Fishing in Sumter National Forest’s Enoree District

South Carolina’s Sumter National Forest is a popular recreational area for hiking, fishing, camping, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities. The Enoree Ranger District is located in the central piedmont area, a short drive from major population centers in Columbia and Greenville. Fishing is allowed in the three major rivers that flow through the national forest as well as in a number of small lakes. Fishing areas are managed in cooperation with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. A valid South Carolina fishing license is required for fishing on national forest land.

A small fishing pond is located at Molly’s Rock Picnic Area, once the site of a plantation home. The one acre pond was constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The Ranger District manages it for catfish, and there is a 5 fish limit. A fishing pier and restrooms are available onsite. No boating or swimming is allowed in the lake. Molly’s Rock is located north of Newberry off US Hwy 176 and Forest Service Road 387.

Canoes and flat bottom boats less than 14 feet in length are recommended in the Broad, Tyger, and Enoree Rivers that flow through Sumter National Forest. Woods Ferry Recreation Area, near the town of Leeds, allows easy access for fishing and boating in the Broad River, on the eastern side of the national forest. Restrooms, water, and picnic facilities are available in the day use area. Overnight camping is also allowed. River access is also available at the Broad River Boat Ramp east of Monarch Mills. Fishermen wanting to launch small boats on the Tyger River can use the gravel boat ramp at Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site, located off SC Hwy 16. An easy access concrete boat ramp is available at Beatty’s Bridge off US Hwy 176 south of Union. The Enoree River may be accessed at several points in the national forest. Ramps are located at Jones Bridge on SC Hwy 98, and on Forest Service Roads 336A and 339.

Several small lakes in Sumter National Forest are managed for a variety of fish including channel catfish and largemouth bass. Only electric motors are allowed on these lakes. The Johns Creek Lake Complex is located near Cross Keys off SC Hwy 18 and Forest Service Road 347. Sedalia Lake is located near Johns Creek Lake off the same road. Wildcat Lake is also off Forest Service Road 347. Macedonia Lake is located off Forest Service Road 444, approximately 12 miles west of Union. Pittman Lake is located northeast of Whitmire off Hwy 72 and Forest Service Road 434. Maps of Sumter National Forest are available for purchase in district offices and online.

Cost Estimates for Your Sturgis Rally Vacation

If you are headed to Sturgis for the Black Hills Rally and Races in Sturgis South Dakota you may be wondering how much your trip to the Black Hills will cost? As with any vacation it’s always best to have a budget and plan your trip based on your budget. So with that in mind here are some estimates of typical costs related to a vacation to Sturgis South Dakota for the Bike Rally.

Lodging or Camping:

Hotels in and near Sturgis can be very tough to find during Rally week. If you can find a Hotel room expect to pay nearly $300-$400 per night for a Super 8 type room. If you are camping you usually reserve a space that covers you for 15 days that allow for time before and after the Sturgis rally. This can range from $100-$175 per camper using a tent site. If you have an RV expect a charge of $400 for 30 Amp or $450 for 50 Amp service. Many campgrounds also charge a per camper fee on top of this so add that $100-$175 back on. You can rent a house for around $2500.00 which might work for groups of riders.

Gas:

Since you’ll be riding a motorcycle you will obviously be consuming a fair quantity of gasoline. Typically you’ll get around 25 miles per gallon so to figure out your gasoline costs look at it as $12 per 100 miles. Take your distance to and from Sturgis and then look at the riding you’ll do on a day to day basis. When I tour around the Black Hills I usually ride about 300 miles per day. So for me 1200 miles to travel to and from Sturgis and 900 miles touring gives me a fuel cost of $252.00. Of course if you trailer your motorcycle you’ll need to adjust your costs for the MPG that your truck or car or RV gets.

Food:

Much of the food you’ll eat is fast in nature. You’ll eat a lot of fair type foods and diner type foods. It would be fair to estimate $15 – $30 per day for food (not including alcohol) depending on where you like to eat.

