Southbound

August 9, Tuesday

My time at the employee campground at Old Faithful is up. It’s time to leave Yellowstone and head on to new adventures.

Bertha chugs over Craig Pass and down the other side, crossing the continental divide three times on the way to Grand Teton National Park. Sunday’s storms are well gone and it’s smooth sailing all the way, with just a few fluffy cotton clouds dotting the sky. The Tetons dominate the horizon to the west, their grandeur heightened by the relative flatness of the land around them.

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There’s some pretty impressive boondocking in the Tetons for those in the know. It’s not in the park proper, but on Forest Service land to the east of 191. At Moran junction I point Bertha’s nose south and watch the road signs.

When the turnoff for the Cunningham Cabin Historic Site shows up, I turn left instead (south) onto an unassuming gravel road – Forest Road 30333. This isn’t uncommon. Most dispersed camping areas have no signs or indicators to point out what they are from the main road. It’s hard to stumble onto boondocking spots without maps and/or knowledge from prior campers (I use FreeCampsites.net and Campendium to find most of my boondocking spots).

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About a half-mile down, out of sight from 191, are three large pullouts and a board with camping rules posted. Two big rigs with a horse trailer are in one of the large areas preparing for a ride. If you’re in a large RV this is the easiest option, but if you’re smaller like Cas, the reviews online all say the place to be is at the top of the hill. I park Bertha and Cas and walk on foot first to scope it out. In heavy rains the road can become muddy and impassable, and the storms two days ago dumped a fair bit of rain where I was in Yellowstone. Luckily, the road here is dry and in good shape.

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I walk back down to the rig and slowly climb the “S” curve along the steep hillside, keeping to the left at the fork. The grade isn’t bad and the road is wide enough not to feel dangerous but it is a steep drop-off on one side, and if the road were to erode it could become perilous.

The view at the top is priceless. This is a well-known boondocking area with several reviews online gushing about how good it is, and as a result there are already several campers here, even on a Tuesday. Two RVs and two tents have taken the primo location at the edge of the hill overlooking the Tetons. The spot is big enough that I could squeeze in there with them, but since I value privacy more I pick the next site back.

It’s still a good spot. A van and another RV show up before dark, but they park away from me. The orange of sunset behind the deep purple of the mountains makes for a pretty good picture.

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August 10, Wednesday

My office view from the side window improves throughout the next morning as campers leave one by one. By noon I have the whole place to myself, sweet!

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I could move to the site along the edge and have this fantastic view…

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…But I opt not to stay a second night. The chances of new campers coming in and not parking right next to me is about nil this time of year. Plus, my propane is due to run out any day now and my tanks need dumping.

Back at the bottom of the hill, I retrace my steps up 191 to Moran Junction and this time veer east onto US26.

The road slowly climbs up through spruce and fir forests and high meadows dotted with creeks and lakes. The sage disappears, and things start to look decidedly alpine. I cross the continental divide again, and shortly after and my suspicions are confirmed as I see the sign for Togwotee Pass at 9,658 feet, this is pretty high up there!

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But it’s not nerve-wracking like some high passes are. It’s like driving up and down steps with steeper parts interspersed with more level ground which makes it a much easier drive for RVs. As I start down the other side, a sign proclaims: “2% – 6% grades next 9 miles, use lower gear”. I don’t even need to be in 2nd gear for parts of it.

Picturesque gray cliffs poke out from the tops of conifers on the other side, worn in places to spires, a creek appears along the road and grows as the road descends toward Dubois. The scenery is a perfect example of western mountains. Wow, what a nice drive.

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But wait, that’s not all.

The hillside to the northeast of 26 gets progressively drier, while the valley the creek (now the Wind River) flows through remains green and forests carpet the southwest hillside (all except for the part that the Lava Mountain fire has eaten up anyway).

Around a bend the grass on the northern slope disappears entirely and stunning white and red striped badlands appear opposite the meadows and forests. It’s like I’ve been instantly transported to South Dakota. Wow, now there’s a contrast!

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But wait, that’s still not all.

Past Dubois, the badlands slowly take over the southern side of the road too, and end shortly before entering the Wind River Reservation. But then near the riverside, bright red cliffs loom over the road, and it’s like I’ve been transported to Utah. Gee, three states in one short drive, how cool!

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But I’m getting ahead of myself, because I don’t make it to the reservation until the next day.

I stop at Dubois and pay for a night in a full-hookup park, as I do once every six weeks or so to flush my black tank thoroughly and charge up all my electronics.

