About Me

My photo
Full-time RVers- Full-time Friends (Married over 20 years, TO EACH OTHER!)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hurricanes, Tornadoes, and Flooding- Are You Prepared?

I have been asked a couple of times recently what I would have done if I was living back on the east coast last week when the hurricane hit.  The answer is always the same: My house has wheels, I would have moved a few hundred miles away and only come back when everything was better.  Ahhh, the advantages of Greendocking.

This has been a crazy summer with many weather related stories.   Tornado outbreaks, the hurricane, the heat and drought conditions that some Americans are facing are all reasons to be thankful that my house can be moved.  It is more than just that though.  I know that I can also survive with no need whatsoever to be hooked up to the grid.  I really feel sorry for the many people who have lost so much already.  By the time the electricity comes back on for these same people, they will have lost much of their food as well. 

For those of you that don't have the advantage of moving your 'house', I would like to suggest that you keep a G.O.O.D bag around.  This GOOD bag stands for "Get out of Dodge".  In the military it is called a bug-out bag.  Wikipedia even has a lot to say about it.  Basically it is a portable 72 hour kit filled with things you would need to have in order to survive in a short term evacuation. 

According to Wikipedia, the suggested contents of a bug-out bag vary, but most of the following are usually included:
  • Enough food and water to last for 72 hours.
  • A first aid kit
  • Fire starting tool (e.g., matches, ferrocerium rod, lighter, etc.)
  • A disaster plan including location of emergency centers, rallying points, possible evacuation routes etc.
  • Professional emergency literature explaining what to do in various types of disaster, studied and understood before the actual disaster but kept for reference
  • Maps and travel information
  • Standard camping equipment, including sanitation supplies
  • Weather appropriate clothing (e.g., poncho, headwear, gloves, etc.)
  • Bedding items such as sleeping bags and blankets
  • Enough medicine to last an extended evacuation period
  • Medical records
  • Pet, child, and elderly care needs]
  • Battery or crank operated Radio.
  • Lighting (battery or crank operated flashlight, glow sticks).
  • Firearms and appropriate ammunition
  • Cash and change, as electronic banking transactions may not be available during the initial period following an emergency or evacuation
  • Positive Identification, such as drivers license, state I.D. card, or social security card
  • Fixed-blade and folding knife
  • Duct Tape and rope/paracord
  • Plastic tarps for shelter and water collection
  • Slingshot, pellet gun, blowgun or other small game hunting equipment
  • Wire for binding and animal traps
I hope that everyone will take the time right now to get these things together in one place.   If you need to get out in a hurry like a flash flood or tornado warning, you probably will not have the time to try and find these things.  Hopefully, your GOOD bag will never be used.  However if you ever find yourself in a situation when you need it,  you will be very grateful that you did have it available.  Happy Trails! 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

If the Ground Around You Is Shaking...

The East Coast just got hit by an extremely rare earthquake a week ago.  I was watching a show on TV last week and they said that an earthquake along the New Madrid fault in Missouri has the potential to be the worst in US history.   I wonder if there is anywhere safe anymore.  I did some research to see what could be expected if something like that happened.  Today's blog will look at what I found.

Again, I want to point out that I am not the kind of guy that will (or even wants to) spend my life worried about things that haven't happened or may never happen.  I love life and I love seeing everything that this earth has to offer.  However, I am also a person that subsribes to the Boy Scout philsophy of "Be Prepared".  The meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.  I want to know what might happen so I can make sure that I am prepared. 

I was reading an article from a government agency in southern California.  http://www.wrd.org/engineering/earthquake-water-recovery-california.php  It dealt with surviving a big earthquake of 7.8.  (A big earthquake...yes, but remember the Japan earthquake was a 9.0, over 30 times stronger than a 7.8)   A panel was asked questions about what infrastructure was in jeopardy (pipelines, water tanks, wells, aqueducts, reservoirs), how the damage would be assessed, how repairs would be conducted, how long water supply outages would occur, and where emergency water supply sources could be obtained. Some of the conclusions were:  (I added the bold facing)
  • Fault movement will likely cause major damage of the infrastructure crossing it, including the main aqueducts bringing water to Southern California from Northern California and the Colorado River. Repairs may be hampered due to damaged roads and large scale-fires.
  • The most severe damage will be closest to the fault, but even in the Los Angeles area there will be damage to pipelines and other infrastructure due to intense shaking. In addition, the Met / LADWP outages from aqueduct damage will impact the local water supply.
  • In the first few days after the quake, there may be no water available due to infrastructure breaks and loss of power. After that, repairs will bring supplies online slowly. Each agency will be busy with their own systems, and repairs may take weeks to 6 months or more. New water pipelines may be in very short supply, as they are not in stock and will need to be manufactured.
  • A "Potable Water Plan" should be devised to describe to the public how to use water during the first few days of the emergency, when treatment plants may be offline. Avoid "Boil Water Orders" because gas lines in homes may be ruptured and people with gas stoves may cause unintended explosions. Instead, a "Purified" or "Bottled" water order should be made to emphasize drinking treated water instead of boiling it.
It is nice to know that someone in our government is at least looking at the possibilities.  However, water is an essential part of living.  You can live up to 3 weeks without food but only about 3 days without water.   Relying on the government to provide bottled water to millions and millions of people for a time frame of 6 months or more would seem unwise.  I can only imagine the rioting that could occur.  Toilets without water can't be much fun either. 

