In 2005, Shawn and I were stationed in Europe as members of the US military. We were returning from a weekend ski trip to Switzerland and started discussing what we would do after we retired from the military in the summer of 2011. Shawn was the first to mention “full-time RVing”. We realized that we had experienced so much in Europe but had yet to see much of our own country: Crater Lake, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Acadia, Arches, etc…
I thought, there’s no way we could afford that!
Monday at work, I received an email from Shawn that had an Excel spreadsheet (he does that a lot). The spreadsheet detailed our projected retirement pay plus the estimated costs including campground fees, fuel, entertainment, phone/satellite, groceries, and insurance, etc. When I saw the bottom line and realized I could retire at 50 years of age, I decided immediately to retire in six years!
We laid out a plan including a timeline and goals. Our research began in earnest. We spent hours studying types of RVs, full-time lifestyle, and logistics.
We decided a bumper pull trailer and a Dodge 2500 pickup with a shell suited our needs. The trailer would be just long enough to live in comfortably but short enough to get us in areas bigger rigs couldn’t go. We special-ordered a Northwood Arctic Fox 29V seven months before we picked it up in April.
In 2010 we established our new residency, got our driver’s license, and set up a Personal Mail Box (PMB) with Americas Mailbox, a mail forwarding company. Over the years they would help us with things like vehicle registration and voter registration.
|Driving the new Dodge home near Devil's Tower|
|The day we picked up our brand new home!|
A quick summary…
We full time traveled from April, 2011 till April, 2020. In that time we traveled 35,900 miles or about 4,000 miles a year. In addition, we traveled 986 Ferry miles. We preferred to travel slower, make fewer moves, and really explore and get to know an area. Our shortest travel day was when we moved from Tiger Run Resort in Breckenridge, Colorado to Heaton Bay Campground in Dillon Lake, Colorado, just eight miles. We preferred travel days less than 200 miles, and only had longer days on the East Coast trip, Alaska trip, and a few family emergencies. On the first day of our big east coast trip, we traveled 457 miles from Fort Morgan, Colorado to Offutt AFB, Nebraska, our longest travel day in 9 years.
We stayed at 236 different campgrounds. A few were just one-nighters but during four winters we stayed in one spot for about four months each time. In addition, during the winter of 2014/2015, we were in Heber City, Utah for about five months, the longest at any one location. We preferred staying at locations 2 to 4 weeks. That allowed us to thoroughly explore an area before moving on.
Before we set out on our odyssey, Shawn started our travel blog to share stories and pictures with our family and friends. Over the years, our travel blog has taken on a life of its own. We have met a number of folks who were following us in our travels. We have heard from many more that we inspired to begin their own journey or used our travel notes to explore an area. During the nine years we wrote 215 different blogs! Many people have told to us write a book and we always say that it’s all on the blog.
We learned early in our travels that we couldn’t see and do everything, but we sure tried!
The number one question we get: What was our favorite place? It’s nearly impossible to say - there are so many! We’ll try to answer that question in this final travel blog. Below are the highlights from the 215 blogs - pull up a chair and get comfy!
We have our favorite regions and a long list of memorable adventures and experiences. We’d also like to share what we consider our best blogs, favorite campgrounds, toughest adventures, memorable animal encounters, near disasters, embarrassing moments, favorite restaurant and food adventures, toughest logistic challenges, what we’ll miss, what we won’t miss, what we’d like to do over and a few regrets, and the worst weather we endured in the RV. In addition, we have stories of just a few of the special people we have met or who joined us during our travels. A few of them even made contributions to our travel blog. Finally, we want to pay tribute to a few special individuals that joined us during our travels and are no longer with us.
Note: I’ve organized all these sections geographically, more or less.
After traveling around the US and western Canada for nine years we know without a doubt that we prefer mountains and a close connection to nature. This section highlights our favorite regions.
- Canadian Rocky Mountains, British Columbia and Alberta
|On Alcan from Watson Lake to Fort Nelson|
|Sunshine Village, Banff|
|Lake Louise in the early morning hours|
- Olympic Peninsula, Washington
- Oregon Coast, Oregon
|Heceta Head Light House|
|Flying a kite at Sunset: Fort Stevens Beach|
- The Huge Trees of California
- Slickrock country in Utah
|Arches National Park|
|Islands in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park|
|Green River Overlook, Deadhorse State Park (see me?)|
- Northwest Montana
|Two Medicine Lake, Glacier|
|Grinnel Lake, Glacier |
|Siyeh Trail, Glacier |
- Wind River Range, Wyoming
|Big Sandy Lake|
|Green River Lakes|
- San Juan Mountains, Colorado
- Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Colorado
- The Everglades and the Florida Keys
Over nine years of travel we wrote 215 blogs entries. When we reflect back there are a few blogs that stand out to us as having a wealth of information on the area/subject matter. In our opinion, these would make great magazine articles.
- The Alaska Ferry: We loaded up the truck and trailer on the Alaska Ferry in Bellingham, Washington and were on it for three and a half days till we got off in Haines, Alaska. We made record of our entire journey. This blog covers subjects like making travel plans, driving our rig on and off the ferry, and how we planned meals while on board. Of course, it also includes lots of wildlife sightings and incredible scenery. Our friend Rolf, an Alaskan said, “Best AK ferry review that I've ever read! Keep having fun.”
- The Alaska Canadian Highway (Alcan): The Alcan has a notorious reputation for those brave enough to travel its length, especially with RVers. This blog records our 10 day, 2,435 mile journey from Anchorage, Alaska to Great Falls Montana in the fall of 2018.
- Westcliffe, Colorado: We stayed in Westcliffe at the Grapecreek RV Park in June of 2012. Since that time, the campground has listed our blog on their web page under area activities. It says, “The blog Mud-on-the-Tires Full-time RV Adventure is a great guide for those who want to explore and fish in beautiful mountain places accessible a short distance from Grape Creek RV Park. Frequent RV guests, Arleen and Shawn have assembled maps, beautiful photos, and commentaries on eight hikes, including start-finish times, GPS coordinates, and a table summarizing distance (miles) and ascent feet) for each hike.” Shawn was really tempted to submit this blog to his favorite fly-fishing magazine.
- Torrey, Utah: This blog stands out for the variety of adventures we had from the colorful desert landscape of Capitol Reef National Park to the high country Boulder Mountain lakes. We spent a month in Torrey exploring the area.
- Escalante, Utah: We were in Escalante for six weeks, which in itself is a story. Again, this blog stands out for the variety of adventures we experienced: Lake Powell at elevation 3,600 feet, to Grand Staircase at average elevation of 5,800 feet, to Boulder Mountain at average elevation of 9,600 feet. Shawn would live in Escalante if wasn’t so remote.
- Adjustments and observations: After traveling full time for 21 months, we wrote a blog on a few of the adjustments we had to make since moving from a fixed “sticks and bricks” home to living on the road. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/01/fyi-adjustments-and-observations.html
- Modifications and additions: After almost two years, we wrote a blog on the many modifications and additions to make things easier, optimize usage and space, and enhance functionality of our tiny home. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/02/fyi-modifications-and-additions.html
During nine years of travel we stayed at 236 different campgrounds. These are our 26 favorite campgrounds. They are our favorites for a variety of reasons. But we were comfortable at each and would gladly return.
- Canyon Farms, Kelowna, British Columbia: This adorable little farm is also a small private RV park. Lesley, the owner delivered fresh eggs every other morning and Jake, the Border Collie, would greet us. Our site was a level pull through, surrounded by flowers and grape vines. There is a lot to experience in this area! We stayed here in April of 2019. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2019/06/bc-kelowna-27-apr-3-may-2019.html
- John Wayne Marina, Sequim, Washington: The Marina is named in honor of the legendary western film actor. He donated the land surrounding the Bay he frequented in his yacht, the Wild Goose. Tracy, the manager, took very good care of us. We really enjoyed walking around the marina a few times a day. We’d see something different every time whether it was a Bald Eagle, a Kingfisher diving for a fish, a Harbor seal nosing around the harbor, a Cormorant drying its wings, or a Heron napping in a colorful Madrone tree. We were able to launch our kayaks right across the road and into the bay. We stayed in a front row spot overlooking the bay for two winters; December 2017 to April 2018 and November 2018 to April 2019.
