Family Time.

May 25-30: family time. It has been so incredibly refreshing to be back with family again. We have been loving traveling, meeting new people, and seeing new things, but, there is something to be said about familiarity. First stop for the weekend was Portland, Oregon. I have always wanted to go explore downtown Portland. I remember years old when Alec lived in Seattle, he visited Portland, OR. He came back home to Florida and told me how much I would love it and that I would fit right in. That was 8 years ago. It was exciting to see it for myself. We didn’t spend a ton of time there unfortunately. From what I could see, it looked super fun. Fun shops, coffee bars, restaurants. We met up with some friends Heather and Jason and their son, Nate. It was donut time. I don’t really know why, but, I have been on a donut KICK! I mean donuts for days. We went to a place called Blue Star Donuts. This place had some amazing recipes: blueberry bourbon basil, passion fruit cake, Meyer lemon & key lime curd.

Creme Brûlée’s

I know that everyone is obsessed with going to the Voodoo Donuts shop, but, skip that place and go to the Blue Star donuts. The donuts are super unique and absolutely delicious! Not only were the donuts delicious, but, the company was amazing. We always love getting together with Heather. Alec and Heather have been friends for many, many years through church connections in Seattle. I just stole her for myself because she is absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, no photos were taken of the group. We were too busy chatting away about our trip and life. Next time.

We not only had plans to visit with Heather and her family, but, with my life-long friend, Jade. Jade, Rich, and their two kids, Faith and Parker, are stationed out in Astoria, OR. I have had heard so many amazing things about Astoria. It is a cute little coastal town right before the border of Washington State. We were so excited to see them again. The last time we saw them was last year in Washington. Jade is a long time friend of both Alec and mine. We used to be absolutely inseparable in high school and she has been friends with the Brenchley gang for 12 years or so now. Even though we both have never been to their house in Astoria, we felt like we were home.

It was nice because Oregon provided us with some AMAZING weather for the weekend. I have noticed that the sun doesn’t really come out very much on this side of the country. We went 6 or so days without a day of sunshine. That is extremely difficult for this sunshine state girl. I thrive in the sunshine and blue skies. We were blessed with that weekend weather, for sure! Jade and Rich took us out to the beach to see the Haystack Rock.

Everyone and their mothers wanted to enjoy the weather, so we battled finding some parking. It was gorgeous though. I do find it strange that we are on a beach and see barely anyone in the weather. That water is FREEZING. You would definitely need a full body wetsuit for that adventure. Again, super strange for this Florida girl. We also went to the Astoria Column. It was refreshed and repainted. It is a tower that overlooks the Columbia River. It only takes 164 steps to get a complete overlook of Astoria. It was just amazing.

They also have a tradition where you can purchase a small wooden airplane and throw it off of the column. It’s the small things, I guess. It was lovely. A place that Jade took us to that really stuck out to me was the Pier 39.

You drove along on a very narrow wooden pier to this pier warehouse. That pier is the home to small businesses. We went to a coffee shop called Coffee Girl.

I got this absolutely delicious lavender latte. When I thought that the experience couldn’t get any better, there was a viewing point where you could see and hear sea lions hanging out near by. It was a great ending to Astoria. 

Next stop for family was Kirkland, Washington State. Washington State marks 14 states visited on this trip so far. I can’t believe it. Alec and I were really excited to cross over into WA. Not only does Alec’s parents and brother live in WA, but, it just marks another step towards Alaska. It’s crazy! Washington State meant going home for me. I know it’s not really our home. The only home that we have is Callie. It is the closest thing to home that we have right now. I was excited to have a season of rest and refreshing myself. We are still going to explore and travel around, but, we won’t have to move around for an entire month. That’s right. We don’t have to pack up and move Callie to another location (except for dumping sewage) for an entire month. These last few days have been spent hanging out with family, getting much needed rest, and fixing items on Callie and our truck. It’s been so lovely. I have a feeling that my blog posts will be short within this next month. I want to be able to spend as much time as possible with my family. Here’s to the next month in Washington State with my family!

Brenchley Travels

New posts every Monday and Friday. 

Mount Hood, Oregon.

May 23-24: Mount Hood. I talked about Mount Hood briefly in my last blog post, but, we both were excited to check it out. Mount Hood, being the tallest mountain in the state of Oregon at 11,250 elevation, was definitely on our go-to lists of things to do in Oregon. We had been traveling up the coast all day, stopping at random locations, and needed a place to camp for the next few days. We found a campground in some forest land called Trillium Lake Airstrap. This is a very large area, as you would think from that name, where dozens of tents, vans, and RVs settle down for the night. We felt very comfortable leaving Callie on this land while we went to explore. Mount Hood! Holy crap! That is such a strikingly BEAUTIFUL mountain.

We found that there was a bunch to do as well. If you want to ski, you can ski. If you want to hike, you can hike. If you want a scenic drive around the mountain, you have that. It was just a beautiful area in northwestern Oregon. We decided to go on a decent hike out to a beautiful waterfall called Tamanawas Falls. I have really missed hiking. We definitely have done hikes lately, but, I haven’t felt challenged in the last week or so. I really wanted to stretch my legs and exercise. This hike was about 3.5 miles and rated moderate on the All Trails app. It was a perfect distance to get your heart rate going and see a beautiful waterfall, but, you still have time in the day to go explore more things. The hike was beautiful. It really was. It was through tall, green, vivid trees. The fresh and sweet smell of pine followed us along the trail as we walked. What I loved about this trail in particular is the different grades of steepness. You went from flat to almost straight up. Sometimes when you are hiking and gaining elevation the entire trail, it’s obviously not as enjoyable. This had a great mixture of everything. The trail was very narrow and was lined up against a cliff. A lot of the trail, we walked next to the stream of the waterfall. Some of the trail, you were climbing up rocky surfaces. It was just nice to have the diversity. That waterfall though….it was amazing. The falls are approximately 100 feet high and 40 feet wide according to Google.

The water bounced back up at the base of the falls, leaving a nice mist in the air. That mist felt great after just going through the rocky surfaces section of the trail. We sat there for what it seems to be 25 minutes relaxing and enjoying the falls. This is definitely worth the stop if you are in the Mount Hood area.

Mount Hood Scenic Loop drive! Guys! This drive is just amazing. This stunning drive completely loops around the amazing Mount Hood.

The northern section of this drive takes you along the Columbia River in between Oregon and Washington State. If you continue west along the riverside, it takes you to Portland, OR. Along this loop, there are tons of hikes and scenic stops. You can spend up to 30 minutes or several hours on this loop. It is estimated 3-4 hours to set aside for this amazing drive. I just enjoyed it and didn’t take a ton of pictures. Be sure to google that. We had to stop and check out the infamous Multnomah Falls on the river side of this scenic loop. I remember seeing this beautiful waterfall years ago on a Facebook video. It looked so majestic and beautiful. This layered waterfall really brings the people out.

It was a beautiful waterfall, just busy. Tons and tons of people gathered around to see the beauty. That’s something that you really don’t see when you see this waterfall online. The internet really neglects the fact that it is busy. Not only is the waterfall stunning but it is super accessible. It is just around a small corner and there it is. Just to mindful that people will crowd around and be in your way. 

The next day we woke up to more rain. We were very blessed with the previous days weather. We were able to fully see Mt. Hood and enjoy the day. Sunshine and blue skies. It was refreshing after not seeing sunshine for a few days straight. Unfortunately, we woke up with the crappy weather again. Cold temperatures and misty rain. We decided that it was going to be a chill out day. We honestly haven’t stopped moving and had a chill day since we were in Cedar City, UT. The only reason we had chill days was because of our truck problems. That was a month or so ago. We usually move our RV daily and are finding things to do throughout the states. I was excited to just relax. Mom, you would be proud of me. Of course we couldn’t just sit inside of Callie the entire day. We had to do something otherwise I would go crazy. We decided to go check out the Timberline Lodge. This lodge was the hotel that was filmed for the exterior shots in the movie The Shining.

Not only did we get to see the interior inspiration for the sets for that movie in the Majestic Hotel in Yosemite, CA, but, now we got to see the outside.

Majestic Hotel in Yosemite, CA.

I was so excited to see that for myself. Unfortunately, it was very foggy and misty so it made it difficult to see the beauty of the building. It was still super neat. The inside of the lodge was beautiful as well. It was built in the 1930s by local artisans during the Great Depression. There was a beautiful stone hexagon fireplace that went up throughout the different levels.

Big windows showed the snow outside. This lodge is not only the exterior filming location for The Shining, it is also a popular ski/snowboarding location. We saw dozens of people ready to go hit the slopes. I don’t know if would enjoy snowboarding in that kind of weather. Between the fog, rain, and 37 degree temperature, it didn’t make being outside very enjoyable. After we visited the lodge, we went back to Callie and watched The Shining movie. It was so cool to see the Timberline Lodge in the outdoor scenes. It was so nice to relax before this weekend. We have plans to visit with some friends this weekend and on Monday, we will be in Washington State with family. Moving right along. 

Brenchley Travels 

New posts every Monday and Friday. 

We went to Blockbuster!

