camping


We saw some pictures of Bruce Peninsula National Park in Ontario before the trip and was impressed by its scenery but wasn’t sure if we would want to drive an additional 500 miles to see it. However, after arriving at Ontario, the choice was obvious as we found out that we could take a boat across the Lake Huron at Tobermory, therefore, without the extra driving. We were excited with the opportunity.

Susan and Kadia at Bruce Peninsula NPWe arrived at Bruce Peninsula National Park early Friday morning to get a campsite and, Ralph & Kadia at Bruce Peninsula NPto our surprise, it was full. We went into Tobermory and found a private campground instead. After set up the tent, we went back to the Park to do some hiking. We hiked out to the lakeshore on the Horse Lake trail and was greeted with a great view, crystal clear blue water and rocky shoreline. We hiked on the Bruce Trail (The longest footpath in Ontario) along the shoreline. It was beautiful and quiet.

A Jumper at Bruce Peninsula NPBruce Peninsula NP near Grotto There weren’t many people until we got to an area known as Grotto. There were lots of people down by the beach, either lying for a suntan or playing in the water. Susan & Bryden at GrottoWe had a great view from above. There were also many people diving off rocks into the beautiful Georgian Bay below. It must be refreshing to be swimming in a lake that felt like an ocean in size but without the smell of the sea.

The hike along the coast was rocky with the trail paved completely in rocks. The park was clean and the water was clear and warm for swimming. No wonder there were no camping sites left. This place looked like a great place for kayaking as well, a quiet lake with many beautiful rock formations. Next time when we come back, we will be doing some kayaking. We completed our loop hike along the Marr Lake trail back to our hiking starting point. It was a beautiful hike.

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The one animal we wanted to see on this trip more than any other animal was a moose. I couldn’t explain it; maybe it was because we didn’t have much luck catching it in the past. Or maybe it was the cartoon show, Rocky and Bullwinkle that I watched when I was a kid. The only time we had seen it was off a road in Great Teton National Park a few years back. There were 2 of them, a mother and a calf, sitting far away in a field. We can barely see their heads and they just sat there. We left after waited for them to move for 30 minutes.

Up until Quebec, we saw a lot of Moose signs but never a moose. A lot of areas we went through were supposedly heavily populated by moose such as Maine and New Brunswick but we just seemed to miss them. In Cape Breton National Park, a neighbor camper asked me was I the person pointed out a moose to him last night when we camped in a small campground with 15 sites next to the Gulf of St Lawrence. He said it was a big bull moose with a rack at least 8 feet wide. I was disappointed because I knew I was only no more than 20 yards away from where he saw the moose.

Jacques-Cartier Park in QuebecWhen we were at Jacques-Cartier Park in Quebec, we were treated to a spectacular view of a river and surrounding mountains with low hanging clouds (see right) partially cover them. We saw a few canonists and kayakers. If there was a heaven, this would have been it. Moose at Jacques-CartierWe drove along the river, savoring every angle of the view. Then all of a sudden, we saw a moose in the middle of the river, eating and drinking, in the plain daylight. It was the first time we saw a wild moose in such an unobtrusive view. She looked at us a couple of times but didn’t seem to care as we watched it slowly picking through things in the river and took some pictures of it. It was an exciting discovery for us.

A couple of months later, when we were hiking at Glacier National Park, we saw another mother moose with her calf in far distance. That was probably a good thing. Never get close to a calf or a cub. Supposedly, there are more people killed by moose every year than by bears. They seem to be tame therefore people let their guard down but they can have fits of temper, especially bull moose. They are big and fast; and their antlers can be deadly.

Kananaskis, AlbertaWe saw another female moose grazing off a roadside in Kananaskis, Alberta. Again when we stopped to look at her, she didn’t seem to mind, just kept up her business of eating. Moose at KananaskisWe were within 10 yards of this moose so we were careful. This area was another beautiful place. I think moose have great taste, always living in beautiful places. The moose moved back into the forest when a few other motorists pulled off to look at it but we had our near moose encounter.

We still haven’t seen a wild bull moose yet. Perhaps we will get lucky on our next trip driving trip up to Alaska.

