Camps and Rants

Boy, does it feel great to be out of the house for a few months – we’re finally done with the patio and roofing projects. No more yard, no more garage-cleaning. Time to camp!

I’m especially excited about this trip, because it’s taking us to places that are new to me, and largely unexplored by John, too. September/October are great camping months – every geezer in decent health with an RV hits the road on Labor Day, and we are no exception. The first month of our journey has been plotted out – we’re leery of finding full campsites on September weekends, so we’ve made a few strategic reservations, and simply plotted out the other stops. Hope this works…

OUr first day on the road is a long one (for us). We try to max out around 300 miles a day – with fuel/food/random stops, that’s a full day on the road for us. So, we plotted our first two nights at West Branch State Park in Ravenna, OH – a 330 mile distance from home. Checking in, we asked the Ranger what his favorite site was – “if 58 is open, you’ll love that one”, was his response. We bee-lined it to 58, and Bingo! It was perfect. wpid-20150907_173252.jpgBluff over water, no neighbors, and a deep site which allowed us to get away from the road. Perfect. However, Labor Day was still in full force, and we were in the midst of what John coined PER – Petroleum Enhanced Recreation. Every dude with a boat, jetski, or other petroleum-sucking device was screaming along the water. Directly across the waterway from our campsite was the beach, which roared with the last happy sounds of summer. Knowing that Tuesday would bring peace and quiet, we actually enjoyed the commotion. Tuesday morning…..wpid-20150908_073407.jpgMountain bike trails surround this state park, so we, emboldened by our endeavors from the previous week, decided to saddle up and hit the Trail. Yikes! It was even scarier than our last expedition. But, I guess we’ll never get any better at this unless we extend our Fear Zone a bit. We did catch a few nice scenes of tranquility to calm our racing hearts.wpid-20150908_073407.jpgThis park is open year-round for camping, and we would definitely go back. The facilities were first-rate, and the campsites well spaced. Good job, Ohio!

On the road Day 3, heading to the Allegheny National Forest in PA, we traveled along a gorgeous section of Interstate and State highways. (I have a newfound appreciation for all allergy sufferers – never have I seen such abundant goldenrod. It must be miserable to have fall allergies). We circled the National Forest, traveling through one tiny town after another, finally landing at TwinLakes Recreation Area, near Kane, PA. This was a bit of a shock.The National Forest Service website characterized this as an “extremely popular campground”, so we expected to find some signs of life.The Campground Manager site was had an RV and all kinds of paraphanelia lying about, but there was just one other trailer. No big deal. We picked a site, set up (expecting rain – we were not disappointed), and wandered off to explore. wpid-20150910_181912.jpgHmmmm, all the water spigots appear to be shut off. The bathroom is open, but there’s no water in the sinks, and the showers are inoperable. The toilets, thankfully, are the marvelous composting-type. I’ve only ever seen these in National Parks or National Forest campgrounds, and they are wonderful. No water needed – no stink. Wish they were in every campground.

Everything has the forlorn look of summer’s end. The beach is empty. wpid-20150910_114733-1.jpgwpid-20150910_114113.jpgIt’s a beautiful thing – having this marvelous site to ourselves. After a rainy night, we decide to hike down an old logging road to explore. My photography skills don’t convey the beauty of all the wildflowers springing up alongside the road. There wasn’t anything exceptional – but the abundance of color and absence of noise made it a memorable afternoon. After a few miles, we saw this – seeing a stop sign in the middle of nowhere was unusual, to say the least. Of course, we wandered down this path.wpid-20150910_125140.jpgAfter a half-mile or so, the enormous amount of Leaves of Three lining the path got my attention. Sad, because this was such a beautiful path. Carefully, we backtracked.wpid-20150910_125539.jpgwpid-20150910_125233.jpg

How can a walk in the woods be so restorative?  This unknown species of butterfly was unconcerned enough to let me get right on top of him/her to take a photo..wpid-20150910_134927.jpgBeautiful colors, peaceful surroundings.wpid-20150910_134106.jpg

Day 5 is a short mileage day, along one of the most gorgeous stretches of roadway I have ever seen – US 6. Although our planned stop for the day was only 200 miles away, The Google (as we affectionately refer to our mapping wizard), advised us that it would be a 4+ hour trip.  For us, that means easily six hours.  Our actual time was 7.5 hours (so, don’t wonder why we try to limit our days to 300 miles, max!) But, what a journey….wpid-20150911_100418-1.jpgwpid-20150911_095040-1.jpgIn nearly 200 miles of travel, I don’t think there was one piece of litter on the roadside. Picturesque villages popped up every 25 miles or so.  Beautifully maintained farms and rustic scenes entertained us, but there was no place to pull off for photos.  Go see it yourself – it was amazing.wpid-20150911_134642.jpgIt was curious that this stretch of highway seems to want to be a BBQ mecca. John finally succombed to stopping for brisket (he was sorry – Pennsylvania ain’t Texas!). But they did have an interesting mural in their outdoor seating area, so it wasn’t a total loss.wpid-20150911_143135.jpgSo, we’ve landed on Day 5 (September 11) at Lakawanna State Park. This is one area where I made a reservation, worrying that nice weather might fill up the park in early September, leaving us stranded.  At least at this park, the camping loops are segregated between pet/non-pet.  When making our reservation, I chose a site in the rustic/pet loop – knowing that we didn’t need electric/water for a few days, and I liked the looks of the sites (as far as I could tell from the website).  Oh boy – did we luck out!  The pet sites are tthree times larger than the non-pet sites.  Old-growth trees with very high canopies surround us. The light is ethereal.wpid-20150911_172317.jpg As I write this, two Barred Owls are having a conversation nearby.  The only other camper in this entire loop seems to have gone to bed hours ago.

