Gifford Pinchot State Park Camping Trip, Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Gifford Pinchot Camping Trip 2015

Our camping trip weekend was a bit different than our previous camping trips in that, well, we didn’t actually spend much time in the actual park! Usually we’d take time to hike trails (I use the word “hike” very loosely here since I’m no adventurer!) and stop by the visitor’s center, but we just ran out of time on this trip. We spent most of our time at fun sites nearby.

Pennsylvania Railroad Museum

One of those fantastic sites was the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum in Strasburg, PA.

Outside the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum

This place was FANTASTIC. Interesting from a historical perspective, but also a photographer’s dream! The trains were stunning and so varied.

Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Review in Strasburg

I’ll let the photos do most of the talking here.

Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Review Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Review Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Review Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Review Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Review Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Review Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Review

There was even an outdoor display of trains at the museum.

Outdoor train display at Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Outdoor train display at Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Outdoor train display at Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Outdoor train display at Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Outdoor train display at Pennsylvania Railroad Museum

And back inside, we discovered that there were stairs to a catwalk-type area where you could view the trains from above!

Trains from above at museum Trains from above at museum

And there was one train that had an area underneath that you could walk under and see the train from below.

Looking underneath train Looking underneath train

I know that there are true, genuine, “train people” in this world. I’m not one of them, but this was a fantastic spot for a visit. Highly recommend.

Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Pennsylvania Railroad Museum Pennsylvania Railroad Museum

For what it’s worth, there were also train rides you can take, but Ken and I didn’t do any of those.

Informal Covered Bridges Tour

I knew that covered bridges were fairly famous in this Lancaster County area, so we decided to take a drive around some of them one morning. The Discover Lancaster website had several covered bridge itinerary suggestions, and we just picked one and went with it.

Covered bridges in Lancaster County Covered bridges in Lancaster County Covered bridges in Lancaster County

I had a temporary moment of panic as we went to drive across one of the bridges. I drive a big, old, SUV. I saw the sign that said weight limit of 3 tons. Plus, my car was filled with all sorts of extra stuff for the camping trip. I literally have no idea how much an average car weighs. 3 tons seems like a lot, right? I think? Maybe? I started thinking about that scene in Bettlejuice where they drive off the covered bridge.

So, googling from my iPhone ensued. “How much does a Ford Explorer weigh.” I found that all the estimates were well under the 3 ton limit, and we were safe to drive across it. Although maybe I drove a little extra fast because I was still a little paranoid.

Covered bridges in Lancaster County Covered bridges in Lancaster County Covered bridges in Lancaster County Covered bridges in Lancaster County Covered bridges in Lancaster County

Around Gifford Pinchot Park

Okay, maybe we did get to look around the park a little bit, but not much! We drove to the other campground loop and walked around that area.

Gifford Pinchot State Park Gifford Pinchot State Park

We could see our campground from across the lake:

Gifford Pinchot State Park Gifford Pinchot State Park Gifford Pinchot State Park

And that was it for our fall camping trip! It was a busy weekend and very fun, with great weather.

Have you gone on any camping trips recently?

Gifford Pinchot State Park Camping Trip (Campground Review)

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Gifford Pinchot Camping Trip 2015

Back in October, Ken and I went on a camping trip. I had been wanting to do a lakefront camping trip, and this spot definitely delivered!

We camped at Gifford Pinchot State Park in Pennsylvania, just outside of Harrisburg, PA. It was about a 3 hour drive from the Washington, DC area.

In this post, I’ll give a review of the campgrounds.

We booked site 116 in Loop A. We were able to make a site-specific reservation. Based on the campground map on Gifford Pinchot’s website, it appeared that that site had about the biggest unobstructed view of the lake.

What do you think? Does this count enough as lakefront for you! It sure did for us!

Lakefront campsite at Gifford Pinchot State Park in Pennsylvania Lakefront campsite at Gifford Pinchot State Park Lakefront campsite at Gifford Pinchot State Park

We arrived at night, so we couldn’t get any photos of the site empty since it was so dark. We took a picture instead after we had packed up to leave!

Site 116 at Gifford Pinchot State Park

The tent sites themselves were relatively close together, although probably not quite as close as what they were at Westmoreland State Park.

Campsites at Loop A Campsites at Loop A

Site 116 was about a 90 second walk to the restrooms.

