Adventure Stories

TCM STARS 2012: Part 2

More pictures and truck camping reports from another seventeen Truck Camper Magazine interviewees.  First up, a very, very close encounter with a grizzly bear.  Here come the stars!


One day we should create a Family Circus style map of the United States and Canada showing everywhere we have all been in our truck campers with dotted lines.  Based on all the articles, reader reports, and fireside truck camper rally chats we’ve had over the years, there probably wouldn’t be a single part of the map still visible when we were done tracing our adventures.  Okay, maybe Kalamazoo, Michigan would still be there, but almost everywhere else would be covered with layers of criss-crossing truck camping adventure lines.

For part two of our 2012 catching up series, we reconnect with Roger and Charlotte Baxter, Lee Johnson and Bonnie McClees, Marianne and Joe Zecca, Jim McCoy, Dan and Linda Hanney, Larry Bluhm, Ralph Goff, Tracy Schuster, Stu and Karla Dekkenga, Tom Watson, Jake and Laurel DeLong, Jerry and Reta Caldwell, Nancy and Eric Williams, Russ and Donna Miller, Pam and Gary Veeder, Michelle Humphress, Paul Kellagher.


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“We did a spring loop in Utah including Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Bryce National Park, and Zion National; lots of red rock.   Then we went up to Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories, driving the Deh Cho Route.

There is tons of wildlife in that remote region, but the highlight of the trip was in Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta.  We met a grizzly on the Crandel Lake trail.  We were headed north and he was heading south and we were thirty yards apart.  It surprised all three of us as we stopped and looked at each other.

We shouted at him and started to back away.  When he took a few more steps forward I said, “That’s not working like they said”.   So we stopped backing, had the bear spray out and aimed, made even more noise and tried to look much bigger.  After a few tense moments he bounded off.

The ground cover was pretty dense where we were and you could only see a few feet off the trail.  The camper was north so I started walking that way.  Char yelled for me to “Give him room”.  I said, “He’s moving off.  Our truck camper is this way, please try to keep up”.  She did.

The grizzly was big, but he had to be a juvenile male.  There were no cubs and he didn’t eat us.  As we get older that story will get more tense.  In another ten to fifteen years I’ll have smacked him on the nose and told him to scat!” – Roger and Charlotte Baxter


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“We continue to put our Ford Ranger and Four Wheel Camper Eagle pop-up through their paces.  On a recent journey from the West Coast to Minnesota, our side trips to Bighorn River Canyon deserve special mention.  This is an out-of-the-way gem, a seventy-two mile stretch of river from the Bighorn Mountains to Yellowtail Dam, complete with looming cliffs, like a variation on the Grand Canyon.

Other than the Bighorn River itself, there is no direct way, and no road, to get from the southern part of the canyon to the northern part and its impressive dam.  We initially approached the canyon from the northern, Montana side, taking a dead-end road (about thirty-two miles) from Hardin to a primitive campground a few miles above the dam, on Crow Indian territory.

A jaunt over to a fine marina, abutting the dam on its south side, provided outstanding kayaking opportunities and views of nests of endangered Peregrine Falcons.  There were fantastic calcium cliffs, made up of innumerable shells from old sea-beds.

On our return from Minnesota, we came up through Sheridan, Wyoming, and took an incredible mountain road (Alternate 14) past horse-mounted basque shepherds at high altitude and the site of the famous Medicine Wheel, on our way to Lovell and another dead-end road north into Bighorn River Canyon.

Locals tell us that trout-fishing is famous on the river and its lake, but we were most impressed by the geological differences between the southern and northern parts of the canyon and its towering cliffs.  As usual, our main delights came on the water in our inflatable kayaks as we drank in the silence and solitude of this grand and remote treasure of nature.” – Lee Johnson and Bonnie McClees

“This past year we attended most of the Northeast Truck Camper events.  Our separate trips involve mostly visiting lakes: Lake George, New York; the Finger Lakes, New York; and best of all Lake Superior.

Lake George is a great village on the border of the Adirondacks.  There is a state campground, Lake George Battlefield, nearby.  You can hike to the village and to Fort William Henry; the operative word here is hike.

