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Pitch a tent and enjoy the spring weather in Baltimore County

With the beginning of March finally upon us, I am almost too excited for spring to arrive. I have already planned my spring break trip, but am looking forward to filling up my weekends with plenty of outdoor activities. One of those activities is camping.

Coming from a family who did not camp, I hadn't had much experience with it as a young person. My son is in a local Boy Scout troop and, a couple of years back, he started coming home after campouts, raving about the sights they enjoyed, the food they prepared and the adventures they had. He convinced us to go on a weekend trip.

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We had a wonderful time as a family, leading to many more weekends in the outdoors under the stars. Now with some experience under our belts, I can say that camping is not only enjoyable, but flexible and budget-friendly.

When we arrived at the campsite for our first camping trip in April 2013 and set up our shiny new tent, I could see that — almost instantaneously — my husband began to unwind. When away from the hustle and bustle of everyday responsibility — and wireless service — the man who constantly has his nose in the phone, answering work emails, was sitting back in his new camp chair, relaxing. I almost had to do a double-take.

We had the entire weekend ahead of us to do whatever we wanted. It is amazing how many great family conversations you can have while sitting by the campfire roasting marshmallows. I felt like we had caught up on months of rushed meals and dinnertime talks.

Not only did we have great conversation, but my family also used this time outdoors to explore nature and get in some much-needed exercise. We usually choose campgrounds that have hiking trails, because hiking is an activity we all enjoy. We sometimes go on a hike in the morning and after dinner. While on hikes, you can see lots of different wildlife, listen to the sounds of nature and enjoy the seasonal foliage. Many of the campgrounds in Maryland have streams or ponds that are loaded with fish and ducks.

My husband especially enjoys getting to show off his barbecue skills on camping trips. At home, I do most of the cooking, but when camping, my husband takes over, making burgers or barbecued chicken over a charcoal grill.

Being able to sit outdoors and prepare a great meal with the family brings him a sense of accomplishment, especially when everyone is digging into his famous finger-licking ribs. Being able to eat three meals a day in the fresh air at a picnic table is something that doesn't happen often when we are home. Pancakes seem to taste so much better outside in the crisp morning air.

To be able to enjoy camping with your friends and family, you do not have to travel very far. This is why it is so flexible. You may want to only go camping for a night, or enjoy an entire week in the outdoors. If you are looking to do a short trip close by, Baltimore County has several wonderful campgrounds that will not break the bank.

If you are looking for a primitive camping experience, the Hilton Area at Patapsco State Park, in Catonsville, has several tent sites, as well as a few cabins available for rent. The park is less than a 25-minute drive from Reisterstown, yet seems like you are in a remote, natural area. There is a wonderful trail to explore at the campground called Sawmill Branch Trail, which allows you to hop across some huge rocks across the Saw Mill Branch Stream. It will not only bring out a sense of adventure, but will allow you to enjoy a gorgeous body of water. If you have children, there is a large playground created from recycled tires that is an awesome place for them to explore. There are also grills to use at some of the outdoor pavilions near the campsites. For more information, visit http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/patapscohilton.aspx.

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Some campgrounds are less primitive and offer amenities such as a swimming pool, playgrounds, fishing ponds and a camp store. One of my favorites is Merry Meadows Recreation Farm, in Freeland in northern Baltimore County. This is a wonderful family-run campground that has cabins for rent, as well as sites for recreational vehicles and tent campers. Here, you can get some exercise hiking the nature trails, or spend some time playing a friendly game of horseshoes.

The property has some historical dwellings on it as well. In May, there is an Old Time Days Festival where you can learn all about the Colonial period and take a hayride or enjoy homemade goodies reminiscent of colonial cooking. After a day outdoors enjoying the natural surroundings, there is nothing like siting by the campfire and making some gooey s'mores, or roasting some marshmallows over the open flames. For more information about Merry Meadows, visit http://www.merrymeadows.com.

Locations vary as to when their camping sites become available.

The Hilton Area at Patapsco State Park has camping in March, and Merry Meadows begins camping season April 1.

Both are taking reservations now, though, and it's always best to reserve a spot in advance.

With the warmer weather and blooming foliage only weeks away, I am going to start airing out my tent and scrubbing my camp chairs, because it may be the only way I will make it through this frigid March.

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Kelly Scible is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached via email at kellyscible@gmail.com.

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