Author: Paul

Cades Cove Campgrounds (TN) Review

Solitude/privacy: 1
Environment & Nature: 5
Available Activities: 5
Staff & Park Officials: 4
Accessibility: 5

Cades Cove is

one of the 3 most popular campgrounds in The Great Smoky Mountains.  It contains roughly 159 platformed sites that are positioned pretty close to each other.  It’s great when a large group of friends camp out together and not so great when you are just their neighbor.. not a friend.


Platforms you say?

Yes-yes I say!  The cool things about platforms:  no worries about uneven, slope-like spots, tree roots, medium sized half submerged rocks, and other “awesome” nature things thrusting against your tent floor.  The not-so cool things about platforms: can’t fit more than one tent on it.  Let’s face it, very few of us travel with a 1 or 2-person tent to campgrounds.  We tend to schlep our 6, 8, or even 10-person tent with us and unfortunately only one large tent can fit on the platform.  The campground allows 2 tents per spot but because of the platforms, there is little room left for the second tent without being too close to the neighbor, eating area, your auto, or the fire.

You’ve set up your camp and

had the celebratory light beer (got to watch the weight and everything) with not so light burger… what’s next?   Since it’s the Smoky’s, time to burn those calories with hiking. The park offers many awesome trails to choose from.  Please keep in mind that even though pets are allowed on the campgrounds, they are NOT allowed on trails due to large population of bears and irresponsible dog owners.  The campground itself offers bike rental which is very popular.  Got Tennessee or North Carolina fishing license?  Go to the river and catch some diner!   The park also offers horse rental, horseback riding and trails, interpretive programs and trails, and many other things you can check out here.

So you’ve done all the activities

and it’s time to wash off all the sweat, dirt, and deer ticks.  Sorry friend, you are out of luck.  Although this is a pretty large and very popular campground, it still pretends to be hidden somewhere on the path of back country trails.  There are absolutely no showers in the campground!  I was told there are some paid* showers at Lazy Dayz… where ever that is.

Just like the North Rim Campgrounds in Arizona, do expect be positioned next to caravans and trailers. Do expect having a generator run most of the day and the fumes ruining the fresh air you came here for.  Do expect be awakened at 8AM by trucks collecting garbage and emptying sewage tanks.  Do expect pick up trucks with roaring engines passing by your tents at 5 mph throughout the entire day.  Don’t expect anything remotely healthy at the camp store.  Half the the food that is being sold there is either fried or food you are expected to cook at the campgrounds yourself (burgers, hot dogs, etc).  Coffee was OK!

Although alcohol is allowed at this campground, driving while drinking isn’t (just like everywhere!), so don’t do it.  The park officials are very keen on taking your license away and throwing your belly full of bud light in jail!

Check out our video review!

Douthat State Park Campgrounds (VA) Review

Solitude/privacy: 0
Environment & Nature: 5
Available Activities: 5
Staff & Park Officials: 4
Accessibility: 5

Ahhh…. This place is awesome.  

Karen and I stopped here for a night during our trip back to New York from Virginia beach.  The nature here is absolutely magnificent.
The park offers activities such as hiking (which is a must!), as well as inexpensive kayak/canoeing in the lake, and row boating. I highly recommend skipping on the row boat unless you have an electric motor with you.  They are very heavy and hard to navigate…. Not to mention rowing!  The park is awesome until you’ll settle in with your tent….

The camp sights are

all paved with gravel and separated with what looked like wooden beams.  Not much privacy since the spots are put together like parking spaces rather than a nature retreat. Fortunately we got lucky with our neighbor who was a friendly Ohio native hiking through with his dog.
Although the campgrounds seem small and squished together, the park itself is really big.  Once you enter the main office to register for your spot, don’t be surprised to still have a ten minute drive up the hill.  During our visit, we got a chance to have a conversation with the host – an elderly, very hospitable couple.  They were very happy to answers any questions that we had and info us in on why no fires were allowed until 5pm.

Right… The fire situation.

Due to the dry weather and low humidity during the summers at that part of west Virginia, there are no open fires allowed on campgrounds until humidity rises a bit… Which happens to be around 5pm.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

If you are road trip enthusiast, I highly recommend take a drive through RT220 going North towards Union, WV.  It’s one of the most beautiful roads I’ve ever driven through.  It’s narrow, curvy, slightly dangerous when wet, and full of blind spots.