The site itself was a little odd. There was a big slope from the parking spot to the picnic table and fire ring. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it did create some problems about where to set up the tent so that it wasn’t too close to the fire ring (which was not moveable), and there were also many elevated tree roots in the “bottom” area, which would’ve made sleeping pretty uncomfortable if we had set up the tent on tree roots. We ended up setting up the tent right next to the car. We couldn’t put up our rainfly because it was so close to the parking spot pavement. That wasn’t a huge deal, but just something to consider.

Site 116

If we went camping here again, I think I’d pick site 115 instead.

The restrooms and showers were a little rundown, but they were clean for the most part.

Restrooms at campsite Loop A Restrooms at campsite

The showers had a separate changing stall which was nice. Ken said the men’s room had the same thing. Water pressure and hot water were both great.

Restrooms at campsite Restrooms at campsite Restrooms at campsite Restrooms at campsite

There were two utility sinks outside the restroom building, which were great for washing dishes.

Utility sinks

One thing that was kinda weird was that there’s no option to turn on the lights in the restroom after 10AM. Even though it is daylight outside, the restroom building was still pretty dark inside.

The campground was also home to a lovely little beach area.

Beach at Gifford Pinchot State Park campsite Beach at Gifford Pinchot State Park campsite

The beach was very close to our site. In fact, we’d pass it on our walk to the restrooms.

Overall, this was a great campsite.

I’ll give an overview of what else we did during our camping weekend in the next few posts, but in the meantime, check out this foggy lake morning from our site!

Foggy lake sunrise

Meal Plan for our Camping Trip

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Assateague Camping Trip


I wanted to give a quick rundown of our campfire (er, and Coleman Grill) cooking during our camping trip at Assateague State Park.

Our meal plan for a weekend camping trip | Campfire cooking and recipes

Camping Cooking Prep

Before we even left for camping, I had a food prep checklist so that we could minimize food preparations at the campsite. Because, although cooking around the campfire is fun, finding 5 different ingredients and dirtying a dish to stir them all together is a whole different story.

First up, pasta salad.

I made a big batch of pasta salad. This is fantastic for camping. It’s great for when you first arrive at the campsite and haven’t had time to make the campfire yet, or when you get back from a long hike and need a snack ASAP!

I use this this recipe for Antipasto Pasta Salad. I make a few minor adjustments, mainly just swapping out the dry italian dressing and oils mix with some plain old bottled italian dressing. I also add roasted peppers (from a jar that I buy from Trader Joe’s) instead of the raw bell peppers. I’m not a huge fan of raw bell peppers, but the roasted ones are great.

I made up a big bowl of it the day before we left so the flavors could meld together. Then the day of departure, I put the pasta salad into individual portion bowls to make it easier to eat and to make it easier to store in the cooler.

Pasta salad recipe for camping

It was perfect to eat at the campsite!

Pasta salad for camping

I also made up some pinwheel bites. I basically used this recipe for Cheddar Bacon Ranch Pinwheels, but added turkey deli meat slices, and swapped the ranch for cream cheese, just because I thought it would hold together better in the cooler.

Turkey Cheddar Bacon pinweels for camping | Camping food ideas

These kept fantastic in the cooler, but I did put them in gladware containers so they wouldn’t get smooshed.

I also assembled the “Perfect Picnic Sandwich” from Echoes of Laughter. I had made this for a previous camping trip, and had ignored her advice for cutting it into slices with an electric knife before leaving home. And, that did not work out well. It was so difficult to cut with a normal kitchen knife! So this time I was sure to cut it before I left home and wrapped each slice in plastic wrap. And look at how gorgeous it turned out!

Sandwiches for camping trip.

Campfire Foods

As soon as we got to the campsite, we had some of the sandwiches and pasta salad.

The first night, we kept things simple. Hot dogs and baked beans. (I had already mixed together the ingredients for the baked beans at home, so all I had to do was dump the container in the cast iron skillet)

Hot dogs and baked beans | Camping foods Hot dogs and baked beans | Camping foods

The next morning we had some hot chocolate and homemade breakfast burritos (that I always have on hand at home. I make them in huge batches and put them in the freezer). We heated everything up on the Coleman Grill. The burritos were still pretty frozen even after being in the cooler for 24 hours, so it was difficult to cook them evenly. Next time I may try some different techniques, like maybe keeping the foil on it for a while on the grill so it can thaw without getting burned.

As an FYI, I generally use this recipe for my breakfast burritos, The “Potato Skillet.”. Adding, obviously, the critical “tortilla” component.

