Cody and I love to travel, but sometimes we can’t afford a big, elaborate trip to escape reality. Camping is one of our favorite low budget and most adventurous ways to travel. When you have little to no money to spend, you can run into some interesting things that make for great stories. In today’s post, I am going to share some of our favorite and most interesting moments we have had while camping through the years.
- The Haunted Campsite: When going camping on a tight budget, Cody and I like to use freecapsites.com This website has a list of all kinds of campsites that are free because they are either ran by kind people, WMA’s, or abandoned. In March 2018, Cody and I decided to take a camping trip to Florida where we were actually going to stay at a free campsite. We drove for hours and around mid-night we could not find this campsite. The town we were in was abandoned and we were exhausted, but there was not even a gas station to stop at for a nap. We had to find this place. We were in the middle of nowhere. Around 1 a.m., we found the entrance to the campsite. It was a state park, which is weird because those usually are not free to stay in. There was a small, gravel parking lot with 2 trails and a dock. Next to one of the trails was a paper with a map of the park and some of its history. Cody and I began reading. We wanted to make sure this place was actually approved to camp in and see where we should go to set up camp. As we read, we learned that one of the trails on the property had been part of the trail of tears. Stories in the history section talked about a haunted presence that would cause people to do irrational things and some to disappear. No matter how exhausted we were, there was no way we were going to stay here tonight. We put that car in reverse and sped out if there. We had a go-to campsite that was only an hour and a half away. We would land there for the night. This was the night that we found out why these campsites are free.
- Sleeping Under the Swings: On the same night as the previous story, our go-to campsite was Vortex Springs. We have stayed here many times, our first trip here was back in 2016. We arrived around 3:30 a.m. and the campgrounds were pitch black. We tried to drive quietly so that we would not disturb the other campers. We found a spot and began setting up camp. We packed in very few things. We were just ready to crash. 3 hours later the sound of kids screaming and running into our tent woke us up. We tried to sleep through it, but it got to the point where we needed to see what was going on. I peeked my head out of the tent to find a slide just inches to the left. Somehow in the darkness and exhaustion we had set up our tent in the middle of a small playground. No wonder there were children everywhere.
- A dog in a Hammock-This is probably the worst experience I have ever had when camping. It was November 2017 and we wanted to camp in our hammock. This was already a bad idea because it was going to be under 30 ° that night, but we had our dog, Zoey, with us too. Zoey has been camping before and she loves it, so we figured she would do fine in the hammock too. So, we set up our hammock, added a comforter and a sleeping bag in it to keep us warm and cozy, which worked perfectly. We stayed up and roasted marshmallows (my favorite camping past time) for a while. When the time came, we piled into the hammock and put Zoey under the sleeping bag where she slept for a solid 30 minutes. Just as I began to doze off, I felt her wiggling … she was hot. This was the end of the peace for the night and the beginning of a nightmare. Zoey crawled to the top and laid on my legs on top of the sleeping bag. She never made it to sleep. Every time an animal would approach the camp site or rustle in the woods, she would freak out and bark obnoxiously. (I am eye rolling right now just thinking about it). Eventually we all decided it would be best if we slept the rest of the night in the car. So, we did and at 6 a.m. we came back home to finish sleeping. Now we know to never let a dog in a hammock at night.
- A 4 course meal on the beach: In October of 2016 we decided to go camping on the beach with one of our other couple friends, Naomi and Josue. They had found a campsite that is about half a mile walk down the beach and you can actually pitch a tent in front of the ocean. We arrived late at night and could not find the campsite area, so we found a motel outside of Pensacola Beach. This motel seemed sketchy, but it was the closest one and the price wasn’t terrible. Well, we thought the price wasn’t terrible until we got in the room. The bedsheets were still dirty and sloppily made, there was trash in the trashcan, dirt in the shower, and mold all over the room. We got out of that place so fast. There was no telling what we could’ve caught by staying there. We demanded our money and they guy at the counter understood. We found a red roof inn across town that was going to give us a discount because of the time. They charged us for their cheapest room and gave use a suite with a kitchenette and 2 queen beds. We stayed up all night watching married at first sight. When we woke up the next day, we set out to find our beach destination. Before going, we decided to pick up dinner. Naomi had found a groupon deal at a steakhouse. We each paid $15 and got a steak, 2 sides, a dessert, and a drink. Someone had the “bright” idea to eat it all at the campsite. What we failed to think about the walk. We all walked half a mile while lugging all of that food, our tents, our clothes, sleeping bags, ice chest, and a foldout picnic table. We kept dropping stuff, someone busted their drink, and someone dropped their dessert. It was a nightmare, but we made it, set up the table and enjoyed our food as the sun was setting. It was one of the coolest moments, but if anyone had seen us, they would’ve thought we were crazy.
- The onward store: This one is going to be really short, but it is a must. We were heading to camp in Arkansas for the weekend with our friends and we came up to a point in the trip where we were in the middle of nowhere. Cody had been complaining that he needed to use the bathroom for an hour before we finally came up to some sort of civilization. It looked like an old gas station, but it was closed, so the guys went behind what looked like an outhouse. While they were doing their business, I noticed a pretty official looking plaque in front of our car. The plaque read ” Here is the point where Theodore Roosevelt got his nickname “Teddy” . This is the spot where he refused to shoot the bear. ” My jaw dropped. Cody had just peed on a historical landmark, even more so a historical landmark of his favorite president!
