Tag Archives: review

Panther Creek State Park Review

This year, I have discovered 2 Facebook groups that are SUCH a help to pop up owners, such as myself and Chad.
The first is Popup Camper Owners. If you can have it go wrong, it’s happened to someone here and they can tell you how to fix it in 2 seconds. They also post funny stuff, pictures of their campers (inside and out), great modifications they’ve done, etc. It’s like the Popup Portal in Facebook form. REALLY fun. Warning: there are a couple of folks on there with really dry senses of humor and some people don’t get it and get offended. Assume the posters are being nice, ’cause they are.
The second is Pop Up, Teardrop, HTT and Tent Camper Campground Reviews. The admin on that site works his butt off. As soon as you post a review, he will put it into a folder for that state, and they’re all searchable. Seriously, if you’re thinking of camping somewhere, there’s probably a review there. And, since no one is getting paid… the reviews are honest. It’s lovely.

That said, here’s the review of our latest trip. I posted it there, but wanted to share it here, too, with more personal stuff that people who are campground hunting don’t need. Like plastic dinosaurs.

Panther Creek State Park, Morristown, TN

First, let me brag a little. This is the first time I towed Pandora! Well, the Jeep towed her, I just drove, but still. I have some um… issues we’ll say… when it comes to driving in reverse. Mostly that I back up like a spastic duck that someone has blindfolded. Yeah, it’s not pretty. So, imagine my surprise (and Chad’s semi-terror) that I got the camper backed into the spot in 2 tries. I felt like a camping goddess!!!! Chad was wanting to drive the first bit (he says to make sure everything hitched up right before he had me tow. I think it was to keep his terror level down to manageable. He has some slight control issues). So, here’s the obligatory pic of Pandora following us on our adventure with me in the passenger seat.

It's following me!!!
Pandora, keeping up just fine!

Some background: We stayed here July 8,9,10. It’s a 50 site state campground. Small, but clean and quiet. They redid the campground a couple of years ago, so some of the trees are new and small, leaving many sites out in the open sun. But, if you get on the outer edge of the loops, and on the higher numbered sites, you wind up in a bit more shade. We stayed in site 37, and as luck would have it, I’m pretty sure it was the best site for shade. It has the woods on a hill behind it, and to the right side. So, shaded for a good part of the day. Site 38 is the same in reverse. They’re also near the bath house and picnic pavillion.

Our campsite with our friend Adam's truck and our Jeep. Notice the woods all around the side and back.
Our campsite with our friend Adam’s truck and our Jeep. Notice the woods all around the side and back.
The pavilion is super nice. HUGE fireplace in the middle, tons of tables. Not a lot of parking, though.
The pavilion is super nice. HUGE fireplace in the middle, tons of tables. Not a lot of parking, though.

This is the first time we got to use our groovy new Coleman Deluxe Camp Kitchen. I got it on sale and with free shipping at Target. It is AWESOME!! As I’ve pointed out, the tiny thing that is Pandora is NOT conducive to cooking. This bad boy has a place to put your Coleman stove, a place to wash dishes, store your pots/pans, even racks to hang up measuring cups, etc. And, as it turns out, one of the baskets holds our current favorite glasses.

Folds nicely for storage. We keep it in the floor of Pandora when we pop her down to travel. Fits perfectly along side the EZ Up.
Folds nicely for storage. We keep it in the floor of Pandora when we pop her down to travel. Fits perfectly along side the EZ Up.
067
Notice the super cute platter. It doesn’t match the blue on Pandora, but it was $1 (I already had the vinyl and the file, so it was almost free!). It isn’t functional, just for cutes!
In use!
In use! Husband not included. 

Pandora does not have a water heater, so we take an electric kettle. One of those full into a dishpan and mix with room temp water to wash. We use the pan on the kitchen to rinse. The kettle works like a dream! Here’s the one we have. Well, ours is older, but this is the newest version. We’ve had ours for about 7 years. Love it!

