Happy August! July has come and gone. I feel like I’ve had enough adventures this past month that I’ll be busy talking about them all August. I’ll start today with my birthday camping trip in Wharton State Forest, New Jersey. Originally I had planned on conquering this epic hike, The Great Range Trail, but I got some pretty gnarly blisters during a recent backpacking trip in Washington, so hiking was out. Then I wanted to go to Cherry Springs State Park, but the weather looked iffy and it was a bit far north. I called Saleem, my travel partner, and we together we decided on Wharton. This is the first time I’ve camped in Wharton State Forest and if given the opportunity, I would certainly do it again.
Wharton State Forest has multiple swimming and recreation areas, concession stands, picnic spots, hiking, biking and horse trails and boat ramps to boot. There are also eight camping areas in the park. We decided to stay at Goshen Pond. The Goshen campground was on the west side of the park and therefore closer to Philadelphia (where we were coming from) and it was also within close driving range to the Atsion recreation area where we could swim and eat if need be. Check out the enormous group camping sites you can reserve at Goshen. Notice the green marks? Those signify our two vehicles and the campsite we chose.
Do you live in Philadelphia? Here’s why you should visit Wharton ::
- Close proximity to Philly – It’s less than an hour drive
- All the amenities – There are multiple grocery stores, gas, restaurants and whatever you may need right outside the park
- A variety of activities – hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, kayaking, camping, etc
- Plenty of camping – with so many campground options, you’ll find a great fit for your group whether it’s family camping, group camping, or just a pair of friends.
- Nature is good for your brain – end of story.
This little outting was kept pretty simple. I wanted to be in nature for my birthday and Saleem wanted to test out the new truck cap he recently bought. We headed out from Philly on Tuesday morning after packing our bags and downing a couple of iced coffees. We stopped for a few groceries on the way in, mostly snacks, a couple tuna packets for lunch and some foil pack supplies we intended to cook over the fire for dinner. Once we arrived in Wharton, we made reservations at the office, paid our pet and parking fees and drove off in search of the perfect campsite. BTW If you’re bringing a pet you need to show proof of the rabies vaccine. I didn’t know this ahead of time, but thankfully I had Cash’s vaccination chart saved in my email. It was a birthday miracle.
The campsite was pretty much empty. I think there was only one family and one super wasted middle aged man, but that’s about it. We reserved campsite #9, but it was kinda close to the drunk dude, so we set up in secluded #3. I let Cash off the leash, Saleem and I grabbed our cameras and we all explored for a bit. Soon it began to rain, hard. We ran for cover in the bed of Saleem’s truck and arranged all the bedding to make a cozy little nest from which to watch the rain fall.
Eventually we had hunger pains and since a fire wasn’t looking promising (it was pouring on and off and our wood collecting lacked any amount of motivation ) we drove through the woods, past farmers’ fields and roadside fruit stands until I had a brilliant idea : ice cream. In just a few minutes, we made it to Leo’s Famous Yum Yum, the nearest homemade ice cream shop, which happened to be next to an Italian restaurant. Saleem made my day when he agreed to eat ice cream first, “Yeah, dude, we’ll do it Indian style. Sweets first!” I sampled so many flavors and finally decided on some dark chocolate deliciousness. As we sat in the truck in the rain and ate our cones, I felt the most simple yet all encompassing sense of satisfaction wash over me. I’m 28, I’m with my best friend, it’s raining, I’m in New Jersey and I get to eat ice cream and pizza during a camping trip. It really was a weird, never would have predicted it, dream come true.
After ice cream, we headed back to the forest to have a pizza party in the back of the Toyota. We gorged ourselves then fed Cash the crust. We played with glow sticks, looked at neat art zines and photo books, meditated, chatted, giggled and basically had an adult slumber party. I taught Saleem what MASH was and we had a real sixth grade girl bonding moment over our shitty future lives – jk mine was pretty rad, only Saleem’s sucked. In a few years, you’ll find me living in a mansion in Moab, driving a Tesla and raising a single kiddo. Saleem on the other hand is living in a shack and driving his three offspring around in a Honda Fit in Richmond, VA. I’ll leave our future predicted partners out of this in case the details scare them off and mess up the entire MASH future we’ve laid out for ourselves.
We passed out early and woke up late. My first thought of the morning was, “I need a truck,” because the experience ended up feeling so homey and comfortable. I love sleeping in tents, hammocks, even on the ground under the stars, but I have to admit I felt so safe, warm and dry in the elevated truck. Cash also stayed put all night, not getting up or barking at all. I love the idea of just driving and driving until you find the perfect view to fall asleep and wake up to. I snapped myself out of my day dream and helped fold up the blankets. We headed back into the city for one more coffee before I scooted out of town and down the eastern shore to Saxis, VA.
Thankfully Katie wrote this Van Camping post three years ago. Saleem and I were able to skim the post and craft our own list straight from that. We put on cozy camping clothes and otherwise packed a few supplies. Below I’ve linked to the specific products I use.
Here’s what I packed for an overnight stay in Wharton State Forest ::
- Water bottle
- Tent (we put it up, but ended up sleeping in the truck bed)
- Yoga Mat or some type of sleeping pad
- Sleeping bag
- Towel x 2
- Plastic bag
- Camera + film
- Pj pants
- Rain jacket
- Swimming trunks
- First Aid Kit
- Toothbrush + paste
- Bug spray – Saleem had the lotion version and talked about it all night….
- Pocket knife
- Lighter + firestarter
- Pantry – Whenever I head off of a camping trip, I put my camping pantry in the car. It’s a basically a simple kitchen in a basket, spices and all. Katie + Calder have a same, same, but different set up that’s packed in a big canvas bag.
Here’s what’s in my camping pantry :
- five gallon plastic collapsible water jug
- cutting board and sharp knife
- silverware, bowls, plates, and cups for two
- can opener + wine opener
- foil +paper towels
- soap + washcloth
- salt + pepper
- olive oil
- spices + tea
- popcorn + nutritional yeast
- ghost pepper hot sauce
Here’s what I bring for a big old pupper :
- dog food + airtight container
- dog bowls
- collar, harness + leash
- biodegradable poop bags
- treats + a bone
- old towel or sheet
That’s that y’all. We didn’t end up using most of the pantry items, but I find it so handy to always have this mini kitchen with me when I’m on the road. It makes munching on the move so much easier, not to mention cheaper. Happy camping friends!
*All the lovely film images in this post were taken by Saleem Ahmed. Here are his photos and here are his words.