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  1. Default Spring camping trip--midwest/south

    Hello everyone. I came upon this site as I was starting to plan our first multi-state camping trip and I thought I'd get some advice.

    My husband and 6 year old son love to camp. We just upgraded to a hybrid camper and are eager to try it out. We're thinking that we can plan a trip during the week that our son is off from school at the end of March 2011.

    Currently we're near Cleveland, OH. We just moved here from Upstate NY. We LOVED camping in the Adirondack mountains and we're sad that the part of the country we're in now is so flat! But we know there are some great camping spots out there...we just need to find them.

    So we'll be camping at the end of March. We're starting from Cleveland, OH. We'd like to see some really cool USA-type things if possible along the way, and of course some great fishing/hiking would be good too. We're not picky on direction, or what states we end up in. We'll be gone for a little over a week (Friday to the next Sunday).

    Any thoughts? Things we should definitely see? Places/campgrounds that jump to mind? This is my starting off point so any info/tips is appreciated. Thanks!!!

  2. #2

    Default Early Spring in the Southern Appalachians

    Hello catjw22,

    Early Spring in the higher elevations of the Southern Appalachians can bring anything from bluebird days in the 70s to a full-scale blizzard. As long as you're willing to be flexible, however, there are a number of options for your family's consideration:

    While it's not located in the mountains, Mammoth Cave, KY might be of interest to your son. An added benefit is that the weather never changes underground. There are so-called "wild cave" tours available which would allow you to get wet and muddy, in addition to the "running shoes and a sweatshirt" paved walking pathway tours most visitors take.

    Dale Hollow Lake, along the KY-TN border, lies within the Cumberland Plateau and features many campgrounds and rugged hills. Houseboat rentals abound on Dale Hollow and other Southern reservoirs, as well.

    By early Spring some of the river-runners have opened up shop for the season. Notable among them is the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), based in Wesser, NC on the Nantahala River. While the NOC operates outposts on a number of Southern whitewater rivers, perhaps the optimal experience for a 6-year old would be the Nantahala River itself, at the NOC HQ. There the NOC takes you perhaps 10 miles upstream for a dam-controlled ride back down the river to their headquarters. While the water is fast, it's gentle by whitewater standards, at Class II and III for the most part. One of the ideal situations with NOC on the Nantahala is that the end of the run is at their HQ, with immediate hot showers and locker rooms for the participants as opposed to a long, cold bus ride back to HQ. The NOC provides wetsuits for guests on the Nantahala. Finally, the Wesser area is surrounded by many tens of thousands of acres of National Forest and isn't far from the Great Smoky Mountains Nat Park.

    I can also thoroughly recommend a visit to Damascus, VA for a ride on the Virginia Creeper Trail (VCT). The most popular segment of this 35 mile rails-to-trails linear park is the 17 mile all-downhill run from Whitetop Station back to Damascus. The gradient is gentle, being an old railroad bed, and but little effort to pedal is needed on the flatter lower portion. It's very popular with families with small children like yours. A number of liveries offer bike rental and shuttle service to the top for around $25 per person. I do suggest doing this one on a weekday, however, as a nice, warm Springtime Saturday will bring out crowds. Damascus is within the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and close to Virginia's Grayson Highlands State Park, each of which features campgrounds which should be open by late March. Damascus is also close to Boone and Blowing Rock, NC and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    A little further south, the Talladega National Forest in Northeast Alabama offers many campgrounds, a short parkway along the ridgetop of Cheaha Mountain, and many miles of hiking trails. Cheaha Mountain is the highest point in Alabama at 2,407' and there is a nice old-style CCC-built facility including a campground at the summit, along with miles of hiking trails. Elevations are modest in the Talladega NF so the likelihood of finding comfortable daytime temps is strong. There are some sizable TVA and other reservoirs in Alabama, along with a scenic river gorge (Little River Canyon, I believe it's called).

    As far as attractions like the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) are concerned, weather governs all. Little effort is made to keep the Parkway open in Winter, and Winter stays late at elevations above, say, 3,000'. While it's certainly possible to travel segments of the BRP, drive to the summit of Mount Mitchell, visit Grandfather Mountain, etc, at that time of year, it is equally possible to have no access to any of the 3 for your full week. That being the case, you just need to have alternate plans in place.

    Enjoy planning and taking your Springtime RoadTrip!


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