Trip to Wonderful

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Like vacationing in the wilderness, but don't want to camp?

While our plans include towing a 17ft pop-up through hill and dale and camping in more "primitive" campgrounds, that's not for everyone. However, the benefits for family of neurologically exceptional children of a vacation which eschews the regular musuems, amusement parks and high-scale hotels are many. No pushy crowds, no florescent lights, no loud music. No worry that Junior's desire to bounce off the walls at 3am might just result in a knock on the door from hotel security.

When we took our first non-beach camping trip with the kids, I thought they might be bored just hanging out in the woods. Little did I know that the tiny creek which ran by the side of our site could keep them occupied for hours. That scaling and running down the small hill which formed the opposite camp boundary provided more joy and energy release than even Disney himself could offer.

Well, for those who desire these idyllic conditions but don't want to rough it in a tent or camper, many state and national parks and public lands offer rustic cabins for rent.

Most National Park and Forest Service cabins must be reserved, unlike a lot of "first-come, first-served" campsites. The federal government has contracted with Reserve USA for this service. Unfortunately, the website, while adequate, isn't all that helpful discerning those states which actually offer rental cabins. It's essentially a hit or miss exercise on a state-by-state basis.

Many state parks around the US also provide cabins for rental on daily or weekly terms. In my research on the subject, I found Virginia's State Park cabin and campground website, which was spectacular. Not only does it provide pictures, rates (3 seasons, VA resident or out-of-state) and description of locale, but physical layouts of the different cabin types are available as well. In the next few weeks, I'll spend some time pulling more state park resources for the sidebar.

If the rustic charm of public cabins aren't your cup of tea, there are thousands of private cabins for rent around North America, many to be found at USA (back up a level to see worldwide resources.) State-based tourism organizations also may provide detailed private cabin information and reservations.
Ohio Parks is an example of such a site, but it should be noted that these private properties are generally significantly more expensive than state and national park cabins.

Each cabin is different, so you'll need to check ahead of time to see what you need to bring. Some National Parks facilities are very basic -- essentially the equivilent of a tent made from logs -- no indoor cooking or bathroom facilities. Others provide a few more modern ammenities. All, however, offer families the wonderful opportunity to explore America's pristine habitats, but with a lockable door sufficient to keep bears out, and curious children in.


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