Nature Walk Wednesday – Going Camping!


When my family moved to Columbus in 2008 and started attending First UU, one of the very first social activities we participated in was the First UU Camping Group.  Julie and I had been camping for many years; occasionally backpacking and roughing it, but now with a 2 year old in tow our tent camping tamed down a bit as we joined with the group to camp at Delaware State Park, East Harbor on Lake Erie and other excursions.  These were our people, we decided.

The UU Camping group (Facebook link) is open to every level of experience and has folks in simple/cheap tents, more dedicated campsite setups from REI/Northface and everything in between.  In recent years, there has been a boom in what are often called ‘tear-drop’ campers, these ultra tiny (tow with any car) all in one campers.  Wherever we’ve gone in recent years, from Ohio/KY state parks to Acadia National Park in Maine, we’ve seen these really grow in popularity.  They seem to combine a love of small and tiny engineering, gadgets, and ‘roughing it’.  Much like a transformer toy of our youth, you will be surprised at what folds out of these units.

Here at First UU, a number of folks have also joined the “tear-drop camper club” and I reached out to ask them and a couple others to share their stories of travels in a small camper.  I hope you enjoy!

AND… if you’re so inspired, contact me if you would like to be on the list for announcements of future group activities!  I know that some day we will be back out there as the First UU Camping Group.  I can already smell the campfire and taste the smores!



RV Life (4 camping stories)


Elaine Fujimura & Tony Skrabak: Our Camper

Our camper is a NuCamp T@G (pronounced like TAG) named Tortug@. She is essentially a bed on wheels with a small kitchen (galley) in the back. The main area is a smaller version of a queen sized mattress with some shelves for clothes, books, phones, etc. There is also a TV which we have unplugged and never watched and an air conditioner which we haven’t needed yet. The side windows open, and the roof vent fan is enough to keep the main area cool. The back of the camper has a hatch that opens to reveal a galley with a tiny sink, two small propane burners for cooking, and a 12 volt cooler for storing food. There is a counter for meal prep and cabinets for storing pans, dishes, and utensils.

This camper works for us. We can pull into a campsite and be set up in minutes, protected from rain or cold. We can carry food for days and cook all our meals from the galley. We don’t have a bathroom or shower, so we use the shared bathrooms at the campgrounds. That means not having to carry or heat a lot of water or dispose of the waste water. We generally set up a tent over the galley to protect from rain or hot sun. The camper weighs right around 1,000 pounds, which can be towed by our Subaru Outback.

Pictures of our Camper and some places we have been

  • T@G Kitchen (galley)


About Elaine & Tony:
Elaine and Tony have been members of First UU since 2003. Elaine has served on the Green Team, Partner Church team, FILA committee, and is an usher. She has coordinated multiple plant-based cooking classes for church members and for the auction. Tony has been a board member, board chair, moderator, and an ex officio member of the Nominating Committee,
Elaine has a background in environmental science and public policy. She has worked for The Nature Conservancy and Ohio Environmental Council and volunteered with FLOW, Sierra Club and Audubon. Her interest in plant-based cooking stems from a desire to promote a healthy, ethical, and sustainable way of living and eating. Tony has a Masters of Computer Science from THE Ohio State University and retired in May 2019 from developing and delivering training on computer topics like databases and programming languages.


Jan & Frank Phillips: Our Teardrop and decision to get a larger trailer

“Little Guy 5 Wide”

We purchased a 2011 “Little Guy 5 Wide” in May of 2017. The 5 Wide Is similar to Tony and Elaine’s T@G, with a queen bed inside, and a galley in the back. To make camping more enjoyable, we added a 2’x4’ folding table, folding chairs, a canopy to cover us while using the galley or dining, and a small tent attached to the canopy for storage, a solar panel to provide power when there is no campground electrical hookup, and a cooler filled with ice to keep foods fresh.



We used and loved this teardrop for three years. Generally, Jan and I and our black Lab Gypsy slept in the trailer, but on the Colorado trip above, we boarded Gypsy, and had the granddaughters sleep in the trailer while Jan and I slept on an inflatable mattress in the small tent.


New camper & floorplan


That experience contributed to our decision to get a larger trailer that would accommodate grands as well as us. So this spring we sold our teardrop trailer and purchased a 26 foot trailer that can sleep 8 people (and the dog). Of course, with the current quarantining, we have yet to use it.

