Wonderful West Texas.

Lily and I spent a few weeks heading west across the Lone Star State to explore the enchantments of the Chihuahuan Desert. West Texas was such a nice surprise and welcome change of pace from the crowded beach towns of Florida. So let’s jump in because we have a lot of ground to cover.

Surfside Beach, TX

This was our first stop inside Texas and we pulled right onto the beach and camped for three nights mere feet from the gulf waters. I was super excited to be in this location and have such a unique experience. The waves roared and crashed all day and all night. And a pretty big thunder storm rolled thru in the middle of one night lighting up the sky for hours and flooding the beach with pounding rain.

I really wanted to stay on the beach more than three nights but a silly accident that created a significant laceration on my head sent us closer to civilization sooner than I had originally planned. So we pulled out and headed towards Houston.

Marfa, TX

Welcome to the artsy hipster town know for Mystery Lights and a funky art scene. I really enjoyed being here and exploring the Chinati Foundation on a sunny windy weekend.

In between art installations, I stumbled upon a unique and delicious coffee bean in the heart of the historic district. The hipster toast aka avocado toast was pretty stellar too.

One amazing thing about West Texas was the stunning presentation of sunsets and sun glows every night from our perch at the Airstream exclusive RV park. This site setup gave me some ideas about how I want to incorporate the Airstream into our home life someday in the future.

Big Bend National Park, TX

On to the next big destination. Big Bend was highly anticipated and I was ready to get out and do some hiking again inside a national park. After living the sudo snow crow life in Florida I was itching to be out in uncrowded and uncomplicated nature as soon as possible.

We setup home base in the funky little town of Terlinqua, TX and really enjoyed exploring the ghost town and cemetery on a brilliantly sunny day. This area is becoming really popular with digital nomads that crave solitude, sunshine, and fast internet.

As expected, the sunsets from the Airstream were stunning. There is just something breathtaking about the way a desert sunset turns the sky vivid orange/blue and the mesas brilliantly pink before surrendering to the night.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM

New Mexico was the next stop and Carlsbad was ready to be explored. And wow what an experience this was. I mean, I’ve been to show caves on my Airstream Adventures but nothing compared to the grandeur and sheer size of Carlsbad Caverns. It totally blew my mind. I descended 750 feet (75 stories) by foot into the earth, and spent about 3 hours wandering all around the cavern. It just kept going and going and going. There is even an information desk and little snack bar/cafe at the bottom.

Alas, my flashlight eventually died and I was getting tired of being underground so I took the elevator back to the surface and returned to the Airstream for a much anticipated happy hour with my new favorite Tequila. Lily and I camped for free on BLM government land for several days and enjoyed some very nice seclusion and decent sunsets.

McDowell Mountain Park, AZ

We took a little break from the highway to visit friends in Scottsdale and parked off the beaten path for a few nights at McDowell Mountain. I’ve wanted to camp here among the Saguaros ever since our first trip but reservations are really hard to come by. This place is really popular and really very special.

Desert sunsets cannot be beat and it was so nice being able slow down and relax for a few nights in this wonderful location. I cannot wait to come back someday.

And that’s it for this blog and this part of our adventure. We are staying in the desert for just about another month and then heading north towards the PNW by way of Nevada to spend quality time and drink quality wine with our most favorite people. As always, thanks for reading and being part of our adventures.

See you in the next blog. Until then, happy travels!

The Sunshine State, part 2.

Howdy! When we left off, Lily and I were still soaking up the sun in the Florida Keys. I spent the second half of our stay scootering around Key West, trekking across the old Seven Mile Bridge to Pigeon Key, and exploring Bahia Honda State Park.

Of course, I enjoyed many Rum concoctions and patronized a fancy little wine bar on Duval Street. Believe me when I tell you that I didn’t want to leave Key West.

Dry Tortugas National Park

This was a huge highlight of being in the Keys. The National Park is located 70 miles from Key West and is only accessible by ferry or seaplane.

I took the seaplane and it was amazing. Flying at low altitude over the pristine Gulf of Mexico showcased a few rusty shipwrecks, some sea turtles, and even a shark or two circling about.

Fort Jefferson is the largest brick structure in the Western Hemisphere and was used as a military stronghold, prison, and hospital quarantine station before being named a National Monument in 1935. It was upgraded to a National Park in 1992.

