Tag Archives: rv/campervan travels

Van Smashed

We had the van loaded up and we had just headed out on our next extended road trip, this time up to Alberta and British Columbia for a few weeks – but we didn’t even make it out of town before this happened:

Dash cam video (warning: lots of profanity)

We were off to a very late start and had numerous unhelpful things come up that morning – and Darlene was just realizing she had forgotten her phone (you can hear her calling it to locate it) – and then… the impact.  It was immediately clear that we weren’t going anywhere now and there would be who knows how much hassle ahead to deal with whatever had just happened.

We were fine and the cats were fine. The kids who slammed into us didn’t have their seat belts on though. One ended up slamming his teeth into steering wheel, the other had his head smashed into the windshield, bits of glass in his forehead and he was bleeding at the scene. We encouraged them to go to the hospital.

So yeah, a very abrupt end to our road trip. Can’t open the cargo doors any more but we managed to squeeze the bikes and all of our gear out through the front opening under the bed to unload everything.  The van is now back up in Vancouver, WA at Van Haus Conversions where the original custom build was done.  All of the interior installation (cabinets, walls, insulation, wiring, plumbing, etc) needs to be removed before a body shop can tackle the exterior damage.  Then it will all need to be rebuilt again after the body work is completed. Plus the flooring will need to be replaced as it was buckled from intrusion by the cargo doors being crushed.

Very bummed. I can’t help but think that if we’d left a minute earlier or later we would have missed this whole mess.  But then perhaps that young driver who somehow didn’t see this big white van slow down in front of them would’ve run over that woman and her dog.  We’ll never know.  But what’s with that Volvo sitting at the green light the whole time, eh?

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Steens Mountain

Exploring southeastern Oregon, Darlene and I made our way up to Alvord Desert, below the eastern front of Steens Mountain.  We zipped around the playa mid-day for a little while and then continued north along the steep eastern front of the mountain.  As it turns out, all the roads up into the mountain from this side feature private property signs and require special permission to access, so we ended up continuing on to other southeastern Oregon destinations before eventually circling back several days later.

Kiger Mustangs

On our way back we passed through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and headed to the highlands in hopes of seeing the Kiger Mustangs.  These are wild horses which were only fairly recently discovered to be direct descendents of Iberian horses brought over by Spanish conquistadors some 400 years ago.  We did come across a large herd near the road that we could watch for a long while before sunset, even while we cooked and ate dinner.

The next day we took up the Steens Mountain loop from the north, going clockwise and checking out Kiger Gorge before finding a pullout along the road to spend the night.  (Too many mosquitos in the actual campground back down amongst the creek and aspens.)  Over the next couple of days, we checked out many stupendous viewpoints and got in a few hikes (including off-trail from the peak). We camped at another pullout near the top one night so we could more easily catch sunrise and we ran into another herd of wild horses at lower elevations.

Steens Mountain montage

After Steens Mountain, we headed home west (choosing to skip a follow-up visit to Alvord Desert) and stayed overnight in Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge where we enjoyed a soak in a hot spring pool and did spot a herd of antelope.

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Owyhee Canyonlands

On our southeastern Oregon tour, Darlene and I made our way over to the Owyhee Canyonlands near the Idaho border.  It was July and it was hot, so hardly anyone else was around.  We had to get up with the sunrise to get in hiking and exploration before the afternoon heat but it was gorgeous!  The rock formations around Leslie Gulch are fantastic as well as the Succor Creek Natural Area.  We would have enjoyed spending more days exploring but there was an incoming heat wave promising well over 100 degree weather for the coming days so we decided to skedaddle and find some cooler weather in the higher altitudes of the central Oregon mountains.

 

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Hot Springs and River Gorges

On our way through Nevada to southeastern Oregon, Darlene and I spent a couple of days exploring the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge and the Thousand Creek Gorge in particular.  Only spotted a single lone antelope but got in a bit of biking and hiking and a soak in the hot spring pool at the Virgin Valley campground.  Didn’t stay at the campground but found a spot in some nearby BLM land outside the wildlife refuge.  We also overnighted at Bog Hot Springs off of highway 140.

Somewhere along the way, on some rough and rocky side roads in the refuge, we managed to bust off our gray tank’s drain valve.  Didn’t even notice for a couple of days.  Oops!  Eventually we found enough parts to repair it about a week later.

