J-Hole, WYOMING

This entire road trip started with a conversation about a year ago when I told Matt that Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Yellowstone were at the top of my road trip bucket list. Instead of blowing me off, he got into it. In early January we really started talking seriously and in March we invested in our roof-top tent. Once that tent was on the top of the truck, our Jackson Hole (We’ve dubbed it J-Hole) dreams started forming into an actual road trip plan with dates, destinations and research. Pretty soon our 4Runner (Sookie) had a partner in crime (Pedro the camp donkey trailer) and Matt spent many hours making them both J-Hole worthy. You can read all about his skills in my earlier blog posts titled, “before and after” and “the mechanic behind it all”. 

Long story short, on day #6 we finally rolled into the famous J-Hole Wyoming! We drove into with reservations at the slightly cheesy themed RV park The Virginian. The trailer was in need of a few repairs and it was a little late to be heading up the mountain to camp. It worked out very well because it gave us a chance to check out the town and do the tourist thing. We had dinner at very popular Snake River Brewery, had a killer pizza, salad and some real beer! It was cold and rainy but we walked around town and through the shops with the crowds and had a great night. J-Hole was a hit!



The RV park served its purpose for the night but was not my get down! I will most likely own an RV some day and stay in one again but until then it’s campgrounds all the way! Packing up was super simple and we were prepared to head through The National Elk Reserve and up the mountain to our camp destination. Mind you, we were ready to see some Elk, Moose, bears and everything Wyoming had to offer! We’d been seeing road signs cautioning us to BEWARE of roaming wildlife but by that point we’d seen neither hide nor hair 🐻 so we drove the few miles through the reserve before heading up the mountain without a sighting! Still not sure why this piece of land is called an Elk Reserve.

 As we climbed the mountain to the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the rain started coming down. As we climbed higher the rain turned to snow! Man, had the climate of our road trip changed! We continued climbing the mountain, passing a very cozy campground but moving on to see what off-road camping was available. As we climbed, the temperature dropped and we quickly realized that if we continued on, we’d be camping in the middle of the snow. The temp was 35 degrees and we knew it would drop pretty low overnight. We had prepared for a lot of things for the trip but camping in the snow was not one of them. To add insult to injury, the roads were turning into big time mud. Getting snowed in, stuck in the mud and sleeping in the cold was not on the agenda. So we enjoyed the view, took some photos and headed back to that cozy little campground half-way down the hill. 


When we reached the campground it was still cold and it was still raining but we had shelter and fire. We setup camp, made an awesome dinner and watched Leah entertain herself with what nature had to offer. It was an awesome camp day and we were excited to be staying for 2 days!




We were able get a great nights rest with the piter patter of the rain and the mountain air. We woke up to sunshine and of course camp coffee! Since we were staying another night, there was nothing to pack up but plenty to explore. We hopped in the car and headed towards the Tetons and Jenny Lake. It was a beautiful drive with an close up view of the Tetons and a a nice hike along the lake. We stopped at the Jenny Lake visitor center for snacks and info. While speaking to the friendly store employee he brought up the subject of all the wildlife in the area. We had to laugh because up to this point, the only Wyoming wildlife we’d laid eyes on was a squirrel! The man went on and on about bear spray and the areas “bear jams” every afternoon. We didn’t ask for clarification because this was the kinda fella that would talk your ear off all day if you let him. So, we had to rely on our imaginations. Was a bear jam a band of bears jamming on their banjos? Were they making homemade jam? Needless to say, we left Wyoming without ever seeing the infamous bear jam, but it was definitely the source of a few good laughs πŸ»πŸŽΆπŸ˜‚.


After visiting the Tetons, we made our way back through the National Elk Reserve (still no Elk Sightings) and to our camp for a little lazing around, walks and sitting around the campfire. Right before sunset, we hopped in the truck and drove up the mountain for a good view of the sun setting behind the Tetons.


We then spent our second night in our peaceful little nook and woke up to prepare for our next adventure in Montana. We couldn’t leave without one more trip through the reserve (still no Elk but finally some four legged friends) and into J-Hole for a scrumptious breakfast at Bubba’s BBQ Joint. Last an most importantly, we grabbed a cup of Joe strong enough to knock your socks off at Cowboy Coffee Company.