- Cliffside RV Park on Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, Washington:
Cliffside RV Park on Whidbey Island Naval Air Station is fantastic! It rates near the top of all campgrounds we’ve visited. There are flower beds everywhere. Nearly every site has an incredible view of the ocean. The RV park sits near the middle of a great walking path that’s over three miles long. We saw eagles and other interesting birds each time we walked. The snow-covered Olympic Mountains loom to the southwest. Vancouver Island is just across the Strait to the west. And multiple San Juan Islands are dotted to the northwest. There is ample beach access too. We stayed here in May of 2018. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2018/05/wa-bainbridge-and-whidbey-islands-17-27.html
- Lake Quinalt, Washington: We stayed at the Rain Forest Resort Campground. The most impressive thing about this spot was that we were camped right under the largest Sitka Spruce in the world. This enormous tree is over 55 feet around and is nearly 200 feet tall. It is estimated to be over 1,000 years old! We were able to do long hikes right from our camp spot into the rainforest. We stayed here in August of 2011. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2011/08/wa-lake-quinault-912-aug-2011.html
- Yachats, Oregon: Sea Perch RV Resort is top notch! It’s a small RV resort with a couple of cabin rentals on the coast. Our site on a big level concrete pad backed up to the beach. We continually looked for whales but didn’t see any. We enjoyed walking on the beach and flying our kite. The section of coast between roughly the Sea Lion Cave and Cape Perpetua is some of the most rugged and beautiful anywhere! There was a very nice club house with a full kitchen, laundry room, and exercise room. It’s expensive, but was a fantastic treat! We stayed here October of 2017.
- Oregon State Parks: We were always very happy to stay at nearly any Oregon state park. They are well maintained. We could usually get an electric hookup site. The campgrounds always had nice clean bath houses. They also had sink water drain areas throughout the park. Among our favorites were Nehalem, South Beach, and Wallowa State Parks, Oregon.
-- At Nehalem State Park we were camped on a long peninsula wedged between the ocean and Nehalem Bay. There are miles of beach, miles of trail, and a boat launch. The quaint town of Manzanita was just a two mile walk up the beach. We stayed here in October 2011 and November 2017.
-- South Beach State Park is just south of Newport on the coast. There’s a wide, long beach and Yaquina Bay with its impressive bridge is a half mile away. The harbor with hundreds of boats and the Oregon Coast Aquarium was a mile walk away. Each time we stepped outside we could hear sea lions making a ruckus in the distance. We stayed here in October 2011 and October 2017.
-- Wallowa Lake State Park and the nearby Wallowa Mountains are fantastic! The jagged peaks rise from a base of around 4,000 feet to over 9,000 feet…they’re impressive! The state park campground sits at the head of the pretty Wallowa Lake. A primary trailhead into Eagle Cap Wilderness is south of the Wallowa Lake Village area. There was easy access to miles of hiking trails, the boat launch, kayaking, fishing, and touristy things in the tiny vacation town of Wallowa Lake. We stayed here in September of 2017.
- LaGrande, Oregon: The Grande Hot Springs RV Resort’s full hook-up sites are long, gravel pull-throughs with decent space between neighbors. We were there for the 15th year Northwood RV Owners Association (NROA) rally. The annual rally is held here because Northwood manufactures RVs, including ours, just a couple of miles away. So bringing it to the rally was bringing it home. We gave a presentation on our Mud on the Tires full-timing RV adventure. We were happy to share information and answer questions. It’s very gratifying to inspire others! We stayed here in June of 2017. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2017/07/or-la-grande-12-26-june-2017.html
- Winchester Bay, Oregon: The Winchester Bay RV Resort sits on a man-made peninsula at the mouth of the Umpqua River, in a protected bay. The paved sites are all big and fairly level. Everything was well maintained and top notch. Our site backed towards the ocean. Waves crashed against the jetty just 50 feet from our back window. We stayed here in October of 2017. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2017/11/or-winchester-bay-13-27-oct-2017.html
- Paradise Valley, Montana: Our campsite was on the Yellowstone River between Livingston and Gardiner Montana just north of Yellowstone National Park. We were able to do a 40 mile bike ride right from the campground to explore the mountainous valley. We stayed here in June of 2011. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2011/06/mt-paradise-valley-9-11-june-2011.html
- Lolo, Montana: The Square Dance Center and Campground is the most unique campground we have stayed at. They have “Year 'round dancing with clubs and special dances. Square Dance and Round Dance lessons autumn through spring and summer workshops.” They had 56 sites spread out amongst tall ponderosas and old cottonwoods. Some of the sites back up to Lolo Creek (which had good fishing). We had water/electric site but they had a honey wagon service for only $10! For recreation they have walking trails, whiffle ball golf course, and horse shoes. There are numerous pet areas and the dogs can even play in the creek. We stayed here in July of 2017.
|The Square Dances were fun to watch|
|Arleen & Linda: Love that Linda visited us!|
- Dubois, Wyoming: We stayed at the Longhorn Ranch for 5 weeks. The full hook-up gravel sites are long with plenty of space between neighbors. We had a one of the few sites that back right up to the Wind River. Shawn caught at least 15 rainbows and browns in the river right out front! Mature cottonwood trees provided welcomed afternoon shade. It was usually very peaceful. We stayed here in July and August 2014. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2014/08/wy-dubois-7-jul-11-aug-2014.html
|Arleen, Mary, Heather jibber jabbering! Mary & Heather joined us for a fun 3 days!|
-Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada: The 72 campsites were huge with plenty of space between neighbors, though most were a bit unlevel. It was really cool being tucked into the dramatic and colorful rock formations. There were plenty of hikes we could do right from the campground out into the incredible scenery. We stayed here in November 2013 and December 2019.
- Lake Mead, Nevada: Boulder Beach campground was like an oasis with palm trees and great views of the lake. We were able to stay in a front row site backed up to water for a couple of different 2 week periods. There were numerous walking loops for our four-legged friend and we always had a great view of the shimmering lake. We stayed here February of 2012 and December 2013 to March 2014. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2012/02/nv-lake-mead-28-jan-25-feb-2012.html
- Dead Horse State Park, Utah: Kayenta Campground has 21 campsites with only electric. We had to have our fresh water tank filled before going. The sites were large and had good privacy. There were 15 miles of great hiking trails right from the campground…excellent! The visitor center had a good selection of touristy stuff, a few snacks, some nice exhibits, and a deck perfect for relaxing and appreciating the great view. The campground was very peaceful and we really enjoyed it. We stayed here in May 2013. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/05/ut-dead-horse-state-park-29-apr-8-may.html
- Goblin Valley State Park, Utah: The campground is surrounded by the rock features that make this area unique. Sites were paved and large enough for most RVs with plenty of room between neighbors. There were no hook-ups but water, a dump station, and nice bathroom facilities with showers were available. We could hike the great trails right from our front door…excellent! We stayed here in May 2013. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/05/ut-goblin-valley-state-park-8-12-may.html
- Heber City, Utah: After staying in the brand new Mountain Valley RV Resort in April of 2014, we booked a site for the entire next winter! It is a top notch, RV resort at the southeast end of Heber City. It was clearly designed by folks familiar with RV’ing. Sites vary in size and most have a decent amount of space. Cache and the rest of his crew do a great job of maintaining everything and keeping everyone happy. We stayed here in April 2014 and the winters of 2014/2015 and 2016/2017.
- Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Facilities and services were top notch. Most campsites in the Wahweap RV and Campground are huge at 60 feet long and 30 feet wide with lots of space between sites. Some of the sites even have great views of the lake. It was a great jumping off spot to adventures on Lake Powell. We stayed here in April 2012 and October 2016.
- Virgin, Utah: Zion River Resort has sites that varied from relatively tight back-ins to spacious, long pull-throughs. The place is well maintained and well run. We had full hook-ups and access to a nice pool and hot tub. It’s a nice place to stay in an incredible part of the country! Most important, the west entrance to Zion National Park was 12 miles east of the campground. We stayed here in November 2013 and November 2016.
