5 States, 31 Nights, and 4200 Miles

On June 29th, 2017 our family of three hitched up our trailer and took off on an adventure. We travelled to 5 states, camped for 31 nights and put 4200 miles of road behind us. My wife and I thought it was great and our 11 year old son thought it was “good”. However, I view a “good” rating from him as a positive sign. It means he liked many of our activities and likes us, both good things!

We travelled to Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. We learned a few things along the way:

  1. We’re glad we didn’t select a trailer larger than the one we did, 27′. Small trailers have fewer campground limitations, they’re easier to pull up steep mountain passes with tight switchbacks, and into and out of tight gas stations. When we buy another trailer, we’ll purchase the smallest one we can be comfortable in.
  2. We love having a solar panel on our trailer and are now glad we purchased only one. When the sun is out, the one panel fully recharges the batteries by early afternoon. For fall or winter camping another panel would be nice, but the cost of a second panel is equivalent to the cost of a generator, which is mandatory even in the summer when you might experience multiple days of cloud cover. One solar panel means you’ll seldom need the generator, but when you do you have one.
  3. While camping in a trailer you have several scarce resources: electricity, propane, fresh water, and limited holding tank capacity. With a solar panel and backup generator electricity is not very scarce. In the summer propane seems to last forever. Our trailer has two 30 pound tanks that hold 7 gallons of propane each. In 31 days of camping we went through both bottles. We have an 80 gallon fresh water tank and it lasts three of us nearly a week. Our experience has been that the gray water holding tank is the most limited resource. Nearly all of the fresh water we use goes straight down the sink and shower drains and fills this 40 gallon tank in 4 or 5 days. We could of course be more conservative, but …
  4. We chose to purchase two 2kW Honda generators that can be connected in parallel to generate enough power to run everything in the trailer, including the air conditioner.  One of these generators is sufficient to run everything but the AC and we never used both on our adventure. We did connect one of them periodically to watch a movie or play a video game on the large TV. The generator was quiet enough that we locked it to the front of the trailer and it never bothered us inside. While we chose the Honda, I later found that Costco offers a very similar Yamaha generator for half the price; I should have looked!
  5. We’re glad we chose a trailer over a 5th wheel because I really utilized the bed of our truck for extra water, fuel for the generators, firewood, etc. I’m sure we would have loved a 5th wheel, but any fear we had about towing a trailer has dissipated.

When we left we had some trepidation about traveling in New Mexico and Arizona in July. However, both states have significant mountains and associated national forests. We stayed above 5000′ in elevation nearly all of the time and enjoyed reasonable temperatures, seldom if ever exceeding 80 degrees. The one exception was our three day stay in Carlsbad, New Mexico. While there we chose to stay at the Carlsbad RV Park and Campground, and while this isn’t our idea of camping, the facilities were clean, the staff was friendly and helpful, the pool was simple and refreshing, and most importantly we had electric hookups that allowed us to run the AC nearly 24 hours a day.

Our adventure was amazingly fun and relaxing. As we headed home on the last day we passed the I-70 East ramp and I just wanted to take it and continue our summer fun. The next few posts will describe each of the places we camped and the fun things we found to do there.

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

We arrived in Goblin Valley State Park in the afternoon of Thursday April 13, 2016 and setup in site 15 in a 25mph wind.

We were joined by a son and daughter-in-law and their three wonderful children. Grandchildren are amazing to watch and have fun with. When they become work the parents are usually close by! They camped next door to us in site 17 in their tent. It was very sunny, clear and warm when we arrived, but the wind and blowing sand made it interesting. Site 15 is pretty close to the site to the south, but livable. Each site has a tent space, a table, an awning, and a fire pit. The sites are very close together. In the future we would consider boondocking on the nearby BLM land.

Those 25mph winds were coming out of the South and rocked the trailer enough to wake us periodically during the night, but nothing that seemed dangerous.

On Friday we all hiked down into Goblin Valley and let the kids run wild around and on the hoodoos. They had a great time climbing and conquering these miniature summits. The floor of the valley has hundreds of these hoodoos and is surrounded by valley walls that are equally interesting to climb in and up. We made our way slowly across the valley and approached the wall on the far side. We climbed into and eventually up on this wall to see what lies on the far side. The kids did great on this hike. We likely covered 4 or 5 miles and they just kept going to the very end.

On Saturday we hiked one of the two slot canyons North of Goblin Valley State Park. I was amazed at the number of cars at the trailhead, but the hike itself wasn’t overly crowded. There were other people, but having witnessed the parking lot I was concerned that the day would be full of people taking away from the breathtaking beauty; my fears were unwarranted.