Partying:

If you like to party you can expect to spend a lot on alcohol. Just like a concert or football game if you buy beer in a bar or campground concerts you can expect to pay $6-$7 per beer + tip. So how much do you drink? Take that number of beers and multiply by $7 to get your estimate. You can save money at some campgrounds by keeping an inexpensive cooler and ice and buying beer by the case.

Total Sturgis Trip Cost:

So for a couple of riders on a 5 day trip from the Midwest here’s the cost estimates I’ve figured. Tent camping in around Sturgis $300.00. Fuel for both riders $500.00. Food at $50 per day for the pair $250 and three days of partying $180.00 I didn’t include souvenirs but from my figures this trip for two riders would run about $1230.00 I’d recommend just bring $1500 and you’d be covered. As you can see Sturgis is a very economical vacation but it has a lot of cost variables that will affect the total cost of your vacation to the Sturgis Rally in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Planning Your Camping Trip

Camping should be spontaneous, fun and relaxing. But in order to relax and enjoy that spontaneity, advance planning is a must.

Camping has been a tradition for over 100 years, but back then it wasn’t camping so much as just living in the wild for a while. By the 1940s, camping began to become in earnest a widespread form of vacation. But as the post – WWII economy improved and highway systems developed camping really took off as a relaxing and spontaneous pastime.

Now in the present, with the advent of RVs and the advance of technology camping has became enormously popular. The result? Many campers vie for limited spots during certain weeks of the year at a limited number of campsites.

As more and more camping enthusiest take on the challenge of camping, commercial campsites sprang up to satisfy the need, but there are limits from economic constraints (many campsites don’t make profitable businesses). The number of desirable spots outside National and State parks is limited, too. There’s only so much great scenery around.

So, back to the first thought “Camping should be spontaneous, fun and relaxing”. In order to accomplish this the first step in planning your camping trip is to decide when and where you want to go, then make a reservation. There are hundreds of places online to do that. Two are ReserveUSA (http://www.reserveusa.com) and The National Park Service Reservation Center ([http://reservations.nps.gov]).

Like booking a good cruise, you’ll need to book at least three months ahead and, for the best spots, possibly as much as a year or more. Rooms at the famous Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, often require booking two years in advance. Pretty extraordinary considering that the cheapest room is $350 per night.

Once you have a confirmed reservation you can prepare your packing list. You could throw everything into the RV and take off. But the odds are high you’ll overlook something essential.

You’ll need a well-stocked first aid kit. You should spend time reviewing the list of most common toxic plants for the location you chose and any wildlife warnings for the area. Bears are common in some areas, wild cats in others.

Make a complete list: tents, sleeping bags, clothing, tools, stove, lighting, … that’s appropriate for the place and time of year. That list will be at least one page of four columns full of things even just to hit the basics.

Investigate any road closures, especially if you’re planning a winter camping trip. Floods, rocks slides, snow avalanches, ice and other problems are still fairly common.

As the trip date gets close, check the weather. Most camping areas are in the mountains or away from urban areas. Those areas tend to have less predictable weather with sudden rain squalls, thunderstorms, etc. But, you can get a good idea of what you’re likely to encounter anyway. Pack accordingly.

Plan ahead carefully and you’ll be in a better position to relax and forget about controlling events during your trip.

Clifty Falls State Park Camping Review

This trip took my family to Clifty Falls Indiana on our last camping trip of the year before school started. Clifty Falls Indiana is located in the town of Madison Indiana, Madison is a small town located in South East Indiana. Madison is known for its historic sites, wineries and of course Clifty Falls State park.

Clifty Falls State park is home to camping, hiking and the Clifty Inn along with much more. If you like to hike then Clifty falls is for you. In this review I will go over what the park has to offer in camping and entrainment.

Camp Ground:

The campground offers 59 primitive, 106 electric, and youth group camp sites. I hate to say this but they do not offer water or full hook up at this park. Water is supplied from a hose at the bath houses, the water is regularly tested and is marked as “safe to drink”. The sewage tanks are located at the front of the park and has easy access to pull in and out on both sides of the tanks.

