Throwback Blog Series: Camp 4, Yosemite.

Do you dream about sleeping among the granite rock walls of the Yosemite valley?

Yosemite is impressive and beautiful.

We arrived in CD’s Honda civic. We had come from Colorado via Utah, Nevada, Southern California, and Highway 101. The mountains were a welcomed site. We were road weary and our legs were begging to hike all day.

We rolled into Camp 4. I can’t remember if we were seeking Camp 4 or if we just needed somewhere interesting to camp.

Camp 4 isn’t just a campground, it is a community. It is more of a lifestyle choice than a housing choice. It is a famous home base for climbers and is even listed on the National Register of Historic places.

It was $6 per person per night. There are 30 some walk – in sites. There are rocks for bouldering, granite mountain sides for climbing, and trailheads for hiking.

We were greeted with a list of rules. You must remove all food from your car and place in designated lockers. Camp 4 is loved by bears almost as much as by climbers.

We followed all of the recommended procedures. I cleaned the car, used the bear lockers, kept a clean campsite, and properly disposed of my dish water.

I convinced CD to use our largest tent. I don’t know why we packed this way but we had CD’s sleeping tarp from the PCT, a new backpacking tent, and my old six person tent. It seemed logical that I would be less likely to be mauled by a bear in a six person tent than in a two person tent. CD went along with it.

The bears showed up at dusk, right on schedule. You could hear the classic: “hey bear” and “get out of here, bear”. The bears didn’t seem concerned by this and neither did the campers.

The campground was relatively rowdy and a bit messy. Chip bags and beer cans were rolling around. Nobody really cared. Everyone was happy.
We passed by tons of climbers on our way to the trail.

A few hours later, the climbers from Camp 4 were below us and this was the view we found.

Ultimately, I slept with one eye open but still felt rested. I reaped the benefits of being surrounded by free-spirits. People were having fun and it showed.

Will I stay at Camp 4 again? It is unlikely. They don’t allow sleeping in the parking lot and the sites are not accessible to our van. If we ever sell the van, I will likely be too old and spoiled to sleep on the ground in Camp 4. – but who knows.

As John Muir said: “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”.

A Glimpse of Southern Utah

It is spring in Utah when the rivers are running high, the sun is shining, and the roads are full of Colorado license plates. There is no better way to celebrate the end of ski resort employment than to leave the high country in favor of the red rocks of Utah.

I started this tradition prior to meeting CD and we continued it together every May until we moved from Colorado. Utah has so much to offer that I don’t even know where to begin. While the order is irrelevant, I will start southwest, go roughly northeast but stay south of I-70 and then end southeast near the four corners.

Zion National Park

Zion National Park is my favorite, hands down. We have been there over and over. We have hiked end to end, climbed its peaks, and waded through its slot canyons. Its red rock is made more brilliant by the Virgin river and green trees. The proximity to the town of Springdale with its cold drinks and hot breakfast doesn’t hurt either.

The Desert Pearl, in Springdale. If you are looking for a break from camping, this place is unlikely to disappoint.

Angel’s Landing is its most well known hike. It starts with switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles. It is well known that I love switch backs for the exercise alone. There is no better way to start the day.

It isn’t until after the switchbacks that this hike really separates itself from the rest. Angel’s landing is no joke in terms of exposure and drop offs.

The trail narrows to one way. There is a chain link railing. You are exposed to the depths of the valley floor, more so in some places than in others.

My first time up Angel’s Landing was with my brother. Making it to the top was a rush. Making it back down alive was even better. The next time was with CD. The rush was not as great but the feeling of relief after was even greater. The third time was with CD again. The steps felt more narrow and the valley floor seemed a bit further than before. With that, I decided that three times up Angel’s Landing is likely enough for me.

We looked for other routes with bigger and better views. Observation Point hit the mark. It is a more physically challenging and longer hike. It climbs 2100 feet and rises 700 feet above Angel’s Landing.

Zion, Utah
Angel’s Landing

Zion, Backcountry

Back country sites are accessible from the main entrance. Below is the view from our camp site along the West Rim Trail. It is worth noting that we started the hike with a crowd headed to Angel’s Landing. As soon as we turned away from that route, we were on our own. It was super windy and we were surrounded by dead trees. We woke up in the morning to distance runners coming down the rim trail.

Zion, Kolob Canyon

Kolob Canyon is Zion’s less known North entrance. It offers day hikes and backpacking trips with few other people around. Our back country site was in an old river bottom. Much of the hiking was in loose sand. Snakes loved it.

If you have seen the wide open spaces of Zion and are ready for a change, the Narrows may be your next stop. Do your research. Be informed. Watch the weather. These slot canyons are beautiful and it is good to pay attention if you plan to do much exploring. CD met a friend there for his fortieth birthday and they didn’t end up finishing their chosen route because of flash floods.

