Mr. Play Parks spends long hours at his office and yearns to get outdoors on the weekends. Our day trips aren’t really enough for a guy who spent a childhood camping for family vacations. I’m always up for an adventure, so we decided to test out Caspers Wilderness Park campground for camping local. If you are new to camping or haven’t done it in a looonnnngggg time, I have two nuggets of advice for you to make it a successful trip:
- Start local. If you forget something, you’ll know where to go to either buy it or grab it from home. If the weather changes, a kids gets sick, you get too cold, or you have an allergy attack — you can just check in at the ranger station and leave the tent to head home. You can go back and gather your things in the morning. We’ve never had to do this, but I’m always comforted by this idea.
- Go with friends who are experienced in camping. There are tricks and tools that campers learn over time to make for a comfortable night outside. Just watching how they do it will help you figure out how to do it on your own. Plus, it’s fun to be around the campfire with friends.
The beauty of Caspers Wilderness Park and the Live Oak Campground is that there are so many great campsites in one place. You can pick one with a view of the creek, inside an oak grove, or out under the sycamores near the meadow. Each site would make for a different camping experience.
We arrived very late in the day and wanted the most sunlight possible to set up our tent before the sun went down on us so we picked a site by the meadow and under a sycamore.
We were able to attend the 7pm Saturday Campfire Program up at the nature center where Ranger Zach took us on a guided night hike to test our five senses and point out some native (and non-native) vegetation. It was almost a full moon, so it was the perfect opportunity for a hike.
It was a cold January night at 38 degrees, but we were snug in our tent and sleeping bags. It was clear and still when we went to bed with a view of the moon over the meadow. Around 2am, the fog must have rolled in and we were getting either a heavy dew or light rain dripping on the tent interspersed with gusts of wind. The wind picked up around 5am and that time was the coldest part of our stay — right before dawn. But we woke to no wind and had a lovely campfire breakfast.
The kids played behind the campsite and we rolled out around 10am because of a high wind warning and yearning for a hot shower. The temperature was almost up to 80 by then! We missed it, but there was a ranger-led hike scheduled for 9am which would have been fun.
What would I do differently?
After a trip, I always try to evaluate how we could have done it better.
- We should have arrived earlier in the day to set up camp and get settled well before sunset.
- I would have brought snow clothes (hats, mittens, long underwear, heavy jackets) and blankets. We did dress for the cold in multiple layers. I had my wool socks on for sleeping. Still, we would have been even more comfortable with additional layers.
Read more about Caspers:
- The OFFICIAL OCParks.com website has all the accurate info about visiting this amazing park. (At the time of this writing, they are only able to accept cash or check as payment for camping or annual passes. So bring something other than your credit card. The cost for one night was only $20.)
- Caspers Playground
- Caspers Nature Center