Teddy Roosevelt National Park: Painted Canyon Trail

Are you looking for a place to stretch your legs while traveling I-94? If so, the Painted Canyon Trail at Teddy Roosevelt National Park is a perfect choice. Here are 8 reasons that the Painted Canyon trail makes a perfect stop on your next road trip.

1. Easy off – easy on highway access.

Finding the trail head is as easy as stopping at a rest area. You can see the visitor’s center from the highway and the trail head basically in the parking lot.

2. You may see a Buffalo.

Signs of Buffalo are everywhere from the parking lot and the picnic area to the trail and surrounding grasslands.

3. There is potable water adjacent to the trail head.

A drinking fountain and faucet are located near the trail head. We filled our water bottles, rinsed our dishes, and washed our legs with soap after finding poison ivy on the trail. By the way, there is poison ivy near the trail entrance. The trail is wide enough to avoid walking through it but it was too late by the time we realized it was there.

4.The Painted Canyon Trail forms a loop.

My favorite trails tend to be circles. I enjoy completing the loop rather than walking in and back or deciding where to turn around. This trail loops back behind a rock wall that hides that parking lot and highway. We felt as if we really went for hike into the wilderness!

5. The trail is well marked, easy to follow, and interesting enough to be fun!

6. The distance is just right for a hiking during a road trip.

We often find our road trips sidelined by long hikes that are beautiful but take all day. It is not uncommon for us to find that we have driven only 100 miles by the time dinner rolls around. It takes a while to drive across the country when you are doing it a 100 miles at a time! The Painted Canyon Trail is 0.9 miles and takes 30-45 minutes. Even our 5 year old easily made it in less than an hour.

7. The views from the trail really are better than those from the highway or the parking lot.

The hike is worth it when the views are better than from the van! Here is a view from the trail.

8. Take this trail to escape the wind at Teddy Roosevelt National Park!

The wind was blowing pretty strongly when we started the hike. Within a few minutes, we were removing our sweatshirts and complaining about the heat. As soon as we got back to the trail head, the wind was howling again. If you are feeling worn down by wind, take this trail and enjoy still canyon air!

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Grant Kohrs Ranch: Don’t Miss This Stop!
Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore: In An Afternoon
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Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore: In An Afternoon

Do you have 1 day to spend at Pictured Rocks but are unsure of how to spend the time? If so, here is our recommendation!

We drove west from Munising, swam in Lake Superior, waded in streams, and hiked to the Au Sable Light Station.

Here are a few things to know about going to the light station.

1. The last 1.5 miles to the Au Sable Light Station is on foot.

You can either walk the trail or walk the beach. We walked the trail there, had a picnic there, and walked the beach back!

2. You can see Lake Superior both from the top of the light house and from the beach. It is amazing either way!

3. There is a ship wreck on the beach between the light house and the trail head.

The shipwreck is different than most I have seen. It is just a skeleton of a boat and is fully accessible from the beach. You may be aware that lake levels change over time. This picture was 2019 so the water was relatively high compared with past years but a bit lower than 2020.

4. Remember to bring your National Park Passport and Junior Ranger books.

We carried drinks, sandwiches, snacks, sunscreen, hats, and plenty of other things. We didn’t bring our passport books and had to settle for a stamp on a blank piece of paper. Its not the same!

5. You may end up swimming in Lake Superior.

It may sound cold and daunting but, on a hot day, it is clean, clear, and refreshing! It was unbelievable hot the day we were there. I wasn’t prepared to swim in the lake and ended up taking a nice long swim in my tee shirt and skirt. It wasn’t my proudest moment but I was perfectly content, comfortably cool, and it was worth it! Next time I will be better prepared!

6.Wear water shoes and carry bug repellent.

The beach is rocky in places and all of the tales that you may have heard about biting flies in the U.P. of Michigan are true!

7. Consider stopping once or twice on your drive to the trail head.

You may want to plan enough time to go wading in a stream.

8. The ranger talk at the light station offers a quick glimpse of the history.

Learn about the Au Sable light station, Lake Superior, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The tours are thirty minutes long and require a $3 donation per person.

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5 Tips for Starting Your Sprinter Camper Make-Over.
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Sprinter Camper: 10 Upgrades That I Love!

Our Sprinter camper conversion benefited from the pandemic lock down. Here is a list of my 10 favorite upgrades!

1. LED lights

We added four lights. 1 goes on and off as the door is open and closed. The other three click on and off via one of two dimmer switches. One switch is over the bed and the second is behind the driver’s seat.

