Camping with Suzi

Join me as we discover camping in our national forests.

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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

My new and improved First Aid Kit

Each year I go through our first aid kit. In the past, I just tossed the expired items and stuffed everything back into an old shoe box. This year I tried something new – I organized our first aid kit.

After doing some research, I made a list and had our family doctor take a look. A few things he advised against having (“You are better off leaving suturing to professionals,” was one comment and “Taking aspirin with your anti-inflammatory medicine isn’t a good idea,” was another) but basically agreed with my list. Here’s what I packed:

Ziplock bags for washing and rinsing a wound.
Moleskin to prevent chafing and blisters although duct tape will work in a pinch.
Gauze pads for cleaning and protecting.
Sunscreen for everything including lips. (One if my Kit and one in the dashboard.)
Non-antibacterial soap for cleaning.
Butterfly band-aids (instead of sutures) to close a cut.
Imodium A-D for diarrhea.
Ibuprofen for pain relief and anti-inflammatory (instead of aspirin). (A prescription was need for heavy-duty dosage.)
Duct tape is good for everything, so why not for wrapping wounds? And it was doctor suggested.
Iodine or antiseptic ointment.
Tweezers for removing splinters, ticks, etc.
Safety pins for fastening, an alternative to duct tape.
ACE bandage for support, limb stabilization.
Krazy glue for wound closing when butterfly band-aids just aren’t big enough. (I would use only in major emergence but doc says its okay.)
Aloe Vera get for burns from fire, sun, wind, whatever.
Oral dehydration salts/powders or electrolyte replacements in case of diarrhea.

And our doctor reminded us of the importance of having our tetanus and other shots up-to-date.

Remember, this is my first aid kit tailored to Fred, me, and our dogs (check with your vet for any special needs your dog might have). Your kit will probably look different. But be sure to double check with your family doctor to see if there is something you may have overlooked or some little “trick” they have found useful (I had never considered using duct tape for a first aid emergency) . Here’s hoping you will neverr need any of it.
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I’m hoping to get a couple of Yellowstone photo-blogs up this weekend. Great place to visit!!!

Gardiner, MT and Teddy Roosevelt

It has been a while since we visited Yellowstone National Park. It seemed like this was a good to time return to explore this world famous Park and for Fred to get some photographs with his new lens. (Boys and their toys, you know.)

We usually recommend Bakers Hole in the Gallatin NF or Three-mile in the Shoshone NF to folks looking for a campground when visiting Yellowstone. However, we opted for a very rustic campground named Eagle Creek. To some it wouldn’t be considered much of a campground but to others it is a touch of heaven. (I’ll post some photographs of Eagle Creek cg and the surrounding area on our website at the Gallatin’s Pictures {http://www.forestcamping.com/dow/pictures/pictures.htm#gallatin} asap.)

Eagle Creek campground basically stretches up a draw with only a few trees to block the magnificent views of the surrounding mountains. This is wilderness and bear country. Not the Congressional designated “Wilderness” many hiking-boot, hard-body young people head for but the type of wilderness that people overlook but wildlife love. This should be our most primitive and “back-to-basic” camping experience of the year (at least that’s what Fred is hoping).

I’ll write more about Yellowstone NP in a later blog, but for now I want to say a few things about Gardiner, MT. Last week I wrote a little piece about “Ecotourism”. Gardiner could have been included in the blog. I have no idea how these folks survive each winter until the tourists return but they do. Maybe Gardiner is full of artists who do a form of hibernation where they lock themselves up and just create but the town has a sleepy, lay-back energy to it.

Two of the strongest memories I have of Gardiner from our 1997 are our visit to the movies theater and the impact of an increase in the entrance fee to Yellowstone. The theater was a converted grain mill that, we were told, had been a roller rink at one time. Nothing fancy but it was a great experience. The entrance fee increase, plus the residual effects of the “Great Yellowstone Fire” ten years earlier, had caused some “Business Closed” signs to go up. I think it further illustrates the concept of “Ecotoursim” so clearly.

