Mother’s Day Under the Mistletoe – Mistletoe State Park (Appling, Georgia)

As much as I love macaroni art and pipe cleaner jewelry, what I really wanted for Mother’s Day was some peace and quiet.

So, when I realized we hadn’t used the two free nights of camping that came with our Friends of the Georgia State Parks membership, I decided Mother’s Day weekend would be the perfect time for a mini-momcation. (An article about my first solo camping trip was featured on the Columbia Mom’s Blog last fall.)

With the influx of COVID-campers it has become more difficult to snag premium sites, especially when only booking a few weeks out. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find a waterfront site available at Mistletoe State Park in Appling, Georgia. I reserved the site, and hoped for the best.

A few weeks later it was finally time for my trip. When the clock hit five, I tossed my heels in the back of the Jeep, strapped on my sandals, and headed off into the sunset. Eventually I’d like to be comfortable enough to haul the camper myself, but for this trip Steven graciously offered to haul and set-up for me. I arrived at site 41, and what a site! It’s one of seven sites on a point jutting out into Lake Strom Thurmond. There were other sites that offered more privacy, but I don’t know that there were any that offered better views or access to the lake.

I spent Friday evening enjoying a gorgeous sunset over the lake, and then I stayed up until 4 a.m. binging an entire season of a show on Netflix. I rolled out of bed around 10 on Saturday, and decided to do some exploring. I took a leisurely drive around the campground and park, then stopped by the park store to rent a kayak. For $30 you get to access to kayak (single, tandem or canoe) for 24-hours. Before venturing out on the lake, I decided to take a hike.

The park offers 15.5 miles of trails. I selected the Cliatt Creek Nature Trail Loop, a 3.75 mile loop that starts across from the park office. The trail was relatively easy and offered scenic views of the creek. It was relaxing to be able to explore the woods at my own pace without having to wrangle kids. And, I have to say, I was pretty proud of myself for completing the whole hike.

After I ventured out of the woods, I decided to drive a few minutes down the road to the dam. I was so envious of all the federally managed recreation areas that I passed on way. We live near Lake Murray, but there are hardly any public areas on the lake. Aside from the parks there isn’t much else along the shores of Lake Strom Thurmond, so I was excited to see a BBQ food truck at the gas station in the Pollard’s Corner area. The truck was out of everything but ribs, but I’m not even mad about it because they were so good! The meat fell right off the bone and had great flavor.

With my stomach full I crashed for a power nap.

Next I decided to test out my kayaking skills. The kayaks were conveniently located next to my site. I strapped on my life vest and headed out on to the water. It wasn’t until I was paddling out into the cove that I realized I hadn’t ever kayaked before. Luckily, I managed to get the hang of it and didn’t end up in the drink. I enjoyed another beautiful sunset on the water before turning in for the night.

In the morning it was time to head home relaxed and refreshed to spend Mother’s Day with my boys. If you’d have told me a few years ago that I’d spend a day alone exploring the woods and kayaking, I would have said you were crazy, but I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I’m so grateful for a partner who encourages me to take time for myself for self-care. I encourage other moms to find ways to connect with nature and shed the stress of this chaotic world.  

Until next time, don’t forget to seek the scenic!

Camping 101: Camping with Kids (+ 10 of our favorite camping with kids products)

A list of products linked in this post is available below.

Disclaimer: The products linked in this post are items we have tried and liked. We do NOT receive any payment (financial or in-kind) from any of the links in this post nor do we have any partnerships with any of the product manufacturers.   

I often get questions from fellow parents who would like to start camping with their young children, but don’t know where to start. So, I wanted to share a few of our tips and tricks that have helped make camping with kids a bit more enjoyable.

We bought our first camper when our youngest was 3-months-old and our oldest was three. Through a good bit of trial and error we found some strategies that help make camping with kids a little bit more enjoyable.


One of the main challenges of camping with kids is ensuring sound sleep when the whole family is confined to close quarters. Our first camper was only 19’, so we didn’t have room for a play pen for our then infant. Instead in the early days (before he could roll) he used a portable infant sleeper on the converted dinette.

Once he got a little older we custom built a swing gate to cover the opening to one of the bunks. When we upgraded to our current camper, the boys each got a double bunk, and we mounted a baby gate over the opening to the toddler’s bed. Our 5-year-old sleeps in the top bunk in an inflatable toddler bed that has built-in bumpers. The air pump that came with the bed also works great for inflating water toys and tubes. An added bonus of using the inflatable bed is I can slide it out to change the sheets rather than having to climb up in a bunk. It’s also a lot easier to clean if your kiddo is prone to overnight accidents.   

