November 11, 2019

Campfire Talk

On Veterans Day, a warm word of gratitude to all of our Veterans for serving on our behalf, and to their families for sharing their heroes with us.

I’ve been trying to come up with an appropriately descriptive title for the posts that have a little bit of everything thrown in, and I think I’ve finally settled on “Campfire Talk.”  You know how you get a really good conversation going with your camping buddies when everyone is sitting around a fire in the evening?  The talk flows seamlessly from one topic to another, everyone is engaged in it, and there’s often a lot of storytelling and laughter going on.  Those occasions are truly enjoyable for me because, most often, it’s a smaller group of people which is a lot easier on us social hermits to handle than a large group.  Trying to visit or talk with everyone in a larger group feels more like speed dating than anything else to me, and I find it more difficult to make personal connections.  Campfires have been bringing people together for centuries, and so has good conversation.  I like the relaxed feeling of a campfire chat, and enjoy the warmth of both the fire and the pleasure of the relationships I share with the friends and family members in the camp chairs around me.  So, Campfire Talk it is.

Now that I have the title of the post down, you’ll know that anytime you see the “Campfire Talk” heading, the post will have a little of this, a little of that and who knows what else.  Please note that I’m not affiliated with or receiving payment from any of the companies or organizations mentioned in this post.  I’m just sharing with you bits and pieces of what’s been on my mind lately – you know, the kind of stuff you might talk about around a campfire with fellow camping enthusiasts.  Please do feel free to throw in a comment or two, so it really is more of a conversation among friends than a college lecture!  The photos in this post were taken in 2017 along the Oregon coast, during our third cross country National Parks camping trip.  Now, on to the first official edition of Campfire Talk . . . - When I launched Reflections Around the Campfire in December of 2017, one of my very first posts was a tribute to Greg and his colleagues over at  (If you’re interested in that post, you can find the LINK HERE.)  The pics of campsites in public campgrounds across the country that are posted on this site have helped me on countless occasions to book a site that perfectly fit not only our needs, but our wants, too.  This was the first web site I added to my list of Favorite Places, and my appreciation for is still running strong and steady.  The hard working crew over there deserves another shout-out, for sure.

Alan and I will be returning to Oregon next year for an extended vacation, and I’m in the planning stage now.  I wasn’t surprised to find photos of the campsites at Nehalem Bay State Park and Harris Beach State Park on  After all, they’re both very popular Oregon State Parks.  But I have to admit that I was REALLY surprised to find photos from Sutton Campground, a campground that’s part of the Siuslaw National Forest near Florence, Oregon.  Oh, YAY!  For an exceptionally picky person like me (there, I said it before Alan could), having photos at my fingertips from over 1,400 facilities including State and National Park, U.S. Forest Service and BLM campgrounds, is like hitting pay dirt.  Thanks to Greg and the team over at, I’ve already picked out my favorite sites in each of the campgrounds I mentioned and we’re good to go.

The next time you’re wishing you had good photos of the sites in a public campground, hop on over to and enter the name of the campground in the Search box at the top of the page.  (You will always find a link to the web site in the list of My Favorite Places in the column to the right.)  With luck, Greg might have been there before you, and he’ll have the photos to prove it!

Coastal Oregon (A Moon Travel Guide) – Because Alan and I don’t travel full time due to family and business interests, our extended trips are generally limited to 4 to 6 weeks.  With a time constraint like that, our cross country National Parks trips have been used to see a long list of sights in a short amount of time, and we haven’t stayed anywhere on those trips for more than 2 or 3 days at a clip.  But the smorgasbord of experiences these trips provide, allows us to determine which destinations deserve more attention and further exploration.  The Oregon Coast is one of those destinations.  We thoroughly enjoyed our travels along the coast when we were there in the summer of 2017 with our daughter, Kyra.  (And yes, I know, I haven’t even touched on that trip in any posts yet.  Be assured that I’ll get there.  Eventually.  I am so backed up on blog posts that it isn’t even funny.)  The end result is that Alan and I are headed back to Oregon in 2020 to do the coast up right.

I often turn to our local library for travel guides when I’m beginning to plan a trip.  If a book I’ve borrowed from the library turns out to be an excellent resource, I’ll break down and buy a copy, new or used, and will add it to the reference section of my bookcase.  Coastal Oregon, by Judy Jewell and W.C. McRae, is one of those books.  I do recall having used another Moon Travel Guide in the past, but I can’t recall for what destination.  (As Alan would say, “Of all the things I’ve lost, it’s my mind I miss the most.”)  My impression of the Moon Guides is that they’re very thoroughly researched and they contain many details that other travel guides gloss over.

In Coastal Oregon, the authors break the information down into three main sections – the North Coast, the Central Coast and the South Coast – so you’re not slogging through a lot of extraneous material if you’re just visiting one area of the Oregon coast.  Expect to find information on many of the cities and towns in each section, along with sights, attractions, activities, entertainment, shopping, dining and accommodations in many of the areas along the coast.  The authors also provide general background information about the Oregon coast’s history, landscape, plants and animals.  I enjoyed what I’ll call the “bonus items” scattered throughout the book as the authors addressed topics like, “The Lost Treasure of Neahkahnie Mountain,” “Coos Bay Shipwrecks,” and (my favorite!) “The Coast’s Best Bakeries.”  At the end of the book, you’ll find a suggested reading list as well as a list of online resources that will, undoubtedly, prove helpful.  I truly believe that anyone considering or already planning a trip to the Oregon coast will find this trusty little guide book to be an excellent resource.

Watch your Booking Windows! – If you have favorite campgrounds you don’t want to miss or are very particular about the campsites you choose, consider this a reminder to pay attention to your calendar as we approach the holidays.  Many booking windows will be opening over the next couple of months, just when the holidays have our attention and we already have a long list of things to do.  Florida State Parks have an 11 month booking window so, if you’re planning to leave the cold climates late next fall, you might need to be booking a Florida State Park campsite during Christmas dinner.  As you’re reading this blog post, many of your fellow campers are already making early spring reservations at federal campgrounds with a 6 month booking window.

I know many of you travel without reservations and are completely comfortable not having a detailed plan of attack.  Alan and I occasionally go that route ourselves because there are times it fits our needs.  But, for those of you who plan way ahead and make reservations early like I usually do, you just might want to make a few notes on your calendar so you don’t miss any important reservation dates.  Your next camping trip will be here before you know it, and I’m pretty sure you won’t want to miss it.

Postage Stamps – Am I the only one who finds most of the postage stamps that are available to be rather, well, uninspiring?  (I warned you this post would contain some absolutely miscellaneous campfire talk, didn’t I?)  I do love the Wild & Scenic River series, and the Transcontinental Railroad stamps are gorgeous.  But I just took a look at the holiday stamps and, nothing is really tickling my fancy.  I like the Winter Berries series, but those stamps are not exactly festive.  Even so, I’m leaning toward them for our Christmas cards and holiday newsletters.  Postage stamps provide a tiny opportunity to add a little something personal to your correspondence.  I’m hoping that one or two choices among the new stamps of 2020 will be calling my name.  Right now, all they seem to be saying is, “I cost a lot of money.”

