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In Which I Feature the ALPS Mountaineering Meramac 2-Person Tent

I haven't done a whole lot of camping since I lost my favorite camping buddy back in April 2021. I enjoy camping. I nestle down into my sleeping bag and am lulled to sleep by the sounds of nature. But it just doesn't hit the same without my sixty-pound body warmer jumping into the tent early because he was scared of the dark and asking to be let out at first light, ready to go play in the mountains. I still went a few times in 2021 and 2022 (most notably at 18,000 feet, which was amazing), but not like I used to. 

I started off this year camping one night in mid-January near Trotsky's grave in Arizona, close to the New Mexico border since I was staying in Santa Fe for five weeks. Since then, I decided to really get back out into the forests this year, to make a deliberate effort to be in the trees and the tent. 


I stayed at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch for a climbing weekend. You can also rent cabins or stay in the lodge. During the climbing festival, the camping area was overrun - crazy crowded - but I imagine other times it's really pleasant. Still, I found a nice little area for myself up the hill and was very happy that March is already camping weather in Arkansas.

Kentucky (ok, technically Virginia)

The Wilderness Road Campground in Cumberland Gap National Historic Park is right along a busy road and you can hear cars, but despite that, it's quite nice. It was only about one-quarter full in mid-May, and I basically had all row D to myself, so I could pee freely in the trees and not have to go to the formal camp bathroom. It's nicely forested and the location is unbeatable for getting to lots of trails.


Crows Creek campground at Smithville Lake, Missouri has hundreds of sites and not a lot of shade for most of them, so I probably wouldn't want to stay there on busy summer weekends, but the weekend before Memorial Day was delightful. It was maybe one-quarter full, I had a beautiful spot, the restrooms were clean and stocked, and I had this awesome 17 mile running path right behind my site. This was a great weekend stop on my way from Kentucky to South Dakota. The gate staff were also super friendly and directed me to Captain's Corner for groceries, gas, and dining out...but the clientele at that shop, probably what you picture when you think of rural Missouri. 

South Dakota

I stayed two nights at Elk Mountain campground, the official Wind Cave National Park campground. What was truly wonderful about this campground was the bison everywhere. The grounds are fenced off because no one wants to get trampled at night, but the bison are just feet outside the fence. Such a beautiful way to wake up. I booked last minute for a holiday weekend and site 13 was the only site left for two consecutive nights on the tent-only loop. And I had no interest in sleeping in a different loop near an RV. It was fine - clean, well-taken care of, decent facilities, though 13 is on the inside of the loop, which isn't ideal. If you're going to stay here, try to book early and get site 7, 8, 10, or 11. 

You can see below my rig for the first night when rain was predicted at 76 percent. I didn't want to sit inside the tent all night, so I set myself up a little seating area. And then it didn't rain. But the second night...holy crow did it rain! It started about an hour after I got back to camp from hiking and didn't stop for over eight hours. It came down in sheets and my tent met its match. I stayed dry all night, but when I woke up in the morning, I realized how much the water had soaked through. Under my sleeping pad, my duffle bag, and a huge pool of water at one end of my tent (I was on a slight incline). The bottom of my sleeping bag was wet too, but somehow, it hadn't soaked through to my feet in the night, which I'm very glad of. 


Ah, finally a non-commercial, almost non-existent campsite. The Mt. Borah trailhead has five sites and is really only used for people who want to summit the peak. I showed up around six o'clock on a Saturday night and no one else was there, so I got an adorable and private site nestled into some trees with a nice view of the mountains. There's a vault toilet, and the sites have a fire ring and picnic table, but I went right to sleep for my four AM wakeup call to hike the mountain. Which is a tale for a different blog post.


My first choice for camping at Glacier National Park was the Many Glacier campground, but the day before I needed to reserve my site, the campground closed to tent campers because of excessive bear activity. Only RVs allowed. The other big campground on the east side is St. Mary, which I didn't want to stay in at first because it's bigger and right outside of town. Both campgrounds can be booked way in advance, but they also hold a number of sites and release them only four days in advance at 8am Mountain time, which is how I booked mine.

St. Mary's turned out to be really decent - look at how cute my little site (A44) was with my tent all nestled back in this nook. Not all the sites are like this though - be sure to look at the photos before booking. And I got lucky in that no one around me was in an RV. Everyone was tent camping, so no loud generators or other nonsense. I also had full internet coverage, which turned out to be kind of nice. Many Glacier has zero coverage.