The camping ground also has some small play areas with slides and swings that are in good shape.

The roads are paved and in good shape, kids can ride bikes, skateboards, etc with no issues. The sites include a gravel pad at all electrical sites. Many of the sites are backed against woods but some are in the open. Sites in the open have very little shade with the sites backed against the woods having some.

The camp ground does have a theater with seating but they did not show any movies while we where there. They did have church service on Sunday morning which is always nice. They also have crafts or another activity almost every day for the kids.

The bath houses are nice, I would suggest the new bath house in the primitive section if you do not mind the trip. It looks brand new.

Check-in is an easy pull up window and since you already have a reservation it goes quickly. The guard at the front gate was very nice, in fact everyone was very nice. A lot of families were camping while we were there and everyone seemed nice. We ended up camping next to about 20 modern Amish. I don’t know if this is a large Amish community but it was nice.

The Clifty Falls camp ground does not have a pool but a quick hike through a trail takes you to one. You can always drive like we did because we had a small guy with us and between the drinks and towels it makes better sense.

The pool cost $2 per person per day and is open to non-campers. This kind of caught us off guard, we thought campers swam free. In any case the $2 is well worth it. The Clifty Falls pool includes a beach style pool with two slides, a diving board and baby pool. My older son and friend spent most of the time on the large water park type slide that ends in 3 feet of water. My younger son liked the big pool in the shallow beach style part with a park supplied life jacket. I should also say that you can not bring in any floating devices for young swimmers. The life guards will supply you with a free life jacket. Okay, so the pool was awesome and well worth the $2 but the life guards are another story. They are all younger kids (17-19) and they seemed kind of snooty and irritated at all the kids. I should not say all but 2-3 were. Not mean but kind of snooty. I wrote this off to kids summer job. So over all you will want to visit the pool.

Camping can be reserved online along with any other state park by visiting the Indiana reservation site.

The Park:

The park also has a lot to offer. 1300 acres, miles of hiking ranging from moderate to rugged trails, private picnic areas, nature center and play areas. Besides the pool you will find a the nature center that is small but fun. You will find live snakes along with some other wildlife from around the park. They do have nature shows, we went to a snake show while there and the boys got to hold a black snake.

There are a lot of trails. One is rated easy but you do not see much. The others are rated moderate to rugged. You will have no trouble taking a 3 year old on the moderate as long as you are holding hands. I would leave the rugged to 7 yeas olds and above but we did take our 3 year old on a rugged because we made a wrong turn, he did well! I will say that you must be careful as you will be along some pretty big cliffs. Always keep children in front of you and make sure they are not running. Always hold the hand of any small children at all times!

Clifty Falls State park is known for hiking, the other stuff is an added bonus. I highly recommend visiting Clifty Falls Indiana State Park for your next camping trip. It is family oriented and you will not be bored. It is just a great park.

Boondocking: How to Camp Without Hookups

You’ve probably heard a lot about boondocking–camping without hookups–and wondered why anyone would want to camp where there were no water, sewage, or electrical connections. All modern RVs have been manufactured to be independent of these appendages that hook them up to land-based resources. All RVs have a holding tank for fresh water, and most of the time two holding tanks for waste, one from the toilet and one from the shower and sinks. They also have a house battery or batteries to supply 12-volt electricity to the RV and a generator to produce electrical power to the 120-volt and 12-volt systems, and to recharge the batteries. Camping without these hookups opens up many more possibilities on the vast natural areas and public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Forest Service (FS) for enjoying your RV lifestyle. First, though, you have to get comfortable with camping without hookups, which limits your amount of drinking water, battery electricity, and waste disposal capacity. Here are seven ways to conserve your natural resources and transition from hookups to boondocking.