This brings me to the point that I am trying to make regarding greendocking.  We feel like we are ready to deal with this situation because we have a better understanding what can happen.  We live in an RV with a 30 gallon fresh water tank.  We try to keep it full at all times.  In the back of our truck we have a 5 gallon water tank and 5 gallon in our portable solar shower.  We have identified water sources within walking distance and a found a remote mountain spring should we find that we have to move to a safer location  until order is restored.  (Another great thing about having our house on wheels)   We visit this little spring on fun 'greendocking' camping trips.  We talk about what edible plants are available to supplement our food storage supplies.  I look for game trails for trapping and hunting and know how to skin, gut, and cook these animals.   Basically we are all set up to live for a very long period of time. 

I think that I should mention that the recent Virgina earthquake was not a major earthquake.  The Japan earthquake released nearly 30,000 times more energy than that.  However, this east coast earthquake caused some 200 million dollars in damage and could be felt from Canada to Alabama.  If it would have been a 6.8 instead of a 5.8, 30 times more energy would have been released.  The damage would have been much more severe and more widespread. 

I plan to address some of the 'unusual' emergencies which can occur in my next several posts.    Hopefully, just thinking about these possible events will get you better prepared in the unlikely event that something horrible happens in your area.   Practice makes perfect.  Get out and go camping!  Even if nothing out of the ordinary ever occurs, at least your preparation will help you get out in nature and enjoy some time with your family.  I will continue to repeat this message with each new blog that I write.  Happy Trails!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Two Big Reasons to Consider Greendockin'!

For those of you that have been following our blogs, we sincerely hope that you have enjoyed the pictures and commentary of all the fun that we have had.  One of the biggest reasons for traveling across the United States with only our truck was to show everyone just how much fun it could be.  However, there is another important reason why we made the trip.  We needed to see how feasible it was to live in the back of a truck for a long period of time.  You might now be asking yourself why?  Well that is what I want to write about today.

The headlines over the past month have shown time and time again, just how often the unexpected can happen.  A significant earthquake hits the east coast for the first time in over 50 years.  A potentially dangerous hurricane may cause casos on the east coast as far north as New Hampshire!  The largest earthquake to hit Colorado in over 30 years occurred a couple of days ago.  Riots broke out in England.  Egypt and now it appears Libya will come under new governments.  If you wanted to go back a few months before that, Japan gets hit by one of the worst earthquake/tidal wave combinations ever recorded.  Having said all that I want you to know that I am not a wacko trying to predict the end of the world.  However, I do want to point out that I feel more prepared to handle those types of situations now more than ever before.   I attribute it to the lessons that we have learned while Greendocking.

For those of you that may be reading our blog for the first time, let me quickly explain what Greendockin' means.  It is simply the ability to survive off of the grid.  In other words, being able to live in such a way as to not need the main 'conveniences' found in the world.  For electricity, we have a solar generator powered by a 90 watt solar panel.  We have a 5 gallon water tank and a 5 gallon solar shower to help take care of our water needs.  We have a toilet seat that attaches to a 5 gallon bucket for our waste products.   We also use a variety of things to enable us to cook, clean, and even entertain ourselves.  If we currently lived on the east coast in the path of that major hurricane, we could very quickly leave the area with everything we need to survive for quite a few days without spending any money on meals and lodging.   

I guess what I am saying is that beside the obvious advantage of being able have a great time on vacations, the Greendocking system may one day save our lives.  I hope and pray that it will never come to that, but the great thing about it is that we do feel prepared in case it ever happens.  For the next little while, most of our blogs will cover the little items and tricks that we have learned to rely upon in our adventures.  Hopefully as you follow along, you can pick up a few tips along the way.  Best case scenario, you will learn some things to help you get the most out of your vacations.   If the unimaginable happens in a worst case scenario, we hope that you will find yourself better prepared thanks to what we will be sharing with you.  Happy Trails everyone!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Small Town With Big Time Entertainment

How can anyone possibly have a good time when it is 100 degrees F?  Trust me when I say it can be done.  Yesterday, we covered the wonderful little town of Canon City.  The weather made it easy to enjoy all activities since it is found in the cool mountains of Colorado.  Today, we will look at the jewel of the Midwestern states, Branson.  Yes, I understand that the summer months in Missouri are hot and humid.  I am happy to report that it doesn't seem to matter.  There are so many ways to stay cool. 

