Earlier this week, I made a post in Facebook’s Teardrop Camper Group about having Frank and I having hit our one year anniversary on the road. Robin, another member of the group, replied, “If you get a chance, it would be cool to know what your favorite places were and why.”
Thanks for the idea, Robin. Over the last year, we visited / traveled through twenty states; we camped in nine of them at a total of 20 individual sites (I’m not counting places where we just stayed overnight as we passed through). Some places we stayed for just two days … in others, we stayed for two months! Here are our top five personal favorites, along with a couple of “honorable mentions”. The links go back to earlier blog posts when during our stays at each particular place.
Georgia Veterans State Park, Cordele, GA – This was our first stop out of Charleston last May. GVSP is in the south central part of the state, near historical sights like Andersonville and Plains. It’s a fairly nice size park, with about 2/3 of their sites situated right on Lake Blackshear. Our site was 20 feet off the lake, with a picnic table and fire ring. Since it was our first campsite, it was a learning experience, which took away from the enjoyment just a little bit. We learned a LOT and figured out pretty quickly a few things that didn’t work (i.e., don’t take every single thing out of the car when you unpack … you’re not going to need it all and it’s going to be hell putting it all back in the car when you leave in 14 days). Then there were the gnats. They were constant, even with the “no-see-um” repellent we bought. Now that we’re in the Nutshell and out of the tent, I’d like to come back here at some point … just not in June. Perhaps in the fall, when the gnats are back in school or something.
Circle the Wagons RV Park, La Veta, CO – We stayed here for a month, starting in mid-September. Our site bordered up against a small creek. The park was okay. We had a picnic table at our site and that was about it, but the facilities were very clean. The main attraction for me was the area. La Veta is on my list of places to consider for settling down, if and when I come off the road. (It’d be on my short list if it weren’t for the fact that they average 9 1/2 feet of snow every winter!). Frank had his first real wildlife encounter here, when a doe and two fawn wandered past us early one morning. He was not impressed. If word got out about how nonchalant he was as they walked by, the “Hunting Hound Dogs of America” club might pull his membership card!
That’s it for the Honorable Mentions. On to the the top five, in reverse order …
#5 – Triple Creek Music and RV Park, Woodville, TX – Now this is not your run-of-the-mill RV Park. First off, it’s out in the middle of nowhere, down a 3-mile dirt road. It’s also nothing to look at. We stayed here for a month beginning in late February … our first camp with the Nutshell (not counting overnights on the way back from picking it up in California). At that time, most of the other folks were “Winter Texans”, escaping the snow in other parts of the country. There was a conglomeration of old RV’s, mobile homes and semi-permanent fixtures. We’re not talking “vacation destinations”, okay?
No, that’s not what made this park special. It was the people. And the concept. Each weekend, Triple Creek hosted music events. People came from as far away as Houston to stay for the weekend and join in with the pickin’ and grinnin’. The alternating themes are gospel, folk, country and bluegrass. And it wasn’t just the music … the hospitality was incredible, with pot luck dinners three nights a week, a Saturday morning community breakfast and Bingo on Monday. (Yep. One of my guilty pleasures is bingo.) Frank made a lot of new friends there. In fact, we plan on spending another month there next February. Hopefully the road doesn’t get washed out the way it did last year, when we had 14 1/2 inches of rain over three days. Even that didn’t wipe it off this list … that’s how much we enjoyed it!
#4 – Goose Island State Park, Rockport, TX – We greeted the New Year here, staying for two weeks right next to the Gulf of Mexico! Full disclosure – our site wasn’t actually right on the gulf, although they do have water-front sites. We were still in a tent at that time and opted for the protection from the wind that the trees provided.
This park is very well maintained. I really liked our campsite. It was spacious, but not isolated. The sites were on loops intertwined throughout forests of scrub and live oak. It gave you a real “camping” feel. It’s penciled in as another site we’ll return to when we’re back in Texas for the upcoming winter. Oh yeah, this was the first place where I saw someone staying in a teardrop. I remember thinking, “Oh, if only!” Little did I know that, with the help of friends, Frank and I would be in the Nutshell less than three months later!
