Whirlwind camping at Burrells Ford
I've been dying to go camping for months now but between my work schedule and the weather being completely atrocious most weekends since January, it just hadn't happened. Yes, I have camped in the rain before, but I really prefer not to if I can avoid it. This would be a mini-vacation for me since I haven't taken any time off since January, so I really wanted a nice, sunny relaxing weekend. Last week we looked at the forecast and saw a slight chance of rain on the weekend so we decided to go for it. After some deliberation, we decided to camp at Burrells Ford in South Carolina. I've been wanting to visit the Chattooga River for some time and the camping situation there seemed ideal. Burrells Ford campground is maintained by the Forest Service and is located within the Sumter National Forest. It's about 2 hours and 15 mins from our house, so it's not a terrible drive but far enough away to give us a change of scenery.
Point blank, Burrells Ford is a fantastic place to camp. Located just over the border in South Carolina, it's easily accessible from northeast Georgia. It does require a relatively short drive on a gravel forest service road, but the road was well maintained and we've definitely driven on much worse roads. The unique thing about Burrells Ford is, while it has developed campsites, you must leave your car in a parking area and walk into the actual camping area due it's proximity to the river and special protections in place. So it's a little bit of backpacking and a little bit of car camping. It's a great place to start out if you're trying to transition from car camping to backpacking. The parking area has space for probably 30 cars and was hardly full when we arrived. There is a gate at the end of the parking area and behind that the gravel road continues into the camping area.
To access the campsites, you simply walk about .25 miles down the road, which is a gentle downhill, and from there the road loops around with numerous campsites located to the sides. There is a vault toilet and bear resistant trash bin at the entrance of the camping area. A trail leads down along the river and there are at least a handful of sites directly on the river, although they are a safe distance away. The Chattooga River is a designated "wild and scenic" river with special provisions in place to protect it. We were able to get a site along the river and only had one other campsite within partial view of us. This is the most private, spacious campground I have ever been to. Our campsite was huge, with a picnic table and fire ring on one side, and a good space for a tent on the other side. It was almost like having an outdoor living room and bedroom space. The site also had a bear bag hanger, which we didn't use since we have a bear canister. Side note- we immediately saw a bear when we turned onto the forest service road, so bear safety is a must! But back to the campground...did I mention it is FREE? Yes, absolutely free. You don't even need a hunting or fishing license (unless you are doing such activities) or public lands pass. What a deal! Honestly, I would have paid a fee of $10 or more to stay here because it was so nice. The Burrells Ford campground is also a fantastic launching spot for other activities. Obviously, with its location on the Chattooga it is a great spot to fish and kayak. There are numerous trails starting in or near the campground. The Chattooga River Trail winds right by it. The Foothills Trail also has entrances within walking distance. And, the best part, there are 2 incredibly scenic waterfalls located just a mile or so from the campground. I'll write more about these in a separate post.
We were at Burrells Ford barely 24 hours but it packed a huge punch into our weekend. We arrived around 10 am on Saturday morning, set up camp, then headed off to see the waterfalls. After hiking to the falls, we came back to camp and we hanging out when, of course, it started to rain. It was about 2 pm at this point, so we crawled into the tent and tried to wait it out. Of course, we fell asleep, and when we woke up around 4 pm, the rain had stopped. So ultimately, we just had a really good afternoon nap. Win/win. After that, we hung out at the campsite and got some hammock time in. I also walked along the river a little to see the views and collect water to filter (pro tip- it's easier to collect water along the Kings Creek Trail, which is also in the campground). James went off to try to gather somewhat dry firewood. Dinner is the highlight of any camping trip, so I was eager to prepare that. I made boxed vegan mac 'n cheese and mixed it in with some dehydrated white bean chili to give it a little kick. I was also thrilled to find powdered coconut milk at the grocery store, so that added a lot to our meal. I highly recommend powdered coconut milk for all your vegan camping needs. After dinner, we managed to get a good fire going, despite the wood being damp, and we just sat by the fire until it got dark. When camping, I go to bed and wake up by the sun so at 9 pm, off to bed we went. Honestly we didn't sleep that well because 2 little devils named Nova and Tennille kept trampling us all night. In general, though, the campground was extremely quiet and peaceful at night and the sound of the river was basically like a giant white noise machine.
In the morning, we woke with the sun and I immediately made coffee (my other favorite part of a camping trip). I brought instant coffee with powdered coconut milk, stevia, and cinnamon mixed in. I find the cinnamon gives a nice zingy effect and the scent goes along nicely with being in the wood. Sometimes I bring oatmeal camping but this time I didn't feel like doing too many dishes, so we just ate energy bars for breakfast. Unfortunately, I had to get back home to get ready for my next work trip, so we packed up camp pretty quickly and headed out. On the way home, we stopped at the infamous Goats on the Roof in Tiger and completely freaked our dogs out (the goats were unfazed). We had a spot of coffee and then continued back down into our part of northeast Georgia. Even though we were only gone for 24 hours, it felt like longer than that and I feel we made the most of our weekend.
P.S. As always, leave no trace and watch out for bears!