Roughing it Smoothly in a Yurt

Do you cringe at the thought of setting up a tent in wind and rain?

Beach side yurt at Cape Lookout State Park. (Source: oregon.gov)
Beach side yurt at Cape Lookout State Park. (Source: oregon.gov)

If so, meet the yurt, a circular domed tent with a plywood floor, sturdy walls, electricity, and a skylight. Yurts give campers a cozy, dry place from which to experience the North Coast’s great outdoors, even when the area’s weather is at its wintry worst, reports OPBmagazine.

Roughing it has never been smoother.

Yurts are a national phenomenon that broke into the camping scene in the Pacific Northwest. They have become an especially popular and comfortable way to camp in the winter, due to their ability to withstand high winds and retain heat. They allow campers to extend their traveling season without having to risk discomfort on a rainy day by pitching a tent.

Nearly all of Oregon’s state parks feature yurts, including Fort Stevens State Park and Nehalem Bay State Park. In addition, Cape Disappointment on the Long Beach (Washington) Peninsula offers yurt rentals.

The history of yurts in coastal campgrounds dates back to 1993, when Craig Tutor, then-Oregon State Parks Northwest Regional Manager, came across a model on display at the Oregon State Fair. The design, based on a traditional Central Asian nomadic structure, was well-suited for rugged travel and harsh weather. Intrigued, Tutor approached the model’s designers from Cottage Grove-based Pacific Yurts about integrating them into the parks.

Yurt at Beverly Beach State Park. (Source: oregon.gov)
Yurt at Beverly Beach State Park. (Source: oregon.gov)

Tutor was convinced that yurt rentals would be the ideal way to encourage more people to visit the parks along the state’s coastline during the traditionally slower off-season. From November through April, the weather on the Oregon coast is less than desirable for tent camping, meaning parks were underutilized by the public and revenue from campers plunged. They would also help address parks’ tight budgets by generating usage fees, reports OPBmagazine.

In November 1993, Oregon State Parks ordered two 14-foot diameter yurts and set them up at Cape Lookout State Park south of Tillamook in January 1994. The idea was to see how they withstood severe winds and driving rain. They would also solicit public opinion from initial users.

With just word-of-mouth advertising, the two little rentals steadily gained in popularity. The yurts stood strong in howling winds and quickly began booking up because of their comfort. Users loved the feeling of the round space, abundance of natural light and being close to nature while being protected from it. The success of the experiment led to the state parks purchasing another 14 yurts in July 1994 for several coastline parks.

200 Yurts in Oregon State Parks

Soon, yurt reservations swelled noticeably, compelling Oregon State Parks to install another 50 yurts in the winter of 1995. Today, Oregon State Parks has nearly 200 yurts in its system.

Additionally, according to Nation’s Business, they are “the biggest money-maker to hit Oregon State Parks since campgrounds were introduced.” In difficult economic times this means more revenue to help keep parks open for public enjoyment year-round.

Carolyn Colbert of Rockaway Beach spent nearly 10 years as a volunteer Camp Host at coastal parks. This included stints at Fort Stevens and Nehalem Bay, where she remembers the increasing demand for yurts.

“They always had a long waiting-list, especially as summer died down and winter came,” she said. “Once people realized they didn’t have to deal with tents or lug an RV around, the yurts were booked solid. It was especially nice for families with young children. We definitely noticed more people coming to the parks in the winter.”

Many of the yurts are fully ADA accessible, available to campers with disabilities. In addition, designated yurts recently began allowing pets inside for an additional fee, including those at Fort Stevens, Nehalem Bay, and Cape Disappointment.

Fort Stevens State Park yurt village (Source: oregon.gov)
Fort Stevens State Park yurt village (Source: oregon.gov)

Peter Dolan of Pacific Yurts points to ease of care as a highlight of yurts’ popularity. “In general terms, the yurts simply need to have the exterior coverings washed a couple times a year using a soft bristle brush and soapy water,” Dolan said. “The exterior of the door needs a fresh coat of stain yearly. That’s really about it.

Yurts have evolved with the times. They come furnished with basic beds, heat, electricity, and furniture. Larger units boast even more amenities, such as large porches. Campers provide their own linens and cookware.

“A yurt comes with everything you need to get away,” Colbert said. “All you have to do is unlock the door, turn on the heat and leave your worries behind.”

Worth Pondering…

And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.
—Dave Barry

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Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies

If you are looking for an exciting vacation with beautiful views then consider exploring Forest Service lands in the Northern Rockies for beautiful landscapes, scenic byways, historic trails, and diverse wildlife.

For sheer beauty and allure, few regions match the Northern Rockies. Discover a convenient new way to research and plan absolutely incredible Rocky Mountain travel adventures—the Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies.

Beartooth All-American Road

The Beartooth Scenic Road has 10,000 mountain lakes, 20 peaks reaching more than 12,000 feet in elevation, and 12 national forest campgrounds. Witness the rare transition of lush forest ecosystem to alpine tundra in just a few miles on the highest elevation road in the Northern Rockies.

International Selkirk Loop All­-American Road

The public lands along the loop are home to the largest diversity of wildlife in the lower 48 states. Travel the Selkirk Range of the British Columbia, Idaho, and Washington Rocky Mountains to see stunning vistas, wildlife, year-round recreation, and colorful small towns.

Montana Scenic Loop

Holland Lake sits at the base of the Swan Mountains about 25 miles north of Seeley Lake, Mont., just minutes off the route of the Montana Scenic Loop. (Source: usda.gov)

At the heart of the 400-mile Montana Scenic Loop is the Bob Marshall Wilderness—flanked by the Great Bear Wilderness on the north and the Scapegoat Wilderness to the south. Enjoy striking vistas of awe-inspiring mountains, placid trout streams and abundant wildlife as they unfold along the Rocky Mountain Front, Glacier National Park, and the Flathead and Blackfoot River Basins.

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway All-American Road

Travel along U.S. Highway 12 along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River and the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River—through the magnificent Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests culminating at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center. Explore the Idaho Rockies, including the land of the Nez Perce Indians, and trace the Lewis & Clark Expedition route across the Bitterroot Mountains and along the Wild and Scenic Clearwater and Lochsa rivers.

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park Loop

The area is defined largely by the wide-ranging wildlife that inhabit the region, including grizzly bears, wolverines, wolves, and bull trout. Trace this stunning route through the Montana Rockies, featuring breathtaking scenery and Glacier National Park’s popular Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

With eight national forests along this route in Montana and Idaho, visitors can experience a number of landmarks and attractions while tracing the same path over mountains and along rivers that the Lewis and Clark Expedition took on their way to the Pacific coast.

Nez Perce National Historic Trail

Drive the route of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail in the fall to come across this picturesque scene. (Source: usda.gov)

The journey of the Nez Perce from their homelands is one of the most fascinating and sorrowful events in U.S. history. Learn the story of the Nez Perce by following in the footsteps of the 1,170-mile flight through Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.

Details

Drive the Top 10

This website will help you learn about the region’s four All-American Roads, 19 national parks, and the scenic byways and historic trails connecting them.

Retrace the rugged path of Lewis & Clark through Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Tour the hot springs of the Kootenay Rockies. Navigate the prehistoric depths of Hells Canyon—North America’s deepest canyon. Or witness an awe-inspiring Old Faithful eruption, a timeless tradition at Yellowstone National Park.

Explore the countless natural wonders, historical sites, and cultural sites that make the Northern Rockies so legendary and inspiring.

Website: drivethetop10.com

Worth Pondering…

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.
— John Muir

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50 Places to Discover in an RV

You might have read it or seen it on a shelf and thought, “I should pick that up.”

A highlight for most visitors to Capitol Reef is the scenic drive from the visitors center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A highlight for most visitors to Capitol Reef is the scenic drive from the visitors center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s the national bestseller, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.”

Sometimes the best adventures are those in your own backyard.

Here, in alphabetical order, are 50 things to do or see in your RV before you die:

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Much of Capitol Reef is an inviting wilderness of sandstone formations such as Capitol Dome, Hickman Bridge, and Temple of the Sun and Moon in the backcountry of splendid Cathedral Valley. The central geologic feature, the Waterpocket Fold, is a bulging uplift of rainbow-hued sandstone “reefs” and canyons.

Rock art petroglyphs are abundant and tell the story of the early indigenous people, the Fremont Culture. Close by are the orchards of Fruita, an early pioneer settlement—and now headquarters for the park.

Continue reading →

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico

The Chihuahuan Desert, studded with spiky plants and lizards, offers little hint that what Will Rogers called the “Grand Canyon with a roof on it” waits underground. Yet, at this desert’s northern reaches, underneath the Guadalupe Mountains, lies one of the deepest, largest, and most ornate caverns ever found.

