When I lived in a “sticks and bricks” house, I kept a wooden bowl on the counter where I’d drop ticket stubs, boarding passes, and other trivia of life as the year progressed. During the last week of the year, then, I’d empty it out onto the dining room table and see what to make of that year.
Now my memories are more digital: photos of places, people, flowers, trees, and everything I see as I travel around the continent. I’m ending 2018 with a countdown series of posts that looks back at different aspects of my year. This is the first one, and they’ll keep coming till the series ends on New Year’s Day, 2019. Enjoy!
It’s hard to pick just six campgrounds out of the 57 places I visited this year. My criteria includes such random factors as proximity to water, photogenic sights, well-spaced sites with good privacy, and sky views. What makes these ideal for me might not be your cup of tea!
A: Rockhound State Park, New Mexico
I’ve stayed twice and I’ll be back at some point in the future. It’s a small park, with one powered loop and one dry-camping loop. It has a few short trails and a nice bathroom with showers. The sites are large and far apart so privacy is very good despite the lack of trees or bushes.
What really makes this place stand out is the views: sky and desert as far as the eye can see. At night the stars gleam and during the day, the desert is entrancing. The quiet surrounds you here, and it’s a magical little place to me.
B: Canyon Lake Corps of Engineers Park, Texas
Close to the hipness that is New Braunfels and yet far enough away to escape the crowds is a smallish Corps of Engineers Park next to a reservoir.
Big sites with generous spacing between, and if you’re lucky, you can get one that backs onto the lake, where there’s sort of a sandy beach to walk on (I got lucky). And like all the COE parks I’ve stayed at, it has excellent facilities and all sites have hookups.
C: Big Lagoon State Park, Florida
This was my first park in Florida, and my first night as a soon-to-be Florida resident, so it was a good introduction to the swampy, crazy-crowded-trees vibe that is Florida.
It was winter, so I got to skip most of the humidity, but the bugs were still out in force. Still, it was beautiful enough it made the list, in large part because it’s a small park with a low-key vibe and it’s a short drive from the white sands of the Gulf Islands National Seashore (Johnson’s Beach).
D: Roan Mountain State Park, Tennessee
This is one of the larger state parks I’ve stayed out but one of the best. The three smaller loops farther away from the check-in office are quieter, although they aren’t riverside like some spots on the big loop. It’s a trade-off, and I chose a smaller loop with less noise for my seven-day stay. Every loop has hookups and a bathhouse/shower facility, which is old but functional.
What really surprised me here was the newly installed wifi network. It covers the park and it was wicked fast and reliable. It was almost as nice as the hiking trails and birdsongs!
E: Kerr Lake Corps of Engineers Campgrounds, Virginia
There are several COE campgrounds around Kerr Lake, and some people stay the maximum 2-weeks at each one to pass the summer. I did a full two weeks at North Bend before being chased west by Hurricane Florence. I had a waterfront spot with a little beach of sand where I could launch my kayak easily anytime I wanted to go out and paddle.
The lake is huge and the light is beautiful at sunset most nights. Once the sun sets, it’s very quiet and dark. And beautiful.
One thing to be aware of is that some sites are multi-level, meaning there is a narrow spot for your trailer and a separate larger area 3-6 steps down to where the picnic table and grill are. I couldn’t set up my trailer awning here, but it was so shady, I didn’t need to. I did set up the Clam screen-tent in the lower area because it was August and the bugs were somewhat fierce.
F: Five Islands Provincial Park, Nova Scotia
Of all the beautiful places I stayed in the Maritimes this year, Five Islands won hands down because I had a front row seat to the 24/7 show that is the Bay of Fundy Tides. Site 17.
The lower loop has hookups, but fewer chances for a site with a view, while the upper loop sites have better views but no hookups. It’s a tradeoff for what you want to do. There is good solar on many of the upper loop sites so those with solar panels might have more options than those without.
Here’s the view from Site 17. Literally everyone who walked by commented on the fantastic view I had. And I would agree every time. This might be my favorite of all six sites. I almost cried when I had to leave.
So there you have it, my favorite six campgrounds of 2018. I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store for Bella, the Breeze, and me.
Escape and breathe the air of new places.