Sunday, September 28, 2014

Protesting the High Cost of Washington State Campgrounds

Shortly before summers start I attended a ladies campout at Riverside State Park in Eastern Washington State.  It is a lovely Park but I was shocked to discover with recent price increases, the daily rate was nearly $40 per night and showers were an additional cost.  Nearly all campsites within the state system now require reservations making it impossible to travel casually without a set agenda.
The price increases have priced us right out of the state parks market.

I wondered how I could possibly travel for the summer within the state and pay that kind of price tag.  As I faced making reservations I discovered that weekends have been booked far in advance leaving fewer options for those without a home to return to after the weekend.   I wonder how families can possibly introduce their children to the joys of camping and the wonder of our outdoor world in addition the the high cost of living they are face raising children in today's high priced world. 

Many of the BLM campgrounds in the state have also been turned over to the State Campground system to manage and their fate is also reverting to higher camping costs and reservations further reducing the options available for low cost camping.  I understand our state is facing cutbacks and huge budget shortfalls raising questions on how to fund the wonderful campgrounds.


 Would we be priced out of the life I dreamed of ?

Somewhere deep in the crevices of my mind, a plan was developing......Would it be possible to avoid camping at State Campgrounds and still find options that would allow me to circle our state and enjoy the wonders of our state?   Would we find suitable camping alternatives in the areas we wanted to camp?  Can we camp the entire summer without staying in a state campground?

                 Could we do it?
   Would we have to go home early?
What would our camping costs add up to?

So we set out on our Washington Et All Tour with a goal of camping all around the State without camping in the State Campgrounds.  I know my simple protest will not be observed by the state bureaucracy or state officials but it is important (and necessary to me just the same).

During the 58 days I did not camp in a state campground any nights.  I have a portable solar panel so we were able to charge our electronics and keep our trailer battery charged for lights.  I did purchase a  discover pass so that I could access trailheads and other access points around the state as many of the 'best' sights require a discover pass to park in the day use areas. 

So I have been at the calculator adding up the cost of our eight week trip and came up with the numbers.

Total miles traveled    3797 miles                                                              Cost of gas  $1183.82
                                                         $ 591.91 per month of travel

Number of total nights      58 camping nights
Number of free nights       18 x 0 = 0                                                     40 nights camping = $ 307
                                     Average cost per night for 58 nights camping.............$5.29

              Stay tuned for the next post.......... 
       How We Found Free or Low Cost Camping Options

~ Happy Trails~


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Are Vehicle Prowlings a fact of RV Life? How do you Minimize your Risk?

The call of the remote trail in the wilderness appeals to me and car prowlers as well.  Some prowlers find far more than the loose change left behind on the floor.  

After arriving home I read an article in  news paper.  It was about an experience that hikers had in the North Cascades probably while we were there also.

Car prowlers broke into a couples vehicle while they were backpacking on a six day trip.  Thieves stole hidden items including a ring of house keys, a cell phone and vehicle registration.  Thieve also cut the battery cables leaving the car disabled.  Upon return to their home(4 hours away) they discovered their home had been burglarized and the stolen set off keys left on a table.

more details here......

Recommendations for keeping your vehicle safe often suggest keeping everything out of sight or not in your vehicle.   This seems like a sensible and practical solution on the surface, but what are RV folks to do?  Everything they own may be in their trailer/vehicle/RV.


Thieves are often looking for quick and quiet in and out. 

Here are some safety practices to consider.

  • Use drop off services of Park Services or friends when possible to avoid leaving your vehicle unattended for long periods of time
  • Leave your vehicle in a busy area under observation or campgrounds with hosts or rangers in attendance
  • If you must drive yourself, park in a visible area near other cars or restrooms.  Traffic discourages thieves.
  • Take your registration with you rather than leave it in the car particularly if you have a home address listed on the registration.
  • Ensure that doors are locked and alarms activated
  • Obscure from view anything in your vehicle before arriving at parking lot area.  Thieves often wait and observe in parking lots until a promising target arrives. 

 Rethink where you store your Possessions
Every place I have thought of.....they have probably stolen something from.

 The crumpled blanket covering valuables is a signal to prowlers there is something worth looking for.   The glove box while convenient, is the first place thieves will look for your registration and address.

