Saturday! I pedaled to Thompson’s Lake State Campground for an overnight camping trip. Had a great time! A friend pedaled along for the first couple of miles, then I met my cousin and the two of us rode the rest of the way. I’ve pedaled to Thompson’s Lake only once before. It is no big deal for gear heads, but it is a big deal to me. Last time I rode a Bridgestone RB-1. I didn’t haul any gear, but the lack of easy gears presented it’s own special challenge. This time I pedaled the Rivendell Atlantis with three rings up front. We took our time but before long we were overlooking the Hudson Valley from atop the Helderberg escarpment.
I made the mistake of reading reviews of the campground the morning before we left. A couple really bummed me out. They both shared stories of overzealous park rangers over-enforcing rules. Things like insisting on quiet after ten. Quiet as in no talking. Sounded kinda harsh and the group who wrote that said they were evicted by a ranger accompanied by a sheriff the next morning. Yikers.
Glad I didn’t let the reviews get in the way of our trip. Everyone we interacted with was perfectly fine. Not midwestern nice, but they are hiring from the area and, well, we obviously have a little work to do in the friendliness department. I’m used to it, hardly notice it anymore, but non-locals might be put off.
We were all in our tents before ten (no surprise), and I was actually looking forward to the patrols shutting down a couple of loud neighbors. If the patrols came, they took their sweet time and worked quietly as I laid in my bag well after ten listening to a loud stereo, constant uproarious laughter and wood chopping. This is a pretty high density campground, see. They do a good job of isolating sites from one another visually, but sound is another matter. It only takes a couple of bad groups to liter up the whole campground from an auditory standpoint. Still, the booze did its job on me and my neighbors and soon enough we were all quiet.
Sorry I don’t have pictures of the beach. It is a very nice sandy affair that seems to be groomed every morning. No dogs are allowed there, said the sign, but the park manager said dogs are allowed on leash to the right and left of the middle section (the middle section being the part behind the roped off swimming area). The dog zone is still on the sand, so we were perfectly happy. Lake access outside the beach area is pretty swell, too. Small pebbles rather than sand, but clean and mostly weed free. Not sure you are supposed to swim there, but who’d know if you did?
I have to mention the bathrooms! Just built this year and super nice. Each seems to have a sink out back for cleaning dishes and every other one has showers. Really clean, well lit and conveniently located. I like peeing in the woods as much as the next guy, but I made the walk every time nature called as I really enjoyed the facilities. Pretty rare for the state park, in my experience.
The place has a lot of local fans (they brought wooden signs to hang on the site markers giving their names and hometowns). These regulars have elaborate set ups with campers, canopies and more furniture than we have in our home. They surely stay a week or two. Pretty cool, really. If that doesn’t seem cool to you, though, just stick to loop B. The elaborate set ups seem to prefer loop A (closer to the beach). Nothing wrong with Loop B at all. That’s where we were and the walk to the beach was short enough. Couldn’t have been as much as a mile.
Tough regulations on transporting firewood (for good reason–ash borer and other pests ruin forests). Not a problem, though, as they sell firewood at the campground entrance for seven bucks and you get a lot. I made two fires (night and morning) and still only used half the wood in our one load. I had called to make sure they never run out and they assured me they don’t. When I saw their operation, I understood. They split it right there and in addition to the twenty or so bins that were filled with ready to take wood, they had a pile that looked like enough for a month of campers on hand.
I was hoping this would be a legitimate bike camping adventure, but soon accepted it would be a hybrid outing. Two of us biked, but we didn’t carry any gear (those panniers on my bike were nearly empty). Two more drove with two kids, two dogs and a bunch of gear to make us all very comfortable. I am sure we had less than most folks there, but we had more than we needed. For instance, I brought (packed in the car, I mean) a growler of beer (Stillwater Artisanal Cellar Door) and a bottle of bourbon (Buffalo Trace) and we only drank half the growler and maybe six ounces of the bourbon. Comforting to have extra, though. When it was time to leave, I sheepishly announced I’d just as soon put my bike on the car and speed home to a weekend’s worth of chores. Long downhill rides sorta spook me out, anyway. Pretty sure my pedaling partner wasn’t too bummed. Hope not!
We all agreed to return to Thompson’s Lake to camp each year. I’d still like to do it with just the bikes, but I don’t feel bad about adding a few cars in the mix. At just eighteen miles from our home, our carbon footprint didn’t increase as much as a whole shoe size. Good stuff.
What about those terrible reviews? I believe the events described took place, but maybe some ranger was having a bad day. Be a good neighbor and I don’t think you’ll have any problem. Check it out sometime!