Rant: LNT hammock camping and state parks don't mix
I just recently came home from an overnight camping trip at a state park. This post is going to be long and may ruffle some feathers, but I'll sum it up by saying that state parks and hammock campers are often at odds, which is sad because hammock campers and backpackers are often the ones who Leave No Trace. As a result, my wife and I have all but given up on state parks in favor of national parks.
Yesterday my wife and I packed our rucks with some new gear and headed out to try camping in colder weather than we had ever attempted before. Coincidentally, I had just come across a bunch of multicam gear that I wanted to test out in addition to the new cold weather gear.
We found a local state park and headed out to set up camp. When we got there, we found that all of the primitive sites (enough room for 36 people) were grouped into one site as far as reservations were concerned, and that all of the campsites at that state park were filled. That sucks, but I guess it was our fault for not calling ahead and reserving a spot. So we found another state park not quite an hour away and headed over there instead. We were lucky that they had an 'RV/Tent' camping site available, so we took what we could get.
We of course need trees to set up our hammocks, so we found an open campsite and set up our hammocks just inside the treeline no more than 50 feet away from the campsite. This is where we start to have a problem. There are electrical hookups, water pumps, fire pits, grills, trash cans, picnic tables, and giant concrete slabs for RV, car, and tent campers. But the park rangers often take issue when we hang our hammocks from trees (even when using tree straps and LNT methods).
What really gets us though is that the parks put an incredible amount of effort into accommodating the hordes of people who make a huge mess of the area and generally show no respect for nature. Then we come and set up a campsite that people often can't even see from 50' away and without fail we have to explain ourselves every single time a park official actually does find us.
It just irritated us to see so many people leaving trash involving soda cans, charcoal, food scraps, red solo cups, broken beer bottles, plastic bags, snack wrappers, and even toilet paper. Even worse was the impression that they weren't as interested in the outdoors as much as hotdogs, beer, iPads, and climate control inside of vehicles. To me it looked more like everyone was tailgating, not camping. I even stepped on a broken beer bottle, which would have been a serious problem if I had been wearing sandals or no shoes at all like so many kids at these places.
My point here is that there is a very common and irresponsible type of 'camping' that is considered the norm, and that people who are truly out to enjoy nature (especially those using a hammock) don't seem to be welcome in our state parks.
As a result, we've deiced to lean more toward the national parks or state parks with good primitive sites instead of supporting the ones that encourage tailgating.
I've attached a few pictures below as an example of how we reduce the visual signature of our campsite. I've also attached a picture of some trash we found on the ground in the treeline about 10 feet away from where we hung our hammocks. We aren't the only ones who stray off the beaten path a bit, but at least you can't tell where we've been.