Yesterday we checked into Paul B. Johnson State Park. I think this one is going to go in our personal favorites list. It has everything we want in a campground to stay at for a couple of days. We think it’s going to be a great place to weather over the next few days.
If we’re only going to spend one night somewhere and get back on the road, we’ll stay pretty much anywhere as long as it’s close to the interstate (and at the moment, we also like to stay someplace with electric for the night). Paul B. Johnson is not close to the interstate, so it doesn’t fit with our over night criteria.
The view from my window at Paul B. Johnson State Park.[/caption]But for places we’re going to stay a few days and nights, we want something more than an electric hook-up and nearness to the interstate. Paul B. Johnson has all the criteria we look for (pretty much in order of priority):
- Full hook-ups.
So, yeah, we can get by without full hook-ups; our work camping job in the summer doesn’t have full hook-ups. We have a huge blue boy that we use to dump when we’re at Big Rock Campground for the summer. We wanted a break from that routine, so we decided on full hook-up places for the winter season (and stuck our blue boy in storage). And, oh, my, goodness, is it great to have full hook-ups again! Shower as long as we want, whenever we want; don’t have to be careful while doing the dishes, etc.
- Cement/concrete pads.
Richard and I do a pretty good job at leveling the coach on any terrain, but it is very, very nice to be able to level quickly and easily when you get in after a long drive. And then not to have to level once more after it rains and the jacks sink or shift is also a plus. More like a plus-plus.
- Spacious sites.
Although we are social creatures, we also value privacy. We’ve stayed in places where you wake up to the sound of your neighbor brushing his teeth, and that’s okay. There’s many reasons why we’ll compromise on this point. Sometimes the budget can only take places where we’re packed in. Sometimes that kind of park is the only one close enough to where we want to be. But if we have our druthers, we would rather not be kept awake by the neighbor’s business. And we’d very much prefer for the neighbor’s not to be disturbed by our everyday noises as well.
- A natural setting.
Part of why we chose this lifestyle was to be surrounded by nature and beauty. We like being near natural features, or historical attractions. I know Richard especially likes being near lakes, not just for the joy of waking up everyday to see the light flashing on the water, but for fishing too (an activity we enjoy together). I love being close to trails I can hike, and beautiful scenery I can appreciate while walking Chloe. I also enjoy being in a natural setting where I can observe local wildlife, birds in particular. Am I a full on birder? Not yet….
- Low(er) cost.
This is most definitely a relative term. We understand sometimes you’ve just gotta pay more, but we generally like to pay less than $30 a night.
Paul B. Johnson State Park has all these things. It’s a large campground, but it’s been split up into areas that make you feel like you’re in a smaller place. Lots of sites have full view of Geiger Lake. There are some that are right on the water, but these are smaller sites that we couldn’t fit into with the 40’ Scepter.
The spillway you have to cross on the way to the campground area.[/caption]One drawback to Paul B. Johnson is the incredibly long drive in over narrow, old roads. The park was constructed after Geiger Lake was built by German POWs housed at nearby Camp Shelby. I’m pretty sure that the spillway you’ll drive over to access the campground dates to that period, or perhaps a little later. Going over that spillway in a 32,800 lbs vehicle is an experience to be sure. So if you stay here, and I highly recommend it, you’ll want to count on extra time exiting and entering the campground in your planning. It takes between 20 and 30 minutes depending on how much oncoming traffic you encounter, and how fast you want to drive the old, narrow, winding roads.
If you’re going to be camping, you don’t need to pay the entrance fee. Also, the campground office takes credit cards. :)[/caption]At $21 a night with tax, this place is a steal. I’d expect to pay $30 or more a night for all the features of this park. I’m pretty sure it fills up during high season, since it is such a gem. Given the native dogwoods I’ve seen around, the place is probably even more spectacular in the spring. We may just have to find out on our way back to Illinois next spring.
Addendum: 11/18. Although we intended to stay through Thursday the 19th for some reason we only registered through today, the 18th. It’s raining right now, so we really didn’t want to go up to the campground office. I called up there, and spoke to a very nice attendant who renewed me over the phone. She told me I could come up there and get the vehicle passes when (if) it stops raining.
I also spoke to her about when the park sees it’s most campers. During the winter, she said they have “winterbirds” who stay the entire season. During the summer, June and July are their most busy months, with the campground being near to almost full during these months.