Today we picked up Minnie, our little vacation home on wheels. After 10 days on the road, we are more than happy to to leave hotel life behind.
Reg directed the truck toward the blue sky and we were off.
It took awhile to clean and organize our space, but we’re already feeling pretty much at home. Reg and I have always battled over the thermostat, so while the wind howled outside, I bundled up to keep warm. Reg poured a cold drink and celebrated our return to traveling with Minnie, anticipating the adventures that await.
Charming Mackinac Island sits in Lake Huron, just off the east coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Established in 1895, it’s Michigan’s first state park and offers something for everyone…except car enthusiasts. The automobile ban began in 1898 and remains in effect today. Visitors see the park on foot, bike, horse or in one of the horse-drawn carriages or taxis.
We arrived in Ishpeming, Michigan yesterday for a two-night stay on the U.P. That’s short for Upper Peninsula and the folks who live here proudly refer to themselves as Yoopers. Those unlucky enough to live in the lower part of the state below the Mackinac Bridge are, in good fun, referred to as trolls. Why? Well, because we all know that trolls live “under the bridge.”
With a full day to fill Sunday, we drove east to the town of Marquette, located on the banks of Lake Superior, the largest of the five Great Lakes.
Tomorrow we will continue east and set up camp at Straits State Park on the north side of the Mackinac Bridge. I guess we’ll see for ourselves if there are any trolls under that bridge!
After our Nebraska Harvest Host experience, we popped back up into a corner of South Dakota for a night at Wilde Prairie Winery, another Harvest Host site.
The next morning we spent an endless day of driving into Minnesota, in part because I misdirected Reg down a narrow (paved) road with so many potholes and washboards that it took us a good hour complete the 20-mile “detour.” It wasn’t the only wrong turn of the day but I’ve got to say, Reg is getting really good at maneuvering the Minnie in tight spaces!
We arrived at Gull Lake Recreation Area, just outside Brainerd, Minnesota, for a three-night stay. As we settled into our oversized campsite, we silently thanked the Army Corp of Engineers for understanding what makes a great camping experience.
Tomorrow we leave this beautiful part of the country and continue east into Wisconsin, then down a part of the Michigan coast. We have a week of reservations ahead of us with relatively short drives…according to google maps. Google won’t let us down, will it?
The first day doesn’t count. It never feels like an adventure until the scenery opens up with a promise of the unknown ahead. While day 2 wasn’t new ground for us, it’s been six years since we’ve traveled along US Highway 50, otherwise known as “The Loneliest Road in America.” Last time we were driving our Prius and gas consumption was not a huge concern. Only two towns on the stretch between Fallon and Ely in Nevada (our destination) offer gas, and when one is towing a trailer, these things are important to remember. While Reg drove, confident we’d be fine, I appointed myself gas gauge monitor.
The highway follows the old mail carrying Pony Express route between Sacramento, California and St. Louis, Missouri. There are lots of pull offs with historical markers and the Nevada towns of Austin and Eureka still offer glimpses into the old west. We skipped the sightseeing this trip and simply enjoyed the scenery.
Friends Lan and Jeff stayed here (The Crown Villa RV Park) last month and provided good reviews, so we knew we’d be comfortable on our last outing of the season. Beggars can’t be choosers – especially when looking for 3 nights just one day in advance. This is a very nice RV park located inside the Bend city limits. We feel quite spoiled and are hardly roughing it.
We did get some good hiking in, so in spite of our pristine site, we managed get a little dusty. Shevlin Park was crowded on Sunday afternoon, but we found the last open parking spot and settled on a loop trail that took us on a 5-mile walk through the park canyon.
It was a nice warmup for the hike we did the following day. The 6-mile Matthieu Lakes loop trail is located off the beaten path outside of Sisters, Oregon.
We passed several small ponds along the way. Although we were in shirtsleeves today, one pond was edged with ice, evidence of how low the nighttime temperatures drop this time of year.
Following the trail around the lake, we found the perfect lunch spot.
Our return trip took us up high with views of ancient lava flows, a view of Mt. Washington, a bird’s eye view of our lunch spot and back through sections of fire damage. All in all, a great hike and a good end to camping season!
