So far, I’ve done more tent camping during this calendar year than I’ve done in years past. It’s been a great way to “escape” while a pandemic is raging (while still being able to exercise social distancing), a way to see the parents-in-law without going to their home to visit and it’s been a way to justify having bought a new tent! Get our money’s worth?
Pro tip for older tent campers – a chair outside of the tent door helps make it easier to rise to a standing position when leaving the tent! Also makes a handy place to stash items and clothing.
Without further ado, here’s a short recap of our 2020 tent camping trips – and a sneak peek at trips to come:
June, 2020 – Upper Manistee State Forest Campground
North of Grayling, MI
Social distancing doesn’t get any better than this! We were still close to the vault toilet, too!
I absolutely LOVED this campground! I was also thankful we were able to get into this campground for a two-night stay just one day after state forest campgrounds opened up for business in Michigan. You can’t make reservations at this campground – you fill out your information on an envelope, put your cash or check into it, and put it into the pipe.
We didn’t do a whole lot during our visit, besides see our old friend Janet – who came to our campground to see us with her two dogs.
Not pictured – Fefe the Jack Russell terrier.
We also visited a local bar called The Hideaway, where we were able to sit outdoors on a lovely, lovely day and enjoy some beer! The bar was completely set up for outdoor service – they implemented window service for ordering and picking up orders. They even put in portable toilets outside so that customers wouldn’t even have to go inside. The bar/restaurant is owned by Canadians and U.S. citizens, and is located on Starvation Lake (though you can’t see it very well from the bar).
View of the order pickup window at the Hideaway in Mancelona, MI
As you might be able to imagine from a campground nestled in a large stand of pine, the smell (proof I didn’t have COVID-19) at the Upper Manistee River State Forest campground was just phenomenal! I’d say the campground was only about half full when we left on a Saturday morning.
Sadly, this was supposed to be a four-night camping trip – with our second two nights at the Wabasis Lake campground near Grand Rapids, MI. But the “rustic” campsite we reserved there was NOT to our liking. It was located in large stand of grass with no division between sites whatsoever – and we also had a busy fishing dock right in front of us – and the rental cabins were right above us (goodbye, privacy). A large camping group with multiple tents was right up our ass – and they were blaring music from a Bluetooth speaker the size of a Chevette while simultaneously having a barbecue. We also had a patch of standing water on our site, which we would have invariably stumbled into – in addition to being an unwelcome source of bugs, and we had people from other camp sites walking right into our site – including a woman whom was piss drunk at about 4:30 p.m. – who tried to “help” me put up the tent! After begging the lady to “shoo,” we decided that we’d just pack it up and head home. We were out the fifty some odd bucks we paid, but it was better than trying to “endure” a night of camping in this hell hole. We had a couple of pints at a local craft brewery before hitting the road.
Cedar Springs Brewing Company, named for the small town in which it is located (about a half hour north of Grand Rapids), specializes in German beer styles, which are among my favorites! It was a great way to unwind a bit after an unpleasant experience in that horrible campground!
June, 2020 – Pinckney Recreation Area – (Bruin Lake campground)
Sunset view from the beach at Bruin Lake campground
I’m glad this was only a one-night trip! Accommodations in this campground were – shall I say – a bit “too close for comfort.” We had room to set up our small tent and park our car – but that was about it! Our fire pit was rather inconveniently located right next to our campsite neighbor’s car – and their tent was right behind their car! It was also a bit too long of a hike to get to the restroom, we had some loud “Duck Dynasty” folks camped right across the street, and it was more humid than the inside of my mouth.
On a bright note, there were some “walk in” camp sites there that looked like they would offer more privacy to tent campers like us! Pump up the wheels on our hand cart, and we can haul our gear there!!! Might be nice for a fall getaway.
Overall, it was nice to squeeze in one night of camping close to home after having being called back to work! But unsure if I’d want to camp here during peak season again. Those spacious walk up sites though? Yeah, baby!
