Leavenworth, WA: From KOA hell, to Icicle River paradise - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 05-03-2015, 01:44 PM   #1
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Leavenworth, WA: From KOA hell, to Icicle River paradise

After owning our Escape for eight months, we're still new at the campsite procurement game, as our experience this weekend shows.

After three long days of driving back toward BC from southern Utah, we decided to relax for two nights in Bavarian-themed Leavenworth, WA, before crossing the border. We didn't have reliable wi-fi to research campground options, so we phoned the Leavenworth KOA and reserved for a "quiet, level site". When we got there, our assigned site was tiny, located in the noisiest part of the C.G., and sloped beyond the ability of our levelers to correct. We had just grocery shopped, and needed the fridge to run.

When we explained this to the teenager running the place, she directed us to a level site in the woods at the far end of the C.G., and explained it was vacant because it was hard to back into. That it was, but we managed to dodge the trees and boulders and position the 21' on the site. We had not even unhitched, though, when the ground began to shake, announcing the arrival of 12 Harley Davidsons and their 18 leather-clad riders and passengers. Once the bikes were parked, and re-parked, and parked again, they decided the tent site right next to us would be ideal as their communal social area for the night. They were nice folks, but as the booze appeared from their saddlebags, it was clear they were not there to play Scrabble that evening.

So, back to the KOA teenager-in-charge we went, and explained that she had met our request for a level sight, but that our request for quiet had suffered a bit of a setback. To her credit, she cited a policy that states if you can't find a suitable site, KOA will refund your entire deposit. So we headed down the road, homeless in the Cascades at 6:30pm on a Saturday night.

But not for long. We decided to drive across Hwy. 2 all the way to the coast, if necessary, in search of a decent C.G., but hadn't even left Leavenworth when we spotted the sign for the Icicle River RV Resort, so we headed a few miles down Icicle Road to find it. As we drove up to the office, we were greeted by the friendly camp host, who fetched the equally friendly registration person who showed us three available sites, all of them attractive. We chose a back-in with a partial view of the Icicle River, and set up for two very enjoyable nights sleeping among the trees, lulled by the sound of the river. To top off our good fortune, the cost was $30 less for the two nights than the KOA was charging. (Our other gripe with the KOA was that their directory advertised a free shuttle to town, a pool, hot tub, and a few other amenities, but didn't mention that none are available until later in May).

So what's the moral of the story? It's not "KOA sucks", because we had stayed at some decent ones. Is it "only go to campgrounds run by adults"? Or "bikers rule -- buy a Harley and leathers, stock up on Jack Daniels, and go camping"? Or it might be "it's wise to do research early and book state, provincial, or national park sites whenever possible". Or it could be " a setback can sometimes lead you to a nice camping experience".

OK, I've vented. If you're read this far, we would be interested to hear of roller-coaster-type experiences folks have had while seeking a space to camp, or anyone's thoughts on what the moral of our tale actually is.

Here's a link to Icicle River's website:
Tour Our Park

Brent and Cheryl.
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Old 05-03-2015, 02:26 PM   #2
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Brent and Cheryl, you certainly found a great place after so much trouble. It paid in more ways than one to move on.

We do try to get the Corps of Engineers campgrounds for the low price (half if senior so $9 or $10) and the usually much better surroundings, and other public places such as state parks. The state and federal campgrounds have what one would look for in a good camping experience to us. The private ones have the amenities that are needed once in a while and since they often cost much more, we are too cheap to want to pay for them.

It just depends on your route and mileage as to what is around. Trying to get the route to match your kind of campground can be impossible at times. We always have a little of everything on any big trip by necessity, but public beats private as far as what we want. That said, you can get some great private ones, too, but there is a good chance an even better public one is not far.

