Tag: last-minute

Thomas Woods Campsite – Marengo Ridge Conservation Area

Recently, we took our first family camping trip with our 9 month old baby, Everett. We weren’t sure if he’d enjoy his first camping experience, so we decided to camp for one night at Thomas Woods Campsite, less than an hour from our home. Thomas Woods is in the Marengo Ridge Conservation Area in Marengo, IL. If you’re looking to camp somewhere scenic and close to the Chicago area, I’d highly recommend Thomas Woods.

Thomas Woods Campsite #39

Marengo Ridge is just over 800 acres with five miles of hiking trails. Thomas Woods campground offers both car camping and hike in sites. On the early May weekend we camped there were only a handful of sites taken. We chose site 39, but there wasn’t a bad site in the campground.

Everett Crawling

We had a hard time keeping Everett on the blanket we laid out for him. At this age he just loves to explore and hates being confined (getting him into his car seat is a challenge). Everett spent a lot of time crawling around on the soft moss that covered the ground. He had a blast playing with the rocks, sticks and pinecones scattered about our site.

We took a couple hikes and spotted a good variety of early spring flowers. There were a few lookout points with sweeping views of the grasslands and surrounding farms.

Everett in his high chair

Everett loves to raise his hands to show us that he’s “so big!” We brought along our clip-on high chair and tray, which worked well with the picnic bench at mealtimes.

To our surprise, Everett slept better in our tent than he does in his crib at home. I guess he liked being snuggled up between us in our double sleeping bag.

We packed light for this camping trip and managed to fit all our essentials plus our pup Lacy in my Jetta Sportwagen. We did bring our huge sleeping pads to make sure that Everett got a good night’s sleep. We kept our meals simple as well. We made veggie quesadillas in our pie iron for dinner and egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast.

Judging by his smiles, I think Everett had a great time. We’re looking forward to our next family camping experience.

  • Thomas Woods Campsite website
  • Location: 3100 IL-23, Marengo, IL 60152
  • Reservations: Call (815) 338-6223, ext. 1200 by 11 am on the Thursday before you camp, or register with the camp host when you arrive.
  • Camping fees:
    Non-Electric Site: $10 Residents / $15 Non-Residents
    Electric RV Only Site: $20 Residents / $30 Non-Residents
    Holiday weekend surcharge: $2 Residents; $5 Non-Residents
  • Firewood: No outside firewood permitted. Good quality firewood available on-site for $5 a bundle.
  • Things to know: Dogs are welcome, though it is not mentioned on the website.

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?