I remember seeing Mount Rainier for the 1st time and was smitten ever since. We were in Seattle just made a right turn looking for a freeway entry and there was Mount Rainier stood majestically right in front of us. Mount Rainier and Sunrise Visitor CenterWe were at least 100 miles away from it and it was still huge like someone painted a half of the horizon with it. It came out of the blue and seemed so surreal that I had to rub my eyes a few time to confirm what I saw.

We had been to Mount Rainier a couple of times but we wanted to go again. We decided to camp at the Sunrise campground on the east side of the park. We soon realized why it was called the Sunrise because it has the best view in the morning. In the afternoon, with the sun in the back plus haze and smoke from nearby fire, it was hard to make out the mountain.

Mount Rainier is a beautiful but deadly mountain. Mt RainierMany people have died from climbing it. I remember looking at it on a clear day thought to myself, “It doesn’t look difficult to reach to the top” because it was so big that it distorted the perspective. In reality, it is a difficult mountain to climb and it usually takes 2 to 3 days for people to summit. When we set up our campsite, we noticed a warning sign about the area being a pyroclastic flow zone that we could be in danger anytime. Mount Rainier has not erupted for over 100 years but it is still active and when it does erupt again, it can be devastating. We made a mental note to run if we felt any earthquakes.

We hiked to Dege Peak in the morning starting from the Sunrise Visitor Center. Last ClimbThe visibility in the morning was great. We hiked away from Mount Rainier and were able to get many good views of the mountain. The slope of the mountain that we hiked on was green and beautifully decorated with beargrass. The hike had a gentle climb along a ridge with valley on both sides until the last 100 yards where it steeped (see right) before we reached the top. At the top we had panoramic view of the surrounding. To the north, it was a valley (see far below); To the east, it had layers of mountains (see near below), reminded us of Smoky Mountains; and to the west, it was the Mount Rainier, peacefully capped with glaciers, enticing mountaineers to go. Perhaps next time we will attempt to climb it.

Hazy in Horizons
North Side

There are interesting things to see in Nebraska but we didn’t make a priority to search them out on this trip; it became a state we were just to pass through from the West to the East. As usual, we drove until it was late in the afternoon to look for a place to stay. On this day, we just entered Nebraska and based on the AAA campground book,Lake Ogallala campsite we decided to try out this place near Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area. It was Saturday afternoon and the campground was nearly full I believe and we were given the option of staying at primitive camping area.

We drove to the area and had a look. It was interesting: it was like a neighborhood park, wide open and no designated camping site. We were told to just find any place we liked and pitched a tent. This was highly unusual in a park setting. There was no water but it had a couple of portable johns seen often on a construction site. Because we had enough drinking water, thanked to our collapsible water jug which we often kept full, Sunset at Lake Ogallala, Nebraskawe opted to stay to experience something different. The area was right next to a lake and across on the other side, we could see many RV campers where the main campground was. There were only a couple of other campers in the area. We found a place close to the lake, set up and quickly cooked a dinner as the day quickly came to an end. It was a beautiful sunset as the west horizon was filled with red and orange. We had an unforgetable dinner there.

The next morning, we packed up and decided to drive around Lake McConaughy before heading toward Iowa. haystacks in NebraskaThe country side was a little what I expected with haystacks and cornfields, although corn were still small. There were a few boats in the lake with people fishing from them. We also passed a few beat-up houses, perhaps vacated a long time ago. I remember reading about how some Midwest towns are offering a free house as an incentive for young couples to move there as they are losing populations. Acres and acres of available land laid unclaimed whereas coastal cities are swelled with population explosion. As we passed a river, Fly Fishing in Nebraskawe saw a couple of fishermen standing in the river, enjoying their weekend fly fishing perhaps. It seemed to be an enjoyable place. The lake was bigger than I expected and it took us more than 2 hours to circumnavigate it.