The beginning of the trail consists of a wide and dry river bed reminding us that this is nowhere to be during a rain storm. The aftermath of a thunderstorm must be spectacular, but obviously dangerous. While the stream bed is dry, water must not be too far below given the number of large trees enjoying it.

Further into the hike you come to the narrow bits of the canyon. In these places children and adults enjoyed building bridges and letting worthy souls pass. The sandstone surface makes climbing pretty easy and fun. Some places are narrow enough that with a backpack on it is difficult if not impossible to turn around. When you come across traffic headed in the “wrong” direction someone has to concede to go backward.

Kodachrome Basin State Park, Utah

We arrived in Kodachrome Basin State Park on Thursday evening November 10, 2016 about 6:30 pm and setup in the dark. Trailering makes this far easier and the nearly full moon made it great.

We stayed in site 15 that has nice views and is quite private from others. There are two nice tent spots in addition to the long pull-through.

On Friday we hiked in the state park on the Angels Palace trail that has many beautiful vistas. The hike is probably a mile and a half and very easy in most spots. A few view points are pretty narrow and add a bit of excitement to the walk.

For 8 or fewer people our site, 15, is great. Pull-through for the trailer, a couple of cars, and a couple of tent sites. For a group of 16 to 24 take sites 13 and 14. The group site is for 35 or less and we aren’t sure you can park a trailer in the parking lot.

It was fairly chilly at night this time of year requiring our furnace to run quite often. In addition, the sun is quite low in the sky and the solar panel wasn’t sufficient to charge the batteries the last day or two. A four hour run of our little generator got the batteries charged and us warm. I wouldn’t mind a second solar panel, but I may attempt to make the one we have adjustable so we can better point it at the sun.

Joe’s Valley Reservoir, Utah

We camped for five nights at the Joe’s Valley Reservoir Campground. When we arrived in the evening of Tuesday October 19, 2016 there were very few others in the campground. We chose a back-in spot with a great view of the lake. 

While there we went to see the Little Grand Canyon of Utah.   

We also went down a really cool canyon with great scenery and ancient Native American art. 

In addition to beautiful scenery and the canyon art, we enjoyed some fun fishing at Potters Pond that is about 15 miles north of the campground in Upper Joe’s Valley. There is a small primitive campground there and two ponds. At this campground a single site for our trailer is site 11 and site 6 is better for a trailer and tents.

The East pond seems to have more fish, but they’re smaller. The West pond had 12-16 inch trout that were down deep. They seemed to like a blue and black balanced leech pattern. Preston caught his first trout on a fly rod at these ponds.

Island Park, Idaho

Some friends of ours invited us to their cabin for the Labor Day weekend, September 2 through September 5, 2016. We parked our trailer on their property on Huckleberry Lane in Island Park, Idaho. They had sewer, water, a 15 Amp electric hookup, and a small fire pit.

As unsocial as we are, we enjoyed being with our son’s friend’s parents and their extended family. We met parents, siblings, and their children. It was fun to talk and get to know them. 

While there we had a guide take us to Sheridan Ranch Reservoir and the Sheridan Stream. We had fun learning how to fly fish this stream and lake. We caught a few fish and had fun.

When we returned home. we left without our trailer. We planned to return the very next week and spend some more time in this beautiful area. We returned with one of our married sons and his wife and stayed from September 8 through September 11, 2016. We visited Yellowstone National Park and enjoyed it very much.

Riverside Campground, Island Park, Idaho

Our first outing was to Riverside Campground on the bank of the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Eastern Idaho. We arrived early in the evening of Wednesday August 17th. On Thursday morning I arose, dressed in my suit and tie, and went to work at Brigham Young University – Idaho.

We fished on our own in the Henry’s Fork. When we get fishing we have a difficult time stopping for meals or anything else. Fortunately, the sun sets, ending our day. With our beautiful trailer we go home, turn on the furnace and the lights, and enjoy a great meal before retiring for the night.

Friday August 19 was our anniversary and we celebrated by floating down the South Fork of the Snake River with a guide. The guide wasn’t great, but the fishing was fun.

We stayed in a pull through campsite on the opposite side of the road from the river, but still quite nice. While there we drove through the Buffalo Campground, a bit further north, and thought the loop with hookups looked interesting to try someday.

On this trip we noticed several issues with the trailer. Several items were missing including the remote for the trailer, the remote’s charging cable, 12′ propane hose for a barbecue hookup, a hair dryer, and the remote for the TV. On the way home the refrigerator cover on the outside of the trailer blew or fell off. We returned the trailer to Stewart’s RV and they made appropriate adjustments under warrantee; they’ve been great to work with.