- Redneck Paradise: We were going camping in a WMA area we had found a few months back. It was a huge chunk of land right on the Mississippi river. We were warned that Mississippi had been experiencing some flooding recently but figured this place would be fine…not really sure why. We arrived and realized very fast that this place was flooding. We didn’t even get a mile down it’s trail before we ran into a pit of water. We still needed somewhere to sleep though, so we googled some campsites in this empty town. The nearest place was a couple of hours away, so we began our journey again. We finally arrived at this campsite around 1 a.m. We drove around, picked our spot, then went to check-in. (Yes, the office was still open) The office was being ran out of someone’s house. The owners gave us a map and told us that they have a pool, a playground, and a museum. We were astonished and also confused as to where all of this was since we had already toured the campsite. We set up camp in the pitch black and piled into the tent for the night. When we woke up, the campsite looked completely different…not in a good way. Our tent was in a puddle of (what we can only hope was) mud, the playground was one single rusty swing, the pool was a plastic baby pool, and the museum was no where to be found. (Though, I am sure it would have been interesting) This was the most redneck campsite we had ever stayed at. We decided to head back to the WMA where we explored the dry places and pet some cows and we also took a trip to The Onward Store. (The historical sight from the last story) If you ever find yourself in Onward, Mississippi it is a nice little shop and their restaurant has some great food.
- Callin’ Colorado: In July 2018, we took a family trip to Colorado. My family planned to drive there in one day, but that was not Cody and my style. We decided to take 2 weeks off and take 4 days to get there. We stopped along the way (I’ll make a post about this trip another time),but when we finally got to Colorado, we still needed a place to stay. We googled a bunch of campsites and found one that was rated “The most beautiful campsite in the nation” It was after hours, so we could not reserve a spot, but this was our only option. When we got there, we drove around looking for a spot to set up the tent. We settled on a little spot tucked away in some trees. The roots were not bad, the spot was isolated, and it had a tree to stand behind. (Major priorities) Once we set up camp and ate, we crawled in the tent for bed. When we woke up, the view was overwhelming. When we had set up camp, we could not see any of our surroundings, but we were in a spot right on the lake with beautiful mountains surrounding us. It really took my breath away, because this was my first time seeing anything like it. The campsite was called Big Molas Lake, and it is definitely a bucket list destination.
- Green, Green Grass : One of our last nights in Colorado, we stayed at Big Molas Lake again. This time we did not get a lake front spot, but we found a nice field that looked like the biggest of the camping spots. We set up tent in the beautiful field and crawled in our tent to watch Netflix (basic, I know) About 30 minutes after settling down, we started to smell something strong. It had a slight smell of pot. This wasn’t uncommon in Colorado, but we cared because we thought someone was by our tent smoking when we knew that there were no tents around us. We got our phone flashlights out to inspect the area and what we found shocked us. There was no one by our tent…we had set up camp in the middle of a marijuana field. You heard me right. It went on forever the entire freaking field that we were staying in was full of pot, not grass at all. We decided we had better get back to our tent after we realized this. The stench filled our whole tent, but this was the only open spot on the property, so we had to stay. Our minds were still blown that this was an actual thing…marijuana was growing wild in Colorado. (My mind is still a little blown to be honest)
- Camping in the Storm: In October 2019, we decided to go to Northern Alabama in the Appalachian Mountains. We stayed at The Cathedral Cavern State Park. We left after work and knew we would not be there until around 10 p,m., so we called and confirmed that we could stay. We got direction from google maps on how to get there and off we went. There was a huge storm the night we were heading there. We could barely see the roads and there were mountains all around us. Easily one of the scariest things to experience while driving. We saw the sign and knew we had made it to our destination. We found a campsite and waiting in the car for the rain to lighten up. When the rain got light enough , we set up the tent and started loading all of our stuff into it. As we were finishing up, the rain began to pour. Cody finished loading stuff in, while I used a towel to wipe the water out of the entry and set everything up inside. We finally got both dogs inside of the tent and decided to hunker down for the night. Cody crawled in, but when he tried to zip the tent, it would not zip. The screen zipped, but the rain flap was not having it. “Great!” We both said. We pulled everything as far from the door and edges of the tent as we could and laid a towel in the entry to catch any water that may try to enter. We froze. I woke up at 4 a.m. to rain dripping on my face and my feet cold with water. I curled up in a ball and covered my face with the sleeping bag… this was going to have to wait until tomorrow. When we officially woke up for the day, all of our clothes, blankets, and our sleeping bag were soaked. Our entire tent had an inch of water covering the floor. We loaded everything back into the car and headed to the nearest laundromat to get everything dried off. We stayed here for about an hour, so we sat in the car eating sonic corndogs and watching Netflix while we waited. After everything was dry, we made our way to Walmart to buy a heater and a new tent. We were not going to spend another night like that again.