May 19-20: Bend, Oregon. When we were at Zion National Park, we met this lovely women from Bend, OR. She absolutely loved living there and told us to check it out while we were in the state. Bend, OR has actually come up in conversation multiple times with random people, so we had to go check it out for yourself. We are still searching for the next place to settle down. We have some strong contenders, but, we are always open to add more. I was driving on the way to Bend when Alec randomly says “take this exit!”. Very unsure what was going on, I took the exit that was outside the route. Alec had found a walk- through cave online and just found the exit in time. The cave is called the Lava River Cave.

This 1 mile (estimated) cave has a constant temperature of 45 degrees and is pitch black. According to good ol’ Wiki, a volcanic eruption occurred and the lava flowed in a river eventually enclosing it. That’s as simple as I can make it. It was free for us to explore this cave with the annual national parks pass. If you don’t have that pass, it’s just $5. You can rent flashlights from the information center or just bring your own. We just used our head lamps. The cool thing about this cave is that you don’t need a guide. It’s just a straight tunnel to the end and back and is all self-guided. It’s always nice to just go at your own pace. I’m not going to lie. I was freaked out at first. I have explored through different caves before, but, they are always guided. This cave is impossible to get lost in and eventually I got used to how dark it was.

This cave is good for families as well as couples. It was a good detour. Be sure to check it out if you are going to the Bend area! After going through the cave, we had to set up camp. Alec found some forest land called Harrington Loop Road that is just outside of Bend, OR.

There are a lot of spaces for RVs, tents, cars, etc. We have been LOVING having our free campgrounds back after being in California for such a long time. It’s refreshing. Speaking of refreshing (so cheesy of me), I really wanted to go out to downtown Bend and get a drink. I wanted to see what the hype was for myself. We ended up going to the Bend Brewery Company. Very chill vibes, great selection of beers and food, and right downtown. Unfortunately, it was 45 degrees and raining so it wasn’t ideal for walking around. We just did the downtown tour via our truck. Bend downtown is beautiful. It reminds me a lot of Asheville, NC, just smaller. Tons of restaurants, coffee bars, and shops. Bend not only has a great selection of food and drinking options, they house the last existing Blockbuster EVER.

On our way to our hike the next day, we came across this Blockbuster. I screamed as we went passed it and we had to turn back. I had to see inside again. It was so incredibly nostalgic. Memories of picking movies with my siblings popped right back in the head. It was so amazing to have such a throwback moment. GO CHECK IT OUT! 

According to the good ol’ Google, Bend, OR is the capital of outdoor recreational activities for the state of Oregon. Of course we had to find a good hike. For the hike for that day, we ended up going to the Smith Rock State Park. This park was just incredible.

It was a perfect mixture of Garden of the Gods, CO and Zion National Park, UT. It had that desert, rock formation vibe. It was beautiful. There are a ton of hikes that you can do that range from easy to more difficult. We just started to walk honestly.

We walked alongside of the river that runs through the canyons. The wind blew through the flowers in the hills. The birds sang the entire time and flew over the river. Rock climbers were busy trying to figure out how to scale the walls. I was so impressed by that park. It was just stunning! It was $5 to explore and such a great find. After our hike, an alpaca farm caught our eye. It was a cute little farm called Crescent Moon Ranch. It is free to pet the alpacas, park, and walk around the farm. If you want to feed them, it was $3 for a huge bag of feed. The alpacas ranged from babies to older ages. They were so adorable and so ready to be fed.

It was a great stop, especially if you have little ones. So when you go hike around in the Smith Rock State Park, go and pet some alpacas afterwards. You will not be disappointed. 

May 21-22: It was time to move again. This time to the coast of Oregon. We only here for a week or so in OR before we have to be in Seattle for family, so we are moving. We are moving fast and doing a lot along the way. That is something that I never really talk about. We move a lot. I mean a lot a lot. We have been picking up, packing up, and moving almost daily lately. Let’s just say that we have your routine down to 30 minutes or less. It’s been raining these last few days. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see the beautiful mountains that surround Bend, OR. I would say that even if the weather was crappy during our visit, Bend is definitely on our list to look into farther for moving. We shall see. On our moving days, we always try to find things to do along the way. For this moving day in particular, we found two things: the Clear Lake and the Bigelow Hot Springs. Before we continue, stop and go google Clear Lake Oregon. It looks so beautiful with the sunlight on it. Clear Lake was absolutely beautiful.

It actually reminded me a lot of the clear water springs found in Florida. Alec and I have been to so many of those springs while living back home. This water was different than the springs in Florida. The water temperature is at a constant 34 ish degrees even during the summer. We were talking to the park ranger and he told us that he jumped in only 3 times last year and not for very long. He told us that the lake was formed by lava reaching the river and shifted the water towards the forest thousands of years ago. Melting snow from the mountains have continued to feed and grow this beautiful, clear lake. The old forest is now seen through the water at the bottom of Clear Lake.

You can see the old tree still standing at the bottom of Clear Lake.

This place would be a definite stop for a good summer day. With weather in the mid 40s and rainy, Alec and I aren’t exactly motivated to enjoy a good paddle in the lake. It’s a redo place.

Now for Bigelow Hot Springs. The hot spring isn’t very difficult to get to. It’s just a short hike along the river and you are there. Bigelow Hot Springs isn’t very big. It was comfortable for Alec and I, but, I wouldn’t recommend a big group. It was a very beautiful hot spring. It was right up against the McKenzie River and surrounded by big stones.

Bright green plants drape over the spring. Sidenote..that is something that I adore about the Pacific Northwest. The smell of pine and the brightness of the forest greens. It is very rainy, but, the trees and plants are just so vivid.

It was beautiful to see that with the hot spring. The smell of pine was so sweet and yummy. I just love that scent. Another great thing about the hot springs in Oregon is that they are clothing optional. It was a short hike out of the spring, but, there was no one to be seen. We were able to strip down right there in the woods and enjoy the hot water in the bare skin that God gave us (sorry mom and dad). It definitely saved us a trip going to put our bathing suits on. We didn’t last every long it the hot spring. It wasn’t very hot, especially for that rainy, cold Oregon day. It was a nice 10 minute soak while overlooking the river and great stop for our moving day. That night we stayed in another casino parking lot called Three Rivers Casino.

It was completely free to stay in and had cell service. We found this campground on the Campendium app. They required overnight campers to fill out a RV form with security so we felt very safe that night. I have said this so many times throughout my blogs, but, PLEASE don’t pay for an expensive RV park or campground when there are so many free options out there.

We have moved so much these last few days that I feel like I am just naming off the places we have gone to. “And then we did this and then that and then this.” It is what it is. Just boring for me to write to be honest. I guess I will just continue that theme for this blog post because the next day, we really did go to some amazing coastal spots that I think would be worth to stop at. And now for the Oregon coast. That place is just so beautiful. Vivid green plants, cliffs, rolling waves. The Seal Lion Caves were highly recommended to us by friends.

When we found out that the price to go into the caves was $14 a person per person, we heavily reconsidered it. After all, we are on a budget for this trip. I am so glad that we paid the money and went anyways. It is the biggest seal lion cave in the states.

You go down an elevator to be dropped off in a cave (wow surprise). There you can stand behind some bars and watch the sea lions. The cool thing about this cave is that is isn’t like a zoo. They aren’t confined in it. They freely move in and out. You can just stand back and watch them do their thing.

They are so extremely territorial, my gosh. A sea lion would swim in to relax on the rock and they would all start yelling at him/her. It was hilarious to watch them interact with each other. It was a great stop. It was so glad we decided to go through with it. Going up the Oregon coast, we found endless spots to enjoy: Thor’s Well, Devils Churn, Devils Punch Bowl.

I’m not really sure why they felt the need to name everything after the devil. We stood there at each location watching the power of the water against the cliffs. It’s shocking how loud that water is when it hits those surfaces. For that day, we decided to go from the coast to the forest land around Mount Hood. Our route throughout Oregon has felt like a huge zigzag. Oh well. So far, we have stopped at the places that we wanted to. We really wanted to see Mount Hood for ourselves. Mainly because it is the biggest mountain in the state of Oregon. Alec, being the mountain man that he is, was very excited to go exploring over there. And so we began our travels towards Mount Hood.

Brenchley Travels

New posts every Monday and Friday. 

Tallest trees and deepest lake.

May 15-16: almost out of California. Our end stretch of our stay in California. I know that I have complained about the expense of California ever since we got here, but, I’m excited for the gas prices to go down, the free land is start popping up again, and for a different state. California has been good to us though. Some of the most beautiful and amazing national parks are in California. My favorite being Yosemite National Park, if you couldn’t already tell. We have one more national park is hit and then we are on our way towards Oregon. I still can’t believe that we are this far into our trip. I feel like we just started. I also feel like we have been traveling for years. I can’t get it together, obviously. We are excited to see the Redwoods National Park before we cross over to Oregon. I have a feeling that it will be very similar vibes to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  It will just be a different type of tree. We needed a campsite for the next few days and found another Casino parking lot to stay at (we just stayed in another casino’s parking lot the night before). This casino parking was not free for RVs like the last one. Kind of a bummer, kind of not surprised. It is about 25 miles south of the Redwoods entrance and fairly priced. It’s $20 for 1-3 nights. I was slightly confused by what that meant at first. If you stay for just one night, you pay $20. If you stay up the maximum of 3 nights, you are still paying that flat rate $20. It is a first-come, first-served system and only a few spots for RV parking, so try to come early if you can and have a back up plan. The casino made us fill out a RV form to stay on their property and we felt very safe leaving it while we explored. 

