Our summer month of July was jam packed with free front yards, little boy farts, amazing hikes, wildlife sightings, awe causing natural features, and the occasional evening spent watching Nat Geo.
We were busy – in the best ways. The outdoor from dawn past dusk kind of busy. The kind where you’re exhausted, but still want to keep on going. The sort of busy where you finally give up telling your nephew he has to shower because holy hell he smells like a rotten turd and just bribe him with the promise of soda at dinner time if he will just go blow off that god-forsaken-stink; but quickly, and with rationed water use, of course. Because we’re free camping and that means we’re living off our fresh water tanks for as long as possible.
As tends to happen when my nephew (Dexter) and my brother (Andy) come spend time with us, I neglect our blog. And then, when we part ways, I feel so back-logged that I am just completely unmotivated to detail our life via long paragraphs. Which is not great for us personally, because at this point, Jake and I rely on this blog to serve as much of our ‘memory’ of what we did, when, and where. We’ll get discussing a memory and inevitably disagree about a detail of said memory. The blog is very helpful for settling such disagreements. I’m always right. Which is why it’s important I keep this blog.
But, being so very far behind (It’s January of 2020 as I write this – DAMN!), I’m permitting myself some grace. This blog is combining multiple stops on our July of 2019 travels – and sticking mostly to photos with some bulleted memories.
I hope to provide enough info that I will still win every discussion with Jake re: what really happened.
July 2nd-9th: Driggs, Idaho
Where we parked Dyna: Big Eddy-Rainy Camp, a free spot on the Teton River with view of the West side of the Tetons.
- Picked up Andy & Dex from Salt Lake City Airport on July 3rd – it was a haul, but clearly worth it.
- We celebrated America hunting moose at the campground with some sparkler swords. And yes, we found a moose. And her baby moose.
- Dex worked on some serious fear conquering on the ropes course up in Jackson Hole, WY.
- The locals use Big Eddy as a put-in/pull-out for river floats. I really wanted to participate, so I blew up our lollipop inflatable pool toy and Dex and I floated. Using a broom for steering. It was fine. FINE.
- We spent a full day – from a 4am wake up til around 5pm (a 7pm return) at Yellowstone National Park. I love Yellowstone and was super stoked to share it with Dex and Andy. The park did not disappoint (is that even possible?) We all left exhausted – actually, most of us were exhausted by about 1pm – but we pushed on and saw some of the major features of the park – geysers, mudpots, pools, waterfalls, the canyon. We were treated to a Bison herd traffic jam and a momma bear with two cubs climbing some trees.
- With one day of rest and recuperation back in Driggs, ID – we headed over to Teton National Park, to do some hiking and moose hunting. We wanted Andy to be able to tackle at least part of the Cascade Canyon to Lake Solitude hike – and maybe spot a moose. But we knew that was a bit out of Dex’s hiking level for the moment, so we planned a hike that started us together from the String Lake parking lot – but split off into twos (Dex & I – Jake & Andy) at the entry to the Cascade/Solitude hike. Jake & Andy headed up into the Canyon (where they found not only moose – but also a portable, reusable pee cup which Andy apparently picked up to be a good samaritan and dispose of before realizing what the hell it was) and Dex & I rounded the lake to meet-up with the ferry boat which would take us over to the Jenny Lake Ranger Station. The wait for the adult men to return was a bit longer than we anticipated – and we had no cell service to communicate – and Dex got a bit wily after awhile. He fell asleep in the car on our post hike drive to Jackson, WY and Andy and I enjoyed some Haagen-Daz and a beer while Jake chilled with Dex in a parking space so Dex could sleep off some of his troubles.
- On the recommendation of some friends we met a few campsites back, we stopped at a hotdog restaurant in Victor, ID on the drive from Jackson back to our camping spot in Driggs. They thought it was highly entertaining – and it was – in the racist, holy hell that’s a lot of conspiracy theories pasted onto a bathroom wall, reportedly good hotdogs which are definitely over priced. I left a review of our experience there on google (I’m a reviewer guys) and got called a Veggie-Terrorist by the owner, which is the most possibly true, and awesome slander that’s ever been tossed my way.
July 9th-11th: Mackay, Idaho
Where we parked Dyna: Mackay Tourist Park, a free (for 2 nights only) city park in Mackay, Idaho – an old mining town that currently seems to thrive on OHV riders.
- Our drive from Driggs to Mackay (on the 9th) lent itself to a few pitstops.