Inside Silver Dollar City's Marvel Cave near Branson, MO

The first place I want to mention is an amusement park called Silver Dollar City.  There are many great activities to do that all come as part of the price of admission.  Aside from the numerous water rides, one of the best ways to stay cool is to take a tour of Marvel Cave.  The temperature inside is a constant 60 degrees F.  Also, we have always enjoyed going to the Saloon shows, many of which are set inside air-conditioned theaters.  At around 7 pm, the park has a country music show that we really enjoyed.  Again it is included in the cost of admission.  The same company that operates Silver Dollar City also runs a water park.  "Whitewater" is another fantastic way to spend a day.  I really enjoy the Lazy River.  On that 'ride', I simply get to lay on an inter-tube and let the flow of the water drift me around in nice, cool water.  There is no line in which to stand.  You simply walk into the water, find an inter-tube, and you are on your way.   

Sunset on Table Rock Lake near Branson, MO

If you like being in the water, I would suggest that you take a trip to any one of the lakes that are found in the area.  Table Rock, Taneycomo, and Bull Shoals are great places to go fishing, swimming, or boating. 

Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in Branson, Missouri
You will not be disappointed in the number of shows that you have to chose from in Branson.  It is known for its ties to country music, but there are a variety of other shows as well.  Besides country music you will find gospel, comedy, magic, museums, and acrobats.  You really could spend a month there and not come close to seeing all the shows that are available.

There are two more attractions that I think bear mentioning.  There is a relatively new shopping district in the old historic downtown area of Branson.  It is called Branson Landing.  There you will find shops, dining, and you can listen to live music in a series of concerts from April to October.  The final place that is worth mentioning is the IMAX movie theater.  We always try to take in at least one movie each time that we go on their 6 story tall movie screen.  Every time I go, I feel like I am actually in the scenes of the movie that I am watching.   It is a great experience if you haven't been. 

We have had a wonderful summer.  Today was our first day back at work, so the blogs may not come quite as often as they have been.  One of the reasons why we have enjoyed doing it, is because of the love that we have for this life-style.  We have wanted to show everyone just how much fun it is to live in an RV.  (or even smaller vehicles like our truck).  The next series of posts will be a bit more serious in nature as we discuss the many of the advantages of living a simpler life.  Happy Trails to everyone! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two Small Towns With Big Fun That You Will Want to Visit (Part 1)

My wife and I had some great times this summer as we had the opportunity to explore many new places where we had never been before.   We are both teachers so we had the entire summer to head out in our truck and take in much of what America was to offer.  However, we realize that not everyone finds themselves in that ideal situation.  Sometimes families have only a week (or less) to spend on a holiday.  In today's and tomorrow's blog we want to highlight a couple of small towns where we think you could easily spend a week's worth of time and never be bored.

The first one I want to mention is Canon City, Colorado.  We had some friends recommend that we check it out.  We were not disappointed!  The primary draw to the area is the Royal Gorge bridge.  It is located only about 10 miles away from the edge of town.  At the bridge you will find a small amusement park complete with rides, shows, food, and music, not to mention some of the most incredible scenery in the entire nation.  Remember that if you get there early, (we went before 9 a.m.) you can get in for 25% off.  We paid $18 a piece.   Your admission gets you on nearly every ride, and access to all shows for no additional charge.  Here is the link to their website:  http://royalgorgebridge.com/ .

View from the Royal Gorge park near Canon City, CO

As you drive toward the Royal Gorge, you will notice a bunch of river rafting companies.  We chose a half-day package for $49 per person.  It was a lot of fun and I consider it one of the highlights of the entire summer.  We took the Big Horn Canyon trip which gave us about 1.5 hours on the water.  We went through a couple of class III rapids, but during the calmer sections of the river we took the time to check out the beautiful mountains.   Next time we go, we will definitely take the Royal Gorge trip.  The rapids are more intense (class IV-V) but the views in that canyon I'm sure will be breathtaking. 

View of the Royal Gorge Route train and river rafters at the bottom of the Incline Railway at the Royal Gorge in CO

We only stayed here a couple of nights so we didn't get the chance to experience everything that this area has to offer.  For instance, there are a couple of scenic train rides that one can enjoy in the area.  One is called the Royal Gorge Route railroad.  It costs about $40 per person.  We did not take it, but it does look like a pretty neat adventure especially for those of you that like trains.  Another one which is about 2 miles from the entrance to the Royal Gorge park, is a 'miniature', open-aired train that I believe runs about $12 a person.  In addition to this, in the town of Canon City you will find museums, an old historic downtown section, and plenty of places to eat. 

