Elk Knob State Park shows families the glories of camping out

Ranger Kelly Safley, right, helps the Evans family position its tent at the Elk Knob State Park campout.
Ranger Kelly Safley, right, helps the Evans family position its tent at Elk Knob State Park.

Families at Elk Knob State Park Saturday night discovered that the sleeping-in-a-tent experience is almost an afterthought among all the rituals of camping out. There’s setting up the tent, building a campfire, cooking hotdogs over the campfire, playing outdoor games, making s’mores over the campfire, taking a hike, cutting into a fresh watermelon, watching the stars…and the list goes on.

For the seventh year, rangers at Elk Knob introduced a group of families to all those experiences at the park’s annual campout. For most, it’s their first taste of camping and it’s designed to ease the anxiety of young parents about a traditional American family activity.

“We’ve all been in a camper before, but I wanted our kids to sleep in a tent,” said Jeff Evans, a life-long outdoorsman and hunter who lives just a few minutes from Elk Knob, the highest peak in Watauga County.

The developing state park does not yet have a family campground – only remote backcountry campsites – but is blessed with a large grassy field surrounded by towering mountains. For the once-a-year event, the park’s staff has rounded up donated tents for the new campers to use. And, Rangers Kelly Safley and Brandy Belville were determined to pack the evening with activities.

“It’s become very popular,” Belville said. “And, I love the way the community has gotten behind the idea.” Boone outfitters Footsloggers chipped in with support and a resident expert who offered tips on campout techniques, outdoor cooking and equipment. The Mast General Store donated goodies and gear, and Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation naturalists participate with a popular program featuring live owls.

Here’s a photo gallery of the campout. Click any image to begin.

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