campsite 5

DATE:
1-15-2021

LOCATION:
Hampton, TN

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Our first camping trip of the year is in the books!! With each camping trip we go on, I am loving camping more. We watched a hysterical camping parody by Youtuber, Ryan George, and he says, “If we haul enough equipment out here, we can almost make it seem like we have a not-as-good set up as what we have at the house.” We laughed so hard because yes, there is not a thing about camping that is truly convenient. It takes work to pack and get food ready for a family to be in the woods for a couple days. And I’m just talking about car camping, not even backpacking which takes more planning ahead. In spite of all that, there is so much value in completely unplugging from the world, if even for just a little bit. While we’re camping, there is no worry about cleaning our house or the 10,000 things that are piled up on the to-do list. There are no activities to plan or rush to like on other vacations. There is usually no cell service to distract us from being present as a family. For me, that fills my cup regardless of being away from the conveniences of home.

The first part of this post will be all about our experience with Dennis Cove specifically. The second part will be about the six things we loved and learned on this trip about camping in general. So, if you are not local or not interested in all the Details of Dennis Cove Campground CLICK HERE >

Dennis Cove Campground did not disappoint. It is minutes away from Laurel Falls and the Appalachian Trail. This campground is part of the Cherokee National Forest. Coon Den Falls trail head is within walking distance from the campground, (more to come on that trail soon). It is a short drive, (~5 miles), to a large gas station…and Dunkin Doughnuts in case campfire coffee isn’t your thing.

Yum! ⬆️

The road leading up to Dennis Cove is a long, windy, and narrow mountain road. The entrance to the campground is well marked. There are 15 camp spots including a host spot. There are multiple water spouts, bear safe trashcans, and one set of bathrooms with a flush toilet and sink in each. Both bathrooms were stocked with toilet paper and hand soap. Our host, Dale, was WONDERFUL! He chopped extra firewood in case anyone needed some, the bathrooms were clean/stocked the whole time, and he was extremely kind. Our car battery died when we were leaving and he jumped us off. He also let us know about a copper head snake that was spotted near the bathrooms. We were very thankful for him!

bathrooms
Camp bathrooms⬆️

Laurel Fork Creek runs right behind the Denis Cove Campground. There are a few different ways to access the creek including a few campsites that are directly beside the creek (sites 6-8). There were people in all of these spots, so it was hard for us to tell how accessible the creek was directly from those sites. The easiest way that we found to access the creek was to walk past the bathrooms and public picnic/day-use area. There is a small path there that opens up to creek access.

creek at dennis cove

Even though we went in early May and the water was ICE cold, the boys spent a few hours splashing around in the water. Icy water never seems to bother them.

According to the booking website, the campsite numbers have recently changed. If you went last year some of the spots may or may not be different. We also found the campsite map on recreation.gov to be somewhat inaccurate as some of the campsites are in the middle of the campground and it does not show that. If you are really particular about which spot you get and are local, it might be a good idea to take a drive up there and check out which spot you like beforehand. We stayed in campsite #5. We were disappointed when we first pulled up because it is right along the road. Campsites 1, 2, 4, and 5 all are directly along the road with just a few trees to partially block that view. Campsite #3 was still across from the road but not as close as the others. The positive thing is, this is a mountain road with a small amount of traffic. It ended up not being a big deal at all in the end, but when we go back we will try to choose a different spot. Each spot contains a table, campfire ring, and lantern holder.

coleman tent

Campsite numbers 6-8 seemed like the most ideal spots for us when we go back. We didn’t take pictures of these because they were occupied, but they were right along the creek and had great tree coverage. Campsites 9-12 were all booked when we were there, so we do not have pictures of those either. Some of those seemed to have a little less tree coverage if you like more privacy. They were closer to the bathrooms and the host spot. Site #13 is the host site. Campsites #14 and 15 are further from the bathrooms, but are pretty secluded compared to all the other spots. We would definitely consider these as options in the future.

