Westward Bound to Oregon We Go!

We left Bozeman on September 26th to drive west towards Ultimate Airstreams in Clackamas, Oregon, where we were having some updates/upgrades and maintenance issues taken care of. We chose to take the longer, flatter route along US-191 south out of Bozeman to West Yellowstone, to US-20/US-26 west to Mountain Home, Idaho, and then northwest along I-84 to the Portland area. Our stops along this trip would include Juniper Campground in Ririe, Idaho; Lava Flow Campground at Craters of the Moon National Monument near Arco, Idaho; Abundant Life RV Park in Caldwell, Idaho; Emigrant Springs State Park in Meacham, Oregon; and Ainsworth State Park in Corbett, Oregon.

After a beautiful drive through Gallatin Gateway and the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park, we arrived at our first stop — Juniper Campground!

We only spent one night at Juniper Campground, which is a county campground located on the Ririe Reservoir (formed by the Ririe Dam). There are three loops, with Loop A being reservable, and Loops B & C being first come, first served. There are 60 RV sites, with most being full hookups, and there’s a good combination of pull throughs and back ins. A10, A12, and A14 have views of the reservoir, but these are three of the few sites without a sewer hookup. Our site was a fairly level pull-through site, though we did need to use levelers on one side. The hookups were well located and our site was surrounded by Juniper trees, giving us privacy from the sites around us. All sites have a picnic table and fire pit. Many of the back-in sites in A loop are fairly unlevel/steep front to back. C Loop has very long, wide pull throughs that will accommodate any size rig. We didn’t check out B Loop. There is a grassy area for tent camping. Each loop has a bathroom with showers. There are a few picnic pavilions throughout as well as a basketball court. There is boat access to the reservoir with the steepest and longest boat ramp I’ve ever seen. This campground was very quiet when we stayed and has a camp host that stopped by to give us his contact info and inform us about the gate, which is locked from 10pm to 5am (it does open from the inside if you need to leave during that time for some reason). This was our first night back in the Airstream in about two months, so we had some housekeeping to attend to in our brief overnight stay and we didn’t venture out anywhere except to get gas.

Campground Stats

Name: Juniper Campground

Address: 226 Meadow Creek Rd, Ririe, ID  83443

Website: www.junipercampground.com

Dates Stayed: September 26, 2021 – September 27, 2021

Site: A20

Rate: $25.00

Amenities:

  • Pull-Through Sites
  • Full Hookups Available
  • Reservation and First Come, First Served Sites
  • Tent Camping
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Picnic Table
  • Fire Pit
  • Basketball Court
  • Boat Ramp
  • Picnic Shelters
View of the reservoir from site A10.
Site A20 – Pull through with full hookups
Site A20 – We had a nice little ‘front yard’ that was private with a fire pit and picnic table.
Site A20 – A brief, but enjoyable stay.

Next, we ventured to Craters of the Moon National Monument for a one-night stay at first come, first served Lava Flow Campground. Lava Flow is the only campground located within Craters of the Moon and it’s a beaut! It’s the most well-maintained and well-manicured NPS campground we’ve ever seen. There are 42 sites, all without hookups. The road throughout the campground is narrow and there aren’t a lot of sites that can accommodate a large rig, or even a medium-sized rig. I would highly recommend stopping at the visitor center on your way in so that you can get a campground map and see what you’re working with. We ended up in Site 2, which is actually across the street from the campground, along with Site 1. Both of these are large pull throughs that can accommodate any size rig and will save you having to drive through the campground looking for a spot. Once you find a site, there is a pay machine at the entrance that accepts credit card only. You are able to pay for one night at a time. Our site had a picnic table and grill, but no fire pit. There are both restrooms with flush toilets and showers (seasonal) and vault toilets, as well as water spigots throughout the campground. There’s also a nice little amphitheater where I assume they do ranger talks and there’s access to the Crater Flow Trail right from the campground. It can get VERY windy, so don’t leave anything outside that could blow away.

Campground Stats

Name: Lava Flow Campground

Address: 1266 Craters Loop Rd, Arco, ID  83213

Website: www.nps.gov

Dates Stayed: September 27, 2021 – September 28, 2021

Site: 2

Rate: $15.00; $7.50 with Access Pass or Golden Age Pass

Amenities:

  • Pull-Through Sites
  • First Come, First Served
  • Water Spigots
  • Restrooms with Showers (Seasonal)
  • Vault Toilets
  • Amphitheater
Site 2 is a long pull through that’s a little steep to get into, but fairly flat and level once in the site.
Due to the side of the road site 2 is on, the door doesn’t open into the ‘yard’ area of the site.
You can see the entrance station in the background with the pay station across from it. Site 2 is directly to the left after passing through the entrance station.
The amphitheater is very well maintained and wheelchair/stroller accessible.

From the Craters of the Moon brochure:

Many lava flows exist on Earth’s actual moon, but astronauts confirmed that most lunar craters resulted from meteorite impacts, not volcanism. The craters of Craters of the Moon, however, are definitely of volcanic origin. But where is the volcano? These vast volumes of lava issued not from one volcano but from a series of deep fissures — known collectively as the Great Rift — that cross the Snake River Plain. Beginning 15,000 years ago, lava welled up from the Great Rift to produce this vast ocean of rock. The most recent eruption occurred a mere 2,000 years ago, and geologists believe that future events are likely.

Loop Road is a 7-mile scenic drive that provides access to trails that take you over, under, and around the various volcanic features of the park. Many of the sites are accessed by fairly short trails from the parking areas, or can even just be viewed from the parking areas themselves. This is definitely a park that can be done in one day, even if you choose to traverse the 3.6-mile (roundtrip) North Crater Trail.

As you can see below, the trailhead signs are very informative, but there are two things that cannot be referenced on the sign that ended up making us turn around at a little over a mile into the hike. 1) It was very dry during our visit. Like really, really dry. The humidity was 18%. That, along with the wind that didn’t ever seem to quit, just sucked all of the moisture right out of us, even giving us cotton mouth. We brought water with us on the trail, but by a mile in, we had already drank half of it, so we decided to turn around. 2) The sign lets you know about the cumulative elevation gain and loss, but does not inform you that this gain and loss continuously repeats along the trail. It’s possible that the continuous up and down of the trail wouldn’t be so noticeable if it was less windy and less dry (and we had more water with us). Regardless, this was a really great trail that had a lot of interesting views along the way and I’d highly recommend it.

You actually walk across lava flow fields while on the trail and the metal poles as seen below guide you.

It’s hard to grasp the size of this area, but there is person in a red shirt at the bottom of the stairs that lead to the inclined trail for scale.

Next, we stopped at Inferno Cone. It looks innocent from a distance, but there’s a pretty steep incline along a trail made of crushed lava rock that’s difficult to walk on, especially when the 30+mph winds are whipping it against any skin that’s uncovered.