Water molded this underworld four to six million years ago. Some 250 million years ago, the region lay underneath the inland arm of an ancient sea. Near the shore grew a limestone reef. By the time the sea withdrew, the reef stood hundreds of feet high, later to be buried under thousands of feet of soil.

Continue reading →

Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

No place else on earth combines a deep, pure lake, so blue in color; sheer surrounding cliffs, almost two thousand feet high; two picturesque islands; and a violent volcanic past. It’s the deepest lake in the U. S. and its reputation as a spot of overwhelming, sublime natural beauty—the “Gem of the Cascades”—extends around the globe.

Approximately 7,700 years ago, 12,000 foot Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed on itself, forming a large, bowl-shape caldera. Remaining lava flows sealed the bottom and, after a long period of cooling, the caldera filled with rain and snow, creating the sapphire-blue lake.

Death Valley National Park, California

Death Valley National Park gives new meaning to the word extreme. Telescope Peak, the highest peak in the Park, rises 11,049 feet and lies only 15 miles from the lowest point in the United States in the Badwater Basin salt pan, 282 feet below sea level.

Hemmed in by nine mountain ranges, Death Valley is cut off from rainfall and cooling Pacific winds, making it one of the driest and hottest places in the world. The highest temperatures in the United States are regularly recorded here with a record high temperature of 134 degrees Fahrenheit in 1913.

Denali National Park, Alaska

Denali National Park is home to North America’s highest mountain, Mt. McKinley, towering over 20,300 feet tall. The 6 million acre National Park will also give you one of your best opportunities to see Alaska’s wildlife such as grizzly bear, moose, wolves, Dall sheep, and caribou.

The main cavern is located 754 feet below the Visitor Center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The main cavern is located 754 feet below the Visitor Center. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 90-mile road into Denali Park has restricted access and private vehicles are only allowed on the first fourteen miles. You will almost certainly want to travel further into the Park on a narrated bus tour or Park Service shuttle.

Everglades National Park, Florida

The park is at the southern tip of the Everglades, a hundred-mile-long subtropical wilderness of saw-grass prairie, junglelike hammock, and mangrove swamp that originally ran from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay.

The park’s unique mix of tropical and temperate plants and animals—including more than 700 plant and 300 bird species, as well as the endangered manatee, crocodile, and Florida panther—has prompted UNESCO to grant it international biosphere reserve status as well as World Heritage Site designation.

Please Note: This is Part 3 of an 8-part series on 50 Places to RV Before You Die

Worth Pondering…

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.
—Susan Sontag

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Spring into Your National Parks

With winter winding down and spring already on the minds of many, now is the perfect time to start planning your RV travels to one of America’s nearly 400 national parks.

The National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, lists ten

Ways to enjoy your national parks this season.

Glide along the shoreline at Biscayne National Park (Florida)

Explore tidal creeks and canals, and skim over vast seagrass meadows while watching for manatees, birds, fish and other critters. Weather permitting, this FREE 2-3 hour paddle begins at the Dante Fascell Visitor Center at 9 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday until April. Event details here>

Enjoy the snow with a snowshoe hike in Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)

Explore one of the snowiest inhabited places in America, receiving an average of 44 feet of snow per year. Snowshoes are provided for free. Be sure to make reservations in advance as the ranger-guided snowshoe walks fill up quickly. Event details here>

Capture beautiful moments with Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia)

Do you love taking photos? Join fellow photo enthusiasts for an evening of photography demonstrations including helpful techniques and tips designed to get that perfect shot. Photographers of all levels are invited and encouraged to attend. Event details here>

Compete in a scavenger hunt in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee, North Carolina)

Round up your friends and family for the 4th Annual Great Smoky Mountains Scavenger Hunt on March 3. The hunt uses roads and official trails all across the park. Event details here>

Learn how your life compares to life in the Arctic at Kobuk Valley National Park (Alaska)

Ever wanted to learn about life in the Arctic? Here’s your chance! Come check out the Arctic Circle Film Series every Tuesday evening from 7-9 p.m. Event details here>

Celebrate Women’s History Month at Lowell National Historical Park (Massachusetts)

March is Women’s History Month! Since 1996, Lowell National Historical Park has been celebrating Lowell Women’s Week. Join in on the fun and celebrate the important role women have played in history and present-day with Lowell Women’s Week, March 4 – March 12, 2012. Event details here>

Make a lei necklace at Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site (Hawaii)

Join “Aunty Martha” from the Hawaii Pacific Parks Association for lei making demonstrations. Event details here>

Enjoy a river walk at Tumacacori National Historical Park (Arizona)