The Redwoods National and State Parks were about 25 minutes from the casino grounds. It was a very rainy and cloudy day. The rain never stopped the entire day that we were out exploring the redwoods. Kind of a bummer, but, we have to continue to roll with it. We don’t have time to sit and wait anymore. From the southern entrance, it is about a hour drive to get to the end of the park. If you look on a map, there are hikes, coastal views, and scenic drives throughout the entire hour stretch. We kept on seeing signs for Redwoods National Park and various other state parks.

Trees Mystery Store within the park.

We weren’t really sure why they split the land like that. My guess was because of some Native American reservation lands. That was not correct. After your trip to the national park, I did some research of the good ol’ internet. Wikipedia says that the redwood trees used to be on 2 million acres of land of the Northern California coast in the late 1800s. Native Americans lived within the redwood trees, but, the damage really started in the 1920s when men started logging the trees for the growth of California. That went on for a while until people started to notice that these amazing, tall trees and the environment around it were being destroyed. A few state parks were put into place to help preserve the trees: Praire Creek, Del Norte Coast, and Jedediah Smith State Park. It wasn’t until the late 1960s were they felt the need to make the land into an actual national park. According to the Wiki article, 90% of these giant, shockingly beautiful trees were gone by the time they decided on the national park. So sad. If you ever visit the Redwoods National Park, now you know why you enter and exit the state parks as you go up the coastline. Because it was very rainy, we didn’t do a ton of hikes. We walked along the beach before I got too cold and had to go back into the car. The one hike we did was actually stunning and very satisfying. It was the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail. It is a very simple 1.4 mile loop trail that takes you through the tall redwood trees. It was foggy, cold, and rainy, but, seeing those trees up-close was worth it. Those trees are some of the tallest trees in the world and can range up to over 370 feet tall. Incredible!

The trail is on the southern section of the park. Overall, the Redwoods National Park was a beautiful place.

May 17-18: moving onto Oregon.We woke up the next morning soooo excited to get out of California. We have been in California for 12 days now and it was time to move along with our trip. I know that I have semi-badmouthed California, but, it is what it is. I’m going to do a quick pros and cons for the state of California and our experience traveling through it while towing a RV. Let’s start with the cons.

Cons:

  1. Cali was the most expensive state to travel through out of the 12 states that we have traveled through on this trip.
  2. CA has bridge/ highway tolls that are a minimum of $6 and we found the maximum to be $21 while towing Callie (the caravan).
  3. The average gas prices were $4-4.25, making it the most expensive gas prices that we have run into during this trip. We have actually spent the limit on our gas budget for the month just within CA. This is also an extremely tall state and takes a lot of time for traveling.
  4. CA doesn’t have a lot of free land options for RV camping. We found only a few campgrounds (only out of pure miracle) where we didn’t have to pay.
  5. It is very difficult to find free/inexpensive water for the RV for water refills.

Pros:

  1. CA is truly a beautiful state. The coastline views and drives are just breathtaking.
  2. CA is the home to many AMAZING National Parks. Yosemite was my favorite out of California and Sequoia/ Kings Canyon was Alec’s favorite. 
  3. In N Out Burger. Need I say more?!
  4. The weather in California is beautiful. No humidity and all sunshine.
  5. we both really enjoyed San Francisco. I have personally been to other major cities within California and they are all beautiful and super fun to visit.

Overall, it was a beautiful state. Just be prepared to dish out some extra cash if you want to enjoy it for yourself. It is definitely a “pay to play” state. I was so excited to see Oregon for the first time and experience what this new state (for me) had to offer.

I was also very excited to go see Crater Lake National Park for myself. I had a coworker tell me about it over a year ago now and I have been so excited to see it for myself. We made a few stops on the way to our campsite: small grocery gathering and an oil change. There is nothing more important than car maintenance while being on a trip like this. Thank the LORD for Alec because he is the one that keeps that all in check. Alec found a campground just minutes from the entrance of Crater Lake called Annie Creek Snow Park.

During the winter you have to have a permit to camp overnight because the snow trails are open and the area is open for snow activities. During the spring and summer, it’s free game. You don’t need a permit, its free, and has cell service. It was a fantastic area to park our RV in for the night. It was a huge concrete parking lot. What I loved about this campsite is that there are bathrooms and an enclosed picnic area. People who are traveling in their cars or tents will have those amenities.

I also really enjoyed this campground because it was literally minutes from the entrance to the park. It was a huge decrease in temperature so we put the heat on, got some sleep, and woke up the next morning excited to explore.

Crater Lake National Park. Such a great park!

It was a shame because Alec and I really didn’t get to fully enjoy the whole park. Even if it is mid-May, the snow is still going and still very thick. Almost the entire rim surrounding the lake was closed due to snowed- in roads.

Only the southern areas and about a mile or two of the rim around the lake was open. We found that the best time to visit this fantastic park is July- August. You will get the blossoms of the flowers, blue lake, and snow-free roads. We learned a lot about Crater Lake and how it became this beautiful blue lake during our time at the park. Crater Lake used to be a mountain, Mount Mazama. Small volcanic eruptions built this mountain to be estimated 12,000 feet. About 7,700 years ago, a massive volcanic eruption caused the mountain to collapse on it’s own weight from expanding gases and magma. This deep basin was filled with snow water over time to what it is now, Crater Lake. According to the information that we were given, Crater Lake is one of the “snowiest inhabited places in America.” The snow melt really filled in that basin. Crater Lake is now the deepest lake in the states and one of the most pure. In the little article you are given, it talks about how scientists have only explored 2% of the lakes floor. What small section of the floor they did explore, they found thick bacteria surviving without light. Hydrothermal pools were found as a heat source in the lake. Super neattt! The lake is a massive, clear body of water.

It was just breathtaking looking at it. Thick snow lined the edges of the lake and covered the surrounding trees. Unfortunately, we only got a small piece of that park due to the road closures. I would love to come back and explore Crater Lake National Park in its full glory. 

After the park, we decided to move again for the night. We wanted to move towards a hot spring. We had stopped at a hot spring in Colorado and loved it, so we jumped at the chance to experience that again. We moved a hour or so north to some forest land called Clearwater Number Two Forebay Dam.

It’s free land, easy for RVs to camp, and has cell service. It’s the little things in life. Alec had found a hot spring called Umpqua Hot Springs. There are a very steep 0.5 mile hike to the multiple layered hot springs. You could smell the sweet pine smell from the trees as you hiked towards the springs.  7 or 8 natural hot spring pools that stair stepped down towards the river.

The lower tier of the hot springs. I was unable to get the full picture due to the nudity.
NOT MY PICTURE. PICTURE FOUND ON GOOGLE IMAGES.

The hot spring closest to the river was the coldest. The hot water rained down in-between pools, making each pool a different temperature. It was soo cool. I found out today that the hot springs in Oregon are all mostly clothing optional. People were freely relaxing naked in the hot spring water. That in no way bothers me. I really admire the fact that people are freely living their life’s and just enjoy themselves. It wasn’t weird or sexualized. They were just relaxing in the skin that God gave them. I loved it. If that isn’t your style, completely understand. Just be aware that hot springs in Oregon are clothing optional. We ended up going from pool to pool, enjoying the different pool temperatures. Through that, we met a ton of amazing people. People from Oregon, people from Florida. They were all so nice. At one point while we were in the hottest hot spring, Alec’s blood pressure had started to go down. He went completely white and couldn’t see. It was terrifying. He just sucks things up. If something is hurting him, you will never know. One time he hurt his knee and three days later we were hiking in North Carolina. He very rarely EVER complains. He just sat on the side of the hot spring, ghostly, saying that he was going to vomit. I asked him to look at me and he just looked up passed me. He was completely blacking out. Our dumbasses didn’t bring water or food with us. We ALWAYS bring water and food during a hike. The one time we didn’t, this happens. I look at the people we had been chatting with and asked them for something to eat and drink. They were so amazing and handed me strawberries, bread, water. They were just so amazing. I can’t get over it. It took a few good minutes, but, you could see the color in his face start to come back. That was just an absolutely horrible feeling, but, thank God Alec was fine afterwards. We ended up staying at the pools for 3 hours or so chatting with those people. It was like we had known these people for years. Anddd Alec never had another episode after that. I was sure to give them big hugs and express my thankfulness for what they did. It was just an amazing time at the hot springs. 

Brenchley Travels

New posts every Monday and Friday. 

Cursing through San Francisco.

May 11-15: moving along to Northern California. Yesterday in Yosemite National Park was magical. Go there! Now! So good! We are moving again this time to Northern California. We packed up Callie at the Diamond O Campground (just outside Yosemite. It’s a great campground) and on we went. We were traveling across the state towards San Francisco. I have some family just outside of San Fran and really want to see that city for myself. We decided for our traveling day that we were going to have an errand day. No hiking, no site-seeing..just traveling and errands. That seems so boring! I know! It is essential even while you are traveling full-time to stop and get things done. First things first….our campground. Towards or around San Fran there are not a whole lot of options for free camping. I found a few parking lots that we can chill in for the night, but, nothing I would really trust to leave Callie in as we explored. That’s the thing about California. Everything is just dumb expensive: campgrounds, gas, food, etc. To be honest, Alec is not a fan of this place. “I can’t wait to leave California.” He has been loving the national parks and some of land as we are driving. It’s just not his type of place and I respect that. Unlike Alec, I adore California. I really do love Cali. For campgrounds, Alec found the cheapest and closest campground a hour or so outside of San Fran called Carnegie State Park.

