Today marks our one-year wandering-anniversary. One year ago exactly, us, our new home on wheels, and all our possessions drove down the driveway of the house that we no longer owned for the last time. One year ago today I published our first blog post, and one year ago today our journey began.
We’ve learned a few things in the past year. For one, we love this wandering lifestyle, and for two, after one year we still have so much more to see! So in the spirit of our continuing journey, on this one year anniversary instead of simply looking back on the favorite places that we have visited, we look back instead on the places we have visited, and want to return. In essence, this post is both a tribute to the past and the future. Here’s to many, many more years of wandering!
Lake Michigan & the Upper Peninsula
To say that Michigan was a surprise would be an understatement. When we originally planned our route up Michigan, through the Upper Peninsula, and then west into Wisconsin, we simply thought it would be more interesting than traveling farther south through Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. We were right. It was more interesting- in fact, it was fantastic. After a fun Fourth of July visit with some family outside of Detroit, we headed west to the shores of Lake Michigan. As this is one of the famed Great Lakes, I am sure it is well known just how gorgeous this stretch of shoreline is. For some reason, it was not well known to us. The moment when the first glimpse of the white sandy beach and clear, turquoise water came into view, we knew we were in for a treat. We made two stops on the western shores of Lake Michigan. First at the Claybanks County Park, and then at the Sleeping Bear National Seashore. But we weren’t done with this lake yet. Next, we headed north into Michigan’s famed Upper Peninsula where we enjoyed the north shore of Lake Michigan from two more stops, Brevort Lake and Little Bay De Noc. We spent two weeks in Michigan and could have easily stayed two more months. High on our list for next time are some of the state parks on the western shore that we missed out on because we lacked reservations and the north side of the Upper Peninsula along Lake Superior.
This was another hidden gem that we discovered in the middle of the country. And another place that we spent far to little time exploring. There’s an area in north-east Minnesota along the shores of Lake Superior called the North Shore. This pristine stretch of lakeside boasts some of the nicest, most well run and picturesque state parks we’ve ever visited (a tie with Oregon state parks- but we’ll get to those later). Despite our lack of reservations, we managed to get spots at both Gooseberry Falls and Temperance River. We would stay at either of those campgrounds again in an instant, but more than anything, when we return to Minnesota we want to spend time exploring the remote section of the northern interior of the state that is teeming with lakes and forests. After all, Minnesota is called the “Land of 1o,000 Lakes”- and we only saw one. I guess that means we have 9,999 to go.
Black Hills, South Dakota
Our visit to the Black Hills was very short- only one night. We wanted to stay longer, but because of a lack of planning on our part, we arrived the weekend before the huge Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. When I say huge, I mean around 400,000 attendees and their motorcycles. While we were able to find a camping spot at the very nice Bismarck National Forest campground, it was just too busy for us to really explore the area. We also felt a bit out of place without our leather vests, bandannas, and tall black boots. Our travel route this year brings us back to the Black Hills for the first week of August. Ironically, our visit is only one week prior to when we visited last year. Which means we may see a few early attendees at the bike rally. We’re not too worried about it though because we’ll be leaving on the day we arrived last year. Also, we already have a reservation for the entire week on the shores of Lake Sheridan, between Rapid City and Custer. We can’t wait!
Grand Teton National Park
We spent a week in the area around the Grand Tetons last August and it was awesome. We got to experience soaring mountains, clear blue lakes, and a few wildlife sitings. Unfortunately, there was a ton of smoke in the air from nearby wildfires. We explored a few different areas in and around the Grand Teton National Park, including an isolated campground called Turpin Meadow in the Teton wilderness, Signal Mountain Campground inside the park, and an awesome free camping spot between the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. The lack of Internet service in and around the park cut our stay short, and we would love to go back and explore more of the hiking trails, lakes, and gorgeous mountains vistas- preferably without a layer of smoky haze in the air.
