By Joan Rykal
This year, the Thousand Trails’ member magazine, TrailBlazer Magazine, will feature special stories throughout the year to tell the story of Thousand Trails’ 50-year history! Check out this story from the upcoming issue of TrailBlazer Magazine and be sure to come with us on an historical journey with our interactive timeline!
Once Chehalis was up and running, the Kuolt’s looked to expand the dream and find a location for a second campground.
According to Lois Kuolt, in her book, We Called it Thousand Trails, the plan was to find a location that offered a different climate and scenery than Chehalis, so they looked toward eastern Washington State.
For an entire year, they worked with land brokers and real estate agents, searching for the ideal location. And they finally found it just outside the charming town of Leavenworth.
In the early 1960s, the town underwent a facelift of sorts and it was transformed into a Bavarian Village. With the mountains as the backdrop and the storefronts and buildings sporting a Bavarian motif, the town became a popular tourist destination. Today, more than two million people visit the town of Leavenworth each year.
In the book, Lois writes of their excitement at finding the perfect acreage just outside this charming village.
“Leavenworth was ideal,” she said. “The tourists were built-in, there was plenty of shopping, summer, and there was snow sledding, skiing, and snowmobiling during winter months.”
The acreage of the Leavenworth preserve was a bit smaller than that of Chehalis, but it had the added plus of being surrounded by forest land and just a few miles from sparkling Lake Wenatchee.
Just about a year after Leavenworth first welcomed members in 1975, land for a third preserve, and a second Washington location, was purchased in Mt. Vernon.
The Mt. Vernon preserve offered easy access to fishing and golf courses as well as sightseeing opportunities to the San Juan Islands. Onsite amenities focused on family fun and included a horseshoe pit, miniature golf course, a sauna, swimming pool, and wading pool. Of course, the Cascade Mountains as a backdrop and the lush location of the Skagit Valley added up for a beautiful, natural camping experience.
Within short order, land purchases were made in British Columbia, Canada, Bend, Oregon and a first California location in the town of Oregon House.
And while the portfolio began to expand into new locations, all the preserves offered many of the same natural amenities. Lush forested locations, proximity to lakes and rivers and hiking and trail opportunities combined to create top-notch, one of a kind, camping.
Cultus Lake is nestled in the verdant Fraser River Valley, while Bend sits on the Little Deschutes River. La Conner is less than a mile from the shores of Puget Sound and nearby to the quaint fishing village of La Conner. Lake of the Springs sits at the foothills of the Sierra Mountains and offers guests access to a private 120-acre lake.
Thanks to these beautiful locations, not to mention a friendly enthusiastic staff, Thousand Trails was offering an unparalleled experience. By 1979, the membership base had grown to 13,000 families. These families were enjoying “America’s Finest Family Camping” and creating long-lasting relationships with other members. It was definitely a family experience.
And, a magazine was introduced to keep everyone apprised of all the things going on in the Thousand Trails world – it was called TrailBlazer.
*This story has been reprinted with permission from the author