High Camp

So we were thinking a bit of going camping this weekend. I used to backpack in the Sierras with my family when I was a kid, haven’t really done anything like it as an adult, just a lot of day hiking. My wife’s never slept in a tent ever, and obviously, neither has the four-year old. I was thinking of something easy, like driving down to Cape Henlopen in Delaware, right near the beach, with a tent, some sleeping bags, some supplies, and our dog. A water hookup would be nice, but not required.

Cape Henlopen and another nearby Delaware state park turn out to be fully booked for the coming weekend and have been for a while: some kind of race event or something is going on. So I’ve been looking around for other places on the shore. There’s a state park in New Jersey along the shore that has tent campsites, but right now they’re not allowing any fires at all of any kind anywhere, including barbecues. Ok, that sucks. Every other search I’ve done for New Jersey’s shore areas has turned up these gi-normous RV-centric places where they’ve got swimming pools, hideous-sounding group activities and so on: basically they are RV resorts that also have some tent sites. Not what I have in mind when it comes to pitching a tent in a quiet outdoors area, especially since if I’m gonna camp on the shore, I want to be pretty much almost at the beach, as you are at Cape Henlopen, not in some wooded area where I have to hop in a car to get to the beach. These places basically sound like motels without the motel. If I’m going to stay in a motel at a cheap resort, I’m gonna stay at a motel at a cheap resort, not pitch a tent.

So getting a bit desperate, I look as far afield as southern Maryland, Assateague Island and Janes Island, though it’s a really long haul from here to there. I’ve been to Assateague before, it’s nice. Whoops, that’s booked too. Janes has some openings. But then I also notice that Assateague and Janes both have a really strict no-pets anywhere in the state park policy, so much for taking the nice doggie along.

Am I missing something? Is there a great fairly quiet, outdoors, tent-centric shore camping area in New Jersey or Delaware that allows dogs and fires? Is this a freakish ambition?

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8 Responses to High Camp

  1. emschwar says:

    I can’t help you out– I live in Colorado– but I can commiserate. Out here, reservations to camp in Rocky Mountain National Park sometimes need to be made months in advance (other times, you can practically walk in; sometimes it’s a crap shoot either way). There’s really not a good solution to the “Hey, where can I go camping this weekend?” question, much of the time. Even Boy Scout troops have to make sure to reserve an appropriate number of camp sites, depending on where they camp.

    It’s too bad your family isn’t familiar with camping, as you can usually just find a spot out in the woods and set up a tent; this is obviously less ideal for your wife and child, though, as going in the woods is a bit more complicated for women.

    Hrm… now that just reads oddly. Why don’t we have a good euphemism for eliminating bodily waste that isn’t location-specific? I wanted to write “going to the bathroom in the woods”, but that doesn’t make sense when you’re specifically talking about a place without bathrooms. Clearly, more research is needed here.

  2. Timothy Burke says:

    Yeah, I know what you mean, at any rate. Anyhoo, mountain camping around here I have a better sense of; shore camping I think it’s a lot harder to just pitch a tent any old place, given how overdeveloped the Jersey and Delaware shores are.

  3. pmazur says:

    I grew up in Wilmington, and I fondly remember visiting Bombay Hook Wildlife Refuge in Delaware with my father. I don’t know what the camping situation is there, and it’s not quite the shore, but it’s a quiet, beautiful place. It’s also closer to Philadelphia than Cape Henlopen.

  4. Timothy Burke says:

    Bombay Hook is beautiful, I’ve hiked there. I don’t think it has any campgrounds, though.

    Actually I managed to finally secure a spot at a state campground near Rehoboth only to have Emma (the 4-year old) suddenly hysterically veto the whole idea on the ground that “camping is scary”. I’ve found in the past that you don’t mess with a 4-year old’s Category 5-level “scary claims”, so no camping this weekend.

  5. David Salmanson says:

    Get thee a copy of PJ Funnybunny Camps Out. Helped tremendously with “I wanna sleep in a tent again” Leonarda when we took her to NM this summer.

  6. DarkoV says:

    Well, this comment is probably too late in coming.
    Henlopen is a fabulous camp site. Lewes, the nearest town, is quiet and interesting to poke around in. I highly recommend Striper Bites for a meal, beer, and a visit. We vacation in Lewes/cape Henlopen every other year. Jsut a great place to park your car fro a week and do a lot of biking and riding. Speaking abouot biking, bikes are free at the Nature Center in Cape Henlopen.
    THIS weekend is not a good idea, unless you want to get stuck in traffic. Even with Route 1 being a modern highway (which is unique for lower/slower Delaware), the NASCAR race weekend in Dover always promises you aches and misery.
    Unless, you leave PA very very early and then leave Henlopen on Sunday very very late.
    Bombay Hook, as you’dmentioned, has no camp sites, but the bird-watching there is great, second to Cape May in the Delaware BAy area.
    Hope your 4 yr old can be persuaded to at least try one night at Henlopen. The night sky, the nature tours, the golf frisbee, the old watchtowers (that you can climb to the top and view the Atlantic and the Bay), the swimming in the Bay side and the Ocean side in the same day. And, of course, there’s the ice cream places in Lewes. She may yet be persuaded.

  7. Timothy Burke says:

    We’ve actually been down to Lewes and Cape Henlopen quite a few times, just in hotels rather than beach camping: we like it a lot. It’s why we thought of camping at Henlopen, I like the campground there a lot, having walked around it before.

    But yeah, we realized about NASCAR once we checked into why it was so tough to book this weekend. So we bagged it. We’ll try again soon.

  8. vidyut says:

    I live in India, where you can camp pretty much where you see unused space and no one would dream of not allowing dogs – there are dogs on the street anyway. I can only appreciate from my imagination how difficult it could be to be able to find a suitable camping site.

    I hope you had a great time!

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