Tiger's Travels part. 2
Doris e Al Monaco ci hanno spedito questo racconto, il più lungo di tutti quelli ospitati da Vagabondo (abbiamo dovuto dividerlo in due parti!). noi abbiamo deciso che meritava un posto di rilievo visto le numerosissime informazioni utili per chi viaggia col camper e/o con animali. Il racconto è solo in inglese.
Tiger's Travels - Chapter 4
We started heading out west by making a few stops in Tennessee first. We like to meander on county roads. On our trip there we had planned on going farther north of Big South Fork National Recreation Area, but Hurricane Opal changed our plans. We heard reports of heavy rains and flooding in that area of the state. Never go into an area when weather advisories tell you to stay away. Flash floods can quickly strand and have sometimes killed campers unaware of the dangers of floodwaters. When the weather turns bad and you can't avoid an area, stay close to interstate highways and don't take the smaller, country roads, even if you prefer them. Many may not be highly elevated or graded and are more isolated from emergency assistance in floods.
Centerhill Dam is located on off I-40 at exit #258, or the Center Hill exit. Go 6 miles south on TN 141. The sites have electric and water hookups and there is a dump station on the way out. The sites were very level and located near the river. There is a large area for dogs to run and play. Picnic tables, fire rings, and grilles were well kept and it was a very comfortable campground. This campground was called the Long Branch Campground, one of several in the area Natchez Trace State Park is near I-40 at exit #116. If you arrive before 4pm the Visitor's Center will be open and you can get information about the park and the campgrounds. We stayed at Campground #1 at Cub Lake. A ranger visit's your site to collect the dues. All of the sites have electric and water hookups. We chose site #23. It had a nice fireplace and a picnic table. The site was in the middle of a wooded area near trails and a footbridge across the lake. There is also plenty of room for dogs to run and get exercise.
Arkansas was our next state to stop in. We first stayed in Russellville on I-40 at Lake Dardanelle,a campground which is run by the US Army Corp of Engineers. You will almost never have a problem getting a site on a Sunday, when the weekend campers leave. If you arrive on a Friday or Saturday, you may want to plan on arriving early. The campground is called Old Post Road Park and has electric and water hookups. It was a great place for Tiger to run and roll in the grass. You can watch the boats on the river or walk up to the observation area on the dam. This campground received 2 paws from Tiger (a good to excellent rating).
We followed what are usual setup procedures of securing our campsite and placed an occupied sign on it, then we drove into town to inquire about church services. Sometimes you can find an interesting church or community- function and enjoy the fellowship of new friends. It is almost axiomatic, the more rural the church, the warmer the greetings and the more frequent are the barbecues and social events. In some areas the VFW and American Legion have dances and inexpensive dinners on Friday and Saturday evenings. I recall when we were in British Columbia we stopped at the Royal Canadian Legion. I asked if I could buy a drink using my American Legion membership. The bartender answered "Not the first one, buddy! The first one is on us." Some posts will invite you to camp overnight in their parking lot, running out an electric line to you. If you are a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and are near a meeting hall, you will usually find a warm welcome for visitors. The same is true of fraternal organizations and other clubs.
Our next stop was in the Ozark's near McNut's RV Park. The sites had full hookups and were very clean. We went for a walk around town and found a nice laundromat to catch up on some wash. Parking for the RV was not a problem since most of the residents own pickup trucks and utility vehicles. There is plenty of parking spaces around the Town square. We traded some used books at a small bookstore and scouted around some of the antique shops.
We made one stop in Oklahoma near the Texas border on SR 73. The campground, called Foss Lake is located in Foss Lake State Park. It is north of the town of Foss. This was an excellent campground with full hookups. There is plenty of room for the dog to run and play, but I would advise you to keep him or her out of the water. The ground is red clay and tends to stick and get muddy. There is a nice reservoir lake for relaxing and enjoying the day.
We also made a stop in Canyon, Texas. From US 87, go east 12.4 miles, to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. This campground also has full hookups, but it is more expensive then most. The canyon has some interesting scenic views. In June, July, and August you can purchase tickets to see a performance of "Texas" at the amphitheater. The show starts at 8pm and for an additional charge you can attend a barbecue that begins at 6pm. The finale is quite impressive, in the open-air theatre.
The southwest has a lot to offer. We don't spend as much time as we should here because we enjoy the Northwest so much, and are concerned about keeping Tiger away from areas with cactus and sand spurs in the wilderness. In New Mexico, on I-40 4 exits west of Santa Rosa, if you go north on US84 to Las Vegas and SR 518 north toward the Santa Fe National Forest area you will find Storrie Lake State Park. The campground has a big lake with a large field for your dog to run in. The sites have full hookups. It is near Taos, where you can visit a Pueblo Village and the bridge over the Chasm of Rio Grande. There is a small town called Las Vegas, New Mexico that is a nice stop. We enjoyed the old adobe buildings and the frontier type cattle country; and Santa Fe provides shopping and also points of historical interest, close by.
