What is it like to spend the summer, or longer, in a travel trailer style RV? I’m glad you asked! This was my experience:
Lazing around in soft crumpled sheets, my eyes slowly blink awake. The sun begins its rise above the fog-draped mountain to the east, casting the azure blue sky in glorious shades of peach, lilac, and soft pink.
A dew-covered hay field shimmers in the early morning light, like it’s blanketed in fine jewels, a special gift from the passing of the night. The weathered old barn beckons visitors to wander to the edge of the field to get a closer look at the original rustic exterior, structural posts, floors, and ceiling beams.
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Soft sounds of morning begin to stir the campground from restful slumber. Birds are chirping in nearby trees, singing their sweet melodious song as they welcome the beginning of a new day. The aromas of fresh brewed coffee and hot sizzling bacon, often cooked over an open fire, bring campers out of their home away from home. A new day has dawned, and it’s filled with promises of adventure to come.
Total bliss, right? As a teacher, I’m very fortunate to have the ability to spend my summers relaxing and rejuvenating from the rigors of the school year.
One year, almost on a whim and with no prior RV or travel trailer experience, I embarked on a summertime journey that would last for five consecutive summers. Five summers where I woke up each day surrounded by the beautiful Smoky Mountains where I could hike, raft, kayak, bike ride, or just chill and watch the day turn to night.
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During my five summers of living in a travel trailer, I became what is known as a seasonal camper at Smoky Mountain Meadows Campground in Bryson City, North Carolina. I was able to leave my 27-foot Coachmen Catalina camper on one campsite year-round, just paying the lot rent fee for the season. The campground’s season usually begins in late March of each year, weather permitting.
During the winter when the campground was closed, my camper stayed on my campsite for no additional cost. I never had to wonder about where to store it, usually for an additional fee, or worry about how I would move it from place to place.
For some, this is a great way to have a convenient weekend retreat. For others, like me, it’s a seasonal getaway or yearly vacation tradition. But however you seasonal camp, it’s the perfect way to savor a favorite destination time and time again.
Smoky Mountain Meadows, a family owned campground, is tucked away in a beautiful lush valley not far from downtown Bryson City, NC. It offers true small-town southern charm that blends with the beauty of the surrounding wilderness and gorgeous mountains around the region.
The campground features a quaint family oriented camping experience where kids can be kids and adults can relax in the shade of the trees or get out and explore all Bryson City has to offer.
With the on-site crystal clear and shallow mountain creek, kids can wade and turn over rocks while hunting for frogs. At night, families can enjoy a campfire or simply sit at their site and enjoy the beautiful sunset.
More than anything else, campers can enjoy the company and camaraderie of other families who are attracted to family friendly fun, which is the atmosphere Smoky Mountain Meadows Campground strives for.
The first two summers that I lived at Smoky Mountain Meadows, I spent my time primarily white-water kayaking on the class II-III Nantahala River. The Nanty, as the river is affectionately called, is cold all year-long with a consistent water temperature hovering around 50 degrees.
I had to gear up in many layers in the event of a spill out of my boat and since I was never a great paddler, out-of-boat experiences happened on occasion.
Despite a cold dunking, I really enjoyed my summers on the river. My boat of choice was the Jackson Hero. Click the link to Jackson Kayak to read an article I wrote when I first purchased the Hero.
Since the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just a few minutes away from the campground, I spent the rest of my summers hiking in and around the national park. My favorite trails are Alum Cave to Mt. LeConte and Charlies Bunion via the Appalachian Trail.
The park has a strict no-dog policy, so if you bring Fido or Fluffy on vacation with you, they will have to stay in your camper at the campground during hikes you embark on that will take you within the park boundary.
If you prefer to hike with your dog, a lightly trafficked, moderate trail is the Wesser Creek Trail, which follows along the creek for a couple miles then continues on up to a junction with the Appalachian Trail.
Turn left at the junction and follow the AT for another 30 – 40 minutes to the Wesser Bald Fire Tower. The views from the tower are stunning! This is a dog-friendly trail so pack your leash and bring the pooch with you.
While living in my travel trailer at Smoky Mountain Meadows, I became part of the “campground family.” Regular campground dwellers are a tight-knit community yet are very welcoming to all who camp there, whether it be for a night, a week, or all-season long.
I gained life-long friends from among my fellow seasonal campers and the bonds that were formed during my five years at Smoky Mountain Meadows will continue for the rest of my days.
As the writer Elbert Hubbard put so aptly, “A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same.” Now, even though most of us have moved on from our campers, the bonds of friendship that we formed are one of my life’s greatest gifts. The five summers I spent with the other seasonal campers are some of my best memories and the bonds of friendship we developed are unbreakable.
If you are considering whether or not seasonal camping is for you, here are 5 advantages every family should consider to help determine if this is a lifestyle for you.
5 Seasonal Camping Advantages
1. RV storage can be expensive, and many neighborhood homeowner associations do not permit RV storage on your property. If you seasonal camp, many camp locations allow you to leave your camper or RV on site through the winter. The money saved on storage can be huge.
2. Camp is always set up. If you want to get away for weekend or other spontaneous camping adventures, seasonal camping allows you to have your home away from home set up and ready for your arrival.
3. If your work schedule is demanding or leisurely week-long vacations are not part of your company benefits, seasonal camping helps make the most of getting away, even for short breaks from the every-day working world grind.
4. Minimized camp set up time is a huge advantage to seasonal campers. Short weekend getaways become even shorter when you factor in all the preparation and cleanup. When you have a seasonal site, your RV is set up and ready to go when you arrive on a Friday evening. A huge bonus is that you do not have to get up early on Sunday morning to break down camp and pack up. Sleep in and enjoy your cup of coffee. There aren’t any check out times when you are a seasonal camper!
5. If there is a recreational area within two hours of your usual home that you return to over and over again, look for a seasonal camping spot in that region. It might be a lake, a park, a favorite city, or the beach. If you can picture your happy place within easy driving distance, it might be the perfect spot to park your RV and enjoy your time away from home.
If any of these scenarios describe what you might be looking for, investigate seasonal camping opportunities in your own neck of the woods. It may transform your RV lifestyle as well as your life!
Must-Have RV Supplies for Seasonal Camping
Freedom to travel and get out in nature can be rejuvenating and even life changing in some aspects. Do all you can to get out there as much as possible!
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