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There was another Casita parked along the main road in Dubois

I stay at the KOA, where there is a barn and horse corral right outside my window. Not a bad view while I have supper.

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I also get my laundry done, make use of the free WiFi, and generally enjoy all the benefits of free power. One thing they don’t have is propane though, and the AmeriGas in town is closed due to the fire that I mentioned on the way in.

The KOA in Dubois

The KOA in Dubois

August 11, Thursday

Goodbye overpriced KOA, hello open road. I finally procure propane at the Longhorn RV park on the east end of town ($16 for 4.7 gallons and one tank lasts 18-22 days, not bad) and continue southeast on US26 into the reservation, where I get that picture of the red cliffs. Farther on the drive becomes less interesting, but at one point there is a spot off in the distance near Jeffrey City, WY where domes of tan granite have been fractured into blocks similar to the rocks at Joshua Tree National Park in CA, that makes four states in one drive.

I stop at a rest area shortly after noon for lunch and another Casita pulls in. That makes the third one I’ve seen since yesterday. The couple are from Florida on and their way to Colorado to visit family. We leave at the same time and unintentionally caravan for a while.

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Note the clouds building in the background

My route leaves 26 behind in favor of 287, which veers farther south towards Rawlins. Casitas #4-8 pass me going the other way. I can only conclude there must be a meetup going on. I wave at them as they pass.

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The storm clouds that have been advancing in a line from the southwest since lunchtime hit Bertha and Cas like a wall not far outside of Rawlins. One minute I’m driving along minding my own business, the next I’m fighting the wheel as strong gusts threaten to pull me into oncoming traffic. Bertha’s engine roars to keep speed at 50 mph, and I can almost see the needle of my gas gauge dropping in the strong headwind. I watch my side mirrors closely, but Cas behaves like a gentleman, dutifully following along behind Bertha with no indication of fish-tailing. Still, I’ve never driven in wind like this before and if it gets any worse I’ll have to pull over until the front passes over.

Twenty minutes later the wind lets up, and as I pull into a gas station in Rawlins to refuel the sun appears. After topping off the tank, I pull into I80 heading east, back into the storm – this come entering it from behind. An LED billboard on the edge of town is flashing with a warning as the menacing clouds loom overhead: “50 mph wind gusts, light trailers not advised”. Heh, I knew it was some serious wind. Thank goodness for fancy sway control hitches – best $600 I spent on RVing equipment.

The wind isn’t as bad going this direction, as it’s blowing with me rather than against me. I’m on the interstate only about 15 miles or so before my exit appears for 130, a little two-lane road that vanishes off into an endless expanse of scrub.

Four miles north of Saratoga, WY I drive right by the turnoff for tonight’s camp – not recognizing it until it’s too late. I turn around in a pullout and try again at a slower speed. Like the road in the Tetons it’s unassuming, the brown BLM sign for Foote Access Area is small and easy to miss, much bigger is the sign for 5N ranch next to it which makes it look like a private road.

I proceed at a crawl down 1.5 miles of excruciatingly bad washboard, the worst I’ve driven on to date. At 5N ranch the road goes left or right, and I follow the right fork up a slight hill through more sage brush. At the top of the hill the cottonwood trees growing along the north fork of the Platte River become visible, the camping area is hidden down there. At the second fork, you can turn left for the fishing area or right for the campground.

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It’s a small free dispersed camping area with maybe five sites, and has a pit toilet and a five day stay limit – trash is pack-in pack-out. I pick the site off by itself behind the outhouse, which has it’s own private walk down to the river – not visible through the brush growing along the shore.

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My site, looking toward the river

Five minutes after I arrive, the fridge runs out of gas. Is that good timing or what? I replace the bottle with the one filled at Longhorn RV earlier in the day and heat up supper without fear of running out of gas half-way through.

The view from the rocky bar at the edge of the river is worth the rough drive to get here. The storm has moved out, but the clouds left behind make for a good sunset.

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southbound (19)There’s only one other RV here tonight (they arrived right after I did), and like me they seem to value peace and quiet. After the crowds at Yellowstone and the Tetons, it’s nice camping more or less alone again.

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

41 Comments

  1. Sue Ann Jaffarian on August 15, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    As always, Becky, a lovely post with lovely photos! I’ve picked out my rig and am counting the days until I hit the road. Just under 600 days if all goes well.



    • Becky on August 15, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      Congrats Sue Ann! Deciding on an RV is a significant milestone.