The Boat/Truck Cushion – If you thought the last topic was obscure, wait until we get into this one.  But you have to promise not to laugh because I am serious.  Totally.  Back in 2010 when we needed a new four wheel drive vehicle, what made the most sense at that point was to move from a large SUV to a pickup truck.  I’ve always liked pickups and, in fact, a Ford or Chevy pickup from the early 50’s has been on my wish list for quite some time.  (For some reason, Santa seems to gloss over that item on my Christmas list every single year.  What’s with that?)  I have no problem driving a pickup but, at only 5’ 1”, it’s difficult for me to see well out the front windshield without sitting on some type of cushion.  The problem was exacerbated (I love that word and can only find rare occasions to use it!) two years ago when we moved up from a GMC Sierra 1500 to the larger 2500.  I need a 40' ladder just to get in it.  I had been using a seat cushion made for a dining room chair, but I wasn’t really pleased with the height or substance it provided.  Last week, as I was on my way out the door with my chair cushion, the throwable life preserver I use as a seat cushion in my kayak caught my eye.  (A “throwable” is a Type IV flotation device.  The U.S. Coast Guard requires that every boat has at least one throwable aboard.)   It’s not that much thicker than the chair cushion, but the material is a bit more substantial, shall we say.  I gave it a try that day and I couldn’t believe the difference and how well it did the trick.  It provided more height, yes, but also more stability – and I could actually see really well.  So, for any of you who need to sit up a little higher for whatever reason while driving, you may want to take a look at one of these throwables.  The one I use cost about $13.00 and may or may not be more expensive than dining room chair cushions (which start at about $5.00 and go well past $13.00) but, in my opinion, it is much more comfortable and does a better job at increasing my range of vision.  I know that was an odd topic to tackle in a blog post, but I also know that there are a large number of camping families who use pickups as their tow vehicles or with their truck campers.  And I also know I’m not the only one who was out to lunch when the “long-legged” genes were handed out.

Road Work in Yellowstone National Park Scheduled for Summer of 2020 – Yelllowstone must be one of the most beloved National Parks out there, and I’ll bet it’s on a lot of Bucket Lists.  The many different facets of the Park make a visit to Yellowstone a fascinating and memorable one.  National Parks Traveler recently reported that, There will be three major road construction projects in Yellowstone National Park next summer, and two of the projects will cause delays. The third will close a stretch of road.”  I’m mentioning this because I know that construction projects like the ones planned for Yellowstone can have a huge impact on your visit – all the way from your planning stage right through to what kind of memories you take home with you.

If you’re thinking about visiting Yellowstone next year, I’d suggest you run, not walk, over to the National Park Traveler web site, and read the entire article, “Yellowstone National Park Officials Warning You Now About Next Summer’s Road Work” (LINK HERE).  Knowledge is power, and any information that will make the Yellowstone experience a smoother and happier one is A-Okay in my book.  A quote from Ben Franklin comes to mind in this situation . . . “Diligence is the mother of good luck.”  So go check it out now and have a wonderful trip next summer!

Last But Certainly Not Least – I don’t think I’ve told you all lately how much I appreciate your taking the time to stop by and visit Reflections Around the Campfire.  Over the past two years, the number of visitors to this blog has been gradually increasing, and I can’t tell you how much that warms my heart.  So, thank you for being here!  Please never hesitate to share your comments and, by all means, pass a link to Reflections Around the Campfire along to any friends and acquaintances you think may find our little corner of the world interesting or useful.  Thanks for coming by!  Have a good day, and make it a better one for someone else!


  1. Hi Mary, your new title seems perfect. There is nothing like sitting around the campfire talking with friends -- some of the best times ever. Thanks for the tip on -- I didn't know about that. And timely reminder on booking windows: I've got at least one important one my calendar this winter for next summer!

    1. Darrow, has saved my bacon on more than one occasion when the pics of campsites on or were not helpful or non-existent. The photos are of much better quality, and the photographers have a good eye for what a prospective camper wants to see - no pics of just the picnic area and fire pit. Aside from the reservation sites themselves, is probably my most frequently used online resource. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting!

  2. Hello, Mary,
    You had some good information here. We are booking our Western trip now and I am learning that Oregon is a tough ticket in the summer. I finally got what I needed, but I am going to look through the two references you mentioned and see if I need to upgrade. Thanks for sharing. Joe

    1. Joe, I've heard nothing but good things about Oregon's State Parks so, if that's where your focus is, I don't think you'll be disappointed. We stayed at Fort Stevens State Park (in Hammond) when we were out on the west coast in 2017. It's a large, beautiful, well-run Park. The only downside for us was that the sites were a little closer together than what we're used to. But what other campground has the ruins of a shipwreck right on its property?! It was a fabulous place to stay.

      That Coastal Oregon book was wonderful! I think I had added a dozen pages to my Trip Notes by the time I got through it! Enjoy your travel planning - and take good care of that knee!


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