I am happy to report, if the fresh paint and numerous signs for Outfitters and other businesses is any indication, Gardiner has recovered. Let’s hope that recovery continues.

Physical, Gardiner, MT is a small town bisected by the Yellowstone River. I would say the setting is more attractive than the actual town is but that might be like saying Brad Pitt is prettier than Angelina Jolie. It’s hard to image anything very exciting happening in Gardiner but there is one 100-plus old event they still recall.

I didn’t know it but President Teddy Roosevelt came to Gardiner to visit Yellowstone NP, and hoped to do some hunting, around the spring of 1903. He was present and gave a speech for the dedication of Roosevelt Arch (marks the North Entrance to the Park) built by his fellow Masons. This visit (as best I can discover was his second visit to Yellowstone) hadn’t received much attention until recently. Several conservationist organizations and authors have been relooking at this 1903 visit and concluded it is a prime example of Roosevelt’s “overwhelming environmental ethic.”

I like the following quote from TR’s dedication speech:

“The creation and preservation of such a great national playground (Yellowstone NP) in the interest of our people as a whole is a credit to the nation. . .It has been preserved with wise foresight. The scheme of it preservation is noteworthy in its essential democracy. . .”

Roosevelt was also critical to the evolution of our national forests and for that we should all be grateful. Maybe, at some point, you too can visit Gardiner, stand at the Roosevelt Arch, where the Gallatin National Forest and Yellowstone NP touch, and send your “Thank You” to that remarkable man who spent time in Gardiner, MT more than a hundred years ago.

National Forest campgrounds alternatives to most popular National Parks

Did you see the June 21, 2009 article in New York Times TRAVEL Section by Jame Margolies titled The Last-Minute Guide to Summer Camping? We contributed to that article. However, for whatever reason, some of our suggestions for alternatives national park campgrounds weren’t mentioned. Since I went to all that work thought you might like to see the long list of national forest campground alternatives.

Yosemite National Park is surrounded by Inyo, Sierra, and Stanislaus national forests.
- For the Park’s southern entrance there is Summerdale campground (Sierra)
- For the Park’s western entrance there is Diamond O campground (Stanislaus)
- For the Park’s eastern entrance there is Tioga Lake campground (Inyo)

Yellowstone National Park is surrounded by Beaverhead, Gallatin, Custer, Targhee, and Shoshone national forests.
- For the Park’s southern entrance there is Cave Falls campground (Targhee)
- For the Park’s western entrance there is Bakers Hole campground (Gallatin)
- For the Park’s northeastern entrance there is Soda Butte campground (Custer)
- For the Park’s eastern entrance there is Three Miles campground (Shoshone)

Teton National Park is surround by Targhee, Bridger, Teton, and Shoshone national forests.
- For the Park’s southern entrance there is Hobart campground (Teton)
- For the Park’s northern entrance there is Cave Falls campground (Targhee)

Grand Canyon National Park is surrounded by Kaibab National Forest
- For the Park’s southern entrance there is Ten-X campground.
- For the Park’s northern entrance there is Jacob Lake campground

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are surrounded by Inyo, Sierra, and Sequoia national forests.
- Hume Lake and Princess campgrounds (Sequoia) are convenient to the entrances of both Parks.

Olympic National Park is surrounded by the Olympic National Forest.
- For the Park’s northern entrance there is Klahowya campground.
- For the Park’s southwest entrance there is Falls Creek campground

Rocky Mountain National Park is surrounded by Roosevelt, Routt, and Arapaho national forests.
- For the Park’s western entrance there is Stillwater campground (Arapaho)
- For the Park’s eastern entrance there is Olive Ridge campground (Roosevelt)
- For the Park’s northern hikers’ entrance there is Long Draw campground (Roosevelt)

Acadia National Park has no National Forests near by.

