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Your GPS Won’t Help in Finding This Park

July 30, 2010 by   - () Leave a Comment

Bob Ashley

Lake Woebegon, Minn., the mythical home of public radio host Garrison Keillor on ”Prairie Home Companion’’ that doesn’t show up on anyone’s maps, has nothing on Crystal Crane Hot Springs outside of Burns, Ore.

Rest assured, Crystal Crane, located 25 miles outside of Burns – part hot springs, part RV park — is real.

But good luck finding it.

”There are two national data sets for GPS,” said Bridget Kearney, manager of the hot springs for four years. “Both have us located in the wrong place.”

”One data set will put you 35 miles southeast of us where there are no phones, no homes and no gas stations. It’s a pretty stark situation. The other data set puts you 25 miles north of us, up in the woods. So, we make sure to tell people with RVs who are making reservations not to use their GPS.”

With seven RV sites, the park in the high desert at the top of the Great Basin is small by any standard. But it also has five sleeping cabins and two teepees. ”Business has been really pretty good,” said Kearney. “We are not that expensive and people from places like Portland are sticking closer to home because of the economy.”

A key feature is a 90-foot hot pond with temperatures ranging from 97 to 103 degrees that will hold more than 50 people. Other soaking ponds, some inside cedar-sided private rooms, also are available. “We are a commercial hot springs,” Kearney said, ”but not so overdeveloped that we’re a Euro-hot springs. We’re pretty rustic.”

The hot springs, 2 1/2 hours east of Bend, is busiest during the shoulder seasons when RVers are heading north and south. ”Our busiest season by far is spring,” she said a few days before the Independence Day holiday. ”We’re full on any three-day weekend, but we don’t allow fireworks out here so people come to get away from the booming and banging.”

* * * * *

Spring got off to a late start at Arkansas River Rim Campground and RV Park in Buena Vista, Colo., about 100 miles west of Colorado Springs.

”Nobody’s traveling,” said Jeff Huff, owner of the 38-site park with his wife, Margo. ”May and June were way slower than the previous three or four years. I’m seeing fewer out-of-state travelers.

At 8,200 feet elevation in the Collegiate Peak Mountain Range, the park is seeing more RVers from within a 100-mile range. ”And they are staying for two or three days instead of a week or 10 days,” Huff said.

Besides RV pads, the park also has 12 tent sites and a stick-built rental cabin.

Huff provides free entertainment at the campground, including country rock band Derringer in which he plays guitar and keyboards. ”We packed the house last Labor Day,” he said. ”It was a big event.”

* * * * *

Jerry Francis and his wife Jeri Francis, owners of the appropriately named Double J Campground and RV Park in the Springfield, Ill., suburb of Chatham, in April became an agent for RV rental firm Cruise America. ”We’ve got five units now, but we expect to end up with 10 Class C’s,” said Jerry Francis. ”And business is booming. On weekends it’s hard to find a rig available.

Francis in December closed down a towable RV dealership adjacent to the park because of the economy. ”We liquidated our inventory,” he said.

While RV sales slumped, on the other hand, the 129-site park campground is doing well. ”In the 10 years that we’ve owned the park we’ve not had a ‘down’ month,” Francis said. ”It constantly goes up. Right now, we are seeing more fulltimers.”

RVers are drawn to Double J by its proximity to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. ”And there are other Lincoln attractions,” Francis said. ”They do it very well.”

Springfield also is a focal point for fulltime RVers returning to the area to see family and friends. ”They will often stay here a month or more,” Francis said.

During the winter, Francis paved some of the park’s interior roads and Chatham is installing new water lines and sewer mains. ”I don’t like having my park dug up,” he said, “but the benefit of new pipes is a step forward.”

* * * * *

The peak season is past at Butterfield RV Resort and Observatory 40 miles east of Tucson, Ariz., in Benson.

But there’s still stargazing going on as the 173-site park features a 16-seat observatory equipped with a Meade LX-200 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. The observatory is open to the public three nights a week during the summer – manned by two Workamper astronomers.

”Years ago, the previous owner of the park was an astronomer who built it for his wife so they could have a place to look at the stars,” said Manager LeAnna Bing. ”He started inviting the public in and it just became a public kind of thing.”

Bing arrived at the park with her husband, Mark Estep, one of the astronomers. ”It’s his hobby and the reason we came here is because he wanted to work at the observatory,” she said. Bing started working in Butterfield RV’s office and became park manager in October.

During the winter, there are two shows a night at the observatory, with Estep switching off with amateur astronomer and Workcamper Richard Davis.

”They find what’s prominent in the sky at the time and let everybody get up and look through the telescope while they talk about it,” Bing said. ”We are trying to market the observatory better. There are a lot of astronomy clubs that might come here if they knew about it.”

And while summer is off-peak, the park was busy in early July.

”Actually we’re doing very well this summer,” Bing said. ”A lot of people here for jobs are staying at the park and the weather throughout the U.S. has been bad and people aren’t going home.”

The only rub is that some of the jobs are expected to last more than a year and the park already has reservations for next year that will have to be honored. ”I don’t know where the workers will go next winter because there’s not going to be anywhere to stay,” Bing said.

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RVers have changed during the 28 years that Maggie Dexter and her husband, Donald, have owned Limehurst Lake Campground in Williamstown, Vt.

”We’re seeing younger families in tents and popups and people who are retired,” said Maggie Dexter. ”We’re not seeing the ones in the middle anymore – the ones with kids who have grown but who are not retired yet.”

The 73-site park 15 miles west of the state capital in Montpelier sits on 30 acres and is equipped with a 250-foot waterslide that ends up in a pool – among the first waterslides in an RV park when it was built in 1985.

An 11-acre private lake that can be used without a Vermont fishing license can be plied by rented paddleboats, rowboats and canoes. ”We don’t allow any outside boats because we don’t want any algae to get out there,” Dexter said in early July. “Business has been good this spring, but it’s looking much better because we’re coming into our busy season right now.”

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