View of the sunset from our campground near the Royal Gorge in Colorado

If you don't want to spend a fortune on lodging and you like to camp, I would suggest that you use the Royal Gorge campground just a couple of miles from the entrance to the park.  It is a FREE campground that the City of Canon City operates.  However,  I believe that they ask that you do not occupy the spot over 72 hours.   We loved this campground!  We did a review of the campground in our August 19, 2011 blog.  For those of you that just enjoy being in the outdoors, there are plenty of hiking trails, or you might want to try fishing in the Arkansas River.   Another free thing to do is take a road called Skyline Drive.  It is a paved one way road going up the side of a mountain that our river rafting guide said offers some beautiful views  of the surrounding area.  Caution:  If you are afraid of heights, or don't like driving close to cliffs then this may not be the scenic trip for you.  A dear friend of mine told us that she spent the entire drive with her head in the back seat.  This was especially sad since she was sitting in the passenger side of the front seat.  Her husband really seemed to enjoy it.  I am not sure though if it was because of the scenery or the funny position that his wife maintained!

Needless to say no matter what your budget may be, you will be able to find something to do in Canon City.  (My gosh, their Chamber of Commerce should really pay me for this...haha) Tomorrow we will talk about our other small town favorite.  Until then, Happy Trails!

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Great New Place to Boondock

After spending an entire summer on the road exploring new sites, sounds, and smells, we found ourselves getting a little restless. After all, we have stayed in same spot for over a week now.  Late Saturday night we decided it was time to get up in the mountains again to cool off.  We had been told about a wonderful 'green' community about a half an hour from our new home.  We decided then that it was a great time to go check it out. 

View of one of the ponds at Calf Creek, NV taken with my cell phone camera

The area is called Cold Creek and it is about 25 miles to the southeast of Indian Springs, Nevada.  As we drew closer to the mountains, we started seeing signs which warned of the wild horses that are found in the area.  It seems that they are very use to being around humans and often graze on their lawns.  As we drove through the community we noticed that nearly all the houses were powered with solar energy.  There are no electric lines leading to this place.  According to a forest service worker that we met while camping, all the houses are either powered by solar energy or gas generators or a combination of the two.  The real draw for the rest of us that don't live up there, is the fast moving stream called Cold Creek.  It has actually been dammed in 3 spots to create three ponds.  The bottom one is stocked by the forestry department with trout.  I should mention that to get to the bottom pond we had to go 1/4 mile down a very rough road.  Having said that we did see a few RV's that had braved the road to get down there to set up camp.  We were not able to fish at that pond because the forest service was using the lake to scoop up water in large buckets carried by helicopters.  We were told that there was a small fire in a nearby canyon, and the pond was easily the largest water source in the area. 

Rv'ers at Cold Creek, Nevada

Evidently, there are a lot of people who take their ATV's up there as well, as we heard quite a few of them roaming around in the early nighttime hours.  For those of you that are into that kind of thing, there are ample trails to explore in that area. 

There was no fee to stay up there.  There are no amenities at all, so bring all your own supplies as there were no fire pits and no restrooms.  That is to say that there is nothing but cooler temperatures and plenty of scenic mountains.  We had a great time, and can't wait to get back.  Happy Trails!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Top 3 "Pay a Fee" Campgrounds of the Summer

Dean  (the husband)
Shalane  (the wife  :O)

I sometimes wish that I had video of some of the discussions that my wife and I have as we talk about our blogs.  Today, as we identify the top 3 "Fee" campgrounds, you will see that we don't always agree on everything.  We had to create a tie for 2nd place, because no matter how we tried to break the tie, we just couldn't convince the other of the merits of our own pick.  A tie for second is the best we could do.  :o)   We do hope that you enjoy our reviews of these campgrounds starting with the tie.
Cave Lake State Park near Ely, Nevada - Elk Flat Campground

Cave Lake State Park near Ely, Nevada - Elk Flat campground
Dean fishin' at Cave Lake State Park, near Ely, Nevada

Cave Lake State Park, near Ely, Nevada
Cave Lake State Park, near Ely, Nevada
Cave Lake State Park, near Ely, Nevada
Cave Lake State Park, near Ely, Nevada
Individual bathrooms and showers with cedar doors at Elk Flat. Very nice.  :O)