The campground is $10 a night and doesn’t have cell service. It is pretty centrally located. You just can’t plan anything via your phone while you are here. I actually really enjoy the lack of service. I don’t have to think about anything else, but, my husband and me and God. It’s a very relaxing time. This campground is also a motor cross staging area. There are a bunch of trails just off of this campground, so there are a ton of people on their 4 wheelers and motor cross bikes roaming around. If you aren’t about that, I understand. We actually didn’t expect that ourselves. If you are fine with the noise and cool with the $10 per night, this is a great place outside of San Fran. We dropped off Callie, did laundry, and got some groceries. Again, boring and essential. 

San Francisco. I have actually never been to San Francisco before. We had a morning/ afternoon to get the feeling of downtown before we were supposed to meet one of my family members. California is an expensive place, especially San Fran. You have to pay a $6 toll just to enter onto the bridge for downtown. Just take my money, California!! We both really wanted to experience the Golden State Bridge. I started our downtown experience by driving our F150 truck through the narrow and very busy streets. Nothing causes me to curse like a sailor like having to battle the drivers of San Francisco. It was absolute madness down there. It was a beautiful city, just very congested. I was shocked by how many houses, apartments, condos, whatever they were that they could fit into one space. House on house on house on house. I will say that the little buildings had a very nice charm to them. Even if they were touching together, each unit had it’s own color or structure to it. Of course, I forgot to take pictures of it as a reference to look at. Just Google it. Despite people’s efforts trying to hit our truck, I made it to the Golden Gate Bridge parking lot. Surprisingly, that was free. Something free in California?!? Whattttttt? It was a beautiful and very chilly walk to the bridge. Just be prepared for San Fran’s cold weather. It was super hot at our campsite, but, it was CHILLY in that city. The wind was roaring towards us making even Alec cold. He never seems to be cold. Just bring a jacket if you are going to visit. The Golden Gate Bridge was just outstanding.

It was so much more striking in person. It was just amazing. It was interesting as well because when they were making this bridge, there were over 2000 petitions to cancel the job. No one thought that the bridge would withstand the currents and everyone thought it would disturb the view. Little did they know that it would be one of the most iconic bridges in America. I learned another thing that I did not know about the Golden Gate Bridge. There are a bunch of national parks surrounding it naming it the Golden Gate National Parks. It is a collection of parks that stretches over 59 miles. We had no idea. Stinson Beach, Marlin Headlands, Mount Tamalpais, Fort Point, and Alcatraz are just a few of the areas that are protected under the national parks system. It was really neat to see Alcatraz from the view of the bridge. All alone on its own little island. We also went to the north side of the bridge to see the view directly into the city.

We must have spent hours just looking at this structure. It’s just that amazing. Plus the surrounding area is just beautiful. Cliffs off the coast, people sailing, endless amounts of water.

If you are never seen the Golden Gate Bridge, put that on your bucket list. 

After we were done drooling over the Golden Gate, we decided to try and head into town for some lunch. I also needed to stop in a LUSH store for some new facial moisturizer. If you haven’t checked out my blog post all about my go-to products while being on the road, go check it out. Parking is almost impossible to find within the city. We must have circled around 7 times before finding something and we weren’t really positive that it was an actual parking spot.

We got some pizza at a place at Arinell’s Pizza. It’s a hole in the wall NYC styled pizza shop right in downtown. It was so yummy and cheap. You get a big ol’ fresh slice. We drove down the  iconic windy Lombard Street. Our F150 truck was not made for that narrow and VERY windy switch back road, but, we still made it…barely. We only spent a few hours within the city before we were done. Way too many people. After being out in the middle of nowhere and having the room to really stretch your arms out, cities aren’t the most desirable places to go. I still love them…just in small doses now. Now to visit my family. I was really excited to visit with my older cousin, Lauren.

She lives just outside of San Fran so we weren’t very far from her. I haven’t seen her since 2015 so it was a treat to visit. She has two beautiful, young girls and a super nice husband. We hung outside in their backyard the entire time. The weather was lovely. It was cool with a breeze and no humidity. It was just so nice and relaxing to catch up with a familiar face and do it with some wine in our hands. Plus, the girls were allowing Lauren to actually sit and relax. Happy Mothers Day to you! Thank you guys so much for dinner and drinks!

The next day, we woke up early to go explore some more of California. This time it wasn’t going to be a city. While we were in Yosemite, we had a couple highly recommend going to something called the Big Sur. We both have never heard of this place, but, after some Google Imaging we were sold. It was a few hours south from our campground and we wanted to really experience it. We decided to just leave Callie at the same campground (Carnegie State Park) and drive down the 2.5 hours south to see it. It was worth it.

We drove through windy roads right off the cliffs of the water. It looked sooo much like Nova Scotia, Canada where we honeymooned. Some of the drives throughout Nova Scotia, especially through the Cape Breton area, looked like Big Sur. Here..look at pictures.

Big Sur, California.
Cape Breton, Novia Scotia, Canada.

It was a sweet surprise semi reliving what you thought looked like our honeymoon and driving through some of the beautiful California coast. That drive made California so much more sweet for us.

Napa Valley was up next. I have heard only good things about Napa Valley from my mom. She lovessss going with her sister, drinking wine, being fancy. I wanted a day to be fancy for myself. We were already going north through Napa, so why not stop. Napa can be very expensive and since we are on a budget, we decided just to go to one winery. I know…that’s boring. I can’t justify spending a ridiculous amount of money on alcohol. I did want that experience in at least one winery. I picked the Beringer Vineyard.

It doesn’t require a reservation and looked beautiful from the pictures online. That’s the problem with most of the Napa Wineries…you have to have a reservation to taste any wine. Since our plans seem to be up in the air some of the time, we needed a winery that didn’t require a reservation. If you google the wineries without a reservation, you can actually pick for a few hundred. The options are endless. Beringer Vineyard was a beautiful, charming, little place. Built in 1876 and according to Wikipedia “it is the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley.” They provide you with a decision of two separate wine tasting experiences: the simple $25 testing where you get 3 wines or the $40 one with the fancy 3 wines. We picked the cheapest one, of course. It was nice to just sip on a new wine and enjoy the grounds.

I was really excited to do a little self-tour through the house on the property, but, to my disappointment you have to be a fancy member to experience the goodness that the house has to offer. It was a lovely day with Alec, sipping wine, being fancy, slightly embarrassing ourselves (too goofy, can’t go anywhere).

We ended our day by staying in the Robinson Rancheria Casino parking lot.

Sounds so romantic. We were both honestly just super happy about finally staying somewhere in California for free. It was a safe location and had cell phone service. Score! This state doesn’t like to give out free land for camping. Just a few more days and we will move onto our next state. 

Brenchley Travels

New posts every Monday and Friday. 

Yosemite National Park.

May 9-10: Off to Yosemite National Park. We have had luck for many weeks and haven’t had to pay for any campgrounds. We actually haven’t paid for a campground (only paid for 4 out of 26 campgrounds so far) since we stayed in Denver, CO and that was only because the free land was snowed in. That was over a month ago or so. Yosemite feels like the same. Some of the major roads are closed due to remaining snow, limiting us on our options for free forest lands. A lot of the free lands are on the western side of Yosemite. That entire road is closed and it would take us over 5 hours to drive around the park. It unfortunately was going to be paying time. We found a few campgrounds near the entrance of Yosemite that weren’t insanely priced. Actually lets be completely real…they are all insanely priced. The campground that we found is called Diamond O Campground and is just outside the Yosemite park. The side street leading towards the campground is rather long, but, it still is very close. The campgrounds inside of the park are obviously all reserved. It’s interesting to see that half of the campgrounds are still closed for the season. It’s May, guys….open them up. It’s $26 per night and is about the cheapest that you could find around this area. California is just an expensive state. Gas prices are ridiculous, campsites are ridiculous. We sucked up the fact that we had to pay for a space and unpacked Callie. We were ready to get some good sleep to be up early for Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park…

this is a national park that I have been craving to go to for some time now. The campground that we were staying at worked out perfectly for us. It was so close to the entrance of the park. We woke up and we were inside of Yosemite by 9. The drive when you first enter the park is just breathtaking. Windy, narrow roads that take you through tunnels, around the corners of mountains, passed random waterfalls, and gave you a stunning view. It is almost difficult to stand in front of a view that amazing and be able to fully take it all in. It looks fake. I know that we have been to many different national parks in the past few weeks, but, it doesn’t get any easier trying to take it all in. It was just amazing, beautiful, vast, clear, sunny, everything. It was everything. That view was everything. We decided not to stop at the outlooks too much and try to go straight towards the visitor center parking lot. We would hit those on the way out. If this park was going to be be anything like the Grand Canyon or Zion, we knew that parking would good fast. Around 9:30, we were able to find a parking spot fairly easily. It also helped that it was a Friday and not the weekend. Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Zion are like the Disney World of national parks. Do your absolute best to NOT go on a weekend. We went to Zion on a Sunday and almost left because it was so crowded and ridiculous. We had talked to random strangers and they said the same thing. “Don’t go on a weekend!” Also, come early for parking. We watched car after car around noon looking for parking that didn’t exist. Don’t put yourself through that stress. We went inside of the visitor centers and got recommendations from a park ranger of what we should do. I would always recommend standing in that information desk line just to see what roads, trails, sites are closed. A good portion of Yosemite (Tioga Road) was closed still for the season due to snow. The park rangers will have more immediate information than online resources will. It’s an obvious thing…but get more information before you start your day. From the visitors center, it is a 10 minute walk or so to see the Yosemite Falls. You can walk to the upper or lower falls. The upper falls hike is strenuous and amount 8 miles long involving switch backs and a lot of elevation gain. According to the internet, the best time to hike and view the waterfall is spring. All of the snow will be melting and the flow will be at its peak. We didn’t do the upper falls trail. We rather do a bunch of smaller hikes and be able to see more if we only have one day at explore. The lower falls trail was super simple and not very long. It brought you out to where the second section of the waterfall. Water and mist fly freely in this area.

