Friday, September 30, 2016


From Levan Town Park I traveled south to the Dixie National Forest in south central Utah, planning to boondock there for five or six days.

The first three days were just ideal and the weather at my campsite, which was about 20 yards off a forest service road, was 78 in the day and low forties at night.  The ground that made up the Tank's campsite was a mixture of clay-ish dirt mixed with gravel.

The area around the Tank's site.  Note the ground make up.
On the night of my third day at the campsite the weather changed for the worse, with rain falling in sheets for almost 48 consecutive hours.  I had a bad feeling when I stepped out of the Tank and my boots sank into mud about three inches,  if I sank that far how deep would the Tank sink if I moved it off it's leveling blocks which appeared to be somewhat supporting the pickup's wheels?  After the rain paused for an hour I took the chance to see if I could bull my way to the forest service road.

The Tank's drive wheel digging a hole!
As soon as the Tank moved six inches off the leveling blocks I felt it sink into the mud--deep---and not move and further.  I was at least bright enough not to over spin the drive tire (none of that four wheel drive stuff for me!)  and dig in deeper, I climbed back into the camper and resolved to wait until the campsite dried out to try again, and then it began raining for twelve more hours.

Deer ignoring the mud outside the Tank's campsite.
I was grateful for having a lot of extra canned goods in the Tank's cupboards and I did have plenty of fresh water and adult beverages so I waited out two more days but each time I climbed into the Tank the drive wheel couldn't grab traction and I was still stuck.  The next morning I woke up after a chilly night, looked out my window and saw this:

Two inches of snow on September 22!
The muddy soil had frozen under the Tank!  I got the idea of taking an almost empty charcoal bag I had and pushing it under the drive wheel so that the drive wheel could use the heavy paper for traction and then I climbed behind the wheel and put it in drive.  I felt the Tank move forward a little (this hadn't happened before) so I gave it gas and the drive wheel climbed out of it's hole, I didn't stop until the Tank made it to the service road.

Free at last!  The Tank sitting on the snowy service road.

The former campsite,
I learned some things from my being stuck.  The first is to carefully analyze the type of ground you park your RV on.  Had I done this I would have moved the Tank as soon as hard rains had begun to fall, I won't fail to move to more compacted ground in the future.  Second, I need to carry some type of traction improver (my brother says a bag of birdseed would work) because once the drive wheel gets coated with the mud it has almost no way of getting traction.  Finally, having extra cans of food (and beer) in your RV can REALLY come in handy if you have to "hang around" for a few extra days.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Campground Review: Levan Town Park Levan, UT

When your making a long haul and want to break the drive up into two segments town parks are a handy way to accomplish this.  As I was driving from the Logan, UT area I drove a few hours then decided to stay over one night at Levan Town Park in the tiny Utah town of Levan.

Somebody got the No Skatboarding sign upside down.
You must call the city hall and request permission to overnight in the park and the lady who answers reminds you to please make a donation in the park's metal donation box, although technically it's free to stay in overnight.  I left five bucks -- if the park had a dump station I might have gone ten, but I thought five was reasonable.

Here's Levan Park's data sheet:

Hookups:                                             None                                                                          
Fire ring:                                              No                                                                              
Water Access:                                     No                                                                  
Fresh Water:                                        Yes                                                     
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                                     
Toilets:                                                Yes                                                     
Showers:                                             No                                                                              
Dump station:                                      No                                                      
WiFi:                                                   No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                  No (a quickstop is a half mile away)                          
Pool:                                                   No                                                                  
Shade:                                                Yes                                                                 
Verizon reception:                                4G, 3 bars                                           
Internet reception:                                3 bars                                      
Cost:                                                  Free (donation requested)

It's clear that the park management intends the RV's at the park to stay on an asphalt loop under a tree canopy but since I was relying on the Tank's solar panels I parked next to the ball diamond on a gravel parking lot where I got great sunshine.

The Tank soaking up sunshine near the ball diamond.
A covered picnic pavilion, note the tall shade trees.
The pavilion above had live electrical outlets if you didn't have solar on your RV and needed to charge cell phones or laptops.

A small playground for the kiddos. 
As is typical for most places in Utah there's always a view of the mountains, Levan Park is no exception.

A view from Levan Town Park.
Levan Town Park, like most town parks I've stayed in is definitely not a destination camping opportunity but as an overnight place to stay it runs rings around Walmart parking lots and the like.
I'd stay there again if it was on my drive path.

Thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Campground Update: Newton Reservoir Newton, UT

When I originally visited Newton Reservoir in northwest Utah in 2014 the reservoir was a vibrant area of local water activity like water skiing and fishing.  I reviewed the campground here:  Newton Reservoir Review .  Being back in the area in September of this year I decided to go camp there again because it had impressed me and I was tired of camping in areas with little or no cell signal and the reservoir had a cell tower on a mountain right next to it,  If you revisit my original review and note the water level of the reservoir in the pictures you'll appreciate the picture of it's current level below:

About one third the depth it had in 2014.
Two years haven't been easy on the reservoir as all of Utah has been in a prolonged drought.  The camping experience is understandably diminished with the massive draw down and there were no boats on the reservoir probably because the boat ramp to it ended about 40 yards short of the water.

