Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Campfire Stories Part 2

Mary Zinn is a long-time consultant for FIRE Light Group and Wisconsin Meetings and Events. She is traveling with her family this summer in an RV named Loretta and will be blogging for us from the road. She and her family will share their photos, stories, and travel tips as they adventure their way from Wisconsin to San Francisco and back on a 10 week journey.

Campfire Stories Part 2

We are in our fourth week of our ten week journey. Our next stop after the Badlands was Custer State Park which was a mere 2 hours away. While both Custer and Badlands are stunningly beautiful, the contrast is significant. The dry, virtually treeless rocky hills of the Badlands was very different from the soft, rolling, tree-covered hills and beautiful views at Custer. Every time we get to a new place, it seems as though it becomes my favorite, but Custer really is a special place. Shortly after we drove into the park, we saw a huge bison at the side of the road. Thankfully, visitors are pretty good about slowing down and pulling over safely, so we can take it all in.

While at Custer we hiked around and swam in Sylvan Lake (below) and I got the laundry done while taking in the view.

The second day, we drove the Wildlife Loop and saw an endless number of prairie dogs, dozens of bison (some from afar, some up close) and burros. The burros were brought into the park in the nineteen century to help visitors get around. When the company closed down its business, they let the burros go free and they have lived there since. When we came upon them and got out to visit, we almost immediately felt threatened and ran back to the RV. They seemed very interested in us and wondered if we had food. A moment later another family pulled up and jumped out of their car to pet them and feed them doughnuts and fruits and vegetables! We got such a kick out of how frightened we were at first and how tame they really were. They are indeed “begging burros.”

As we left for the Grand Tetons, we suddenly had brake problems that forced us to skip Mount Rushmore and head directly to Jackson, WY. After 8 hours of skillful driving by my husband, we were able to leave Loretta to get checked and fixed. Instead of staying in the RV at the Colter Bay RV Park as planned, we rented a car and stayed at the Jackson Lake Lodge. Again, we had to consider ourselves “lucky” that we were able to get a 3 night reservation on the 4th of July and find an available rental car.

The highlight of the trip for all of us up to this point was the 2+ hour rafting trip on the Snake River. (below). Our rafting guide was incredibly knowledgeable about the area and told many stories (some surely tall tales) about the park bison and bears and its history.

We have friends moving to San Diego for a year who were at the same campgrounds as we were at Custer and we met up again in Grand Tetons and for dinner and drinks at the historic Jackson Lake Lodge. The view at the lodge is absolutely incredible, but you don’t have to spend money to eat at the restaurant or stay at the lodge—you can get it for free (below).

It seems like this blog is more about us and our troubles than the trip and sites as I had expected, but that’s sometimes how life goes. It looks like our brake problem is going to require several days to get the parts and get it fixed, so we kept the rental car and bought $600 of camping basics and went along our way to Yellowstone where we are currently. In the next couple days we will explore Yellowstone before heading back to Jackson to get Loretta.

Next up more about our visit to Yellowstone and whether or not we made it to Glacier National Park.

As we continue our journey, we’ll share pictures, tips, recommendations and more so jump in, join us and share your favorite places to camp, eat and visit. You can reach me via email at

Tips from this part of the journey:
• Take the wild animal warnings seriously. There have already been 4 bison attacks this season in Grand Tetons alone.
• Everything will take extra time. The roads can be slow and you want to have time to see the unexpected.
• Just because a sleeping bag says it’s good to 30 degrees, doesn’t mean it is. Do your homework. It’s not possible to sleep well if you’re freezing.

Highlights of our itinerary: June 13-August 20
• Badlands
• Custer State Park
• Grand Teton National Park
• Yellowstone
• Glacier National Park
• Portland
• Sequoia National Park
• Death Valley
• Las Vegas
• Sedona, AZ
• Grand Canyon
• Zion National Park
• Mesa Verde National Park
• Dead Horse Point State Park
• Moab, UT
• Rocky Mountain National Park

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