I was talking to a fellow RVer recently who was describing the adventures he has enjoyed in his RV for the past several decades. He has traveled to many different states and visited a lot of tourist destinations. But, the thing that has always puzzled him is the lack of crowds at some of the most spectacularly beautiful locations he has visited.
I had to concur. I have been to some exceptional state and federal parks that offered varied recreational opportunities, such as hikes along ridges that would take your breath away. Yet, if you encountered someone along the way, it would be an unusual occurrence.
He found property maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers to be among the most diverse and affordable recreation areas in the country. I have only been to one such park in Kansas, where I spent two nights virtually alone on a hill overlooking a river.
Sure, there are exceptions. It will be bumper-to-bumper traffic as usual this summer in Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain national parks. But, there are a plethora of national monuments, national forests, state forests and state campgrounds where the number of daily visitors are often equal to the number of campsites times three. There is virtually nobody there.
Granted, these out-of-the-way sites are sometimes void of amenities, but the campground I stayed at had 50-amp power and water at the site, plus a covered picnic table. The closest neighbor, if there had been one, would have been 30 feet away. Compare that to some RV parks where there are barely six inches between your slideout and the neighbor’s awning. Plus, I could get a 4G cell connection, which meant I had phone and Internet.
As I thought about our conversation later that night, I realized that I, too, am guilty of spending most of my time where people tend to hang out, which means private RV parks where daily fees averaged about $40 per night last year. I am committed to seeking out these unknown respites even more this year.
Don’t get me wrong, I love private RV parks. They are reliable and generally consistent in what they offer. I know the power will work, there will be water or showers, possibly a store and possibly an Internet connection. They are frequently in safe locations and convenient to where I need to go.
But, the gentleman I spoke with reminded me of something else. If nobody uses these state and federal properties, and the parks wind up with little income each year, when push comes to shove in the budget process, it would be very easy for cash-strapped governments to shutter these public sites, which would deny access to some beautiful, quiet parks teeming with wildlife and wild plants.
I haven’t found anything that quite compares to the serenity and beauty of the Wisconsin Ridge Campground at Wyalusing State Park in Prairie du Chien, Wis., or Peninsula State Park in Wisconsin’s Door County. I would hate to see these wonderful natural resources shuttered simply because the agencies that run them could no longer afford to keep the doors open because the parks had so few visitors each year.
Right now, I am staying in a very small private campground. There are four other RVs nearby. It’s 9 p.m. and the only noise I hear are the crickets and bullfrogs calling to each other, and an occasional sound of a truck on the nearby highway. In the morning, my “office” will look out upon a babbling creek leading to a pond. Public or private, there have got to be more sites like this.
I’m adjusting my travel plans for the rest of the year to find them.