Hike to the Santa Cruz River and explore the natural and cultural history found in this national park, one of the National Park Foundation’s American Latino Heritage Fund sites. Event details here>

Indulge your artistic side at Weir Farm National Historic Site (Connecticut)

Be creative, be inspired and Take Part in Art at Weir Farm National Historic Site, home to three generations of American artists. The park will provide graphite pencils, colored pencils and chalk pastels for all ages and experience levels. Event details here>

Sit back, relax and chat on the patio at White Sands National Monument (New Mexico)

Enjoy a weekend afternoon chat on the patio with the rangers! The rangers will lead discussions on a variety of topics. Event details here>

In addition to these events, the National Park Foundation and the National Park Service are inviting people everywhere to experience the beauty and wonder of America’s nearly 400 national parks for FREE during National Park Week 2012, which will be celebrated Saturday, April 21 through Sunday, April 29.

Worth Pondering…
Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.

—Peter Hoeg

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Whale Watching Great Fit for RVers

Life in a recreational vehicle can be full of adventure and new experiences.

The approaching spring season brings new opportunities for RVers to explore the natural world and create lasting memories.

Of the many activities available during spring, whale-watching season is a great opportunity to learn and experience something new.

Beginning mid-February, more than 18,000 grey whales leave breeding and calving sites off the coast of Baja, California and travel north to their summer feeding grounds in the Chukchi and Bering Seas. Traveling close to shore, grey whales can be spotted along the West Coast of the United States and Canada.

These giant mammals, which can reach 46 feet in length and weigh up to 36 tons, make one of the longest annual migrations in the world, traveling around 10,000 miles round trip. Inquisitive and friendly towards people, grey whales are known to spyhop, lobtail, and breach the surface.

The West Coast of the United States has a long history of whale watching. High points along the coastline offer many opportunities for land-based observations. Traveling along the famous Pacific Coast Highway gives RVers a good chance to spot whales while experiencing the beautiful landscapes of one of the most scenic routes in the U.S.

This legendary highway hugs most of the coastline from San Diego to northern Washington, providing a continuous avenue for RVers who want to stay close to the coast.

Charter companies also offer visitors a unique perspective of the whales from the air or water. With the ability to cover large areas in a limited time, air tours give visitors a good chance of seeing whales.

Boat tours offer the chance for an up-close and personal experience. Grey whales are curious and friendly, sometimes approaching boats and poking their heads out of the water.

Novice whale-watching RVers can also take advantage of the weeklong program offered by Whale Watching Spoken Here. This program provides trained volunteers at 26 proven whale-watching sites from northern California to southern Washington. Volunteers help spot whales and provide educational information.

This spring’s session will run March 24-31, 2012.

The annual migration of the grey whales provides an exciting and moving experience for veteran and novice whale watchers. With so many places to see these massive mammals, RVers will find whale watching an interesting and exciting spring activity and a perfect reason to take to the road.

While spotting whales can take practice, finding a great RV campground is easy. Encore and Thousand Trails RV Resorts offer premier RV resorts all along the West Coast, according to a news release. Each location offers unique amenities and activities, such as swimming pools, spas, fitness centers, lounges, sports courts, organized activities, Wi-Fi access, and more.

Below is a sampling of RV resorts on the West Coast:

  • Pacific Dunes Ranch RV Resort – 1205 Silver Spur Place., Oceano, CA 93445
  • Santa Cruz Ranch RV Park – 917 Disc Drive, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
  • San Francisco RV Resort – 700 Palmetto Ave., Pacifica, CA 94044
  • Rancho Oso RV Resort- 3750 Paradise Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105
  • Morgan Hill RV Resort- 12895 Uvas Road, Morgan Hill, CA 95037
  • South Jetty RV Resort – 05010 S. Jetty Road, Florence, OR 97439
  • Whaler’s Rest RV Resort- 50 S.E. 123rd St., South Beach, OR 97366
  • Pacific City RV Resort – 30000 Sandlake Road, Cloverdale, OR 97112
  • Seaside RV Resort – 1703 12th Ave., Seaside, OR 97138
  • Long Beach RV Resort – 2215 Willow Road, Seaview, WA 98644
  • Oceana RV Resort – 2733 State Route 109, Ocean City, WA 98569

 

Details

Encore and Thousand Trails
Encore and Thousand Trails feature 173 RV Resorts across North America. Owned and operated by Equity LifeStyle Properties, Inc., Encore, Thousand Trails, and its affiliates offer RVers opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in top vacation destinations, complemented with resort style amenities.

