May 2018 – We recently took a beautiful drive with our RV on the scenic back roads of Wyoming, going across the lower part of the state on an eastbound route from Bear Lake, Utah, to Newcastle, Wyoming.
Years ago we drove a similar westbound route on I-80 across Wyoming, and that drive has stood out in our minds ever since as one of the most boring drives of our lives. So we stuck to the back roads a bit north of the interstate this time, and what a rewarding decision that was!
At the start of our drive, as we pulled into the town of Kemmerer, Wyoming, we did a double take when we passed a small J.C. Penney store on a street corner because a sign on the storefront said it was the first of its kind. James Cash Penney opened this store in 1902. On his first day of business in his new little store, could he have possibly imagined that one day there would be 850 JC Penney stores across the country?!
The J.C. Penney “Mother Store” opened in 1902.
This part of the country is a rich area for fossils, and embedded in the sidewalk on each street corner we found a little plaque that said “Wyoming’s Aquarium in Stone” decorated with the image of a fossil. There were fish, trees and crustaceans of all kinds.
Kemmerer, Wyoming, is in the heart of fossil country.
We decided not to hunt fossils and continued our journey east. Pronghorn antelope watched us as we passed.
We stopped for lunch and noticed rain drops streaking down our windows! So much for our clean truck and trailer!
We took a small detour to Fontenelle Reservoir where we were very surprised to discover that the tiny white dots on the sandbars out in the water were pelicans.
Pelicans in Wyoming?!
The reservoir was very low, so the coming rain storms would be welcomed.
Fontenelle Reservoir was so low people had been driving their trucks out on the lake bed.
We were treated to some extraordinary skies. Big black clouds loomed overhead and we could see them spilling rain onto the landscape in the distance.
Storm clouds at Fontenelle Reservoir.
The sky was constantly shifting, and the growing storm seemed to be boiling on the horizon for a while as it approached.
We ran around taking photos and soaking up the intoxicating crisp air that preceeds a huge rain storm. It was bitterly cold out, but it was too beautiful to stay inside and miss the spectacle.
We romped around and took pics even though it was extremely cold.
It might be warm in the rig, but the views and air outside were wonderful.
Eventually the storm cleared and peace reigned as sun shone through late in the afternoon. The distant shore turned a rich shade of burnt orange.
At the tail end of the day the far shore lit up beautifully.
At sunrise the colors changed again.
Fontenelle Reservoir is busy in the summertime, but we were getting delightful paybacks for our runny noses and layers of clothes because we had the place to ourselves in the pre-season cold. We took a lot of long walks and played many games of fetch with our puppy Buddy.
A large resident group of noisy marmots who live by the lake taunted Buddy mercilessly. They had dug extensive burrows with lots of big entrance holes, and Buddy was forever diving headfirst into the holes trying to get them.
Marmots had dug a vast network of burrows all over the place, and Buddy kept poking his head down their holes looking for the little furry guys.
But then we’d hear a cackling cry in the distance, and Buddy would pull his head out to see a little fellow standing on his hind legs outside a different entrance hole, his mouth wide open as he chattered and teased from a safe distance.
“Ha ha ha! I’m over here, silly puppy!”
The next leg of our trip took us east across wide open land that stretched lazily to the horizon in every direction.
Rush hour in rural Wyoming.
There were no cars ahead of us and no cars behind us for miles as we drove, and we were entertained by various road signs that warned us about the other folks that might be sharing the road.
And then, just as we were beginning to get that white line fever of boredom, the road took a turn and headed into the mountains. The torrential rains we’d experienced a few days prior had blanketed the mountains in a layer of white snow, and the storm clouds loomed once again.
We climbed from the open prairies into wonderfully snowcapped mountains.
We were amused to watch the temps drop from the low sixties to the low thirties as we climbed into the mountains, and my shutter finger was on overdrive as one spellbinding vista after another came into view.
Suddenly the road descended off the mountain pass and the snow vanished, but the dark clouds still hung heavy above us.
By the time the scenery settled down on the far side of the mountain pass we were breathless!
When I had studied the Wyoming atlas and looked for interesting things along the route we would be taking, I had noticed the words, “Red Canyon.” Even knowing it was coming, my jaw still dropped when a ribbon of rich red cliffs angled off into the distance in front of us.
Red rock cliffs in Wyoming.
A red dirt road wandered to and fro at the base of the cliffs and we wanted to explore it. But the rains had made everything very gloppy and muddy, and we were concerned the dirt road would be a gooey mess. Next time!
A tempting dirt road leads into the hinterlands below the red cliffs, but it was too muddy to try it.
Oh well, we saw lots of red rocks on the main road too.
We arrived in Riverton, Wyoming, still grinning from ear to ear after our sensational drive. The next morning we fueled up for another great day of scenic driving at a little Wyoming Espresso coffee shack. I love these little coffee outposts scattered throughout the west
Back to civilization in Riverton, we made a beeline to a coffee shack for a hazlenut latte for yours truly!
But Mother Nature decided to keep the curtains closed on her beautiful stage that day. As we embarked on our scenic drive thick fog rolled in. We passed a scenic viewpoint and could only guess at what lay behind the mist!
What a view!!! (Sigh…)
This part of the route follows the Oregon Trail and passes two sites that commemorate the Mormons’ arduous cross-country walking trek pushing hand carts every step of the way. But the rain began to pour in pitchforks and we decided to hold off on those explorations until another time.
We love taking small back roads roads like these rather than the interstate, and once the fog cleared and rain stopped and sunshine filled our views, we were charmed by the rural scenes around us. But navigating small roads requires paying close attention, and we were quite shocked at one point when the road in front of us suddenly turned to dirt.
Mark slammed on the brakes and looked at me. “Ummm… does this turn back to pavement?” He asked. I had no idea. I was as surprised as he was that it had turned to dirt without any warning!!
We decided to go a little ways and see what lay ahead, but we knew we had gone too far on the roads less traveled when we crested a small hill and saw a cow in the road staring at us.
A cow welcomes us to the Roads Less Traveled.
Oops! Mark skillfully got our rig turned around and we chose another route.
Of course, just because we were now on pavement didn’t stop the farm animals from crossing the road in front of us!
A flock of sheep wanders across our path.
At long last we made it to Newcastle, Wyoming. It had been a wonderful trip of about 600 miles on lovely back roads, and this little RV trip will stand out in our memory for its wild weather, beautiful scenery and quiet charm!
April 2018 – Bear Lake is a stunning lake in northern Utah that shimmers in gorgeous shades of turquoise, and the drive to get there via Logan Pass is truly dramatic.
Heading north towards Logan Pass and Bear Lake we drove into this view – Wow!
In late April the mountains behind the pretty farmlands were still covered with snow.
Beautiful scenery on the way to Bear Lake.
As we crested the summit of Logan Pass, it started to get foggy, and the snow crept close to the road. Soon we were driving between snow drifts.
Approaching the summit of Logan Pass fog rolled in and we saw more and more snow.
Snow drifts and fog at the top of Logan Pass!
So, when we descended the far side of the pass and the fog began to lift and the snow vanished, it was a fabulous shock when Bear Lake suddenly burst into view. Wow!!
After all that snowy scenery, the bright blue of Bear Lake was a wonderful suprise.
As the sun and clouds played hide and seek, the lake changed shades of aquamarine and a rich blue.
Caribbean turquoise in the Rockies!
Bear Lake is immensely popular in the summertime, and the communities along the shore are filled with ice cream shops and burger joints. But when we were there it felt like we had the lake to ourselves. The village of Laketown at the south end of the lake was really quiet and none of the summertime shops were open.
The reflections of snowy mountains shimmer on the surface of Bear Lake.