A little over 2 weeks ago we waved goodbye to friends Chris and Judy as we left our campsite near Bend, Oregon. We had 4 days to reach Sedona, Arizona where we had reservations for 2 weeks of hiking and biking among the red rocks. Twenty minutes into the drive, Reg began lobbying for a change of plans. Temperatures were hovering in the 90s in Sedona…a little warm for outdoor activities. “We should go to Colorado,” he said. I put up a fight, but after a few more heated miles, we canceled our first week in Sedona. And so our journey began, and that’s how we ended up spending our first night here. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
The following morning we cobbled together reservations for 3 more nights on the road and 5 nights in Ouray, Colorado. The plan was to then head down to Arizona and salvage the last week of our Sedona reservation.
We spent one night in the Brigham City, Utah KOA (Kampground of America chain of parks) and then 2 nights in the KOA in Grand Junction, Colorado, where, as you can see, Reg began to relax after a frantic three days. Since Grand Junction wasn’t part of the plan, we weren’t sure how we’d fill our day until we discovered nearby Colorado National Monument. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
Then it was on to Ouray (pronounced You-Ray) Colorado and more surprises.
We weren’t expecting a fall color trip, but were thrilled to see our first high altitude change of season. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
Another National Park that was never on our radar was Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Not far from Ouray, we decided to make a day trip out of it. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
We drove along the “Million Dollar Highway,” a 25 mile length of route US 550 between Ouray and the historical mining town of Silverton. The history of the name varies depending on the source. Some say it refers to the million dollar cost of building the road, others claim it refers to the amount of ore mined from the area. My favorite explanation tells the story of a traveler who was so overcome with vertigo that he insisted he would never travel the road again…even if he were paid a million dollars. The drive offers spectacular scenery including an overlook of what’s left of the Red Mountain Mining site where an historic silver boom took place from from 1882 a 1893. If not for our change of plans, we would have missed this.
When it was time to leave Colorado the Arizona temperatures were just not cooling off. We made the decision to turn around and return home. Disappointing, but there was still more to see. Making the best of it, I snapped photos through the windshield as Reg battled some gusty winds. This really is a beautiful country. If we hadn’t changed our plans, we would have missed this.
While we never reached our destination, we still enjoyed a memorable journey…and for us, that’s what’s important!
It isn’t often that we post photos from towns we’ve stayed in, but we found the little town of Helper, Utah oozing with charm and we can’t wait to tell you about it! What was to be simply a roadside stop for the night as we traveled back into Utah turned out to be the biggest, nicest surprise of the trip.
To say we were pleasantly surprised by Castle Gate RV Park would be a gross understatement. Clean, tidy, uncrowded and practically brand new, the staff was friendly and helpful. We were happy as clams…then we walked into town.
Regular for .31 per gallon and premium/ethyl for .38 per gallon. Boy, those were the days!
We moved into the heart of town and the surprises kept on coming. Everywhere we looked were tributes to the town’s past.
This little gem of a town is located about halfway between Provo and Green River on Highway 6 in Utah. It’s well worth a stop to check out the rich railroad and mining history. In case you’re curious, the name Helper originated with the helper engines that, in days gone by, assisted trains making the steep 15-mile climb up Price Canyon. What a treat is has been to have a little “Helper” today.
What better way to learn the lay of the land than to walk the perimeter…and that’s just what we did today in Ouray (pronounced You-Ray), Colorado.
Trail guides vary, listing the circular Perimeter Trail as 5 1/2 – 6 miles with 1,600 feet of elevation gain and loss. All promise spectacular views.
The trail took us through tunnels, across numerous bridges and through some gorgeous fall color. There was a bit of climbing, mostly at the beginning and end. We chose to walk counter clockwise, saving our glimpse of the waterfall until the end.
All in all, this was a good days hike. By the time we reached our starting point we were hot and dirty and tired…but in a good way!
We recently spent 3 days camping with friends at Oregon’s Humbug Mountain State Park. In addition to the laughter and incredible meals, Reg and I took the opportunity to get a little uphill practice with our backpacks. We will soon be lacing up our boots for another trekking adventure, and Humbug Mountain is uphill all the way…a good check to see if we’ve still got what it takes! We were rewarded with a surprise view at the top where recently removed trees and brush had previously hidden the coastline.
We continued south, stopping to stretch our legs at the Gold Beach Harbor where Reg proved you’re never too old to enjoy a jet boat ride. I also snapped a photo of what’s left of the historic Mary D. Hume. She was built in 1881, working the Pacific for 97 years before eventually returning to live her life out not far from where she was originally built.
Harris Beach State Park has been our home for the last 3 days. Always a favorite, this time it was a real test for Reg as he expertly backed into what must be the most narrow site in the entire park. We’ll soon head home, packing up the trailer for the last time this summer. It’s always a little sad, but more adventure awaits!