Summer would not be complete without camping, and what better way to take a camping trip than by heading out to one of the amazing Tennessee State Parks. Warriors Path State Park, located in Kingsport, Tennessee is a great place to take the family and enjoy a fun summer camping trip. Whether you want to camp with a little luxury including water and electricity that will plug straight into your camper or RV, or if you prefer to tackle the wilderness straight on by foregoing the luxuries of home and nestling into a tent on the ground and cooking every meal over an open fire, this place is the perfect getaway for everyone that has a love for nature.
I decided to take my family, my teenage son and a friend of his as well as my 9-year old daughter, on an end of summer break camping trip this year, and we decided to head to Warriors Path to see what they had to offer. Instead of camping with the electricity and water as many choose to do, we wanted to sleep in tents, cook our meals over a fire and really get back to nature as much as possible. The location that we chose was perfect for this end of summer getaway.
Before we loaded the SUV for the trip, I went out and purchases air mattresses and other items to make the trip a little comfortable, yet at the last minute I chose to leave those items behind and show the kids what real camping was. I will say that the next time we take a camping trip, if it is in a state park and not far out in the wilderness, we may just have to bring the air mattresses along with us. When you are approaching middle age, the ground just does not feel quite as cozy and comfortable as it did when you were in your early 20’s. Sleeping on giant rocks and roots is definitely no fun, but hey, that was pretty insignificant when it came to the natural beauty and excitement of the trip.
Our Private Slice of Heaven
On our first day at the campsite, we set up the tents. One for the boys and one for my daughter and myself. After that, we began to explore the trailheads just behind our campsite to see where they led. I wanted a long hike on the first day to really let the kids experience nature. I figured they could see interesting insects, small animals and some of the beautiful trees and other flora in the woods.
We hiked maybe a quarter mile down the trail before we noticed a pathway that led straight down the side of the mountain and we decided to take that to see where it led. Once we hiked down a small way, we saw that it led directly to a small, private sandy beach area by the lake. The kids rushed to get to the water and discovered that someone had made a man-made swing to glide over the water and of course, they had to try it out.
We spent a couple hours at this private piece of Heaven as the kids splashed and swam in the water and took turns flying high and jumping from the swing. They had a blast and I enjoyed sitting on the rocks by the water and really taking in the natural beauty of the area. It was peaceful and completely free of the sound of traffic or voices from people. This was definitely a place that I could have spent the entire weekend if we did not have other great things to do during the trip.
When we left the water, we hiked back to the campsite and the kids gathered kindling to start a fire so we could have dinner. We opted to cook traditional camp food the first night that included hot dogs cooked directly over the fire and followed up by roasting marshmallows and making S’mores. The kids really enjoyed that and when we finished, we headed to the shower house to shower and change into comfy clothes to sleep in.
Apparently, when you take kids to the woods, they should be educated about sounds of the night. The first night was rather amusing to me as the boys, both in their early teens, called my name at least once every hour or two throughout the night because they were sure someone was lurking in the woods near their tent. Needless to say, no one except my 9-year old slept very much and when I woke up bright up and early the next morning, I decided to scare the boys a little to wake them up and pay them back for keeping me awake all night. I snuck to their tent and made crawling noises outside of their tent and even “clawed” it a few times to really wake them up.
After a couple minutes of doing this, they were both awake and I had to work had to stifle my giggles as I listened to them whispering to one another as they tried to figure out what kind of “animal” could make the noise that they heard. Eventually they called my name and I busted out laughing, thus revealing that it was me all along.
Fun in The Park
Warriors Path State Park is unlike any other state park that we have been to when it comes to having fun things to do. The Rangers at Warriors offer plenty of fun all through the day to campers as well as anyone from the local community that may want to come out to the woods and check out things that the park has to offer.
Whether you want to take a guided hike down one of the long and difficult trails, or take a lazy hike on one of the shorter, and much shadier trails or even play a game of tag, meet an owl or learn about some of the beautiful animals that live in the surrounding woods, this place has something for everyone and for all ages. The trails are beautiful and when you hike them, you really see the natural beauty that the earth has to offer and it somehow makes you feel such a peaceful feeling. This is something I could do every day and still never get enough of it.
On the first full day we spent in the park, we hiked on our own and of course, we ended up back at the private beach area where the kids enjoyed swimming and playing on the swing. After that, we headed down to the marina to take a quick trip out on the lake with a paddle boat. The boys had one and my 9-year old and I had the other. We had a great day on the water and followed it up with a trip to the playground.
The playground at Warriors Path State Park is not “just” a playground. They have an enormous amount of equipment which is all very well maintained and the grounds even include an observatory where you can watch birds and other animals through large telescopes. The kids enjoyed a quick game of football with other children and they had a blast playing on the slides, merry-go-round and other playground equipment. It was great for me to watch the teens playing like they were still five-year old’s and really having a lot of fun!
We ended the day with a walk down to the outdoor open air chapel where Ranger Marty Smith introduced a large group of kids and parents to a barred owl and showed a slide show of different animals and the sounds that they make at night. This was not only a fun evening, but very educational as well. The Rangers at this park really put in a lot of time and effort to educate the public while doing so in such a fun way.
After the owl and nature sound program, we headed back to the campsite and once again, the kids wanted to make S’mores and roast hot dogs. I believe they ate so many hot dogs and marshmallows on this trip that they may not want them again until next summer, if ever.