The Narrows: Zion
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Bryce Canyon National Park

From Zion, you can get to Bryce Canyon in a short day. It is higher and cooler. This is great in the hot months and not as great in the early spring. It is smaller and more compact. The Hoo-doos are unique and impressive. I tend to pass through Bryce westbound to Zion or eastbound to Capital Reef but CD is a fan of the views at sunrise. He also has told me good things about a coin operated shower at the general store.

Apparently, he has a great memory of enjoying a post-hike beer from the general store while sitting on the lodge porch at sunset after a hot shower.

Bryce Canyon

Capital Reef National Park

I rarely hear people talk about Capital Reef but we have found it to offer great hiking, impressive rock formations, and amazing views. I don’t recommend hiking there if you are hoping to meet people and chit chat over hand fulls of trail mix. The trails are largely empty.

Capital Reef

San Rafeal Swell, Utah

At this point it is worth mentioning the San Rafeal Swell. It offers slot canyons with campsites tucked away on BLM land. My advice: Go there, if you have time. Bring your own shade. Do what I did and go with someone that has been there before – hopefully someone proficient at navigating slot canyons. Goblin Valley State Park is near by and may be a better choice if it is your first time in the area.

The price was right but shade was sparse.
This was our route to enter the slot canyon.

Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands is easier to access from Moab than from the Southwest. The views are endless. The hiking is interesting and fun. Regions of the park have names like Needles, Island to Sky, and The Maze. Mountain biking the White Rim Road loop is popular and it is on my to-do list for sure. We have not camped in the back country but we have camped just outside the park and there are beautiful starry skies.

Canyonlands

Arches National Park

Arches is a straight shot from I-70 and is complimented by it’s close relationship with Moab. The Colorado River provides contrast to the red rock backdrop. The La Salle mountains rise up with snowy peaks and provide further contrast and depth to the scenery.

Moab is like the old west meeting a trendy art gallery. The restaurants and shops are full of personality and there are tour companies to suite everyone’s needs. You can sign up for 4 x 4 tours, mountain biking, hiking, river rafting, paddle boarding, horse back riding, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

While I cannot speak to the tour companies, I can attest to the hiking and camping. Hikes range from easy to more difficult. Arches is typically one of the more crowded Utah parks but for good reasons. Campsites are dotted along the river banks and range from rustic and isolated to developed and popular. I recommend them all!

Double Arch

Castleton, Utah

Just a bit East and on BLM land, you will find Castleton.

Castleton Tower from above the parking lot

Pretty much everyone was there to climb. CD climbed with friends while I hiked and then read a book at the campsite. It was great. Everyone was happy.

Hiking up to start the climb. It looked taller in person.
This is where I turned around and CD went up
Our tent – in the shade!

If you don’t climb, it is still beautiful to see but you will likely enjoy camping somewhere else more than camping here. This was packed with climbers and surrounded by wide open desert.

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Mesa Verde National Park, Utah

Dropping down to the four corners, you can hop into Mesa Verde. While the cliff dwellings are interesting and worth seeing, you may find a bit of crowd. My favorite feature is its proximity to Durango. Check out the Silverton Narrow Gauge railway and head North to Ouray or East towards Pagosa Springs on your way out of town.

These petroglyphs are at Mesa Verde, Utah. You can see similar markings along I-70 just West of 191.

I could keep going on and on about Utah but will stop myself here for now. Utah is dense with natural wonders. I recommend going there and seeing it first hand.

Red rock dust from ten years ago still stains my hiking boots. Seeing it makes me smile.

Please consider following our blog for more adventures.

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Throwback Blog Series: A Tour of Utah

You know it is spring in Eastern Utah when the rivers are running high, the sun is shining, and the roads are full of Colorado license plates. There is no better way to celebrate the end of seasonal ski resort employment than to leave the high country in favor of the red rocks of Utah. I started this tradition prior to meeting CD and we continued it together every May until we moved from Colorado. Utah has so much to offer that I don’t even know where to begin. While the order is irrelevant, I will start southwest, go roughly northeast but stay south of I-70 and then end southeast near the four corners.

Zion National Park is my favorite, hands down. We have been there over and over. We have hiked end to end, climbed its peaks, and waded through its slot canyons. Its red rock is made more brilliant by the Virgin river and green trees. The proximity to the town of Springdale with its cold drinks and hot breakfast doesn’t hurt either.

The Desert Pearl, in Springdale. If you are looking for a break from camping, this place is unlikely to disappoint.

Angel’s Landing is its most well known hike. It starts with switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles. It is well known that I love switch backs for the exercise alone. There is no better way to start the day.

It isn’t until after the switchbacks that this hike really separates itself from the rest. Angel’s landing is no joke in terms of exposure and drop offs.

The trail narrows to one way. There is a chain link railing. You are exposed to the depths of the valley floor, more so in some places than in others.

