Camping Etiquette: Getting Away From Each Other & Doing It Together

Be smart. Be kind. Be considerate.

Since I am writing this article during the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ll start with the caveat that camping etiquette now includes respecting the health of others by maintaining social distancing and sanitary protocols. Much as we crave our former levels of interaction, this is a time when it’s absolutely okay to politely decline an invitation to a potluck or other gathering—unless you know your neighbors well and/or are comfortable with the level of safety precautions that will be taken.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the arrival of summer, one thing is certain. Americans and Canadians will flee the cities by the thousands in search of open space and a chance to get away from the rest of us. The situation is akin to the hippie movement of the ’60s when everyone was being different but doing it all together.

Jack’s Landing RV Resort, Grants Pass, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That means that virtually every campground and outdoor recreation venue within four hours of every major cities will be full each and every weekend—full of people getting away from it all and doing it together.

Eagles Landing RV Park, Auburn, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan ahead and take care of last-minute errands sooner rather than later since a brief stop on the way out of town Friday afternoon could cost you that last available camping spot.

Campground courtesy (the unwritten rules of etiquette) is an easy way to ensure that a group of people living in close proximity together where sounds travel and light can be a disturbance continue to camp together in harmony.

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spending time in a campground requires a certain level of community patience and a willingness to live and let live, there are some basic rules of camping etiquette that will help create a friendly atmosphere and make the camping experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be friendly and greet other campers. Again, this is part of being within the camping community and even though you may not know the other people, you all have a common goal of enjoying the camping experience.

Palm Canyon Campground, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep in mind that I may be in the campground to get away from it all and wish to hear the wind blowing through the aspens, the chatter of squirrels, or perhaps the call of a jay. While I recognize your right to enjoy a little music, I don’t necessarily share your musical taste unless, of course, it’s Willie’s “On the road again…“. That is why they make headphones.

Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In that same vein, remember not all generators are created equal. Some are designed to run very quietly, and others are not. Quiet hours are there for a reason.

Follow the campground rules and regulations. These rules usually include speed limits, fire regulations, quiet times, and so on. Adhering to these rules is one of the basics of campground etiquette. Be sure to review and enforce the rules with your children, as well.

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be considerate when arriving late or leaving early. If you arrive at the campsite after dark or leave before dawn, remember that others may be sleeping. Be as unobtrusive as possible. If setting up, do the least amount you need to get through the night and keep voices quiet and lights dim. If you are leaving early, pack up the bulk of your items the day before so you can make a quick get away with the least amount of disturbance possible.

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Contain yourself and your camping gear and supplies within your campsite area. When you set up your RV, don’t allow slideouts or awnings to extend beyond your site and into the neighboring  area. Keep all belongings, chairs, mats, toys, etc. within your campsite. If you need to place your satellite dish in another campsite in order to receive a signal, ask for permission from the people occupying the site.

Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another common misstep is that of walking through another person’s camp without being invited. Treat other campsites as private property. A campsite is a person’s home away from home. When someone is set up in a campsite, that site becomes their property for the duration of their stay. It is their personal space, and it should be treated that way. Never cut across another occupied site without permission. If the washrooms or beach access are on the other side of a site, walk around.

Lockhart State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be a responsible pet owner. If you are traveling with pets, make sure they are well taken care of. Keep dogs on leashes whenever they are outside so they are not bothering your neighbors and discourage them from barking. Never leave a dog that barks or howls unattended. Clean up after your pet—always.

Deadhorse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Clean up after yourself. When you prepare to exit the campsite, be sure to remove all trash regardless of its origin. Always leave the campsite as clean, or cleaner, than it was when you arrived. The camp host and the next camper will appreciate it.

The bottom line is that camping requires us to respect the land and one another. When it comes down to it, continued success of this ongoing social experiment requires it.

Monahans Sandhill State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Have an enjoyable and safe camping summer.

Worth Pondering…

When Robert Frost declared his intention to take the road less traveled in his 1916 poem “The Road Not Taken,” who could have guessed that so many people would take the same trip?

Uncertain Times?

Few things having to do with travel will be unchanged in the post-coronavirus world, but of all the ways we travel, the road trip may be least affected—at least, from a regulatory standpoint

Travel is one of the easiest ways to relieve stress. The adventure of exploring a new location—or returning to a familiar spot to unplug and relax—is a healthy way to recharge. With so many digital ways to divert ourselves these days, many are looking for meaningful ways to unplug. They’re rediscovering the necessity of just being. 

Middleton Place, Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But as we all work to “flatten the curve” and halt the spread of the coronavirus getting away and finding solace in the freedom of the open road has become difficult.

