Pacific Northwest: Trip Summary

This trip was our last major trip for the season. While not solely a tour of the Pacific Northwest, we started in South Lake Tahoe where we met up with friends of the motorcycling persuasion. After consulting with the National Parks Passport book, we planned our route to pick up cancellations at Lava Beds National Monument and Crater Lake National Park.

The severity of the Western drought and the importance of fully researching park alerts before route planning were highlighted during this trip. Our first night was spent at Rockport State Park, along the Rockport Reservoir (Utah). This reservoir was easily 40 to 50 feet lower than its historic level; this translate to filled at 35% capacity and is dropping. Proper research was emphasized when we went to North Cascades National Park and discovered the campground closures due to fire and weekend only visitor center hours after we arrived. Whoops. Might have gone to visit Mount Rainier instead, but then we would have missed out on seeing Port Townsend, WA (absolutely charming town).

We really enjoyed visiting the coast. Alex, Dave, and the dogs loved the beaches. Jess enjoyed the beach, but mumbled grouchy things towards all the sand that was tracked into Abby. The major downside to the coast was the pervasive dampness (that and the lingering smell of fish in Abby). Nothing dried quickly. It was rather nice to return to a more arid climate.

This was an aggressive trip. On average, we drove 245 miles/day. Which is a minimum of 5 hours in Abby. We got to see a large number of attractions, but only in a superficial manner. For our next trip, our goal is to pick a major area of interest and some minor areas of interest for the route to and from. Drive in a rather direct fashion to our area of major interest and camp there for a week. This will allow us to do more exploring and hiking. Fortunately, we have all winter to choose a destination.

Our Pacific Northwest route.

Mileage and Fuel Consumption:

Total days: 17

Total miles: 4172.6

Total gallons diesel: 244.6

Average miles per gallon: 17.1

Best miles per gallon: 19.4

Worst miles per gallon: 13.8

Abby gave us a beautiful tank of 19.4 mpg as we came east across Wyoming. We may have had an aiding tail-wind, but we will take it.


For our campground summary post, follow this link.

  1. Rockport State Park, UT (1)
  2. Water Canyon Recreation Area (BLM), south of Winnemucca, NV (1)
  3. Campground by the Lake, South Lake Tahoe, CA (2)
  4. Lava Beds National Monument, CA (1)
  5. Steamboat Falls Campground, Umpqua National Forest, OR (1)

    A heavily wooded campsite at Steamboat Falls. Watch out for poison oak in the sunnier sites!
  6. South Beach State Park, Newport, OR (1)
  7. Cape Disappointment State Park, Ilwaco, WA (1)

    Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment in Washington.
    Lighthouse at Cape Disappointment in Washington.
  8. Kalaloch Campground, Olympic National Park, WA (2)
  9. Fairholme Campground, Olympic National Park, WA (1)
  10. Heart O’ the Hills Campground, Olympic National Park, WA (1)
  11. Lone Fir Campground, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, WA (1)
  12. Camp Coeur d’Alene, Coeur d’Alene, ID (1)
  13. Dispersed camping Harriet Lou Road, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, MT (1)
  14. Lewis Lake Campground, Yellowstone National Park, WY (1)
  15. Saratoga Lake Campground, Saratoga, WY (1)


This is a rather short brewery list, considering we drove through the Pacific Northwest. Alas, timing thwarted our best intentions to visit breweries. It would be a lot easier if breweries would open up in National Forest campgrounds.

  1. The Brewery at Lake Tahoe
  2. Jack Russell Farm Brewery
  3. Rogue Ales & Spirits
  4. Next Door Gastropub – okay this isn’t really a brewery. Excellent food and regional beer selection, so it is getting listed anyway.

For more detail regarding our brewery visits, check out this post.

