camping, state forest
My husband and I were particularly excited about camping at DAR state forest. We had been good little campers-to-be and well-researched the area (as much as anyone unfamiliar with the territory can using high-tech tools like Google). We were left with varied opinions on the site and its "benefits" when we left, a couple days into the trip.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by what I suspect to be the stereotypical Park Employee. No eye contact, no casual greeting, just snatch my $ and slaps a map and parking pass in my outstretched palm (totally ignoring my gaping mouth of disbelief). He mumbled something about our destination (ie - campsite! VERY IMPORTANT INFO TO ENUNCIATE CLEARLY, MY FRIEND), waved his arm in a vague direction and - I cannot make this up - smacked what would be the "butt" of our vehicle on our way past.
I turned to my husband - the gaping mouth of disbelief still engaged - and finally sputter, "What the [censored] was that?"
No matter! We're on to setting up camp. We're geniuses - situated between a group of boyscouts, what appears to be a family reunion and the public restrooms. This genius shall be revisited further down.
The amenities: Hiking trails of varied abilities, a nature preserve (with a trail that loops around a large portion of the campgrounds, swimming at the lake and a nature center. We also have a nice, level site (thank you - DAR employee who recommended this site!) and plenty of room to roam around. The grounds have been as kept up as you would expect ... the restrooms are another story. The showers are available, you just have to find them before a) anyone else shows up with a couple quarters to use them and b) the hot water runs out. Next to the restrooms are stations where tent campers can wash out their cooking/dining equipment, which is a nice plus.
The nature center has planned activities that are actually enjoyable. Our kids made placemats one day, went on a bird watching hike the next, and colored pictures of different animals we didn't happen to see in the preserve (but were on taxidermy style display inside the center). The park educator was well-informed, friendly and kid-tolerant. Bonus points for the educator!
Back to our stroke of genius. Our location - so close to the bathrooms - meant NONE of us were getting any sleep. Throughout the night, people were walking past our site - some inebriated from familial reunion bliss, I'm sure. I'm not sure how many times I asked my husband if he was absolutely sure there were no bears roaming the grounds before he threatened to kick me out of our tent.
This campsite is one of the least expensive you will find in Massachusetts, let alone New England but don't let that fool you into thinking the place is well kept 24/7.
Make sure you speak to someone at the park immediately after making your reservations. You need to know things like: "Is there a 20 person boy scout troop camping around me? Is there a family reunion going on during my stay? Is there a MARCHING BAND camping out during my stay? If so ... what is the "last call" for band members to play their instruments?"
Because we've been there. After Day 2 of Annoying Tuba Player getting his Coltrane on, we'd had enough of DAR and not enough sleep to endure the rest of the trip.