Wilderness Road Campground at Cumberland Gap

During our four months at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Tom and I will be staying at the Wilderness Road Campground.  We have never stayed in a park campground at the places where we worked before.  The closest we got was the Paiute campground next to Pipe Springs.  The Wilderness Road Campground has 154 sites in a beautiful wooded setting.

Entrance road to the campground

When Tom and I first applied to Cumberland Gap, we were shown the Interp Volunteer RV spot, which is in Bartlett Park.  Bartlett Park is a pretty area of the park within walking distance of the Visitors Center.  Headquarters, maintenance, law enforcement and Intern Housing are all in Bartlett Park.  There is a two-mile hiking trail through the woods and picnic tables beside a creek.  During the day lots of people are in and out of the area, but in the evening it would be peaceful and quiet.  We loved it and loved the idea of staying there.

About two weeks before we left Ohio, we got a phone call from Ranger Olivia.  She explained that the Interp Volunteer RV spot was no longer available and they would be moving us to the Wilderness Road campground.  The only full hook-up spots at the campground were reserved for the campground hosts.  Consequently, we would probably be at a site that had electricity but not full hook-ups.  Did we still want to come?

Tom immediately said yes, we could make that work.  I was not as enthusiastic.  I am willing to live in our smaller RV for four months but I really like to be able to take showers and use the toilet in the RV.  Hoofing it to a bathhouse that may or may not be clean every morning before work is not my idea of a fun time.  And, if the campground has 154 sites and only three bathhouses, that is a lot of people using the bathhouses.  It seems to me that the least a park can do, in return for all our work, is find a full hook-up RV site.

Ranger Olivia called back a couple of times to let us know some updates.  The campground has two camp host spots, and one of them was empty.  We could use that full hook-up site until July 1, but we would have to move to an electric only site after that.  The park would buy us a “blue tank,” used for hauling gray and black water from the RV to the dump site.  Each time she called, Tom assured her it would be fine.  He told me he would haul away waste water and bring fresh water every day if that was what it took.

Our site until July 1

When we arrived at the campground on Monday, we were greeted by Ranger Stormy Redfern.  He told us what site we had and said to let him know if we needed anything.  All the rangers we met on Monday kept telling us how glad they are that we are here and how much they were looking forward to working with us.  They all kept reiterating that if we needed anything, to let them know.  Each time I felt like saying, “Yes, I need a full hook-up RV spot” but Tom said I was being childish.

Ranger Stormy encouraged us to pick out the RV site we want to move to on July 1.  Because camp sites can be booked up to six months ahead, he wanted to us find one we liked before they were all taken.  We selected several that we thought would be acceptable but he said they were all booked for most of the summer.  He finally told us that he had set aside two spots for us that didn’t have any reservations yet and we could have our choice of those.  Both spots are short and unlevel.  Probably the reason why no one had booked them yet.

Some large, flat campsites

Staying in the campground means that we are much more social than usual.  Usually, after working at the Visitors Center or doing Living History, I am tired of talking and just retreat in to the RV.  Our next door neighbor at the campground is an Interp/Maintenance RV volunteer who lives in a teardrop.  Julie is very sociable and takes time to talk to everyone.  This is her eighth year of being here for April and May.  She has introduced us half the people staying in the park.  Consequently, when we take a walk around the park in the evening we stop frequently to talk to other campers.  Last night, for instance, we walked two miles and stopped and talked to four groups of people.  The two miles took almost two hours.

Trail signs
Some of the nearby trails

The campground is beautiful and usually quiet.  The sites are all heavily wooded so we won’t be able to get a satellite signal for our Dish TV.  We are currently in the full hook-up camp host site on C loop, although we have the camp host sign covered up.  The shade keeps the RV cool during the day.

Wilderness Road Campground would be a great place to stay on a vacation or a trip.  You can stay up to 14 days and the price is great.  If you have a national park pass, the price for an electric site is only $12 per night.  You can reserve up to six months ahead on Recreaction.gov.  There is access to miles of hiking trails and weekly programs in the campground amphitheater.

Living at Wilderness Road Campground is a different experience.  There are lots of hiking trails and lots of people.  We can walk to the laundry room but have to drive to work.  We never have that feeling of solitude that we have in most of the places we work.  Like most things in life, living here is a mixed bag.

The campground will be more crowded starting this week and will be full most weekends from now on.  How will I feel about barking dogs or being able to hear all the business of 300 other folks?  Will people follow the rules or flaunt them as not applying to themselves?  Can I use a bathhouse for three months without yelling at someone?  I will have to let you know.