We also make sure to bring the boys favorite lovies and a portable sound machine from home to help encourage a good night’s rest.


Another question I see online from time to time is: What do you do with diapers? Our solution for dirty diapers is a “trasharoo” mounted on our spare tire on the back of the camper. We simply put a trash bag in the trasharoo at the beginning of the trip and put anything we don’t want in our inside trash in that bag until the soonest opportunity to haul the trash off.

We also make sure we keep wipes and diapers in the car or our “go bag” for when we are on a hike or adventure and need to make a quick stop.


Safety is another top concern when camping with little ones. One modification that we made that has been great for ensuring our peace of mind is the addition of an extended hand rail. Some campers come with the larger hand rail standard, but if you have one with only the small grab handle, head over to Camping World or Amazon and purchase the upgrade.

Not only does the hand rail help the boys steady themselves as they climb up and down the stairs it also can serve as a way to block the screen door from opening. If we are in the camper, but want to enjoy the fresh air, we slide the handle in front of the screen and the toddler can’t open the door and fall out.

Another safety tip that I swear by is dressing the boys in bright clothes and/or hats. Choosing items that stand out from the natural landscape help make it easier to keep my eye on the boys as the play at the campsite or explore a scenic destination.

When our toddler was younger we also traveled with a playpen (I actually found one with a sunshade at Aldi, but it was similar to the one linked) and a baby seat that we could use to keep him more contained. When he was infant we snagged a used BabyBjörn bouncer. It was perfect for camping because it folds flat when not in use and the cover is washable. When he got a bit older we used a Summer Infant Pop and Sit Portable Booster.

Also make sure you have a well-stocked first aid kit and a fire extinguisher in your camper. We keep kits in the camper and in the car at all times.


At times it may feel like you are packing your whole house to take a quick weekend trip, but after some practice you’ll figure out what you don’t need and what can be left in the camper. We typically leave at least one outfit per person, jackets/sweaters, a few toys, diapers, swim diapers, water toys, sunscreen and bug spray in the camper. Another product that we really like, especially in the summer, is our Thermacell lantern. Our 5-year-old is a mosquito magnet, but the Thermacell helps keep them at bay.

Also, if you are a family that allows electronics, we find letting the boys have a tablet or watch TV in the camper occasionally can be a sanity saver. Most of the time we encourage them to be outside and enjoy nature, but sometimes it’s nice to let them watch an episode of their favorite show in the evening while we enjoy a bit of peace and quiet. It can also be helpful when storms roll in or the temperature drops and outdoor activities are off the table.

We don’t take a ton of toys, as we’ve found the boys typically find ways to entertain themselves with rocks and sticks and other items from the campsite. However, we have found bubbles are a great way to entertain kids at the campsite. We recently bought an inexpensive bubble gun that the boys love!

Camping with young kids can be challenging, but the more you keep at it, the more you figure out what works for you and your family. If you have tips you’d like to share, feel free to comment on this post, or message us on our Instagram @SeekTheScenic or our Facebook page Happy Camping!

I have included a full list of the linked products below:

  1. Baby Delight Snuggle Nest Harmony Portable Infant Sleeper – Amazon
  2. Emma + Ollie Inflatable Toddler Bed with Bed Rails – Amazon
  3. Summer Slumber Buddies Projection and Melodies Soother, Eddie The Elephant – Amazon
  4. Spare Tire Trash Bag, JoyTutus Fits 40″ Tire – Amazon
  5. Extended Lend-a-Hand Rail – Camping World
  6. Summer Pop ‘n Play Ultimate Playard, Green -Play Pen with Removable Canopy – Amazon (We found ours at Aldi)
  7. BabyBjörn Bouncer – Amazon (We found ours on Facebook Marketplace)
  8. Summer Pop and Sit Portable Booster – Amazon
  9. Swiss Safe 2-in-1 First Aid Kit – Amazon
  10. Thermacell Bristol Mosquito Repellent Patio Shield Lantern – Amazon

Choose Your Own Adventure: Twin Lakes Campground (Pendleton, SC)

Some camping trips are filled with visiting a full itinerary of scenic destinations, others are spent relaxing at the campground, and some trips are spent arguing with tiny versions of yourself until you are completely exhausted. (I’ll let you guess which category our trip to Twin Lakes Campground fit into.)

