12:58 PM EDT, June 25, 2013
Beneath the shadow of the forest, campers are setting up their homes away from homes.
With a campfire still burning, Dave Strubel and his family on Monday morning were slowly, reluctantly rounding up their leftover food, clothes and tents from another weekend of camping near the banks of the Quemahoning Reservoir.
We go at least four or five times during a season, he said, relaxing on one of a number of fold-out chairs around the campfire. A string of laundry was drying between trees and the skillet had just been washed from a hearty breakfast.
Strubel said camping means quality family time for him and his 9-year-old son.
You get up in the morning, grab the skillet and make potatoes, eggs, sausage. You have a nice big breakfast and then go fishing and head back for lunch. Then maybe you take everybody swimming and have supper. Then there's s'mores and more fishing, said Strubel, of Portage, who first started camping as a boy with his dad. I like to spend three days at a time, so you don't have to spend too much of your time packing.
The essentials, he said, are simple. Bring food, a tent and comfortable seating.
Of course, camping can be more luxurious for those inclined to rent a cabin with electricity or the many RV campers who pull up to the state parks and other woodland sights in our area.
Michael Mumau, manager at Laurel Hill State Park, said RV enthusiasts usually share that same sense of adventure tent campers exude.
They have a true appreciation for nature and the outdoors, he said. Home is where the heart is and they have learned to kind of take it on the road with wherever they go.
Laurel Hill has more than 260 camp sites, and the majority of those are suitable for RVs. At Kooser, park workers are preparing more RV sites with full amenities electrical, sewage, and water hookups.
For those just starting out with an RV or a trailer camper, Mumau said they need to call ahead to get a feel for what to expect.
Sometimes, people want a site that's private, he said. Sometimes, they want to be right next to someone. There are some of the same decisions you would have if you were looking to move.
Laurel Hill's campground hosts Sallie and Jim Sweitzer are seasoned campers.
Sweitzer said the two have been camping since they were married more than 40 years ago. The camping gear has changed a bit, though. They started out with a tent in the Adirondacks and then bought a pop-up before moving to a hard-top trailer. They took a brake while their children were growing up and then bought a motorcycle to pull a camper behind it. Now, they own a fifth-wheel RV trailer that sleeps four and has air conditioning, a mini kitchen with tile backsplash and a living room with Dish TV.
It's a bigger TV than I have at the house, said Mr. Sweitzer, who calls South Dakota home. His grandkids make the trip to Laurel Hill to visit them and enjoy the outdoors, too.
It has everything a house does, including a washer-dryer, a refrigerator, microwave. It's pretty well-equipped. But the extras don't really alter the experience, he said.
The nice part about camping is you very rarely run into a snob, he said. It's a camaraderie. Nobody cares what you have. You have a good time. You swap stories.
If campers have the basics a tent, sleeping bag and sleeping pad everything else is just extra, he said.
You don't have to spend a lot of money. Cooking hot dogs on a stick over a fire is what kids like and adults like, too.