15 Bad Camping Decisions

You don’t have to be Bear Grylls to enjoy a camping trip; there are options for every camping skill level and travel taste.

Camping at Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Devils Garden Campground, Arches National Park, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Campground and RV park camping is distinguished from wilderness camping by the presence of facilities and designated campsites. Campground choices range from RV parks and resorts to the bare basics often found at national forest campgrounds or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) dispersed camping areas.

Whatever your camping preferences, here are the 15 worst moves you can make at a campground.

1. Fail to give someone your camping itinerary. Before you set out on your adventure, be sure to let someone know your plans. What may seem like a silly precaution could actually save your life.

2. Forget to bring insect repellant. It does not matter where you camp, there will be insects and you need to arm yourself appropriately.

3. Assume there will be toilet paper. Pack your own roll. It’s the first rule of camping. Paper towels and Kleenex are also necessities.

Camping at the White Tank Mountains Regional Park near Buckeye, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at the White Tank Mountains Regional Park near Buckeye, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Assume that there will be running water. Depending on the season and the camping area or facility you choose, you may need to bring your own water. You do need to stay hydrated and brush you teeth.

5. Take more stuff than you need. Whether you will be sleeping in a tent or in a luxury RV, there is no reason to take things that are not essential for your journey and destination.

6. Forget your first aid kit. Consider the first aid kit your failsafe in the event that you make all the wrong decisions while camping. Your first aid kit should include Tylenol or Advil to ease a headache or fever, Cortizone 10 cream to soothe an itchy insect bite, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin or Bacitracin to prevent infection from minor cuts or scrapes, Band-Aids of varying sizes to cover those minor cuts and scrapes, and Benadryl to relieve allergies.

7. Assume that your GPS is always correct. It isn’t. Learn to read a map…a paper one! And make sure you have clear directions for your destination before you leave home, preferably from more than one source.

Camping at Long Point County Park, Brevard County, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Long Point County Park, Brevard County, Florida. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Set up camp in the dark. Unless you are very familiar with the campground and all of your equipment, plan to arrive before dark. Setting up in the dark is not only a logistical challenge; it’s annoying to other campers trying to enjoy a peaceful evening that does not include all the ruckus of you fighting with your gear.

9. Invade other people’s space. Space invaders are the worst campers in any campground. Do not walk through other people’s camps, even if you think they aren’t there. It’s rude and creepy. Don’t let your children do it either.

10. Expand beyond your assigned camping site. Second worst camper is the space hog. It doesn’t matter if you are in a luxury RV resort or a rustic forest campground; don’t take up more than your designated space. It creates problems for the park management and is rude to other campers.

11. Picnic in an empty campsite. Campsites are for camping, not picnicking. This is a subtler way of hogging space, but still a bad decision. Do you want to be the guy who misses a prime campsite because somebody was using it for an afternoon snack when you arrived?

12. Leave open food containers outside. Never, ever, leave food outside especially in bear country. Unless you like ants, flies, feral cats, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, bears, or irate neighbors. Worse yet, don’t leave them in your tent overnight.

Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Camping at Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Leave garbage near your camp. See the previous bad decision. Garbage belongs away from your campsite, inside cans or dumpsters, if they are provided.

14. Leave things in public spaces. There is a distinct yuk factor involved in finding someone else’s toiletries in a campground bathhouse. The same applies to buckets, hoses, dishpans, or dishcloths left at communal water faucets.

15. Underestimate the weather. You did check the forecast before you left home, right? Just know that it will likely be hotter, colder, windier, or wetter than you expect. And you do have a NOAA Weather Radio!

Worth Pondering…
You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.
—Yogi Berra

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America’s Best Campgrounds & RV Parks For Family Fun

RV camping can fill our lives with great memories of outdoor adventures.

A top rated RV resort, Lake Osprey RV Park is located on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A top rated RV resort, Lake Osprey RV Park is located on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We all want our camping trips and RV travels to be enjoyable and fun for the entire family.

Numerous factors can determine the outcome of a camping trip. Factors that we can control include campground choice, route we take to get there, and when to travel.

A key factor in planning any vacation is the RV park or campgrounds. Choosing an RV park sight unseen can be like playing the lottery. Many parks and resorts feature a variety of amenities, entertainment, and fun activities for the entire family and cultivate an atmosphere that’s welcoming for all ages enabling families to enjoy quality time together. But not all RV parks and campgrounds are created equal and no park is perfect for everyone.

Before leaving on your RV vacation, take the time to check out the best camping parks along your intended route and at your camping destination.

A top rated RV park, Columbia Sun RV Resort is located in the Ti-Cities at Kennewick, Washington. © Rex Vogel, all rights
A top rated RV park, Columbia Sun RV Resort is located in the Ti-Cities at Kennewick, Washington. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Citing GuestRated as the source, Wicked Good Travel Tips notes that only 34 of an estimated 4,000 campgrounds and RV parks earned an ‘A’ rating in 2014—less than one in 100 parks.