My intent for our trip to Twin Lakes Campground in Pendleton, South Carolina, was to explore an area of the state where we hadn’t spent much time, but once we arrived our boys decided they had different plans.

You see, Everett and Steven recently started watching Bear Grylls’ new, interactive Netflix series You vs. Wild. The show is similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” children books that were popular in the 90s. Everett has watched every episode and has taken to reenacting his favorite scenes. So, when we pulled into our campsite, he was in heaven: the rocks, “cliffs,” and lake were the perfect place for him to test out his newly acquired wilderness knowledge.

Twin Lakes is a 152-acre, 102 site lakefront campground managed by the Army Corp of Engineers. The sites have water and electric hook-ups, and are very economical at $26 a night. Reservations can be made at and a site map can be found here. We stayed on site 33, which is in the middle of five sites out on a point. We had no problem navigating into the site and had plenty of room for our camper and tow vehicle. The site was surrounded by Lake Hartwell on three sides and offered great views of the sun setting over the lake. It also had a large, level living area that included a fire ring and grill. A playground and bathhouse were a short walk from the site.

A gently sloping hill led down to the lake, but accessing the lake was a bit tricky due to a drop-off and rip rap surrounding the point. But Everett didn’t mind: navigating the terrain was a perfect way for him to sharpen his survival skills. However, supervising his antics near the water’s edge about gave me a heart attack. On future trips, I’d like to try a site with a more level “yard” area. Some of the sites in 60s looked to be bordered by a nice grassy area, and were also close to a beach area and playground.

We did convince the boys to go on an excursion to the South Carolina Botanical Gardens on the grounds of Clemson University. It was free to access the trails and there were lots of interesting sights to see. I would definitely recommend visiting the gardens, if you happen to be nearby. We also swung by Mac’s Drive-in, a local restaurant, for lunch. The food was great, but be aware, it’s not an actual “drive-in” and they only take cash or check.

The rest of the trip we alternated between playing “Bear Grylls” with Everett, which entailed helping him decide whether to rappel or free climb, hunt or forage, trap or fish, and on and on, and trying to convince him to leave the campsite. In the end, he had a blast, but we were exhausted. After a particularly overwhelming day on Saturday, we came to an agreement that on future trips we’d have a day where the Mommy and Daddy choose the adventure and a day where the boys get to choose our itinerary.

Camping with kids is an adventure in its own right, and each trip we are discovering what works and what doesn’t work. And even though this trip did come with more parental drama than we would have liked, we still enjoyed spending some time in nature and making memories together as a family. In all honesty, I wish we had gone with the flow and embraced that the boys wanted to enjoy our site. Not every trip needs to be filled with activities: lesson learned.

Perfectly Imperfect: Myrtle Beach State Park (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina)

(We also visited Myrtle Beach State Park in June 2019. To read more about that trip, click here.)

In today’s age of social media, we’re constantly barraged with “perfect” images. The flood of curated and filtered content can make us believe our lives need to be Instagram-worthy to be worthwhile.

So, as I reflected on our recent trip to Myrtle Beach State Park, I fixated on the foreboding forecast that delayed our arrival, the less than ideal weather, and the lack of sleep caused by our testy toddler. It wasn’t until we’d been home for a few days that the fog of unmet expectations lifted, and I began to see that our weekend was actually perfectly imperfect.

The forecast got worse and worse in the days leading up to our departure. We don’t mind rain, but riding out high winds and possible tornados in a tin can is another story all together. After being racked with indecision for several days, we finally decided it would be best to wait until Friday morning to head over to the campground. Our decision was ultimately fueled by the thought of having to shelter in a bathhouse with two kids during a pandemic. The risk wasn’t worth the reward in my book.

But, then, conditions changed and the storm shifted to the east. After carefully watching the radar, we accepted that South Carolina had dodged a bullet, which allowed us to head over Thursday night instead of waiting until morning. Hooking-up was easy since we’d already packed everything earlier in the day. Traffic was lighter than usual too, since we were leaving later in the day and many people were waiting out the weather indoors.

We arrived at our site, and made quick work of setting up before settling in for the night. We stayed on site 295, which was on the more spacious back loop. The site was easy to navigate into, even in the dark, and had a large outdoor living area. It was also full hook-up, which is always a nice find at a state park.