TIE 2)  Cave Lake State Park is just a few miles to the southeast of Ely, NV.  ($17 or $15 for NV residents)  This is my wife's choice for second.  It is a photographers dream.  I have over a hundred pictures of this state park.  Don't get me wrong, I really like it.  In fact, we have made a point of staying there each summer.  It is at a high elevation of over 7000 feet.  The summer temperatures are very pleasant.  The state park has two campgrounds.  One of these Lake View Campground, is directly across from Cave Lake, and the other, Elk Flat Campground, is a couple of miles from the water.  I have always wanted to stay at Lake View, but, as you might imagine, it is almost always full.  Elk View, where we stayed is not a bad alternative.  Each site is nestled into some evergreen trees.  There are water spigots scattered around the campground.  There is no electric or sewer hookups, but here is a dump station at the enterance to the campground.  I think one of the things that my wife likes best about this place is their restrooms.  lol I even took a picture of them. They are very clean and smell wonderful because of the cedar walls.  And because they're actual flush toilets! Ok, now I'm going to have to go back up and post a picture of the bathroom. :O)  We also like the 'green' aspect of the park.  I believe they use solar power for everything including the water heaters and lights. Beautiful mountains surround you on all sides.  We really have enjoyed both opportunities we've had to camp there. There's so much of the park that we haven't seen.  As a matter of fact, there a lot of the park that I have seen and Dean hasn't.  When we went last summer, I let him fish while I went hiking and wore out my camera.  It was so beautiful, and the photo ops were endless.
Table Rock Lake State Park in Branson, Missouri
Table Rock Lake State Park in Branson, Missouri
TIE 2)  Table Rock Lake State Park is a few miles east of Branson, MO. ($21. per night-electric only)  This is my choice for second place.  It might be because I feel bad that all campgrounds that we've put on our lists have been in the mountains of Nevada, Colorado, or Utah.  Maybe it is because of nostaglia.  I grew up just 3 hours from there and have enjoyed many wonderful vacations in the Branson area.  I feel the same way.  I also grew up not far from Branson and spent MANY weekends at various Missouri state parks.  I LOVE Missouri, but NOT in the summer!  Personally, I think it's because it is in a beautiful location.  The campsite that we occupied was surrounded by tall shade trees.  Through our back window we could see the rather large lake covered on all sides by a forest.  The park has sites with some, all, or no hookups.  We desperately needed air conditioning, so we reserved an 'electric only' spot.  We stayed three nights, because there was so much we wanted to do in the area.  My wife loves Branson and I really think that she liked the campground.  However, her biggest complaint was about the shower house/restrooms.  Branson gets a lot of precipitation.  We saw more bugs in the restrooms in those three days, than all the other restrooms we were in the entire summer.  Okay, I am exaggerating a little, (No he's not!) but Shalane would probably tell you that it was the truth.  Yes, I would.  She is not a big fan of bugs in an area where she is trying to clean herself.  Hmm.  Interesting way to put that, Babe.  Overall though, I would highly recommend it for those of you looking to set up a base camp so you can go explore all that Branson has to offer. I would HIGHLY recommend Branson, in general, but you could probably find a better place to stay.  I did like some things about this park.  I liked the view from our site, the easy access sites and the many trees.  However, in the three days we were there, the bathrooms were only cleaned once.  Hopefully the cleaning lady was just on vacation, and it's normally much better.

Bird Creek, near Ely, Nevada
The clear water creek runs right through the camp sites.  Bird Creek Recreation Area is located in Duck Creek Basin approximately 25 miles from Ely, Nevada

There's a nice group site on the other side of these bridges.  Bird Creek Recreation Area is located in Duck Creek Basin approximately 25 miles from Ely, Nevada

Bird Creek Recreation Area is located in Duck Creek Basin approximately 25 miles from Ely, Nevada

Dean attempts to start a fire with the damp wood after a nice rain shower.  It was eventually a success!  Bird Creek Recreation Area is located in Duck Creek Basin approximately 25 miles from Ely, Nevada
The storm provided some beautiful colors.  Bird Creek Recreation Area is located in Duck Creek Basin approximately 25 miles from Ely, Nevada

It also made for a gorgeous sunset.  Bird Creek Recreation Area is located in Duck Creek Basin approximately 25 miles from Ely, Nevada