We also visited the Finger Lakes.  Watkins Glenn is in that region.  The best trip was Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  We closed out our season with the Northeast Truck Camper group at Recompense Shore Campground in Maine in November.  Now the camper sleeps in the barn until the rally with the Mid-Atlantic truck camper group in April.” – Marianne and Joe Zecca

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“2012 turned out to be a good year for tweaking truck modifications and getting out there.  I put the finishing components in of my KORE-Carli-Thuren hybrid suspension for my truck, and got out there to test it quite a bit.

In May, I had the honor from Truck Camper Magazine to try my hand at field reporting at Overland Expo 2012 at Mormon Lake, Arizona.  It was a fabulous experience making professional and personal contacts, meeting many manufacturers who are close with TCM, and other TCM celebrities.  The road to and from the Overland Expo was loaded with on and off road adventures, and lead through many miles of back country northwest of Moab, Utah.

I also got out in my non-camper rigs for some back county fun this summer with my Jeep and modified AMC Eagle SX4.  The SX4 took me over Black Bear Pass and many other Colorado Jeep trails in the San Juan Mountains, getting lots of looks and kudos from off roaders I met along the way.

Late August into September I experimented with a light weight set up for my truck comprised of an ARE topper and Maggiolina roof top sleeper, and hit the on and off road for a month.  I traveled from Colorado, to Nevada’s Black Rock desert, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Lake Powell, and many other Utah back country locations.  The variable spring rate suspension was put through some demanding paces.

Fall leaf peeping season close to home in Colorado conjured up some more fun local trips with the Hallmark camper on the truck again, including a recon of a recently reopened difficult Jeep trail, Hackett Gulch.  That tight and technical trail put all the suspension modifications and my camper through its toughest off-road test yet, squeaking by with very minimal damage to the pop-up latches.  It was scary to watch the camper side flex in when I tilted into a tree and rubbed along it.  But it just flexed as I rubbed and was still straight when danger was past.  Amazingly, the windows didn’t blow out.  Now I know where to place reinforcements!

I have some big overall camper modification plans on paper, if I ever find time to come in off the trail.  Peace to all, and safe travels!” – Jim McCoy

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“Temperature extremes and a new experience with towing kept this summer’s trips in our Northstar 850SC comfortable and fun.  Despite day temperatures of over 100 degrees accompanied by steamy nights, a Missouri river float trip was a whole lot of fun and very tolerable because of our air conditioning installation.  Our handiwork is found hiding behind a new door on the back of the camper.  More about that when Truck Camper Magazine asks for modification suggestions again.

This fall before winterizing, we pushed temperature limits again with no problems when two different weekends in October dipped into the low twenties.  Both times we were at Tuttle Creek Cove near the Kansas State University football stadium.  By staying the night before the games, we were in line early for a premium place in the parking lot, next to the tailgating cars.  No high dollar RV stadium parking sites or porta-pots for us.

Our love for truck camping always came down to not having to tow.  But, when long-time friends invited us on a trip to the Dubois area of Wyoming to ride off road trails, we jumped at the chance.  And we are so glad we did.  We are already researching where to go next.” – Dan and Linda Hanney

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“Since I’m two years out from retirement, I’ve been working as much as possible this past year.  The truck camper continues to be the daily driver, lunch room, and occasional overnight accommodation on the job and at play around the San Francisco Bay.

I did get away for a week to Lake Tahoe at the beginning of the season, camping at two different locations and making much use of the folding kayak.  My girlfriend was able to visit twice this year from Brasil, so impromptu trips were made to the Albion River, right at the coast, and a fine seaside camp at Wrights Beach.  A trip to Death Valley will likely happen over the holidays and tweaks and home improvements continue, as always, on the truck camper.” – Larry Bluhm


“This was the seventh year to travel six months in my camper.  My usual destination is Montana, but this year I made a 9,200 mile, three and a half month trip to Alaska.  Thankfully, not one lick of trouble with my truck and only a couple of small problems with my camper.

I covered all but about ninety miles of the Alaska Highway.  I missed the section between Haines Junction and Whitehorse.  Instead I went through Dawson City on the way up and took the ferry from Haines, Alaska to Prince Rupert, British Columbia on the way back.

I was as far north as Fairbanks and as far south as Seward and Homer on the Kenai Peninsula.  There was lots of beautiful scenery (one of the main reasons I travel), but not enough sunshine for me.  I’d guess only about one day of three had significant sun.  The lowest temperature was 20 degrees Fahrenheit one late August night on the way back near Tok, Alaska.  Fortunately, my holding tanks weren’t damaged.

