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National Park Road Trip 2011: Looking Back Over All The Miles...

There was plenty of snow in Paradise when David and Kay Scott reached Mount Rainier National Park during their cross-country adventure to gather information for updating their book on national park lodges. Photo of the Paradise Inn by David and Kay Scott.

Editor's note: How did you spend your summer? David and Kay Scott traveled nearly 11,000 miles, visited 29 units of the National Park System, and toured 62 lodges as they gathered material to update their book, The Complete Guide To The National Park Lodges.  Here's a recap of what they found.

Greetings to Traveler readers who followed our 3-month 2011 national park road trip. Our creaking bones have recovered following the return home a little over a month ago. We mentioned in our last posting from Mammoth Cave National Park that we would provide a trip summary.

We also want to mention some of the biggest surprises we encountered while visiting America’s national park lodges.

During the trip we received several reader comments asking about the upcoming edition of The Complete Guide to the National Park Lodges. The seventh edition is scheduled for publication in February 2012, although our experience has been that these dates are fluid, so we are guessing March. Who knows?

We have been told the new edition will be all color, including color lodge photos replacing current black and white sketches that have graced previous editions. We suppose this is progress although we have always liked the sketches.

So, the summary of our summer trip:

* Miles traveled - 10,700

* MPG on the RAV4 (manual transmission) - 33.4

* States visited - 24

* National park units visited - 29

* National park lodges visited - 62

* Nights spent in national park lodges - 53

* Savings using the Interagency Senior Pass - $348 (a better investment than the stock market)

* Temperature range 28 F. at Grand Canyon’s North Rim to 105 F. in Badlands NP Some highlights and surprises of the trip:

* A mountain lion walking across the Chisos Mountains Lodge (Big Bend National Park) registration building’s outside patio while we stood a short distance away talking with lodge manager Danny Ferguson. This was our first sighting of a mountain lion in the wild.

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The long-familiar cabins at Badlands National Park are on their way out. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

* The familiar cabins at Cedar Pass Lodge in Badlands National Park are to be replaced with new wooden cabins being manufactured in nearby Rapid City, South Dakota. Work is expected to begin in October with the new cabins being ready for occupancy at the beginning of the 2012 season. We will miss the funky old stucco units that seemed a good fit for the park.

* The substantial reduction in room rates at Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lake National Park (part of -Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park) since our visit three years ago. Lakeside rooms declined in price from $345 to $269. Room rates at national park lodges are occasionally reduced a little from year to year, but not like this.

* The impressive renovations at Zion Lodge to both the Western cabins and lodge rooms subsequent to our 2008 visit to Utah’s Zion National Park. Concessionaires generally rotate major renovations among different room types over longer periods. Let’s hear it for Xanterra.

* The amazing amounts of snow we encountered at several parks, particularly Mount Rainier. The Paradise area of Mt. Rainier received 75 feet of snow this winter and snow banks around Paradise Inn in June were immense. Snow banks around Crater Lake Lodge were only slightly smaller.

* The new camper cabins brought into the Manzanita Lake area of Lassen Volcanic National Park. We didn’t expect new lodging in our favorite area of Lassen after the old lodge was razed in the 1970s. The cabins have propane heat, but no bathrooms or electricity. Manzanita Lake is perfect for canoes.

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Rockfall dangers have led to the closure of more than a few cabins in the Yosemite Valley. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

* The number of closed cabins at Curry Village in Yosemite Valley. It was eerie walking along the large fenced-off area of closed cabins. Yosemite Valley lodging that has always been scarce has become even more scarce.

* The new buses at Stehekin in Washington’s Lake Chelan National Recreation Area in the North Cascades National Park Complex. We had grown accustomed to the rickety old yellow school buses used in previous trips to transport visitors from Stehekin Landing to Rainbow Falls, Stehekin Valley Ranch, and High Bridge. Spotting the new buses as our boat approached the dock was a real shock.

* The May snowstorm during our stay at the North Rim’s Grand Canyon Lodge. The white blanket of snow at Grand Canyon National Park made the North Rim more beautiful and quieter than usual. A nice surprise was the park’s gas station hadn’t changed gasoline prices since it closed in the fall. This was the cheapest gasoline we purchased all summer.

* The grand new visitor center that has replaced antiquated facility at Mammoth Cave National Park. The new visitor center will be even more impressive when the other half is completed. It seems that we had some idea a new VC was in the works, but had forgotten about it.

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Good to see the red buses rolling at North Cascades National Park. Photo by David and Kay Scott.

