Wisconsin Camping: Mauthe Lake Campground

My first camping trip of 2016 came the second weekend in June. Of course my wife and I had already camped in the yard several times this spring, but our trip to Mauthe Lake was the first time we’d picked a campground, made a reservation, packed up all of our gear, and took a weekend away from our everyday norm.

It was a lot different than pitching a tent at home. This camping weekend was a blur of weather and activities. We braved temperatures between 50 and 100 degrees, wild bolts of lightning, insects-a-plenty, kids-a-many, neighboring camping groups by the dozen; all the while enjoying a much-needed adventure!

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The Arrival

The night we arrived, we were barely able to finish setting up camp before a massive thunderstorm hit. We couldIMG_8912 see the thick clouds rolling in from a great distance, while shades of blue and gray flooded the sky. Then the winds arrived and blew our tent into a horizontal position—putting the poles to the ultimate test! The storm reached down and plucked several of our bent and worn stakes out of the ground, leaving our protective ground tarp exposed to the elements.

Meanwhile, the last members of our group were arriving. They were in mid set up of their tent, when the winds started hacking away at our campsite. While Rhesia ran to reset our tents stakes, I helped our friends get their tent in an upright position. Then Rhesia and I spent some time restructuring of our tarp shelter, which we had originally jimmy-rigged to hang over the picnic tables with bungee cords, rope, stakes, and found sticks.

It was a wild arrival, nothing short of fantastic. You see, this wasn’t the first time my wife and I camped in crazy weather. Our camping trip in the Lake District of Northwest, England was a doozy.  That weekend we slept next to a river that doesn’t actually exist, and hiked over three miles in footy pajamas and cheap Wellies—while carrying a waterlogged double sleeping bag, leather jackets, and a borrowed, broken tent. Luckily, this time around we were prepared with more experience and better gear.

Campsite detailsDSCN2786

Site number: 536

Cost: $23/night

Site type: Standard; Non-electric

Check-in time: 3:00 P.M.

Check-out time: 3:00 P.M.

Site amenities: fire pit, picnic table

Max # of cars: 2 compact/full-sized cars

Max # of people: 6

Distance from facilities:

  • Male/Female (multiple stall) bathroom: 1 min walk
  • Female (personal) bathroom: 1 min walk
  • Showers: 5 min walk
  • Water source: 1 min walk
  • Beach: 20 min walk

Neighboring areas:

  • North: walking path to showers; neighboring campsite
  • South: trees
  • East: grassy field of public space
  • West: trees

Campsite Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Trees on two sides
  • Close to bathrooms/water source/path to showers/Ice Age Trail entrance

Cons

  • Lack of privacy
  • Very small: This site could accommodate two cars and two tents, tops. With one car, you could fit three tents.
  • Excessively deep fire pit: We struggled to get air to our fire, causing it to keep dying out.

Overall campsite comments:

Our group was a little disappointed with our campsite (not the campground). We were out in the open, with a path to the showers on oneDSCN2790 side and a field directly in front of our site. This was the spot where groups of kids would come to play.

All of the campsites in the 530s surround the grassy field, and seem perfect for groups with children. Most of the 540s are in a separate section surrounded by trees. They have more privacy, and are even closer to the entrance to the Ice Age Trail (but further from the beach and the showers).

Reserve America suggested that site 536 could accommodate up to two cars and six people. I think this information was a little misleading. With two cars in the campsite, we definitely couldn’t fit more than two tents. I think the site description should [more accurately] suggest that you can either have two cars and two tents, or one car and three tents.

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Mauthe Lake Campground

(Information obtained from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website.)

Name: Kettle Moraine-North: Mauthe Lake Campground

Address:

N1490 County Rd. GGG

Campbellsport, WI

53010

Phone Number: (262)626-4305

Campground Details

Amenities in camping areas:

  • Vault toilet bathrooms with toilet paper and hand sanitizer
  • Private shower rooms with locking doors
  • Water source and water fountain

Amenities by lake:

  • Public beach
  • Picnic area
  • Flush toilet bathrooms with running water and soap
  • Changing room with shower stalls
  • Concession stand with deep-fried appetizers/ice cream/soda/chips/burgers/hot dogs
  • Hiking trails
  • Parking areas
  • Boat launch ramp
  • Firewood vending machine (No, I’m not joking!)