2. Guitar storage

Finally, a reasonable way to travel with a guitar! It hangs under the bed and over the kids bikes. Easy access and never in the way!

3. Trekking pole and kite shelf

Poles and kites run the length of the van and next to the kids bikes. They are easily removed via the back door.

4. Fishing pole holder.

This was a last minute addition and a surprise for the kids and I. I couldn’t be more happy!

Our three poles run the length of the van, on the driver’s side, over the bed.

5. Food and kitchen supply storage boxes.

You may have already seen these as they are part of our second bed set up but CD improved the efficiently of these as well. The lid of the box has recently been cut into two pieces so that I may access food at one end while sitting on the other end. Amazing!

6. Cabinets at eye level.

Check this out! We have two cabinets at eye level. One is on the driver’s side and is used for kitchen supplies. The second is on the passenger side, over the bed, and used for PJs and other daily use items. Both are secured to 8020.

7. Wood paneling.

Cedar tongue and groove gives the illusion of being in a cabin. Don’t underestimate the power of wood paneling!

8. Bike storage in our Sprinter camper

The kids bikes attach to wood and a metal bracket to slide under the bed easily. It takes less than 5 minutes to get them out and I have yet to encounter a peddle stuck in spokes or any of the other problems that I had prior to storing the bikes upright. Thank you high roof Sprinter camper!

9. Maxxair fan

Again, you may have heard us talk about this already but we installed the fan last year. Now that it is framed in, it not only works great but looks great too!

10. Rear AC wood paneling

CD framed the rear AC unit and vent with the Cedar tongue and groove. I don’t know how he did it but I am glad he did. It looks amazing!

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Traveling During A Pandemic: 8 Things to Consider.

We drive from Oregon to Ontario and back each summer. Typically, we spent several weeks on the road and explore everywhere from British Columbia to Colorado. This year is different. We are in Colorado, halfway to Michigan. Here are some reflections from the first half of our trip: 8 things to consider when traveling during a pandemic.

1. Camping is more complicated than usual when traveling during a pandemic.

The first night on the road: Campground #1 was closed. The local Walmart did not allow overnight parking. Campground #2 was full but we drove in anyway and the camp host pointed us towards a spot that was open due to a cancellation. We felt so lucky! In the morning was drove to the day use area and it was pretty much full. We were able to snag a spot to the side and hike in an area away from the river.

Tumalo State Park, Bend, Oregon

The second night we were in Utah. I cannot speak to the situation at Utah State Parks because we arrived in Ogden around 10:30 and Utah State Park campgrounds close and lock gates at 10 pm.

We broke one of our own unwritten rules and ended up at a KOA. Again, we were lucky! It was barely occupied, clean, spacious, and had affordable tent sites for our van. It was pouring rain and we were lucky to be self sufficient.

The third night we opted to stop driving at around dinner time. We were at Dinosaur National Monument and stayed at the campground. It was easy and great. The hosts came over to welcome us, which would have been great if they had been wearing masks. Overall, it was still a hit!

Dinosaur National Monument

2. Be prepared to be amazed and scared.

We left a highly mask and social distancing compliant town in Oregon in order to travel and see our families. It turns out that the rest of the world is going on with their lives and not necessarily very compliant.

I was almost immediately shocked by the lack of masks compliance. We haven’t been in any stores or even gas stations but I have been watching people go in and out of places as we drive through. We spotted 1 mask the entire time we were in Utah. Eastern Oregon was the same. Steamboat Springs and Summit County Colorado were a bit better but, overall, I was horrified and a bit scared.

3. Bring more food and drinks than usual.

I packed food and drinks for weeks. This includes snack size bags of chips, M & Ms, Diet Coke, Gatorade, and all the provisions that you would usually run into a gas station to pick up. We have not been in a gas station or store and do not intend to change that.

4. Consider a camping conversion that includes a toilet.

Again, we have not been into gas stations, campground bathrooms, stores or restaurants. This is probably self explanatory.

5. You may feel guilty at times.

I find myself feeling like I need to justify why we are traveling.

During a remote work meeting while on the road, I felt the need to explain why we chose to travel and every precaution we are taking. I did not do that but I still want to call the people in that meeting and tell them all about it.

It is easy to find myself reviewing these points in my own mind in order to justify this trip.

