BRISTOL, CONN. — Much as I love the great outdoors, I don’t really love down-and-dirty camping. So it was a treat to settle into a one-bedroom cabin (with four walls and indoor plumbing!) at Bear Creek Campground. Our comfortable abode had two double beds, a full kitchen, a spacious bathroom, air conditioning, and a small flat-screen TV.
Meanwhile, just across the way, there was a group of soon-to-be sixth-graders celebrating their graduation from Northeast Elementary School in Stamford, Conn., who do love camping. They were happily ensconced in Bear Creek’s tepees, which provide picturesque but more primitive lodging.
One of the nicest things about Bear Creek Campground on the grounds of Lake Compounce Family Theme Park — besides the fact that the park is just a short walk or tram ride away — is that it accommodates “campers” of all stripes and comfort levels.
Rose Wong and Carla Bautista, mothers of two of the graduates who were chaperoning the girls, said the tepees provided a good middle-ground accommodation — more economical than a hotel and less of a hassle than tents. “It’s a fun camping experience without having to do too much work,” said Bautista. The surprisingly spacious tepees are set on a wood platform and come with cots, a small refrigerator, and a fan. The girls’ number one tip for sleeping in a tepee? Place the cots around the edge, so if it rains no one will get wet when the rain comes in through the opening at the top.
In addition to one- and two-bedroom cabins that sleep up to 10 and tepees that sleep up to five, Bear Creek offers tent sites, RV sites, and “cub huts,” cozy Quonset-like structures that sleep four. “Deluxe” tent sites come with an eight-person preassembled tent, a great option for families who want to try tenting without investing in all the equipment, noted Michael Cordani, campground manager. Those staying in tents, tepees, and cub huts use restrooms and showers attached to the camp store. In cabins and cub huts, sheets and pillows (but not blankets) are provided. And while the cabins have modern kitchens, campers are responsible for bringing their own dishes, cutlery, and cookware.
Every lodging has its own picnic table and fire pit that doubles as a grill, and the smell of wood smoke fills the air.
Cordani said the RV sites are “big-rig friendly,” meaning drivers can pull large RVs through (no backing up) even if they are towing a car. Water, electric, and cable hookups are available, and the whole campground has Wi-Fi. The campground attracts primarily families planning to spend a few days at the theme park, Cordani said, adding that it’s also a convenient stopping place for snow birds making the trek south in the fall.
Handicapped accessibility is a priority for the campground, Cordani said. Several cabins are accessible, and there is an accessible tram running between the campground and the park.
If you are used to camping in wooded areas, the openness of Bear Creek may come as a surprise. Now in its third season, the campground began as an open field, Cordani said. Lake Compounce brought out sewer, water, and electric service, and each year adds new features. This year the flower beds are new. The flip side of the wide open space is that it encourages sharing and getting to know your neighbors. At RV sites across from our cabin, campers gathered in small groups to cook and chat into the early evening.
Despite my best sleuthing, I was never able to find a creek on the property, so I asked Cordani to show me Bear Creek. “There’s no creek,” he admitted, then added with a smile, “And no bears either!”
Bear Creek Campground (lakecompounce.com/bearcreek) is open through October.
Source: Boston Globe