Great Smoky NP is surrounded by the Cherokee and Nantahala national forests.
- For the Park’s southern side there is Tsali campground (Nantahala). This campground is special for two reasons: 1) Hot showers!: and, 2) there is a huge network of trails (almost 40 miles worth) perfect of mountain biking and equestrian riders.

Glacier National Park is surrounded by Flathead and Lewis and Clark national parks.
- For the Park’s western entrance there is Big Creek campground (Flathead) adjacent to the Big Creek Outdoor Education Center.
- For the Park’s southern entrance there is Devil Creek campground (Flathead) with some of the sweetest huckleberries you have every tasted. Grizzlies love huckleberries too so camper at this campground should practise “Bear Awareness.”
- For the Park’s east entrance there is Summit campground (Lewis and Clark), straddling the Continental Divide. Note: Even at 46 miles, this is the closest Forest Service campground to the Park’s east entrance.

All the National Forest campgrounds listed are very close, within an estimated 10 miles, of the given Park’s entrance.

If I were going to any of these Parks, my personal preferences and the reasons follow:
- Diamond O campground (Stanislaus) when visiting Yosemite National Park because of it history, lush vegetation, and peaceful atmosphere.
- Cave Falls campground (Targhee) when visiting Yellowstone and Teton national parks because it is so undiscovered, rustic, and beautiful. Plus it has delicious drinking water.
- Demotte Park campground (Kaibab) when visiting the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Next to a huge mountain valley, this campground features good wildlife viewing and is close to the wonderful sights of the Kaibab Plateau and North Rim.
- Eshom campground (Sequoia) when visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. This campground is a challenge to reach, a dusty drive down a long dirt road, but the rewards are great. The location was used by Native People for centuries and campsites are nestled among young, 100-year old Sequoia trees.
- Klahowya campground (Olympic) when visiting the Olympic National Park. This campground is magical and mysterious and gorgeous.
- Jacks Gulch campground (Roosevelt) when visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park for its electric hook-ups and good hiking trails.

(Note: Some of my personal preferences are not as convenient to the Park as the one given earlier.)

Okay, I am a diehard fan of national forest campgrounds but with so many alternatives, why would anyone opt to camp in a overpriced, overcrowded, and oversold national park campground?

Ten day menu for camping dinners

I think there are two types of camping cooks: prepare ahead type; and, do it now ones. Fred’s mother was more the former while I am the later.

When Fred’s parents decide to go camping, the preparation began weeks in advance. Jane, Fred’s mom, was something of a Martha Stewart when it came to camping meals. Everything was made ahead, frozen neatly in perfect packages that fit just right in the cooler. She would bring stuff for cocktails hour in one box. Another box would be packed for non-frozen dinner stuff. And of course there had to be something prepared as an after dinner snack. Her camping trips last two to five days.

I, on the other hand, enjoy camping trips lasting five to six months. So I make sure my pantry is well stocked and plan a week’s worth of meals at a time, all the while hoping for the best. Breakfasts are easy either a bagel with fruit or cereal and a fruit juice most days. Lunch is a similar breeze, sandwiches with vegetables and chips. Dinner takes a little more thought. Will we be traveling on this day or surveying? What might the weather and temperature be?. Another thought is whether I’ll have the microwave or grill available. There are other considerations but you get the idea. And of course, there are things with our diets that must be taken into consideration.

I have a spiral notebook with all the menus composed for the last four years and will refer back to them on occasion. Here are the meals for the first ten days of our 2009 season’s travels. Maybe it will give you some ideas.

Day 1-Spaghetti with meat sauce and side salad

Day 2-A package of Lipton’s Parmesan Noodles with Sausage patties and side salad

Day 3-Stir-fried Chicken over rice (This Chicken dish is just too easy. Thank you Kraft Foods. )

Day 4-Monday Macaroni (love this recipe and think you will too so here it is)
Melt a pad of butter or margarine in a skillet with a splash of oil. Add a handful each of chopped onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms and meat (we like sliced hot dogs, chunks of ham or span) to the skillet and saute for about five minutes. Add a can of diced tomatoes, smashed garlic if handy, a piece of bay leaf, beef bouillon cube, and a splash of water. Bring to boil then cover and reduce to simmer. When skillet simmers, boil a pot of macaroni pasta to el dente. Drain the pasta and serve the macaroni toCamper's Skilletpped with the vegetable and meat mixture. Sprinkle a liberal amount of Cheddar or Parmesan cheese on top.

