Late spring was a busy time for us. I had several client sessions, back-to-back camping trips, a lot of time spent trying to clean out my mom’s house, and the end of the Girl Scout season to wrap up.
When we got home from our trip to Little Tybee Island in May, we were all suitably exhausted, and agreed that while we were happy for all of our adventuring…we needed some time at home.
So naturally, right after that, The Dyrt announced a program for their Rangers that involved free camping during the month of June, and well…who wants to turn down free camping?
June was already pretty busy for us, but we managed to find time to book two of the campgrounds available for reimbursement. The first of these was at Greenheart Forest in Pisgah National Forest, which happened to be right in the backyard of Max Patch. I invited Jordi and her kids, and despite the abysmally wet forecast, the kids and I set off Friday afternoon for what we hoped would be a trip filled with friends and hiking.
As circumstances would have, this was a wet, wet, wet, trip. The ground was squishy, firewood was sopping, and the rain Friday night got heavier and heavier. Jordi wasn’t going to be able to make it until the next day which left me setting up the tent alone in the rain, and I was nervous because the website for Greenheart Forest stated that only vehicles with 4WD would be able to get the 200 yards from the parking area to the campsites.
That turned out to be true. Maybe in dry weather my RAV4 could have handled it, but certainly not in a torrential downpour. Thankfully David, the campground host/owner, offers a portage service for only $5. But then as we were unpacking the car, I discovered Billy had failed to pack…the rainfly for our tent. Cue facepalm.
David to the rescue again—one of his campsites has a 10 person tent already set up with cots and chairs; his “glamping” site. It was an extra fee, but one I was happy to pay in order to have a dry place to sleep, and I promised Billy I was okay with it because his error led to us having a tent already set up and ready to go—and much larger than the tent we brought.
Personal mishaps aside, once we finally got settled in we were in love. It’s a statement to this place that even with all of those mishaps, I was able to keep a positive—if not harried—attitude, and that David was patient and kind to us the entire time, whatever his first impressions of me must have been.
This is, more than a campground, a place of healing. Educated and certified in Forest Bathing, David and his wife have created a place at Greenheart Forest for meditation, quiet, and eco therapy. The grounds around the lodge are filled with pollinator gardens and a communal fire pit, and inside the lodge are books on forest bathing, plant identification, and terrapsychology. As you progress to the campsites, he has a gorgeously constructed zen garden–one that provided Jordi and I with a place to breathe, and the kids enjoyed raking the sand, bringing them a sense of grounding they didn’t even realize they were getting.
There are five campsites total, and all of them are very large and fairly spaced out. We were in site 2 due to needing the tent, and it was perfect for us. The site is huge, with a large fire ring and plenty of space for us to set up our screen house and an additional tent, with room to spare. Of the other sites, one has a sun shade already set up, one has several wooden benches around the fire ring, and while the other two are smaller they are extremely private. All sites have picnic tables, giving the feeling of front country camping, while still in a very primitive, backcountry space. The lodge is available for water, a bathroom, and even a shower, and there is a small pop-up shelter over a bucket that serves as a privy if you want privacy without the walk back to the lodge.
Past the campground, the road leading to the sites turns into a trail that connects with the Buckeye Ridge Trail, and then to Max Patch. Due to time and weather we ended up driving the short distance from the campground to the Max Patch trailhead, but it is only a 3 mile round trip hike, and one I would plan for on a return visit.
There is a magic to this place. It was cloudy and raining most of our trip, but we had a brief time in the morning when it was just me and the kids when the sun tried to poke through the dripping leaves, twinkling like magic in the trees. And all through the day, when it wasn’t actively raining, mist and fog drifted in and out over our heads. Our kids showed calm and creativity, and there were far fewer squabbles than there usually are when getting that many kids close in age together. Jordi and I, perpetually on our journey of healing from our losses, felt at peace. I didn’t even mind the rain, wet as we all were. As if the rain was for cleansing, as it passed through the energy of the forest.
Overall Family-Friendly Rating: 4/5. This is a hard one to rate. Because the purpose of this campground is to give people a place to find peace, I felt the need to keep my kids a little on the quieter side, and of course reminding them that the zen garden and the lodge were not for playing, but for meditation and learning. While David never made us feel like our children were unwelcome, if there were more campers I would have been worried our noise may have disturbed others’ purpose for being that.
All that said, if you can make it during a time when it is not busy, or your family dynamic is one where the kids are fine playing with nature, this place is amazing. There is such a gentle energy, and rather than camping in the forest, you really are camping with the forest. David and Jeanette’s love for sharing the outdoors is apparent, and ultimately as long as your family is there to share that love, it won’t matter if the kids are a little rowdy.