Long after a solitary boat passes, waves ripple in towards shore.
There were a few fishing boats out on the water, and a kayak paddled by a family of ducks.
The ducks were unusual looking.
Now THAT’s a hairdo!!
We heard the haunting cry of loons and then spotted them floating around on the lake.
We heard the loons first and then saw them drift past.
A loon shakes the water out of his feathers.
One day we drove around the lake and marveled at the beauty. Farms and occasional homes grace the shore.
The drive around Bear Lake was beautiful
Waterfront living with the cows grazing out back… Wow!
One house really caught our eye. It was the home from the nursery rhyme about the old woman who lived in a shoe! We stopped and took a long look and noticed that the walls were painted with murals of nursery rhymes. Jack’s Beanstalk ran right up the back of the shoe!
“There was an old woman who lived in a shoe…” Who knew she lived on Bear Lake in Utah?!
Farm and ranch land runs right down to the shore of Bear Lake, and as we drove with the windows down Buddy hung out the window to get a good look at the cows we passed.
Buddy checks out a cow…
…and leans over for a better look!
Early spring can bring some crazy weather, and the lake was quite rough at times. We loved the jade green hues in the curl of the waves.
The color in each wave just before it broke was delicious.
As the sun set, the sky lit up over the mountains.
The sky was on fire at sunset.
Mark put his camera down on the ground to capture a dramatic image of waves breaking on the shore with the sun setting behind the mountains. When we looked at it later we both said, “No need to go Iceland for a shot like this… We’ve got it all right here in Utah!”
Where we had fire in the sky with a bright orange sunset one night, on another afternoon the day slipped away into pastel shades of pink, peach and lavender that reflected in the undulating water.
Shades of pink, peach and lavender in the sky and on the water.
On a few occasions the water was perfectly calm, and Buddy just loved wading out in it.
Bear Lake is incredibly photogenic, and we had a lot of fun just watching the lake transform before our eyes as we snapped pics here and there.
Mark is in his element taking photos from the shore.
In early Spring the weather varied from ideal sunny days to blustery cold days to freezing rainy days. For photography they were all sublime!
During the day we captured some wonderful images of seagulls landing in the water and taking off again. As night fell the birds all flew off to roost. A lone duck made his way across the water in the last light of sunset.
Good night, Bear Lake.
At night the sky was brilliantly clear. Before the moon rose, the stars were especially bright, and we loved seeing the stars of Orion before the constellation slipped over the far horizon.
The stars of Orion (four outer ones and three in his belt across his waist) watch over the lake.
If you are traveling through northern Utah, Bear Lake is well worth visiting. The few campers we saw pre-season told stories of how lively and fun it is for families come mid-summer, but even if you get there a few months before or after the warm weather months, it is a great RV destination.
One of the coolest tools in our arsenal of photography gear is the Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head for our tripod.
SunwayFoto GH-01 Gimbal Head with Tamron 150-600 mm lens mounted on the gimbal and Nikon D810 camera affixed to the lens.
We first saw a gimbal head in action last year on the Wildlife Loop Road in Custer State Park, South Dakota, when we were photographing prairie dogs alongside professional wildlife photographer Steve Perry. As Mark and I both struggled to get our tripods positioned properly so we could follow these little guys scampering in and out of their burrows, Steve effortlessly swung his mammoth lens all around, while keeping it under perfect control, and he captured great shots.
We decided then and there that if we were going to use long telephoto lenses to capture images of distant birds and four legged critters, then we had to get gimbal heads for our tripods.
The Sunwayfoto gimbal head makes it easy to maneuver a long lens.
With an ordinary ballhead, the camera can rotate in every direction, but the part that pivots is just a small ball. A big ungainly lens is hard to control on a small ball, and it is a bit like having the tail wagging the dog.
With a gimbal head, the lens is held very securely in place on the tripod and the movement of the camera and lens in every direction is smooth and easily controlled via three different knobs.
As with the Sunwayfoto ballheads, L-brackets and tripod legs we use, the machining is very high quality on the Sunwayfoto GH-01 gimbal head. One of the things that sets it apart from more expensive but better known gimbal heads is that it is made of carbon fiber rather than aluminum.
The Arca Swiss foot on the collar of a long telephoto lens fits into the plate on the gimbal head.
There are three knobs to control the movement in three dimensions.
Another thing that sets the Sunwayfoto GH-01 Gimbal Head apart from more expensive units is that it comes with a canvas suitcase with foam cutouts inside to protect the two components. It is really nice to have a good place to store the gimbal head when it’s not in use.
The SunwayFoto GH-01 gimbal head comes in a convenient suitcase.
The two components of the gimbal head are protected by foam.
There are two parts to the SunwayFoto GH-01 gimbal head.
The plate supporting the lens slides up and down.
In addition to being able to swing the gimbal around in any direction smoothly and easily, one of the best things about using a gimbal head rather than a conventional ballhead is that you can set it up so the camera and lens are perfectly balanced, even in an odd position.
For instance, the camera can be aimed at a branch in a tree where a bird is sitting, and even without tightening everything down super hard, you can take your hands off the camera and it will stay in that position.
The beauty of the SunwayFoto gimbal head is that the camera and lens move freely, and if there is slight tension on each knob, the camera will stay in place.
Likewise, if the camera is pointed at some baby big horn sheep cavorting at the bottom of the hill, the camera can be aimed in that direction and left that way.
When the Arca Swiss foot on the lens collar is attached to the gimbal head, the collar can be loosened slightly to add another degree of flexibility. Simply rotate the camera within the loosened lens collar to switch between landscape and portrait images. Everything else stays put.
By loosening the collar on the long lens, it is easy to switch between portrait and landscape orientations simply by rotating the camera.
The most enjoyable way to use a gimbal head is to find a quiet spot where there is some wildlife roaming around and just sit and wait. When something interesting happens, swing the camera to follow the action and click away.
We had a lot of fun with our gimbal heads recently while we were camping lakeside in Utah. We watched loons and cormorants, ducks and seagulls doing their thing out on the water.
Mark waits for the action on the lake.
One afternoon the water was like glass, and Mark got some fabulous photos of a seagull coming in for a landing and then taking off. The gimbal head made it easy to follow the gull’s movements and capture the reflections with great clarity.
Now, as we neared northern Utah, we were looking for a route around Salt Lake City that would avoid the traffic and high speeds of I-15. When we veered off to the east by Park City we got a fabulous view of Jordanelle Reservoir over our shoulders.
Our first lake sighting on this leg of our journey: Jordanelle Reservoir, home of Jordanelle State Park.
There is a state park campground there that we camped at years ago, but on this trip we slipped by and relished the view from a distance.
The 80 mile north-south stretch of greater Salt Lake City from Provo in the south through the heart of Salt Lake City and on to Ogden in the north is bounded on the east side by towering mountains and on the west by the Great Salt Lake.
This makes for a tight funnel of congestion, so we were delighted to find a back road route with almost no traffic to take us along the eastern side of these same mountains and skirt greater Salt Lake City all together. Life was so tranquil on this side of the mountains we’d never guess a huge metropolis lay on the other side of the snowy peaks!
In this peaceful farmland it’s hard to believe we’re just outside Salt Lake City.
Our first stop at the shore of a lake was at Rockport Reservoir, home of Rockport State Park. We romped around at a few overlooks and beaches on the western shore and waved to the state park on the far side.
Rockport Reservoir, home of Rockport State Park.
A little further north we found the town of Coalville which has a fantastic Union Pacific Rails to Trails path that runs alongside the Echo Reservoir.
The Union Pacific Rail Trail runs from Park City past Coalville to the Echo Reservoir.
