MANTUA — Commercial airports are empty and vacation destinations have closed. Airlines, buses, hotels and a world pandemic haven’t mixed well.
The bright spot in self-quarantining seems to be taking the family and staying in the great outdoors.
Margret and Jack Pounder of Brigham City love to camp. In fact, in year’s past they were camp hosts in Idaho.
On Monday, the two stayed in the Box Elder Campground, only five miles from their home. The campground is in the Logan District of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and is located next to the town of Mantua, which is near Brigham City. Visitors enjoy boating and fishing on the reservoir and there are a lot of trails to explore in the area.
However, things have changed in recent years. Jack Pounder has had some health issues and with COVID-19 he must self-isolate to stay safe. So, with their own RV, he and his wife Margret have been doing so with camping.
While they’ve been out, they have noticed a surge in camping this year as opposed to last.
“We went to Wood Camp Campground last time,” Margret said. “It was crowded when we arrived and when we left it was more crowded.”
On Monday, the two were sitting in the shade and reading books near a small creek that runs through the campground. Other campers are spread throughout the area as well, maintaining social distancing and self-isolating themselves.
Stephanie (Stevie) Checketts and her husband Scott are the campground hosts. They’ve seen bigger numbers this year than in the past.
“It’s been real busy this year and it started earlier this year with school being out because of the virus,” Checketts said. “Not only camping, but we are seeing a lot more people because the poppies are gorgeous this year.”
Jennefer Parker, Logan District Ranger for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, said the campgrounds are seeing more campers than usual for this time of year.
“We are experiencing a significant increase in visitors in both our developed campgrounds and dispersed campsites,” Parker said. “Use is similar to the number of visitors we normally see over holiday weekends, and that level of use is occurring every weekend, unless the weather is very bad.”
With bigger crowds brings bigger worries for the forest service. There are reports that people are leaving campgrounds without properly extinguishing their fires.
“With the increased level of camping and other recreational activities, we are also seeing an increased number of abandoned campfires,” Parker explained. “As a result, we have increased patrols by our fire prevention technicians.”
Parker said visitors should remember to always fully extinguish their campfires any time they leave a campsite.
“Fire danger is increasing, and grasses are curing in the foothills,” Parker said.
Parker urged people enjoying the outdoors to be vigilant and careful.
Hyrum State Park doesn’t have the same issues, Assistant Park Manager Michael Sovine said. Families used to stay in the state park campground while their kids played in baseball tournaments.
Officials at the park control the number of people that use the campground when reservations are made.