The views from the top were pretty nice…

…but very, very windy.

We then continued along the loop to the Spatter Cones area. These are easily accessible along a paved trail.

Our last stop of the day was the cave area of the park. In order to enter the caves, you need to obtain a permit, which consisted of the person in the entrance kiosk stamping our pamphlet when we first entered the park. No one checked it before we entered the caves and it didn’t seem like they give out a limited number of permits, so I’m not really sure what the purpose is. Anyways, we didn’t feel the caves, which are actually lava tubes, were anything to write home about. They’re just caves, some more accessible than the others. I would recommend each person bring a headlamp as they’re, well, caves, and there’s not much for natural light. Seeing as bats live in some of them, you’re not supposed to wear anything into the caves that you’ve worn into any other caves in the last few years in order to prevent white noise syndrome being transferred to the bats.

I think they require a permit so that someone can ask you if anything you’re wearing has been in a cave recently, but there was no one actually checking for a permit at the trailhead.
Maybe because of the wind and dryness, but it felt like a very long walk out to the caves.
Indian Tunnel

We spent one night at Lava Flow Campground and that was enough to see everything. It was a very interesting place! Forewarning: Cell signal drops off basically right when you turn down the road to enter the park. It’s possible you might get a little something, but don’t count on it. Also, the last gas station coming from the east is about 20 minutes outside the park and about 30 minutes outside the park when coming from the west. When we visited, the North Crater Flow Trail, which is accessible right from the campground, was closed. This looked like a very nice, easy little trail with boardwalks that winds through some nice scenery. A ranger was set up outside the visitor center to answer any questions, as the visitor center and gift shop were closed due to “everyone being sick”. We always like to buy some souvenirs as reminders of our travels and to help support the parks, and I was able to do that by calling the Craters of the Moon Natural History Association. Their website is www.cratersofthemoonnha.org.

Probably the best feature of Craters of the Moon is that it has an International Dark Sky designation. It was definitely dark at night and we saw the most stars we’ve ever seen anywhere!

We continued west to Caldwell, Idaho, where we spent two nights at Abundant Life RV Park.

RV Park Stats

Name: Abundant Life RV Park

Address: 4924 Laster St, Caldwell, ID 83607

Website: www.abundantlifervpark.com

Dates Stayed: September 28, 2021 – September 30, 2021

Site: 30

Rate: $55.00; $49.50 with Military Discount

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Through Sites
  • Picnic Table
  • Wifi
  • Laundry
  • Bathrooms with Showers
  • Gym
  • Pond w/ Swim Beach
  • Enclosed Dog Park
  • Small Playground

This was a well-maintained, small park that seemed to consist mainly of full-time residents. Each site was kept nice and tidy, and the residents were very quiet. This RV park is in a commercial area and is surrounded by RV dealerships, car dealerships, a car wash, gas stations, and various other businesses. While the residents are quiet, the overall location isn’t. There’s a decent amount of traffic and train noise, but nothing so disruptive that it’s going to ruin your day or prevent you from getting a good night of sleep. Caldwell is a good-sized city, so has everything you would need, and also is home to a number of wineries, though we didn’t visit any. We actually didn’t leave the RV park except to get gas and pick up a pizza, as we stayed here during the week and had to work.

Site 30 is a pull-through site right across from the office at the front of the park.
Site 30 is an end site, so we didn’t have neighbors on our door side — just a nice little green yard with a picnic table.
Site 30 was level and the hookups were conveniently placed.

From Caldwell, we continued west (but mostly north) into Oregon, where we spent two night at Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area, aka Emigrant Springs State Park. This park is along the route of the Oregon Trail and pays homage to it’s location with some information displays throughout as well as ranger talks during the busier season.

Campground Stats

Name: Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area

Address: 65068 Old Oregon Trail Rd, Meacham, OR 97859

Website: www.reserveamerica.com

Dates Stayed: September 30, 2021 – October 2, 2021

Site: B25

Rate: $26.00

Amenities:

  • 16 Full Hookup Sites Available (5 Available Year Round)
  • Restrooms with Individual Showers
  • Fire Pit
  • Picnic Table
  • Firewood for Sale
  • Tent Sites
  • Group Tent Site
  • Horse Sites
  • Cabins
  • Community Building for Rent
  • Basketball Court

This is a beautiful, wooded campground that is extremely convenient when traveling along I-84. The sites are a decent length and fairly level. There are 16 full hookup sites, while the rest are without hookups. As most of the sites are pretty shady throughout, I’m not sure how well solar panels would help in the non-hookup sites. Five full hookup sites are available year round, though the water gets shut off in the winter. There is water available year round at the restrooms/shower house. The showers are accessed individually, which is always nice from a safety standpoint. There was a camp host on site and it appears there are usually two during the busier season. Wood is available for purchase for $5 for a cart load. This is a smaller park without a check-in kiosk, so it’s important to know your site number if you have a reservation.

Site B25 is a beautiful back-in site next to the bathroom.
Each site has a fire pit and picnic table.
Firewood is available for purchase.
Each cart load is $5.
The campground really is a beautiful little place.

While this campground is visually pleasing, it has two issues that make it less than optimal: 1) Interstate noise, and 2) Packrats. That semi in the picture below? Yeah, it’s on Interstate 84, which is a major thoroughfare. As you can see, the entrance to the park is literally yards away from the interstate. Some of the sites even have views of the interstate. One would think that all of the beautiful trees throughout the campground would help to buffer the interstate noise, but one would be wrong. The traffic noise is the loudest we’ve ever experienced anywhere we’ve stayed. It was not very enjoyable to sit outside, so while we spent night one outside for a few hours by the fire, we spent night two inside watching TV. Inside the Airstream, the noise was okay — it wasn’t too loud and didn’t keep us up at night. But outside — no bueno.

The second issue this campground has is packrats. Apparently. We’ve never known them to be an issue outside of the Southwest and none of the reviews on Campendium, The Dyrt, or Google mentioned them, but when we started noticing a few vehicles throughout the campground with the hoods propped open, we asked the camp host. According to him, the packrats are terrible. He’s been working at the campground a long time and has had multiple issues. While his most current truck has been untouched, he did have one making itself at home in his trailer somewhere. So, we propped open our hood at night and crossed our fingers. Thankfully, we had no issues, but because of the packrats and the traffic noise, we would never stay at this campground again. It’s a shame, because it really is a beautiful little campground that apparently existed for decades before the interstate came through. Now, it’s just not very peaceful.

The last stop on our trip to drop the Airstream off was the one I was looking forward to most — Ainsworth State Park. Ainsworth is located in the Columbia River Gorge. Our drive from Emigrant to Ainsworth was almost completely along the Columbia River and incredibly enjoyable. The weather was absolutely perfect and we had a very clear view of Mount Hood as we drove.