I spent all but three nights in my camper.  The others in a Juneau motel when my son flew up to visit.  You can see where I went and plenty of pictures on my website:” – Ralph Goff

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“We took just two trips this year after many years jammed with lots of adventures.  Our first trip was to Moab, Utah where we hiked and Jeeped and visited the Hovenweep Indian ruins.  In the beginning of June, we went to Capitol Reef National Park, also in Utah, for what was to be a week of boondocking.  We worked for over two months to get the old camper to fit the new dually and set the trailer up to carry all of the extra water and gas it could fit.

Unfortunately the bugs, wind, heat, and a not-working-again generator (it only works at home) killed our plans after the first night.  The RV park was nice, and the area is beautiful, but it lead us to realize we needed a larger, more self-contained camper.  We sold our little Palomino (in one day, no less) when we returned and didn’t take another trip all summer, except to Miata Summer Camp, so it was quite a different summer.  We’ve found the camper we want, but decided to wait to get it until we can afford to really get out and enjoy it.” – Tracy Schuster

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“We didn’t get the truck and camper out as much as we would have liked this past summer.  We went on a couple of weekend trips to local parks and a family reunion weekend.  We took first two weeks of October and went into northern Minnesota to enjoy the fall colors and the quiet of empty campgrounds.  We were one of two campers in the park.  What a beautiful area!

We stayed at McCarthy Beach State Park for a few days, kayaked the surrounding lakes, and mountain biked the trails.  Eagle watching from the kayak is great!  We managed to get lost once, but ran into a couple of forest service guys who got us back on the right trail.  They also let us climb the fire watch tower they just came out of.  Wow, what a spectacular view from way above the tree tops!

We found our way home via the west shore of Lake Superior and then the Mississippi River; beautiful country.” – Stu and Karla Dekkenga

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“We did not use our camper part of our truck camper rig at all this year.  However, we did use the truck which proves to me the dual value of truck campers.  In recognition of my 70th birthday, I climbed the Grand Teton with my sons.  And, because we needed a people mover in Wyoming, we drove across the country in our Honda Pilot.

Upon our return, we built a post and beam boat house and the truck was very useful in carrying supplies to the boat launch for transportation by barge.  At the end of the job, the contractor could not get his barge, trailer, and truck out of the lake, so I was called upon to help.  My Ford 250 diesel was up to the task.” – Tom Watson

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“After our year on the road, Jake and I ended up being the Winter Watchmen in an old mining ghost town in Idaho.  We were snowed in until the end of May so there wasn’t much camping to be done during those months, although living off-the-grid in rugged isolation is a bit like camping.

During the summer, we took a job at Elk Lake Resort in Montana, just west of Yellowstone, and lived in our camper for the whole summer while we worked and played.  Our Pastime is small but, since we had already lived in it for a year, a few months during the summer was easy.  We love the ability to carry our home on our back.

Our summer job ended in early September so we hit the road and did some exploring through Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona.  Our most spectacular camping spot was on BLM land on the other side of the canyon from Canyonland National Park.  As we drove out toward the edge to camp, Jake said to me, “Now don’t go all Thelma and Louise on me!”  I have to admit I was very mindful of which pedal was the brake and which was the gas!  It was an incredible camping spot and the sunset was breathtaking.

Now we are back in the ghost town and I am still blogging about our adventures even if they aren’t all in the camper.  If you’d like to see what we’re up to go to  Happy camping, All!” – Jake and Laurel DeLong


“We started year 2012 with a trip to south Florida.  We spent most of the trip in Everglades National Park.  Every year we have gone there in January or February and the weather has been perfect.  We really enjoy the mid-winter get-away to the Everglades where we leave the overcast, cold days at home for bright and beautiful sunny days in south Florida.  This year we spent time at Flamingo and Long Pine campgrounds.  We also spent time at Midway campground in Big Cypress National Preserve.

Our main trip of the year was a eighty-two day trip from Tennessee to Alaska.  It was a trip of a lifetime for us.  I would highly recommend it to anyone, and going to Alaska with a truck camper is a perfect way to go.” – Jerry and Reta Caldwell


“This year has been quite eventful.  While we continued to use our 2002 Ford F350 truck and 2003 Alaskan Camper at our son’s baseball tournaments (saves on hotel bills), we didn’t get much time to do any camping trips until September when baseball season was done.

