Getting Away From It All

by Laurie Krulc


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We frugal folks like to get away from it all as much as anyone does. Many of us turn to camping for an affordable, relaxing and fun vacation. Where to pitch your tent? While we often turn to state or national parks as an alternative to the high-priced campgrounds, not as well known are state forests. Many state forests offer camping at an even more reasonable rate than their sister parks. Amenities vary, but you will definitely have more space and less company than at a state park.

Most state forests offer recreation activities all year around. Depending on where you live, you may be able to take advantage of free or low-cost hunting, fishing, swimming, picnicking, hiking, snowmobile trails, bicycling, shooting ranges, horse riding trails, and other activities.

In many states, you can glean a lot of good stuff while at a state forest (and in some cases, a state park). In my state and many other states around the nation, visiting a state forest can include activities, such as gathering mushrooms, nuts, wild asparagus and berries. You can gather as many as you want for no extra charge. Some state forests also allow gathering firewood and cutting up deadwood to take home for your own use. In some places, you can get a Christmas tree. Now, this is not like a "pick-your-own" farm, where everything is laid out in neat little rows. You will have to search out these items in the woods and brush. But it is a fun activity and the price is right!

Fees and policies vary in each state, but it would be worth checking this out if you have state forests near your home. For more information, you will first need to identify the agency in your state that administers the state parks and forests. This agency is usually the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), but it is sometimes called by other names, such as State Forest Service or Department of Conservation. After identifying the agency, you can find out more about the regulations and services available by either doing a web search or calling the agency directly. The phone number can be found in the blue state government section of your phone book. The agency can probably furnish you with a brochure containing the information you need.

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