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: 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


Western Trip: Picture Gallery

A pictorial diary of our trip.

Selfie just before we left our driveway.
Great River Bluffs State Park, MN
Chewie at Great River Bluffs.
Penny at Great River Bluffs.
Palisades State Park, SD
Palisades State Park, SD
Badlands National Park, SD
Prairie dog in Custer State Park, SD
Custer State Park, SD
Custer State Park, SD
A trail ride in Custer State Park, SD
Mount Rushmore National Monument, SD
Natural Arch
Yellowstone, WY
Jackson Lake, WY
Jackson Lake, WY
Jackson Lake, WY
Alex at Jackson Lake, WY
Signal Mountain, WY
Abby at Signal Mountain, WY


Flaming Gorge, UT
Flaming Gorge, UT
Durango Silverton RR, CO
Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Penny enjoying snow in July, RMNP
Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Western Trip: Yellowstone

Abby at pull out by Yellowstone Lake
Abby at pull out by Yellowstone Lake

We had the pleasure of traveling through Yellowstone on the Fourth of July weekend, 2o15. This was one of the most disappointing stops of the trip. Being a holiday weekend, the park was extremely crowded. We would visit Yellowstone again, but during the shoulder season when crowds would be less teeming.

We had a reservation for a single night, July 3, at the Bridge Bay campground. This campground is essentially and open field with tightly spaced spots and no hook-ups. Most spots are relatively level. Firewood was available for purchase at check-in. As state in our summary post, the bathrooms were atrocious. Overall, the vendor running the campgrounds and amenities was less than impressive.

Sign at Dragon’s Mouth Spring

Perhaps the single most frustrating things were the tourists. What do we mean by tourists? People who ignore the signs and rules stated to protect them (selfies with bison, straying from boardwalks around the hot springs) and generally oblivious behavior. A prime example, we

stopped to stopped at Dragon’s Mouth Spring as we were driving across the park. There was a bison laying next to the restroom building. People were walking within feet of the animal to take a selfie. The bison eventually had enough of the paparazzi, got up, and ran through the parking lot. The panic was capped by a woman screaming (imagine this in a New Jersey accent), ‘Larry, LAARRRYYY!! The bison! Look out for the bison!!”.  Larry, clearly no where near the bison’s path of travel, waved at his hysterical wife. Panicking and further startling a wild animal, not the wisest plan.

Bison at Dragon's Mouth Spring, taken from an elevated board walk.
Bison at Dragon’s Mouth Spring, taken from an elevated board walk.

Traveling across the park was also slow going. The speed limit is 35 and in some of the more popular areas it drops to 25 mph. This is made even worse by the people ignoring posted signs and stopping in the middle of the road (rather than pulling off on a pull out as advised) to take a picture of some animal that caught their attention. Again, a fantastic example of oblivious tourist behavior.

Alex enjoying his VIP tour of Yellowstone.
Alex enjoying his VIP tour of Yellowstone.
Waterfall in Yellowstone.
Waterfall in Yellowstone.

The negatives were frustrating and took away from the beauty of Yellowstone. There were some very nice handicap accessible paths to a variety of features that we were able to take Alex to in either his wagon or stroller. As with most national parks, dogs were not allowed on trails. Which is frustrating and limits what we can see. However, these are limitations we accept when traveling with Penny, Chewie, and Buster. And seeing how most people can’t follow simple rules, allowing dogs on trails would be an utter disaster.

Western Trip: Campground Summary


  1. Campsite at Sylvan Lake
    Campsite at Sylvan Lake

    Sylvan Lake Campground at Custer State Park, SD: Sites were well spaced, secluded, grounds were well taken care of. Site was level. Our campsite was tucked away among trees. The campground was not on the lake, but was a quick hike to the lake and there was access several trail heads. Scenery was gorgeous.

    Sylvan Lake
    Sylvan Lake at Custer State Park.
  2. Red Canyon Campground at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, UT:
    Abby in our campsite at Red Canyon.
    Abby in our campsite at Red Canyon.

    This campground has sites that are a stone’s throw away from the rim of the gorge. Visitors center is a short hike away. Some hiking trails along the gorge rim. Gorgeous scenery. Sites are well spaced and level. We wouldn’t camp here again until Alex is older and listens better. Jess would become instantaneously grey making sure Alex didn’t fall into the gorge. Or he will need one of those child leashes.

    View from the Red Canyon Campground in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
    View from the Red Canyon Campground in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.
  3. Mueller State Park, CO: This campground had nicely spaced, wooded sites. Some sites had a view of Pike’s Peak, but these go quickly on the reservations page. Great laundry facility and playgroud for Alex. Alex’s wagon came into play as our laundry mobile when walking up the hill to the laundromat. Park is well cared for and the staff is friendly. Group sites also available.

