As I’ve written in the past once before, anytime I visit Conklin’s Barn Dinner Theatre out in the sticks of Goodfield I enjoy looking over into the near distance, across the creek to the adjacent Jellystone Park Campground. There at the entrance to the site is where a giant statue of Yogi Bear has stood greeting visitors for years. It’s always been fun to sort of wave back at Yogi—who better to stand sentient at the very place he made famous than the original “smarter than the average bear?” Yogi was one of my favorites growing up, and I’d even say that today he ranks pretty high on the list of best “retro” cartoon characters.
But after a recent trip out to the Barn for brunch and a show, I noticed something wasn’t quite right: I couldn’t see Yogi! It’s usually in the darker, evening hours when I have come and gone from the Barn, when you have to squint to see him standing there, but this was broad daylight and I saw no bear. He was definitely always there before-but not this time by the look of things. Did I need an eye exam? Was my food coma from the Barn’s buffet causing me to see (or not see) things? How very confusing.
Should I be concerned? Even in the dead of winter you could always count on Yogi to shuck hibernation and be seen steadfastly on guard at the entrance to Jellystone. But now it’s summer, the height of camping season, so unless he’s out stealing pic-a-nic baskets, where the heck is he?
But then come to think of it, I had noticed something on my way into Goodfield that day that didn’t seem right: Jellystone was no longer listed on the interstate exit sign under CAMPING. I hadn’t thought much about this in passing, as I know it costs big bucks to be on an interstate sign. And even though I couldn’t see Yogi, there most definitely was still a campground there in the distance. Maybe Yogi’s dues had run out and he no longer felt the signage was necessary? Especially since all the other signs leading to Jellystone were still there...
I had a very bad feeling about all of this, so it’s time to go investigate. I drove up to the entrance, and my fears were correct: Yogi was missing! Where the hell is he?
And the plot thickened from there: not only was Yogi missing, it seemed as though Jellystone was missing!
What the heck is Timberline Campground? What is going on here? Who are those cute little animals and why are they smiling and laughing at us? What have they done with Yogi, and Boo-Boo, and Cindy Bear?
Alright, time to get some answers. I had to find out, so I parked and entered the Jellystone—oh wait, excuse me—Timberline general store. As I walked up to the doors, I was struck with fear that I’d find something like this inside…
But I didn’t. Inside the General Store I met two very nice ladies that work at the campground. They gave me the entire scoop on what happened to Yogi and Jellystone, and sadly it’s not very dramatic or poignant. Jellystone was part of a much bigger franchise network of campgrounds that has been around since 1969 and they now boast over 80 locations in the United States and Canada, mostly east of the Mississippi. For years, this particular Jellystone Park location won numerous awards from the company on maintaining the quality and integrity that the company set for its franchisees . Last year, the property was bought by new owners. The fees from the company and demands from Warner Brothers (who license the characters) had grown increasingly problematic and not really worth the trouble in the past few years, so the new owner just decided to drop the franchise and re-invent the campground as its own thing.
So that’s basically it—Yogi was evicted for business reasons. Then of course I had to ask the million dollar question: “Do you guys still have any Yogi stuff laying around?”
They did. So then I asked the second million dollar question: “Can I see it?”
And they delivered. Back in an office behind the store’s counter I saw the few remaining traces of Jellystone still on property leaning against a wall. At one point, Yogi was everywhere around this place, but now there wasn’t much left—most of what they had was already taken or sent to the nearest Jellystone up in Millbrook, IL. This metal “Comfort Station” sign had hung in one of their bathroom facilities. Now there’s a name for the john I’ve never heard, and now that I’ve heard it, I can’t think of a better one.
There was also a “Ranger Station” sign. Not really sure why this would have needed to come down, unless that’s a Jellystone-exclusive font? Don’t all campgrounds have rangers, not just Jellystone?
Here’s a Yogi “Welcome” Sign that hung on the building entrance…
And there was also this “window” picture of Yogi and his pal Boo-Boo left behind, crafted by a few of the ladies on staff.
“Is that all?” I wondered.
No that wasn’t all. One of the ladies led me out through the back door to the Activities Barn, a place where campers can spend a rainy afternoon such as this one watching movies and doing art projects. There was another stash to reveal in here, and hey! That sign is lettered same as the Ranger Station, so my font theory is debunked.
Inside were several huge boxes of old merchandise-t-shirts and sweatshirts they were now unable to sell in the store because Yogi doesn’t live there anymore.
Most of what they had were kid-sized and kid-oriented, but what they do have they are willing to sell you for practically pennies!
They also had an entire cabinet that was practically hemorrhaging stark white shirts and bandanas featuring Yogi and Friends that were meant to be colored in by kids-or I suppose, adults too…
At last, I found a few shirts to take! Actually, I took a little more than just that…
I just couldn’t let any of this stuff go and I decided to take what was left of Jellystone home with me. Theyw ere so nice and offered it to me, and I couldn’t pass it up! I’ll find someplace for all of it, I’m sure. I wish that Yogi statue was still around-it would have been a big hit with the neighbors.
Before I left Timberline Campground with all my new memorabilia, I decided to take a look around and see if I could find any traces of Yogi remaining that had been overlooked…There was this nice pool area out behind the store, though I suppose not very popular on a day with lightning in the forecast…
There’s also several places for kids to play on the grounds. I camped a lot as a kid, and always in a tent, but was always surprised to see how fun and tricked out most campgrounds turned out to be. Hardly roughing it.
Besides tent camping, there are several other boarding options here at Timberline. You can hitch up your trailers-there were quite a few parked on property, and wow-some of the trailers I saw were nicer than some houses I’ve seen.
You can rent one of these tiny Hobbit cabins that come with their own grills and fire pits. These cracked me up and looked so cool! And is that Yogi green and brown it’s painted?
Here’s one of the “outdoor dining rooms”. I would wager a guess that the “pic-a-nic basket” stealing has substantially dropped off since Yogi was evicted.
I’m a fan of their speed limit signs around these parts too…don’t worry I wasn’t driving fast enough to “make dust”, because I was carefully searching for signs of Yogi. But he really wasn’t there. He most definitely was gone, and I was taking most of what he left behind with me. And with that, it was time to go, back out past the pole near the entrance that once stuck up Yogi’s ass so he could stand and greet his guests. I did make some dust on the way out-so much that it drew a tear to my eye thinking about him.
These little guys were happy to show me the exit. Time to head home with all my new Yogi swag.
Timberline Campground is still a really friendly and fun place if you’re a camper and they’re booked pretty solid for the 2015 season, with or without Yogi Bear. The staff is very nice and hospitable, especially to strangers who just wander in demanding to know what the hell happened to Yogi. I’ll sure miss waving to him when I’m in Goodfield.
But at least you can still stop and visit this Yogi. Just don’t visit too long, or you may spend the next morning in your Comfort Station.
1467 Timberline Road