Campground pros and cons

Pros

  • Clean, well-stocked bathrooms
  • Clean and easily accessible shower facilities
  • Friendly park workers

Cons

  • Very busy in the camping areas, and even busier at the beach

Overall campground comments:IMG_8915

We had a fantastic time at Mauthe Lake campground, from the moment we arrived. Check-in was a breeze, and the park workers were friendly and helpful.

On the second night, we were approached by two park workers. They checked our ids and asked us to turn off our music. They were very polite and we had no problem complying.

Making a reservation:

I reserved the site on ReserveAmerica.com. It was a pretty smooth process. I searched for a site within the Mauthe Lake Campground by looking at a map of all the campsites. Then I picked the dates, and paid with my credit card. The hardest part was finding an available site, because I waited so long to make my reservation. I’d recommend reserving your site at least three weeks in advance.

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Until next time…

Campers, I hope you’ll make time to visit this lovely campground! Of course, If you have any questions you can leave a comment below, contact me on social media, or email me at twotentsdown@yahoo.com.

I’ll leave you with a question: What is your favorite Wisconsin campground?

Thank you so much for reading!

If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!

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13 Camping Tips from an Imperfect Camper

My perfectly imperfect first camping trip


Traveling across England

I looked out of the train window and saw the gorgeous English countryside whizzing passed me. I could not believe it. I was in England! I had only been there for a few days, and I was already heading North to Cumbria County for a camping trip in the famous Lake District.
It was early in the morning, gray and misty, when we departed from the Accrington train station. During our one-hour layover in the town of Preston, we loaded up on some popular English snacks I had never eaten before: BBQ Beef Hula Hoops and orange Lucozade. Both snacks were a great combination of fantastically delicious and wildly unhealthy. After our layover, we took another train from Preston to a tiny, backpacking town called Ambleside. There we aimlessly wandered around in a fancy grocery store, unable to purchase even one expensive item.

After we finished drooling, we got our heads together. We actually needed to find a campground to camp in. I was quickly sidetracked while searching for the information center. I spotted a group of backpacking hippies, sporting dreadlocks and Bob Marley t-shirts, and carrying hiking packs protected by waterproof covers.Their hiking gear preparedness reminded me of our lack thereof. Traveling in leather jackets and borrowed rain boots (a.k.a. wellies, as the English call them), we were carrying a leather side satchel and a canvas backpack. Each were filled with a pair of one-piece footy pajamas, a bottle of water, and a change of clothes. Also split between our bags was a variety of fruit (soaked, mashed, and inedible by the time we got to it) and a very cheap (perhaps the cheapest) bottle of white rum. If that wasn’t enough, we were lugging around a massive two-person sleeping bag and a borrowed tent worth £20 (which might as well have weighed 20 pounds, it was so heavy).

 

The unheeded warning, and the damage that ensued

I took is trip in the summer of 2012. I was 24-years-old, six months away from college graduation, and I was in love! My head was high up in the clouds. Our friends and family warned us against camping that weekend, due to severe weather alerts, but we didn’t even hear them. We had just reunited after three months of living with half a country and an ocean between us. In our desperate minds, being together and in danger was better than being safe and apart.
What followed these warnings were dangerous storms, powerful gusts of wind, and some serious flooding. This crazy weather plagued much of England in June of 2012. The clouds dumped a month’s worth of rain on Cumbria County in a 24-hour period, during the weekend we camped. And there we were on foot in the Lake District, with almost nothing waterproof, a cheap and heavy tent, and little to no knowledge of what the heck we were doing.
But we weren’t without ideas. We pitched our cheap tent on a hill, as opposed to the soggy flat land below it. We thought we were so smart! Unfortunately, we hadn’t practiced putting up the tent beforehand, so we spent the next miserable half hour erecting this cheap and ridiculously-designed tent while the wind smacked us with thousands of tiny rain pellets. I felt like we were the targets and the wind was a bb gun with unlimited ammo, and a sick desire to torture us! Despite our difficulties, we got that tent in an upright position, atop that little hill, next to a tree. We climbed in and hung on for dear life. Due to the torrential rain, a powerful river surged through our campsite that first night. A river that wasn’t there before, and wouldn’t likely be there ever again.
 
