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The Treehouse Camp

Poshbrood doesn’t rough it too much, but Daddy was in the mood for some fall camping (or something close to camping), and an online DC area search yielded, aka Maple Tree Campground, about an hour and a quarter’s drive Northwest of DC.

They don’t officially claim to offer “glamping,” but they basically play the part. 

The campground is an easy walk from the Appalachian Trail, abuts Gathland State Park which boasts an impressive Civil War Correspondents Memorial Arch, and an easy drive south past some cute small towns to very pretty Harpers Ferry, a town we plan to revisit soon due to its natural beautiful surroundings, historic significance and civil war era architecture. 

While the typical 2 night minimum is in place on the weekends, we actually chose to make the trip only one night, departing after Saturday soccer, arriving about 3:30pm. We rented a Tree Cottage. These year round tree houses are insulated, enclosed structures built on stilts, eight to ten feet off the ground with small porches. Four older and four newer cottages are available for reservations.

The older cottages have been recently remodeled and are equipped with two double and two single beds with mattresses. Some of the newer cottages have queen or king sized mattresses. All of the cottages offer an indoor table and chairs / benches and a wood stove (for winter heating and cooking). We stayed in an original tree cottage (pictured below).

The newer ones are “nicer,” but the original ones do have a certain simple, bare wood, I don’t know, sort of a Laura Ingalls kind of feel. The interior of the newer ones actually seemed a little bit Holiday Inn, with white walls and real windows. Still, we are talking about no electricity or running water, so either way you’re roughing it somewhat. Each site has an outdoor fire circle, grill and picnic table. Visitors bring flashlights, lanterns and bedding. (And fixins for s'mores and adult beverages, natch!) 

Maple Tree offers the traditional tent sites for “real” (not Poshbrood) campers, and whether you're in a Tree House, Cottage or tent, you will have to walk to the main office/store area for bathrooms and showers.

Tree Houses are a step closer to real tent camping. They are enclosed but not insulated, have no wooden stoves inside, and the beds/bunks have no mattresses, so it’s bring your own cushion and sleeping bag (unless you are a Thai monk and like to sleep on a straw mat on top of hard wood). Some of the Tree Houses can accommodate large groups, with Boy Scout/Brownie troops often booking multiple adjacent sites. One of the Tree Houses has 3 stories of bunks and could hold maybe 10-15 young adults. How fun! Ask the nice owner Louise for a full description of the sites prior to booking so she can arrange for your needs.

All accommodations offer an outside area with a “fire ring” (stones in a circle where you may build an open fire, good for the marshmallow roasting), and a covered charcoal grill for cooking (bring your own charcoal or buy from on-site store). The store has most provisions you may have forgotten, and they sell firewood (like many campgrounds you are not allowed to bring in your own wood because of possible insect infestation). I was glad we brought an axe to split some of the larger logs, so burning them was a little easier.

The main bathroom area was clean and nicely rustic. (Momma's not a fan of shared commodes and vouches it was very clean!) The showers were similar, and score extra points for being “open air” meaning they are enclosed and can be locked from the inside, but they have no roof which is a nice touch. Our three girls loved this outside shower and it was brisk! 

Coffee is available each morning by 9am at the office – a nice touch.

After exploring and making the beds with the sheets and blankets we had brought, we drove into Harpers Ferry for a quick walk across the scenic Potomac River on the pedestrian portion of the train line, then a bite to eat at local pub The Secret 6 (refers to six historical people of significance surrounding the Civil War). The local beer and burgers hit the spot but this place is really not about the food, it's about the Tavern's view. Stunning panorama over the river and mountains, Mom says the tavern best for a cocktail or snack and not a full meal since it's not going to win any James Beard Awards. After dinner, we returned to our campgrounds for an open fire, s’mores, and early bed.   Sunday was bacon on the fire, coffee, oatmeal, hiking and exploring in the pretty hills, and a return to Harpers Ferry for more sightseeing. The historic town is so charming, you could spend several days walking around exploring the antiquity of the city. 

The only downside to our experience was while the grounds successfully offers a unique camping experience in a pretty setting, there are areas of the grounds that need to be tidied up. It suffers from that “too much stuff just sort of laying around, and I think I’ll cover it with several blue tarps rather than just moving it out of site” mentality. You won't see it unless you poke around, but it's there.

We do plan to return to try out on of the newer Tree Cottages, hopefully in the bitter cold of winter so Daddy can build roaring fires in the wood stove to keep his family cozy and we can do more exploring of Harper's Ferry. 

Don't miss: River Riders for zip line, white water rafting, tubing, kayaking, canoeing, biking and fishing adventures on the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers. Also, hiking The Appalachian Trail which runs behind the Maple Tree Campground. On our way home, we stopped at Mena's Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant in Harper's Ferry and had some delish and economical subs and pizza. Perfect for kids.

Tree Houses start at $43 for four people per night, cottages at $56 a night for four people. 

--Submitted by Posh Daddio, Almus Thorp



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