Make sure to bring a rain jacket because you will get wet. The lower and upper falls hikes are up close and personal to the Yosemite Falls. It’s shocking how tall this waterfall is, being the tallest waterfall in the U.S. at 2,425 feet. We also learned that during the winter a “snow-cone” forms at the base of the waterfall. 300 feet or so of snow collect making the shape of an upside down snow-cone.

NOT MY PHOTO. FOUND ON GOOGLE IMAGE.

You can also look at the falls from a distance. The park has options to park and walk with the Yosemite Falls as your views in the background. Just gorgeous.

There were many, many, many waterfalls throughout the park. Random water just drip off the rocks as the snow melts and collect in the same river. The river, surprisingly enough, had completely clear water. You could see the rocks as the water passed over them. Once you have walked to the Yosemite Falls from the visitor center, hop on a shuttle bus. Like Grand Canyon and Zion, Yosemite has certain areas where it is shuttle bus only. Plus it would be almost impossible to get a parking space in certain areas depending on the time of day. It is just easier to hop right on one. We took the shuttle bus and headed towards the Mist Trail Hike. The park ranger wasn’t exaggerating when he said that this hike was strenuous. It is pretty much straight up on the way to the Vernal Falls. The hike itself isn’t very long, only being over 2 miles or so. It’s just the elevation gain. You gain about 600 feet in a short 2 miles. I really like challenging hikes though. I like working my body and increasing my heart rate. Makes me feel good especially since we travel and sit in a car all of the time. On the Mist Trail, there are two different falls that you are go see. The Vernal Falls and the Nevada Falls. We did the Vernal Falls. Again, make sure you bring a rain coat. You get WET. The water from the Vernal Falls bounces right back up onto you. The last section of this hike is steep and full of slick stone stairs. Be careful. The drop off would be a long way down. I didn’t want any pictures of this section of the hike because I wanted to be alert and aware of where I was placing my feet. We not only battled the hike, we battled the crowds of that hike. Everyone wanted to climb those stairs all at once, making it extremely scary going up and down. It was worth it. If you were to continue on that path, you could eventually get to the Half Dome. That section of the hike requires a permit, just so you are aware. Alec and I were both very satisfied walking back down after that trail. It was challenging and beautiful. The next place that was went to was the Mirror Lake (also didn’t get a picture). It was an easy 2 mile hike that led you through tall, green trees towards the Mirror Lake. The lake (obviously) reflected the image of the mountains surrounding it. As we walked through the trail, beautiful white flowers were alive and open for spring. Moss covered the trees making the pathways look magical. It was be a great hike for the family. 

We had been seeing signs for the Majestic Yosemite Hotel all day while we were in the shuttle bus. I really wanted to see if this place was actually “majestic”. It really was. It looked like a giant cabin with green accents.

You walked into the lobby and it looked very vintage with the vintage check in counter and bar. Immediately, I thought of the movie “The Shining”. To me, it looked identical minus a very drawings on the walls. You walked down the hallway and turn the corner to see an open lounge area. It looked EXACTLY like the room where Jack “worked”.

I even took a video and sent it to my father (who loves The Shining) and he thought that it was at that hotel. It surreal. After doing some research after visiting the hotel, I saw that Stephen King was heavily inspired for the lounge area of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (once called Ahwahnee Hotel) and made his sets based on it. That was a treat for me because I love that film. If you go to Yosemite, go to the hotel. See it for yourself. 

We decided to set up our chairs in the field just outside of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel to watch the sunset. We had a beautiful landscape in front of us. Picture to prove it.

I honestly can’t imagine a more beautiful ending. Pinks and reds lighting up the mountains: the Half Dome, El Capitan. We sat there talking to surrounding couples and just absorbing Yosemite. What a great park. What a great ending to a great day. We packed up our chairs and started heading back home for the night.

I could feel myself getting emotional as we left. Yosemite National Park was a park that I was so excited to see for myself and we had a perfect day there. It crazy to think that we have planned this trip for so long. It was once a dream that we used to talk about and now it’s a reality. Alec and I both haven’t really grasped the adventures that we have been on and I don’t think that we will until we are done with this trip. We are just in shock everyday at the opportunity we have. Our trip of a lifetime is just so sweet and so beautiful. We are so thankful. 

Brenchley Travels

New posts every Monday and Friday 

We went to Las Vegas.

May 5: Off to Nevada. We knew that we wanted to go to Las Vegas and Hoover Dam, but, we weren’t sure if we wanted to drive the full distance to get there. We had just had a full time of traveling around and hiking in Sedona and didn’t want to have to drive the 4 hours to get to our next location. We compromised and went about half way to a place called Cerbat Foothills Recreational BLM in Kingman, AZ. We got there when it was dark, so we didn’t immediately see the beautiful desert and mountains that surrounded us.

Waking up and opening our door the next morning was a great surprise. We rarely travel at night or unpack Callie at night, but, we didn’t want to stay in Sedona or Flagstaff. We had to keep moving along. I have actually started a list of the campgrounds or places (like people’s houses) that we have stayed at and will do a full blog post just about that once we are done traveling around. So far, we are at over 20 places. The next morning, we were ready to get into Nevada. We knew that we would be in Nevada for a short time, but, we were excited to check it out. Like Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, I have never been in Nevada. This trip is just too cool! We had plans to go to the Hoover Dam and then go to the main strip in Las Vegas and we were both excited. First things first, our campsite. We initially decided that we were going to park our RV near Hoover Dam and then go to Las Vegas for the night ( a hour and a half away from Hoover). So we found an amazing BLM land called the Kingman Wash near the dam and right off of Meads Lake.

 It was BEAUTIFUL. We had the lake in the background  and rock mountains surrounding us. It was also extremely close to the Hoover Dam. The only negative thing that I would say about this BLM campground is that you have to drive down about 3 miles through a windy, rutted, narrow roads just to get to the campground. Some of the corners were so narrow and sharp that I was afraid that Callie wouldn’t make it. The campground is just absolutely stunning though. We went down to the water where people were swimming and put our feet in it. We really wanted to stay and swim, but, we have a lot we want to do yet and time is starting to run out before we need to get in Alaska. We unpacked Callie, ate lunch, and then decided that it would be a smarter choice to move Callie closer to Las Vegas. We decided that because we were a hour and a half away. I can’t imagine driving back after we went to the strip. We wanted to be closer to California and reduce some of our traveling time the next day. So we packed our baby right back up and headed towards that direction. That’s always a frustrating moment. It takes, at least 40 minutes, to pack that thing up again. It’s just small learning lessons for next time. We ended up taking Callie to the Hoover Dam with us. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take it in because we have guns in it. It’s free to get in, but, they shy away from guns entering the property for obvious reasons. They told us that we could park the RV at the Hoover Dam Lodge and come back without the weapons. So that’s exactly what we did. If you are carrying and have a RV, save some time and park it in the parking lot of the Hoover Dam Lodge before you go through the security check points. Hoover Dam was impressive.

 It was built in the 1930s and only took 5 years to complete. When looking over at the structure, that is just hard to imagine. It’s a beautiful area with the green water and the bridge through the mountains. We did end up taking a quick tour through the grounds. Alec really wanted to see how the place operated. It was a 10 minute movie and 30 minute walk through. We went way down 600 feet into the dam.

That part freaked me out. You could feel the rush of the water in the passageway under my feet. Spoookyyy! After the dam, we were needing to move our RV again. Since we realized that that one campground wouldn’t work for us, we needed a new campsite for the night that would be closer to Las Vegas. Alec was able to find a really beautiful site called the Corn Creek Spring BLM.

 The only bad thing about this land is that there is a minimal amount of space. I’m talking only a few lots that only hold two campers. We managed to park our RV right next to a girl who is from Nevada. It is a beautiful site with mountains that surround you. It was also nice because it was only 30 minutes from downtown Las Vegas and about a hour and a half from California. It worked out perfectly. We quickly unpacked Callie, got changed, and headed towards downtown. It’s interesting to me because whenever someone talks to me about Nevada, it’s almost always about the strip in Las Vegas. No one has ever told me how absolutely beautiful the place is. I really wish that we had some extra time for some hikes around our campsite because it looked amazing. Next time, Nevada. 

