“Real freedom lies in wildness, not in civilization.” – Charles Lindbergh
Charles is right, and that’s why I’ve been camping in one form or another my entire life. In doing so, I’ve had the opportunity to visit lots of campgrounds.
One of the things I’ve noted along the way is that we as campers appear to have three basic types of campground options from which to choose.
They can generally be distinguished by how “routine” the bathroom accommodations are, which, not surprisingly, is the number one concern of the less, shall we say, hearty campers among us when they’re choosing a place to camp.
- Dig a Hole
One word: primitive. These aren’t campgrounds at all, really, but a handful of campsites spread throughout, in my experience, a state park. Eventually you’re going to be digging a hole, if you get my meaning.
Still, there’s plenty to be said for diving head first, figuratively speaking, of course, into the rough stuff. You don’t wash your hair for a few days. You get dirt under your nails. You brush your teeth with a bottle of water. You smell. You live. You can’t wait for that shower when you get home.
When I did it for a friend’s bachelor party, we were in a desolate state park in Minnesota’s arrowhead region. We loaded up our gear, hiked three miles from the parking lot to our site and had ourselves a two-day blast.
The late-night hootenanny featuring some guy leading the way on his acoustic is something I’ve always remembered, despite an untold number of my brain cells never seeing the light of the next morning.
Everybody needs the freedom of disconnecting from the ordinary once in a while and reconnecting with the wilderness Charles spoke of above, so this type of campground is a must, at least once.
Whatever you do, remember your tissue.
- Something for Everyone
These are the large, often corporate-owned, campgrounds that dot the countryside and are popular among families with young kids.
They tend to cost a bit more, largely because they employ staff to cater to your kids’ every need. Do your kids want to participate in a three-legged race? That’s scheduled for 2:30. Bouncy house? Opens at 10. Petting zoo? 3-5. Fireworks are Saturdays at 9:30.
There’s so much going on you can forget you’re supposed to be relaxing, which might be just fine with you.
Often these campgrounds are thin on the wilderness, even though they’re big enough to need a golf cart to wheel around on if you want to make it to one of those events on time.
But if bathrooms are the sole standard by which you base where you’re going to camp, you’ll be very happy here. They usually come with most of the accoutrements of your home’s bathroom, right down to the softness of the tissue.
If you’re in a hurry to get to there, maybe you can catch a ride on one of those golf carts.
- Just Right
This is where I belong; right in the middle. These types of campgrounds often make you follow a few miles of gravel roads just to get to their few mile-long in-drive, and they’re often found in community, county or even state parks.
One my wife and I have been taking the family to for several years is a mere $15 a night, and if the host isn’t there when we arrive, we just put our money in a drop-box. Nice.
They also rent us big tubes and drive us a few miles up the snaking, spring-fed river that floats us right back to the campground after about three hours. Now that’s a nice way to spend a summer Saturday afternoon with your family and friends.
Like I said, my kind of place.
But a word of warning: bathrooms can be hit or miss, though I haven’t needed a shovel yet. And tissue can be one of the first cost-cutting measures for government organizations, so to avoid losing a run-in with sand paper, it’s always prudent to have some of your own.
Sometimes you have to sift through a little junk before unearthing a treasure like the little county park we found. Still, whatever type of camping floats your boat; the most important thing is you have a nice, warm campfire cracking away.
That’s what makes any campground a wonderful place.