We woke to unseasonably cool temperatures and overcast skies, but thankfully the rain held off. We decided to bundle up and head to Murrell’s Inlet to explore Brookgreen Gardens with my Dad and his girlfriend Diane, who were visiting from Indiana. Brookgreen is located almost across the street from Huntington Beach State Park (which you can also visit for free, if you’re staying at MBSP). We spent several hours exploring Brookgreen’s beautiful sculpture gardens before the kiddos hit the wall. We’ll definitely visit again to see the rest of the grounds, which include a section on local history, a small zoo featuring local animals, and even an educational boat tour. (Note: Your ticket, which we found to be very reasonably priced, is actually good for seven days.)

When we got back to the campground, we decided to embrace the weather. Steven built a roaring campfire and whipped up a delicious, five-bean venison chili. I also made a pan of cornbread in our camper oven, without burning it! In retrospect, it was nice to be able to enjoy a few more days around the campfire since the oppressive heat of summer in the South will soon be upon us.

Saturday was chilly too, but the sun finally peaked through the clouds, which lifted our moods considerably. Since Dad and Diane were nearing the end of their trip, we spent the day soaking up the park. We visited the Nature Center, took a walk on the beach, and watched seagulls land on the pier. Everett was captivated by the challenge of completing the park’s scavenger hunts to earn a patch from the Nature Center, and Jase insisted on trying every slide on the playground.

For dinner, Dad visited a market and stocked up on local seafood, which we boiled over the fire. The result was delicious! My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Our trip may have been marred by some less than ideal circumstances, but we enjoyed good fellowship, great food, and beautiful sights. Real life is messy, and sometimes it takes the storms to truly appreciate the sun. Now we’re counting down the days until our next perfectly imperfect weekend.

Vitamin D and the Sea: Blythe Island Regional Park (Brunswick, Georgia)

By Steven Yancey

We’re back after 12 years, it’s been 12 years right? No? Well, it sure felt like it had been a lot longer than two months since we last ventured out. After a very cold and rainy January and February, we all were itching for some Vitamin D.

Originally, we planned to visit Blythe Island Regional Park over Valentine’s Day weekend. But then work schedules changed, so we moved it up a week. Then work got busy, so we moved it back two weeks. We were all set to go last weekend, but then the Jeep ended up in the shop and the weather looked miserable. So, we moved it back yet another week. I guess the camping gods were watching over us though because we ended up with the most beautiful weekend of the year!

We headed down to Brunswick, which is about three and half hours from Columbia, late Thursday afternoon. Due to our late departure we arrived at the campground, which is easily accessible from I-95, after dark. Entry was easy due to us calling ahead. We were advised to punch in the super-secret secure gate code, go to the main office, and find our paper work on the bulletin board. The campground did not give us a site number in advance, but we were told there weren’t really any bad spots. When we arrived, we found that we had site 49, which was in the interior of the campground. The site offered full hook-up, cable, WIFI, and a concrete pad for seating, all for $40 a night. The campground does not offer online booking, so you need to call 912-279-2812 to book.

When we woke up on Friday, we were able to actually see the campground, which offered gorgeous views of the intracoastal waterway and trees dripping with Spanish moss. After breakfast on Friday, we made a short drive over to Jekyll Island to spend the day with the in-laws, who drove up from Florida to spend some time with the “littles.” We paid $8 (totally worth it) for a day pass to explore. Alyssa had planned this trip during February specifically to participate in the Jeckyll Island Treasure Hunt, where the local CVB hides plastic orbs on the island that can be exchanged for artisan glass globes.

We started our hunt on Driftwood Beach. Driftwood Beach sits on the North of the island and due to erosion is filled with the skeletons of bleached and sun withered trees. It is a sight to behold, as it is as haunting as it is romantic and fanciful. The kids had a blast as they explored the worn timber and played well into lunch time. Jase did have one accident when he fell into a puddle while trying to rinse his hands. Though a few scrapes and a wet pants could all be solved by a chocy muffin. Chocy muffin fixes everything.

After lunch a Tortuga Jack’s, which is located on the island we ventured down to a second beach behind the restaurant. While we were eating, I kept seeing large bubbles, no GIANT bubbles, floating in the wind. Down by the water we found Aaron. Aaron is not a professional bubble blower, just a cool guy who wanted to learn a cool trick to show his friends while camping. As fate would have it he was on the beach that day and our paths crossed. To say the kids were happy would be an understatement. I’ve never seen them that tired after chasing bubbles. Aaron can be found on “the gram” under Aaron_the_gach, and though he just starting this, I hope its turns into a promising venture for him. It’s nice to see another human being doing something to just put a smile on someone else’s face.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have any luck finding one of the Jeckyll Island treasures, but we had a lot of fun searching. On the way off the island, we drove through the historic district, and remarked on how we’d have to come back to spend more time exploring all the nooks and crannies of the island. The island itself does have a campground, but when we were originally booking our trips, we discovered finding a site for a travel trailer is something that you need to do way in advance.