Phone: (866) 730-0637

Website: rvonthego.com

Whale Watching Spoken Here

Visitors can spot migrating gray whales with the help of volunteers positioned at 26 sites along the Pacific Coast during the one-week Whale Watching Spoken Here programs held in March and December. This spring’s session will run March 24-31, 2012.

Whale Watching Spoken Here is coordinated by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and offers volunteer interpreters at locations along the coast from Ilwaco, Washington to Crescent City, California.

Website: whalespoken.org

Worth Pondering…
Back in 1980, whale watching surpassed whaling as an industry. Now it’s worth about four times as much. Whale watching provides far, far more jobs to people than whaling ever did. Whale watching has become an ally in the fight to end whaling.”

—Paul Watson

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Oregon State Parks: Learn How to Camp with Let’s Go Camping Program

Are you curious about camping? Don’t have all the needed gear? Not a problem. Let’s Go Camping has arrived!

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department presents a fun-filled, overnight camping excursion for beginning campers of ALL ages. With extra gear, hands-on lessons, nature hikes, and plenty of s’mores, the Let’s Go Camping program makes camping easy, inviting, and fun for the whole family.

Join a group of expert volunteers who are there to assist you. So what are you waiting for?

Let’s Go Camping!

What to Expect

Activities may include:

  • Ranger-led nature hikes
  • Camping basics: tent set up and packing
  • Respecting your camping neighbors
  • Safety essentials
  • Fishing
  • Kayaking
  • Tide pooling
  • Disc golf
  • Campfire safety
  • Dutch oven cooking
  • Owl prowls and bat chats
Beginners are invited to attend a "Let's Go Camping" program coming to an Oregon state park near you. (Source: oregon.gov/OPRD/PARKS)

All you need to bring is food and clothes—state parks supply the tents, sleeping bags, and skilled camping volunteers.

Let’s Go Camping programs include:

  • June 15-17: South Beach State Park offers kayak tours, beachcombing, beautiful ocean sunsets, and plenty of opportunities to learn about local marine life (central coast)
  • June 22-24: The Cove Palisades State Park offers first-class hiking, kayak tours, and the Crooked River Petroglyph (central Oregon)
  • July 6-8: Valley of the Rogue State Park offers great wildlife viewing, salmon fishing, and an interpretive trail along the wild Rogue River (southwestern Oregon)
  • July 13-15: Cape Lookout State Park offers beautiful beaches, vistas, and plenty of hiking trails through lush, old-growth forest (north coast)
  • July 20-22: Cascadia State Park offers an historic bridge, dense forest, swimming holes, and a trail to Soda Creek Falls (central Willamette Valley east of Sweet Home)
  • July 27-29: Umpqua Lighthouse State Park offers fishing, swimming in Lake Marie, and trails through the forest, to the dunes and to the lighthouse (south coast in the heart of the Oregon Dunes)
  • August 3-5: LL “Stub” Stewart State Park offers 17 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, a disc golf course (Portland metro)
  • August 10-12: Silver Falls State Park, Oregon’s largest state park, offers more than 10 waterfalls amid lush green forests, historic cabins, interpretive programs, and 25 miles of hiking trails (east of Salem)
  • August 24-26: Beverly Beach State Park features great beach for sand castle building, kite flying, and surfing; a creek-side trail and forest-sheltered campground are just a few steps from the ocean (central coast)

Details

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

Address: 725 Summer Street NE, Suite C, Salem, OR 97301

Phone: (503) 986-0707

Information: (800) 551-6949

Camping Reservations: (800) 452-5687

Website: oregonstateparks.org

Let’s Go Camping Program

Cannon Beach from Ecola State Park. (Source: virtualtourist.com)

Registration Details

Pick a park and a weekend.

All events begin at 11a.m. on Saturday. However, campers may choose to arrive after 4 p.m. on Friday. Two nights for the price of one.

The schedule for Let’s Go Camping from Oregon State Parks is set for this summer. For just $20, your entire family can camp in a state park, while learning the ins and outs of pitching a tent, building a fire, and other camping-related skills.

Phone: (888) 953-7677 on Monday to Friday between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. to register

Website: oregon.gov/OPRD/PARKS

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Worth Pondering…

I do like to be beside the seaside.

—John A. Glover-Kind

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The Gift That Keeps on Giving

It’s that time of year again. The Christmas countdown has begun!

While the holidays bring with it lots of love, time spent with family and friends, good food, and more, it can also bring stress—most from the gift exchange. Trying to find the perfect gift for someone can get frustrating.