As we were almost ready to get back on Interstate 80, the driver in a car behind us honked at us repeatedly. I thought perhaps I drove too slow (which I doubted) and upset the driver. I chose to pull into a gas station and hopefully the car would pass us by. Instead the car pulled into the gas station with us and the driver got out and started walking toward us. This might seem innocent enough to many but I had a scare. When I was much younger, I had an incidence where other drivers had followed me and wanted to fight with me and another incidence I was front ended by a car backing up to escape another driver with a baseball bat. I rolled down the window and braced myself for the worse. The driver told us that something blue had fell off our cargo box on our van’s roof about a mile back.

I got out of the van and checked the cargo box on the top. He was right; the cargo box was not shut properly and a few things had flown off, not just the blue thing. I thanked the guy the quickly closed the cargo box so we could go back to retrieve the missing things. A couple of minutes later, we saw the blue thing, the portable infant bath tub, sitting smacked in the middle of other lane. I was surprised nobody had hit it. I pulled off to the side and rescued it from the road. But there were still many other things missing: our camping tarp, sleeping pads, a bag of diapers, a folding chair and maybe others. We continued our search as we retraced our route and looked for our things.

Instead of looking at the scenery, we were looking for garbage this time. There were a few false alarms as the country side wasn’t as pristine as we thought but eventually after about 10 miles, we found our things scattered on the side of the road, apparently undamaged. I quickly retrieved our things and stuffed into the van. I should have taken a picture of them as they laid on the side of the road. Later on we realized one thing was missing but it was not a necessary item. We were lucky that this happened on a country road as opposed to an interstate highway where it would be almost impossible to recover. Also luckily the side which we opened and closed was on the passenger side therefore things fell off the side of the road instead of into the oncoming traffic.

I learned that although the Yakima cargo box had a big level latch to indicate if the top was properly closed, that was not sufficient. The latch could close but the top could still be unsecured. From then on, I learned to check and double-check the cargo box to make sure it was locked properly by pulling on the top to make sure it wouldn’t come apart and it never did again for the rest of the trip.

I remember the first time we went to Yellowstone National Park, I was disappointed with it. After visiting Yosemite twenty some times, I was expecting a lot more of Yellowstone, it being the first national park in the world. This was in 2001 and Yellowstone still wore the scars of the 1988 fire prominently: burned trees and naked hills everywhere. It looked desolated in some places. Although there were some revivals of young trees, waist to shoulder high, the place wasn’t what I had expected. It was not Yosemite and it may never be. But now I think about it, it is just fine as it has its own characteristics.

Originally we were going to skip Yellowstone National Park on this trip to spend more time at Glacier National Park in Montana. But as we were ahead of the schedule by one day when we left Badlands National Park early due to the heat, we decided to take the scenic drive 14 into the Yellowstone. Although it was not Yosemite, it still has its draws, known for its thermal features, geysers and hot springs and wide varieties of wild animals.

Five years had elapsed since we were at Yellowstone. Young trees were taller, a little above head high, more like a Christmas tree farm than a forest. There were still many burned tree standing like black telephone poles scattering everywhere. It looked it will take at least another 20-30 years before it will resemble any shadow of its past. Bad Pictures at YellowstoneWe stopped by the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone to look at its waterfalls. The place was crowded but still majestic as ever. We picked this girl who was holding some expensive photograph equipment to take a picture for our family with the lower Yellowstone Falls in the background. We figured that anyone who could afford something expensive probably would be a good photographer. We were wrong (see picture on top, any waterfalls?) Look can be deceiving. Later as we were trying to take a family picture ourselves, a guy offered to take a picture for us. He acted like a professional and the picture showed (see left).

We camped the Norris campground near Norris Geyser Basin. Steamboat GeyserAll the thermal activities didn’t do much as we spent the coldest night there for the whole trip, at 33F, 2 days after spending the hottest day at Badlands, 109F. We walked around the Norris Basin and enjoyed the few geysers there. Steamboat Geyser is the world tallest active geyser with 300-400 feet of eruption (3 to 4 times higher than Old Faithful). However, it is unpredictable. There were some activities there and we waited there with hope. Although it was continuously shooting small eruptions 10 feet or so into the air, we gave up after 15 minutes and it still has not have another major eruption to day.