More Fun Than You Can Imagine
On our last full day of camping at Warriors Path State Park, we decided to follow the park itinerary as closely as possible because they had some really fun things scheduled for the last day. We missed the morning hike that was hosted by park rangers, but we hiked a little on our own and eventually made our way down to the open air chapel so the kids could learn about birds and participate in making a shelter that would help keep the birds warm in the winter. As you can see in the pictures, quite a few families enjoy bringing their kids out to learn about nature at the park.
After the kids helped Ranger Silvers build a shelter and hang it up, we took a hike down to the water and the kids swam until it was time to meet back at the main campground where we would carpool to a creek on the far side of the park and take a creek walk to discover some of the living creatures from the water.
The kids, as well as the adults, really enjoyed the creek walk. Ranger Silvers led the expedition into the water where they used nets to catch tiny fish, crawfish and even salamanders. Once the creatures were caught, Ranger Silvers gathered everyone around and told about each animal, what they eat and how they live. Of course, they were all released back into the water once everyone had a chance to see them.
There was also a program where we learned how to find water when there is no water source. This is called well-witching and if you are not familiar with well witching, it is very interesting to learn about and could potentially be something that could save a life if you ever need to find a water source when you are out in the woods. Well witching is a very old technique for finding water in areas that water is scarce. It is also known a dousing, divining, water finding and water dousing. In the 1500’s, Martin Luther, a professor of theology as well as priest, said that dowsing was something that violated his first commandment and since then, many have called it witching.
When a person witches for water, they take two L-shaped twigs, or as Ranger Heather at Warriors Path State Park showed the kids, two metal coat hangers cut into an L-shape, and they hold them loosely over their hands to begin the search. According to tradition, when the person walks near a water source, even if it is far under the ground, the rods (or hangers as was the case with us) will cross over one another to alert the person that water is near. Quite often when people decide to homestead or live far from society, witching for water comes in handy as a way to locate a water source for a home in the wilderness.
It was really neat to see the wires cross on their own when the kids would walk into the shower house or over an area that had underground water lines. The next time we plan a real wilderness trip, we are going to have to take some L-shaped wire with us so we can try our well-witching skills in the wild.
Once they wrapped up the water witching hour, it was time to head back to the campsite and start a fire for dinner before the kids were to take a cane fishing pole trip. We cooked burgers over the fire and relaxed for a few minutes before heading back to the main bath house where Ranger Heather had the kids gather long sticks to make poles from. She held a brief discussion on cane pole fishing and how the Native Americans in the local area used them to catch fish. While the Native Americans used cane poles, the kids today used long sticks and attached fishing line and a hook on the end of their homemade poles. They all seemed to enjoy making a pole to take to the lake and tryout. Just a little note to remember, if you are fishing with kids over the age of 12 in Tennessee, you will all be required to have a fishing license so come prepared when you are planning a trip to the water.
We hiked down a trail about a quarter mile or so from the main campground until we reached a small beach area at the lake. The trail was such a peaceful trail and there were so many beautiful sights to see along the way. Whether it was a large tree with amazing winding roots or wild flowers and plants growing in the brush next to the water, this was an ideal little escape from the sights and sounds of the busy city.
When we reached the water, we spent maybe an hour just before sunset enjoying the scenery of the beautiful lake and listening to the kids as they attempted to catch a fish with their newly made stick poles. No one caught a fish but that definitely did not stop the fun that everyone had at the water.
The boys gave up on catching a fish but they did lure a beautiful box turtle to the shore with a piece of bread. The kids all enjoyed being able to take a turn holding this awesome turtle before releasing her back to the wild where she belongs. It’s a shame to know that all too often when people find something so spectacular in the wild they take the animal home only to cause it to die. When you leave nature, it should remain as if you were never there so the animals can continue living a life in peace.
The Perfect Ending to a Perfect Day
The last day ended with a campfire at the main campground. Ranger Heather Hatcher told several stories that have been around and told for hundreds of years. The tales were about the Native American Indians that once lived in the area as well as funny little stories about bears and hunters and silliness that made everyone laugh. The kids enjoyed hearing the tales but they also enjoyed dancing around the beautiful campfire as we all made noise and banged on homemade instruments as they may have in the “olden” days.
Once we left the campfire and headed back to our own campsite, we were so tired that we skipped lighting our own fire and we just enjoyed drifting off to sleep with the sounds of nature around us in the dark night. This was, by far, the perfect ending to a most perfect day at Warriors.
By the time we broke the tents down on the last morning and got everything packed up in the SUV, we all discussed how great the week had been and quite honestly, we just cannot wait to take our next camping trip.
We Will Definitely Return
As far as Warriors Path State Park goes, this is a great place to take a family camping trip as they have so much to offer on a daily basis. Thanks to the great fun we had at Warriors, we are looking forward to not only returning again but also really wanting to check out other parks in the state to see what others may offer as well. From paddle boats and canoes to swimming, sports, hiking and camping and so much more, there is something for everyone in the beautiful Tennessee State Parks.
Check out Warriors Path State Park
If you are interested in checking out Warriors Path State Park and all that they have to offer families for camping and other outdoor adventure, you can contact them at: 423-239-8531.
You may also be interested in keeping up with them on social media and you can do that by joining them on Facebook.