The Villages at Turning Stone: Verona, NY

The Villages at Turning Stone in Verona New York may have a strange name, but it sure is a nice park! We Paid: $47 per night for 5 nights Discounts Used: None Address (GPS Link): 5065 State Route 365  Verona, NY 13478 Website: www.turningstone.com/accommodation/the-villages-rv-park Amenities List: Power, Water, Sewer, Camp Store, Games Room, Rec Room,…

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Hickory Ridge Golf & RV Resort: Holley, NY

Hickory Ridge Golf and RV Resort is a nicely run operation that caters both to golfers and those simply visiting northwest New York. We used it as a staging grounds to visit Niagra Falls. We Paid: $44 per night for 4 nights Discounts Used: Good Sam Club Address (GPS Link): 15870 Lynch Rd Holley NY 14470…

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Everglades National Park

Anhinga - one of many found on Anhinga Trail in Everglades National ParkIf there was a tract of land in desperate need of protection, Everglades National Park is it. In 1947, that’s what Congress did; by establishing its national park status it preserved the biological diversity and resources of the Everglades ecosystems. This is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, that contains a mix of…

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Westfield/Lake Erie KOA: Westfield, NY

Westfield KOA is probably the all around nicest KOA park we have yet stayed at. The price is somewhat high but you get a good quality stay for the money spent. We Paid: $46 per night for 2 nights Discounts Used: KOA Membership Address (GPS Link): 8001 East Lake Road Route 5 Westfield, NY 14787 Website:…

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Manatees of Crystal River, Florida

Manatee floating up for airI could not leave Florida without seeing a wild manatee. From early November to late March, the West Indian Manatees gather in numbers when water temperatures dip below 68° F. These gentle giants then gravitate toward the warmer waters of Florida’s fresh and clear water springs. Water temperatures hover around 72° F and make an…

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Visiting the Mothership: Airstream Headquarters in Jackson Center Ohio

For Trail and Hitch, it was the first time we’d been to Jackson Center Ohio. For our Airstream, the Yamato, it was returning home. This is where our Airstream and all modern Airstreams are made. For Airstream owners, coming here is a pilgrimage. While we would have visited just to check it out, we came…

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Woodside Lake Park: Streetsboro, OH

While first impressions of Woodside Lake Park were good our week long stay left us somewhat disappointed with this RV park in northern Ohio.

We Paid: $42 per night for 7 nights
Discounts Used: Good Sam Club
Address (GPS Link): 2486 Frost Rd. Streetsboro, OH 44241
Website: woodsidelake.com
Amenities List: Power, Water, Sewer, Camp Store, Games Room, Rec Room, Lake Swimming with Lifeguard, Playground, Field Games, Paid Wireless, Bathrooms, Showers, Laundry, Cabins, Tent Camping, Propane

Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Best Features

  • Nice Recreational Lake
  • Many amenities

Worst Features

  • Poor roads and sites
  • Expensive

A neighboring Airstream at Woodside. I’d sum up the condition of the park as, “seen better days.”

The Details

Driving up to Woodside Lake Park, the first thing you encounter is the large lake side lawn to the right of their main drive. It serves not only as recreation for campers, but seems to attract local families for a day of swimming and sun. You can fish and swim in the lake, and unlike the swimming at most RV parks, they have a life guard on duty at all times and infrastructure like diving platforms for the swimmers. It looks pretty and the kids seemed to be having a great time there.

The park is no slouch when it comes to amenities. There is a camp store that also makes pizza and other snacks during the weekends. They have a large game room where all but one of the video and parlor games were in good working order. There is a party room with a large deck overlooking the lake for special occasions. The laundry isn’t large, but is up to the task. And in addition to the lake there is a full basketball court, a playground, and on the weekends they set up a bouncy castle. If you are a kid, or have kids, the park has a lot to recommend it.

Here’s the lake, looking out from the park grounds towards the surrounding countryside.

Where things fell down for us were the roads and sites, specifically how rough and uneven they were. As we came in, they were laying down and grading the main roadway, yet when they’d “finished” it was still incredibly bumpy and uneven. The ground up asphalt they used has a lot of large chunks of roadway still in it making it easy to trip over when walking, and jarring while driving. Our site was likewise lumpy, muddy, and uneven. We had to use every leveling block in our considerable arsenal to get things sorted, and we had a “deluxe” site. Most of the long term residents seemed to be just scattered around on lawns with no road access at all and arrayed at various angles.

