Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Overnight Camping in a Sheepherder's Wagon

Here is something you don't see every day: an authentic sheepherder's wagon, available as an overnight rental.

The Girl Camping Girls encountered this unusual accommodation at a place called Mavens' Haven in Lucille, Idaho, on the Salmon River. It costs $50 a night.

Inside the wagon is an amazingly well-used dedication of space. A kitchenette and wood-burning stove are at your right as you enter. Along that long wall is a bench seat, part of which lifts up to reveal a commode for nighttime use.

To your left as you enter is this vanity area, complete with handmade soaps.

There's a step up to the bed that's up in the front half of the wagon. The rear window lets in plenty of light.

Here's another sheepherder's wagon on the same property, used as accommodation for an apprentice to the resident herbalist.

Another reason why we think Girl Camping travel is so great: You never know what will be around the next corner!

Addendum: The late Wally Byam, inventor of the Airstream and the pioneer of contemporary RV travel, was inspired by the rolling comfort and efficiency of sheepherder wagons. He tended sheep in Oregon as a boy, staying in wagons like those shown above, and remembered them when he set about to create his first travel trailer designs.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Camping Below the Snow Zone

Girl Camping Girl and many of her pals live in a part of the interior Northwest that definitely has icy, snowy, cold, and road-dangerous winters. Which generally adds up to trailers put in storage by the end of October and then a 6- or 7-month wait until they can come back out.

This year, a couple of us are trying something different, by taking our trailers to a campsite out of the snow zone, at a much lower elevation (Swiftwater RV Park at White Bird, Idaho), and leaving them set up there for use during the winter.

The climate change is dramatic because the change of country is dramatic. Here's what part of the elevation change looks like from river level (the Salmon, to be exact--same river running behind the two trailers above).

And here's what the elevation change looked like from the top of the 7% mountain grade we had to descend in order to get there. (Here's where you appreciate air brakes on your truck, and the best road-gripping tires that money can buy.)

We wound down to river level after crossing this long bridge over a canyon.

Then we got the trailers parked and settled in with about an hour of daylight to spare.

Next on the agenda:

A toast to our arrival in one piece!

We set out to meet some of the campground neighbors. They turned out to be hunters who were driven off a nearby mountaintop by too many inches of wet and wind-driven snow.

They stayed warm with the woodstove in their wall tent, and we stayed warm with the electric fireplace in ours.

It was pre-Halloween weekend, so we had to start our Saturday with a cup of the appropriate venom.

We put the Big Dog on duty.

Then we set out to do some local exploring. We found this sculpture, made of 'river junk' dredged up near old mining operations.

We saw fishing boats, both in use and tied up waiting for their next trips.

We found this monument to the cavalry troopers who died during the first battle of the Nez Perce War, in 1877.

Taking an alternate route back to the top of the highway grade, we marveled at the depths of the canyons in this part of idaho.

We drove back down along the river, where we encountered this sheepherder's wagon used as an overnight rental. It was adorable!

No shortage of local color, and the burgers were great, too.

Back at the trailers, we tucked in to watch 'Casablanca.'

And enjoyed a campfire (because what is camping, without one?)

With our trailers tucked into a neat spot for the next 5 months, we drove home without them (nice for going back up that grade!) Hugs, waves, and...

...we'll be back!

Friday, October 26, 2012

From Empty Airstream to Cozy Cabin--On a Dime

Here is the living/dining room area of Girl Camping Girl's big ol' Airstream, outfitted as a cozy cabin-- after a frugalista makeover.

The whole front area of the trailer had already been gutted down to the wooden subfloor. So, first step: Prime it, then paint with two coats of a good floor paint.

Next, since the original drapery was gone, too, shop the house/shop the other trailers to find window coverings that will work. Layer coordinated area rugs on the floor--acquired at a moving sale, just waiting to find a new use. Add sofa bed, donated by a relative, at front end of the room, move small table elsewhere.

Use mini electric fireplace (also a currently owned household item) for heat source and for atmosphere. Include lamp and print from thrift store, and spare armchair from the house.

Grand total: Under $200, about half of which was paint and supplies.

Which leaves enough in the wallet to spring for a good bottle of camping whiskey!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Winter Put-Away Time

In the Girl Camping world, our least-favorite day of the year is when the trusty trailer has to be put away for winter. (Yes, Virginia, those really are snowflakes.)

Not only does it mean a long wait until spring, this final surrendering to the cold/damp season adds up to a chores list:

* Drain and blow out water lines, if the trailer is self-contained.
* Remove anything else from the trailer----canned goods, sunscreen, what have you----that could freeze and burst.
* Remove bedding, decorative pillows, and probably the curtains, too.
* Look for and seal up any possible entry points for those meeces we hate to pieces. Remove any paper goods or other items that mice could chew up and nest in.
* Put D-Con or other rodent bait in strategic places (if so inclined). Girl Camping Girl's theory: Better safe than sorry, cuz it it only takes one mouse to eat, poop and pee the heck up out of your trailer over a winter's time. And that one's probably pregnant, for more of the same.
* Some folks swear by the use of Bounce dryer sheets, placed inside the trailer, as a rodent deterrent. However, pans this idea as an urban myth, so just sayin'--you might not want to rely on this alone to keep mice from damaging the interior of your trailer.
* Place a moisture-absorber product, like DampRid, in the trailer. Or if you have power access, plug in a dehumidifier (which you will need to check and empty periodically throughout the winter).

