Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Loving Our National Parks to Death

Rick Morgan

We have spent the past three summers as volunteer campground hosts at the Apgar campground in Glacier National Park. We love Glacier – and this year so did 2.25 million others. This past October, Glacier set an all time attendance record (with 3 months still remaining).

We didn't have to wait for the official count. We lived and experienced the increase at the campground. This past year we also visited Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Teton National Parks and from our experience, we would have to believe they also set new attendance records. Last year we visited Yosemite the day after the “shut-down” ended and it was still crowded.

The good news is that people love these parks and are visiting them in record numbers. The bad news is that people love these parks and are visiting them in record numbers.

Why is this bad news? These parks became national parks in the early 1900s and never anticipated millions of visitors - in 1910 when Glacier became a National Park 1,400 people visited the park. Everything including infrastructure, roads, campgrounds, and staff are stretched to the max and are inadequate and unable to handle this growth. Are we loving our national parks to death?

Let me share our experience to explain. I am going to use our Glacier experience but could have just as easily used our experiences at the parks I mentioned above.

Three years ago, the 194-site Apgar campground which is on a first-come-first-serve basis frequently filled up by mid-afternoon or early evening. This year it was completely filled every day from early July through late September and frequently it was filled before noon. This meant that many campers had to stay out of the park the night before, get up early, and begin circling the campground in the morning to secure a site – not a great experience. Further, because of the scarcity of camping sites and reduced ranger and law enforcement staff the guidelines and rules regarding the number of campers, vehicles and tents per were not enforced. For example, instead of following the two-tent rule we regularly had sites with 3, 4, 5 and even 6 tents. 

Like other national parks many of the campgrounds in Glacier were build in the 1930s an 1940's and were designed for small travel trailers and tents not 42-foot Class A motorhomes - not to mention the mega tents that far exceeded the boundaries of the tent pads. 

Apgar is a very pretty campground in a Lodgepole pine forest, a stone throw away from spectacular Lake McDonald. But instead of a quiet, serene campground in a wilderness setting at times it looked and felt more like a tenement. 

I get that the main focus of the park rangers (and for us) is to make sure all campers have a positive experience – but at what price? Allowing one camper to break a rule has the very real potential of destroying the experience of the campers around them.

For example, we had a situation where a group of 18 came in and set up 6 tents on a single site. We would not have allowed this. However, they obtained permission from a ranger who decided that since the campground was 100% full to allow them to stay in the site (Did we really expect to override her decision to tell them they had to leave the park?).This group proceeded to violate the rules and the comfort of their neighboring campers - washing dishes at the public faucet, moving picnic tables, and we had to go out well after quite hours and quiet them down. The next morning three campers who had been in sites close to them, moved to get away from them.

All this leads to park visitors and campers who are stressed. They start out their experience waiting in line to get into the park, (many times the line to get in the park stretched back behind the entrance station for a half mile), and then find themselves rushing to find and secure a campsite, or driving along the Going To The Sun Road that can be bumper-to-bumper only to find the parking lot at the top of Logan Pass full.

While it is hard to quantify we think the campers themselves have changed. Unfortunately, heading to a National Park has become more like going to Disney World. One park visitor actually wanted to know where they kept the bears and animals at night – really! They find themselves in competition with hundreds of others who are all trying to find the best campsite, see wildlife or get the best view at an overlook. Consequently, they push, shove, and disrespect the natural resource, as well as, each other. This behaviour goes as far as dumping black tanks without a sewer hose, leaving fires unattended, pulling tags and attempting to "steal" another campers campsite, and disregard for generator/quiet hours.

We agree with the Ken Burns documentary The National Parks:America’s Best Idea. Yet, we wonder what we should be doing to make sure our National Parks survive the all the love.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

We Have All Been There…

Rick Morgan

One day last week, I found myself reading the posts on the Facebook Group "RV Tips". As I started reading, my first reaction was, “you have got to be kidding.” For example, comments like, “If you don't empty the blank tank water, does it stink? Was wondering at what wind speed do you put your awnings away? and We are in our RV for the first time; we have noticed the carpet is wet below the toilet and into the bathroom. Does anyone know what this is?” if nothing else were entertaining.

So, I kept reading and ran across these, “So what are your opinions on awnings on RVs? Do you think they’re useful for the sun & rain or are they too much of a pain from wind? Okay I am missing a part and calling it pull thingy for the tank is not helping me find a replacement. It is the thingy on the black tank that you pull that makes it drain, is there supposed to be water in the bottom of the toilet? Or does it stay dry after you flush? How many inches is the most you've had to raise one side to level the trailer?”

Really, I thought, “You can’t make this stuff up.” Then I remembered back to 1997 when we purchased our first RV and the many of what now seem like basic and na├»ve questions we had. Not to mention the "stupid" stuff we have done.