My first time up Angel’s Landing was with my brother. Making it to the top was a rush. Making it back down alive was even better. The next time was with CD. The rush was not as great but the feeling of relief after was even greater. The third time was with CD again. The steps felt more narrow and the valley floor seemed a bit further than before. With that, I decided that three times up Angel’s Landing is likely enough for me.

We looked for other routes with bigger and better views. Observation Point hit the mark. It is a more physically challenging and longer hike. It climbs 2100 feet and rises 700 feet above Angel’s Landing.

Back country sites are accessible from the main entrance. Below is the view from our camp site along the West Rim Trail. It is worth noting that we started the hike with a crowd headed to Angel’s Landing. As soon as we turned away from that route, we were on our own. It was super windy and we were surrounded by dead trees. We woke up in the morning to distance runners coming down the rim trail.

Kolob Canyon is Zion’s less known North entrance. It offers day hikes and backpacking trips with few other people around. Our back country site was in an old river bottom. Much of the hiking was in loose sand. Snakes loved it.

If you have seen the wide open spaces of Zion and are ready for a change, the Narrows may be your next stop. Do your research. Be informed. Watch the weather. These slot canyons are beautiful and it is good to pay attention if you plan to do much exploring. CD met a friend there for his fortieth birthday and they didn’t end up finishing their chosen route because of flash floods.

The Narrows: Zion

From Zion, you can get to Bryce Canyon in a short day. It is higher and cooler. This is great in the hot months and not as great in the early spring. It is smaller and more compact. The Hoo-doos are unique and impressive. I tend to pass through Bryce westbound to Zion or eastbound to Capital Reef but CD is a fan of the views at sunrise. He also has told me good things about a coin operated shower at the general store.

Apparently, he has a great memory of enjoying a post-hike beer from the general store while sitting on the lodge porch at sunset after a hot shower.

Bryce Canyon

I rarely hear people talk about Capital Reef but we have found it to offer great hiking, impressive rock formations, and amazing views. I don’t recommend hiking there if you are hoping to meet people and chit chat over hand fulls of trail mix. The trails are largely empty.

Capital Reef

At this point it is worth mentioning the San Rafeal Swell. It offers slot canyons with campsites tucked away on BLM land. My advice: Go there, if you have time. Bring your own shade. Do what I did and go with someone that has been there before – hopefully someone proficient at navigating slot canyons. Goblin Valley State Park is near by and may be a better choice if it is your first time in the area.

The price was right but shade was sparse.
This was our route to enter the slot canyon.

Canyonlands is easier to access from Moab than from the Southwest. The views are endless. The hiking is interesting and fun. Regions of the park have names like Needles, Island to Sky, and The Maze. Mountain biking the White Rim Road loop is popular and it is on my to-do list for sure. We have not camped in the back country but we have camped just outside the park and there are beautiful starry skies.

Canyonlands

Arches is a straight shot from I-70 and is complimented by it’s close relationship with Moab. The Colorado River provides contrast to the red rock backdrop. The La Salle mountains rise up with snowy peaks and provide further contrast and depth to the scenery.

Moab is like the old west meeting a trendy art gallery. The restaurants and shops are full of personality and there are tour companies to suite everyone’s needs. You can sign up for 4 x 4 tours, mountain biking, hiking, river rafting, paddle boarding, horse back riding, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.

While I cannot speak to the tour companies, I can attest to the hiking and camping. Hikes range from easy to more difficult. Arches is typically one of the more crowded Utah parks but for good reasons. Campsites are dotted along the river banks and range from rustic and isolated to developed and popular. I recommend them all!

Double Arch

Just a bit East and on BLM land, you can find Castleton.

Castleton Tower from above the parking lot

Pretty much everyone was there to climb. CD climbed with friends while I hiked and then read a book at the campsite. It was great. Everyone was happy.

Hiking up to start the climb. It looked taller in person.
This is where I turned around and CD went up
Our tent – in the shade!

If you don’t climb, it is still beautiful to see but you will likely enjoy camping somewhere else more than camping here. This was packed with climbers and surrounded by wide open desert.

Dropping down to the four corners, you can hop into Mesa Verde. While the cliff dwellings are interesting and worth seeing, you may find a bit of crowd. My favorite feature is its proximity to Durango. Check out the Silverton Narrow Gauge railway and head North to Ouray or East towards Pagosa Springs on your way out of town.

These petroglyphs are at Mesa Verde. You can see similar markings along I-70 just West of 191.

I could keep going on and on about Utah but will stop myself here for now. Utah is dense with natural wonders. I recommend going there and seeing it first hand.

Red rock dust from ten years ago still stains my hiking boots. Seeing it makes me smile.

Throwback Blog Series: New Mexico, Truth or Consequences.

I was in my fifth year of college the first time I went to New Mexico. I drove from Buffalo to Chicago, flew to Albuquerque, spent a week hiking and camping, flew back to Chicago, drove to West Palm Beach for spring break, and drove back to Buffalo. I can’t really explain the itinerary. It must have made sense to my twenty something self.

