Jena and I have just returned from a pretty epic road trip across the western and central parts of the U.S. We were afforded such an opportunity as we just so happen to have ended our employment engagements and are dead set on taking advantage of that reality. Never in our careers have we felt able to take more than two weeks off at a time. We are super excited to see what we can do.

For this trip we had a few goals: get back to Minnesota to see family and attend the Minnesota State Fair, Spend a good amount of time camping — especially in Glacier National Park, Get our Global Entry interview out of the way to pave the way for easier international travel, and basically just relaxing a bit and not thinking about work for the first time in 20 years.

Here are a few stats from this past month:

Now for a bit more about this trip. We left the day after Jena’s contract was up at work and drove north to Eugene where we stayed in an Airbnb and took in some of the (great) local beer scene. Continuing up the West Coast, where we stayed in a tiny house on Vashon Island in the Peugeot Sound and had lunch with our friend, Dan at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Because we scheduled our interview for Global Entry in Blaine, WA* we extended our trip north of the border to Vancouver, British Columbia. It was a nice walkable town and we took in a great, quirky brewpub, just outside of town. After a couple of days, we headed south again and poked around the Central Washington area for cabins. Jena and I are considering a small place up there to call home. After Washington we drove through Coeur d’Alene in Idaho’s panhandle. Neither of us had been to Idaho and had heard good things. We merely stopped for dinner in the cute town before heading out towards the main event for the first half of the trip: Glacier National Park.

We had campsite reservations in the southwestern side of the park but really coveted the sites up in the northeast in Many Glacier Campground. We decided to forego our reservations — at least for the first night — and try our luck getting a first come first served site in the morning. This meant that we would need to be in line very early in the morning. Rather than risk oversleeping, we simply pulled to the head of the line after 1 am and slept (albeit fitfully) in our car. We had our pick of several and found a great site. It gave us a nice opportunity to set up camp and prep for the arrival of our guests, Jena’s sister, Tanya, and her son, Tarik, who would be arriving by train from Saint Paul in a day and a half. We spent a week all around Glacier Park, mostly hiking, driving, and seeking out as many animals as we could. The highlights were the amazing vistas and the bear and moose sightings — including a grizzly and cub (from far off through binoculars, unfortunately**).

After a brief stop in western North Dakota and Theodore Roosevelt National Park, it was on to Minnesota, family, friends, and the Great Minnesota Get-Together the State Fair. I tried as many of the exclusive beers as I could find. Not because they are good, but because of my inclination to “collect beers” using the Untappd app.

The best cheese curds (and corn dogs) at the Minnesota State Fair are found in Machinery Hill. The curds are from Kopp’s and are beer-battereda and taste more cheesy than salty.

After a stop for BBQ in Kansas City, it was on to Boulder, Leadville, and Durango in Colorado, and finally Moab, Utah. It was from Moab that we spent several days in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks — that is when we weren’t holed up in a hotel nursing Jena back to health***. Both parks were beautiful and well worth driving through at the very least. We enjoyed a few hikes and took many photos of the strange and magnificent rock formations.

Zion National Park greeted us at the far end of Utah and we took the better part of a day walking The Narrows — a great hike up the Virgin River**** with steep canyon walls along each side. Sometimes these would rise many hundreds of feet up on each side. It was only the second time Jena and I had hiked along a river bed. We were both glad to have rented shoes and neoprene socks, which helped keep us warm.

Death Valley and Yosemite’s Tioga Road led us back toward home. It got up to 111 degrees on part of our drive through the lowest place in the Western Hemisphere, Badwater Basin ( -282' ), and then later we drove past the highest point in the lower 48 states (Mount Whitney, 14,505'). We did manage to leave our car for a few brief hikes. The heat was stifling and there wasn’t much to see — though the landscape in places was strange and exotic. We couldn’t imagine what it would take to live there, but we saw a coyote and searched for pupfish***** that do just that. It was nice to leave the sand and heat for the coolness of the pines and mountains found in Yosemite. Jena and were in the park earlier this year for her birthday but it is a much different place in the summer. We were glad the Tioga Road was open to us and the scenery and splendor of the lands there, reminded us that we need to come back to camp and hike — perhaps next spring/summer.

The distance between the highest (Mt Whitney) and lowest (Badwater Basin) elevations in the continental United States is a mere 88 miles.

Our friends/house-and-cat-sitters left our home looking great and it was nice to get back home and see Mylo and Sherlock. We are not sure how we will manage not petting or cuddling on the couch with those two furballs during our next adventure. More on that to come.

*It was the only place “nearby” that had availability in the next couple of months.
** :)
***Bad beef jerky?
****Many of the names in Zion are based on religious concepts and themes
*****One of the world’s rarest fish, the pupfish can withstand water that is 4 times more saline than the ocean, hot water up to 116 °F, and cold water down to 32 °F. In the dry times it is found dormant, buried under many feet of dirt.