- Westcliffe, Colorado: Grape Creek Campground is excellent! The owners work their tails off to maintain everything and keep everyone happy. The long, gravel, pull-through sites are specious and nicely landscaped. We love to hear the aspen leaves rustling in the wind. We also love the incredible view of the spectacular Sangre De Cristo Mountains. There is almost zero road noise and it was very peaceful. Grape Creek RV Park, the Wet Mountain Valley, and the Sangre De Cristo Mountains make up one of our favorite places on the planet! We stayed here in June 2012 and June/July 2016.
|Mary & Arleen jibber jabbering! Mary joined us for a few days.|
- Grand Lake, Colorado: We really liked the location of Elk Creek RV Park. It is just a mile from Grand Lake and backs up to Rocky Mountain National Park. We walked to both visitor centers and had multiple options for good walks from our front door. The owners, Don and Rebecca, and their staff were great! The sites are spacious and most are wedged between trees and offer privacy. We had regular moose visitors that sometimes grazed right outside our front door! The area has miles of trails and an abundance of good fishing. It’s an outdoors paradise! We stayed here late May to June of 2015.
- Savannah, Georgia: We knew we were in a different world as we drove the entrance road of Skidaway Island State Park through a tunnel of live oaks draped with Spanish moss. We found a long, pull-through site wedged between trees. We knew it would be a tight fit, but if we could make it work, it would be awesome. We fit perfectly! The trees behind us provided privacy from the loop road and our door opened to a cleared space surrounded by jungle. Spanish moss draped the trees above us…it was unlike any place we had ever been! We stayed here in November of 2015. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2015/12/sc-ga-fl-fort-jackson-savannah-fort.html
- Fort Clinch State Park, Florida: The historic area is located at the northeast tip of Florida on Amelia Island. The Atlantic Ocean is to the east, Cumberland Sound to the North, and the Amelia River is to the west. The beach campsites are in the open, surrounded by small beach dunes, low brush, and grass. We made our reservations a year in advance and got the sweet spot, #9, by the boardwalk to the beach. The site was large, level, crushed gravel. We could see the ocean from our windows and really enjoyed the great view. There were multiple trails and options for hikes…great! We wanted to kayak and maybe fish, but the winds were too strong during most of our stay. We stayed here in November of 2015.
- East Everglades, Florida: Flamingo Campground has camp sites that are huge and paved with a lot of space between sites. The campground was just over a mile from the Visitor Center and Marina. We walked there nearly every day to check weather and tides. Unless it was windy, the mosquitos pestered us incessantly. There was always something new along the route. We really enjoyed seeing pelicans and ospreys make splashy dives to catch a fish dinner. Then we’d walk along the marina to spot manatees and watch big crocodiles sunning themselves on the boat ramp. It was such a cool place! After spending 10 chaotic days camped at Disney World, Flamingo Campground and Everglades National Park were gloriously peaceful. We stayed here in December 2015. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2016/01/fl-flamingo-everglades-np-10-20-dec-2015.html
- Key Largo, Florida: Point of View RV Resort is likely one of the top three RV resorts in the Keys. The large gravel sites were mostly level and landscaped with privacy hedges. Everything was well maintained and kept clean. I enjoyed the daily water aerobics in the large pool. There was also a boat ramp, a few boat slips, and a fishing pier. We splurged on what was likely our first and last trip to the Keys and got a prime spot on the water with a fantastic view. We stayed here in January 2016. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2016/02/fl-key-largo-17-january-3-february-2016.html
-West Everglades, Florida: Outdoor Resorts of Chokoloksee was special. The spacious camp sites are privately owned. If the owners are not occupying their sites, they can rent them to transients, like us. The sites are all landscaped and meticulously maintained. They are paved and level with a small shed. There are three swimming pools, a decent workout room, a clubhouse, two boat launches. We were able to kayak right from there into the 10,000 Islands. We liked the resort a bunch. In fact, we even got information about buying a site! We stayed here in February of 2016. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2016/03/fl-chokoloskee-3-28-february-2016.html
|RV sites with boat slips line the inner "lake"|
|Aerial view of Chokoloskee and a few of the 10,000 Islands; RV park is 1/3 of island - left side|
- Pensacola Naval Air Station, Florida: We really liked the location Oak Grove Campground. It is on a nice stretch of beach, a half mile from the Navy Aviation Museum and Pensacola Lighthouse, and a mile from the Navy’s public boat launch. It is also near the end of an active military aircraft runway. During our stay, all of the flying was during daylight hours so it was peaceful at night. In fact, it was really nice to sleep with our window open and get lulled to sleep by crashing waves. The sites were good-sized, paved pads. We also liked the walking path that went a mile or two in either direction of the campground. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2016/03/fl-crystal-river-pensacola-28-february.html
- Most memorable adventures
- The Alaska Ferry: We spent four days and three nights on the ferry from Bellingham, WA to Haines, AK with a nice stopover in Ketchikan, AK. The ferry was a very positive experience spending our days in the observation deck taking in incredible scenery and looking for wildlife. We arrived in Alaska relaxed and rested and ready to hit the rivers and trails. It saved us money and we ate our own yummy healthy food. Compared to most full-service pleasure cruises, the Alaska Ferry is a more affordable option. Though bringing an RV is expensive, it saves wear and tear, is relaxing and scenic, and allowed us much more time to explore Alaska. We wrote this blog as a “how to” book. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2018/05/ak-alaska-ferry-11-14-may-2018.html
- Chatanika River Adventure: In Fairbanks we visited dear friends Heidi and Dan who live well north of the city. Heidi and Dan loaded up on 4-wheelers and Arleen and I drove their side-by-side to the Chatanika River. There is a river access 12 miles from their house. To get to the river, we followed the Trans-Alaska pipeline road for a number of miles. We had to negotiate berms and mud bogs. At the river, we had a great time fishing for pretty, iridescent Arctic Grayling!
|Heidi & Dan|
- Angel Rocks: Our dear friend Stefanie was visiting Fairbanks where she lived as a little girl. She joined us for a hike in the special Angel Rocks. Angel Rocks in the Chena River State Recreation Area east of Fairbanks was my favorite hike when I lived in North Pole for four years. It was all the more special to share unique geological molten rock formations with a dear friend. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2018/06/ak-fairbanks-29-may12-june-2108.html
|Shawn, Arleen, Stefanie|
- Little Coal Creek Trail near Cantwell Alaska: ~ 6 mile hike with ~ 2,000 feet of climbing in Denali State Park. We set out to hike Little Coal Creek Trail, the northern most trail to access to Kesugi Ridge. As we climbed we felt like we were experiencing the real Alaska with expansive views of mountains, glaciers and braided rivers in every direction! We had an incredible view of Denali, the tallest mountain in North America at 20,310 feet, till the cumulus clouds were level with our eye. There is a knob at the top of Little Coal Creek that is perfect for taking a break and appreciating the capacious views. On the hike down, it was like walking in a postcard. Neither of us hiked this trail in all our years in Alaska and now it is one of our favorites!
- Hiking our old stomping grounds near Anchorage AK: Shawn and I both lived in Anchorage for a number of years in the late ‘90s. We worked together and shared a common interest of spending time in the great outdoors. We became good friends, started dating, and fell in love while in southcentral Alaska. During our few weeks there we had fun catching up with friends and sharing adventures in the epic scenery that composes the area between Knik Arm, Turnagain Arm, and the beautiful Chugach Mountains. We hiked 50 miles with 10,000 feet of climbing in 7 hikes including our old favorites Arctic Valley, Mount Baldy, South Fork and our all-time favorite Crow Pass to Raven Glacier.
|High above the South Fork of the Eagle River. Eagle Lake & Symphony Lake are at end of valley.|
|Eagle Lake with Gail & John at end of South Fork|
|Rabbit Lake with Louise & Tim|
|Raven Glacier on Crow Pass with Tatyana & Eugene|
|A first for us! Twin Peak trail above Eklutna Lake|
- Salmon fishing our friends’ property on the Kenai River AK: Good friends Ann and Mike have had property along “The Lower” Kenai for 19 years. Shawn used to pitch a tent and fish there back in the late ‘90s. Since then they have made many improvements to the property and built a comfortable cabin. There are also walking grates to and along the river that make the fishing easier to access. They graciously invited us to fish there during our time in Soldotna. Mike was able to join us for the majority of our time there. We really appreciated that because he was able to give us expert advice on fishing “his hole”. Ann was able to tear away from her busy job and join us for the weekend.
|I caught the biggest!|
|Mike ready with the fish bonker!|
|Nice one Ann!|
- Exit Glacier: We took Cousin DJ and his wife Heather for an evening stroll to Exit Glacier. Heather noted, “We decided to go on the hike at 8pm and it doesn't get dark until around 10:45pm.”