But if you’re still looking for gifts for the RVer in your life, you are in luck!

To keep this manageable, it’s been parted out into two posts—each with five items.  These are in no particular order, with no favoritism or affiliation to the actual products or vendors. So, without further ado here are five gifts that keep on giving:

The National Parks: Our American Landscape

A collection of over 200 stunning images depicting America’s national parks is a perfect gift for any RVer or lover of the outdoors. The book was originally released in 2010, but was released this year in a more affordable paperback version ($16.47 on Amazon.com).

Texas State Parks Pass

The Texas State Parks Pass is an annual pass that offers many special benefits including unlimited visits to more than 90 State Parks. You can also receive discounts on camping, park store merchandise, and recreational equipment rentals, and be eligible for other specials.

The single Texas State Park Pass (Primary Pass) may be purchased for $70. An additional pass may be issued at the time of purchase for an additional $15. Additional passes sold anytime after the original transaction may be purchased for $25.

State Parks Passes can be purchased on site at any Texas State Park location, and can be used on your very first visit. Or, you can purchase your Parks Pass from the State Park Customer Service Center, by calling (512) 389-8900.

December Is “Stocking Stuffer” Month at Oregon State Parks

Through the end of the month, visitors to Oregon’s 26 state parks can buy a 12-month day-use parking permit for $25 instead $30. Parking permits are transferable from vehicle to vehicle. The parks department also offers a 24-month pass for $50.

The Oregon Coast Passport, a multi-agency permit, also is discounted $5 in December. It is valid not only for parking at state parks but also at U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service sites along the Oregon Coast. The coastal passports are on sale for $30.

The parking permits, coastal passports, and gift certificates are available by calling the Oregon State Parks Information Center (800-551-6949).

Colorado State Parks Passes

A Colorado State Parks Annual Pass is a gift of outdoor cheer that lasts all year and doesn’t require a shopping trip. The annual passes provide free access for everyone in the vehicle to all 42 state parks throughout 2012.

Colorado State Parks offer settings of natural beauty across the state, nearly every kind of outdoor recreation—boating, camping, fishing, hiking, rock climbing, and sledding—and special programs for youngsters and adults.

The annual pass is $70 and is valid for 12 months from the date of purchase.

The passes are available online and by phone (303-866-3437).

Gift certificates, which can be used for annual and daily passes, reservation fees, and camping sites are also available. And, Colorado State Park gift certificates never expire.

Purchase online for $5, $10, $25, $35, $60, or $70.

Indiana DNR Bargain Gift Pack

The $99 State Park Holiday Gift Pack includes a 2012 resident Annual Entrance Permit, an Indiana State Park Inns gift certificate worth $70, a one-year subscription to Outdoor Indiana magazine, and a 2012 Outdoor Indiana full-color calendar (a saving of $19).

The $129 State Park Holiday Gift Pack upgrades your $99 State Park Holiday Gift Pack to include a $100 Indiana State Park Inns gift certificate.

Indiana has 32 state parks and reservoirs scattered throughout the state. The entrance permit grants gate entrance for all of 2012 for all state parks and reservoirs.

The gift certificate can be used at any of seven state park lodging facilities, as well as the award-winning Pete Dye-designed golf course at Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis.

You may even want to get yourself one, too, considering the savings.

Order at innsgifts.com, now through December 31.

Worth Pondering…

When your spirit cries for peace, come to a world of canyons deep in an old land; feel the exultation of high plateaus, the strength of moving wasters, the simplicity of sand and grass, and the silence of growth.

—August Fruge

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State Parks Struggle with Budget Cuts

The recession has legislators across the U.S. looking to cut services—and state parks are often among the first to feel the pain of budget cuts. That has led to closed facilities, reduced services, and fewer rangers.

Camping at Catalina State Park, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“These are tough times nationally,” said Phil McKnelly, executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors. “Most states are experiencing shortfalls.”

He said that many state park systems are in trouble, and most are looking for different ways to operate.

Utah has endured major general fund cuts for the current fiscal year and could face more in the future, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

“The majority of states are going through similar things in these tough times,” said Utah State Parks Director Mary Tullius. “Unfortunately, this is one of those areas where legislators look when they cut back. Utah seems to be in about the middle of things with some states suffering greater losses and others not so much.”

Closures

Across the country, examples of state park budgets being cut are numerous.

California: During the past six years California has reduced its park’s budget by 43 percent. As a result, 70 of its 278 state parks are slated for closure by July 1, 2012.