In any case, that was also the first time I was enchanted by New Mexico. We started in Santa Fe. It was a warm and sunny spring day. Three of us stood on a street corner without talking or crossing the street. We just stood there for seconds or minutes. There were so many colors to see, people to watch, and energy to feel.

We went from there to a hot spring in the Gila National Forest where two of us walked back to the car ahead of the others. We reached through a crack in the window to unlock the door and set off our car alarm. It echoed through the canyon at sunset and continued until the rest of our group hiked the several miles out of the canyon to unlock it with the keys.

We drank soda and used a pay phone at a convenience store in Truth or Consequences. We called my parents and they asked if we heard about the woman that escaped a kidnapper in the same town that day. We didn’t see anything unusual and we didn’t watch the news.

We crossed into Texas and hiked Guadalupe Peak at sunrise. We didn’t wear sunscreen and our sunburns were remarkable. I was concerned about snakes but we didn’t see any. Later that night, we woke up that night to a family of skunks scavenging our campsite. We narrowly escaped disaster.

We happened upon The Trinity Site on a day it was open for tours. I learned more than I wanted to know and left with more questions than answers.

Fast forward a few years to me living in Summit County, Colorado and CD working at Vail Resorts. We enjoyed several mud season weekends at La Posada (https://www.laposadadesantafe.com) and indulged in all the resort had to offer. We drank wine and shared appetizers with other guests while local artists gave guided tours of their work. My favorite painting ending up being The Tunnel of Trees from Northern Michigan. My favorite resort feature was its proximity to restaurants, art galleries, hiking, and my all time favorite consignment store.

Since New Mexico consistently treated us well, we tossed Taos out as an option for our annual friends ski trip. The opportunity to check out the Earthships (https://www.earthshipglobal.com/visit-us) tipped the scale and we headed to Taos.

We stayed at the Burch Street Casitas. They offered a great downtown location, were locally owned, clean, and spacious. I would stay there again for sure.

We took advantage of being able to walk to town by immersing in the local food scene. Our meals looked like this: Green chili beer, green chili bread, fried green chiles, green chili smothered burritos, pork green chili, vegetarian green chili, fresh lime margaritas, wine tequila margaritas, more green chili beer …

The drive to the ski area was easy and relatively brief. The skiing was good – I think – or at least the hiking and skiing was nice. The wagon shuttle service from the parking lot to the base area was a bonus.

The next day was cloudy and we were lazy. We looked to the Earthships for inspiration.

Earthships are built with natural and repurposed materials. You really need to go there to understand the architecture and commitment to sustainability. The tour left a bit to be desired but the purpose of the community was obvious. I felt equally inspired and conflicted.

A wall built with glass bottles.
https://www.earthshipglobal.com/visit-us
Tires were a common building material

The next day, on the way out of town, a friend wanted to buy some green chiles. CD asked the gas station attendant. An unusually long amount of time passed and he returned confused and empty handed. He had asked about buying green chilies and was offered a hook up of the family stash. In the end, he was pretty sure he was not longer buying green chilies and he walked away from the deal. We left empty handed, conflicted about living in an Earthship, and still loving New Mexico.

Throwback Blog Series: #puremichigan

Sometimes I think of planting a garden. We are in Oregon. Fruits and vegetables thrive here. Lack of commitment is my first barrier. Fear of hours and hours of canning and freezing is the second.

The pinnacle of our gardening and canning experience was in Michigan in 2011. My grandparents had a nice garden and CD was invited to tend to it for the summer. We planted all the basics: tomatoes, peppers, squash, zucchini, strawberries, onions, and potatoes.

My brother offered some space at his house so we planted black beans for fun. I don’t mean that we germinated beans and planted them carefully. We bought a bag of dried beans, planted them in rows, and hoped for the best.

Herb garden box with drainage
Drip Irrigation

The garden was a huge success! We were eating vegetables all day, every day. We were chopping and freezing, canning, and canning more. We couldn’t keep up.

I stopped by an apple orchard to ask about some seconds and they offered me bushels of beautiful seconds for nearly nothing. Now I was coring and peeling, chopping and making sauce, and canning some more. We couldn’t stop. Did you know that green tomatoes make great muffins? The first two dozen or so are great anyway. We had muffins and frozen muffins and chopped green tomatoes.

My back was aching but I felt great. We had endless cans of whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato chunks, salsa, banana peppers, and apple sauce. The freezer was full of zucchini and peppers.

I took a breathe and decided to check on the black beans. They had drip irrigation but other than that, we had not seen them in months. The garden was full. Black beans were everywhere. I have no idea how or why it happened but it seemed like every bean we planted produced dozens more.

Thank goodness for the internet because I had no idea what to do. We got the beans from the pods, put on cookie sheets and put them in the oven on low until they were fully dry. We ended up with gallons of dried beans.