Santa Fe is located on I-25. We stopped at the Visitor's Center and they gave us directions to a municipal parking lot. To get there exit I-25 at US 84-285 north. After SR 14 you will take Paseo de Paeralta to Alemeda. Turn left and you will see the municipal park right before Cathedral Place. The parking lot is behind the Cathedral. The lot is walled in and patrolled by police. Overnight parking was only $10.00 and generator use is permitted. There were several tour buses when we were there. The lot is located in the middle of downtown and we could walk with Tiger on a leash or easily and quickly bring him back to the RV when we needed to. There were, of course, no hookups, but it's nice having your own hotel room in the center of town. Old Santa Fe and the Cathedral are nice touring places and there are plenty of good restaurants, too.
On our way to Gallup we stopped at Albuquerque to see "Old Town" and the Indian and Mexican arts and crafts. We continued on I-40 to Gallup and stayed at Red Rock State Park, just East of town. The campground was just about full since the Good Sam Club was having a state- wide jamboree. We are lifetime members so we just pinned on our badges and went to the auditorium to say "Howdy". Hospitality is the middle name of Good Sam Club's everywhere and we were invited to their dinner and festivities. We met some other folks from Florida who had "dropped in" as we had. The campsites have electric and water hookups and there is a dump station on the way out. There are some great trails for you and your pets to walk on. The trails wind through the valley around the red cliffs. Red Rock Campground is just east of Gallup on historic Route 66. El Rancho Hotel, in town has a great breakfast and is filled with movie star memorabilia.
Venturing into Arizona on I-40 we found a very nice campground run by Navajo County Power Company. It is at exit #277 at Joseph City. It is right next to a lake where the canal empties from the Power Company. The canal is a hot water runoff so you can not swim there, and there is a big field, for your dog to play in. The sites have electric and water hookups and most have fireplaces. It is not a destination campground, but excellent for overnight travelers.
Of course the Grand Canyon is a must see for all RVers. We enjoy the north rim the most. The campground, called the North Rim Campground is on US 89. It is a great campground even though there are no on-site hookups. The park has fresh water sites and dump stations for you to use. The campsites are all paved and have picnic tables, fire rings, and grills. Reservations are recommended in the summertime and must be made about 3 days prior to arrival. It is about a quarter mile walk from the campsites to the Grand Canyon Lodge. Your pet can walk with you and stay on the outside terrace. He would not be allowed in the dining area, although the bartender might "ignore" you if your dog lays quietly by your feet like Tiger does. From the lodge it is a short ½ mile walk to Angel's Overlook. The overlook offers magnificent views of the north rim.
Short drives from the campground to various overlooks will offer different breathtaking views of the canyon. Tiger was well under control at all times as we kept him on his 20' leash. It would be very easy for your dog to chase a chipmunk or small animal over a ledge and hurt himself.
We headed further west in California and Nevada, but if you were going into Utah from this side, you must go through some tunnels in Zion National Park. These tunnels will not safely accommodate any vehicles higher than 11'4". You can pay a special $10 fee, if you meet requirements, for the attendants to stop traffic on the other side. This allows you to travel down the center of the tunnel. You must not be more than 11'4" high, 7'10" wide, 40' long or 55' long if you are towing. Most RV's exceed the requirements and go through in a one way convoy after paying the fee. It's an interesting experience in traveling, though.
One Rver told us about a friend that was just about to set off on a trip in their first RV. It was a cab over unit on a pick up truck, the largest that could be put on their truck. While the husband was working, the wife loaded the supplies and they planned on leaving when he finished work that day. On the way out of town they stopped at the drive-through of their bank to cash a check and literally drove through. They had a 10'6" camper and the bank only had a 9' clearance. They pulled off the roof off the drive-through and their camper. As I am writing this I am making myself a 3 X 5 card to post on my dashboard with the height, width, and length of my vehicle on it, both in feet and meters.
Tiger's Travels - Chapter 5
The West Coast
When you travel to the Northwest Territories, most folks just beeline it to British Columbia. We like to take a detour to Nevada and travel up the state. Nevada has several areas worth visiting. Las Vegas is usually on everyone's list and we don't mind the detour back into civilization.
Nevada can get very hot and when we entered Las Vegas we turned our air on since the traffic slowed and the buildings lessened the breeze flowing through the windows. When we turned on the air we heard a loud "pop". A belt was broken because I engaged the air conditioner, while running at a high rpm. It is a good idea to come to a stop and idle the engine before engaging the air conditioner, especially in older units. That way the belt isn't jerked by a fast revolving pulley and it is less likely to break. After getting the belt replaced by a local car doctor we found our way to Circus Circus Casino RV Park. We were now, back to civilization with all the glitter and with parks with full hookups, including television. It was nice for us, but we had to walk Tiger outside the park. The park does have a small wire sanded, caged area for pets, but we didn't care for that. We were happy that the park even accepted pets. Outside the wall of the park there are a few grassy areas for dog walking. We enjoyed the swimming pool and in the evenings we tool sightseeing walks with Tiger until he was tired. Putting him to bed, we headed to the casinos. Reservations are almost always necessary to get a site in any Las Vegas RV park. They are constantly tearing down or refirbushing buildings so it is best to check a current directory for park information.
