As the time on our Great American road trip was winding down and we had returned from Alaska, we assumed the best was behind us. Nearly a year on the road and over forty states visited, we would’ve been okay if it was all over as the original plan dictated. The renters were supposed to be out in July which would have brought us back, but instead a one month… and then two month extension meant our travels weren’t quite over yet.
With our new found time, we were on to some of our favorite places in the US, which we hadn’t even visited on this trip yet: Colorado, Utah and Wyoming. We planned to meet up with friends in Colorado, see the eclipse in Wyoming and continue exploring around Yellowstone. If there was only one thing we’ve learned from our travels, it’s this: there’s always more to see. And to finish it all up since I’ve been quite behind, I’ll present August and September in this post, before completing a final post of our total expenses for the year.
Total August Cost: $3,128
Total days in the camper: 24
Total days out of camper: 7
Cost per day: $101.9
States Visited: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho
Total Miles: let’s be honest, I’ve pretty much lost track
Total September Cost: $3,223
Total days in the camper: 11
Total days out of camper: 19
Cost per day: $107.4
States Visited: Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas`
Total Miles: same as August, who knows anymore
Our August and September spending were well in line with our lowest spending months thanks to great Southwest. Although our gas bills were high due to all of the driving, our campsite spending were minimal due to the vast amounts of free camping. We spent a little more in August due to dining with friends who we met up with, and our September bills start creeping back us as we began our integration back into “real life”.
August and September were full of great friends and great adventures as we toured three of our favorite states: Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. I’ll spare you the details of my first write up which detailed some of our highlights like meeting up with our friends and their adorable daughters in Colorado, hiking with other great friends in Beaver Creek where a short afternoon hike turned into “find your car in the dark”, the incredible eclipse, meeting up with our parents in Wyoming and Utah… and lots and lots of archaeological hikes in Utah. As I began writing it, it sounded more like a year-end family update letter.
But I can’t stop myself, I have to tell you about the eclipse! We left our friends in Beaver Creek on August 20th… right before one of the biggest days for moon this year… the August 21st eclipse!
Instead of planning ahead and taking time to get there, we arrived late in Boulder the night before and then woke up at 3:30am to leave and try to “beat the rush” to Casper. After we jumped on Highway 25 heading north out of Denver, we realized we didn’t beat the rush.. it was already bumper to bumper traffic. We managed to find a less-trafficked back road which delivered us to our gravel road viewing spot. It was pretty fun as hundreds of cars fanned out across the hilly plains and staked out their spots.
The full eclipse is as magical as they say and I highly recommend thinking about how you can see the next one in 2024. The time leading up to the eclipse is neat as the moon begins blocking some of the sun and you notice small changes with the light. However, once the moon fully blocks the sun and you see the “360 degree sunset”, the birds stop singing and the crickets start chirping and you feel the magic of the eclipse.
All I could think about was how dang scary that would’ve been before we had science to explain what was happening. The sun was bright as usual, then you might notice the light changing, then all of a sudden you have darkness like the late evening sunset! It was incredible and reminded me of our Northern Lights viewing in Iceland.
We also got to spend some time in Yellowstone with some great geyser and animal sightings (including moose and bears) and fly fished in Idaho and before heading to my new obsession: Utah.
We loved Utah the previous times we went because of the natural beauty that stretches from the arches of Moab in the northeast, down through the beautiful Dixie National Forest, to the other worldly landscapes of Escalante National Monument and the beautiful National Parks of Zion and Bryce. After exploring here, it’s hard to find many places in the world that can compete.
And all of this was before we started exploring Bears Ears National Monument. Bears Ears never would’ve been on our radar if not for President Obama designating it as National Monument, and President Trump subsequently trying to remove it from monument status.
Let’s just say in August and September, we spent almost two weeks exploring the area and hardly even scratched the surface… a surface that’s covered in archaeological sites, with some estimates over 100,000 sites. That’s right, 100k, it’s almost unfathomable. On top of that, the setting is incredibly beautiful. I should probably do a post just on Bears Ears before I take up too much time on this post… but we will definitely go back, even if they try to take away the National Monument designation.
Bears Ears National Monument is a treasure for the United States. We like to think we don’t have the archaeological history of other countries, but we do. Hidden in ancient canyons are petroglyphs, pictographs, ruins and burial mounds over 1,000 years old. Much of it has already been destroyed by looters from a century ago pilfering for pottery and ruins they could sell to the curious, but there are precious sites remaining.
These sites are currently managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) which has managed it for decades, and they still manage it even though it’s now acquired National Monument status. Most National Monuments prohibit activities that the BLM allows like running cattle and chopping firewood, but they made special exceptions with Bears Ears because so many people use the lands for this reason.
Even with this, the state of Utah is still fighting the designation and have found open ears with the Trump administration. The only thing that’s not allowed that was allowed before the status change is mineral extraction. Until I can be convinced otherwise, I believe the reason the state of Utah and many locals oppose the National Monument status is because they want to open it up for drilling and allow privatization of the land.
I get it, they’re upset with the alleged government overreach on their lands, but the land was already federally owned as approved by Utah. They just want to backtrack and find out how to profit from the land that is all of our land. Bears Ears in a national treasure and should fully remain a National Monument.
They say it’s better to never give someone freedom in the first place, than to give it and try to take it away. As we headed back to our normal life and the house we left behind in Dallas, we had mixed emotions. It was nice knowing we had our fancy house with electricity and never ending water to go back to, but it was also sad knowing our current adventures would end. At times, we were ready to leave the road behind and find stability, but as we started settling into “stability” we realized it was no longer stable.
We both quit our jobs before we left, so instead of having a normal routine to go back into like I did when we first traveled the world in 2013, we were left with semblances of our old life mixed with leftover feelings from our year-long road trip. It was time to figure out what was next.
I was supposed to have this all figured out during the road trip, but instead of focusing on planning, I focused on adventures. Adventures won’t pay the bills – at least not in any capacity we’ve learned yet, so we have to figure that part out.