1)  Bird Creek Campground is north of Ely, Nevada in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest- for better directions see our blog on 7/6/11. ($7.00!) Okay, so we had a difficult time deciding which of the above campgrounds should be ranked second.  However, we had no trouble agreeing on our favorite spot.  We accidentily discovered this campground on our way back from Idaho.  We were actually heading to Duck Creek in Nevada (not Utah), when we saw a sign that mentioned Bird Creek.  We decided to go check it out and were excited by what we found.  After going up a moderately rough road, we came to what we believed to be a picnic area.  Upon closer examination, we realized that the national forest service had converted it into a campground.  We found a spot close to a rapid little stream coming down the mountain.  There were trees everywhere.  It smelled AMAZING! I think that the thing that we enjoyed best though was watching the rain come down off the mountain.  By the time, it made its way to us it was a good old fashion thunderstorm.   For those of you reading our blog east of the Rockies, you may be wondering why this would be considered one of the 'best things.'  You see thunderstorms all the time.  However, out west it is a treat to be able to see so much water falling from the skies.  During the storm, I remember looking up to see two deer scurring across the mountain.   There are few things better on this earth than the smell of a pine tree forest after a rain.  Just writing about it, puts a smile on my face.  There really isn't too much to this campground.  There was one pit toilet in the center of the campground, a fire pit at each site and there were a few water spigots around the area.   However, the sights, sounds, and smells that we experienced there I would put up against the best RV parks in the USA.   Even the food that we ate that night somehow tasted better.  It was awesome!  We can't wait to go back again one day.  It's hard to tell, but I think that maybe our own experience as a married couple probably influenced this decision more that the actual campground itself.  I mean, it's kind of hard to be objective.  Dean and I LOVE rain, we love seclusion, the smell of pine, and clear running streams.  We felt almost childlike when we were here.  We cuddled in the back of the truck and watch the rain, then worked nearly an hour to start a fire with the soaked wood.  We had the most delicious chili for dinner that  we had cooked over the open fire, and were giddy the whole time.  For us, it was just a GREAT day.  Objectively, was it the best campground of the summer? Would our readers judge it as such?  Well, I don't know.  All I know is that this little spot holds an amazing memory for us, so it gets the number one spot!

I hope that one day soon, many of you will have the chance to visit one or more of these campgrounds.  As we continue our adventures we will keep on posting reviews of campgrounds that we think you might enjoy.  Last night, we stayed at a cool free campground near our home.  Maybe that will be our next blog.  Happy Trails!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Favorite 'Pay a Fee' Campsites of the Summer

Dean  (the husband)
Shalane  (the wife  :O)

What is it about a campground that would possibly make us want to pay for a site?  For those of you that follow our blog, you know that we prefer to travel by finding one free campsite after another.  In fact, we traveled all the way from Nevada to Kansas, stayed overnight in four different locations, and spent a total of $7 in lodging.  On the way back from Kansas to Nevada we stayed in five different locations and spent a total of $15.  As you can see, we make a point of boondocking  (also known as dry camping or wild camping) as often as we could.  Basically, it means that we try to find free primitive places to camp without hooking up to any electricity, water, or sewer.  In our most recent trip, there was one main reason why we paid for a site and it was TO STAY COOL!  There are other factors that we consider, but for the most part, it seems as if keeping cool almost always has a part in it. 

In recent blogs, I released the best free campsites that we stayed in this summer.  I made the list using my own personal preference.  With the list today, my wife and I each jotted down our favorites and then tallied the results to set up our top 6.  Today we will look at those that we ranked as 6th, 5th, and 4th.  Again, we will start with the 6th spot and countdown from there.

Cookies baking in our solar oven at our site at Beaver Dam State Park in NV

6)  Beaver Dam State Park- ($17.00 - $15. for NV residents)  Go a few miles north of Caliente, NV on US Hwy 93 & then get on a gravel road and go east 28 miles.  By the way, any time you're in Caliente, eat at J&J's.  They have a huge menu, good food and great chocolate marshmallow shakes.  :O)  Beaver Dam is one of the hardest places to get to.  Having said that, in all likelihood if you can get there, you may find that you're the only ones there and have the entire park to yourselves.  I'm not even sure the park ranger spends much time out there. There's no dam at Beaver Dam any more.  There are no hookups.  You will find some water spigots and a few outhouses scattered around the campground.  Also, there is ample firewood available for a small 'donation.'  We do like the feeling of being "out in the middle of nowhere," and this certainly qualifies.  You might want to consider taking a few hikes while you're there.  We have gone on a couple of the trails and we weren't disappointed. There is a small stream that works it's way through the park.  We haven't fished there yet, but have heard others that have had success fly fishing.  Note: Don't let the warm afternoon temperatures trick you into thinking it will stay that way at night.  IT WON'T! Be prepared for cold!  The mornings call for hot Tang or cocoa and a roaring fire.

Our campsite at Eagle Valley RV Resort near Spring Valley State Park (Ursine, NV)

Eagle Valley Resort, 15 miles east of Pioche, Nevada.

5)  Eagle Valley RV Resort- ( About $20 per night/ $200 per month) Eagle Valley is in the town of Ursine, NV.  We actually spent an entire month here.  It is tucked right up against the scenic mountains in the area.  It has full hookups.  It is only about 4 miles from one of our favorite fishing lakes in Lincoln County.   It has a snack store, a few slot machines, a very small grocery store, showers, restrooms, a laundry mat, and free wifi (if it's working) in the main office area.  As school ended, we were excited to get out of the heat of Las Vegas and to get up there and be in the mountains for awhile.  We probably would have liked it better had the promise of free wifi actually panned out.  It worked for the first week but the rest of the time there was absolutely no access to the web.   The campsites themselves are VERY close together.  The awning on the RV next to us came within inches of our slide-out.  The basic concept of this rustic 'resort' I like.  However, due to our blog (and the lack of reliable internet) it is highly unlikely that we will stay here long term again.  Due to it's remote location, the nearest free wifi is eighteen miles away.   Location, location, location.  I actually like Beaver Dam campground better, but Eagle Valley is close to a lot of great fishing, beautiful mountain hikes, the wonderful town of Pioche, NV and has all the amenities.  The people here are friendly, and our overall experience was very positive.