Many Rv ers keep copies of valuable (and necessary) papers in a safe bolted to the frame of the RV.   If you  maintain a safety deposit box that someone can access for you it is always a good idea to keep and extra copy and a list insurances policy numbers, credit cards a backup of your phone contacts.   It is a good idea to keep copies of all important papers in a second location in case of theft or destruction.

I  chose to live my life governed by common sense not fear.  I refuse to live life cowering behind locked doors afraid of what might happen.  But common sense goes a long way to keeping us safe along the way...... 

What safety practices do you use to keep your vehicle or RV safe from thieves?

~ Happy Trails~

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lake Roosevelt and Summers End

Leaving Early Winter Campground brought home to me the impending end of our Washington summer trip.

My thoughts moved to the fire that was raged in Central Washington while we traveled.

Wildfire is a fact of life that those of us who live in the West live with every year.  For weeks we had followed the progress of a huge wildfire in Washington State that grew in epic proportion and burned burned about 400 square miles — more than four times the size of Seattle — making it the largest wildfire in the state since record-keeping started.
 And it lay in our path near the end of our journey.

History of this Fire: The Carlton Complex fires started on July 14, by lightning from a weather system that moved through the Methow Valley. The Carlton Complex started as four fires: the Stokes Fire, the Gold Hikes Fire, the French Creek Fire and the Cougar Flat fire. These fires grew into one larger fire on July 20.

Nearly 75% of the land burned by the fire was a scrub mix that allowed the fire to exploded and travel great distances quickly and 25% were forested land.

Hot weather and windy conditions pushed the fire over the ridge tops and into the town of Pateros resulting in a large number of evacuations. The fire made significant runs towards the cities of Brewster and Pateros between July 17th and 18th, consuming approximately 300 homes in its path and destroying critical infrastructure.

Significant rain helped firefighters to contain the fire but also caused some slides within the burned and scared area. Highway 20 and 153 were closed and required detours where roads were washed away or slides covered the highways. We were impacted by these road closures and followed detours that allowed us to view part of the areas that had burned.  We could smell the lingering oder of fire in the air.

Can you imagine how frightening this scene was as fire raced over the hillside threatening all that you had worked for near these orchards?  What a valiant stand the firefighters made on this hill!

The costs of this fire is estimated to be in excess of $60 million dollars.
How much more personnel than just money, it is to families who lost everything.  

As we traveled, this day I had no idea where we would be camping for our last camp before settling  into home for the school year. With the road closures we are not sure where the detours will take us.  I wanted to end our adventure in a quiet setting with a lake nearby with swimming and a time to regroup and  a gentle transition into our winter mode.

  We turned toward Lake Roosevelt and hoped to find a camping spot along the river.

Just past Grand Coulee Dam is Spring Canyon Campground, a National Recreation Campground. We were there on a holiday weekend but found that we could move to a second spot and stay the entire weekend.   With the Senior Pass we were able to camp for $4 per night.   Our campsite sat high on a hill overlooking Lake Roosevelt.   

The wide open spaces were welcome and solar was plentiful.  The simplistic and stark landscape was a beautiful metamorphosis from the mountains and tree canape we have been living under.  It lent to a sudden feeling of freedom and a sense that I could fully breathe.

A quick trip into town allowed Hailey to attend an open house at the High School she will be attending in her Freshman year.  A little grocery shopping and school supplies and a friend of hers will join us for the remainder of the weekend.

Sagebrush abounds as do snakes during this time of year.  The Rangers and Camp hosts have been on snake patrol removing snakes from around the campground area.

This is not a good time of year for walking in the brush so we won't be doing much hiking here.  But the huge beautiful beach and shady picnic area will give us plenty of things to do. 

  But the huge beautiful beach and shady picnic area will gave us plenty of things to do. 

Where one or more teens gather, others will come.

  A trip into Grand Coulee for the evening laser light show started with a trip to the local ice cream parlor. Pricy but a yummy way to wait for it to get dark near the Visitor Center


 The Visitor Center is open until the Laser Show starts.  There are several informational shows and displays the document the building of the dam and the impact on the surrounding area.  Be sure to pick up a listing of show times so that you are able to see the shows that interest you.

One River, Many Voices, the Laser Light Show is held nightly at Grand Coulee Dam starting the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend through September 30. The show lasts about 30 minutes and is free of charge.