But we have great dreams of life on the road…



Donna & Bob Papps: Our Home Away From Home

About five years ago we decided to purchase a travel trailer. In our mid-sixties we discovered that tent camping and sleeping on the ground, on what we hoped would become yearly winter trips to Florida’s state parks, was no longer fun. For a period of two or three months the trailer needed to be just large enough to provide shelter for two people during chilly nights and provide a comfortable place for cooking, reading, and other activities during periods of cold and rainy weather.

A travel trailer was selected over other types of RV’s because it offered the maximum amount of flexibility and simplicity. The tow vehicle equipped with bicycles, canoe, or hiking shoes turning into the adventure vehicle while the trailer became base camp. Because we were avid tent campers we weren’t sure about the trailer at first so we purchased a used one. We now have a Lance 1995 that is no longer than the first but has more interior room due to a dinette slide-out.

So far it’s been trips to Michigan, out west, and Florida all in the comfort of our own “home”.


  • Home away from home


Florence Jain & Sandy Coen: Life with l’escargot…

Florence & I grew up in families that camped. My family had a pop-up ‘Reliart’ (trailer spelled backwards) camper when I was growing up in Michigan. Over the years we ventured to Yellowstone, the Everglades, New England, and many places in between. Florence’s family were tent campers; they camped around Colorado & the west. With and without our kids, we tent camped for years. At some point, we realized we were not getting out as much. It took a most of a day to get everything together, even for a weekend trip. Being in Ohio, it seemed most trips ended with hanging a wet tent & things to dry in our basement.

In 2015, L’escargot, our Camp Inn teardrop camper, entered our life.. It was made by a small family-run company in Wisconsin. It’s a little smaller than Elaine & Tony’s. But it’s like a two room camper. Inside the queen-sized bed is 6 1/2 ‘ long, and there’s quite a bit of storage for clothes and things. Open the galley in the back and there’s a propane stove, a sink with 8 gallon freshwater and greywater tanks, lights, a spot for our cooler, and two tables that come out & attach to the back. It’s very well thought out. Now, once we have it ready in the spring, we just need food & clothes & we’re off.



  • Algonquin camping, 1960's
Slideshow 1 Notes
  • In Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario in the 1960’s, with my family in our Reliart camper. (me, snacking)
  • Our teardrop being made at Camp Inn. They sent us pictures every week during construction.
  • Assembly time
  • Picking up l’escargot in Wisconsin in December, 2015
  • Christmas 2015!


Starting in spring 2016, we have camped over 70 nights, and driven more than 19,00 miles with l’escargot. We’ve taken two long trips, to California and to the Canadian Rockies, and many shorter trips closer to home. Here are some of our memories.

  • Coffee first!
Slideshow 2 Notes
  • Well, you do have to start and end the day with coffee… (the other three of the Four Food Groups are chocolate, cheese & garlic)
  • Mohican State Park, about 70 miles north of Columbus. There’s a big campground; we like the smaller ‘Class B’ campground, one row of campsites along the river. It has pit toilets, no hook-ups, no big trailers. Malabar Farms State Park is close by; an early proponent for organic farming, and… the mansion there is where Bogart & Becall got married! Interesting tours!
  • Sunset after watching the total eclipse of the sun in 20107. In southern Illinois.
  • Camping on the shore of Lake Erie in Pennsylvania.


From our trip west in 2016.

  • River hike in Zion NP
Slideshow 3 Notes
  • Hiking (wading) the Virgin River Narrows in Zion National Park.
  • Florence on Angel’s Landing in Zion.
  • Our campsite at Zion.
  • Sunrise at Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • A few nights with my brother in Quincy California, before the long drive home. He drives the 1951 Studebacker almost every day.
  • Our last night out…
  • One of the more Karma-like happenings since we started traveling with l’escargot was at a rest stop in Indiana on a trip in 2018. We pulled in next to another couple with a teardrop. Florence and the other woman both had teardrop earrings from the same artist from Kentucky.


Traveling with our teardrop trailer has gotten us back out camping again. We’ve visited 29 National Parks…. so far. Places we’ve visited in the last 40 or so years…


About Florence & Sandy:

Florence & Sandy have been members of First UU Church for 38 years. Florence grew up in the UU church in Denver, Colorado, and was active in Liberal Religious Youth. Did she mention that Denver gets more than 250 sunny days a year? She is retired from the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Sandy grew up in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. His interest in nature and geology comes from many family camping & canoeing trips, and from Mr. Keenan, his eighth grade Earth Science teacher. He is retired from the US Geological Survey.