Calf Creek Campground near the Grand Staircase- 15 miles east of Escalante, UT

4)  Calf Creek Campground- ($7.00!)  Calf Creek is 15 miles east of Escalante, UT on Hwy 12 near the Grand Staircase.  This was one of the few campgrounds that we paid for.  Not because we needed an electric hookup to stay cool, this one we just kind of stumbled upon.  It was in a beautiful red rock canyon with a little creek running through it.  It really was a pretty place.  There was a restroom, fire pits at each site, a little swimming hole provided by a clear water stream, and plenty of trees.  It was a welcomed stop after a long day of travel.  Large RV's might have a difficult time with the small roads.  However, we did see a few large trailers there.  Another plus was that it only cost us $7 to stay there.  I really had a hard time leaving it.  There was a four mile trail that led to a waterfall that I would have loved to have taken.  Since it was our first stop in our journey to the Midwest, we felt compelled to drive instead of hike.  It was a GREAT and inexpensive little campground.  

Tomorrow we will finish the top 3 spots.  Until then, HAPPY TRAILS!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Top 3 Free Camping Spots This Summer

Dean  (the husband)
Shalane  (the wife  :O)

First of all, I need to point out that my favorite free campsites this summer do not necessarily match those of my better half.  :O)  Those of you that read the comments that she added to yesterday's post probably figured that out on your own.  Anyhow, I was only able to do a review on spots 6 through 4 yesterday.  Today will will examine the top three in reverse order.
Campsite in the San Juan National Forest near Durango, Colorado

 3)  Cherry Creek Road, a few miles west of Durango, Colorado on Hwy 160 in the San Juan National Forest.  Sometimes while looking for a place to camp, you just get lucky.  We stopped in at a pleasant little national forest campground near Cherry Creek Road.  We talked with the campground host and mentioned that we liked to boondock.  They told us about Cherry Creek and just how close we were to getting there.   Don't let the initial 100 feet of road scare you on this one.  It was in bad shape and at a steep grade.  At the top of the little hill there is a sharp turn to the left that opens into a large meadow.  We drove to the far corner and set up camp.  Although we could still hear the sounds from the highway below, the traffic lessens greatly after 9 pm.  No amenities could be found in this area.  There was just the beauty of the forest.  It was a great isolated spot.  

Campground near the Royal Gorge in Canon City, Colorado
Campground near the Royal Gorge near Canon City, CO

View from our campsite near the Royal Gorge
2)  Royal Gorge Campground, a couple of miles east of the actual Royal Gorge Bridge.   This campground is actually operated by the City of Canon City, Colorado.  It isn't a very easy place to find.  However, it's worth it when you do.  The best directions that I could give you would be to go from Canon City to the road that leads to the Gorge.  Once on that road, continue driving up the hill until you find a small, open-aired scenic train ride. After you reach that attraction, drive on until you reach a gravel road on the left.  Once on the gravel, do not take a left at that first fork.  After that fork, always take a left and it will take you to the campground.  You will find fire pits at each of the campsites and there is one poor smelling outhouse.  There were several good sized motor homes and travel trailers, so the road up to the campground is not too bad.    We actually liked this one so much that we stayed here for three days.  I LOVED this campground!

Navajo Lake is near Deer Valley east of Cedar City, Utah

Campsite at Deer Valley near Navajo Lake and Duck Creek, near Cedar City, Utah.
Meadow across from our campsite where the deer were grazing at dawn.

1)  Deer Valley, near Navajo Lake in the Dixie National Forest- 20+ miles east of Cedar City, Utah on Hwy 14.  What can I say about perfection.  This campground had everything I look for in a campground. We got here on an August afternoon and the temperature in the lower elevations in Utah was 90+ degrees F.  This campground is at an elevation of about 9500 feet.  There was a pleasant chill in the air.  There were no restrooms and no metal fire pits.  However, there was a large, stone made fire pit and lots & lots of wood for the fire.  We started the fire almost as soon as we got there because of the cool air.  In fact, it was the first thing I did when I got up in the morning because it was so cold that I could see my breath.  Across from the campsite was a large open meadow in which deer came down to graze early in the morning.  I really could have stayed here a few more nights.  A great fishing spot called Navajo Lake is just down the road from the campground. There are also plenty of places to hike.  The only complaint about the time spent here had nothing to do this the campsite.  At a neighboring site, there was a travel trailer with a loud gas generator.  Evidently he didn't get the memo about NOT running these things into the late night hours.  I honestly think that the noise kept the deer from coming into the meadow at dusk. By morning, however, his generator was off, and the deer were basking in the early morning sum. It was a great site!  The air was saturated with the smell of pine, aspen, campfires, early morning rain and wildflowers.  The whole world should smell like this!

