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Camping: Comfort, Adventure, and Solitude
By Samantha Jaden
Camping. It's a word that is applied to a range of activities. For some, camping means taking the RV to a park, hooking up to the electricity and turning on the television. For others, camping is all about living rough:
backpacking with minimum gear to a remote lake and sleeping beneath the stars. I like it somewhere in between those disparities. I'm happy with 'car camping.' That is, pack as much stuff into the car as it will hold, drive to a nice campground, put up the tent and relax by the bonfire.
Stiff back from sleeping on a bumpy surface and misty breath in the early morning air are part of the thrill, but there is the handy car, ready for retreat if the weather turns nasty or the neighbors get much too loud.
It's because of those neighbors that I hanker after more of a get-away sometimes. People camp for various reasons, but I'm sure one of the main intentions is to commune with nature. That isn't the easiest feeling to get in a campground with several dozen other families. You get to be up close with a lot of strangers, and that's the nature of campgrounds. However, there are some ways to increase your chances of privacy.
First, if you do want to stay in actual campgrounds and to have your car handy, your best bet is to stay in the more primitive grounds. The ones with no electricity and with outhouses instead of bath-houses are usually less populated for obvious reasons. They also generally don't take reservations, so it's part of the adventure to show up and see how it goes.
Now, if you are willing to camp outside designated camping grounds, you can do this in most U.S. National Forests.
This way, you can still car-camp, and have a bit of privacy. Make it part of the camping trip experience to use forest service maps and locate your excellent spot.
Once you've found it, you can return many times, so it's worth investing the time to search for just the right place. Leave the area like it was when you found it. Pack out your trash, have no fire when prohibited, etc. Aside from being the right thing to do, when you leave the place like it was when you found it, other people might never notice it, and it will be waiting for you next time.
Canoe camping is one of my preferred ways to achieve camping solitude. Canoe camping works a few different ways, depending on the water situation. If you're at a lake, it is often a matter of simply paddling to the opposite shore from the designated campground. On a river, you'll need at least one companion for a shuttle. Choose your put-in and pull-out using the excellent maps you'll be carrying with you. The maps will also help you locate camping spots along the way of your river run. For this remote get-away method to be fun and safely carried out, I advise good advance planning, including some pre-event scouting.
Once you find some places to take these kinds of camping trips, where a feature of the trip is exploration and scouting, camping grounds never have quite the same cachet.
You've carved out your own little niche - speaking figuratively, of course. If you are responsible in how you use them, the sites will remain your own private campgrounds.