  1. Start off by boondocking for just one or two nights at a campground that does not have hookups, and won’t tax your onboard systems. But to go longer than that you need to learn some conservation techniques and alter some wasteful habits.
  2. Conserve your fresh water supply by taking Navy showers-rinse down, turnoff water, soap up, rinse off. Wash your hands the same way. Filling your gray water tank is one of the more limiting factors in how long you can boondock, so prevent as much waste water from entering the tank as you can.
  3. When washing dishes, use a small bowl of soapy water. Rinse dishes in a tub of water, rather than under a running faucet. Wipe food off your dishes before washing. Use a small bowl of soapy water to wash and a plastic tub of water for rinsing. With a little practice you will be surprised at how much water you previously wasted.
  4. Carry extra Jerry jugs or gallon containers of water to dump in your tank when your pump starts sucking air.
  5. To conserve electricity so that your house batteries last as long as possible, turn off lights, TV, radio, porch light, computers and any other electrical appliances or tools when they are not being used. Use rechargeable battery operated book lights for reading.
  6. If you need to use a 120-volt appliance like the microwave, blender, or coffee grinder, or your battery-draining water pump, schedule using these in the same block of time while running the generator, which will power them directly without pulling amps out of your batteries.
  7. To find public land boondocking campsites, stop at ranger stations and visitor centers upon entering public lands and ask about “dispersed camping” areas. Find public lands on state maps that show recreational lands. Most roads to these sites will be dirt but were built solidly for logging and cattle trucks and fire-fighting equipment and most should be suitable for RVs.

For more information as well as RVing tips and destinations visit my Healthy RVLifestyle website or check out my eBook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, a complete manual on boondocking.

Best 10 Places to Camp in Utah

If you are planning an outing in Utah, here is a list of the best 10 places to go camping. Most of these campgrounds have a variety of activities including hiking, swimming, fishing, boating and more. The sites vary so if you need to use a family cabin tent or want room for a privacy shelter be sure to allow yourself enough space to accommodate for that. Quite a few campsites these days have enough room for the larger 5-6 person tent or even a couple smaller 2-4 person tents or solo tents.

Jordanelle State Park Campground:

The Hailstone Recreation Area is the premier development of Jordanelle State Park. Hailstone is a large developed campground and day-use area located on the west side of the reservoir. Hailstone serves thousands of visitors each year from boaters and campers, to fishermen and special events. Hailstone offers picturesque camping with 223 sites for RV’s, camping tents, picnicking and more. The park is open May-October and has several fun activities for friends and families; these include camping, biking, fishing, boating, swimming, water skiing, playground and more. The park also has amenities available for the comfort of the visitors, which include concessions, cabins, pro shops, dump stations for RV users, modern restrooms, grills, hot showers and boat rentals. The camping fees range from $16 to $20 per night. It is also open for reservation.

Mill Hollow Campground:

Mill Hollow campground is located next to the Mill Hollow Reservoir in the Uinta National forest at an elevation of 8,800 feet. The park has a total of 28 camping sites, camping tents only non-electric 11 and RV non-electric 17. Pets are welcome at all sites. The park has several amenities including vault toilets, drinking water, campfire rings, grills and firewood. The park also offers many activities to the families and groups that visit. These activities include fishing, canoeing, kayaking, wildlife viewing and hiking. The camping fees can be obtained from the self-service pay station. Some sites are first-come, first served while others can be reserved on line. Fees are $16 per night with additional fee for reservation in advance.

Goblin Valley State Park Campground:

Goblin Valley State Park campground is located in Hanksville Utah, 48 miles SW of Green River, Utah via SR24. It gets the name from the strange and colorful landscape filled with bizarre sandstone rock formations called goblins. The park has 24 camping sites, 1 group site and 2 yurts. The activities offered in this park are camping, hiking, wildlife viewing to name a few. The park has several amenities available such as dump stations, fire rings, vault toilets, grills, picnic tables, modern restrooms and hot showers which make life easier and fun for the campers. Reservations are allowed and the park is open year-round. Caution: Extreme desert landscape with little or no shade. The camping fees are $16 per night.

