Mathews Arms campground in the northern end of Shenandoah National Park is a couple hours west of our nationís capital. It was our first visit.
Camping three days on a late September weekend in our little Burro
trailer cost a total $22.50 with our National Parks Senior pass, and that includes entering the park (normally an extra $10.)
Mathew Arms has no hookups, but that didnít matter to us. It has no showers, and that mattered only a little bit. The place is clean, the price was right, and there were only a handful of campers there during our visit.
I like to fill up a 5-gallon bucket to keep outside the camper. I also like to use safe, potable water when I camp. It surprised me when I realized the only public water available was in front of the nearest lavatory, a fair walk from C139, our campsite. Thatís too far for me to carry. Also too bad for me was when I turned that spigot on, and nothing came out. Good thing we brought our own drinking/washing water.
Entering the 1950ís era designer cinder block menís room (tacky and for sure low-rent if you've seen what they got out west) was sticky. The old screen door was warped well past its prime, and it stuck. It fought me to keep itself closed. Inside, the floor was sadly in need of a new paint
job. Inside one of the metal partitioned stalls I had some trouble latching the door shut and then had a devil of a time unlatching it to get out. The reason was a miss-alignment of that muley latch bolt. On the plus side, (?) when I leaned over, my pocket calculator flew out of my shirt pocket and down into the toilet but the water flushed so powerfully I had no chance to retrieve it.
Later I told the ranger at the campground entrance about the no water problem and she thanked me and would see to it. Guess because it was the weekend they couldnít turn the water back on. There was plenty of water inside the lavatory. A few days later I mentioned the water to the resident trouble-shooter, order-keeper, official welcomer, or whatever they call him. He rides around in a golf cart always checking on things and waving to you. He didnít know anything about there being no water. He told me, though, that the water available around the back of the lavatory at a deep sink was potable. No posted signs said so. The water never did get turned on but we were told we could always go down to the next lavatory.
Anyone who has camped just about anywhere else knows what the proper criterion for the national parks system facilities should be like in the year 2009. What Mathews Arms has got just ainít it. This just will not do. Shenandoah, evocative name, beautiful place, only 80 miles from Washington, DC, deserves at the most, a major upgrade in facilities at this camp site, and at the very least, much, much better attention by its personnel.