Bath houses: There are 2, each has 4 units. Each unit has a sink, toilet, tiled bench and shower. So, it’s like your own private bathroom. Each shower has a short and tall shower nozzle, and a pull down bench). They were pretty clean, but the curtains were mildew city. Also, there are no flat surfaces or hooks in the shower stalls, so no place to lay your shampoo bottles, etc., except on the bench. There was a huge fan in each unit. They were cleaned at least daily, I think maybe twice daily. Again, pretty clean for as much as they were used. In the bath house block there was also a laundry room. I didn’t use it, so not sure about them.

A pano of the bathroom. Lord, they were hot. But, relatively clean for as busy as it was.
A pano of the bathroom. Lord, they were hot. But, relatively clean for as busy as it was.

Sites are paved, relatively level and many have a tent pad that’s graveled. Most have a large, grassy area good for tents, as well. Lots of sites had tents as well as campers. The sites are HUGE compared to most campgrounds we’ve visited, even other state parks in East TN. Each site had electric hookup and water at the site. No sewer. Dump station and dumpsters were located at the campground entrance, by the campground office (which is closed, more on that later). Water pressure was enough that it made me happy we had a pressure regulator! Our power had regular power, 30 and 50 amp. I think all sites do, but I don’t want to say that for sure. Each site has a nice fire ring with an adjustable height, swing out grill, and also has a park type grill (the tall, metal kind).
The only issue I had was that the campground seemed to have no staff. It had a campground office, but it was closed, and that appears to be permanent. There’s a sign as you come in telling you to check in at the office, but it means to check in at the Visitor’s Center. It’s only open a few hours a day, closing for lunch. And, it has NO camping stuff, just gift shop stuff. So, no ice, no firewood, etc. They require you to have “certified” heat treated wood or downed wood from the park. But, the closest place to buy any firewood is a BP several miles away, and it’s not certified. So, not sure how that works. There are no campground maps available, but there are maps of the trails, and they’re only $1. Very worth it if you’re hiking or biking. I never saw a site that said camp host, but did see Rangers coming thru in trucks pretty often, just keeping an eye on things. They were super nice. I’m just used to having a small camp store. Next time, I’ll know to bring more ice, and remember the firewood situation.

***Since I put this review on the FB group, I actually got an email back from a park survey I did. Super nice email that addressed those issues. They’re getting better signage, and are in the middle of hiring for the park & campground. They’re also in works with a furniture manufacturer on getting them to do the certified firewood, which is probably already in place by now. I was really impressed with how quickly and directly they addressed the issues I brought up!***

Speaking of hiking and biking: The trails are great. Everything from beginner (easy) trails, to some pretty advanced and rocky mountain bike trails. The trails intersect with the campground, so it’s super easy to ride a while, come back and grab a bite to eat, etc.
The next entrance down from the main entrance to the park has free lake access, but no swimming there. In the main section of the park is a nice pool (fee to use), a playground, some ball fields, more picnic shelters, etc. The creek runs thru the edge of the campground, and saw a lot of kids cooling off down there. Now, we all know that I did not experience the mountain bike trails or anything beyond  walking to the bathhouse. It was a million degrees and so humid that you dried off after taking a shower and were immediately soaked again, but with sweat. Ick. And, I do not do heat. So, Chad and his friend Adam went and did a ton of riding that Saturday. Courtney (Adam’s fiancee) and I sat under the EZ Up tent and even made an impromptu trip to the Walmart in Morristown (about a 20 minute drive away). But, we did NOT hike. So, all the trail info is from hubby and Adam. Not me!

As far as electronic needs: If you use a Sprint mobile phone, you’re going to be doing good to get texts/phone calls. Courtney has a Verizon phone and had 4 bars. So, yeah… go with Verizon! We were one site over from the Wifi, but when we called and made our reservation, I asked about it, and the ranger told me the wifi is terrible. She did not lie. I’d get the little notice it was there, and 2 out of 3 rings, but I could NEVER get connected. So, if you’re an internet addict (guilty!), you’re gonna go cold turkey. But, it was so nice, I didn’t mind.
I’d give this a solid 4.25 stars out of 5. I am definitely coming back, and really, really enjoyed this campground.
TLDR: Clean, quiet, good amenities, no camp store, nice bathrooms. Great mountain biking/hiking.