Devils Garden Campground:

Devils Garden campground is located in the Arches National Park in Southeastern Utah. Devils Garden offers 51 camping sites which are available for reservation, this gives the visitors the opportunity to stay overnight and enjoy the scenic environment. There are two group campsites, 35-person and 55-person. Both of these sites are $3 per person with a minimum fee of $33. No trailers or RV’s are allowed at these two sites and reservations are required. The park has several facilities for the visitors comfort; these include flush toilets, amphitheater for ranger talks, drinking water and picnic areas. This campground has breathtaking scenery, abundant hiking trails, guided hiking tours and more. The camping fees are $20 per night, plus $9 for booking reservation between March 1 and Nov 1. Nov 1 through end of Feb sites are available on first-come, first-served basis. No hook-ups, dump stations, electricity or showers.

Green River State Park Campground:

Green River State Park is located on the banks of the green river. It has a total of 42 camping sites and facilities available for the usage of the visitors are modern restrooms, hot showers, group use pavilion, an amphitheater and boat ramps. There are two group campground sites available by reservation. Some of the campground activities include fishing, boating, swimming, numerous species of birds for the bird watchers and nine-hole golf course. Campground amenities include drinking water, dump stations and hook-ups for RV users, showers, picnic tables, grills and more. Reservation is subject to availability. The campground is open year-round. The camping fees are $18 and $25 for hook-ups sites per night.

Snow Canyon State Park Campground:

The Snow Canyon State Park campground is located in the 62,000 acre Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. It is located near St George, in southwestern Utah about 310 miles south of Salt Lake City. It has a total of 14 RV sites with water and electrical hook-ups and 17 multi-use camping sites. The park is open year-round and reservations are encouraged. The park has made available several amenities which include modern restrooms, electricity, hot showers, group use pavilion, hiking/biking/equestrian trails and a dump station. There are several activities that take place in the park such as horseback riding, biking, hiking, rock climbing and junior ranger programs. This scenic park allows people to enjoy nature studies, wildlife viewing and photographic opportunities in abundance. The campground fees range from $16 to $20 per night.

Dead Horse Point State Park Campground:

Dead Horse Point State Park campground is located 25 miles from the city of Moab. The view from Dead Horse Point is one of the most photographed scenic vistas in the world. Towering 2,000 feet above the Colorado River, the overlook provides a breathtaking panorama of Canyonlands’ sculpted pinnacles and buttes. The 21 site Kayenta campground features electrical hookups, tent pads, sheltered tables and charcoal grills at each site. It has several amenities available to the visitor; they include comfort stations, concessions, dump stations, restrooms, drinking water, visitor center and more. Also several fun activities take place in the campground; these include summer evening programs, hiking, mountain biking, nature study, wildlife viewing and photography. The park is open year-round and the camping fees are $25 per night. Group rates $25-$75 per night.

Firefighters Campground:

Firefighters campground is located just 3 miles from the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. This campground serves as a memorial to three firefighters who lost their lives in the 1977 Cart Creek Fire. It has a total of 60 camping sites of which six are wheelchair accessible family sites with each having a picnic table and a campfire ring, some sites have grills. The park has several amenities available to the visitors; these include flush toilets, dump station, amphitheater, grills, and showers 2.5 miles away at Deer Run campground. Some of the other interesting activities that take place in and around the park (within 10 miles) for the enjoyment of the visitors, are birding, biking, hiking, horseback riding, picnicking, water skiing and swimming. Also within 10 miles you will find a general store, restaurant, marina and boat ramp. The camping fees range from $18-$20 per night and reservation fee is $9. This park is open May-September.