Okay, so lets talk about the strip of Las Vegas. It was absolute chaos. Since we started this trip, we have really reduced the amount of time that we spend out on the town. Partly due to our budget and trying not to drink out and partly due to us being out all day long. It was very different for us to be battling the crowds of the strip. It was very overstimulating. Poor Alec was having sensory overload. My handsome mountain man of a husband isn’t the biggest fan of crowds, but, just went along with it because he could see how excited I was. Don’t get me wrong. He had a great time. It was just a lot for him. It was a lot even for me. Bright lights, big noises, lots of boob truck advertising.

If you didn’t know the number to the girls club or whatever it was by the end of the night, then you were blind. Those trucks with the huge advertisements went by every 30 seconds. It was interesting to say the least. I did enjoy the themes of the different casinos. The strip had the different world themes for their casinos: NYC, Italy, Greece, China, Paris, etc. I loved walking around and looking at each theme. We did walk through a lot of the hotels just to see it. We didn’t touch a machine, but, were curious how the town looked like. It was the best place for people watching. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad. We went to a hotel called Circus, Circus. There was a section for full roller coasters inside. Crazzy. One of my favorite parts of the night was watching the iconic water/ lights show at the Bellagio Hotel.

I know that is a cliche thing to say, but, that place is amazing. I also really loved the Flamingo Hotel. Not only does it smell like a weird sunscreen (just reminding me of my beach days as a child), but, they also have flamingos in the back. It just reminds me how I feel homesick. I never thought that I would miss Florida, but, I do. I really don’t want to live there again. I just miss the good ol’ times and my childhood in Florida. Speaking of Florida, Alec and I really wanted a margarita (it was cinco de mayo). We got one at the MargaritaVille. Yes, I know…you can get a margarita there pretty much anywhere now. The strip had those frozen margaritas everywhere and I hate those. They have a ton of sugar in them and just upset my stomach. MargaritaVille was one of the only places where I didn’t have to get a slurpie for a drink. It works out at the end of the day. They were only $4 on sale with Cinco De Mayo. Score! Vegas is also interesting because you can walk around the strip with your drink. You don’t really see that most places. It was a late night for us. We didn’t get back to our RV until after 1 am. I felt like such an old lady because I passed out right away. We did do Hoover Dam, move twice, and go to the strip so I guess I should give myself more credit. It was a great day in Nevada. 

May 6-9: moving time again! Moving along to another state, California.

California makes it 12 states for this trip. I love California and was excited to go back. I have family lining Cali, but, will unfortunately not be able to see most of them like I would have liked too. My aunt and uncle who live south of LA are out of the country. BOO. Plus, with the week we missed with our truck problems, we really don’t have any time now to go down to southern Cali. Another time! We were heading to the Death Valley National Park. This is the last of the desert for what I understand. That’s a weird thought for me. We have been hanging out in the desert for the past month and it just seems normal. From here on out, there will be little to no desert terrains. That’s okay. It’s good to change it up a bit. We woke up and had to move Callie again. This time into California. The drive wasn’t very far, only about a hour and a half, but, we had to run some errands. Water and sewage were on the list for that day. We probably refill our RV water once a week. Once we were refilled and drained, we could now head to Cali with a prepared Callie. Death Valley National Park..I did not know a whole lot about it.

I feel like this national park is very underrated. My understanding is that the park doesn’t get a whole lot of traffic. I mean, I get it. It’s not the most ideal climate for a baby or young family. With the name Death Valley, I’m sure people have realized that it is extremely hot and dry…..causing deaths. I had to look up the amount of deaths in this park. With a name like that, I feel like it’s almost mandatory. It’s interesting because most of the deaths that happen yearly happen from automobile accidents..crashing or driving too fast. Dehydration and heat still kills people, but, it’s not as often as accidents. It’s also interesting because we learned that there has been a tribal group, Timbisha Shoshone, that has been living in the national park for about 1,000 years and there is still land just for them. So long story short, it’s not doing as much damage to people as you would think it would with the name “Death Valley”. It was so beautiful. The park was open in the middle with big valleys of salt deposits and surrounded by rock mountains.

Random sand dunes hung out with the salt valleys. According to the internet, Death Valley is the second largest national park to the ones in Alaska. I had no idea! There was a lot to see and not a lot of time to do it. We discovered that Death Valley is the lowest point in America with an altitude of 282 feet below sea level. That section of the park is at the Badwater Basin. There was also an absolutely beautiful drive called the Artist Drive. It’s about 9 miles and it winds you through the different colored canyons. One of the them being the Artists Palette which was various colors of greens, oranges, and reds.

We ended our night with a sunset over the Mesquite Sand Dunes. The sand was soft in between my toes. It felt like we were home again in Florida. It was calming to watch the sun go down behind the mountains and have the sky turn its beautiful oranges and pinks over that sand. Before we even entered the park previously in the day, Alec found a little nice campsite (The Pads) to stay at just outside of the park. It was technically private land, but, a ton of people camped on it with us and there was absolutely no sign indicating that it was private land. The only way we figured that out was from the park ranger. It looked like an abandoned RV park or the beginning of making one.

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Dozens of concrete slabs landed on the ground. We just backed right onto the slab and called it a night. We had absolutely no problems. 

The next we knew we had to move, again. Yes, we move all of the time. Our next location in California was Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

We are directly on top of each other and usually are paired together. They are within the Sierra Nevada mountain range and house of the tallest mountains in this side of America, Mount Whitney. We had talked to Alec’s cousins husband (what a mouth full) who is a now retired park ranger from the Kings Canyon National Park. He told us that the road on the western section of the parks would be closed still for the season. I couldn’t believe that because it’s May, but, this isn’t Florida. Sense we were coming from the west, we literally had to make a big loop towards their eastern entrance. It took an entire day of traveling and 8 hours on the road. We haven’t traveled for that long since we went from OKC to CO( early April). It’s been a hot minute since we have traveled that long. We usually like to travel a few hours at a time. We were able to drive about 2 hours through the Death Valley NP to get to our next location. That made for 2 whole hours of that park that we haven’t seen yet. Win, win, We finally got to our next campground within the Sequoia/ Kings Canyon parks. Alec found a campground called the Western Big Meadow Road Campground.

It is a free campground option that Alec found through our trusty app “Campendium”. We got all the way up to the campground and noticed that the gate was closed due to excessive snow. Yes, we drove up the mountains and started to see feet of snow still laying on the ground. That was a huge change going from the desert to that in one day. I was in shorts..not prepared for that. There was a parking section just in front of the closed gates with signs that say “NO CAMPING”. Lucky enough for us, there were other campers already there. So we felt safe and good to stay for the night. A few park rangers came by throughout the night and didn’t say a word. We really enjoyed our neighbors. A few guys from Australia who are working up in Canada at a skiing resort and had some time off. We both just love talking to people like that. There was another guy who was from the states and has lived in his van for a year and a half. We all stood there swapping stories before we headed into Callie. My toes were little ice cubes by the time we were done chatting with them. It went on for a hour and half or so. The next day we woke up ready to explore. We were excited to be in a different climate and terrain. Lush, green, tall trees with the snow-tipped mountains lining the background. It was so different from the constant desert dust. We decided to split the two national parks into two days. I think that you would probably do it in one, but, we wanted to give the parks their each day. The first park was the Sequoia National Park. You enter the park and just see these massive old trees. The trees were so tall that it almost hurt your neck trying to look up at them. Sequoia is known for having the biggest tree in the world by volume. There is a short 0.8 mile hike to the tree if you wanted to see it (also provides an easy access for disabled). The tree is called the General Sherman. It….was….massive. Estimated to be 2,200 years old, General Sherman is 275 feet tall and 103 feet circumference at its base.

Talk about a big tree. We got talking to this super nice retired couple and the guy was saying that in the 90s a sequoia tree had fallen and literally read of the earthquake scale. I can’t even imagine the amount of force those trees have when they do fall. The General Sherman weighs an estimated 1,385 tons. Can you imagine the noise that would make if it hit the ground?!? Anyways, we did go on a free short hikes while we were there. One of the hikes being the Big Tree Trail. It’s more of a nice walk than an actual hike. I can’t even describe how tall and big these trees are. It’s shocking. It makes me speechless. Alec was absolutely drooling over the trees. “Imagine how much furniture I could build with these trees?!?”

In all seriousness, he would never cut one down. Those things are thousands of years old and have so much more to offer just as they are now. It’s really difficult to pick a favorite national park or even top 5. We have been able to go to so many beautiful parks and it is getting really difficult picking which ones make the cut. Sequoia was definitely up there for both Alec and I. Kings Canyon National Park was also very beautiful. It felt extremely similar to the vibe that Sequoia had. The Kings Canyon National Park was merged with Sequoia in the 1940s. They both have a similar theme: Large trees and grand views. We didn’t spend as much time in Kings as we did Sequoia, but, still enjoyed visiting. It’s unfortunate that even in mid May that a lot of the roads are still closed for the snow. One day we see thoroughly get to see Kings. We only did a half day due to the road closures. The half day there actually worked out for us. We had our eyes and thoughts set on Yosemite National Park and wanted to get there before sundown. It was about 3 and a half hours from Sequoia/ Kings. We managed to get into a campground just in time from the sun to set. Here’s to exploring Yosemite for the first time!

