This was outside the norm for us, at least as far as summertime goes.
I’m not talking about the kayaking and the fishing we did; those are staples of our outdoors activities. The same is true with the hiking and the cooking over the fire. So, too, our several-times-a-week trips for ice cream.
Speaking of which, note to self: find a reason to go back to the Scoupe deVille in Birdsboro, Pa. If the ice cream is good, the cheeseburger with brown gravy is killer.
Cabin camping offers a mix of outdoor fun and relative comfort.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures
It was the accommodations that made this trip unique.
Usually, we tent camp. And that’s fun. I like tent camping – especially in tiny campgrounds – and backpacking, too.
But circumstances suggested we try something different this time.
One son and his fiancé are in the process of moving from Morgantown, W.V., and near Pittsburgh, respectively, to New Jersey, to work and go to school in New York City. Another son is living and working a new job in Philadelphia while his soon-to-be fiancé finishes up veterinary school there.
Schedules are tight. Vacation days are few. It’s tough to get everyone together.
So, we rented a cabin in French Creek State Park in eastern Pennsylvania in hopes of getting everyone together, even if on and off over eight days and seven nights.
There would be no worrying about setting up and tearing down additional tents, no concerns about how many cars we had on site, no concerns about how many sites we needed. Everyone could come and go as time allowed.
And did I mention we’d have a bathroom of our own?
What fun it was.
The trip as a whole, I mean, not the bathroom (though it was nice enough, minus the blue painter’s tape with white lettering on one tile immediately outside the shower that said “do not step on or get wet).” Uh, ok. That was a little tricky to navigate.
Cabin camping offers access to some amenities.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures
But sidestepping that, literally, we had a blast.
We did all of the outdoors things we usually do, and were able to wind up each day relaxing on the porch or sitting around the fire, waiting for one particular too-friendly raccoon to show up looking for a handout.
That’s an experience easy to recreate in most of the country.
State parks — from Pennsylvania to Ohio to North Carolina to West Virginia and beyond – offer camping in cabins, as well as in cottages and even yurts.
Just how fancy they are varies. Some are circa-1930s log cabins with a fireplace for heat, but nothing else other than beds and a table. They might have running water or not.
Others are more modern.
Ours, for example, had not only a full bathroom, but two bedrooms and a living area complete with couch, chairs and table. Our kitchen, meanwhile, had a refrigerator, stove, sink and microwave.
We never used the stove, as we did all of our cooking outside. But the sink was handy for doing dishes and it was nice not to have to worry about ice keeping our food cold all week either.
The cabin stayed surprisingly cool, too, despite several days of 90-plus-degree weather (though a box fan we brought helped).
Some park cabin in some states even have air conditioning, if you want to go all out.
Now, granted, that’s hardly roughing it. My younger son Tyler made a point of telling my wife Mandy that we’d had it much harder back in the day with the Boy Scouts. (Rain and Ramen? Must be a campout).
But if it wasn’t a rugged experience, it was still a good one.
And it offered a fair bit of solitude, too.
Parks vary, of course, in the layout of their cabin areas as in everything else. But at French Creek, we could see just one of the nine other cabins, and the people there were friendly.
Once, a 7- or 8-year-old girl from aid us a visit with her dad. I was readying some charcoal for dinner when she asked me a question.
“Do you know how we’re cooking?” she asked. “With sticks.”
“Sticks,” I said, recalling her dad carrying armloads of logs to their fire ring several times over the last few days. “Wow, that’s cool.”
“Yep,” she said. “OK, well, see ya later new neighbor.”
With a wave, she was gone.
So, too, was out vacation, all too soon. But we’ll do it again.
I’m not giving up our tents, nor my backpacks, nor the canoes that carry us to places where we sometimes camp without any shelter other than a hammock or tarp. The wilder, remoter places where they really shine always draw me back.
Still, I’ll leave some days open for cabin camping.
Indoor plumbing, ice cream and gravy burgers have their appeal, too.
Cabin camping with a bit of power
There are some state park cabins around the country where you can count on having reliable cell phone coverage.
Blissfully, French Creek State Park is not one of them.
All of the time we spent in the cabin was time free of outside distractions. We sat around the campfire picnic table and had, you know, actual conversations, over desserts, cards and dominoes.
myCharge Adventure Ultra
But mothers worry, right? Friends reach out. Families have questions.
So when we left or went out for ice cream, it usually meant checking text messages and emails and voice mails.
That can drain batteries fast.
A tool I came across recently – the myCharge AdventureUltra – solved that problem.
It’s a portable charging device. Plug it into a wall or a USB port and let it “fill up,” so to speak, and you can power a whole bunch of devices for quite a while.
The manufacturer, for example, says the charger will provide up to eight times your phone’s normal battery life, 1.2 times your tablet’s battery and one times a small laptop’s battery. You can run a small fan or lamp with LED bulbs for eight hours, or even a 32-inch LED TV for three.
We purposely didn’t take a TV to camp or a laptop – no working allowed on vacation – though my wife had her tablet for reading. We tried the charger on that, as well as with our phones and a lantern.
The myCharge handled them all perfectly.
We recharged it once or maybe twice throughout the week. But if you don’t use it all the time, that’s not necessarily critical.
Under normal conditions, the myCharge holds power for up to three months.
It’s available in different configurations, too, some smaller. So if you wanted to carry one of these in a backpack to, perhaps, recharge the phone you use for taking pictures or for the GPS you use to explore when outdoors, those options are available. Those models even come with attached caribiners.
To check it out, visit mycharge.com/adventureinfo.
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