Campground Stats

Name: Ainsworth State Park

Address: E Historic Columbia River Hwy, Corbett OR 97019

Website: www.reserveamerica.com

Dates Stayed: October 2, 2021 – October 4, 2021

Site: B7

Rate: $26.00

Amenities:

  • Full Hookup Sites
  • Pull-Through Sites
  • Fire Pit
  • Picnic Table
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Hiker/Biker Sites
  • Dump Station
  • Firewood for Sale
  • Hiking Trails

Our site was a pull-through with full hookups, a picnic table, and a fire pit. There’s really not too much else to say about it. The campground as a whole seems like it could use a little love, but it was a decent place to stay for two nights to explore the area, and we would definitely stay here again. While we were in B7, I would say that the best sites are probably A9 – A13, as they have nice views and a little more distance between sites than some of the others. They’re also set up a little further away from the highway. As with any campground in the Columbia River Gorge, there is both train noise and traffic noise, though nothing too bad. From the campground, there is a connector trail to the Gorge Trail #400, which runs for many miles throughout the Gorge area.

I poked my head into the bathrooms and showers to check them out and they both seemed very clean.

While Ainsworth State Park isn’t the most aesthetically desirable Oregon state park we’ve stayed at, its location makes up for what it lacks in beauty. This smaller state park is in the perfect location from which to explore the waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge located along the Historic Columbia River Highway (U.S. 30).

This map is from the Waterfall Tour Loop pamphlet I found on the State of Washington’s DNR website.

At 620 feet, the two-tiered Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon. It’s also the #1 natural tourist attraction in the Pacific Northwest. A short trail leads from the base of the falls up to Benson Bridge, which traverses the creek between the two cascades of the falls and gives a closer view of the upper, taller cascade. The Multnomah Falls Lodge, found at the base of the falls, offers a restaurant with a view of the falls, a snack bar, an espresso bar and a gift shop. The trails around the falls connect to several other Gorge trails that will take you to several other waterfalls. We visited on October 2nd and parking was still fairly limited at this time. There’s a bus called the Columbia Gorge Express that offers roundtrip transport between Portland and Multnomah Falls.

Some of the waterfalls along the Historic Columbia River Highway are visible right from the road while some require a little bit of a hike to get to them. We checked out two other falls while in the area, Wahkeena Falls and Horsetail Falls.

We actually parked at the Wahkeena Falls Trailhead when we visited Multnomah Falls, as we had driven to Multnomah Falls initially, but found parking to be nonexistent. We took the half-mile trail to Multnomah first and then returned on the same trail to then take the short trail up to the 242-foot Wahkeena Falls.

Like Multnomah Falls, the 176-foot Horsetail Falls is visible from the parking area right along the highway.

It seems as though there’s still a lot to explore in this area, such as hiking trails, more waterfalls, and the view of five mountains (Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and Mount Jefferson) from Sherrard Viewpoint on Larch Mountain — really don’t know how I missed that one when planning for this stop. I guess we’ll just have to make a return trip!

From Ainsworth State Park it was a short, albeit stressful (not a fan of driving through Portland), drive to drop the Airstream off at Ultimate Airstreams. We dropped it off early in the morning, were back on the road by 8:15am, and drove the 11 hours (we took the most direct route) back to Bozeman where we’re getting our condo prepped for our renters and packing up what we didn’t already pack into the Airstream. We’ll be spending this winter in warmer climes in the San Diego area and can’t wait! We’re also looking forward to seeing and experiencing the updates and modifications by Ultimate Airstreams that will make our Airstream life a little more comfortable.

 

A Quick Stop in West Yellowstone

Six days after our two-night venture in Bozeman to get the Airstream up and running for the season, we finally departed on our first trip of the year. Seeing as winter lasts about 14 months in these parts, we had waited until the last possible weekend to de-winterize. Of course, in those six days between our stay at the Bozeman Hot Springs and leaving for our one-night stay in West Yellowstone before moving on to Grand Teton National Park, it dipped below freezing a couple of nights and it snowed again, including on the day we hit the road for West Yellowstone.

The couple of nights of below-freezing temps didn’t cause any harm to the Airstream, but when we woke up to heavy, wet, sloppy snow falling on the day of our departure, we did consider delaying the start of our trip a few days. However, we only had a little more than 90 miles to drive on a fairly flat — though, somewhat curvy — route, so we found a small weather window, hitched up, and were on our way!

The drive from Bozeman to West Yellowstone is gorgeous no matter the time of year, but it was especially spectacular on this particular day, when it’s supposedly late spring, but is actually month 18 of winter.

It really is a beautiful drive and part of it actually takes you through the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park. You kind of ride the border of Montana and Wyoming for a bit, crossing into Wyoming and then back to Montana. A bonus to this route (besides its beauty), is it affords the opportunity to get a pic with an official sign without having to fight the crowds!

We had originally planned to make the entire drive to Teton from Bozeman in one day, which is about 180 miles and should take about four hours, plus or minus a few depending on weather, traffic, and bison jams. As the trip grew closer, however, it was apparent the weather wasn’t going to be ideal, so we decided to add a pitstop at Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone, MT. This would break up the drive nicely and give us a chance to fill our freshwater tank before heading to our site in Colter Bay Campground in Grand Teton National Park, which was a dry camping (no hookups) site.

This was our second visit to Yellowstone Grizzly; you can be read about our first here.

We were in an easy-to-back-in-to full-hookup site along the perimeter of the park, just on the opposite side of the fence from some type of commercial business. We quickly got settled in and filled our freshwater tank. We then disconnected and put our hose away as there was a freeze warning and the park required the disconnection of hoses if there was a potential for freezing. This is a very nice, albeit expensive, RV park. After a walk around the park, we picked up some pizza from Wild West Pizzeria and snuggled in for the night. The next morning, we took long hot showers seeing as we’d be limited on water use at our next site, and then dumped the tanks and topped off the fresh water.

Off to Grand Teton National Park and Colter Bay Campground!

 

RV Parks Stats

Name: Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park & Cabins

Address: 210 S. Electric Street, West Yellowstone, MT 59758

Website: www.grizzlyrv.com  

Site #: 266

Rate: $73.00 + tax (that’s with a 10% Good Sam discount)

Amenities:

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Laundry
  • Playground
  • Cabins
  • Store
  • Dump Station
  • Recycling
  • Large Pet Walk Area
  • Picnic Table
  • 1 Mile from Yellowstone National Park West Entrance

 

Opening Up the Airstream After a Long Winter’s Sleep

Last October, we had to do something to the Airstream that we had never done in our 3+ years of owning it — we had to winterize it. While our Airstream was born in Ohio, it had always spent winter in warmer locales, with us in it. But, we decided to settle into a condo in one of the coldest places in the contiguous US where winter lasts a very long time, so we had to winterize before tucking it in to storage for a long winter’s sleep.