      Glad you enjoyed this and hopefully you’ll be seeing these sights yourself first-hand before long.



  2. Dale on August 14, 2016 at 9:51 am

    *Content hidden at request of poster*



    • Becky on August 15, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks for the offer Dale. Not sure yet if I’ll be going through there or not but If I do I’ll let you know. 🙂



  3. Reed Martin on August 14, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Regular reader here, and not quite getting that you’re irked at the ‘overpriced’ KOA ? It was handy to your location and provided for the needs of your specific style of travel in a single stop. Curious about your rate? What do you think it should be? Online quote I’m seeing is $45 with mebership discount and its still the high season. For the record I’m not affiliated with KOA in any way, but happy to have them there as an option when changing travel plans call for an unexpected stop. Happy Trails!



    • Becky on August 15, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      Hmm, I think you took my use of the word stronger than I meant it Reed. I wasn’t irked, you’ll notice there was no complaining about it in the post nor did I dis the company or this KOA in particular. It’s just a matter of perspective. When you usually camp for free, $55 a night is a lot of money (back-in site, 30 amp, not on the river). The other RV park in town was about the same. Take care!



  4. Christine Humphrey on August 14, 2016 at 7:46 am

    Your photos are amazing and you give us such well written sight descriptions and travel notes! It’s almost like we’re right there with you!
    I started following IO about a month ago after seeing an interview of you and Cas on youtube. The video was so informative! I looked into the suitcase solar panel system you’d purchased from Amazon. We need one!
    My husband Roger and I have a 2011 Casita, 17ft. which we bought new and have enjoyed very much. I’d love to sell everything we own and travel full time, but unfortunately, “it takes two” to make that decision!
    I look forward to your next adventures, Becky!



    • Becky on August 15, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      I’m glad you’re enjoying IO Christine, thanks for following along.

      Aren’t Casitas great little trailers? When I went to the fiberglass trailer rally in Quartzsite earlier this year I saw many Casita owners with portable solar kits, they just seem to work very well with Casitas.

      Even if you never end up full-timing, I hope you get a lot of use out of yours, take care!



  5. Christle Blair on August 14, 2016 at 4:37 am

    Nicely written!



    • Becky on August 15, 2016 at 12:54 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Christle!



  6. Judy Blinkenberg on August 13, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    How long do you stay at each place while boondocking? I mean, do you have a schedule for the month of August? I need to go back to your first year. I wonder where we start? Lots of questions. Does your book go into how to plan your first year? I love your stops. I plan to continue my quilt making while traveling. I was hoping to stay the max time at each place.



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 7:24 pm

      It varies Judy, sometimes just a night (like in the Tetons) and sometimes max length (like at Joshua Tree earlier this year). I don’t set up a schedule ahead of time unless there’s somewhere I need to be, I usually plan my stops only one place in advance. For instance, I know where I’m going after Saratoga, but I won’t look into anything beyond that.

      No, my Solo RVing guide doesn’t go into trip planning. I wrote a post about planning a re-positioning trip a while ago (https://interstellarorchard.com/2015/05/04/planning-a-re-positioning-trip/) but that wasn’t really for boondocking. My travel pace has varied so much since I started boondocking this year that I really can’t make a guide for it. It’s too fluid of a process. Jelly plans. 🙂



  7. Jodee Gravel on August 13, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    For me there just aren’t any mountains more beautiful than the Tetons. You sure sound like a veteran boondocker now :-))) – making it sound like you’ve been doing it for years. Those last two pics are outstanding, what a beautiful location.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Catching Up With Old Friends in MinneapolisMy Profile



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 7:19 pm

      I do love me a good sunset Jodee! And yeah, the Tetons may be the most visually stunning mountain range in the U.S. Not the tallest or the longest, but very rugged and because the land around them is so flat they look more impressive.



  8. Tom on August 13, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Awesome boondocking spot in the Tetons!
    Were you allowed to use the Yellowstone employee campground since you had worked there last summer?



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 7:18 pm

      Yeah Tom, it’s the same campground I stayed in last summer. I didn’t get a site to myself though or anything, I dry-camped on a co-workers site with them. It wouldn’t have been an option if my RV had been any larger than it is.



  9. Rene Kipp on August 13, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Simply, Wow! What great photos you’ve shared with us today. You’ve had quite the drive. Glad the winds weren’t too bad for Bertha, Cas and of course you. Thank you for the links, I saved them for future use. If all goes as planned, our first road trip will be in about a month to Idaho 🙂
    Rene Kipp recently posted..SALE PENDING!!My Profile



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      You’re welcome Rene. I was really surprised (in a good way) by Idaho and I hope you enjoy your time there as much as I did.

