I Went Camping for the First Time and Here’s What Happened


When you grow up in Northeast Tennessee, it seems like everyone goes camping almost year round. It’s advertised as an event for the whole family to discover some magical camping secret. I am 21-years-old, and I have never gone camping. 

I don’t like being hot, and if I was going to spend time outdoors, I would like to end the day in a hotel room. This all changed last weekend, when I finally agreed to go camping. With it being fall, I figured I wouldn’t get too hot in the Appalachian Mountains of Northeast Tennessee. My friends and I booked a two-night stay at USA Raft Adventure Resort located on the banks of the Nolichucky River in Erwin. 

Day 1

My group checked in on a Thursday. We went to the main office cabin to receive our parking pass and a map of the grounds. Our campsite was beautiful. It was perfectly placed between the Nolichucky River and the new takeout bar. While the sun was still out, I went on a walk around the campsites, explored by the river, and took some photos of the scenery. When the sun went down, we started a campfire. Soon, we were roasting hot dogs, marshmallows, and even made smores! We also tried local craft beer and seltzers from the nearby bar.

USA Raft Adventure Resort can accommodate tents, vans, RVs, pop-campers, and much more. We opted for van camping. Our group turned SUV’s into sleeping quarters by laying down the seats and loading in sleeping bags, pillows, and lots of blankets. Thursday night was an easy sleep since the temperature only dropped to 55 degrees. The van was very comfy and guarded us from the occasional wind. 

Day 2

The next morning, I had to take an online test for ETSU, so I took advantage of the free Wi-FI, and sat in the Salon (common kitchen), since it was drizzling outside. 

As the rain cleared up, we ventured out to walk along the Nolichucky River. A short walk down Jones Branch Road was a small parking area for public access to the river. Because it was fall, the water was cold, but I did manage to dip my toes into the clear rushing water! As for the rest of the night, we created a large fire to keep warm, and ended up meeting several other folks who were camping. The community of the campground was very friendly. Several of the extended stay-ers stopped by to introduce themselves, and many had dogs (on a leash) in need of some extra belly scratches. When the sun set on the second night, the temperatures dropped lower than the previous evening. But this did not stop anyone’s party! The bar was going full force, and Melinie’s Food Truck was on site offering authentic tacos, quesadillas, and fusion hotdogs. 

That night, the van was definitely colder with the temperatures dropping to 34 degrees. 

Several campers, including our group, utilized the sauna for a quick warm up. 

Would I Camp Again?

The next morning, we loaded up the car, checked out, and were on our way home. As our tires rolled past the river and sped onto the highway, I understood what people had told me about finding that magic camping secret. 

Camping is by far not the easiest solution to a few days off. It is, however, a rewarding experience. By “ruffing it” out in nature, you are open to a whole new world. You get to experience nature like never before. You are fully immersed with no distractions of cell phones or social media. For this reason, I would definitely go camping again. While I still prefer the comforts of a hotel room, staying steps away from a natural landmark rewards you with views and experiences that one might miss when they call it a day. 

For me, the best part is not the campfire food or the sleeping bag snuggles, it’s experiencing a view for all its beauty and being out in nature.

About USA Raft Adventure Resort

USA Raft Adventure Resort is a premier full-service adventure company located on the wild and scenic Nolichucky River. They offer world-class rafting on both the Nolichucky and French Broad Rivers, riverside lodging options, caving trips, guided fishing, stand up paddling, tubing, Takeout Bar, and even Onewheel lessons.  


Written by Rebecca Eubanks for Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association.