Smoked out of Yosemite

As sad as we were to leave Mammoth Lakes, we were so excited to to move onto Yosemite National Park. Yosemite has been on our list for awhile and we had a whole week set aside to explore it. 

From Mammoth Lakes we drove through Stanislaus National Forest towards Yosemite. Stanislaus National Forest felt secluded and gorgeous. It was also some of the most difficult roadway we traveled with its constant switchbacks and steep grading reaching 25%. Halfway through the forest we stopped for a walk along a river and checked out the Columns of the Giants, a geologic formation that like Devils Postpile, was formed by lava and ice. We also past a lot of small campgrounds that we put on our list for the future. Looking back, the drive through Stanislaus National Forest was the highlight of this section of our trip.

Due to a lack of BLM land around Yosemite and not booking our trip early enough we ended up at more traditional RV park than we are used to. While the park was not really our style, it had a great location just outside the park. Once we pulled up we started to notice the air to be smokey, but not bad enough to make us worried. We had heard that 2 days before there had been some fires but the park was still open. Unfortunately, we could not get any wifi or cell phone signal so we couldn’t check the news to see the status.

The next day we woke up to an increase of smoke in our campground so we headed out to Yosemite National Park to do a drive through and asset the situation. Since we didn’t plan on doing any hiking we brought Rosie along for the ride. Upon arriving at the park entrance we could tell that whatever was going on with the fires hadn’t scared anyone away, because there were big crowds ready to go in. As we drove through the smoke was manageable but our views consisted of burnt trees which was not really what we were hoping. Continuing through our luck changed for a moment because we saw a bear right outside our car! We immediately pulled over to get some pictures. Rosie even saw the bear and went nuts! Luckily for the bear we kept her in the car. Once the bear wandered off we continued further into Yosemite and the further we got the smokier things got. Eventually we had to just turn around because we couldn’t see anything through the gray blanket that had overtaken the park. 

Sadly, on our second day at Yosemite we had to wear bandanas over our noses and mouths and knew it was time to move on. We packed up our home on wheels and headed to the coast to seek refuge. We decided to leave Yosemite unchecked on our list of National Parks to ensure we go back and see it in all its glory. 

CAMPING:
Yosemite lakes | Groveland, CA | $60/night
Wildlife spotted: Bears

3 Reason We Love Mammoth Lakes

We have been to some pretty incredible places on our journey in Red together, but so far nothing compares to our time spent in Mammoth Lakes. We arrived in Mammoth late one night in the rain, tired and hungry we popped into a pub to get some food. By the company surrounding us we immediately felt like we were in a ski town and we quickly realized we were going to like it here.

For the first time on our trip we paid for a camping spot at a state park campground. We stayed at Old Shady Rest Campground and really enjoyed it. We stayed at basic site with no hook ups, which was fine since we were used to dry camping, and we were walking distance to town which was perfect. We were suppose to spend 2 nights here but we extended our time to 3 nights because we just fell in love with mammoth, and here’s why:

IMG_0128Our first day in town we spent hanging around our campground setting up and that night we went to town to buy some groceries to cook fireside. On our journey to town we heard music and saw a bunch of people gathered so we decided to check out what was going on. Turns out we had stumbled upon a wine walk and entry price got you a wine glass and different samples from wine vendors from California wine country. We were in. The wine walk was hosted at what is known as The Village, a rather new looking hub for restaurants and shopping, so we got ourselves a glass of wine and explored the quaint shops while enjoying the live music. It didn’t take long till we made some friends and they let us know all the things to do and places to eat. Everyone we met was friendly and welcoming and were eager to make sure we had a good time in Mammoth. We also learned that Mammoth is a popular snow skiing vacation spot for those living in southern California and has only really gotten big within the last 10 years. The shops were cute and we ended up eating out 2 out of the 3 nights we were there because the restaurants were phenomenal. This is the first reason we loved Mammoth, experiencing good food, good wine, and good people while being out in the wild, staying in our camper. We should also add we were blown away by how kid and family friendly everywhere was. This is definitely a spot I can see us continuously coming back to even when we start a family.

