When Travel Gods Smile – Part 1

I had lunch with a friend last week, and she asked me, “How was your summer?”  Without hesitation, I enthusiastically responded, “I had the best summer”.  Initially I was surprised by my exuberant response, but as I continued to share our summer adventures, it became clear what made the summer so ideal for me.Grand Tetons

First off, I visited some places that have been on my must see list for a super long time, and second the travel Gods smiled upon us each stop along the way.  Quite frankly, our travels couldn’t have gone much better.  Sure, we were faced with some unexpected situations, but with cooler heads, solutions were easily achieved.

Bumble BeeI usually don’t like winging our travels during the most popular travel months of the year (July and August), but circumstances had us doing just that.

The upside – without the commitment of reservations, we were able to change direction and plans on a whim, which we did a lot.  We lucked out in so many ways. This post is about our travel route and the places we camped.  We snagged some fabulous campsites that helped make this summer one of our best since going full-time in the RV four years ago.  I’ll write up the things we did at each location in separate posts.

Jackson, Wyoming – From Ririe, Idaho, our easterly trek took us back to the stunning Grand TetonGrand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  Our first visit to this beautiful National Park was in the early part of the summer, and one visit was not enough… I hungered for more!

During our previous visit, we camped at the Gros Ventre Campground, and although it was very workable, I had concerns that we wouldn’t find an available site large enough for us during peak tourist season. I also wanted something with a view.

This was my home for 5 glorious days

This was our home for five glorious days. Photo taken the day we arrived. Two days later, the place was packed with fellow campers. One night we even had a tent pitched right behind our RV.

And oh my gosh, did we have a view.  After doing a little bit of research on Campendium.com, we decided to scope out the boondocking (free camping) sites in the area.  Normally, we like to explore back country gravel roads without the 5th Grand Tetonswheel in tow, but Al and I were in serious winging it mode and threw caution to the wind.

We arrived at the Teton National Forest on a Tuesday morning with no other campers in sight with the exception of one small domed tent.  Someone was doing a happy dance!

The gravel road was well maintained until we reached the designated camping area. We navigated slowly through some very deep rutted road before deciding on a little slice of land to call home.  Later that evening, we enjoyed watching the sunset as more campers arrived.Grand Teton

There continued to be a steady stream of new campers arriving well into the night. Most were tent camping or sleeping in their cars. We didn’t realize how lucky we were snagging that site or having the ample room to maneuver until we woke the next morning amongst a dozen new neighbors.

Many campers would move on the next morning while others stayed a few days, and by the time Friday night rolled around every square inch of available designated camping land was taken up either by tents or small RV’s. We even had a young man knock on our door and ask if he could pitch his tent right behind our RV. We didn’t mind and even enjoyed visiting with the him.  We were all there to savor the majestic landscape.

Each morning, I sat in bed drinking coffee while watching the sun rise. This was the view out of my bedroom window.

Each morning, I sat in a warm bed drinking coffee while watching the sun rise. This was the view out of my bedroom window.  Free camping at its finest. It was 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside in mid July!

Yep, we got lucky snagging that site when we did and were able to call it home for five glorious days (five day max stay is posted and enforced).  Had we shown up a day later, we would’ve had difficulty maneuvering and wouldn’t have found a spot big enough for us.  Our good fortune snagging great campsites continued throughout the rest of our travels.

During travel days, we occasionally stop at historical pull-outs. History abounds!

During travel days, we occasionally stop at historical pull-outs. History abounds!

Interesting historical site - note the animal bones bottom left.

Interesting historical site – note the animal bones bottom left. Life in the west can be rough.

Since we did have a time obligation requiring us to be in Denver in early August, we ended up two stepping across Wyoming and Colorado….  quick, quick, slow, slow or other times it was more like quick, slow, slow, quick 😉

We did a quick overnight at the Yampa River State Park in Colorado

We did a quick overnight at the Yampa River State Park in Colorado

Craig, Colorado – Reluctantly we bid farewell to the Grand Tetons, and embarked on a long seven hour travel day.  As much as we wanted to linger in Wyoming, that time commitment loomed.  We arrived at the Yampa River State Park in Colorado on a Sunday evening and had plenty of nice sites to choose from.

We originally wanted to Elkovernight at the Walmart in Craig, but there are signs all over posted ‘No overnight parking’.  Al even confirmed with a store manager.

This northwest part of Colorado is known for excellent Elk hunting.  We even passed a herd of Elk grazing near the side of the road.   Could be too many hunters were trying to set up camp at Walmart and thus they ended any RV overnighting. Fortunately, the Yampa River State Park had plenty of room for us.