Here we are at the end of the weekend at the Great North Swim wearing borrowed sweatshirts, waterlogged wellies,
and clothes that had been soaked and partially dried two or three times over.

 

That weekend, we were in a campground called Great Langdale. Thick fog covered the Langdale Pike mountain range on our first day there. By day two, the fog had lifted and the mountains were freely exposed to the sun (and my curious eyes). We hiked towards Windermere Lake through the mountains, in our wellies and the only clothing that was dry: our footy pajamas. We were exhausted, and looked ridiculous, but a natural Emerald City of greens surrounded us, and we were inspired to push on!


I still say it was one of the best weekends of my life. We survived on adrenaline and cheap white rum. It was nothing short of an adventure; one I was definitely not prepared for and will never forget.
Since then, I’ve made some MAJOR alterations to my camping techniques. These alterations are the result of research, more experience, and a whole lot of trial and error.

Without further ado, here is my list of 13 Camping tips:

1. Book your campsite way ahead of time.

You might be able to get away with booking a campsite in a private campground, the day before you leave for your trip, but national and state parks are particularly busy, and might require booking up to six months in advance.

There is plenty of information regarding national and state parks online at recreation.gov or over the phone at 1-877-444-6777.

2. Bring extra tent stakes.

You never know when one of them will get bent out of shape when you’re pounding them into the ground.

3. Practice putting up your tent ahead of time.

The quickest and easiest frustration on a camping trip can come when you’re putting up the dang tent. If you don’t know how, it just becomes an extra annoyance when you’ve just gotten to your campsite and you’ve got all your unpacking and setting up to do.
My best advice is to pick a nice day and then spend half an hour getting to know your tent out in your backyard or at your local park.

 

4. Bring a little lantern.

Having a lantern makes a world of a difference in your campsite. It’s nice to have your campsite lit up while you’re hanging out, or making dinner.


Here is my Ultimate Survival Technologies Brila Mini Lantern:

 

 

I bought this lantern at the REI in Fresno, California on my last camping trip, when I decided that it would really improve my camping experience. Luckily, it was around $15, so it didn’t break my wallet.

I like it because it’s small enough to fit in my pack or my pocket, and it has a hook on the top (so I can hang it in my tent, or on a tree branch) and a powerful magnet on the bottom.

The only downfall is that the lantern runs on AA batteries, which means I will need to keep buying them.

 

5. Bring an extra tarp.

I say extra tarp because you should already have a tarp for underneath your tent, if there is even the slightest chance of rain. I haven’t had any water leakage in my tents when I’ve use a tarp, but I have definitely had water leak into my tent when I didn’t use one. Many times it’s not necessary, but it’s good to be safe.


Camping Fail: It started raining on day two of my camping trip in Sequoia National Park. After hiking all day, we didn’t have an awning or a tarp to hang out under. In sheer desperation, we constructed an overhang for our picnic table out of whatever scraps of plastic we could find, and some rope and duct tape. The plus was that we had an overhang to use, but the minus was that everything underneath was already soaking wet.





How to use the tarp:

  • You can tie your extra tarp to trees, your car, or even a broken tree branch shoved into the ground (as I recently witnessed a neighboring camper do).
  • Stretched out, your tarp can be an overhang for a picnic table or some camping chairs.
The extra tarp is also useful for:
  • sanity, when it’s been raining for 3 days straight, and anyplace is a better hangout than your the tent you’ve been banished to since the start of the rain
  • playing a game of cards in your campsite, during a downpour
  • drying out wood, clothing, blankets, or sleeping bags
  • impressing fellow campers who aren’t as prepared as you are
  • storing extra gear
Active.com has a great article called 15 Ways to Use a Tarp at the Campsite. Check this out for tips and ideas on tarp use while camping.

6. Get organized!

 

This is a no-brainer. I always make a list before I go on any trip, but especially before I go camping.
The list works for the physical items you’re planning to bring, but also for the things you have to do before you leave like putting gas in your car, asking your neighbors to feed your pets, or asking your work for time off.
Scoutlists is a website filled with all sorts of packing lists broken down by climate, season, and potential activities of your upcoming camping trip.

