LA PINE — A detailed spreadsheet tracks Roger Mangrum’s camping trips since 2012. Name a state or national park in the western United States, and the 68-year-old Portland resident has likely parked his Streamline trailer there and set up camp.
By his count, Mangrum has set up 250 campsites and traveled 43,393 miles to 62 state parks and 30 national parks.
“We love getting around Oregon,” Mangrum said. “Up the coast, to the desert — and it is just great camping in the trailer. We love the freedom, from oceans to rivers to deserts.”
Monday marked Mangrum and his wife’s 1,000th day of camping in their trailer since 2012. The spot of their milestone is a park they visit at least once per year — La Pine State Park.
“It is all about the change,” Mangrum said. “I like the city life; it is good for retirement — the culture, the entertainment, the theater, food, trails — but I don’t miss that when I’m out here. I get the peace, the quiet and the tranquility of the environment of whatever it might be. It is a good getaway, and everyone needs to get away.”
Just shy of 30 miles south of Bend off U.S. Highway 97, the state park has 148 campsites in three different loops consisting of 82 full hookups, 47 electric sites, five cabins and five deluxe cabins (closed due to COVID-19). All three loops have their own flush toilets and hot showers. The park is open and taking reservations.
A stroll through the park will reveal that nearly all the sites are occupied by campers or have a “Reserved” sign waiting to be filled. Oftentimes, in Mangrum’s experience, securing a campsite has to happen months in advance and, in some cases, a year in advance.
“You have to get busy (reserving spots),” Mangrum said. “As you can imagine, all of the snowbirds, rainbirds, Canadians, anybody who is heading south where it is warm. When we plan a three-month trip, we book everything to make sure we can get in.”
The draw to La Pine State Park is similar to what visitors enjoy about Central Oregon — slew of outdoor activities within a small area.
All three camping loops are a short walk from the Deschutes River where rafting, floating and paddleboarding are common water activities. There are three mountain biking trails — Deschutes River Loop, Cougar Woods, McGregor Loop — within the state park. Plus, there are enough hiking trails to explore during the visit to the area with Tumalo, Smith Rock and Jasper Point state parks, all within 50 miles of La Pine.
“The beauty of this park is that you get an amazing river view as you traverse through the pines,” Mangrum said. “You have the Fall River trail and the Deschutes River where people are rafting and recreating. … I spend a lot of time looking for places to mountain bike when I am traveling to take a few pounds off the gut and add a little more IPA in the evening.”
Camping has brought Mangrum not only a yearlong activity during retirement but also a way to reconnect and find gratitude for what the outdoors has to offer.
“I’m all about visiting national wonders where we live, and I think everybody has the ability in them to become a person who can get connected with the wilderness for the benefit of saving the wilderness. Until you get out in it, you don’t appreciate it as much. Once you get out there, you appreciate so much more.”