With the garden mostly under control, CD had wanted to take a bike trip. We headed to Glen Arbor on a weekday in mid-September. It was quiet. The weather was as good as any summer day. We stayed at DH Day campground and packed the supplies for our trip.

It wouldn’t be possible today but, at that time, DH Day was happy to let us leave our car there. The next morning, we hopped on our bikes and headed to Northport. We rode through Glen Arbor and mostly up the center of Peninsula. Farm markets and apple orchards were everywhere.

We checked into Leelanau State Park in Northport by dinner. Hardly anyone was there and we picked a prime lake-side campsite. It was easy to sleep after riding my bike all day.

We were back to our car in Glen Arbor by dinner the next day. My legs felt great. My first overnight bike trip was a success. Every year since then, CD has suggested more and longer bike trips. We have yet to make it happen but maybe this is the year!

I

Iceland: The Last Minute Ring Road Adventure

Arriving in Iceland, we were already aware that our Laugavegur Hut to Hut Trek was not possible. The trail follows the geothermal valley of Landmannalaugar and along the base of Eyjafjallajokull, which had been erupting for the past three months. This is a short tail about our last minute trip around Iceland via the Ring Road.

When we settled into our in Reykjavik hostel, we didn’t have a plan.

Our host recommended driving the Ring Road. That sounded fine to us. We inquired about a car rental and the conversation went like this.

What kind of car do you want?

It doesn’t matter.

How long will you be gone?

How long does it take?

Eventually, the hostel host said that he may know where we could get a car. He stepped out for a minute and came back with car keys. We rented his car and hit the road.

Pingveller National Park

Pingveller National Park was our first stop. It was amazing and beautiful and green and quiet. We spent all day hiking and looking at lichen. We made dinner at whatever time we were hungry and got back on the road.

There weren’t any hotels or restaurants. We weren’t watching the clock and we weren’t tired. It was overcast but not dusk. We found a gas station and pulled in for gas. The gas station had a sign up that said: “Closed. Will return at 8 am”.

The gas station was closed for the night. What?

We had failed to account for our latitude and the date in relation to the summer solstice. Now we were in Iceland and low on gas. Even if we had a full tank of gas, we really didn’t know where we were going anyway.

The gas station opened in the morning and that was our first night on the Ring Road in Iceland.

Iceland’s Ring Road

The next day we headed out and found a cafe in house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The parking lot was fifty yards or so from the cafe and the walk was picturesque. From there we went on to check out the sights.

What sort of scenery did we see on the Ring Road in Iceland?

Craters. Viti was the first was saw and it was beautiful.

Viti

Icelandic horses. They don’t look like other horses.

Geysir. This is the original geyser and hiked way up on a hill to look at it from a far. This was also the biggest crowd we saw in Iceland.

One way Tunnel. We survived a long, dark, one way tunnel between Dalvik and Olafsfjordur. Depending on which direction you were driving determined if you had the right of way or if you were expected to yield by pulling into a designated M space and wait for traffic to clear. It was nerve racking and bizarre but there wasn’t much traffic.

Camping. Shortly after that we found a campground on a grassy hill. Every tent had every guyline attached. There wasn’t any wind but we certainly took note that they seem to expecting wind. It was warm and the grass was perfect. We slept on the ground next to our car. I still expected a moment of dusk but it didn’t happen. There was basically the same amount of light, day or night.

Mývatn (Midge Lake)

Vatnajokull National Park. We stuck to the Ring Road and headed south. It was substantially colder but worth wearing an extra jacket.

I have seen other glaciers but this was different. It was remarkable and stunning. The ice was shiny and clean; it felt ancient and fragile. Wow!

We woke up in the morning surrounded by fellow campers. We are the second camper from the left in the picture below. Everyone else seemed to be a bit more equipped than us. What I would have given for our Sprinter and Lil Buddy heater in Iceland that day!

Svartifoss, Skaftafell National Park

Our last minute tour of the Ring Road was a success. I am sure it has changed since 2010 but here are a few things I remember.

  • Hotels may be hard to come by and will likely not be exactly what you expect.
  • Be attentive to the time of day. We didn’t see any 24 hour services.
  • Cheese can be eaten for lunch and dinner.
  • Bring a rain jacket, a winter jacket, a hat, gloves, short sleeve shirt, and sun screen.
  • Expect to see whale and puffin meat for sale. We didn’t try it.
  • People in Iceland are tough. We saw people tubing behind a boat near Reykavik. I was wearing a winter hat.
  • The Blue Lagoon will not be exactly what you expect.
Blue Lagoon. Notice the lifeguard in a biohazard looking suit. The weather was crazy that day!

Please follow our blog for other adventures!

Throwback Blog Series: Our Second Camper Van. Iceland

I use the term Camper Van loosely here. It was really a hatchback in Iceland.

