I have been camping for just about as long as I can remember. I must have been around 4 or 5 when we first started going (that's me, the fashionista, on the left) which would have made my brother around 2 or 3. Growing up my family camped in a 1960-something pop-up camper handed down from my grandparents that had 3 slide out beds and nothing more - it was essentially a tent on wheels. But it kept us from having to sleep on the ground, and that was all we needed (and by "we" I mean my mother.) Almost all of our camping trips were to Salt Rock Campground in Sprague, CT. Salt Rock was acquired by the CT DEEP in 2001 and they revamped the campground map, eliminating some of the campsites. It just isn't the same now. But back then the campground was privately owned and truly was "the bomb". It had a few perks without going totally overboard - 2 in-ground swimming pools, a hayride on Friday nights, and a general store that sold Slush Puppies and plenty of candy. What more could a kid ask for? The sites we always camped on (my parents booked the sites a year in advance to be sure we would get them) had a small stream that ran behind them. This is where we spent most of our time catching fish, frogs, salamanders, getting dirty and just being kids. Camping when I was little was awesome, and I was thrilled when my husband and I decided to get a camper of our own so we could share some of that awesome with our own kids.
Over the past 2 years myself, my husband, our twin 7 year olds and our faithful dog Shelby have been camping in and around Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. We purchased our Coleman Bayport pop-up on Craigslist back in 2009. As luck would have it, it was exactly what we were looking for and the sellers lived merely a mile away from us. At the time we didn’t even have a hitch to tow it with, so we were grateful when they offered to deliver it to us free of charge.
Before we took it out on our first official camping trip, we did a dry run in the backyard - it was great! The kids and even the dog loved sleeping in it. Our backyard backs up to a State Forest so we really couldn’t have asked for a better “practice campsite” - here's a picture of Shelby enjoying the fire...
With our practice run having been such a huge success, we decided to venture into the great outdoors. Even though our first official trip out landed us at a private campground with water and electric hookups, we quickly learned that State Parks are where it’s at. It's the only place that really feels like "camping" to me. We like big, wooded sites with lots of privacy - none of that RV parking lot/packed in like sardines stuff you find at many private campgrounds. We are willing to sacrifice unnecessary amenities like swimming pools, arcades and electricity for peace, quiet and tranquility - though with twin 7 year olds in tow that’s often hard to come by, even at the nicest of State Park campgrounds.
Much of our camping time is spent in Massachusetts - here, almost all the State Parks allow pets at the campsites, unlike CT which only allows pets at 4 of its State Parks (that’s right I said 4! Don’t worry - I plan to do a future blog post on this with more details on how much the State of CT sucks in that respect – but I’ll say it again - only FOUR state run campgrounds allow pets…..REALLY CT??) Also, Massachusetts State Parks are very well kept, scenic and offer lots of recreational possibilities and many waterfront campsites. And at around $14 a night, how can you go wrong?
As we head into the 2012 Summer camping season, I plan to keep you posted on our whereabouts, our adventures and any other camping/camper/campee topics I can come up with. Our first trip this year is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, and within the next few weeks we'll be opening up the camper for the first time this season in order to start preparing. Stay tuned!