Tuesday, July 18, 2006

State Park Camping
We have spent more than two weeks recently parked in state and Corps of Engineer parks. For those who think of RV parks in terms of the KOA along the highway, our experience lately has been very different. Most state and Corps parks have large grassy sites, well laid our so our neighbor isn’t right beyond our awning or looking into our dining room as we eat.
We stayed in one park in Iowa, two in Ohio, and one in Michigan, as well as the Corps park in Illinois along the Mississippi River. In Ohio, neither park was full. In fact, outside Columbus in Delaware State Park, we had the whole area—10-12 sites down one driveway—to ourselves for two nights. Michigan was different, but we were there leading up to the 4th of July weekend. Though full of campers, the sites were still large.
It is amazing how different camping is from one part of the country to another. In Colorado, the parks are tourist destinations. People come from all over the country and the parks are full almost every day of the summer. Reservations are necessary weeks or months in advance. In many states, the parks are used mainly by locals who live nearby. We saw neighbors gathering in Ledges State Park in Iowa. Many of them came numerous weekends of the summer and enjoyed their time together. At Sterling State Park along the coast of Lake Erie in Michigan, most of the campers were from Michigan. They really take their weekend outings seriously—large RVs, screened shelters over the picnic tables, party lights hanging from the awning, extra refrigerators and freezers for the fish they catch, coolers for the beer and soda, decorations like the solar lights that line many suburban driveways and sidewalks. Many Colorado parks focus on fishing, but the boats used on Lake Erie are much larger. There is a steady stream of trucks and boats leaving by 5 am. Camp sites often include 2 or 3 trucks, an RV, a tent, a screened shelter and a boat. No wonder they are so large. We decided campers there buy up scrap lumber from the local Home Depot, based on the stacks of short boards next to the fire rings.
One of the pleasures of our travels is seeing how people do things in other places. We also experience birds and plants and animals we don’t have in Colorado and meet people from all over. In this Canadian park, we have seen Canada Day being celebrated with flags and campfires and family time together, just as we say the people in Michigan celebrating the 4th of July. And we have been surprised at how many Canadian campers display both US and Canadian flags. We haven’t found out why.

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