GuestRated.com surveys guest satisfaction using an online process for RVers to review and rate their camping experiences and provide feedback available to other campers and park owners. Of those campgrounds and RV parks, eight emerged as super-stars by earning an ‘A’ rating for 6 years or more.

What we like and prefer in an RV park may totally different from what your family desires. Given different personalities and wants and needs of RVers, no one park can be all things to all people, but many can fulfill the majority of wants and needs.

While social media has a meaningful role to play in assisting campers select the “perfect camping site” a less subjective, opinion-based rating scale is still a key determinant of quality RV parks and campgrounds.

A top rated RV park, Seven Feathers RV Resort is located in southern Oregon off I-5. © Rex Vogel, all rights
A top rated RV park, Seven Feathers RV Resort is located in southern Oregon off I-5. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Our go-to resource in selecting RV parks and resorts, the Good Sam Campground Directory uses a three-number rating that assesses the park’s amenities, cleanliness, and environment with each rating category measured on a scale of 1 to 10.

Less than 1 percent of parks or campgrounds receive a 10/10*/10 rating which indicates superior facilities that are well maintained, clean, well-appointed restrooms, and a highly appealing appearance. Campgrounds are inspected annually by RVers for RVers.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the GuestRated eight superstar RV parks and campgrounds along with a comparative rating from Good Sam:

Cherry Hill Park, College Park, Maryland: The closest RV and Camping Park near the nation’s capital of Washington, DC. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9.5/10*/9.5)

Lake George RV Park, Lake George, New York: A beautiful resort in New York’s Lake George Adirondack Region. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 10/10*/10)

Mountain Vista Campground, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania: An easy drive from the George Washington Bridge in New York, and has a beautiful Pocono Mountain location close to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9/10*/10)

A top rated RV park, Buckhorn Lake RV Resort is located in the Texas Hill Country at Kerrville. © Rex Vogel, all
A top rated RV park, Buckhorn Lake RV Resort is located in the Texas Hill Country at Kerrville. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Ocean Lakes Family Campground, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: The largest campground on the East Coast and enjoys one mile of oceanfront beach. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 10/10*/10)

Pioneer Campground, Muncy Valley, Pennsylvania: The campground has 80 mountain top acres at a 2,000 ft elevation offering scenic outlooks in a wooded setting. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9/9*/9.5)

Red Apple Campground, Kennebunkport, Maine

This campsite enjoys a grassy, well manicured setting with lovely flower gardens. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9/10*/10)

Sunny Brook RV Resort, South Haven, Michigan: Just minutes from Lake Michigan, the Sunny Brook RV Resort has 65 acres along the sandy shore of a 5+ acre lake. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 10/10*/10)

The Vineyards Campground & Cabins, Grapevine, Texas: Located along the shores of Grapevine Lake, the Vineyards Campground offers both lakefront and forest views. (2015 Good Sam Rating: 9.5/8.5*/10)

You decide. Remember, getting there is half the fun.

Worth Pondering…

I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.

—Franklin P. Adams

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Using Campgrounds As Base Camps For Annual Festivals

Campgrounds are great places to enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, boating, and other outdoor recreation activities during your leisure time.

Fort Edmonton Park, Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Fort Edmonton Park, Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With RV and tent sites as well as a wide range of accommodations, campgrounds can also serve as base camps for those interested in attending annual summer festivals throughout the U.S and Canada. These events range from rodeos to music festivals and cultural to culinary happenings.

Following is a sampling of the annual festivals that take place during the coming weeks and months, along with listings of nearby attractions and campgrounds and RV parks, many of which also have rental accommodations.

All parks included have been personally visited with a minimum of one night of paid camping.

Alberta: Edmonton Heritage Festival, Edmonton, August 1-3, 2015

2015 will mark the 40th annual of the Servus Heritage Festival”—a three-day showcase of Canada’s vibrant multicultural heritage. Approximately 60 pavilions representing over eighty-five cultures will be part of this exciting celebration. Enjoy delicious cultural food, wonderful creative performances, lots of crafts, artwork, clothing, and plenty of opportunities to chat with people eager to talk about their cultural roots and their communities in Canada.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: West Edmonton Mall, Elk Island National Park, Fort Edmonton Park, Muttart Conservatory

Recommended RV Park: Glowing Embers RV Park, Acheson, Alberta

Amish horse and buggy © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Amish horse and buggy © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indiana: 53rd Annual Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival, Nappanee, August 6-9, 2015

More than 300 vendors from across the country will ply their trade and sell their wares around the historic farm’s pond.