The infamous Dr. Samuel Mudd was imprisoned here for his alleged involvement in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The theory of his intentions is highly debated.

Many Cuban refugees make it to Dry Tortugas on their way to the United States. The refugees are intercepted and their primitive and usually overcrowded boats are towed in and grounded on the beach in front of Fort Jefferson. While I was on the island, I accidentally walked into an area of the fort where border patrol agents were detaining and questioning a group of people that had been captured the night before.

I wandered around and explored the entire island for a good 3 hours and then we all scrambled onto the seaplane and headed back to Key West. It was such an awesome experience that I will always remember.

Everglades National Park

After leaving the Keys, we stopped at the Everglades to try and spot some fresh water alligators. And it was a success. I went on a ranger guided night walk thru the glades on a raised walkway and had no problem summoning the alligators to me.

Camping inside the park among the Long Pines was super fun and lent to some interesting noises and creatures that came out at night. The sunset was really spectacular too.

The Gulf Coast

At the end of the year it was time to begin our journey west. We’ve officially passed the halfway point of this trip and must say goodbye to Florida. On the way out, we stopped at Carrabelle Beach and Destin to enjoy a few final southern sunsets and have one last sunshine state happy hour.

And so, that concludes our time in the Sunshine State. We spent just over 30 days in Florida and had the most amazing time. There are still places I want to see so we will be back again soon.

As always, thanks for following our travels and Happy New Year! We will see you again soon for another adventure update as we cross the Lone Star State on our way west.

Happy Travels!!!

The Sunshine State, part 1.

Hi there! Lily and I have been enjoying the month of December bouncing around the southeastern most state while winter is in full swing practically everywhere else. We survived Thanksgiving traffic on I-95 and made a few interesting stops along the route to Florida so let’s get going on what we’ve been up to.

South Carolina and Georgia

Myrtle Beach was the first logical stop along our journey south. We spent just a few nights in this seaside tourist town to recharge, refill, and check out the beaches before crossing into Georgia.

Then it was on to Savannah for a few days of plantation style camping and Thanksgiving dinner at a charming hotel bar in the historic waterfront district. I will confess that Georgia has always been my very least favorite state to visit but Savannah was a wonderful little treat.

As luck would have it, I stumbled into a little gem of a wine bar/store while wandering around the waterfront. I even bought some imported wines to take with me on the road.

Tampa, FL

Immediately after turkey, we enthusiastically waved goodbye to The Peach State and continued south into the sunshine Mecca of Florida. I was very excited to arrive in Tampa and visit with some friends that I’ve not seen in a few years. Lily and I got setup in Fort DeSoto Park just in time for the mosquitoes to welcome us and start their feast.

While in Tampa you must walk around Ybor City. It was the perfect place to stock up on local coffee beans and it was a fun morning excursion with my friend Selvin navigating the little streets filled with chickens.

Back at Fort DeSoto Park the gulf coast sunsets were incredibly stunning. This was my first time seeing the sun set behind the ocean since leaving the west coast. I rode the scooter around between the west beach and east beach just soaking up the sun glow splendor.

Before leaving Tampa, I spent a windy and fun afternoon happy hour at the St. Pete pier. It’s always so much fun to drop in on friends when I’m traveling around. Thanks for hanging out Dawn!

St. Augustine, FL

After 5 days in Tampa we packed up and hit the road to explore the oldest city in the country. We once again camped in a jungle like setting but the mosquitoes weren’t as bad here. The Castillo de San Marcos National Monument was the main attraction in St. Augustine.

And of course the sunsets from Vilano Beach were absolutely epic every night we were there. St. Augustine is a very special place and I for sure will return again someday.

Orlando, FL

We left the ocean to head inland for my birthday week festivities. This is my first time at the Orlando theme parks and I thought it would be fun to celebrate my birthday here since Disney World and I are the same age. Lily and I stayed for 7 days at the Disney Fort Wilderness Campground and had an amazing time.

Selvin came down from Tampa to share the adventure with me and that made it even more amazing and fun.

First stop was Universal Orlando for the Harry Potter magic. It was so realistic and literally felt like you were in the movies as we walked around Diagon Alley and Hogsmead. I loved every minute of it. Especially the frozen butter beer drink!

Then it was off to Disney World – Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios. We really liked Animal Kingdom the best. The live animals and Avatar rides were awesome and the park seemed much less congested by strollers and mobility scooters.

