We hit our 6 month mark the day after Christmas, so the end of the year seems like a good time to look back. Of course we’re already a month into the new year so before it’s too late here’s a look back at all the amazing places.
In our “take it slow” quest to hit all 59 official National Parks we managed to visit seven parks in 2016: North Cascades, Glacier, Teddy Roosevelt, Wind Cave, Badlands, Big Bend, and Saguaro. Hard to pick a favorite as each is so different. Glacier had loads of great scenery plus we could bike to the visitor’s center and little village by the lake. Teddy Roosevelt, a park that wasn’t even on our radar, had the coolest badlands rock formations we hiked on and touched and marveled over. At Badlands we enjoyed more hiking on badlands formations plus beautiful sunsets. Big Bend didn’t disappoint with its spectacular scenery and desert landscape. If I have to pick one I’ll go with Glacier because of all it had to offer with its activities, hikes and many awesome views.
We also made it to 12 other “national” sites run by the National Park Service which are turning out to be favorite stops as well. Each has added to our journey with its interesting history or beauty and I’m now on the look out for more of these sites. We visited the National Bison Range, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area, Pompey’s Pillar, Fort Union Trading Post, Mount Rushmore, Minuteman Missile Launch Facility, Buffalo Gap National Grassland, Alibates Flint Quarries, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, Fort Davis, Padre Island National Seashore and the San Antonio Missions.
Along our route we’ve passed through 10 states (WA, ID, MT, ND, SD, NE, KS, TX, NM, AZ), three that were new to me, and parked our home in 34 different places. Here are some of our favorites so far.
Best campgrounds: Gilbert Ray County Park outside Tucson for it’s spectacular sunsets, spacious sites, desert landscape views and sunny peacefulness. You can’t go wrong with saguaro in every direction! Marcus Island on Lake Roosevelt is a close second for a private, lakefront campsite with eagles swooping through.
Best campground views: Gilbert Ray for all the above reasons, sunsets at Badlands and sitting lakeside watching the weather roll in at Marcus Island.
Best free camping: Fritch Fortress on Lake Meredith and Upper Bobcat outside Winthrop WA.
Best hikes: Iceberg Lake at Glacier, Cap Coulee Loop Trail at Teddy Roosevelt North, and Badlands Door and Notch trails.
Best small towns: Twisp WA where we enjoyed their 4th of July parade and Whitefish MT where we had a great lunch and explored the little shops.
Best big town: San Antonio for the Riverwalk and Missions
Biggest surprise: Close-up encounter with a bear while bike riding in Glacier
Biggest bummer: Issues with our trailer like losing a skylight in Texas
So after 6 months of adventures on the road how are we feeling? I think we’re both more settled into our lifestyle. At first we were apprehensive each time we hit the road for a new location wondering if we would like it and if there would be a campsite open. Now we still have a bit of that, but we trust more that things will work out (of course we do a lot of research ahead of time which helps up the odds that it will!) and we know if they don’t we can move on to another spot. We’re more comfortable with not having our stops planned out very far in advance, and although we usually have a general idea of where we’re heading next, we’re open to changing our plans if new opportunities arise.
We’ve reaffirmed that this adventure wouldn’t work if we didn’t get along so well. Early on we found that living in a tight quarters magnifies differences. In a house you naturally divide the “ownership” of spaces with each of you taking the upper hand in how it is organized (or not), used and decorated. With a trailer every space is shared and you’re together 24/7. There are ways to get time to yourself and differences can be worked out if you are open about your needs and willing to compromise. For the most part we’ve transitioned pretty easily and while there were a few bumps we’re both still happy to be on this journey together.
So I guess the big takeaway is that this type of adventure requires you to be flexible. Flexible in your plans, flexible with your partner, and flexible in so many more ways. From navigating a new grocery store every shopping trip to having someone different cut your hair each time to making due with what you have on hand, there are many little details that used to be easy but now require more thought and the ability to go with the flow. And while not finding the brands and organic produce you’re used to can be frustrating, finding new favorites and seeing unusual things from different regions is fun and when we do find old favorites we appreciate them even more. And whether we like it or not, our journey has made us both more flexible, and not in that I’ll complain about it the whole time I’m being flexible kind of way, but in a laid back go with the flow kind of way.
I think one reason we’re able to cope with all these changes is that our Airstream provides the stability of home. I’m a bit surprised by how it has developed this reassuring comfortable feeling. Even though the view outside the windows keeps changing, at night when we shut the door and pull the blinds everything around us disappears from my mind and it’s like were in our own little, safe, familiar bubble. And so I’ll leave you with one last highlight.
Most memorable moment: On an evening hike in Teddy Roosevelt North as we sat sipping wine and watching a family of deer prance off into the sunset, it really hit home how lucky we are to not only be seeing all these amazing places in our great nation, but to be on this adventure together.