Farm wagon rides, marionettes and magic shows, family-style Threshers Dinner in the century-old barn restaurant, and guided house and farm tours intertwine the festival and farm attractions. Free entertainment on four stages is planned throughout the four days along with festive food concoctions.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: The Round Barn Theatre, Amish Acres, Das Dutchman Essenhaus, Quilt Gardens Tour, Newmar Factory Tour

Recommended RV Park: Pla-Mor Campground, Bremen, Indiana

Alberta: GlobalFest, Calgary, August 20-29, 2015

Known as Calgary’s second largest annual festival, GlobalFest attracts more than 100,000 visitors from around the world. GlobalFest is the umbrella organization for the OneWorld and Trico Homes International Fireworks Festivals.

The OneWorld Festival presents diversity through music and dance, food and drink, and arts and crafts. It boasts a Tipi Village, cultural pavilions, ethnic food, performance stages, a night market, and a children’s village. The Trico Homes International Fireworks Festival will present five nights of pyromusical beauty.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Calgary Zoo, Heritage Park Historical Village, Canada Olympic Park, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

Recommended RV Park: Mountain View Camping, Calgary, Alberta

New Mexico: SalsaFest! Las Cruces, August 29-30, 2015

Historic Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Historic Mesilla © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spice up your tour with SalsaFest! a signature of Las Cruces. SalsaFest! serves up some of the most creative samples. Join nearly 10,000 locals who attend to sample sauces made from scratch by professional and amateur teams.

SalsaFest! also features salsa music, the Best-Dressed Chihuahua contest, an excellent assortment of food and Mexican beers, crafts, and people watching. When things heat up, grab a shady seat, sip a cold beverage or slurp a snow cone, relax, and enjoy the view.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: White Sands National Monument, Historic Mesilla, New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum, Historic Mesilla

Recommended RV Park: Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Worth Pondering…

Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.

—Frank Herbert

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4 Best National Parks For RVers

The US National Park Service administers a network of nearly 400 natural, cultural, historic, and recreational sites. In an earlier post, Vogel Talks RVing selected four national parks that are great for RVers. Following are the four best national parks for RVers.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

801,000-acre Big Bend National Park is defined by the Rio Grande, which forms the boundary between Texas and Mexico. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
801,000-acre Big Bend National Park is defined by the Rio Grande, which forms the boundary between Texas and Mexico. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Far West Texas, along the Rio Grande River in Big Bend National Park, there’s a magical place with a great deal of silence, beauty, and space—creating an ideal habitat for the turkeys, javelinas, roadrunners, and coyotes.

The 801,000-acre park is defined by the Rio Grande, which forms the boundary between Texas and two Mexican states. But the park touts more than a famous river: In the middle of Big Bend there’s a grand series of peaks known as the Chisos, accessible by dinghy and small RVs along a narrow and curved access road. Ponderosa and pinyon pine carpet the cool flanks of these hills, providing a haven for black bears and cougars. The park bisects one of North America’s most significant deserts, the Chihuahuan, creating an abundance of variety.

Big Bend has four campgrounds: Rio Grande Village RV Campground (25 full hookup sites), Rio Grande Village Campground (100 non-hookup sites), Chisos Basin Campground (60 non-hookup sites), and Cottonwood Campground (24 non-hookup sites).

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verde National Park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Mesa Verde National Park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde, Spanish for green table, offers a spectacular look into the lives of the Ancestral Pueblo people who made it their home for over 700 years, from AD 600 to 1300. Today the park protects nearly 5,000 known archeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings. These sites are some of the most notable and best preserved in the United States.

The best way of acquiring a feeling for Mesa Verde is to follow the 6-mile Mesa Top Auto Loop Road which traces Pueblo history at 10 overlooks and archeological sites.

But for an intimate look at the kivas and actual living accommodations take the 15-minute hike from the Chapin Mesa Archaeological Museum to Spruce Tree House. If you would like to explore Cliff Palace, Balcony House, or Long House guided by a ranger, stop by the Far View Visitor Center for information and tour tickets.

Mesa Verde offers great camping just 4 miles inside the park at Morefield Campground. Because there are 267 sites, there’s always plenty of space. The campground rarely fills. But if you want one of the 15 full-hookup sites, reservations are a must.

Zion National Park, Utah

A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A prominent feature of the 229-square-mile park is Zion Canyon, which is 15 miles long and up to half a mile deep, cut through the reddish and tan-colored Navajo Sandstone by the North Fork of the Virgin River. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Follow the paths where ancient native people and Mormon pioneers walked. Gaze up at massive sandstone cliffs of cream, pink, and red that soar into a brilliant blue sky. Experience wilderness in a narrow slot canyon.

Catch a shuttle for Zion Canyon, the only vehicular means by which you can access this gorgeous area in the summer. And as you progress, soak up the splendor offered by the Court of the Patriarchs and the Temple of Sinawava with their secluded hiking trails.

Zion National Park has three campgrounds. South and Watchman Campgrounds are in Zion Canyon. South Campground (127 non-hookup sites) and Watchman Campground (176 sites, 95 with electric hookups; reservations recommended) are near the south entrance at Springdale.

