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4 months, 12,000+ miles, 15 National Parks and 13 States

15 Oct

(Just to let you know that I am working on our last installment of this part of the journey.  Don’t worry, life is a constant adventure with us and will continue to post to this blog.  I’ve just been really busy trying to get our life back in order, but have lots of notes and photos to add to this blog in the near future.  Please stay tuned.  I will delete this little blurb when completed.  I apologize for the delay, but it has paid off.  I just got word that one of my photos from Glacier National Park will be in Jan 2010 edition of Backpacker Magazine.
Oh yeah, I still have to count up the number of states we’ve traveled through.  Once again re-entry into reality is a bitch)

The States visited:  WA, OR, ID*, CA, NV, UT, WY, MT*, ND, MN, WI*, MI, SD
National Parks visited:  Mt, Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Crater Lake, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Mono Lake,  Sequoia, Bryce, Capital Reef, Yellowstone, Glacier, Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore, Pipestone MN, Mt. Rushmore, Badlands, SD and countless wilderness areas.

 
 

Devil’s Tower

09 Oct

(This post is still in progress.  I will remove this comment as soon as it’s completed)

America’s First National Monument

Devils Tower rises 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River.  Once hidden, erosion has revealed Devils Tower.  This 1347 acre park is covered with pine forests, woodlands, and grasslands. Deer, prairie dogs, and other wildlife are seen.  President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devils Tower the first national monument in 1906.

Also known as Bears Lodge, it is a sacred site for many American Indians.

Devil's Tower

Devil's Tower

If you’ve never been here it’s quite the sight to be seen.  It’s a very small park and pretty much the only trail to hike takes less than an hour, but it’s not that far of a drive from i-90, so it’s time well spent.

Winter comes early here, so be prepared for snow in October, which is what happened to us 10/02/2009.

Devil's Tower with moon rise

Devil's Tower with moon rise

 
 

The long road home – Missoula, MT to Seattle, WA

08 Oct

(This is a work in progress.  I will delete this notice when it’s completed)

It seems like there is a super natural force that is not wanting us to make it back to Seattle.  We’ve had a strong headwind the entire trip Westward and one one of the last mountain passes we were hit by a side wind so severe that I was almost blown off the road.  And then just as we cross into Washington State we hit a sand storm that closed I-90 almost the entire day.  We decided to press on around the road block and follow farm roads that paralleled I-90 guided by our GPS.  I grew up in N. Michigan, so I now what it’s like to drive in driving snow and blizzards, but this was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.  There was zero visibility and in my humble opinion the people out here just cannot drive very well, so there was that added danger.  I mean these fools just cannot drive.  I don’t know what it is, but it seems like they lack commons sense when it comes to safety or evaluating the current road conditions.

Typical example of a WA driver

Typical example of a WA driver

More Road Side Attractions

Kitschy Jackrabbit

It’s not like we wanted this road trip to end, but I guess all things must.  People have been asking me “What are you going to do now”, and I guess I should have been thinking about a plan B in case this “permanent vacation” thing didn’t work out.  It’s not like I wasn’t thinking a lot about my future, but I never did come up with a grand new plan, the next big thing or have some type of life changing epiphany like I thought I would.

Roadside Attractions

Actually, I know one thing I know for sure is that I want to do that again.  I could go on and on like a vagabond, gypsy or what most people would call a drifter.  I cannot recall a dull moment and if we got even slightly bored we would pack up and leave.  Sometime just a few yards away to the next camp site for a change of pace or chance to meet some new people.  I cold live with a label as long as I could have the freedom.  Now I just have to find the financial freedom to do so.

Another thing that I’ve learned on this trip is to take time to travel down the roads less traveled.  Some of the most memorable times on this trip were the ones that were unexpected.  Meeting the people that I’d normally never talk to or taking the time to read the local paper, take the tourist tour or eat at the local cafe.  One of the reasons we took this trip in the first place was to break out of our daily routine and force ourselves to look at life from a different perspective, maybe even walk in another person’s shoes so to speak.  Normally I’d avoid anything that had to do with the typical tourist type activities.  Actually I’ve poo pooed that all of my life, but maybe now that I am older can I see that they serves a purpose.  It’s just a glimpse, a taster, a way to get people interested and what they do with it from there is up to them.