On Saturday we headed over to Saint Simons Island, which is north of Jekyll Island. It provided another awesome beach, which was surprisingly busy. Though, when its 84 degrees in February I don’t blame them one bit. It was a beautiful stretch of clean beach which was great for another day of trying to wear out the kiddos.

After we got back to the camper for some snacks and naps, I decided to head out for a little fishing. The fresh water lake offered some good bank fishing and some decent looking bass were found. When I returned Alyssa and Jase went out for a little exploring. While exploring Jase became enamored with some of the campground’s inhabitants: rabbits. Big rabbits. Everywhere. Apparently years ago someone on the island let their pet rabbits loose and they bred with the resident cotton tails. This produced a crossbreed of multicolored large rabbits which are pretty social. Jase befriended them and had to search out as many as he could. While at the campground we also saw deer, pelicans, squirrels and lots of other wildlife.

Blythe Island Regional Park also offers a very nice boat ramp and fishing pier on the intracoastal side. There is also several miles of off-road bike trails, walking trails, picnic shelters, and a small playground. We truly had a much needed, relaxing weekend. The only words of caution we’d offer is to make sure you bring bug spray, as the park had a significant sand flea population too. We also felt like some of the sites were a bit less private than we typically like, but, luckily, we had great neighbors. We decided on future trips we’d try to request a pull through site on the outside of the loop, as those seemed to be a bit more spacious.

Overall, Blythe Island Regional Park is a great destination that serves as a perfect base camp for exploring Georgia’s Golden Isles or to just relax and enjoy nature. It felt good to be back out enjoying the outdoors and some time together as a family.


P.S. – Thank you to my parents for letting us borrow their truck since our Jeep was still in the shop. It was definitely nice to tow with a big Ram 2500, but after two hours of hitting bumps on I-95, I don’t think I’m going to convince Alyssa to buy one as her daily driver!

Best of 2020

I think we’d all agree that 2020 isn’t a year we are going to forget anytime soon.

In fact, it feels flippant to write a lighthearted post about our favorite camping destinations when so much of our world is struggling.

Yet, I also feel like it is important to acknowledge that among the chaos and tragedy there also were moments of calm and joy. Above all else, this blog is a way to record our family adventures for the boys. And when my boys reflect on 2020, I want them to remember flames dancing in a campfire; mist raining down from a waterfall; the sun kissing their skin. I want them to remember that even in the darkness there is beauty.

So, on that note, I’d like to share our five brightest moments from 2020 (click on the hyperlink to read the full posts about each trip):

1. Hunting for treasures at Hunting Island State Park (Hunting Island, S.C.)
Our trip to Hunting Island State Park was our only 2020 trip prior to COVID-19 arriving in the United States. So, perhaps its our hunger for the “good ‘ole days,” but our weekend on this beautiful island tops our list of 2020 destinations.

2. Chasing waterfalls in the North Carolina foothills (Mountain Stream RV Park in Marion, N.C.)
Mountain Stream RV Park was a perfect base camp for us to explore the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. One of my favorite days of the year was spent climbing rocks and searching for crawfish at Tom’s Creek Falls.

3. Hiking Carrick Creek Trail at Table Rock State Park (Pickens, S.C.)
There’s something so rewarding about accomplishing a hike with two kids. Carrick Creek Trail was only 2-miles long, but it was challenging and scenic enough to make for a great family adventure.

4. Driving Horse Pasture Road to Jumping Off Rock (Lake Hartwell State Park in Fair Play, S.C.)
As with some of our other trips, the campground itself wasn’t what made our experience special, but rather the adventures we had during our stay. We loved spending time with family at Lake Hartwell State Park , but the best experince of the trip was driving Horse Pasture Road to Jumping Off Rock overlooking Lake Jocassee.

5. Relaxing at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Tabor City (Tabor City, N.C.)
Twenty-twenty was exhausting, so spending time with family relaxing at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Tabor City, North Carolina, was the perfect way to end the year.

Honorable Mention

Eating fresh caught fish at Crooked River State Park (St. Marys, G.A.)
Finding a good place to fish at Crooked River State Park took a little effort, but the payoff was worth it. Feasting on fish tacos made with fresh white fish caught in Crooked River was the perfect end to another great day.