July, 2020 – Port Crescent State Park
Port Austin, MI
Pegasus or unicorn? I don’t remember!
Overall, this was pretty much a repeat of that trip to Bruin Lake. Small camp sites putting campers pretty much shoulder to shoulder. On the plus side, restrooms were more plentiful – and a closer walk! I used the vault toilet near our site instead of the main bathroom as a means of better avoiding…people.
The biting flies were…quite nasty! Only by spraying down my lower extremities with Deep Woods Off kept them away. The mosquitoes weren’t too bad though! And we had a younger couple camped next to us (got to see a not ugly girl in a bikini)!
Still, not a bad “close to home” trip if you don’t mind driving through what seems like thousands of miles of farm land to get there! Also, there are rental cabins that would be great to snag for a fall or spring trip. As for tent camping in peak season there? Hard pass! And as for privacy? Don’t even think about changing out in the open if there’s a squeaky voiced tween boy camped right next door (he referred to himself as “Home Slice…” future incel for sure)!
August, 2020 – Newaygo State Park
Behold my wacky “shelter” over a portion of the picnic table! I brought all of our “rain gear” for this trip, though thankfully – aside from a short spot of rain our second night – wasn’t really needed. The grey “awning” kept the stuff on our table dry! I used a “Joe’s Shade” portable umbrella to support the rain fly from our old tent and staked both of them down.
The main “purpose” of this trip was to be able to have a short visit from my husband’s parents, who live not too far away. It’s also a fairly cheap stay – at $17 per night – AND can be reserved online! Overall, I give high marks to this campground for spacious sites and lots of space between sites. Sadly, there is not a whole lot to do in the immediate area, though.
Our first night, a large group of “millennials” were occupying four or five sites next to us – and blaring their music loudly! Which we didn’t mind (even that horrible auto-tuned YOLO crap), until they hit “play” on REO Speedwagon! We all have our limits, and “Keep On Lovin’ You?” Well, we just couldn’t EVEN keep on loving THAT song!
Some tattletale besides us must’ve reported these “kids” to the ranger, who came by around 10:30 or so to tell them to turn that shit down. Which they did. And those “party animals” were ALL IN BED BY 11! What? Clearly those “kids” need some lessons in partying from their elders! Bed by 11? On a camping trip? Oh the humanity!
The “kids” had cleared out, as well as most others on our second night, which was a Sunday. So no annoyances, right? WRONG! Some people with a travel trailer pulled in to a site a few spots away from us and almost immediately fired up their gas generator. And continued to run it for nearly three hours. After 10 or so, my irritated husband talked to them…
“Hey,” he said to a woman sitting outside having a smoke.
“What?” she said. “I can’t hear you” (pretty telling considering the CHUGGING GENERATOR RIGHT NEXT TO HER)!
“Are you done charging whatever you’re charging? Can you turn that off? It’s in quiet hours now?” Keep in mind we had no intention of staying completely quiet during “quiet hours,” but us sitting and shooting the shit around the campfire with drinks – was no match for Mr. Generator!
“I’ll see what I can do,” she said, rather snottily.
“Thanks,” my husband said. “I’ll do the same.
Clearer heads must’ve prevailed after she went into the trailer to talk to her husband, because that shit was shut off almost instantly.
I’d definitely camp here again despite those annoyances! Ear plugs will virtually silence any crying toddlers plotting to wake up the entire campground at 6:30 a.m.!
So What’s Next? Tipi and Cabin Rentals!
Next month, we’ll be renting a tipi at Cheboygan State Park for three nights, and in October, we’ll be renting a mini cabin at Orchard Beach State Park for three nights. The Cheboygan trip will allow us to see Lake Huron for the second time since our trip to Port Crescent – and the Orchard Beach trip will put us right up close to Lake Michigan (cabin is on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan). As for any more tent camping trips in between? We’ll have to see!