Situated at 7,890 feet above sea level, the Lava Point Campground (6 primitive sites) is off the Kolob Terrace Road, 25 miles (45 minutes) north of the town of Virgin. It takes approximately one hour and 20 minutes to drive to the campground from the South Entrance of Zion Canyon.

There are no campgrounds in Kolob Canyons. Private RV parks are also available near the park’s entrances.

Death Valley National Park, California

Dante’s View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley, affords the best overall views of the southern half of the national park including Badwater. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Dante’s View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley, affords the best overall views of the southern half of the national park including Badwater. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In this below-sea-level basin, steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Yet, each extreme has a striking contrast. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.

Death Valley offers six campgrounds suitable for most RVs: Furnace Creek (136 sites, a few full hookups), Stovepipe Wells Village (190 sites; 19 full hookups), Sunset (270 non-hookup sites), Texas Spring (92 non-hookup sites), Mesquite Spring (30 non-hookup sites), and Widrose (23 non-hookup sites). A high-clearance vehicle is required to access Thorndike (6 non-hookup sites; 7,400-foot elevation) and Mahogany Flat (10 non-hookup sites; 8,200-foot elevation).

Worth Pondering…

Not to have known…either the mountain or the desert is not to have known one’s self.

—Joseph Wood Krutch

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Charleston: Deep South Charm

If you’re a history buff, you’ll love Charleston. Avid tourist? Charleston is the city for you. Lover of good food and charming scenery? Charleston has your number.

Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Charleston is home to one of America’s most intact historic districts. Nestled along a narrow peninsula—where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet and empty into the Atlantic Ocean—it exudes deep South charm. With very few tall buildings, Charleston instead offers quaint cobblestone roads, colonial structures, a unique culture, and gobs of history.

Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city’s skyline.

Charleston also has a collection of some of the oldest and most impressive churches in America, including the French Protestant (Huguenot) Church, The Old Bethel Methodist Church, St. John’s Lutheran Church, St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, and the Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church.

More than 300 years ago, Charleston was originally named in honor of King Charles II of England. Charles Towne, as it was known, was founded in 1670 at Albmarle Point, a spot just across the Ashley River. Since that time it has played host to some of the most historic events in US history, including the first major battle of the American Revolution, and the start of the Civil War.

Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city's skyline. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Known as the Holy City, it was one of the most religiously tolerant cities in the New World—the results of which can be seen in the many striking church steeples that rise majestically over the city’s skyline. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perhaps the best known Charleston landmark is Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began on April 12, 1861. At that time, Union forces occupied the strategic Fort at the entrance of Charleston harbor. The South demanded that Fort Sumter be vacated, the Union army refused, and the rest is history. After a two-day bombardment, the North surrendered the Fort to the South. Nearby, visitors can also tour Fort Moultrie, which also played heavily in Civil War significance.

Perhaps the best way to see this town is by foot. Around every corner visitors can discover another hidden garden, great restaurants, historic houses, quaint shops, and friendly people.

A walk down any of Charleston’s quaint avenues, especially in the area designated as The Battery, is a walk back in time. Many houses date from the 1700s and 1800s, and a large number of these are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can tour more than a dozen of these homes, including the Heyward-Washington House, built in 1772. This house was owned by Thomas Heyward Jr., a Revolutionary patriot and signer of the Declaration of Independence. It was also George Washington’s temporary residence during his Southern Tour of 1791.

Charleston lends itself to walking and many visitors find this to be a  convenient way to see everything the city has to offer. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Charleston lends itself to walking and many visitors find this to be a
convenient way to see everything the city has to offer. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Other houses of note that visitors can tour in Charleston include the Aiken Rhett House, one of the most intact building complexes showcasing urban life in Antebellum Charleston; the Joseph Manigault House, a premier example of neo-classical architecture built in 1803; and the Nathaniel Russell House, a neoclassical mansion considered one of America’s premier Federal townhouses.

Just outside of town, you can visit a number of Southern plantations, including Boone Hall and Drayton Hall. Boone Hall’s world-famous Avenue of Oaks leads to the Plantation house and gardens, and its original slave street and slave quarters. Located a stone’s throw from Boone Hall is the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site and historic Snee Farms. Pinckney was an original signer of the US Constitution, and was very influential in the document’s language. Drayton Hall, built between 1738 and 1742, is the oldest preserved plantation house in America.

While touring Charleston the campground at James Island County Park served as our home base. An ideal location amidst scenic beauty and an amazing drive-through display of Christmas lights, the 643-acre park is convenient to downtown Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, and the campground provides a round-trip shuttle service to the city’s visitor center.

Beautiful homes, churches, and public buildings line the city’s tree-lined streets. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Beautiful homes, churches, and public buildings line the city’s tree-lined streets. © Rex Vogel, all rights

The park itself makes a fun destination. Miles of paved trails wind through forests and Palmetto trees and skirt by marshes and tidal creeks. Bicycle rentals are available, as are pedal boats and kayak rentals for its 16 acres of lakes.

