McKinney Falls State Park was busy, but that is probably because it feels secluded, yet is actually close to Austin. Located on the Onion Creek, McKinney Falls State Park has an upper and lower falls both of which have great swimming holes. It was too cold for us to swim when we visited though due to a ‘Norther’ (chilly air blowing down from Canada). We did get to do some fishing, but the only thing caught was a turtle that wasn’t even hauled out of the water. The fish we could see were large though and I would recommend bringing your fishing pole if you visit the state park. The campground was in the forest and quiet with a small amount of city noise in the distance, but when we went to visit the capital it only took twenty minutes to get downtown!
We stayed for a week just outside of Albuquerque.
This was to make sure we were not traveling on Thanksgiving day. Normally Sarah makes a large Thanksgiving feast for us, but with a small oven it seemed like too much to ask. So we decided to go out instead. The kids really wanted to eat at a buffet, so we went to a casino buffet for Thanksgiving dinner.
It was a little strange going to a casino after living in Nevada for most of our lives. The food was good though and everyone ate till they were stuffed, so mission accomplished. The kids made some Thanksgiving/Fall decorations to put up to get us in the mood. Sarah cut out leaves from construction paper and we wrote thing we are thankful for on them. It was a good holiday, but we missed spending it with family.
We started off our Arizona visit in a KOA about an hour from the capitol city. We are not to impressed by the KOA’s and were hesitant to stay at another one (this was our second stay at one). It had a decent price for a KOA when we looked into it online, they typically have many amenities and are very family friendly; however, we quickly found out why the price was so good, they were still under construction on the pool and the playground, they also had none of the games that are usually standard at these campgrounds. It’s not that we really want these things, but we were expecting them here and had told the kids that there would be a playground. So we only stayed two nights, just long enough to go into Phoenix and tour the capitol museum. After our two nights we moved not to far away to the Lost Dutchman state park. It was a nice campground and very clean. We enjoyed our stay there, Chris even caught a lizard for Miles!
We had originally planned on going down the entire coast of Oregon. Someone had a baby and we decided to cut the bottom of the coast out of the route. Then I got in touch with my brother I hadn’t talked to in twelve years, so we cut some more coast out of the trip. The good thing about being totally free to go where we please is that we can change plans quickly. Though we were sad to miss the coast of Oregon, it was worth it to get to see family.
Our entire adventure we haven’t made reservations and up to this point only one campsite was filled up (it only had 10 sites). Usually we leave it to fate and just try to arrive at a decent time. The camp we had picked out for this stop had a small train and it looked very kid friendly from the pictures on the website. We pulled up to the camp and there was a sign saying they were closed and to not bother them. Bummer. Well life has a way of working out though and the closest camp we could find was a state park called Silver Falls. This was an amazing campsite and I am so glad we ended up at it. There is a hiking trail called the trail of ten falls with a waterfall you can go behind. With Trip we can only hike four or five miles, so we visited three or four falls and had a blast. The kids did the junior ranger program and even collected litter along the trail. Later the locals recommended we visit Silver Falls, so everything worked out for the best. While staying here a neighbor came over and asked for help because she had accidentally locked herself out of their trailer. I had my tools in hand to work on our trailer, so instead I went over and tried to break in for her. Well an hour later her husband and I drilled the lock out because they make the trailers tough to break into. The couple gave us some excellent wine as thanks, which we enjoyed over the next week.
We decided to stay down the highway from Olympia since the city didn’t have a good inexpensive campground. Sarah found a nice camp at Chehalis and we found a cool park in the town for the kids to play at. We always try to find nice playgrounds for the kids to get their energy out at because when your house is less than 300 square feet you don’t want three kids wrestling inside. The campground was a Good Sammember, so we finally joined a camping club and saved a little money. It will only take five nights of using the membership for it to pay for itself. The kids liked the camp too, since they found a secret forest clearing behind our trailer to play in.
Seeing Amazing Things
America is a big country, and after driving through a portion of it I realize even more how truly large it is. Montana is one of the bigger states and we didn’t get to see nearly enough of it, but what we saw was beautiful.
The capitol in Helena is a lovely building. Inside it is filled with beautiful stained glass, historical pictures, and opulence. Our tour guide was a history buff so we were able to learn all about the early days of Montana. He knew the back story on the painter of one of their large paintings and also some about the original politicians. With plenty of humor thrown in, it made for a great tour.
Heading into Nevada, we stayed at the Ruby mountains and discovered a hidden gem in eastern Nevada. The campsite was difficult to get to, especially due to road work, but it was well worth the drive. Unfortunately we were hit by someone in a truck stop or clipped a road construction cone and had a small amount of damage on the back end of the travel trailer. We are not sure which, but have narrowed it down to one of the two possibilities.
We finally arrived in Carson and stayed with good friends after a quick visit with my parents who graciously fed us. It was a little strange being back in Carson after having only been gone for a little over a month, but we enjoyed getting to see some friends and family. Unfortunately we were not able to see everyone we wanted due to time constraints. It was getting a bit hot and we knew we had to leave soon, so we took care of business that had to be dealt with and headed over to the capital building.
If you are planning to go to Salt Lake City be prepared to pay a premium for your stay. Normally we try to find a good compromise between the low cost camp sites and the really pricey nice camp sites. In Salt Lake City there was very little choice and none of them were inexpensive to a family with a travel trailer. If we were tent camping again, we would have had several options for staying low cost. In our trailer though it was high dollar or hours away. Originally we were thinking of staying right on the great salt lake, but then we figured out that the peninsula had a toll and we would have to pay it each way! So we looked at all the resorts in town and decided on one north of the capital that was slightly less expensive. After driving all day we were informed it was $65 a night to stay at the place we had chosen. I was on the verge of going somewhere else, but we had already looked into the situation and knew that there was no where else decent to go. While we debated taking one of the last spots, people and lined up behind us with their motorhomes and travel trailers! We decided to bite the bullet and just pay for the space, but only for two nights instead of three. The shift changed and Sarah was able to get us in for only $45 a night with the new worker. I guess we got lucky too because by the time we pulled into the camp, there was five people behind us trying to find a site.
Des Moines was a great capital to visit.
After our city camping experience in Madison, we decided to camp a little way outside of Des Moines. We had good experiences just winging it and getting camp sites, but our luck ran out in Des Moines. The place that we picked was filled up or reserved by the time we arrived. It looked great and we wished we could have stayed, but instead we had to drive further on to a different park. Cherry Glen Campground was run by the Conservation Corp and It was amazing. I am glad we ended up there, so lady luck was with us all along. The sites were spaced out and we were able to pick the one we wanted at the back of the camp ground. It was an extremely difficult back in (I have heard it called a blind back in). We worked as a team and made it in without a problem.
There was good and bad with our Madison trip.
The choices for camping near Madison are not abundant and mainly in county parks. We chose one close to the capitol building knowing this was to be one of our destinations. Unfortunately, it was on a very busy, noisy road with only a chain-link fence between us and the road. Other than the noise (which basically lasted all night) it was fine, although the showers were not clean and to be avoided. Fortunately, it was close to town and a laundry mat, which we were desperately in need of. The roads in Wisconsin are pretty rough, I guess due to the cold weather, so it was a pretty bumpy ride especially with the trailer hitched up.
I would also warn people to beware of the parking situation in this city, because (at least so far) it was probably the worst city parking ever. There was no free public parking near the capital building. Also the parking garages require you to pay up front, meaning you have to guess how long you will be there and hope whatever you are doing doesn’t take longer than you expected. It was just so unlike any other parking garage I have ever parked in. I am sure this will not be the strangest thing that occurs in our travels.