We also spent some time in some campgrounds where we had to pay a fee.  We will talk about our favorites in this category in our next blog.  Happy Trails!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Top 6 Favorite Free Campsites of the Summer

View from Rabbit Valley Campground
Exactly what goes into determining what makes a good free boondocking campsite?  Is it the scenry, the remoteness, the amenities, or the weather?  Is it a combination of several things?  I really don't know, but I know a good campsite when I see it.

In reserve order, here are the top 6:
Actual campsite at Rabbit Valley
6.  Rabbit Valley Campground (BLM land off exit 2 on I-70 near Grand Junction, Colorado)  This campsite made the top 6 for one main reason, solitude.  Although we could see the interstate in the background, a little over a mile away, we couldn't hear it, and we were the only ones there.  We could only see the highway if we peaked around the side of the rocks, and it could not be seen from most of the sites. There is another free dispersed camping area near the exit, that is used much more often. Though Rabbit Valley did offer an outhouse and fire pits.  The outhouse hadn't been drained in a very long time, so the smell was a little overwhelming, and the day we were there it was hot, so a fire was not needed. Also, it's in the high desert, so firewood would be hard to find.  However, I will always remember the feeling of being by ourselves, isolated from civilization.  There was a nice scenic dry canyon just a short hike away.  The chipmunks were everywhere.  I'm not sure why they didn't name it Chipmunk Valley!  Note: We almost went to site closer to the river.  However, another 1/4 mile down the road it gets extremely rough.  I didn't feel comfortable taking our dually truck down it if that tells you anything. 

Entrance to Meadow Valley Campground, near Spring Valley State Park
Actual campsite at Meadow Valley
5. Meadow Valley Campground (BLM campground about 1 1/2 miles south of Spring Valley State Park near Ursine, Nevada.)  This campsite was set in a beautiful canyon.  There campground has about 4 or 5 sites and one pit toilet.  I didn't use it, so I can't attest to its condition.  There are also fire pits and picnic tables at each site.  Long trailers and/or motor homes are not advised to try this area.  It's tight quarters.   Having said that, I have seen travel trailers there, but it probably wasn't easy to get in.  It is only a short distance to some good trout fishing at the state park.  It can get a little windy at times, as the wind can really whip thru the narrow canyon.  However, we really enjoyed our time at this spot.  I loved it here!  It smelled like pine, it was well kept, the sites were large with a lot of trees and available firwood, and I like the bonus of a picnic table when I'm boondocking.  It's hard to beleive that these places are FREE!  :O)
Campsite near Salida, CO
4.  BLM campground 2 miles east of Salida, Colorado-  To be honest, this might have been picked even higher on the list, but by the time we got there the best campsites were already taken.  In a free campground there are no reservations.  The site that we picked was just a few feet from the Arkansas River.  As we slept that night, all that we could hear was the sound of the water rushing over the rocks and boulders in the stream.  There were several fire pits located throughout the area.  I remember getting up early to start a fire to make some hot chocolate. Near the boat ramp, the BLM built the best smelling pit toilet I had ever been in.  It actually smelled like flowers!  I don't know how, but it did!  While at the campground, we met three people who had stopped by our camp to ask about our solar panel.  It was wonderful to share stories with them.  It really was a great place to camp.  At the Chamber of Commerce's visitor center in Salida we were able to fill up with water, and the town had a Wal-Mart so we could stock up on some much needed supplies.  As I said, the site we selected was a good site, but we think that there are even better ones.  Ok, I get the whole river thing, but, overall, I don't know if this one would have made my top 6 at all.  I was surprised when I saw that Dean put it in here.  Easy access to the beautifull river was nice, and he's right about the restroom, but I don't think I would purposely seek out this campground.  The sites were small and undefined, and we were only a few yards from the highway.
Arkansas River near Salida, CO
We'll reveal the top three in tomorrow's post.  Happy Trails!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Favorite Pictures of the Summer

View from our campsite at Table Rock State Park near Branson, Missouri
At the bottom of the Incline Railroad (rafters on the Arkansas River) at the Royal Gorge in Colorado
View from our tram ride on Monarch Pass in Colorado (Monarch Ski Area is in the background)
Waterfall near Loveland Pass in Colorado

Capital Reef Nat'l Park in Utah
Glen Canyon Nat'l Rec. Area in Utah

Natural tunnel in Red Canyon near Bryce Canyon NP
Arkansas River near Canon City, CO