(Click here for an article I wrote about Thousand Trails.)
Address: 65000 E. Hwy 26, Welches, OR 97067
Phone: (530) 622-4011
# of sites: 382 (plus two new loops)
Full hookup price: From $82 per night
Open: Year round
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Warnings: Many sites have no sewer hookups
Mount Hood is a popular lone mountain that rises far above its surroundings. There are several of these dormant volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest, including Mounts Rainier and Adams in Washington State and Jefferson, Three Sisters and Newberry in Oregon. Mount Hood Village RV Resort sits about 15 miles from Government Camp at the base of Mount Hood, the view of which is spectacular from the highway. The resort is also only 25 miles from Gresham, a suburb of Portland, where all the resources of a big city are available.
This park opened in 1984 and has the reputation of being one of the foremost RV campgrounds in the Pacific Northwest. Most of the camping loops are beneath a forest canopy and the new loops that just opened are wide spaces with a clear view of the sky. These new loops have all full-hookup sites. The park is pet-friendly and well-maintained.
Developed for large family gatherings, they have all of the expected amenities of a top-notch resort, including a clubhouse, laundry, game and billiards room, on-site restaurant/bakery, indoor and outdoor pools with spa, and many more. Most sites are spacious and the park is open year-round. The people I met that are full-time residents tell me that there are few days of snow in the winter, and the temperatures are mild in the hot and cold seasons. They also offer yurts and cabins for rent and the yurts nearby our site were full nearly every day we were there.
There are hiking trails around the resort, but it sits adjacent to the Wildwood Recreation Site and Nature Preserve. Not only are campers encouraged to hike the 3/4-mile trail to Wildwood, but those that do are given free access the the state recreation area.
One of the advantages in this resort's location among several national forests in the Southern Cascade Mountains, and its proximity to Portland and the Columbia River, and with wineries and distilleries scattered around the region, there is simply no shortage of outdoor activities in any season of the year. We drove to the Mighty Columbia at the town of Hood River and in some sections of State Route 35 you can simultaneously see Mount Hood to the south and Mount Adams in Washington to the north- another breathtaking view of each.
Being as popular as this resort is, and with the number of camping loops that are reserved for long-term customers, finding availability can be a problem in the active summer season. Two of the camping loops are mostly filled with sites with no sewer hookups, and Thousand Trails members cannot reserve a full-hookup site. Like with many other Thousand Trails parks, even with reservations we must take our chances. At least one of the new loops are available for TT members, but it remains to be seen if enough sites were added to lessen this problem of first-come first-served sewer hookups.
As with other campground with rain-forest climates, the very thing that keeps the area mild and green also inundates the resort with mud. It appears that the maintenance crew does try to keep gravel on the unpaved driving paths, there's just too much dirt on the forest floor where most of the campsites are located. As you would expect of such a climate, it rains as much as the Pacific Northwest's reputation.
Though touted as pet-friendly, there is no off-leash dog park in the resort. The aforementioned mud was a continual problem when walking our dogs. Those who know us know that not having a dog park is a pet peeve of ours, no pun intended.
Overall, this is one of the top two or three Thousand Trails resorts in their system and we highly recommend it. Make sure you make reservations as early as possible.
Click here for an article I wrote about Thousand Trails.
Late in 2018 I wrote and posted an article on my blog entitled, “First Report- Is Thousand Trails Worth Its Cost?” In that piece I determined that yes, it was. To further substantiate that opinion, let me quote from my podcast:
“In 2019 we drove a little over 18,000 miles and stayed 260 nights in Thousand Trails resorts. Our Thousand Trails membership made those nights free, saving us … about $12,000 in camping fees, not counting the $1,000 per week we saved in the [Florida] Keys, where we only paid $20 a night. We stayed in [Thousand-Trails-affiliated] RPI parks for 21 nights, saving $735.”
It’s simple math. Campgrounds and resorts cost an average of $45 to $50 per night, depending on who you ask and where you spend the majority of your camping. We have lived full-time on the road in our fifth wheel for over two years and, not counting boondocking, have spent from $24/night in an RV campground to $94/night in a KOA resort, and everywhere in between. Our Thousand Trails membership plan reduces out of pocket to nothing on most of their resorts and campgrounds. Simply said, we could not be full-timing, with the quality of life we have today, and still see vast portions of the country, if we were not members.
Thousand Trails ("TT") offers a Camping Pass and three upgrade plans, each with its own purpose and cost. I hope here to cut through some of the confusion about these plans to give some generalizations and summarize each you should consider.
Before I unburden myself of some of the pitfalls we have experienced with Thousand Trails resorts, let me remind you that we highly recommend a TT membership for full-time and seasonal RV’ers. Let me also interject that non-TT campers often have problems and difficulties in private and public campgrounds around the country, so issues may not be with TT specifically.
The TT collection of parks, campgrounds and resorts used to be a group of private and TT-owned parks but are now are almost entirely owned by TT. Most of the original TT parks are splendid, but many of the previously-private campgrounds are anything but. They provide various levels of quality and services, and are nearly all first come, first served, for full hook-up sites. That can mean that, although we may have placed reservations months in advance for a specific resort, we may find that we don’t have a sewer hook-up when we land there. For weekenders, this might not be a problem, but for those of us taking showers and using our bathrooms for more than a few days, it makes life extremely challenging. TT tells us that all of their campgrounds provide bathrooms and showers, and some actually prefer the park facilities for longer showers, so you can easily get by without sewer hookups.