Worth Pondering…

If you lead a good life,

go to church,

and say your prayers,

you’ll go to Charleston

when you die.

—old South Carolina saying

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4 Great National Parks For RVers

The US National Park Service administers a network of nearly 400 natural, cultural, historic, and recreational sites. From these Vogel Talks RVing selected four national parks that are great for RVers.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California's southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation.
Two desert systems, the Mojave and the Colorado, abut within Joshua Tree, dividing California’s southernmost national park into two arid ecosystems of profoundly contrasting appearance. The key to their differences is elevation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two distinct desert ecosystems, the Mojave and the Colorado, come together in Joshua Tree National Park. A fascinating variety of plants and animals make their homes in a land sculpted by strong winds and occasional torrents of rain. Dark night skies, a rich cultural history, and surreal geologic features add to the wonder of this vast wilderness in southern California.

With 8 different campgrounds offering about 500 developed campsites, Joshua Tree offers a variety of options for RVers. There are no hookups for RVs at any campground in Joshua Tree. Black Rock (99 sites) and Cottonwood (62 sites) have RV-accessible potable water and dump stations. At Hidden Valley (44 sites) and White Tank (15 sites) RVs may not exceed a combined maximum length of 25 feet. Additional campgrounds include Belle (18 sites), Indian Cove (101 sites), Jumbo Rocks (124 sites), and Ryan (31 sites).

Arches National Park, Utah

Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Arches is renown for an awe-inspiring combination of arches, cliffs, stone spires, and other dramatic rock formations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit Arches and discover a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms, and textures unlike any other in the world. The park has over 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins, and giant balanced rocks. This red rock wonderland will amaze you with its formations, refresh you with its trails, and inspire you with its sunsets.

Devils Garden Campground is located eighteen miles from the park entrance and is open year-round. There are 50 individual camping sites. Facilities include potable water, picnic tables, grills, and both pit-style and flush toilets. There are no showers or RV dump/fill stations.

All sites are usually reserved in advance during the busy season (March through October). As an alternative numerous private campgrounds are available in nearby Moab.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park.
Anyone who has listened to John Denver sing about country roads and the Blue Ridge Mountains can easily imagine the transcendent beauty of Shenandoah National Park along the Skyline Drive. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park in Virginia may be the nation’s most compelling hikers’ park despite the fact that most hikes begin by either an ascent or descent.

The two-lane Skyline Drive is 105 miles long and it is important for campers who want to begin their explorations of Shenandoah by simply driving. Along the road dozens of pullovers provide views of such spectacles as Old Rag Mountain which contains some of the nation’s oldest rocks. All trails lead to attractions, such as the park’s 15-some waterfalls including 93-foot-high Overall Run Falls, its highest. Or it might lead to Hawksbill, the park’s highest mountain at 4,051 feet.

There are four campgrounds in Shenandoah National Park; three campgrounds will accommodate large RVs. Mathews Arm, Big Meadows, and Loft Mountain all have pull-through and deep back-in sites which can handle an RV with a tow vehicle. There are no hookups for RVs at any campground in Shenandoah but potable water and dump stations are available with the exception of Lewis Mountain.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

The sheer walls, shaped and smoothed by thousands of years of rain and wind, provide a dramatic backdrop for those who still live and farm within the canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The sheer walls, shaped and smoothed by thousands of years of rain and wind, provide a dramatic backdrop for those who still live and farm within the canyon. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A comparatively little-known canyon, Canyon de Chelly has sandstone walls rising up to 1,000 feet, scenic overlooks, well-preserved Anasazi ruins, and an insight into the present day life of the Navajo, who still inhabit and cultivate the valley floor.

The sheer walls, shaped and smoothed by thousands of years of rain and wind, provide a dramatic backdrop for those who still live and farm within the canyon. Archaeologists believe that people have lived here for more than 5,000 years making it the longest continuously inhabited area on the Colorado Plateau. Ancient ruins are tucked along its cliffs, as are centuries-old pictographs.

The northernmost and southernmost edges are accessible from paved roads—the North and South Rim drives. The South Rim Drive offers the most dramatic vistas, ending at the most spectacular viewpoint, the overlook of Spider Rocks—twin 800 foot towers of rock isolated from the canyon walls and a site of special significance for the Navajo.

Cottonwood Campground is located in a shallow valley less than ¼-mile from the visitor center. The campground is large with approximately 100 spacious campsites, plus a large group camping area. During our visit we had no difficulty in finding a suitable site for our 40-foot motorhome.

Worth Pondering…

Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.

—Jalal Ad-Din Rumi

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Top Campgrounds, RV Parks & Resorts With Fun Activities For the Entire Family

These selected campgrounds and RV parks feature amenities, entertainment, and fun activities for the entire family and cultivate an atmosphere that’s welcoming for families of all ages. These campgrounds enable families to enjoy quality time together.

