Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

We visited Mount Rainier National Park in the middle of July of 2010. It was quite an adventure, because snow was still on the ground. However, the weather was sunny and pleasant during our 3 day stay, and we had a great time hiking and driving through the park.

We stayed at nearby Mounthaven Resort. This lovely little campground is only about a half mile from the park entrance, and was a comfortable and convenient place to stay.

Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park
 One of the highlights of the visit was a hike along the Nisqually Vista Trail which is a 1.2 mile trail loop that leads to a great view of the Nisqually Glacier.

Hiking through July snow

We made it!

We took one of our days to drive over to nearby Mount Saint Helens.  It was well worth the trip.  The devastation of the 1980 volcanic explosion is still amazing to see, even with the reforestation that's taking place.
Mount Saint Helens

Fallen trees from 1980 volcanic eruption - Mount Saint Helens
We treated ourselves to a good meal at a nearby restaurant - The Copper Creek.  I enjoyed salmon with some good Washington Pinot Noir.  The Copper Creek Restaurant  is known for its home made blackberry pie, so of course Bob and I had to try that out - it was delicious.

All in all, a great three days that left us with some wonderful memories!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New Jersey State Parks Are No Bargain

Since we got our new generator, we were interested in camping in New Jersey State Parks.  We haven't camped there since we stopped tent camping (about 20 years ago).  I used to love camping in the pine barrens of New Jersey.  As a child my family camped at Parvin State Park, where I eventually lived for two years (after my mother and father were divorced, my mother married the park superintendent).  Later on I took my children to Parvin, and my husband and I camped at Atsion campground in Wharton State Forest and Bass River State Park.  Once Bob and I bought a trailer we stopped camping in New Jersey since all they offer are primitive sites.  Now that we can dry camp, we decided to drive down to check out Atsion and Bass River as potential camping sites.

We were quite disappointed by what we found.  The primitive campsites have hardly changed at all over 20 years, and both parks seem somewhat run down.  It doesn't look as if any improvements have been made at all.  The rates are overly high for these sites at  $20.00/night.  They are very dog-unfriendly, charging an additional $5.00 a night for dogs, and limiting you to particular sites if you have a dog.  At Atsion, the dog sites were the absolute worse, and none of them would accommode a 30 foot travel trailer.

New Jersey State Parks are not just dog-unfriendly, they are senior unfriendly.  They only offer a $2.00/night discount for N.J. seniors.  Comparing this to other states it is no bargain.  Assateague State Park offers a full 50% discount during weekdays for anyone holding a Golden Age Pass.  Florida State Parks offer a 50% discount for Florida seniors.  In fact, almost every other state park system that we've been to throughout the U.S. offers steeply discounted rates for senior residents.  You would certainly think that New Jersey, having one of the highest tax rates in the country,  would offer their senior residents more of a discount.

And guess what - nobody is camping in these parks.  Both were relatively empty, with only a few campers in each park.  Almost every other state park in the country offers  improved campsites, with many offering full hookups as well as primitive sites.  Yes, they are more expensive, but at least people will use them.  The way that New Jersey handles its state park system is only loosing them money.  I know that we probably won't camp in our own state, because it just isn't a good bargain.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Finally We Can Boondock!

Well, Bob and I finally decided to get a generator so that we could do some dry camping.  For years we have been debating whether or not to put out the money.  When we saw a good deal on a Champion 4000 generator at Camping World, we decided to go for it  They had the pull start model at the store, but Bob wanted an electric remote start model.  We ordered it, but it never came in, and it seemed that Camping World was out of that model.

I searched the Internet, and found that Amazon had a good deal - $425 + shipping, for a total of $499 (same deal as Camping World).  We ordered it through Amazon, and it was here it five days. 

Our new generator started up without a hitch.  When we ordered it, we were somewhat concerned about the noise level, but it really isn't that loud.  All in all, we're pretty pleased with our purchase.

So we are finally going to be able to go to many places that we previously avoided because they didn't offer electric.  Our first trip is going to be in September - Assateague National Park for three nights, and Assateague State Park for three nights.

I really want to try out boondocking now that we will be fully self sufficient.   I recently joined a pretty neat site - Boondockers Welcome.  The idea is that members will offer each other places to boondock - although you don't need to offer a boondocking spot to be a member.  What a great idea!  Bob and I are planning on going back down to Huntington Beach State Park, and will be needing a spot to stay overnight in October.  We may stay in a Walmart parking lot, but I think I'll check out the Boondockers Welcome site, and see if anyone has an available place to stay along the way.

I think this will open up a whole new world of possibilities for us.  I hate the thought of throwing away $40-$60 dollars for a one night stay in between destinations.  It seems pretty wasteful when all you do is pull in, eat something, watch some TV and go to bed.  Also, I love the idea of being able to stay in some of the great campsites that I've seen offered in the National Forests that cost nothing or practically nothing.

So we are off on our new adventure.  If any of you with more experience dry camping/boondocking have any suggestions/comments, I'd sure appreciate them.