Cathy. Floating Cloud
"Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air.... "
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Old 05-03-2015, 02:40 PM   #3
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I realize there are some "nice KOA's", but in my limited camping experience, I have yet to find one. One of the things I loved about our last campground, Skyline Ranch RV Park in Bandera TX, was the HUGE sign out front that reads "no loud motorcycles", as well as the campground brochure which states in large letters on the front cover that they are "a quiet park" and that they "treasure their peace and quiet - no loud music or noises tolerated." I realize others might not mind, but if I wanted a loud drunken party I'd go to a biker bar, not a campground.
"You can't buy happiness, but you can buy an RV. And that is pretty close."
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Old 05-03-2015, 03:57 PM   #4
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Camp sites are just like restaurants: the more you pay, the less you really get. On our two week traipse through the South West the best sites were either free or minimal. Our absolute favourite site cost $6 with a National Parks Pass. The worst sites cost up to $60 and usually offered a view of the highway with matching audio track. On our way back I stopped at Costco in Oregon (no sales tax!!) and picked up a Garmin GPS. When we got home I downloaded 20,000 campground locations from POI Factory. Great for making spur of the moment decisions. Hopefully we'll be able to find camp sites away from I-5 the next time.
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Old 05-03-2015, 04:00 PM   #5
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There are two things that we learned during our 49 nights camping in our Escape from Chilliwack to NC: 1. Don't believe campground full signs. 2. There is a difference between campers and vacationers with tents. And as mentioned above, public is usually as good or better than private.
Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything - Charles Kuralt
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Old 05-03-2015, 04:30 PM   #6
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We once camped in a national forest in Sedona which was fine for most nights, but then -- the night the hosts were off -- two youngish couples pulled into the site next to ours -- we were in a tent at the time -- and when it got dark, they opened their car doors and turned on the car radio -- LOUD! When I approached them, one of the guys basically said that for the rest of the year he has to obey the rules in his condominum and this is his one opportunity to let it all hang out and he didn't care what we thought. I probably should have sucked it up but a half hour later I walked over to their campfire and said that since I couldn't sleep I was going to hang out at their party. (we had two kids in our tent). That got their attention and they turned off the radio.

Ever since, I've been afraid to camp in National Forests, which is probably ridiculous. But it was a big reason we got a camper -- The truth is, when we go away for long stretches of time -- say 3 months -- there are probably only two or three nights when sleep is disturbed, but I tend to remember them. And last summer in two months of camping I don't think we had a single bad night. We tend to stay at RV parks when we're moving fast and while they might be short on ambiance, often they are less crowded than the state parks because so many of the campsites are seasonal and the people aren't there.
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Old 05-03-2015, 05:40 PM   #7
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A couple things - my goto "find a place" resource is now www.campendium.com. It's a new site, but I've been impressed with the accuracy of the information. Second, and more specific, my goto place on Highway 2 is the Wenatchee River County Park in Monitor. Neat, clean, very affordable, and nicely located between Wenatchee and Leavenworth.
John Schroeder
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Old 05-03-2015, 05:43 PM   #8
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I think we've all been there. What's so annoying is that sometimes you're already settled in and thinking how nice the place is. Then the visitors start arriving at what looked like a nice quiet couple in the next campsite. A pickup with a monster BBQ in the back, a sound system that makes your trailer vibrate and a pit bull that hops out and runs snarling into the next campsite while the bozos yell, "don't worry, he doesn't bite". The realization starts sinking in; this place has no future for us and packing up starts.


Disclaimer: this is a true story, Lewiston State Park last year
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Old 05-03-2015, 05:56 PM   #9
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If you ever get a chance, stay at the KOA in the Badlands NP in South Dakota. It is one of my favorites with large dog area, level sites and pancake breakfasts. Oh, the Badlands and the stars at night are unbelievable, it is the closest thing to walking on the moon you will ever achieve.
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Old 05-03-2015, 06:17 PM   #10
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Ok, I'll note that for next summer's trip. Maybe we'll hit SD on our way back from the 2016 Escape Rally. Wife has never seen Rushmore or some of the sites.

"You can't buy happiness, but you can buy an RV. And that is pretty close."
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