We’re kind of dreading summer. Not because we don’t want the heat (Lord knows I did NOT pack adequately for an El Nino winter). But because winter camping is wonderful in more ways than one. As we’ve mentioned before, we’re trying to stay only at state parks on the trip. You can read about our state park stays in another post. In the meantime, let us try to convince you of the merits and benefits of getting out them and camping now – yes, now – even when the temps are hovering around freezing.
1. You’ll have the hiking trails all to your lonesome.
In the off-season, you’re often the only hikers out there. Go ahead, pretend you’re the first to trek this trail in a good long while. Tap into that pioneer spirit.
2. The bath houses (or comfort stations depending on where you live) are always impeccably clean.
Let’s admit it: when you’re at a place long enough, you pick a stall and stick to it. Great news is that you are probably the only one using that stall. Freedom at last.
3. You have the pick of the litter -- or campsite.
You can take a spin around the grounds a few times to really analyze the pros and cons of each site and pick whichever one suits your fancy. We try to look for sites that are mostly level and in cool backdrops.
4. Park rangers and staff are extra attentive.
This isn’t to say they aren’t attentive on a regular day, but when you’re the first new camper in a while, they are more likely to chat you up. And you can finally ask them all those burning “what’s it like to be a park ranger” questions you want.
5. Wildlife abounds.
Again, this isn’t exclusive just to the off-season. But with less people around, we find that encounters with deer, javelinas, jack rabbits, armadillos and other wildlife happen a lot more frequently.
6. Winter views are stunning, too.
Sure, we’ll sometimes pull into a spot, think it’s gorgeous, and then wonder what it looks like when the trees are leafed out, bushes blooming and grasses a deep green. But honestly, there’s something so tranquil and peaceful about a winter scene that is equally as beautiful and often underappreciated.
If you’re hesitant because you don’t have a camper or trailer like us with a heater (an absolute MUST for winter camping) – then let us tell you this: there are a lot more intrepid tent campers out there than you think. We know because we see them and raise and glass in their honor every time we do. We assume they’ve got their own heaters, too. But we’ve got to say: when we walk by with Costello at night and see the soft glow coming from inside those large tents, we think they’ve maybe got it right.
So bundle up. There’s no sense in giving yourself an out on enjoying nature and getting out there just because of a little cold. Maybe it's the “Nebraska” in us rearing its head, but if we stayed inside every time it was a little chilly, well we wouldn’t leave the house for nearly half the year. Instead, put on your gloves and hats. And GTF out there.