The weather began to deteriorate as we continued north, making for some wonderful drama in the skies above the farmland.
Brewing storm clouds.
We arrived at Pineview Reservoir to find the sun playing with its shadows across the the mountains and the farm houses on the far shore.
Pineview Reservoir after a dusting of snow in the mountains.
A few miles north of Pineview Reservoir is the town of Eden, aptly named for its truly picturesque spot in a valley between three tall mountains that are now home to ski resorts. This has brought a trendiness and cuteness to the village that wa evident on every corner.
Yoga – Spa – Tea – Espresso – Gifts, all in a beautiful Victorian house. Nearby ski resorts give the pastoral area around Eden a trendy vibe.
A circle of log cabins joined by a boardwalk has a cute boutique store in each one.
Behind the combination General Store and Mexican Cantina a fence around the outdoor eating area was made of snow skis, lest anyone forget that this area is a winter skiing paradise when they’re hanging out over beers in the summer sun.
Despite the chill in the air, Spring was doing its best to get underway. In one garden beautiful hyacinths were beginning to blossom, and a robin was making the rounds looking for worms.
Spring is coming!
A robin reminds us that any snowfall we get should be pretty much the last of the season!
But Spring was playing hide-and-seek with Winter, and one morning we woke up to snow. It melted quickly on the ground but hung out long enough on our RV stairs for Buddy to make some paw prints and get a taste of snow.
Snow on our trailer’s steps capture some paw prints from our furry friend.
Then the skies cleared, and the dusting of snow on the mountains flanking Pineview Reservoir began to light up.
Pineview Reservoir reflects the mountains after the snowstorm.
As we continued north, following a meandering path, on two occasions our back roads RV trip took us over the mountains separating the Salt Lake and Ogden area from this bucolic wonderland. Fog and brightly lit low clouds hung in the valleys between the mountains as we crossed over in the morning.
Clouds and fog light up in the morning sun.
We had gotten a very early start, and when we arrived in the village of Mantua it was a winter wonderland worthy of a Christmas card.
The village of Mantua was enchanting.
The town sits on the western shore of the small Mantua Reservoir, and we were delighted to find that there is a wide path that goes along its edge.
An inviting path led us partway around the lake.
As we walked along the path the views ahead of us were just spectacular.
How glorious to arrive on the morning after a Spring snowfall.
Horses ambled across a frosted pasture. What a pretty scene!
We had never heard of any of the towns or lakes on this back country route, but this particular morning in Mantua, strolling leisurely along the banks of the Mantua Reservoir, we felt like we were strolling through the pages of a picture book.
A trail wanders up between the mountains.
We made our way back to the village and were mesmerized by the quaint views going in that direction too.
Reminders of last Fall’s golden colors complemented the white snow and blue water.
As we’ve often said, getting off the Interstate and staying off it is our favorite way to travel with our RV. Some of these roads looked really small on the map, but once we were on them, the driving was easy and the scenery was eye-popping.
April 2018 – In our RV travels we love taking small roads from one destination to another because there’s more to see and you never know what you’ll bump into.
As we were towing our trailer in Utah from Strawberry Reservoir to Huntsville, we found ourselves driving through the village of Wanship. As we turned a corner, we noticed several cute tear drop trailers parked by the sidewalk.
What a cool looking teardrop trailer!
Our heads whipped around to get another look as we drove by, and we noticed two big red garage bay doors were open and a teardrop trailer was peeking out of one of them.
There was a teardrop trailer in one of the garage bays.
Did they build teardrop trailers here? We quickly found a place to pull over and walked back to see what this was all about. We noticed a petite trailer frame glinting in the sun and the company name “Escapod” on the building.
Out front there was a trailer frame waiting for a teardrop body.
Escapod trailers are ruggedly built with strong frames made from 2×2 inch steel tubing.
We’d never heard of Escapod trailers before, but we LOVE teardrop trailers. So, we went over to one of the models to have a closer look.
Sturdy, tough and ready for back country camping.
Then we heard a voice behind us and a tall, lanky fellow came over and introduced himself. He was Chris Eckel, and he had recently moved to Utah from New York to become a partner in Escapod Trailers alongside the founder Chris Hudak.
“Would you like me to open it up for you?” He asked.
The back end lifts up to reveal a galley with drawers, shelves, a high end cooler and a cooktop.
We were very impressed with the quality of the woodworking and the craftsmanship of the trailer all around.
The woodwork is top notch.
Like most teardrop trailers, the galley is in the back. There is a stove set into a stainless steel countertop, and sliding doors in the back open up to shelving. Three finely crafted drawers are set next to a high end cooler.
The stove is recessed into the countertop.
Chris explained that the origin of Escapod was the desire for a well built and rugged trailer that could handle anything the backcountry might throw at it but could be purchased at a reasonable price.
Too often teardrop trailers are either relatively plush and unsuited to off-road travel or they are sufficiently sturdy yet astronomically priced.
Escapod is filling the void of top quality off-road durability for those who are budget conscious.
The front of the Escapod is aluminum, ready for tough back country travel.
A Group 27 12 volt battery powers the rig.
There are lots of options that can be added to an Escapod trailer. The unit we were looking at has an awning, but you can even add a rooftop tent to make the trailer a double-decker and have more sleeping options than the residential sized queen bed inside.
An awning provides shade and the propane tank is easily accessed.
There is a door on either side of the trailer, and we poked our heads in to see more beautifully finished cabinetry inside. There is storage space at the head and foot of the bed, an opening hatch vent with a fan, opening windows in each door and a fixed window at the head of the bed.
Besides having wonderful air flow through the trailer for hot summer days, Escapod trailers are very well insulated for winter travel as well.
Inside: a residential queen bed, storage space with push button latches and a hatch vent with a fan.
The doors on either side both have opening windows and the front cap has a fixed window.
What a neat little package!
The foundation of any trailer is the frame, and with large fifth wheel trailers almost all the frames are made by Lippert Components. However, with small trailers like the Escapod and other independently manufactured teardrop trailers, the frames are often made by the trailer builder.
The Escapod frames are purpose-built for off-road travel in the outback.
The frame is built right here at the Escapod manufacturing facility.
The Escapod foundation includes high end gear like torsion axles, heavy duty Firestone Transforce AT tires and Mickey Thompson wheels.
Torsion axles ready for the Firestone Tranforce AT tires mounted on Mickey Thompson wheels.
While Chris Eckel told us all about the Escapod teardrops, we saw Escapod’s founder, Chris Hudak, hard at work welding a new frame.
Escapod founder, Chris Hudak, welds a frame.
A nearly finished Escapod teardrop was in the next bay. Escapod builds two trailers a month, and each one is built to order for a particular customer. When we visited in April they had trailers on order through July, so the wait for a new trailer was about 3 months.
Although all Escapod trailers have the essential basics in common, Chris works with each buyer to understand exactly how they intend to travel with their trailer, and they discuss which options will make the most sense for their particular needs.
Somewhere out there an excited buyer is eagerly waiting for this Escapod to be finished!
The GVWR for an Escapod trailer is 3,500 lbs, and the basic model with a few options and a full 20 gallon water tank is just 1,500 lbs. So you have a whopping 2,000 lbs of Cargo Carrying Capacity to work with, making it easy to carry a kayak or bicycles or a rooftop tent system on top or load up the cupboards and cooler with anything that might be needed on a camping trip.
These tough little teardrop trailers can take you anywhere you want to go.
Folks who live in relatively gargantuan fifth wheel trailers like our 36 footer may raise an eyebrow at the idea of doing any kind of long term travel in a teardrop trailer. However, it’s feasible. Last year at Sturgis Bike Week we met a man who designed his own teardrop trailer that he could tow with his motorcycle. It had a twin bed inside. He had lived in it for nine years and was truly loving life!