The most famous geyser in the U.S. if not the world, is the Old Faithful about 30 miles south where we were. It is not the biggest or the most spectacular but most predictable. There were some geysers there used to be predictable and more frequent but humans changed that by tossing rocks and other objects into openings, altering the delicate flows. Most of they might have been innocent acts of carelessness but the impacts would be felt for generations. Think before you act. Many geysers and springs have also changed due to quake activities. Perhaps Steamboat Geyser was one of the victims. It was dormant from 1911 to 1961 and only erupted 8 times the last 15 years. I like surprises. Everyone can see the Old Faithful, at least for now, until some quake activities change its plumbing but it would have been a special treat to see the Steamboat Geyser. Sheepeater CliffI still remember the surprised bursts of Beehive Geyser, Grand Geyser and Riverside Geyser last time we were there.

Instead of going to the Old Faithful, we went north to the Mammoth Hot Springs, toward Glacier National Park. We stopped at Sheepeater Cliff, to check out what was rhyolite as it was mentioned on a brochure. Canary Springs It turned out to be volcanic columns (see above) similar to the Devils Postpile near Yosemite and Devils Tower we just passed a couple of days earlier. Yellowstone used to be a gigantic volcano and blew its top off 1 million years ago and left a huge caldera about a radius of 20 miles. Here is a wild theory: some volcanic rocks landed 150 miles to the east and ended up to be the Devils Tower. We walked around the Mammoth Hot Springs a little bit and discovered that the Canary Springs (see right) looked much dryer than 5 years ago. I didn’t know if it was due to the drought or it was drying up. I hope it was former but enjoy it now as it will not last forever. We soon left and headed toward the Glacier National Park.

For our brief visit this time, we saw a few elks and bisons but didn’t see any bears this time. A ranger talked about a sighting of a wolf the day before just off a major road, an unusual sight for a wolf to come close to a major road. I was hunting for a sighting of moose (my one animal fascination on the trip) early in the morning but failed to see one. Perhaps we would have better luck at Glacier (and we did).
Elks at Yellowstones

See here for an English question.

After we left the Devils Tower NM, we drove toward Yellowstone NP and stopped at Buffalo, WY to look for a motel to stay so we could replenish both our bodies and our food supply. It was late around 7:30P; most of the motels were full and the few that had vacancy were asking for a minimum of $130 per night. If this were New York or San Francisco, it would be understandable but this was a small town in Wyoming and we just couldn’t do it. Although we were 200 miles away from Sturgis, ND but the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally impact was felt all the way there.

Our options were either drove to the next big town or found a camping place nearby. KOA BuffaloWhen we first came into the town, we saw a KOA Kampground. We had seen them in many places before but never checked them out as we were used to stay at public facilities such national parks, state parks, state forests, etc. I knew KOA is a private organization with campgrounds all over the North America and I thought we had to join to stay, thus always shied away from it. It was getting late and we wanted to make sure we had time to cook and eat before dark. Although the location of the KOA wasn’t ideal, right next to a major road leading into the town, we stopped to try our luck.

They didn’t have many tent campsites but again, as in a few other places on the trip, we were lucky to be tenting as RV campsites were full. We drove around and picked out a site with no existing neighbors as tent campsites were small and close to each other. As a member of KOA, one can get a discount of 10% if one has a KOA Value Kard that was $16 per year. The lady was nice to give us the discount although we decided against getting a card. It was $28 without discount. By this time, we were getting very good at the routine of setting up a tent, cooking, eating and cleaning. We quickly got everything done in an hour except, as usual, for Kadia: she ate like a snail.

Although we weren’t impressed with their tent sites, it had many other facilities: Teepee at KOA
free showers, swimming pool, hot tub/sauna, free wireless internet, TV room, laundry, cabins, a convenient store, tepees and a covered pavilion (Kamping Kitchen) where one can cook and eat. We actually thought of staying at a tepee but they didn’t have any available. That would be neat. This was luxury camping. We could definitely have used it as a motel substitute; it was equivalent to a motel other than not having a comfortable bed and TV in the room. Here is our guide to different types of camping.