Watchman Campground:

Watchman campground is located in the Zion National Park which has a total of three campgrounds. Watchman is near the south entrance at Springdale. Some campsites get shade for part of the day, but many get no shade at all and summer temperatures exceed 95 degrees so staying cool can be a challenge. The Virgin River runs along the edge of the campground and there are a few riverside campsites. There are 162 regular sites, 2 wheelchair accessible sites and 7 group sites available. All sites are drive-up with a maximum of two vehicles but only one RV or trailer, overflow parking is available. Not all campsites have electrical hook-ups so if you need power, you will want to make a reservation in advance. The park area offers many recreational opportunities, including, backpacking, biking, hiking, climbing, horseback riding and more. Comfort stations provide flush toilets, cold running drinkable water and trash containers, but no showers or electrical outlets. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire pit with grill. Springdale is adjacent to Zion Canyon; pay showers, a small market, firewood, Laundromats and restaurants are available. Springdale can be reached from the campgrounds by car, foot, bike, or free shuttle (April through October). Reservations are highly recommended if you want to guarantee a spot at this campground. Tent and electric campsites are available year-round but group sites March through early November and are by reservation only. The camping fees range from $16-$20 per night.

Bryce Canyon North Campground:

North campground is located in close proximity to the visitor center in Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce Canyon is really famous for its beautiful rock features. This campground has 13 RV sites available by reservation and 86 RV and tent sites available on first-come, first-served basis. There are no hook-ups in the campground but a fee-for-use dump station is available at the south end of the campground. Amenities include restrooms with flush toilets and drinking water. During summer months coin-operated laundry and shower facilities are available at the general store nearby. Hiking, backpacking, and photography are among the many things to do here. Activities vary during the time of year. The park is open year-round but is subject to temporary road closures during winter snow storms. The camping fees are $15 per night.

Camping Tips For Seniors – Looking For an Economic Way to Travel

More and more seniors are looking to travel with economical ways to do just that. After all, this is the golden years and what better way to travel then trying your hand at camping. Here are five tips to get you started in camping.

First, research campgrounds of areas that you may want to visit. To do that here are a couple of websites that may help you decide on where to go on your next adventure. One site I would suggest is the National Park Service and the other site is Reserve America. Each site is unique in giving information about camping by state, campsite maps, locate by activity and camping gear suggestions.

Secondly, you ask yourself what I would camp in. Of course, owning a RV would be nice and a more comfortable way to travel. That is something you can think about later if you plan on doing a lot of camping in the future. Even so, there is nothing wrong to begin your camping experiences in a decent tent at a more affordable price. Tents come in all sizes and shapes try to find the right one that will meet your needs. You can find them on line or better yet would be to see them in person at a sporting goods store that sells tents. Therefore, you would get a better perspective of the size that you would need. Another thought is you do not have to sleep on the ground if you have an aero bed and a big enough tent it will fit nicely.

Thirdly, the next area of concern is camping equipment. Everything from a camp stove, sleeping bag, cookware, and coolers. Believe it or not you may already have a lot of these items available to you. However, one of the most important items would be a camp stove to cook on. Car camping stoves work very efficiently to cook up sumptuous meals just like home. You can even use the pots and pans you have at home to begin your camp kitchen supplies.

Next, think about planning your meals a head of time. Preparing them at home not only will save time but money as well. Look in your cupboards and refrigerator for smaller items such as coffee, graham crackers, mustard, ketchup, mayo, and seasonings. Granted, look for items missed from your checklist on the road but try local vendors for fresh fruits and vegetables and discount stores instead. Why not ask about senior discounts as well. In addition, purchase blocked ice for the cooler it will last longer.

Lastly, look into a National Park Pass for seniors. They cost you $10.00 dollars, which will give you some wonderful price breaks in camping and other amenities. If you are 62 years of age or older and proof of age you may buy these passes at any national park. Check out this website for more information on this pass http://store.usgs.gov/pass/index.html. Happy travels!

Family Tent Store: Equipment Necessary for a Successful Family Camping Trip

We found, through experience, that the first accessory we needed was a fold-up camp wagon. This enables us to transport the camping equipment from the car to the campsite without having to make as many trips to the vehicle. There are many manufacturers of this vehicle readily available, but we found that the “Coleman” foldable camp wagon served us better than some of the other types.