Being first come, first served, very few times have we been able to choose a site on a lake or river shore, or any upgraded space with cement pads and grass yards. Older campgrounds may not even have level sites at all, especially for the size of RV most people have today. We couldn’t even get level at a park a month ago, even with the spare tire under the kingpin sitting on the ground.
There is a void of TT campgrounds and resorts in the Midwest. Fifteen states from Utah to the Mississippi River have no TT parks. Nada. The reason for this may be the shorter camping seasons in these states, both too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer, for the average camper. Fortunately, you can fill in east-west travel with a few of the TT-affiliated RPI parks. More about that later.
There are seven or so “high use” properties around the country, TT resorts that fill up in the 2.5-month-long high season. In these parks a member can only stay for a maximum of two weeks, though the Ultimate Odyssey plan does include the ability to extend another week twice per year for a fee. The high-use cap won’t affect Camping Pass members because their stays are already limited to two weeks anyway.
Now for the good news. TT seems to be placing a real effort into upgrading their parks, adding sites, services and hookups, though it could happen faster. As full-timers, winter camping in any western or southern state (except Florida) is easily possible and many desirable locations have spots available during the entire season.
Most TT resorts have the minimum set of desired amenities and more are improving their services all the time. Nearly all have laundry rooms with pay kiosks or coin-op controls, and most have pools, mini-golf, shuffleboard, playgrounds, showers and a clubhouse with free wi-fi. Some also have billiards, hot tubs/spas, fitness centers, tennis courts and off-leash dog parks. All have sites with power and water hookups – it’s just the sewer hookups that may be limited.
TT’s online booking system is one of the best I have ever used. You can always call in, which I often do when modifying my itinerary, but adding or canceling reservations are easily done in the system. They maintain a list of available parks for your membership plan, resort info pages with photos (some have 3D exploration), a history of your reservations and a summary of your current reservations.
Introducing Rob Kenny, whom we met while camping at a TT resort in Northern California in the spring of 2019. He is an interesting family man from Ireland that traveled full-time with his wife and four kids in a large fifth wheel. I had sought him out because he was helping install RV solar systems and I had an interest in finding out more about that. We crossed paths twice more that year, as can happen regularly as full-timers that use the TT system often are bound to see one another in several places around the country. Robbie became a work-camper in an Oregon TT resort and we were thrilled to see him once again when we camped in that park.
Rob has since become a TT Membership Specialist and he gave me the real scoop about their sometimes-confusing set of plans and programs, as well as his personal take on them.
There are four membership plans- including the Camping Pass and three available upgrades to the Elite Basic, Elite Connections or Ultimate Odyssey plans. This means that to purchase an upgrade, you must first get a Camping Pass. Rather than boring you with a list of benefits for each, which you can get from any TT sales organization, I thought I would discuss the basics of each plan and differences between them, at least those that I think are important. I’ll use the term “day” for any 24-hour period and all prices quoted are as of this article’s publication date.
The Camping Pass runs around $600 per year (this goes up $10-$15 each year) per zone, which is a region of the country in which you can freely use the pass, for up to 14 days in a stretch. A single geographical zone will have between 8 and 23 parks available to use, and you can purchase multiple zones. One caveat is that you can move directly from one TT campground to another, with no “out time,” only if the length of stay you are coming from is 4 days or less. “Out time” represents being out of the TT system, meaning if you stay in a TT park from 5 to 14 days, you must stay elsewhere, out of the TT system, for at least 7 days before you can camp in another TT park. Managing out times is one of the necessary burdens of the TT membership program.
The three upgrade plans are nationwide and give up to 21 or 28 days (with some exceptions) in a single resort with no out times. In other words, you can stay in any of the parks in the system and travel from park-to-park. These upgrades cost quite a bit more than a Camping Pass, as you can imagine, and can either be paid in full at time of purchase or financed monthly through TT. For example, the Elite Basic upgrade costs as low as $135 per month at the time of this writing, the Elite Connections is as little $165/mo. and the Ultimate Odyssey is in the $265/mo. range. Upgrade memberships also have annual dues that are equivalent to the Camping Pass cost.
Besides the parks themselves, advance booking ranges are probably the most significant benefit in all of these upgrades. Currently, a Camping Pass allows reservations to be placed up to 60 days in advance and the Elite Basic allows 120 days, while the Elite Connections and Ultimate Odyssey both include the ability to book up to 180 days in advance of the stay. Mine is an older Elite plan that lets me utilize a 90-day advance window. When you live full-time in an RV, the longer the reservation window the better, and I certainly wish mine was longer.
The camping durations of the plans also vary. As I mentioned, the Camping Pass allows up to 14 days in a single stay, both of the Elite plans allow up to 21 continuous days and the Ultimate Odyssey allows 28 days per stay in a resort. Another benefit of the upgrade plans is an inexpensive extension of these limits twice per year at only $29 per week, but only in non-high-use resorts. However, the Ultimate Odyssey adds two more weeks per year that can be used to extend a stay in a high-use park for as little as $99 per week.