There are people who love the desert. It is beautiful and scenic with cliffs and canyons. It is also hot! We received some advice on crossing Death Valley National Park. Start at first light, on or before 6:30am. Wear light clothing and carry and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Don't run your air conditioner or you may overheat your engine. We did not run our air conditioner to keep the engine cool; since we traveled up long hills several thousand feet and then dropped down below sea level at other times. We gave Tiger a wet bandana to wear and draped wet towels on him. He had plenty of air from the open front windows. I think the temperature climbed to 114 degrees when we passed through Furnace Creek. When driving in Nevada and California everyone (older folks in particular) should drink plenty of fluids in the summer season. The high temperatures and lack of humidity can cause dehydration. We also find it necessary to use cream on our hands, fingertips, and lips to prevent cracking.
In California, at the border of Death Valley National Park, on US 395 at Lake Diaz is a campground called Lone Pine. There are nice shade trees and an open meadow for Tiger to play in. It is a welcome stop after a long ride through the desert. The sites have grills and fire rings, but no other services other than restrooms elsewhere in the park.
Our next stop was at Yosemite National Park and our initial impression of the campgrounds was confirmed when we looked for a campsite. There was no hard information about the availability of campsites. We were told "see what you can find" when we inquired at the entrance. The park is probably the poorest run and the most mismanaged park we have encountered. The roads are in disrepair and the traffic is not controlled well. There are very few road signs; and even those who have visited the park before don't know where to go. We drove all the way up to White Cloud and stopped at campgrounds to find them all full. There were no campground hosts or managers at While Cloud and since it was getting dark we turned around and left the park. We finally found room at a county park near Lee Vining soon after we left Yosemite. We suggest you arrive at Yosemite very early in the day, drive through the park to see it, and stay somewhere else.
When we headed north we found the prices in California outrageous, both for gas and groceries so we headed back into Nevada to wind our way northward. US 50 will take you into the Lake Tahoe area. Being tourists, we found several points of interest in the area including Cartwrights'of Bonanza TV fame. As a result we were late arriving at the Tahoe Valley Campground which is located in South Lake Tahoe at Melba Street. The office was closed and the sign directed us to available campsites with full hookups. We just had to fill out a card and drop it in a slot. We awoke to a squishy carpet the next morning and when I lifted the couch I saw a leak from the accumulator, a small round cylinder on the water line. I immediately shut off our outside water connection. Our accumulator was set at 125 psi, but evidently that wasn't high enough. When I went to the office to ask about repair supplies I saw a big red sign that I missed the night before. It said that a water regulator was necessary because of the high fluctuations in water pressure at the park. The best thing to do is always use a regulator on your hose. When you hook up just turn the tap enough to get about 6" of vertical water shooting out of the hose and note the setting. Close the water tap and then connect the hose to your rig;and open it to produce only 6" of water as before. I was told that almost all of Nevada and California have high fluctuations in water pressure, so a regulator really is a must. The personnel and management at Tahoe Valley RV Park were exceptional. They directed me to a hardware store where I found copper tubing and clamps to fix the leak, bypassing the accumulator. This is a privately run park with resort facilities. The campground has a swimming pool, pet play area by the river, and beautiful ponderosa pine forests. The park also offers shuttle buses into Lake Tahoe casinos.
North from US 50, State Road 341 will take you into Virginia City. We were able to dry camp at Virginia City RV Park, a private park that was full, but offered us level spots and fresh water. The sites have full hookups. This old western town is only six or seven blocks long and an easy walk for Tiger. The town's main street was full with bikers going from saloon to saloon. The town offers different types of entertainment. The stadium show features ostrich and camel races with amusing clowns and other events. It gets cold when the sun goes down, so carry a jacket with you. There are plenty of open areas just outside of town for Tiger to run without a leash. Sunday mornings are usually quiet in most towns if you like long walks; and I let Tiger carry his own leash.
