- Rented a pop-up here on the island at Deangelis. $100 per day, 4 day minimum. The trailer they rented us was not in the best of shape (some rips, tears, screen tears, small leaks in top during rain, stains, and an amazingly overpowering stench of cigarette smoke). A half bottle of Fabreze later...not much better.
- Had reserved 2 days at North South Lake (about 2.5 hrs away). Took Steve936's advice (big thanks) and got the last spot on Loop 5. Map said it faced the lake, but actually faced trees. No biggie though. The spot was very nice and quite - as is most of loop 5 - lots of trees, and water very close and bathroom a short (like 2 minutes for a fat person) walk. For those new to camping, walking to the bathroom is not the huge pain in the Butt you might imagine it to be. Even when it was raining, the tree cover kept most of the rain off. The bathroom themselves...eh...clean enough. The showers...I took a pass.
- We did some hiking (amazing views), walking, and some time at the beach on south lake. Plan on lots of time prepping food, then eating and relaxing. You go though a lot of wood, just sitting around the fire. This was a real insight. If your a preper, and you think two logs will last you the night, think again. Depending on the type of wood, it may not last long at all. Pine smokes when it burns and burns up FAST. Hardwoods burn cleaner and last longer (though are harder to start burning).
- North South Lake has almost zero cell reception and zero wifi. This is a good thing. Tell stories about anything - your parents, when you were a kid, crazy people you have known, stupid people you have known, basically anything - and your kids will love it (mine did. Either that or they were humoring me for a long time). If you are desperate for cell, it popped up at the beach at South Lake (or at the top of the hike for where the hotel used to be)
- It dropped to 44 degrees one of the nights we were there. Bring pants for kids to sleep in, and bring a few extra blankets. If you get too cold during the night, it seems to make you have to pee, then you are going out in the cold to go to the bathroom (twice) - which is no fun if kids believe running is the best way to avoid bear encounter (side-note - "running" and "bear avoidance" do not go together)
- Bring a spatula and a serving spoon and a table cloth (we forgot the first two - they are helpful if you plan to make eggs)
- Get used to "clean enough is good enough" (germphobes should NOT camp)
- As 2edgesword pointed out, trailer is mainly a place to sleep and stay dry. Don't be spooked if the trailer does not look huge - it's not for entertaining. That said, I would go with something bigger than the smallest Colman trailer (I am taller than the bed is long). But, for a first try, it serves the purpose.
- I'm used to staying in hotels and planning every day full of stuff to do (fun stuff, but still stuff). We usually go straight through the day, and then have dinner as late as the location allows (usually between 7-10pm). Not so with camping. Plan on doing less and relaxing more. Plan on starting dinner around 6, unless you want to clean up in the dark. If you have this cool vision of you waking up to the smell of coffee brewing over the fire, that's not gonna happen unless someone wakes up about 45 minutes before you, gets the fire going, and then gets the coffee going. I opted to make the fire and the coffee (wanted to test drive the pot).
-Last comments on North South Lake: the place is beautiful. beautiful sunrise over the lake (had to pee. The only sunrise I ever specifically woke up early for was at Cadillac Mountain - and it was foggy). Loop 5 is quite and treed. Loop 4 seemed more young kids and social (if you like that). I did not explore other loops too much.
- We could not get another night at North South Lake, so we moved on to Whip-O-Will campground about 20 minutes away. This was a VERY different environment. Most of the campsite here were for seasonal campers - meaning they bring up a trailer and have a permanently built deck/pouch to pull it up to. Sites were on top of each other with few trees to separate them. However, it seemed people wanted it this way. Had a "small town" feel (complete with people on their decks giving us the "who's that" look as we drove by). That said, everyone we spoke to was friendly. They gave is a spot in the back - "the Pines" (super buggy), but told us "check it out - if you don't; like it, let us know and we will put you someplace else". They moved us to the front (right across from the main office), which seemed like a crap spot - like being seated near the door - but was not buggy and turned out to be super convenient and little to no noise.
- Most of the people at Whip-O-Will had golf carts to get around. They were there for the summer. Some of the "porches" were setup to look like a bar. This would be the opposite of North South Lake. However, the front spots were nice, and there was a pool, playground, bocci ball court, mini golf and horseshoes. All of this may sound like corny crap, but we all blew hours playing and kids really liked it.
- Camping tip - you would think you get into this routine of "get up at dawn, and be in bed by 8pm". Nope. We went to bed as late as midnight, and the main entertainment is the fire, bs'ing, and laughing when someones marshmallow catches fire. In the morning, if it's raining, it may turn into a "sleep till 10am" morning.
Overall conclusions: camping is relaxing family time. Give it a try. Get some hints on where to camp. Ask lots of questions since campsite very in a lot of ways - you want to "match" with the site. For example, we went to look at Hither Hills Campground out east. Had heard great things. It's basically a bunch of parking spots all lined up. Mostly big RV's there. People there seemed very happy, but it was not for us. North South Lake we plan to go back to. Also, at some point I'd like to try a larger trailer with shower (mostly for convenience). I do not think tent camping is for me - only for the sleeping conditions, since I think sleeping on the ground, even with a good sleeping pad, would leave me a cripple. This is the main difference between popup and tent - a slightly softer bed. Also, the pop-up - with it's metal screen door - gives the kids the illusion that they are protected from bears.
A decent trip. Thanks for all the advice and help. Photos below are of:
View from top of hill at North South Lake:
View from the beach at South Lake:
An equipment malfunction (I should have brought the good knife. Damn you Harbor Freight!):
Edited by JustPractical, August 16 2014 - 09:37 PM.