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in the woods between Boston and Cape Cod, Normandy Farms is a luxury camping destination that has been a family tradition since 1971. Family amenities include four swimming pools, a Wellness Center, bike path, Creative Arts Center, 18-hole disc golf course, two playgrounds, fishing pond, nature trails, recreational lodge with indoor pool and Jacuzzi, volleyball and basketball courts, bocce ball and horseshoes, and dog park.

Featuring 85 foot pull-through sites and wide paved streets, Ambassador RV Resort is located near Idaho’s wine country and convenient to the Boise metro area: the perfect home base for all your family activities.

Fun for all ages, Cajun Palms RV Resort is a full service campground resort located at Henderson, near Breaux Bridge in Cajun Country. Accommodations consist of over 300 Deluxe RV sites and 25 cabins. Twenty cabins are facing the waterfront view stocked ponds. RV sites have full hookups, 30- and 50-amp electric service, on-site water and sewer, and 70+ channels of digital cable.

The clubhouse contains an assembly/reception hall and features two concession stands serving prepared food, a poolside patio, a second floor deck overlooking a resort style pool, and Kiddie pool. Fun attractions and amenities include Tiki Bar, band stand, beach volleyball, arcade, miniature golf, pool toys and waterslides, and Prehistoric Park.

With approximately 12 acres to explore, you will find yourself wandering amongst some of the most feared predators ever to walk the planet. Prehistoric Park offers a unique, natural setting featuring paved walkways where you will encounter a wide variety of realistic- looking steel and fiberglass dinosaur replicas, including some animated dinosaur exhibits. There is a concession stand, gift shop, and a sandbox with buried bones ready to be discovered by young paleontologists.

Orange Groove RV Park, Bakersfield, California
Orange Groove RV Park, Bakersfield, California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved.

Lazydays RV Resort offers 300 sites with full utility hookups, entertainment, breakfast and lunch in The Front Porch Restaurant, sports facilities, complimentary morning coffee and newspaper, and much more. Close proximity to the Tampa Bay area and Orlando attractions and events ensure there is always something going on.

Lazydays provides fun activities for children of all ages, including a children’s playground and park. Other activities include a screened and heated pool and hot tub, tennis courts, horseshoes, beanbag tosses, ladderball, badminton, and pickleball. Whether the goal is to relax and unwind, or spend quality time with the family, the Lazydays RV Resort offers the complete RV campground package.

Nk’Mip Resort is a four season playground for the entire family, offering the ultimate Okanagan destination. South Okanagan’s largest RV park with over 400 full service sites has been welcoming guests since 1970. Perfectly situated along the shores of Osoyoos Lake with a private beach, playground, and convenience store, the all-season RV Park also offers yurt and cabin rentals and a club house with a seasonal pool and hot tub.

Nk’Mip Resort is a four-season tourism resort destination featuring premium accommodation and visitor experiences including an award-winning winery, gourmet dining, desert golf, a cultural centre, a full-service spa, and meeting space for up to 350 people.

Just a short drive from downtown Charleston, the 643-acre James Island County Park offers an abundance of exceptional recreation offerings and natural beauty with year-round enjoyment for the entire family. Activities include miles of paved trails for walking and biking, seasonal Splash Zone Waterpark, 16 acres of freshwater lakes with fishing, pedal boat and kayak rentals, modern playground, tidal creek fishing and crabbing dock, picnic areas, and off-leash dog park.

Vogel Talks RVing selected the list of top campgrounds, RV parks, and resorts from parks personally visited.

Ambassador RV Resort, Caldwell, Idaho

Cajun Palms RV Resort, Henderson, Louisiana

Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama

Lazydays RV Resort, Seffner, Florida

Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama
Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama Gulf State Park, Gulf Shore, Alabama

Nk’Mip RV Park, Osoyoos, British Columbia

Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort, Foxboro, Massachusetts

Orange Groove RV Park, Bakersfield, California

The Campground at James Island County Park, Charleston, South Carolina

Worth Pondering…

In the end, we only conserve what we love.

We only love what we understand.

We will understand what we are taught.

—Baba Dioum, Sengalese poet

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Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together

With the arrival of summer Americans and Canadians are fleeing the cities by the thousands in search of open space and a chance to get away from others.

Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together.  Pictured above the Bavarian town of Helen, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together. Pictured above the Bavarian town of Helen, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That means virtually every campground and outdoor recreation venue within four hours of every major cities will be at capacity every weekend— full of people getting away from others while doing it together.

Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together.  Pictured above the Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho. © Rex Vogel, all rights
Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together. Pictured above the Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping courtesy (the unwritten rules of campground etiquette) is an easy way to ensure that a group of people living in close proximity together where sounds travel and light can be a disturbance continue to camp together in harmony.

Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together.  Pictured above an Acadian farmstead at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, Louisiana. © Rex
Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together. Pictured above an Acadian farmstead at Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, Louisiana. © Rex Vogel, all rights

Spending time in a campground requires a certain level of community patience and a willingness to live and let live, there are some basic rules of campground etiquette that will help create a friendly atmosphere and make the camping experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Here are a few of our favorite ways to achieve and maintain friendly camper status.

