Friday, July 16, 2021

A Small and Tiny Trailer Get-together at Pikes Peak State Park

Pikes Peak State Park
I'm in the middle of my latest camping adventure, an exploration of northeast Iowa, the "Driftless" region, so called because it was not scoured by glaciers. My solo reconnaissance trip is up to Pikes Peak State Park on the Mississippi River and then down the river, stopping along the way. The last time I attempted this loop trip, a tree limb fell on my tiny camper, the Green Goddess, which ended that trip and initiated my road trip to the Carolinas to get a new roof. I'm sitting in the early morning light at my second stop of the trip, and I can't wait to share the varied pleasures of my stay at Pikes Peak State Park.

The three and a half hour drive up to Pikes Peak was in the rain, but it was an easy rain that gradually tapered off by the time I reached my destination. Sunday traffic was light except for the interstate highway that connects Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. That was heavy traffic, even on a Sunday. I tootled along, though, having only one odd moment of concern. I was driving in the heavy traffic of Interstate 380N when my navigation hit a dead spot which wiped out the route. I couldn't get the directions back, which was a concern because the screen had indicated that my turn-off was about four miles away. I knew that if I stopped, shut off the car, and then started again that the route would be available or that I could type in the destination again, but I didn't want to stop because the traffic was so heavy. I remembered that my cellphone had been left on the Google Maps destination of Pikes Peak, so with a quick couple of touches to the screen, the phone navigator told me that my turn was just ahead. That was a close call that kept me out of the Cedar Rapids metro area!

The flyer for Pikes Peak State Park says that the park stands upon a "500-foot bluff (1,130-foot elevation) for a breathtaking view" of the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. The beauty of the area has long led people to dub the region the "Little Switzerland of Iowa." 

Bridal Veil Falls
An extensive set of stairs and boardwalk skirt the bluff
The park brought me some nice hiking through timber, far enough off the way for me to enjoy a respite from the architecture of humanity. I walked several trails, bringing a park map with me after the first hike, which allowed me to move from one trail to another to make my hikes loops rather than having to retrace my steps on the way back. There was quite a bit of wildlife to see as I walked along, including deer with some young bucks with their antlers just beginning to form. There was also varied terrain. The park had to create an extensive, staired boardwalk for much of the early trail to Bridal Veil Falls, due to the steepness of the terrain. The Hickory Trail led me deep into the woods for an experience of what the area was like in its natural state. I didn't get a chance to bike the trails because of impending rain, but there are some trails deeper into the park that allow bicycles.

Usually on my solo camping trips, I just quietly enjoy the silence of nature, not interacting much with my neighbors. Don't get me wrong, I'm not unfriendly or aloof; I just enjoy some time alone. This time at Pikes Peak was different. Among all the huge bus RVs and double-axle trailers and 5th-wheelers, a small but intrepid band of single-axle trailer owners added an unexpected social element to this trip. With shared time by the campfire, chats by the roadside, and tours of our units, a good look at the breadth of the small and tiny trailer industry was on display at the campground. 

Airstream Basecamp
First of all was my Airstream Basecamp. This trip was my first with the Moonshade, and I have to say the design has been well thought with good construction. It went up and came down easily. This is our fifth trip with the Basecamp, and the first long one.

Little Guy Max
The first night the only other single axle trailer in the park was a Little Guy Max, over on the other side of the campground. I didn't get a chance to talk much with the owner but finally met up with her when she was walking her dogs, which was how I learned what kind of trailer she had. I didn't want to walk into her site unannounced to look for logos on the camper, of course, since that would be intrusive. The owner had a nice site, though, with good shade. I would place the Little Guy Max in the same category as my Basecamp, a small or little trailer, not a tiny trailer--which are the next three trailers.

Viking 9.0 TD Express 
The next rig to pull in was a tiny pop-up trailer, a Viking 9.0 TD Express, which I profiled in my article "Care for a Tiny Teardrop Tent Trailer Walk-through?" I had never had a look at a tiny pop-up, and this pop-up was really more like a hybrid because it was mostly a hard-sided unit. I was pleased to see the thoughtfulness that the Coachmen company had put into the unit. It's easy to put up and down, and the inside area provides a comfortable layout. I also have to mention the graciousness of the Viking's owners, Brian and Michelle, who answered all my questions and invited me to their campfire for some lively conversation.

T@G Boondock
Adding to our little trailer convention was the arrival of the famous T@G tiny teardrop, this one being a Boondock edition with a rear galley. The owner had taught extra college classes during the pandemic and had used the extra money earned to buy the camper. I've lost this fellow's name, but I do want to report that he has extensive information on trout fishing in this area, including a website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel. Links are available at his website, Trout Fishing in Iowa. The site includes some great chronicles of trout fishing--and some great photos!

Variety was the theme of this little trailer get-together because the last tiny trailer to arrive was the innovative and unique MeerKat, a tiny fiberglass trailer with a pop-up roof module to make it a standy. I'll be featuring this trailer in an upcoming article, but this colorful unit really added to our impromptu convention. Dan and Holly were on their third outing, and I have to say that they just couldn't stop smiling. 

All these trailers epitomized why little and tiny trailers are so popular. The ability to tow with a smaller car and not having to also invest in a tow vehicle was a big factor in the buying process. A lower price tag was another factor for their decision to go small. Even my Basecamp with its hefty price tag is still the least expensive of the Airstream line. Two of the trailers were bought used from owners who had camped with the units only a few times. This mirrors my purchase of the Green Goddess, which was bought used from owners who had traveled with it only once--back from the manufacturer to their home. 

Every camping experience is unique, but with this one to Pikes Peak, it was easier to identify the unique qualities. This park provides some vistas not easily found in Iowa. Those long perspectives from a bit of height were a welcome change from rolling hills and flat plains. This stop was a people stop, though; that's especially what I will remember. There was a camaraderie among us as we prepped our trailers and campsites for an upcoming storm. There was a collective joy in the sharing of our individual enjoyment of our small units. Less weight and size but more adventure! I'm glad to be a part of the camping community, and especially the community of those who choose to go the small and simple way.

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  1. Tom, thanks for another enjoyable post and looking forward to the next one! For those who are considering Pikes Peak State Park, I would highly recommend it as the trails, views, and staff are outstanding.

    1. Thanks! Pikes Peak State Park is a park I'll need to return to and learn more about. I hiked some trails, but there are also trails that are ok for bicycles.