National Monuments/Historic Sites:

  1. Lava Beds National Monument – our experiences posted here.
  2. Crater Lake – for more information, click here.
  3. Lewis and Clark National Historic Park
  4. Olympic National Park – post of our experience is here.
  5. Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve
  6. North Cascades Park
  7. Big Hole National Battlefield – for more information, click here.
  8. Yellowstone National Park – for more information, click here.
  9. John D Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway
  10. Grand Teton National Park

Gallery: Oregon and Washington Coast


Pacific Northwest: Olympic National Park

What a park. From coastal bluffs to glacier peaks, this park is rich with diversity in all dimensions. Olympic National Park ecology is comprised of mountains, lakes, lowland forests, rivers, coast, and temperate rain forest. Mountain flora and fauna include glacier lilies, lupine, bistorts, tiger lilies, subalpine firs, and black tailed deer. At the coast, the tide pools are rich with sea anemones, sea urchins, sea stars, and limpits. The temperate rain forest receives more than 12 feet of rain a year, creating an environment for giant western hemlock, Douglas-fir, Sitka spruces, bigleaf maples, and a variety of mosses to thrive. Roosevelt elk and beers can also be found in the rain forest.

We started at the coast, camping at Kalaloch. We saw sand dollars and ctenophores on the beach. The salmon were running at the Salmon Cascades in the Sol Duc River to spawn (late September); they can also be seen in the Hoh River, but not until November/December. We hiked the Spruce Nature (1.2 miles – Alex walked the whole thing!) and the Hall of Mosses (0.8 miles) trails in the Hoh Rain Forest. The Spruce Nature trail had very little elevation change and was relative smooth. The Hall of Mosses had more of an elevation change, but after the initial climb, was relatively flat. There is even a trail to Blue Glacier (15 miles one-way); check out the elevation profile of this trail at the visitors center. We did not attempt the Blue Glacier trail. We saw Hurricane Ridge on a clear day, and it was gorgeous. Hurricane Ridge also serves a a squeegee for the moisture in the air. The west (windward) side has forests and is lush, while the east (leeward) side is arid and has few trees.

We could have easily spent two weeks here, hiking and exploring the area. The park has astronomy programs at Hurricane Ridge.


Pacific Northwest: Crater Lake

Crater Lake was formed when Mount Mazama, a 12,000-foot volcano, violently erupted approximately 7,700 year ago. No longer able to support its own weight once the magma chamber was emptied, Mount Mazama collapsed and a caldera was formed. This caldera then filled with rain and snowfall. Since no streams run into the lake, there is very little sediment to cloud the water.

The lake has thick mats of bacteria at depths where there is no light. There are also thick rings of moss, reaching depths of 400 feet, along the caldera walls. Hydrothermal pools have also been discovered, indicating a volcanic heat source. Mount Mazama may be dormant, but it is not extinct.

Our visit to Crater Lake was a drive through due to time constraints. There were also some closures in the park due to trail repair. The only campground for RVs is Mazama Village. The park is beautiful an is on our list to return to.

Gallery: Click on a picture to open the gallery.

Pacific Northwest: Yellowstone and Grand Teton

We last visited Yellowstone in July of 2015, and were frustrated by the shear number of people also there. We thought that coming later in the season would improve our experience, as less people would be there. While the crowds were reduced at the end of September compared to July, there were many more people than we expected.

Also unexpected was the fog, which made it hard to see some of the features, especially later in the day as the air was cooling (at Grand Prismatic Spring the fog was very thick and swirling with the wind). The fog also made it challenging to see wildlife and pedestrians along the side of the road. We definitely slowed down leaving the park due to poor visibility; as our elevation decreased, the fog began to dissipate.

We were did walk the Fountain Paint Pots and Grand Prismatic Spring Nature trails. Both were board walks that went past multiple thermal features. These walks were smooth and easy for Alex to navigate, but people added a challenge. There was not a railing at all points to ensure a little boy stayed the course. It required some herding of Alex to make sure he didn’t run into people or fall off the walkway. There were stairs to Grand Prismatic Spring; Fountain Paint Pots did not have stairs, but there was one steeper grade.

Pay attention to park bulletins if you are camping late in the season. We wanted to camp at the Tower Falls campground, but it had closed three days prior. Additionally, there was road construction just south of the North entrance, requiring a significant re-route through the park. After reviewing the campgrounds that were still open (Mammoth Hot Springs, Madison, Slough Creek, and Lewis Lake) , we re-routed to the West entrance because Lewis Lake still had availability and we did not have to take the detour. We drove along the Gallatin River on US-191S; the fall colors were absolutely beautiful along this route.

We exited Yellowstone via the South entrance and drove through John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway and Grand Teton National Park to Coulter Bay Village. This route allowed us an up close view of the damage caused by the fire earlier in the park from earlier this summer. The fire damage, along with the low level of Jackson Lake, emphasized the drought that western states have been suffering.