Key West, FL

The pinnacle and mid-point of our east coast adventure! I had booked ten days in paradise about six months before ever leaving Seattle. This is what I’ve been looking forward to the most – being at the southern most edge of the continent we are traversing in the Airstream.

And what’s better than a Key West sunset from Mallory Square. It was stunning, literally the best sunset I’ve seen so far.

So that’s part one of our December in Florida. There’s a lot more to come so stay tuned for the next blog update and be sure to follow @paulandlilygoplaces for more pics and videos of our Airstream Adventures.

We will see you again very soon with amazing pics from Dry Tortugas and Everglades National Parks. Happy Travels!!!

Appalachian Mountains and Barrier Islands.

For this episode we venture away from the Atlantic Ocean for a few weeks to meander the Blue Ridge Parkway and see what remains of the autumn foliage on display in the Appalachians. It was sad leaving the coast but we will return after blowing some leaves in the Virginias.

The Commonwealth of Virginia

First up is Shenandoah National Park. Traveling in the shoulder season definitely has it perks – the campgrounds and National Parks are nearly empty. We just barely caught the tail end of the leaf peeping at the north end of the Shenandoah Valley.

Alas, the leaves were mostly on the ground by the time we arrived and setup the Airstream but that didn’t stop me from venturing out onto a few trails to see what was left of the fall color program.

Lots and lots of bare trees to behold. One annoying thing about camping during the fall forest foliage dump is the ridiculous amount of leaves that end up on the Airstream roof solar panels.

Little Stony Man Trail was the perfect little hike up to a vantage point with excellent views of the Shenandoah Valley and beyond.

We camped near the little town of New Market, VA which provided some interesting history and a decent latte for the drive to our next destination.

West Virginia

Hello West Virginia and the New River Gorge National Park. This was just a quick afternoon stop to check out a few overlooks and drive the narrow road that traverses deep into the gorge and back out again.

Summer is obviously the best time to experience New River Gorge for hiking and white water rafting. The area was mostly buttoned up for the winter when we arrived.

We were getting a little bored with leafing so I decided to switch up the itinerary and stay in WV a bit longer to do some wine tasting at the local Blue Ridge wineries. Lily and I moved to a stellar location close to the town of Floyd, WV that offered some spectacular valley views right outside the Airstream door.

The wineries were big and impressive but the fruit wine was horrible. At the end of the day, wine tasting was a nice change of pace and I got to meet some interesting people at the tasting rooms.

Back at the Airstream we enjoyed one last peek at the leaves before heading into the next state for a few days of hiking and adventuring.

The State of Tennessee

The Smokies beckoned us to come and explore the old growth forests. So, on a cloudy day we entered the most visited park in the United States – Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The clouds subsided just in time for my hike to Alum Cave. Being the most visited park in the NPS, the trail was crowded to the point of annoyance with people completely unaware of trail etiquette. But I was able to meander along for a while and get some good pics without any people interfering.

The trail to the cave was really fun with lots of “natures staircases” along the way. I’ve said it before, National Park hikes are the best.

Arriving at Alum Cave I had to ask people “was this it?” because it didn’t look like a cave at all. It was more like a giant overhang. But regardless of my disappointment it was still a glorious sunny day to be on a trial out in the woods.

North Carolina

Heading east we made a stop in Asheville to visit The Biltmore Estate. This was a quick stop with the Airstream attached while en route to Charlotte. It is an impressive and super busy/popular place. After seeing The Breakers in Newport I knew I had to stop in Asheville and continue my education of the Vanderbilt lifestyle.

The Biltmore was all decked out for Christmas and the self guided audio tour was really really good. I would like to come back to Asheville someday and stay a bit longer.

Lily and I arrived in Charlotte for the singular purpose of visiting John Van Buren and family. It’s always a wonderful treat to drop in on friends while Airstreaming around the country and this certainly was no exception. Three wonderful days of golfing, breweries, eating, drinking, and visiting. Thanks for the hospitality JVB, see you in Seattle soon!

The Outer Banks

Welcome to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. This is absolutely the most enchanting stop on our trip so far. Rodanthe is uniquely beautiful and the seashore utterly captivated my soul.

We spent several days exploring the lighthouses and life saving stations positioned around the seashore. Oh, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kill Devil Hills was very very interesting.