Fortunately, our hookups worked just fine, which is the bare minimum I expect from a campsite. If the site were cheaper, I’d have more sympathy for the rough terrain, but at more than $40 a night, after discount, I just didn’t feel like we were getting our money’s worth here. Add to that a mix up when we arrived about what spot we were in, and it just seems like the management and oversight of the park is not very good.

I’m giving Woodside Lake Park a mild thumbs down, with the exception that if you have kids, and they like to swim and play outside, it’s going to have more value than it did for us.

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Cardinal Shooting Center and Campground: Marengo, Ohio

Cardinal Shooting Center is a massive RV park with hundreds of parking spaces. Their trap shooting range is the largest in Ohio, and their aim is to become the largest in America.

We Paid: $38 per night for 2 nights
Discounts Used: None
Address (GPS Link): 616 S.R. 61 Marengo, OH 43334
Website:  https://www.thecardinalcenter.com/
Amenities List: Power, Water, Sewer, Camp Store, Games Room, Rec Room, Performance Hall, Pool, Jacuzzi, Playground, Field Games, Bathrooms, Showers, Cabins, Tent Camping, Propane, Gun Range, Archery Range

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Best Features

  • Huge Delux Spaces
  • Nice Amenities

Worst Features

  • No Wireless/Cable

Judging my our trailer, I’d say this parking space is around 100′ long. The largest I’ve ever seen.

The Details

Cardinal Shooting Center and Campground is definitely one of the more unusual parks we’ve visited. I believe it was built foremost as a shooting center, and the camping was an accommodation for the people who show up for events. Not that they have short changed the camping side of things, it’s just that the one seems to be in service to the other. This place is vast with many hundreds of campsites, all with full hookups. Those close to the shooting range tend to be sitting on a long gravel runway and are deemed “basic” sites. We picked a deluxe site, where you will find more greenery and absolutely enormous parking sites. 

The layout of the park emphasizes its size. Despite having cut down all the trees, you cannot see from one end of the shooting range to the other. It is vast, at least a mile long. There was no event happening while we were there so the park was relatively empty. Other parts of the park are also stretched out. To take pictures and explore, we took the truck rather than walk. I believe the sheer size of the place is the reason they don’t offer wireless here. It would be very expensive to cover such a large area and support so many users in a rural location.

This shot is from one-third of the way up the shooting track, looking back to the road. About 15% of the overall park area.

The bathrooms and showers are all private and well maintained, exactly how I like them. They have a large indoor pool, rec room, and entertainment hall. A nearby deck overlooks a decent sized fishing pond and bubblegum machines dispense fish pellets so you can feed the fish. They don’t allow fishing from the doc, but you can fish from the shore. They had some pretty big fish in there, and while they allow you to cook one up if you like, they encourage catch and release fishing.

The camp store is pretty small, but there is a restaurant and multiple gas stations near the property. I imagine the park might get noisy when events are being held, but it was very quiet for our stay. At $38 a night for a deluxe parking spot, the price is decent for what they offer and I give Cardinal Shooting Center a thumbs up. 

Here is one of the skeet shooting sites near the end of the road. They have about 50 of these and are building more. We loved the farm in the background here.

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I Fell Into a Waterfall, It Was Great

Sometimes you fall in love with nature, sometimes you just fall in nature, sometimes you do both at once. This story takes place in the Smokey Mountains and begins with Trail asking me where I want to go for a hike. Normally, Trail picks the trails, but she’d seen all the things she really wanted to see. Since I’m not often asked, I figured I’d better step up and pick something. I reached for the Smokey Mountain trail guide book that Trail bought on arriving and looked for something.

I decided I was in the mood to see a waterfall and flipped around until I found one that was a relatively short hike. Spruce Flat Falls was the name of the place, located near the Great Smokey Mountain Institue at Treemont. The guide warned that the trail was a little tricky to find and that the ground could be somewhat uneven, especially in wet weather. Fortunately, the skies were clear and the sun shining. At 2 miles of moderate hiking, it sounded like exactly the short excursion I was in the mood for.

I didn’t take a good picture of the institute. Imagine more green and less white.

