Day 375 – Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City has grown a lot since the last time I was here.  It seems to have spread out in every direction.  The traffic was intense and the people did not come off as inviting. 

Additionally, everything in the city was closed.  No watering holes, swimming pools, mini golf or other family fun activities. Even the museums where closed.

The girls played with a few friends they meet yesterday.  Sydney meet a girl named Sydney and the two of them became besties.

Jenn and I handled business calls all day and also managed to get out to do some grocery shopping.

Everything we really wanted to see in Salt Lake City was hours away and the kids were not interested in driving.

The salt flats where 2 hours away and Park City was a 50 minute drive in the opposite direction.  We decided to let it go. The kids were having fun playing with other kids and Jenn and I agreed it was too far to travel with them after the 6 1/2 hour drive yesterday. So we skipped the exploring and let them be kids.

Jenn and I decided that if we can’t find fun places to visit near by and we can’t get a good nights sleep then we should leave Salt Lake City.

So, thats the plan for tomorrow.  I’m going to find us someplace new to experience tomorrow.

Day 374 – Jackson Hole to Salt Lake City

The drive from Jackson Hole to Salt Lake city was awesome.  We actually extended the trip to see a place called Bear Lake. 

Bear Lake is a turquoise mountain lake that spans the border between Idaho and Utah.  

So, I know that your thinking….wait a minute…you were in Wyoming.  Your right, I left Wyoming and drove west into Idaho.  Then I headed south through Idaho until I hit Utah.

Jenn and I really wanted to see a little bit of Idaho and it was a beautiful trip through one more state that we weren’t sure we would see. 

We had orginally planned to travel through Sun Valley Idaho but, due to our shortened schedule we just couldn’t make it that far west.

Bear lake was awesome and I included a picture so you can see it for yourself. 

Bear Lake

This place is a getaway for lots of folks and there are some gorgeous homes built along the lake and up in the mountains with lake views.

As we travelled along the lake we entered Utah and continued out of the mountians and back to the interstate. 

About 6 1/2 hours after departing from Jackson Hole, we arrived in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City was very locked down.  Everything at the campground was shuttered and the kids were sad.  The pool, hot tub and the playground were closed and roped off in yellow ribbon.

I pulled out the hoverboards for Kate and Sydney and they took off to explore the campground.  An hour later they had meet 3 friends and were trading messenger names so they could text each other.

The girls have no problem meeting friends.  They find friends everywhere they go.  We have to slow them down most days and remind them to keep some distance while still having fun.

We got the RV all setup. Slides went out, hooked up the power, water, emptied all the tanks and leveled the rig for a good nights sleep.

At about midnight a freight train rolled past the campground.  It was probably a 1/2 mile away but, it felt like it was right outside the window.  As it rolled through town it layed on its whistle through every intersection and let me tell you, there was no sleeping through that.  I looked at Jenn and was shaking my head.

I eventually fell back to sleep and then another train rolled through at 2am, followed by another at 3:45am and another at 5am.  By the time I got out of bed, the next morning, I was a zombie in need of a strong cup of coffee.


Day 373 – Beaver Pond Again

The kids had such a great time at Beaver Pond yesterday that we decided to go back again today.
Our kids don’t get enough time playing with other kids and they really need that.

The pond is refreshing, has lots of kayaks, paddle boards and even a canoe for the kids. There is also a raft that they can swim out to.  Its the perfect escape from the everyday.

They are making memories and we couldn’t help but, let them do it.
After the pond everyone was shot.  They didn’t want to do anything else but, we dragged them to Jackson Hole Ski Resort so they could see it before we leave tomorrow.

When we arrived we found out that the gondola was free from 5pm until 6pm when it closes.  So, we all jumped into the gondola and went to the top of the mountain.

We finished up our day walking through the resort shops and then headed home for dinner.  I really enjoyed the Jackson Hole experience to end the day.

Day 372 – Visiting friends and Beaver Pond

Jenn’s business friend Jenny Carr lives in the southern part of Jackson Hole and we plan to visit her today.  

If you remember, we already meet them a few days ago when they hunted us down in our campsite at Colter Bay in Grand Teton.

We drove about 15 minutes south to their house today and hung out with them on their deck.  Their house in on a creek with a deck that juts out over the flowing stream.  It’s a little piece of paradise being there.

We all put our feet in the river until they went numb from the freezing cold water and shared a ton of stories about our trip and their adventures in Jackson Hole.

 After about 2 hours we decided to drive another 7-8 minutes down the road to Beaver Pond where the kids could play in some warmer water.  It wasn’t much warmer then Jenny’s creek but, it was warm enough and the kids had a blast.

Day 371 – Traveling to Jackson Hole WY

We drove down through Grand Teton National Park today and really loved the voyage. 

We caught sight of deer, elk and field full of bison as we drove.  The heard of bison was a real treat.

Driving into the town of Jackson Hole was a real surpise for me.  I was expecting a real laid back relaxed western mountain town and instead found a tourist hot spot.  I had no idea.  

It turns out that the people who live here don’t really consider the town to be their’s. It’s more of a business hub for the national parks and ski resorts.

We drove right through the heart of town with our rig and found our way to our RV park as fast as possible.  I was very worried about making the turns in town with the busy streets and pedestrians everywhere but, we got through it just fine.

After setting up our campsite we drove back into town with the Jeep and checked out a few stores before heading back home for dinner.  I plan to see some other parts of Jackson Hole tomorrow that don’t include t-shirt shops and souvenirs.

Day 370 – 4th of July – Jenny Lake

We arrived at Jenny Lake around 11am and the parking lot was so jammed that we had to park on the access road.

We went to get a bite to eat before leaving the Jenny Lake center for our hike and had to wait on line for 20 minutes.  They were letting 6 people in the store at a time and the line was 15 deep.  So, that took a while but, we got some food and sat, on a bench, in the shade to eat.

The crew doesn’t move so well unless we feed them well.

After lunch we went to the boat launch, to get across the lake, to the hiking trails.  They have a fleet of roughly 5 boats that take hikers across the lake to a trailhead.  Because of Coronavirus the boats were half full and they sat family’s together as much as possible.  Our boat to the trail was just the 5 of us which was awesome.

The trails were wide and well kept which made the hike very cool but, Caitlin and Sydney were immediately tired after walking about 1500 feet.  

If you have kids you know how this works.  It takes you hours to get where you are going and once you finally get there the kids are done and want to go home.

There are 26 miles of hiking trails at Jenny Lake and we told the girls that we were taking 2 reasonable hikes and they had to do them.  They didn’t like that answer much and they moaned a lot.

Our first destination was Hidden Falls which was only about 3/4 mile up the trail.  Their wasn’t much hiking and the falls was incredible.  It was about 4 falls combined into one that fell roughly 80 feet.  When we reached the base of the falls there was an incredibly cool breeze that hits your body and cools you down from the hot day.

After spending some time at the falls we continued up the trail to Inspiration Point.  The trail up the mountain elevated us about 500 feet and was cut directly into the side of the mountain. 

It reminded me of the trails into the grand canyon. When you look over the trail edge it drops about 200 feet.  Passing people on the trail felt slightly scary because you needed to walk along the outer edge of a cliff.

After hiking for about 20-30 minutes we reached Inspiration Point.   I had to carry Sydney for a short period of time but, we made it.

From the Inspiration Point you could see all of Jenny Lake speadout below you and rows of mountain’s extending into the distance.  It was worth the hike to see this view.

As we decended the mountian, the weather started to change from a beautiful hot day to a dark and cloudy afternoon.  The sky changed to rain clouds and as we waited to get on the boat, back to the Jenny Lake Center, the rain began to fall. 

It started out as a light rain but, that didn’t last long.  It quickly turned into a heaver rain and then a full out hail storm!  The hail was painful and the boat arrived as it started to fall. So, we ran for the boat and grabbed a seat in the covered section.  Others weren’t as lucky as us and due to the Coronavirus, we didn’t have enough room to take everyone waiting on line.  Some were left online in a hail storm wearing shorts and t-shirts. Ouch.

We made it back across the lake and it hadn’t rained there yet.  We got off the boat and hightailed it to the Jeep before we had to live through that again.  We even closed up the top on a Jeep we saw getting wet as the rain began to fall.  Jeep owners need to stay together.

One of Jenn’s business friends “Jen” was staying in the Colter Bay campground this week and just arrived in Grand Teton today.

So, just to be clear, my wife Jenn had a friend named Jenny who lives in Jackson Hole and another friend named Jen who is pass through the area in her RV.  So, we have 3 Jennifer’s and the conversations about our plans each day are nothing if not confusing.  Which Jennifer we will be seeing today?

We made a point to meet up with her, her husband Ryan and their kids in the afternoon today.  The lack of cell signal meant that we actually had to go to their campsite without a conversation about what we were doing.

Remember those days, before cell phones?

We put our feet in at the lake together and then decided to go back to our campsite and hang out for the 4th.  We had a much bigger site with a firepit and space to spread out. Plus, we had cornhole setup at our site and they wanted to check out our rig.  We needed a little friendly cornhole competition to keep things real.

All in all we had a great day and surprisingly we didn’t see or hear a single firework all day.  Welcome to the national parks!

Can you feel how tired we were?

Day 369 – Jenny Carr Surprise

Jenn and I went biking around the campground today to get our bearings.  Colter Bay is a very large area with over 400 campsites, a marina, an amphitheater, general store, restaurant, laundromat and cabins.  

We bought a map of the place so we wouldn’t get lost.  As we drove around the campground we found Jackson Lake and a great swimming area to bring the kids later.

We went back to our rig after the ride, made lunch for everyone and got everyone into their swim suits.  The lake was freezing and I personally only put my feet in.  The kids got wet but only Jenn took the plunge into the ice cold lake. 

She immediately got herself out of the freezing water and we all laughed that she was the only adult in the lake.  I usually follow Jenn’s lead but, even I have a line and she crossed it today.  That lake was cold!!!

We dried off, hopped in the Jeep and headed back to our campsite for warm clothes. 

As we were unpacking the towels and waterbottles from the car we were surpised by Jenn’s friend Jenny Carr from Jackson Hole.  She was very close by rafting in Grand Teton and though it would be fun to surpise us. 

They drove through 400 sites looking for our rig and miraculously found us. Wow!

I started up a campfire, we showed them our rig and had a good conversation around the fire to finish up the evening.

That was a great surprise afternoon.

Day 368 – Camping at Colter Bay

We woke up to a beautiful campsite in the woods today.  We don’t have any hookups for power, water or septic but, we’ll survive for a few days on the water in our tanks, the solar panels and our generator when needed.  

The solar panels I installed in Florida work incredibly well and get us through when we drycamp like this.  When you leave for the day to explore, they keep your refrigerator cold and your batteries charged for the next time you need to start the generator or the engine.

We got up and out today after a few business calls and a pancake breakfast.  Luke loved Yellowstone and said he wanted to see more.  The girls were a bit tired from the last 2 days of chaos but, they were ready for anothet day of exploring.  

We started out back at Old Faithful again.  We only got to walk around that large area for about an hour yesterday and we wanted to see a little more.  There are boardwalks that go in every direction and there are lots of different gisers and thermal ponds everywhere to see.

As we walked we came upon a Bison eating grass about 60 feet off the boardwalk and we took a few pictures, and joked a bit, about how large it was.  They are absolutely huge.
Time passes quickly as you walk around.  We grabbed a very late lunch and then found a place with rootbeer floats.  Yummy.

After we all ate we jumped back in the jeep to visit Black Sands Basin.  This area had one very large geiser that seemed to go off every 4 minutes or so and lots of little geisers that just bubbled on the surface. 

The signs said they were boiling hot, close to 200 degrees and not to touch them or try to walk off the boardwalk.  I’m still surprised they have to write things like this on signs but, they apparently do.  We didn’t see any rebels but they must be amongst us.

In the Badlands we saw a sign that said “NO HUNTING” in the national park!  We still laugh about that on occasion.  I’m just not sure who would pull out their hunting rifle in a national park but, apparently the sign was needed.

As we travelled home from our day in Yellowstone we had one more highlight. We spotted a bear running in an open meadow.  Bears are very active in Yellowstone and yet many people who visit the park never get to see one.  We were all excited to see our second bear in just 2 days.

We stopped off at Grant Village to pick up a few items on our way home.  They have a well stocked general store there that helped us through our ride home and we were able to find a few things that we needed for home.

The drive back from Black Sands Basin was almost a 2 hour drive to Grand Teton’s Colter Bay campground and Grant Village was just about the mid-point. Everyone needed to streach their legs.

We made the final hour journey home and had one more exciting moment when a large elk decided he wanted to stand in the middle on the road. You can’t take you eyes off the road for a second in Yellowstone.

Tomorrow will be another great day.

Day 367 – Finding a campsite in Yellowstone NP

At 5am we fired up the rig and left the town of West Yellowstone. We headed back to Yellowstone National Park to be the first in line for the “first come, first serve” campsites available today.

We had two campgrounds in mind for a campsite. The first place was Grant Village which was a 1 1/2 hour drive from Montana.  We entered Yellowstone park at 5:45am and it was so early there wasn’t even a ranger at the gate to ask for our parks pass.  

Without any traffic in the park we were able to make good time and arrived at Grant Village at 6:55am. We actually had to wait in line with two other campers because the check in window didn’t open until 7am. When we got to the window they said they only had tent sites available and shared that 6 campsites in Yellowstone were closed this summer due to COVID-19 and there was no place we could go in the park for RV sites.  Ouch!

I knew that there was a campgound in Grand Teton NP that could try so, we took off in hurry to travel South into Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton NP and Yellowstone NP butt up against each other with Grand Teton to the South.  So, we drove about 1 hour South towards Colter Bay Campgound.  On the way South we saw a grizzly bear cross the road in front of us. That was really cool because you don’t see many bears.  We arrived at the campground and got on the “first come, first serve” line.  

It was about 8am and we were 5th in line for a site, which was great!  Although we were still nervous, we were welcomed by someone, walking down the row of waiting vehicles, who told us they had room for us. YES!  We were in!

They gave us a campsite to stay in for the next 3 nights until we leave for Jackson Hole and we were beyond excited.  Finding a campsite in Yellowstone National Park for the 4th of July (without a reservation) was incredible. 

Additionally, we were headed to Jackson Hole in 4 days and we were now only about an hour away.  This RV park (Coulter Bay) was very nice and full of trees.  Each campsite had a picnic table, fire ring and a bear box.

I’d never seen a bear box before. Living on Long Island I never had to deal with bears. A Bear Box is basically a large locker to store your food in when you camp.  If you are in a tent this is very important but, the ranger at the front gate said that a large RV is a bear box of its own so, we didn’t need you use our bear box.

We checked in and setup our RV on the site they gave us. Jenn jumped on a few business calls for the day while I made breakfast for everyone and then we left to explore the park.

Jenn and I were exhausted from lack of sleep last night and having to get up at 5am to drive hours across Yellowstone but, we kept going.  Yellowstone is such a huge and incredible park and we didn’t want to loss a minute thinking about all the sleep we didn’t get last night.  Sleeping is for everyone else. Right?

We drove everywhere in Yellowstone and saw lots of deer, elk and even bison.  There are tons of geisers, steaming ponds of water, mountain lakes and views that leave you pondering how incredible this country is.

We had an incredible day and my bed was calling when we finally made it back to the campsite around 8pm. I couldn’t wait to get a good nights sleep in a quiet campground.

Day 366 – One Year on the road

We survived one year in a motorhome and had a lot of fun doing it.  One thing we learned through our travels was not to stay any place too long, if we weren’t enjoying ourselves there.

Today, we are living up to that personal promise.  We didn’t enjoy being in Cody or the area East of Yellowstone National Park so, we decided to leave.  No refunds or second thoughts….we are outa here!

We drove 2 1/2 hours west into the heart of Yellowstone National Park in seach of a campground (with no reservation possible).  Every reservable campsite was booked solid months ago. 

The fourth of July week in Yellowstone is their busiest week of the year and they start booking campsites a full year in advance.  We had reservations to be here 2 months ago and had to cancel them because of COVID-19.  Now there’s nothing available.

We drove to every campground on the East side and then started checking the central campgrounds.  Eventually we found ourselves on the West side of the park, still looking for a place to call home for the night.  We took in the incredible sights of Yellowstone as we drove the parks roads and primarily the “Grand Loop” for hours.

We are always successful when we put ourselves “out there” like we did today but, as night fell on Yellowstone we did not have a campsite. So sad……

It is not legal to boondock in Yellowstone.  You need to have a campsite or you need to leave the park to camp.  You can’t use the turn outs and you can’t sleep at any of the points of interest.  If a ranger finds you camping you will be fined and promptly booted from your spot.  We didn’t want any issues at 2 or 3 AM so we didn’t even consider this option.

We weren’t going to travel 3 hours back to Cody WY so we decided to drive 20 miles North West to a small town called West Yellowstone in Montana.  

As a bit of a backstory, I need to share that Yellowstone NP has almost no cell signal or cellular data.  We have Verizon cell phones and an AT&T hot spot with no signal on anything.  We couldn’t even make phone calls in most of the park.

When we stopped at the Old Faithful Geiser, they had a little internet access and when I say “a little”, I mean very little.  Each webpage I needed to open took about 2 minutes.  Painfully agonizing!

I was able to get open a few RV sites to grab phone numbers and then I proceeded to call about 5 RV parks in Montana.  However, I was not able to find a campsite that was available anywhere.

We drove to Montana anyway, mostly because we all were pumped up to see Montana. LoL.

The town of West Yellowstone reminded me, a little, of Moab, UT. A small town with lots of restaurants, small motels, boot shops and small RV parks for the Yellowstone overflow crowd.

This town also has cellular towers and we had 4G LTE internet again!  The kids were so excited about the excellent internet access and it made Jenn and I laugh.  All the kids want is internet access and they are reconnected with all their friends.

We searched the town high and low for a place to park our RV and came up empty.  There are “no camping” signs on every street throughout town and every RV park was booked. We were forced to drive out of town in search of a suitable place to spend the evening.

We found a dirt road that looked like a off-roading entrance way to the forest which seemed like a quiet place to camp for the night but, they had a “Day Use Only” sign at the entrance so we circled around and headed back out.  

We continued North about 1 mile outside of town and found a rest area for truckers. We reluctantly decided to make this our campsite for the evening.

We got ourselves all setup for the night and went to bed.  Then about 1 hour into our sleep the truck next to us started his generator and woke us all up.  Ugh!  

It turned out that the truck we parked next to had a refrigerated trailer and the refrigeration unit turned on and off all evening to keep the trailer cold.  So, with that going on, combined with the trucks blowing by on the highway all night, it was hard to sleep.  We woke up about every hour and seriously contemplated life.  

What a night!