Tuesday, August 10, 2010

WARNING: Rant Below!

Normally, if something has to do with the government, I'm not crazy about it. A good example is the post office and how they treat my family so poorly when they do business there. Of course, that's an unfair assessment because it's the people and not the system, but it's hard not to believe they don't train them to act that way. Amtrak is another example of the government messing up something so much that it makes me not want to use their services. However, there are a few exceptions. One is that Rick has worked for the government for the past 25 years. That's not to say it hasn't been without headaches, hassles, and heartbreaks. And two, the national park service. I love the NPS and I support them, though sometimes their politics tick me off too.

Yesterday we spent the day in Glacier National Park. It's about an hour away from our house. We took the kayaks in Lake McDonald and paddled to our favorite little beach along the shore. We had a picnic, swam, and relaxed in the sun. Rick and the boys did some fishing. Nathan even caught a rainbow trout. The boys had a blast catching frogs along the shore, too. We all had a lot of fun. No one else was on the little beach that we'd taken over. Occasionally, a small fishing boat would go by or some other kayakers. Everyone waved and went out their business. We all got a little sun finally, though Rick got too much sun because he said I was mean and wouldn't put sunscreen on his back. All in all, it was a great day.

After we got back in the van, we decided to drive west to check out a campground that Rick's been wanting to go to. It's just outside of the park boundaries, on the North Fork River, so there's a place to put our boats in and then pull out at the campground. We decided to check it out to see if that was something we wanted to do. When we entered, we slowed down at the campground host's spot, but she didn't even bother to look up at us. She was too busy sweeping her dirt. It's not like she didn't hear us because we have a diesel van and those things aren't quiet. So, we drove through to see if there were places big enough for our trailer. Then we went to the boat launch to see what that was like. We basically just wanted to see how fast the river was running and if we felt we could maneuver it with our kayaks. The boys and I got out to look at the water. We had no intention of staying more than 5 minutes.

Rick heard the rumble of a four-wheeler and knew it was going to be the host, so he stayed up by the ramp. Sure enough, we hadn't been there a minute before Ms. Dirtsweeper roared up in all her glory. I looked back and by the tones and hand motions, I knew it wasn't a happy conversation, so I decided to keep the boys with me. A few minutes later, Ms. Dirtbag rumbled away in a cloud of dust and Rick said we had to leave or pay $4. WTF? Even after explaining what we were doing, she still insisted that we pay the $4 day use fee. Now, I totally understand her coming up to us. A big van with 2 kayaks on the top, parking at the boat launch -- of course she should come up. But for her to insist on us paying the fee for just looking at the water was freaking ridiculous. We had no intention of going in the river, or even staying inside the campground. All she had to say was, "Okay, that's fine, but if you decide to hang out for awhile, just come up and fill out the envelope for day use." That's it. Instead of looking like an absolute ass with an attitude, she would have appeared helpful and given us a positive feeling for the campground. But no -- pay the $4 fee or get the hell out.

This is EXACTLY why I don't like private campgrounds. It drives Rick crazy because there are so many private places around that we've never been to. I'd rather drive an hour to the west side of Glacier or even 2.5 hours to the east side to stay in the park. We have NEVER been hassled in the NPS. That's not the case in the local places. We've been approached by people to make sure we've had our life jackets on, which unless you're fricken BLIND, it's obvious that we're WEARING them. Rick's been approached while fishing, scaring all the fish away, just to make sure he has a license. We like to kayak and that's hard when you have speed boats zooming past you. I've been on local lakes in a near panic trying to paddle as fast as I can to get out of the way of some idiot. The bigger the lake, the faster the boats. And, the faster the boats, the bigger the idiots driving them. So, because of that, I prefer the lakes in the NPS because they don't allow high speed boats.

And then you have those tiny forest service campgrounds in the middle of nowhere that don't charge a fee. No fee = riffraff. {{insert Dueling Banjos here}} Now, I know I'm no better than anyone else, so I don't think I'm entitled to something bigger or better, but I don't go out of my way to make other people miserable. I don't stand in a lake and yell, "I'm peeing! I'm peeing! Oooh, it's so warm!" Yeah, true story. That happened on Sunday when Rick took the boys fishing at a lake nearby. I also don't let my kids run through other people's campsites like animals, be too loud, or disrespect other people's space or property. Some of these other places seem to attract the worst type of people. Sure, there are idiots in the NPS too, but not as many. They had to pay to get IN the park and even more if they want to camp there. National parks don't seem to attract the partiers like the other campgrounds. And this just isn't a Montana thing. It was the same in California. I lived 5 minutes from a lake, but was willing to drive 6 hours to go someplace else. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why.

But on a positive note -- we had a great time inside the park, even after the Ms. Dirtsucker experience. Right as we left that campground, we saw a bald eagle in a tree and Rick got some great pictures. Then we drove back into the park and went up to the Lake McDonald Lodge area and had dinner at the pizzeria. On our way out of the parking lot we saw three big bucks with velvety antlers. We stopped to look around a gift store and then saw an enormous thunderstorm off in the distance. On our way out of the park there was the most amazing sunset and I got some great pictures. But still, Ms. Dirtbag simply justified why I'm always willing to drive the extra hour, 6 hours, even 3 days to go to the national parks.


  1. People are just stupid. I don't like to go to lakes to fish if there are a ton of people for the same reasons as you. They're loud, obnoxious and stupid. Glad you have fun otherwise.


  2. Sorry you had to deal with Ms Dirtsweeper on your family outing...people like that should NOT work with the public...Hugs...

  3. Hi There Rena,
    That's for that well-written piece! It's unfortunate how we can have our serenity disturbed through disturbing behaviors of others. I like the national parks too. They are simply on another level when it comes to park experiences. I'm campground hosting now at California regional and state parks and quite enjoying it. You would be surprised what we encounter in a day in regards to the behaviors of our fine public.

  4. I meant "thanks" for the well-written piece.

  5. Thanks, Levonne. I apologize for putting campground hosts in a bad light. That was just one experience. I realize you guys have to deal with so much. I see it all around me when I'm out camping myself. I wish people would be a little more respectful, but I guess many have that "I'm on vacation and I'll do whatever I want" attitude. Too bad a few ruin it for so many. But this won't stop us from camping or enjoying the outdoors. It's too awesome to let a few bad eggs ruin it for us. :)

  6. It sounds like this experience didn't ruin the trip for you and I'm glad. Sorry, you had to go through that.

  7. We have had similar things happen here in Washington state as well. We stopped and asked if we could drive in to the site to see what the park waslike and that we just wanted to do a quick drive through. We were told no we had to pay the day use fee or the over night camping fee for the other side of the camp grounds. We said but we just want to drive through and come right back out! They then said we could do it if one person drove through and left the rest of us waiting at the pay station! OK we had my MIL and FIL, me, hubby, Robert who was 12 and Megan who was 15 aand has a wheel chair. We said forget about it!