We chose Laugavegur Hut to Hut Trek in Iceland for our next adventure. The trail follows the geothermal valley of Landmannalaugar and along the base of Eyjafjallajokull. Our trip was scheduled for mid-June 2010. On April 14, Eyjafjallajökull started to erupt.

I can’t remember all of the details but it seems like the hiking season started around the time we were scheduled to arrive. There was little available information regarding trail conditions. Finally, a few days before our flights, we learned that parts of the trail were covered in inches of volcanic ash. With that, I cancelled our trek.

We arrived in Reykjavik a few days later and settled into our hostel. We didn’t have a plan.

The next morning, we stopped to chat with our host. He recommended driving the Ring Road. That sounded fine to us. We inquired about a car rental and the conversation went like this: What kind of car do you want? It doesn’t matter. How long will you be gone? How long does it take?

The host eventually said that he may know where we could get a car. He stepped out for a minute and came back with car keys. We rented his car and hit the road.

Pingveller National Park was our first stop. It was amazing and beautiful and green and quiet. We spent all day hiking and looking at lichen. We made dinner at whatever time we were hungry and got back on the road.

We didn’t see a Marriott or a Holiday Inn. We didn’t even see a restaurant. We weren’t watching the clock and we weren’t tired. It was overcast but not dusk. We found a gas station and pulled in for gas. The gas station had a sign up that said: Closed. Will return at 8 am.

The gas station was closed for the night. What? We had failed to account for our latitude and the date in relation to the summer solstice. Now we were in Iceland and low on gas. Even if we had a full tank of gas, we really didn’t know where we were going anyway.

We woke up in our car when the gas station opened. That was our first night on the Ring Road in Iceland.

The next day we headed out and found a cafe in house on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The parking lot was fifty yards or so from the cafe and the walk was picturesque. From there we went on to check out the sights.

We saw craters. Viti was the first was saw and it was beautiful.

Viti

We saw Icelandic horses. They don’t look like other horses that I have seen.

We went to Geysir, the original geyser and hiked way up on a hill to look at it from a far. This was also the biggest crowd we saw in Iceland.

We survived a long, dark, one way tunnel between Dalvik and Olafsfjordur. Depending on which direction you were driving determined if you had the right of way or if you were expected to yield by pulling into a designated M space and wait for traffic to clear. It was nerve racking and bizarre but there wasn’t much traffic.

Shortly after that we found a campground on a grassy hill. Every tent had every guyline attached. There wasn’t any wind but we certainly took note that they seem to expecting wind. It was warm and the grass was perfect. We slept on the ground next to our car. I still expected a moment of dusk but it didn’t happen. There was basically the same amount of light, day or night.

Mývatn (Midge Lake)

We stuck to the Ring Road and headed south. It was substantially colder but worth wearing an extra jacket.

I have seen other glaciers but this was different. It was remarkable and stunning. The ice was shiny and clean; it felt ancient and fragile. Wow!

We woke up in the morning surrounded by fellow campers. We are the second camper from the left in the picture below. Everyone else seemed to be a bit more equipped than us. What I would have given for our Sprinter and Lil Buddy heater in Iceland that day!

Svartifoss, Skaftafell National Park

Our last minute tour of the Ring Road was a success. I am sure it has changed since 2010 but here are a few things I remember.

Hotels may be hard to come by and will likely not be exactly what you expect.

Be attentive to the time of day. We didn’t see any 24 hour services.

Cheese can be eaten for lunch and dinner.

Bring a rain jacket, a winter jacket, a hat, gloves, short sleeve shirt, and sun screen.

Expect to see whale and puffin meat for sale. We didn’t try it.

People in Iceland are tough. We saw people tubing behind a boat near Reykavik. I was wearing a winter hat.

The Blue Lagoon will not be exactly what you expect.

Blue Lagoon. Notice the lifeguard in a biohazard looking suit. The weather was crazy that day!

Road Trip: Cairns, Australian Coast.

Our road trip was complete; we made it to Cairns! We ended our time with Kill Bunny by spending the night at the perfect camp site. Three or four other groups were camped there as well. It was a beach front parking lot with hot showers and all of the amenities.

People were curious as to why we had driven so far. We only met one other person that drove from Melbourne. He arrived in Cairns around the same time that we did but he started his trip four months before us. We hadn’t felt rushed. Actually, we kind of felt slow. CD walked from Mexico to Canada in four months; it would have felt weird to take that long to drive from Melbourne to Cairns but maybe we should have slowed down a bit more. I don’t know.

In any case, we made it! I felt a bit of relief when we dropped off Kill Bunny in one piece. I also felt a bit sad and lost.

Cairns Lagoon. Road trip Cairns

Daintree Rain Forest

It was windy and overcast so snorkeling and diving boats weren’t expected to sail for a few days. We opted for a guided tour to the Daintree Rainforest and were the only guests and our tour guide, Jim, was pretty straight forward and he opened up with “back when I dropped out of society for bit.” He went on to offer advice on mango wine, lemonade fruit, and commune living. Additionally, he warned us about aggressive eight foot long snakes in the sugar cane fields, cassowaries that disembowel their victims, and crocodiles that leap from rivers. The tour included the site of Steve Irwin’s death and favorite local pubs. His dialogue covered politics, religion, hot sauce, Mexican food, human rights, the environment, and tequila.