And what’s better than a beach front happy hour at sunset. The Airstream was parked mere steps from the ocean and I could hear the waves crashing and roaring all day and all night.

After five days on Hatteras Island, we loaded onto the ferry to Ocracoke Island for more days of sunny seashore exploring and sunset happy hours. Ocracoke is a tiny little town with a lighthouse, tiny narrow roads, and a pirate themed atmosphere.

Pristine white sand beaches and a local brewery in town is the absolutely perfect vacation in my opinion. I sampled them all!

About the only things to do on Ocracoke is beach, drink, eat, and relax. And I had no problem doing any of that. Even Lily was on beach time and enjoyed relaxing with me at the campsite.

The Outer Banks are simply amazing. The sunsets were like perfect paintings every night. I can’t wait to return someday soon.

So, that’s it. After many wonderful and relaxing days it was time to say goodbye to the Outer Banks. I absolutely loved it there and plan to return again soon.

Next up, we continue south towards Florida with a few interesting stops along the way. See you again soon for more adventure updates and don’t forget to check out @paulandlilygoplaces for lots more pics and videos.

Happy Travels!!!

New England, how I love thee.

Lily and I left the wonders of Maine and eagerly traveled south towards the most populous state in the New England region. It was a beautiful sunny day when we blew right thru New Hampshire and rolled into our next destination.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

I was super excited to be in Massachusetts and spend some long overdue friend time with Jen and her family.

Salem was the first stop and we arrived right on time for all the spooky season festivities. I settled into a water front space at the Winter Island Park just in time for a stunning east coast sunset and before heading into town for dinner and drinks with Jen. After a long stretch of traveling, it was good to see a familiar face and catch up on life.

The next day, I walked back into the heart of Salem to check out the vibe and do a little exploring. It was about a five mile walk roundtrip from the Airstream to the center of town. I didn’t mind the walk, but it gave me a fun idea … I’ll get to that in a minute. But first, I had to stop in at a local coffee bean and get caffeinated.

After sucking down a festive Candy Corn Cold Brew, I vibrated over to The Old Burying Point Cemetery where I am absolutely convinced the headstones are faked for the thrill and delight of the tourists. I read headstones declaring this person was pressed to death and that person was hung before continuing over to the replica of the Friendship of Salem tall ship.

Sadly, the Salem Witch Museum was THE most popular attraction that day and was completely sold out of tix with lines going ’round the block to get inside. Oh well, I guess that’s to be expected for October in Salem.

After several incredible days inside Salem, we pulled out and drove the short distance to Jen’s house to boondock on her street and spend a few days touring around and visiting the interesting places off the beaten path.

The historic cotton milling town of Lowell, which is actually a National Historic Park, was a fun and super interesting afternoon excursion.

Then it was off to the bustling little town of Newburyport and the adjacent Plum Island for a wonderfully sunny Saturday excursion.

Before saying farewell to my friends, I had to collect an important Amazon delivery and add a heart shaped rock I collected from Glacier NP to Jen’s garden of heart shaped rocks as a souvenir of our visit. Thanks Jen and Tim for sharing your home, your street, and the happy hour Gin cocktails mixed to perfection. You are fabulous hosts.

Back to the fun idea … after walking to and from downtown Salem, I decided it would be way more fun and exciting to have an e-scooter so I ordered and Amazon delivered a brand new Segway. And here’s a sunset shot from my camping spot on Jen’s street.

Cape Cod National Seashore

If Lily and I randomly go missing one day, you can probably find us living the dream in Provincetown. Despite the weather being hit or miss (it rained two days we were there) I still absolutely loved it. The town, the people, the beaches – wonderful. And, I can’t wait to go back and stay longer.

The scooter was the perfect vehicle for exploring Commercial Street and the beaches. And an oat hazelnut latte was the perfect treat to start the days.

Cape Cod is delightfully littered with charming light houses that stand out even on foggy days.

I was thrilled to discover that Cape Cod has a winery/distillery which makes it an even more perfect destination for me. The gin was delicious and provided me several outstanding happy hours. The wine was pretty good too.

Did u know, the Pilgrims set foot on Cape Cod when arriving into the new world. The Pilgrim Monument is the tallest granite structure in the United States and I climbed it to the top on my last day in P-Town.

