Little did we know we had just crossed the point of no return and we in for a very eventful night. We had camping reservations for the Lodgepole campground only twenty-one miles from the entrance. If we had received the map we would have seen that the Generals Highway is not recommended for vehicles over twenty-two feet. Pulling our travel trailer behind Tyler's truck made our vehicle length around 50 feet. As we started to raise into the mountain the drive slowed down immensely. The twenty-one miles to Lodgepole ending up taking us almost two hours.
The climb started as you could imagine, excitement filled the truck because we had reached the park. We had been driving all day from the Grand Canyon and were sick of being in the truck. We were ready to make camp for the night and relax. Well that wasn't going to happen anytime soon. The switchbacks were so tight that the recommended speed was 10 mph. Now mind you, there is traffic coming down the mountain in the other lane. Tyler had to maneuver the truck and trailer through these tight switchbacks all while sharing the road with oncoming traffic. By the graces of God we barely missed a few vehicles coming down. It wasn't funny at the time but to break the tension we joked, wow barely missed that one, you know they about messed themselves.
After the first hour we were smart enough to know this could not be the suggest route for vehicles with trailers, Class A, or 5th wheels. The daylight had expired and we where now climbing the rim of this mountain in the dark. The road was narrow, had drop offs further than the eye could see, and had no where to turn around. Hence the comment about point of no return.
Tyler was freaking out because he thought his half ton truck was getting hot pulling the travel trailer up such a steep mountain. Though the trip was only twenty-one miles to the campground each mile took around ten minutes. I joked I could have walked the trip faster than what we were driving. He stopped a few times in the few small pullouts we found. The few that didn't already have other vehicles, and the few because there weren't very many at all.
After our few small breaks to let the truck rest and cool down we continued. Around 10 p.m. we finally reached Lodgepole Campground after nearly two hours of climbing the mountain. But the excitement didn't end there, it was only getting started.
We pulled into the campground and pulled up to the campground kiosk. Listed on the bulletin board were all the late check ins for the day. Now remember I had a reservation for two nights at the campground, I made through Recreation.gov. They make most all of the reservations for all the national parks. We searched the bulletin board for site 104 Shewmaker. No site 104, no Shewmaker, ugh.
We rolled into the campground slowly as it was so late and found the loop that site 104 was located in. As if we couldn't go any higher, the entrance to the loop was a short quick incline into the loop. Once we entered we were stopped by a large van unloading with what seemed like a family of twenty. We had just had the most stressful two hour climb on the rim of the mountain with switchbacks from hell and the last thing we wanted to do was sit and wait for this large family to slowly unload their van and hitch hauler. Finally a woman in the group jumped in the front seat and took off into the loop. So away to site 104 we went. Reminder it was pitch dark out and we were trying to find site poles in the dark. We found 103 and it had a car parked next to what we assumed belonged to 104. The parking spot had a small incline. Tyler took one look at the parking spot and immediately knew it wasn't going to work. At the same time the woman in the large van who had been blocking the road was headed straight back towards us. Tyler had a small freak out about why is she heading straight back towards us when now we were the ones blocking the road with a truck and travel trailer. Somehow the woman managed to squeeze by us. Tyler had reached his determination that he was over the drama of the night and we were parking and sleeping in the huge parking lot located at the bottom of the loop.
So we agreed upon the determination, as we never could find site 104 and knew there was no where in this loop for a camper. I told Tyler the campground was a loop and we would need to exit the way we entered. As we reached the top and circular part of the loop at the top of the incline we found that we campground road traveled circular through two trees. Yep this was going to be great driving a truck with a travel trailer connected through two trees in a circular movement. Well let me tell you, at the time I really didn't even care if we had to scrape the side of the camper to get through. But like a champ Tyler drove straight through with no hiccups.
Upon reaching the parking lot relief overcome us. We exited the truck and climbed into the camper exhausted and ready to put the night behind us. The next morning a ranger greeted us and as she listened to our crazy story was amazed at how successful we had gotten to the campground through our tribulations the night before. She found us a correct site within an hour for our other night in the park. I joked that the young man I had made the reservations with had one job and had given us the wrong site. This gentleman in the same phone call gave us the correct site type the night before in the Grand Canyon. She said it actually happens all the time. She also informed us that the site he wrongfully gave us was a walk up tent site. Kind of hard to walk up to a site with camper!
When we finally got a map from the ranger the next morning we learned the bottom half of Generals Highway was not recommended for vehicles over 22 feet. Tayley joked it looked like someone put a blindfold on scribbled a crazy pattern on a piece of paper and jokingly said there is your way up.
Looking back now it's funny and made for stories to tell for many years. We did drive back down the next day without the travel trailer just to see in the daylight what we drove the night before. We also later learned the truck was fine and had reached only a normal temperature for pulling the trailer.