Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Smell the Barn


The sun is setting on our 2020 westward adventure. After leaving Colorado, we’ve begun the journey toward home with quick stops planned in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi. Our projected arrival date, in Chattanooga, is September 4th; almost exactly 8 months since this adventure began. We have had an amazing, chaotic experience seeing new places, connecting with old friends and family and making new friends; even Starbaby made a friend (Australian Terrier, Libby,from Colorado Springs). However, we feel that pull for home!

The most important thing for me, about having a home base, even though we love spending long periods of time traveling, is having a destination for a defined ending to a trip. Of course, there is something emotional about an adventure coming to an end, but that sense of loss sets the stage for a new beginning, in the future. Going home allows me to reflect on all the various experiences this kind of lifestyle offers. It also gives the opportunity for a relaxed atmosphere to reconnect with family and friends and balance the responsibilities of roles like daughter, mother and grandmother. Dorothy was right when she said, “There’s no place like home,” but she might never have grasped that reality without a trip to the “Land of Oz.”

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Camping in a Heat Dome


This week, Death Valley recorded the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth, at 130° F. The Pacific Northwest and Southwest are experiencing a crippling heat wave with average highs being at least 6° higher than usual for this time of year. Our destination, after leaving Idaho, was Ridgway State Park in Colorado; because it’s a place we love and it sits at 7,000’ elevation. We had a one night stop over, in Utah’s Green River State Park, and I had my first experience camping in 100° temps. I didn’t like it.

The hotter temps have slowed us down, but because we are so familiar with this area, we’ve been able to take peaceful morning hikes, bike rides and numerous visits to Orvis; one of our favorite hot springs.

After lunch, things do heat up here. We’ve concluded the things we are most thankful for these days are shade trees, clouds, bodies of water, low humidity and our little camper’s air conditioner.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

My Own Private Idaho


After two weeks of rest and relaxation, outside West Yellowstone, we headed to Malad Summit, in Idaho, where my brother-in-law has a ranch and cabin. It was such a relief to not have to worry about finding a campsite, on the weekend, in this area, where practically every state park campground is full. W

Because of the incredible hospitality of Jan and Greg, we parked our Bambi in the shade and spent three nights at their cool cabin. It’s hard to put a price tag on a comfortable bed, bath and delicious food and drink, but as the MasterCard commercial says, “it’s priceless!” We are well rested, fed and ready to make our way home.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Best Laid Plans

Sheep Lake Selfie

Mark and I are planners. We usually plan a trip a year in advance and have reservations at almost every campground we plan to go to. Since March, we’ve been flying by the seat of our pants and what a wild ride it has been. Many travelers pride themselves on having the mantra, as one friend put it, of waking up each morning, looking left, then right, and deciding that day which way to go. We have done really well adapting to that style of travel (we really didn’t have a choice) but after a while we find ourselves needing a rest to regroup. Henry’s Lake State Park has been great, allowing us a place to settle into a routine without worrying about what’s left or right for two whole weeks.

Mark is riding his bike a lot, and I am taking daily hikes seeing meadows of wildflowers and pristine mountain lakes. We have felt a bit of pressure to visit Yellowstone, since the entrance is only 20 miles away, but we’ve been many times before, and I’m not sure we really want to fight the crowds at the moment. A couple days ago, a young bison wandered within a few hundred yards of our campsite. I told Mark, “See, we don’t have to go to Yellowstone. If we are quiet and patient, it will come to us!”

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Camping Again

There are as many different types of campers as there are campgrounds. In the summer, the majority of the people you meet, in a park, are traditional campers. They live fairly close to the park and are spending vacation time living in a tent or camper; usually anywhere from a long weekend to two weeks. There are also full time campers who have sold their permanent dwelling and travel from place to place in their home on wheels. Mark and I find ourselves somewhere in the middle. This year we will spend about 7 months on the road and 5 months at our condo in Chattanooga. We like having a foot in both worlds but we do find this lifestyle challenging when hot weather comes and campgrounds fill up with traditional campers. The biggest challenge for us is getting reservations at popular parks through the weekend.

We love Henry’s Lake State Park, in Idaho. The park sits at 6,500 feet elevation, there always seem to be clouds and a cool breeze and the average temps in the summer are highs in the 70’s and lows in the 50’s. Of course, because of those things, this is a park hundreds of other people like to visit too. Another unique thing about this park is that they have five walk-in sites (sites no one can reserve) that are first come first serve. We could only get a reservation at Henry’s Lake for two nights but decided to head this way and take a chance at snagging a walk-in site. The first day we were here we weren’t successful, but the second night a site came available so now we can stay here for two weeks! We are ecstatic! We needed a place to slow down, rest up and actually settle into camping again. And did I mention a pair of formally endangered Trumpeter Swans live here (the biggest native waterfowl in the US) and they swim by our campsite most mornings with their babies?

Watching the first baseball game of 2020

Monday, July 20, 2020

Glacier....sort of

We made it to Glacier National Park and are in a terrific campground just 2.5 miles from the West entrance to the park. Not only is Moose Creek RV Resort conveniently located, but they also offer  breakfast and serve scrumptious huckleberry pie! Regrettably, the West entrance to Glacier is the only entrance open, due to the pandemic. Another regrettable fact is that even though there are over 700 miles of hiking trails, in the park, very few of them are open. We decided to drive as far as we were allowed, on the Going to the Sun Road, and hike to Hidden Lake. We got up super early and made it to the trailhead ahead of almost everyone; (other than the people who had slept in their cars at the trailhead). The only problem we encountered was the crazy fog that greeted us at the top. I decided to hike through the fog and of course Hidden Lake remained completely hidden. The silver lining was I saw my first Bighorn sheep on the way back. Of course, the ultimate irony was Mark saw a whole herd while waiting for me in the parking lot!

As a side note; National Parks aren’t very dog friendly. The only trail that allows dogs, in Glacier, is a paved bike trail. We’ve discovered that after a couple days seeing the sights in a National Park, the best thing for us to do is look for dog friendly trails that adjoin the park. We found an amazing trail in the Great Bear Wilderness called Ousel Peak. It’s a pretty brutal hike where you climb almost 4,000’ in elevation in 3.6 miles, but the views from the top allowed a peek into Glacier and a great view of Harrison Lake.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Keeping Cool

After only two days of camping, with temps in the 90’s, we scampered north to a cooler climate and found ourselves back in the panhandle of Idaho; just 70 miles from the Canadian border. We are in a small state park called Round Lake. The park is small and picturesque and can only accommodate trailers 24 feet or less. Mark had his most challenging back in, of the trip, here, and he nailed it. Most of the campers in the park are in tents. We love this area and discovered one of the top ranked disc golf courses, in the country, is in the nearby town of Sandpoint. This stop has been a really relaxing one. We push on to Glacier National Park this weekend and hope to find it less hectic than the local news stations are reporting. We do have reservations, so that’s a good thing.