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 kingsize 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 winter 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!

 

Capitol Reef NP and Wonderland RV Park — Torrey, UT

We left the Zion National Park area on April 3rd and headed to Torrey. Originally, we were supposed to spend a few nights by Bryce Canyon National Park before making our way to Torrey and Capitol Reef National Park, but due to COVID-19, we wanted to keep our travels to a minimum. We had one week booked at Wonderland RV Park in Torrey, but after arriving and feeling it out for a few days, we decided to extend our stay to a month. Our next three reservations had been cancelled anyways, so it was nice to find a safe, quiet place to land for a bit.

The small town of Torrey (population ~250) is the gateway to Capitol Reef National Park and home to Wonderland RV Park, a very well kept, small RV park only three miles from the Park’s entrance. We received our site number before arrival, so we were able to do a contactless check in and drive right to our site. The owners disinfected the common areas regularly and made sure there was plenty of room between occupied sites. We spoke to the owners at one point during our stay and they said they had been at about 95% capacity for the months of April and May, but when the coronavirus struck, almost everyone cancelled. During our month-long stay, there was usually only about 6-8 other RVs. We’re really glad we chose to spend our time here and help out a small business that needed it. They were very gracious hosts, allowing us to receive FedEx deliveries, and even wiping the boxes down before they brought them to our site. (The FedEx guy eventually just started delivering right to our site, cutting out the need to involve the staff.) Our site was a long, level pull-through with lots of green grass between us and the next site, though no one was ever next to us. The only amenity we used was the laundry, which has four washers and dryers each. Whenever someone was in the laundry room, they would just keep the door open, signifying to others that it was in use. Between that and all of the surfaces being disinfected a couple of times a day, we had no worries with entering the common space. The only complaint we have about our stay here is that the water pressure is pretty low. We ended up filling our fresh water tank and using our water pump most of the time so that we had better pressure.

Wonderland RV Park

44 South Highway 12, Torrey, Utah

www.capitolreefrvpark.com

  • Full Hookups
  • Pull-Thru Sites
  • Cabins
  • Tent Sites
  • Car/Van Sites
  • Picnic Table at Each Site
  • Cable TV
  • Wifi (Pretty Decent, Actually)
  • Restrooms
  • Individual Showers
  • Laundry
  • Community Fire Pit
  • Large Dog Run
  • Basketball Court
Site 6 is a level pull-thru with a few trees for shade.
It was this empty for most of our stay, so Wonderland RV Park was a great place to social distance/quarantine/shelter in place.
We got a visit from the resident ducks on a daily basis.
The RV park is surrounded on two sides by fields where cows and horses graze.

Capitol Reef National Park was still open to visitors when we first arrived in the area, though all services such as restrooms, visitor centers, gift shops, the campground, etc. were closed. We didn’t know much about Capitol Reef before we arrived in Torrey, but it was definitely a pleasant surprise — the park is gorgeous!

We took a post-dinner drive through the park on our first night in Torrey to check things out. We were lucky to experience the strangest sunset we’ve ever seen as it looked like the horizon line was on fire!

In the photo below is the Pendleton Barn, part of the Gifford Homestead. The Gifford family lived here, in what was then the small town of Fruita, until 1969. The Fruita Historic District, as it is now known, is still home to orchards containing approximately 3,000 trees, including cherry, apricot, peach, nectarine, pear, apple, plum, mulberry, quince, almond, pecan, and walnut, including the orchards own unique strain, the tart Capitol Reef Red apple. Visitors to the park are able to pick fruit from designated orchards — visit the NPS website here to find out more info about the orchards. The Gifford House today, in the background, is part museum, part store and sells what are rumored to be the best pies ever. Unfortunately, due to being closed during our visit, we didn’t get a chance to see if that’s true.

There’s also a beautiful campground in this area, appropriately names Fruita Campground, that is the nicest national park campground we’ve ever seen. It’s dry camping, though there are restrooms; however, there is no cell signal if that’s important to you.

We were lucky to get two hikes in in the Park before it closed completely to all recreating. Both of them were surprisingly great with amazing views. The first was Chimney Rock Trail, which is a 3.75-mile loop trail with (according to my watch) about 870′ of elevation gain. It’s labeled by the Park as strenuous, and I’d agree, as all of the elevation gain is in the first 1.25 miles. We were surrounded by fantastic views during every part of this trail, and honestly, this trail made us really fall for Capitol Reef.

The second hike we did was the Hickman Bridge Trail. It was approximately 2 miles out and back with about 450′ of elevation gain. The Park rates it as moderate, and again, I’d agree as there are quite a few steps and the elevation gain is noticeable, but is definitely doable by most able-bodied people, including kids. The trail starts along the Fremont River, continues up a couple of switchbacks, and after snaking through some wide open spaces, culminates at the Hickman Natural Bridge, which spans 130′ and rises 125′ above the trail. This was another really enjoyable trail that again was very scenic throughout.

After the park closed completely, we found another hike within a short drive from Wonderland RV Park. It’s called Sunglow Trail and starts in the Sunglow Campground in Fishlake National Forest near Bicknell, Utah. AllTrails lists it as a 1-mile out and back, but we logged a little more than 1.5 miles. We also recorded almost 350′ of elevation gain, as opposed to AllTrails 213′. This trail is very fun but involves A LOT of scrambling and an unclear path, though you’re in a canyon, so you can’t get lost. The trail ends when you reach the canyon wall and a tree growing out of a boulder, cracked open like a pistachio. Dogs are allowed on this trail, but there are quite a few little prickly cacti along the way and at times, very large boulders to scramble over.

Pretty much everything was closed in Torrey while we were there, except for the two other RV parks, gas stations, hotels, and a burger stand. The closest grocery store is about a 20-minute drive to the town of Loa, and is pretty decent considering how remote the area is. If RV parks aren’t your thing, there is a lot of boondocking to be had in the area.

Please note, we understood and were very considerate of the impact travelers can have in a rural area during COVID-19. We visited the grocery store as infrequently as possible, always wore face coverings, wiped down the cart, and hand sanitized frequently. When we got gas, which was only once, we used a disposable glove. When we took the truck and Airstream to a self-serve carwash, we wiped everything down that we touched both before and after use. When we went on hikes, we made sure to give plenty of space to passing hikers, which were few and far between. As full timers, we don’t have the option to ‘stay home’. After spending a few nights at Wonderland RV Park, we felt that it was the perfect place to isolate, so we extended our stay to a month. The owners of the park were incredibly welcoming and thanked us for staying with them. If anyone needs a place to stay near Capitol Reef National Park, please consider Wonderland RV Park — it’s a great property run by amazing people.