The next day we arrived in Reno. While my wife shopped I inquired at a pub about campgrounds in the area. I was told that balloon races were to begin the next day in town and that campers parked all over the hills on the street where they lifted off. They were kind enough to provide directions and we found a street with a long hill and parked behind the last RV in line. We parked at about 2pm and by 5pm the line behind us was more than a mile long. It was the longest "impromptu linear campground" that I had ever seen. We watched the arrival of the balloon crews as they set up their sites on the hill. No one objected to the generators running. We toured the area on walks with Tiger and found that most of the RVs were locals that watch the races every year. They advised us to set an alarm for about 4am. When we woke up the balloon crews were firing up and filling the balloons with air. Someone gave us the frequency of a local radio station to listen to the play-by-play of what was happening. There were five to seven balloons that lifted off on the "Dawn Patrol" just before sunrise. They were illuminated against the night sky and the moon was still on the horizon. After daybreak about 100 balloons lifted off and swooped around us as they tried to drop their beanbags on a target. A lot of companies had balloons represented in the shape of their products. We saw balloons shaped like a whisky bottle, a moving van, and a wedding chapel, complete with a real wedding. At the end of the day we were able to walk to the landing area for refreshments. The dates for the races are available each year from the Reno Tourist Bureau. Don't forget to ask about events when you stop in a town for gas or groceries. You often find fun at fairs and special festivals. Often you can obtain a calendar of events for the state at the welcome stations on interstate roads as you enter that state.
There is a nice campground located off I-80 at SR 447 & SR 446 called Pyramid Lake. It is an expansive blue lake on the Piute Indian Reservation. The Campground is surrounded by the Fox Range on the north, the Lake Range on the east, and the Virginia Mountains on the South. The lake may be as large as Lake Tahoe and is completely undeveloped. There are no shade trees but plenty of cliffs with outcroppings of rock. The lake has plenty of ducks and geese that Tiger enjoyed chasing after until he discovered he couldn't walk on water. The campground offers only dry- camping, as it is an open range with cattle roaming about.
Our last stop in Nevada was on I-80 at the Rye Patch State Reservation. They have about 40 sites for RV's and tents with water on site. They also have a dump station on the way out. The sites offer a nice view of the lake and the dam. You can see for about 80 miles with mountains all around you. The only problem here was the gnats and small flies at sunset. Tiger could run free and we took nice walks by the lake. It is very windy in the canyon and, as a result Tiger picked up a lot of find sand when we walked and needed a good brushing. The clear, dry air allows the stars to reflect off the lake at night. Rye Patch is a very nice and peaceful place to stop.
Hell's Canyon National Reservation Area is the only campground we have visited in Oregon. We followed 71 along the winding Snake River, passing many available primitive sites, on the river, to stay at Copperfield Park, Oxbow Dam's Idaho Power Company Campground, on the Oregon side. The views on the way were surprising; as the name of the area suggested arid and rugged terrain. In fact, the mountains were filled with grassy meadows that lead down to the river canyon. The campground has beautiful sites with flowers all around and immaculate facilities. There are full hookups at each site. Tiger had to remain on a leash at the campsite, but we could cross a bridge over the dam and he could run on the other side. This is, by far, the best campground we have ever seen and would be make a great headquarters for touring the area. There were a lot of boats and plenty of areas to fish in the river, and this seemed to be the central activity. I have always felt comfortable spending freely for fish in expensive restaurants after looking at the cost of the rigs and boats that were assembled here. I tried to figure out how much per pound the little trout cost the fisherman, with all the fancy equipment, to get onto my plate. Of course, the fun of being there and catching them fresh does make the fish taste better.
There were just a few spots we stopped at in Washington and they are certainly worth telling you about. South of Quilcene on US 101 we found a US Forest Service Campground called Seal Rock located right on the bay. It has a beautiful view of the water and the bay serves as a maneuvering training ground for submarines based on the other side. You could see them on some mornings and on bright moonlit nights as they executed drills on the surface. There are no hookups at Seal Rock, but the scenery makes dry camping worthwhile.
After we left Seal Rock we did go to a full hookup RV resort called Aqua Barn Ranch Campground located on Maple Valley Highway in Renton, Washington. Renton is located on the opposite side of the bay from Puget Sound. Our site, #37, was big and close to the restaurant and gift shop. As soon as we set up we took Tiger for a walk since he seemed restless and wanted exercise. He almost yanked my arm out of its sockets when he noticed the rabbits. There must have been about 40 rabbits running around our campsite and close by. They were all over the place! Black ones, browns ones, spotted ones, and any other combination you can think of. Tiger's greyhound blood was rising to the occasion and the leash was like a fishing pole with a marlin on it. He finally settled down and we had a nice long walk. He got used to the rabbits and just stared at them after a while. We learned that the campground has a petting zoo for the children and the rabbits just run around loose. The rabbits were rather unimpressed with Tiger and allowed us to get within a few feet of them. When we were settled we went to their very good restaurant called Grandma's Kitchen, which has an adjoining lounge. They have live entertainment that plays until about 9 P.M. most nights. The Aqua Barn Ranch has a pool, hot tub, and all the services you would want in a resort campground. Tiger gave it 3 paws. The campground lost 1 paw since I never let him off his leash to run.
