Before Darren and I had Raileigh, we went camping fairly often. It’s relatively inexpensive, exciting, and a great way to enjoy some relaxing time with the ones you love. We decided that it was time to share the camping adventure with our little girl.
Thanks to Georgia State Parks, we enjoyed a few lovely nights at Unicoi State Park. There are many options for camping there, and we ultimately decided on a walk-in campsite. This campsite has no electricity and shares water with several other sites. They are relatively more secluded and the campsites are a bit further apart. This also means they are a little further from your car and you have to carry your gear a short distance. Want to know a little more about this fabulous park? Here is what the Georgia State Parks website has to say:
Upon arrival, we checked in at the Unicoi Lodge. We were about 45 minutes early for check in, but it wasn’t a problem at all. The wonderful Rachel checked us in. Both she and the gentleman working behind the desk were pleasant and friendly. They gave us a map, showing us the best route to our camping area. They also shared an activity list and some other information with us. Raileigh enjoyed watching Scooby Doo while we got everything squared away.. It would be her last taste of television for a few days.
It was time to choose our campsite! With the walk in sites, there is not a certain site that is reserved for you. Instead, you get to take your pick of the available sites. We walked around, talking about the pros and cons of each site, and ultimately decided on number 72. It seemed to be completely shaded during the heat of the day, which was a big plus in my book! The picnic table also kind of blocked the fire pit from the tent pad. I liked this because I hoped it would keep a curious toddler at a bit of a distance!
Then, we had to unload all of our gear. The path between our car and the campsite was pretty short, but it was uphill going from the car and it was rocky. By the time we unloaded everything, I felt like I had gotten my workout for the day! So, we paused to eat lunch before putting the tent up. Sandwiches all around! Even Raileigh nibbled at some of my turkey, which is a rarity for her!
The tent went up easily, and Raileigh quickly took to crawling in and out of it. She also decided pretty fast that she enjoyed walking on the gravel tent pad barefoot. It wasn’t long before she was completely filthy. If you know Raileigh, you know how much she hates to get dirty. Seriously, she is one of the most clean people I know, child or adult. To see her so incredibly dirty was really almost shocking!
That night, we made a fire. Raileigh and I gathered pinecones to use for kindling. It was kind if weird to build a fire when it’s so hot outside! The fire was absolutely beautiful! Raileigh called the fire “fireworks” the entire time we were there. She had seen fireworks on the 4th of July, and I guess that just made her decide that all fire is “fireworks”. She did a good job at staying a safe distance from the fire. We did have to remind her not to get too close a few times, but that is to be expected.
We also made some smores that night. Darren isn’t a huge fan of smores, and Raileigh didn’t want her marshmallows toasted. So, I got a lot of gooey, yummy marshmallows. We had a blast making the smores, though! I am actually craving some more as I sit here typing this!
The next day, I checked out the camp showers for the first time. I have experienced some really awful camp showers in my time, so I didn’t have high hopes for these. I was pleasantly surprised to see they were some of the best camp showers I have came across. There were two showers in the women’s restroom- one that was more of a double shower and a single one. The double shower is perfect for a mom with a small child. The door wasn’t one of those flimsy shower curtains that don’t actually close. Instead, it was more like the door on a bathroom stall. There was a hook on the door as well as on the wall to hang my things. There was also a toilet in the double shower stall. I liked that I didn’t have to make two stops when I went to take my morning shower! The water was always pleasantly warm and there was actually a decent amount of water pressure.
This was my first time taking a shower with Raileigh and her very first shower (she normally takes a bath). It was an experience, to say the least. The only way she would get under the running water was if I held her. While I was getting clean, she would stand off to the side, shivering. I couldn’t convince her to get under the water. I think next time we’ll do some practice showers before we go!
We spent the bulk of the morning and afternoon away from the park, enjoying the town nearby. We did take in a playground at the state park in early afternoon. There are a lot of options when it comes to playgrounds at Unicoi State Park. There are three that I know of, and there could possibly be even more- one at the Lodge, one in a day use area, and one within the campground. We chose to visit the one within the day use area. It was very shaded, which kept the playground equipment from being so hot. Raileigh climbed up, went down the slide, and repeated quite a few times! We also helped her go across the monkey bars. This particular playground was situated along a creek, and was flanked by picnic tables and grills. I saw several families enjoyed the day use area for a nice cookout with their families.
We also visited the Campground Visitor Center this afternoon. It was a short walk from our campsite, which was convenient. We had used all of our firewood the first night, and wanted to get some more. We also needed a bag of ice to add to our cooler. The Visitor Center had both at very reasonable prices. There were also lots of trinkets, shirts, and souvenirs. I picked up a Unicoi patch to add to our backpack (which I had accidentally left at home).
That night, we made another fire and grilled hotdogs for dinner. We also sauteed some onions on our camp stove. It was a delicious dinner! Of course, I had to finish it off with some more smores! There is just something about camping and eating toasty marshmallows!
The next morning, I got up before Darren and Raileigh and headed for the shower. It was quite pleasant to take my time and not have to worry about Raileigh shivering because she refused to get under the water. Upon returning to the campsite, I fully expected to find the rest of family sleeping. I was surprised to hear Darren call out my name. He wanted to tell me about the visitor he’d had while I was in the shower- a BEAR! Yes, a big old bear came to our campsite and knocked over the cooler. When Darren heard the cooler fall, he looked out and saw a bear just a few feet from him. By the time Darren got his camera out, the bear had begun to walk away. It appears the noise the ice made falling out of the cooler scared him away. Darren said if the bear stood up, he would have easily been over 6 feet tall!
Raileigh and I spent some time watching wildlife as well, though none of what we saw was as exciting as a bear! There were many birds around- I especially saw a lot of robins. There were also squirrels everywhere! They scurried around the campsite the entire time we were there. Raileigh rather enjoyed chasing them. I also saw some gorgeous butterflies around the flowers at the Visitor Center. Here’s just a small peek at some of the creatures we came in contact with.
That afternoon, we took Raileigh to one of the activities the rangers were holding at the Campground Visitor Center. She got the make a collage using leaf prints. The idea was to paint the vein side of a leaf using paint, and press it down on paper, making a lovely print. Do this several times, with different colors, and you have a nice collage. The two older kids in attendance made some gorgeous pictures! Raileigh attempted the activity for a while, but resorted to just painting the paper after a while. Regardless, she had a great time. The rangers were both incredibly nice and patient with Raileigh. They actually offer several planned activities each day. I wish we had gone to more of them!
After our afternoon painting session, we began to pack up to go home. We didn’t get to do everything I had wanted to do while we were at Unicoi, but that just gives us a great reason to go back. I would love to take Raileigh to nearby Anna Ruby Falls, as well as check out the other playgrounds at Unicoi. Unicoi State Park also participates in some great programs including Muddy Spokes and Geo-Challenge.
If tent camping isn’t for you, there are several other options for lodging at Unicoi. The lodge has 100 beautiful rooms. There is also a Squirrel’s Nest for sleeping bag campers, as well as campsites like the one we stayed at, and spaces for RV’s and tent campers who desire electricity. Unicoi also has 30 cottages nestles underneath shady trees. Basically, there is something for everyone!
I encourage you to check out Unicoi and all of the other fabulous Georgia State Parks. It is easy to reserve your spot to stay at any of the parks- and you can do so up to 11 months in advance! So, what are you waiting for? Make a reservation and start enjoying all that the Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites have to offer!
I received no monetary compensation for this post. I was given a few nights camping at Unicoi State Park to facilitate this review. All opinions expressed above are my own.