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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Pitching tents near campus this spring

With 60 degree days stretching out in front of Madisons population for the foreseeable future, thoughts of actually enjoying Wisconsin's great outdoors are returning to students' thawing brains. 


\It's generally a very pleasant time to go camping,"" said Hoofers Advisor Lee Frazer.  


UW-Madison students are lucky to have multiple camping sites within a few miles of campus and a few university resources to make spring outings a joyful experience. 


Unfortunately for Madison students, City of Madison parks are strictly dawn to dusk, meaning casual camping is restricted to students' backyards. 


""There is no camping allowed on any city parks at all,"" Madison Parks employee Melody Tsutzenreuter said. ""It's probably because it's the city and there's neighborhood around and they don't want people out in the park all night."" 


Dane County Parks Department offers five separate parks available for camping, with the three closest to campus being Babcock, Mendota and Token Creek Park. The Babcock and Mendota campgrounds offer access to Lakes Waubesa and Mendota, respectively, and fill up the fastest, with reservations a must for most weekends. All three parks offer sites with access to electricity, showers and bathrooms. The disc golf park at the Token Creek campground is a nationally renowned course and a bonus for many college campers. 


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But do not expect a relaxing outdoors to come cheap. Dane County campsites cost $20 per night, plus an additional $10 reservation fee. Students can pay $14 a night at Token Creek if they are willing to give up the comfort of electricity. But what is camping if its not about roughing it a little? 


A slightly cheaper option, and arguably much more scenic is driving the hour Northwest to Devil's Lake State Park.  


The park, located just outside of Baraboo, Wis., offers hiking and bike trails, rock climbing and park grounds right off a pristine lake and sandy beaches. 


Though there is no camping right on Devil's Lake, there are three main sites for pitching a tent, ranging from the relatively open Quartzite Campground to the heavily wooded and remote Ice Age Campground. The rates range from $13 a night for a site with electricity to $8 dollars for a non-electric one. There are a limited number of first-come, first-serve sites at the Quartzite campground. However, those fill up quickly, and reservations are recommended up to a few weeks in advance, especially during the peak months in the summer. 


Spring camping requires preparing for many different weather types and Frazer said campers should remember to bring a jacket and hat, even if it is supposed to be warm when they leave for the site, since weather can change quickly. Also a ground sheet, which is a plastic tarp to put underneath the tent, is beneficial to have. 


So what if a student wants to go camping but does not know anyone to go with or does not have  


the equipment? 


The Hoofers' Outing Club and Mountaineering Club are great ways for UW-Madison students and faculty to get involved in camping, hiking and general outdoor activities, according to Frazer. To join the organization, students and faculty should attend the clubs' meetings or go to the Outdoor Program Office in the basement of Memorial Union. 


Fees for the clubs range from $23 to $30, but members get to use all of the clubs' equipment for free on any group trip they take, including such things as rock climbing, kayaking and backpacking. 


If students just want to go camping in small groups the UW-Madison provides equipment for rent, from tents to canoes. These items can be rented at Outdoor Rentals, found on the waterfront, below the Union Theater Deck. A two person, four-by-six foot tent costs $20 for the weekend, while sleeping bags and a propane stove cost $16 each per weekend. 


This is the route Frazer would recommend for most students who just want to randomly campout. 


""If students just want to borrow equipment for their own use, they may be better off going through the outdoor rentals office through the union,"" he said. ""To use most of the equipment through the outing club you have to propose a trip and it's more of a group thing really."" 


With a little help from the university, county and state, all students and faculty have a great opportunity to explore the many different nature experience around UW-Madison. 




















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