More Road Side Attractions

 

Glacier, WY National Park

02 Oct

This is a place holder because I want to go in order.

 
 

Echo Valley to Sunrise – Yosemite National Park

18 Jul

Ok, so I am sure you want to know all about our hike, but before this I wanted to share with you a couple little secrets of back country camping.  Just between me, you and the internets.  It’s a very simple idea, but that’s the genius of it.  It’s “Condiments.”  You’re laughing now I can tell, but let me tell you it serves multiple purposes.  When you’re hiking in the back country and covering a lot of ground and/or gaining lots of elevation “weight” is the name of the game.  I don’t care if your Grizzly Adams, weight is going to make or break your trip.  These individual single serving size packages come in a wide variety of flavors, sugars and spices, but more importantly the packaging weighs virtually nothing.

So fresh their hearts were still beating when I put them into the pan

So fresh their hearts were still beating when I put them into the pan

Now let’s take it one step further and introduce you to the concept of the “Condiment Library.”  I know you’re laughing again, but let me tell you it’s these little creature comforts that really make the trip more enjoyable when you’re out in the middle of nowhere.

“Man oh man I wish I had some butter, salt and pepper to add to this freshly caught trout.”  Well, let me just check the Condiment Library.  To start your own just get a gallon zip lock baggie and a few visits to your local big chain fast food restaurants like Fourbucks, Micky D’s or Carls Jr.  They’ve got mayo, mustard, ketchup, Tabasco, hot sauce, salsa, hot peppers, salt, pepper, sugar, raw sugar, honey, creamer, butter, onions, Parmesan cheese, sweet relish, soy sauce and washabi…  I am sure there are a lot more flavors out there, but your get the concept.

Fresh fish for lunch

Fresh fish for lunch

The second secret and I am sure it’ll make all the foodies out there cringe, but here it goes it’s “Spam” and “Velveeta.”  I’ve heard it said that a PBJ sandwich tastes like fillet Mignon above 10,000′.  Well let me tell you a Spam and Velveeta sandwich must taste like what food tastes like in heaven just because of our proximity to it @ 12,000′.

The hike to Sunrise from Echo Valley was good, but hard.  I puked 3 times, but I find out that it was sabotage.  Jen was re-organizing the bear canisters, but forgot to balance them out, so I just picked one of them and put it in my pack.  It turns out that I was carrying an extra 15 lbs of  food up 4,000′ in 8+ miles, so guys beware of such dirty tricks.  It was brutally steep, hot and dusty, but well worth the effort.  More high fiving high Sierra Campers here at Sunrise High Sierra camp, but with a little extra effort we found a spot .25 miles with this view of Cathedral Peaks that made it well worth our trouble.

The view from our camp site at Sunrise

The view from our camp site at Sunrise

 

I’ve got the fever!

19 Jun

I’ve got the fever.
No, we don’t need more cow bells around here, but a more ingenious way to extract gold.  I swear to the ALL MIGHTY that there’s gold in dem der hills or more like rivers.  It seems just absolutely silly that I think these small glimmering golden specs in the sand and water are gold, but what else could it be?  I collected samples to prove my point.

What a day here.  Another spectacular day of gloriousness and the next few day’s forecast look promising. After another warm and lazy float down the Merced today I felt like I was swimming around in a Goldschlager bottle, both figuratively and literally.  Despite the obvious metaphor of being ice cold, crystal clear and swirling with small flakes of gold, it seems the more that I immerse myself in this river the more I feel like I’ve done a few shots.

I brought along my mask just so I could take a peek at the large number of fish I’ve been  spying in these deep holes, as well as looking for the the mother lode of gold nuggets that I know is down there and would pay for this trip for life.  On a number of such occasion I came up nearly frozen and gasping for breath after getting lost in the sheer wonder that is hidden to the majority of us.