7. Think ahead about devices and chargers.

Let’s be realistic. Most people bring their devices everywhere they go; even camping!

  • Pack chargers, back up batteries, and extra memory cards.
  • Empty the pictures out of your phone so you have plenty of space for new ones.

With that said, plan to have no signal or anywhere to charge your devices. That way, there’s no shock or disappointment when you realize you’re out in nature where you’ll be left to your own devices.

Major camping fail: On my most recent camping trip, I brought the wrong charger for my digital camera. After the camera was dead, that was it for great quality photos in Yosemite National Park. And I could have avoided the whole mess if I had been more careful while packing.

8. Think about what kind of a camper you are and pack accordingly.

Some people can camp with very little, and some just can’t. That’s okay, but make sure you realize what kind of a camper you are before you’re out there camping with more or less than you are comfortable with.

9. Tell someone where you are going.

If you have an itinerary, print off an extra copy for a family member or a friend. If you don’t have an itinerary, give someone a basic idea of where you’ll be, just in case anything goes wrong.

This tip is especially beneficial for people who plan to hike while camping. Here is an article that includes phone apps designed for safety: 10 Must-Have Smartphone apps for Hikers.

There are also handheld GPS devices available for hiking, and other outdoor activities. Here is an article that compares and reviews several of these devices: The Best Handheld GPS Review.

10. When camping in bear country, hang your food or store it in a bear canister.


These (sometimes even human proof) devices are designed to keep bears out of your food and away from you and your campsite. Anything with a scent is fair game for a bear This includes toiletries like soap and shampoo This stuff isn’t safe in your car either, unless you’re okay with a few broken windows, dents, and bear paws all over your stuff

Bears that eat human food can become aggressive and in some cases required to be put down. Using a bear canister is for the safety of you as well as the bears Click on this link for more information from the National Park Service about bear safety and food storage in human-and-bear-shared nature areas.

 

 

Check out my blog post on safe camping in bear country for more info!

11. When camping ANYWHERE, store food carefully.

There are plenty of other animals that would love to eat your tasty human food.

Camping fail: Years ago, while camping, our group left the campsite to visit a neighboring site. We returned to find a family of raccoons tearing the campsite apart, because we had been foolish enough to leave our food unattended.

12. Semi-plan your meals ahead of time.

It’s always annoying when you have too much food and end up going home with an abundance of stale, fire-stinking, dirt-filled food that doesn’t seem nearly as appetizing in the comfort of your own home, where you have an array of fresh (and hopefully clean) foods to choose from.

What’s not only annoying, but potentially dangerous, is going on a camping trip and realizing that you don’t have enough food and that you’re going to have to ration the little food you do have.

Estimate how much food you’ll need per day and work off of that estimate:

  • Scenario 1: Dehydrated meals for EVERY meal!
  • Scenario 2: Oatmeal each morning, snacks during the day, and a big meal cooked over the fire each night
  • Scenario 3: Three big meals, all cooked on the grill
  • Scenario 4: Glamp it up with bacon and eggs or a tasty tofu scramble! With this scenario, you won’t want to forget your sides and condiments like olive oil or butter, ketchup, bread, cheese, milk, etc.
You get the point. Without a tentative plan, you might end up being the little piggy who had none!

13. Show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

To other campers, to the wildlife, and to the environment. Simple.
 

Do you have any helpful camping tips?

Share your ideas in the comment section!

If you need anything, come on by! I’m Two Tents Down!

Email me with questions, comments, or concerns at twotentsdown@yahoo.com.

You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest by clicking on one of these links, or through the social media buttons at the top left corner of this page.

6 Tips for Safe Camping in Bear Country

My first black bear encounter

With plenty of water, and food-filled day packs, we headed away from our campsite in Sequoia National Park. First we hit one of the parking lots in the campground. Even that parking lot of Sequoia National Park was a treat to pass through. I felt like I was at the bottom of a bowl, surrounded by mountains littered with trees. I stopped and turned around in a circle, taking it in from every angle.

