Unpacking the Whale

Our lives as wanderers means that with each stop, we have to pack up and strap down our home, and make home afresh at each new campsite.  Sounds tedious, eh? But as you can see, from setting up the kitchen to pouring in drain cleaner and fluffing pillows, it takes no time at all…

 

Favorite Campsites in the National Parks (1st-25th)

1. Backcountry/Boondocking sites (Big Bend National Park)

Boondocking in the wild of Big Bend

Big Bend is a huge national park, with several good campsites for trailers, included our shady site in Rio Grande that provided some shelter from the 104 degree heat. But one special thing in Big Bend we have yet to see at another National Park are designated boondock sites for RVs.  Essentially, these are backcountry camping sites that are accessible by car (“Primitive Roadside Camping”). This means there are a dozen or so scenic spots scattered around this huge park where you can pull your trailer off-road — and provided you make it down the gravel side roads with trailer intact — you find yourself completely alone under the shadows of the Chiso Mountains.

Room with a view

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Big Bend: Big Walls?

Magical sunsets at the top of the Chiso Basin

Big Bend is massive. While not as large as Death Valley in acres, something about the variety of terrain (they claim it’s three parks in one), the 100+ miles of Rio Grande it borders, and the fact that the park contains one whole mountain range within it all make it a grand statement on nature and the beauties of West Texas.

View of the Rio Grande, and Mexico on the other side.

But one human-scale question looms all of the nature that is on display here. Big Bend, on the South border of Texas, is a national park that shares a 110-mile border along the Rio Grande River with Mexico. The political overtones of this border are hard to avoid. There are signs everywhere noting that it is illegal to cross the Rio Grande anywhere except the official border crossings.  In my mind, the Rio Grande was, well, Grand with a capital G, but in reality, much of the river here in the park is shallow and not more than 20-30 feet wide. Thus college boys on Spring Break seemed to take great pride violating the stated law by wading across the narrow strait to do a little dance on the Mexican shore. Continue reading “Big Bend: Big Walls?”

The Top Ten Significant Insignificant Observations at the Halfway Point

We’ve seen six months of sunsets. Hopefully that qualifies us to make these insightful insights.

Six months into our trip and we’ve already done a lap around the US, circling the country (and more) from Channel Islands to Key West, and from Acadia to Portland.  Completing a circle usually calls for some kind of reflection, something that highlights lessons learned or nirvana(s) experienced.  This is not that post. (Although you might want to check out this post for more details on where we’ve been.)

We have some serious thoughts that we’ll no doubt put on the interwebs in the coming months, but I thought it might be fun to highlight some significant insignificant observations that we’ve had on our trip.  Some are observations that anyone might have had driving 25,000 miles around the country over six months, and some might be more conditioned by the fact that we haven’t lived in the US for about 10 years.

One: Why did anyone let us drive an RV without taking some sort of course first?

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The Best First Hiking Trip for Canyon Newbies – Part I

As Teddy Roosevelt, one of the great champions of the National Parks said of the Grand Canyon – “This is the one great sight which every American should see.” And people all over the world, not just Americans, seem to have taken this to heart – in 2016 the Grand Canyon had over 6 million visitors. But did you know that 90% of people visiting the Grand Canyon only spend a half day there? And only 5% ever leave the rim to walk any distance into the canyon? An even smaller 1% make their way down to camp at the bottom.*

Plateau Point, in the middle of our Bright Angel ascent

Continue reading “The Best First Hiking Trip for Canyon Newbies – Part I”