All four TT plans have the Trails Collection add-on option available, which adds over 100 other resorts nationwide to your available parks, even if you have just a single zone Camping Pass. They allow camping up to 14 days, have an out-time requirement of 7 days between Trails Collections parks and the maximum advance booking time is 60 days. Many Encore RV Resorts are among the parks available, which are properties in prime sunbelt locations, 40 in Florida alone. No matter your membership level, the Trails Collection, which costs only $299 per year, is a must-have, in my opinion.
However, there are some things to know about the Trails Collection parks. Some of them, those in high-demand tourism areas, charge members $20 per night out-of-pocket. Some 16 of the 108 Encore Parks in the system are considered high-demand. However, this can be a steal. For example, we paid $280 (plus tax) to stay in the Florida Keys for two weeks, but compare that to the $1,200 per week our non-TT neighbor paid. We were thrilled!
Many of the Encore parks are crowded neighborhoods of park model trailers with RV sites scattered among them. At times we have had difficulty backing into a space between permanent trailers. Many of these resorts are completely paved and don’t have any campground ambiance at all. Some sport ancient trailers, 5th wheels or park models, some covered in moss or think layers of pine needles, making us feel like we were visiting an old trailer park. Also, since most of these parks are filled with permanent residents, we usually get treated like interlopers, which, I suppose, we are. Most Encore resorts have a number of RV sites reserved for transient camping, or less than a month’s stay, with the balance of the park set aside for longer-term customers, seasonal renters or full-time residents. Often the transient camping loops are not the most desirable spots in the park.
Many Encore parks restrict use of pet fences or corrals. Since we have a pet door so our two small dogs can come and go through the front door, not having a pen is frustrating.
An RPI (Resort Parks International) option is also available on the Elite and Ultimate Odyssey upgrades for an additional fee. My older RPI plan costs $89 per year, includes over 100 RPI-affiliated campgrounds (these parks are not owned by TT), and discounts the daily rate to just $10. When you are traveling across the north or Midwest, where there are few or no TT resorts, often RPI resorts are available, a huge benefit.
The bottom line is easy to compute. As I mentioned, we have an older Elite membership that is completely paid for, and we pay around $800 per year in annual dues and subscription fees, which includes our membership and subscriptions for the Trails Collection and RPI Plus add-ons. If you do simple math, at $50 per night in an average private campground, our breakeven point for the annual fees is just 16 nights. Last year‘s savings more than paid for both the annual fees and our original purchase cost. Our plans give us access to 174 TT and Trails Collections parks (even more are available now), plus the 100 or so RPI parks. Retired and working part-time, we simply could not afford our current lifestyle without a TT membership.
That brings me back to Rob Kenny. He has offered to consult with any of my fans, friends and followers, and promises to quote the best price possible to any who ask for a proposal. Rob is an expert in all of the TT programs and details, and I can personally vouch for him. He is not a high-pressure salesman like you may have run across, and, by-the-way, he works from a state with no sales tax. Simply give him my name when you call or email.
Jack's note: Rob is on hiatus from Thousand Trails, so I have changed the contact info below to Eric's, who is taking over for him.
"Referred by Jack Huber"
There are a variety of membership benefits I did not discuss because, in my opinion, they are of less importance in your decision-making, such as membership gifting, cabin discounts or free stays, vacation credits, and more. Let Rob walk you through the maze and answer any questions you have. I asked Rob why he personally owns the Elite Connections level of membership and he responded that the 180-day advanced booking window was the most relevant factor to him, which makes perfect sense to me. What is vital to you will depend upon your lifestyle, RV plans and financial state.
There a few names for dry camping, or camping without any hookups. The word, "dry." is used to describe the fact that water and waste systems are self-contained, rather than supplied by a campground, but it usually means you have no power hookups as well. Many call it "boondocking," or even "dispersed camping," if you are parked a significant distance from civilization. Do it at a friend's or family member's house, it's "mooch-docking," and you can probably guess what "Wal-docking" and "Cracker-docking" are.
The key purpose we are discussing is to camp without hookups, usually in the wild, be it the forest, desert, plains, beach or other secluded location, and often sans other people. Any self-contained RV can handle a couple of days in the wild without any difficulty at all, but for a week or a month, or even longer, there are many obstacles to overcome. Here are nine of the most significant difficulties, as I see them, with some combining of related issues into one topic.
There are a great number of RV'ers who primarily boondock, preferring the wilderness to the community of RV resorts. Their RV's normally have been set up for long-term dry camping, so they have already managed everything I am mentioning to thrive in that lifestyle. Some of those modifications can cost thousands of dollars, such as large battery banks or solar systems, but even making smaller changes can really add up.
9. Finding a spot- As I mentioned, part of the allure of dry camping is distancing from civilization. This often means camping on land not specifically modified for RV parking. This can mean soft ground or sand to get stuck in, previously dry washes filling with rain, or rocky terrain causing damage to your tow vehicle or RV undercarriage or suspension.
Another consideration is the path to a potential campsite. You may suspect a good site exists in an area but can't see it, and it may be miles off the main road. If you simply drive to explore an area, you may end up in a dead end where you can't make a U-turn, or you may turn a corner to find a steep hole or raised mound too late to avoid.
There are also regulation and private property pitfalls. Not all private land is marked and not all public land is available for RV parking. Research is needed, and that can't always be done from the field when you've found a camping spot you love.
Some of the mystery and risk can be mitigated by the use of apps and websites that describe and rate free camping or boondocking locations, and often RV-related YouTube videos or blogs will give the GPS coordinates for a favorite spot, hopefully giving warnings for hazards or parking tips.