Brenchley Travels 

New posts every Monday and Friday. 

Flagstaff and Sedona, AZ

May 3-4: enjoying Arizona. We decided after leaving the Grand Canyon area to go south and visit with more family in Flagstaff, Arizona. We were visiting with Alec’s second cousin, Becca, and her husband, Mark. It was only a hour and a half drive so we had the full day to go exploring before they got off of work. We dropped Callie on the street right outside their house and on we went. We found a very popular waterfall called the Grand Falls just a hour outside of Flagstaff. According to the internet, this waterfall is taller than the Niagara Falls at 185 feet high.

The best times to go are in March and April due to the rain off from the melting snow, but, we still wanted to chance it in May. It was definitely starting to dry up when we got there. There was a slow and thin flow over the two teared waterfall. It was a beautiful area. You could see The San Francisco mountains poked their heads in the background. The waterfall fell into a big area canyon and people were hanging out at the base of the waterfall. We searched around for that trail to get down there, but, were unsuccessful. We were standing on the top of the cliffs looking down into the canyon and never figured out how the people got down those cliffs.

Alec and I joked that those people must have jumped to get down there. The Grand Falls is definitely candy for the eyes. Just be sure that you are driving the proper vehicle when going to it. The road leading towards the falls is an extremely rutted road. Even with our tire air down, we were shaking around. We were recommended some hikes in the Flagstaff area, so we decided to try and get one in before it got too late after we got done with the falls. The hike that we chose is called the Fatmans Loop Trail. They call it that because on the trail, there are some areas where “fat men” couldn’t fit through. We actually didn’t even get that far. We realized a half of a mile in or so that we needed to start heading back to our RV. We had plans to go out to dinner and so that meant that we actually needed to get ready ready for the day. If you read my “go-to products” blog posts, you would have read that I don’t usually wear make up. I haven’t applied mascara to go out in a month or so. I was actually very excited to get all dolled up. I didn’t have to worry about going on a hike when I put on my clothes. It was so nice. We rarely ever go out to dinner anymore. The last time was for my birthday in April, so this was a treat. Becca and Mark took us downtown Flagstaff to get dinner.

Downtown was very impressive. It is near an university, so there were a lot of younger adults hanging out. It looked like it was a very artistic town, with murals on the buildings. It reminded me of a mix between downtown Asheville, NC and downtown St Pete, FL. They took us to a restaurant called Criollo Latin Kitchen. There was a wait and so we went to a wine bar right across the street to waste time. It was so lovely to sit down and have a glass of wine in a bar. That sounds so ridiculous to say, but, we have been so strict about our budget. It is just nice to hang out with wonderful people and enjoy alcohol. The food at Criollo Latin Kitchen was just delightful. Alec and I ended up splitting every taco that the restaurant had (only 6, no worries). There was a pork belly taco, catfish, cauliflower, steak, and two chicken tacos. We just sampled each other’s as we went. The ingredients were so fresh. The food was just amazing. I really enjoyed meeting Becca and Mark. They are a lovely couple. After dinner, we went back to their house where they chatted with us over some wine and whiskey. The guys did a blind sampling test using 4 different whiskeys. Mark knew the order of the sampling and was excited to watch Alec guess.

They are just wonderful people. Thank you so much for having us and for hosting us at your home. 

Next stop, Sedona, Arizona. Only for a day or half of a day. I had mentioned in my last blog post that we weren’t going to do a whole lot in Arizona due to the lack of time. We decided against that and decided to go to Sedona anyways. I have heard only good things about Sedona. Lots of hikes, artistic town, lots of off-roading trails. We had to go, at least for a morning. Besides, it was only 1 hour or so from Flagstaff. It would be a sin to not check it out. We took the scenic Schnebly Road into the downtown area. This is a very rough, rutted, dirt off-road, so just aware of that when planning your trip. I would not take your RV down that road. It was unexpectedly beautiful. The road provided us with some of the most striking views of the mountains from Sedona. It put a hour or so onto our travels, but, we totally worth it. We really didn’t spend a huge amount of time in Sedona. We just wanted to do one hike and then we knew we had to travel towards our next location. We picked the very popular Devils Bridge trail to do for the day. From the trailhead, it says to be about 0.8 miles or so, but, we didn’t park at the trailhead. We ended up parking 1.5 mile or so from it because it was a rough road and had tons of people walking on it. We could have driven on it (you will need 4 wheel drive), but, the amount of people walking on it would have been more of an obstacle for us. We were both glad that we parked early and walked. It was a hot hike. It is finally starting to really heat up where we are. It’s been freezing almost our entire first section of this trip, so it’s weird to have really hot weather. Just make sure you hydrate. We saw people with small water bottles and it is just dangerous. People die like that. It’s always funny to me when you hike a very popular trail. The end result consists of dozens of people lining up to “get their shot” .

Random people getting their picture taken.

We didn’t stand in that line. It brought you out to a beautiful arch bridge and that’s where people were lining up to stand on it and get a picture. We were both so glad that we decided to go to Sedona. It was beautiful. 

Now off to Nevada!

Brenchley Travels

New posts every Monday and Friday. 

Two Months of Traveling!

April 27-29: On the road again. We are so excited to be back on the road again. We have been stuck in Cedar City, UT for a week and it was time to move on. If you are ever in this area, Cedar City is a great little town to visit. It did feel good to pack up Callie and go on with our way. It was so nice the day we got our truck back. We were expecting to get it back by 16:30 and they called us at 13:30 saying it was finished. That was the best surprise. We had ran out of water in our RV that morning so it was a blessing that we had some extra time to run errands. We were able to refill on water, dump our sewage, refill our propane tanks, and go to the grocery store before we moved on. Not only that, but, we drove a few hours to our next campsite and still had sunshine. It is an extreme pain to unpack Callie in the dark. It was just nice to be able to do that while we still had sun. Our next site to see was the Bryce Canyon National Park. We found a really nice forest service road called Stout Canyon to set up at.

It was a hour or so away from Bryce Canyon. We did have some trouble with mud in this particular campground. That’s the one problem that we have found for this time of year. All of the snow is melting leaving the dirt roads nearly impossible to pass through. Let’s just say that we had a 30 minute technical driving lesson to get out of this mud. Just be aware of bad roads in the spring time. 

Bryce Canyon National Park was something that we didn’t plan for at first, but, was the most unexpectedly beautiful park.

It’s overwhelming. The park itself doesn’t seem very big, but, the views were gigantic. There are 4 many viewing points (sunset point, sunrise point, inspiration point, and bryce point) where you can look out and see different angles of the rock formation amphitheater.

Inspiration and Bryce points were our favorite overlooks. I’m not saying that the other points weren’t spectacular, but, those were our favorite due to the vast views.  Spire-shaped layered rock formations that stretch out into what looks like a theater. It’s very difficult to describe. It was stunning. I have said this before, but, it was unlike anything that I have seen in the past. It was stunning to see this park towards the end of the winter season. Thick layers of snow still hung out on the sides of some of the rock formations. I’m talking 6 feet thick at least. Alec and I spent over 6 hours in that park, exploring, hiking, driving around, and thoroughly enjoying what the park had to offer. It was a little busy because we went on a Saturday, but, still totally worth the time out there. I would say that so far Bryce Canyon National Park is within my top 3 favorite national parks visited. Of course, that may change. For now it stands as one of the most underrated and beautiful Utah national parks, in my opinion. 

The next morning, we were ready for Zion. We decided to move Callie a little closer and found a great campground at the Old Highway 89 in Mount Carmel, UT.

It is about 45 minutes away from Zion National Park. Zion National park. Everyone knows what that is and that it is one of the most desired national parks to visit. It…is…beautiful!! I felt like we were in an alien world while we were in the park. Big, red mountains covered in random plants and flowers. The rocks were carved into over time from weather conditions, making the most unique and beautiful surfaces.

The views as you were driving around the park were absolutely stunning. It was stunning, but, it was B U S Y. Because of our schedule, we went on a Sunday. We have been warned against going on the weekends, but, we are already behind schedule and it just happened to be a Sunday. I would describe Zion as the Disney World of National Parks. It was so busy that people were literally about to physically fight over a parking spot. Eventually, we realized that we had to get on a shuttle bus to go on any of the hikes passed a certain point. I was not a fan of the shuttle buses. I don’t like being under the schedule of other people. I didn’t like how you could only see a little of the beautiful scenery out of the bus windows. That’s half of the fun going to a national park, just driving around and looking at God’s beautiful earth. The windows made it very difficult to do that. The amount of people and the idea of the shuttle buses gave me some serious anxiety. I love going to national parks to enjoy nature, not be crammed together with a bunch of people. If you are going to go to Zion, make sure it’s not a weekend and just get on a shuttle bus right away. That will save you a lot of headache. We decided that we were going to try to split Zion into two days. A lot of people online say to give yourself at least a week. We didn’t have a week to give to Zion anymore. Because it was in the afternoon, we decided to do the small hikes. Zion does have a great selection of smaller hikes. We did the Lower Emerald Pool, Weeping Rock, Riverside Walk, and the Canyon Overlook Trail. Unfortunately, The Narrows which is one of the most popular hikes in the park was closed due to excessively high waters. The Narrows trail requires you to hike through water to begin with, but, it was dangerous. It was above the waist and absolutely roaring by. It would kill if you tried to go in it. The Riverside Walk, which leads to the trailhead of The Narrows, was absolutely stunning and is mostly wheelchair accessible! It is about a mile long and is in between massive rock mountains. Something that I loved about this hike was all of the friendly squirrels.