By the way, lodging at Mammoth Cave remains one of the biggest bargains in all of national parkdom.

* The enthusiasm of many of the lodge managers for the history of the lodges they oversee. This was certainly true of Tim Mahoney, new manager of Crater Lake Lodge. Despite some of the comments following our article about the lodge, our stays at Crater Lake National Park have been very pleasant and the lodge remains one of our favorites. We could easily spend hours sitting on the back patio staring at the lake and never get bored.

So, that’s about it. We had a good trip, met lots of nice people, learned a lot, and are just about finished with work on the revision. Soon we are off to ride the train across Canada. Bring on the Moosehead, eh!

To rekindle your memories, here are links to last summer's videos:

Badlands National Park

Cedar Pass Lodge   

Big Bend National Park

Chisos Mountains Lodge    

Bryce Canyon National Park

Lodge at Bryce Canyon    

Buffalo National River

Buffalo Point    

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Thunderbird Lodge   

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake Lodge   

Crater Lake Lodge Great Hall  

Crater Lake Lodge Loft Room  

Mazama Motor Inn    

Glacier National Park

Apgar Village Lodge  

Glacier Park Lodge   

Lake McDonald Lodge   

Red Buses Leave Lake McDonald Lodge   

Many Glacier Hotel  

Prince of Wales Hotel Exterior  

Prince of Wales Hotel Interior    

Rising Sun Motor Lodge   

Swift Current Motor Lodge    

Village Inn    

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Lake Powell Resort    

Lake Powell Resort Room

Grand Canyon National Park

El Tovar Suite (South Rim)

Grand Canyon Lodge (North Rim)  

Grand Canyon Lodge Veranda    

Grand Teton National Park

Colter Bay Village    

Dornan’s Spur Ranch Log Cabins   

Flagg Ranch

Jackson Lake Lodge    

Jenny Lake Lodge  

Signal Mountain Lodge

Triangle X Ranch  

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Manzanita Lake Camper Cabins 

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave Hotel and Hotel Cabins   

Mammoth Cave Cottages and Terrace Rooms  

Mesa Verde National Park

Far View Lodge   

Far View Lodge Kiva Room  

Mount Rainier National Park

National Park Inn    

Paradise Inn    

North Cascades National Park Complex

Stehekin Landing Resort   

Stehekin Valley Resort  

Olympic National Park

Kalaloch Lodge   

Lake Crescent Lodge    

Lake Quinault Lodge   

Log Cabin Resort    

Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort   

Oregon Caves National Monument

Chateau at the Oregon Caves    

Chateau Lobby    

Chateau Room    

Ozark National Scenic Riverways

Big Spring Lodge    

Big Spring Lodge Cabin Interior  

Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks

Drive to Cedar Grove Lodge  

Grant Grove Village    

Wuksachi Lodge    

Yellowstone National Park

Canyon Lodge    

Grant Village  

Lake Lodge and Cabins  

Lake Yellowstone Hotel and Cabins  

Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel   

Old Faithful Inn   

Old Faithful Lodge Cabins   

Old Faithful Snow Lodge  


Yosemite National Park

Ahwahnee Hotel   

Curry Village   


Yosemite Valley   

Zion National Park

Zion Lodge

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Have really enjoyed following your adventures this year and last year.  Hoping you take another long trip next year.

JUST TO REMIND READERS: The tour couple featured in this story were treated like "royals"
for a favorable NATIONAL PARK LODGE TOUR Report; so, for ordinary "middle class taxpayers"
My husband and I travel a lot and this is, by far, the worst, experience we've had for the money.

Our reservations were for the day they opened. Checkin was 4:00 but we got there at 3:30 and were told that the rooms were not ready (they've been closed since 10/19/10-you'd think the rooms would be ready). I had made these reservations months before but we were given, I swear, the worst room in the hotel (first floor, next to the ice making machine and across from the elevator). To make matters worse, our view was of a snowbank. When I went to the front desk to ask for a better room, another guest on our same floor, asked for the 3rd floor and got it. When I asked, I was told that the 3rd floor had been booked for months which belied what I had just seen happen; when that was pointed out, the front desk just ignored the issue.

Additionally, Crater Lake Lodge does not have cell phone access, wi-fi or phones in the room. After the trip, I got on their website to see whether I had just missed this info and they did not advertise this info - the latter!

My husband ordered a beer in the Great Hall and found it was the smallest beer I have ever seen served. Dinner was expensive and bland (both mine and my husbands).

I will give them this. When I was so fed up that I wanted to cancel the 2nd night without penalty, they let me.

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