Monday, July 23, 2012

Camping in Allegany State Park

NOTE: The following post isn’t exactly Lovin’ On Buffalo. I spent a few days camping in Allegany State Park in early July (a fairly short drive from Buffalo, about 75 minutes away). I devoted a lot of time to writing when we weren’t eating smores or hiking through the park, so I decided a blog about my very first camping adventure would be a good laugh for you all to read, and a good chronicle for me to look back on. If you are an experienced camper you probably won’t find my tips very useful, but for the newbie out there, take note! Enjoy!  

I always said I’d try anything once, so when my boyfriend Geoffrey (an Eagle Scout and experienced camper) asked if I wanted to join him and his son Jacob on their summer camping trip to Allegany State Park, I said sure. The outdoors, or more accurately, the thought of sleeping on the ground surrounded by bugs and potentially bears, never really thrilled me. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking over an open fire and hiking through a beautiful park, but getting to crawl into my bed after doing those things would be my first choice. Still, at the very least, “camping in a tent” would be something I could cross of my bucket list. 

We set our trip for Sunday, July 8th – Tuesday, July 10th, which seemed like more than enough time to me, although Geoffrey would have preferred a full week. When I told my family and friends I was going camping there response was literally all the same, “YOU??”

July 8th came quickly, as summer days in Buffalo always seem to fly by. When we arrived to the campsite we unloaded the car and started setting up the tent. Within two minutes of setting up the tent a bug crawled onto my leg, some odd looking big black bug, which caused me to scream like a little girl and run around the campsite like I was on fire. I dove for the bug spray and was covered, probably more than I needed to be, in seconds. We finished setting up the tent, and I felt a little better. The bugs were staying away from me and we began searching for dead/down tree branches to get our fire going. While Geoffrey did most of the heavy lifting, I worked hard with a pocket knife chopping off tree branches. “If only my family/friends could see me now” I told the boys. 

Once we got the fire going we began to prepare our dinner. I was pretty excited about the menu we planned out for the trip, and our first meal was most intriguing of all: the foil dinner. Here are the ingredients: Ground beef, carrots, onion, potatoes & onion soup mix. Combine all the ingredients in a long piece of foil (individual ones for each person) and then fold them up and throw in the hot coals. They take about 40-45 minutes to cook, depending on how much ground beef you put in each one. After about ten minutes or so we were able to smell them, and they smelled delicious. Once they were ready, they didn’t disappoint! They were filled with flavor and cooked perfectly. We all enjoyed them and I found myself wondering why we don’t make foil dinners at home! After dinner was over we cleaned up, played a game of Scrabble and enjoyed the sights and sounds around us. We enjoyed smores and then began to pack things up for the night. I made it through Day 1! The real test though, would be sleeping in the tent.

If you are looking for a tent, ours (Coleman ARA six person dome tent) is really nice. If the tent says it is a six person tent, it really means a three person tent, unless you are with six of your closest friends. The three of us were comfortable inside our tent with some room for our clothes and toys we brought along, but I can’t imagine fitting six people in the tent. 

We had a bet on who would be the first to fall asleep in the tent, and the boys both said it would be me. I wasn’t surprised when Geoffrey fell asleep first, followed soon after by Jacob. I knew I’d have a hard time falling asleep and every sound would make me wonder what was crawling around the outside of our tent. After some tossing and turning I did fall asleep and before I knew it, it was morning. 

Day 2 brought a morning family nature hike with Adele, one of the park rangers. I was surprised and thrilled by the number of activities the park scheduled. I highly recommend checking a few out if you go camping. The family nature hike was great. We were fortunate that Adele was also very knowledgeable in edible plants so we learned a lot about the different plants too. 

We walked around the gorgeous lodge and gift shop area and then spent time walking around the lake. We stopped near the beach and enjoyed some ice cream and spent a while fishing (the fishing here isn’t so great). We enjoyed a great steak dinner and some more smores and just sat by the campfire and read and enjoyed our surroundings. Before we knew it we were losing daylight and we packed it up for the night. I can’t say I slept any better the second night, but it was cooler! 

The following morning we took a fun creek walk and explored the small stream behind our campsite. It was a fun and active morning, and before I knew it we were packing up the car and heading back to Buffalo. 

Allegany State Park is a great option for families to visit. While I can’t say I loved camping, I did like it, and plan on returning to the park next summer. We really enjoyed our campsite in Red House! E35 was the perfect size for us and was close to the bathrooms and water stations. The price was perfect for our budget too!

The campsite allowed for some “luxury” in camping – each site had electrical hookups, but for the most part you were “with nature”. We didn’t use our electrical hookups for anything, but many families around us had campers and were using them. There was also a General Store just around the corner from our campsite that had food, beer, clothing, fire wood and more. 

If you are looking for a short getaway this summer, consider giving camping a try. I’m glad I did, and I’m looking forward to adding it to the summer itinerary for years to come! 

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