Next in line would be “Safety Matches”. If you are camping in an area that allows for open fires, this is a must have item. We always brought two boxes of the safety matches and put them in zip lock bags to prevent them from getting wet and stored it with our “dry goods” supplies. A necessary accompaniment to the matches is some kind of tinder to start the kindling, before adding larger pieces of wood. Many people have their own ways of appropriating this. Many use the lint from dryers while others use “steel wool”. Kindling, such as dry grass, leaves or twigs may be found at the campsite, but it is suggested that you have a back-up.

The next item we will have to have, if we will be having a campfire is a “camp ax or hatchet”. If the camping area allows us to use local resources, this a must have item. We will need this to cut our firewood and also to drive in tent stakes. They are readily available at local camping/sporting goods stores. They can also be purchased online, ranging in prices from $18 to $70.

There are general rules in having a campfire, that should be stringently observed. It goes without saying, that children and animals should be observed to ensure that they do not go too near the campfire. I have included in the next part, a link to an article that is put out by the US Park Services that should be read, in regards to campfires.

If your Family Camping Trip will be to a US Parks, Campground, you should go to http://www.nps.gov/articles/campfires.htm and see their recommendations. These guidelines should also apply, even if your camping trip is not a national camping ground.

Proper sleeping bags from time of year, plentiful drinking water (two liters per day per person) and please don’t forget the toilet paper and other items needed to make your Family Camping Trip enjoyable.

This article was written to try, and assist in making the Family Camping Trip as enjoyable as possible and the start of building “Family Memories”. We hope this article has offered suggestions that you may find useful. Enjoy yourselves and “Happy Trails”.

How Do You Define Customer Service?

“We provide excellent customer service.”

Have you ever heard that phrase? Perhaps you’ve said it yourself and yet just how often do we really provide great service to our customers?

What is customer service, anyway?

The Encyclopedia Britannica says “Customer service involves an array of activities to keep existing customers satisfied.”

Wow. That’s vague. And who defines what will satisfy a customer?

The Synonym Finder by J.I. Rodale offers these alternative words for service: assistance, help, aid, abetment, good turn, favor, a hand, a leg up, benefit, contribution; boost, promotion, advancement, furtherance, advocacy, recommendation, support and backing.

We can sink our teeth into those words, but we are still sitting in a room alone, or with our team members defining what great customer service looks like without the benefit of the customer’s suggestions. How can we provide great customer service or “keep existing customers satisfied” without input from our customers?

So the first step to providing great customer service is to define just what it looks and feels like. A great place to start is by asking your best customers:

What keeps you coming back?

What experiences do we provide that mean the most to you?

What is the most important component of great customer service for you?

The customer may or may not be able to define exactly what your customer service components are but the conversation will have two important results:

1. The customer will feel valued because you asked their opinion, listened to what they had to say and plan to use some, if not all, of their suggestions.

2. By listening between the lines, you can begin to understand just what is truly important to your customer.

When my teenage son was young he and I would spent a week each summer camping. Sometimes we’d tent camp and sometimes we’d visit a campground with cabins. His attention span was short and so I would plan great activities for our week; visiting a local children’s museum, a day at the amusement park, hayrides, hikes in the woods and trips down the river in a canoe. Each day was carefully planned with play time and adventure time. The activities were fun but also costly and a cheap vacation in a tent would often cost as much as if we’d stayed in a hotel.

One summer, as we drove home from our fun-packed week, I asked my then five year old son what his favorite time had been. We’d visited Santa’s Village and I fully expected him to pick the amusement park as his favorite experience.

“Remember that day we sat at the picnic table and colored in the Spiderman book?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“That.”

“What?”

“That was my favorite.”

Who knew? We can guess what our customer thinks is the most important element of service but unless we ask them, we really are only guessing. If we base our customer service measurements against a guess – then how can we be sure we’ve truly satisfied our customers?

So how do we go about defining the customer experience for our business?

