Archive for the ‘Family camping vacation’ Category
Three observations concerning Forest Service web sites:
1. There isn’t a lot of information on some sites;
2. Many sites just sit on the same information for months and even years;
3. And, the Forest Service really doesn’t blow its horn often or loud enough.
When we started our US National Forest Campground Guide efforts, the Forest Service was still in a cyberspace “Dark-Age.” Their computers were some “off-brand” unknown system that barely talked with any other computers. Some Forest Service employees had been exposed to cyberspace via “gopher” aided college research but most had no experience with cyberspace. The Internet was in its infancy.
Needless to say, “back-in-the-day”, the Forest Service seemed to think web sites were the corners of rooms were spiders hung out. A few years later, if a Forest’s web site was developed, designed, and maintained it was by whoever had the time and interest. Work on a web site was done when everything else was done. Since than web sites have evolved and today the Forest Service web sites have a standard appearance with specific guidelines. But getting the information we, the users of National Forests, need continues to be challenge.
My interests are focused on camping opportunities and hiking trails. Over and over again I have found the campground information provided by the Forest Service is one, two, or more years old and so sketchy I am not sure what I might be getting myself into. (A call to the Forest’s Front Desk person usually corrects this problem but not always and there is a rumor that this position may be “consolidated,” whatever that means.) And trying to discover trails at or near the campground – just forget about it.
After all these years of working with the Forest Service in the forests across the country there are three things I have learned:
- people who work for the Forest Service are dedicated, committed, wonderful group of people and, generally, introverts;
- National Forests are the bestest places; and,
- the Forest Service is “hiding their light under a basket.”
Dani is our big loveable Golden Retrieve and Ralf is our 10 pounds terror. Dani and Ralf travel with us throughout the national forests and grasslands across the county. Here are some things we have learned to keep them safe and comfortable while we are on the road.
- A well-check with the vet before departure is important. Making sure your pet is healthy and current on their vaccinations can eliminate potential problems later.
- Safety restrains are a bother but give peace of mind. Would you put your child in the car without some safety restrain? We opted for the harass-style seat belt, shown in this photo. One advantage to us is we can keep the harass on the kids when walking them.
- If you opt for a carrier, familiarize your pet with that device before departure.
- Use some method of identifying your pet. It could be a good old tag with your name and phone or one of those high tech devices.
- Have a first aide kit with supplies recommend by your vet.
- Never leave a pet unattended in a closed vehicle, even if it is just warm outside. A Stanford University study claims when the outside temperature is 72, a close car sitting in the sun will reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes!
- Keep water available at all times. Ice in the water is a great idea when the environment is hot.
- Breaks to stretch help everyone travel better.
The Green Mountain National Forest doesn’t have as many modern facilities found in other national forests but it does have an over-abundance of natural beauty, quiet, and peace. Vermont is a unique place with people just as special. In my opinion, Green Mountain National Forest reflects the people and land perfectly.
I love Traveling Bingo for entertaining children when going from here to there. I’ll print out a set, slip them in to plastic sleeves, and give each child their own Bingo card along with something to mark with. The first child who gets a Bingo gets to pick our lunch stop or afternoon snack or rides in the front with me or something like that. (The next day or so, the “winner” has to help the loser so that child has a chance to get a Bingo.)
The National Wildlife Federation has come up with a set of Camping Bingo cards that I’m putting into my “activity box” for the next time we going camping with the grandchildren. They are great cards and a super idea. Hope you find them as much fun as I did.
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.
Try this on your next camping trip. It is a great dessert that even the youngest member of your group can make. I know it doesn’t look it but this is one of the easiest and best chocolate fudge recipes ever!
Put 4 ounces (1/2 a block) of cream cheese, 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, 2 Tablespoon butter or margarine, and a pinch of ground cinnamon (optional) in a one gallon size Ziplock bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible and seal. If young person is making, slip the full Ziplock bag into an empty one, squeeze the air out of that one and seal. Now squish and squish and squish until everything is mixed. Scoop out a spoonful for everyone or spread on graham cracker or, like in the photo, smear on apple slices. The possibilities are limitless. Store leftovers, like there might be some, in ice chest. Make some toast for breakfast and spread leftover fudge over it and sprinkle raisins. Yummy stuff.
