Friday, September 21, 2012

Signs of the Times (part 1) - Camping in the Parks

Our camp site at Wallowa Lake State Park with a deer

Camping in the Parks ...

It has always been popular.  Even more so in these tough economic times.  And those observations during recent camping trips has inspired another series -

* Signs of the Times *

The second week of September - after Labor Day, but before everything shut down for the season - seemed like a great time to travel.  The kids were back in school.  The traffic, we hoped, had thinned down - and it had.  And for enjoying the outdoors, most of the pesky bugs had died off.

This late summer our destination was the Wallowas in Oregon.  My husband had visited the area in the 1970s, and it had impressed him with its beauty.  But I had never seen it before.  So the visit was a treat and a new experience for me.

Wallowa Lake behind our tent
At our site - you can see in the photo above - our REI Habitat tent had caught the attention of one of the deer denizens of the Wallowa Mountains.  We camped near the lake at the Wallow Lake State Park  - which can be seen in my photo to the right.

It was economical.   Sharing a campsite with a friend, all three of us stayed in two tents in these gorgeous environs for $20 a night.  And there were facilities nearby with flush toilets, running water, showers, and coin operated laundry.  At the sites were picnic tables, fire pits, and paved driveways for our vehicles.  The area were patrolled and provided a level of security.  Near this park were stores and restaurants with local character.  So roughing it was not so ... rough.

There were unique areas of interest and activities.  Near the lake, we went up the Wallowa Lake Tram and toured Joseph, which about five miles away.  At historical sites, we learned more about Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Native American Indian tribes.

No need  for cooking - though we did build a campfire and gave a try at Jiffy Pop popcorn.  (Got half the kernels to pop, but it was fun and the popped kernels were tasty.)  In the morning, we had a marvelous breakfast at the Wallowa Lake Lodge.  Below is a picture of the lobby.

Wallowa Lake Lodge Lobby
Anecdotal evidence indicated an increase in the camping these last few years.  People were still going on vacations - visiting the parks and enjoying them, but opting out of staying at the more expensive lodges.

Camping has been popular as ever. At the park, the first to fill up were the RV sites, then the tent campsites.  An employee at the Wallowa Lake Lodge confirmed this observation in the area -  nearby, people were staying at the camps, but eating at the lodge.

 Later in the trip, we chatted with one of the locals, a young man working at a city park.  He said he had camped with his family that summer as a way to have a great vacation on a budget.  And this makes sense.  We had done that on previous trips.

Milky Way at night
Earlier in the summer, we had camped at a more remote area in Idaho - the Spruce Tree Campground.  The campsite was free, but there were limited amenities - just pit toilets, a water pump, and picnic tables.  But the remote site quickly filled up - even in the middle of the week.

Using the facilities was less convenient than having a motel room available.  But walking to the pit toilet in the middle of the night did have an up side.  In the back woods with a clear moonless night, away from the the light pollution of civilization ...

Holy Cow!

What a view!

The Milky Way shines on nature's black dome ceiling displaying the glories of the heavens.

Camping trips were not unique for us.  We had continued the trend from last year's late summer adventures -

Camping and eating at the Lodges ...

In 2011, we had camped in the National Parks - Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  But we ate at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel and the Jackson Lake Lodge.  Likewise moving east to Custer State Park, we camped at Sylvan Lake and ate at the wonderful Sylvan Lake Lodge.

Lodges typically started over $100 per night on the low side and can be much higher than that in the well known parks.  For the National Parks, rooms needed to be booked more than a year ahead. They still fill up fast.

Kind of takes the spontaneity out of life, doesn't it?

But camping was relatively cheap - about $20 per night in the national and state parks.  We had no trouble getting a site that morning we arrived - no reservations required.  And we shared the same multi-million dollar views as those staying in the more pricey lodges.

Interesting how we have come full circle on this camping thing.  Growing up in the 1960s, my most precious memories were camping with my father and brother in the mountains during hunting season.  And in the 1930s, my mother-in-law described during the Great Depression how her family had enjoyed the parks, perhaps much like this silent video below.

During the Great Depression, families had fun and camping was an economical way to do so, as suggested in this article:  Calisphere - Everyday Life in Hard Times  And during hard economic times today, people are still enjoying themselves, spending time with their families, experiencing the beauty of God's creation, as their parents and grandparents had done.  And this can be a good thing.

We've come full circle and the surge in camping is one of the 

Signs of the Times....


Related article:

10 Benefits of a Recession | Michael Hyatt


smithsk (me)  - tents, lobby lodge - Milky Way at night

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