Thursday, September 12, 2013

My first mistake was...

After spending a great night in City of Rocks, I headed off for the next stop, Massacre Rocks State Campground. I had made a reservation there for Wednesday night.

Massacre Rocks is a narrow section of the Snake River Valley were, legend has it, it was easy for Indians to attack settlers passing through. The narrowness means the campground is squeezed in between the river and the interstate. Not isolated, like City of Rocks, but an easy stop on the way to Thursday’s campground in Bear Lake, Utah.

Rather than backtrack up highway 77 to Burley and then drive east on I-86 toward American Falls, I chose a longer, more leisurely route south on highway 81, down into Snowville, Utah, then north on highway 37. It looked more interesting on the map than it turned out to be. You don’t know if you don’t go. But I got this photo along the way.

When I got to the entrance of Massacre Rocks, I got out my laptop to check the screen shot of my reservation to see what the space number was. But there was no screen shot. I double and triple checked. And, since there was no wifi (of course) I couldn’t go back to the reservation service site to get the info.

Then I quadruple checked my screen shots and saw that, oh, my Wednesday (and Thursday) reservation was for Bear Lake.

Oh yeah, now I remember. I had changed my mind about Massacre Rocks.

It was 5:45 PM. And it was about 2.5 hours to Bear Lake. I could get there before dark, right?

But dark beat me. It had been overcast all day and getting heavier. By the time I rolled through Montpelier, Idaho, the sun was as good as gone. At it was drizzling.

A series of little towns, with vindictively low speed limits, slowed progress along the west shore of Bear Lake. It got darker and wetter, which made it harder to see things like lines on the pavement or campground signs.

I knew the Utah campgrounds were scattered around the lake, but I couldn’t remember the exact location of the one I needed. Data on the cell phone was so slow it was almost impossible to pull up any maps. I asked directions. No one had heard of the campsite.

It was raining rather steadily by now. I drove from the west side of the lake, around the south end and up the east side until I was in Idaho again. No sign if Big Creek State Campground. But I saw deer, rabbits and owls.

It was past 9:30.

I turned around and drove back to Garden City. I considered going back to Montpelier and getting a room. But I went into the Subway/convenience store/gas station at the junction to US-89. I asked the night manager (an older coot than me who should know everything about the area) if he knew where Big Creek campground was.


“Then do you mind if I just crash in the parking lot?”

“Fine with me.”

So I did.

Since it’s the off-season, things were pretty quiet.

I woke early and tried researching the location of the campground online. After struggling with a slow connection I finally found a review that solved the problem. The campground was adjacent to Rendezvous Beach, which I had passed twice. The big sign at Rendezvous Beach had said nothing about Big Creek. I swore at the Utah Department of Natural Resources and the reservation service they use,, for not including this fact anywhere in their literature. The map they provide shows only the entrance road, not what it connects to.

The rain had stopped and there was enough light to see where I was going. I found the campground and my slot. I slept for two more hours.


  1. I hope you're getting a volume discount on they'll kill you on tour otherwise. Still have little envelopes and a drop box to drop money in at the sites otherwise? Is your tent bear proof with the doors open? Maybe invest in a satphone for those out of the way moments.

  2. I'm realizing that reservations probably aren't necessary now that it's off season -- particularly midweek.