Loft Mountain Campground
Shenandoah National Park, VA
TRAVEL DAY - 60.4 milesLURAY KOA HOLIDAY PARK
LOFT MOUNTAIN CAMPGROUND
This past Thursday at noon Shenandoah National Park closed down due to the weather threat that Hurricane Florence posed. We were planning on moving that day anyway, but not out of the park, and certainly not to a KOA campground. After checking around the nearby private campgrounds that were available to us the KOA seemed like the logical choice. It was the closest campground outside the park, but not the cheapest. Up until this point on our trip we were averaging about $28.00 a night for camping fees. At KOA the Thursday night price was $58.00, with Friday and Saturday's nights being premium nights, they fetched a nightly rate of $64.00, well over our average. By joining their Value Kard program for $30.00 we were entitled to a 10% discount on their rates. Not knowing for sure when the National Park would reopen we opted to join the discount program, it turned out to be a wise decision.
Along with the discount card we received a directory of all the KOA campgrounds in the United States. It also had a lot of advertising for mobile RV services around the county that may come in handy in the future. So with that information in it I decided to not immediately dispose of the directory into the trash. On Friday morning I was having breakfast and glancing a little more thoroughly at the book when I saw a KOA ad near the front. It talked of three special weekends that KOA puts on each year, like if you stay in a campground on May 11th you get May 12th for just $20, or Father's Day weekend when kids camp for free and the one that caught my eye was Value Kard Rewards Appreciation Weekend, where if you stay as a paying guest on September 14th you get September 15th for free. Guess what day we arrived at Luray KOA Holiday campground, that's right September 13th. So we paid the discounted rates of $52.20 for Thursday night, $57.60 for Friday night and Saturday was free. That made the average cost for this weekend closer to $36.50 per night and by adding back in the cost of the discount card, we were still below $47.00 a night, which was our previously high nightly rate that we paid in a South Carolina State Park.
After having now visited a KOA campground for three nights I can see why some people highly recommend them. Each campsite was very well maintained, the grass was recently cut, there were potted flowers all around, level gravel driveways, a newly painted picnic table, concrete pads that are positioned so they fall under your awning and door to your trailer when you are backed in, complete with a fire pit surrounded by paver stones. The bathrooms were cleaned several times a day, there were washer and dryers to do your laundry for $1.75 each. There was a pool and hot tub, but after Labor Day it gets closed for the season, so we missed that. They had complimentary hot chocolate, hot tea, coffee and muffins in the office every morning. There were also DVD's you could borrow for free and a lending library of books to choose from. All this is included in the standard campsite price. If that is not enough for you, they have premium sites for a few dollars more that usually include a little nicer view and a covered outdoor sitting area. It really is a home away from home backyard atmosphere here. In conclusion, you get what you pay for!
A lot of RVer's choose to spend their time in this sort of setting, we however still consider ourselves campers, not RVer's, and prefer a more natural setting that we find in National and State Parks. So for now at least we can save $600-$900 a month by camping were we prefer, and save the private parks for possibly later in our journey.
On Friday we got word that the National Park would reopen the Skyline Drive, the hiking trails and lodges at 4:00PM. The campgrounds would all reopen on Saturday. Because we were camping for free on Saturday we stayed at KOA and reentered the park on Sunday morning. Our next reservation wasn't until our usual Monday arrival so we had a choice to make, stop at Lewis Mountain campground for one night or proceed on to Loft Mountain campground and arrive a day early. I wanted to stop at Lewis Mountain and stay one night, but Tricia didn't feel it was worth the effort to set up everything for one night, she wanted to drive to Loft Mountain. Guess what we did? Loft Mountain here we come.
Now on Sunday morning Hurricane Florence had already come ashore down in North Carolina and really created havoc along the coast. It quickly downgraded to a tropical storm once it traveled a short distance inland, like most hurricanes seem to do. The forecast was for it to travel further inland and then make a northernly turn towards Shenandoah National Park. So I was a bit surprised when we got the word that the campgrounds were reopening only two days after they had closed, because the worst of the weather was yet to come to the park.
Also riding out the storm at the KOA was the campground host from Loft Mountain, who had also been evacuated on Thursday. She came by our trailer on Saturday morning to tell us she was returning to work at Loft Mountain and hoped to see us up there, she also gave us a recommendation of where the best campsites in the park were located. When we started to reenter the park on Sunday morning the wind and rain were beginning to increase, but the worst weather wasn't supposed to arrive until Monday.
We arrived at the Ranger Station to check in and asked how busy they were because we once again wanted to switch sites from the one we had reserved six months earlier. He kind of chuckled and said that would not be a problem, other than the campground host who arrived yesterday, we would be the only ones in the campground. I instantly began to second guess our decision to return to the park so quickly. The campgrounds always seem to empty out on Sunday's after the weekend is over, so we decided to go ahead and check in. We set up on what we considered the best site in the park, it had marginal cell phone signal that we could boost to a usable service and it had a great view, if the fog and clouds would just disappear.
We were sitting at the dinette Monday morning when around 9:00 AM the campground host came by to inform us that Skyline Drive was once again closed due to some downed trees and downed power lines that occurred the night before. She advised us to stay put and not venture outside of the campground until repairs could be made. We heard the wind the night before but didn't think it was all that bad, we must be on the safer side of the mountain. At 10:00 AM a Park Ranger came by and knocked on the trailer door, telling us about the road conditions and that we had to be out of this campground by 11:00 AM, but we could go stay at Big Meadows campground, 30 miles north, back up Skyline Drive. It's the same one we were kicked out of last Thursday. Before he could even get back in his car a Law Enforcement Officer pulled up and asked when we planned on leaving and I said Thursday morning. He then told us to stay put. I sure wish they would all get on the same page!
Just before posting this at 6:00PM we got another visit from another Law Enforcement Officer to make sure we knew the only reason we are being allowed to stay in this campground is because we agree not to try and leave it before Skyline Drive has been reopened. We assured him we understood and would comply!
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