The Great Barrier Reef

We spent the next few days drinking cocktails and waiting out the weather. The Great Barrier Reef was worth the wait. It was like snorkeling in an aquarium, as far as I could see. There was an oyster so large that it felt like it was out of a movie.

We flew back to Sydney and spent a day walking a hiking trail around the city. Don’t ask me what it was called.

Here are a few things we learned during our Wicked Camper road trip to Cairns.

  • Speed limits can be aspirations more than limitations
  • Brush turkeys can be aggressive
  • Cassowaries aren’t as prominent as the signage would have you believe
  • Sugar cane fields smell like sweet corn
  • It isn’t easy to see a platypus
  • When in danger in the wild I will throw CD to the wolves and run.
Road Trip Cairns
Road Trip Cairns

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Throwback: Kill Bunny. The Finale.

We made it to Cairns! We ended our time with Kill Bunny by spending the night at the perfect camp site. Three or four other groups were camped there as well. It was a beach front parking lot with hot showers and all of the amenities.

People were curious as to why we had driven so far. We only met one other person that drove from Melbourne. He arrived in Cairns around the same time that we did but he started his trip four months before us. We hadn’t felt rushed. Actually, we kind of felt slow. CD walked from Mexico to Canada in four months; it would have felt weird to take that long to drive from Melbourne to Cairns but maybe we should have slowed down a bit more. I don’t know.

In any case, we made it! I felt a bit of relief when we dropped off Kill Bunny in one piece. I also felt a bit sad and lost. So here I was walking through this “lagoon” while eating a snow cone.

Cairns Lagoon

It was windy and overcast so snorkeling and diving boats weren’t expected to sail for a few days. We opted for a guided tour to the Daintree Rainforest. We were the only guests and our tour guide, Jim, was pretty straight forward. He opened up with “back when I dropped out of society for bit.” He went on to offer advice on mango wine, lemonade fruit, and commune living. He warned us about aggressive eight foot long snakes in the sugar cane fields, cassowaries that disembowel their victims, and crocodiles that leap from rivers. The tour included the site of Steve Irwin’s death and favorite local pubs. His dialogue covered politics, religion, hot sauce, Mexican food, human rights, the environment, and tequila.

We spent the next few days drinking cocktails and waiting out the weather. The Great Barrier Reef was worth the wait. It was like snorkeling in an aquarium, as far as I could see. We say an oyster so large that it felt like it was out of a movie.

We flew back to Sydney and spent a day walking a hiking trail around the city. Don’t ask me what it was called.

During our time in Australia, with the Kill Bunny, we learned that speed limits can be aspirations more than limitations, brush turkeys can be aggressive, cassowaries aren’t as prominent as the signage would have you believe, sugar cane fields smell like sweet corn, it isn’t easy to see a platypus, and when in danger in the wild I will throw CD to the wolves and run.

Throwback Blog Series: Kill Bunny. Part III.

Not only were things crazy outside of the Kill Bunny but it was chaos inside as well. In addition to our clothes and food, we were hauling CD’s skis, poles, boots, and winter clothes. It turns out that sleeping next to a pair of K2 Off Piste while using snow pants as a pillow is not particularly comfortable.

A hostel in Sydney agreed to store CD’s skis. It was like a weight was lifted. Now I could freely roll six inches to the right without taking ski bindings to the ribs. What a relief!

A clinking noise showed up. Once it started, it was consistent and did not change as we shifted or turned. Clink, clink, clink. We turned up the ipod to block it out but it continued. We eventually found the source. I had left the spare set of keys in the passenger side door lock. Easy fix.

By this time, we had listened to nearly every song we own. We met some people. A truck driver cleaned bugs off our windshield with a fancy window bug scrapper. We ate cheese and crackers at least once per day. We chatted with a few bar tenders and drank wine with Kill Bunny at our side.

We weren’t sure where we could camp. We slept near other campers in rest areas and parking lots but did’t really know the rules. We slept in a campground that was a grassy field in Port Macquarie.

Sometime around this we bought an atlas of free camping along our route. This book changed our lives! We had a plan and felt informed! It turns out that camping in Australia is much different than in the US. Many parking lots, fields, and town parks welcomed car campers. One our of best spots was a parking lot on the beach with an ocean view, flush toilets, hot showers, picnic tables, and easy foot access to pubs and restaurants. According to our book, we were welcome to stay there for free for up to 7 days! Wow! A couple of families with kids and a few other couples joined us there during out stay. It was the best!