Shawn, Arleen, Heather, DJ at Exit Glacier
- Kenai Fjords tour: Uncle Skip, cousin DJ, and his wife Heather joined us for our time in Seward, Alaska. We decided to do the Northwestern tour where we saw three tidewater glaciers. Among the many memorable highlights was the final stop out in the Chiswell Islands where we saw Horned Puffins, Cormorants, Common Murres, Harbor Seals, and Stellar Sea Lions. It was incredible!
- Tea house hike at Lake Louise, Alberta: The entire day was the realization of a dream from over 40 years ago. It was all the more special because my mountain man was with me and enjoyed it just as much as I did. Lake Agnes tea house is 5 miles and 1,400 feet above spectacular Lake Louise. Then we hiked to the end of the valley and visited the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. We were refreshed throughout the 10 mile day with 3,000 feet of climbing with tea, soup, sandwiches and dessert at each house. The scenery the entire day was incredible! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2019/11/ab-banff-7-21-july-2019.html
|Posing in front of Plains of Six Glaciers, just below tea house.|
|Lake Agnes & the famous tea house. |
- Spring bike tour: We spent a few days in the beautiful city of Victoria, British Columbia the winter we were in Sequim. We signed up for a bike tour with Matt from Bike Tours Victoria BC. We rode to Thetis Lake after crossing the new Johnson Street Bridge and riding along the Galloping Goose Trail. Matt led us around the network of several of the Victoria’s trail systems. After lunch at Victoria Public Market, we detoured uphill to the Craigdarroch Castle and the Government house, and their gardens too. Finally, we cruised by the highlights of Victoria: The Parliament Buildings, James Bay, Emily Carr House, and Beacon Hill Park. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2018/04/wa-sequim-1-17-april-2018.html
- Biking the Myra Canyon Trestle: One of our most memorable Rails-to-Trails rides was a 15 mile cruise along the Old Kettle Valley Railway in Kelowna British Columbia. We rode over 18 trestles and through two tunnels.
- Snowshoeing Hurricane Ridge: One of the best things about staying in Sequim for two winters was easy access to snowshoe in Olympic National Park. The views of the Olympics were always incredible.
- The Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park in Washington is one of the most special places we have visited in the world. This area receives 12 to 14 FEET of precipitation each year. “The result is a lush, green canopy of both coniferous and deciduous species. Mosses and ferns that blanket the surfaces add another dimension to the enchantment of the rainforest. The Hoh is one of the finest remaining examples of temperate rainforest in the United States.” The Hall of Mosses trail is the highlight! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2018/04/wa-sequim-1-31-march-2018_3.html
- Learning about mushrooms at Fort Stevens State Park Oregon. The Pacific NW has prime conditions for mushrooms. A ranger at Fort Stevens State Park hosted a class and a hike focused on identifying them. We took the class in October of 2011. After that we felt comfortable picking a few and we hunted for them as we migrated south along the coast. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2011/10/or-fort-stevens-state-park-1-10-oct.html
|What we found at class - all junk but we learned a lot!|
|Our first Chanterelle!|
|Beach combing takes on a new meaning on Oregon coastline in fall. Our first King Bolete (porcini)|
|Shawn sprouting chanterelles! Very Shrek like!|
- Mushroom hunting on the Oregon coast, the Beartooth Plateau in Wyoming, the mountains in Utah and Colorado stand out as areas where we’ve had some memorable forages. We’ve learned over the years how to cook them and how to preserve them. Mushroom seasons are often our favorite time of the year!
- Hiking waterfalls in Columbia River Gorge, Oregon: We planned our exploration of the gorge area when we knew that all the creeks would be at max runoff and enhance the numerous falls running into the Columbia River.
- Biking the closed Cascade Lakes Highway near La Pine, Oregon: The highway closes each winter. Then in the spring as they start clearing the several feet of snow, the highway is opened to cyclists. We had incredible views of Mount Bachelor and South Sister as we climbed 600 feet over the 10 miles that ended when we ran into the snow plows. It was a fantastic 20 mile ride!
- Kayaking and fishing near La Pine, Oregon. We kayaked and fished several of the beautiful lakes in the shadow of Oregon’s volcanoes.
- Snowshoeing Crater Lake National Park, Oregon: We snowshoed out to Wizard Island Overlook the day after a late spring storm moved through. A few days of wind and snow left intricate sculptures. As we snowshoed the edge of the caldera it was hard to tear our eyes off the lake. This lake had been part of our inspiration in becoming full time RV travelers. It was absolutely incredible! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2017/05/or-fort-klamath-crater-lake-np-26-apr1.html
- Biking a closed road through the giant Red Woods, California: National Park. An energetic young ranger told us that the Drury Scenic Parkway in the Praire Creek area of Redwoods was closed to vehicle traffic due to road repair after a couple of big trees damaged it. However, we could bike it! What an opportunity…We had this classic 10 mile road to ourselves! He told us the road was fairly level. However, it steadily climbed over 1,000 feet! The entire time we were surrounded by the giant trees! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2011/12/ca-klamath-28-nov-8-dec-2011.html
- Biking the closed Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier National Park, Montana: This road rarely opens to vehicles before the 1st of July. However, the park slowly opens the road to hikers and bikers as they clear it of snow. We rode partially up the west side and then were able to ride all the way up the east side a few weeks later. The incredible scenery, including gushing waterfalls, make it one of the most picturesque highways in the world! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2019/06/mt-whitefish-31-may-14-jun-2019.html
- Alaska Friends Reunion in Whitefish, Montana: The highlight of the summer was a reunion with 10 fellow Air Force Weather forecasters (plus fun spouses/significant other). We were stationed together in Alaska in the late ‘90s. We had several glorious adventures together in Glacier National Park including white water rafting and hiking.
- Sphinx Mountain, Montana: We were in Ennis to fish the epic Madison River and hike in the Gravelly Mountains. Shawn was not feeling well and my arm was sore from fishing. So, I set off to hike by myself after dropping him at the river. As soon as I saw a huge grizzly bear paw print in dry mud I could hear Shawn’s voice, “Woman, this is not good. You need to turn around now!” But I continued and saw wolf prints later in the day. When Shawn was still ok with me going out to hike by myself the next day after seeing the bear print picture, I knew he wasn’t well at all.
- Beartooth Plateau, Montana/Wyoming border: During our time in Red Lodge Montana, we drove up the incredible Beartooth Pass a number of times to go mushroom hunting and fishing on the high tundra plateau. We also shared this experience with family when they came to visit. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2014/09/mt-red-lodge-11-aug-8-sep-2014.html
|Mary & Arleen sitting, Erin, Heather, Shawn standing|
|Leon and Sandi|
- Avalanche Peak: We met Alayne and Christian at the campground we were both staying at west of Cody, Wyoming. The four of us went on a fun adventure together in the nearby Yellowstone National Park. It was a stair climber to the top of Avalanche Peak, climbing 2,400 feet over 2.6 miles. It was windy on top but the views were epic. Alayne and Christian remain two of our favorite travel friends. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2014/10/wy-wapiti-and-cody-8-sep-6-oct-2014.html
|Christian, Arleen, Alayne, Shawn|
|Christian, Alayne, Arleen, Shawn fighting the WIND!|
- Biking closed road in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: Sixteen miles of the Park’s primary road that goes by Jenny Lake are closed to vehicular traffic during the “off season”. Sometime in April, they start clearing the snow in preparation to open the road on 1 May. During warm, dry springs, the road is clear and perfect for a memorable bike ride. Words can’t express how great it was to bike an empty, dry road surrounded by snow and some of North America’s most spectacular scenery. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2015/04/id-victor-2-16-april-2015.html
- Cascade Canyon in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: We each visited the Tetons when we were younger with our parents. Our visits consisted of stops at roadside overlooks and short walks by the lake. But on this hike into Cascade Canyon, in the shadow of the tall Tetons, we really felt we were IN the park! This hike had it all; a pretty alpine lake, waterfalls, avalanche fields and a glimpse of a mama moose and her baby. The 15 miles hike with 1,800 feet of climbing was our longest day during the 2 weeks we spent in the Tetons. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2014/07/wy-grand-teton-national-park-23-jun-7.html
- Kayaking the Snake River: We kayaked a five mile stretch on the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming from the Jackson Lake Dam to the Pacific Creek take-out. This is a placid section of “class 1” water. The jagged Teton Mountains loomed large above us. The goal was to catch the river’s namesake fish: Snake River cutthroat trout. We caught about 15 cutthroat trout, 6-15 inches long. We also caught about 10 mountain whitefish, 10-15 inches long. For wildlife we spied a momma elk with her brand new calf. Stashing my bike at the take out worked perfectly. While I rode back to get the truck, Shawn was able to continue fishing.