In fact, just the other day I did one of the dumbest things I have ever done. I was using our black tank “outside flush” to re-fill the back tank to rinse it out again. I was watching the sensor gage and waiting or the “F” to appear. It seemed like it was taking a long time and for some unknown reason I went into the bathroom and flushed the toilet – bad move! Enough pressure had built up that when I flushed – yep, you guessed it a “gusher”. Face Palm! Luckily, I had already emptied the back tank once but still the bathroom was showered with brown water. Out came the bleach and several hours of cleaning. Of course I knew better, but it served to remind me that we all continue to learn and “fine tune” our RVing skills.

That being said, the "RV Tips" Group on Facebook, is perhaps good for a laugh, and while I am sure some have gotten good information and advice - it is not where I would go. I much prefer the really good forums like iRV2 and following blogs that continually provide good RVing information like Wheeling it, Technomadia, and Gone with the Wynn’s.

What is the “dumbest” thing you have done? Where do you go to get you questions answered?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Hike to Grinnell Glacier

Rick Morgan

Glacier National Park is a beautiful place and the hike to Grinnell Glacier provides a good sampling of the spectacular sights found in the park. 

Pam and John
I became motivated to do this hike thanks to Pam and John Wright from “Oh, The Places They Go!” They had been camping on the East side of Glacier and last Saturday made a rather harrowing journey over Logan Pass to pay us a visit. We had been following each other’s blogs and Facebook activity for a couple of years.  While traveling around the Southwest we came close a couple of times to being in the same place at the same time… so, finally an in person meeting. The afternoon flew by as we shared stories of our RV adventures.

Mt. Wilbur from boat ride on Swiftcurrent lake
What does this have to do with hiking to Grinnell Glacier? One of the items on Pam and John’s hit list while at Glacier National Park was the Grinnell Glacier Hike, which they planned on doing Sunday. That was enough motivation for me to commit to doing the hike as well. But I needed to wait until Tuesday – one of our “free” days from our volunteer camp hosting duties.

Boat dock at Lake Josephine
Pam and John did make the hike and Pam wrote a wonderful review, which you can read here.

Garden Wall and Grinnell Lake
My hike was different from theirs in two ways. I took the two boat rides across Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes. That cut almost 5 miles – making my hike close to 8 miles vs. 13. I chose this option due to time. The round trip drive was close to 5 hours which when I tacked on a 13 mile hike was going to make a very long day. OK! OK! The real reason was I just didn’t want to hike 13 miles.

The other big difference was the weather – it was perfect the day I hiked.

There isn’t anything I can add about the hike that Pam didn’t cover. So, I will just leave you with some pictures of a hike that shouldn’t be missed.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

National Bison Range

Rick Morgan

Every year on our way to Glacier we stop for a few days in Ronan just to hang out in the Flathead Lake area and “gear-up” for our duties as volunteer camp hosts in Glacier National Park. Ronan is at the foot of the spectacular Mission Mountains in the beautiful Mission Valley. (Here are some links to our past stays in the area. One  Two).

Ronan is also just a few miles from the National Bison Range – which for some unknown reason we had never visited. So, this year it was on our list.

The plight of the American Bison is well documented and this range has played an important role in the recovery of the bison since being established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908.

Ok, being from Colorado and traveling through Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana we have seen our share of Bison and we (make that Rick) has eaten his share of Buffalo burgers and steaks. So, seeing Bison was not the primary reason we decided to visit the range. Rather, we had heard that the 19-mile (2 hour) Red Sleep Mountain Drive was worth the price of admission ($5.00 and Free for Sr. Pass holders) – and indeed it was.

We did indeed see wildlife and were treated to some wonderful views of Mission Valley.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Some New Stuff for The RV

Rick Morgan

Over the past few months (before we headed to Glacier) we upgraded our home on wheels with a few new items.

Our first new purchase was a TST tire monitoring system. There are all kinds of reviews online. So, I am not going to write another one.

We had been talking about getting a monitoring system for a couple of years. I am not sure why we waited so long. This has turned out to be a really good “peace-of-mind” addition. No longer do I worry about checking tire pressure – especially the rear inside tires. Cleary, one of the biggest benefits of a monitoring system is safety. While a blowout would be obvious it is being alerted to a slow leak that makes this system worth the money.

Our next “big” addition was installing, with the help of Mike Farmer, Carefree of Colorado awnings over our coach windows. Again, we had wanted to do this for a couple of years. And again, I am not sure why we waited. Not only to the awnings shade the inside of the coach on sunny days they also allow us to keep the windows open on rainy days. Another added benefit is the added privacy they provide. We do have day/night shades inside the coach but are finding it nice to be able to keep the shades up and the windows open. This is JoAnne’s favorite addition.

I finally got around to doing some watercolors to help decorate the RV. JoAnne had asked me to do some paintings that would be representative of places we have visited. I did one from McDowell Mountain Park in AZ, one of Mesa Verde in CO, and one of Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

We also added two new “gadgets”. First, we added an Induction Cook Top, which we love. Of course that also meant we needed all new Induction capable cookware.

A Soda Stream was gadget #2, which we also love. We now mix up a variety of sugar free bubbly drinks and no longer buy canned soda.

Hey, just because this is an RV doesn’t mean we can’t make it safe, comply and convenient.

What have you done to spruce up your home? What is your favorite gadget and or addition?