Rifle, Colorado – The next day was a quick travel day to a Colorado State Park I’d been curious about for years.  As many times as we’ve traveled Interstate 70 through Colorado and stopped at the excellent rest area near the town of Rifle, we never took the time to visit Rifle Falls State Park.  Now was the perfect opportunity to check out this lovely state park.

Rifle State Park - Rifle Gap Campground

Rifle State Park – Rifle Gap Campground. We’re by the water on the left.

Of course, I wanted to camp as close to the falls as possible, but wasn’t sure if that was possible.  There are two campgrounds at the Rifle State Park.  We stopped Rifle Fallsat the main park office for the Rifle Gap Campground where I was able to ask all my questions.

Turns out the Rifle Falls Campground, located further up the road, was full. Had we gone there first, we might have found it somewhat challenging to turn around.  Although the sites do seem large enough to accommodate most RV’s, they do not have a convenient turn around road set up.

Also, the paved road to the campground is a little narrow in spots.  Therefore, it turned out to be more ideal for me to drive just the truck to see the waterfalls.Rifle Gap Campground

We were given a very nice pull-thru campsite near the water at the Rifle Gap Campground. The camp host gave us the option of driving against the one-way so our door could face the picnic table, but due to winds we opted to park with the door to the south.  The next day I drove to the waterfalls for a little hiking and photography.  Stay tuned for photos on that hike!

Our next stop would be Grand Junction, Colorado.  The James Robb State Park Fruita Section is a regular stopping point for us.  It’s the perfect location for me to visit with my brother as well as get in some fabulous hiking.  Without a reservation, we knew snagging a campsite at this popular state park over a weekend would be highly unlikely, but we figured a couple of weeknights shouldn’t be a problem….. wrong!

Our good fortune led to us spending five nights here.

Our good fortune – we were able to spend five nights here.

We were able to get a site for only one night.  Apparently there was a fundraising concert being held the following evening in the day use area, and thus the campground was all booked up, but the ranger did recommend stopping by the next morning to see if there were James Robb State Parkany cancellations.

That morning, we hooked up and were ready to roll, but before doing so I stopped in at the office, just in case.

While the gal was checking the reservation book, I made polite small talk.  And then I heard the preverbal, “Sorry, no cancellations”.   Just as I turned slowly to exit with my head hung in a dejected feel sorry for me stance, the gal said, “Wait one second”.  She then radioed one of the rangers, and I overheard her ask, “Did we decide to open the group campground to the general public because of the concert?”

Our awesome site backed up to the pond.

Our awesome site backed up to the pond.

As my ears perked up, I was told, “If you don’t mind not having a sewer connection, you can stay in the group campground through the weekend”.  YES!  We even got to pick out which site we wanted.  Sweet!  Turns out this was indeed a rare situation proving once again, lady luck was certainly on our side.  We not only had a great campsite at the James Robb State Park, we enjoyed a nice concert.

Montrose is a great place to camp to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Montrose is a great place to camp to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison

After a wonderful six night stay in Grand Junction, it was time for us to move on down the road to Montrose, Colorado.  This would be a quick two-night stay so we decided to give the Elks Lodge a try.  We snagged the last electric site available.  Maybe we should’ve bought a lottery ticket (we didn’t).  But our luck didn’t end here……

LEGO Creator 31052 Vacation Getaways Building Kit (792 Piece)


60 thoughts on “When Travel Gods Smile – Part 1

  1. Such an amazing summer journey Ingrid! I’ve been catching up (backwards!) and it looks like an adventure! What I can’t get out of my head is that view from your bedroom window in the Teton National Forest – gorgeous! 🙂

  2. What a fun summer you have had! I still can’t get over how much room you have.
    And those wonderful views outside your window… fabulous! Absolutely fabulous!

  3. Fantastic post Ingrid! I loved hearing about your numerous adventures, getting a camping spot, winging it, your good fortune. And your photos are wonderful, telling a great story. Waking up with a view of the Tetons like that–wow! The spirit and tenacity that you and your husband have in adventuring across the American west is so inspiring. Great map too.

    • Thanks Jet. Those Teton views will be tough to beat. One of these days we’ll need to make it to the west coast. San Francisco has eluded my travels thus far, even though hubby lived there many years ago.

  4. Your images are always gorgeous — and you keep inspiring me to check out places we haven’t yet been. I agree it’s easier to take great photos in scenic places, but your photos are always a step beyond that. Thank you for sharing them!

  5. Awesome, Ingrid! Your photos are always amazing, and though I agree it’s easier to take great photos in scenic places, there’s still an art to it you have mastered! You’re always inspiring me to think about different places to go/stay where we haven’t yet been. Thank you!!