- Backpacking to Big Sandy Lake: The winter of 2014 the Wind River Range in Wyoming had 180% snowpack. Our plan to backpack was near to impossible till the 3rd week in June. We hiked up to Big Sandy Lake despite 6-10 inches of heavy wet new snow. We had the lake to ourselves the first night and Shawn enjoyed catching a bunch of little brookies. The second day we hiked up to Clear Lake and then up a little knoll in an effort to reach Black Joe Lake. I knew when I looked down into Black Joe Creek and saw the cutthroat trout, that Shawn would not let the feet of snow stop him. We had a great time fly fishing with hoppers. Our goal the next day was Jackass Pass, elevation 10,800 feet. We made it a couple of miles but were turned back by deep snow. Amazing for 3rd week in June! We’ll go back some day in the fall. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2014/06/wy-boulder-and-pinedale-23-may-23-june.html
- Backpacking the Wind River Range near Dubois, Wyoming: We did two backpacking trips into the Wind River Range from the Glacier Trail head; one to Ross Lake and one to Dinwoody Lakes. Both hikes were tough. The trail to Ross Lake climbs 3,000 feet in the first 3 miles of the 7 mile trek. The trail to Dinwoody Lakes climbed 3,500 feet over 10.5 miles. We set up base camps at both locations and spent days exploring the area. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2014/08/wy-dubois-7-jul-11-aug-2014.html
- Exploring Nevada desert with Tony & Stef: We spent most of the winter of 2013/2014 at Lake Mead. Through a set of mutual friends, I was able to meet Stef, a local triathlete. When she came over to do a bike ride with us, she insisted on bringing her dear friend and coach Tony. We’re so glad she did! We had many adventures exploring the desert around Las Vegas and Lake Mead with Stef and Tony from kayaking the Colorado River to exploring slot canyons and petroglyphs to bike riding in Red Rocks. Stef’s husband Glenn went with us a few times and Marge, Tony’s wife was thrilled that we were there for the winter to “play with Tony”. They will be best friends forever!
|Tony, Stef, Arleen above Colorado River|
|Stef, Tony, Carlos, Arleen, Shawn in Red River State Park|
|Arleen, Stef, Tony kayaking Colorado River in Black Canyon|
|Tony, Carlos, Shawn, Arleen exploring Anniversary Canyon|
|Shawn, Tony, Stef, Arleen biking River Mountains Loop Trail|
|Stef & Brinley, Arleen, Tony hiking Majestic Canyon|
|Arleen, Shawn, Stef, Glenn, Tony on top of Fortification Hill above Lake Mead|
- Snowshoeing in the Ruby Mountains near Elko, Nevada: I never imagined that Nevada had such impressive mountain ranges. The Ruby Mountains rise abruptly from the Lamoille valley and at first glance they reminded us of Wyoming’s Teton Range. They are truly the jewel of the Nevada ranges. Even though it was mid-April, there was still a few feet of snow - plenty to snowshoe. We snowshoed about 5 miles into one of the canyon areas. Since it was April, the day was warm and we witnessed a number of avalanches down the narrow crevices of the steep canyon walls. We even captured video of an avalanche – it’s in the blog! We never felt in danger but it was a bit disconcerting. We’ll always remember it.
|See the avalanche?|
- Powder days at Park City, Utah: We spent two winters in Heber City, Utah with annual passes at ParkCity/Canyons Ski resort. The winter of 2014/2015, was sad with only 42% snow pack. However the second winter, 2016/2017 was much better and we enjoyed numerous powder days. Snow pack was as high as 160% and ended up at 125%. Shawn tracked his stats all winter. He ended up skiing 27 times, descended a total of 324,000 feet, and covered 306 miles. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2016/12/ut-heber-city-18-nov-31-dec-2016.html
|Enjoying a day at Canyons with Cache |
- The Zion Narrows, Utah: This was a tough 10 mile hike in the famous Zion Narrows to Big Springs. There was very little sun, and we walked in cold water that was sometimes waist deep. We met 2 great folks, Tatayna and Eugene, who live in Boston but were from Russia. We struck up a great friendship as the four of us were the only ones to venture past Orderville Canyon. Shawn, who doesn’t drink, even had a celebratory nip of Cognac! Tatayna and Eugene would join us again years later in Alaska. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/11/ut-virgin-15-oct-12-nov.html
|Tatayna and Arleen walking up the Virgin River|
|Tatayna, Shawn, Eugene enjoying a little cognac|
- Chestler Park and the Joint Trail in Canyonlands, Utah: We spent 10 days in Islands of the Sky and this 11 mile hike with 2,000 feet of climbing was the highlight of our time there. We experienced slot canyons and saw loads of spires. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/04/ut-needles-outpost-5-15-apr-2013.html
- Pie Store Capital Reef National Park, Utah: We spent a month in Torrey and every time we went to do a tough hike in Capitol Reef we went early and each had a fresh little fruit pie at the pie store. The fruit is often harvested from the historic Mormon orchards in the National Park.
|Headed into the pie store with Mary|
- Rescuing the German family that was stuck in Capitol Reef National Park, UT: We had planned to drive the infamous Burr Trail from Escalante to Lake Powell to meet some friends. Due to recent heavy rains, official road conditions were deemed “unknown” and possibly impassible. We ended up rescuing a young German couple with a toddler and a baby. They got their rental minivan stuck in axel-deep in soupy mud. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/10/ut-escalante-27-aug-5-oct-2013.html
- Hikes in the Grand Staircase: The 2013 summer monsoon set up in a big way the second week of September. We had over 5 inches of rain in less than 5 days. This made our hikes in Golden Cathedral, Spooky and Peekaboo slots rather challenging but also special experiences.
- Hikes in Buckskin & Kane & Grand Gulches, Utah: The ancient sand dunes in the southern half of Utah have allowed for the formation of some incredible gulches/slot canyons. Buckskin near Kanab and Kane & Grand Gulch near Bluff were a few of our favorites.
- Volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Utah: Best Friends is on 3,700 acres and they are the largest no-kill animal facility in the country. At any given time up to 1,600 animals reside there. They have a staff of 400 professionals, including seven full time veterinarians. Every year 12,000 volunteers also help take care of the animals. We volunteered there in 2013 and in 2019. We hope to make it annual event.
- Devils Garden, Arches National Park, Utah: This 9 mile loop hike was the toughest we did in the park and the most impressive. We saw 7 different arches. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/05/ut-moab-15-29-apr-2013.html
- Kayaking the Colorado River, Utah: We kayaked 16 miles of the Colorado River from the Glen Canyon Dam to Lee’s Ferry. The four day and three night adventure included lots of fishing, and fully exploring the dramatic river canyon. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2016/11/az-lees-ferry-20-26-october-2016.html
- Kayaking Lake Powell, Arizona: For our first adventure we kayaked across the northern part of the lake and camped in the Lone Rock Bay on a slick rock outcropping. For our second adventure, we used a water taxi service to take us, our kayaks, and camping gear 12 miles up the lake to Labyrinth Bay. On each occasion we spent a few days exploring slot canyons in our kayaks, hiking the slickrock, and fishing for striped bass. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2016/11/az-lake-powell-12-20-october-2016.html
- Spring Training in Phoenix, Arizona: Since we are Seattle Mariner and Colorado Rocky fans, we wanted to experience spring training baseball. We even had my Mom, Ellen, and Shawn’s parents, Sandi and Leon, join us for a few days of baseball fun. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2012/03/az-phoenix-8-22-march-2012.html
- Tombstone, Arizona: We were immediately transported to the old west as we walked down the old boardwalk along the unpaved Allen Street where cowboys in their long dusters hung out with their horses. We had a few interesting days exploring the town and history. We even went on a ghost hunt! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2020/02/az-tombstone-5-feb-to-10-feb-2020.html
- Flower hikes near Crested Butte, Colorado: The Rocky Mountains are known for their wildflowers. However, the wildflowers we experienced in the Crested Butte area in July 2016 are the most spectacular we have ever seen! No wonder they have a Wildflower Festival!