Godspeed and good luck fellow traveller.

Survival/First Aid Kit (Walk-through & Tutorial)


A hiker should know how to

properly navigate with the help of sun and moss, catch a meal, make fire with sticks, and all of it with as little of equipment as possible.  A survival kit is a “bag of goodies” every hiker should customize for themselves, according to their skills, age/health, terrain & weather they are hiking in.  The items listed below are some of the essentials I would find useful & even luxurious addition to my knowledge in a survival situation.



Please check out my video overview of most of the items that are on the list.

Item.                                 Quantity.

Alcohol Pads                        8
Bandage Roll                        1
Adhesive Tape                     1
Hand Sanitizer                     1
Copper Wire                         1
Cot. Balls fire starter.        8
2.5″ Pocket Knife                 1
Orange Rain Poncho         1
Orange Garbage Bag          1
Space Blanket                       1
Tea Bags                                  4
Safety Pins                             4
Pencil                                      1
Paper                                      4
Fishline, Hooks, Weight
5 ft Rope 550lb                     1
10 ft Rope 550lb                  1
Compass                                  1
Light Stick                               1
Foil                                            1

Med Kit Items

Item.                              Quantity.

Spazmalgon                        7
Prilosec                                6
Charcoal Pills                    4
3109 Penicillin                  9
GI Motrin                            9
PDI Alc. Swaps                 2
CVS Alc. Swaps                 6
Syringe & needle                1
Cotton Swaps                     2
XL Bandaids                      2
S Bandaids                         2
Cu-tips                                 8

Large Extreme Pak InvisibleTM Pattern Camouflage Backpack Review

At first glance

this bag seemed to be very sturdy. Unfortunately, looks can be deceiving.
As soon as I received it, I stuffed it with my camping gear and anxiously waited for the next trip. Right away I noticed it started to rip on top (where you close it). After about a year of barely any use (about 2-4 trips), the zipper on top broke and mash on side pocket ripped. It’s pretty uncomfortable to hike with. The waist straps dont help you support the weight, they just tend to bring the bag closer to your body.

It is however,

HUGE! You can fit a lot of stuff in it. It has a separate compartment for a sleeping bag (which can be turned into extended interior space). Plenty of spacious pockets for gear. Unfortunately, none of them are easily accessible while you have the bag on your back. It has an insane amount of available spaces for you to clip on your mat to or just about anything; on top, on sided, on the bottom, on front straps… you name it and there is a place where you can attach stuff to it. It offers mash (which has ripped after 3 uses) on sides for you to store your water canteen for “easy” access while having the bag. It’s somewhat easy to take it out but good luck putting it back in. The waist straps are very wide and if you have a multi-tool attached to your belt, expect a lot of discomfort.


skip it! Save your money and buy something less inexpensive.

Check out the video review

Harriman State Park (NY) Backpacking review [South]

Solitude/privacy: 4.5 (weekend trip in the summer… you figure it out)
Environment & Nature: 4
Available Activities: 5
Staff & Park Officials: NA
Accessibility: 5

I’m back again in this park

and this time Karen came along with me and Dusty.  During my last trip I went up North of off RT 106. This time we decided to head south.  Since we got to the park pretty late in the day and without a definitive trail/loop planned out, we went on the whim and just started hiking.  Ones we reached the first peak on red trail, we sat down to rest and figure out where we’re going.

As I’ve mentioned in the previous review, this park has some amazing elements: lakes, streams, and animals.  The views however, aren’t that exciting.  Ones you spend 30 to 40 minutes climbing up, drenched with sweat, heart beating like a snare drum in your ear, and mouth dry…. don’t expect a breathtaking view.  Itll be quiet disappointing and bland but do feel accomplished!

As forest slowly turned dark,

we found a pretty good spot to set up our camp.  I quickly set up my Coleman Hooligan 2 Backpacking Tent (check out my written & video review on it) while Karen collected firewood.  After a few shots of some old raspberry vodka from a flask and a can of soup, we hit the hay.

Oh how fun the night was for us.  Between the uncomfortable mat, sky going ablaze from lightning far away, something creeping around our tent the whole night long, and some creature imitating a very loud child’s scream for help somewhere in the distance (extremely terrifying), me and Karen regretted bringing only one flask for two of us.

The morning came too soon.