GCG's good fortune in having a big roof is moderated by the gravel-on-dirt parking surface. Moisture is constantly rising and hitting the undersides of the trailers. To help combat this, GCG lays and anchors enough large tarps to cover the gravel. This helps the moisture issue considerably.

Minus covered storage, there's also the matter of putting on the RV cover or tarp.

Parking tip in this case, of particular value if your trailer has a flat roof: Block your wheels securely, then jack the front up to a point higher than level, so that rain can run and snow can slide off the back. Otherwise, it'll pool or stack, and eventually could get heavy enough to damage the roof.

If using tarps, tarp carefully down the entire back, so you don't inadvertently end up directing ruffoff right onto at the rear window or other important areas.

If you have any other put-away tips to pass along, please do!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My First Vintage Travel Trailer

You know that line in the 'Pretty Woman' movie, where Julia Roberts asks Richard Gere how come he knows so little about cars, and he replies that his first car was a limousine?

My first trailer was an Airstream.

Not just any Airstream, but a 1970s behemoth that takes up 33 linear feet of parking room and weighs 5,600 pounds before you put anything in it. Takes a one-ton truck to pull her on anything but flat, straight road. Which there is none of where I live.

'So why something THAT big?' you might ask.

Because it was an Airstream. And because that's as much as I knew about vintage travel trailers at the time (except for the fact that I'd fantasized about having one for most of my adult life).

It didn't occur to me that with tow vehicle, this was going to be about 50 feet and 8 tons of rig. And not something I was going to hook up and go camping or traveling with on a whim.

It also didn't occur to me I wasn't going to be rehabbing a camping trailer--I was going to be remodeling a house. And that this was most likely going to take years. Years in which I would not have any time left to go camping.

Those realities would set in soon enough, and my first trailer-love found its purpose as a seasonal guest house/cabin/studio (I'm sitting in her right now, writing this post).

My second trailer--LOL--was this one:

Monday, October 8, 2012

Modeling Our Motto: Live Now, Be Free

We've got to hand it to ourselves: When we get wind of the slightest possibility of a new Girl Camping adventure, we don't let the mundane stand in the way of obeying that call of the wild.

Sure, we could stay home and catch up on the laundry, or whatever. But it's not the Girl Camping way.

Why wallow around in anything that resembles a rut (half a day wasted on Facebook, anyone?), or keep pressing that 'Someday' button--when what you'd really be doing is wasting one of the days you have left to:

Live now, be free.

We're not talking about a heedless dump of your duties. You know what they are, and when you MUST do them instead of seeking a new bridge to cross.

But we are talking about carpe diem--'seize the day'--as a motivating point of view.

So revisit that place that speaks to your heart. Or take that drive into unfamiliar territory.

Get the RV--small or big, vintage or new--if that's what you want to do. 

Trade your fears for your freedom. Try out that new activity trail you've been eyeing.

 Been waiting for a sign? OK--you've got one! Let us know how you decide to fill it in.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Discovery: Off-Season Camping on the Salmon River

Native Americans of the interior Northwest had the right idea: In spring and summer, they lived in the northern mountainous areas that offer warm days and cool nights. As fall came on and led to winter, they moved farther south, down to sheltered areas along the free-flowing, salmon-filled rivers.

Which is exactly how Girl Camping Girl and a few smart friends plan to turn their camping obsession into a year-round thing.

'Girl Camp South' just got established on the Salmon River, at a sweet little RV park outside the snow zone.

The park, flanked by sheltering canyon walls, lies just to the left of the bridge, above.

With big shade trees, a pretty lawn, and a fishing beach just steps away, it's a lovely spot.

The park has a winter storage plan that allows for leaving a trailer on-site by a power hook-up. Owners can come and stay any time, with access to the park's super-clean bathrooms, showers and laundry. The campfire area is under the riverside gazebo.

The river rolls smoothly behind the park but drops into rapids as it passes under the bridge. (The Salmon, also known as the River of No Return, is one of the most praised and popular rafting rivers in the world. Steelhead fishermen love it, too.)

On the initial tryout weekend, GCG and friends loved falling asleep to the sound of 'river music.'

They watched a full moon rise over the east canyon wall and sink behind the west wall. They got the binoculars out to investigate the modern-day homesteads established on the canyon benches.

They also marked some territory, as Girl Campers are wont to do.

They'll be back. Because this year, the Girl Camping Girls and friends finally have a way to make the winter pass faster!