It was also our first run using the Starlink system for internet access – working really well!

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Among the Giant Sequoias

Darlene and I loaded up the van and the cats and headed out this past week for a short adventure.  First stop was to overnight under some dark skies in the San Benito mountains for a potential meteor storm from Tau Herculids.  (There was a decent meteor shower, but no full-on storm.)  We then spent the next five days in and around Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park, hiking among the magnificent giant sequoia trees, checking out Kings Canyon and exploring the Sequoia National Forest between the two national parks.  We also attempted an extended mountain bike ride from Buck Rock to Lookout Peak but had to abort due to a failure / total destruction of my rear hub – resulting in a long bike walk back.

We came across some black bears while hiking in Sequoia National Park.

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Central Nevada Road Trip

After a week in Mt. Bachelor, and with Darlene still visiting her mom, my intention had been to explore southeastern Oregon, but a series of forecasted storms would make many of those dirt roads impassable so I headed back south and ended up on a trip through central Nevada with the ultimate goal of visiting Great Basin National Park near the Utah border. (Separate post and gallery here.)

This trip involved traveling lots of remote routes, both paved and unpaved, and finding interesting places to camp.  Along the way, I spent some time trying out the mountain bike trails near Ely at Ward Mountain, visited the Lunar Crater National Landmark and explored the amazing clay formations at Cathedral Gorge State Park.  No alien encounters (although I was buzzed by what might have been an F-22 Raptor) and unfortunately the ghost town / fossil site Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is currently closed for road repairs.

 

(If this HDR video can’t play in your browser, here’s a more basic, non-HDR version .)

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Great Basin National Park

Looking towards Doso Doyabi (center) and Wheeler Peak (right).

These are pictures from spending four days in Great Basin National Park in mid-April (with the cats, of course) – driving up to the Mather Overlook (the road was still closed beyond that point due to snow), hiking up the Baker Creek Trail and the Lehman Creek Trail, taking the Lehman Caves tour and venturing around to the remote southern tip of the park to hike up to Lexington Arch.

I want to go back sometime and do the hike to the top of Wheeler Peak (elevation 13,065 ft / 3982 m).

(If this HDR video can’t play in your browser, here’s a more basic, non-HDR version.)

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Lake Tahoe to Desert Playa

We loaded up the van and headed out last week, stopping first for a couple of days to visit with Troy in Tahoe.

 

Our intention was to travel on to the Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada and maybe into Utah but we had to cut the trip short and head home early so that Darlene could help a friend.  So we spent the couple of days we had checking out Pyramid Lake north of Reno (which is where Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River drain to) and then visiting the Black Rock Desert playa before heading home.

All of this area (and in fact all of northwest Nevada) used to be submerged in a huge prehistoric lake (Lake Lahontan) and the ancient water lines are still obvious along the mountain sides.  There are also lots of cool tufa rock formations in the area, though unfortunately much of the area around Pyramid Lake is off limits to the public and open to tribal members only.  (The lake and surroundings are part of a Paiute Reservation.)

Tufa / calcium carbonate rock formations (or perhaps alien artifacts)

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Colorado Road Trip

I’ve already posted a series of galleries for most of our Colorado road trip:

This last gallery (Florissant, Shelf Road, Flaming Gorge, etc.) contains more miscellaneous pictures — visiting the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, driving the dramatic, unpaved Shelf Road south out of Cripple Creek, stopping by the Royal Gorge Bridge, hiking out to the dinosaur trackways near Red Fleet State Park (Utah), spending a couple of days at the south end of the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, seeing wild horses in Sand Wash Basin HMA in northwest Colorado, and overnight stops in Wyoming, Utah and Nevada on my way to and from Colorado.

Old homestead at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument

On the Shelf Road

Flaming Gorge Reservoir

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Dinosaur National Monument

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we spent about four days in Dinosaur National Monument but could have happily spent more if not for the worsening smoke from this year’s California wildfires.

One of many canyon overlooks along Yampa Bench Road

 

Coming from the south, we started with the canyon portion of the park and spent two nights at the Echo Park campground.  One day was just biking out along the Yampa Bench Road and checking out many of the amazing river canyon overlooks.