- Aspen Grove, Waterdog Lake, Lake City CO: The entire second mile of the hike traverses a beautiful mature aspen grove. We liked it so much we nearly forget how tough the hike was!
- Jeep drive around Alpine Loop Colorado: We rented a jeep in Lake City and drove the 63 mile long, famous 4-wheel drive Alpine Loop that winds through old mines and over four mountain passes. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2012/08/co-lake-city-23-jul-6-aug-2012.html
- Fishing San Juan River tailwaters with Dad & Wanda, NM: If you’re a fly-fisherman, you are probably familiar with the San Juan River. It’s some of the best trout fishing in the US! Shawn planned our schedule around this special place. He learned to fly fish here as a teenager and wanted me to experience it with him. We were here 3 weeks and Shawn’s Dad, Tom, and stepmom, Wanda, both great fly fishermen joined us for eight days.
- Hermit Peak, New Mexico: What I remember most about this tough hike was my 8-year old like husband beating on old hollow dead aspen trees after he determined they were filled with moths. Thousands flew out of the trees and right at me. I tried to run, tripped on a log and slashed my elbow and lower arm. As the blood was running down my arm, the turkey vultures started circling…
- Caverns: Wind Cave & Jewel Cave, South Dakota; Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico; Lehman Caves, Nevada
|Lehman Caves, Nevada|
|Carlsbad Caverns New Mexico|
|Jewel Cave, South Dakota|
- Clifton Gorge with Fred & Christine, Ohio: Picturesque walk in gorge with old friends. Most memorable moment of the day is when Fred, impressed with Shawn’s stories of outdoor adventures, said, “If we have any issues, I’ll handle 2 legged critters (people) and you handle the 4 legged ones”. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2015/10/various-states-18-sep-1-oct-2015.html
- Washington DC: It had been 30 years since I had visited DC and Shawn had never been. We spent a morning with Bruce and Liz wandering around the many memorials. We visited our friend Fred at the Pentagon for a tour and our friend Andy at the FBI for a tour.
- Fall colors in Shenandoah, Virginia: Our dear friends Liz and Bruce led us from their home in Maryland to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia where we camped next to each other for a few days. We really enjoyed some impressive fall hikes.
- Kayaking the Everglades and Keys, Florida: We loved kayaking through the mangroves and spotting turtles, alligators, manatees, stingrays, sharks, and all sorts of fish; Lady fish, snapper, jack crevelle & barracuda in the aqua colored waters. There was also a myriad of birds; herons, ibis, brown and white pelicans, osprey, night herons, cormorants and roseate spoonbills.
- Memorable Fish: Fishing was a primary mission as we set out on this journey. We had the opportunity to fish many Gold Medal Water Rivers and spectacular high mountain lakes. This is a short list of a few of the most memorable in no particular order.
-- Homer beach, Alaska, Silver Salmon (Coho)
-- Kenai River, Alaska, Salmon Fishing with Cousin DJ and Uncle Skip
-- Lake Fork of the Gunnison River, Colorado, Rainbow trout that swallowed football
-- North Platte River, Wyoming, Rainbow Trout
-- Big Horn River, Montana
-- Green River, Seedskadee Refuge, Rainbow trout fishing with John
-- Provo River, Utah,
-- Striper at Lake Powell, Utah
-- Remote reservoir, northern Utah, Rainbow trout
-- Boulder Mountain, Utah
-- Meadow Lake, Wyoming, Grayling
-- Black Joe Creek, Wyoming, Cutthroat
-- Beula Lake, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming,
-- Remote lake, central Wyoming, Snake River cutthroat
-- Remote lake, Wind River Range Wyoming, Golden Cutthroat
-- Spinney Reservoir, Colorado
-- Windsor Lake, Colorado near BV, Colorado Greenback cutthroat on ant flies
-- Pyramid Lake, Nevada, Lahontan cutthroat trout
-- Keys, Florida, Barricuda,
-- Keys, Florida, Bonnet Head Shark
-- Keys, Florida, Speckled Trout
-- Keys, Florida, Snook
-National Park Passport Book: We filled our National Park Passport Book with 100 cancellation stamps from National Parks, Recreation Areas, Wildlife areas, State Parks and Canadian Parks. They were the only souvenirs we collected.
|Denali National Park|
- Toughest adventures
- Harding Ice Field near Seward, Alaska: 17 years ago, I had hiked part way to the Harding Icefield. Shawn had visited Exit Glacier many times but had never hiked to the icefield. On this visit we tackled this 9 mile challenging hike with 3,500 feet of climbing together! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2018/09/ak-seward-15-25-aug-2018.html
- Alpine Ridge Trail in Kachemak Bay State Park, Alaska: We took a water taxi to the trailhead for this 5.25 mile hike with 2,300 feet of climbing. It was slow going up muddy, sometimes rocky, often overgrown slope with rope pulls – it was tough! The view of the glacier was worth it! We also saw a LOT of bear scat! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2018/08/ak-homer-16-30-july-2018.html
- Crypt Lake, Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta: We hiked 11 miles with 2,900 feet of climbing on Canada day. We took a crowded water taxi to the trail head. It was a spectacular hike with steep drop-offs and incredible views. Some of the trail required hand and feet scrambling along a narrow shelf and crawling through a narrow tunnel. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2019/07/ab-pincher-creek-waterton-lakes.html
- Cory Pass Loop, Banff National Park, Alberta: Cory Pass Trail was the only trail that was rated "difficult" that we did in the Banff area. It was "only" 8.4 miles long with 3,000 feet of climbing. Well, it also required all fours over rocky outcroppings, crossing scree fields, boulder fields, and an avalanche area with downed timber. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2019/11/ab-banff-7-21-july-2019.html
- 5-5-25 Challenge, Nevada: During our winter stay on Lake Mead we trained for our version of a mini Eco Challenge; 5 mile kayak paddle, 5 mile hike, and 25 mile bike ride in under 6 hours. It took us five hours and 38 minutes! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2014/03/nv-lake-mead-boulder-city-14-feb-28-mar.html
- Mount Wilson, Arizona: Mount Wilson is the highest mountain you can see from Lake Mead as you look south into Arizona. We just mentioned to Tony one day we’d like to climb it. By the next week he had organized a hike with members of a local hiking club. There are no trails for the approximately 8 mile hike with over 3,200 feet of climbing adding to the degree of difficulty. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2014/03/nv-lake-mead-boulder-city-14-feb-28-mar.html
- Bright Angel Trail down to Plateau Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: This was over 3,000 foot descent into the Grand Canyon along the famous Bright Angel Trail. The highlight was peering down onto the Colorado River in the depths of the canyon and then a stop at Indian Garden to drink lots of fresh spring water to help complete the 14 mile hike. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2012/04/az-grand-canyon-4-17-apr-2012.html
- West Overlook trail in Zion National Park, Utah: The hike to the West Rim in Zion was one of our toughest ever. It was 13 miles long with a total of 4,000 feet of climbing. We started up Walter Wiggles, past Angel’s Landing, Scout Lookout, then we climbed and headed west for a more quiet, private incredible experience. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/11/ut-virgin-15-oct-12-nov.html
- Confluence in Canyonlands National Park, Utah: My sister, Mary, had always wanted to see the confluence of the Colorado and Green rivers. Since she was coming to visit us at “Island in the Sky”, we promised her we would take her there. It was a tough 11 miles with 2,200ft of climbing up and down through several canyons. But sitting high above that historic spot that very few people ever see, made it worth it. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/04/ut-needles-outpost-5-15-apr-2013.html
- Upper Muley Twist Loop, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah: This premier 11.5 mile hike was complicated by recent rains that made the narrow canyon difficult to negotiate. We forded a couple of pools and over large choke stones. Vertical plunge pools forced us to negotiate a couple of challenging detours up out of the wash and along the steep sandstone walls. But the highlight was climbing out of the canyon to the Strike Valley Overlook and looking down on the incredible Waterpocket Fold. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/10/ut-escalante-27-aug-5-oct-2013.html
- The Subway, Zion National Park, Utah: The Subway is a unique geological feature in the Kolob Canyon area of Zion National Park. It is a “W” slot canyon formed by the Left Fork of North Creek. The small creek has carved out a spectacular multi colored formation. It’s a tough nine miles roundtrip, often in the rocky creek bed, with a thousand feet of climbing. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2016/12/ut-virgin-zion-national-park-26-oct-16.html
- Scalplock Lookout, Glacier National Park, Montana: Our friend Lance traveled to Montana to join us for a reunion with a bunch of friends. When everyone else left, we knew we could take Lance on a challenging hike - he was a tough hiker during our Alaska days. We picked the 10 mile hike with 3,500 feet of climbing and lots of switchbacks. There were incredible views of the highest and craggiest peaks in Glacier! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2019/06/mt-whitefish-31-may-14-jun-2019.html
- Sangre De Cristo Mountains, Colorado: Most hikes were 9 to 11 miles long with at least 3,000ft of climbing. But the payoff is a pretty high mountain lake filled with hungry trout. Horn Lake, Lake of the Clouds and Goodwin Lakes were a few of our favorites. In 2012, good friend Brian and his border collie Maggie joined us. In 2016, we met Becky and the Westcliffe hiking club on our way up to Goodwin after a close encounter with a big black bear.
