Archive for the ‘campgrounds’ Category
Our weekend of camping in the shadow of the San Francisco mountain on the east side of Flagstaff is almost done. Tomorrow we’ll go to Williams, AZ and re-visit Dogtown, Kaibab Lake, and White Horse Lake campgrounds before heading to Prescott to do some of the campgrounds area there. But more about those adventures later.
It was 351 miles from home to Flagstaff. Hand down, the worst part was the hour or so driving through Phoenix. I wish I could find another way to go from southern Arizona to its northern reach. It doesn’t seem to matter when we leave home, the traffic in Phoenix is miserable and the temperature only adds to the misery. However, when Phoenix is in our rear-view mirror things are good. The traffic melts away, as does the heat, and landscape goes from one housing developed, mega-shopping mall and apartment complex to various vista that stretch beyond imagination, open prairies dotted juniper and finally towering sweet scented Ponderosa pine.
It is still too early, and cold, for wildflowers to be in blooming north of Phoenix but up to there blossoms lined the I-10. Yellow Brittlebush seemed to be the most plentiful with occasional patches of rosy pink penstemon and golden Mexico poppies are everywhere. May it’s the surrounding dull dead brown landscape that makes the roadway lining wildflower displays so pleasing. What ever the reason, it might be the best part of the two-plus-hour drive.
This is a photograph of one of the my favorite weeds. I call it a “Chocolate Weed” because it smells like a chocolate cocoa.
Once in Flagstaff, we settled into a private campground. What can I say,? It’s a private campground were one parks their rig between young pines on parking aprons of the cindery soil so common to the area close enough to the neighboring rig that you can identify what they are having for dinner. The dogs are completely unimpressed by the many Abert’s squirrels (with tuffed ears and related to the Kaibab squirrel which live on the north rim of the Grand Canyon National Park) gathering around the plate of food left by our neighbor. Besides the entertaining squirrels, the adjacent Coconino National Forest offers miles and miles of trails to explore. The dogs and I think that is the best feature of this private campground.
We were once asked, “What’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever experienced or seen in a national forest?” That’s tough one. Not because there was a lack of the “amazing” but rather an abundance of them. I have maybe 14 journals loaded with things we have seen and experienced with a long list of adjectives attached. Here are a few that come immediately to mind.
Seeing a swimming Bald eagle in the Tongass NF. To make a long story short, this mature eagle had caught a salmon that must have weighted around 10 pounds. The problem was a Bald eagle can’t fly carrying that much weight and this bird wasn’t going to give up its catch so it swam, using a butterfly stoke with its wings, about 75 yards to shore. Once there, it climbed up on the rocks and devoured that fish. One awesome, unforgettable sight.
Another amazing experience was driving the County/Forest route 630 between Ophir and Silverton, CO in the Uncomprahgre National Forest. (Later, I learned it was considered an “easy” 4X4 trail but it isn’t so easy in a 3/4 ton Ram pickup!) Route 630 is the mother of all “white knuckle roads.” Point in fact, Fred was a redhead when we started our drive and was grey by the time we finished. We should have realized it was going to be a challenge when the Post Mistress in Ophir told us, “Yeah, your truck’s got the clearance, you should be able to make it.”
I find waterfalls amazing. Towering waterfalls like Yakso in the Umpqua NF, Upper and Lower Mesa in Targhee NF, and Elk Creek, just to name a few, are awe-inspiring. But also inspiring are those unnamed waterfalls that appear only after a rainstorm. A favorite waterfall was discover when we took a hike out of Singletree campground (Fishlake NF) and discovered water falling from a cliff high above, forming a shower curtain or water. Imagine looking out over a hot, dry Utah desert of Ponderosa pine shimmering in the heat and having a cooling mist gently touching bare skin – wonderful.
I must say, for me, the most amazing part of our adventure are the people we have met. There was Doyle, the most politically knowledgeable person I have ever met even though he could neither read or write. And the 72-year old Buster who knew more about the trees in his native Ozark Mountains than anyone (the Forest Service still consults with him). And, the amazing people who are volunteer campground hosts all across this country,
We’ll stop here with marveling in amazement at all we have accomplished. Who could have imagined we would do so much? Certainly, we have exceeded our musing of 18 years ago.
When we research a campground, we always ask about things to do near that campground. Vermont Country Store, in Weston, VT, is close to the Green Mountain National Forest’s Hapgood campground and a must. This is a store you could spend all day browsing through and still feel like there is more to explore. Wood floors polished by thousands of shoes walking across it. Doors that lead to another discovery. Smells of cheese, coffee, candy, leather, shaving lotions and more. So much to see, smell, touch, feel, taste – reminded me of my visits to a little 5 & dime store when a child. Here are just two photos of the interior.
There are other things to do but a visit to the Vermont Country Store when camped at Hapgood campground is a must.
