Thursday, April 26, 2012

It Was a Dark and Quiet Night

My top three camping spots, Natural Bridges, Lava Beds, and Datil Well, include two National Monuments and a BLM campground. I recently added another favorite camping spot category: KoAs in the off season.

I was heading for the Midwest, but hadn’t decided on a route. I had two working hypotheses: south toward Salt Lake and camp in Ogden, Utah, where it would probably stay above freezing at night, or east toward Wyoming and camp in eastern Idaho, where it was likely to freeze.

At the turnoff to Salt Lake I opted for less traffic and fewer people: I headed east. The stiff wind that had been tailing me since Mountain Home pushed my car toward Wyoming. After I turned off the interstate and headed for Soda Springs I pulled over and looked through my camping information.

The owner picked up when I called the Montpelier Creek KoA Campground, just outside Montpelier, Idaho. He said they weren’t open yet, but asked what I was looking for. He must have been worried about me finding a tenting spot, because he said they could make an exception for me. One bathroom and shower were open--that was all I needed.

Both owners were working in the store when I arrived. The man I had spoken to was remodeling the store and his wife was in the office wrestling with the books. They said that the new version of the store would be the third iteration so far. He was a man with at least three working hypotheses.

The Montpelier Creek Campground can’t let every lone traveler stay during the off season, so it was a special treat. "It’s beautiful in the summer,” the man said of the campground. He offered to turn the lights on for me at night, but I told him not to bother.

I drove to a site in the far back corner, where some small trees blocked the wind. I passed the silent playground, the empty swimming pool, and the picnic tables stacked inside the outdoor kitchen.

The bath- room was spotless and warm. The show- ers had ample hooks and a wide shelf. (FYI camp- ground owners: one hook and a 12" x 3" shelf are not enough for my clothes, towels, toiletries, headlamp, and the copy of War and Peace I finished while waiting for a shower to open up. You're just begging me to walk to and from the shower naked.)
The owners said that the bath- rooms aren’t the only places with flat screen TVs--the one-room cabins and the lodges, complete with bath- rooms, also have cable TV.

It was chilly enough that I slept in the car. If I had set up my tent I would have been serenaded by the creek that runs in front of the cabins and lodges. Other than an occasional car on the highway, it was a quiet night in the dark campground.

(The bridge across the creek is not vertical. The new Blogger interface might have a few bugs in it. [There were no bugs in the campground.])

The dawn chorus woke me the next morning. A swallow buzzed me as I walked along the creek, a pair of magpies patrolled the grounds, male robins conducted bidding wars for prime real estate, and woodpeckers tried to drill insects out of the metal electrical boxes. A great blue heron took off from the creek and gained altitude across the campground.

I stopped for coffee and a bagel at Aho’s Espresso Deli. All four tables were occupied, so I sat with a woman whose husband had worked for the railroad in Montpelier. “Passenger trains?” I asked. “Yes,” she said. “We used to have several a day.”

“So you stayed at the campground last night?” she asked. “It’s beautiful during the summer.”