- Blue Lakes and Ice Lake in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado: Blue Lakes and Ice Lake are probably some of the prettiest mountain lake we have ever seen. It’s amazing so many people tackle these tough hikes! The hike up to the three Blue Lakes is one of the routes to Mount Sneffels, a Colorado 14’er. We hiked a total of nine miles long with 3,000 feet of climbing. On the day we hiked to Ice Lake, we continued up to Fuller Lake for a 9.5 mile hike with 3,500 feet of climbing. In addition, to the pretty lakes, the wildflowers were impressive in both areas. And the fishing was pretty good too!
- Lone Pine Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: The 11.5 mile hike with 2,000 feet of climbing features beautiful waterfalls and wildflowers. We didn’t see any fish in the lake. However, what was memorable was the nearly continuous, rumbling thunder as we hiked down the canyon. A number of times, we took shelter as the storms got close. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2015/07/co-grand-lake-21-may-24-june-2015.html
- Timber Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado: This hike was supposed to be about 10 miles with about 2,000 feet of climbing. But we probably did about 11 miles with more climbing because we lost the trail in fields of deep snow. I turned back early while Shawn continued up to the frozen lake… After I was out of the snowfields I encountered a large but calm Bull Moose. Then I had a close call with a very agitated Cow Moose with a yearling. I quickly ducked behind a tree as she charged and thankfully veered off at the last moment! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2015/07/co-grand-lake-21-may-24-june-2015.html
- Copper Lake and East Maroon Pass, Colorado: This was a spectacular hike into the Maroon Bells Wilderness. It didn’t feel like 13.4 miles with 2,800 feet of climbing because we were always enraptured with the spectacular scenery all around us. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2016/08/co-crested-butte-8-22-july-2016.html
- Memorable animal encounters
- Close encounter with a whale while kayaking near Haines, Alaska
- Watching the momma Grizzly with two cubs near Haines, AK
- Watching the pod of killer whales while on the Seldovia Ferry, Alaska
- Five bear encounters on our bike ride in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
- Helping Deb with Guide Dogs of America in Sequim, Washington
|Baby Julius and I|
|Deb and Julius just before Julius went to formal guide work training|
- Blue Heron in Madrone tree at marina every morning in Sequim, Washington
- Male elephant seals chasing each other at Point Reyes, California
- The bear we watched bathe on a hike with Linda in Glacier National Park, Montana
- Crazy goat encounter in Glacier National Park, Montana
- Moose close-call in Colorado
- Bachelor Moose herd Lake City, Colorado
- Crazy deer encounter in Lake City, Colorado
- Arleen nose to nose with a bear near Westcliffe, Colorado (Horn Lake hike)
|The encounter occurred as we hiked down from Horn Lake with Erin|
- Moose outside trailer door in Grand Lake, Colorado
- Ptarmigan near Montezuma Peak, Colorado
- Sandhill cranes, Whitewater Draw, Arizona
- Following the bear in our kayaks at Sugarite, New Mexico
- The wild ponies in Grayson Highlands State Park hike along the AT near Mount Rogers, Virginia
- Getting close to manatees, dolphins, sharks, crocs, gators, iguana, and birds while kayaking in southern Florida
|Manatee in Everglades|
|Crocodile in Everglades|
|Iguana in Keys|
|Dolphins in the Keys|
|Brown Pelicans in the Keys|
- Travel Companions
We are so grateful that over the years of our travels, members of our family joined us to explore our beautiful country and share in an adventure or two.
- Our #1 travel companion for the first three years was our four-legged friend, Praia. He was the best full-time travel dog. In fact, he really was irreplaceable.
- Shawn’s Stepdad, Leon, left us almost three years ago now. We were very thankful that he and Sandi joined us numerous times for adventures and Pinochle games. We haven’t played Pinochle since.
|Arleen, Shawn, Sandi, Leon - Rocky Mountain Park, CO|
|Leon & Sandi - Buena Vista CO|
|Leon, Sandi, Arleen, Shawn|
-My Mother, Ellen, left us last winter. I’m so thankful that she joined us several times for adventures. I’m glad we were able to fulfill a few of her bucket list wishes in Pagosa in 2016.
|Heather, Ellen, Arleen - Beartooth Pass MT/WY|
|Arleen giving Ellen Kayak lesson at William Creek Reservoir, CO|
|Mary, Ellen, Arleen - Pagosa Springs Color Fest, CO|
- Shawn’s Dad, Tom left us last summer. I’ll forever treasure fish stories with him as we critiqued Shawn’s fishing method. We really miss him and Wanda camping with us.
|Shawn and Tom fishing near Buena Vista|
|Tom fishing San Juan|
|Tom and Wanda at Mesa Verda|
- Members of Shawn’s family joined us in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Montana, and Alaska.
|Jordan, Sandi, Austin, Nichole - Red Rock State Park, UT|
|Gary, Nichole, Austin, Jordan, Arleen, Shawn near Chalk Creek, CO. |
- Members of my family joined us in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Arizona
|Erin, Heather, Mary, Ellen, Arleen singing 4-H campfire songs near Red Lodge MT|
|Erin, Mary, Arleen, Shawn near Aspen CO|
- Dear treasured friends we have known for years joined us for adventures as well: Linda, Anne, Ardie, Brian, Bruce, and Liz to name a few.
|Linda, Arleen, Ardie, Anne making smores|
|Brian and Maggie|
- Travel Friends: Over the years we met countless people as we traveled. We shared adventures, meals, and travel stories around campfires. These are just a few:
-- We met Stef and Tony in Nevada the winter of 2013 and we had months of adventures in the desert around Lake Mead. After that Tony and his wife, Marge joined us in Wyoming and Colorado so could play with Tony. Stef joined us way up in Alaska! And both Tony and Stef joined us in Utah twice; once during the summer and then during the winter!
|Marge, Tony, Arleen & Shawn - Blue Lakes CO|
|Tony, Marge, Arleen & Shawn - Green Lakes WY|
|Stef, Tony, Arleen - Heber City, UT|
|Shawn, Tony, Stef, Arleen - Snow Canyon State Park UT|
-- We first met Lucinda and Craig in 2016 when they sought us out for advice on the full time adventure they had just set out on. Since then we have met up in Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico for a meal and adventures. That’s a record! They have taken dry camping to a higher level with a very ruggedized solar and communication system.
|Craig & Lucinda - McCall ID|
|Lucinda & Craig - City of Rocks NM|
-- We met Deb and Tom at the NROA rally in Oregon. We spent the next two winters in Sequim where they live. They welcomed us to the area and helped us settle in. We were also able to spend a lot of quality time with their two 4-legged frinds, Dora and Bronte.
