Sunday, September 28, 2014

Looking for an RV park near Capitol Reef? Go the Thousand Lakes

I like this place.

Thousand Lakes RV Resort

Yes, it’s late September and the hordes of tourists have dwindled away – but I like this place. Pulling a small trailer and without needing sewer and TV hook-ups, we got one of the prime spots along the north (back) fence of the park looking out over red plateau cliffs and verdant green and yellow hills. We have a fire-pit and a place for the tent. Everything is clean and well-tended with a special grill dinner on Monday nights.

I like that I don’t have to be surrounded by the massive land RV yachts that populate the three long aisles of full hook-ups. I appreciate the small campers, tent trailers and cars that come in beside us. And mostly, I like the reasonably quiet and expansive feeling I can get looking out over those cliffs rather than what was offered down in the National Park.
I’ve heard that the Sunglow campground near Bicknell is great too. This time, however, we’ll stay put until we head out day after tomorrow and see what’s happening down in the Dark Canyon Wilderness Area.

Fruita Campground - Capitol Reef

I’m not sure why anyone bothers with this particular campground.

Under cover of lovely shade trees - that also block out the astounding rock formations that surround the campground in its little valley - Fruita gives you the perfect opportunity to park right next to other campers with no sense of privacy whatsoever. It is a shaded, grassy park with asphalt pads, like a RV park without the benefit of hook-ups and showers. If you are going to basically camp on top of each other, not have any views , put up with all the traffic and noise – then showers would be nice.

The campground host at Fruita told us that on most days the campground fills up around 10am. We were there around 3pm and, due to the rain, had just lost the last site to some other visitor. I am really, really glad that we did. I think I would have been crawling out of my skin within a couple of hours.

Our daughter would have been putting up her tent in the middle of the green, basically surrounded by ten campsites. I’ve had a similar experience at Cougar Rock Campground at Rainier – it’s insane how tight the sites are and how busy those campgrounds get. Every RV rental company is represented.

The ranger at the visitor center has a map to show folks where else you can camp in the area. They pull these maps out practically before you’ve asked the question. Milepost 73 west or milepost 79 east – that’s where the BLM land is just waiting for you to pull over and rough it. Gotta watch the road clearance, though. You think? This little trailer of ours has zero clearance (well, it seems that way) so those weren't options that we could seriously consider.

I know plenty of places to pitch a tent in this area but with a trailer the possibilities shift. Because we had been traveling specifically to spend time in and about Capitol Reef for a few days, I'd gone ahead and made a back-up reservation at an RV park in nearby Torrey. (See my next post). But we had wanted to camp - not get stuck between a couple of traveling buses. Options were slim, however, and after a wonderful meal at Diablo Café (go there if you are in Torrey), we trudged disheartenedly over to the RV site. 

Most of all, I was disappointed - yet again - in a National Park's campground. Cougar Rock had soured me and Fruita was just a plain shock. In the midst of all that red rock glory, the campground gets built in a cramped little corner with no views. So what if the deer walk gracefully through the orchards. I have orchards and deer that walk through my yard daily. I wanted the red rock, the majesty and the resonance grace of this land. Not happening at Fruita - that's all I knew.

Here's what was waiting for us:

Groups Sites - Pros and Cons

Looking for a campsite on a Saturday within an hour (or two) from Salt Lake City isn’t easy two months out. Using the different reservations (ReserveAmerica and systems to scan campgrounds showed full campgrounds, closed campgrounds (anything over 6000 ft. it seems) or campgrounds that catered to ATV enthusiasts – of which I am not.
But I could, however, pay a little bit more and get a group site at what was reviewed as a beautiful campground: Diamond Campground just east of Spanish Fork, Utah. This seemed rather straightforward. It was cheaper than a hotel and got us out of the smog filled basin that is now Salt Lake.

We dropped by the airport, picked up our oldest daughter and headed south. It took about an hour to leave the Salt Lake basin behind and wind our way through the foothills to the valley where this campground sits. The air clears, shadows lengthen - fall shows itself in the yellowing leaves of the cottonwood trees.
All of this was ours for the evening

I’m going to guess that some group sites are meant for multiple campers and others, like the site at Diamond (which is up the road from the main campground approx. 3 miles), is meant more for day use. The various trucks with trailers in the parking lots showed that both horses and ATVs were out and about on the land nearby. The group site is fenced in – obviously to keep those pesky cattle out of the morning coffee pot – and the only place to put up a tent was in the corner that also happened to be the lowest part of the campsite. Okay, so it was a bit odd but certainly workable for a simple overnight on our way south.

We had two bonus situations to help us feel right at home: a wedding was happening up in the hills beyond our group site and teenagers with grand hopes of reaching The Hot Springs – wherever the hell those were – kept dropping by to see if we could give them directions. All we knew was they weren’t at our site. Thankfully, the last batch (about twenty kids in three vehicles) came breezing into our site around ten pm and Andy sent them cheerfully on their way again.
It was a mellow evening by the fire and our daughter talked about not putting her rainfly on the tent since it was so balmy. I noticed some flashes of light back beyond the hills and suggested that she just might want the extra protection. I was tired and forgot that she was in a depression. Sure, the rainfly worked great but all that runoff had to go somewhere, right?  I'm actually surprised that so little got wet.

