Camping with Suzi

Join me as we discover camping in our national forests.


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Modernize & upgrade of nf recreation sites – Good/Bad/Whatever?

Do we really need more campsites with full hookups?

Just heard about a movement by private industry to “modernize and upgrade national forest recreation sites, particularly campgrounds and marinas.” Full hookups, wifi, yurts, and the list goes on. Sounds good, but it means the campground or marina would be privatized, meaning handed over to a concessionaire, for upwards of 20 years. FYI: One of the suggested “improvements” is for “year-round storage.”

Here is the presentation used in the initial meeting between American Recreation Coalition and the Forest Service.   The Forest Service has had a follow-up meeting but haven’t heard of any results.

My question – Does any one care if concessionaires take over recreating in our national forest?  Your comments are appreciated.

Vermont Country Store

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.

Here’s a quick look at the kitchen gadgets section (the toy section is behind the wood soldier).

Looking into the grocery section – coffee to your left, crackers to your right, and straight ahead, Vermont cheese.

There are other things to do but a visit to the Vermont Country Store when camped at Hapgood campground is a must.

Favorite Photos from Green Mountain National Forest

Vermont is a beautiful state and the Green Mountain National Forest captures its beauty and uniqueness.

Mad River Valley – You can see why its call “Green Mountain”










View west from Voter Brook Overlook near Moosalamoo campground










A place of beauty









A place of quiet – morning in Hapgood campground.









Surprises – nest in an empty brochure holder.









And a wry sense of humor.









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.

How’s attendance at your favorite national forest?

Friday, July 13, 2011, USAToday ran a story titled “More people visit national parks but spend less time in them.”  Meghan Hoyer, author of this article states, “While the National Parks have seen an uptick in visitors over the past two decades, the time spent per visitor has dropped nearly 15%. Officials say a decrease in overnight stays is partly to blame. ”

Red Canyon campground in Dixie National Forest: a good alternative to Bryce National Park

The article confirms what we have felt.  Quoting Avery Stonich, communications manager for the Outdoor Industry Association “People are still making outdoor recreation a priority in their lives.  While they aren’t going to the national parks, they certainly are spending more time outdoors.”

From what we have seen and from our email, people are discovering national forests as an alternative to national parks.  Fred thinks it because of the entrance fee charged by the national parks.  I think that fee is up around $25 for prescribed period.  It could be because national forests offer more freedom to do things and campgrounds have fewer campers.

Whatever the reason, I say national forests ROCK!!!

Leveling can be a challenge

Are we level?Finding a level campsite is a rare and wonderful thing. For appliances in recreational vehicles being level is necessary, and for occupants there is this feeling of either climbing up hills and listing to one side.

We have seen, and used, a number of methods to determine if we have achieved a good level but my broom is possibly the most reliable.

We missed that “sweet spot” this time.

Quality Campground

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 so you can find your own quality campground.

Hitting the road – Don’t forget your toolbox

Whether a tent, car, and rv (recreational vehicle) camper, a tool box is important to pack. I’m not talking about an assortment of tools you might need to rebuild engine but some basic stuff to correct small problems like a tear in a tent, hanging a line to dry wet swimsuit, or change out a blown fuse.

Here are tools I think all campers should have in their toolbox. Make sure all tools fit your hand and are comfortable to handle.  IMHO, weight isn’t important but balance is.

Hammer – 16-ounce curved-claw model. It’s lightweight and effective.

Screwdriver – a multi-bit ratchet screwdriver is best. It will save you weight (won’t need more than the one), money (no need to buy any others), and time (no need to reset the tool after each turn).

Pliers – slip-joint for tightening or loosening nuts and bolts and needle-nose pliers for twisting wire and reaching into tight places.

Hardware – a variety of nails, screws, eye hooks, and cup hooks along with wire and/or lightweight durable string. S-hooks and clothespin can be useful, too.  I like to use S-hooks as much as possible since it means less chance of harming live trees, bushes, etc.

Adhesives – Carpenter’s glue for wood and paper, Super glue for almost everything else, but a tape such as masking, duct, and electric, well be useful.  Duct is my chosen preference.  It’s good for everything from a tear in a tent to blisters on your feet.

An rv camper will find a socket and ratchet set useful, too.

ps – The ratchet screwdriver came in handy our first day out.  *All* the cabinets handles needed to be tightened down.

2012 Camping tip #9

Here’s a tip for camping families – keep things the adults might need while the children are sleeping *outside* the travel trailer, motorhome, tent, or cabin.  This includes jackets, firewood, coolers, drinks, books, lanterns, camp chairs, etc.  That way you can let sleeping babies lie and the adults can enjoy some quality time together.

sleeping boy

Packing for six months on the road – it isn’t easy

As our departure date approaches, all the big decisions have been made. By big, I mean we have a departure date, selected the national forests will be visiting and surveying, our route is mapped, and that stuff. I have my lists of what we need to take like laptops, medicines, and files. Now, it’s time to focus on the little things such as what clothes do I take for six months on the road? Don’t laugh cause it isn’t so easy.

Remember, we are leaving when the temperatures are likely to be hovering around 100 degrees and tornadoes are still skipping across the middle of the country.  Our return will be somewhere around late October to early November, hopefully before the snow starts to fall but we will probably be dealing with frosty mornings and may be some nights with freezing temperatures.

A frosty morning in Oregon

My first consideration is weather. We’ll have to deal with the heat and humidity of the east for the first part of our travels. I still remember six weeks of rain and overcast skies that had mildew growing in closets and I taking *all* our clothes to a Laundromat. It wasn’t to wash them but to dry them out! And, of course, there is a real possibility of fairly cool weather which is likely for the latter part of our travels.

Next is business and social commitments where neither shorts nor blue jeans are appropriate. I can’t take a different for each occasion so must maximum the look of one same basic outfit. I have a delicious black, wool-blend pantsuit and a light brown linen skirt and jacket but which one? Would a “summer-weight” wool be bearable for Washington, D.C. in midsummer? But on the other hand, how do I deal with the wrinkles linen seems to automatic produce? And do I have to wear panty hose, I mean really! And I don’t even want to think about shoes.

And than there is my annual weight loss to consider. I usually start our travels wearing size 12 but by the time we return home I’m in size eight. But this year with all that has been happening, I’m already swimming in my size 12 clothes. So should I leave those 12s behind? What if I put weight on and need them.

Frankly, it is enough to make this gal ready to head for the hills and stay there.

Thank you Congressman Glenn Thompson

This year’s research will include a stop in Washington, DC for a meeting with the Forest Service per our Memo of Understanding.  We try to get back and touch base with the Washington Office every two or three years.  We find it enlightening as well as discouraging.  Few people, even within the Forest Service, seem to realize the importance of camping to not only our national forests but also the health and well-being of the American people.

Maybe ten years ago we thought it might be good if we visited some of the “makers-and-shakers” on Capitol Hill.  After knocking on about a half-dozen doors, one staffer remarked to us, “But no body cares about national forests.”  What did he know since his office represented a state and district with no national forests?  I tried to set him straight.

We haven’t been back to the Hill since that day, focusing our efforts more on the users of national forests.

Can I tell you how thrilled I was to come across this piece on the internet by Congressman Glenn Thompson.   Maybe someone on the Hill is listening and does appreciate national forests.  Well, I can hope.

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