A lot depends on the type of business. If you are an online business, your service will be based on how easy it is to navigate your website, walking the fine line between clutter and content and ensuring your words speak the customer’s language.

A service business may be more defined by accessibility. How easy is it to actually get a hold of you? Do you answer your phone or return calls quickly. Do you have email and respond within a few hours? Are you willing to meet the customer in their office? Do you follow through in a timely manner? Do you keep your promises?

A call center will rely heavily on the attitude and tone of voice of the call center employee. Can you hear the smile in their voice? Do they over use the “hold” button? Are they trained to resolve issues or will the customers have to repeat their story many times up the management ladder?

A brick and mortar business has additional opportunities to provide service starting with the parking lot; is it clean and does it offer plenty of parking spaces? Is the customer greeted warmly and promptly? Is your staff knowledgeable, helpful and available without hovering? Is there an adequate selection? Is the store merchandised in a pleasing manner? Have you dusted, vacuumed and emptied the visible trash cans? If cleanliness is important to your customer, seeing an employee’s half eaten lunch at the cash register could be a make or break moment for your customer.

Employees are another great resource for defining customer service.

Who better to help define service than the people that interact with customers everyday? Ask your employees what they hear customers tell them. If customers comment about the great magazine selection in your waiting room then keep them current. If customers comment on the fact that you provide coffee or ice water then perhaps that is something to continue.

By including your employees in the definition process, they are taking ownership of making sure it continues going forward.

A key element to providing and becoming known for providing great customer service is consistency. Ritz Carlton is known worldwide for their customer service. How did they develop such a world class reputation? At Ritz Carlton great customer service happens everyday with every customer and every employee in every location around the world.

What service can you provide to your customers every time? Is it something that matters to the customer? Create your definition of superior customer service by asking employees and customers what matters most. Once you’ve defined what great service looks like, then it is time to make it happen!

Fishing Lake Ray – Hubbard, Texas

Located in Collin, Dallas, Rockwall and Kaufman counties, just west of Rockwall Texas.

Surface area is approximately 21,670 acres. Maximum depth is 40 feet

Lake Ray Hubbard was impounded in 1968

Conservation Pool Elevation is 435 feet

Lake Fluctuation: Depends on area rainfall. Annual fluctuations can be as is 1 to 3 feet.

Normal Clarity is Stained.

Known for it’s excellent catfish and striped bass fishing. Fisherman come from far and wide to fish Ray Hubbard. Bass fishing is rated good on this lake. But on the whole Lake Ray Hubbard is the perfect fishing trip for the whole family.

Predominant Fish Species: Largemouth bass, Crappie, Catfish and White & hybrid striped bass.

Species Fishing Opportunity Ratings: Largemouth Bass is Good, Catfish is Excellent, Crappie is Good, White Bass is Good and Striped Bass is Excellent.

Guides: Bug-A-Bass Guide Service, Messin’ with the Fish Guide Service, LakeRayFishingGuide.com, Tracy Nix Guide Service, Outlaw Adventures and John Varner Guide Service.

Cabins/Camping/Marinas : Captains Cove Marina, Chandler’s Landing Marina and Comfort Suites.

Striped Bass and blue catfish are the most abundant sport fishes in the lake in recent years. Largemouth Bass fishing is getting better due to more vegetation from year to year.Channel catfish, White Bass and and crappie fishing continue to be rated good. Standing timber is the more abundant structure and cover on this lake, with Hydrilla found only in certain places.

Striped Bass are more active during the fall, winter and spring months due to the cooler weather. Lake fish are active much longer during daylight hours and are normally found in shallow water early morning and late afternoon For active fish, on Lake Ray Hubbard jigging spoons, spinner baits and deep water crank baits are most fisherman’s choice around underwater structure. Crappie fishermen use jigs and live minnows around cover. For catfish use cut bait, worms and chicken livers. Use heavy jigs and slabs when fish are deep.

In Conclusion: This is a very popular lake with many avid anglers. Good Fishing.