Birthmas at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Daddy Joe’s in Tabor City, North Carolina

Apparently, people in my family tend to be very fertile in March and April because between the second week of November and January 1st our family celebrates nine birthdays.

In fact, both my son’s birthdays fall the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, which has led us to adopt the term Birthmas to describe the later part of December. And let’s face it, having a birthday so close to Christmas is kind of a raw deal. So, after our second son was born, I decided I wanted to do an annual birthday trip the week after Christmas to help make the boys’ birthdays feel a bit more special.

This year we decided to spend the second half of Birthmas camping at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park at Daddy Joe’s in Tabor City, North Carolina. We really enjoyed our trip to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Golden Valley in Bostic, North Carolina, in 2019, so we were excited to finally check out our other “local” Yogi Bear campground. We were able to take advantage of the park’s New Year’s special of five nights for the price of three and booked Dec. 27 – Jan. 1 for a total of $142 per site.

One of the much hyped features of the park is their “quad” sites: four sites organized in a square with a large common area in the middle. We originally didn’t book a quad, but after my in-laws visited the park to scope it out earlier this fall, we changed our reservation. Booking the quad turned out to be a great decision! We were camping with my mom and step-dad and my in-laws, and the kids could roam freely between the campsites and had plenty of room to play. All of the RV sites had full hook-up (water, electric and sewer), and the park also offers cabins and yurts. We did notice the WiFi wasn’t very strong in our section of the park, but the cell signal was great. So, you could easily use a hotspot, if you’re wanting to work or do virtual school from the park. All of the sites are also equipped for cable.

Since the boys have December birthdays, I thought it would be a nice treat to enjoy the park’s indoor, heated pool during our trip. When we arrived, I kept thinking it was strange that no one seemed to be at the pool, but figured it was because the park was capping how many people could use it at a time as part of their COVID precautions. On the second day of our trip, Everett and I decided to go for a swim, and I quickly discovered the real reason the pool was so empty: It was freezing! We toughed it out and made the most of it, but that was our only trip to the pool. I’m sure it’s tough to keep a pool warm when it’s 30 something degrees outside, but we were still a bit disappointed.

The park did have a lot of other amenities to offer, including bike and RC car tracks, playgrounds, ponds for fishing, an on-site ice cream shop, a well-stocked camp store, mini golf, and scheduled activities for the kids. Since COVID is still raging, we spent most of our time hunkered down at our sites, but our interest was definitely peaked. They also have a nice splash zone and aqua play area that looked like they’d be a lot of fun for the kids in warmer conditions. The park was large pretty large, so it was handy that my in-laws rented a golf cart. During the winter months, golf carts are discounted to $30 a day, but in the summer they go up to $60 a day.

The area was more rural, but there was a Food Lion and a few restaurant within a few minutes of the park. We also ventured up to Whiteville, North Carolina, to fulfill Everett’s birthday wish of going to the Dollar Tree, ha! Whiteville was only about 15 minutes away and had a Walmart and more restaurants and stores. We’d talked about venturing down to Myrtle Beach, which was about 45 minutes away, but never got motivated enough to do it. After the chaos of the holidays, it was nice to just relax and enjoy some time by the campfire.

Overall, we had a very relaxing trip and made some great memories with family! I’m not sure what Birthmas will hold for us next year, perhaps a more tropical destination.

Rest and Relaxation: Table Rock State Park

This year has been mentally exhausting.

The shift to remote work meant the lines between my home life and my work life blurred beyond recognition. My brain is constantly abuzz.

Which is why I treasure our camping trips. Yes, the packing and planning adds to the chaos temporarily, but once we are settled into our campsite so much of the stress lifts. For a few days the only decisions I have to make are what’s for lunch and what scenic destinations we should visit next.

Our recent trip to Table Rock State Park proved to be a much needed dose of stress relief. We came very close to cancelling when it looked like Tropical Depression Iota would make the trip a washout, but once again the camping Gods smiled down on us. And, we ended up with sunny skies, warm days and crisp evenings.

This was our first visit to Table Rock, and like many of the other parks we’ve visited, we were pleasantly surprised. The park itself was large, secluded and beautiful. After doing some research we chose site 84 in the White Oaks Campground. Our site had a shallow creek running behind it (which the boys loved!) and a large wooded area on one side. We had to a bit of leveling, but overall the site was well maintained.