Day 5-Camper’s Skillet with side salad

Day 6-Sauteed Pork Chops with boiled potatoes and green beans
(Here’s a tip for frying pork chops. They can get dry when cooked above 5,500-ft. To limit this do not season chops before cooking. Instead heat skillet until a few drops of water sprinkled onto the skillet’s surface dance. Now, sprinkle a salt and pepper into the skillet. Drop in the chops and quickly sear both sides. Reduce the flame and pour in a ½ to 1 cup of liquid, water works but I prefer apple juice. (Remember if you use wine to remove from flame when adding.) Cover the skillet and let cook gently until done.)

Day 7-Grilled burger (for Fred) and fish (for me) with Simple Fried Rice with peas
(Heat a splash of oil in a skillet. When oil simmers, add cold cooked rice, chopped onion, celery, and a little minced garlic and saute until everything is heated. Push to the side. Break one or two eggs into pan and stir quickly to cook. Mix egg with rice and serve with soy sauce.)

Day 8-Veggie Frittata in a bag with canned tomatoes and corn
(Veggie Frittata is adapted from the Boy Scout’s Eggs in a Bag. So easy – Break a couple of eggs into a ziplock bag and “mush” into one completely yellow blob. Add diced veggies, a spoonful of drained salsa, and some cheese. Give it another little mush, and seal the bag, squeezing the air out as you go. Now drop into a pot a boil water and let go for 15 minutes. It’s done!)

Day 9-Grilled Chicken Breast (tossed in some Italian Salad dressing then grilled over hot coals) with Grilled Potatoes and Carrots (I use those “baby” carrots and put in separate foil packet)

Day 10-Fred cooks or, said another way, we eat out!!!

For more meal ideas please visit the Recipes and Menu page at Camping with Suzi.

First ten days on the road

Have we really been on the road for ten days? Our start wasn’t great. There were problems but aren’t there always problems? But nothing could have kept us home.

We got to Phoenix before the temperatures topped 100 degrees and headed straight for the cooler Potato Patch campground outside Clarkdale, AZ. Between the campground and Clarkdale is the historic town of Jerome. While the drive to Jerome is beautiful, this former mining town appears to be hung off the mountainside and driving through it is one of the scariest thing I have ever done.

We camped at Potato Patch campground (cg) that first night out. Potato Patch, and the neighboring Mingus Mountain cg, are unusual for the Southwest Region. They both have electric hook-ups. Potato Patch campground is nice and was convenient for us to stay at but the views from Mingus Mountain campground are incredible. The views alone could make the two-and-half miles up a steep, curving dirt road drive worth it but not for an overnight stay.

Next we headed for Spring Mountains National Recreation Area (NRA), just northwest of Las Vegas, NV via Chino Valley and Bullhead City, AZ. Fred dislikes Interstates but we had no choice and had to get on I-40. Head-up folks – There are some very rough stretches on I-40 between Ash Fork and Kingman. We stayed at a private cg just before Kingman. It was behind the truck stop but we heard little of the truck traffic or highway noises. The big thing was the large pens they had for the dogs to run off leash. Dani gets so tired being leashed all the time. We discovered a tail-light burnt out on Squirt, our Suzuki. We found a replacement a few days later.

Our route bypassed “the Dam”, aka Hoover Dam. We have been there, did that and have no desire to deal with its traffic again. The highlight of our alternative route, US95, was the town of Searchlight, NV. In other words, it was a pretty boring drive but not as stressful as the drive through Las Vegas. It seemed to take hours and so many cars!