We aren’t expert winterizers, but we are pretty good at Googling and YouTubing, and found the process to be pretty simple. We followed the same process the factory uses — empty the tanks, drain the hot water heater, blow out the lines with an air compressor, drain the low points, and put some RV antifreeze down each drain.

The low-point valves on the 27 are found between the two tires on the driver side.
While using the compressor, open each faucet one by one to make sure all of the water is blown out.
We poured antifreeze down the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, shower drain, and toilet.

As I said earlier, winter lasts pretty late into the year here in Bozeman, so we didn’t get the chance to pull the Airstream out of storage until May 15th, when we booked two nights at Bozeman Hot Springs Campground to make sure all systems were go. This is not our first time staying at the hot springs — you can read about our previous stays here, here, and here. Here’s what we checked/tested during our post-winter shakedown:

  • Ran city water through kitchen, bathroom, and shower faucets, as well as the toilet, to make sure all had good water pressure and there were no visible leaks.
  • After disinfecting the fresh tank with a bleach water mix, turned on the water pump and ran water through all faucets and toilet to make sure water pressure was good and water pump seemed to function properly without any leaks.
  • Filled hot water heater with water and checked that there was hot water at all faucets, along with good hot water pressure, while first using the water heater on electric and then on propane. Also checked to make sure there were no leaks at hot water heater.
  • Made sure the fridge and freezer operated properly on both electric and propane.
  • Made sure the air conditioning operated properly.
  • Made sure the furnace operated properly.
  • Made sure the microwave worked.
  • Made sure the oven and stove both functioned properly.
  • Made sure the solar system was working properly in conjunction with the batteries.
  • Made sure the propane detector is functional.
  • Made sure the smoke/carbon monoxide detectors are functional.
  • Made sure all fans, including the fantastic fans, the vent fans in bathroom & shower, and the stove vent fan are all functional.
  • Made sure all of the lights are working properly.
  • Made sure the electric awning functioned properly.
  • Did a visual inspection of the roof.
  • Did a visual inspection of the tires and made sure the tire pressure monitoring system was working properly after reinserting the batteries into each monitor.
  • After replacing a propane tank monitor, made sure both tank monitors were reading correctly.

It was after that last item that we realized we had a problem. Up to this point, our propane had been functioning properly off of the one tank we had open. When we opened the second tank after replacing the monitor, we heard pssssshhhhhh. Not good. We had a leak, and a very substantial one at that. I was literally able to put my finger on the leak and found that the rubber ring had disintegrated and this is where the propane was leaking from.

We shut the propane off and disconnected it, and then we went in search of the parts to fix it. Thankfully, we were in our own city, so we had ideas of where to look. Unfortunately, Bozeman doesn’t have a Camping World, Tractor Supply, Cabela’s, or Gander Mountain. It was also a Sunday, so that meant that all of the RV dealerships that might have a decent parts selection were closed. We tried Lowe’s and Home Depot first, but they only had replacement hoses for propane grills, which are not the right part. We checked Ace Hardware, and they had almost the right part, but the hose was too long (15″ instead of 12″). We then went to a local hardware store called Kenyon Noble and an employee there was able to help us immediately. They had the right part, except the connecting piece wasn’t exact. Our propane hoses had what’s called an NPT thread where as the hoses at Kenyon Noble had an inverted male thread. In the pic below, our hose has the red end — you can see the difference in size between the two.

We ended up finding an adaptor that would work to make everything fit properly.

We made sure to use gas line seal tape around all threaded parts to make sure there would be a tight fit and no leaks.

We ended up replacing both hoses as the other one looked as though it could go at any time. Once we had everything reconnected, we turned the propane on and had no leaks!

I did end up finding the exact hoses we needed with the correct connecting threads, so I ordered a set to have as a backup. You can find them on Amazon here.

Luckily, this turned out to be a fairly easy fix, but this did inspire us to order a few extra things to have on hand for spare parts just in case, like more hot water heater plugs (ours looks like the next time we remove it will be the last time) and some fuses.

A reminder for all RVers: Don’t count out local hardware stores for RV supplies while you’re on the road. As you can see, we couldn’t depend on the usual suspects for parts. Our Ace Hardware has an RV supply aisle that rivals Walmart’s.

After determining we were good to go for our upcoming 2-week trip to Grand Teton, we were able to relax and enjoy an adult bevvie by the fire.

 

I’m Not Even Sure What to Say About 2020

Where to begin?

Every year I like to write a post that wraps up the previous year’s travels with a proverbial bow, reliving all of the joy and wonderment we experienced. You can see how this is usually a fun little project by checking out the posts for 2018 and 2019. Obviously, this year is different. Like, so, so different.

We started the year spending the winter in the San Diego area as full-time Airstreamers and ended the year living in a condo in Bozeman, Montana. To say things took an unexpected turn is a bit of an understatement. I know that COVID-19 affected the life of pretty much every one on the planet, in a wide range of ways. We are so very grateful to be able to say that, as of this post, we have not personally experienced the virus, or lost loved ones to it. We know there are so many that can’t say the same, and our hearts hurt for the pain and loss others have experienced during this time. We know it’s still going to be a long road for our community, our country, and our planet, but we’re hopeful and optimistic that 2021 will eventually bring some health and happiness.

Besides the isolation, frustration, and disappointment that the pandemic brought to our lives, we also had to deal with the loss of our third amigo, our travel buddy, our faithful canine companion — Max. We said goodbye to Max on February 25th, just two days shy of his 15th birthday. When we first started our full-time travel life, we were so unsure how well Max would adapt. It turns out there was no need to worry, because he was the BEST Airstream dog. He slept through travel days like a champ and preferred so stay ‘home’ whenever Travis and I would venture out. The strangeness of not having a dog around after 15 years was compounded by the weirdness of the early days of the pandemic. Ten months later, and we still miss him dearly, but the thought of him no longer triggers a twinge in the heart.

So, yeah, 2020 hasn’t been the most enjoyable year, but we did have some good times and we were able to travel to some great places. Let’s look at some of that joy and wonderment we DID get to experience.

We travelled 4,608 miles across nine states — California, Nevada, Utah, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Dakota. Our longest travel day (which we’ll never do again) was 738 miles (you can read about that here) and our shortest travel day was 19 miles. We averaged $36.78/night for site fees, which is almost $10 less per night than 2019, so, yay us!

Michigan was the only new state we added to our travel map this year, making it our 20th state that we’ve ventured to with the Airstream. We were very happy to be able to spend some time in Michigan in fall — such a great time to be in the area!

While we had originally planned to visit a number of new National Park Service sites this year, we were able to make it to only eight, with four being new and four being return visits.

The four new sites were:

Capitol Reef National Park

Check out more from our visit to Capitol Reef here.