 

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona: The Legislature stripped its park system of voter-approved designated funds and all general taxpayer dollars in 2009, resulting in a loss of 50 percent of its full-time positions, seven parks being turned over to local jurisdictions, increase in entrance fees, and reduction in hours and services. Legislators also diverted $2 million of park gate fees to other uses.

New York: The Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation has proposed closing 41 parks and 14 historic sites and is looking to reduce services at 23 parks and one historic site.

Idaho and Colorado: State park fees were increased and services reduced.

Washington: Park management and administrative staff were cut by 25 percent.

Funding sources

“All states are looking at new models and new ways to generate dollars to offset the descending general funds. A handful of states are down to few, if any, general funds,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the Minnesota State Park system.

The states whose park systems are faring the best are those that have a dedicated source of funding.

Michigan, Washington, and Montana instituted a passport system in which residents pay a nominal fee when they register their vehicle. They receive a license tag that gives them free entrance to state parks.

 

Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oregon and Colorado state parks receive money from state lotteries.

Arkansas and Missouri voters approved a small percentage of state sales tax to be used for wildlife and parks programs.

Many states are raising fees for camping, day use, and services such as golf.

Renee Bahl, Arizona state parks director, has used a variety of methods in an effort to keep her state’s financially strapped system operating under a $19 million annual budget that includes no money for capital improvements.

The agency turned some parks over to local governments or Indian tribes to operate. Friends groups have held fundraisers to keep some parks open. About 1,600 volunteers—the equivalent of 100 full-time employees—are working in various capacities.

A big part of the reason that Arizona’s parks have been able to stay open is that many are located in rural communities where the jobs they provide are valuable. Bahl calls parks an economic engine in Arizona that supports 3,300 jobs with an economic impact of $266 million. “And that’s why communities have stepped up to keep parks open. That’s a small amount to pay for economic engines in these rural areas, she said.”

Fighting to survive

Cuts and closures have park officials scrambling to find partnerships with local governments or private friends groups and, when facilities must be closed, looking to keep the most popular facilities operating,

Worth Pondering…
Take time to listen to the voices of the earth and what they mean…the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of flowing streams. And the voices of living things: the dawn chorus of the birds, the insects that play little fiddles in the grass.

—Rachel Carson

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Explore Your Parks

The North Face is partnering with State Parks for the second annual Explore Your Parks (EYP) program. EYP has expanded to seven major cities this year. This program encourages people living in the San Francisco, Boston, New York, Washington DC, Denver, Portland, and Twin Cities areas to get outdoors and enjoy front-country, close-to-home recreation opportunities.

Customers can get a free day pass and activity guide to the parks in their area with any purchase of The North Face product at participating retailers. The program launched in May. There are limited number of passes and activity guides available.

FREE Park Pass with Purchase

Visit a participating retailer, purchase any The North Face product and receive a FREE State Park Day Pass. This one-of-a kind pass was created for this program and is valid for use in parks in your area. Details are available on back of the pass.

Activity Guide

These guides make it easy to find outdoor activities in your area. Discover the best places to hike, bike, climb, run, camp, paddle, play, and volunteer. The guide also includes five to 10 state parks coordinating with the activities, directions, and contact information. The activity guide is available at all participating retailers.

Interpretive Panels

State parks in each of the EYP markets will have interpretative signs with valuable information about how to best explore your parks. Look for the EYP logo!

Events

Get outdoors this summer and go for a hike. You never know what you might encounter on the trail. Pictured above White House Trail, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The North Face, National Parks Trust, American Hiking Society, Leave No Trace, and local partners in each market will join together to promote the importance of being active and getting outdoors with a special event in each of the market areas. The events will serve as an outreach to the community to get outdoors and truly explore their local parks. There will be ranger led hikes and other activities, snacks, speakers from The North Face, State Parks, and partners, as well as giveaways, including the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) Challenge information, activity guides, and free park passes.

June 4: Portland, Oregon

Stub Stewart State Park (Buxton, OR)
Oregon State Parks Day

June 18: Boston, Massachusetts

Neponset River Reservation (Boston, MA)
National Trails Day

August 1: Colorado

Barr Lake State Park (Brighton, CO)
Colorado Day

October 1: Minnesota

Fort Snelling State Park (St. Paul, MN)

October 8: New York

Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park (Yorktown Heights, NY)

October 15: San Francisco, California

Get outdoors this summer and go boating. Pictured above Elephant Butte State Park, New Mexico. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Diablo State Park (Clayton, CA)

Details

Explore Your Parks

Let’s Move Outside

American Hiking Association

National Parks Trust

Leave No Trace

Colorado State Parks

California State Parks

Maryland State Parks

Massachusetts State Parks

Minnesota State Parks

Oregon State Parks

Virginia State Parks

Worth Pondering…
I only went for a walk, and finally concluded to stay till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

—John Muir

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Should EVs Pay to Play?

