Thursday, May 20, 2010

Organize Your Camping Supplies

Going camping shouldn't be a stressful endeavor. With the proper planning and organization in place, camping is easy and enjoyable again! Keep camping simple, the way it should be, by following these helpful family camping tips.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Camping Menus

Camping food and backpacking food can be quite different. When you're backpacking, you want to pack light and nonperishable food. However, camping with a cooler allows one to bring perishables like dairy and meat and without a concern for weight.

For advice on how to plan a camping menu, a sample menu and essential camp kitchen equipment, read the below article.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area

This past weekend, we camped and hiked at the Big South Fork NRRA in Kentucky and Tennessee. It was only a 3 1/2 hour drive from Louisville, KY, which makes it a great weekend getaway for those seeking an outdoors or wilderness experience.

The first two nights we camped at Bandy Creek Campground ($19 a night), which is very well-kept but lacks the charm of Koomer Ridge in RRG. Since we were one of the very few tent campers, however, it wasn't much of a problem during our stay. I wouldn't recommend staying here on a holiday weekend when it may fill. Same goes for Blue Heron campground ($17 a night), which isn't much better.

The Alum Ford primitive campground and the Pickett State Park campground are great choices for those looking for an authentic camping experience. And as a bonus, they'll save you a bit of money (Alum Ford is $5 a night; Pickett State Rustic Park is $13 a night).

The north-west portion of the park is the best in terms of ruggedness, day hikes and backpacking trips. Many unique and challenging trails connect in this area.

We used two guidebooks on our trip, Exploring the Big South Fork and 100 Hikes in the Big South Fork. Of the two, the latter was much more informative, as it included several hikes in the outer lying areas of the BSF as well as many unheralded treks. Exploring the Big South Fork tended to disappoint in the amount of hikes it covered, but it was nice to have a comparison. We also used the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for navigation. I highly recommend carrying this map while exploring the area. The maps provided in both guides were truly inadequate, not to mention confusing.

Some tips for hikers and backpackers seeking to make the most out of a trip to the Big South Fork:
  • Make sure your car has plenty of gas. There aren't many roads that travel through the park, meaning you have to drive around it in order to get from one place to another. This can be frustrating for the day hiker, so plan hikes that are near each other to limit the amount of driving.
  • Bring all your supplies with you. Unless you can properly stock up on supplies at Wal-Mart, you'll need to have everything with you before you enter the park. There are no outfitters nearby. Firewood is also hard to come by, so plan accordingly. (Note: if staying at the Bandy Creek campground, firewood can be purchased for $10. Pickett State Park campground provides free firewood for campers.)
  • Be prepared for seclusion. Although it was a nice weekend, we only ran into one other batch of hikers, and each night we practically had the campgrounds to ourselves.
  • Bring a map and guidebook! There were several confusing trails we encountered on our trip, and had it not been for the guidebook, we would have found ourselves re-routed to another portion of the park.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Red River Gorge

The Red River Gorge Geological Area is a popular hiking destination just a mere 2 hours drive from Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH. The forest and scenery is beautiful and well worth the short drive whether it be for a day hike or a weekend backpacking/camping trip.

Since there are so many trails of varying degrees of difficulty and length, it's the perfect place for both beginners and experienced hikers alike. We ventered out to RRG this past weekend to do a little hiking for ourselves. Even though we were limited to shorter hikes (I'm 32 weeks pregnant), none of them were dull or boring and each one provided exceptional beauty.

For those looking to explore the RRG area, I recommend purchasing two books: Red River Gorge Trail Guide by Jerrell Goodpaster and Hinterlands, also by the same author. These two books are the most up to-date guidebooks for the region. Since Goodpaster has hiked all the trails in the Gorge multiple times, he knows what he's talking about. Unfortunately, his books can be hard to come by, so you might want to order them directly from his website. We have already begun to wear through both of these books, so they're well worth the money.

I highly recommend Koomer Ridge Campground for those who prefer car camping. The campground is very peaceful (although you can hear a distant hum of traffic from the Parkway), and pretty much all of the sites are spacious and private. There are some who might complain about the fee ($18 a night), but I consider this a small price to pay for such a nice and well maintained campground. Since many trails go around the campground, it makes for a great place to base camp and still explore the Gorge.

While in the RRG, other notable hiking areas to check out are Natural Bridge State Park and Clifty Wilderness Area. Both offer an abundance of terrific hiking alongside RRG. As always, remember to practive Leave No Trace in all of these areas.
It is worth noting there is a history of vandalism and car break-ins around the Red River Gorge area. Use common sense! If you are extremely worried about your car being safe, one option is to park in the Koomer Ridge parking lot right next to the campground (or just stay in the campground) and take off on your hikes from there. Another option would be to park next to the Natural Bridge State Resort Park Lodge and hike from there (but note that backcountry camping is not permitted inside NBSP). These options might add a couple miles to your trip, but it could mean more peace of mind.

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