Thank you – Karen and I would like to thank you for all the encouragement and support you’ve given us in 2018. Your positive comments, messages, and emails mean a lot to us, and the financial support we receive from the sale of our books and affiliate links on this newsletter and our websites enable us to continue traveling and writing about our experiences.
In the new year, we intend to post more content on our blog as well as write and publish Dear Bob and Sue: Season 3. Frequently we get messages asking our advice regarding places to visit, sites to see, and activities to do, but we don’t always have the time to respond to individual messages as quickly or thoroughly as we would like. Going forward, we’ll strive to put more practical (how to) information in our blog posts so visitors to our website can use our articles as a resource for planning trips. We’ll continue to write our book-length works, such as Season 3, in the same format as in our previous three books.
Before we put a bow on 2018 and wish it farewell, we thought it would be fun to summarize some of our travel highlights from the year; maybe one of them will spark an idea for a trip for you in the future.
Chiricahua National Monument was the most unusual National Monument we visited this year. We’d never heard of it before we started planning our trip to Southern Arizona. Tucked away in the southeast corner of the state, Chiricahua is known as a “wonderland of rocks” because of its towering hoodoos and balanced rocks. We took the 9 am park shuttle eight miles up to Echo Canyon Trailhead (elevation almost 7,000 ft.) and spent most of the day hiking a combination of trails nine miles down to the Visitor Center. Wandering amongst spires, pinnacles, and hoodoos, we couldn’t believe what a hidden gem we’d stumbled upon.
Renting a Teardrop Trailer was the easiest, most comfortable camping experience we had all year. In February, we drove our truck to Las Vegas and rented the trailer from ruggedteardrops.com out of Henderson, Nevada. We spent the following week driving a loop that took us to campgrounds in Mojave National Preserve, Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks. There wasn’t much to the trailer other than a queen-sized bed, but when the temperatures in the desert got down into the teens at night, we were very grateful to crawl under the covers and have hard-sided walls around us to block the wind.
The Chesler Park-Joint Trail Loop in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park was one of our favorite hikes of the year. We attempted this hike once before in 2017, but after making it to the Chesler Park area of the Needles, we got turned around trying to find the Joint Trail and had to head back to the truck when we ran short of daylight. Last March, we went back to the Needles and completed the entire loop. Every step of this hike is fantastic, but especially the Joint: a slit between enormous boulders that feels as if you’re walking through a cross between a slot canyon and a cave. There are a few short ladders and some scrambling involved which made for a fun day of adventure. And a full day it was. We had parked at the Squaw Flat campground, (it’s a much shorter hike from Elephant Hill) and by the time we got back to the truck, our GPS read 17 miles.
Stayed home, worked on Dear Bob and Sue: Season 2, and tried not to kill each other.
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Renting a cabin by Rocky Mountain National Park was a highlight this year for several reasons. In the 1990s, it was the very first National Park we ever visited. Taking our kids there on summer vacations, we have fond memories of our time spent in the park. This year’s trip was special because we were joined by our friends Bob and Sue, who we hadn’t seen in three years. They haven’t been avoiding us; they moved to Detroit 15 years ago and we don’t see them as often as we used to. We picked up right where we left off.
We didn’t leave the house in June (except to hike to Kendall Katwalk on the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington State, which was awesome!) because we were busy making our final edits of Dear Bob and Sue: Season 2.
Sahale Glacier in Washington’s North Cascades National Park (elevation 7,600) was the most incredible backcountry campsite we’ve camped in, not just this year, but ever. The six-mile hike to the glacier from the trailhead had an elevation gain of over 4,000 feet, and we felt every one of them in our legs when we took our packs off and slumped against the stone circle that designated our campsite. Quite possibly the hardest hike of that distance we’ve ever done, the views from our tent were worth the effort. The road to the trailhead had just been cleared of snow and debris from the previous winter the morning we started our climb (July 23rd); as a result, there were only three other campers there that night (John and Lolly joined us as well). With only seven humans in camp, the mountain goats outnumbered us as they milled about our site.
Hiking the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska’s Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park was undoubtedly our biggest adventure this year. After two days of hiking and tent camping in the pouring rain, our third day’s summit attempt was foiled by massive flooding as the river and creeks swallowed the trail, and we became stranded at a backcountry camp. The park rangers put us up in a trail crew cabin for the night, and the next day we had a brief window to hike the 13 miles back to civilization as the waters temporarily receded.
Bison Tour – 2018 was this year’s most scenic drive with the least amount of traffic. We drove from Seattle to Montana, where our first stop was the National Bison Range. From there we drove to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North and South Units), then to Bear Butte State Park, Custer State Park, Badlands National Park, Devils Tower National Monument, Bighorn Canyon National Monument, Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Teton National Park. We saw lots of bison, did some great hikes, and watched amazing sunsets almost every night.
At the tail end of our bison tour, we hiked to Delta Lake in Grand Teton National Park, which was the most beautiful mountain lake we hiked to this year. The lake is not on a maintained trail and not on the park map, but you can find plenty of information online about how to get there. Starting at the Lupine Meadows Trailhead, the hike follows the Surprise/Amphitheater Lakes Trail for about three miles until the point where you leave the maintained trail and scramble straight up through a boulder field. At times we had to pull ourselves up by tree roots. During the last ½ mile, as we stopped every thirty feet to catch our breath (literally), we weren’t sure the lake was going to live up to the hype. Once we saw the emerald green water, however, we both agreed it was worth it.
We don’t remember much of what we did in October. There were several family birthdays, and we hiked in the North Cascades to see the larches, but the rest, not sure; we remember it rained.
The bison tour went so well we decided to do another long driving trip in November; this time we went to Utah, visiting Moab, Hovenweep NM, Monument Valley, Goosenecks SP, Valley of the Gods, Moki-Dugway, Bears Ears, Natural Bridges NM, Capital Reef NP, Goblin Valley SP, and Nine-Mile Canyon. The last stop on our Utah road trip was Antelope Island State Park just north of Salt Lake City, Utah. In an earlier post, we wrote about the bison roundup that the park conducts each fall, and we’ve probably said enough about bison for a while. Still, it was so cool to see the magnificent beasts up close. Even with a sturdy stock fence between us and them, we both peed ourselves a little every time one of the two-year-old males bluff charged us.
Spending four nights in a forest service cabin in Montana was our travel highlight of the month. That trip was the subject of our feature post last week, so we won’t rehash it here. Suffice it to say; we’re looking forward to finding other places to rent (cabins, yurts, fire lookouts) in our incredible public lands in the future.