Be a Friendly Camper

Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together.  Pictured above Plimoth Planation near Plymouth, Massachusetts. © Rex Vogel
Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together. Pictured above Plimoth Planation near Plymouth, Massachusetts. © Rex Vogel

Be friendly and greet other campers. This is part of being within the camping community and even though you may not know the other people, you all have a common goal of enjoying the camping experience.

Being a friendly camper is more than saying hi to your neighbors. It’s being the kind of camper who makes the experience better for their friends and family as well as other the folks sharing the campground. It’s really the little things that can truly make a camping trip amazing for everyone around you.

Obey Campground Rules

Follow the campground rules and regulations. These rules usually include speed limits, fire regulations, quiet times, and so on. Adhering to these rules is one of the basics of campground etiquette. Be sure to review and enforce the rules with your children, as well.

Respect Your Neighbors

Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together.  Pictured above Mount Mitchell State Park, North Caroina. © Rex Vogel
Campground Etiquette: How To Get Away From Others While Doing It Together. Pictured above Mount Mitchell State Park, North Caroina. © Rex Vogel

Campgrounds are for relaxing and having fun—consider your neighbors as you kick back and relax. Keep your music and other noise to a reasonable level so everyone can enjoy the serenity of the great outdoors.

Keep in mind that others may be in the campground to get away from it all and wish to hear the wind blowing through the aspens, the babbling of a brook, the chatter of squirrels, or perhaps the call of a jay. While I recognize your right to enjoy a little music, I don’t necessarily share your musical taste unless, of course, it’s Willie’s “On the road again…”. That is why they make headphones.

Power down at night; shut off your generator and dim the lights. Remember not all generators are created equal. Some are designed to run very quietly, and others are not. Quiet hours are there for a reason.

Don’t Feed the Wildlife

Classic camping treats like a perfectly roasted hot dog or some gooey s’mores are amazing, no doubt. They’re just not amazing for the wildlife that make their home in and around the campground. This is one instance where it’s ok to be greedy with your grub.

Pick Up After Your Pets

Be a responsible pet owner. Keep dogs on leashes whenever they are outside so they are not bothering your neighbors and discourage them from barking. Never leave a dog that barks or howls unattended.

It’s great to have a furry friend as a camping companion, but make sure your pet isn’t leaving any surprises behind. When taking your dog for a walk, always pick up all pet waste. Many campgrounds provide pet waste collection bags to make clean up easy and convenient.

Leave No Trace

Clean up after yourself. When you prepare to exit the campsite, be sure to remove all garbage regardless of its origin and if the campground has a recycling program, take advantage of it.

Always leave the campsite as clean, or cleaner, than it was when you arrived. The camp host and the next camper will appreciate it.

The bottom line is that camping requires us to respect the land and one another. When it comes down to it, continued success of this ongoing social experiment requires it.

Have an enjoyable and safe camping summer.

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?

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Campgrounds As Base Camps For Festivals & Annual Events

Campgrounds are great places to enjoy hiking, biking, swimming, boating, and other outdoor recreation activities during your leisure time.

Banff and the Canadian Rockies are a short day trip from Calgary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Banff and the Canadian Rockies are a short day trip from Calgary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With RV and tent sites as well as a wide range of accommodations, campgrounds can also serve as base camps for those interested in attending festivals and annual events throughout the U.S and Canada. These events range from rodeos to music festivals and cultural to culinary happenings.

Following is a sampling of the festivals and annual events that take place during the coming weeks and months, along with listings of nearby attractions and campgrounds and RV parks, many of which also have rental accommodations.

All parks included have been personally visited with a minimum of one night of paid camping.

Alberta: Calgary Stampede, Calgary, July 3-12, 2015

The Calgary Stampede is called “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” for good reason. For 10 days every July, the Stampede City welcomes the world to a spectacular celebration of western hospitality. Stampede Park, located in downtown Calgary, is the world’s greatest gathering of cowboy culture. Each year, more than 1.2 million visitors from around the world come to Calgary to experience the heart-stopping action of the world’s roughest and richest rodeo, featuring bull riding, barrel racing, and more.

The GMC Rangeland Derby is the world’s top Chuckwagon Races. And every night is capped off with the Grandstand Show and fireworks finale that lights up the sky.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Calgary Zoo, Heritage Park Historical Village, Canada Olympic Park, Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology

Recommended RV Park: Mountain View Camping, Calgary

Freedom Trail, Bostom © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Freedom Trail, Bostom © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Massachusetts: 33rd Annual Boston Harborfest 2015, Boston, July 2-6, 2015

The 33rd Annual Boston Harborfest is a six-day Fourth of July Festival that showcases the colonial and maritime heritage of the cradle of the American Revolution: the historic city of

Boston. The award-winning festival strives to honor and remember the past, celebrate the present, and educate the future with reenactments, concerts, and historical tours. The week includes Boston Chowderfest, Children’s Day, and the July 4th Boston Pops Concert, and fireworks.