When is the best time to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton? We wish we knew. Rangers said that social media (people being warned about the crowded conditions during the summer) has extended the peak season closer and closer to season’s end.


Click on a picture to launch the gallery in a new window


National Parks Passport Book

Cover of the National Parks Passport book.

Jess purchased a National Parks Passport book and may have the beginnings of a slight obsession in obtaining cancellations at a variety of parks, monuments, historic sites, and recreation areas. Since she also does a majority of the trip routing, Dave has been subjected to her various whims to obtain the next cancellation; he is starting to question the trip routes.

While the route planning has become slightly circuitous, we have been seeing national monuments, recreation areas, historic sites and parks that we wouldn’t have otherwise considered. These places, such as Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and the Grant-Kohrs Ranch Historic Site, have increased our understanding of our country’s history. We have also enjoyed some beautiful scenery as we have traveled a bit off the beaten path.

Since we purchased the book after the great westward move, cancellations from that trip and all previous trips are absent. This just means we will have to revisit some amazing parks, like Big Bend National Park.

The Collector’s Edition is nice, but for the rigors of travel, the Explorer version would have been the more robust choice. The Explorer is a binder style, so additional pages can be added; the Collector’s Edition cannot be added to.

Cancellations and stamps for the Western region.
Cancellations and stamps for the Western region.

Northern Rockies: Going to the Sun Road

We learned that in Glacier National Park, the ‘crown of the continent’, there is a convergence of plants and animals from diverse environments. The ecosystems of the north (Canada), Maritime (Pacific Northwest), south (Southern Rocky Mountains), and east (prairie species) are found here, the narrowest point of the Rocky Mountain Chain. Water from the park flows to the Pacific Ocean (via the Columbia River), Hudson Bay (Saskatchewan and Nelson Rivers), and the Gulf of Mexico (Missouri and Mississippi Rivers); this convergence of watersheds also promotes the migration and dispersal of plants and animals. This environment is so diverse, all native carnivores – grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, and cougars – are able to survive. The abrupt transition from mountain forest to prairie supports a variety of herbivores – elk, deer, big-horn sheep, and mountain goats – which in turn allow the carnivores to survive.

Creek along Trail of the Cedars.

Going to the Sun Road (driven in a rental car because Abby was too long and tall) provided an excellent example of the diversity that abounds in the park. Starting from the Apgar campground on the west side, we moved through areas that were reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest, which was exemplified by the Trail of the Cedars (handicap accessible board walk/paved trail). Ferns, under towering cedars, dominated the forest floor. As we climbed to Logan Pass, grass became more dominant and wildflowers (Indian Paint brush, bear grass) were in full bloom. We even saw a mountain goat. Over the pass, we pushed on to St. Mary, and the cedars were replaced by dense stands of pine trees.

In the future, when Alex is older, we will take the shuttle. Many of the lots were full (the Logan Pass visitors center was like the mall parking lot at Christmas time), so if we wanted to hike we would not have been able to due to lack of parking.

Click on the images below from our trip on Going to the Sun Road to enlarge the picture.



Northern Rockies: Two Medicine Lake Hike

We enjoyed our hike around Two Medicine Lake, which was approximately 8 miles. If we had gotten an earlier start, we would have tried to make No Name Lake – there were reports of a moose spending the afternoon in the water. There was a boat that we could have taken from the General Store to the west end of the lake. This would have allowed us to hike trails up to the lakes, perhaps even Dawson pass.

The route we took resulted in a more gradual climb up to along the southeast side of the lake. The trail on the northwest side of the lake is not close to the water as one might think. It is actually up the mountain.

Click on the images in the gallery below to start slide show.





Northern Rockies: Trip Summary

This trip could have easily been called the ‘Canadian Hot Springs Tour‘, but Northern Rockies was much more inclusive of our trip. This was our first trip since completing our move to Colorado and Abby had been away in storage for the past six weeks. The poor girl was not in travel ready condition. Time was spent Friday night and Saturday morning to get Abby back in fighting form, or at least something that we could pass off as fighting form. We left at 10:30 Saturday morning, August 20th, which was much better than what Jess pessimistically envisioned.