Spring Mountains NRA was a pleasant surprise after the hours of arid desert. If you are ever going that way, try to make the side trip and stay at a cg in either Kyle or Lee Canyon. I wouldn’t recommend trying on a weekend though. There is about a 20 degree difference between Spring Mountains’ cgs, and Las Vegas so the NRA is a magnet to locals looking for relief from the heat. We’ve now stayed at Dolomite and Kyle Canyon cgs and I personally like Dolomite better but there is more hiking near Kyle Canyon cg.

When we finished the NRA it was time to head for a favorite location – the Kaibab Plateau and the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. This was the first time we had driven I-15 from Las Vegas to St. George, UT. I must say the first hour after leaving the Las Vegas city limits wasn’t much to write about. It seemed they were growing a forest of power lines for a stretch. The little communities along the way were pretty sad until Mesquite, NV. It’s a border town with casinos and golf courses and all that stuff.

As impressive as Mesquite was, it didn’t compare to the Virgin River Canyon – 11-miles of the most breathtaking geology you’ll see anywhere. It was like being in a miniature Grand Canyon. Fabulous! Even after the magnificent beauty southern Utah’s geology, with its hints of what places like Zion and Bryce might look like, I think the Virgin River Canyon was the highlight of the day’s drive.

We got to Jacob Lake cg and found a nice pull-through in plenty of time for dinner. Dessert was pie at the Jacob Lake Inn across the street. We had thought it cool at Spring Mountains NRA but walking back to the rig, Fred and I decided an extra blanket was definitely in order. We spent the next day resurvey Jacob Lake cg and visiting with the Kaibab’s recreational person. He had a group at the cg cleaning up the nature trail for the National Trails Day. A most pleasant day and a pleasant cg I continue to recommend to anyone going this way.

Back on the road and Rt89. The geology, small towns, lack of traffic, the whole experience, I just love this drive. We were surprised by the number of rvs but gas prices aren’t even close to last year’s highs. We spent a couple of nights at a private cg (had a ton of work on laptops to catch up on) before getting back on I-15. I will say it looks like they made an effort but when compared to the Forest Service cgs, they did miss the mark. On the other hand, it is a good place to be with a flat tire. Even this close to a “big” city, it took most of the morning to get repaired. Oh, the fun of travel.

The next hurtle was getting through Salt Lake City. We stop at Camping World for a new dish strainer and, of course, Fred had to see if there was anything he couldn’t live without.

We made it through the mega-huge SLC and are enjoying the peace, quiet and serenity of the Curlew National Grasslands. More about that in another entry.

Picture taking tips from Olympus camera

Tomorrow we’ll be pulling into Jacob Lake campground on the Kaibab Plateau and Grand Canyon’s North Rim. It seemed like a good time for some photo tips from Olympus camera folks.

* When photographing landscapes, think about the horizon’s position. The most interesting photos follow the “rule of thirds,” which means always divide the subject into three sections. This can be done horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
Cape Cod Seashore
* Use your images to tell a story. Take a wide-angle or panorama shot to establish the setting. Then, use your zoom to get close, providing details of a specific scene. This could include wildlife, people, an intricate rock formation or anything that tells the story of your adventure.

* One of the best ways to capture a landmark is to include people in it. It not only brings the photo to life, it bring live to the photo.

* Scale and depth are key to show the expansiveness of a magnificent landscape. For scalWatchmane, use something that’s size is commonly known, such as a person, car or animal. Do so provides perspective against a vast scene. To demonstrate depth, place something close to and far away from the camera.

* Fall colors pop in early morning or early evening light. Try shooting at dawn and dusk for contrast.

* Taking wildlife photos requires patience and a powerful zoom lens. Animals move at will. Don’t forget to put your camera in the “action” mode. It is perfect for capturing the fast movement of wildlife. Zooming in from far way helps you to easily change your composition and capture the shot with making distracting movement that could startle your subject.

* Refection shots are always interesting. Instead of take a photo of the water, try takiMorning at Redhills cgng a photo of the images reflecting in the waster.