8. Loneliness or isolation- Yes, people do have the fantasy of camping alone in the wilderness, but this can be a double-edged sword. Not everyone is comfortable knowing that the closest human may be miles away. Long-term isolation can accentuate these feelings and can even cause panic. Make sure you can handle isolation before you subject yourself to long stretches of it.
It can also be unnerving when you consider, however unlikely, that there are people in the world that can mean you harm. For that reason, many boondockers prefer to stay in somewhat close proximity to other dry campers so they can watch each others' backs.
7. Poor or no cell signal or Internet access- Let's face it, most of us need our communications to the rest of the world. Many point to their cell booster, but like I've often repeated, you can't boost zero signal. If you can't live without your cell phone or social media, or you need to work on your trip, this will be a huge consideration for you.
6. Water rationing- Without the ability to easily resupply your water, you'll need to ration it. This can be taken to extremes, including never flushing your toilet and using dirty dishwater to clean out the bowl. This makes the composting toilet a popular item for serious boondockers. Our 52-gallon fresh water tank can supply many of our water needs plus two quick showers. By quick, I mean slightly faster than normal. If we utilize "Navy showers," limiting our time and turning off the water nozzle while sudsing up, rinsing or shampooing, we can manage four total showers. With a couple of 6-gallon water containers to supplement the fresh-water tank, this would suffice for a week. However, a longer stint would take some maneuvering, including possibly disconnecting the fifth wheel and driving to a town.
Full-time dry campers often use refillable containers or canvas bladders that can be filled will 30, 100 or even 200 gallons of potable water that can be pumped into the fresh-water tank from wherever it is being stored. This greatly extends the water supply for day-to-day living, though they still ration wisely.
5. Dumping tanks- As most RV'ers know, there is a huge difference between the waste water in a gray storage tank and in your black tank. The gray tank includes used sink and shower water and is generally safe for any wilderness environment. It differs from state to state, but most jurisdictions allow the draining of gray tanks on the ground, although nearly all forbid doing that in campgrounds. That's likely due to the possible mayhem and local contamination that may be caused with many RV's employing that option in one place. If you do decide to legally dump this water, you should try to divert the it away from the rig so it doesn't undermine your landing gear or support pads. Long-term dry campers will often capture at least some of that water for re-use, such as having a plastic tub in the sink while doing dishes or draining some gray water into bins before dumping.
The black tank is filled with human bathroom waste along with appropriate chemicals or enzymes and is a serious health concern. You are forbidden, as one would expect, from dumping black water on the ground, so it must be drained at a dump station. Usually, there are none of these stations in the back country, though many municipalities do offer free or cheap use of a dump station if you happen to be near one. Without dumping, the longest we have gone without filling the black tank to capacity was eight days. Camping longer than your tank limit requires a plan to legally dump, which could mean breaking camp and driving to a campground or other dumping location. If you have a trailer or fifth wheel you can purchase a black water tote, a large plastic bin with wheels and a drain port, and drain the tank contents into it. The tote is then towed by your truck to the dump station, rather than having to break camp. These are also popular for staying in RV parks without sewer hookups.
4. Getting supplies- Food and living essentials can and do run out, so it's important to have a plan for your re-supply. The nearest grocery store may be hours away, and if you have a motorhome without a toad or other separate vehicle (motorcycle or 4x4 ATV, for example) it probably means breaking camp to drive to one. Experienced boondockers try to stock as many non-perishible food staples as possible, even giving up basement space that would normally be used for lawn lighting or other less necessary items to make room for more food and paper stock. Since washing hands and dishes uses valuable water, dry campers often employ back country hiking methods for conserving supplies.
3. Power planning and management- Electrical power is one of those necessities that is in the eye of the beholder. Most RV's come with two deep-cycle batteries that can handle much of the interior systems of a rig but won't power air conditioning, televisions, a microwave or even a single-cup coffee maker. A generator can be a big boost, and an expensive solar system might power everything you have. Another option is to enlarge your battery bank and add a controller/inverter to run the 120v equipment with your 12v DC system. Either a solar system or a generator can recharge these batteries relatively quickly, and with both you can recharge when solar is not ideal, as in a forest, during a rainstorm or at night. Ideally, you will know your own personal comfort level for electrical equipment and make plans to power what you need to.
2. Getting emergency assistance or making repairs- This might seem intuitive, but let me remind you of Murphy's Law -- Anything that can go wrong will go wrong -- with the corollary, "At the worst possible time." Unlike a stick-and-bricks home, an RV is simply not large enough to carry everything you might need to make repairs on the road, and it's impossible to know what specific parts might need replacing. Most RV'ers carry a standard supply of hand and power tools, as well as a variety of supplies (duct tape, roof tape and nuts-and-bolts kits come to mind) for making repairs, but rely on RV repair centers or mobile repair technicians to help with breakdowns or damage. When in the wild, however, these facilities may simply not be available. Add the fact that you may not have cell reception, the danger of going without repairs is real.
Medical attention can also be difficult to summon. If a serious event were to occur, such as a hiking incident or heart attack, there is a definite risk of not being treated in time. Unfortunately this may be a risk one must accept for this lifestyle, and makes cell and Internet boosting even more valuable. A first aid kit is a vital supply, and if you spend a great deal of time in the wilderness, possibly a satellite phone or a flare gun might be appropriate.