The second reason we loved Mammoth was the Inyo National Forest. Not only was the forest beautiful, but most parks and forests are strict about not letting dogs on the trails but at the Inyo National Forest dogs are welcome on all trails and back country camping. On our second day we took the mandatory shuttle to the national monument, Devils Postpile, inside the Inyo National Forest, and Rosie was even allowed to ride the shuttle! Now, she did have to have a muzzle but once we were on the shuttle no one cared if she wore it or not. Devils Postpile, formed by lava and ice, was an incredible site and we had a blast exploring the area around it for the day. Rosie surprised us by taking a plunge into a stream to cool down, which is so unlike her. She usually hates water but I think she is really tuning into her adventurous side. I had read that the Inyo National forest was a hidden gem and its where the Park Rangers at Yosemite went to camp and it did not disappoint. All the beauty but half the crowds.

Mammoth lakes isn’t called Mammoth lakes for nothing. The third reason we loved Mammoth was June Lake. We had met more friends while at Devils Postpile and they recommended we check out June Lake. So, on our last day we went over there for lunch. We expected great views of a lake, what we didn’t expect was there to be a little beach and a bunch of people in the water! We could use a little dip so we ran back to Red and grabbed our suites. We both have a lot of experience with lake life back in Texas but this lake was like nothing we had ever seen before. The lake was crystal clear and our view was of mountains with snow still on the top. The water was the most refreshing thing ever and Rosie, again welcomed, even took a little dip. We ended the day with ice cream and then headed home to Red.

Our time in Mammoth went by quick and neither one of us were to happy about leaving. From the food to the forest we just enjoyed everything about Mammoth Lakes and are already planning on when we can go back.

CAMPING:
Old Shady Rest Campground | no hookups | price: $21/night
wildlife spotted: chipmunks, deer, birds

A Drive though Death Valley

Headed from Sedona, Arizona all the way to Mammoth Lakes, California we decided to add in Death Valley National Park along the way.

I (Whitney) was a little nervous to drive through Death Valley in the summertime. It gets up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and Ive heard stories about people breaking down on their way through. Regardless, we decided to go ahead and make the journey and Im really glad we did. 

Before we got to Death Valley we made a pit stop at the Hoover Dam. Both of Richards grandfathers worked for the highway department and both built bridges, giving him a respect and admiration for the Hoover Dam. I cant say that Rosie or I got it, but Richard was it heaven. Not knowing much about dams, it is still clear to see this is something pretty magnificent and was grander than I expected. We parked and walked around for an hour and a half then continued our journey.

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Pit stop at the Hoover Dam

With a quick drive through Las Vegas (neither one of us wanted to stop) we approached Death Valley. Entering the park was a little erie. With a storm cloud forming above us and entering the valley through what looked like a ghost town, we were both a little uncertain about what was to come. As we started our journey through the park the landscape began to change into what I imagine Mars looks like and the outside temperatures began to rise. We pulled up to a lookout and with brave faces got out of the car into the 108 degree Fahrenheit weather. Surprisingly, it was not the heat that shocked us the most, it was how dry we both felt. Like the air had sucked out all the moisture from our bodies. We did not however, let Rosie out of the car at all while in Death Valley, unsure of how she would react. Once back into the car we made our way zigging and zagging, up and down, and all through Death Valley and its constantly changing landscape. We allowed 2 hours for Death Valley and it took us more around 3 hours to make it through. We could of easily spent 4 hours though. Luckily, we did get a little rain allowing us to be able to enjoy the park for longer without getting too hot. 

Once out of Death Valley the weather took a turn for the worst and we spent the remainder of the drive just trying to get to our destination. We couldn’t help but be entertained watching the outside temperature drop from 108 to 60 degrees by heading north just a few hours. 

Rosie’s Best Day Ever

Luckily we have a dog that will sleep in the car. Well, except when we open snacks, then she is awoken immediately. We love that she sleeps but feel bad that she misses so much on the road and can’t go to all the stops with us. Thats why when Rosie got to go to two national Parks in one day, she had the BEST. DAY. EVER. 

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Leaving the Gila national forest in New Mexico we crossed the border to Arizona and went to the Petrified Forest National Park. Dogs are allowed on all the trails here and after a visit to the visitor center they decided that Rosie was the perfect candidate for a Bark Ranger. She got a certificate and even a collar tag. This alone made Rosie feel very special and I think she has a special pride in preserving the National Parks now. 