Right before heading out of town, we met a very cool guy who was super impressed with Pedro the camp donkey, chatted us up and exchanged stories with Matt. Just a few minutes later, we had the opposite experience with a not so cool guy at the gas station. He parked his truck in the middle of all 4 pumps, preventing us from pulling in to gas up. Matt asked him to make room and he jumped out of his truck, looking directly at our California license plate, threw his hands in the air and said, “figures!” He was making a pretty big deal and Matt’s not one to back down! Needless to say he eventually moved his truck, exchanged a few more “pleasantries” with Matt and decided to then hide behind his truck. The whole exchange left us perplexed and with the feeling that gas station guy could take his gas station etiquette and shove it up his J-Hole!!!!!!

Park City Baby!

We woke up in Moab on Day #5 ready to get the hell outa dodge! We were over the scorching heat, the red rocks and the all the bodies of non-swimming water. We packed up camp in less than a half hour that morning and hit the road jack! We were heading for Park City, a hotel and hopefully some serious r&r before camping in Wyoming and Montana.

On the highway, we began to see snow topped mountains and a dramatic change in temperature. Man were we relieved!



We pulled into Park City Peaks Hotel (fab btw) and jumped straight into the shower before heading to the pool. Try explaining to an 8 year old that you have to wash your body before jumping into the water. As Matt so eloquently explained, we needed to wash our dirty carcasses before getting into the pool because it wouldn’t be fair to share our camp scum with others πŸ˜‚ No further explanation necessary! We were at the unoccupied pool by 2 enjoying the cool air, a sprinkle of rain, an indoor and outdoor pool/hot tub and some complimentary chocolate covered frozen bananas (damn, I wish I had a photo of Matthew eating his) 🐡🍌

After finally being able to make good on my vacation swimming promise, it was time to tend to a few errands and find some decent food. After finding a laundry mat and getting our wash started, we found a nearby bistro and finally some yummy vacation food. As I’ve mentioned in my earlier blog posts, Southern Utah has a ton to offer but food and beer not so much! After a worthy dinner and a version of a Moscow Mule made with local honey that that Guy Fieri would call “money”, we finished our clothes and headed back to the hotel to lay in our comfy beds and watch some good old t.v.

Park City was the second town I wished I had my mountain bike. The hotel had bikes for rent but we were just plain tired and didn’t have enough time to explore the MTB trails. For this reason both Moab and Park City will remain on my road trip bucket list for future MTB road trip destinations. πŸš΅πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

MOAB, UTAH

Day 3 I woke up next to the river and another cup of awesome camp coffee! That morning we skipped the whole camp cooking situation and munched on some store bought muffins. Before we packed up for the next destination, we decided a shower was a must! After 3 days on the road in 100 degree heat, we were starting to get pretty ripe! We used the camp shower installed by our resident camp trailer fabricator! We were able to enjoy a warm but quick shower in our privacy pop-up tent. It felt great to wash up and I must say I was duly impressed by this luxury added to our trailer.

We packed up camp, noting that we were definitely taking some Utah river sand home with us! I was sad about heading out and wished we had planned to stay one more day at that spot, but alas there was more to see, more fun to be had and many more miles to cover! We put our truck back into 4Wheel drive and crossed the river to head towards the next National Park on our way to Moab.


We entered Capitol Reef National Park and started the Cathedral Valley Road Scenic Backway without really knowing what to expect. We knew we had about 58 miles to cover and that the roads may require some 4Wheeling. We were looking for a campground near the 28 mile mark, planning to set up camp there. Man, was it beautiful, hot and windy up there! The drive started with your typical desert cactus, tumbleweeds and dust views eventually turning into red rock mountains, cliffs and views of amazing canyons. 





The first half of the trail didn’t seem to take long at all and before we knew it, we were at the Cathedral Valley Campground! We couldn’t believe our luck as we checked out the stunning views and saw that we were the only campers in the place! We selected a spot, pulled in and hopped outa the truck. Well, that lucky feeling didn’t last too long, because let me tell you that it was hot, hot, hot up on the top of those red rock mountains! Hot next to water is doable, hot in a forest of trees is bearable but scorching hot in the middle of the desert with zero activities but hiking was a no go for these campers! In addition to the heat, we could immediately tell that bugs were going to be an issue. We unanimously decided that while it was a beautiful place to stop and have a picnic, we were not inclined to spend the rest of the day and night baking in the heat! As we started moving around the trailer to get some lunch together, the bug situation went from tolerable to let’s get the hell outa here now!! I’m laughing as I write this remembering how those bitey little buggers had us dancing around, yelling and slapping ourselves silly 😜 No amount of bug spray or citronella was going to make a picnic possible! A little defeated but hopeful, we got our bug bitten butts in the truck and decided to finish the Cathedral Loop and head straight for Moab. Although the rest of the Loop seemed to go on forever, there were some beautiful rock formations to see!