1. Security concerns- While camping in the forest, desert, bush or badlands, personal protection and security should be of significant concern. There are risks of theft, intrusion, wildlife encroachment, accident, injury and becoming lost, and all can be somewhat lessened or alleviated to some extent.
First to plan for is communications, including informing friends and family where you are, for how long and where you are going to be and when. Checking in with ranger stations or host facilities can be very helpful when entering a large wilderness. Maximize your cell and Internet abilities, though this might not be possible due to complete lack of signal.
Beyond terrain, choosing a site with safety and security in mind can be the most important decision you can make.
Theft and human intrusion can be thwarted with custom door and compartment locks (most RV have shared standard keys) and deadbolt, good lighting and some form of personal protection, such as hand gun, rifle or shotgun, bear spray, taser, and even a perimeter trip wire alarm. I have motion-sensing LED lights in six positions around my rig and they have been invaluable. I won't comment on whether firearm protection is the best solution -- this is always a very personal choice -- but you need to have protection that will give you a chance to survive if the worst should happen.
Much of what helps against human intruders may protect you from bears and other wildlife. You probably are already aware of the potential of food drawing hungry wild animals to your campsite, so take those precautions.
Last, a first aid kit complete with diagnostic and informational booklets is vital to remote camping. Don't skimp on this, perhaps the only tool you have to survive an injury until you can get to a hospital.
I am not trying to scare people out of dry camping, but staying safe does require planning. If you have any other concerns, thousands of RV'ers are expert boondockers and are overwhelmingly eager to help a novice.
(Click here for an article I wrote about Thousand Trails.)
Address: 14152 French Town Road, Oregon House, CA 95962
Phone: (530) 692-1852
# of sites: 556
Full hookup price: From $64 per night
Open: 5/15 to 12/31
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Warnings: Very few sites have sewer hookups, nearly zero cell reception
Make no mistake, this is a California campground, not Oregon as its town name implies. The Lake of the Springs RV Resort is in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains on the fringe of the Sacramento Valley. It is a very large resort, as the number of sites indicates, and is on a private small lake.
This is the one of only two Thousand Trails resorts in the region and is closer to larger towns. It is set up in several sections, from the private lake on up the hill to a section with some cell phone reception. There is a boat ramp, beaches (including a pet beach), swimming fishing and many water sports available (post COVID), as well as panning for gold and the usual entertainment amenities (pool, tennis, shuffleboard, etc.).
The sites are spacious enough and give a fair amount of privacy between them. As a mature park, there are a substantial number of full-grown trees scattered among the sites in every section except the one that has cell signal up top. With out booster we were able to get Internet in the D section, though we had to stand next to our indoor antenna to make or get phone calls. There are also deer and a substantial amount of wild birds and hummingbirds throughout the resort.
Proximity to lakes, rivers and the Sacramento Valley is a plus. Lassen Volcanic National Park is less than three hours away, as is Sacramento, Reno and Lake Tahoe. In addition, this is right in the middle of an agricultural nirvana. You'll find fresh fruit, produce and fresh-baked pies along any road-side stand most of the year, outside of winter.
Only about 20% of the camping sites in this resort have sewer hookups and none have 50 amp service, meaning we had to juggle our appliances and A/C. It's first-come-first-serve for arrivals and we were very fortunate to snag the last full-hookup site that was available. Many of the best sites are in the section immediately next to the lake, but almost all of those sites are taken by seasonal residents.
Only two of the sections are within convenient walking distance to the lake, pet beach and clubhouse. Our section was more than a half-mile away. Almost none the sites we looked at were level, with both forward/back and left/right angles remarkably steep for parking. The primary road from the main gate to the clubhouse has been freshly repaved, but most of the sections have old asphalt paths that are cracking and rough, and most sites are filled with loose gravel. I had to have my truck in 4-wheel drive to make sure I could park in and leave the entrance of our site safely.
There is an amazing lack of cellular signal in the region, including for Verizon, which was hit-or-miss, and Sprint, which was nonexistent for miles around. Even with out booster, both the cell service and Internet were faint and slow.
To call Oregon House a town would be stretching the point. The closest supermarket or box store was 30-45 miles away, depending on whether you wanted a full-sized market. The post office is relatively close by but since the park won't accept US mail, you'll need to know whether a package is coming mail or UPS to give the correct address or General Delivery.
We had our share of frustrations in this park and, for our full-time purposes, I've rated it two out of five stars. I would not have a problem recommending it to weekend warriors with kids, since they would not need the sewer hook-up for a short stay and there will be plenty of family activities available once the pandemic is over.
Click here for an article I wrote about Thousand Trails.
Address: 877 E. Rodeo Rd. Williams, AZ 86046
Phone: (928) 635-4077
# of sites: 96
Full hookup price: From $49 per night
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The Railside RV Ranch is so named because it sits along the railroad tracks of the Grand Canyon Railroad (GCRR), about a mile from the boarding center. Like Williams, the park is known for being the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, which is the main reason people stay here. Unfortunately the National Park was closed due to COVID-19 while we were there, so we could only explore Flagstaff and the surrounding areas while here and none of the resort's amenities were open.
The biggest advantage to this park, besides its proximity to the Grand Canyon, is the relatively low pricing for its sites. We saw significantly higher rates in nearby campgrounds, a few over double what we paid. Amenities include a pet spa, covered pavilion, showers, spa and sauna, and free cable TV.
