This is my first blog and my first attempt at systematically rating anything. I am presenting my explanation for various categories and what ratings mean to me. Please keep in mind this is completely subjective and we may have a different set of values surrounding camping. I will always try to elaborate on my reasons, so hunt down the pertinent information if the rating scale doesn't resound with you. This may be revised and I always welcome reader feedback!
What exactly are you rating?
I am a tent camper, through and through. I will evaluate sites with tents in mind, though I will specify whether it is "car camping" or backpacking. I like to hike and I'm a beginning mountain biker, therefore I will look at surrounding activities through this lens. I want my sites to be as visually stunning and natural as possible, with a reasonable degree of privacy. I will not rate based on camping in an RV, trailer, or cabin. I also know nothing about horses, so I can't tell you if it's a good idea to take them on a trail, only if they are allowed or not. I have tried my best to rate solely on fairly universally smiled-upon features by tent campers. For this reason, some details go in the amenities section. (For example, I would rather camp with pit toilets and no showers, but I know this isn't a view shared widely.)
Ratings and what they mean
1 - No attempt made or miserable failure
2 - Some amount of effort was put forth, but largely lacking
3 - Adequate, but nothing spectacular
4 - Very good, effort was made and paid off admirably
5 - Unrivaled, perfect or nearly so
Any diversion the park itself provides, from biking to swimming to hiking to canoeing. I may mention nearby activities, but this won't affect the rating. The factors I will keep in mind while rating will be diversity and upkeep. Basically, what is present and what is the quality? If the campsite has a dock to fish off, but the water is polluted, it's not really accessible.
A myriad of factors goes into consideration for this category. I'll be thinking about things like the size of the sites, ease of finding a flat place to put up a tent, privacy, enjoyable features (shade, rivers, etc.), and the accessibility of resources. Resources, especially, will be based on what is realistically expected. I'm not going to knock a backpacking site for not having running water. However, a traditional tent site should have this, even if it is only provided through a pump.
The park's relative cleanliness is the biggest factor. I don't like litter, but I'm understanding if a pit toilet doesn't smell exactly like a spring day. I'll also let you know if there seems to be an unreasonable amount of repairs needed. Finally, I consider the availability and friendliness of camp hosts (when applicable) in this category, as they are a camper's maintenance resource.
I'll consider the relative cost of other state parks or privately owned parks and weigh it against my impression of the park. This category is both a good quick look at the park, but also serves to balance out the rating.
I will list the exact nature of facilities available, yet weren't applicable to a rating. Pit versus flush toilets, showers, water. Garbage and recycling convenience will be here as well as more information on day use areas, visitor's centers, and parking.
Random things I think are worth noting but don't fit anywhere else go here. This includes, but is not limited to, payment methods, bugs, and cell phone reception. A quick disclaimer on the cell reception. I grew up before everyone had cell phones and camping was a time you stepped away from civilization and just returned to countless messages. I still adhere to this. Honestly, camping is my escape. For the sake of the information in this blog, I'll actually carry it around and turn it on from time to time just to check, but don't expect a thorough coverage map and painstakingly accurate information here.
I'll try to present fun facts and wrap up some of the stronger impressions here. I'm a chronic optimist, so don't be surprised if each posts ends with a positive or hopeful note.