After such exciting night, I only fell asleep about an hour before dusk.  We slowly crawled out of our tent, packed it up and off we went.  The rest of the hike was a bit strenuous due to lack of comfortable rest and heavy gear.  A few hours later we were at the car heading towards Tuxedo, NY for some coffee and grill cheese sandwich with tomato by the Metro North Station.



Karen, Dusty, and I are very happy that we made this journey.  Make sure to check out the video review for additional exciting material about this hike!

Harriman State Park (NY) Backpacking review [North]

Solitude/privacy: 4.5 (weekend trip in the summer… you figure it out)
Environment & Nature: 4
Available Activities: 5
Staff & Park Officials: NA
Accessibility: 5

Finally, backpacking!

Just this one trip made me realize how unprepared and unfit i am to haul a heavy bag through thick bush, rocks, and dirt.  The plan was to tackle an 18 mile trail over the period of two days in Harriman State Park.  The reality was 4-6 miles (some in a circle trying to find the path) over the period of 10 hours.  But, this is good!  This trip taught me many things.

Light gear is

an essential tool for when backpacking.  The only 2 things I can honestly say that slowed me down; 1. my backpack 2. my hiking boots.  The bag is too big, too bulky, and plainly not built for my posture. My boots kept digging into my toes downhill.  Other than that, everything else seemed to be the right tools. I had my: Suisee Sport Lightweight Mummy sleeping bag, Hennesy Hammock (with a rain tarp), long sleeve & pants, 3 liters of water (to split between me and the dog), a can of soup for me, and dry food for the dog.

The boots (those damn bastards) made my toes commit suicide.  I would have been better off wearing my flip-flops instead.

The trails were fantastic!

They are well maintained by the park, but the path colors on the other hand are faded and hard to see.  I’ve gone off trail a few times mainly because it was hard for me to spot and follow them.  I don’t expect them to be on every single tree glowing in neon lights… just refreshed with paint so it’s easy to spot them in wide openings where it seems the trail can go 5 different directions.

Nature, oh the nature…

This park has everything you’d expect from Northeast: hills, flats, lakes, streams, and rivers.  Not much of mountains, well, you do some climbing but the view doesn’t pay off.  The mountain streams, on the other hand, were a refreshing break for my butchered toes.  After a few miles, i found a beautiful quiet spot where a small stream curves, allowing me to just sit on a rock, dip my feet in and relax.  And to make this moment even more perfect, bushes upon bushes of wild blueberries around me, just begging me to eat them.  Yum!

I think I killed the dog…

I feel like a proper introduction at this point is needed.

This is Dusty

(I did not pick the name!)

Dusty is Karens’ (my lovely girlfriend of over 3 years) mother’s dog.  He is just a bit over 1 year old adopted mutt.  He seems to have some Lab in him, maybe some Pointer, and Greyhound.  The Greyhound would explain the lack of energy this mutt has.  He is like a cheetah: runs very fast but for a short period of time, after which he persists to just lay down and chill for the next 5-6 hours. NOT a perfect hiking dog.  He is very sweet and loving but kind of dumb, than again, he’s still a puppy, maybe he’ll get smarter.

So this a**hole,

oh…. this a**hole, not only almost gave a me a heart attack and forced me to run down a steep hill that could of ended in me cracking my head, he also gave me a chance to lose my bag (which contained pretty much everything: water, food, clothing, phone, etc) and the trail it was on.  As soon as we started hiking, instead of taking his leash off, i kind of wrapped it around his neck and left the handle loop hanging for a quick grab.  When we entered the forest, he spotted a deer and I grabbed him…. luckily.  This should have been a large neon sign spelling out TROUBLE for the rest of trip.  As we hike along, I tend to spot large wildlife right away and grab him before he jumps after them or even acknowledge their existence.  Unfortunately, i slipped and didn’t grab him in time when a deer appeared out of nowhere about 10 feet away from us.  Him, being a playful idiot, darted after the deer and me, being a caring idiot, dropped my bag & ran after him, fearing the worst.  I did not catch up.  Dustys’ whiny playful bark slowly faded away as I’m stuck on top of a steep hill not knowing what to do next.

My first instinct was

not a proper response to this situation.  I found myself alone in the forest with nothing else except a multi tool on my belt, a granola bar in the pocket, and with no trail i was following to be found.  About 5-10 minutes after I stopped chasing Dusty, he strolled back to me (which made me very happy, yet wonder why?).  This dog doesn’t really know any commands (don’t blame me, I’m not the owner), so “stay” or “come here” to him are the same as Marshian to us.