Luckily, there had been a storm the day before and the forest was nice and cool for us all to explore the Petrified Forest and soak in all it’s magic. They say that if you take something from the Petrified forest you will have bad luck so we touched all the petrified wood, which felt like stone, but left it as we found it. The Petrified Forest turns into the painted desert and Rosie was even welcome there to sniff and explore the changing colors of the desert. The entire area felt like another world and we met so many people from across the globe there to experience it’s splendor. 

Leaving the painted desert the plan was to head to Sedona. It was still pretty early and we gained an hour so we had a wild hair to drive up to the Grand Canyon. Looking back this made our day extremely long but I also think it was all worth it. It’s about the journey and not the destination after all. 


We now know why it’s called the “Grand” Canyon. Richard had been 10 years ago and was amazed at how much everything had changed and how nice the parking and facilities were. Rosie was allowed all around the park and the rim but not on the trails leading down into the canyon, which we were not planning on doing anyways. As expected, the park was packed and again we met people from all over the world. Rosie was the center of attention with many of the crowds and she loved stretching her legs and getting to experience everything with us. We spent more time than we allotted for at the Grand Canyon but the beauty of it all is just too magnificent to rush. Around 6pm we loaded back in the car, tired and hungry, and headed down south to Sedona.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt this point Sedona was really out of our way, but it was somewhere we were both really excited about, so we decided to suck it up and head down for 2 nights. Once we passed Flagstaff (which is absolutely adorable might I add) the landscape started to get really interesting. We followed some pretty intense switch backs going down the mountain that felt more like a rollercoaster and our jaws were dropping at the red rocks starting to appear. After miles winding into the Red Rocks Secret Mountain Wilderness we found the perfect boon-docking spot at Nolan Tank. We were so tired and hungry we just ate and went to bed but we were awoken in the morning by the most amazing views. Each morning when we wake up and take a step outside we cant help but think how truly grateful we are for the world around us.

CAMPING:
Nolan Tank, Sedona, Arizona | Price: FREE
Wildlife spotted: hummingbirds, lizards

Caverns, Mountains, & Boon-docking

Along with this being our first out of state and long adventure in Red, we also decided to try boon-docking. Boon-docking, or dispersed camping, is totally free camping on public land operated by the Bureau of Land Management. We pay taxes on this land so we may as well take advantage of it. Not to mention, you can experience some pretty incredible camping spots. Now don’t expect a water or electricity hookups but you can find sites with fire rings. We plan to do quite a bit of boon-docking on our trip and found the Campendium app to be really helpful so far. You can search free camping sites, read reviews and view pictures of the grounds. 

Using the Campendium app we stayed at our first boon-docking site, Fence Canyon in White City, New Mexico. This was the perfect place to start our trip. A little bumpy getting to the top of a hill but once we were there we were the only people and had the most amazing views. The night time was so peaceful with a sky full of stars. Our first night we were star gazing and heard something moving in the distance, so we got out our head lamps and we found cows grazing all around us. For our first night, it was pretty exciting. I should also mention we had great cell phone service (AT&T).

Fence Canyon is located 10 minutes from Carlsbad Caverns, so we headed out to the National Park on our first day. We were both excited, but the caverns were even better than expected. The size of the caverns alone surprised us. We spent the day exploring the world below and trying to identify stalactites and stalagmites while on a search for spelunkers. The park rangers there helped us get an America the Beautiful pass, which was $80, but will grant us access to all the National Parks and provide discounts on camping for a full year. They go by month and not exact date so if you do this make sure to purchase one at the beginning of the month.

Two nights at Fence Canyon then we headed to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park on our way to the Gila National Forest. The Guadalupe Mountains, like the caverns, were much more impressive than we expected and had us taking a million pictures of El Capitan. We only spent an hour or so exploring then headed on our way.