6. You may find yourself judging others while traveling during a pandemic.

I find myself judging other people behaviors which is kind of funny because they could be judging me as I drive by with my out of state plates.

A playground full of mask-less adults and kids without social distancing while driving through Salt Lake City had me judging them for sure. I am aware that this is neither appropriate nor helpful.

7. Empty parking lots are more appealing than ever before.

CD and the kids spent two hours in a National Forest Service Parking lot in Utah. I was on a phone call and they set up hammocks and cooked lunch. They were happy.

Traveling during a pandemic

I cooked lunch on a our camping table in the parking lot of an abandoned department store in Idaho. We ran laps to the lamp post and back. It wasn’t our usual picturesque lunch at a park or splash pad but it was okay.

8. You will wonder if traveling during a pandemic was the right choice.

This is impossible to know. We will just do our best to keep clear minds and hearts.

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Dinosaur National Monument: 5 Things to Know
Packing for a Pandemic Road Trip.
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Grant Kohrs Ranch: Don’t Miss This Stop!

It can be hard to find quick and fun places to stop when traveling on an interstate. One day when the kids were restless, hungry, and road-weary, we happened to find Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. It was the best part of our day and a great memory from our trip.

Here are some reasons to stop at Grant-Kohrs Ranch.

1. It is close to I-90.

The ranch is easily accessible from the interstate and is 3.5 hours from Glacier National Park to the west and Yellowstone National Park to the east.

There is a large parking lot, restrooms, and water. We enjoyed a picnic lunch next to our van after our ranch tour. We felt rested and ready to hit the road again by the time we were done. It was great!

2. The kids can try using a lasso while the parents try cowboy coffee.

Wood crates, designed for lasso practice, are spread out in an open space between barns.

A cowboy makes coffee at a chuck wagon. Sip your drink while hearing stories of real life on the trail! Check out the chuck wagon to find out what people were eating and drinking. Imagine cooking with the tools they had and eating out on the prairie.

3. Get your National Park stamps and Junior Ranger badges at Grant Kohrs Ranch.

4. Take a self-guided tour of historic buildings.

Tour a barn that has been in use since 1870 and a stable that was built in 1883. Grant Kohl’s is a working ranch so you never know what you will see!

Signs offer info about each item on the ranch. Tools, old wagons, horse shoes, saws, clothes, chairs, beds.

5. Take a guided tour of the ranch house.

Check out the Ranger tours to get a more in depth look inside some of the historic houses.

6. See a blacksmith at work.

Watch a blacksmith using old style techniques. We spent most of our time here and it was fun to watch real hooks and tools being made.

See real tools being made over a coal fire! It was tons of fun and we learned a lot!

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Dinosaur National Monument: 5 Things to Know
Glacier National Park: An Afternoon At Two Medicine

Dinosaur National Monument: 5 Things to Know

I have been to every National Park in southern Utah. Most, more than once. I had never been to Dinosaur National Monument. It felt out of the way from I-80 and I prefer I-70 through Utah.

I enjoy southern Utah so much that once I hit Utah, going south feels like the only options. Everything is different this year, however. We are taking our annual road trip, despite the current pandemic, because we have the opportunity to see our families. Since everything is different and I love Steamboat Springs, we opted for highway 40 from Salt Lake City.

Dinosaur National Monument’s west entrance is at very close proximity to this route. When we got there, I could not have been more surprised and amazed! The scenery is beautiful. It reminds me a bit of Moab but far less populated. We accessed the visitor’s center, hikes, and a campground on the Green River all within 10 miles of the highway and in a 15 minute drive. Here are 8 things to know that I didn’t know until this week.

1. Dinosaur National Monument is not as far out the way as it may seem.

It is on the way if you happen to be on highway 40 between Heber City, Utah and Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The west entrance visitor’s center is less than 10 miles from the highway, hikes, and the campground are a few miles beyond.

There are other entrances but we did not explore those on this trip and cannot speak to those. In looking at the map, they clearly seem further from the highway and more difficult to access than the Jensen, Utah entrance. The Quarry Visitor’s Center was well attended but we chose to bypass it in light of the current pandemic.

2. It offers plenty of river sports.

The Green River and its largest tributary, the Yampa River, run through the park before heading south to meet the Colorado in south of Moab.

Whether you prefer to hire a commercial guide or apply for a private permit, the rafting is guaranteed to be an adventure!

If rafting isn’t in your plans, bring your fishing pole, swimsuit, and picnic supplies and settle into a spot on the river bank.