Home for nine years to a very happy motorcycle camper!
The Escapod motto, “Born in Utah. Bred for Adventure. Tow and Behold” invites customers to go boondocking with their trailers out on America’s public land down remote and precarious dirt roads that those of us with big fifth wheels would never dare try.
And you can go for weeks at a time. Chris told us he took his girlfriend on a six week trip all around the back roads of the west in an Escapod last year and they had a blast.
A hot water heater and shower nozzle hookup are possible, but a solar shower bag is also a great way to go. We used one on our sailboat all through our Mexico cruise on days we’d been at anchor so long that our engine heated hot water was no longer hot.
Born in Utah. Bred for Adventure. Tow and Behold!
The Escapod we looked at came in at just under $14,000, a remarkable deal for a quality trailer. For those who are worried about such a big purchase, Escapod has several teardrops available for rent so folks can try before they buy. Even better, they have plans down the road to build rental fleets and partner with outdoor outfitters in America’s most beautiful locations.
We are so tickled we bumped into Escapod as we rounded the bend in Wanship, Utah. What a neat discovery!
Chris Hudak (left, he’s the founder) and Chris Eckel (right) and canine camping companion Milo
It turns out that Trailer Life recently did a fabulous article surveying the many teardrops that are being built today. The article is here: Tiny Trailers: New Era Teardrops. Escapod is the third teardrop in the list under a fabulous photo of an Escapod in Utah’s red rock country.
Unlike the market for larger travel trailers and fifth wheels that has less than a handful of independent builders and is dominated by a few conglomerates, teardrop trailers are the wild west of trailer building. Independent builders are staking claim to portions of this unusual market and building trailers to suit their special niche. How fun!
April 2018 – We left Goblin Valley State Park with big smiles on our faces, but a layer of sand covered everything in the RV! It was time to get away from the dusty desert.
Starvation Reservoir, Utah. Windy, but not dusty!
The fun thing about getting away from the red rock hot spots that are so popular in Spring and going into the greener, more mountainous areas that are filled with RVers come summer, is that we can get ahead of the crowds.
As we headed towards northern Utah, we found ourselves so far ahead of the season that at the interestingly named Starvation Reservoir one campsite’s picnic table was awash in waves!
Pre-season camping sometimes involves unusual situations like waves breaking over the picnic table!
But it was at Strawberry Reservoir where we found true beauty and solitude. This fabulous and enormous lake is surrounded by campgrounds that are filled with weekenders and vacationers in the summer, but when we arrived in April all we found was closed campgrounds and a vast sheet of snow covered ice!
Strawberry Reservoir was completely iced over with snow on top!
Strawberry Reservoir, Utah – The whole lake was iced over.
It was absolutely beautiful, and we did a slow drive all through the park. The roads weren’t all open, so we had to turn around before seeing everything, but how cool it was to be the only souls there.
The ice was melting along the shoreline, creating beautiful patterns of white and blue.
There was a thin strip of by the shore.
Despite the melting ice by the shoreline, there was snow on the mountains and a wonderfully brisk chill in the sun-filled air.
Some herons and other water birds were fishing at the shore.
Birds fish by the shore.
And a brave ice fisherman was set up at a fishing hole carved through the ice in one of the coves!
An ice fisherman waits patiently by a hole in the ice.
There are boating and camping facilities along the shores of Strawberry Lake, and we drove down to Strawberry Bay Marina. There wasn’t anyone around, although the buildings looked like they must be full of life and activity in the summertime.
The floating docks had been pulled up into the parking lot for the winter. and Buddy hopped up on them and had a look around.
These docks will be floating in the lake soon.
At the Strawberry Reservoir Visitor’s Center there’s a nice little nature trail on a boardwalk that runs alongside the Strawberry River and crosses it a few times on the way to a fish hatchery. The Visitor’s Center wasn’t open, and when we first took a look in the morning, the boardwalk was covered frost.
The boardwalk on the nature trail was frosted over when we first stopped by.
When we returned a little later, the frost had melted and we took a walk through some very pretty scenery.
Frost-free by afternoon, we enjoyed this brief elevated nature walk.
Several bridges crossed the Strawberry River.
There wasn’t a soul around, and the fish holding pens at the fish hatchery had been drained for winter. But then we noticed a car parked in a dirt lot and saw a fellow emerge from a doorway. It turned out he was a Fisheries Biologist who works at the reservoir year round studying the fish and managing the stock.
We had a fascinating conversation about fish and fish management, and he described the long term study he had been working on.
It struck me that this isn’t a bad place to work collecting fish lifestyle data and helping the fish thrive, even if it is a little remote and very cold in mid-winter!
There are three primary fish species in Strawberry Reservoir that live at different depths: Cutthroat and Rainbow Trout and Kokanee Salmon.
I was surprised to learn that, when they are ready, the fish migrate out of the reservoir and up the Strawberry River towards the hatchery at night rather than during the day. When they sense the electric field of an electric fence they make the turn that takes them into the hatchery!
Spawning fish swim up the Strawberry River overnight and are then guided to the fish hatchery.
Bushes in the landscape all around the Strawberry River and Reservoir were a beautiful golden hue, and the Fisheries Biologist explained that these were willows that had been planted in huge numbers all around the area to help with erosion.
Willows planted to stave off erosion erupt in golden tones in the afternoon.
What we loved was the way these willows lit up our photos. What gorgeous colors!
Strawberry Reservoir is undoubtedly a fantastic Utah destination to visit for boating and fishing during the warmer months of summer. And even though it’s 7,200′ elevation makes it slow to warm up in the Spring, it is still well worth a stop to see the beauty of the lake when it is iced over and the surrounding mountains are covered in snow!
It wasn’t camping season yet, but our stop at Utah’s Strawberry Reservoir was very rewarding!
April 2018 – Goblin Valley State Park in Utah is a filled with exotic red rock formations known as “hoodoos” that look for all the world like little people, martians and goblins, and it is a favorite with kids and families because it is one gigantic playground.
Goblin Valley is a great place for a family camping trip!
11 years ago we visited Goblin Valley State Park as new full-timers in our 27′ travel trailer and loved it!
It is located a little away from the concentration of red rock beauty in southern Utah but is an easy detour from I-70 when you’re heading east-west between Utah and Colorado. However, our travels hadn’t taken us in that direction since our first visit in 2007 (blog post here). When we pulled into the area we stopped and let our new pup Buddy out, and we all soaked in the dramatic scenery — just gorgeous!
Buddy checks out the fabulous scenery.
There are wonderful trails to hike or bike on.
What a place to ride!
The most famous and iconic part of Goblin Valley State Park is the Valley of the Goblins amphitheater where all the hoodoos stand in a tight huddle, but we decided to do the Goblin’s Lair hike before venturing into the valley of hoodoos.
The Greeters welcomed us to Goblin Valley State Park. They are also known as the Three Judges, the Three Kings or the Three Sisters!
The Goblin’s Lair hike shares a trail with the Carmel Canyon hike until the two trails fork and the path to Goblin’s Lair takes a right to go around the outside of the hoodoo amphitheater. Here the land is wide open and vast, carved by the massive earth moving forces of Nature, wind and water.
A 24-hour hair whipping wind storm had just swept through Goblin Valley, and the dust had been swirling so thickly in the air we had to stay inside for an entire day while our trailer got sandblasted.
When we finally ventured out on the Goblin’s Lair hike the next day, the air was so heavy with dust you could taste it on your tongue and feel it on your lips.
So, we didn’t have the iconic bright blue sky and crisp colors that set off the red rocks in famously dramatic fashion, but the whole atmosphere was wonderfully ghostly and ghoulish.