Voyageurs National Park

Our visit to Voyageurs makes 19 national parks visited thus far! Check out more from our visit to Voyageurs here.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Check out more from our visit to Pictured Rocks here.

Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Check out more from our visit to Apostle Islands here.

The other four sites we were able to revisit were:

Zion National Park

Due to the pandemic, the only exploring we did of Zion during this time was to take a drive up the canyon, which is usually closed to vehicles, but was open because the shuttles weren’t running.

Check out more about our visit to Zion here. Read more about our previous visit here and here.

Yellowstone National Park

Check out more from our visit to Yellowstone here. Read more about our previous visit here.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Check out more about our visit to Roosevelt NP here. Read about our previous visit here.

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument 

Check out more about our visit to Little Bighorn here. Read about our previous visit here.

But our year wasn’t just about the parks! Take a look at some of the other things that brought us joy this year ->

We visited some of the ‘World’s Largest’ statues:

We ran into some interesting creatures in the Anza-Borrego Desert:

We tried a new sport:

We were able to meet up with a handful of other full timers:

We enjoyed some beach days and amazing sunsets:

Pre-pandemic, we were able to spend time with some of our favorite people:

And when we didn’t think it was going to happen, we ended up being able to spend some safe, socially distanced time with family:

The pandemic forced us to change our travel plans for 2020 (goodbye, hard-earned FL state park reservations!), so we made a decision. A big one. Even though the RV lifestyle somewhat prepared us for pandemic life (you can read about that here), it didn’t make sense for us to stay on the road. After dealing with multiple reservation cancellations and watching things close as the case numbers rose, we decided that the best thing for us was to get off the road and settle down for the time being. One of the best parts of full timing is not only exploring the natural wonders of our country, but also meeting new people along the way and checking out things in each city we visit — restaurants, museums, community events, etc. With all of these things closed, traveling just wasn’t that enjoyable. And we wanted to make sure we stayed healthy. So, we purchased a condo in Bozeman, Montana in July. Read more about what led to that decision here.

We’ve been enjoying safely exploring our new city:

And we’re learning to embrace winter (kind of):

But probably the weirdest thing to happen to us personally in 2020, is our appearance on HGTV’s House Hunters!

We filmed the episode in August and it aired in December. It highlighted our transition from full-time travel to part-time condo living. It was an interesting and tiring experience!

Which brings me to what’s next for us:

We plan to continue to travel in the Airstream — A LOT. It’s nice to have a home base to return to when we need a break or something comes up, but we miss being on the road. We’ll get back out there once we feel comfortable doing so, which for us means when we’re both vaccinated. It’s been nice to take a pause and enjoy some of the things you give up when you live tiny, such as a king-size bed, a dishwasher, a washer & dryer, and easy access to our mail, medical care, and good grocery stores. There’s still so much left to explore! And we aren’t really cold weather people, so we’re looking forward to seeking out warmth in the coming winters.

We’re wishing everyone a safe and healthy 2021! Hopefully, we’ll see you somewhere out there!

 

A Long Haul Across North Dakota, with a Harvest Hosts Stay and Some Roadside Attractions

We woke up on the morning of September 24th at Woodenfrog Campground near Voyageurs National Park in Northern Minnesota and made the 5-hour drive to our stop for that night — 4e Winery, a Harvest Host in eastern North Dakota. If you’re unfamiliar with Harvest Hosts, check out their website here, and if you’re interested in signing up, use this link to receive 20% off your membership before 12/31/20, or 15% thereafter. Harvest Hosts are a great way to save some money as you travel!

This Harvest Hosts is a particularly popular one, and we were thankful they had room for us. Even though the winery was closed on the day of our stay, Lisa allowed us, along with three other RVs, to stay and opened the tasting room for us. We made sure to thank her for her hospitality by purchasing a bottle of wine. They have a large, level open field for RVs to park in, and besides the hundreds (thousands?) of crickets jumping around, it was a very peaceful evening.

When we woke up the next morning, we had no idea that we had just spent our last night on the road for the year. We still had almost 750 miles to go until we got back to Bozeman. However, the weather the next few days wasn’t looking promising for safe driving due to forecasted high winds, so we decided to start early and keep on driving as far as we felt like we could.

The winery is located in Mapleton, North Dakota, which is barely over the eastern border of the state from Minnesota. Our route would take us entirely along I-94 until it met up with I-90 in Billings, Montana. Anyone who has driven in this area knows that driving across North Dakota from one end to the other is not the most exciting — sorry, North Dakota. However, there are some nice/quirky places to stop along the way. I don’t know if North Dakota is trying to compensate for something, but this route is home to three ‘World’s Largest’ statues: Dakota Thunder, the World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND; Sandy, the World’s Largest Sandhill Crane in Steele, ND; and Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow in New Salem, ND. (DO NOT attempt to tow a trailer up to see Salem Sue.) We made sure to also incorporate getting gas, eating, stretching our legs, and ‘freshening up’ during these stops.

 

When you continue west along I-94, almost to the western border of North Dakota, you’ll eventually come to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Painted Canyon Visitor Center, which is a national park visitor center and rest area all in one. From here, you get panoramic views of the Park’s badlands and have access to hiking trails. Of course, there are also restrooms, picnic shelters, and vending machines, as well as visitor center things like park info, exhibits, and a gift shop/bookstore. It’s a great place to stop for a bit, even if you don’t have time to go into the park and explore (which we were able to do last year).

Once we crossed the border into Montana, we decided we could make it the rest of the way to Bozeman and kept on trucking. Seeing as we had been without hookups the previous two nights, we stopped at Cabela’s in Billings to dump our tanks, which took way too long because someone parked too close to the dump station. From there, it should’ve taken us a little more than two hours to get home, but thanks to wind, rain, darkness and traversing Bozeman Pass in the wind, rain, and darkness, it took almost three.

We finally pulled into our parking lot at about 9:15pm (more than 14 hours after leaving Mapleton), spent 30-40 minutes unloading the important stuff, grabbed some food, showered, and went to bed. It was a very, very long day that we never want to experience again, but at least we now know that we can make a lot of ground if needed.

One Gorgeous Night at Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs National Park is one of those under-the-radar national parks — so much so that when we told people we were stopping there on our way back to Bozeman after visiting family in Wisconsin, most people had never heard of it. Voyageurs is named for the 18th century French Canadian adventurers that canoed through the area lakes and rivers, transporting furs and other goods. It’s located along Minnesota’s northern border and some of the parks lakes are shared with Canada, so visitors to Voyageurs need to be aware of their location so as not to inadvertently improperly cross the border. The red dot on the below map of Minnesota signifies the park’s location.

Besides the three visitor centers and a couple of trails on the mainland, Voyageurs is a water centered park. Very little of the park is accessible without a boat to traverse the four major lakes — Rainy, Kabetogama, Sand Point, and Namakan. Unfortunately, COVID put the kibosh on exploring the park via one of the visitor centers (they were all closed) or a ranger-led boat tour (they were all cancelled for the year). The only camping within the park is tent camping, and requires boat access and a permit. In a typical year, some campsites can be accessed via boat tours, but many require reserving a canoe and paddling to your destination.

Woodenfrog Campground is an excellent place to stay with an RV or tent when visiting the area, as it’s centrally located on the shore of Kabetogama Lake, and about a 10-minute drive to the Kabetogama Lake Visitor Center.

Woodenfrog State Forest Campground

County Road 122, Kabetogama, MN 56669

www.exploreminnesota.com

  • 61 First Come, First Served Primitive Sites
  • Picnic Table
  • Fire Ring
  • Vault Toilets
  • Drinking Water
  • 2 Boat Docks within Campground
  • Picnic Area, Boat Ramp, Swim Beach and Interpretive Center in Day Use Area

Due to time and weather constraints, we were only able to spend one night at Woodenfrog. We arrived at the campground around 1pm on Wednesday, September 23rd. Approximately half of the sites were available, so we were able to drive through and pick out a site that suited our needs. There are some sites with lake views, but they were all occupied, mostly by tents, probably due to how unlevel those particular sites are. The size, privacy, and levelness varies greatly from site to site, so I’m glad that it was not busy and we were able to take our time scouting out sites. (This involved Travis staying in the truck while I got out and ran up the road to check out the available sites so that we didn’t have to circle back around.) We ended up in site 43 — a very deep, very level site with a good amount of privacy that is located next to a water spigot (which was turned off by the time we visited) and across the street from a vault toilet (which we didn’t use). We were also able to get plenty of sun to keep our batteries charged via our solar panels.

Even though boat tours were not available during our visit, Arrowhead Lodge, a private resort located right next to the day use area of the campground, had canoes and kayaks available for rent. If we would have stayed another day, we definitely would have rented a kayak to get out on the water and explore some of the islands.

Late September was the perfect time to visit Voyageurs to be submerged in the beauty of the changing leaves. The campground, including our site, as well as the islands scattered across Kabetogama Lake, were all putting on a brilliant seasonal display that seemed to be at peak during our visit. We had never experienced such gorgeous fall colors and were so glad that we visited during this time, even if it was just for one night.

We would love to return to Voyageurs National Park when everything is fully operational and we’d have the opportunity to paddle out to an island to camp for a few nights. This is such a unique park and definitely worth a visit! Combine it with visits to Northern Wisconsin’s Apostle Island National Lakeshore and Northern Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and you’ll get to experience some of the best the Midwest had to offer.

Northern Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

We spent the first 30+ years of our lives in East Central Wisconsin but never made it up to the northern border along Lake Superior where you’ll find Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. It’s a shame, because the city of Bayfield, which is the main gateway to the islands, is super cute and the lakeshore is beautiful.

Fun Fact: At 487 residents (as of the 2010 census), Bayfield is the smallest official city in Wisconsin. For a new city to be incorporated today, state regulations require a population of at least 1,000 residents, so Bayfield would be considered a village with those parameters. But don’t let the smallness scare you — the city has some great food and retail options, and of course, outdoor recreation.

As we had spent the previous three nights dry camping, we wanted to have full hookups for a few days while we were in Bayfield. There are not a lot of options in this area, so we were fortunate to get two different sites for two nights each at Apostle Islands Area Campground. The first two nights were in a full hookup site and the second two nights were in a water and electric site.

Apostle Islands Area Campground

85150 Trailer Court Rd, Bayfield, WI 54814

www.aiacamping.com

  • Partial and Full Hookups Sites
  • Tent Sites
  • Cabins
  • Camper for Rent
  • Laundry
  • Restrooms
  • Pay Showers
  • Fire Ring
  • Picnic Table
  • Dump Station
  • Camp Store
  • WiFI
  • Playground
  • Boat/Trailer Parking

Navigating through the campground could end up being a little awkward due to the fact the streets are really only wide enough for one-way traffic, but two-way travel is allowed on most of them. Luckily, we never encountered an issue, but there were traffic jams near the dump station at times because of its location right on the side of a main thoroughfare. Our first site was #27, which was a full hookup (30 amp) site. It was an easy back in until we noticed after we had put the jack down and unhitched that we needed to back up about another foot in order to reach the water hookup that was in a really awkward spot. As a matter of fact, the electric hookup was in a very weird spot at this site as well, and we noticed this was a common occurrence at the full hookup sites in this section of the campground. After hitching up again, putting the jack up, and backing up another foot, we were good to go with all of our hookups. Kind of. Our sewer hose decided to fall apart on us and were worried we were going to have to drive at least a half hour to the closest Walmart to get a replacement. Luckily, the campground has a precent decent camp store with RV supplies, and had what we needed. Crisis diverted!

Site 27 is an end site, so it was very private and we had nice tree views.
Site 27 is a good size and easy to get into.
There’s a parking spot off to the side for site 27.
The electric hookup is on the wrong side, and because we had to back up so far to hook our water up, we opened the door right to the pedestal.
The water hookup is very far back and off to the side, basically in the site next door. It took us a little bit to determine this was in fact our water spigot. At least the sewer hookup was close enough that we didn’t have to break out our extension, and it was downhill, so that’s a win!

Our second site was #32 — a gigantic, woodsy, water and electric site. This was also a back-in site, but a little more difficult to get into as we had to make more than a 90-degree turn going down a steep decline. Thankfully, because of the size of the site, we had a lot of room to work with.

In site 32, a small stream ran below the back of our site.
Thankfully, the hookups at site 32 were in a much more sensical location.

Even though we had the site reserved for two nights, we ended up only staying one. We left early to avoid some weather that would have made our last day not very enjoyable. As we were moving on to a location without hookups, we made sure to fill water and stopped at the dump station before departing.

Food and Drink

Disclaimer: We still continue to diligently social distance and keep our public outings to a minimum, and on an infrequent basis, we partake in food/drink situations that are outdoors with a lot of spacing between tables. Because of this, we most likely missed out on some dining opportunities, but it gave us peace of mind.

Thanks to the weird hookups situation and having to get a new sewer hose, it took us longer than anticipated to get situated on our first day. When we finally did, we drove into town to find something to eat. It was that weird time of day between lunch and dinner and the only place serving food at the time was Greunke’s, which is both a restaurant and inn. We ordered a trout plate, which was HUGE — definitely enough for two people to share. It was the best trout we had ever had and we enjoyed it on their outdoor patio.

We picked up apple cider donuts from Erickson Orchard on two different occasions, as well as some apple cider. We enjoyed the first batch of donuts on a hike and the second batch for breakfast/travel snacks on the day we left.

