought it’d be uber cool to have an RV sight with a HUUUUGE bus and 15 people in it “camping out” next to a more primitive and intimate tent site for 2-4 people.  Again, my same thought, ‘whatever, it’s the Grand Canyon!’ The only time I will be spending in the campground is during a meal and at night.

Since this was a two day trip, by the time we did get to North Rim from Las Vegas, the darkness was quickly creeping up
on us.  We set up our tent and rushed off to catch what would be one of the most AMAZING sunsets we had both ever seen.  The serene hum of the wind somewhere in low elevation, burning red sky, and a hint of lighting from somewhere very, very far away illustrated an absolutely breathtaking image.  After the sun had completely set and we cautiously crawled back to the campgrounds, our bacon wrapped Nathans’ cheddar cheese franks (the most un-kosher thing you can ever have) with a pint of Guinness and Hoegaarden were the hit of the night.

 



The night sleep however

was not as serene as the sunset.  I was repeatedly woken up by Boeing 747 toilet flushes that were emerging from the bathroom located next to our campsite throughout the night.  To top it off, as the sun rose and the wicked people with their weird bowels crawled back into their resting spots, as I finally fell asleep, I was awaken ONCE AGAIN!!! by something even worse – an RV the size of a Greyhound bus idling right next to my tent.  Not only it was extremely loud but I also had a feeling it was largely responsible for all of the pollution in Newark.  The stench coming from it was… well, have you ever driven through Newark?  If you have, you’ll know.  And if you haven’t, you my friend, are a lucky bastard.

Once we packed up, we were ready to tackle some trails!

History Lesson: During the early 2000s park officials were performing a controlled fire and it got out of hand.  Winds picked it up and the fire ended up burning a large segment of the woods.  For a good 20 minutes or more, as you drive up to the official entrance, it’s hard to miss of what appears to be miles of burnt dead trees.  It’s a very eerie sight.  Why I bring this up now?  Mainly because there are a couple of trails that lead you through some of these areas and I thought I’d give you heads up.

We picked one of the shortest trails that are offered, mainly because of our time limit.  It sort of seemed like it looped around the canyon (which is a silly thing to even think
of) and the scenery was absolutely breathtaking.  Every step we took, it was a different angle, equally as beautiful as the previous (if not even better).  I highly encourage you to dedicate a week or two of just hiking and camping out in the “backcountry”.  You will need to acquire a license though, so don’t rush.  Plan your trip, register for a license, and enjoy!

Cape Henlopen State Park (DE) review

Solitude/privacy: 3
Environment & Nature: 5
Available Activities: 5
Staff & Park Officials: 5
Accessibility: 5

 


This park is very cool!

It’s by a beach, easily accessible by road AND a ferry from Cape May, NJ. It also has some WWII history.  Well, not actual battle history, since Germans never made it here, but the park and surrounding area has more than 20 look out towers strategically placed overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the coast.

The beach is pretty.

Even though the sand road was for “licensed fisherman,” I didn’t care for it and still snuck in to check out the place. Although it was cloudy and kind of
rainy the beach was pretty clean and seemed like a nice place to hang out… or fish.  It was still too cold to swim, so we didn’t spend much time there… just a quick look.

The campsites are

semi-secluded, pretty large, and divided by a few bushes. There wasn’t much dead wood to burn nor do I recommend running into thick bush for it after Karen found a tick on our mattress in the morning.  Since we went there in the off-season, or pre-season, which ever you prefer to call it, the park wasn’t packed so it’s hard to give it more a accurate “serenity” rating.

Overall,

the park is huge! The staff was very friendly and helpful for checking in without any reservations. They have paved trails for those who are afraid to get dirty, primitive campsites for the youth (teach ‘em young!), kayak rentals, fishing piers, basketball courts, air pumping stations for bicyclists, and more.

If you’re camping out with kids,

make sure you check out Lewis, a proper all American town with little restaurants, coffee shops, souvenir gifts, mini botanical garden/parks, and the pretty cool Zwaanendael museum (which is free, but making a donation is suggested) with findings of the first settlers, articles from sunken ships, and a kids workshop on the second floor.

Lake Superior State Park (NY) review

Solitude/privacy: 5
Environment & Nature: 5
Available Activities: 3
Staff & Park Officials: 5
Accessibility: 4.5 (if you can get through hippies and not run any of them over!)
 

This park is amazingly beautiful!

The lake, the forests, and the rest… I couldn’t ask for more. Keep in mind this is just a regular state park with no campgrounds (at least none that I know of).  The park offers no official trails but people still tend to take a hike through the woods and so should you!  The main entrance leads either onto the beach or the dock.  On any given day I’m sure the beach is packed and loud.  The park offers a few (about 4-5) picnic tables and about 3 charcoal grills next to the beach/lake area, so if that’s what you intend to do get there early, otherwise you’ll be stuck on top of the slope away from the beach and next to the road. Sadly the park offers only two choices when it comes renting a mode of water floating transportation: a paddleboat for two and row boat for five – not kayaks or canoes . Pets aren’t allowed in them either, which I found lame… but whatever.


The dock is a perfect place to fish from on a quiet day.


On the weekend however, the traffic of people loading and unloading fish boats and kayaks is intense and the noise from the beach reflects less of a serene get away, and more of a kindergarten atmosphere.  So, this brings me to why you should go through the woods away from the noise and into more serene area… that’s what I did!  Aside from escaping into a more calm area, I found the water to be warmer near the woods rather than on the beach.  I would however suggest, if you are an experienced swimmer and plan to drift into deep waters, get away from the beach view as far as possible — otherwise the annoying teenage lifeguards will wake the dead with the megaphones and yell at you.  Do keep that in mind for the rest of us!  Thanks


So what about the hippies?

This park is located in Bethel Woods, NY – the original Woodstock Festival sight.  During this trip to the Lake Superior I encountered many of the 60′s creatures camping out on Dr. Duggan Rd  (off of 17B) in the old-fashioned tent & station wagon shantytown.  Apparently Phish was in town for a 2-3 day outing, so I doubt it’s like that for the rest of the year.  It was a very pleasant surprise and one of those life experiences that are a must.

Overall, great trip!

And a fine catch for two: