Wow! It seems like it has taken me forever to document our second cross-country National Parks camping trip with travel trailer in tow, but here we are at the FINAL installment! At the time of this trip in 2010, our son, Ryan, was 16 and our daughter, Kyra, was 11. Reliving this epic journey by documenting it has reaffirmed my belief that these extended, month-long National Parks trips with our kids provided all of us with priceless experiences and exceptional memories that will last a lifetime.
You might recall from the prior post that our family of four was using a private RV Park in Moab as our base camp for exploring the section of Utah in which Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are located. Sadly, none of the campgrounds in those two Parks have electric hookups. Despite our preference for camping within the National Parks, there was no way we’d forego the electricity needed to run the air conditioner during our visit in July. Thinking it would be a treat if the kids had a swimming pool in which to cool off, I had booked a site at the Moab KOA (link HERE). For a couple of reasons, that turned out to be a bad idea for this family of outdoor enthusiasts.
KOA currently has three designations for its campgrounds: Journey, Holiday and Resort. The “Journey” designation indicates an adequate but more basic campground for travelers. A “Resort” provides a fancier setting and many more amenities. A “Holiday” represents the middle of the road. Currently, the KOA in Moab is a Holiday; I don’t recall whether or not that designation was in place when we visited in 2010. But KOA has a predictable reputation, and I didn’t think twice about booking a site once I discovered that the facility did, indeed, have a pool. The pool, however, proved to be one of the discouraging problems we encountered.
Actually, in all fairness, it wasn’t the pool itself that was the problem. The pool was perfectly fine and well maintained. It was the other guests in the pool that we could have done without. Alan and I were brought up to be courteous and respectful of others, young and old alike, and we’ve tried to raise our kids to be the same. Unfortunately, not every parent considers this a priority, and many of the kids (and some of the adults, too!) were being ridiculously loud and rowdy, splashing other guests and hogging the pool. Ryan and Kyra were able to cool off, but it was obvious that it was not a fun-filled experience. When offered the chance to go back again the next day, both of them declined. I never thought I’d see the day, but both the 11 year old and the 16 year old wanted to do anything other than swim in that pool.
|Beautiful vistas, too!|
The other reason we were disappointed in our stay at the Moab KOA was the size and privacy (or lack thereof) of our campsite. This wasn’t our first rodeo. We knew that private RV Parks generally tend to squeeze in more sites than you’d find at a public campground of comparable size. In this case, we had willingly decided to exchange space and privacy for certain amenities. But there’s a point, in my mind, anyway, that greed overcomes logical thought – and I’m pretty sure it happened here when the campground was designed. It’s probably called “maximizing potential.” Since, at the time, we had a travel trailer with no slide-outs, we were assigned a fairly narrow site. It was somewhat short, too. Alan needed to angle the truck so that it would fit in the site - which does occasionally happen. But what really bothered me was that Ryan and I had to step across the line of rocks separating our campsite from the next one to open the passenger side doors of the pickup so we could get in. I found that to be incredibly sad. I realize that people go camping for all different reasons, but ours is to enjoy the glorious wonders of nature – not to be jammed in like sardines in a can. My Dad used to eat sardines; I know what those cans look like and camping at this particular KOA felt like an accurate analogy.
Please understand that I have nothing against KOAs. When Alan and camped across the country on our honeymoon more than four decades ago, we stayed at a KOA campground more often than not. Truth be told, we’ll be stopping to visit friends out west later this year, and I’ve already booked a site at a KOA close to their home. We enjoyed and would return to many of the KOAs we visited in the past, but the Moab KOA Holiday is not one of them. It’s just a bit too much of a stretch between the type of State and National Park campsites we like and are used to and the reality of a campsite in a popular and private RV park.
The small monkey wrench thrown into our plans by the Moab KOA was not the only discouraging experience we had; there were two more. Our poor little Kyra, who was prone to migraines at the time, developed one on the first day we visited Arches National Park, the last of Utah’s Mighty Five and the final National Park on our itinerary for this trip. That put quite a damper on the day’s activities, and she still occasionally mentions her disappointment in cutting short our visit to Arches. Many of you who have suffered with migraines know that hitting the bottle of ibuprofen and going to sleep in a darkened room is sometimes all you can do, so we laid low for much of the day.
The final and most discouraging disappointment arrived along with the weather forecast for the following day. While rain is appreciated and often celebrated in much of Utah, the thunderstorms and flash flooding that might accompany it can be frightening and dangerous. We had hoped to hike to iconic Delicate Arch, but parts of the trail are elevated and well exposed – not a good place to be with thunder and lightning on the way. Although our family saw numerous hikers sky-lined against the dark and threatening clouds, we toed the line of safety and reluctantly explained to the kids why we wouldn’t be hiking that day.
We absolutely loved what we saw of Arches, but our disappointing experiences during our time in Moab left us longing for a return trip. What's on our Moab Wish List? A campground that’s a better fit for our family, another opportunity to hike among Arches’ arches and, most importantly, safe travels and good health for all.
Despite the minor annoyances and inconveniences, our visit to Arches National Park was supremely enjoyable. We saw countless examples of nature’s creative artistry in the spires and arches throughout the Park. The gorgeous vistas we encountered did not fail to impress and the plentiful trails provided a number of opportunities to explore the Park. We especially enjoyed the “trail” to Sand Dune Arch, as it required squeezing between walls of rock before gaining access to what I consider one of the most magnificent examples of a natural arch that I’ve ever seen.
Having checked off the last National Park on our trip itinerary, we reluctantly turned the truck and trailer for home. Alan and I always knew we wanted to retire early, but we never wanted to sacrifice the here and now for the future – and we’re so glad we didn’t. For us, it was the right decision. We made it a point to fill our life together with travel adventures of all sorts and every single one has enriched our lives. When the kids came along, we just packed them up and took them along. When I recall the amazing opportunities and experiences the National Parks have always provided our family, I have not one single regret about the hours of planning, the weeks of vacation time and the financial resources we’ve devoted to visiting our Parks over the years. In a way, the time and effort we spend getting to know these spectacular public lands is an investment, and dividends continue to be paid in the form of joy and wonder, solitude and peace, magic and memories. Those are returns that just can’t be beat.
This concludes the National Parks Trip #2 series. I truly hope you enjoyed traveling along with us! I’ve been collecting a bunch of camping tidbits over the past few months, so I’m thinking the next post with be a “Campfire Talk” post that will include a variety of topics. Beyond that, I need to decide whether to begin documenting our West Coast National Parks camping trip of 2017 (a five week odyssey that encompassed visits to nine National Parks) or catch up on our 2011 and 2014 trips to Acadia National Park and our 2015 journey through the states of Minnesota and Michigan. (You’re welcome to cast a vote in the Comments section below.) While I give that some thought, feel free to sign up for email delivery of future “Reflections Around the Campfire” posts (in the column at the right) or hop on over to the National Park Service website to learn more about Arches or any of the other magnificent National Parks mentioned in this series (link HERE).
SPECIAL NOTE: National Park Week 2021 is coming up quickly – Saturday, April 17th, through Sunday, April 25th. April 17th is a fee-free day at our National Parks, making it a wonderful day to get out and explore. Additionally, the National Park Service has planned a delightful assortment of special programs, events and digital activities to highlight these magnificent treasures that we call our National Parks. Find out more on the NPS website (link HERE), then enjoy and celebrate!