Shane and Kirsten at Clifty Falls

Camping is a great way to experience the outdoors without a huge commitment. I'll be honest, there have been a few camping trips that I wish would have been cut short (in particular one during August in Florida!), but there is nothing like cooking a juicy steak on a propane grill after a day-long hike.

Shane and I are pictured left during one of our favorite camping trips to Clifty Falls State Park in Indiana. This was our virgin expedition with a car full of new equipment from Dick's Sporting Goods. Word to the wise: Make a budget for that first-time equipment purchase. No matter what you think, it will probably cost you more than you expect (unless you aren't newbies like us!). Click here to go to REI, a great store for camping supplies

I enjoy camping at state parks because they tend to be on large areas of protected land, full of wildlife and natural vegetation. With the popularity of online services, now it's easy to book your own campsite online. Most state parks offer the option on their official Web site. In addition to being able to pick your campsite from your home computer, you can also view maps and read an actual description of your chosen site. Reserving a site in advance is especially important during the busy season (major holidays, spring break, etc.). Click here to go to Florida's State Parks Site

Pictured right is a deer we saw in St. Joseph Peninsula State Park

Deer in St. Joseph State Park

Perhaps the most rewarding thing about camping is the opportunity to experience nature unfettered. Watching the sunset on a desolate beach was an experience we had most recently during our trip to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in Florida. Shane and I felt like the sun's only audience every evening. We fished on the Gulf (didn't catch anything but we didn't care!), played with hermit crabs on the beach, and sunbathed to our heart's content. I'd have to say camping near a beachfront has to be near the top of my list.

More importantly though, is finding a campground that's a perfect fit for you. Whether you enjoy hiking, boating, fishing, birdwatching, or just sitting around a campfire, be sure to investigate what your chosen campground has to offer.