All in all - I would hesitate in reserving an unknown group site again. It was pretty obvious that these group sites only exist for the day use of large groups of folks who want a place to serve a big meal and have a campfire. Or, if you have numerous RVs – the paved parking lot was huge. I think we should have taken a run through the main campground to check and see if any spots were open. Most campgrounds have some spots that are not on the reservation system.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Antelope Island

I love Antelope Island and would really like to visit it sometime when it isn't snowing or the "biting insects" that the rest of us call mosquitoes are not issues. Is it one or the other? I'm sure that isn't true but I had hoped that late September would mean less bugs and no snow. The later wish came true - it was warm and balmy but the bloodsuckers were out in force. Swarms that materialized and zeroed in as soon as you dared step out of your car.

We discovered that the wonderful screens installed in our T@B actually have gaps around the edges and anything that is as big as a - yep, you guessed it - a mosquito can get in easily. This means, of course, that everything smaller has no problem whatsoever. We had been so smug.

It was too bad because Antelope Island is worth exploring.

Whether its the Buffalo or the birds or the wildflowers - its a great campground. Biking would be great - as long as you have some protection from the bugs.

Last time I was on Antelope it was March and supposed to be in the 60s. We got half a foot of snow instead. I think I'd take the snow over the hovering swarms of mosquitoes...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

First RV Park

Pulling into an RV Park with our little trailer is like pulling into a marina of huge yachts - in a sixteen foot fishing boat.

That made us smile.

We always did call marinas the nautical equivalent of RV Parks.

Anyway, here we are in Walla Walla at the Four Seasons RV Resort on Dalles Military Road and I have to say that all in all, this was a pretty good place to stop. It may seem slightly out of the way from our route down to Utah, however, our youngest child just started college out here and we wanted to pop in, see her dorm room and take her to dinner.

And so we did.

While we were heading into Walla Walla from Seattle, I brought the RV Park up on my Google maps which had about ten Google reviews on it. I was rather surprised to see how negative the reviews were. I'd checked out the resort on a couple RV sites that had pretty positive feedback but nothing like what these reviews had. I get a bit suspicious - especially when there are less than fifteen reviews.

I was pleasantly surprised by the friendly staff and well kept grounds. I'm a camper, not a connoisseur of RV Parks, so just having electricity and a clean shower nearby felt great.
Off to Utah in the morning...

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Change number one : More head room

This is my first blog post on this blog so I'll keep it short and to the point so that I actually get this posted.  I've been having fun modifying our trailer for comfort.  The first project I did was take a look at the inside as it was made up into a bed and think to myself "hmm... I'm going to whack my head several times on the storage space cabinets above my head."

There were a series of cabinets along the back wall that were very convenient for storage but when the setup was made into a bed, the headroom was a bit lacking.  Yes, we could sleep with our feet at that end but then my head would be hanging off the edge (not acceptable).  Here is a picture of the cabinets in a different trailer (off of the manufacturer's website of the same model):

I thought to myself "I wonder how hard it would be to drop those" and it turns out with about ten screws and a razor blade to cut some silicone sealant, the cabinets drop right down like this:

One difficulty was trying to figure out how to get the cabinets out of the trailer without cutting them since they are too wide to turn.  Turns out there isn't an easy way so I had to cut them to get them out.  No going back now. 

Then it was just a matter of cutting the cabinet section up so that I could put the speaker/light corner units back up.  I glued/screwed in some small pieces of wood to support the exposed side:

The exposed side was covered by a piece of wood that was a separator between the cabinets.  The hardest part was taking a razor blade very carefully along the back wall to remove the silicone sealant still on the wall without cutting through the veneer.  When it was finished, it looked like this:

I think this looks pretty good.  Still had to put some silicone sealant around it to cut down on any rattles and fill in some screw holes on the back wall.  Here's what the back of it looks like now:

Another change I made at the same time was to remove the small 2" x 2" board along the front of the storage area there and replace it with a larger 1"x5" to make it taller to increase storage. 

The 1"x5" is a nice piece of maple and I finished it to match the interior wood.  The only problem is that for strength I have it dropping down on the existing plywood a bit more than the 2"x2" and so now when I need to lift the cushion up to put the bench back up, my fingers get caught on the wood.  I'll need to possibly fix that somehow.  I also put a small piece of trim along the back wall since the factory hadn't put a trim piece covering the plywood end.  This can be seen in the picture as the darker wood at the bottom of the back wall above the storage.

Anyway, I think it turned out well and it feels much more spacious.  The storage will be missed but that's what we have a pickup for as a tow vehicle. 

We head off to Utah next week and at the very least we will have decent headroom.  Safe travels.