The GCRR visitor and boarding center is almost walking distance from the park, about a mile away right in Williams. Several friends and acquaintances had recommended the railroad, and we were eagerly looking forward to it, but it was closed for our stay. My guess is that the scenic RR trip probably would have been the highlight of our stay.
Williams is a quaint town on Historic Route 66 that now has more modern fast food and stores than ever before, helpful for anyone staying in the area. Flagstaff, the closest populated city, is about 35 miles away and worth the drive. Within proximity to the park are Bearizona, three miles of Ponderosa Pine Forest for viewing of North American animals in natural habitats, Sedona at the foot of Oak Creek Canyon, Jerome, the old mining town, Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff and multiple locations of the south rim Grand Canyon. Fishing and boating is available in nearby Dogtown Reservoir, only about 6 miles away.
Railside is relatively pet-friendly, though they don't have an off-leash area. However, there is a large, mostly-fenced field next door in which I was able to walk the dogs to the far end and let them off-leash.
Railside is a small, somewhat dreary park that is clean but not very green, with dirt and gravel aisles and sites, though there are small trees scattered throughout the campground. It is adjacent to a couple of large apartment complexes and near an interstate highway that each take away from the ambiance of a rustic campground.
Since the park is rather small and the rates are really due to the proximity to the Grand Canyon, it's not a surprise that the amenities don't include much in the way of entertainment, such as pool, spa, tennis, shuffleboard, etc.
An off-leash dog park would be a big improvement, should they choose to add one, and the closest large box stores are in Flagstaff, 30+ miles away.
The bottom line is that if you are heading to the Grand Canyon or don't mind a lack of landscaping and amenities, this park is a clean option that is one of the least expensive in the Williams area. Since it is otherwise nothing to write home about, I rated it 3 out of five stars.
Be sure to add your comment below if you have a different opinion or is you share our views of this RV park.
by Eric Tress
The COVID-19 pandemic has swept around the globe, causing uncertainty for everyone and especially for full-time RVers.
Some people prefer to live as nomads, traveling, and discovering their inner adventure spirit by crisscrossing the country in their RVs instead of living in traditional homes. However, during this pandemic season, the main agenda for RVers should be staying safe and healthy until the infection rate has reduced and the stay-at-home-restrictions are lifted.
Here are some ways to navigate the pandemic and stay safe:
1. Stay in recommended places
The RVers should stay in recommended places with good reviews. Avoid moving from one location to another and stay in a comfortable, safe place, whether in your property, family member driveway, or an RV Camp to minimize the chances of getting exposed to the virus.
Ensure you stay in a location within reach of medical resources, in case of an emergency. Your locality should also have essential suppliers like produce and paper goods within a short drive. Be extra careful when interacting with others by staying six feet away.
2. Have enough resources
Fill your RV with enough gas and buy groceries to last you for a month; this restricts any unnecessary movement. Have enough kitchen equipment and other essentials, including canned food, dry goods, food storage containers, dish soap, towels, sponges, trash bags, and pot holders to avoid borrowing from other RVers.
For the bath and bed needs, have enough bedding, toiletries, laundry detergents, and flip flops for a comfortable stay. Have items like an outdoor rug for yoga, tablet or Smartphone, camping chairs, refillable water bottle, and lots of games, headlamps, and flashlights.
Your emergency kit should have enough supplies, including painkillers, thermometer, and other essential medical equipment.
Ensure you have updated RV insurance and your contacts within easy reach; that includes your family members, next of kin, and doctor.
RVs are also prone to accidents like from little fender benders, more serious accidents to manufacturing and design defects; hence the need to have contacts of your car accident lawyer (here's one in NJ) within reach is important.
3. Embrace campground etiquette
Once you find the ideal spot for your RV, adhere to the campground etiquette to keep safe. During check-in, ask for no-contact services like paying using a credit card. The fewer interactions you have with cash and people, the easier it is to stay healthy.
Instead of using the campsite shared bathrooms, full of surfaces that can quickly spread Covid-19, opt to use the RV bathroom. It will reduce the risk of infection.
Avoid using the campsite Laundromat and instead hand-wash your clothes and dry them in the sun. This prevents your getting into close contact with other RVers’ clothing while direct drying your clothes can kill viruses. Wear gloves when filling your tanks at the dump stations and rinse off your dump station.
For the campgrounds still providing Laundromat services, RVers are encouraged to adhere to cleanliness and safety guidelines provided like using antiviral cleaners and disinfectants, observing social distancing and using masks among others.
For mental health, avoid staying inside all day. If your local regulations allow, ride your bike around the park, take a walk, hike, go fishing, socialize but keep your distance.
4. Keep your RV clean
Thoroughly clean your RV regularly by disinfecting the surfaces to prevent infection. For the sink, toilet, countertops, and other hard surfaces use water and soap and disinfect using EPA approved products, diluted bleach solution, and products with 70% of alcohol base.
Vacuum and clean visible stains and debris on your RV furniture, drapes, carpeting, and rugs using porous surface EPA approved products. When doing laundry, avoid shaking the clothes to minimize the possibility of dispersing viruses through the air. Wash your clothes and other items using warm water and disinfect the hampers.
