We managed to sneak away for an overnight camping trip – to the zoo! No, we didn’t “buy the zoo” like the movie (which we love!)…but Chehaw in Albany, Georgia, is a great getaway for the family. The park has a very nice zoo, filled with adorable bobcats, tortoises, lemurs, colobus monkeys, red wolves, a serval, several bison, fat alligators, a rhino, and mearkats, just to name a few favorites. The bobcats topped the list this year, as our daughter’s school mascot is a bobcat, although I thought the mearkats were great as well.
(If you look closely you will find a serval living with the tortoises in the picture below.)
The camping is relaxed and spacious, plenty of open green space for kids to roam and collect dead cicadas shells! There are sites with full hook-ups for rv’ers, as well as several cabins, and plenty of room for tent camping as well.
The playground is one of the best around, and the kids love it. Next to the playground is the start of a disc golf course; we played the first nine holes and then the playground lured the kids back in. Nice course, winding through the pine trees. We encountered a wonderful bat house, well, actually four separate bat houses!
Chehaw just finished a new bat condominium last summer, nicknamed Casa de Luna, for their mexican free-tailed bats. The new house is very large, and there are three other smaller structures nearby. While on the disc golf course we were admiring the houses, and I heard squeaks from one of the smaller houses. There were tell-tale signs of bats, including bat guano, and lots of cute squeaky noises. Resting just outside one house, our daughter spied one bat sunning itself on a chilly morning. It was super cute! We left them in peace to rest up for the next night of mosquito hunting. We love that bats are so great at pest control – I didn’t see a single mosquito while in the park (although the whole park is very, very dry and dusty), even back in the woods! That’s impressive.
Our favorite addition to the park is a new mountain bike trail! We love to bike and were always a bit disappointed that we couldn’t bike off-road at Chehaw. Well now we can, and they have done a great job. There are approximately 8 miles of trail (no maps available), and it is well-marked from 1 – 18. I only saw two or three areas that were not super clear on which way to go, but easily figured out, and there are some bonus signs hinting at upcoming obstacles – – “pedal, pedal, pedal, pedal” was my favorite. I made the hill with no problem; the reason you need the sign is that the trail is zigzagging around and you cannot see the hill in time to get your momentum going unless you know it’s coming. Nice touch by the trail maintenance crew. While we were there we saw at least 10 people grooming the trails – meaning they were actually raking some of the trails to move the pine needles so you could see the trail – amazing really… I have never seen a groomed trail! It is fairly new and we think they must be working to make sure it doesn’t disappear under the leaves and pine needles. I also learned that they have a big race there in several weeks, so trail maintenance was probably in order.
There are some really nice sections in the woods along the river with some hills (sections 9-18), as well as some flat windy sections that are enjoyable with the kids (sections 1-7). We rode 1-7 with our son on his bike and our daughter on a trailer bike, although my husband found several of the turns challenging with the third wheel in tow. We missed section 8 (thankfully) since a trail maintenance person told us there was a yellow jacket problem in that section somewhere, so we detoured.
While winding through the park on the mountain bike trails, you will pass the BMX bicycle track, a section blocked off for bee hives (with signs to stay back), as well as many nice areas to walk and picnic. There is a fireplace in the middle of an open grassy area – don’t know why – but it’s interesting!
We also saw three fox squirrels, all chasing each other around and up a tree. We did not see any deer on this trip, although sometimes we see dozens wondering among the pines at dusk.
We hope to return soon, for some great mountain biking and camping, and we hope to see you there!