With dust providing a ghoulish haze, hikers head out on the hike to Goblin’s Lair.
The trail has several promontories that are fun to walk out on.
The scenery dwarfs us.
The best way to see Goblin Valley is with kids. Since we didn’t have any kids or grandkids with us, we were delighted to find ourselves sharing the trail with a bunch of families both ahead of us and behind us.
It was Spring Break for the local Utah schools and all of Goblin Valley was teeming with kids. As we started down the trail we heard them excitedly running around and calling out to each other. “Sand, wonderful sand!” one boy said as he scooped up a huge handful of soft pink sand worthy of the best tropical beach and let it fly.
Solitary boulders stood here and there.
We stopped to trade selfies with some other hikers and then began the ascent up towards Goblin’s Lair.
Hiking up to Goblin’s Lair
There is a bit of a scramble in the last part of the climb to Goblin’s Lair, but all the grandmas and grandpas made it while their grandkids cheered them on from the top.
Looking down at hikers scrambling up to Goblin’s Lair
The lair itself is a big cave, and smart hikers who have read the literature before they start hiking bring flashlights with them. Those of us who just saw the sign “Goblin’s Lair” in the parking lot and started hiking right away ’cause it sounded cool arrived at the cave without one!
The crowd at the cave entrance was sizeable. More people kept scrambling up the trail behind us, and we all kept shifting positions perched on the craggy rocks at the top to make room for the new arrivals. Mark and Buddy slithered to the front and took a peek in the cave and said “Wow!” and then we started back down to make room for others coming up.
We took our time hiking back and saw people peering down at us from the towering red rock cliffs. They had climbed up on the cliffs from the crowd of hoodoos on the other side in the Valley of the Goblins.
A hiker on the edge of the Valley of the Goblins looks down at us.
Solitude in the red rocks with snow in the distance.
The hike is three miles round trip, and even though the sun was filtered through the dust in the air, it was getting warm. So, one of us found a bit of cool shade under a rock and took a break.
Buddy takes a load off in the shade.
The Valley of the Goblins is the main attraction at Goblin Valley State Park, and you can look down into it from many overlooks at the parking lot before you head on in.
Valley of the Goblins with snowy peaks in the distance.
Hoodoos stand cheek-by-jowel in the Valley of the Goblins inviting kids of all ages to climb on them.
There is no real hiking trail, just a million goblins standing together waiting for kids to come and play on them.
There’s no specific trail in Valley of he Goblins — you can just run anywhere have a ball!
Goblin Valley is a fabulous natural playground.
The shrieks of excitement from the kids as they climbed up to the tops and yelled to their friends and parents down below was infectious.
There were kids all over the rocks — how fun!
Even kids of the canine variety were having fun climbing the hoodoos in Goblin Valley!
The last time we were here we hunted for recognizable shapes among the hoodoos and found space ships and martians and turtles and ducks. That’s the fun of this place. It’s a natural playground for kids of all ages. Your imagination is set free and you can run and climb as much as you want.
Or, you can just take photos, and we got a kick out of that too.
Out in the middle of it all a hiker captures the scene on his cell phone.
Goblin Valley is a very fun place to get creative with a camera.
A triangular window.
Goblin Valley State Park is a Utah treasure that would easily be declared a National Park if it were located in a less scenic state, and we’ll definitely be back again.
Coming back to Goblin Valley after all these years was a blast!
April 2018 – Utah Scenic Byway 24 between the towns of Loa and Hanksville goes through Capitol Reef National Park and is one of the most spectacular scenic drives in America. We have been fortunate to drive it several times in each direction, and every single time our jaws have hung open for the entire 64 miles as we’ve been utterly blown away by the dramatic scenery and wild rock formations passing by our windows.
Here’s a series of photos showing how it looked from the passenger seat of our truck as we towed our trailer across the magical wonderland of Capitol Reef Country from west to east.
It started with a lovely view of red rocks as we rounded a bend.
Our first big red rocks view begins to take shape on Utah’s Scenic Byway 24
Then our eyes popped open as the contours and texture of the land grew bigger and more complex.
Suddenly, we started down a hill and the view exploded in front of us and became knock-your-socks-off stunning!
Wow, Wow, WOW!
A group of horses and cows live in this view all day every day, so they weren’t quite as impressed.
But we were loving every minute as we drove head on into that view.
View out the side window.
Utah Byway 24 is easily driven in an RV, even though there are lots of twists and turns and climbs and descents, and we saw plenty of RVs on the road.
There are lots of RVs on this route.
The road curves, climbs and descends, but it’s easy driving. Just don’t get too distracted by the sensational views and drive off the road!
The red rock views just kept coming and coming and coming.
The heart of Capitol Reef National Park is an old Mormon farming community called Fruita. As we drove past the village on Utah Highway 24, we noticed that the trees were still showing off their nakedness for winter. However, on other spring and summer visits, we’ve seen these trees lit up in brilliant shades of green that are the perfect visual contrast to the red rocks and blue sky.
These trees turn vivid green in spring!
Trees line the road near Fruita.
Fruita is a beautiful and tranquil little community, and there are camping options, a fantastic scenic drive into the depths of the red rocks, and some terrific hikes to historic Mormon sites. We have a detailed blog post about some of the highlights of Capitol Reef National Park and the town of Fruita from our visit a few years back (blog post here).
However, on this trip we were just driving through on Utah Highway 24. So, on we went, reminiscing when we passed some favorite spots and then quickly becoming immersed in the majestic scenery of Utah Scenic Byway 24 once again.
We had left red rock country behind and were now driving between rock walls that Mother Nature had painted in lighter shades.
We’d left the red rocks but were still surrounded by dramatic canyon walls.
There were still some hints of red rocks here and there, and we were mesmerized as we drove. A UPS truck went by in the opposite direction and we had to laugh. Surely, that driver has the best UPS route in the country!
Not bad scenery for the few lucky folks who have to drive this route for work every day!
Gradually, the soaring rock walls on either side of us receded, and the land opened up, punctuated by occasional towers of stone.
Then the rock formations changed shape and the rock walls were filled with steep and angular channels that were carved with Nature’s sharpest chisels.
Fine chisel work…
We were no longer in Capitol Reef National Park, but the landscapes in Utah pay no attention to such artificial boundaries. Utah Scenic Byway 24 was still giving us a magic carpet ride through some of the most exotic scenery America has to offer.
Massive rock uplifts make faces.
The chiseled walls returned, but the cows grazing underneath didn’t notice.
Dinner with a view!
A pink tree shows off its springtime finest.
As we neared the hamlet of Hanksville, the road took a few final sweeping turns past some walls of stone.
And then, in a final burst of glory, we passed a “mitten” rock formation that seemed to be advertising some of the other wonders of America’s southwest. “If you liked this road, you should check out Monument Valley!” it seemed to be saying.
A mitten formation reminds us of Monument Valley.
What a glorious drive that was! I looked over at Mark to exchange happy glances and did a double take. Hey, who was doing the driving?
We will never tire of driving the many wondrous scenic drives in Utah, and Utah Scenic Byway 24 is well worth experiencing many times in both directions. It attaches to Scenic Byway 12 and the fabulous Bicentennial Highway and is close to the little known Burr Trail too.
Even if your itinerary doesn’t include visiting Capitol Reef National Park for its hikes and camping, if you happen to be in southern Utah, treat yourself to an east-west detour and spend a few hours driving Utah Scenic Byway 24!
March 2018 – We love getting off the beaten path in our travels, and as we headed north from Arizona in our seasonal migration this year, we looked for new treasures and new routes through Nevada and into Utah.