So it Begins

The Great Smokey Mountain Institute at Treemont is a pretty cool deal. We stopped in at the visitors center to make sure we had our directions squared away, and to get Trail a parks passport stamp.  These passports are a fun way to record your travels through the national parks and Trail is a big fan. They told us the trail was clear, and even had a little map for us on how to get to the trail head which was squirreled away behind one of their buildings. The GSMI looked pretty cool. They have lots of hands-on nature courses, mostly for kids, but also some for adults. 

The GSMI looked pretty cool. They have lots of hands-on nature courses, mostly for kids, but also many for adults and families. There are classes on nature photography, guided hikes, insect safaris, summer camps, birdwatching programs, and even opportunities to do volunteer work for research programs. If you plan a trip to the Smokey Mountains, I highly recommend you see what they offer while you are there. Unfortunately, we discovered them only at the very end of our time in the park.

With our little map in hand, we headed for the trail. If you have done much hiking to waterfalls, they almost always involve going uphill one way, and downhill the other. It turned out this trail was both. You first climb up a steep hillside, then down the other side to get to the waterfall. Indeed there isn’t more than a few feet of level ground on the entire trail. True to the guide, for the most part, the ground was uneven due to tree roots and stones littering the steep path. Trail found it a bit rough going for her knees and both of us got a good sweat going while climbing up the hills.

An innovative but not all that helpful addition to the trail.

Paradice Found

As we arrived at our destination, weariness gave way to excitement as we first laid eyes on the waterfall and felt the coolness of the air around the stream. The water levels were on the low side, so we were able to safely clamber over large stones to reach the base of the waterfall and have a seat to enjoy the scenery. The falls come down about 30′ into a shallow and rocky pool and then cascade over a series of smaller drops into the creek which continues down the valley. Surrounding the falls are lush moss covered cliffs, flourishing in the spray.

As Trail set about taking pictures, I made my way up to the base of the falls to get a face full of misty spray. I spied a little flow on the side that looked perfect for cooling off after the strenuous hike. I carefully picked my way over, cupped my hands and then splashed my face. It felt great! I stepped back to look for fish in the pool, sure enough, there were little ones darting about and catching insects in the water. I considered removing my shoes and wading in a bit, but the bottom was pretty rocky so I decided against it. But the thought of the cool mountain water called to me. I headed back to the little side fall, this time, I was going to get my head wet and take a little drink, sip from the mountain. A little risky, but my chances of Giardia were pretty low here.

Behold the Majesty of Spruce Flat Falls. Not to mention our oh so agile hero.

Had a Great Trip; see You Next Fall

I cupped my hands and captured some of the falling water, then sipped. Ahhh, so refreshing! I decide to lean forward to put my face in the downpour, feel the refreshment engulf me. The waterfall had other plans. As I shifted my weight, my right foot slid up and over the rock ledge I’d placed it on. My considerable weight then carried me over the ledge and set me spinning about. I only remember two things in this moment. The first was the rock ledge coming at my face. I extended a hand, deflected my momentum, but still tumbled over the ledge. The second was the bolder in the pool below coming at my face. Another stiff arm and I deflected off that and into the shallow pool at the bottom of the ledge, front first, but not face first.

So there I was, more than a little surprised, lying face down in the water. The refreshment had engulfed me after all, just not quite as I’d planned. I lumbered up and took stock of myself. Nothing more than some small cuts and scrapes on my hand to show for the tumble. Dripping like a big wet dog, I looked towards my wife. She was downstream trying to take a selfie with the waterfall, oblivious to my little adventure. I wondered “did she get a selfie with me falling into the waterfall?” Turns out she did!

The golden selfie! Did you see me in the cover image? Trail had no idea she’d caught my shame on camera.

“Hi honey, I just fell into the waterfall. It was fun.” seemed like the proper greeting under the circumstances. Her mix of concern, amusement, and surprise was very gratifying. I felt soggy but delighted. The adrenaline was taking care of the pain and giving me a nice robust feeling, and I was definitely no longer hot and sweaty. Sure, it would have been better had I decided to jump into the pool rather than tumble down the rocks into it, but all’s well that ends well. The hike back featured a lot of squishing from my shoes, but my soaked cotton shirt kept me feeling refreshed and vigorous on the return trip. I would not have normally chosen to jump in a stream with my clothes on, but this adventure taught me that it would have been a good decision if I had.

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