We’ve been cruising around Olympic National Park in northwest Washington for the past four days, hopping from one campground to another without much of a plan. Each day, around 3 or 4 o’clock, we start looking for a place to set up for the night. On Saturday, though, it got a little later than usual. We hiked out to Cape Flattery and were so blown away by the views we stayed a little longer than intended. (More on that later.)
At 5 o’clock we were still driving and the boys were getting hungry … which is to say Buster started whining. He usually starts up about an hour before feeding time – and it’s a successful strategy, because I have a low tolerance for whining. I feed them early most days, just to get him to stop. But, I digress … we were driving, Buster was whining, and according to the map we had about 40 miles to go to the closest campground.
We came around a corner and Rod and I saw it at the same time – a sign indicating a national park resort was coming up, and they had a campground. SCORE! We maneuvered the Winnebago 4 miles down a 1 1/2 lane road that swerved like a drunken Irishman, and finally came upon the Log Cabin Resort on the shore of Lake Crescent. Though the campground wasn’t much to look at, we were glad to have finally found a place to settle for the night.
In the office we absentmindedly answered the registration questions that have become as entrenched in our brains as our names and birth dates. How many nights will you be staying? One. How long is the motor home? 24 feet. Do you have pets? Two dogs. There is a $25 per pet fee for the dogs. Sure … WAIT A MINUTE, WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?!?
That’s right, this place is charging $25 per dog to stay at the campground! Apparently we hadn’t encountered the fee earlier in the week because we’d stayed at self-pay campgrounds. We were told that all the national park campgrounds run by concessionaires (in this case, Aramark) are charging this new pet fee this year.** We were shocked – in total the cost of a campsite was over $100 for one night.
This is wrong on so many levels.
It’s well known that the national parks are generally not pet-friendly places, but not allowing your dog on the trails is one thing, charging an exorbitant fee for them to stay with you inside YOUR camper is quite another. You might as well just advertise that you hate dogs and you do not want a single one on the property.
Pet fees in hotels are at least understandable, if the hotel actually does a more thorough cleaning of the rooms occupied by pets. What is the purpose of a pet fee at a campground? I can tell you this – it isn’t funding resort employees that follow you around and clean up after your dog when they do their duty.
Is anything more perfect together than camping in the great outdoors and dogs? For many of us, camping is a choice we make primarily because we want to include our dogs. Why institute a fee that takes advantage of that?
Taking your family to visit a national park is the quintessential American vacation. And, camping is an activity that is economically feasible for families that can’t afford to stay in resorts. Tacking on this outrageous pet fee at the campgrounds means that once again people will have to think twice about bringing their pup along for the trip.
Vote with your dollars. It’s a motto of GoPetFriendly and we take it seriously. But, I have to admit, we did not pack up and head down the road. We thought about it … hard, but folded at the prospect of continuing on so late in the evening with no guarantee we’d find another campsite for the night. Let’s rack this one up to a learning experience – an expensive one – and we’ll make sure it doesn’t happen again.
**Fortunately this appears to be an isolated incident. Though we were told this was happening in all national parks, I called campgrounds in the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Yosemite that are run by concessionaires and was told they had no pet fee.
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