Just spent almost a week camping at Chewalla Lake cg in Holly Springs National Forest (about 60 miles west of Tupelo, MS). It was like having a big old country estate all to ourselves. Just me, hubby, two dogs, and dozens of deer. And a couple of visiting Bald Eagles. Fabulous! But learned the Forest Service will be closing it this year November 15 (it has been opened year round for decades) because they aren’t getting the campers. So sad IMHO, this sweet little campgrounds is a delight but we were told, last winter, their electric bill (apparently their wonderful full bathroom with heat, flush toilets, and hot showers needs a lot of “juice”) was $2000 but revue was only $400. This is *not* a concessionaire operated campground and the forest has been unable to find a quality campground host to help out, so their solution to the uncovered expense is to close the campground.
I’m sure the Holly Springs NF folks tried to find another solution but . . . Well, it will open up again March 15, 2011 and if you are in the neighborhood, drop in for a few days. The Dogwoods should be glorious and maybe the Eagles will stop by again for a brief visit.
If you live near Jacksonville or Gainsville, FL, are you a lucky person. About a 45 minute drive north from Gainsville and 45 minutes west of Jacksonville is, in my opinion, the sweetest campground in Florida – Osceola NF’s Ocean Pond campground.
Who would have thought there would be such a lovely national forest campground tucked into the pine forest along this stretch of Rt. 90? Ocean Pond itself was a pleasant lake, aAlmost 2,000 surface acres of bright blue water contained in nearly a perfect circle. The campground is located on the north side of the lake, where the shore gentle slopes into the deeper depths. This provides several place were you can safely play in the water. The forest comes down to the Pond’s edge with some Cypress trees actually growing up out of the water – good place to moor your boat.
The campground itself offers three different camping experiences: there are the sites with electric and water hookups located in a park-like area; then there are the water hookup only sites separated from their neighbor by a privacy hedge of natural flora; and, last is what the Forest Service calls “primitive” but I call fabulous sites. These sites have no trimmed grass or hookups. They are just tucked into the native woods and its like entering another world.
I’ve mentioned before Fred and I are opposites that make one great whole and Ocean Pond campground is our kind of place: there are the hookups for Fred and the deep woods for me. Plus there are flush toilets, hot showers, rv dump station, coin operated washing machines and driers (unique to the Forest Service campground inventory), fabulous birdwatching, fishing and boating.
Okay, Salt Springs campground in the Ocala NF will always amazing but Osceola’s Ocean Pond campground is were I would head for the next time I’m in Florida.
Last week, spent several days camping at Open Pond campground in the Conecuh National Forest. Such a lovely place. I enjoyed watching a pair of Egrets hunting along the shoreline and the robust population of squirrel preparing for winter – drove Dani crazy!!!! The hiking trails around the campground were super. A hot shower each evening a delight.
Each afternoon we “enjoyed” a rain shower and each morning a gentle fog lay over the land.
This Green Tree Frog greeted me the first night we camped at Open Pond campground. I had enjoyed my shower and was about to brush my teeth. As I leaned over the sink, there it was! Two leaps and down the sink’s drain it went. It turned around mid-drain, peeked out of the drain and watched me clean my teeth. Never know what you’ll experience when visiting a national forest campground.
Spent two super days exploring the sand (not sure if it is one very long beach or a bunch of little beaches) between Pass Christian and Ocean Springs, both in Mississippi. Yes, there were a few teams of clean-up crews, in their bulky haz-mat jumpers, sprinkled around but nothing like what we had seen on tv.
We were told the sand had all been imported after Katrina because, back in the day, “the beaches were all grass but who wants to go to a grassy beach?” Well, as you can see in these photographs, today there are miles and miles of sandy beach. It is a fine textured, almost white, sand and nothing like the coarse sand I played on when we lived in southern California.
And the whole place was nearly empty. I don’t know what the room rates are down here (we’re staying at Big Bolixi campground in the DeSoto NF which is fabulous and empty) but if you have any vacation time left, you’ll probably never experience a nicer beach this empty again.
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