-- We met Karen and Garry at the NROA rally in Oregon as they were just setting out on their full time adventure in their Arctic Fox. They had been following our blog for years. Since then we have met up a number of time including Curlew Lake State Park in Washington and Pagosa Springs, Colorado.
|Shawn, Arleen, Karen, Garry - South Beach OR|
- Mary, Grand Canyon: We love when Mary joins us. She always teaches us some interesting geology tidbits.
|Mary & Arleen - Grand Canyon|
- Erin, Sangre de Cristos: We hiked to South Colony Lake while Erin climbed the 14er Mt Humboldt above us. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2012/07/co-westcliffe-15-28-june-2012.html
|Erin on Mt Humboldt - it was very windy up there!|
- Mary, Needles, Canyon Lands: Another geology lesson! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/04/ut-needles-outpost-5-15-apr-2013.html
|Mary & Arleen - Needles UT|
- Nichole, Bryce Canyon: Nichole, her boys, Sandi and Leon all joined us. But we took Nichole on a looong hike! http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2013/07/ut-bryce-canyon-national-park-1-15-july.html
|Shawn & Nichole - Bryce Canyon UT|
- Mary, Heber City: This time Mary joined us for snow fun! She shared a geology tidbit about Mount Timpanogos.
|Arleen & Mary Snowshoeing - Heber City, UT|
- Stef, Zion National Park: I love Stef’s in-real-life (IRL) perspective of our time spent together in Zion. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2016/12/ut-virgin-zion-national-park-26-oct-16.html
|Shawn, Arleen, Stef, Tony - Zion NP, UT|
- Close calls to disaster
- Valley of Fire trailer mishap
- Arleen skiing off a run at Sundance, Utah
- Shawn’s snowshoe accident at Big Hollow near Heber City, Utah
- Getting stuck in a precarious spot in the Peekaboo slot canyon, Escalante, Utah
- Arleen sinking in quicksand during the Golden Throne hike, Escalante, Utah
- Driving the Hole in the Rock road when it was flooded, Escalante, Utah
- Kayaking during high winds and big waves while in the kayaks near Wind Caves, Lake Powell, Utah/Arizona http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2012/04/az-lake-powell-17-24-apr-2012.html
- Leaving just ahead of a wildfire, Lolo, Montana
- Nearly getting struck by lightning at Big Blue Creek round 2, Lake City, Colorado
- Carbon Dioxide Alarm due to sugar beet refinery, Fort Morgan, Colorado
|Photo Credit: Mountain Town News|
- Chama River rising below El Vado Lake, New Mexico
- Nearby tornado at Marathon, Florida
- Embarrassing moments
- Like most RVers, we had a few wastewater hose incidents! In spite of our best efforts and experience, it still happened. Driving over bumpy roads, normal wear and tear, and an occasional brain fart can lead to an embarrassing moment.
- Getting penned between trees in Alberton, Montana. I did amazing my FIRST time backing the RV into a tight spot with Shawn patiently guiding me. But then we couldn’t get out.
- Problem with truck alarm at Eleven Mile State Park, Colorado. First time it ever went off was at 6am and Shawn couldn’t figure out how to turn it off!
- Getting stuck under a parking overhang in Salida, Colorado. http://mud-on-the-tires.blogspot.com/2016/07/co-buena-vista-3-10-jun-2016.html
Favorite Restaurant / Food adventures
- Bear Tooth & Moose's Tooth, Anchorage, AK
|Bear Tooth has been a long time favorite for a movie, burrito and baked cookie with ice cream.|
|The world's best pizza is at Moose's Tooth|
- Prepared & stowed frozen meals in our rig on the Alaska Ferry
- Scoopers Ice Cream, Long Beach, WA
|We rode our bikes along the coast to scoopers a few times.|
- Quest for best Clam Chowder in Oregon: We went to “Charlie’s Chowder House”, “Baked Alaska” and “Cecil’s Trolley Stop” in Astoria. For us, after sampling clam chowder all along the coast, we thought Castawsy in Long Beach, WA had the best.
|Flagging down trolly to catch ride into Astoria on quest for Oregon's best clam chowder|
|Charlie's Chowder House was the best in Astoria. |
- Tidal Raves, Depoe Bay, OR
|The seafood was very good and the view was incredible!|
- Harbor Light Family Restaurant, Reedsport, OR: We loved breakfast here.
- Bellagio Christmas buffet, Las Vegas, NV: We were there for 3 hours.
|In addition to a 5 star buffet, they had about 50 dessert choices|
- Café Diablo, Torrey, UT: We had a memorable anniversary dinner here. Unfortunately it is no longer open.
|The rattle snack bites were incredible|
- North Creek grill, Escalante, UT (Note: Meatloaf)
|Loved the outdoor kitchen and seating. Photo Credit: Trip Advisor|
|The "Not Your Mother's Meatloaf" was very good. Photo Credit: Trip Advisor|
- Cliffside Restaurant, St George UT
|St George view from restaurant|
- Arizona Room, Grand Canyon AZ
- Cedars Floating Restaurant, Coeur d'Alene ID
- Ripples Ice Cream Parlor and Café in Plains MT
- Fresh Morels in dehydrated meal while backpacking the Wind River Range, Wyoming
- Mushroom festival in Durango, CO
|We sampled five wild mushroom dishes prepared by Durango's finest chefs.|
- Eddy Line, Salida CO
|Pizza with white sauce, chicken, spinach and lavendar oil. |
- Gunnisack, Gunnison CO
- Toughest challenges
- Health problems: We still traveled even after Shawn was diagnosed with Graves disease. He managed it for five years requiring specialists in four different states. I had back surgery in 2017, the summer of running from wildfires. In nine years we had five different primary care managers, six dentists and four eye doctors.
- Family emergencies: Sadly, we had to change plans several times to help family. We’re fortunate that our plans were flexible and we were able to be there to help.
- What we’ll miss
- Firsts: There is a joy in seeing a special place for the first time or climbing an epic trail for the first time.
- Simple life: We relished having very few materialistic belongings.
- What we won’t miss
- Most campgrounds
- Tight space both inside the trailer and often between neighbors
- Little refrigerator and freezer, buying just 4 rolls of toilet paper at a time for the entire 9 years!
- Hearing your neighbors like you’re in an apartment building
- Laundry inconvenience
- Health care challenges
- Mail shenanigans – thankfully this didn’t happen too often, but there were a few headaches
- Valdez/McCarthy Alaska
- Canadian Rockies
- Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho
- Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire
- Disney World & Universal Studios Florida
In Closing: Worst Weather
- 20” snow, Feb 2019, Sequim, Washington,
- 62 mph winds and 9.65 inches rain over 3 days! Gold Beach, Oregon
- Minus 13F on 31 Dec 2014 in Heber City, Utah
- Minus 13F on 6 Jan 2017, plus 37” of snow for the month in Heber City, Utah
- Snow in Oct 2018, Great Falls, Montana
- Inch of snow with a low of 30F degrees on 11 Sep 2014, Cody WY
- Cold snap in Dec 2012/Jan 2013 with a low of -16F, Nathrop CO
- Snowstorm 10 May 2015, in Custer, South Dakota
FINAL BLOG TALLIES
Shortest day: Cape Disappointment WA to Fort Stevens WA 27 miles
Longest day: Troy MT to Ellensburg WA 309 miles
Shortest day: Nathrop CO to Taylor Park CO 40 miles,
Longest day: Lake Powell AZ to Navajo Lake State Park NM 268 miles,
Shortest day: Beaver UT to Kents Lake UT 14 miles
Longest day: Nathrop CO Ridgway CO 166 miles
Shortest day: Cedar City to Beaver 54 miles
Longest day: Dubois WY to Red Lodge MT 276 miles
Shortest day: Tiger Run Resort Breckenridge CO to Heaton Bay Campground Dillon Lake CO 7.8 miles
Longest day: Fort Morgan CO to Offutt AFB NE 457 miles
Ferry miles: 4
Shortest day: Ouray CO to Silverton CO 36
Longest day: Grand Isle LA to Crystal Beach TX 368
Shortest day: Nehalem Bay State Park OR to Fort Stevens State Park OR 39
Longest day: Elko NV to Sparks NV 285
Ferry miles: 975 + 7 = 982
Shortest day: Homer AK to Ninilchik AK 37 miles
Longest day: Tok AK to Whitehorse YT 386 miles
Shortest day: Creede CO to Pagosa Springs CO 64 miles
Longest day: Saint Regis MT to Roundup MT 381 miles
Shortest day: Tucson AZ to Tombstone AZ 73 miles
Longest day: Oliver Lee Memorial State Park NM to Albuquerque NM 224
Average: ~4,000 miles per year
Ferry miles: 986
Shortest day: Tiger Run Resort Breckenridge CO to Heaton Bay Campground Dillon Lake CO 7.8
Longest day: Fort Morgan CO to Offutt AFB NE 457 miles
Number of blogs: 215