Home away from home

Camping closer to your backyard

By Kristen Wicker

Unplugging from electronics and plugging into nature was Baxter Foskuhl’s idea of getting wild during spring break.

Foskuhl, a junior at Wright State University, hiked the Twin Valley Trail with a friend he’s known since elementary school during a respite from textbooks and lectures in late February. It was the first time they’d been backpacking.

“We wanted to combine our two favorite things—hiking and camping—and try out something different,” Foskuhl says. “We looked at MetroParks because we decided it was easier to stay close to home.”

The Twin Valley Trail, a 26-mile backpacking trail, links Germantown and Twin Creek MetroParks and has nine backcountry campsites. It’s located in the most remote region of Montgomery County.

The longtime friends started at Twin Creek MetroPark and hiked more than four miles to their campsite, home base for the weekend. The next day, they hiked through Germantown MetroPark and returned before dark.

“It was wonderful and, being on a ridge completely isolated. It was so quiet,” Foskuhl says. “It was a very humanizing experience that showcased what we love about nature in southwest Ohio and made us appreciate what was around us, from pine forests to woodlands to prairies. It was all breathtaking.”

In addition to backcountry campsites, MetroParks offers a number of frontcountry sites as well. (Backcountry = you hike to it. Frontcountry = you drive to it.)

Five Rivers MetroParks recently made some upgrades to its campsites, including new or improved picnic tables, fire rings, vault toilets and firewood boxes. All campsites are close to park amenities such as hiking trails; lakes, ponds or rivers for fishing; paved recreation trails for walking or cycling; geocaching and more. Five Rivers MetroParks offers 23 campsites at four parks:

Possum Creek MetroPark has five easily accessible campsites near fishing ponds, hiking trails, the historical Argonne Forest and a sustainable farm. This park is an excellent destination for a camping trip with family or a first-time camper.

Englewood MetroPark offers four frontcountry campsites near woodlands, meadows and waterfalls. Activities include 20 miles of hiking trails through a wide variety of habitats, fishing and paddling opportunities on the Stillwater River, a disc golf course, nature playground and a spot for fossil collecting. Bring your bikes: the Stillwater Trail offers nearly two miles of paved trail through the park.

Germantown MetroPark, one of the most scenic MetroParks, features two frontcountry campsites. Both offer remote and nature-filled experiences. Each site is connected to the park’s nearly 14 miles of hiking trails, which wind through a rich diversity of towering trees, prairies, meadows, steep ravines and the Twin Creek. Spend your days hiking, fossil collecting, fishing or just enjoying the Twin Valley.

The historical Camp Hook area at Twin Creek MetroPark offers three frontcountry campsites with access to the park’s extensive hiking trail system where you can climb the region’s most rugged ridges. The more than 10 miles of trails in the park take you along the beautiful Twin Creek, by a prehistoric Native American mound and up to a scenic hilltop vista.

Sidney Gnann, Five Rivers MetroParks facility program manager, is a regular camper with his family and sons’ Boy Scouts troops at MetroParks and other sites.

“It’s amazing we have this convenient amenity within a 20-minute drive from downtown,” he says. “You really get a lot of seclusion, which means you don’t have a bunch of people next to you and you do have more access to wildlife and the beautiful sunrise and sunset. Plus, the amenities of the park are right there.”

Indeed, seclusion was one of the best things about Foskuhl’s experience in MetroParks’ backcountry.

“The best moment for me was standing on top of a ridge and looking out on the sunset and just realizing that for the last two days, I had not used any form of electronic communication,” he says. “Not having that was probably the best feeling because I was just soaking it all in and appreciating a really great view on top of a really nice ridge.

“Backpacking in general is an experience everyone should have to know that all they need can be carried on their back,” he adds. “It’s a humbling experience but also helps you get away from modern, busy-day life.”

For more info about camping in your MetroParks, visit metroparks.org/camping. Bring gear, food and water; a limited supply of firewood for frontcountry camping is provided. Permits are required and fees vary.

Family camping (program Q33): Learn outdoor skills to have successful camping experiences with your kids. We’ll provide the camping equipment and teach you how to use it. Then, camp under the stars during the Great American Campout. Price per family (up to five people) is $50.

Great American Campout (program Q101): Join us as we take the National Wildlife Federation’s pledge to celebrate camping as a way to connect with nature and wildlife. Pack the tent, and we’ll provide the hot dogs, campfire and s’mores. Price per family (up to five people) is $25.

To register for camping lessons taught by experts at Possum Creek MetroPark the weekend of June 25 or for more information, please visit metroparks.org.

Reach DCP freelance writer Kristen Wicker at KristenWicker@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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