It’s advisable to disinfect and clean the areas you frequently touch on your RV daily. Such places include light switches, doorknobs, handles, countertops, toilets, sinks, faucets, phones, desks, RV’s steering wheel, door handles, and dash controls.
5. Embrace Personal Hygiene
Your hygiene plays a vital role in stopping the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds with running water and soap. Avoid touching your body parts like face using unwashed hands, cover your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing with a tissue or use the inside of the elbow. Throw away used tissues, and immediately sanitize or wash hands.
Boost your immunity by eating highly nutritious meals, having enough sleep, and exercising.
6. Take care of your Mental Health.
A healthy mental state will ensure you follow the guidelines and make the right decision to stay safe.
Keep your mind healthy by shunning information pathogens, negative thoughts, and sensational headlines.
Find a distraction to help you cope and balance your daily life. You can do this by finding a good book, taking up a new hobby, or learning a new skill.
Speak about your fears, anxiety, and worries of COVID-19 and avoid bottling up your feelings. Connect with your feelings by expressing them; for example, for painful emotions, you may become sad or cry. Such ensures you release your feelings and find healing.
The pandemic has distracted the beautiful, carefree lifestyle of RVers, limiting movement, and socialization. However, following the above guidelines will keep your mental and physical health in tip-top shape, and if you suspect that you have COVID-19 symptoms, seek immediate help. Keep safe; you will eventually get back on the road and new adventures.
Eric Tress is a travel writer, digital content specialist, and a full-time sun seeker. He works closely with Aiello, Harris, Marth, Tunnero & Schiffman, P.C. as a content specialist helping them build their online presence through friendly, engaging, and shareable web content. When not hunched over his computer, Eric is into his fender guitars, traveling or enjoying a nature walk with his pet.
The suggestions and opinions expressed in this guest blog post are those of Eric Tress and not necessarily the opinions of Jack Huber and other associated blogsites.
For the past several years, I've been watching my calorie intake and have managed, until retirement, to lose several dozen pounds. One problem when dieting, even when it's a permanent lifestyle change, is what to do when you are hungry but limited in food intake.
I began using Mountain Trail Mix as my go-to snack for such occasions and found, at least for me, that my weight changed very little due to this incredible snack mix. One day I thought that the mix could use more cashews and started adding them to the pre-packaged mix, then some craisins, and finally decided I might as well make my own trail mix from scratch. I don't think it's any cheaper this way, but I get exactly what I want in the mix. I'll include costs so you can judge for yourself.
Here's what to purchase:
These represent the brands and sizes I normally purchase for one batch of Huberville Trail Mix, and there will be leftovers from the craisins, raisins and M&M's to use in future batches. I find that store brands work fine for the nuts and raisins but the name brands are worth springing for on the other ingredients. Feel free to use whichever brands you like.
I start by gathering my largest mixing bowl, a 2-cup measuring cup and a 1-gallon re-closable plastic storage container. I have found that the mix will last longer in a hard plastic container than in a zip-lock bag. Here is the process:
Wash your hands
My best guess on calories would be approximately 300 per 6 tablespoons, or about a third of a cup of trail mix. That's about how much I eat in a single sitting. Because of the sweet, salty, chocolaty and fruity aspects of the mix, I find it easily tides me over until my next regular meal. I even keep a small container in my headboard for a late night snack.
The total cost of this 18-cup mixture is around $28.00, or about $1.50 per cup, a very affordable goodie, and one that just may save you from devouring many more calories between meals.
One last thought- I will sometimes add different ingredients to change things up, such as dried bananas or fruit, semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips, chocolate-powdered or flavored almonds, and so on. I only do that on occasion... and I always come back to this recipe, unmodified. Enjoy!
(Click here for an article I wrote about Thousand Trails.)
Address: 215 Spettle Rd., Lakehills, TX 78063
# of sites: 387
Full hookup price: From $49 per night
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Warnings: Not all sites have sewer, not all sites are close to the lake
Lakehills is about 40 miles from San Antonio and the rural town rests on the shore of the very large Medina Lake, The Medina Lake RV Campground (not to be confused with the Medina Lake RV Resort, a different park) is also located on the lake and shares the cooler hill-country weather of the region.
My opinion of this park was made without the knowledge of its community spaces (pool, spa, clubhouse/pavilion, laundry, etc.), which were all closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown rules in Texas for campgrounds.
This campground has very wide, tree-lined sites with good privacy and gravel-covered pads. Having spent time in several parks with little or no space or privacy, this benefit cannot be understated. The resort does sport the usual amenities, plus hiking trails, lake frontage and dock for fishing and boating, and picnic/barbecue areas.
There is plenty of wildlife here. We were visited often by several whitetail deer and my bird feeders attracted two pairs of cardinals, a pair of goldfinches, several hummingbirds and others. Just before we left a huge female turkey even rambled through.
Probably the biggest asset of this campground is its proximity to several Central Texas attractions and highlights. The park is located about 40 miles from San Antonio (and the Alamo), and a nice drive can take you through the famous Luckenbach, Texas, and the quaint town of Fredericksburg, known for its pies and wineries. The reservoir created by the Medina Lake Dam is also quite large.
Just as a side attraction, Bandera County put together a neat little program where businesses displayed bicycles painted blue along a couple of the minor highways that go through the district. I think I found 10 or 12 of them as we drove to and from the town of Bandera and our northern explorations.