- The World’s first nuclear plant is located just outside of Arco, ID. EBR-1 is an interesting, free stop on a pretty vacant stretch of road. All of us thought the place was awesome – we spent around 2 hours enjoying a tour and touching the touchable things.
- A few more miles down the road found us in Crater’s of the Moon National Monument. Jake and I were taken by surprise by this place’s dramatic demonstration of weird ass natural shit when we unknowingly drove through the park a few years ago. Dex has been super interested in the natural world and outer space lately, so we knew he would like this place. And he did. We all did. We did a few hikes, climbed into shallow caves (permitted) and touched lots of old volcanic rock.
- We rounded out our day by taking a good (much needed) dump at a free dump station in Arco. While I dumped Dyna, Jake, Andy & Dex grabbed a table at Pickle’s Place for some Arco grub. We pulled into Mackay Tourist Park just as the sun set on July 9th – it was a really good day.
- We spent a day in Mackay handling built up laundry (thanks Andy and Dex) while Jake and I got some work done. In the afternoon, Andy, Dex and I headed out to explore the abandoned mine trail up through the Challis National Forest hills of Mackay. We were happily surprised by how awesome the mining sites were – and also happy to be driving a Jeep Wrangler with decent tires and 4×4.
July 11th-13th: Salmon, ID
Where we parked Dyna: Lemhi Hole, a free spot just outside of the town of Salmon, ID. Kind of a weird spot – with a few characters who served as our neighbors for 2 nights. One of the characters was cool though – a character of the non-human variety: a momma Osprey whose nest sat atop a bird pole right outside Dyna’s bedroom window! She provided lots of entertainment for us.
- Well – a lowlight – Andy, Dex and I had a near drowning experience while playing in the Salmon River near our camping spot. It was hot. We were stupid. Never again. Lesson learned.
- We found a Murdoch’s store and decided to wander around it because it offered air-conditioning and now we know where to go pick up construction gear, large quantities of pepper spray, or prepper supplies. We bought a heat laser, which Dexter spent many hours using. This store is neat.
- Dex worked on learning to use the camera (the non-phone edition).
- THE highlight – Goldbug Hotsprings. Holy heck – this one is epic. We hiked the 2 miles up on 90º+ afternoon, but once we arrived, we had the place pretty much to ourselves. And temperature got more reasonable by the time we got up to wade around in the springs. It’s free, and its is gorgeous and non-smelly. This one was a highlight of the entire summer for sure.
July 13th-15th: Hamilton, MT
Where we parked Dyna: The Hamilton Fairgrounds, which apparently no longer allows overnight RV parking – but they made an (awesome) exception for us and we are super grateful. It was $20/night for full-hook-ups.
- On our haul from Salmon, ID to Hamilton, MT, we eased ourselves down Lost Trail Pass in a thunder squall. It was a little bit frightening.
- After a good hour of 15mph downhill butt clenching by at least 3 of the 4 human residents of Dyna, we decided to maybe just find a place to stay in Hamilton, MT. Except there was no place with openings. And then we saw the Fairgrounds and decided to see if we could stay there. We lucked out – they let us stay – even though they had apparently put an end to RV overnighting there the year before due to “frequent fights.” Those CrAzY RVers!
- We tackled some chores and maintenance that needed to be done. Jake, Dex and Andy changed the oil and brake pads on the Jeep. I gave Dyna a bath.
- We had some really neat evening skies both evenings we were at the Fairgrounds. One evening we watched a storm churn over the distant hills for hours – it was pretty epic for 4 humans who grew up in the East.
- We were questioned relentlessly about military ranks by our smallest gang member – which meant we spent a lot of time learning about military ranks. Luckily, we did some of this over a few beers and pizza at Higherground Brewing.
July 15th-19th: Missoula, MT
Where we parked Dyna:
- Inland Truck Parts, Missoula, for free. Except… is having to spend more time in a Truck Shop really free? ITP had to fix a leak that another ITP shop had apparently fixed.
- Missoula KOA, for definitely not free. But definitely worth it. KOAs were built for RVing with 8 year olds. We got our money’s worth for certain.
- Staying at the KOA, actually. Historically, Jake and I have avoided KOAs like you avoid dog shit at the local playground. But Dex had been begging for a pool – and it had been hot. So, we bit it and opened our wallets ($40-$50/night!!!)… and… it was worth every cent. We only left the KOA once, and that was because I wanted to check out downtown Missoula. Otherwise, Dex was in the pool, at the mini-golf course, in the game room, or riding the weird bikes from the time he opened his eyes until the pool closed at night.
