Se­ri­ous about camp­ing? It’s time to book sum­mer sites

The Denver Post - - TRAVEL - JOSHUA BER­MAN

Out­side, the roads are crusted in ice and crud, the sky heavy and cold, and all our fa­vorite hik­ing trails are buried in feet of snow. Sure, it’s a fine time to go snow­shoe­ing and it’s all so sparkly and beau­ti­ful, yada, yada, yada, but if you are a se­ri­ous camper, your mind is on other things like wild­flow­ers, campfires and ca­noes.

Yes, the six-month camp­ground reser­va­tion win­dow is now open for sum­mer 2016, and the frenzy is in high gear. I’m talk­ing about hard core Colorado camp­ground junkies, hunched over their com­put­ers, await­ing the first avail­able mo­ment to grab their fa­vorite camp­sites across the state.

“I typ­i­cally make my reser­va­tions at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble time,” says Denise Huck­feldt, a reg­is­tered nurse from Thorn­ton. “This means be­ing logged in, site cho­sen and ready to hit ‘book’ at the stroke of mid­night.”

And that still doesn’t guar­an­tee you a spot. Many cam­pers, my­self in­cluded (un­til re­cently), have usu­ally found it too dif­fi­cult to book so far in ad­vance, and re­signed our­selves to avoid­ing week­ends al­to­gether dur­ing the sum­mer and head­ing to first-come, first-served sites dur­ing the week. This worked like a charm for my fam­ily and me, but since I’m a teacher, I have that lux­ury of mid­week camp­ing dur­ing the sum­mer.

Eric Ed­wards cre­ated Camp­sitePho­tos.com to ad­dress an­other prob­lem with the reser­va­tion sys­tem. “I came up with the idea while camp­ing in Death Val­ley Na­tional Park back in early 2007,” he says. “I re­al­ized there wasn’t any good on­line source that had pho­to­graphs of the camp­grounds and camp­sites.”

So he cre­ated one, em­ploy­ing pho­tog­ra­phers to scour the na­tion’s camp­grounds and cre­ate de­tailed gal­leries. The site has scores of Colorado camp­grounds and is an ex­cel­lent re­source.

“Over the last 10 years,” says Ed­wards, “I’ve def­i­nitely no­ticed a trend of more peo­ple mak­ing camp­ing reser­va­tions. Of­ten times, pop­u­lar Colorado camp­grounds will sell out within min­utes of when the reser­va­tion win­dow opens. As a re­sult, I would rec­om­mend cam­pers plan ahead and make reser­va­tions the se­cond they be­come avail­able for when you want to camp.”

This is not news for long­time cam­pers. By Jan. 4, Jenny Han­lon Zichter­man, a French teacher from Lit­tle­ton, had al­ready booked five camp­sites for trips be­tween April and the Fourth of July hol­i­day week­end.

“I like to have reser­va­tions,” she says, “so I’m not look­ing for a [dis­persed] spot with cranky kids in the car. And even though I don’t re­ally know what our plans are six months in ad­vance, reser­va­tions can be changed for a nom­i­nal fee if nec­es­sary.”

That’s true, you can make ad­just­ments to your reser­va­tions, so there is some flex­i­bil­ity in the sys­tem. It’s also true that most camp­grounds keep a per­cent­age of sites off of the reser­va­tion sys­tem and avail­able on a first-come, first-served ba­sis, even if it’s not ap­par­ent on the main book­ing sites.

As for me, I’m get­ting used to this new idea of book­ing camp­sites two sea­sons in ad­vance. But it’s all a mat­ter of at­ti­tude. As Zichter­man says, “For me, plan­ning the trip in ad­vance is half the fun! Mak­ing reser­va­tions and re­search­ing places to go, it’s kind of like les­son plan­ning!”

So I do what’s nec­es­sary. I wait un­til a quar­ter ’til mid­night, hunch my­self over my com­puter and get ready to click. Joshua Ber­man is the au­thor of the fifth edi­tion of “Moon: Colorado Camp­ing,” which will be re­leased in the spring. JoshuaBer­man.net and twit­ter.com/tran­quilo­travel.

A reserv­able tent site in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. Most camp­grounds on pub­lic lands be­gin ac­cept­ing reser­va­tions six months in ad­vance, so it’s time to plan. Joshua Ber­man, The Den­ver Post

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