The next day we headed east to see the Gingko Petrified Forest by the Columbia River. We were going to dry camp, but were warned about rattlesnakes and keeping very close to the trails so we opted for a resort campground with full hookups to be safe. We found one in Moses Lake, Washington, exit 176 on US 90 and at the time, it turned out to be a good choice. The Big Sun Campground is located in Moses Lake just to the right of the lake. The campsite we had faced the lake and had several Apple trees on it. Tiger had a nice lawn to play and run on and my wife read books under the trees. While we were shopping in town someone noticed my rear signal light wasn't working. I changed the bulb, but that didn't help. I bought a small roll of wire and decided to tinker with it back at the campground. As it turned out, the best I could do was to re-run the wire from the front signal light to the back signal light and leave the problem to my mechanic when I got home.
If I can fix something easily, I will usually do it, otherwise I leave most repairs to a mechanic. It's good to know that most privately run campgrounds will allow you to perform minor repairs yourself, but no repairs are ever to be made in public campgrounds, state parks, or national parks. They could too easily become junkyards with discarded parts or unfinished, non-repairable, stripped-down units. These scenic, public lands are too precious, not to regulate their use carefully. We returned to Big Sun Campground several years later,and found that they had changed; along with the cities growth around Moses Lake into a busier, more crowded, and almost semi-residential campground. Although, it was on the outskirts of the city, on our first visit, the city just expanded and grew all around it, changing the country setting to an urban one. Thank God for National Forests, where this doesn't happen and lands stay undeveloped.
We will leave this trip for now, at Washington State, and take an alternate and interesting route to wander before heading to the northwest going into Canada and Alaska.
Tiger's Travels - Chapter 6
You can expect a lot of events to change your itinerary or timetable on a long trip. The trick is to be easygoing and make sensible decisions when changes or problems arise. Mechanical problems can be solved, by asking for the best place to repair your rig. Auto club and RV clubs are a good source of information if you belong to one. Other clubs, such as The American Legion, will get you good advice from members or call around to get answers that you need. A local business owner usually will recommend someone they know to be trustworthy. Local people in your own age group are the best strangers to ask to direct you to a good mechanic. Your own good instincts will tell you when you are dealing with an honest professional. The Good Sam Lifetime Members directory can also be a local source to find out the best shop for repairs.
We were heading through Missouri on US 63 when we began to hear a banging noise in our exhaust system. I was concerned that it might be the manifold and very costly. We were fortunate to find an honest mechanic that told us the baffles had blown in the right muffler and referred us to Haney's (a specialized repair shop) in nearby West Plains. On the way we stopped for coffee and the restaurant manager also told us to go to Haney's. The mechanics at Haney's were very professional and we were driving out, within an hour with a new muffler and at a very reasonable price. They also directed us to a nice local RV park that was comfortable and allowed us to stop early and get plenty of rest before continuing our journey.
One of the nicer campgrounds managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers can be found in Harlan County Lake, Nebraska. By and large, their campgrounds have some of the nicest facilities and at a very reasonable price. If you have a "Golden Age Passport" (available at most federal parks for seniors 62 and older), you only pay half price. The campground, Patterson Harbor, is located off US 136. When you arrive check the campsites first to pick one that has hookups, since not all of their campsites have them. They operate on a first come, first serve basis. If you get in early in the day you should have a good choice. Even though directions can be found in the US Army Corps of Engineers brochure (District 2), Patterson Harbor was difficult to find. As you travel north on US 183 into Nebraska from Kansas you will arrive at the town of Alma. Make a right turn at Alma at US 136 (it is not clearly marked). Travel to Republican City and turn south to the dam. Cross the dam to get to Patterson Harbor and turn right towards the marina. Be sure and stay to the right when you see the fork in the road and you'll see the campsites. In general all the US Army Corps of Engineers brochures bring you to the general vicinity of the campgrounds; but they don't get you all the way there. The campsites are truly worth the extra trouble of looking for them.
We noticed a considerable difference in gasoline prices while crossing the country. Of course as octane ratings rose, so did the price. Our rig had more that 70,000 miles on it and an old 440 engine. The cylinders had seen better days and we didn't get the best gas mileage. We used the least expensive, lower octane gasoline. Occasionally, when the "plus" gasoline was within 8¢ per gallon of the "regular" gasoline, it benefited us to get the higher octane and a few more miles per gallon. The mechanic can advice you on which octane rating will be better for your rig. Make some comparisons on your own after you've had a recent tune up. And of course, remember to make sure your gas tank will take you as far as you are going and even more. Trust me, it can happen! We drove into Yellowknife, NTW on fumes. The halfway stop gas station listed in the Milepost, that we were depending on; had burned down the previous winter.