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At the far end of the parking lot, we studied a map on a big board covered with tips and advisories. Once we figured out which way to go, we took off in the direction of our trail.

The wide, gravel-covered path started at the bottom of a small hill. This was the trail that would lead us through the Giant [Sequoia] Forest, and to the famous General Sherman Tree. We planned to hike on after seeing the great tree. To where, we weren’t completely sure. Any long and strenuous hike would do, as long as we were in this unbelievable place.DSCN2171

We had hiked for only 15 minutes when Rhesia spotted a black blur, down the hill, in the trees. She called to me. She was sure it was a bear, but I wouldn’t believe it. I backpedaled, while reaching for my camera (just in case). That’s when a small bear came into view. It was jet-black, bow-legged, and digging for insects. We stared. The bear eventually looked up and saw us, but seemed unaffected by our presence.

We didn’t panic. We were equipped with knowledge about what to do in situations like these. I had done online research before we left, and we had been spotting “How to deal with a bear” advisories all over our campground. We stayed calm. We watched, we listened, and then we moved on down the trail.

We saw three more bears on that trip. My heart pounded every single time, but we knew what to do, and we did it. No danger.

I felt incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to see black bears in Sequoia National Park, and to have been prepared enough to know what to do. I want to pass on what I learned from my experience, as well as some tips I gathered from some other sources.

6 Tips for Safe Camping in bear country:

Before I begin, I’d like to direct you to the National Park Service website. It has so much information about American national parks and the wildlife in them. If you type in the name of the national park you will be traveling to, there should be plenty to learn on the National Park Service website alone.
I’d also like to say that these tips are not only for your protection, but for the protection of the bears, as well. Bears that eat human food can become aggressive, and in some cases are required to be put down. Here is a link with information from the National Park Service about bear safety on trails and in campgrounds.
Okay, let’s talk about bears! Did you know that black bears live in 41 out of 50 U.S. states? We share so much space with these incredible creatures. So, how can we do it safely?
  1. Examine your campsite for traces of bears.

Whether you’re settling into a designated campsite at your local campground, or just pitching a tent in a spot that looks good out in the woods, be aware of your surroundings. If bears have been traipsing through your new temporary home, you might want to consider moving to a different spot.

Here are some signs that bears have been hanging out in your new hang out:

  • Trees with rubbed, scratched, or missing tree bark
  • Paw prints or animal-made trails
  • Dead logs that have been ripped apart
  • Bushes with berries missing or scattered underneath
  • Piles of poop
  • Animal carcasses

2. Keep your campsite clean.

Bears are curious, and they have noses that work way better than our DSCN2162people noses do. In fact, Americanbear.org says that bears can detect odors over a mile away. If that’s the case, they can definitely smell your dirty campsite!

And it’s not just food you should be aware of. Anything with a scent is fair game for a bear. This includes booze, dirty dishes, and even toiletries like soap and shampoo. Unfortunately, this stuff isn’t safe in your car either (unless you’re okay with a few broken windows, dents, and bear paws all over your stuff).

My best advice:

  • When you arrive, remove any garbage that previous campers may have left behind.
  • While you’re there, keep it tidy.
  • When you leave, leave no trace.

3. Store your food properly.

Sealed and doubled up plastic bags of food may only work for so long before a bear smells it and tears right into it. Coolers of food may keep your snacks at the right temperature, but most coolers don’t fool bears. IMG_8219

That said, I’m sure you’ve heard of campers hanging their food. It’s not for fun. It’s necessary. Do it! Here is a long, but informative YouTube video by Black Owl Outdoors, with instructions on hanging food from a tree.

If you’re not into hanging your food, you could always rent or purchase a bear canister. These (sometimes even human  proof) devices are designed to keep bears out of your food and away from you and your campsite. Bear canisters are handy for storing in your backpack while you’re hiking or just to keep in your campsite with you.

REI has a great article called Bear Canister Basics with tons of information about where, when, and why to use a bear canister.

Furthermore:

  • To purchase a canister: Check out this review on bear canisters on Backpacker.com.
  • To rent a canister: Call the park or the campground where you’ll be staying. If they don’t do rentals, they should at least be able to recommend a local place to rent one from.