3. The hiking is diverse and accessible.

I have been to tons of National Parks and Monuments and done many, many hikes. Less than two miles from the visitor’s center and on the way to our campground, we stumbled upon one of the most diverse hikes that I have seen.

The Sound of Silence trail is a 3.2 mile loop, rated moderate to difficult. It starts in a dry river bed, winds up and over various rock layers and through narrow washes. We walked in and out the first mile at sunset just after we arrived at the park and then returned the next morning for the full loop. I was not disappointed! Bring a hat (there isn’t any shade), sunscreen, water, and decent shoes. You will get dusty and hot. The trail is well marked and would be nearly impossible to follow with out the markings.

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4. The views are different than you may expect.

Red, green, white, and shades of brown are all mixed together. Red rock stands against white, with valleys and high hills.

5. The campgrounds are easy to find, clean, and enjoyable.

From the Jensen, Utah entrance, there are 2 campgrounds within 10 miles. We chose Green River and it was perfect for what we needed. It was easy to get to and did not require tons of extra driving. It is on the edge of the river and offers a variety of campsites. We followed a trail to a sandy river bank, climbed a steep hill side, made friends with a resident chipmunk, and spotted tons of lizards. There is potable water, toilets and picnic tables. Not every site had shade. Some sites were smaller than others and none were fully exposed to the river but for our purposes and camping in our Sprinter, it was a good fit. The location sealed the deal for sure!

Dinosaur National Monument has much more to offer than just fossils and is easier to access than you may think. Get out there and enjoy!

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Florissant Fossil Beds: 5 Reasons To Check It Out!

Grand Canyon: Camping At Hermit Rapids.

Have you ever wanted to camp in the Grand Canyon? If so, consider Hermit Rapids.

Here are five things to know about hiking Hermit Trail and camping at Hermit Creek.

1. You will need a permit.

This can be obtained at the back country ranger station. You must camp in designated sites. Hermit creek campsites are first and Hermit Rapids are second, 1.5 miles further down the trail.

The trail head can be accessed with your camping permit and is 8 miles west.

2. The trail is maintained but not always obvious.

Yes, we found ourselves off the trail a few times but never enough to get particularly scared or worried. I considered it to be a trade off for getting away from the crowds.

3. The hike is not easy.

In the nearly 10 miles from the trail head to the Colorado river, this trail drops from approximately 6600 feet elevation to 2300 feet. The first 2.5 miles alone drops nearly 2000 feet.

I loved this about this hike.

4. There is water!

Bring your filters and purification systems and get some water. Santa Maria Spring is 2.5 miles from the trail head and is a great place to catch some shade and some cool water!

Hermit Creek is the next water source. It flows from its location at the campsite into the Colorado River.

Not only did I appreciate the drinking water but putting my feet in Hermit Creek was like a slice of paradise!

Grand canyon.
A great place to take a break!

5. It is worth the hike in to the Grand Canyon.

The rapids are impressive and the night sky is dark. Expect to see a handful of others on the trail and at camp. For me, there were just enough people to help me feel like I was in the right place but not so many that I was aware of their presence in the canyon.

We hiked in May and the sun was hot. There is a period of shade if you hit the timing right on the hike but this is easy to forget once the hot sun hits you again.

We walked out of the canyon and straight to our car without being greeted by tour groups and day hikers. The trade off was that there wasn’t anyone there to cheer for us or congratulate us on our successful hike back from the canyon floor but still, it was worth it!

Tarptent
A period of shade on the way down and way up.

Please follow our blog for more fun!

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Packing for a Pandemic Road Trip.

I never expected to be writing about packing for a pandemic road trip. I consider packing to be a highly subjective and personal topic. Everyone has different preferences and techniques for packing based on their needs.

So, here I am, mid pandemic, packing for our annual cross country road trip.

Below are 5 ways that Covid 19 is changing our trip.

1. Food. Much More Food.

We cook nearly all of our meals at the van and have been surprised how many beautiful and out of the way spots we have found only because we wanted to cook lunch.

With that being said, we also love fresh fruits, local food, and finding reasons to get out of the van mid-road trip. Over the years, I have learned to pack less food and stop more often. We enjoy checking out fruit stands and local grocery stores. We stretch our legs, soak up the culture, and buy food often during our trips.

This time, however, I have been stock piling food. Costco, Safeway, and homemade cookie baking have supplied enough food to live in our van for weeks. To CD’s dismay, I have even resorted to 54 single serving bags of chips, granola bars, drink boxes, and even a few bottles of water. I basically made my own convenience store in the back of our Sprinter. We will see how far it gets us!