Unfortunately, we met with some bad luck at that point.  A drunk driver hit our truck and camper and we’ve been in the middle of getting them repaired.  The truck is finally done and now we are waiting for the camper to be done.

Bryan Wheat, the owner of Alaskan Campers in Chehalis, Washington, has been phenomenal and is really working with us to make our camper even better than before.  Everything should be complete in mid-November so we can get back to camping.

In the meantime, Eric and our son, Chayce, have been doing weekend bird hunting trips to our duck camp (in Okanogan, Washington) in our Jeep Wrangler and off-road camping trailer, but it’s just not the same.  We’re looking forward to getting the camper back so we can get outdoors again.” – Nancy and Eric Williams


“As traveling musicians, we have been making great use of our 2011 Lance truck camper.  Pulling our stage trailer, we have utilized the convenience of our camper from changing clothes before a performance, cooling off in air conditioning during a break, to staying overnight afterwards.

Our camper has allowed us to travel to musical events hundreds of miles away.  We have performed for Good Sam Samborees in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina.  Performing on the road has afforded us to hone our act, resulting in even more music opportunities.  Being able to take our truck camper with us when we play sure has been fun.

We are amazed at the interest from campers and non-campers with our set up.  So many people are complimentary and express how well the truck camper serves our needs.  Not only does our four wheel drive truck haul our truck camper easily, it also helps us position our stage trailer at outdoor events, such as festivals, BBQs, picnics, etc.

We are always showing others the inside of our camper.  In fact, we even have guests inside for ice cream after a performance, as I always keep several flavors in the freezer.

We will put our truck camper away for the winter, but will be anxious to use it starting in early spring.  Our music calendar is already filling up for 2013, and we’ll be on the road again!” – Russ and Donna Miller

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“We have used our camper quite often this year.  Nothing as exotic as what I read in Truck Camper Magazine, but continued good fun.

We travel in a 2001 Northern Lite 10-2000 model.  The truck is our old faithful 1997 Ford F250 with air bags and a four inch exhaust.  We are now approaching a quarter million miles on our truck.

The first picture is from Tallahassee, Florida in early April.  We went to the Women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament and enjoyed Marist College Basketball for five days.

The next picture is an example of the off-time.  This mechanic seems to be saying, “Yup there is an engine in here”.  Our diesel had a minor problem with the vacuum pump frozen.  It wasn’t a maintenance problem, it was just one of those things.  Thank you Good Sam Emergency Service.

The next picture is in New Mexico.  Open range means keep your eyes open, anything can be on the road.

Moab, Utah is the site of this cake-shaped dome rock-formation.  We also were in the middle of the great four wheel drive get together that Moab is famous for.  We stayed in the smallest camping site possible.  Thankfully we were in our truck camper.

We also went up to Salt Lake City, Utah, the home of Happijac, and had our camper’s jacks reconditioned.  We love the USA and continue to find interesting areas in nooks and crannies of our country.” – Pam and Gary Veeder

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“In June, we spent almost every weekend at Assateague along the ocean enjoying the summer weather and great fishing.  July brought the Piping Plovers to Assateague, so the beach was mostly closed.  Since Assateague was closed, we went to Tall Pines Harbor Campground for Christmas in July and stayed around home.

In August, we went to Blackwater Falls, West Virginia to their state park with a trailer behind our rig with the motorcycle and the bikes.  Ronnie joined a Triumph Riding Group and traveled the mountains on the motorcycle.  The sites there were amazing and a challenge with the truck camper and trailer.

While there, we went to the Blackwater Falls, Smokehole Caverns, Senneca Rocks, and many other sites.  After we left, we traveled to Gordonsville, Virginia to a resort where they had pools, miniature golf, a pond to fish, and more.  We had a great time traveling and spending time with the family for over a week in our truck camper.” – Michelle Humphress

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“We had our holiday at home in Ireland this year.  We spent most weekends on the west coast of Ireland searching out isolated beaches, swimming, and climbing.

Standing on Malin Head, Ireland’s most northerly point, I was struck by the vastness of the ocean.  There’s nothing north of here to the Arctic and nothing West until America.  With all that water, the sunsets are always amazing.

One of the coves we climbed in was, “Port A Doris”.  It translates as, “Port of the Door” and is reputed to be the last place Saint Columba stopped before sailing to Lona in the sixth century.  The Donegal Coast can be reached from our home in about an hour so we try to get there as often as we can.” – Paul Kellagher

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