And now we’re all hopeful the day will come soon when regional and cross-country travel will become normal again. As we head into the summer months of 2020, the aftermath of the stay-at-home orders are affecting the way we think about travel plans and how we spend time outside our homes as safely as possible. 

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What will we all do after this pandemic fades and the need to social distance recedes? As we emerge from The Great Indoors once again to The Greater Outdoors, I know I will approach life with an increased urgency and sense of wonder.

“We’ll get through these uncertain times together.” That’s what every single ad says these days. Have you noticed this as well?

Moody Mansion, Galveston, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But, life has always been uncertain. What are these people talking about? Life is nothing but change. That’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in life.

You see, life was uncertain last year as well…and the year before. So in a way, nothing has changed. We can always count on change. In 2020, things are simply changing faster.

La Sal Mountain Scenic Loop, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the world inches towards recovery, I’ve started thinking about when I will feel good about traveling again. I’m fairly certain that it will be difficult to know with any certainty what’s completely right in the moment. Risk gives decisions consequences. That’s what makes them matter. 

Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I look forward to the moment when I can travel once again and take in the beauty of mountains and deserts, the forests and lakes. Like many people, my life lately has been one of increasing government regulation, a search for normalcy, settling in, neighborhood adventures, and wondering how and when it will all end—all rolled into one.

Picacho Peak (State Park), Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From experience where we are now feels a bit like climbing Picacho Peak’s steep and twisting trail with steel cables anchored into the rock in places where the surface is bare. It’s an uncomfortably temporary place to be. It’s a shaky limbo that lacks the excitement of moving forward and the comfort of being back on solid ground. I’m itching to start moving and doing, not to go back, but to move forward on our way to a new normal. 

Picacho Peak (State Park), Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are many decisions to be made in the coming months about when we can travel and where and how far. These decisions will require our utmost level of critical thinking and risk assessment. But, not today!

Pinnacles National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today I’m here just sitting with it all. Shouting words of hope into the abyss and finding new forms of connection across canyons, across countries, and across the street in my own neighborhood. Will we get through these uncertain times? Yes, yes we can.​

City Market, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sooner than later, the campgrounds and national and state parks around the country will be bustling with like-minded folks eager to embrace the sweet relief of fresh air and colorful sights not available on the flat screen in their living room. Social distancing might be a priority for quite some time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t explore open spaces safely. At the end of the day, you can confidently return to the safety and comfort of your home on wheels.

Snake River, Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Do you know why a vehicle’s WINDSHIELD is so large and the rear view mirror is so small? Because our PAST is not as important as our FUTURE! So, look ahead and move on. 

When Will National Parks Reopen? Some Are Now Open.

From Florida to Utah, national and state parks that have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic have begun detailing how they will reopen

As the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic lockdowns ease and Americans look to hit the road, national and state parks are among the first destinations to welcome them. Three national parks will open their gates in coming days and the National Park Service announced last week that it would start “increasing access and services in a phased approach across all units of the National Park System.”

Petrified Forest National Forest © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In many cases, parks will reopen as they closed—by varying timetables, depending on the park and its region. The agency said the decisions would follow federal CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance as well as that provided by regional and local health authorities.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah opened trails around the red-rock spires of the Bryce Amphitheater on Wednesday (May 6). The main park road and all viewpoints along the way will be open from the entrance to Rainbow Point. However, the visitor center and fee booth, campgrounds, backcountry trails, park concession facilities, and restrooms remain closed (except for one at Sunset Point), a park announcement said.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Everglades National Park in Florida reopened some boat launch ramps, campgrounds, and restrooms Monday (May 4); Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee will allow visitors on most roads and trails starting tomorrow (May 9).

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Everglades reopened access to the main park road from the Homestead entrance to Flamingo; external restrooms at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center; Flamingo Marina and boat launch ramps; Flamingo Marina Store, restrooms, and gas pumps; Flamingo Fish Cleaning Station and restroom; and Chekika Day Use Area (roads and surrounding areas only). In addition, entry fees are waived.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island National Seashore in Georgia reopened their beaches, public docking spaces, and trails this past Saturday (May 2). However, the park’s Ice House Museum, Sea Camp Ranger Station, Plum Orchard Mansion, campgrounds (including wilderness camp sites), the mainland visitor center, and the mainland museum remain closed.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“This has been a very difficult time for our community, our families, and our world. The park is thrilled to be able to take this small step forward with the hope it will help provide some with an opportunity to find peace and joy in visiting the seashore,” said Superintendent Gary Ingram.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park in Utah slowly allowed visitors back into the park on Tuesday (May 5), though some of the most popular areas will remain closed for the time being. The park will reopen access to day use in the South District (Waterpocket Fold) and overnight stays in Cedar Mesa campground, day use in the North District (Cathedral Valley) and overnight stays in Cathedral Valley campground, and non-trailhead Pullouts along Highway 24 for scenic viewing.

