First solo camping trip Labor Day weekend

Hi all! Last weekend was my first solo camping trip and chose Chain O Lakes State Park for my destination (close to one of my sister’s). I chose a tent site for $12/night via that was close to the shower facilities. There are senior discounts, but restricted to certain days. Check out the DNR web site for details by clicking on the link above. All of the sites are slightly different in shape and size, so it’s a good idea to check it out ahead of time. Mine was perfect for just me but it can camp at least 2 or 3 small tents or 1 larger one. I tried backing in and just made it without hitting the tree branches. Each site has a picnic table and fire pit with a large grate for cooking and 2 cars are allowed per site. The sites are also very secluded and are surrounded by trees so you can’t see the neighbors. Quite nice! The RV sites have all of the amenities, like electric and concrete pads, but they are right on top of each other and offer no privacy.

I met my neighbors who were also staying for the long weekend, and they were awesome! Denise and Nancy are camping buddies my age and have been camping together for a long time. These ladies know how to set up a camp! They even had a she-shed for toilet activities. Check out the pictures! We exchanged contact information and I will be in touch with them soon.

Being a holiday weekend, it was pretty crowded with families and was noisy at night in spite of quiet time at 10 pm. I didn’t sleep very well…I also found out that there is a tavern on Blarney Island (wherever that is) that plays loud music on the weekends. EEK! Fortunately, it rained one night and was quiet. I will check it out again on a non-holiday weekend.
The showers and flushing toilets were clean and well-maintained, and there is a concession that sells supplies and rents kayaks, boats, and other water craft. The hiking/biking trails were easy to find and the views were great! There is a lot to do at this park and fishing is the focus here. There are also 3 sandhill cranes who live in the park and I saw them a couple of times.
The owner of the concession stand was very nice and we spent some time chatting. It was interesting to find out about people who camp there for 2 weeks at a time and then go to Illinois Beach State Park for 2 weeks. Apparently, they travel back and forth between the two parks.

I set up a simple camp for cooking and bought some wood for the fire. I had a recipe for pork tenderloin and was eager to try it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t move the grate in the fire pit and ended up putting my LeCruset dutch oven directly on the wood. EEK! Don’t do that!! 1) I burnt my food, 2) I ruined my pot. It will take many hours to scrub the black out. I used my propane stove to cook after. I found out that I should have waited for the fire to subside before I put the pot in. The food was edible but the pork was a little dry. I left a couple of bins on the table over night and found racoon paw prints the next day. Fortunately, the bins were closed and the critters couldn’t open them. Because there was no shelter and it rained all night on Saturday, I drove to the dock the next morning and found a picnic shelter to cook. I thought about using the stove in the van, but it’s not set up yet and I didn’t want to take a risk. I definitely need to get an awning for the van! I cannot live without coffee in the morning and will do whatever is necessary to get some. Breaking camp every night was a pain, so I’ll have to figure something out and get more organized.

The toilet set up: OMG, I need to work on this. I brought the “unfinished” toilet bench to test it using the funnel/bucket method. The goal was to use it during the night for emergencies. I rigged up the funnel to a small bucket and placed it in the bench. 1) I couldn’t see what I was doing and my aim is terrible. 2) The funnel did not work well and I splashed all over. 3) I pee pretty hard and need a bigger bucket. The second time I used the bigger bucket with the commode liners I bought. That worked much better. I did #2 in the shower room toilets.
The first night got pretty cold, and my Kelty sleeping bag kept me nice and toasty. However, the van itself was pretty cold in the morning and I started the van so I could use the heater to take the chill out. My Mr. Buddy heater died on me 😦 and I’ll have to get another one.

I went hiking for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday and it was great. Took lots of pictures and had my walking stick with me that helped a lot. I hung out at the dock for a while every day and just watched people enjoying the weekend. This was a great experience and I look forward to more!

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