Coles Creek Campground – Carlyle, Illinois

We took Gidget out for the first time this week.  After having to reschedule a camping trip to Northern Michigan last weekend because of Tiger’s tail injury, we were excited to get out and away!

The Eclipse.


Our main reason for heading out this particular week was to catch the Total Eclipse down in the zone of totality.  A short 8 hours away.  I CANNOT do justice with my mere words to how cool that experience was.  I’ve seen partial eclipses before, but when that moon covers the sun completely, something magical happens.  It’s as close to seeing a unicorn as you can get.   The sky goes dark.  The crickets start chirping – poor confused souls.  But my favorite part was the 360 degree sunset.  A literal sunset all around the horizon – in every direction.  Cue the fairies and unicorns and twinkle lights.

Neil and I spent most of the totality time yelling at each other.  He was unfamiliar with the knowledge that you can take your eclipse sunglasses off during the time when the moon is completely covering the sun.  In fact, you can’t see anything through your glasses at this time.  Nothing.  I was begging him to take them off and witness this amazing halo in the sky.  He was desperate to have me put them back on – afraid I was burning my retinas with every lingering second.  He eventually believed me and looked up.  But let’s just say those were some intense moments.  Our poor kids still aren’t sure what to think.

Then the sun peeks out again and a burst of light comes out.  The birds start singing their morning song – sweet little things.  It’s out of this world.   A total eclipse comes again in 2024.  And you MUST go see it.  Find a zone of totality – but get to the middle of it where you can see the moon covering the sun for a longer period of time.  Ours was less than a minute, and it was over so fast!

The Campground.


I spent HOURS looking for the perfect campground with the perfect campsite.  And by golly, I think I found it.  We were on a corner lot overlooking water.  Facing west – which meant we could watch the sunset from our camper every single night.  Sunsets are way better than sunrises – their timing is much more considerate of a tired mama with three kids.

The Coles Creek Campground is a hidden gem.  If you are ever camping in Southern Illinois, this campground needs to be a destination.  We were at site 22.  Highly recommend it.  Besides the waterfront view and the sunset, the lake is lined with rocks and boulders that my kids loved climbing on and throwing rocks into the water.  My only complaint on site 22 is the lack of shade in the evening hours before the sun goes down.  Our awning on Gidget just wasn’t big enough.

The beach is within walking distance, but also an easy drive around a loop.  The water was warm and felt so good during a hot afternoon.  The kids were shocked at the slimy areas of the bottom – typical of every lake I’ve been in in Illinois.  And they laughed at the warm spots we swam through – imagining fish pee.  They spent awhile building sand castles in the sand and chasing the gulls on the peninsula near the boat dock.  If you have a kayak or boat, bring it.  Also fishing rods.  We could see fish jumping and watch sea gulls dive for dinner.

I drove around to scout out some other great spots – just in case 22 is booked next time we come down.  Sites 81-87 looked great – with the prime spot awards going to sites 85, 86, and 87.  They have less space than we did, but great shade and a BEAUTIFUL view of Carlyle lake – the largest lake in Illinois!  These sites also still have a rock border for the kids to play on.  Sites 120, 122, 125, and 137 were also great lake views with shade.  If I’m remembering right, though – all of these other spots would position your camper so the back is facing the lake.  We were positioned parallel to the lake, so the minute we stepped out our door and looked up, the lake greeted us.  No turning of the neck necessary.

Camping Tips.


Being our first camping trip in Gidget, we learned a lot.  But we also did a lot right!  Here’s what we were SO glad we had with us:

  • Outdoor rug.  Ours was 9’x12′ and made of this really great plastic that was soft on our feet, stayed dry even through a rainstorm, and kept almost all the dirt out of Gidget.
  • Our beloved hammock.  It finally made it’s debut outside after spending the first few weeks of it’s life in my living room.  I definitely didn’t get to lay in this as much as I wanted, but one kid took a nap in here and the times I did spend in it were totally worth it.  The stand is also pretty necessary as there wasn’t a tree to hand the hammock from on our site – nor would I know how to tie it to a tree if there were.  We could pull the hammock to the follow the shade after the campsite thanks to the stand.  The stand also folds up for easy traveling.
  • Garbage can.  There was no garbage can on our site, so this was a lifesaver for all the trash we had.  A collapsable one didn’t end up being necessary – we didn’t fold it back down for the trip home.  Just threw it in the camper.
  • Electric Kettle, Hot Plate, and Cast Iron Skillet.  All used multiple times for cooking and COFFEE.
  • These were an awesome purchase.  They were wireless and we hung them inside the camper so we could turn on a light with a normal light switch and illuminate the inside!  I don’t understand how they work – besides pure magic.  Especially because we lost the remote to the only indoor light and didn’t find it until the last night!
  • Neil’s favorite products that he brought were is 550 Cord, 100 mile an hour tape, and his Sog multi-tool.  I’m pretty sure that’s all he thought we needed.  And I will say – they all came in handy.

What DIDN’T work:

  • The globe lights I bought from Target.  I didn’t think about the fact that they were glass, but our awning ended up blowing over on the first night. Mostly due to our mistake of not setting up the ropes in the right way.  But, a few bulbs broke in the crash.  And then when I tried to plug them in to see if the rest still worked, they flashed and died.
  • I had brought these solar powered lights as a backup.  But they were SO DIM.  I love the fact that they are solar powered, so we might hang them on the back of Gidget for a dull light to show her off all hours of the night.
  • Since I had to make an emergency trip to CVS for monthly products (ya know what I mean?), I luckily happened upon some plastic globe lights for 50% off.  They aren’t as bright as the first pair, but brighter than the solar powered ones.  So, they will do.
  • I need to bring these next time to help me hang them up.  It took some MacGyver skills to get them hung this go around. Speaking of MacGyver… I think my kids would LOVE that show.  Is it streaming online anywhere?

We are driving home and I’m already anxious to get back out camping.  12 more days until our next adventure in Gidget!

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