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“We are pleased to begin reopening the park to our communities and visitors and hope this helps our local businesses re-open their operations with assurance that the park is moving towards phased re-opening access. We look forward to seeing you in the broad expanses of the northern and southern portions of this spectacular park” said Superintendent Sue Fritzke.

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other national parks with plans to partially reopen this week Include Stone River National Battlefield in Tennessee, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and neighboring Curecanti National Recreation Area in Colorado, Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey, and Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida and Mississippi.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park in Utah recently announced on its Web site that it will be reopening its gates next week (Wednesday, May 13). In a brief message on the park’s website, Zion National Park said it will reopen access to select areas. Access will be day-use and only in select parts of the park that have yet to be specified. Visitor access will be limited to available parking in some areas. Further details have not yet been released, but the park said it will release additional details in the coming days.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some parks never officially closed (like Channel Islands). Some, like Yosemite, are such magnets for visitors that superintendents felt obliged to close them relatively early. Still others, like the Grand Canyon, closed later despite heavy visitor traffic.

At other parks, it’s harder to be sure what’s happening when.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But in hopes of reopening soon, The Xanterra Travel Collection which operates hotels and concessions in a number of parks—including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Zion, Death Valley, and Glacier—said that it would reopen the bulk of its park properties on June 15. 

Check with individual parks for specific details since, in many cases, visitor centers, concessions, and bathroom facilities might be closed.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stay six feet away from others (“social distancing”) and take other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If a park, beach, or recreational facility is open for public use, visiting is okay as long as you practice social distancing and everyday steps such as washing hands often and covering coughs and sneezes. Follow these actions when visiting a park, beach, or recreational facility:

  • Stay at least six feet from others at all times. This might make some open areas, trails, and paths better to use. Do not go into a crowded area.
  • Avoid gathering with others outside of your household.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Bring hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol to use if soap and water are not available
White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That’s it from me for today. Hope you found this edition of RVing with Rex to be enlightening!

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

Tips to Help You Plan Your Post-Coronavirus Road Trip

Everyone has a touch of cabin fever after the worldwide COVID-19 (coronavirus) lockdowns. So it’s no surprise that people want to travel soon. But you’ll want to consider a few new strategies to protect yourself and others.

Rethinking RV travel and changing your perceptions is the key to getting the most out of your next camping adventure. Yes, driving trips are still possible, but the road rules are a little different for now.

Highway 12 Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A good driving trip can teach you something important for your mental health: The world is huge and most of it thrives without the slightest concern for human headlines. As lockdown orders end and isolation recommendations ease, the number of travelers on the roads will increase.

Yes, RV road trips are safe—as long as you take steps to protect both yourself and others.

US-321 between Gatlinburg and Townsend in East Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Road trips in 2020 are not like the road trips that came before. This year requires a bit more planning and patience, not just for your own health but to protect other people as well. If you’re planning a road trip—even one that only lasts a few days—you’ll need to consider several new strategies. Don’t worry. The scenery is the same.

Bring hand sanitizer

Francis Beider Forest, South Carilina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s not possible to have a road trip and not touch anything. You’ll be handling fuel pumps, money at check-outs, credit card/debit terminals, the doorknobs of gas station washrooms, and lots of other unexpected things.

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carry a big bottle of sanitizer in your RV and toad—and keep it out of sight because amazingly there have been cases of muggings and burglary in which hand sanitizer was the target. So hide the stuff as if it were money. For that matter, you might also consider bringing some toilet paper in case some lout ahead of you stole what the gas station had.

Drive carefully

Applegate River Valley, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This sounds like standard advice, but these aren’t standard times. People are not driving normally right now. Traffic-free conditions bring out the worst in drivers who think they don’t have to observe the rules anymore. Some locales have even adjusted the timings on stoplights to enforce traffic calming on overenthusiastic drivers.

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other drivers are traveling slower or more erratic because they’re stressed or they haven’t been behind the wheel much in a while. Even steady drivers are feeling taut as drums because they’re afraid of getting in an accident that will send them to the belly of the beast—i.e., the ER.

Whitehall, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To preserve your sanity and to keep ambulances working on more important jobs, maintain the speed limit and put ample distance between you and the other vehicles on the road.

Plan RV parks ahead of time

River Run RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t assume you can find last-minute RV parks and campgrounds as you travel. It may be possible in some areas but not as easy as it was previously. RV parks are operating in a different way these days. Two new wrinkles affect road trips in particular: Not all private RV parks and public campgrounds are open and not all of them are accepting reservations from non-essential workers and overnight RVers.

