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.
As our Thanksgiving holiday approached and it became clear that we would be celebrating without family for the first time in many years, Reg and I chose to do our social distancing and turkey roasting in Washington State. We managed to rent a one bedroom cottage on Camano Island, perched right on the waters of the Puget Sound region. When the clouds allowed, we enjoyed a view across to Whidbey Island and the mountains of Olympic Peninsula beyond. It’s been the perfect getaway.
We were sandwiched between two state parks, each an easy one mile walk from our front door. Wednesday we headed to Cama Beach State Park, first detouring along the trail to Cranberry Lake. It seemed an appropriate destination for a holiday walk.
We chose not to linger, instead turning back to find the trail to Cama Beach.
We climbed back up to hike the Marine Loop Trail, enjoyed a perfect lunch spot and then finished our tour of Cama Beach State Park.
The following day we headed in the opposite direction to explore Camano Island State Park, choosing the loop trail which took us high above the beach, down to the shore and then back up again.
We drive home tomorrow, but squeezed one last walk in today. Another loop trail through the Camano Ridge Forest Preserve allowed us the chance to explore the opposite end of the island.
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.
We huffed and puffed our way along the gentle Riverwalk Trail in Colorado’s upscale mountain community of Telluride. At an elevation of about 9,500 feet, we appreciated the relatively flat terrain. There was plenty of scenery and fall color to enjoy, and a beautiful little town park where we stopped for our picnic lunch.
After lunch we made the short drive to Mountain Village, a resort ski town where everything looks new and luxurious. It was here we took the free Gondola ride that connects the communities of Mountain Village and Telluride.
The gondola system was designed and built to promote clean air and discourage people from driving between the towns (like we did…oops). It opens early in the morning and runs until late at night, carrying skiers during the winter months and hikers, bikers and tourists during warmer weather.
So there we were, hanging high in the sky on our way to the high point of the ride – an elevation of 10,500 feet. The views were astounding. And then…we headed straight down.
Carryoncouple decided this was a much easier to travel than lacing up our boots. We could get spoiled!
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!
Grateful for the railing, Reg and I managed to keep our feet on the log masquerading as a bridge above Fall Creek. As I stepped down Reg jokingly asked, “Could you do that without the railing?” Little did we know…
The trailhead to Green Lakes is located about 25 miles outside of Bend, Oregon. The path is an 8-9 mile round trip with 1,150 feet of climbing. It’s a beautiful trek through trees alongside a cascading creek.
We followed the gentle incline along the wide dirt trail, enjoying the shade the forest provided. The creek crashed and tumbled alongside And then suddenly leveled out. That was when the trail crossed the creek again…twice!
With the creek rushing below and no railing to assist us, we had no room for a misstep. I was sure grateful for those balance beam lessons way back when in junior high gymnastics class. Reg made me go first. I think he was hoping I’d suggest we turn back. Eventually we two balance-challenged trekkers shuffled across the first log, and several hundred yards later we made it across the second. It was well worth the effort!
We found a shady spot for lunch, enjoying the view until it was time to pack up and head back down the trail…and back across those two logs.
Our first day together we tackled the Sparks Lake Loop Trail which took us through forests and around ancient lava flows. While the remains of the lava flows were fascinating, the views from the shoreline were the high point.
We weren’t sure a travel trailer was the life for us, but after five years and well over 20,000 miles, it’s safe to say we’ve found our second home. The trailer has been particularly nice this year…pulling our home behinds us feels pretty safe.
The decision to travel this summer was not one we made lightly. Our most recent Oregon coast trip is only our second trip of the year since March…we’ve cancelled more reservations than we’ve kept. These two weeks spent along the Pacific Coast have been relaxing and rejuvenating and filled with gorgeous scenery.
Even this late in the summer there is still much color to be found. Hike any trail into the forest and you’ll find yourself surrounded by green.
Coastal fog rolls in and out anytime of year, lending a mystical feeling to distant views. It often clears up in the blink of an eye.
We’ve enjoyed many trips to the Oregon Coast and we’ve never failed to discover someplace new. From hidden trails to surprise picnic spots to a previously overlooked viewpoint, the coast never disappoints…but for now, it’s time to return home.