The odds are pretty good that at the end of this month, you've got a three-day weekend. The weather will probably be good, so Memorial Day is a perfect time for a camping trip. The only problem is, everybody else has a three-day weekend, too.
Ashlie Cook, a park ranger at Tims Ford State Park near Winchester, Tenn. "It's definitely one of our biggest, if not the biggest weekend."
And because of the crowd, park rangers say every year, there are a few campers who show up without reservations and are turned away because the park is at capacity. Fortunately, Tennessee State Parks have rolled out a new online reservation system this year to help campers secure their site.
"Make sure you have a reservation before you show up," says Damon Graham, park manager at Rock Island State Park near Sparta, Tenn. "If you don't, you're just taking a gamble and could wind up sadly disappointed."
Rangers say if you call for reservations, park staff can usually advise you as to which campgrounds tend to be quiet and which are more likely to be rowdy.
"If you ask the questions, we'll steer you in the right direction," says Mark Houston, park ranger at Cumberland Mountain State Park in Crossville, Tenn.
If you are lucky enough to secure a spot in a packed park, it's important to maintain good camping etiquette to be sure no one in your group cramps your neighbor's camping experience.
"When you get full, you've got to be aware of your noise and your neighbors," says Graham. "Enjoy the weekend but be aware of your neighbor."
Things like quiet hours and leashing pets become increasingly important on crowded weekends. "The rules are always important, but when it's busy it just helps us so much if everybody abides by the rules," Cook says. "It helps the park run more smoothly and helps everybody have a better vacation."
And if Memorial Day is your first camping trip of the year, Houston says it's important to check out your gear before you leave home.
"You don't want to get in a sleeping bag and find out a mouse has chewed a hole in it," he says.
? Call ahead or go online for reservations.
? Research the campground to know if it fits your expectations.
? Follow all rules, especially quiet hours.
? If solitude is important, consider camping at a backcountry site or going a different weekend.
? Be aware of your neighbors and keep your gear in your designated site.
? Be extra careful while driving, biking or boating for other campers.