* Experiment with the weather. Images taken on a sunny day can be brilliant, but try taking pictures on a cloudy or rainy day. The dramatic colors in the sky will add interest.

* Hiking along a trail is a great opportunity to capture close-up shots of the natural beauty surrounding you. A flower or fossil can be the perfect subject for a detailed shot of your experience. Turn on the flash for a few images; the extra bit of light can really bring out details.

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Photography isn’t just for adults anymore. Give your child a camera to document the trip from their perceptive. You might be truly amazed at what they see.

Managing Increasing Gas Prices

Dodge pick-up
Whether you drive a motorhome, truck, SUV, or sedan, the price of gasoline can impact your vacation by emptying your wallet. The following are suggestions provided in a summer 2008 (remember when gas topped $4 per gallon?) issue of Highways magazine. Highways is a magazine for recreational vehcile (RV) travelers but their suggestions will help all drivers.

1. Follow the manufacturer’s engine-maintenance schedule. Replacing air and fuel filters can improve mileage. When its time for a tune-up invest in premium long-life iridium or platinum-tip spark plugs. Have spark-plug wire checked. Spark-plug wires deteriorate quickly under high-heat conditions which reduces power and efficiency.

2. When changing motor oil, look for products that have the American Petroleum Institute (API) symbol “Energy Conserving” for friction-reducing additives. Give synthetic oils serious consideration. Contrary to old-mechanics’ tales, you can switch engine, transmission and differentialial lubricates to synthetic oil at any time (just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for grade, viscosity, and change intervals) and benefit from reduced friction and fuel consumption.

3. Friction is a huge stealer of gas mileage. Check for misadjusted wheel bearings and dragging brakes.

4. Speaking of friction, did you know radial tires typically have less “rolling resistance” (a.k.a. friction) than bias-ply tires and highway treads “roll” better than mud-and-snow tires? Keep tires inflated properly and check pressure often. Cold temperatures and descending from altitudes will decrease tire pressure and add rolling resistance. FYI-According to tire industry experts, fuel mileage can slip by 0.4% for every 1-psi drop in tire pressure.

5. Towing also has a significant affect on mileage. Keep it as light as possible to help retain your fuel consumption level.

6. Unnecessary weight adds to your “rolling resistance.” Check for unneeded items in your vehicles and leave them at home. Probably a recreation vehicle’s first candidate for jettison is freshwater. Water weights is 8.2 pounds per gallon so carrying 10 gallons (82 lbs) will produce less “rolling resistance” than a full freshwater tank of 40 gallons (328 lbs).

7. While a manual transmission usually gets better mileage than an automatic, the greater number of forward gears in an automatic transmission will also give you better mileage.

8. Long periods of warming up can be a mileage killer and it’s not necessary. Start your engine and let it idle for a minute or so to circulated the oil thoroughly, then drive conservatively until the engine is warmed up, or your temperature gauge indicates “normal” range, before going full throttle.

9. Higher octane won’t increase power, mileage, or engine longevity – go with the fuel grade recommended in your owner’s manual.

10. Keep a log and use it. You’ll be able to compare changes in driving styles, fuel manufactures, road conditions, whatever you want to track. It is also a good “early-warning” method when your miles-per-gallon drops.

11. Storage pods, roof racks, anything that compromises your vehicle’s aerodynamic profile should be, if possible, illuminated.

12. Plan your route carefully. Avoid rush hour traffic and check with the highway department for information on road closure, construction or detours.

By the way, the internet is a good source for finding the lowest gas price in an area. Check www.gasbuddy.com or www.gaspricewatch.com for information. Remember, these sites are only as current as the updated information provided by consumers.

Why travel in a motorhome?

We have noticed, every year about this time, gas prices creep up. This year it’s no different! Price may not be climbing as fast or as high as last year but it will be painful to fill up our motorhome. So why do we continue to travel in a motorhome?

For one thing a recreational vehicle (RV), whether van, travel trailer, or motorhome, provides us with a hassle-free way to see America, particularly in our line of work.