When you consider driving on rough roads forget about keeping to a timetable. Caution and sensible speeds must be exercised. We have witnessed damage to other RV's simply by taking too many bumps going too fast along a rough road. Often the wilderness roads are made of dirt or gravel and you just have to take it a little more slowly. They're definitely worth the extra time. On one occasion, driving on a well-maintained highway, I hit a pothole traveling at 55mph. The jolt caused the furnace that was screwed down to the floor to jump up and land on the water pump wire. The furnace cut into it enough to cause it to short and blow a fuse. It took two days for us to get that problem fixed since all the mechanics in town were booked up. I learned two things on that trip. One, I know where my fuse box is located and two, I now carry with my tools, a 12-volt tester, and extra fuses with me. Vibrations and bumps from potholes and bad roads are probably the initial cause of more minor repairs required on RV's than anything else. (I-70 out of St. Louis westbound still owes me a front wheel hubcap. I avoid that route west now.) If you like the scenic wilderness you will just have deal with them as part of the route sometimes.
In RV traveling you will talk to other campers and meet many people, especially with a pet that needs a walk. Many of those people will be from other countries. It was at Jackson Lake, Colorado that we first met some folks from Germany. We shared stories about our travels and exchanged information over drinks and a campfire. A few years later, we found ourselves visiting others in Germany that we met at campsites on our RV travels. It is the people you meet, as much as the campsite, that makes camping enjoyable. We have encountered people in our travels that are not friendly and sometimes show a little hostility with an "I can't bother with you" attitude. Thankfully, they are few and far between and they remind my wife and I to be especially nice to all the people we meet. All you have to do is visit 7 or 8 countries in Europe with different languages and you will better appreciate helpful local people.
Jackson Lake State Park is near Fort Morgan, Colorado. It has 180 campsites and provides showers, toilets, and drinking water. Individual hookups were not yet available when we were there, but that may have changed. They do have a dump station and a boat ramp. Many of the sites are located on Jackson Lake. From the east take I-76 to Fort Morgan. Exit at Fort Morgan and travel on US 144 west to Goodrich. From the west, take I-76 to exit #66 and go north on State Road 39 to Goodrich. At Goodrich follow signs and County Road 3 to Jackson Lake Park Office.
We caught up with about 10 days of laundry at Fort Collins, Colorado. A navy sea bag thrown on an unused bunk or left in the tub during the day makes a good laundry bag if your RV does not have a hamper. Even if it does, a canvas bag makes it easy to carry your clothes to the laundromat. Commercial RV resort parks and college towns are our top choices for places to do laundry. They usually have plenty of machines. Mid-mornings, during the week seems to be the best time to find empty facilities.
Map reading and campground familiarity is necessary when you travel. At first my wife would panic a bit when we got lost, but eventually she began navigating like a pilot, only better.
Following her directions from Fort Collins, we were soon driving through some tremendous canyons. We found ourselves alongside the Poudre River watching white water rafters as we followed along on State Road 14 through Roosevelt National Forest. There are plenty of campgrounds along State Road 14. We chose a new campground managed by the National Forest Service called Mountain Park Campground. The campground is in a rustic setting. In fact, the campground borders the town of Rustic. They have very nice campsites with electric and a central water and dump station. After my morning aerobics I took Tiger for a walk in the woods. We found deer tracks and the view of the mountains was absolutely spectacular. To get to Mountain Park go northwest from Fort Collings on US 287 to Bellevue, then head west on Highway 14 for about 22 miles.
One of our more photogenic stops, along the way, in Flaming Gorge country, was in southern Wyoming and northeastern Utah. To get there, from I-80 at Green River, Wyoming, take US 530 South. You can drive the entire loop of the Flaming Gorge area by taking Utah Highway 44 southeast from Manila over the line in Utah, and US 191 north from the Flaming Gorge Lodge. The entire trip back to US 80 is about 145 miles. Campgrounds are available at Buckboard Crossing, Lucerne Valley, Firefighters Memorial/Greendale and Firehole Canyon. They have dump stations and there are other campgrounds in the area, which are excellent if you are self-contained. Some of these can provide water, but not electric or dump stations.
We stayed at the Canyon Rim Campground, which was beautiful. We saw herds of elk on our drive there. The campground has a nice trail with a lookout platform overlooking the canyon. I promised myself that I would return here and spend a few weeks to see the entire area. We were there the first week of June and it was a little rainy and cold. Even with the rain we had a lot of nice walks on the trails along the canyon rim. Tiger wore his raincoat and his yellow slicker really stood out in the pictures.
Another campground that we like in Utah is the State Line Silversmith RV Park near Wendover on I-80. This is a full hookup RV Park with nice concrete sites. The park is affiliated with the State Line Silversmith Casino and Hotel. It offers access to the spa, swimming pool, restaurants, and casino. Pets are allowed in the RV Park, but a leash is required when walking your dog. This campground is close to Nevada if you happen to be heading in that direction.
