Camping at Peaks of Otter

Posted on 09/04/2023 in misc

Trip: 37
Mights: 117-119

Back in the winter I booked a Labor Day camping weekend at the NPS Oregon Inlet campground on the Outer Banks. Hurricane Idalia visited the Outer Banks on the Wed prior to the weekend. On that Tuesday, I changed plans and we headed to the Peaks of Otter campground at mile market 85 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Peaks of Otter is an older campground in desperate need of a makeover. The asphalt is crumbling and some of the campsites are (or should be) unusable. In chatting with one of the Park Rangers he chose his words carefully as he answered my question by telling me there no plans to renovate the campground. That said, I'd camp there again because it's 2.5 hours from home and only $20 a night. Plus I made of list of the good campsites, and it's camping, not a Marriott. But they really should redo the asphalt.

Protip - you can always get a campsite at Peaks of Otter. It might not be a great campsite, but the bathrooms are clean and it beats staying home.

On the way in I had to hit the brakes about a mile from the campground to let a black bear cross the road. That was pretty much the highlight of the weekend for Michelle. That evening, we drove down the BRP to a west facing overlook to enjoy sunset.

On Saturday, we did the Johnson Farm / Harkening Hill hike, which took us to the Johnson farm, which is the actual farm that operated on that land from the 1850s to the 1940s, when they sold the land to the park service. From the farm we continued on up to the summit of Harkening Hill. Our car was in the Peaks of Otter Lodge parking lot, and there is a bar in the lodge, so I enjoyed a couple of post hike pints before we went back to the campground. Prior to dinner I enjoyed a nap in the hammock. After dinner at the camper we lounged around the campfire before playing some board games in the camper.

photos from camping trip

On Sunday we returned to the lodge and walked around Abbots pond birding, It was an unremarkable morning of birding. The highlight was watching a bluebird pair teaching their fledglings how to hunt from a large tree in an open field. After lunch back at the camper Michelle dropped me at the Flat Top Mountain trail head, and I hiked the 5 miles back to the campground. The first 2.8 miles is a generally mild climb to the summit of Flat Top Mountain. The hike down was the tough side, as trip down to the lodge and campground is about 1600 feet, and you do it in only 2.2 miles. It was steep and frequently slick from loose rocks. It's slow going down as you carefully consider each step while maintaining your center of gravity back so you don't splat.

I did not go splat.

The views at the top were worth the effort.

photos from camping trip

Sunday night was another night of contemplating life while staring at the campfire, followed by a game of gin runny. It's a common pattern when we camp.

We woke up Monday morning to dim lights and a dead fridge. I guess 3 nights under heavy tree cover was a few hours more than the battery could handle. The battery has 4 camping seasons on it and I am planning to replace it next Spring with a couple of 6V golf cart batteries wired in series. The battery came back after the solar panel got some morning sun. I'll check it next week and if it's still reading 12V I'll let it ride as we only have 2 nights of dry camping left this year. Most of our remaining camping has hookups. It's always something with an RV.

We had a 7 week layoff between camping trips, which is a long time for us. I'm looking forward to spending a lot more time in the woods over the next couple of months. It looks like our planned campervan adventure to Death Valley and Joshua Tree in November is DOA for the year though. The latest news suggests Death Valley will open in December. I haven't canceled anything yet, but I have booked backup camping plans for the week of Thanksgiving (Savannah and Okefenokee Swamp). At least the airline tickets to try again next year will already be paid for.

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