      I think if I’d known there were going to be 50 mph winds ahead of time I never would have attempted driving through the storm, sometimes knowledge is power, but sometimes it can be crippling too.



  10. Debbie Granger on August 13, 2016 at 8:56 am

    I was disappointed to not see any pictures of your family last week and was hoping for a nice family album this week.

    Your trip and photos en route past those Tetons to your great spot near Saratoga, WY are spectacular. Your phone is doing a great job of capturing all the beauty around you.



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 7:14 pm

      I’m respecting my family’s privacy Debbie, they prefer not to have pics of themselves posted on the internet.

      Glad you enjoyed this, take care.



  11. Martha Goudey on August 13, 2016 at 8:29 am

    The house is listed, the decision made, the truck bought, the Casita ordered, but no bites on the house is making us both a little crazy and me weepy about how much I love my house and the acre of ground around it. Too much time to think now.
    Can we just get the show on the road, please.
    So, that set me to wondering if it’s a sign we should stay here.
    Oh no, don’t go there. I checked my email instead. And there you were like a sign from heaven with this beautiful post, a wonderful reminder of what we are looking forward to. You remind me of the joys–and the practicalities–of full-time RVing.
    Thank you for sharing your life and travels with us.



    • Tom on August 13, 2016 at 3:17 pm

      After a week on the road I’ll bet that beautiful acre of land will be all but forgotten. We had 8 beautiful acres and haven’t looked back. So many beautiful new acres out here to enjoy!



      • Martha Goudey on August 13, 2016 at 10:11 pm

        Thanks Tom. So true that we’ll be traveling across many new acres. Nice way to think about it. Also, as much as I love my house and land, it represents a lot of work we no longer want to do. Trade offs I am welcoming. Thanks!!



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 7:11 pm

      Everyone I’ve ever talked to who’s been a full-timer has experienced the misgivings and uncertainty you mention here Martha. Every. Single. One.

      Going outside our comfort zones is scary as all get out and it’s natural to feel resistance. I’m glad that this post arrived at the perfect time for you. Just take it one step at a time and you’ll be on the road and enjoying it before you know it. You’ve got this!



      • Martha Goudey on August 13, 2016 at 10:08 pm

        That is a sweet response Becky. Ben says I should print it out and paste it on my computer. I think maybe my forehead. Thank you!



  12. Mary on August 13, 2016 at 5:33 am

    Wonderful post very descriptive. Felt like I was there. I loved the pics.



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 7:07 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Mary, thanks for following along.



  13. Rodolfo Tenorio on August 13, 2016 at 5:19 am

    Gorgeous! Thank you.



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 7:06 pm

      You’re welcome!



  14. Jerry & Karen on August 13, 2016 at 5:13 am

    You offered some great pictures and your writing kept me stuck to your journey. We are getting closer to our RV travels, just not quick enough.



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 7:02 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Jerry and Karen. I remember being where you are now, best of luck and I hope the transition goes smoothly!



  15. lindaandmike on August 13, 2016 at 4:01 am

    your photos are real good .our times coming we have the new tundra in feb the cas 2



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      I bet you’re really excited, not long to go now!



  16. Dale on August 12, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    If you do make it to Colorado before the end of September, let me know. I know some great hiking and a great boondocking place.



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 6:58 pm

      Heading that way now Dale, although I won’t be able to spend a ton of time in the state as I’m due in Texas on Sept. 12th.



  17. George on August 12, 2016 at 5:42 pm

    Becky, this has to be one of the best writeups you have done. Very informative and precise. The pictures are excellent. Four more years and I’ll be out there also. Keep up the good work and keep enjoying life.



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      It may seem like a long ways away but four years will be here before you know it. Heck, I’ve been on the road nearly that long now and in many ways it feels like I just hit the road yesterday. Glad you enjoyed this.



  18. RGupnorth on August 12, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Nice narrative update on your latest leg of your travels. Looks like your phone is capturing some nice images.



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 6:52 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this RG.



  19. Milly on August 12, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    I read this and I’m like, man, what a life. I really envy her. Then I remember that I’m a full-time RVer too…
    Milly recently posted..Carson City At Last!My Profile



    • Becky on August 13, 2016 at 6:47 pm

      It’s a good feeling, isn’t it Milly. 🙂



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