Guest Blog Post: Sherri @ A Life More Light
Sherri was recently a guest of ours through Boondockers Welcome. She shared with me that state parks are their favorite public lands, so I asked her to tell us why. Read below to find out more about their state park experiences and how they utilize these public lands in their travels.
When I met Kim and learned about her blog, I had to check it out. While we have stayed in many different kinds of places, state parks quickly became our favorite when we began our camp life adventures two and a half years ago. It was great timing when Kim offered me the opportunity to write a guest blog post while we were staying at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee.
Here you will find four state park destinations we love and why they work so well for the way we travel.
Cumberland Bay State Park
The story of how state parks made the top of our list of favorite travel destinations began when we picked up our very first camper in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. We had everything to learn about camp life and were prepared to get in our vehicle and drive home as fast as we could, even if we were completely lost trying to get things to work. Our first stay after crossing over the border was at Cumberland Bay State Park on the west shore of Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, New York.
Like so many of the staff at the State Parks, the rangers were welcoming, helpful, and friendly. They often answer questions we don’t know to ask and never seem to tire of making sure we have all of the information we need. They very often go beyond the basics, too. You might learn which trail you won’t want to miss, which animal is in the area, the best direction for a grocery store, or hear an entertaining story about how they have to ask what kind of pet you have because a camper pulled up with a pet monkey earlier that week. Yes, that happened!
It was one of our shortest stays ever at Cumberland Bay State Park, but sitting on our campsite looking out over Lake Champlain we couldn’t have been happier. It was incredible to have that beautiful landscape as our own backyard, even for one night. We paid just $19 for a priceless view. The reflection photo we took off our rig that night brings back memories of our amazement, not only of what these places had to offer but that we could be one of those people moving around and living in destinations like this.
Before we purchased our Alto, I would plan our vacations and trips down to the smallest details. This new way of travel pushed me to be more adaptable and state parks were a great match because open sites are not unusual, especially during the week and if you can be flexible on hookups. It isn’t unusual for us to stay at a state park with cell reception during the week and then go off-grid on the weekends when those reservations are hard to come by for people that do not book more than a week in advance like us. The side benefit is that we miss the busiest times in the state parks. I will say that after hundreds of nights of stays in the last couple of years, state parks have proven to be remarkably quiet. We’ve only had one experience with all-night-noisy neighbors so far.
Oliver Lee Memorial State Park
One of the creative ways we were able to get into a full state park was in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Much of New Mexico’s campsites are first-come-first-serve campsites, and very inexpensive. When it comes to New Mexico, if you can grab a site, your best decision is to keep it for the two-week maximum. We had met up with our son and his family there and were fortunate enough to find a campsite open but, unfortunately, we needed two sites. We ended up renting the group camp area for the week. We had a massive area to ourselves with one hookup to share, a private driveway with a gate, our own bathrooms, pavilion, and trailhead. It was a fun splurge and a week we will never forget.
Goblin Valley State Park
If there is no way to get a campsite, state parks are still a great destination for day trips. We’ve come across several that don’t charge for day use. In Utah, we were able to boondock on Bureau of Land Management land right outside of Goblin Valley State Park. That was our first experience on BLM land and it felt pretty crazy to be able to pick a spot, any spot, and stay there for free. My jaw still drops when I look at the photo from that stay. It was a short one mile commute to Goblin Valley State Park where we could walk through the valley of hoodoos.
Ideally, though, we have a state park campsite and all we have to do is open the door of our camper and step out to explore the reaches of the park by foot or by bike. It isn’t unusual for me to check out the number of hiking miles a park has to offer before I book a site there. While there is beauty in every one we’ve visited, it seems to us that camping is meant to be “the experience” at a state park. In a national park often the camping seems to be there, primarily, to allow for the other experiences they have to offer.
Catalina State Park
Catalina State Park on the edge of Tucson, Arizona, checks off so many boxes for us. It has beautiful pink sunsets, views of the Catalina Mountains, miles of gorgeous hiking trails, well-kept sites and bathroom facilities, extremely well-run operations, all with a big added bonus. It is close enough to everything that the city has to offer. During our last extended trip, we had expected to be gone two or three weeks and ended up staying out ten weeks. I can not tell you how welcome it is to be surrounded by so many conveniences when you extend your trip that much! Getting takeout from some fantastic restaurants and having several choices of grocery stores including Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, is a big treat. While we love the remote, Catalina still manages to rank high with us for many reasons.
I think many people vacation in their campers. We are more apt to do regular life in ours. It seems we spend more time at our sites than others so the often spacious, private sites are appreciated. We love that our backyard changes with our changing location and that the state parks are less crowded than many of the other options. Water and electric are easy to come by and we are content to go without sewer on our site. Also, thankfully our pet is as welcome at our state park campsite as she is at home. It also doesn’t hurt that they are such reasonably priced places to stay, either. Once as we were saying goodbye to my dad to go on a trip he said, “Come back when you run out of money!” I replied, “Dad, we’re staying at state parks. It could be a while if we do that!”
While that seems like an extensive list, I’m certain there are many more reasons to visit state parks that I have not mentioned. We once met a couple that visited every state park in their home state of Arkansas. When they were done, they were so impressed with what their state had to offer. No matter where your travels take you, I hope this might be helpful to you as you consider what you’d like to get out of your travel and how state parks might fit. Would love to meet you out there on the road!
Youtube Channel: A Life More Light
If you’re curious to see video footage from our trip home from Canada, camp life, or would like to tour our camper, please search for our Youtube channel called “A Life More Light”. We bought our Safari Condo Alto R1713 based on what we could find on Youtube, which was very little at the time. We started this channel not only as a place to keep our memories but also to create video content for those that wanted to see more like we once did!