Shenandoah NP - Mathews Campground - Fiberglass RV
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Old 09-30-2009, 03:54 PM   #1
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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.
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Old 10-01-2009, 09:35 PM   #2
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Shenandoah NP is around 3,300 feet max elevation and is especially beautiful in the fog.
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Old 10-01-2009, 11:49 PM   #3
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In the 70's when in High School in MD, we backpacked the Appalachian Trail from the southern end of Shenandoah Natl Park to the Northern end in about 10 days. We backpacked many short trips into different sections of Shenandoah NP over a number of years. I remember Mathew Arms, but I'm sure it was quite a bit different almost 40 years ago then your experience.

We left invitations one year at all the AT shelters in Oct inviting everyone to a Thanksgiving dinner at a shelter in Shenandoah NP. We had a number of hikers attend our Thanksgiving and we did Turkey rolls and all the fixins over a campfire. Beer and wine were chilled in a stream.

Shenandoah was a special place back in my teens and some of my best friendships and memories.

Thanks, Myron for reminding me of those special times on the Appalachian Trail.
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Old 10-02-2009, 07:50 AM   #4
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Thanks Myron for the post and the pics!!! Its an area of interest on my list.

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Old 10-02-2009, 02:51 PM   #5
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Thanks -- great Thanksgiving Day story.
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Old 10-26-2009, 10:38 AM   #6
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I visited the park yesterday the colors are at their peak below 2.5K ft. and the leaves are beginning fall above 3K feet. I entered at Afton Mtn. south entrance and traveled about 60 miles north to the Sperryville / Luray entrance. I swung into three camp grounds and they all were only about 10-20% full and half of those sites were used by tent campers. Two of the camp grounds were $15 per night and Sky Meadows campground was now $20 per night. No hook ups and sites were pretty close but with the low vacancy rate you could find a nice site. I guess at nights it gets in the 40's this time of year. The park entrance fee was $15 for a week without a pass. Not a bad deal for the east coast camping, a lot cheaper than the Va. state parks.
I did see a lot of signs about economic recovery funds being used for upgrades to the park but I don't think I saw any near the camp grounds. It's the time of the year to quit talking about it and go camping.
P.S. The leaves won't last very much longer.
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