The first night was beautiful and sunny, but a chill rolled in my second night of camping and it rained overnight. After my tent got flooded in South Dakota, I coated everything in a layer of water repellant while I was in Boise, but I don't think it helped at all. I didn't get flooded, but I think that's only because it didn't rain as much. There was still a layer of moisture between my self-inflating sleeping pad and the tent floor in the morning, and the base of my sleeping bag (that was touching the tent wall) was wet. Any ideas on what I should do here?

One more aside, I was also considering camping at Townsite Campground in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, but I am very glad I didn't. The only site there that you don't have to hike miles and miles into is just a field. There is zero privacy and zero shade. I'm sure it's fine for RVs, but for tent camping, this would be awful. Even though my hotel was way overpriced and seriously shabby for the money, I'm very glad I opted for that over camping.


Temple Mountain Campground East and the exact spot I camped in was a repeat of last year. You can see me standing here 53 weeks earlier on this page of my blog. This year I was solo, instead of with a friend, and it was beautiful and dry out, instead of pouring. This second part was awesome because I got to see thousands of stars in the Utah dark sky and the Milky Way, but not awesome because the mosquitos were awful. Where did they come from??? There was no water anywhere. There was no anything, not even wind. The silence and stillness was incredible. Well, until 12:30 AM when another group showed up and even though they were at least 200 feet away, the way the sound carries out there made it seem like they were standing right next to my tent. They didn't party or anything - just set up their tent and went to sleep - but it was super disruptive. Anyway, I still love this campsite and would stay here again and again.

I also camped in Utah again on October 1 on my way back to Colorado to catch a flight to Japan. This was actual boondocking down a random road onto BLM land in Castle Valley, outside Moab. There was no one else there, it was still perfectly warm out, and it was great. I was going to do a little hike at the location, but I decided to just kick back and enjoy the campsite. The one downside though was it was insanely windy when I went to bed. I hardly got any sleep because the tent was whipping all around me all night long.


Fruita, August

I had a reservation for the Saddlehorn Campground on the Colorado National Monument. When I got there, my spot was directly across from some RVer with his generator running full blast. BlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlatBlat. Yeah, fuck that. I get it - it was 90 degrees and they were probably running the AC. But just stay home if you don't want to be out in the weather. That's what camping is. I really hate RVs and this "campground" was basically an RV park. Lesson learned - don't book at state or national campgrounds when they don't offer a tent-only loop. I wasn't going to sit there for hours listening to that fucking motor so I bailed and got a hotel room. I needed a shower anyway.

Marble, September

Also not my tent! This was a roll up to the Lead King Basin trailhead at 8:30pm, sleep in the car, get up at 4:30am and start hiking kind of overnight. Which would have been fine except I forgot to bring my sleeping pad. The back of my car is hard. So it was kind of a rough night, but I'm still not up for the bother of setting up a tent for such a quick stay and having to take it down in the dark.

Rico, September

My tent, at last! I wasn't sure what to expect at the Kilpacker trailhead because the website seemed to imply that camping wasn't really a thing here, but there were lots of tents out at this trailhead when I arrived. No official campsite, but plenty of people posting up to hike big mountains the next day. It looked like a few people had parked and backpacked in too. I stayed on a perfect night - no wind, no precipitation, really pleasant and I slept soundly. 


My plan was to camp out the night before hiking at Big Pine Creek, so logically I wanted to camp at Big Pine Creek Campground. After Sept 15, it's first come first serve, and both that one and the nearby Upper Sage Flat Campground were full. Sage Flat Campground was closed and dispersed camping isn't allowed, so I headed back into the town of Big Pine to Baker Creek Campground. This ended up working really nicely for me because it was about 20 degrees warmer in town and I was right on the raging creek, which made the best white noise. I was so cozy and comfy all night that it was really hard to get up in the morning. There are a lot of differences among all the sites at this campground, so you just have to drive around and find one that suits your interest.


Camping will never be the same without a dog, but it was a good year. It's nice to be outside, smelling the trees and the rain and the campfire. To have no obligations, just to sit and read and sip some wine. To go to sleep and wake up with the sun. To linger in my sleeping bag, all cozy. To experience the pure pleasure of a shower when you get home after lacking basic hygiene for three days and soaking in my sweat from intense hikes. 

The urge to get another dog is growing stronger and stronger, but I still have so much more traveling I want to do in 2024 and 2025, and it's really hard to envision how a dog could fit, especially with international travel. So for now, I'll have to be content with my step-dog.