National Park Road Trip 2011: Looking Back Over All The Miles...
Editor's note: How did you spend your summer? David and Kay Scott traveled nearly 11,000 miles, visited 29 units of the National Park System, and toured 62 lodges as they gathered material to update their book, The Complete Guide To The National Park Lodges. Here's a recap of what they found.
Greetings to Traveler readers who followed our 3-month 2011 national park road trip. Our creaking bones have recovered following the return home a little over a month ago. We mentioned in our last posting from Mammoth Cave National Park that we would provide a trip summary.
We also want to mention some of the biggest surprises we encountered while visiting America’s national park lodges.
During the trip we received several reader comments asking about the upcoming edition of The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges. The seventh edition is scheduled for publication in February 2012, although our experience has been that these dates are fluid, so we are guessing March. Who knows?
We have been told the new edition will be all color, including color lodge photos replacing current black and white sketches that have graced previous editions. We suppose this is progress although we have always liked the sketches.
So, the summary of our summer trip:
* Miles traveled - 10,700
* MPG on the RAV4 (manual transmission) - 33.4
* States visited - 24
* National park units visited - 29
* National park lodges visited - 62
* Nights spent in national park lodges - 53
* Savings using the Interagency Senior Pass - $348 (a better investment than the stock market)
* Temperature range 28 F. at Grand Canyon’s North Rim to 105 F. in Badlands NP Some highlights and surprises of the trip:
* A mountain lion walking across the Chisos Mountains Lodge (Big Bend National Park) registration building’s outside patio while we stood a short distance away talking with lodge manager Danny Ferguson. This was our first sighting of a mountain lion in the wild.
* The familiar cabins at Cedar Pass Lodge in Badlands National Park are to be replaced with new wooden cabins being manufactured in nearby Rapid City, South Dakota. Work is expected to begin in October with the new cabins being ready for occupancy at the beginning of the 2012 season. We will miss the funky old stucco units that seemed a good fit for the park.
* The substantial reduction in room rates at Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lake National Park (part of -Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park) since our visit three years ago. Lakeside rooms declined in price from $345 to $269. Room rates at national park lodges are occasionally reduced a little from year to year, but not like this.
* The impressive renovations at Zion Lodge to both the Western cabins and lodge rooms subsequent to our 2008 visit to Utah’s Zion National Park. Concessionaires generally rotate major renovations among different room types over longer periods. Let’s hear it for Xanterra.
* The amazing amounts of snow we encountered at several parks, particularly Mount Rainier. The Paradise area of Mt. Rainier received 75 feet of snow this winter and snow banks around Paradise Inn in June were immense. Snow banks around Crater Lake Lodge were only slightly smaller.
* The new camper cabins brought into the Manzanita Lake area of Lassen Volcanic National Park. We didn’t expect new lodging in our favorite area of Lassen after the old lodge was razed in the 1970s. The cabins have propane heat, but no bathrooms or electricity. Manzanita Lake is perfect for canoes.
* The number of closed cabins at Curry Village in Yosemite Valley. It was eerie walking along the large fenced-off area of closed cabins. Yosemite Valley lodging that has always been scarce has become even more scarce.
* The new buses at Stehekin in Washington’s Lake Chelan National Recreation Area in the North Cascades National Park Complex. We had grown accustomed to the rickety old yellow school buses used in previous trips to transport visitors from Stehekin Landing to Rainbow Falls, Stehekin Valley Ranch, and High Bridge. Spotting the new buses as our boat approached the dock was a real shock.
* The May snowstorm during our stay at the North Rim’s Grand Canyon Lodge. The white blanket of snow at Grand Canyon National Park made the North Rim more beautiful and quieter than usual. A nice surprise was the park’s gas station hadn’t changed gasoline prices since it closed in the fall. This was the cheapest gasoline we purchased all summer.
* The grand new visitor center that has replaced antiquated facility at Mammoth Cave National Park. The new visitor center will be even more impressive when the other half is completed. It seems that we had some idea a new VC was in the works, but had forgotten about it.
By the way, lodging at Mammoth Cave remains one of the biggest bargains in all of national parkdom.
* The enthusiasm of many of the lodge managers for the history of the lodges they oversee. This was certainly true of Tim Mahoney, new manager of Crater Lake Lodge. Despite some of the comments following our article about the lodge, our stays at Crater Lake National Park have been very pleasant and the lodge remains one of our favorites. We could easily spend hours sitting on the back patio staring at the lake and never get bored.
So, that’s about it. We had a good trip, met lots of nice people, learned a lot, and are just about finished with work on the revision. Soon we are off to ride the train across Canada. Bring on the Moosehead, eh!
To rekindle your memories, here are links to last summer's videos:
Badlands National Park
Cedar Pass Lodge
Big Bend National Park
Chisos Mountains Lodge
Bryce Canyon National Park
Buffalo National River
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Crater Lake National Park
Glacier National Park
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Teton National Park
Lassen Volcanic National Park
Mammoth Cave National Park
Mesa Verde National Park
Mount Rainier National Park
North Cascades National Park Complex
Olympic National Park
Oregon Caves National Monument
Ozark National Scenic Riverways
Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks
Yellowstone National Park
Yosemite National Park
Zion National Park