We finally made it onto the highway and were focused on finding some lunch. Now, for those of you who have never been, let me describe Southern Utah and the possibility of just “finding some lunch”! Like most road trips, I assumed that we could drive for a reasonable amount of time and come across a small town, a gas station, ya know maybe some Golden Arches or a Taco Bell at the very least!! We did come across a few small towns, but most of them were desserted looking ghost towns, nothing but cow towns and “the hills have eyes vibe” kinda towns. So, if you’re a foodie, Southern Utah is not the vaca destination for you! 

What seemed like hours later we finally came across an RV park with a small diner that looked promising. I had to smile when the nicest, tiniest old lady announced that she was serving us. The place definitely had a small town vibe! I was grateful for the burger and an inside bathroom to pee! After lunch we hit the road and rolled into Moab in the late afternoon.

Moab is a bustling little adventure town and we knew that we’d have to settle for camping in busy/ close quarters. Sure enough, what we found was the last spot in the Big Bend campground right along the Colorado River. The neighboring campground was very close but we decided that “it is what it is”. We pulled in, unhooked the trailer and decided to head into town without setting up because it was about 102 degrees with no shade! The campground was right along the river and the water looked so refreshing but the river was very full and was moving So fast! We’re talking class 5/6 rapids. Well, great..another Mom fail in the vacation swimming department 😳

As we drove into town, advertisements for all the adventures Moab has to offer lined the streets. We knew we were going to spend some time 4Wheeling while in town but we started discussing what other adventure we might get into. As we’re talking, Leah spotted a zip lining storefront and did not hesitate to vocalize her vote. So, we left the storefront with an appointment for the next day. Zip lining was in our future(regardless of my extreme fear of heights) 😱 We decided to check out a local brewery (boo Utah beer) and get a snack before checking out the off-road recreational area for some serious 4Wheeling! After paying our $5, we immediately came across the trail Matt had his heart set on tackling. The trail is called “Hell’s Revenge” and we could see a number of UTV’s climbing the beginning of the trail, going straight up a very steep red rock mountain. As I looked around, I realized we were the ONLY vehicle around not of the UTV variety. GO TOYOTA! Anyway, the plan was to tackle that trail the next morning…but it was still early, it was still hot and I could see Matt chomping at the bit. I said, “let’s do it” and we did but, not without a little butt puckering, a ton of adrenaline induced sweat and some serious truck scrapage!! The biggest suprise of that evening was that Leah did not seem scared, not even once! Coming back down Hell’s Revenge, I finally took a breath and we had one of those good boughts of nervous laughter. I wish the photos could do justice to Hell’s Revenge but you’ll just have to take my word for it!





After a full day we ventured back to our campsite to setup and chill for the night. We made friends with a solo guy next to us and shared a couple beers. He was there trying to take photos of the Milky Way and had some good photography experience to share. As we were talking, it became apparent that we were in for a windy night. In fact it got so windy that night that Leah’s annex room blew around so much that she almost ended up in Oz with Dorothy and Toto πŸŒͺ needless to say, she ended up in bed with us and we all listened to the wind the rest of the night!

After not much sleep, we needed breakfast and coffee asap! We drug our butts into town and after caffeine and a bite to eat we were in much better shape with zip lining to look forward to at 6 p.m. 

But first it was time to return to the off-road park and accomplish a second trail. We were in the mood for something a tad less challenging than Hell’s Revenge and decided to try a trail called “Fins and things”. This trail had a little less pucker but was still challenging and tons of fun! At the very beginning of the trail we ran into a family with a broke down buggy/jeep situation. We drove up to see if we could help. Good thing for them since they went 4Wheeling without any tools!! Matt was able to lend them what they needed and we chatted about where we were from and all that jazz. Very nice family! 








With our 4Wheeling adventures behind us, it was time to face my fears and take my kid zip lining as promised! The zip lining trip started out in a UTV rise up more red rock, steep climbs and bumpy roads! Our guide was a funny young guy who’s Schtick was to drink coffee with one hang while driving the UTV with the other. He had some great zip line humor and he and his co worker kept us laughing throughout the tour. Leah was the only kid in the group and I was starting to wonder at what point her nerves would start to show. Leah was fearless and thoroughly enjoyed herself on all 6 zip lines, each one getting longer and longer. We saved the best for last when Leah and I zip lined tandem style and let go of the ropes. It was an absolute highlight of the trip to see her sense of adventure come out. Those of you who know Leah are well aware of her quiet/shy nature. She was a totally different person up on those red rocks!




Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Moab despite the heat. Moab was the first town on the trip to make me regret not bringing my mountain bike! 

UTAH Part 2

Day 2 I woke up to camp coffee being delivered to me in our tent β˜•οΈ Matt is a very early riser and understands that sometimes I have to be bribed to get outa bed! There’s something about camp coffee made French Press style in the outdoors – that first cup of camp coffee perked me right up! Leah soon woke up to her cup of hot cocoa and we set out to make our first camp breakfast! Here’s where I learned my first camp trailer battery powered refrigerator mistake πŸ™‰. When packing food for our trip, I used the same method I’ve always used when packing an ice chest – I loaded the refrigerator with frozen meats for the week, intending to thaw each night’s dinner to keep all our food fresh and last at least a week. Big mistake! The frozen meats coupled with temp of the Whynter 65 quart refrigerator froze every darn thing I packed, including breakfast meats and the eggs 🍳 I can laugh about it now, but our first camp breakfast of the trip was not what I’d hoped! On the bright side, that was the one and only time we pulled out the camp stove for the entire trip. All other meals at camp were cooked over a legit campfire πŸ”₯ 

After a sad camp breakfast, we began the task of packing up camp to head further into Utah. It took us a good hour to get everything packed and put away that first day. Thankfully we got our act together and became more efficient as we set up and tore down camp quite a few more times during our trip.

First stop after getting on the road was Walmart to to replenish the frozen eggs and grab some camp beer! A good friend had advised me to buy beer before we got to Utah as Utah has some pretty strict alcohol restrictions. I did keep that in mind and bought beer before the trip, but let’s just say it was not enough to get us through 🍺. So, we’re in Walmart and I’m taking a look at the beer selection when I ran across this gem. We figured when in Rome!! We laughed and grabbed our 4% alcohol content beer, thinking that obviously not all the folks in Utah take themselves too seriously! Turns out, the beer wasn’t half bad! I would advise any serious beer drinkers to plan ahead and pack some beer if you plan on visiting Utah.


With our beer chilling on ice in our soft sided cooler, we set out towards Zion National Park. Zion was absolutely beautiful! The scenic drive is a pretty steep incline, looking over the red rock canyons and trees. It was hard to capture the beauty in the photos from the car as we drove along with the windows rolled down and the wind on our faces.


After enjoying the views at Zion, we headed towards Capitol Reef National Park to find a camp spot. Day #2 was all about camping off-road and boy did we find the perfect spot! The spot was located on the Hartnet River Ford Road on BLM land. You can find plenty of BLM land and camp for free by visiting https://freecampsites.net/. Matt had done some research about the area and knew we’d have to do a little off-roading to find a good spot. We put the truck in 4Wheel drive and started exploring the area. We can across a very narrow sandy road and zipped right in the most amazing spot right next to the water. When we got out of the truck, it was hot, sandy and a little buggy but so pretty! We unpacked while Leah splashed around in the river. Mid set-up, we had to pull out the bug spray to fend off some pesky little biting bugs. Thank goodness for our foresight to bring tiki torches and citronella. 



After setup, we hiked up the river looking for a spot deep enough to swim. By that point of the trip I was feeling pretty bad about the swimming I had promised Leah. We hiked up and down the river without swimming hole sucesss. Eventually we just plopped down in the water to cool off and I taught Leah how to skip rocks. The area was so beautiful and sticks out as one of my favorite camp spots on the trip.


As the sun went down that evening, we lit our campfire, listened to some tunes and cooked up some carne asada. Leah contributed to the meal by coming up with rice stuffed bell peppers 🌢. Matt and I enjoyed some Utah brews and of course roasted marshmallows. There’s was quite a bit of talk about the perfect roasted marshmallow on this trip. I prefer mine quite toasted and I let it catch fire just a bit on each side while Matt and Leah prefer theirs less flamed. Either way a good roasted marshmallow and s’mores is always the best way to end a beautiful off-road camp day.





Day 2 was definitely a success and started to feel like the vacation we’d been waiting so long for. Obviously I can’t make changes to nature but if there’s anything I’d change about this spot, I’d leave out the bugs! We all were nibbled on quite a bit. 

Speaking of nature, once we had everything unloaded and setup, Matt took a look around and mentioned flash flooding. Now I don’t know about any of you, but as I was standing in hot river sand wishing for more water in the river, the last thing crossing my mind was the possibility of a flash flood in the desert. It took some convincing but I finally relented that it was possible and we came up with a plan of how to get the heck outa there should we hear the distinct rumble of a flash flood wave coming our way! 🌊 we decided Leah would spend her first night sleeping up top with us rather than on her mattress in the attached annex below. I was pleasantly surprised that the 3 of us had plenty of space to spread out and we drifted off to sleep with all the tent windows open for air on that very warm night.

