I’m starting this blog as a way to document our travels and our time together so that in the years to come we can reflect on this and our kids can read about our adventures on the road.
Where have we been and what have we been doing this summer?
The summer of 2018 started off with our excited trek to Overland Expo in Flagstaff AZ. We were able to spend a good amount of time in the Flagstaff area – camping, playing at local playgrounds, enjoying the dark skies and relaxed vibe. We spent some time near Scottsdale at the Superstition Mountains finding warmer weather and clear, dry skies. We put our XP camper and truck up for sale in May and continued our travels to Four Corners and two national parks in Colorado – Mesa Verde and Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Our travels in southern Colorado were cut short due to the huge wildfire near Durango, which we learned about as we were driving north out of Durango on highway 550 and saw signs that the road was closed. Much to our surprise when we got back into service area and looked at the alerts online we read the initial reports of the 416 fire, which over the course of a month burned more than 50,000 acres in the San Juan National Forest. At that time we didn’t give much thought as to how much of an impact wildfires would have on us this summer.
We escaped the smoke and closed roads (i.e. wild camping sites for us) in southern Colorado and landed in Grand Junction CO for a week to show the camper and re-supply before we headed west to California. Our efforts in Grand Junction paid off and we had an offer on the camper with plans to finalize the sale in August. Our drive to Yosemite was fast and we soon discovered that everyone else was out enjoying wild places when we kept finding national park, state park and other campgrounds full. That meant a night at the Love’s truck stop in Ely, NV and the next night a free camp in a Sno-Park outside of Yosemite. Sno-Parks that allow spring/summer/fall camping are great places for a night or two and are usually free when there’s no snow! Yosemite and the areas to the west of Yosemite are beautiful. In our final leg of the journey into Yosemite we happened upon Mono Lake for the first time and were in awe of how beautiful the colors of the lake were on that June afternoon. That particular afternoon was partly cloudy and windy so the views were dramatic. Wind and inclement weather in general are one of those things that we’ve become accustomed to in camper life. Sometimes it’s all sunsets, perfect weather and the perfect temperature, but it can also be 50 mph winds, 35F or 105F and snowing/raining while you are trying to get camp set up. We’ve embraced that chasing good weather is one of the main goals in camper life, but in the chase sometimes there are long truck days and having a legit raincoat that one would wear on a fishing boat in Alaska helps.
After saying our goodbyes to family we met in Yosemite we headed north on our planned route of exploring the PNW for the summer and escaping the extreme heat in California. Our plans of a slow trek through the PNW were changed when we learned that the buyer of our camper wanted to purchase it before the sale date in August. We shifted gears and headed back to Colorado to finalize the sale and settle on our next home on wheels set-up. Traveling fast means that you skip through places you wished you could stay, so we’ll be back to explore more of Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
Our time in Colorado was filled with a lot of tasks – unpacking the XP camper, figuring out a new home on wheels, purchasing a new home on wheels, whittling down our possessions even further given our smaller space, packing up our new home and making upgrades to our new home that were necessary. We were also fortunate to be able to spend time with family in Colorado before heading north again to find cooler weather.
Our travels back north have been slower for most of the time and we’ve been able to discover and enjoy places we hadn’t in the past. Wyoming is the best example of this so far. Previously Wyoming had been the state we travelled through on I-80 to get to Colorado to visit with family and we thought all in all it seemed pretty desolate. This summer we spent time on and off the beaten path in Wyoming and discovered places like Cheyenne and Laramie are pretty charming. But there’s also Buffalo, Lander, Thermopolis, Casper and Lovell all of which we got to explore for a day or two. Another cool thing about small Wyoming towns, many of them have city parks that allow you to camp for 3 nights or less for little or no cost. Plus there’s always a playground for our kids and new friends to meet. We did skip Yellowstone this summer, but are considering exploring the north side of the park this fall.
After Wyoming we headed into Montana with the plan to visit Belgrade to test drive an Acela truck. We made it to the Bozeman area at the end of July and at that time started noticing a general haze in the air. Bozeman is growing wildly it seems as compared to the last time we were in the area when Woodrow was only 9 months old. We test drove a 4x4 Acela truck and have decided that it will be the base for our next home on wheels (more on this project to come). The kids were super excited to go visit Acela Truck Company and to go on a test drive. Our kids are still loving this journey we are on and are experts at all things related to camping, campgrounds and where to go to the bathroom depending on whether we are camping in the wild, at a campground or at a truck stop for the night. They are also clear to let us know that they think pit toilets are the worst and prefer the ‘pee on that bush over there AWAY from camp’ strategy when we are wild camping. Sticks, rocks and treasures are still the best things about our time on the road from their perspective.