We achieved an exciting first on this trip – Penny, Chewie, and Buster all crossed an international border (Canada) and were allowed re-entry into the United States! Our fuzzy fur creatures did not cause any international incidents while in Canada! Fantastic wins. Canada National Parks also allow dogs on trails, unless restrictions are posted. Penny and Chewie were happy to join us hiking.

Route traveled for our Northern Rockies adventure.

Check out our Going to the Sun Road post.

Mileage and Fuel Consumption:

We discovered how expensive diesel (and gasoline) is in Canada. Charged per liter, we had to multiple the by 3.785 to obtain the per gallon price. So $0.939/L became $3.55/gallon, which was a solid $1.00/gallon more than our most expensive price in the states.

Total days: 12

Total miles: 2800

Total gallons diesel: 175.3

Average miles per gallon: 15.9

Best miles per gallon: 17.6

Worst miles per gallon: 13.2

Our last tank reflected the slog it was driving Abby home down I-25S. We fought a headwind and hills the entire way. Despite the one poor mileage tank, we were very pleased with the mileage for the trip.


For our campground summary post, follow this link.

  1. Dispersed camping, FSR 20, Bighorn National Forest, WY (1)

    View of Bighorn National Forest near our dispersed camping site.
  2. Many Pines Campground, Lewis and Clark National Forest, MT (1)
  3. Two Medicine Campground, Glacier National Park, MT (2); link to hike

    Abby with Rising Wolf Mountain in the background, Two Medicine Campground
    Abby with Rising Wolf Mountain in the background, Two Medicine Campground.
  4. Calgary West Campground, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (1)
  5. Two Jack Main Campground, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada (2)
  6. Dry Gulch Provincial Campground, British Columbia, Canada (1)
  7. Apgar Campground, Glacier National Park, MT (2)
  8. Missouri Headwaters State Park, Three Forks, MN (1)

    Abby at campsite number 6 in Missouri Headwaters State Park.
    Abby at campsite number 6 in Missouri Headwaters State Park.
  9. Lake View Campground, Bighorn National Forest, WY (1)


  1. The Grizzly Paw Brewing Company, Canmore, Alberta, Canada
  2. Banff Avenue Brewing Company, Banff, Alberta, Canada
  3. Ten Sleep Brewing Company, Ten Sleep, WY

For more detail regarding our brewery visits, check out this post.

National Monuments/Historic Sites:

  1. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument – click here for more details.
  2. Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site – click here for more details
  3. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area

Northern Rockies: Campgrounds

Our favorite and not so favorite campgrounds of the trip. If a campground isn’t summarized in great detail here, don’t worry. It was a good campground that we liked and would go to again, it just didn’t have quite enough to make our trip highlight reel.


  1. View from our dispersed campsite area.
    View from our dispersed campsite area.

    Dispersed camping off of FSR 20 in the Bighorn National Forest, WY: Our first dispersed camping experience on our first night of our Northern Rockies adventure.  Okay, so this wasn’t technically a campground, but it was a great campsite. We found a spot just after a cattle gate (called Texas gates in Alberta) among some trees. There was a lot of cow pies around and we weren’t sure if we were going to wake up surrounded by cattle (didn’t happen). There was a meadow across from our chosen spot with some rock outcroppings that Alex enjoyed climbing on. Road desperately needed a grader to smooth out the washboard and fill in the pot holes, but worth the shaking and rattling. We plan on more dispersed camping in the future.

    Alex climbing on a rock formation that was used as a shelter in the past.
    Alex climbing on a rock formation that was used as a shelter in the past.
  2. 2016NR_2Medicine03
    Alex throwing rocks into Two Medicine Lake.

    Two Medicine Campground at Glacier National Park, MT: There were multiple things to really enjoy about this campground. There was a lake, which was excellent for throwing rocks in. There was Wolf Mountain, that towered over the campground. And then there was the view that was a short walk away from our campsite. There was a plethora of hiking trails that could be accessed from the campgrounds. A quick and relatively flat bike ride away was the general store, boat rentals, and a boat tour (for fast access to the other end of the lake). Really couldn’t ask for a better campground.

    View of Two Medicine Lake.
    View of Two Medicine Lake.