Camping breakfast foods - breakfast burritos and hot chocolate

For lunch, we went out to a fun local BBQ joint.

Smoker’s BBQ Pit near Ocean City Smoker’s BBQ Pit near Ocean City

The food was good, but the “dining room” area was meant to be an outdoor space and was just covered by plastic walls, so it was actually kinda chilly.

We went on a hike after lunch, and when we got back to the campsite, it wasn’t quite dinner time, but we were hungry, so we just snacked on some pinwheels.

For dinner, back at the campsite, we had spaghetti and garlic toast grilled cheese and boozy campfire brie and baguettes. (I had pre-made the spaghetti at home, including boiling the noodles and adding the sauce to them. Then I poured the ingredients into a plastic baggie, along with a little extra water to keep the noodles from drying out.). We cooked the sandwiches using our pie irons. I also threw in some frozen homemade meatballs, but as it turns out, we weren’t really hungry for them.

I know the lighting is terrible, but it was so dark at the campsite! Both the brie and the spaghetti sandwiches were divine! (First time making both of them!)

Spaghetti and garlic toast sandwich Boozy campfire cheese (brie) Cooking brie and meatballs over the campfire

We heated up the brie and the meatballs in foil pie tins covered with aluminum foil.

I’d definitely call this camping menu a success!

The next day, we went out for our meals.

What are some of your favorite camping meals?

Ocean City, Maryland (Assateague State Park Camping Trip)

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Assateague Camping Trip


I’m desperately trying to get caught up on a lot of trip reports that I started and never finished! Today, I’m finishing up the report on our camping trip to Assateague State Park last year!

Sign for Ocean City

Assateague Island National Seashore is actually quite close to Ocean City. It seems like Ocean City is a HUGELY popular vacation destination for folks in the DC metro area and beyond. I have multiple friends and lots of family that go to Ocean City pretty much every year for a week during the summer. Ken’s used to go to Ocean City pretty much every year with his family when he was growing up. He has many MANY home movies of him and his family having fun on the boardwalk or playing on the beach.

Interestingly enough, I had never been to Ocean City! So, since we were camping so close by, I definitely had to make a stop in Ocean City to see what all the fuss is about!

We actually ended up making two separate trips. The first trip was on a Friday, and pretty much everything was closed on the boardwalk (this was, afterall, April and not even close to peak season). So we walked around for a little bit, enjoying the sites of the beach and the huge waves thanks to the windy weather!

Empty Boardwalk in Ocean City in the Spring Empty Beach in Ocean City Empty Beach in Ocean City Rip Currents sign in Ocean City

No profanity sign in Ocean City

No profanity sign in Ocean City. As I took this picture, Ken quipped, “Are you taking a picture of that f*cking sign?”

 

Every picture I had ever seen of Ocean City before was always of completely packed boardwalks. So to see it like this, it was actually kinda creepy. Ken, who was a frequent visitor to Ocean City as a kid, concurred that it was definitely weird!

Empty boardwalk in Ocean City

After a decent walk up and down the boardwalk, we left. We were so hungry and couldn’t find a single open restaurant along the boardwalk. Womp womp.

We grabbed some lunch, did some hikes at Assateague, and then turned in early at our campsite.

Then we went back to Ocean City the next day. The boardwalk was much more crowded than I had expected for a chilly, drizzling Saturday afternoon!

Ocean City Boardwalk Crowds in the Spring (April) Welcome to Ocean City building and sign Ocean City Boardwalk Ocean City Boardwalk Ocean City Boardwalk Ocean City Boardwalk

Running on the boardwalk seems pretty popular, and I liked this sign at the very end of the boardwalk. Love how well-worn that spot is!

Finish line for Running at Ocean City Boardwalk Sign at Ocean City Boardwalk for runners.

We went into this place with kids rides. Ken had specific memories of going to this place and he said he had so much fun there. But he was pretty sure not a single ride in the building had changed since the 1980s. Everything looked kinda old and sad and decrepit.

Playland at Ocean City Indoor rides at Ocean City Indoor rides at Ocean City Indoor rides at Ocean City

We decided to partake in three classic Ocean City experiences (so I’m told!). First, skeeball!

Skeeball in Ocean City Skeeball in Ocean City Skeeball in Ocean City Skeeball in Ocean City

Second: Thrashers french fries.

Thrashers French Fries in Ocean City Thrashers French Fries in Ocean City

But no ketchup?!?!?! For real? This is ’Murica. Give me my ketchup!

