Trip Planning

Shenandoah National Park, Big Meadows Lodge,

Shenandoah National Park, Big Meadows Lodge,

Well, we have a trip planned for July and it seemed prudent to make some reservations for the places that we are planning on visiting.  The idea of travelling in a modern RV, (now named Mercedes), and traveling where our whims take us, unfettered by the constraints of daily life and schedule, is obviously so 1970’s it hurts.

My last experience travelling the county unfettered, was in September 1973 (the off season) and the plan included staying with friends, on floors and couches.  Just twenty-one and straight out of college meant that we could be civil and make a phone call, mostly, and be well received.  Being just out of college meant that we had friends scattered all over the country, and as long as we didn’t complain, bought beer and cooked, all was OK.  The world was also a larger place then, and it was nice to see someone from home in the era where you paid for every minute of a phone call, had no texting, no Skype, no Facebook, and sending someone mail meant getting a stamp, writing longhand a message on paper and then finding a post office mailbox. Come to think of it, post office boxes are gone too.

Eric and I wandered around as we had a general plan and schedule (mostly), and were able, by sheer fortune, to arrive right after the bad weather that swept through the west that fall.  Everyone had been driven from the places were were arriving at.  Generally, we were faced with empty, cold, campgrounds.  Besides, it was 1973, and there just wasn’t that many people.  There are 50% more people living in the United States, than when we were out wandering.

Louise and I had a general plan for vacationing, refined it, and then I set about making reservations.  Google Maps and the Internet (neither of which was invented in 1973) makes things much easier.  Armed with downloaded campground maps and looking at a satellite images of the campgrounds, I went to select camping spots for the tour.  It’s apparent that there are many people that are much better at this than I am.  It is also apparent that some people plan ahead, years at a time, to get the prime spots at campgrounds.  Every time I looked at the campground map  checked the satellite view and went to reserve, oops! site already reserved. None of the National Parks have electricity at the sites.  It’s dry camping all the way, and I was surprised at how full everything was.  We reserved the second to last site at Mammoth Cave, and it’s April.

I have no complaints.  All of the sites look like they will be very nice, and we are especially happy to be finishing up the trip in Ohio, where there is electricity at our site, and we’re close to a nice lake.  It can get as hot as it wants, or as cool, and we’ll be comfortable.  The cost for reserving all of sites comes to under $200 for two weeks of travel, and almost half of the total cost is for the state park site in Ohio.

Being a curious fellow, I decided to look at more traditional lodging at the National Parks.

Shenandoah Lodge seems to have motel type rooms still available at Big Meadows, and including breakfast it’s $200 a night. There is ONE spot to stay at inside Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  They say the following regarding reservations.

The 2013 season runs from Monday, March 25 through Tuesday, November 26. We began booking 2013 reservations on October 1, 2012 and all lottery requests have been processed. We are now about 90% booked. One room cabins are now booked and all Saturdays are booked.  Dates are changing rapidly and often faster than we can reply to email inquiries with available dates.  A date specific wait list was started on December 6 to be used to fill most cancellations. The on-line wait list form can be obtained by using the drop-down tab above under Reservations or going to the Reservations tab and to the wait list section. Due to the volume of emails, it may take 5-7 business days for you to get a response. 

In short, the good news is LeConte Lodge is beautiful, and if we were able to obtain reservations, it would include breakfast and dinner and would only cost the two of us $275 per day. Mammoth Cave Hotel appears to have reservations available still, and a room runs about $210 per night without breakfast. So, it seems that we’re on track with our plans.  We can stay inside the parks, the cost is far less than staying in traditional places, we eat what we want, if we want, and it’s easier to get a place to stay.  But boy, it’s a whole lot different than last time.