And, since they don’t fit anywhere else in this review, here’s more pictures.

A Christmas gift from Courtney that fits perfectly in here!
A Christmas gift from Courtney that fits perfectly in here!
Awesome husband and super cute pillow from my friend Kim! If you can't tell, the lifhts around the camper on the pillow are owls!!!
Awesome husband and super cute pillow from my friend Kim! If you can’t tell, the lights around the camper on the pillow are owls!!!
Panther Creek Office
Panther Creek Office

Now, I may have mentioned dinosaurs. Well, it’s actually just ONE dinosaur. He’s a little plastic fellow that we found lost at Brews and Tunes in Jonesborough one afternoon. He has China A18 stamped on his belly, so we figure that’s his name. He now goes with us on many adventures. This was his very first time camping! He liked the air conditioning best (what? I speak dino! He told me! I swear!).  Here’s some shots of his adventures. Funnily enough, I think he’s the most popular part of my Instagram. I feel unloved, y’all. But, you can follow him by hunting up #chinaa18 on Instagram.

The giant TN state map made of wood. Has a small visitor if you look closely.
The giant TN state map made of wood. Has a small visitor if you look closely.
He was pretending he was Godzilla, rampaging through the Appalachian Mountains!!
He was pretending he was Godzilla, rampaging through the Appalachian Mountains!!
He loves grilled food, but much like me, he also loves carbs.
He loves grilled food, but much like me, he also loves carbs.
And, apparently, he likes Starbucks. He's a modern dino in a modern world.
And, apparently, he likes Starbucks. He’s a modern dino in a modern world.
He really was taken with the Coleman lantern. We didn't have the heart to tell him it runs on fossil fuels, and we may have been burning his ancestors. Shhhh!
He really was taken with the Coleman lantern. We didn’t have the heart to tell him it runs on fossil fuels, and we may have been burning his ancestors. Shhhh!

So, that’s it for our trip. Well, not really. There will be a separate post in which I explain what happens when you were being a cheapskate and don’t buy a new battery for your camper’s lift system, and think you’ll rely on your hand crank system… and it fails. I was all for sitting down and crying, but thankfully Chad has some serious ninja skills when it comes to cars and electricity and keeping his wife from having a full-on meltdown in Morristown. I want to get some pictures of how he did this, just in case anyone is ever stuck in a similarly sucktastic situation. He saved the day. So… keep an eye out, and when I can stage a photo shoot, I’ll post that little update, too!

Advertisements

Maiden Voyage & a Review of Riverpark Campground

My husband, Chad, had scheduled some time off a while back. So, it was heading into Spring and I made us a camping reservation. The weather had been gorgeous. In the 70’s!

Well, until we were supposed to leave! Yeah, each day I looked at the forecast for the weekend, and each day it got colder. I asked Chad if he was willing to still camp, even if it was cold. Like, freezing. He was game, and I was dying to try camping. So, there we went…

All set up and ready to rock
All set up and ready to rock

Our first set up went better than I’d hoped. Took maybe 20 minutes to get backed in, leveled, hooked up & popped up. Then, about another 10 to get the door set. UGH. Turns out we just weren’t putting enough muscle behind it, and the little latch on the top panel that connects to the door is a little um… stubborn. But, we got it done!

The best part is that the furnace on our Popup works wonderfully! It will run you out of the camper, as a matter of fact! But, with the temps in the low 20s. the canvas let some pretty cold air in there. You didn’t notice it unless you were in the bed. But, we had more than a furnace. We had heated mattresses!

For real! Did you even know they made such a thing? I had no idea, and they are GREAT! They go from 1 to 6. Basically 1 is barely warm, and 6 is pretty much like a skillet. LOL!

