Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What Makes a Great Park Great?

We've had the chance to camp at two parks so far this summer. This is in fulfillment of a small dream I've been nurturing: to get to at least one new park each summer. The two that we've visited this year are Ricketts Glen, July 1-3, and Hickory Run, July 10-12.

At first glance I want to say Ricketts Glen is the superior park. My experience there hiking is the best walk through the woods I ever remember having in PA. However, it's a park that is really geared for trekkers rather than kids. There are two basic activities one can do there: hike the falls or recreate on the lake. The lake, by the way, was drained during our visit. I don't know what I would've done with more than two days at that park.

There was part of me wondering what I would do on a seventh visit to Hickory Run in just two years. I did figure out a way to get onto one hike I hadn't done before, Sand Spring Trail. I found out, however, that actually I've done less than half the hikes possible at Hickory Run.

Seven pairs of feet after crossing the stream at the top of Sand Spring Trail. 
I think there's a more important aspect to the camping, though, that it's tempting to overlook. The kids like Hickory Run. They feel at home there. We've made it customary to camp in a set of adjacent spots along the open field in the older campground there. Now there is a real drawback: the bathrooms with modern plumbing are on the other end of the park. Otherwise, it's a perfect location. It's easy for us to set up our sites to work together. One site essentially becomes the social site, where we gather for meals or a fire. The other ones become sleeping quarters.

A snapshot of our site that includes two of the adjacent sites. The other is out of frame to the left. 
Meanwhile, the kids have two recreational options within arm's reach of the sites: what they call the mini boulder field to the north of our sites or the big field across the driveway.

Field across the lane from our sites. 
We're also becoming pretty adept at planning and packing for the trips. A few of us are using a version of a tub system for organizing camp stuff for which this blog served as inspiration. I'm learning how to meaningfully employ Sam and Caroline in set up and take-down duties. And this summer our friends Ken and Jess started bringing and old school Coleman three-burner that works nicely.

In the past three years I've been camping at three different state parks, the two mentioned above and Promised Land. The next ones I'm eyeing are World's End, Ohiopyle, and Black Moshannon.

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