July 19th-22nd: Kalispell, Mt
Where we parked Dyna: Flathead County Fairgrounds – $25/night for electric only. It’s getting to be that time in the season where we are picking up scraps of places to stay in towns with tourism… everywhere with hook-ups is chock-full.
- On Saturday we hiked 5.5miles up to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park. The hike was pretty low-key. We spent about an hour up at the lake skipping rocks and peeping wildlife.
- On Sunday, we headed a bit deeper into Glacier National Park (we got up at dawn’s ass-crack to get a parking space at the Logan Pass visitor center). We hiked the Highline Trail ‘Loop’ – which involved hiking around 12 miles to catch a bus that could take us back to the Logan Visitor Center.
- Dexter hiked the entire trail. He only had couple of moments of ‘oh shit, what did I get myself into’ at around mile 6 – aka, the point where even if we turned around he still had to do 12 miles. He was a little hiking beast. Even at the end of the hike, when his little boy feet were bleeding with blisters and we couldn’t find a smidgen of shade and we weren’t able to find any water to filter… he persisted. We just popped some Imagine Dragons on his headphones and he forged on. I am so beyond proud of him for this. But also… welcome to the Jungle, Dexter. The Aunt Liz Jungle.
- We rounded out our day of hiking with a stop for Huckleberry Ice Cream. It tastes mostly like blueberries except not as good. They are obsessed with this shit up near Glacier.
- We saw the Disney Lion King Movie – the ‘live action’ one. It was weird except for the Beyonce parts which were excellent because Beyonce never does anything wrong.
July 22nd-29th: Whitefish, MT
Where we parked Dyna: Whitefish RV Park. We booked a spot here back in March when we got invited to a friend’s wedding in the area.
- Jake & I attended Maren’s wedding! We met Maren in Rochester, NY before we all blew town for new places. It was a beautiful day.
- Dex, Andy & I did some short hiking and some biking into town from the RV park to explore.
- Dexter found out about the glory of crepes. We ate a lot of crepes.
- We spent some time utilizing Whitefish’s community art center. We painted ceramics and fused glass.
- We met up with Katie and Nick – who we met back at Upper Teton. Dexter was a huge fan. But he also “gave us some space” (his words) while we shared a few beers with Katie and Nick… and he made friends with a different group of adults at the brewery for several hours.
- An afternoon swimming in the frigid waters of Whitefish lake.
- Two words: SHARK WEEK. A certain 8 year old was STOKED about it being shark week.
- We took a rafting trip in Glacier National Park.
July 29th-August 1st: Great Falls, MT
Where we parked Dyna: Great Falls KOA. Because now we know about the glories of staying at a KOA when you have an 8-year-old on board.
- There are horses at this KOA. HORSES. Horses are heaven.
- Dexter joined an RV park kids gang. He was off riding his bike somewhere a lot.
- Montana State Fair. It was unexpectedly… small. But we stayed for a rodeo – the best part being the sheep riding. And Andy and I chose to milk a goat.
August 1st-2nd: Bozeman, MT
Where we parked Dyna: Walmart. For free. And easy access to black tank deodorizers.
- We really weren’t sure if we wanted to be in Bozeman or not, so, we decided to do a night at Walmart to see if there was anything we wanted to hang around for. All the RV parks were full, and the weather was being HOT so living in a 40′ box as a group of four without any hook-ups was going to be brutal. (No air cooling, limited bathing…)
- After a night in Bozeman, we realized we needed to head to NY and handle some family stuff. And luckily, living in a house with wheels lets us do that. So, that’s what we decided to do. A night at a Walmart in Bozeman ended our summer as a group of 4 & a cat.
- We did pop into a local Bozeman street festival and make use of their bounce houses before hauling East, though.
Our summer in Idaho and Montana went by wildly fast… and at times (ever thrown down with a very opinionated 8 year old?), epically slow. But it was one of my favorite summers. We got a close up of a growing human learning what his limits actually are – and saw him realize that they usually are way higher than he initially thought. I got to spend so many quality hours with one of my favorite adult humans – my brother. Dex beat Jake at chess once. And lost to him around 50 times. We watched from afar as our friend Scott fought through the guts of the Appalachian Trail on foot. And we ventured into new places and met all sorts of people. And while it took us longer than normal to deep clean and air out what became a rolling fart mobile, those extra few hours and extra few squirts of straight bleach were worth it. Way worth it.