Sign with prices at Thrashers. No ketchup Ken with Thrashers French Fries

Third, a stop a Fractured Prune Donuts.

Fractured Prune Storefront in Ocean City Peanut Butter Cup Donut from Fractured Prune

Peanut Butter Cup Donut from Fractured Prune

Fractured Prune Menu

The donuts at Fractured Prune were a bit too “fancy” for Ken’s taste, so he opted to pick up some fudge from Candy Kitchen. (A stop he always made when he was a kid).

Candy Kitchen in Ocean City

But I thoroughly enjoyed my donut! So warm and gooey.

We grabbed a late lunch, and then we were done! I was happy I finally got to see Ocean City!

Assateague National Seashore | Trails and Hikes | Camping Trip

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series Assateague Camping Trip


I gave an overview of our campsite at Assateague State Park in a previous post, and now I’ll cover what we actually did during our camping weekend!

Sign for Assateague Island National Seashore

First, of course, “hikes.” I use hikes in quotations because I always envision hikes as going over rough terrain on natural surfaces. (Not that I advocate that that is “real” hiking or anything like that because I’d probably fall flat on my face). The hikes at Assateague were over pleasant, wooden-deck like structures. Very little chance of falling flat on my face. Which to me, makes it a great type of “hiking,” but I don’t want anyone to envision that I was trekking for miles over crazy surfaces.

Our hikes on trails were at the Assateague National Park. (Our campsite was at the Assateague State Park. I talk more about the difference in the campsite review. But, long story short, the parks are right next to each other!)

Life of the Forest Trail at Assateague

Our first trail was the “Life of the Forest” trail.

Life of the Forest Trail Life of the Forest Trail Life of the Forest Trail at Assateague National Seashore

The trail, dirt in some places but wooden planks in (most) others, led you to a spectacular overlook to some of marshland of the Assateague barrier islands.

Life of the Forest Trail at Assateague National Seashore Life of the Forest Trail at Assateague National Seashore Life of the Forest Trail at Assateague National Seashore Life of the Forest Trail at Assateague National Seashore

It was so crazy windy during our time at Assateague, and the open area above the marsh just made it seem like the wind was whipping our faces even harder.

Ferry Landing Trail at Assateague

After the Life of the Forest Trail, we drove to the trailhead for the Ferry Landing trail (to be honest, I’m not sure if this was considered a trail or just a road). It was on this trail that we finally saw some of Assateague’s famous horses!

Ferry Landing area at Assateague Ferry Landing

Along the Life of the Marsh trail, there were various signs to measure crabs. If I recall correctly, people can go “crabbing” in this area, but they are restricted to the sizes of crabs they can take.

Measure crabs here | Sign at Assateague

We spotted some horses, which were attracting the attention of other hikers as well!

Horses at Assateague National Park Horses at Assateague National Park Horses at Assateague National Park Horses at Assateague National Park People taking photos of horses on Ferry Landing Trail at Assateague Horses at Assateague National Park

I was pretty scared to get close to them. The “horses bite” and “horses kick” signs all around Assateague worked well to scare me from getting near them! But, a zoom lens came in handy!

Horses at Assateague National Park Horses at Assateague National Park Horses at Assateague National Park Horses at Assateague National Park

We actually spent a lot of time on this trail, enjoying the beautiful (but windy) weather, and just taking in the breathtaking sites. And, of course, trying to avoid stepping in the massive piles of horse manure.

Ken and I on trail

Life of the Marsh Trail

Our final stop was the “Life of the Marsh Trail,” which also had stunning overlooks.

Life of the Marsh Trail at Assateague Life of the Marsh Trail at Assateague Life of the Marsh Trail at Assateague Life of the Marsh Trail at Assateague Life of the Marsh Trail at Assateague

As you can tell, it’s almost like we had the entire park to ourselves.  The last weekend in April was apparently a great weekend to go and avoid the crowds!

There was one additional trail at Assateague, called Life of the Dunes, but it is mostly for offroading vehicles, so we didn’t hit that trail.

We finished up our hikes (according to the Fitbit, more than 17,000 steps that day!), and went back to our campsite and started an early campfire. The previous night we waited till a bit too late to start the fire and we were pretty chilly by the time the sunset. This time we wanted a gorgeous, roaring fire with lots of hot burning coals to keep us warm through the evening.

Starting the campfire at Assateague campsite

Our trip to Assateague also consisted of a stop at (very) nearby Ocean City, which I’ll cover in a future post!