We stayed snug as bugs in rugs. So, that was awesome. Between the wonderfully warm bed, and the white noise “machine,” we had going, we had some of the best sleep we have had in ages.

What white noise machine, you ask? Well, it’s not so much a machine…

The Rapids
The Rapids

That’d be some rapids in the Nolichucky river, in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Our camper was right beside them. The noise was heavenly. You couldn’t hear another sound from the campers nearby. It was like our lullabye. A very thorough lullaby, too. Holy cow, we slept more this weekend than we have in ages. But, with it being so cold, what else was there to do? Nothing! So, sleep, read, and eat, we did!

Of course, we spent a lot of time figuring out where the best places are to store things. And, figuring things out. Such as, figuring out that the cookware I’d snagged ages ago on clearance was on clearance for a reason. One use, and the exterior paint flaked off. That simply cannot be safe, so we dumped it in the dumpster as we left.

Also, we figured out that we had gotten much too long a gray water hose. Everything I read said to get a super long one, so I got a 50 foot hose. Oh, my goodness… we were like 2 feet away from the sewer connection. So, all the loops pretty much mean that we had not enough pressure to push the water thru the hose. So, we wound up lopping off a good portion of the hose. I’m guessing I’ll be buying a couple of 15 foot hoses, so we can put them together if necessary, but not have a 45 extra feet of hose we don’t need.

We also figured out that the exterior hose that brings water in for us to drink… will freeze if it’s cold enough! Luckily, figured it out BEFORE it froze all the way thru. I turned on the tap to brush my teeth, and the stream of the water was tiny. Uh-oh! Luckily, running it a minute or two cleared it right up. We just left it running a tiny, tiny steam all night and nothing froze up. Phew! That could have gone badly!

We’d packed up a cool of drinks, and we left them outside. The ice froze to the drinks. But, the drinks didn’t freeze solid, so that worked out well!

The cooler was warmer!
The cooler was warmer!

Cooking-wise, our plan was to cook with the stove in the outside bracket. But, we nixed that with the temps. We just cooked inside. I figured with it being a first trip, I’d keep it ridiculously easy. Mostly pre-prepared foods, or at least semi-prepared. Refrigerated tortellini and sauce, a fried hamburger. Some pre-peeled, pre-seasoned homefries. They all did well. Except, of course, the lousy pans. But, that could have been much worse.

All in all, we had a lazy, easy first trip.

Where: Riverpark Campground
http://www.riverparkcampground.net/
Site #32, which is a “riverfront” site and was $41 per night. You get a 10% discount if you have a Good Sam membership. The non-riverfront slots are $31, I think. They have 30 amp, 50 amp and even tent sites.
Each site has a huge fire ring with a flip-over grill.

There is a camp store, and the staff are just beyond friendly. They even joked with me when they found out it was our first time ever camping. They said they were going to bring chairs, sit around and watch us! They also have an adorable little dog that is just as polite and friendly as can be. They have everything in the store from t-shirts to s’mores forks and slim jims. You name it, they seem to have it. $5 firewood bundles.

We had to get our propane tank refilled while there. A 20 pound tank was only $12.95 to refill. I thought that was excellent. Super-fast, too.

Pandora has no potty, so we were pleased to find that there were 2 potty options and they were both pretty darn nice! Just at the river was a small, single bathroom. It was heated, had a nice sink and hand soap. That was nice to be able to run out to in the middle of the night.

Then, just across from the store, is the main bathhouse. Each toilet in its own little room, and each shower (2 of them) are in their own room, plenty of room in each. Several hooks, a little pull-down bench and a shower unit. SO CLEAN. I can’t say that I saw a single speck of dust anywhere.
Also, in the “entry” area of the bathroom, is a row of sinks and also a large counter with a mirror. Plenty of hot water, so that was a blessing and a plus!

Now that I’m home, I realize I should have taken pictures of so much more. The bathhouses, the other campsites, the camp store and it’s adorable dog. Well, I guess I live and learn on this one, and the next time we camp, I’ll take pictures of everything.

And, hopefully, it will be WARM!!!!