In the Gila National forest we boon-docked at the Cosmic Campground. It is a dark sky sanctuary and people come from all over to photograph the stars. There are even round concrete telescope pads. We were only there for one night and we loved how level the ground was, allowing us to easily back in and pull out in the morning. Heads up though, fires were not permitted when we were there and this a no service zone. We also took this time to test out our outdoor shower. Two things we learned: 1) We switched up the hot and cold water handles (figuring out why we weren’t getting hot water took us a while..) and 2) showing outside in nature is our new favorite thing. A full day of driving, followed by a hot shower and we slept like babies that night. Sadly, the sky was too cloudy for us to experience any stars but the views during the day were breathtaking. 

So far both of our camping spots have been incredible and we’ve had a great start to our trip. The days leading up to leaving were filled with stress but having time to enjoy each other and the outdoors is allowing for those weights to be lifted.

CAMPING:
Fence Canyon, White City, New Mexico | Price: FREE
Wildlife spotted: jackrabbits, cows, frogs, caterpillars
Cosmic Campground, Gila National Forest, New Mexico | Price: FREE
Wildlife spotted: jackrabbits, birds, elk, deer

Testing Red out in Fredericksburg

For our very first adventure in Red we snuck off to the Texas Hill Country, and what an adventure (and learning experience) it was! If you are not familiar with the Hill Country it starts around the far northern portions of San Antonio to the western portions of Austin and is just beautiful. It is also home to some wonderful lakes and Texas vineyards. 

The first thing we did was decide to book a camp site at one of the many state parks. We began this process about 2 weeks ahead of time and let me tell you, this is when the learning began. Our first choice campground was booked then we found our second choice booked up, and then our third. You can guess how the trend continued. Here we are with this camper all ready to go and we have no where to go! That for us has been the biggest learning curve of planning our trip. Tent camping, no problem come on in, but now we have this home on wheels we have to find a spot for. After calling dozens of public and private RV campgrounds we found a spot at Yogi Bears Jelly Stone Park in the wine country. We couldn’t help but laugh. Definitely not the trip we were imagining but we needed to test Red out somewhere, so off we went. 

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The drive from Dallas to Fredericksburg took us about 5 hours and we had no idea what we were getting into. Our camping trip had now turned into more of a RV park trip. But, as far as RV parks go we were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at Yogi Bears Jellystone Park! Upon pulling in they were so sweet and they even gave us peach margaritas! The individual spots were close together, I mean it is an RV park, but not as close as some Ive seen. So here we are in a good mood now (probably due to the margaritas) and Richard is hooking the water up and Im (Whitney) setting up camp. We are thinking we are pros and thought of everything. Then, Richard informs me that we don’t have the right adapter to hook up the electricity in Red to have A/C. I worry sometimes about Rosie getting overheated so I booked us a spot with an electric hookup since it gets so hot in Texas. So back into the car we go. We try the campground general store, no luck. We try the nearest Walmart, no luck. We try every little hardware store that is still open in the town. No stinking luck. So after 5 hours in the car and  2 hours looking for this “special adapter” we head back to camp tired and hungry. Wouldn’t you know it, after 10 minutes of being back Richard figured out he was just putting it on wrong and the original one works perfectly… This is why you do a test run, folks! The biggest kicker may have been that we ended up having beautiful weather and didn’t need A/C the entire time!

IMG_9817Besides testing out and making sure we had the right equipment for camping we also wanted to see how Rosie did. Luckily, she usually just sleeps in the car. Five hours is long for her and while she got a little antsy towards the end, she did perfectly fine. Sleeping in Red however, is a whole different story. She was so excited an curious that she refused to close her eyes. Some people call it FOMO (fear of missing out) we call it “a case of the Steven Tylers” because she doesn’t want to miss a thing. By the last night she finally started to sleep a little so she might take a while but I think with some more experience she will get the whole camping thing.

Once we got the few kinks worked out we had a great time in Fredericksburg and got to test some wine out at Becker Vineyards. It is dog friendly and they have some amazing views and even give free tours. We also made a trip out to Enchanted Rock State Park, which is second-largest granite dome in the United States. Not all of the hiking paths are dog friendly but the main loop is. 

If you’re new to camping or just bought your own camper like us, these test trips are key. We learned a lot about what we still needed to get or change before we head on the road for a longer trip. One of the best resources we found is other people! We love making friends on the road and we find people are always ready and eager to share their knowledge on what they found works. I’m sure we will figure more do’s and dont’s on the road and we will make sure to share them with you as we go!