Our whale watching trip was cancelled due to strong winds and high seas. We happened across a free spirited boat captain that wasn’t deterred by the weather. I called him “Captain Ron.” The first thing he told us was that his boat had a bar. The second thing was: “tell me if you feel sea sick before you embarrass yourself.” The third thing was: “hold on”. Well, Captain Ron was our guy. We boarded his boat with a couple of other people and hoped for the best. He said things like: “Come on whales, show us what you’ve got.”

Well, it worked. Thank you Captain Ron!

Twin Tails

I thought the whales were a highlight, until my mind was blown the next day. Do you know how pineapples grow? Apparently, I didn’t! Ha!

Hi from cairns!the kill bunny made it, we dropped it off earlier, and oddly enough I really miss it already. we also discovered that many of the basic wicked vans are far more offensive than the kill bunny and I am just glad we didn’t have to drive around with x-rated sayings or pictures painted on our van. (some of these vans I wouldn’t even have been able to take a picture of for this family style web page!)  we ended our time with kill bunny by finding the perfect camp site. A beach a few hundred km south of here – 3 or 4 other people were camping there as well – some totally set up with televisions, comfy chairs, and everything. Geoff was amazed at how far we have driven, since he left victoria in may and is just here now. anyway, there is nothing like free and legal camping at a beautiful beach.By the way, I have this new habit of checking the restrooms for snakes and spiders before getting too comfortable there — well, this morning I checked high and low and did not feel there were any creatures too close — then, when I flushed the toilet and looked down — an usually large frog was clinging to the INSIDE of the toilet bowl! I even had to stop to take a picture of this …. now, I just have one more thing to check for!oh – I had an encounter with a crazy killer brush turkey – these guys look like turkeys and are called turkeys but run around picnic tables acting like seagulls and instead of having beards they look like they are wearing a yellow hawaiian lei.I don’t know if I have mentioned – there are huge electric barbecues everywhere and they are similar to a griddle and used often for cooking eggs and such. also, many vehicles have snorkles and it has taken us three weeks and a couple conversations to really figure this out – apparently flooding can be quite a problem — kill bunny did not have a snorkel and would never have made it.I still haven’t found tyler – he was in cairns when I was in surfers paradise and now we are playing phone tag and I feel like we must have passed somewhere on the road this morning … we are checked into a huge hostel — the hostel experience here is completely

different from my experiences in europe – these are more “hotel-ish”, less quaint — Overall just completely different from my past experiences – but I didn’t spend anytime traveling by wicked camper in europe so I really don’t have a good comparison.The wind is at about 30 knots today and is supposed to be again tomorrow … several people recommended that we do not try to take a snorkeling trip to the reef until the weather improves — so we will gamble and try to schedule one for thursday or friday. now, I think cd is making his birthday margaritas and we will take it from there!– hopefully will get some pics up within the next couple days.

hi againall is well here in cairns. we booked a tour up to daintree rain forest … really went crazy, spent a bit more money, and went for the tour that only holds six people. We were lucky again — no one else booked that day and we ended up with a private tour … our driver, Jim, came out of his shell right away … I knew we would all get along when he started a sentence by saying something to the effect of :  — “back when I dropped out of society for a while” … we covered politics, human rights, the environment, mexican food, hot sauce, tequila, … he told us where to get the lemonade fruits and the mango wine … as well as where to get a pint with the locals … we even got the benefit of hearing Jim tell us about his years living in an australian commune. he warned me of the aggressive 8 foot long snakes that live in the sugar cane fields, as well as the cassowary birds that will use thier massive feet to disembowel you if you get between them and thier young. the sugar cane factories smell like the best fresh sweet corn and we learned about the beaches stinger nets and how a crocodile bit through one last year and the stingers came in.  we saw the sight of steve erwins death, saw the movie set where steven speilberg is now and learned about how bill clinton was evacuated from port douglas on 9-11.  we did see 3 crocs, 2 treen snakes, and a few other things …today we took a boat out to the reef finally … beautiful day for it … we snorkled on two separate reefs and three sites … kind of like swimming a huge aquarium but I did find the depth of the valleys/gorges throughout the reef really amazing … cd was happy that I did not see a reef snake, killer shark, sting ray — or a number of other things. we did see a reef shark and tons of bright colored fish …last night I ate “traditional lasgna” which was served with french fries and cd had fresh barramundi … we have learned that most of the time your cold bottle of beer is served in a coozie (sp) — how great is that … and in cairns it is illegal to take your food from a restaurant home with you … you can order take away but if you eat in they can’t give you the leftovers to take home … a foot long sub at subway is ~ eight dollars and it is impossible to buy homewade fresh squeeze lemonade here – but you can get any variety of meat or veggie pies in filo dough and pumpkin in one of the most common ingrediants in anything … don’t even think of trying to find edible mexican food … there is such a thing as “tree kangaroos” — but we did not see one … oh, and stinger season starts in november and special stinger suits are needed to swim outside of stinger nets …