Camping Review - 2017 Rewind

Enjoying breakfast inside at our table on our last camping trip of the year.

2017 has been a great year.  We didn't get to camp as much as we would have liked.  Working to restore a camper is a huge task.  However, our hard work has paid off.  At the end of this year, I feel like we will be able to camp more in 2018.  And, we discovered some places we want to return to and places that we might not add back to our list.  This is my review of our camping trips for 2017.

I prefer state parks for camping.  We visited 5 state parks this year.  As we camped this year, I kept a spreadsheet of where we went and rated each park based on:
  • Overall Campground
  • Park Amenities
  • Staff Friendliness/Helpfulness
  • Bathrooms facilities
  • Campsite
From this, I gave each park an overall rating scale.  I rated each category on a 1 to 5 rating with 5 being the best and 1 being the worst.  After each trip, I followed up with each park director to tell him/her what we liked and areas that could be improved upon.  I feel like this feedback is helpful to the park and to campers looking to stay there.

This is my list of the 5 parks where we stayed and a brief summary of each place.  You can click on the link to see my full review of each park from this year.  

Buccaneer State Park - Best State Park We Visited This Year

Buccaneer State Park is located in Bay St. Louis, MS.  Since the construction is post-Katrina, everything is practically brand new.  The park features both gulf facing sites as well as more wooded areas for camping.  A water park is available from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  They also have a nice playground area for children, frisbee golf, and trails.  We loved this park because it was well maintained and offered lots of things to do both at the park and in the surrounding areas.  You could easily take a day trip to New Orleans, excursion to Ship Island and more.  We loved it so much that we are planning a trip back in 2018.  It was my husband's favorite spot.

Cold morning call for breakfast inside.

The park staff is not going to really sell you on the gulf front spots.  They are across the road from the water.  They do not have a fire pit or a grill.  If you use these features at campgrounds, you will need to bring your own.  We need these things so, we picked a spot in the back of the park that was recommended by the rangers.

Grey skies didn't keep us from going to the beach just to take a stroll.

Even with cooler and wet weather, this was still a wonderful trip.  Taking a nice hot shower in a clean facility after a cold dreary day felt nice.  This alone leaves me with the warm and fuzzies.  The spots have plenty of room, and I didn't feel crowded.  There is a train near the spots where we stayed that goes through during the night.  This didn't bother me.  I enjoy that sound.  We already have a trip planned for this park in the new year.

Legion State Park - Quiet Get Away

Our second favorite spot for camping this year was Legion State Park.  The facilities are older but well maintained and spotless.  The park manager is helpful and responds well to email.  They do not offer a lot of amenities.  However, if you are looking for a place to kick back, relax and have some quiet, this is the place to do it.  We enjoyed hiking, a campfire, and just some downtime.

Legion State Park has a historic CCC building on the premises.

Legion State Park was a first camping trip in our camper.  So, it was a test run.  We had the park to ourselves!  If you need anything, there is a nearby Walmart.  And there is a really yummy restaurant The Market Cafe that is open on the weekends if you wanted to go in for an evening meal and not cook.

Tishomingo State Park - Scenic Views

If you are in Northeast Mississippi, Tishomingo State Park is a must-see.  They have beautifully maintained hiking trails that we greatly enjoyed.  You can canoe or even enjoy a pool during seasonal times.  They also have a nice play area for children.  

The trails at Tishomingo State Park are lush and well maintained.

The park rangers are amazing and helpful.  We happened to stay here during a terrible storm.  The rangers were out as soon as the sun was up to cut trees off of roads.  They were also patrolling the roads during the night to check on campers.  

The staff is so friendly and helpful.  They give great directions to town to purchase firewood.  The bathhouses are so clean and well kept.  And we were there over a busy holiday weekend.  

Don't rely on them to answer email.  It won't happen.  I did let them know that their email was going unmanned.  If you need help, pick up the phone and call.  Otherwise, you are out of luck.

Oak Mountain State Park - Holiday Get Away

Oak Mountain State Park is one of my favorites even though it didn't rate high overall.  Our friends and family camped with us there.  And that is a winner to me!  We are still going back there next year even though is scored almost at the bottom.  It is close to home and we enjoy going there to camp in a group.

The colors are spectacular at Oak Mountain State Park in the fall.

They have hiking and bike trails galore.  The staff is welcoming and accessible.  However, the bathhouses are in terrible shape.  The playgrounds are pretty run down as well.  If you are coming to enjoy a group and nature, this is a great park.  But, the amenities are not so great.

This trip proves that great company and weather can override some of the negatives.  And, maybe next year we will be surprised with some updates to the bathrooms or equipment within the park.

Lake Lurleen State Park

We camped at Lake Lurleen over Easter weekend during the spring.  The spot is attractive and also close to home.  I wish I could like this park more.  Our camping spot was charming.  We enjoyed paddle boating and wadding in the water.  They have a good area to swim.

The scenery was nice but the amenities and ticks were much less desirable.
On this trip, we were eaten alive with ticks.  The park cannot control this fact.  Combined with some of the other negatives about this trip, we were left with a sour experience.

The bathhouses have zero ventilation and no hand soap.  The showers also have a huge drainage problem.  All of the water drains from the outer showers into the middle one.  So, if you are in the middle stall, you are standing in other people's runoff water.  Just no!

The final thing that checked this campground off of the list for me was the staff.  Not helpful at all.  I needed to go into town to purchase a set of nail clippers.  When asking for the closest store, not one person could answer.  I'm still baffled by this.  It is such a strange way to operate.  

As I reflect on this year, some spots are just outstanding for camping based on the amenities and facilities.  Others spots are winners because of the company you share.  And, some just can't overcome no matter what.  If you are planning for and reserving spots for the 2018 year, ask other campers about their experiences.  Also, share your experiences with others campers.  It is how we as a camping community help each other to make informed choices for our time.

Peggy Sue on our last camping trip of the year!

If you have a bad experience, be sure to contact the park directly to tell your concerns.  I did that for each one of the places where we stayed.  Be sure to tell the good things - not just the bad.  I followed up with each park this year and thanked the park staff for the work they are doing.  I'm sure this is a thankless job in many ways.  Parks provide a valuable service to campers, and I want them to feel appreciated.  

We have an exciting year ahead in 2018.  I can't wait to share it once we get started.  If you have a favorite spot you want to share about, feel free to comment or email me directly.  I'd love to hear your stories.  And, if you are gearing up for the new year, check out my camping gear page. You may find an idea or two for the new year ahead.