Our first detour at Katherine Landing in Arizona took us to a beautiful overlook on Lake Mohave.
We had driven the North Shore Road alongside Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas last fall (blog post here), and we had been smitten by the beauty and quiet we found along the way. So in our Spring migration we drove back up that route, but this time we drove down as many of the tributaries leading to the Colorado River and its two lakes in the area, Lake Mohave and Lake Mead.
Before reaching Lake Mead, we drove along the east side of the Colorado River in Arizona and discovered beautiful Willow Beach Marina and Campground.
Wildflowers at Willow Beach, Arizona
Tucked into a bend in the Colorado River where the rugged mountains loom up on either side, Willow Beach has a marina for boaters and a pretty campground for RVers. We loved the views from the overlooks and found that some of the sites in the campground have spectacular views too.
Willow Beach has a big marina…
…and a campground.
US-93 doesn’t offer too many views of the Colorado River as it runs between Kingman, Arizona, and the outer eastern edges of the Las Vegas suburbs, but one scenic overlook just north of the Willow Beach turn-off was lovely.
A glimpse of the Colorado River in Arizona at sunset.
We didn’t have a sunny day for our drive along Lake Mead’s North Shore Road in Nevada, but it was striking and dramatic nonetheless.
The North Shore Road around Lake Mead east of Las Vegas has some great views.
At times the landscape was filled with red rocks.
Driving into the red rocks.
There are lots of pullouts on the North Shore Road and quite a few hiking trails as well. We stopped at several and hiked up to dramatic vistas overlooking the otherworldly land.
Layers of color in the landscape.
There are lots of pullouts and some fun hikes along the North Shore Road.
The tiny ribbon of road is almost lost in the sea of red rock ripples.
There was very little traffic on the road, but we weren’t the only RVers!
In addition to dozens of pullouts and hikes along this route, including some that go back to natural springs (very cool!), there are also quite a few turn-offs that go down to the water’s edge.
Lake Mead, Nevada.
Like all the desert lakes that have been created from wild rivers in the West, the places where the desert meets the water around Lake Mead are stunning, and we loved photographing all we saw.
Magical light at the golden hour on Lake Mead as a storm threatens in the distance.
Before the landscape was filled with river water to make Lake Mead, there were deep canyons and washes everywhere. These became islands and peninsualas when the Colorado River water rose, and today there are endless coves and promontories all around the lake.
The water in Lake Mead is well over 100 feet below where it was intended to be when the lake was created. The water height fluctuates a little through the seasons each year depending on rainfall in the desert, snowfall in the mountains and water releases at the various dams upstream.
One fascinating effect of all this water management is the plethora of sea shells everywhere. Piles of clamshells and crustaceans can be found half a mile from the water’s edge! By the same token, lots of trees and bushes wind up immersed in water for a season or two.
We loved the ripples in the sand under the water.
Buddy romped all over the place. We’ve discovered he loves climbing rocks and he’s very good at it too. Naturally, our cameras clicked away. What a shock it was to look at one of our photos later and see the big fish swimming by him in the water!
Nevermind the dog. Look at that fish!
Sunrises and sunsets were especially beautiful in this exotic land.
Sunset at Lake Mead.
We wanted to go to Valley of Fire State Park, a fabulous little jewel in southern Nevada. We had been twice before (blog posts here and here), and we had loved every minute of those visits, but the last one had been nine years ago.
Both times we had gone during the first week of October and there had been plenty of room in the campground for folks without reservations. Not so this time during the Utah schools’ Spring Break. There was no room at the inn. Darn!
Studying our atlas of southern Utah, we decided to try a route we had never driven before. This led north from Littlefield up towards Gunlock State Park, well away from the heavily traveled south-to-north routes that go into Utah’s most dramatic red rock scenery.
But there were still some glorious views to be seen!
Red rocks fill our views on the way to Gunlock State Park, Utah.
Gunlock State Park has a small campground on the edge of the water with pretty views of the small lake.
Gunlock State Park embraces Gunlock Reservoir, a small lake.
The campground was vacant except for one fifth wheel perched on the edge of the reservoir next to a staircase leading down to the water.
What a spot!
One thing we just love about wandering through rural regions, going from one village of 2,000 residents to the next, is that each town has its own flavor and claim to fame. When we arrived in Veyo, Utah, and pulled into the gas station to fuel up, we noticed a huge red sign across the street telling us, “You have reached your Pie Desination!”
All Right!! We hadn’t even known a Pie Destination was on our itinerary!
Mark is a big pie lover, and I hold my own too, so we made a beeline over to Veyo Pies to sample their chicken pot pie for lunch and take home a blueberry pie for dessert. Yum!
Mark the Pie Man found his Pie Destination (even though he wasn’t looking!).
Nearby, we stopped at Baker Dam to play along the edges of the small lake. Baker Dam Campground was chock full with families for the local Utah schools’ Spring Break, but the sunset views along the river were very pretty.
Sunset during the full moon at Baker River.
It is always a gamble in the spring to leave the growing warmth of the southwestern deserts and head north into the mountains. As we continued towards Cedar City we got our first glimpse of snowcapped peaks.
In early spring the mountains were still capped in snow.
The nights grew cold and we had to dig out an extra blanket, but the views during the days were worth it!
Continuing north on secondary roads, we stopped at a few Recreation Areas along our route. Only a few intrepid RVers and fishermen in winter jackets and hats were out enjoying them.
In a month these places would start to get busy, but at this early season they were very quiet.
In true Spring fashion, Nature teased us with some beautiful warm sunny days in between chilling reminders that Old Man Winter hadn’t retired just yet.
We swung through the tiny hamlet of Minersville, stopping briefly at Minersville Recreation Area, and continued on through to Beaver. Portions of our route through Utah had followed the Old Spanish Trail which is marked in many places with large metal cutouts of riders on horseback.
We saw metal cutouts like these in several places along the Old Spanish Trail.
If you are heading out of Arizona to points north, consider trying a route that includes one or several of these smaller roads instead of battling it out with the big rigs on I-15!
April 2018 – A few weeks ago we had the extraordinary experience of creating a video with a professional video production crew for Camping World as part of their new YouTube campaign, “RVing is for Everyone.”
We spent an exhilarating three days with the Isaac Aaron Media crew shooting for Camping World.
The casting call came out of the blue, and we weren’t sure what to expect.
It turned out to be three very thrilling, very long and very full days of quasi-acting and interviews that resulted in a beautiful and inspiring five and a half minute video that captures the spirit of our RV life perfectly. The video is included at the end of this article.
The video crew, Isaac Aaron Media, was a team of five who flew out from North Carolina to join us in Arizona. We suggested a few places where we could film in the Phoenix area, and they took it from there to decide on the camping locations and tourist attractions for filming.
Isaac Aaron led the team filming us
Isaac Aaron and his wife Jessica Piche are the founders and owners of Isaac Aaron Media. Their skilled camera crew were videographers Justin, Byron and Ben.
These guys know quite a bit about the RVing life. Isaac and Jessica own a motorhome, and Justin renovated and lived in a vintage travel trailer for over a year.
“Rolling!” Justin renovated and lived in a vintage travel trailer.
Byron was seeing the West in depth for the first time and loving every minute of it. He handled all the mobile video work during the shoot, carrying a camera on a cool gimbal system and walking around (often backward!) to give the video movement.
But when the video crew arrived, it was clear that the scenery would work really well for the images they wanted of us enjoying the RV life.
As soon as the crew unloaded their gear at our campsite, Byron headed out to the big grassy area behind our trailer and on down to the lake to begin getting scenery shots.
Byron filmed the pretty scenery at Canyon Lake Marina and RV Park.