Another reason prefer our RV as it comes with a kitchen, bathroom, livingroom and bedroom. Okay, they are small but give us the comforts of home while we are on the road. Besides, the family room is as big as the great out-of-doors.

By not staying in a hotel/motel or eating every meal out, travel in our motorhome is actually rather affordable. Example? Last year we drove to Alaska and spent six weeks cruising around that state and visiting the Chugach and Tongass national forests while surveying their developed campgrounds. The trip up and back cost an estimated $10,000 (and that includes gas prices in the $5 to $7 per gallon range, all our lodging, meals out, repairs, maintenance, etc!) Take an 11 day cruise around Alaska this year and you’ll pay maybe $1,600 minimum for you berth (and I’m told this reflects prices being slashed for 2009) plus there’s cost of airfare and remember anything you do off the boat will cost extra. Plus it is only 11 days and not one-and-half-months we had in that glorious State. FYI-The most expensive campsite was about $30 dollars. Where can you find a motel for that?

Maybe cruising the shores of Alaska is fun if you have only limited time, single and/or old but Fred and I are none of these and prefer seeing all of an area while cruising the countryside in the comforts of our home.

Here are some cost saving tricks we used in Alaska, and they apply to non-Alaska touring:

  • Stayed in national forest campgrounds as much as possible. Fred’s Senior Card gets our campsite for half the posted fee.
  • Ate lunch, not dinner, out. On the days we ate out, dinner was a light snack (glass of local wine with cheese and crackers and some fruit is a favorite) around sunset.
  • Kept the weight down. The motorhome’s weight that is. Very few canned goods in the pantry. Books are paperback and given away when read.
  • Filled gas tank in the early morning. I have no scientific proof but think you get more gas in the cool morning hours. Plus there is less temptation to purchase any “junky” food, beyond a cup of coffee, right after breakfast.
  • Stocked up at chain grocery store and used a grocery discount card (Fred Meyers stores were plentiful and accepts Krogers’ grocery discount card).
  • Looked for and attended or used free or discounted activities. (Okay, maybe your idea of a great time isn’t watching pee-wee rodeo or little league baseball but we have found it to be an outstanding good time.)
  • I would cook once and have two, maybe three, meals. Leftovers from crock pot of beef stew makes a delicious meat pot pie and add a cup or two of beef broth and you have a healthy soup and sandwich dinner.
  • Laundromats in Alaska, especially along the Inside Passage, are painfully expensive. I would wash small things at the motorhome and go to the laundromat only when I had a huge pile of dirty clothes. And I only uses the multiple load, front loading washing machines. Go as early as possible or during the week.

Next week our motorhome will be our home sweet home. I remember talking with a young woman in a Laundromat years ago. After explaining to her I was an author writing about national forest developed campgrounds, she asked were I live. I told her in my RV and her response was priceless. She said, “You mean you are unemployed AND homeless?!?!?!” I guess for five or six months each year we are but with our motorhome it doesn’t feel like it.

Staycation – an alternative vacation

Last summer I suggested we all take “staycation” as a means to deal with rising fuel costs and as an alternative to the more familiar “Vacation.” Newspaper from east to west coast claim folks are taking more “staycations” this summer. Guess its an idea that is catching on.

Let me briefly example what a “staycation” is and the differences between it and the “vacation”.

For a “Vacation” you pick a place, make reservations, puck down a deposit, plan how you are getting to your vacation location, shop for new clothes, pack those clothes and a ton of other stuff the family simply “must have,” figure what to do with Fido and/or Fluffy, stuff everyone into your car and later, maybe, transfer onto an airplane, get to your vacation location and run around, or not, for the time you have allotted, eat stuff you probably shouldn’t be eating and probably too much, deal with too much sun and crabby family members, then return home to recover from your vacation. (Sounds like the storyline for a Chevy Chase movie, doesn’t it?) A “Staycation” avoids most of that stress because, basically, you don’t go too far from home.