UTAH

We hit the road early on Wednesday, June 7th! We had been waiting for June 7th for months, making it easy for all 3 of us to roll outa bed at the early hour of 3 a.m. We were motivated and super excited to hit the road right at 4 a.m. 


Matt had the truck and trailer packed and ready to go the night before. We were set up with our roof top tent, a working refrigerator, a portable toilet with its own privacy pop-up and a water tank to wash dishes and power the portable shower he had packed for the trip! We had grocery shopped and prepped for roughly a week of off-roaring. We were set with supplies, sleep space and some $$ in our pockets!

Our first camp destination was preplanned for Hurricane, Utah! Google Maps told us we had a 9 hour 15 minute drive to get there! Totally doable! The first half of the drive flew by! Once we got outside of Vegas, we stopped at the Mad Greek for lunch (saw it on Diners Drive-ins and Dives). The Gyros were yummy and motivated us for the second half of our drive. The second half of the drive was a little harder to get through πŸ˜‘ The terrain looked the same all the way from Bakersfield, through Nevada and Arizona! 🌡Desert and tumbleweeds as far as the eye can see! Don’t get me wrong, the terrain and landscapes are beautiful, but not much to stop and see or do after Vegas! As we were driving towards Vegas, Leah had a million questions and made it clear that Vegas was a bucket list destination for her. We didn’t stop because let’s be real, Leah’s a pretty smart cookie and would figure out what Vegas is all about pretty quick! Had it been dark we would have taken a detour along the strip to see the lights and such…but it was lunchtime and we trucked on through.

By about 3 p.m. We had rolled our tires through 3 states! We had left California and Arizona in our rear view, psyched for what Utah had to offer.

As we drove into and through Utah, we were surrounded By red rock, cliffs and breath taking canyons! All through S. Cali, Arizona and Southern Utah it was scorching hot! Quite a bit hotter than my weather app prepared me for 🌞

We rolled into Hurricane, Utah about 6 p.m. Utah time (we forgot about the hour time change) and found our campground at an off-road recreation park. We got some good laughs as we approached because:

1. We planned for off-roadinv and 10 miles from our Google Map destination we were stuck in city hwy traffic (exactly how off the grid is this trip going to be 🀠)??

2. The directions then began navigating us through the shopping district and neighborhoods of St. George. I was starting to think we were heading towards some glorified parking lot!

3. As we finally headed out of the town, onto some back roads, I started to feel relieved because a.) I had picked the local b.) I promised Matt a recreational 4Wheel experience and c.) I promised Leah swimming in the small campground lake!! As we approached the campground I was feeling sweaty, yet hopeful based on the views until we got closer and read a caution sign about Swimmer’s Itch! What the….Oh, great! 

Remain calm Mom! I started to google Swimmer’s Itch and then spotted our campsite which was mostly located on a paved road 😳 surrounded by mostly RV’s! thank goodness we were just stopping for a night and are quick on our toes. As we were setting up camp, Matt took advantage of the full hook-ups and attached a water hose for Leah to get wet and play in the high 90 degree heat without catching Swimmer’s Itch 🀒

As things usually go, after setting up, calming down and taking it all in we realized we picked the perfect spot for the first night as we had to do very little set-up and had some time to grab the camera, take a walk and check things out!


While we were out, Matt and Leah got brave and ventured into the lake. Thank goodness we were lucky and didn’t take any Swimmer’s Itch with us  when we left!

Overall, day #1 was a sucesss! Afterall, we got on the road super early as planned, we had a yummy lunch and checked the Mad Greek off our bucket list, we made it to our destination (Utah) in plenty of time to enjoy the evening and our tires rolled through 3 states in one day!

There’s not much I’d change about that day…except I’d order a plain pork Gyro at the Mad Greek instead of the BBQ pork and I’d be more prepared for the super hot weather on day #1 (screw you IPhone weather app)!

I would definitely recommend an IPad with downloaded movies for your kiddos and some Dramamine for the endless windy roads!

At the end of the day, we cuddled up in our roof top tent and got a great night’s sleep!

Stayed tuned for Utah part 2.

READY TO ROLL!

This little gem is ready to roll!! We leave on our epic road trip to the beautiful parks of Utah and then on to Yellowstone in 4 days! This trailer far exceeds my expectations and makes me so excited to get on our way!!