I know y’all are waiting for snaps, but for some reason my recently installed version of photoshop on this laptop will not recognize my raw files.  I’ll figure it out shortly I promise, because I am excited to show them.

We are about to set off into the back country wilderness for the next 8 days so if I do not get this figured about before then I’ll promise I’ll get to ASAP.  We will be hiking the high Sierra camps from Tuolumne Meadows and back to the valley floor.  Our first stop is Vogelsang High Sierra Camp, then Merced Lake, Sunrise, Clouds Rest and back down to the valley and civilization.

Tunnel View

 
 

Ski to Sea Shakedown

29 May

We took one last shakedown cruise to the Ski to Sea race in Bellingham, WA with the RV this last weekend before we take off on our 3 month long road trip of the National Parks of the West June 1st, 2009 .  I’ve gone through the entire rig from top to bottom, but I haven’t found any big surprises, so with a knock on wood I think this thing is ready to roll.

We stayed with our buddy Bill’s place at his super deluxe home on Camano Island overlooking Rosario Strait. It was the night before the big race and we had a big pasta feast and multi desert over load along with a few beers and a good fire.

We woke up early and after a few initial setbacks we had a great 18 mile race down the Nooksack River.  Personally I’ve never paddled so hard for two and half hours before in my life.  I was just a little disappointed in our time given the immense effort.  The Ski to Sea race is a multiple leg race which starts at Mt. Baker ski area and ends up in Bellingham, WA. It’s a great race and I encourage anyone to learn more about it at http://www.skitosea.com/.

They had a killer party afterward, which I found to be the best part of the whole day. Bellingham is a really chill kinda town. It’s the kinda town where people stop and talk, wave to you on the street and say hello if they pass you on the side walk. I met Joe who’s family has lived in his house overlooking B’ham Bay for 3 generations. Joe invites me in to his house for a drink after yelling out “short trip” when I came back to the RV after forgetting my cell phone. We ended up hanging out for ½ hours before I made it back to a not so happy g-friend.  His place is the epitome of an American classic home with family photos covering the wood paneling, 70’s décor and shag carpeting. The big deck offers a spectacular view over looking the bay with Lummi and Orcas island in the background. Joe is a fisherman and is probably my age, but has the weather worn face that only 15 years on the Bering Sea could produce.  He is the kinda guy you would like to have as a neighbor.

Not to say that I do not love living in Seattle, but that just does not happen in Seattle. Also, I do not know if it was the huge street party afterward, but after walking back to the rig from morning’s breakfast I noticed two cars that had their keys in the ignition and most of the other cars unlocked. I remember when I went off to college I would tell people I’ve never owned a house key or ever came home to a locked house and I always would leave my keys under the front seat of my car. It was a hard transition to not think like that anymore. It’s good to see there is a town that still has that mentality. I could definitely live here.

After a good breakfast Jen and I went on a good road ride. We stumbled onto the Interurban trail which winds through town and a great way to get around on bike. We ended up on Old Sammish Rd and took that all the way out and around Lake Sammish on an old country road. We passed beautiful farm houses and tucked away hobbit like houses in the canyon. I found the old fishing cabins on Lake Sammish very rustic and charming. It’s odd not to see those old places replaced by the McMansions of Seattle. After a nice long ride we headed back to B’ham for a bite and a beer, but since it was Memorial Day we found the places near our rig closed, so we jumped back onto the Interurban again and road it into town. We ended up having H.H. at the Bellingham Bay Brewery, which makes one of my favorite beers. Then onto Casa Que Pasa which houses the tequila research institute, famous for their potato burrito. It’s one of our favorite stops when we come back from kayaking in the San Juans.
Overall, it was another great weekend in the rig.

I could really get used to this type of lifestyle…

 
 

The maiden voyage

21 May

This is the first post on our new blog about our 3 month long RV road trip to the National Parks of the West.  It is our hope that you can travel along vicariously through our posts.  I’ll be taking lots of photos, videos and notes of our experiences on life on the road.  We hope you sit back, buckle up and enjoy the ride.