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  • Good to go

    Car camping is a great way to introduce kids to the joys of sleeping outdoors
  • In 1933's "Ah, Wilderness," playwright Eugene O'Neill sketched a romantic vision of American family life. Google the terms "romantic vision" and "wilderness" today, and you'll probably turn up a RV commercial and a backpacking website.
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    • Useful camping websites
      www.parks.ca.gov

      http://oregonstateparks.org

      http://freecampsites.net

      www.parks.ca.gov

      www.nps.gov
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      Useful camping websites
      www.parks.ca.gov

      http://oregonstateparks.org

      http://freecampsites.net

      www.parks.ca.gov

      www.nps.gov
  • In 1933's "Ah, Wilderness," playwright Eugene O'Neill sketched a romantic vision of American family life. Google the terms "romantic vision" and "wilderness" today, and you'll probably turn up a RV commercial and a backpacking website.
    Between these outdoor bookends is the cheap, easy, diverse, funky, freedom-loving middle ground of car camping. The cool thing is that almost anybody can do it. You don't need to be an elite athlete. You don't need a $250,000 rig. And it's a great way to introduce kids to camping.
    Got a car? Got a sleeping bag? You're good to go.
    Your style will depend on your outdoor interests, your vehicle and your comfort level. But there are a few tips that apply to almost anybody.
    Always carry extra food and (especially) water, blankets, flashlights, a knife, a compass, a first-aid kit and a map of the area you'll be exploring. Our kit has deet-based insect repellent all year.
    Unless you're sleeping in your vehicle, you'll probably want a tent. They come in all sizes and price ranges. A rule of thumb is that what's sold as a "four-person tent" will probably be comfortable for two. Be sure there's a rain fly to keep moisture off the body of the tent. And set the tent up at least once at home before heading out. You don't want to have to figure it out in the dark, with wind or rain lashing at it.
    One couple of our acquaintance carries a lightweight backpacking tent, a small ice chest and a small box or two of gear in a two-seater sports car and manages just fine. Another family can't get everything into their full-size van. They tow a trailer for gear and outdoor toys.
    However you haul it, camping gear has a way of spreading out. Managing yours will make a big difference in your outing. It's probably best to avoid cramming a lot of stuff into big duffle bags. Guaranteed you'll forget what's where. One good option is a number of those clear, plastic storage containers that you can see into.
    Most folks figure a stove is a necessity. Propane stoves are inexpensive, and propane canisters are available just about everywhere.
    Beyond that, customize. Some savvy campers don't go without earplugs — handy for those nights when somebody is running a generator, mornings when somebody turns the kids lose on dirt bikes or ATVs. Binoculars, hiking boots, hiking poles, fishing tackle, mp3 players and tablets all have their place. There's cellphone reception in unlikely places these days — but don't assume you can count on it.
    Now that you're packed, let's go. There are hundreds of beautiful campgrounds in Oregon, ranging from ones that become small cities in the summer to remote treasures. Camping is by no means limited to summer. West of the Cascades, Oregon winters often feature moderate temperatures and patches of lovely weather in between storms.
    Where to go? You already know about Valley of the Rogue State Park, Cantrall-Buckley County Park, Howard Prairie, Hyatt Lake, Diamond Lake and Stewart State Recreation Area at Lost Creek Lake. The campgrounds listed below are meant as a sampling. Sites range from uber-popular to hidden treasures. All are on public lands, most charge a modest fee, and reservations are sometimes needed.
    Harris Beach State Park. This wooded gem off Highway 101 just north of Brookings is a year-round favorite with its headlands, sandy beaches and Bird Island, the largest island off the Oregon Coast. It's good for wildlife from tufted puffins to gray whales. It's popular with pickup and van campers (electric hookups $21/$28), and there are more than 60 tenting sites, along with six yurts. Picnic tables, fire rings (don't bring firewood, get it here), a hiker/biker camp, playground and quick access to the beach. Flush toilets, hot showers and a laundromat. Tent sites are $16 and $20. Reserve a site two days to nine months ahead. Call 800-452-5687.
    Jackson F. Kimball State Recreation Site. The 17-acre park at the headwaters of the Wood River is open for camping April 12 to Oct. 31, $5 to $11. Ten primitive sites with vault toilets, no water. From the Fort Klamath Museum, drive 3.4 miles north on Sun Mountain Road. See oregonstateparks.org.
    Elk Prairie Campground at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park near Orick, Calif., south of Crescent City, is an interesting option if you like redwoods and the coast. The big attractions at the 14,000-acre park are redwoods, wandering elk and hiking nearby Fern Canyon. Drinking water, restrooms with hot showers, tent sites but no hook-ups or dump stations. Cost is $35. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, you need to reserve a site by calling 800-444-7275 or going online to www.parks.ca.gov.
    Natural Bridge Campground near Prospect is open May 15 to Oct. 15, with 16 to 29 campsites in a heavily wooded spot that affords some privacy between campsites along the Rogue River. Fire rings, picnic tables, restrooms, $6/day. Take Highway 62 about 10 miles north of Prospect, turn left at the sign for .3 miles.
    Illahe Campground in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest six miles east of Agness is a remote, free, all-year campground with 14 sites that welcomes tenters. Best when Bear Camp Road is open from near Merlin to the coast.
    Whitehorse Falls is a primitive spot on the Clearwater, a cold stream in the Umpqua drainage 67 miles east of Roseburg on Highway 138. Tables, grills, vault toilets, five tent sites, no potable water. It's a laid-back, fishing and hiking kind of place. Clearwater Falls is just a few miles east, with nine sites for tents or small RVs with picnic tables, grills and vault toilets. Both Whitehorse and Clearwater cost $6. Signs are on Highway 138. Call 541-498-2351.
    Fourmile Lake campground is the only place on the shores of this lake near the base of Mount McLoughlin. The Pacific Crest Trail is just two miles away. There are 25 sites for tents, trailers or small (22 feet or less) RVs. Vault toilets, tables, garbage bins, drinking water. $9 a night, no reservations. Camp here and hike into the Sky Lakes Wilderness. Go east on Highway 140 to Forest Road 3661 and drive six miles north.
    There are free sno-parks just outside both the south and west entrances to Crater Lake National Park. Heavy use in winter, but not so much in summer. Pit toilets, tables, proximity to hiking trails. These aren't destinations so much as fall-back options if you're having so much fun at Oregon's only national park that you'd like to spend an extra day.
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