Friday, October 18, 2013

rv adventures: yellowstone--tetons--salt lake city: (part 1)

A year ago my husband was on Craigslist one night and thought he'd look at RV's, ya know, because he had nothing better to do. He loves the challenge of finding a great deal (and is very good at it), and he ended up finding one--so, he bought it. Suddenly the word vacation took on a whole new meaning. It's turned out to be one of the best investments we've made for our family. (Despite living in a microscopic amount of square footage.)

We've taken four 2-week trips over the past year--though this is the first one I've blogged about in detail--per my family's request. So, if you are looking for info on Yellowstone, The Tetons, Jackson Hole or Salt Lake City, this post is for you!

This is the general route we took (we do not live in Reno, but without making public where we live, Reno was on our route). On our return trip, we dropped down a bit so that we could check out Salt Lake City. Let me just tell you that there is nothing interesting in Nevada to see. The only memory we have of Nevada is fierce winds that my husband had to constantly fight and that caused our diesel mileage to drop to 7.5 miles per gallon. Ugh.

Here are a few apps that we have found to be SO helpful in our travels (even without an RV)!

What we really love about this app is that it tells us what rest stops have a free dump station and free wireless--among many other things. 

We use this app in our hometown too. While out on the road, it will tell us where the cheapest gas/diesel is and map it for us. When we knew we were going to need to fill up soon we would check the towns ahead. We literally found 30 cents per gallon differences between towns that were located 15 miles apart--totally worth it to plan your fuel stops!

Walmart is a great option when you don't know how much driving you'll do in one day or where exactly you will end up. It's nice not to have to search for a camping location when all you plan on doing is stopping and sleeping and then moving on. Not all Wal-marts allow overnight parking, however we have found that the majority of them do. You can't put your slides out, your jacks down or camp for the day, but you can stay overnight. And because we are bound to have forgotten something that we need on our trip, it's nice to be able to make a Wal-mart run in your jammies--and no one looks at you funny for wearing your jammies into Wal-mart.

Did you know that you can find apps for all the National Parks? Yep, you can. They provide must-see spots and plenty of history to go with it!

We stayed at Madison Campground near the West Entrance. It was the only campground still open this late in the season that would handle a 38-foot RV. We loved this campground!

This was our first day checking out some steam. Our kids weren't quite sure if the water really was hot. And being the homeschooling parents that we are, we had to let them investigate. This was about the only safe place we found to do it. Just like all the signs say--it's hot!!!

Seth didn't want any part in testing the "stinky" water, so he stuck with the boardwalk.

Norris Geyser Basin

Firehole Falls

Artist Paint Pots. Be sure and take the time to see these! The gurgling of the "paint" is loud! My kids thought this was so funny (and stinky)!

These guys are everywhere! Including in the middle of the road . . .

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is beautiful!

I highly recommend this hike down Uncle Tom's path near the Grand Canyon to see the Falls. It's close to 400 stairs, but it's not as bad as some of the signs say. Our 4-year-old did it on his own and survived. It's a beautiful view!

To say Mammoth is stunning would be an understatement. This was my favorite place in the park. I don't know how anyone cannot believe in God after they see this place--who else could dream up these amazing features!?

The Boiling River was Tim's highlight. You won't find it on a map anywhere. If you visit the Mammoth Visitor Center, they have a little slip of paper with directions they will give to you. The river is about 2 miles north of the visitor center. You park in the lot and have to walk about a third of a mile to the "hot" spot of the river. Only Tim and Faith remembered to bring their suits, but the rest of us stuck our feet in. Such a fun memory!

Jackson Hole, WY is the cutest (expensive) little town! Lots of fun shops, art galleries and restaurants. And a large toy store that our kids had a blast playing in . . . no purchases were made here as everything was marked up by a third of the price. We found a gift shop with a ton of Yellowstone/Teton scrapbooking goodies--I snagged a few. We only ate out twice on our 2-week trip and both times happened to be in this town:

I read about this pizza place on a blog somewhere before we left--it was great!

We came across this place in the downtown area while we were shopping. We ordered the chicken enchiladas for an afternoon snack (along with plenty of chips)! They had plenty of sauce and were delish! I am a salsa person and their salsa was AMAZING.

Where we stayed:
The Lazy J Corral was essentially a parking lot with full hook-ups. It was 10 miles from Jackson Hole. There were only a couple of RV Resorts within Jackson, but they were twice the price (and also just a parking lot). Since we spent most of our time away from the camper, we didn't mind the parking lot (it was quiet) and didn't mind the 10-minute drive, it was worth saving so much money.

Getting to Mormon Row in the Tetons was quite the challenge after the rain. This truck is not 4-wheel drive and Tim didn't want to get stuck. As a result, he had to floor it through a few puddles to make sure we didn't get stuck. It was a bouncy ride to say the least. This was one of the highlights of our trip for the kids--I wish I had their shrieks and laughter on video--though I don't think I could have held my phone to video it well. 

The Tetons were incredible! We never saw the tippy tops of the mountains due to the clouds, but what we saw was breathtaking. One of our highlights was seeing a moose!

Check out PART 2 of our trip here--Salt Lake City.

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