The main disadvantage in coming to the Medina Lake RV Campground is the layout, with only a few sections of campsites near the lake and no way of knowing which sites are empty until you physically see them. From the lake shore to the farthest camping loop from it is about a mile, so it is difficult to know whether to snag an empty site when you come upon it or risk losing it by continuing down to the lake. Not all sites have sewers, so you have to specifically check for that in each site as well.
The staff was not friendly, but with the pandemic in full swing, it's difficult to know if that is normal or stress-induced. The have a $5 per package for receiving UPS packages and they refuse any USPS shipment. We were told by the post office staff that the campground would not allow USPS packages to be delivered because they weren't allowed to charge a fee for them. The nearest post office is in Pipe Creek, around 13 miles from the park.
There are no shopping areas close by, so Walmart and other box stores are 40+ miles away. Even fast food is scarce, with a few places in the town of Bandera, a 20-mile drive away.
The bottom line is that, knowing the secluded nature of the lake in advance, we would highly recommend the Medina Lake RV Campground, a Thousand Trails property. The staff's attitude during our visit and the lack of an easy way to secure a campsite are the reasons for my rating it less than a perfect "5." Perhaps when we return in a better time this can change.
Click here for an article I wrote about Thousand Trails.
Address: 24280 Patterson Rd, Robertsdale, AL 36567
# of sites: 64
Full hookup price: From $31 per night
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Warnings: Not pet-friendly, owner is obnoxiously political
Wilderness RV Park is aptly named, located in the woods within the foot of Alabama that reaches the Gulf of Mexico. It is located about halfway between Mobile and Pensacola. It is a relatively small campground and was chosen for its proximity to Mobile.
This park is clean, though rustic, and there is sufficient space between rigs when full. It has a pond and is surrounded by forest, giving it a woodsy feel with a true campground ambiance, though it's located just off I-10.
Camping prices did reflect the level of park we experienced. As an RPI (Resort Parks International) campground, we only paid the members' rate of $15 per night for a 50-amp site, discounted from the already low $36 rate. 30-amp sites run only $31/night.
The overall location near the Gulf shore and just off the interstate is it's biggest advantage. Sitting just a half-hour drive from Mobile, 45 minutes from Gulf Shores and about 35 minutes to Pensacola makes sightseeing and grocery shopping in this region nicely accessible.
We had red flags right off the bat upon check-in, with faded posters with hateful political messages plastered around the office. Now, we don't have a problem with people displaying political views opposed to our own, though I prefer not to see them. However, these signs were crude and somewhat racist, and if we were planning a longer stay, we would have made other arrangements.
Once we set up the owner pulled his golf cart over and let us know that dog fences were not allowed and we would have to take them down. When we asked his reasoning, he said that dogs in pens tend to dig and the grass would suffer. This was an odd reply, since dogs tied on leashes also dig and the grass we were parked on was not manicured, landscaped or newly seeded. He just didn't like pens and that was that. There was no off-leash area and the grassy field around the pond was a swamp most of time we were there, so not being able to use our dog door and a limited walking area made handling potty times somewhat difficult.
There were no real amenities that you might see in a resort. Just ordinary camping is the most you can hope to do here.
If you need a quick layover near Mobile or Pensacola, and you're not easily offended by southern tendencies, this campground may fit your bill
(Click here for an article I wrote about Thousand Trails.)
Address: 910 North Broad Street, Brooksville, FL 34601
# of sites: 285
Full hookup price: From $378.00 Per Week
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Warnings: Not well landscaped/maintained, road noise
The Clover Leaf Forest RV Resort is one of the central Florida Thousand Trails parks. It's about an hour from Orlando, an hour from Tampa and about 30 minutes from the Gulf. It's a natural stopover location between southern Florida and the panhandle. Like many RV parks in Florida, it is especially popular in the winter months.
The Clover Leaf Forest isn't one of the best parks in the Thousand Trails system, but it is clean and the staff is friendly. There is a long pond that runs through one end of the campground and there are green spaces on that shore and in and around the main office. They post when mail has been delivered on an electronic reader board and have a guard manning the entrance at night. There is an exceptionally well-kept laundry room and one of the nicest sets of shuffleboard courts that I've ever seen, if you're into that. By far the biggest pro is the proximity to central Florida's attractions and coastline.
This park is tight. In fact, we could only put our awning out about two feet due to the trees along the pad. My rear bumper ended up only about 18" from the 5th wheel behind me.
The other primary annoyance here is that the park sits along a small highway, with more-or-less continuous traffic noise. The town of Brooksville is split into two sections, a modern shopping-centric area about a dozen miles from the campground and a tiny historic district close by. There is no night life close to the park.
There is no fenced dog park at Clover Leaf Forest, though they have a post near the shuffleboard courts with a trash can and a poop bag dispenser.
There is nothing fabulous about the Clover Leaf Forest RV Resort, but it's far better than many of the campgrounds we've stayed in, thus my 3-star rating. I would recommend it as a waypoint, an interim stay along your journey, but not as a destination. Orlando Thousand Trails is a much better option, if that works for your itinerary.
Click here for an article I wrote about Thousand Trails.
Jack Huber is a novelist with 7 mysteries published, along with several books of poetry and photography. Now retired, he and his wife, Nadyne, are free to travel the country in their 32' 5th wheel and 1-ton Ford pickup.