  • Pioneer: Nothing. Typically anywhere that is not a developed campground such as any area 1 mile from nearest roads in a National Forest or any wilderness area when backpacking. It is definitely free.
  • Primitive: Pit toilets, may not have water, may be free, and may not have assigned sites. A typical primitive one is a National Forest campground.
  • Standard: Pit/flush toilets, drinkable water, assigned sites, may have ranger programs, usually around $10 to $20. A typical standard one is a US National Park campground.
  • Upscale: Flush toilets, showers, water, playgrounds. A typical upscale one is a Canada National Park campground. Usually around $15-$25.
  • Luxury: Just about everything plus swimming pool, hot tub, cabins, etc like KOA. Usually around $25-$35.

Kamper KitchenIn the morning, they even had pancake breakfast served at Kamping Kitchen for a low price. There was an Asia-looking young lady who was preparing the food. It turned out she was from Bali and was working there for the summer. The manager told me that they had difficult time to find local kids to work so now they imported labor from oversea. I didn’t expect to find imported labor there but it seemed to make sense. It was a great opportunity for her and others but it was sad that some local kids preferred not to work at all.

Humans are creatures of habits because habits are comfortable. Sometimes, if we step out of comfort zones, we may discover something interesting or may jump right back into our comfort zones. Although we had tried a lot of new things on the trip, I was glad that we broke from our routine and tried something we had been avoiding before and was rewarded with new discoveries. We will keep KOA as one of our motel choices.

We knew that we would have to get to the Fruita Campground in Capitol Reef National Park real early the Friday morning before the Memorial weekend to have a chance of getting a campsite. We left our campsite at Bryce Canyon at 7am and arrived at Fruita at 10am and unfortunately the campsite was full. Disappointed but we decided to drive through the campground to scout the place for future visits and perhaps might get lucky if someone decided to leave the last minute. We drove through most of the campground and stopped at the parking lot of walk-in campsites to feed Bryden.

While we were waiting, we noticed a guy animatedly talking to a couple of campground hosts. I approached them and found out the guy wanted to move to a normal site as someone just vacated a spot and they were trying to figure out how to transfer the camping cost from one site to another. Deer at Capitol Reef Fruita Campground I quickly jumped in and offered to pay for the walk-in site; we settled the problem quickly and we, miraculously, had a site now. I was told that campers were lining up at 5am that morning to get a handful of opened sites that day. By 7am when it opened, all vacant sites were snatched up within minutes. Although the walk-in site we got required us to walk about 30-40 yards, we gladly took it. The site was open and we were further away from other campers than a regular site would provide us. And we got a few deer visiting the meadow we camped on. Sometimes things just worked out better than our plan.

Two days later, we were packing up to leave. As our van was a distance away, Susan and I were too busy to mind our son, Bryden, who was crying his heart out. Debbie with Kadia with Bryden Then I noticed a woman climbed over a rail fence next to our campsite and walked toward us. I thought she might come to lecture us or tell us to shut the baby up. Instead, she came over and offered to hold the baby while we took the tent down and packed. It was a small gesture but had an enormous impact–a kindness that took me by surprise. Instead of criticizing us not being good parents, she offered a solution that not only solved our problem and touched our lives as well. I deeply appreciated Debbie’s kindness. I wish you the best wherever you are at. Here is a picture shown Debbie holding Bryden and Kadia.

I was listening to the book “Ice Bound” by Dr. Jerri Nielsen. In it, she described an incident during her exchange student stay at Norway had an enormous impact on her. She was righteous and participated in many social movements at that time. One day, when she was traveling with her fellow exchange travel companion who was fussing over finding perfect places to hide some Easter eggs in the van. Dr Nielsen didn’t understand why her friend would fuss over such small things and stated so. Her friend said, “that’s our difference: you spent time minding Vietnam movement you have no controls over; I can bring small happiness to others by giving surprises.”

Most of us want to help others and have great impacts on major issues; but we shouldn’t overlook at things that we have control and have direct impacts. In fact, they may be more important as they prove that we walk the talk. Instead of walking in a social movement with thousands of people, visit an orphanage. A small kindness hardly goes unappreciated and it makes the world a better place. Debbie’s kindness has forever stenciled in our heart.

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