On-Ur-Way RV Park, Onowa, Iowa © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So plan your route and nail down your campgrounds ahead of time. (Aren’t you glad you brought that extra toilet paper now?)

Maintain social distance

Bluegrass Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your RV is your domain. You don’t need to worry much about new pathogens appearing in there. But whenever you step outside, Pandemic Rules go back in effect. Keep your distance from everyone.

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refufe, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll need to pack more patience. You may need to wait longer for a scenic viewpoint to empty out. You may need to pass on popular hiking trails that don’t provide enough space. But you will find alternatives—a parking spot that’s a little farther down the road, a vantage point that few others have discovered, and unexpected hidden gems.

Mount Lemmon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We still may not have a cure-all for what’s troubling our bodies, but travel has always been a panacea for troubled minds.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

How to Deal with the Fear of COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

In the worlds of Franklin D. Roosevelt during his First Inaugural Address, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Fear is an emotion that can help us or hurt us. Many of us live with unnecessary fear and worry about the future or past. But fear is also useful. I will not climb giant Sequoias or BASE jump off 876-foot high New River Gorge Bridge. Fortunately, I am ALREADY old and I didn’t get here by being Stupid!

Bartlett Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Should you fear or worry about the coronavirus? If that’s not clear by now, the answer is yes. People who say they are not concerned are either lying or lack self-awareness. It is now clear that this virus is not like a harmless cold or seasonal flu. Most people who write about it do it from a medical or political point of view. I’m not an expert. But just like you, I’m impacted by the coronavirus.

Bernheim Forest, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What I know is that it’s a threat. If it wasn’t, President Donald Trump would not have declared a National Emergency. Italy locked down the whole country, the US banned European travelers, the NBA and NHL are suspended, and so forth. Daily life is essentially coming to a halt. No one wants that. And yet, it happened. Why? Because experts don’t know the real threat of the coronavirus! The future will tell, but it seems like the leaders are making the right decisions.

Creole Nature Trail, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your immune system might handle the coronavirus, but millions of people with weak immune systems might not survive. 

The fear that this coronavirus causes is in our best interest. Fear makes us alert. The whole world is alert. That’s a good sign. We need to be worried right now.  And that’s exactly why I’m NOT worried long-term.

White Sands National Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When something bad happens to us, our first response is always fear. That’s the tool the creator gave us to survive. Without fear, we would all be dead. When we’re afraid, we start working on solutions. We have the urge to survive. We become alert, we think about ways to make things better.

Kingston, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dr. Michael Warner, Medical Director of Critical Care at Michael Garron
Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, speaks out about her grave concern s about COVID-19:

“We have lessons to learn from the experience of Italy. Hospitals in the wealthy, industrialized area around Milan cannot offer life support to patients over 65 as they don’t have enough ventilators. Without radical changes to our community behavior, we may be in the same situation.

Botany Bay Plantation, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“COVID-19 is an impending North American healthcare CRISIS which has the very real potential to strain our healthcare systems well beyond capacity. Some people continue to downplay the risk of the current situation. Regardless of what you are reading or politicians are saying, I simply want you to know that the COVID-19 situation is dire and may soon be completely out of control.

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Healthcare resources are finite and thus we will not be able to provide care for all who become ill. In addition to COVID-19-related deaths, there will be collateral damage among patients who need care for other, treatable ailments, and will be unable to receive it.

Highway 12 Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Fortunately, you can do something to help. The only hope to slow the virus is based on community behavior—that’s you, your neighbor, your family—everyone. Begin social distancing NOW—do not wait for a politician to tell you it is necessary. This only works if started early and taken very seriously. This means avoid ALL close contact with people unless necessary.

  • Never shake hands and wash your hands frequently
  • Cancel/avoid all travel
  • Close schools, universities, daycares, and businesses that aggregate people in close proximity
  • Avoid contact with those 65+ especially those who are frail and those with chronic diseases
  • Don’t attend any large gatherings, sporting events, religious services
  • Work from home whenever possible
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Only by everyone’s working collectively can we hope to change the trajectory of this pandemic. The current risk to the individual remains low, but the risk to society is immeasurable.”

You may find comfort in these words from Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky:

  • Every hand that we don’t shake must become a phone call that we place
  • Every embrace that we avoid must become a verbal expression of warmth and concern
  • Every inch and every foot that we physically place between ourselves and another, must become a thought as to how we might be of help to that other, should the need arise
Ridgeview National Wildlife Refuge, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

―Marie Curie