My Mom and Stepdad were camping with us and were on site 86, which was on the other side of the wooded area next to our site. The arrangement worked fine, but if we went again, we’d probably do sites 83 and 84 or 86 and 87, just to be a bit closer to one another. We did drive through the Mountain Laurel Campground and though it had beautiful views of the mountains, it felt a bit more crowded and noisy. All the RV sites have electric and water, but are not full hook-up. The dump station is located in the Laurel Mountain Campground, but was easy to access.

Going with the theme of rest and relaxation, we spent most of our weekend enjoying the park itself. The only hiccup we had was firewood that refused to burn, but after scavenging some downed branches, we were back in business. We’d been warned that we wouldn’t get cell signal in the campground, and I was actually a little disappointed that our AT&T phones actually got a good signal at our site. I’d been looking forward to a forced detox. Though the boys did enjoy that they could watch our new FIreTV after the sun went down (which was surprisingly early this time of year!).

On Friday, we decided to venture out to see some nearby sights. First we visited Twin Falls, which was a 15-minute drive from the park. The falls were a short walk from the trailhead parking, and were absolutely breathtaking. The recent rains had the water really rushing. And though we were disappointed that the active hurricane season had taken a toll on the fall foliage, the sparser trees did make for great views of the falls.

Once I’d taken an excessive number of pictures and Steven was able to drag me away from the falls, we headed to the Sassafras Mountain Overlook. The overlook sits atop the highest point in South Carolina, and straddles the South Carolina and North Carolina border. On a clear day you can see 30 to 50 miles into the distance. We soaked up the views and enjoyed lunch on Papaw’s tailgate before heading back to the campground.

Saturday, Grandma and Papaw went out to do some exploring of their own, and ended up at my favorite place Jumping Off Rock. While they were gone we enjoyed a lazy morning, and then decided to conquer one of the park’s trails. We chose the Carrick Creek Trail, a moderate, 2-mile loop. We were quickly reminded that we’re used to flatlands and that our toddler is getting heavy, but the reward was worth the effort. Most of the trail follows Carrick Creek which is full of waterfalls and other scenic features. My Mom and I set out to do the Lakeside Loop later in the day, but were thwarted by a road closure and the quickly setting sun. Next time. We’d also love to eventually make our way up to the top of Table Rock, but that trek might have to wait until the boys are a bit older.

There is so much to do and see in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains that I hate leaving. But, alas, there always comes a time to return to reality, chaos and decision making. So, we savor the time we get enjoying the great outdoors.

Trial by Fire: River Bottom Farms Family Campground (Swansea, SC)

I gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles, heart racing, wondering what I’d gotten myself into this time.

A few hours earlier, I had received a text from Steven saying he wanted me to haul the camper to the campground for the weekend while he finished up at work. I’d been saying I wanted to learn to pull the camper, so I could help him drive and be able to step-in in case of an emergency, but being thrown to the wolves wasn’t what I’d had in mind. That said, I’m not one to back down from a challenge, so I packed-up and headed to my in-law’s house to hook-up.

Before I knew it, the final checks were done, and I was sitting in the driver’s seat trying to remember to breath. Luckily, my father in-law was sitting in the passenger seat coaching me, and we only had an 18-mile trip on backroads to River Bottom Farms Family Campground in Swansea, South Carolina. River Bottom also was the site of our very first camping trip, so it only seemed fitting that it be the destination for another first: my first time towing.

It may have been the longest trip to Swansea we’d ever taken, but we eventually pulled into the campground without any damage to people or property: success in my book! We checked-in, then headed to our site, a large pull-through at the back of the park. With a little more help from my in-laws, I got the rig parked, unhitched, and got to work setting up. It was new territory to be setting up on my own too, since usually Steven does everything outside, while I set-up inside and watch the kids. Finally, I completed my mission and headed home to pack up the rest of our supplies for the weekend.

The rest of the weekend was much less traumatic. We’re lucky to have a campground like River Bottom as our “local” campground. It’s a smaller park, with large lots, full hook-up, fishing ponds, and lots of fun activities for the kids. It’s also close to Columbia, if you’re in town for a football game or want to visit any other attractions. They also have decent WIFI and good cell service, if you want to work or do virtual school from your site. Pricing also is affordable at $38-45 per night, depending on your dates and site selection.

We had snagged a spot for one of River Bottom’s popular Halloween weekends, which run throughout the month of October, and the schedule of activities didn’t disappoint. The boys particularly enjoy the costume contest and the trick-or-treating. This year, our oldest assigned our costumes based on the Jurassic World Lego movie. So, he was the Indominus Rex. I was a raptor. Steven was Owen Grady, and little Jase was a hot dog. Unfortunately, we were robbed in the costume contest again this year. We’re coming for that prize next year!