    The downside of this campground is the sites for bigger rigs are down by the lake. The view is beautiful, but the sites go fast and there is more traffic due the day use parking. The other sites are back in the trees, feel more secluded, but some are difficult to level a small rig like Abby in. All that considered, we will be back.

    Campsite: #47, side pitched

    Prime campsites: 95, 96, 94, 97, 93 – very close to the lake and relatively secluded. Looked rather level. Larger rigs check out sites 85 – 91. Sites 1 – 10 may also be able to accommodate larger RV or truck/trailer combinations.

    Wolf Mountain at Two Medicine Lake.
    Wolf Mountain at Two Medicine Lake.

Least Favorites:

  1. Calgary West Campground in  Calgary, Alberta, Canada: The much maligned commercial campground. Nothing truly wrong with this campground, but we prefer national forest, state parks, dispersed camping or national parks. This campground was clean with a decent laundry facility and a pool. Alex had fun on the campground and walking about. As typical of commercial campgrounds, sites were rather close. Roads were gravel and some places needed a grader to come through and level things out. The road into Loop B is a bit steep, and Abby’s front wheels slide on the gravel while backing into our site on the hill. When approaching this campground, the first thing you see is the storage area – don’t panic, the sites are small but not THAT small.
  2. Many Pines Campground in Lewis and Clark National Forest: This is likely on our least favorite list because we really wanted to disperse camp that night, but chose our forest roads poorly. Campground wasn’t bad – sites were well spaced and rather level. Each site had a parking area and then a separate area with picnic table and tent pad. Campground closes in September. Winter comes early in Montana.

One of the winter planning projects is to get maps from the forest service and determine if we can pick out dispersed camping sites. Also, we need to better familiarize ourselves with the rules of each forest regarding dispersed camping.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise:

  1. Lake View Campground in  Bighorn National Forest: Our intent was to disperse camp for our last night on the road, but we saw this as we were headed on US-16E and stopped. We overlooked Meadowlark Lake, not far from a ski lodge of similar name. Sites were well sized and level. Campground was well maintained and the pit toilets were clean and pleasant (!) smelling. The spur that contains sites 1 – 6 runs parallel to the road, but there was little traffic so it wasn’t too disturbing. We camped in site 6, which was the closest to the road; a steep embankment kept Alex away from the road. A trail led down to the lake not too far from the site. While not dispersed camping, we were very happy with this campground.

    View of Meadowlark Lake facing away from Abby.

Northern California: Summary

Route for our Northern California Adventure.

Our northern California excursion made leaving much harder. We realized that there were so many more adventures we wanted to go on while in California. Unfortunately, the timing did not work out. We will be back someday.

Our route was just shy of 1000 miles, at 982. We averaged approximately 16 mpg for the trip. Abby felt very sporty without the cargo trailer.



Favorite Campgrounds

  1. Wesport-Union Landing State Beach: Our favorite campground of the trip. Camped on a bluff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, falling asleep to the sound of the ocean. What more can you ask for? Beach access? Even better. Fantastic campground that the locals know about. You can grab a spot as soon as someone leaves. Make sure there isn’t an item left at the site indicating that a camper is coming back.

    Beach that can be accessed from the Westport-Union campground.
    Beach that can be accessed from the Westport-Union campground.
  2. Manzanita Lake Campground, Lassen Volcanic National Park: Our second favorite campground. This park has versatility. Hiking, skiing and snowboarding (in June!), and lake activities. A very nice park and informative visitors center. Really enjoyed our hike up to Crags Lake. Other trail-heads accessible in or near the campground; other trails through out the park.

    View near Crags Lake.
    View near Crags Lake.
  3. Stand of young redwoods.
    Stand of young redwoods.

    Mill Creek Campground, Redwood National and State Park: Some sites were in some very dense tree cover. We had a sunnier site with a creek directly behind us – Alex loved splashing in the water. Lots of hikes accessible from the campground.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise

  1. Hidden Spring, Humboldt State Forest: Primarily tent camping and some smaller RV and trailers. Abby is only 24 feet and we were glad she wasn’t bigger. We could hike to a beach/swimming hole at the Eel River. Sites are well spaced.

Least Favorite Campground

  1. Mad River Rapids RV Park: Commercial campgrounds are not our first choice. But there was cell service here and that is what we needed for Jess’ phone interview. So here we stayed.