Zion National Park is an easy ride from Las Vegas going north and east on I-15. Utah SR 9 will take you east to Springdale and to the entrance of the park. The people in the visitor's center were absolutely delightful and we could tell the park was well managed. The campground host knew exactly what was available and where; and was pleased to offer recommendations. The signs were accurate, well marked, and easy to follow. It was such a tremendous contrast to the city street attitudes that we found at some other campgrounds that we stayed an extra day. The host will direct you to your site, answer questions, talk about trails to walk your dog and explain which areas are best to view the canyon from. The best site was 9D at Weatherman Campground overlooking the Virgin River. We watched people tubing down the river all day long. You can wash your dog in the river, but be careful of seasonal changes in the currents. This is one of the best-run parks that we have encountered.
Going north on US 191 in Montana from West Yellowstone for about 48 miles there is a campground south of Bozeman run by the National Forest Service called Red Cliff. Just adjacent to the campground is a mountain with red cliffs and pine trees. It just starts at your feet and goes right on up into the sky. On a sunny day, the color is gorgeous. The campground hosts, Neil and Norma shared their campfire with us. The river rushing by is about 50 yards away from the campsites. The good camping and crisp pine air made us feel great to be alive and to appreciate the RV lifestyle. Tiger was in doggie heaven, taking lots of time on his walks to sniff around. This is bear country, so although the bear usually stay high up in the mountains, keep your pet on a leash. When we put Tiger on a line outside the RV we kept an ear out for the rustle of a bear and kept a good eye on him. The campground is nestled between two mountains and, located in spectacular wild country, did not have any hookups. Be sure to have full fresh water tanks and empty holding tanks before you get there. You will find a dump station as you travel north to Bozeman.
Bozeman, Montana is a great place to stop and supply your RV with groceries and make any repairs you need. We had a little trouble starting our generator in the higher elevation and colder weather. We stopped at Big Sky RV Service and they made a minor adjustment and gave us some advice on how to operate the generator in different conditions. They refused to accept any kind of payment for their services, since the repair was so minor. On the main street in Bozeman we were able to shop for groceries, do our laundry, have our dog groomed, eat breakfast and go to the bank. As we headed north out of Baseman my wife said "Look at those mountains, they don't look real. It looks like someone painted them on a canvas!"
Halter Lake campground is located 36 miles north of Helena, Montana off US 287. Head north for 2 miles at the town of Wolf Creek and than turn east for three miles to Halter Lake. The campground is run by the Bureau of Land Management and has full hookups. We were late arriving that day and all the sites with full hookups were taken. The lodge has boat ramps and some marine services. The recreational area sites are mostly occupied by fisherman and their boats. We were able to fill our fresh water tanks and use the dump station before parking at an unimproved campsite. The spot we found was up near the top overlooking the mountainside with plenty of privacy and room for Tiger. We had a nice campfire and enjoyed the view. I was playing, "Frisbee", with Tiger later that evening and he stopped dead in his tracks while he was bringing the "Frisbee" back to me. He did not bark or move. He just looked past me. I slowly turned around and was looking at a large deer right behind me. I reached over and grabbed Tiger's collar. Tiger, woofed and the deer slowly turned away and made his way out of the campsite and along the ridge. He did not run or bound away, instead he nibbled and grazed occasionally as he wandered back into the forest. Halter Lake is a dream spot for fisherman, but it is not ideal for larger units. It is surrounded on three sides by mountains and requires you to dry camp unless you arrive early enough to get a developed site with hookups.
As you head north on US 287 from Halter Lake you join US 89 at Chateau Mountain. This takes you to Glacier National Park. If you follow US 89 north to the town of St. Mary, you will reach "Going To The Sun Highway", in the park. The road heads west out of town, but you can only travel the entire highway if your vehicle is 21' or less. Nothing larger is permitted on the winding mountain pass. However, before you reach the restricted access part of the highway you will arrive at Rising Sun Campground.
Rising Sun is a well-maintained campground, but it does not have hookups. You can get water and there is a dump station at the entrance to the campground. Often, that is all we need, though. They have a general store within walking distance and a lodge and restaurant. While driving to Rising Sun we saw two elk and after establishing our campsite we saw a herd of elk heading up the mountainside. My wife counted 59 before they disappeared into the woods. We also saw a few deer closer to the road. Rising Sun also has a lake nearby and, in season, boat rides around the lake are available. We just enjoyed walking and hiking. If you have a pet, keep your dog on a tight leash at Rising Sun due to the close proximity of wild animals. On one early morning a deer meandered into our campsite while I was walking Tiger. I circled around him with Tiger and the deer just looked up and continued grazing. I put Tiger back into the RV and my wife came outside and she and I watched the deer from the front of the RV. It continued to graze and moved right up to our kitchen window. My wife kept saying, "I never knew deer had such long eyelashes." We were about 3' away from the deer. The deer finally moved off and we went back into our RV and enjoyed breakfast. To my surprise and Tiger's credit, he obeyed softly spoken commands and remained quiet and moved slowing without startling the deer. After observing Tiger on other occasions I have concluded that if the deer, elk, moose, etc. remain calm and don't "bolt" away, Tiger remains calm too. It was a learning process for us both.