Campsite #4⬆️
Campsite #15⬆️

Across from the bathrooms, there is a day-use area with picnic tables and its own parking.

Recreation area

You never know what your neighbors will be like at a campground, but we had pretty good luck with quiet nights/mornings. The road that goes through the campground makes a circle. We did not bring bikes, but there were a lot of kids on bikes and the circle makes a great spot for riding. We aren’t big into fishing, but from what we have heard this is a great area to fish. We saw a lot of people with fishing gear that looked like they had some great catches.

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6 things we loved and learned this trip

1. Campfire Pizza

We knew we would be getting there a little later on our first day, so we wanted something simple for dinner. My oldest son has allergies, so we made some dairy-free/soy-free pizza crusts beforehand, packed the toppings separately, and cooked them in our cast iron skilled over the fire. It was SO EASY and delicious! All three kids loved it and sometimes our youngest can be picky about pizza. We will definitely be doing this again.

Campfire Pizza!

2. Our first 40 degree nights

We went in early May so the temperature went down to the low 40s at night and then back to the high 70s during the day. We brought layers upon layers. In fact, we probably over packed a little on the blankets. The best thing for us was to have good base layers on at night. We didn’t sleep in our base layers the first night and piled blankets up instead. It was much better the second day when we had the boys sleep in their base layers to begin with. When you crawl out of the warm sleeping bag to a chilly morning, it makes a big difference to have a good base layer on already.

It’s hard to find the little boys in all these blankets!

3. Campfire Coffee

I am loving my AeroPress. In fact, my Keurig broke about 8 months ago. Instead of replacing it, I just use my AeroPress daily for my coffee at home. It is extremely easy to use and clean. All you need is a pot to boil water and ground coffee. Follow the directions for pouring it in and you will be sipping fresh piping hot coffee by the campfire in minutes. I can’t recommend it more!

4. More light sources

Like I mentioned earlier, we got to our campsite a little later on the first day. This meant that we were cleaning up dinner, making final bathroom runs, and piling into tent as it was getting pretty dark and our fire was burning out. Five of us seemed to all be going in different directions at the same time. We had 2 small lanterns and could only find one of the boys headlamps at that moment. For our next trip, we are going to get a couple extra lanterns and maybe one larger one to set on the table if needed. We will also get a headlamp for Darrell and I to make bathroom runs a little easier.

5. Travel Johns

I have mentioned these before but I feel like it is worth mentioning again. Travel Johns are a lifesaver through the night in the tent. I am not a big fan of venturing out alone, in the dark, in the woods at night to pee. After birthing 3 boys, I am up and down pretty frequently through the night. Travel Johns make it easy to discretely go in the middle of the night. There is some type of odorless gel inside that makes them safe to throw away and not spill if tipped over. If going in the tent bothers you, you could always sneak over to your car and use it. This is usually a much closer option than the camp bathrooms.

5. Zoleo

We did not have cell service at this campground. It definitely soothes my anxious mind to have something to communicate with in case of an emergency. We had been looking for a device that uses a satellite signal for a long time. I could write a whole post on this alone but I will save that for another day. After a lot of digging, we decided on getting a Zoleo satellite communicator. It is a small box that can clip to a hiking pack or be kept at your campsite. It has an SOS button for emergencies, the capability to send a check in text to a designated person, or even check the weather if needed. There is a $20.00 monthly fee for the satellite services. Thankfully, we have not had to use it for an emergency yet. The hard thing about any type of emergency aid, is that you really hope you never need it. Once you do need it and don’t have it, it’s too late. For me personally, the peace of mind is worth every penny.

Overall, this was a great camping trip. We would definitely come back here. I read that you can book the whole campground in advance for retreats or events. It is a beautiful spot. I feel like each time we camp, we learn something new. We have a few more planned for this year. I can’t wait to be back around the campfire!