Note: Depending on the campground, you might be in luck with bear-proof bins already supplied for you in your campsite. Call ahead of time to find out.

4. Cook food away from your campsite.

The American Bear Association says to cook food 100 feet (downwind, if possible) from where you are sleeping.

Easier said than done, right? I have to say, I have broken both of these rules on certain occasions. There is not always room in a busy campground to be cooking somewhere other than your campsite, and it is most definitely not convenient. It is, however, the safest way to cook when you are camping.

One night, after dinner, a black bear walked right past us, through the middle of our campsite. I yelled a warning to the next campsite over, and after a whole lot of pan clanging, hand clapping, and shouting, the bear ran off. Later that night, while everyone was asleep, the bear came back through the campground. It wandered around, looking for food and scratching at bear bins. Once again, the neighboring group had to scare the bear off.

I have definitely been more careful, after that night!

5. Be aware of local bear activity.

Parks stay up to date on this kind of stuff. Call ahead to the park or the campground to ask about recent wildlife activity. You can also talk to a park ranger, or check the message boards on the way in.

The message boards are good for alerting you about other important things in the parks too. When I was recently camping in California, there were missing person reports, recent bear activity and wildfire updates, as well as plague advisories. It’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the area where you will be camping.

6. Don’t panic if you encounter a bear.

Bear attacks are rare. They want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them. You’ll be less likely to cross paths with a bear if you follow the tips above, but nothing is ever full proof.

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How to handle a black bear encounter in your campsite:

  • Remain calm.
  • If you see a bear some distance away, make some noise to let it know you are there. Do not approach the bear.
  • Make sure the bear has a clear escape route, so as not to endanger other campers.
  • Make yourself big and wide by stretching your arms out and spreading your feet apart.
  • Make loud noises, bang pots and pants, and clap your hands.
  • Warn others around you that there is a bear in the campground.
  • If the bear attacks, fight back.
  • Do not run! Bears are way faster than you. Stand your ground!

Here is a great article called “How to Bearproof Your Camp” by Cliff Jacobson, with detailed information about avoiding bears, staying safe, and what to do if you encounter one.

I would like to remind you that these tips are specifically for black bear encounters. Grizzly bears are bigger, and can be more aggressive. You need to handle them differently.

Thanks so much for reading!

If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!

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First Entry

First Entry

As I navigated my boat of a rental car around another bend on the endlessly winding mountain road, the first ever Giant Sequoia Tree came into my view. Well, it wasn’t the first ever Giant Sequoia Tree, but it was the first one I’d ever seen. I slammed on the brakes, a knot already building in my throat, and dangerously cranked the wheel to the right, veering onto the shoulder (probably meant for other lunatics careening around that same corner, who had never seen a Redwood the IMG_8207size of a 20-story building).

After fumbling for my phone or my digital camera (whichever one I could grab first), I tore across the tiny road, barely looking both ways before crossing. I scrambled up a hill, ran to the mammoth tree, and looked up, my eyes immediately filling with tears. That Giant Sequoia towered over me, humbling me. I stood there for an eternity, if it was 60 seconds.

No words can do justice to that moment that my mind will never forget. And no picture will replace actually being there, breathing in the mountain air, pressing my hand against the rough bark, the stresses of my normal life melting away with each passing second.

Those literal take-my-breath-away moments have found their way into many of my adventures, from seeing the futuristic Shanghai, China skyline at night, amongst crowds of tourists speaking a dozen different languages, to reaching the top of Pendle Hill in the Northern English countryside, almost blown over by the wind and the rain.

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Each person should have the opportunities that I’ve had, to travel to different countries, to explore new cities, to camp, to hike, to be out in nature. These aren’t impossible dreams. They are attainable dreams, for those who organize their thoughts and put their plans into action.

If you have time and an interest, I would like to share some advice with you about camping and traveling. This blog will be based on my own experiences, as well as research I’ve done throughout the time I’ve been adventuring.

Here is a little bit of what you can expect to find within Two Tents Down:

If you want to find out more about the site or myself, check out my “About Me” page.

You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, PinterestGoogle+, and Bloglovin’.
Feel free to email me: twotentsdown@yahoo.com.

If you need me, I’m just Two Tents Down!

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