So, we’re off to a great start.  Checking out the State Park map, it looks as though there are dozens of trails to ride/hike.  If the predicted storms come through, we may drive into nearby Scranton to see what the city looks like.  September rocks!

OK, a few more random thoughts……

Pennsylvania has some crazy road signs.  Here’s my favorite.And my 2nd favorite.

How is it possible to have such a beautiful highway (US 6) with No Litter? Who picks it up? Or, is it possible that drivers/passengers have recognized how wonderful it is to have a gorgeous roadway? And keep their litter in their own cars? Nah…not possible.

Camping is wonderful. Thoughtfully laid-out spaces make the camping experience exquisite. I know that the main attraction of many Michigan state parks is the proximity to our beautiful shorelines. But, do our parks really need to be parking lots with RVs?  The more I camp elsewhere, the less I want to camp in Michigan State Parks. Sad. (We have many wonderful State and National Forest campgrounds, though).

Ohio and Pennsylvania are the goldenrod capitols of the universe. Glad I’m not a person with allergies.

Every state should have a bottle/can redemption law. Recycling facilities in campgrounds are inadequate. Where some State Parks have set aside containers specifically marked “Aluminum Cans Only”, idiots have deposited their trash, plastic, glass, and other crap  Do they really think a Ranger or Camp Host is going to sort through this to recycle the few cans for cash for their kids’ programs? Hardly!

West Branch State Park (OH) calls their Camp Hosts – “Camper Hosts”. Thought that was funny – that’s the only time we’ve seen that.

13 thoughts on “Camps and Rants

  1. Such a beautiful world you are sharing with us. Love your commentary on the little daily routines that aren’t so routine when you’re camping. I really think you should collect your blogs in a book. “Travels with Charley” is taken, but I’m sure you can come up with a better title.

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    • Thanks, Alison. But, if as many people buy a book as read this blog, there are waaaay better ways to make money and entertain folks. For me, the blog is much like having pen pals (you probably had several, too!)

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      • Judy, the second eye went so well that when I went in for a recheck the doctor was surprised. Overnight I was seeing 20/20 out of that eye. Normally you have a follow up visit after one week. I don’t have to go back again for 3 weeks.

        I am going batty learning to use reading glasses, though!

        We are finally going to be able to squeeze a week in camping nearby on the 21st. And that should hold us over until the trip South in November.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I won’t stay at a Michigan state park unless forced to by the lack of an alternative. We have some true gems in the state park system, everything about them other than the campgrounds that is. Unfortunately, they are victims of their own success, in spite of packing campers in like sardines, the campgrounds are always filled on weekends.

    It doesn’t help that politicians have raided state park funding to spend on other things. Until the recreational passport, not only did the parks have to fund themselves, but some of the money taken in by the park system went to the general fund for other purposes.

    It sounds like you’re enjoying yourselves, and seeing some beautiful scenery, let’s hope that the weather holds for your trip!

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    • Couldn’t agree with you more about the Parks, Jerry. And, I don’t foresee any change on the horizon, given our political climate. To rescue the Parks from their sad decline will take a huge groundswell of support, which I fear is not on the horizon. Sadly, Pure Michigan gems don’t include our SP campgrounds.

      It’s great to explore new territory, even when it doesn’t include the hugeness of the Southwest scenery. We’re really looking forward to the whole East Coast historical tour.

      We thought we saw an errant whooping crane on our way out of Michigan (near Monroe), but are sure it must have been a massive egret instead. Both John and I independently had the same thought, tho. Crazy.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We usually give up on recycling when we travel too. Seems like a lot of places we go, don’t have recycling. Glad to hear you are having a good time. Fall is my favorite season when it’s sunny, chilly, and dry. (Rainy fall is not so great.)

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  4. We spent a night at Lakawanna SP in our T@B some years ago now. The video I made has an awesome introduction by the cutest Ranger (in training) you’ll ever meet. If you haven’t already, check it our for grins & giggles.

    PS: Yoly and I placed an order for a camping trailer this week and we should have it by the end of the month. In less than 24 hours, we drove 850 miles, visited the trailer factory, placed an order, then went to a nearby State Park and shot video on the glass bottom boat ride. Then we drove to the campground and did a GoPro drive through for future reference. Then we headed home arriving 23.75 hours after leaving the house. Our Ram Ecodiesel half ton truck got 27.1 mpg for the entire trip :-) (First time we had driven it on the interstates without the Fun Finder travel trailer).

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    • So, you’re going to make me do a search of every camper manufacturer within 425 miles of your town to figure out what kind of trailer you ordered? Oh well, guess I can wait. Will check out your video when we get some free WiFi. We’re running through our data plan like water!

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  5. Beautiful parks! I’m often surprised when I travel at the lack of recycling facilities. Curbside pick up of recycling began for us when I was in high school about 25 years ago, so most people around here are pretty good at sorting and putting stuff in the right bins.

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    • We are always surprised at lack of recycling, too. Guess it shows that it still is in its early years. But, it makes my blood boil when I see so much trash mixed in with an honest effort to collect pop cans. Is it so hard?

      Thanks for checking in, Camille. Sorry to set off another rant.

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