That sounds like a joke, but, it’s true. There were dozens of squirrels that came right up to you. I wanted to take one back with us so badly. It was a beautiful hike. Our favorite hike for the day goes to the Canyon Overlook Trail. This trail is not within the areas that you needed to be on the shuttle to get to. You can drive and park yourself. The only problem with that is that parking is extremely sparse there. We ended up going on this trail right before sundown and found that it was much easier to get a parking space. It was still mostly full, but, not as bad as the afternoon. This trail was just so beautiful and diverse. We went through stairs, to rocky pathways, to random wooden overhang walk ways, to more rocky pathways.

You walked through the canyons, within all of the plants. We even saw mountain goats on this hike. MOUNTAIN GOATS. I was thrilled to say the least. It wasn’t that long of a hike, only going back about one mile. The end result were just breathtaking. It was a complete overview of some of the big canyons in one of the main areas of Zion. You could see the switch back road in the distance. We wanted to stay at the overlook until the sun dropped behind the canyons.

In the meantime, we met a few travelers there and had a great conversation with them. Again, thats one of my favorite things to do. I love meeting and talking to people. It was beautiful to see the different colors behind the canyons as the sun went down. We always love a good sunset hike. We did leave shortly after the sun went behind the canyons because it is a little more of a complex trail. There are definitely areas on the trail where you have to watch your footing. It was a great first day at the Zion National Park. The next day we were excited to wake up and go hike Angels Landing in Zion. Stop reading this and go watch an YouTube video of that hike. It looks insane! Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t having it that day. Rain and thunderstorms. That’s the complete opposite of what we needed for a hike like Angels Landing. There are points during that hike where it is very narrow and the cliffs go down 1,000 feet. Nothing like falling off of a mountain due to rain or getting hit by a lightening bolt. We decided to go check out the Kolob Canyons portion of the Zion National Park. It is the northwestern section of Zion and not very popular. It is about 2 hours away from the main park, so not many people travel to go see it. It was a super nice not to have to deal with so many people. That section of the park was definitely a lot smaller, but, just as beautiful. We managed to do one simple hike (Kolob Canyons Viewpoint) before it started to absolutely pour.

The drive was just as nice. If you are have some extra time, go check out the Kolob Canyon portion of Zion. It was a bummer that we never got to the Angels Landing hike, but, we need an excuse to come back. Next time, Zion!

April 30: Next state! We were excited to move onto our next state. We have been in Utah for a little over 2 weeks. Some of that for our adventures and some because we couldn’t leave because of our truck problems. It’s just refreshing to have a different area to go explore. We were excited because we were going to explore Arizona.

Like Utah, this is a state that I have never been to. We were both excited because going into Arizona meant that we were in our 10th state for this trip. Many, many blessings. Sometimes I sit back and get overwhelmed by the amount that God has blessed my life. He gave me Alec. He provides for us. He is just grand and great. On our moving days, Alec and I always try to find a quick hike to do in between locations. Alec found a fantastic hike called the Cathedral Wash Lower Trail in northeastern Arizona in the Marble Canyons.

This was probably my favorite hike of this entire trip. That’s saying a heck of a lot because we have hiked on and seen some breathtaking trails in these past few weeks. This was a 3.2 mile round trip hike and rated difficult. You didn’t gain a ton of elevation, you just had to think about every step you took. This was a very technical hike. It was very unique with the beautiful views, having to scale cliffs, and hiking through the river wash. That’s right. A good portion of this hike you were literally in the wash where the flash floods happen. With that being said, make sure that you are smart, plan ahead, and don’t put yourself in a situation where you are hiking this trail when it’s raining. Just be smart. It was very fun having to scale some of the cliffs of this canyon. We had to slowly scoot our bodies around a ledge with 30 feet below us.

Even though it was only 3.2 miles round trip, the entire hike took us about 3 hours in total to complete. Like I said, you calculated every step: how to get down, how to get up, how not to die. I thought that the hike itself was grand. The views within this canyon were spectacular. When I thought that it couldn’t get any better, the end results just blew my mind. The trail ended at the Colorado River. The green, blue water rushed passed us through the open canyon slots. It was just outstanding. We even took off our shoes and dipped our feet in the water. I didn’t go in too deep because the water was icy cold. It was refreshing, but, slightly painful from being so incredibly cold. Alec and I sat there on a rock with our shoes off enjoying the sun and the views of the river.

Be sure that you are very well hydrated for this hike. When they rated this difficult, they weren’t lying. It’s a challenge. Bring extra, extra water and some snacks. Your body will need it, especially being in the desert weather. It got HOT in those canyons. It was a challenging, unique, and satisfying hike making it my absolute favorite. We definitely enjoyed the cool air and cold water after it was done. We don’t have huge plans for Arizona even though it is a beautiful state. Our main focus is the Grand Canyon National Park. I know and have been told that there was so many amazing hikes in Arizona. Unfortunately, we only have a certain time and need to keep on going, especially since we lost a full week from truck problems. America is just too big and too beautiful to do everything. Those hikes will have to be saved for next time. I was excited to check out the Grand Canyon. It’s just that iconic national park that everyone knows and goes to, kind of like Zion. We found an amazing FREE campground right outside of the park in the Kaibab National Forest. We are about 10 minutes or less from the entrance of the park. It’s incredible. We were able to find a great space to camp in for a few nights. It is so close to the park that we can hear the tourism helicopters constantly flying over our RV during the day. Definitely check out this campground in you are going to the Grand Canyon.

May 1: May 1 marks 2 full months of us traveling full-time! 2 months!! This was a dream that Alec and I had many years ago and it’s surreal to even be typing that we have been doing this for 2 months. Within 2 months, we have been to 10 states and 9 national parks. We have seen so many of our friends and family. We have met so many amazing people within this traveling community and been able to stay in contact throughout our journey. Our family throughout this trip has been so supportive and giving us endlessly amounts of amazing feedback for what we are doing. Am I homesick? Yes. Do I miss my family? More than I could ever describe. But this trip has been such an amazing step of faith and experience for the both of us. We have grown so much as a married couple and so much as individuals. Before this trip, I couldn’t tow anything. Now I can comfortably hitch the RV to the truck and tow it. I have surprised myself in so many different ways when it comes to dealing with and understanding a vehicle. It’s just been great and grand. It’s been grand and great. It’s just been amazing. I have no clue who actually reads this. I have never even checked the stats on how many people look at my blog posts. Whoever does read this, thank you for being awesome and interested. I’m just thankful.

Grand Canyon National Park. I was excited to see what the hype was about. I knew that this park was very popular and was hoping to not experience the craziness that Zion brought. You would think going on a Wednesday and being (semi) in the off season that it wouldn’t be so busy. We were wrong. Even on a Wednesday and on the off season, it was crowded. Everyone from everywhere was at the Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon has a very similar system to Zion. You have to take a shuttle bus to get to certain view points or hikes. They won’t allow you to drive in those areas. The buses at the Grand Canyon were a lot easier to see out of then the ones at Zion. Just be prepared to add on some extra time for the buses schedules. Stop and go. Stop and go. The views in itself were amazing. It’s just something that I can’t even wrap my mind around. It’s difficult to put into perspective how close or far away things are when looking at a view that grand.

I guess that’s why it’s called the Grand Canyon National Park. Like Zion, it was a lot more commercialized then I care for. It can be difficult to enjoy something when there are so many people around you, pushing at everyone to get where they want to go. Over all, the park was beautiful. Elk love gazing and eating on the sides of the roads. The views were amazing. They even had the friendly, fat squirrels. They came right up to you, begging for food. We ended up splitting the Grand Canyon into two days.

We wanted to be able to really take it all in. It’s a big park, overall. The second day that we were there, we did the Desert View Watchtower, the Pueblo Ruins, and the Grandview trail hike. My favorite out of the three was definitely the Grandview trail hike. Way less people to deal with. The hike trail was a little scary to say the least. It was about a 3 mile one way trail that was very narrow and on the sides of these cliffs. We hiked 0.5 miles down this canyon and descended over 600 feet in elevation.

We knew that we still had to get up, so we only went down that 0.5 miles. We knew that we had to gain that elevation back up. It’s a lot easier to get down than up. I will say that I wished that we went farther down the trail. The ascend back up really wasn’t that bad. We were very well hydrated and prepared for it. We went up slowly and took breaks if we needed to. The Grandview trail was absolutely beautiful. We ended our night by visiting with Alec’s cousin, Debbie. Debbie has been working as a search and rescue park ranger for the Grand Canyon for over 8 years. She lives right on the property. It’s amazing to sit there and listen to her stories of her hanging out of a helicopter, trying to rescue people. She was a lovely person to meet and even allowed us to do our laundry at her house while we ate. It was a wonderful end to a great park.

Brenchley Travels 

New posts every Monday and Friday.