Spring Camping, or Winter Camping Redux

The first full day of spring in northeast Ohio started out on a beautiful note.  By mid-afternoon, temps were in the lower 60s and the sun was shining brightly.  We’d decided to take the motorhome to the state park in Ravenna for the weekend, and it was almost like summer when we arrived:  kids on scooters, people walking dogs, the lake rippling in the breeze.  The park is busy for a March weekend, meaning there are about a dozen or so occupied campsites, altogether.  Everyone is grouped in the open-all-winter section of the park, but there still isn’t a soul within about 75 yards of us. 

Ohio state parks maintain winter protocols even after the calendar turns over to spring.  The official camping season (when site reservations are available) starts from early April to mid-May, depending on the location and popularity of a given park.  Reservations can be made a maximum of six months in advance, so people are waiting to pounce on sites for holidays literally the minute they come online.  For example, Labor Day sites are probably almost gone by now at all but the handful of locations with the least attractions.  I set reminders so I can be ready to secure a site as soon as the window opens, because we have our favorites.  In the first couple years we had the motorhome, before we’d traveled to many of the parks, we ended up in some less-than-optimal sites, largely because the online maps aren’t very detailed or distance-scaled.  Like the July 4th weekend when we booked a site near a lake, not realizing that it was 50 yards from the beach, and that there was no path or trail to the beach from the main road.  Enduring hordes of screaming children continually hurtling through the campsite is not a pleasant way to spend a long weekend.  Oddly enough, however, that same park has the most secluded site we’ve come across, with the most glorious lake view, framed by tall trees.  Live and learn.

As we were setting up this afternoon, we saw a motorboat zooming around the lake, much to our surprise.  Later on, we spotted another boat, plus a kayak or two.  It would be chilly enough on the lake in an inboard/outboard 18-footer, but a kayak?  That takes dedication and serious hardiness.  It takes some skill to stay completely dry in a sit-in kayak, which the type we saw.  A sit-on model would be out of the question, absent a dry suit.  Still, props to the intrepid paddlers; I’d never risk it in near-freezing water. 

By the time we took the beagle and the foxhound for their walk and strolled over to the boat ramp, the air had cooled down and the wind had come up, which for me translated into a heavy coat.  Outdoor activity was rapidly declining; we watched the kayak get pulled out of the water and stowed, and the kids gave up tossing their Frisbee.  Winter was creeping slowly back.  The prediction for tonight is for a drop below freezing.  Par for the course in our most temperate of states, naturally.  Even so, we consider ourselves supremely lucky to be able to leave the house, commune with nature in comfort, and still maintain our social distance.

ADDENDUM: Just before dusk, a small car pulled into the next camping spot over from us. The mom and dad proceeded to unpack and set up a tent, while their little girl watched. By then, it was windy, very chilly, and raining, and supposed to get steadily worse through the night. They finally got settled, but I don’t envy them. They must be related to the kayakers from earlier.

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