And just like that, the 2023 camping season is underway for me! Unlike previous years where we drive 5 hours north and then wonder why it’s so cold in May, the first trip of the 2023 season was close to home in south central/southeast Wisconsin at Ottawa Lake Campground.
Part of the Kettle Moraine State Forest Southern Unit, Ottawa Lake Campground is one of the four campgrounds in this part of the forest. In addition to the campground, visitors can recreate with the lake and lake adjacent activities. There is a playground, areas to picnic, volleyball courts, and other ways to spend a day near a lake. This park doesn’t have any of its own hiking trails, which is okay because the Kettle Moraine forest has numerous trail systems nearby. The closest one, and the one we hiked, is the Scuppernong Trail System. I’ll cover that in a post a different day.
Frequently, a park has a niche, something it offers that makes it stand out from other parks. This niche is often what become designated as a park in the first place as someone loved this feature enough to share it with everyone. It could be anything, rock formations, Native American history, waterfalls, etc. A showcase of what the state has to offer.
Merrick State Park is no different. Nestled on a short stretch of a slough of the Mississippi River, it’s not surprising that this park is all about water. Water sports, water views, and water…camping.
I covered the minimal hiking at the park in a previous post. You can check it out here. This is a park for water lovers. Fishing, boating, kayaking, and canoeing enthusiasts will find plenty to fill their days with. I’m not a water enthusiast (yet) but I still really enjoyed this park. Not for the hiking, which is normally why I like a park, but for the unique camping it offers.
Recently I’ve been talking about our trip to the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s upper peninsula. I’ve covered all the hiking we did and all the gorgeous natural scenery we saw. Sadly, I’ve arrived at my last post in the series; where we stayed.
There are lots of options for lodging in and around the Porcupine Mountains wilderness area. Looking for a chain or boutique hotel? You can find that in nearby towns. Looking for more of a cabin feel? There are plenty of those nearby too! Want to stay in the park? Then plan to get a little more rugged. The park itself has a large variety of lodging options, including drive in campsites, walk in campsites, walk in cabins, and walk in yurts.
All of the lodging options, prices, operating dates, and reservation info can be found on the park’s reservation page.
Recently I covered my experience hiking at Richard Bong State Recreation Area. While I only hiked at the park, there are many other outdoor recreation opportunities available. When I say many, I mean way, way more activities than most parks offer. Like a space to train your falcon. No longer can you use not having a training space as your excuse for not having a falcon! (Check out my previous post if you want to know more.) After hiking or completing whatever recreation activity you’re into, it’s nice to have a place to crash nearby, aka camping.
This park has two campgrounds, the Sunrise Campground and the Sunset Campground. Predictably and aptly named, the Sunrise Campground is on the east side of the park and the Sunset Campground is on the west. Between them, the park contains 217 campsites, 54 with electricity. The park also has 6 group campsites and a cabin designed specifically for people with disabilities. Both campgrounds have a shower building with flush toilets, along with some more rustic bathroom options. Both campgrounds offer a variety of sites, both in terms of tree cover and whether they have electricity or not.
Wondering where to stay at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?
Just as important as determining which trails to hike, deciding where to stay will impact how you plan your trip at Pictured Rocks. Unlike a lot of other parks, Pictured Rocks is big and the park extends for 42 miles up the coast, and several miles inland (6 miles inland at it’s widest point.) This means that driving from one side to the other can take precious time out of your trip. Deciding how you want to spend your time can help you determine where you want your home base to be.
There are options for lodging (cabin and hotel rentals) for the outdoor curious, but for our trip, we decided to camp. Pictured Rocks has three campgrounds and a total of 65 campsites, all of which require reservations. Like trips in the past, I relied on the park’s website and photos to determine which site was right. If the park’s sites are full, don’t fret! You can find other camping options at nearby campgrounds run by private individuals.
We stayed at the northernmost campground, Hurricane River. This campground is broken into an upper and lower campground. Our site was site #10 of the lower campground.
While many terrible things came out of the pandemic, one positive thing that emerged was the chance for people to discover new, socially distant hobbies. One activity the people flocked to was camping. It’s perfect, right? What could be more socially distant than moving your pandemic circle of contacts into the secluded forest? By some accounts, one in five people who camped during the pandemic were trying it for the first time ever, and another one in five people reported camping again for the first time in many years. The rise in camping was clear. Campsite reservations were harder to come by, parking lots were full, and trails were packed with people. (I know there were downsides to the extra strain on natural areas, but I’m focusing on the positives for now.)
Memorial Day weekend was always a busy time for campgrounds, pandemic or not. This year, kind of sort of coming out of the pandemic, it was even busier. Suddenly the knowledge that you can book campsites 11 months in advance was critical.
This year we camped at Potawatomi State Park in southern Door County. This 1,200 acre park sits on the southern shore of Sturgeon Bay. The park as a whole is a gorgeous, water focused park. I’ll get to that in another post. For now I want to focus on just the campsites.