The crew told us to just “do whatever you always do.” We had been playing with our new puppy, Buddy, in the grass, so we continued doing that. Suddenly, there were three cameras on us from different angles, and the video shoot had begun.
The entire video was unscripted. However, the director, Jessica, had a clear idea in her mind of what the team was creating. She asked us to walk over to a picnic table and sit down and admire the view as the crew filmed us.
She wanted the video to be authentic, and I had explained to her that we are photographers and that what we do in our RV life is take photos all day every day. She was fine with that. So, as the crew shot video of us, we took still images of everything around us!
I put Buddy up on a rock to get a photo of him with Canyon Lake in the background. As I clicked off a series of images, the video cameras rolled. Afterwards, when Jessica was going through the video footage, she emailed me with wonder, “How did you get Buddy to stay still on the rock like that?” I don’t know. I just put him there, said “Stay!” and he stared back at me while I took his portrait!
Buddy happily poses for me on a rock.
As we were goofing off by the shore, Mark got the idea to lure the resident flock of ducks over to us. These ducks know human actions well, so even though he didn’t have any bread for them, when he tossed a few pebbles in the water they came right over. And the video cameras rolled!
To show the nuts and bolts of the RV life, the crew wanted a few sequences of us breaking down and/or setting up camp. So, they asked us to pack up the trailer and do all the things involved in getting hitched up just like we normally do.
Cameras were on both of us as we folded up our camping chairs, and then cameras were on me as I washed the dishes and packed up the interior and cameras were on Mark as he mounted the bikes on the bike rack and put away the patio mat.
The video crew shot scenes of us packing up our rig.
The Apache Trail (Route 88 from Apache Junction to Roosevelt Lake), is one of the most stunning scenic drives in Arizona, and the plan was to capture images of us towing the trailer on this incredible winding road between Canyon Lake and Lost Dutchman State Park.
Until Mark and I drove the Apache Trail out to Canyon Lake a few days prior to the camera crew’s arrival, none of us had realized that the entire road was under construction, complete with cones in the road and big machinery working. Much of the road had been stripped of asphalt and was dirt too!
We would never advise driving a big rig on the Apache Trail without scouting it first, even when it is paved and free of construction crews, because there are tight switchbacks and lots of 15 mph turns with sheer drop-offs and no guard rail. Fortunately, Mark and I both know the road very well because we used to race our bicycles on it years ago!
We hopped in the truck to begin towing our trailer and suddenly discovered there was a video camera hanging from our rearview mirror! Any swearing at the challenging road conditions or crazy drivers would be caught on film (ahem, some of it may have been!).
We got in our truck to find a video camera mounted on our rear view mirror!
The video crew had hired a photography location scout, Alan Benoit, to help them with finding locations to shoot and to give them advice on where the best turnouts would be along the Apache Trail so they could to set up their cameras to capture our rig driving by. He gave them all kinds of pointers and also drove ahead of us in his own car so he could open up a gap in front of us and ensure there would be no cars ahead of us as the video cameras rolled.
The video team fanned out to different locations along the route to catch us at various bends and curves in the road, and we got a kick out of seeing them as we drove past.
Byron gets a shot of us rolling by in our rig.
The Apache Trail between Lost Dutchman and Canyon Lake is about 11 miles long, so we pulled over a few times to allow the video crew to drive ahead and get set up in new positions to wait for us. We had radios for communication between all the vehicles because there isn’t any cell service out there!
Once the video crew had captured a bunch of scenes of us driving, including going under one of the trestle bridges on the route, we unhitched and dropped the trailer off in a pullout so we could all drive back to Tortilla Flat for lunch. Tortilla Flat is a very popular restaurant offering both indoor and outdoor seating and live music most afternoons.
We check the menus at Tortilla Flat, a fun western themed restaurant on the Apache Trail.
Tortilla Flat has a funky vibe and there’s an old toilet seat hanging up on the porch where you can get a framed selfie.
We were filmed boarding the Dolly Steamboat before our memorable cruise on Canyon Lake.
Once all the passengers were aboard the boat, the video crew filmed us walking down the dock and giving our tickets to the captain. I’m not sure what the other passengers thought as they watched us do the ticket buying scene a couple of times. Fortunately, it was a quiet Sunday afternoon and no one was in a rush.
I suspect most folks thought it was a bit of a hoot to have a professional camera crew aboard, and there were smiles of recognition, probably from RVers camping in the area, when we explained it was a video shoot for Camping World.
Byron films us greeting Captain Jasion and giving hime our tickets.
The video team had brought a drone, and they flew it from the deck of the Dolly Steamboat. While everyone on the boat oohed and aahhed at the stunning desert canyon views around us, the drone flew higher and higher above us. Then, after having it zoom around the lake, the crew brought it back to the boat. Jessica reached out to grab it out of the air as it hovered above the deck.
Jessica caught the drone after it circled the Dolly Steamboat from high above the lake.
We had had quite a day, and we were all totally pooped as we drove our trailer on the last stretch of the Apache Trail to Lost Dutchman Campground. We all hit the sack early.
Phew! It’s hard work being a movie star!
Before sunrise the next morning, Buddy suddenly sat up and gave a muffled woof when he heard activity right outside our trailer. We opened the blinds to see the video crew moving around in the pitch dark with headlamps on their heads. They were setting up a timelapse video of our rig silhouetted against the sunrise that would soon begin.
We quickly got dressed and ran outside with our own cameras to capture the pretty pink sky as it slowly began to brighten.
We were all very fortunate that Mother Nature gave us such a beautiful light show and that no one had stayed in the campsite next to ours. This gave the crew plenty of room for their gear and an unobstructed view of our trailer. We stayed at Lost Dutchman for the next three nights after that, and not only was there never as nice a sunrise again but we had neighbors in that campsite every night!
The video crew was at our campsite setting up a time lapse video before sunrise.
After bolting some breakfast, we were off to the Superstition Mountain Museum for more filming. The museum docent gave the crew pointers on what the highlights were and where the best photo ops might be as we strolled the grounds to view the artifacts from the historic gold mining days.
At Superstition Mountain Museum the video crew got tips on where the best photo ops would be.
Making a video involves a lot of waiting around while the crew sets up and breaks down their video gear, and there’s also a lot of repeated movements as each scene is shot a few times. It is trying for people, but is potentially even more challenging for puppies.
Buddy was only four months old and we had had him for only five weeks, but he had been amazing so far. No matter where we asked him to walk or sit, he went along with the flow. Best of all, the guys in the crew loved him, and he quickly became the star of the show.
Isaac gets a close-up of Buddy.
The Superstition Mountain Museum is a treasure trove of history, and we walked and walked and walked all around the extensive grounds for several hours. Cameras were on us at all times.
As we’d gaze at something or pass through a doorway, we’d suddenly be asked, “Could you do that again?” Some scenes were set up more deliberately, and we had to wait for those classic commands: “Rolling… Action!” The first few times we started on “Rolling!” rather than “Action!” Such rookies!!
We spoke from the heart, and she let us go on at length on some topics when we had a lot to say.
The team checked the cameras and lighting before Jessica interviewed us at the Superstition Mountain Museum.
Of course, there was room for bloopers too, and we fell into the same funny trap that several other couples had.
The theme of the Camping World video series is “RVing is for Everyone,” but when asked about our RV experiences, we naturally talked about them in terms of being full-time RVers, not seasonal RVers or vacationers. So, at one point, after describing the wonders and thrills of downsizing out of our house and running away to live in an RV, Mark blurted out, “Of course, it’s not for everyone!”
Isaac chuckled and said, “We’ve heard that before, and what you probably mean is that full-time RVing isn’t for everyone!”