Really sad, until the drought breaks and the reservoir refills I can't recommend camping at Newton Reservoir.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Campground Review: Starvation State Park Duchesne, UT

After boondocking at Pelican Lake for a week my black and gray tanks were full and my freshwater tank was close to empty.  Typically when this situation occurs I head to a one night stay at a RV park or state park.  Checking the map I saw that Utah's Starvation State Park was within a couple hour's drive so I decided to do a one-nighter there and dump my tanks and stock up on fresh water.

An information board at the park said the park's peculiar name stemmed from a two sided story.  One version of the story had a group of fur trappers using the area the park is in to try to ride out a bitter winter in the 1840's.  The hungry trappers stole food from the local Native Americans and the Native Americans then starved.  The flip side had the Native Americans stealing the trappers food and the trappers subsequently starving to death.  Either way somebody starved and the future park was named.

At an altitude of 5700 feet Starvation State Park features a 3495 acre reservoir suitable for fishing, water skiing, and swimming.  The park is divided into two camping areas, the Beach Campground which is on a pristine, groomed white sand beach and the Mountain View Campground about a half mile away that is on a bluff overlooking the reservoir,

The Beach Campground costs $3 more then the Mountain View camp area.
The beach is groomed by a tractor towed rake every day.
Entrance to the Mountain View camp area.
View from the Mountain View camp area.

Here's the Starvation State Park data sheet:

Hookups:                                             30, 50 amp, water, sewer                                           
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                 
Water Access:                                     Yes                                                     
Fresh Water:                                        Yes                                                     
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                         
Toilets:                                                Yes                                         
Showers:                                             Yes                                                     
Dump station:                                      Yes                             
WiFi:                                                   No                              
Level sites:                                          Yes                             
Laundry:                                              No                                          
Store:                                                  Yes (weekends only)                                                 
Pool:                                                   No                  
Shade:                                                No                                          
Verizon reception:                                4G, 3 bars                               
Internet reception:                                3 bars                          
Cost:                                                 Beach - $28 / night Mountain - $25 / night

Each site comes with a gazebo covered picnic table with fire ring.
Boat dock near the boat launch.
Fish cleaning facility near the park store (in background).
 You don't even need an RV or tent to stay at the park:

The Mountain View camp area had 3 of these rent-able AC equipped cabins. 
The shower facility had a dozen private shower rooms that were extremely clean:

Each campground has it's own shower facility.
Readers of this blog know I seldom stay in state parks because I prefer the boondocking experience (plus I'm cheap :D).  Every Utah state park I've stayed at has impressed me by how well they are kept up and how clean everything is, Starvation State Park is no exception, it's a first class state park camping experience on every level.  If you're in it's area I definitely recommend staying there for at least a couple nights.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Campground Review: Pelican Lake Recreation Area Vernal, Utah

About 20 miles southwest of Vernal, UT is the Bureau of Land Management's campground on the southern shore of Pelican Lake.  I traveled there in the Tank to camp for a week in mid-August and came away fairly impressed with what I found.

At an elevation of 4800 feet Pelican Lake is a natural lake lying within Utah's Unita Basin.  The lake has been dammed to store and release water for irrigating the extensive farmland surrounding it.  To keep it from being drained water is diverted via canal from the Unita River into Pelican Lake.

Pelican Lake is a pretty good-sized body of water.
The lake is known for it's bluegill fishing and there were locals fishing from boats and also the BLM built fishing pier every day I camped there.

The pier gets boat-less fishermen out to fairly deep water. 

Here's the data sheet on the Pelican Lake campground:

Hookups:                                             None                                                                          
Fire ring:                                              Yes                                                                             
Water Access:                                     Yes                                                                 
Fresh Water:                                        No                                                                  
Trash Service:                                      Yes                                                     
Toilets:                                                Yes (vault)                                                     
Showers:                                             No                                                                  
Dump station:                                      No                                                      
WiFi:                                                   No                                                      
Level sites:                                          Yes                                                     
Laundry:                                              No                                                                  
Store:                                                  No                                                                              
Pool:                                                   No                                                      
Shade:                                                No                                                      
Verizon reception:                                4G, 2 bars                                           
Internet reception:                                2 bars                                      
Cost:                                                  Free for up to 14 days

Unlike most BLM camping areas the Bureau constructed a campsite loop with gravel back-in driveways complete with fire rings and picnic tables with gazebos covering them.  I didn't stay in the loop because there were sites closer to the lake that had probably been there prior to the more formal campsite loop.

BLM campsites on a road loop.
The Tank's lakeside campsite (with picnic table!)
 The topography of the area around Pelican Lake is almost "high desert" in that there are mostly stunted trees and grass vegetation.  I didn't find trails to hike so I mostly got my daily "steps" in by walking the gravel roads in the area.  Temperatures were in the high 80's during the sunny days and the 50's at night.  I would have considered going for a swim until I read this sign by the boat ramp:

"Swimming is not recommended do to Swimmer's Itch..."
I had wondered why I was the sole camper at the lake my whole time there, thinking that the camping loop would be perfect for family campouts but perhaps the inability to swim precluded parents wanting to bring kids there.

Pelican Lake Recreation Area was a great place to camp and fish and I'd put it on my "Will Return" list.  It's too bad about the Swimmers Itch but, truthfully, I seldom swim when I camp so that wasn't a deal breaker for me.  I recommend camping there especially if you like bluegill fishing.

Thanks for reading!