Having visited our 34th US National Park we made plans for the 35th, but first a couple of stops in Oregon along the way. As mentioned last post, we had to backtrack at low speed into Klamath Falls to deal with a flat tire on the motorhome, and though it was taken care of rather quickly at Basin Tire, the delay put is into the afternoon before we even began our journey north. We could have pushed on all the way to Salem, but with leeway in our schedule we felt no urgency, and thus sought one night accommodations just a couple of hours down the road.
Forgot to take a picture during our one night stay at Hoodoo’s Crescent Junction, so enjoy this pic of Mount Rainier and the White River, our destination for this week’s travels.
There were a variety of low cost dry camping options at national forest spots along the route, but coming off of two nights without hook ups and headed into higher temperatures, we sought a full service park for the night, and found nice and affordable accommodations at Hoodoo’s Crescent Junction RV Park. With a modest veterans discount we had full hook ups for $33, which is certainly better than the top tier price we paid near Lassen Volcanic National Park, but noticeably higher than we had become used to during our month long streak of military, Corps of Engineers, Passport America, and free sites. We did not make down the road to Crescent Lake, an excellent fishing destination according to our two neighbors staying the entire month here specifically for the local angling. In fact, we barely left our campsite other than for laundry and an evening walk.
A gorgeous, vibrant rose flourishing in this crisp northwest air. The flowers are nice too.
The next day we continued north and west, stopping at Polk County Fairgrounds outside of Salem. The region and route left us with few discount options: no military bases or Passport America participants, and coming into a warm weather weekend most of the affordable state and county options had quite limited availability. The fairgrounds, however, were wide open. They let us pick our spot among the many still available, and we set up in the back corner under one of the few trees, looking out at the fields.
There is not a lot that the campground or the region had to entice us; the former was a gravel lot surrounded by pasture, the latter a nice but typical midsized city, so its a little odd that we chose to stay for three days. But after five days in the mountains with limited cell phone connectivity much less wifi, full civilization at $25 a night during a hot weekend just sucked us in. We caught up with some TV shows, did a bit of shopping in preparation for Rosemarie’s upcoming trip to New York, enjoyed couple of local restaurants in the “Diner’s, Drive-ins and Dives” category, and geocached, of course.
Not bad for an otherwise forgettable spot at a county fairgrounds!
After our longer than expected weekend stay, we continued north into Washington, bound for the Mt Rainier National Park area. Budget RVers are always going to have a dicey time finding affordable campgrounds near any of our national parks; they are high demand destinations for campers of all types. Sometimes you get lucky like we did near Sequoia, sometimes you rough it a bit like we did near Crater Lake, and sometimes you pay out the nose, like we did near Lassen Volcanic. Near Mt Rainier, we found Rocky Point Campground, one of four associated with Alder Lake Park four miles down the lake shore. They are operated by Tacoma Public Utility, and after nearly seven years of full time RVing this is our first utility owned campground.
I initially erred by turning into the day use area rather than the campground, which was quite tight as far as maneuvering room goes, and we had to disconnect the Tracker and make a multi-point turn around at the boat ramp to get back out. Though we were inside the reservation window there were a few first come sites available. We selected the first large one, but after pulling in but before setting up, we noted the near constant dog barking next door (with multiple adults present, none making the slightest effort to quite the beasts.) We repositioned to another, quieter spot.
The Alder Lake campgrounds are not exactly cheap, but at $39 a night for power and water, they are far from the priciest we have experienced this close to other national parks. Our only concern was the ambiguous wording on the information board regarding a $15 per day fee for an extra vehicle. This would push our daily rate up to $54 a night, brought back memories of both the Texas and Michigan State Park “gotcha” charges (the former charging a day use fee in addition to the camping fee, the latter requiring a purchased access pass for each motorized vehicle, also in addition to the camping fee.)
Savvy readers will recognize the home page.
Honestly, I thought the clearest interpretation was that we would indeed have to pay the additional money for our Tracker, but decided to wait until the camp host or an employee brought it up, which they did not do during our two day stay. We did not “get away” with anything: as I prepped this post, I found the actual rule on the TPU website, which does not mandate the fee for towed vehicles, which seems quite reasonable.
Not to pat ourselves on the back too much, but we have done a pretty good job of finding short notice and affordable sites even in high demand area. While Alder Lake is not our best deal, it was an attractive, serviced site just a dozen miles from the southwest entrance to Mt Rainier National Park. Our free veterans annual pass acquired back in Petrified Forest once again saved us the $30 vehicle fee, so we highly recommend that any of you who have served go get your free pass!
The park itself has many of the standard accessibility features found in US national parks, including a well maintained perimeter road with numerous pull offs and parking areas for trail heads and look out spots. We spent the majority of our time looking for waterfalls, of which Rainier has an abundance. We particularly enjoyed the mile hike along the White River up to Carter Falls.
When we first developed our west coast plans we had high hopes of visiting several Central California national parks, but competing demands, weather, time and distance limited us to just Sequoia. During this run through Northern California (Lassen) and Oregon (Crater Lake,) and into Washington (Mount Rainier) we have made it to all three on our list, though the might have gotten a bit of short shrift with only two day stays each. Ah, well, nevertheless, often these initial visits to such locations serve as scouting runs for future, more expansive stays, and I can easily see us returning to each of these three wonderful parks, equipped with a bit more first hand knowledge about where to stay and what to see.
There’s a geocache on this train.
Next up: Rosemarie flies to NYC while Jack seeks shelter during a record shattering heat wave.