When we weren’t enjoying the Halloween festivities, the boys enjoyed mining for fossils and gems, jumping on the jump pillow, and playing on the playground. Everett even ran into some friends from his preschool on the playground. The adults enjoyed fishing, sitting by the campfire, and the company of friends. We did get a little bit of rain on Saturday, but nothing severe, and the boys loved the opportunity to jump in some puddles.

On Sunday, we packed-up, and I got behind the steering wheel again. The return trip was slightly less terror inducing, despite damp roads, and I had a sense of accomplishment when we got to our destination. I’m definitely not ready to hit the road alone, and I’m still nervous about the prospect of tackling interstates, but I’m getting there!

River Bottom Farms – March 2019
River Bottom Farms – 2020

Until next time, don’t forget to seek the scenic!

Camping 101: Where to camp?

Anyone who has been camping for a while knows that campgrounds are booking up quicker than ever. In fact, getting a prized site at a popular campground often requires booking a year in advance. So, we would do a few “camping 101” posts to help all the newer campers learn the ropes.

So, you bought a camper! Now what? Finding a campsite is becoming more difficult, but it’s not impossible, if you know where to look. Below is a list of some of the various places where you can camp:

Local and county parks

Don’t forget to look local! Many towns, cities, and counties have parks with RV sites. Some of these parks are smaller and more primitive, while others are larger and offer a range of amenities. For instance, James Island County Park near Charleston, S.C., has a beautiful campground with full hook-up sites and an onsite water park.

Check out our blog post about camping at James Island County Park.

State Parks

State parks are probably the best known place to camp. We enjoy that state parks typically offer a quiet and relaxing environment for a reasonable price. However, if you plan to camp in more than one state, then make sure you research each state’s booking policies. In South Carolina you can book a site at a state park 13 months in advance, but in Florida you can only book 11 months in advance. If you do a little bit of research you can find some gems in the state park systems.

Check out our blog post about camping at Lake Hartwell State Park (SC) and Hunting Island State Park (SC).

Federal Parks

Depending where you live, federal parks can be another great option! As the Army Corp of Engineers (COE) built man-made lakes across the country, they also built beautiful, lakeside campgrounds. The Strom Thurmond Federal Reservoir on the South Carolina/Georgia border currently has seven COE campgrounds operating along its shores. These campgrounds typically don’t offer sewer hook-up, but usually offer large sites, often with great views. They are also very reasonably priced.

You can reserve sites at COE campgrounds on Finding pictures of available sites can be tricky, but if you google “army mil” plus the name of the campground you’re researching it will typically pull up an interactive map with pictures.

Check out our blog posts about visiting Modoc COE Campground.

Private Parks

Another great option is private parks. Thousand Trails and KOA offer nationwide chain of private campgrounds that typically offer lots of amenities. Yogi Bear Jellystone Park™ Camp Resorts is another nationwide chain that offers beautiful, family-friendly campgrounds. You also can find independent private parks, like Riverbottom Farms in Swansea, S.C., Mountain Stream RV Resort in Marion, N.C., or the various resorts in Myrtle Beach. You sometimes sacrifice privacy and space at the larger private campgrounds and they can be a bit pricier than a state park or a COE. However, you also tend to get more amenities.

Check out our blog posts about camping at Mountain Stream RV Park in Marion, N.C., and at Yogi Bear Jellystone Park – Golden Valley in Bostic, N.C.


Boondocking is when you camp on land that isn’t part of a developed campground. Boondocking could be setting up in your backyard or heading out into a national forest. We haven’t really tried boondocking so far because we don’t have a way to run our rig without electricity at this point, and frankly, in South Carolina there’s a pretty small window when you can camp without air conditioning. But, if you have alternative energy sources or live in a more temperate climate, boondocking is a great option! Just make sure you do some research on where you are and aren’t allowed to camp.

Miscellaneous: Harvest Hosts, HipCamp, AirBnB, etc.

As the camping industry booms, many individuals and businesses are looking to get in on the fun! Harvest Hosts seems to be one of the more popular options. For an annual fee, you can camp at a variety of scenic destinations across the country, such as wineries, farms, etc. Sites like HipCamp and AirBnB also offer unique options for campers. I only see this industry getting bigger as more people choose to hit the road in their camper or RV.

We hope this helps give you some ideas of where to find some new places to camp! Don’t forget to seek the scenic, and let us know in the comments what other “camping 101” topics you’d like us to cover!