It’s easy to take a “Staycation”. You simply declare, “We are taking a “Staycation.” Then you and your family members look for things to do near home. You will be amazed at what is available. Say you live in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Your “Staycation” could be breakfast at the Bisbee Breakfast Club, a tour of the Copper Queen Mine in Bisbee, and stroll up Brewery Gulch for a bottle of root beer at the Mimosa Market. Or maybe you’ll spend the day at Tombstone watching the Okay Corral shootout, talking to one of the “soiled doves” or “sourdough miners”, and riding the stagecoach through town. Of course, there is always the sights of Tucson, Benson or even “across the line” in Mexico. In other words, you pretend to be a tourist where ever you live.

I think every town has a Chamber of Commerce and most have a website. You can go on-line and check it out. There are an amazing the number of activities and events held each year in most places. Way not take advantage of what’s already in your neighbor.

A great place for a “staycation” is your backyard. Pitch your tent, fire up the grill, and enjoy. We are usually on the road by now but this year our departure has been delayed. It is the first time I have be able to see my backyard in bloom. My conclusion is my backyard would be a great “staycation” destination. (The flowers shown here, in order seen, are on a Desert willow tree, Mexican wedding bush (don’t know its formal name, and pomegranate bush (note the flower seems to explode out of the leathery shell.)

For me, two great features of a “Staycation”, beside the gasoline savings, is having a nice meal out and a relaxing, stress free, day with my family. Try it, bet you like it, too.

Memories from Forest Travels

The updating of forestcamping.com from the information received from the Forest Service has been completed!!!! Okay, there are some phone calls I’m waiting for to resolve a few remaining issues but the work is done!!! It felt like it was taking forever to get everything entered. The whole process is so boring but necessary. I’ve always said you have to chop a lot of onions to make a good stew. I hope readers of www.forestcamping.com find we made a good “stew.”

One of the best things about the hours and hours of updating are the little trips down memory lane. You probably have a long list of your own. Here are a few of mine.

Watching the weather move in from the boulder top mountains at Dolly Sod in the Monangehela National Forest.

Watching the play of shadow and light across the Grand Canyon from the Kaibab Plateau and North Rim.

Watching an egret standing statue still on the far side of a lake one foggy morning and then seeing it strike like lightning, see an osprey snatch a fish out of the water, and spotting that Bald eagle swim to shore with a salmon in its talons.

The breath-taking beauty of Valle Vidal Management Unit’s high desert prairie in the Carson NF and of a Humpback whale as it glides through open water of Alaska’s Tongass NF.

Discovering an unexpected waterfall like the one at Singletree campground in the Fishlake NF. (Never imagined water could be so cold on such a hot day.)

Finding petroglyphs in a little cave in the Ouachita National Forest (the forest knew about them but we still felt like Columbus discovering American).

Figuring out what’s for dinner from what we could find in a gas station’s convenience section in the far reaches of Custer NF. (That experience taught us just because the map has a dot doesn’t mean is it much of a town.)

Waking up in the Manti-LaSal NF’s Gooseberry Reservoir campground in the middle of a flock of sheep in the morning and having a blizzard move in the evening.

Watching a willy ole beaver steal fishing bobbin off the end of an angler’s line at Twin Lake campground in the Allegheny National Forest.

Catching “aspen glow” on Mt. Hood from Trillium Lake campground in Mt. Hood NF.

Listening to: the coyotes at Steer Creek campground in Sam McKelvie NF; the loons on Bear Lake in the Nicolet; the screams of eagles, osprey and peregrine throughout the Lolo NF; the modern day “mule skinner” at Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area; and, how the wind sounds different passing through a stand aspen, cottonwoods, pines, and spruce.

And of course, there are Doyle, Buster, Tom, Ms. Johnson and hundreds of other people we have met and spent time with in national forests from coast to coast. Each person was amazing and left us with good memories.

These memories might fad if it weren’t for the boring chore of updating so, I might look pained, but you’ll hear few complaints from me.

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