We’ve spent a lot of time in Montana during the month of August, exploring places like the Missouri Headwaters, Whitefish and Flathead Lake. We had a bit of a scare in Helena. We had eaten lunch at Wheat Montana’s café in Three Rivers Montana and both kids really wanted to taste my cinnamon roll (yes I ate a cinnamon roll the size of my head for lunch and saved a few bites for the kiddos). I asked the staff if there were any eggs in the cinnamon rolls and they said no after asking the kitchen staff who make the cinnamon rolls. That evening we had settled in at our campsite about 45 minutes outside of Helena and the kids had two bites each of the last little bits of the cinnamon roll. About an hour and a half later Woodrow started rubbing his eyes and was not interested in dinner. At that point I knew the cinnamon roll had eggs and that he was having an allergic reaction to the eggs. We immediately gave him medication and packed up to head to the nearest ER in Helena. The 45-minute drive took about 25 minutes and fortunately we only had a 4-hour stay in the ER with some extra Benadryl and steroids for Woodrow. The staff at the local ER in Helena were awesome! Living fulltime on the road and having a food allergy has definitely made it less appealing to try roadside eats and we are those people blocking the aisle in the grocery store meticulously reading the ingredient lists for nearly everything we buy.
We stayed in Helena for a couple of days to reset after our late night in the ER and then pressed further north with the plan to explore Glacier National Park and maybe explore more of the Canadian Rockies. Along the way we continued to experience record high temperatures, so camping near lakes became a top priority. At one of our campsites we talked to a family who had recently been to Glacier and they said it was a madhouse with lines for parking and no campsites available. Given the heat and our aversion to crowds we opted to head to Whitefish State Park and ended up staying for almost a week. We were able to finally try SUPing and the kids loved being able to walk down to the lake multiple times a day to cool off and look for treasures. Woodrow found a Frisbee in the muddy bottom of the lake, which he immediately lost by throwing back into the muck. Kevin found the Frisbee the next day and Woodrow immediately lost it again by throwing it into the dense tree cover at our campsite. Our first night at Whitefish was clear, but then smoke settled in and for the rest of the week we were barely able to see the mountains across the lake. We headed south for a bit to see Flathead Lake, but again there was too much smoke to really enjoy the scenery. Our next plan was to head north into Canada for cooler weather and hopefully less smoke so that we could explore Banff and more of the Canadian Rockies. Unfortunately we were not up to date on the wildfires affecting BC so as we drove north the density of the smoke only increased. Traveling in wildfire season 101…it’s darn near impossible to out drive smoke in a few hours or even a day…it took us two days of driving, a ferry ride and some brisk westerly winds to get out of the smoke in BC. If you are traveling in the US during wildfire season a really great resource is inciweb.nwcg.gov. In Canada each province has it’s own wildfire website with info (i.e. bcfireinfo.for.gov.bc.ca) or there’s a main one through the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System (cwfis.cfs.nrcan.gc.ca).
During our trek to the Pacific we briefly returned to the US at Point Roberts, Washington. It’s definitely worth a visit if you find yourself waiting for or returning from a ferry on Vancouver Island at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. If you are a US citizen you will also have the pleasure of the US border patrol agent telling you “welcome home” since you technically will be back on US soil all 4.8 square miles of it lying south of the 49th parallel.
We landed on Vancouver Island on August 25th after giving 20L of gasoline to a strapping young Canadian with a sweet Mazda Miata. When traveling on a BC ferry you are restricted to one jerry can (or 20L) of gasoline and two bottles of propane if you have an RV. Fortunately our camp trailer counts as an RV. We carry two jerry cans of gasoline, both of which had recently been topped off with expensive Canadian fuel. The young Canadian with the Miata was happy to hear that it was 91 gasoline and we were soon off to ferry over to Vancouver Island. The ferry ride was exciting for all of us – the kids love the play areas on the boat and we love the scenery and a different mode of travel. We’ve found our way to the south west coast of Vancouver Island at the Jordan River campground and have set up camp over the long holiday weekend. So far we’ve explored the Sooke potholes, East Sooke Park, Botanical Beach and purchased a super comfy camp chair from Canadian Tire. The kids have enjoyed being back at the beach and have found many shells. We all love walking the beach and finding ocean critters. We have watched surfers, ocean SUPing and kite surfers in our few days here and continue to be inspired to invest in some type of watercraft for exploring. We are looking forward a few more days on the Island before heading back to the mainland and then further south to chase the last bits of summer as we go!
Well that sums up our summer and what we’ve been up to. I’ll be posting again in about a month with another update. In the meantime, happy exploring!