We got lunch at The Deck at the Bayfield Inn on our second day. Missy got the fish tacos and Travis got a burger, and both were absolutely delicious. They were very diligent with their COVID protocols, which was nice to see. Actually, every establishment in this area strictly adhered to protocols that the city had put in place. The views were beautiful from the rooftop deck and the cocktails were tasty!

We walked along the waterfront after lunch as it was a gorgeous early fall day. We came upon the Maritime Museum that looked very intriguing from the outside, but it was closed — we wouldn’t have gone in on this trip anyways.

The last food establishment that we patronized in town was to pick up some smoked trout at Hoop’s Fish Market. You guys. It was so, so, so good! We bought two filets — only one is shown in the picture below — but we wish we would have gotten at least twice as much.

Hiking

Meyers Beach Sea Cave Trail

This is an out and back that can be as long as 11 miles (where you’ll find a campsite), but the normal turnaround point for most people is at 3.6 miles. We ended up doing a little over five miles round trip, which gave us plenty of opportunity to see some nice views and enjoy our donuts at the halfway point. It’s an easy to moderately difficult trail with more elevation gain the further you go, and the first 3/4 mile is a plank trail.

Lost Creek Falls Trail

We really enjoyed this hike! It’s about 2.5 miles roundtrip and a decent stretch has boardwalks, making this fairly doable for all skill levels — though it does get a bit more aggressive toward the end. I’m assuming this trail is pretty busy during the summer, but we had the falls to ourselves on the late September Tuesday afternoon that we went.

Obviously, one of the main things to do at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore is to kayak amongst the islands and various sea caves. When we visited, the kayak outfitters were no longer renting out gear for the season. I did find one that was still doing guided tours, but only on the weekends, and we were there midweek. Boo. It was probably for the better anyways. There were [rough water? rough sea? high surf advisory?] warnings while we were there, so we probably would have capsized anyways, because 2020. There are various tours offered by Apostle Islands Cruises, though the schedule was a bit diminished this season. Again, because 2020. A lot of the islands have lighthouses and camping, accessible via the tours/water taxis. There’s also a ferry to Madeline Island, which while not technically part of Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, is the largest island and has commercial development such as restaurants, as well as full-time residents. It’s unfortunate we weren’t able to experience Apostle Islands from the water, but that’s the breaks when you still work full time — you can’t be confined by a ferry/cruise schedule.

Regardless of our waterless adventures, we enjoyed finally visiting this part of our home state.

A Harvest Hosts Stay at a UP Ski Resort

After we left Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, we drove west along the Upper Peninsula towards our next stop at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Northern Wisconsin. We spent one night at a Harvest Hosts at Big Snow Resorts’s Indianhead Mountain in Wakefield, MI. This seems to be a pretty popular stop for people, as three other RVs also spent the night. We parked at the edge of their large parking lot and our particular spot was pretty unlevel, but we were able to make it work. The SkyBar was open for food and drinks, so we stopped in to get some beverages and a basket of fries. We enjoyed the views from their large outdoor deck, which overlooked the chairlifts and the changing leaves. We walked the property for a bit, going down and then up the ski runs, to get a bit of post-drive, post-beer, post-fries exercise. Big Snow was another peaceful, enjoyable Harvest Hosts stay. If you’d like more info about Harvest Hosts or would like 15% off a one-year membership, follow this link to their website.

Of note, Wakefield is one of four counties in Michigan that is in the central timezone, while the rest of Michigan is in the eastern timezone. We didn’t realize this and it confused us for a bit.

A Brief Stay in the UP: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and Bay Furnace Campground

As we drove from our previous stay at North Bay Shore County Park in Oconto, Wisconsin to Bay Furnace Campground in Munising, Michigan, we were awestruck by the beauty of the landscape of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula — from the gorgeous views, homes, and towns along the shores of Green Bay and Little Bay de Noc to the northern coast of the peninsula on Lake Superior. We didn’t know much about Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which helped to keep expectations low, but I can honestly say that it’s in the top few destinations for one of the most beautiful places we have visited in all of our travels.

Our original plan for visiting Pictured Rocks was to stay at Kewadin Casino, which is located across the street from the Hiawatha National Forest’s Bay Furnace Campground. The casino is free and offers a few sites with electric hookups. However, when we were about to turn into the casino, we decided to take a spin through the campground to see if there were any available sites. About half the sites are reservable and the other half first come, first served. I had previously checked on recreation.gov and all of the reservable sites were booked. Reviews on Campendium let me know that this is a very popular campground in the area, so we weren’t sure what we’d find, but figured we could just stick with our original plan of the casino if nothing was available. We arrived in the area on Thursday, September 17th at around 1:00pm. There are two loops in the campground and we passed the first to drive through the second. We immediately came upon Site 2 on the left and it was empty. It looked like a fantastic site, so we snagged it. We then did a very quick walk around the loop and only found one other site available. Site 2 was large, deep, private, and level. Its only drawback — full shade. This meant we never got much sun to our solar panels, and even in the middle of the day with a cloudless sky, it was always dark in the Airstream. Small sacrifices to make for such a great site in such a great location. There are a few sites with a decent amount of sun to be found in each of the loops, but they all seemed to be reservable sites. Also, any of the sites with views of Lake Superior (this campground sits right on the cliff overlooking the lake) were also reservation only. However, those sites seemed to be quite a bit colder due to the wind off of the lake, and it was already pretty cold during our stay.

We didn’t realize it when we were there, but right before the campground sits the Bay Furnace Historic Site, which contains the ruins of a historic blast furnace that is the only thing remaining of an iron-making settlement called Onota that was destroyed by a fire in 1877. Apparently there’s a short trail around the furnace with informative signs.

Bay Furnace Campground – Hiawatha National Forest

E7900 W, M-28, Munising, MI 49862

www.recreation.gov

  • Mixture of Reservable and First Come, First Served Sites
  • Dry Camping
  • Water Available
  • Dump Station
  • Vault Toilets
  • Fire Pits
  • Picnic Tables
  • Firewood for Sale from Camphosts
  • Day-Use Picnic Area

After getting settled into our site, we drove about 25 minutes to the Miners Falls Trail. At 50 feet tall, Miners Falls is the park’s most powerful waterfall. The trail is about 1.2 miles roundtrip and has 140 feet of elevation gain. It’s an easy, popular hike that allows dogs, but when we went at about 3:30, there were few people. The trail is wide and well defined, but does involve some stairs towards the end in order to get down to the falls.

After the Miners Falls hike, we drove over to Miners Castle Overlook, which is the most popular spot in the park. However, at 4pm on a mid-September Thursday afternoon, it wasn’t overly congested, and pretty much everyone was wearing a mask. There are three different easily-accessible overlooks giving three different viewpoints of Miners Castle, which is probably the most iconic landmark at Pictured Rocks.