We had lunch all together at the western themed Mammoth Steakhouse & Saloon at Goldfield Ghost Town next door and then went back to our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park where the video crew got set up for us to do some hiking.
There was a nice hiking trail that led towards the Superstition Mountains right from the back of our campsite, so once the camera gear was ready, off we went with Buddy bounding along while the video cameras rolled!
We hiked the trail behind our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park.
After our hike, when we came back to the campsite we suddenly noticed the Red Baron bi-plane soaring overhead doing somersaults in the sky. What a perfect photo op, and how typical of our lifestyle that something unexpected and fun zoomed into our lives at just the right moment. Mark and I simultaneously swung our cameras towards the sky.
The Red Baron is a popular ride in the Scottsdale/Mesa area, and Mark got this beautiful shot.
We love shooting shoulder to shoulder because we always get different images. Here’s mine.
Gradually the shadows got longer and then the sky began to get orange. Everyone lined up to get a photo of the sunset around a gangly saguaro cactus that was in a campsite across the street.
Back at our campsite at Lost Dutchman State Park we all got ready for a sunset shot.
As the sun went down the cameras went up.
An orange glow around a saguaro cactus in the next campsite.
We had all been up since before dawn, and now it was dark again. The video crew left and we crashed in our camper, totally exhausted!
The next morning we all met at Goldfield Ghost Town about a mile away from Lost Dutchman State Park. This tourist attraction is very similar to the Superstition Mountain Museum with lots of paths that wander between antique buildings from the gold mining days.
Bright and early the next morning, we all gathered at Goldfield Ghost Town for another day of shooting.
There is a little train that circles the property that was definitely worth a quick video clip.
Ben caught the train on video just as it came around the bend and tooted its horn.
Goldfield Ghost Town is full of fabulous photo ops, and Mark and I had fun just roaming around taking photos. Shooting high or shooting low our creative juices flowed. And the camera crew was there to catch it all.
I set up my own shot while the video crew takes theirs!
Mark got a photo of the front of the jail, and we laughed as we read the jailhouse rules posted out front, joking that they sounded a bit like the rules for video actors:
No Complaining, No Profanity, No Loud Talk, Two Visits to the Outhouse Daily, Meals—Beans, Bread and Water.
Well, our meals at the area restaurants had actually been quite delicious!!
These rules applied to more than just the jail house!
Mark took a quick trip to the outhouse and Buddy peaked through the outhouse window. They didn’t know that the video cameras were on them even then!
The video crew caught this moment too.
Goldfield Ghost Town has a Bordello on the second floor of one building, and there’s a neat metal winding staircase leading up to it. The video crew loved that staircase, and we walked up and down it quite a few times as the cameras rolled. Buddy negotiated the stairs really well, and Mark and I got lots of great pics from the top.
We wound up and down the staircase to the Bordello on the second floor several times!
The view from the top of the stairs was pretty great!
It was hot and dry walking around Goldfield, and at one point we snuck Buddy off to a spigot on the side of a building to get a sip of water. He was such a little trooper though. A quick rest in the shade and he was as good as new again and ready for more filming by an antique tractor.
Being filmed from sunrise onward wore us all down, but some shade and a drink revived us.
We had fun playing tourist, and the video crew didn’t miss a moment.
After quite a few hours of shooting we all took a break and then reconvened at our Lost Dutchman campsite once again. Soon, it was time for our main interview which became the voiceover narrative for most of the video.
The Superstition Mountains were lit up behind our campsite in glorious fashion, but getting our faces lit without us being blinded by the sun and without my head casting a shadow across Mark’s face proved tricky. We messed with the chairs and the foil reflector quite a bit and finally got everything set up just right.
Back at our campsite the crew worked hard to get the best lighting possible for our final interview when the Superstitions lit up at the golden hour before sunset.
The questions were excellent, and we had a chance to express a little of our philosophy of how important it is to pay attention to your dreams, to nurture them and to fulfill them. Mark signed off with a fantastic quote, and when we were finally silent, a hush fell on everyone.
Speaking about the importance of pursuing your dreams and making them come true had swept us all into a spell. We feel so fortunate to live this way, and I suspect the crew was lost in thought pondering their own dreams too.
Coming back to reality, they asked us for one more quickie shot. The sun was setting fast, but we hopped on our bikes for a final scene of us riding around the campground loop.
At last we all gathered at the back of our trailer so I could capture an image of us all together saying that famous Hollywood line: “That’s a wrap!”
“And that’s a wrap!”
DELETED SCENES – Oh yes, there were quite a few!
Of course, no movie would be complete with our a track of deleted scenes. After three full days of three or four cameras going most of the time, the video crew had hours and hours of video to sift through. Most of it had to end up on the editing room floor, of course, because the final video would be less than six minutes long.
One of the more unusual deleted scenes was at the Superstition Mountain Museum chapel where we discovered a statue of Elvis inside!
We walked in the chapel to find Elvis, but the scene didn’t make the cut.
We spent several hours on the last day doing a detailed tour of our rig. We showed every corner of our little abode and explained how and why we set it up as we have and why we chose this particular floorplan as our rolling home ten years ago.
We’ve decorated the walls with post cards from some of the National Parks and National Monuments we’ve visited, and the only original piece of furniture we still have is the dining table. So, there was a lot to talk about and see.
The best part of this RV interior sequence was when one of the guys asked Mark offhand what he would normally be doing “right about now” when we started showing off the kitchen. “I’d be getting a beer!” He joked. They said he should go ahead and do just that!
So, they did a full sequence of him reaching into the fridge and pulling out a beer, then reaching into the freezer for a chilled pint glass, and then pouring himself an ice cold yummy beer. He hammed it up a bit and it was very cute.
We did a detailed tour of our rig, and Mark had fun doing several takes of getting a beer from the fridge!
At Goldfield Ghost town there are several souvenir shops, and we went to two of them and picked out and purchased some goodies. Jessica suggested we buy some salsa, so we set up a scene where we scanned the shelves for locally made salsas and then chose one. The idea was that we would take the salsa back to the trailer later and do a scene where we were eating chips with it.
We ran out of time before we could shoot the scene of us eating the salsa in the trailer, but we sure did enjoy it a few days later!
We were filmed buying salsa at a tourist shop with plans to film us enjoying it later.
We also did a scene where we looked over some handmade soaps and picked out a bar of soap to purchase. Again, the whole sequence involved admiring and the picking out the soap and then, in a different scene, going to the register and paying for it.
The clerk was very cooperative, and the other tourists waited patiently outside the store for us to finish since there was barely enough room for us and a few cameras. In fact, for some of it the cameras were outside the store and shooting in.
During our interview later we talked about how in the full-time RV life you have to be selective about buying souvenirs and make sure they are consumable or else you’ll end up with a rig full of stuff!
We also chose a homemade soap as a consumable souvenir to take home.
There was also a scene where I showed some of the articles I’ve written in the RVing and sailing industry magazines and talked about how important writing and photography have become in our day-to-day lives. This has been a totally unexpected dream-come-true since we began traveling nearly 11 years ago.
But there were only so many seconds of footage that could be included!
I talked a little about how fulfilling it has been to write for the RVing and sailing magazines, including my back page Trailer Life column.
After the whole video shoot was over, the crew went on to make some other videos in Arizona while we collapsed in our trailer and reflected with awe on what had just happened to us.
What a totally cool and special experience it was to be movie stars for three days!
Thank you, Camping World, for this unique opportunity, and kudos to Isaac Aaron Media for producing a beautifully crafted video.
Although we are full-timers — which is not for everyone — RVing definitely IS for everyone. We loved weekends in our popup tent trailer years ago as much as we love full-timing in our fiver now.