Glacier National Park
Like our visit to the Grand Tetons, our journey through Montana was marred by lingering smoke from the continuous wildfires. As we headed north through the state the smoke dissipated somewhat, but our visit to Glacier National Park was definitely dampened by the smoke. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves immensely. We stayed at two campgrounds in Glacier, Avalanche, and Apgar. We went on a few extraordinary hikes, two awe-inspiring drives, and spent some quality time with the dog alongside lovely Lake McDonald. Besides returning to explore more of the park, we would really like to visit when the air is not filled with smoke. Hopefully, our wish will come true. We already have plans to return to Glacier and spend the first week of September there. Let’s hope for the sake of all us visitors, as well as those who live in the area, that Montana and Wyoming will be wildfire free this summer.
Idaho is a big state, and we only saw a tiny portion of it. Our intended route took us from northern Montana, across the skinny part of northern Idaho, and into Washington. We spent one long weekend at the Schwietzer Mountain Resort enjoying their Fall Festival. There was beer, music, hiking and free camping. It was a blast. Unfortunately, that is all we saw of Idaho. And we know there is so much more. So Idaho makes the list as a place we loved, but didn’t spend nearly enough time.
Last fall we spent six weeks traveling down the Oregon coast. I challenge anybody to visit the Oregon coast and not fall in love. Unless you are some kind of weirdo who hates the thought of pristine ocean beaches, lighthouses, quaint fishing towns, hikes on bluffs, and stellar state parks- it is not possible. I promise. This is a place we are sure to return…again and again and again. We stayed at far too many different places for me to list them all with links to the blog posts. Instead, I invite you to visit the Oregon Tab where you can scroll though all the posts from our six weeks. Or head over to the map on our Where page and click on Oregon to see all the stops and corresponding blog posts on the coast.
Lake Mead was the site of our first extended boondocking experience. For ten days we lived within steps of the most gorgeous blue lake in the middle of a hikers paradise– all for free. Despite our extended stay we simply couldn’t fit it all in. A return trip to Lake Mead is definitely in our future. Next time around we hope to conquer more hikes, take a trip to the nearby Valley of Fire State Park, and maybe even explore the lake in the kayak that we hope to acquire sometime down the road.
We spent quite a bit of time in Arizona this past winter, fifty-four days to be exact. It still wasn’t enough time to enjoy it all. What we thought was going to be a barren, flat, hot desert filled with nothing but retirees and prickly cacti, turned out to be a surprisingly beautiful and varied landscape with vibrant cities, funky small towns, and some really cool new folks to meet along the way. Our first stop in Arizona was the tiny town of Ajo where we first fell in love with the giant saguaro cactus, and had a blast hanging out with some fellow RVers. Then we moved onto two different parks in Tucson, Gilbert Ray and Catalina State Park. Next, it was up to Phoenix for two more campgrounds, Lost Dutchman State Park and Usery Regional Park. Finally, we ended our Arizona adventure with some boondocking in Sedona. While we wouldn’t hesitate to make a return visit to any of these places, what we really look forward to is exploring the parts of the Arizona desert that we didn’t see. Specifically, a bit farther south in the areas around Patagonia State Park, Bisbee, Tombstone and also east to the Chiricachua National Monument. Right now it’s looking more and more likely that we may end up spending next winter in the southwest again. If that’s the case, then all those places and probably a few more will be on the agenda.
Much like our time in Arizona, while we spent a long time in Utah- 46 days- it wasn’t enough. We traveled through a good portion of the southern half of the state. Starting on the southern shores of Lake Powell, onto Zion National Park, and then heading north to Moab where we explored Arches National Park and stayed at a fun BLM campground amid the famous Utah slickrock. From there we went south to the four-corners area where we discovered ancient ruins, amazing rock formations and river valleys. Despite this lengthy journey, we missed the entire middle section of southern Utah. Next time we plant to visit Bryce Canyon, Capital Reef, the Grand Staircase Escalante area and more of Glen Canyon.