  6. Wow, great write up! We like that kind of travel-our summer thru Kentucky was similar. We only had a few destinations in mind then winged it. But we haven’t figured out how to boon dock. Our generator stinks up the cabin the few times we had to run it due to power outages. We get it service md yearly but somethings not right.
    Anyway, sounds like a great time and more fabulous photos!

  7. Traveling on a whim this past summer just as you did, chasing the weather and scenery proved to be so much more than we expected. I’ve always been a person to have everything lined up before a trip, and really did worry about reservations. Sure, we missed a few destinations because of not scoring the reservation I wanted, but it put us in another direction only to discover another destination just as awesome. You really scored some awesome view sites, Ingrid! WOW! 🙂

    • Our first year out, I had everything planned months in advance. Like you, we did have to change things up because we didn’t have reservations but ended up discovering hidden gems. I rarely worry any more about finding a place to camp. We always manage to figure it out 🙂

  8. Oh wow, you did have the best luck! Those sites were amazing, especially at Grand Tetons. So glad your summer travels were so awesome!

  9. Glad, Ingrid, that you had such a great travelling summer. For us, it was great, too. Well, in our case it was the autumn, though, not the summer. We finally got around to do a raod trip here in the US. Something we had been wanting to do for years, taking our bicycles with us and bicycling rail trails. We enjoyed this trip a lot. I’m in the process of blogging about it.

  10. Awesome photo of that bee! I have tried to photograph them a few times and they hardly ever cooperate! I recognized the boondocking spot in the Tetons, probably one of the most scenic places we have camped.

    • That boondock spot was sweet, wasn’t it! I have my shutter priority set to at least 1000 and sometimes 1600. When I encounter a bird, bee, dragonfly, etc. I change the dial to S and I’m ready to shoot. I also tend to press the burst mode and shoot multiple shots 🙂

  11. Lots of good luck with you two this summer:) It is interesting how things seem to workout with getting sites at the last minute. I think so many people make reservation so far ahead and then something comes up at the last minute. You certainly snagged some awesome sites! Beautiful!!

  12. In all honesty I could not decide which of your campsites I liked best, all were gorgeous in their own right. I am so looking forward to reading more on each place in a future post. As always your photographer’s eye never lets me down. Kudos to you Ingrid.

    • Awe, thanks Gayle. When faced with such spectacular scenery, I think it would be tough to take a bad photograph. I was thrilled with ALL our campsites during July and August and that’s a rarity to get so lucky 🙂

    • Since we started full-timing, this was my best summer. Loved it! For Al, not so much. He was battling an ongoing back issue for several months. Thus, I went out venturing alone much of the time and took up driving the RV a lot more. Still can’t back it up worth a darn 😆
      Now, my dilemma = what to do next summer?

  13. If we ever get back to the US…Jackson Wyoming is top of the list to see! Those beautiful photos should be on an tourist poster! I enjoyed your summer tour…hope the rest of the year is just as good.

    • Awe, thank you for such a lovely comment. Jackson remains at the top of my list as one of my favorite places and I may ‘have to’ go back next summer…. stunning!

  14. Your pictures of Jackson are gorgeous. We’re trying to decide whether to go there or to Sun Valley, Idaho next year for our anniversary, and your pictures kind of sway me the Jackson direction. Have to see if I can convince the hubster.

    • Hands down, I vote for Jackson. I couldn’t get enough of that scenery and feel there’s more to see and do in that area.
      BTW – I’m on page 89 and enjoying the story line. You are a gifted writer. I admire your story telling ability. Writing is such a struggle for me.

      • Okay, thanks for that tip. Now to convince my husband. Glad you’re liking the book. Writing is still a struggle for me as well. I wonder if it will ever get easy. Somehow, I doubt it.

  15. We love boon docking! By boat and camper. It is such a lovely sight – sometimes better than the real sights 🙂 – to find an empty camping area. We love that feeling as well. In New Zealand, the same circumstances happened for us, where basic, but free spots fill up quickly, even in the shoulder season. We got lucky there as well. And to snag the last campsite or succeed in securing one during a busy weekend is so fortunate and instills one of the most amazing, grateful feelings as well. We experienced that not too long ago in Acadia NP. Your summer truly was one of lucky encounters and beautiful surroundings, Ingrid! Looking forward to the separate posts…

    • I knew you could relate. Living amongst stunning scenery, amazing wildlife, unique smells, and incredible skies are just a few of the reasons we relish our lifestyle. And it’s always a joy when things go smoothly. I can only imagine the sunsets and sunrises you witnessed while living on the boat.

  16. Wow Ingrid, how wonderful that everything just seemed to fall into place! I am certain you soaked every bit of this beautiful scenery in!

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