Last month we got an email from a camper who was disappointed by the conditions at a national forest campground. As is our policy, when someone send us a complement or complaint we forward it to the ranger district office for whatever action the forest wants to take. In the case of this particular message we were copied on the response. The District Ranger explained the reasons for the conditions and than stated (and I paraphrase here) the Forest Service will never have the “quality” of a private campgrounds.
We have just spend more than a week camping in private campgrounds traveling across this great country. Rarely did we have things like trees or privacy, campfires or quiet, and campsites were close enough to know what the neighbors are having for dinner. There were chlorine laden swimming pools, two sunny playground, and a Sunday morning pancake breakfast served in the Club House. In a Forest Service campground, you have hours of shade from big old trees, spend time hunting for firewood, and exploring the surrounding woods. For entertainment, there sitting around a campfire, telling stories or singing, watching the moon and stars rise, and listening to the night-time sounds of the forest critters. During the day, there might be a swimming hole available for an afternoon dip and most often playgrounds are what can be found in forest and hillsides. True, a national forest camper may enjoy a plate of pancakes for breakfast, may be even with fresh picked blueberries, and it is made by the camper.
Don’t forget there are a lot of campsites posted at ForestCamping.com so you can find your own quality campground.
More campers will be seeing this poster on fee boards at national forest campgrounds this year. As the bear population increases so must our awareness of the dangers. One thing I like about the poster’s message is in the upper right hand corner – a bear and a squirrel. Yes, bears are a serious worry but that little graphic in the corner should remind us, little critters are always on the look out for an easy, free meal.
There is a question I don’t understand. There is some much to do in any national forest, national grassland, or in you backyard. Allison McDonald, author of the No Time for Flash Cards blog, has provided a great response to the question, ”Is these anything my children can do at the campground?” Click here to see what you and your child can be outdoors.
Convenient to Missoula, Charles Waters Campground combines rustic luxuries with wonderful hiking trails. Favorites are the Dr. Waters Physical Fitness and Bass Creek trails. The first trail is 1/4-mile trail that meanders through a thick stand of pines and includes a variety of stations to exercise more than one’s legs. At the far end of the campground is the 12-mile Bass Creek trail which follows Bass Creek in to Bitterroot-Selway Wilderness. While the Fitness trail winds through the dense shadow of Ponderosa pine, Bass Creek trail is more open and, in the Spring, bordered with colorful blossoms. This is a great campground with even better trails.
Toadstool Geologic Park in the Oglala National Grassland (NG) just north of Crawford, NE is devoid of trees and the vegetation found elsewhere in the Oglala NG. (The Oglala NG is unique among the grasslands because it does have towering pine trees covering its hill tops and green grass covering must of the landscape.) What the Toadstool Geologic Park does have is fanciful formations caused by the erosion of the wind and water creating the odd shapes given the fanciful name “toadstool.” (There is also a lovely tiny campground which makes exploring the Park easy.)
The toadstool formations, which can be seen from the campground, are considered evidence of paleorivers (ancient rivers) that flowed through the area some 30 million or more years ago. The valuable fossil deposits and massive trackway (the fossilized footprints of early mammals preserved in the ancient mud) found in the Toadstool Geologic Park also give evidence of those paleorivers.
Fast flowing rivers from the west flowed through the area and deposited coarse-grained sand, which became sandstone, in the river’s bed. While sand was accumulating in the riverbed, silt was slowly being laid down in the river’s flood plain and became siltstone. The river, over hundreds of thousand of years, changed coarse many time and alternating levels of sandstone and siltstone were laid down, as seen in this photograph.
About ten million years ago, uplift of the Rocky Mountains and climate change occurred. The area became drier and the layers laid down by the river began to wear away. This process is continuing. The harder sandstone is more resistant to the forces of erosion while the softer siltstone is more susceptible to erosion. The protective sandstone “cap” sits on top the siltstone “stem” forming a “toadstool.” The “toadstools” found in the Toadstool Geologic Park exist for only a moment and offer a snap shot of the area’s geological evolution. Each year there are “toadstool” that collapse while new ones are being formed.
The Toadstool Geological Park has more to offer than hiking among the “toadstool” formations. The Fifth and Ninth Cavalry units from Fort Robinson chased Crazy Horse and his people through this area. It is said artifacts are still being found from then and when the mighty Sioux people freely roamed the area. In 1984 a replica sod house was built within the campground. It was built to celebrate those early settlers and, in particular, a World War I veteran who made Toadstool Geologic Park his home until the Dust Bowl drove him out. Observant hikers may find blue agate and fossilized reminders of the animals that once lived in the area today known as Toadstool Geological Park. Please remember: Fossils are paleontology resources consisting of remains or traces of plants and animals that existed in a previous geological period. They are unique, nonrenewable resources that provide clues to the history of life on earth and are considered to have scientific value. Anyone may collect invertebrate and plant fossils (other than petrified wood) in “reasonable” amounts. Vertebrate fossils may be collected only by persons who possess permits issued by the Forest Service.
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