So why did he come back?  Dogs nature in general is to stick to his/her owner/guardian/friend, so when they run pretty far away, they usually come back. Yet that’s not why he came back.  He slowly strolled back to me and the only thing I could think of was how bad of a kick did he receive from that damn deer, and how ta fuck am I going to get him back to Brooklyn…. alive.  Fortunately this wasn’t the case!  He just simply ran out of energy and the deer got away… I assume.  Not only did he ran out of energy but he also pulled a few muscles and ended up limping for the rest of the trip.  After the exciting hour of chasing the dog that was chasing the deer, and searching for the bag and the trail, I stumbled upon a couple that were passing by and they helped us get back on the track.

As dawn slowly approached, and Dusty barely walked, I decided to stop for the night at one of the designated areas near the Lake Skannatati where I was allowed to make fire.  I knew we were about 5 minutes away from a parking lot but not the one we parked in.  I set up camp, fed him and myself, and watched how the sky turns black.

The night was… well…

When I was young, I used to be afraid of the dark.  I got over that fear probably when I turned 10 or 11, and never again have I gotten the fear of the dark.  Nor did I get scared during this night BUT something just creeped the hell out of me.  I have no idea what it was.  Everything seemed perfect; lake, hills, beautiful forest, and me, stuck in the middle of it, alone with the dog.  Yet, I felt empty and got an urge to go home.  So I left.

As soon as the sun set down and darkness fell, I folded the hammock into my bag, took the dog and bounced.  A flashlight on my head facing the ground in front of me and a flashlight in my hand searching for the faded trail signs.  The last thing i wanted was to make this 5 minute hike back to civilization into an all night crusade.  As we approached the parking lot, a happy adventure with my crippled toes and what looked like a dying dog began.  Luckily, on tarmac and unluckily no-one that passed by had even flinched to stop and offer me a lift… even with my “international” give me a lift sign.  Oh well.

About 40 minutes later, Lola had emerged from the darkness as we strolled on.  Lola is my 2001 Mitsubishi Galant.  With 157k when I got her, she already took me so many places!  Longest so far, New Orleans (2 day drive one way)…. but that’s for a different post.

Kittatinny Canoes Campgrounds (NY) review

Solitude/privacy: 3.5
Environment & Nature: 5
Available Activities: 5
Staff & Park Officials: 5
Accessibility: 5

One of my favorites!

I’ve been to this campground a few times and every time I’m there, I love it.  The campgrounds are located on the Delaware Water Gap, Upstate New York and Pennsylvania.  They offer over 200 sites in wooded area and by the river.  The wooded area has a lot of secluded sights separated by thick bush.  There are a few sights that are in an open area (for those who get a bit claustrophobic with the trees) but they’re a bit too close to each other. The sites by the river, however, are kind of on top of each other. There are only a few (about 6-8 spots) that are available for people who aren’t signed up for an activity.  The rest are for groups who not only go here to camp, but also rent equipment to go rafting, canoeing, or tubing.  Aside from these activities Kittatiny also offers hiking, zip lining, and paint ball.

It’s a well maintained private campground

which is why they are a bit more expensive if comparing to state parks.  The staff is always friendly and helpful.  The camp store is always stocked with camping equipment such as tents, sleeping bags, chairs, blankets, tiki candles, and more.  Aside from that, they also offer Boars Head deli, coffee, some camping food, and much much more! The nature there is very beautiful.  The river, the forests, and the hills paint a quiet get a way from busy city or just a busy life.  Go ahead, spend a whole day on the banks sun tanning, swimming, or fishing… it’s a guaranteed relaxing experience.


The trash problem

is something you may come across when camping out next to the river.  It’s a sad truth – there’s always garbage everywhere, especially by the water.  The campsite we were staying in (which is one of the 6-8 by the water) was pretty filthy.  People before us decided to toss the remains from ribs they had for diner (I assume) all over the place and leave some plastic rings and aluminum can tabs from beverages scattered throughout the site.  We gathered 13 golf balls in the water by the shore, which I found very weird, and at the same time disgusted by human nature to trash what doesn’t belong to them – nature.  Some asshole decided to just toss their, what I assume was, a bad mattress (why else would you leave it behind?) right on the shore instead of properly disposing it.  There are garbage cans everywhere for your convenience.  Is it so hard to use them?!

Video Review

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.


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.