#3 – Circle M Camp Ground, Lancaster, PA – This was the last site we were at and it’s the first Thousand Trails campground we visited. I loved it! I’ll tell you up front: this is a camping resort, but that was incidental to Frank and me … we didn’t partake in any of the resort amenities (including things like a swimming pool, a miniature golf course, and for one of the weekends we were there, a Memorial Day kid’s parade). No, we were able to stay for two weeks in a portion of the park that was far removed from the hustle and bustle. Our site was right on the Conestoga River and I don’t think I’ve felt more relaxed at a campsite since last summer at … well, I’ll leave that discussion for “downstream” (pun intended).
This campsite had everything we could need – a picnic table, a fire ring and a barbecue grill … one that was clean enough to use without worrying about whether I was up to date on my tetanus shots! It was just flat out comfortable! I’m going to have to visit a few more of their places … our next one will be in another week, near Cape May, NJ … but if they’re all on par with the Circle M, I won’t be hesitant in recommending them to anyone who is a frequent camper. More on that as we move further into the summer.
#2 – Lake Park Campground, Lewisville, TX – this is probably the prettiest park we stayed at during our first year on the road. It’s a city-run campground, with about 50-60 sites that all have a lake view. Not only that, it’s cheap … easily the best bang-for-the-buck campground we’ve stayed at. It’s $16/night … half-price for seniors age 62 and over! (If any of you have camped near Dallas, you’ll know that most places that you’d want to stay at are at least $50/night.) We stayed here for two weeks and had I known they let you stay a maximum of 28 days, we might have stayed longer! (As it was, we ran into some issues getting the Nutshell registered, so we actually did extend our stay a few extra days while waiting for paperwork to arrive from out of state.)
We had a picnic table and grill, and some of the prettiest sunrises you’ll ever see without an ocean involved! The facilities are immaculate – they really take pride in keeping it clean. Being from the Dallas area, I have extra reasons to return – visiting long time friends. We’ll be back next year … for the full 28 days … and I’m really hoping more of my buddies will be able to sit fireside with Frank and me while we enjoy a beer and burgers! Friends or not, though, I’d come back here again any time and highly recommend it if you’re looking for a place to stay in the Dallas area.
And that brings us to our pick for the best place we’ve stayed over the past year …
#1 – The Last Resort, Pagosa Springs, CO – I’ll tell you right up front, I have a bias for this place. We stayed here for almost two months last summer, beginning in mid-July and came back for a few days back in April while we were visiting Keith, an old high school buddy who was getting ready to move to Hawaii. I consider The Last Resort as “Ground Zero” – a place where I started to heal from a lifetime of depression, anxiety and turmoil. If you’re looking for a beautiful setting right along a trout stream … a place where you can decompress and put aside whatever it is that’s troubling you, I can’t think of a better setting!
Stacy and TJ are the proprietors and they’ve gone the extra mile to make this place an extension of their home. I know they have campers that have returned every year for a decade … a testament to how wonderful a place it is to visit. Our campsite was right on the river, with a picnic table, fire ring and grill. The main building offers a full kitchen, free to use for campers, along with rest rooms showers and laundry. Oh yeah, there’s the community coffeemaker, too … running full time beginning at around 5:30am. Outside, there’s a big fire ring where all the campers gather on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s a really small park (ideal for teardrop campers, I might add). I would recommend this park to anyone … and have, on numerous occasions!
I’m not sure when I’ll be back. It’ll happen some day. But I feel like my life started over here. The healing that began on the banks of the Blanco River enabled the rest of the trip to turn out the way it has for Frank and me. And for that, this park will always hold a special place in my heart!
So that’s it! Our top five campgrounds during Year 1 of our journey. This next year will be decidedly different from the first. Because we were in a tent for most of the time … because of the physical exertion required to setup and break down our campsites … we focused on places that offered extended stays. Year 1 saw us staying a month or more in five different campgrounds! But now, with the Nutshell and the ease in which we can settle in at a place, that’s simply not going to be the case. Between now and the end of 2016, we have reservations (or plans to make reservations) at more than two dozen campgrounds, up and down the east coast. After that, we’ll head back to Texas for the winter. And after that, who knows? I made tentative plans to do the Great Lakes next year. But we may wind up spending more time in the Tennessee valley. Perhaps see more Civil War sites. Perhaps spend more time in western Pennsylvania and Virginia. I’ve realized that I’m really not in a hurry to get to the west coast, which is sort of our symbolic “end of the road”. If you keep following the blog, we’ll find out together what comes next. Stay tuned! :o)