Category: Campgrounds

Cosby Campground – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

We recently took a last-minute trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to enjoy some fall colors. We didn’t have reservations, so we decided to camp at Cosby Campground. It’s one of the least popular campgrounds in the park. In my book, that’s a good thing. Cosby is about 30 minutes east of the tourist mecca of Gatlinburg, so we didn’t have to deal with traffic or crowds. Here’s a map of the entire park >

Camping - Cosby Campground - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It was dark when we arrived at the campground. We selected site B67. It is located in the back of loop B (Cosby Campground map). These sites are among the best in the campground. They are elevated from the road and surrounded by woods.  The entire campground is wooded, but there isn’t a lot of undergrowth, so the sites are only semi-private. Each site has a picnic table, a fire ring with a nice cooking grate and a flat, crushed gravel pad for your tent.

our-site-at-Cosby-2

We had just arrived and I was rolling out our sleeping pads in the tent when someone from a couple of sites over came over and told Billy that there was a bear nearby. She shined her flashlight into the woods and the bear was 20 feet from our tent – the tent that I was inside! I got out of the tent barefoot and walked quickly toward the car, not even bothering to zip the tent shut. Moments later the bear stuck his head inside our tent! He then circled around the tent and then slowly walked away. Our hearts still pounding, we drove over to the camp host’s trailer to let her know about the bear.

Our bear encounter was the talk of the town the following day. When we went to buy firewood, the shop owner exclaimed “that was you!?” We saw a couple more bears during our stay at Cosby, but we were careful not to leave food out so we didn’t run into any problems.

Cosby campground is very beautiful. It’s a clean and well maintained campground, including the bathrooms. The bathrooms don’t have soap, so don’t forget to bring some from home.

Camping - Cosby Campground - Great Smoky Mountains National Park

{us after five days, no showers}

There aren’t any showers at Cosby. I’m fine with not showering for five days, but if you are desperate for a shower, you can take one for $5 in the town of Cosby.

There are lots of hikes of varying difficulty that start at Cosby campground. We especially enjoyed the hike to Hen Wallow Falls and the self-guiding nature trail. Hiking and other things to do in the Cosby area >

Location: 471 Cosby Park Rd, Cosby, TN
Reservations: Only a handful of sites are reservable online. Most sites are first come, first serve. With the exception of holiday weekends, you should have no problem finding a site.
Camping fees: $14/night

Have you visited the Smoky Mountains? Where did you stay?

Thomson Causeway – Camping on the Mississippi

This past weekend we camped with Billy’s grandma and her husband at Thomson Causeway in Thomson, Illinois. They are members of an RV club called the DuPage Drifters. It was my first taste of RV camping. Now I’m keeping my eye out for vintage campers…just in case.

Camping on the Mississippi - Thomson Causeway.

If you live in Illinois, you probably recognize Thomson for it’s prison, which was built but never occupied due to lack of budget. Thompson Causeway is a US Army Corps of Engineers campground located on the Mississippi River, 2.5 miles west of Chicago. It’s really set up for RV’s more than tent camping, mostly grass dotted with trees. The campground is located on the widest point of the Mississippi.

Camping on the Mississippi - Thomson Causeway.

We visited Lock & Dam #13, which is about 20 minutes south of the campground. It was cool to see how it opened and closed to let boats through. If you’re camping at Thomson Causeway and see a Barge pass in the distance, you can hop in you car and drive down to the Lock & Dam to see it pass through. I was surprised to see pelicans on the Mississippi River. The American White Pelicans that we saw on the Mississippi are related to the Brown Pelicans that live by the ocean.

Camping on the Mississippi - Thomson Causeway.

We also saw lots of frogs.

Camping on the Mississippi - Thomson Causeway.

And turtles.

Camping on the Mississippi - Thomson Causeway.

On Saturday night, the DuPage Drifters had a Luau. Billy’s grandma made Blue Hawaiians, which were a big hit. Everyone dressed in Hawaiian shirts and leis. It was a lot of fun. I look forward to camping with them again.

Camping on the Mississippi - Thomson Causeway.

Before we left on Sunday, we checked out the Windmill in Fulton. It was built in Holland, then shipped piece by piece to Fulton.

Thomson Causeway Recreation Area:

Camping on the Mississippi - Thomson Causeway.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

Billy and I just went on an 25-mile, overnight kayaking and camping trip on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway, just west of Madison, WI. It was such an amazing trip, we can’t wait to go back!

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

The Wisconsin River is a wide, shallow river with a pretty strong current and lots of sandbars. The Lower Wisconsin Riverway is ideal for a multi-day paddling trip, especially because there are no dams in the 92.3 mile stretch from Prairie du Sac, WI to the Mississippi River.

We always try to take a weekend camping trip for my birthday. This year Billy planned a trip to Yatesville Lake State Park in Kentucky. We were going to camp at a boat-in site, so I dehydrated a bunch of meals in preparation for the trip. On the Thursday before our trip, I checked the weather. The forecast said rain, and flood warnings to boot. So we scrapped those plans and decided to kayak the Wisconsin River instead.