While we were at Rising Sun Campground, we had a pressure leak under the kitchen faucet. We were able to turn it off at the water pump, but we headed back to St. Mary to look for a mechanic. We did find a mechanic at the hotel complex. The hotel repairman fixed the leak in about an hour and very inexpensively, too. My wife spent more money shopping in the gift shop then it cost us to have the leak fixed. When you are looking for a plumber in a town without a plumber, you might try a local resort hotel. They always seem to have a handyman around.
A little farther up the road from St. Mary is the town of Babb. There is a nice campground west of Babb, called Many Glaciers Campground. There are also two other commercial campgrounds along this road, but Many Glaciers Campground is about 10 west of Babb. Near the campground is a hotel, which offers a beautiful view of the mountains from it's parking area. We had a hot chocolate at the hotel and walked through the lodge. The park ranger had an evening program for the public, this time on "Birds of Prey". The glacier views by the river are breathtaking and the hotel itself seems to have been built in the very best location to see them from. When you select a campsite at Many Glacier, try to choose one with a view of the mountains unobstructed by trees. This will offer a better opportunity to see wildlife. I sat in a chair with my feet up on a tree stump for support with binoculars for hours watching bear and mountain goats on the nearby mountain sides. One morning, we were walking with Tiger and we heard an animal moving in the woods. We were moving in the same direction and I thought it was a deer. I handed Tigers leash to my wife and ducked into the woods to see if I could drive it out a little to get a better look. It was moving too fast for me, so I gave up and rejoined my wife and Tiger on the road. We approached a bend and saw that cars were parked along the woods and people were pointing and taking pictures. When we reached the bend we saw a cinamon colored bear moving across a meadow about 50 yards away. We quickly brought Tiger back to the RV and returned to take pictures. We were able to get quite a few before the bear (the deer I had been driving) turned and headed up the creek continuing in the same direction. A few minutes later, 2 young men came down to the road from the creek. They had been sitting on a rock on the trail by the creek when the bear went by about 3 feet from them. They said the bear never even looked at them. He was a bear with a destination and just kept going as if he knew exactly where he was headed.
Since the crowd had gathered on the road, the rangers had to clear a section of the road for a few hundred yards long to give the bear a place to cross without people in the way. On the day we were about to leave, we talked to a young lady who had come out of her tent that morning, saw a bear 6 feet away, and just turned around and went back into her tent. Later, she reported the sighting to a ranger, as most national parks request you to do.
From previous trips to Alaska, we learned that bears have relatively poor eyesight, but an excellently developed sense of smell. We have been told that if confronted by a bear, couples and larger groups should join hands over head and back slowly away while talking in a normal voice. The bear smells "people", and sees one large object that is backing away and not threatening his space. Continue making sounds as you back away from the direction of his path. Bears do not often attack groups of people, but they are unpredictable. Black bears are the most unpredictable, and dangerous, while grizzly bears are more passive. It is always suggested that you discuss the nature of area bears with rangers before you go on any hikes in the woods or mountains. The appropriate action to take when encountering a bear is different depending on the locality and the season, but in all cases, backing away and giving them space is #1.
Near Libby, Montana off Route 2 there is a campground called Hook U Up. It is near Libby Dam and offers full hookups (obviously), a recreation hall,and a Sunday night dinner and social. The owners, George and Lynne, allowed their Labrador retriever to run loose in the campground and allowed us to do the same with Tiger. The two dogs got a lot of exercise and enjoyed playing with each other. We saw a few deer roaming around as we drove around the lake to do a little sightseeing. The area is very pretty and the lake and river is full of fish.
We made our way back to Route 2 and headed east to see the West Side of Glacier National Park, entering at West Glacier. We had to turn back, however, since our RV was longer than 21' and we could only go as far as Avalanche. We found this side of the park to be very populated and "tourisy". We toured for a few hours then turned around and headed south.
We always turn off our refrigerator to stop the propane when we gas up and we began to have a real difficult time re-lighting it. We stopped at Kalispell, Montana where Route 2 and US 93 meet and pulled into Rick's RV Repair. He was just closing, but he was kind enough to take a look. He pointed out to us that the ignitor was working fine, we just could not see the blue flame because a big bug had crawled in and died in front of the mirror that allows us to view the flame. He cleaned it out and we were all fixed up again, no charge! If you ever need service in that area, Rick is the man to see.
About 25 miles south of Kalispell is West Shore State Park Campground. It is located on a very pristine lake in the middle of a forest. The sites are level and have grills and picnic tables. Water is available to fill your tanks, but there is not any electric hookups or Dump stations available. The campground has nice walking trails along the lakeshore and in the woods and roads that overlook the lake. The more remote "B" section is closer to the lake. Tiger enjoyed a much overdue bath in the lake and we exchanged paperback books with the campground hosts.