Don’t you just love it when a prediction comes true?

Getting juiced up! (Photo credit: inhabitat.com)

Over three months ago a writer for Politics and Cars mused that if special electric meters are installed specifically for the purpose of charging an electric vehicle (EV), someone in government would figure out how to tax that electricity in the same way gasoline is taxed.

Gasoline taxes are supposed to go for repairs and improvement of roads. The gas tax is simply a user tax. You use the roads. You pay for them.

That’s only fair. Right?

However, if EVs use the roads without paying for their use, that is unfair.

The issue is contentious because gasoline taxes generate $45 billion annually to pay for highway repairs.

Let’s say you live in California, and purchased a Nissan Leaf. The car’s $32,000 bottom line would have taken a huge bite out of your budget, but the feds rewarded you with a $7,500 tax credit and the state kicked in a $5,000 cash payout. At $20,000, the Leaf is now affordable, and the three cents a mile operating costs are good news, too.

But now they want to hit you with a new tax?

The rest of us say it’s not fair that we pay a premium of 18.4 cents per gallon (24.4 cents for diesel) to maintain the nation’s roads, help to eradicate potholes, and keep overpasses from falling down while EV drivers pay nothing.

Nissan Leaf. (Photo credit: nissanusa.com)

That’s harsh, you think, being a crusader for clean air. After all, you’re saving the planet by decreasing your carbon footprint.

That, in a nutshell, is the debate over whether or not to reform the gas tax as the automobile electrifies.

One way to ensure that EVs pay their fair share is to create an entirely new system that’s not based on what you drive to get there but on how far you drive (pay-per-mile).

I’ll report more on this new pay-per-mile system in my next post.

John Voelcker, senior editor at High Gear Media, explains it this way: “My basic take is that I’m sympathetic to the desire of EV owners not to be taxed, but right now, there’s no mechanism by which EVs are contributing to highway funds. And because people aren’t driving as much, we face a phenomenal shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund.”

Voelcker’s research indicates that U.S. gasoline consumption peaked in 2006, when we used 374 million gallons every day. High fuel prices are also cutting into driving, and thus reducing gasoline tax payouts that pay for road repairs.

The charging plug on the Smart EV prototype. (Photo credit: Daimler)

America’s fuel tax burden isn’t that much of a burden when compared with other countries. The 18.4 cents is phenomenally lower than the very high taxes Europeans pay—as much as half of the $8 or more they pay per gallon. Fuel tax in Canada is also considerably higher than in the United States.

A little known fact is that the fuel tax is only about 35 percent of subsidies to the U.S. road and highway system. The rest is vehicle taxes (20 percent), tolls (less than 5 percent), general fund appropriations (15 percent), borrowing (10 percent), property taxes (5 percent), and miscellaneous taxes and fees (10 percent).

According to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, only 53 percent of the state’s roads are in “good” condition, while the others range from “poor” to “mediocre” to “fair.”  Apparently the United States has no such thing as a “great” road.

It’s not just the federal government, either. States can and will tax electric vehicles, too, and they’ll already finding creative ways to do it. Washington State is considering the nation’s first fee on EVs to help cover wear and tear on the state’s roads.

The Washington State bill would apply a $100 surcharge for EVs during the licensing process, and it’s already passed the state Senate and is awaiting action in the state House. Washington’s 37.5-cents-per-gallon fuel tax costs the average driver about $200 a year, transportation officials say. That’s equivalent to driving roughly 12,000 miles in a vehicle that gets 23 mpg.

Meanwhile, Oregon legislators are working on a bill that would charge drivers of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles up to 1.43 cents for each mile they drive, beginning with cars from the 2014 model year. It would cost about $172 per year for a car driven 12,000 miles—about the same as the gas tax paid for a vehicle that gets 21 mpg.

Pardon me, but aren’t these two states that really like EVs because they’re environmentally friendly.

I’m amazed, though, that California didn’t think of it first!

Worth Pondering…
Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases:

If it moves, tax it.

If it keeps moving, regulate it.

And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

—Ronald Reagan

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