This narrated story, combines colorful lasers that move across the entire span of the dam, creating magnificent moving images that virtually dance across the spillway telling the story of the Missoula Floods that carved the canyon, the native people who lived there and the building of the dam.

After five days at Spring Canyon, our time for our great Washington summer Adventure came to a close.

Life is about to  change and we will be adjusting to new realities. It is now time to adjust once more to a stationary life for a time. I am so grateful for the time this summer with my Granddaughter free from the stress of everyday life.  It has been full of wonderful memories for both of us.

~Happy Trails~

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Splendor of the North Cascades - Blue Lake Hike

The drive through the North Cascades is amazingly beautiful.  It is difficult to keep eyes forward on the road with such stunning landscape on both sides.  Fortunately,  there are a few pull offs and wide spots in the road to allow me more than quick glimpses at the scenery.

We moved to Early Winter Campground which is just outside of the North Cascade National Park, but still inside of the National Forrest. You just got to love the price of camping in this National Forest at $ 4 for seniors per night!!.

This campground has a 24 foot limit on trailers so it won't work for everyone but was perfect for us.

 Our Back Porch View

Though we were feeling the beckoning call of Autumns nightly chill, we slept with the windows open to hear the sounds of water as it spilled over the rocks in the creek at our back door.

 By the next morning, we were ready for our Blue Lake Hike.

We stop at a viewpoint so that I can look where we are going ad  I watch as a drive by tourist, her body half hanging out of the huge 4 wheel drive monster truck, clicks pictures of the scenery streaking past her at 25 miles per hour.  I guess her husband who was driving was in a hurry.   Viewpoints for me are the appetizers before an entree, meant to wet the pallet and leave you wanting more..  I laugh to myself thinking I wouldn't trade my memories of our trip for hers for anything..... 
  (I was so dumbstruck that I didn't think to grab my camera for a pic before they zoomed off!)

Today's hike to Blue Lake will show case the North Cascade the Looky Lou's miss as they whiz by.

I originally wanted to hike the Maple Pass Loop (So many people described this as one of their lifetime favorite hikes), .however I was concerned my hip would not hold up for the 7+ mile steep hike.     So we decided on the Blue Lake hike near Washington Pass. I saved this hike for our last hike in the park and allowed ourselves as long as we needed to make the hike and promised myself a rest day if I needed it after the hike.

The Blue Lake trailhead is .8 miles West from Washington Pass on Highway 20. 

There is a day use fee of $5.00 to park in the parking area and hike from this point.  (If you fill out a form with your senior pass number you are exempted from this fee.)  The hike starts out on a boardwalk in a marshy area along side the highway but soon turns up the mountain in a steady climb to Blue Lake.

 Most of the hike is under a canopy of thick forest which makes for a cooling cover in the hot August sun.

 The hike is a steady2.2 mile climb from Highway 20 and gains 1050 feet in elevation.  The Lake sits at 6254 feet so it was a strenuous climb for us as we had been at sea level for over a month.

Slides are frequent along the trail, leaving rocks and trees strewn along the path.  Although the trail is mostly cleared the power of the slides is left behind on the mountainside.

Slides often provide a break in the forest so we are able to see the gorgeous scenery that lies beyond their stately forest presence.

About halfway through the hike is a high mountain meadow that has flowers blooming giving the impression of American Alps making a wonderful spot for a rest on a rock.

Unlike many mountain trails we have hiked, this trail has very little up and down.  It is steady switch backs of up and up and up until finally the sound of a creek at the outlet of the lake announces our arrival near the lake .

 A collapsed log cabin stands near the lake evidence of log ago.  No signs are available to tell of the history of the people who walked here long ago.


While Hailey wades in the icy alpine lake, I climb higher overlooking this mountain splendor.



With towering granite peaks, forests, meadows, wildflowers, and of course the beautiful mountain lake surrounded by granite that reaches toward the sky, this short hike has something to please everyone.

We stopped at the Washington Pass Scenic Overlook and viewed the back side of the mountains Blue Lake is nestled into.   It is hard to visualize all the splendor of the tiny mountain lake hidden behind towering mountains.

The steep mountain road returns us down the mountain to our cool creek side retreat. 
During the evening I suffered with altitude sickness.  

Rest was my friend.

It was a good day!