From there, we headed over to Miners Beach to get an up close look at the vibrant turquoise water. Miners Beach is about a mile long and reminded us so much of a Pacific Ocean beach!

On day 2 of our Pictured Rocks visit, we did the Chapel Loop hike. Many places list this hike as 10.1 miles, but pretty much every review agrees with our assessment — it’s longer than that. We clocked almost 11.5 miles roundtrip with over 830 feet of elevation gain. The full loop took us past Chapel Falls, Chapel Rock, Chapel Beach and continued along the Pictured Rocks cliffs to Mosquito River and Beach, then past Mosquito Falls as we made our way back to the parking lot. It’s not a difficult trail, per say, just long. While it is a loop trail, there are a number of trails that branch off of the main trail to get to various overlooks, waterfalls, and campgrounds, and some times it’s not completely clear which way is the right way. We hit the trailhead a little after 8am on a Friday morning and there were only about 7 or 8 vehicles in the parking lot. However, when we left the parking lot around 1:30pm, the parking lot was full and there were cars at least a mile down the road. Speaking of the road, it was a really rough drive in. We were impressed that a paved road was both washboard and riddled with potholes — a feat we had never seen achieved before. When we left the parking lot after the hike, it was apparent someone had come in with many truckloads of gravel and fixed the road a decent amount while we were hiking. As a matter of fact, towards the end of the road, we ended up right behind the gravel trucks. I’m not sure if the road is always terrible and has to be repaired often, or if we caught the last day of it being crappy right before they fixed it.

Chapel Falls
Chapel Falls
Chapel Rock
Chapel Beach
Chapel Beach
View of Chapel Rock from Chapel Beach
Views Along the Cliffs
Views Along the Cliffs
Lovers Leap Arch
Grand Portal Point
Seven miles in and still smiling!
We had never seen a campground pit toilet like this before. Great view; little privacy.
At the 9-mile mark; wondering how much further.
Along the Mosquito River
Mosquito Falls

Our assessment of this trail is that while there are beautiful views for about five miles of it, most of the trail is just a hike through the forest. Don’t me wrong, we love ourselves some forest hikes, but not 6.5 miles worth on an 11.5-mile hike. We went counter clockwise, which seems to be the way most people go, which means you run into few people if you do the entire loop. Some people seem to take the trail as far as Chapel Rock and then turn around, which is about seven miles roundtrip. If you take the loop in a clockwise direction, you deal with most of the elevation gain right away. We had high expectations of this trail because of how much people gushed about it on AllTrails, some even stating it’s the best trail they’ve hiked east of the Mississippi. After that kind of build up, we were disappointed, but most likely because we’ve had the opportunity to hike some amazing trails throughout the country with jaw dropping views and wildlife experiences.

After the hike, per recommendation from another RVer, we stopped by Muldoons to pick up some pasties (pronounced past-ee as opposed to paste-ee). Pasties are an Upper Peninsula thing and are basically a handheld meat or vegetable pie. According to the Muldoons website:

In approximately 1864, Finnish immigrants, along with Cornish miners, came to find work in the “Copper Country” of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Pasties were the perfect, hardy meal for the miners. Their wives were able to use the potatoes and meat from leftovers, and envelope them in a crust which could be placed in the miners’ pockets in the morning, and they would still be warm at lunchtime. Pasties came to be known as a “one-handed meal.” The miners, with their dirty hands, could hold on with one hand and eat their way through the pasty, leaving only a small crust left over. To this day, pasties remain a staple food and tradition for many Upper Peninsula families.

We also picked up a box of delicious home-made fudge for dessert!

Another way to explore Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is by boat through Pictured Rocks Cruises. Missy isn’t big on boats, especially boats on water as rough as Lake Superior was when we visited, so we opted to explore the area by land instead. There are definitely more hikes and waterfalls and shops and restaurants to experience in this area, but we feel we got a good feel for the beauty and serenity of Pictured Rocks. We 100% would visit again and would definitely try to stay at Bay Furnace Campground again.

North Bay Shore County Park – Oconto, WI

After spending eight nights at the fairgrounds in our hometown, we were ready to stay somewhere a little more rural with a lot more space. As we made our way from our week-long stay in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we spent two nights at North Bay Shore County Park. This lovely little park is in Northeastern Wisconsin on the shore of Green Bay, about halfway between Oconto and Peshtigo. North Bay Shore is less than 25 minutes from the state border cities of Marinette, Wisconsin and Menominee, Michigan, and a little more than 2.5 hours from our next destination — Bay Furnace Campground in Munising, Michigan by Pictured Rocks.

Sometimes we get dazzled when we pull into a new campground/RV park. This was one of those times. This campground is small with 34 large, spread-out sites and is very well cared for. While the sites on the inner part of the loop are a little difficult to get into due to the placement of the site number signs, all of the sites are deep and seem to be level. A handful of sites back up to the bay and all sites have nice tree cover, with leaves that were starting to turn as we moved into autumn. Some sites appear to be tent sites, but still offer electricity. The RV sites have water and electric, and there’s a dump station available. The park also offers a boat launch and a nice jetty from which to fish. The nightly rate for this campground is $30, but they offer a midweek special August to October of $15 Monday through Wednesday. We happened to stay on a Tuesday and Wednesday night, so we only paid $30 (plus $5 reservation fee) for our two-night stay.

North Bay Shore County Park

500 Bay Road, Oconto, WI 54153

www.co.oconto.wi.us

  • RV Sites with Water & Electric
  • Tent Sites with Electric
  • Restrooms with Showers
  • Level, Blacktopped Sites
  • Waterfront Sites
  • Dump Station
  • Picnic Table
  • Fire Ring (Firewood for Sale Onsite)
  • Playground
  • Boat Launch
  • Fish Cleaning Station
  • Basketball Court
  • Camp Host (Referred to as ‘Caretaker’ – Seemed to Be MIA During Our Stay)
  • Recycling
Site 10 is a level, blacktopped site with W/E hookups
We had so much space between us and the neighboring sites!
The sites across from us backed up to Green Bay.
It was pretty empty our first night, but by Wednesday night, all of the RV sites were full.
The leaves were starting to change during our stay!
Two other Airstreams parked across from us on the second day.
There’s a nice little area to fish…
…or you can head out to the jetty.
Even the easily-accessible dump station had nice views!

There isn’t a whole lot happening in the immediate vicinity, be we did check out Copper Culture State Park, which was a short drive from the campground. The park is a small historic park that contains an ancient burial ground used by the Old Copper Complex Culture of early Native Americans during the Copper Age. There’s a small museum onsite which was closed when we visited, but we did walk the grounds along a short trail that winds through fields of wildflowers.

This was a perfect and peaceful two-night stopover and we would definitely stay at North Bay Shore Park again!