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Freedom Trail, Boston Common, Fenway Park, USS Constitution (“Old Ironside”), Boston Harbor, Plymouth Rock

Recommended RV Park: Normandy Farms Family Camping Resort, Foxboro

New Mexico: 12th annual Pork & Brew State BBQ Championship, Rio Rancho, July 3-5, 2015

Old Town Albuquerque © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Old Town Albuquerque © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Come out and enjoy this terrific family-friendly event with live entertainment, arts and crafts, fun jumps, magic show, and, of course, plenty of award-winning BBQ. The Pork & Brew is hosted by the Rio Rancho Convention & Visitors Bureau and is a fully sanctioned Kansas City BBQ Society event—one of the top 10 events on the Society calendar.

With an average attendance of more than 20,000, Pork & Brew has become one of the largest events in New Mexico. Winners go on to participate at the World Series of Barbecue in Kansas City, Missouri, October 1-4, 2015 .

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Jemez Mountain Trail, Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Sandia Peak Tramway, Local Cuisine

Recommended RV Park: American RV Park, Albuquerque,

Alberta: The Canadian Badlands Passion Play, Drumheller, July 10-26, 2015

Travel back 2000 years to the land and events that changed the course of history. This dramatic portrayal of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ in an acoustically superb natural bowl amphitheater will make you feel like you’re actually there. The Scripture-based script and music, sets, costumes, quality performances, and the site’s remarkable similarity to the Holy Land all add to the experience. “One of Alberta’s Top Cultural Attractions”—Attractions Canada

Named a Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association.

Nearby Attractions: Dinosaur Trail, Dinosaur Provincial Park, Royall Tyrrell Museum, Rosebud Theatre

Recommended RV Park: Dinosaur Trail RV Resort, Drumheller, Alberta

Worth Pondering…

Happiness is not a state to arrive at, rather, a manner of traveling.

—Samuel Johnson

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Must-ask Questions During RV Park Check-in

It’s the end of a long day of RV travel as you finally exit the Interstate and drive along the entrance road into your RV park destination.

Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a long sigh of relief as you anticipate a quick check-in process. You can already visualize settling into your site, hooking up the utilities, extending the slides, and kicking back and relaxing with a cool one.

But what happens when you walk into the office? Are you greeted warmly and treated in a friendly manner? Are the office staff approachable, friendly, and helpful?

The importance of first impression simply cannot be overstated. Once you’re all signed in, have your park map in hand, and headed to your site, you begin seeing this new and unfamiliar campground through either the lens of a good feeling, which tends to make everything look just a bit better; or through the more critical lens of a less-than-welcome feeling derived from the sign-in process. You will begin to see the park in either a more or less favorable light. But I digress.

Do you really want to whiz through check-in process paying mere lip service to the blah, blah, blah as the office staff attempts to give you pertinent information about your new designation and review the 19 or so rules.

During check-in the office staff will ask you the standard questions.

Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Buckhorn Lake RV Resort, Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How many in your party?

Any pets?

Do you have a second vehicle?

Whether you are overnighting, camping for the weekend or an extended period of time, there are questions you must ask during the RV park check in process. Planning ahead and asking the right questions may save your life or the life of a family member.

In addition asking specific questions will ease the transition to your new campground and community.

What county am I in?

You need to know the county to be alert of dangerous weather. Watching the nightly news or weather channel does you no good if you don’t know where you are.

Port Lavaca RV Resort, Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Port Lavaca RV Resort, Port Lavaca, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where is the closest hospital/emergency care?

A medical emergency requiring a hospital or medi-center can happen at any hour, day or night.

Do you have a storm shelter? If not, where is the nearest one?

This is especially important when traveling in the spring and early summer in Tornado Alley but something you should always know. You may need to drive to a local community center or fire department. Planning ahead can save your life.

In the event you travel with pets, you may wish to know the location and phone number of the nearest vet.

Now that you have the information you need to handle emergency/medical situations you hope never happen, there may be addition questions to ask.

Where is the nearest Walmart/major grocery store?

Where is the nearest pharmacy?

End of the day at Van Horne KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
End of the day at Van Horne KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do you have laundry facilities? If not, where is the closest clean Laundromat? Unless your RV is equipped with a washer/dryer, you will probably need this service at some point.

Is there a local farmers market?

Can you recommend a local restaurant?

Taking several minutes to ask the right questions just might save your life or the life of a family member. Be safe out there!

Now go get settled in your site and relax a bit.

Useful Websites

What County Am I In?: www.whatcountyamiin.com

US Hospital Finder: www.ushospitalfinder.com

Tornado Central: www.weather.com/storms/tornado

Find a Laundry: www.findalaundry.org

Walmart Store Locator: www.mobile.walmart.com/location/find

Worth Pondering…

God grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.

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