2. Clorox Wipes and Hand Sanitizer.

While I like to keep things clean, I am not prone to wiping things down all day long. We use water with a spigot and a bar of soap to wash our hands before we eat. I typically carry one tiny bottle of hand sanitizer for emergencies. This time I packed two containers of Clorox wipes, two large bottles and three small bottles of hand sanitizer. I still have the bar of soap but that just didn’t seem like it would cut it. We will see.

3. Masks.

I didn’t see this one coming. I have two adult makes with ties, two adult masks with elastic, two kids masks with ties, two adult N95s, two kids N95s, and a bit of anxiety. As a health care provider, I hope that we don’t get into a situation that seems like it requires a N95. Wish us luck.

4. Luggable Loo And Extra Accessories.

The Luggable Loo is our potty of choice. I use biodegradable bags and poo powder. I have not typically bought extras. This time I did.

5. Guitar.

Okay, this isn’t new but it seems like a good idea when faced with a socially distant pandemic road trip. I can already hear the music.

Please follow our blog to hear about our trip!

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Fresh food. This time it may look more like empty chip bags and mac and cheese but we shouldn’t be hungry.

5 Tips for Starting Your Sprinter Camper Make-Over.

We have been home since mid-March. Our pandemic projects include sour dough bread making, teaching home school, and continuing work on our Sprinter camper. CD’s progress with the Sprinter has been the most successful of the three.

Roof rails are installed, LED lights are wired to a dimmer switch, cedar tongue and groove is in place, and two new cabinets are ready to be filled.

Writing guides for each of this projects will take a me a bit of time but while I work on that, CD offered his top 5 tips for our diving into a Sprinter camper project.

Sneak peek! I can’t wait to share more.

1. Accept gaps in wood spacing or make custom pieces.

CD chose to custom cut each piece of wood. Time was not of the essence.

2. Realize that your Sprinter is not square.

No matter how square things start out, your van is not square.

3. Create things with wiggle room.

Plan on fine adjustments and be flexible.

4. Consider both your ideal end product and your acceptable end product.

Decide which of these you are working towards.

5. Be honest about your timelines.

Realize that your acceptable product will likely take as long you thought your ideal product would. Set out to make your ideal product and you may end up with your good enough one. If you are set on your ideal product, plan to increase your time spent ten fold and have plenty of extra wood on hand.

Have Fun With Your Sprinter Camper!

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DIY Promaster Camper Conversion Guide – Part I

Glacier National Park: An Afternoon At Two Medicine

I could write ten blog posts about my adventures at Glacier National Park. My first time in the park was over twenty years ago. Those few days of hiking and exploring were the spark for much of the traveling that has come since. Just when I thought I could not be more impressed by Glacier, I stumbled into Two Medicine.

Two Medicine is found on the east side of the park and on the shore of Two Medicine Lake. We arrived via Highway 2 from West Glacier on our way out of park. Once there, we found a campground, camp store, ice cream, hikes, picnic areas, boat rentals, and views for miles!

The view from camp store is awesome! The boat dock is to the left and hiking to the right. We recommend checking it out while eating ice cream and skipping stones!
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5 Ways to Enjoy Two Medicine, Glacier National Park.

1. Browse the Two Medicine Store.

Are you hungry? Do you need hiking or camping supplies? Are you just looking for a nice cup of coffee? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, drop into the store. In addition to having everything you need and then some, enjoy its history and scenery.

2. Have a picnic.

Get your lunch to go and head out to the lake. Skip stones and listen to the waves as you eat.

We love having a picnic on the shore of a mountain lake, obviously!

3. Take a boat ride.

We didn’t have a chance to enjoy this first hand but we heard good reviews by people at the park. The tours were full so we will make a note to reserve a seat next time.

4. Enjoy a hike.

Hikes are easy to come and offer great rewards. Waterfalls as accessible in as little as .3 miles. Full or half day hikes and multi-day backpacking trip options are available as well.

This hiking trail was just right for us!

5. Stop by the ranger’s station. Get your National Park Passport stamp!

The ranger’s station was great and everyone was kind, of course! The kids were amazed by the size of this print. I was, as well.

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You can check out some of our other posts, as well!

Waterton Lakes National Park in 1 Day.
Cranbrook BC: Stop and Enjoy. 5 Things to Love.