The following day we turned our attention to the dinosaur fossils and petroglyphs in the western part of the park by taking a slow, rough 4WD road to the other side of the park.  (Why take the easy way around??)

At the Quarry Exhibit Hall, you can see hundreds of fossilized dinosaur bones still embedded in the rock:

Lots of petroglyphs along Harper’s Corner Road

And we had a close encounter with a pair of bighorn sheep:

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A Taste of the Kokopelli Trail

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we stopped at a fossil quarry site along I-70 near the Utah border called A Trail Through Time where you can see a few fossils still embedded in the rock:

Afterwards we chose to check out the mountain biking trails in the BLM area just across the highway. Turns out this very pretty area, Rabbit Valley, is part of the popular Kokopelli Trail that continues southwest into Utah and all the way to Moab, over 140 miles.  We just ended up riding as far as an overlook of the Colorado River that afternoon before returning to our campsite for dinner and to watch a very cool, very active, distant thunderstorm.  I went for another ride later that night after dark.

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Museum of the Mountain West

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we decided to check out the Museum of the Mountain West in Montrose after seeing it in Atlas Obscura.  Jim was our friendly tour guide for several hours and it proved to be quite an amazing collection of old west artifacts.  Very easy to recommend – check it out – but you’ll want a guided tour as as a lot of rooms are now cordoned off for self-guided visitors.  (They kept having thefts.)

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Black Canyon of the Gunnison

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we spent a day exploring the south side of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  And yes, it is an incredibly deep, steep and narrow canyon!  We camped on some BLM land just outside of the park and spent a full day gawking at the canyon from the various viewpoints, including hiking out the Warner Point nature trail.

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Creede, Bachelor Loop and Wheeler Geologic Area

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we found ourselves in Creede and immediately discovered the incredible scenery of the 17-mile Bachelor Historic Mining Loop starting just outside of town.  We camped on a spur of the loop and then proceeded to follow the historic loop and gawk at the incredible scenery.  I do regret that we didn’t choose to ride our bikes along the route instead but it was still fantastic to see.

 

Later that day we decided to make our way up to the staging area (at 11,000 ft) for the Wheeler Geologic Area, based on an entry from Atlas Obscura.  You can’t actually easily drive the whole way as the dirt road gets seriously messed up and eroded away at points requiring serious 4WD maneuvering.  (Most people seem to take ATV’s or other off-highway vehicles.)  There is also a hiking trail but that’s best done as an overnight backpacking trip as it’s seven miles just to the trailhead leading to the formations.  We opted to follow the 4WD road on our mountain bikes as they aren’t allowed on the hiking trail.  (Except for the carve out for the dirt road, this is deep inside a designated wilderness area.) Interestingly, the Wheeler Geologic Area used to have national monument status until 1950.

As it turns out, the road goes way out-of-the-way to get there (14 miles) and it both gives up and regains a lot of elevation along the way.  Doing 30 miles round trip from our nearby boondocking site at 11,000 ft of elevation with a two-and-half-mile hike in the middle to actually see the formations turned out to make for a seriously brutal day – and that was with our electric-assist mountain bikes.  It was however a gorgeous ride and the geological formations are very cool – definitely worth the effort of getting there.

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Great Sand Dunes National Park

As part of our month-long Colorado road trip, we spent a couple of days at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

We rented some rather worn out sand sleds, hiked to the high point of the first ridge (while fighting the strong high winds that day) and eventually managed to get the sleds working well enough to glide back down.

 

Sledding down the dunes

We had also planned to take the 4WD route over the mountains (Medano Pass Primitive Road) but were put off by the reports of very deep sand to get through.  We did hike up to see the nearby, cool-to-see Zapata Falls though.

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Road Trip to the Pacific Northwest


Humboldt Redwoods State Park (California)

With Darlene out in Wisconsin visiting her family, I loaded up the van with Pan and Hera and headed up to the Pacific Northwest for a couple of weeks, visiting with my brother and some friends in the Portland/Vancouver area as well as exploring a bit of countryside – while avoiding the smoke from the wildfires already flaring up.


Visiting with Corey and his family

And with Jon & Siobhan

 

Glenn and Michele then joined me in their new van for a little tour around Olympic National Park.

 
Hiking in Olympic National Park (Washington)

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