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Sunday, July 29, 2012

National Park Trip....aka pop-ups hate us

Sorry I have not been blogging lately.  I lost interest in my project 52 super quick this year.  Hoping next to year to figure out a photography project that holds my interest longer!  Things have been pretty crazy around here with the girls being out of school.  We somehow manage to be MORE busy during the summer than the school year...not sure how that works!

We just got back from an amazing family vacation visiting a couple of national parks: Glacier and Yellowstone National park.  We were gone for a total of one week between the two parks.  For those who do not know, Glacier National Park is located in North West Montana, and Yellowstone is located primarily Wyoming, but is also partially in Montana and Idaho as well.

We decided since we live up North (probably the only time we will ever be stationed anywhere near this area) that we need to take advantage of all that the North has to offer, which is why we have been doing lots of little mini trips.  We thought that a week long family vacation would finally work out this summer.  Most of the trip was amazing.  Glacier is the most beautiful place I have ever seen...and the kids loved yellowstone for all of the animals they got to see! The even got become double park rangers, and help feed some bears! It really made me miss the mountains and living in an area that has mountains, beautiful blue lakes, and lots of green trees!  We decided to use this trip as the chance to have our first big family camping trip as well. The two of us have realized that we both love camping and both did a lot of it before we got married, but not so much since we have been together...not sure why, but we realized we needed to change that.  But we thought with Glacier and Yellowstone both being "bear country" that we would feel a little safer if we combined tent camping and cabin/trailer and rented a pop up camper from the outdoor rec here on base.  So we got the towing package put on our van and hauled a pop up camper all the way to Glacier NP, and then to Yellowstone NP, and then back home...the van did great...for the most part.

Like I said, for the most part the trip was wonderful...except when it came to the camper.  Let me start off by saying that I LOVE camping, and I am in no way saying this was a horrible fact...the whole thing is funny, so I thought I would share some of the ridiculousness that we experienced involving this camper.    I love being outdoors, and sleeping outside.  I have NO problem with primitive electricity, running water, heat, etc.  But I was not expecting that sort of camping trip as our first time camping with the girls.  We found out right away that the popup camper had all sorts of "issues".  Our site at Glacier was a primitive big deal, we have a camper that has propane heat, and a battery, and it was only for 3 nights.  Well right away we discovered that the propane system was not working correctly.  It was not producing heat, and the alarms for the propane kept going off, indicating there was some sort of leak.  We turn the non working propane off completely, and said alarm continues to go off.  This happens the entire 6 nights we have the camper.  Sometimes it stops, and then starts back up.  Sometimes it would go off in the middle of the night.  It was anyone's guess how or why.   Most places, no big deal...but when you are up north in the summer, it still gets to the low 30s and even upper 20s at night!  Luckily, this over prepared mama brought enough blankets to keep about a dozen people warm.  Next up...the battery.  This camper came with a good sized battery, which it's basic function was to power the lights.  The camper has 2 tiny dome lights, that are perfect size for the camper, but none the less, use hardly any wattage.  The battery lasts approx 2 hours worth of use.  So we have no lights for the next two nights at Glacier.  At this point, we have a tent on wheels because we have no battery power, no propane, and of course no electricity because we have a regular camp site.  As frusturating as all of this was, it wasn't a huge deal because this was only at night, and we were gone exploring the park all day.  But when it came time for us to sleep and the alarms wouldn't stop, we wanted to cry.  We had gone on a beautiful but vigorous 4 mile hike one day and came back exhausted (and I somehow managed to twist my knee the last couple of minutes coming off the hike and was in serious pain) and we just wanted all the beeping to stop.

After exploring as much of the park we could get to in 2 days, we packed up and moved onto Yellowstone. We had reserved a campsite a little ways from the park because everything IN the park was full.  We pull up to Buffalo (that is the name of the campground) It looks deserted and sort of run down.  We start driving through to find our site...which we find out is in the faaaaaarthest back loop possible, and our site is the farthest away site.  This is another primitive big deal, we just did it for 3 nights, 3 more isn't going to kill us (although at this point realize we wasted money on renting a popup when we could have just brought our own tent, which is actually larger and more spacious than the pop up).  Well when we find our campsite we both agreed it was NO GO.  First of all, it is still in "bear country" and there are warnings everywhere.  It is super far away from the ghetto looking "bathroom" a good 10 campsites away, which meant the girls couldn't go alone, which meant one of us had to take them, and the other had to stay back at the campsite...alone.  The site was also all grass, and it was backed up to a bug infested creek RIGHT behind our campsite.  We could see the bugs swarming when we pulled up.  To be honest, we were terrified.  It was the scariest, most creepy looking campsite either of us had ever seen.  We tried looking for camp host to talk to, but none were around, nor were there any sort of park rangers.  We hauled out of there and desperately tried to find a new campsite.  Everything we could find was either booked up, stupid high priced, or only one night available.  So, we decided to do something we never thought we would do...we started calling RV parks.  That's right, we rolled our teeny little pop up camper into an RV park.  We felt pretty lame, but we found a park that had a great price, full hook ups, a spot right near the bathrooms, clean showers, and we felt SAFE.  It was here that we found out...that we now had electrical issues as well.  We were super excited to plug the camper in, only to find out that alarms went off even more when we had electricity.  And, the battery that had died 3 days before...yeah that refused to charge back up.  So now we are at a fabulous little mom and pop RV site, paying for full hook ups...and we can not use any of them....BUT we are in good spirits because we have clean potties and showers.

By the last night of our trip...all we could do was joke about the specialness of all the things gone wrong...and every single one of them had to do with the camper.  We are pretty convinced the camper hated having us borrow it and was trying to make us take it back early or something.

Last but not least was when we were driving back onto base.  This has nothing to do with the camper being stupid now.....  But of course, we get tagged for a "random inspection" coming onto base...I mean, why wouldn't we?  So we drive away from the search pit, and as we are going through the line we here a BAM BAM BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAM sound.  I right away assume that we had hit one of the barriers but Geoff said he was watching the mirrors and KNOWS we did not.  We jump out to look at the trailer and it had come off the hitch!  Apparently the pin broke, which dropped the trailer.  It was still attached thankfully because there are chains holding it on as well, but we were basically dragging the trailer.  We were stopped in the middle of everything.  Some nice airman came and helped us move the trailer out of the way while Geoff ran home and grabbed an extra pin.  This was all the maker of the pin's fault, who got an email from us asking how they would like to help pay for the damage the bumper of our car because of this.

All in all, the trip was amazing if you take out all of the fun times with the camper.  The good stuff definitely out weighs the bad stuff...but the camper did put a big damper and stress in the trip that could have been avoided.  Luckily, the girls really didn't notice any of this stuff going on.  Most of it happened at night after they had gone to bed and are pretty heavy sleepers.  They loved it, so I am thankful that we were able to keep a positive attitude and not ruin the trip for them.  I will be posting another blog soon with lots of photos about what all we did on the trip...I just thought I would post about the awesome camper experience we had  in the mean time :)

Here she is folks: