RV Trip 2015 - Wyoming & Utah - Part 1 of 4

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For our first long trip in our brand new RV, we visited many of the National Parks and Monuments in several western states. The trip lasted 26 days, covering 3,300 miles in 8 states. We visited the National Parks/Monuments of Great Basin, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Dinosaur, Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon.

I kept a journal during the trip, and have adapted it to the content you’ll find here. We’ve selected about 450 of our photos (a subset of the 1,300 we took) to include in online ‘albums’ for sharing. That is still a lot of photos to post on one page, so we have divided them into four sections.

The photos will load as you scroll down this page, and sometimes it takes a few seconds for a photo to appear.

Day 1, Tuesday, 09/08/15

After several months of route planning by Chris, and far less time doing menu planning and food prep on my part, we finally took off for our first long trip in our RV. We left home a bit before 11:00 and stopped for a quick lunch near Victorville, in the shade of a tree in an empty lot next to a closed restaurant.

Then we hit the road heading for Las Vegas to visit Terri (the long-time caregiver for my father). We arrived at her house a bit after 5:00. Had a nice visit (and met her daughter Debbie), but needed to move on and get to our spot for the night, hopefully before dark.

Sara (that’s our name for our GPS) led us on a wild goose chase looking for our RV resort. Chris had selected it via P.O.I.s in the GPS, but we ultimately had to type in the address ourselves. It was dark by the time we got there, but Chris did great job backing into our spot. As it was getting late, we decided to heat up a can of refried beans and call it dinner. (I was slowed down a bit in opening the can, because we somehow missed packing the can opener, and had to use an old-style opener instead, you know, bottle opener at one end and a sharp point at the other end good for opening cans of liquid, but not so great for a can of refried beans). After a long, hot day, and a frustrating evening trying to find our resort, we headed over to the pool for a soak to cool down. We had the pool to ourselves and it was marvelous!!! (LVM, Las Vegas Motorcoach RV Resort, $61/night)

Day 2, Wednesday, 09/09/15

Ate a quick, early lunch, checked out at 12:00, and headed over to the nearby Target (to pick up a few missing items, such as a can opener and cereal bowls, another storage bin, a digital thermometer), then on to Costco for gas. Then it was a long, long drive to our next camp spot. On this day, Barley came out of hiding in the late afternoon.

He sat with me for a while in the dinette, then headed up front, jumped up on the dashboard, and eventually sat on Chris’ lap while he was driving!!!

Cooper came out briefly too, but not for long. I theorized that the long, straight, smooth road contributed to their willingness to venture out on this day.

Chris had hoped to stay at Kernshaw-Ryan State Park (a nice park with an Oasis kind of feel), but they had no electricity, and due to the hot weather we were pretty sure we would need to run our air conditioning (perhaps throughout the night), and didn’t like the thought of listening to the generator for hours on end. So we moved on to Cathedral Gorge State Park.

Not much to look at by day, but we were pleasantly surprised at night. The most stars either of us has ever seen! The Milky Way was practically blinding! (Cathedral Gorge State Park $27/night)

Other people agreed that it was a great spot for star-gazing!

Day 3, Thursday, 09/10/15

We got away a bit before 11:00, soon stopped for a quick lunch under a shade tree at a rest area in the middle of nowhere, then pressed on toward Great Basin National Park.

Chris’ first and second choices for a campground at Great Basin National Park (Lower and Upper Lehman Creek, respectively) were completely full. There was an astronomy festival going on that weekend, so the main camp sites were full and the regularly scheduled cave tours sold out.

But luckily, there were still (theoretically) 4 spots available at the more remote Baker Creek, and they had added two more cave tours to the regular schedule. We snapped up two spots for the 10:00 tour (an hour that suited us better anyway). And we bought an annual pass for the national park system here, a side benefit being we only had to pay for one of the tour tickets.

The ranger also told us we could ride our bikes back to the Visitor Center in the morning for the Lehman Cave tour. But after driving three miles up the very dusty gravel road to find a campsite, we decided pretty quickly there was no way we would want to ride our bikes back to the tour in the morning.

Day 4, Friday, 09/11/15

So we decided that in the morning, we would simply drive the coach back to the visitor center for the tour, and then hit the road from there. But before hitting the sack, we laid a yoga mat and beach towel on the picnic table, and laid there looking up at the night sky. Just as the night before, it was absolutely spectacular! (Baker Creek $12/night)

The cave tour was fabulous and our guide, Ranger Dick, was outstanding; he was very knowledgeable and had a great sense of humor! (It was his very last tour before retiring)

After the cave tour, because of the late start, we opted for a shorter 2 ½ hour drive to Delta, Utah rather than going all the way to Salt Lake City.

On this stretch, we drove past Sevier Lake, which is an “intermittent lake” that is currently a dry “salt flat.” We would end up crossing Sevier River several times throughout the trip.

No sign of Barley today, but Cooper came out and eventually made his way up to the top of the living room slide-out.

Antelope Valley RV Park, $29/night

Day 5, Saturday, 09/12/15

Took off towards Salt Lake City--in miles, not so far, but on a curvy road, slow going. We passed through the towns of Jericho and Eureka (which happen to be the titles of two of our favorite TV shows). And we also went past Utah Lake.

Today it became clear that Cooper is now an RV cat. He came out--even in rough territory--and sat on the sofa, on the dinette bench, on the L/R slide-out. He’s definitely making the best of (what Barley thinks is) a bad situation. Unfortunately, Barley didn’t care for this stretch of road, possibly because of the curves.

During this drive, I went to the bedroom at the back of the coach (where it’s quieter) to make some calls to check for campground vacancies. Both kitties were in the bedroom when I went back there, and I closed off the bedroom (using the bathroom door, which affords privacy to both rooms, though one at a time) to make it even quieter). While I was on the phone, Cooper wanted out of the bedroom and I opened the door briefly to let him out. When I finished my calls, I simply shut the ‘bathroom’ door again and walked up to my seat. After some time, I looked around wondering where Cooper was. Not seeing him anywhere, I finally checked the bathroom, realizing it had been open while I used its door for the bedroom. And there he was, positioned comfortably on the toilet seat lid, front legs draped over the edge. I laughed and laughed and went and got the camera to snap a few pics. And later, when I checked on him again, he had moved up to the tiny little counter next to the sink. Had to get more photos. And that’s the story behind the pictures of Cooper in the bathroom.

The place where Chris had hoped to stay in the Salt Lake area was almost full (due to a special event), but we were able to get a nice spot after some negotiation (we just had to promise that we'd be gone the next morning). After dinner we headed over to the pool (free for campers) for a quick soak, and then a real shower and much-needed hair washing using their facilities. (Cherry Hill Campground & Water Park, $38/night)

Day 6, Sunday, 09/13/15

We had two state border crossings this day. First, from Utah into Idaho, then from Idaho into Wyoming. Only about 130 miles for the day, but a fairly long one because of the curvy road through Logan Canyon. At last though, we had some lovely scenery, after a lot of rather boring desert up until now.

Logan Canyon Scenic Byway (through the Cache National Forest) offered some fabulous views. Steep hillsides dotted with trees of every color: green, yellow-green, yellow, orange, red-orange, red, rust, and salmon. The combination of so many colors in sweeping views was nothing short of spectacular! It was at this time that I realized I should have brought along our little recording device so that I could describe what we were seeing in the moment, and then transcribe it later. I will definitely do that on future trips.

Along the way, we pulled over (rather suddenly) to the side of the road to take a picture of the creek. We were pretty seriously tipped to the right (as in, the right side of the coach tipping on the shoulder of the road), and water began leaking from the fresh water tank overflow hose. Somehow that leaking continued after we resumed driving, via some strange vacuum/siphon action, and when we stopped for lunch at Bear Lake Overlook, we discovered that our fresh water tank was empty! (We’d have to find water somewhere on the way to our next spot because that night we’d be dry-camping.) The overlook was disappointing because a huge wildfire in northern California caused smoky skies, obscuring the turquoise water that the lake is famous for.

However, as we descended from the overlook and drove along the edge of Bear Lake, we got to see many shades of blue for many miles.

We ended up stopping at a tiny RV park (someone’s backyard actually), and paying $6 to fill-up with water. The owner told us all about the great quality of this water from a particular nearby spring and how some hotel builder wants to buy his rights to that well

As we drove through the small town of Afton, we passed under the “world’s largest” elk antler arch.

The Swift Creek Campground (our chosen spot for the night) was just a couple of miles outside of town. It was a small one, just 12 sites according to the internet. Actually, we only saw 8 sites.

This place was not meant for large RVs. We made the circuit checking out spots (sometimes scraping the sides and roof of the RV with tree branches) and decided on site #2. It was very secluded, very lovely, lots of trees. I told Barley this would surely be his favorite campsite for the whole trip! Maybe ours too!

We really enjoyed sitting by the creek, enjoying the sights and sounds.

Day 7, Monday, 09/14/15

In the morning, I exercised in the coach while Chris jogged.

Then we went for a bike ride on the dirt road that basically followed along the creek, with the possible goal of checking out the ‘periodic spring.’ We asked some people heading back (in their truck) about the hike to the spring, and they indicated it was only moderate in difficulty, but not suitable for me in my flip-flops. (I had injured my left foot a week before the trip began and was trying to avoid my tennies if I could. And some days I couldn’t have worn them if I wanted to because of the swelling in the heat.) Oh well, the ride was nice anyway, and we saw two small hydro-electric power plants along the way.

Back at the coach, we had lunch, and read our books sitting by the creek until the rain started. We packed it in swiftly and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon inside with the kitties. (Swift Creek Campground, $38/night)

Day 8, Tuesday, 09/15/15

We took off for Yellowstone this morning knowing that the weather there was still bad. But we didn’t do too badly (weather-wise) while driving through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

We arrived at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park (in West Yellowstone) in the late afternoon.

We arranged for a rental car for sightseeing in Yellowstone (too difficult in the RV--quick stops at various overlooks and such).

After getting settled in, I baked Chris a chocolate birthday cake (well, half of one). I had measured all the ingredients before we left home (though not mixed them), and I did my best to adjust for the high altitude, based on some instructions I remembered to print out at the last minute.

We went out to dinner for Chris’ birthday at Bar N Ranch restaurant, which was recommended by the staff at the campground. Dinner was great, and we loved the stained-glass chandelier over our table. Then back to the coach for some birthday cake. The texture was closer to a flourless chocolate cake than it should have been, but it was tasty just the same! We froze the rest and had some on three other evenings during our trip. Yum!

You must check out these Painted Bison sculptures located throughout downtown West Yellowstone. We enjoyed spotting the different ones each time we went through there.

Day 9, Wednesday, 09/16/15

We had to move the coach to a different site (in the same RV park), and ended up spending the whole day there due to the rainy weather. We thought we might check out some fall colors and other sights (after hearing a waitress talk about it the previous night), but it didn’t happen. We just hung out. (By the end of the trip, we decided that for future trips, we will want to build in some chillin’ days. It feels pretty hectic otherwise.) Someone came around between 5:00 and 6:00 pm to let us know about the freeze warning and said that we needed to disconnect our city water hose from their faucet--and turn their faucet off--overnight to prevent potential damage to the faucet ($50 fine). I thought, oh boy, I guess we’ll see how warm our heater can keep the coach tonight! (It turned out to be fine.)

Day 10, Thursday, 09/17/15

Today we had planned to tour the Yellowstone Upper Loop, but we weren’t able to see all of. Half of it was closed due to snow at the higher elevations (Dunraven Pass).

Soon after entering the park, we realized that we’d left BOTH cameras in the RV! After much anguishing, we decided not to go back for them, but just rely upon the not-so-great camera in Chris’ phone. We figured that since it was raining, the photos wouldn’t be that great anyway.

We saw a few female elk as soon as we entered the park, followed shortly thereafter by several bison crossing the road. We even saw a mother and baby nursing as they walked. The baby even continued nursing--walking backwards--as the mother and baby crossed the road!

And then more elk--a nice-sized herd--including a male with a huge set of antlers.

Beryl Spring

Gibbon Falls

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Mammoth Hot Springs

Norris Geyser Basin