On Friday, we loaded up the car and headed out. I wasn’t able to find a campsite, most of the state parks in the area were booked up. We decided to try Tower Hill State Park, just outside of Spring Green. Tower Hill has a handful of sites, all of which are first come, first served. Luckily, we were able to get a nice campsite and set up camp.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

We headed into Spring Green and had a great lunch at Freddy Valentine’s, a historic bank building that is now a bar restaurant. Then we drove around trying to find an outfitter that would be able to shuttle us and our kayaks. Wisconsin Canoe Company was able to help us out. They charged us about $60 to shuttle us and our kayaks from Peck’s Landing to Prairie du Sac. We planned to kayak 25 miles down the Wisconsin River and return to our car at Peck’s Landing.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

We returned to camp and Billy figured out how to fit all our gear into the kayaks. Here’s a complete list of what we brought. Most of our food did not require a cooler. The only things in our small, soft-sided cooler were a few beers and some sharp cheddar  (American Cheese is a good alternative, since it does not require refrigeration).

This was our menu for the weekend:

  • Friday Dinner: Tortellini with Dehydrated Tomato Basil Sauce
  • Saturday Breakfast: Oatmeal with Dehydrated Peaches, Blueberries and Bananas
  • Saturday Lunch: Dehydrated Chili, Pita Chips and Dehydrated Hummus
  • Saturday Dinner: Broccoli Noodle Salad and Pie Iron Grilled Cheese
  • Sunday Breakfast: AlpineAire Bandito Scramble, Cheddar and Dehydrated Hash Browns
  • Sunday Lunch: Leftovers (I had planned a Dehydrated Feta Dip, but it didn’t turn out. I won’t be dehydrating feta again)

I’ll link to recipes as I post them. It’s not necessary to dehydrate foods for a trip like this, but I found it convenient since I didn’t have to worry about food spoiling. Dehydrating food does save some weight, but without a reliable source of water (see cow below), you have to pack water anyway. Canned food would work just as well.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

On Saturday morning Amy from Wisconsin Canoe Company shuttled us up to Prairie du Sac. On the drive up, she gave us a lot of information about the river. We unloaded our gear, packed up our kayaks and we were off.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

Right after we left Prairie du Sac, we started seeing wildlife.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

We spotted a Bald Eagle flying, and then landing in a tree off in the distance. We’ve seen a few Bald Eagles this summer. It’s great that they have made such a comeback.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

We knew we were in Wisconsin when we spotted this cow chillin’ in the river.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

We stopped for lunch on a little island. The river is really shallow, only 5′ on average. Our kayaks bottomed out a few times trying to get to the island. By the end of the trip, we got better at avoiding shallow areas.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

I sat on the beach and made lunch, while Billy hiked to the end of the island to check out a bird on the shoreline. It was an Osprey. We ate pita chips, hummus and veggie chili for lunch.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

After lunch, we set back out. A little ways downriver, we stopped off at Ferry Bluff State Natural Area for a hike to a lookout point that Amy had recommended. She said that the hike would take about ten minutes, but the bugs were so bad I think we did it in five.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

Bugs aside, the view was well worth it. Breathtaking!!

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

We hopped back in our kayaks. Shortly after, we came across Wisconsin’s only nude beach. Did you think I was going to get closer for a photo?

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

As the sun started to set, we found a nice little island with a sandy beach to set up camp. We had the whole island to ourselves!

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

Billy started a fire, and we got dinner started.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

We had Broccoli Noodle Slaw and pie iron grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

After dinner we relaxed on a blanket by the fire. The sunset was gorgeous, and once it got dark, you wouldn’t believe how many stars were in the sky. I used the Sky Guide App on my iPhone to locate stars and constellations.

When we woke up the next morning, it was raining. We made some tea and coffee and hung out in the tent waiting for it to stop.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

Around ten o’clock it cleared up, and we made a breakfast of freeze-dried eggs, hash browns & cheddar. It was cloudy with a chill in the air. It felt like fall day. We packed up and headed out to complete our last nine miles.

We paddled along the shoreline, checking out the wildlife on the shore. We stopped off at a few sandbars along the way.

Kayaking & Camping on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway

Shortly after lunch, we saw Peck’s Landing and our journey was complete. I’ll definitely be back someday, and maybe I’ll even paddle all 92.3 miles of the free-flowing Lower Wisconsin Riverway.

Some tips if you’re headed out to the Lower Wisconsin Riverway:

  • You can’t bring any glass – no glass containers, beer bottles, jars, etc.
  • Bring 1 gallon of water per person, per day. You may want to bring more if it’s really hot.
  • If you can fit a bundle of firewood in your kayak or canoe, bring it. By the end of the summer there isn’t much wood to collect for campfires.
  • You can camp on islands and sandbars in the Wisconsin River for free, but you can’t camp on the shore.
  • Select a sandbar that is 18″ above the river. A rainstorm upriver can quickly flood low lying areas.
  • Mark the shoreline of your sandbar with a stick. That way, you’ll know if the water is rising.
  • I don’t want to sound like your mom or anything, but wear your life jacket. Especially if you’re drinking.
  • Check out our packing list from this trip.