    View of Pike’s Peak, obscured by cloud cover.

Least Favorites

  1. Mormon Island State Recreation Area, NE: Campground is next to a lake, on an island, in the middle of the Platte River. The lake is part of Nebraska’s Chain of Lakes; these lakes are water filled excavation pits from I-80’s construction and converted to recreation areas.. We stayed here because it was easy access to I-80, had full hook-ups (needed to run the A/C due to the heat and humidity), and it was approximately the target distance we wanted to drive in a day upon leaving Colorado. The lake’s aroma left a bit to be desired. Campground served its purpose, but it was cruel switch from the Rockies.
  2. Starved Rock State Park, IL: The park website looks amazing! Don’t be fooled, the campground is definitely not amazing. If the campground is in the park, it is on the border. You do drive past the beautiful area to the campground, which is mosquito infested to the point you can’t be outside. We would have rather stayed in a commercial campground.

Biggest Pleasant Surprise

  1. View from the bluff at Great River Bluffs State Park, MN.
    View from the bluff at Great River Bluffs State Park, MN.

    Great River Bluffs State Park, MN: The geological features of this park are the result of minimal glacial drift from any of the four major glaciers. Sites were well spaced and wooded. Some are not level, so check the reservation site, it should provide information. Nice hiking trails with views of the Mississippi River Valley. And there were little chipmunks for Penny to watch from Abby’s window.

    Penny watching chipmunks at Great River Bluffs State Park, MN.
    Penny watching chipmunks at Great River Bluffs State Park, MN.

Biggest Disappointment

  1. Yellowstone, WY: It was Fourth of July weekend. There were hordes of people and we were lucky to get a spot. Campsites were crowded. People were oblivious to etiquette. The bathrooms were not clean. Dave said he would rather take one of the poop bags for the dogs out to the woods rather than use the bathroom. Jess was too scared to see the horrors of the women’s bathroom. There will be a separate Yellowstone post to discuss why this was our least favorite park of the entire trip. I’m sure Yellowstone is much nicer when it isn’t the peak travel season.

Western Trip Summary

We started our first long RV adventure on June 27, 2015. We had made the decision just three weeks prior to move to California so Jess could enroll in the UC Davis Extension Master Brewers Program; we knew that when we returned we would have to kick things into high gear to prepare the house for sale (we had our floors refinished while we were gone). Looking back, it is hard to believe we got it all done. And it is still rather surreal that a year later we are packing up our California rental to move to Colorado.

Since it has been so long since our trip, the format for posts will be different from our California move. This summary post will be followed by posts focusing on our favorite/least favorite campgrounds, side trips made along the way, and anything else that may require a stand alone post. These stand alone posts will likely be due excessive length as a result of our poor self-editing skills. Some of our notes (including total gallons of diesel and mileage) have been misplaced in a cross-country move.

2015 Summer Trip
2015 Summer Trip

The trip was approximately 5200 miles, including side trips. We used about 345 gallons of diesel, averaging right around 15 miles per gallon.

We started our trip on June 27, 2015 and were back July 16, 2015. Just shy of 3 full weeks and resulting in an average of 273 miles traveled per day.

Family selfie just before leaving the driveway.
Family selfie just before leaving the driveway.

The trip started out on a rainy, mechanical break down note with Abby’s turbo resonator failing, but after our first day hiccup, it was smooth sailing. We had a great time visiting family and friends along our route. And they were always very kind in giving us a place to park, do laundry, and shower in a full size bathroom!

The whirlwind trip took us to four national parks, a national monument, a national recreation area, two national forests, and seven state parks. We definitely erred in wedged too many sights into our trip schedule; we learned from our errors on this trip and corrected them for future trips.


  1. Great River Bluffs State Park, MN – overnight rest stop only
  2. Palisades State Park, SD – 2 night stop, rest day

    Palisades State Park in South Dakota
    Palisades State Park in South Dakota
  3. Custer State Park, SD – 2 night stop (Grace Coolidge, Sylvan Lake)
  4. Yellowstone National Park, WY – overnight (Fishing Creek)
  5. Grand Teton National Park, WY – overnight (Lizard Creek)
  6. Bridger-Teton National Forest, WY – overnight (East Table)
  7. Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, UT – overnight
  8. San Juan National Forest, CO – 2 night stop (Junction Creek)
  9. Mueller State Park, CO – overnight

    View of Pike’s Peak (under cloud cover) from Mueller State Park.
  10. Rocky Mountain National Park, CO – 2 night stop (Olive Ridge – technically just outside the park)
  11. Mormon Island State Recreation Area, NE – overnight
  12. Starved Rock State Park, IL – overnight
  13. West Branch State Park, OH – overnight

    View for our campsite in West Branch State Park, OH. Our last night on the road.