The State of Rhode Island

Continuing our tour of New England, we sadly departed Cape Cod and made our way to the Ocean State to gawk at the elaborate Gilded Age mansions in Newport.

The opulence of The Breakers was extraordinary. It was absolutely stunning to experience in person.

It was named “The Breakers” because the waves would crash and break onto the rocks below the outdoor living area. I could sit out there and listen to those waves break all day and night.

New York and Jersey City

On a whim, and completely last minute, I decided it would be cool to tow the Airstream over the GW Bridge from New York to New Jersey and stay a few nights at the only campground in Jersey City. And, I really wanted to visit Ellis Island and see where my great great grandfather passed thru when he immigrated from Germany in the late 1800s.

A short scooter ride from the Airstream which was parked in Liberty Harbor Marina and I was on the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Standing in the Great Hall where hopeful immigrants once waited to be granted entry into the United States was rather thought provoking. I was literally standing in the same place my great great grandfather stood some 125 years or so ago.

The museum had so much interesting memorabilia to examine and contemplate. From the graffiti covered columns where weary travelers wrote their thoughts, to the steamer trunks that carried all their belongings across the Atlantic – so much history in one important place.

I also toured the old hospital on the “Hard Hat Tour” and it was exceptionally interesting and incredibly thought provoking.

I spent all day on Ellis Island and didn’t want to make Lily wait any longer for me to rescue her from the Airstream so I skipped the Statue of Liberty and took the ferry back to Liberty Park. It was a beautiful day nonetheless.

And that concludes our time in New England with a stop over in New Jersey. It was brief but we had to move fast to book east coast campgrounds before they closed for the season. We will return again soon.

Next up we head into the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia/Virginia to catch the tail end of the leaf peeping program already in progress and also make a stop in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Happy travels and we will see you again very soon!

Autumn! The Maine event.

Lily and I arrived on the east coast after a grueling rush to get to Maine. While casually crossing the northwest states, I came to learn that most campgrounds near Acadia National Park close for the season right after Columbus Day. So, we had to pick up the pace pretty quick to arrive in time for the Maine event.

Despite the long drive days and short overnight stops, it was absolutely wonderful to witness the impressive display of fall foliage as we cruised east along US-2. We made a few quick pitstops along the route east so let’s get going!

Heading thru North Dakota I dipped down into Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Definitely not the most exciting park I’ve experienced so far but certainly interesting. We stayed one night inside the badlands and then hit the road the next morning.

Overlooking the badlands – not much else to do here unless you bring your ATV or horse.
View of the Prairie Dogs from the campsite. Hard to see them but you could for sure hear them chirping.

Back on the highway, I said goodbye to the bright sunny days as we exited North Dakota and entered Minnesota to check out the north shore of Lake Superior. Gooseberry Falls, Split Rock Lighthouse and Tettegouche State Park were on the itinerary.

The wildly popular Gooseberry Falls. I had to stand in one place for half an hour just to capture this pic without people in it.
Split Rock Lighthouse was actually very interesting and well preserved.
I definitely climbed the stairs up to the top to check on the lightbulb – it was fine.
Awesome view of the bluffs from Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park. The north shore of Lake Superior is really very beautiful.

After a frigid night in northern Minnesota, we moved on into the upper peninsula of Michigan. Painted Rocks National Lakeshore was the destination but at the last minute my boat tour got cancelled due to forecasted high winds and rain over the lake. Disappointed, I bundled up for a cold day and drove around the area to check out what there was to see from land.

Driving around, I made a quick stop at Miners Castle and Log Slide overlooks, and then it was over to Munising Falls to take the short hike up to the falls and get a few pics.

The U.P. of Michigan in fall is stunningly beautiful and it made for some very scenic happy hours. I would for sure like to come back someday and try again to take the boat tour around Picture Rocks.

Moving down the peninsula, we crossed the Mackinaw Bridge and parked for a few hours to explore the Old Makinaw Point Lighthouse. It was really windy and cold so I didn’t linger around the area very long. Gotta keep moving!

Bar Harbor, ME

FINALLY, after nearly a week of daily driving we arrived in New England. And we found the sun again! This would be home base to thoroughly explore Acadia, eat lobster, and reset.

Acadia National Park

Acadia and its splendorous scenery was just waiting to be explored. First on the agenda was the drive up Cadillac Mountain or I as call it, Cadillac Margarita. I guess this would be the equivalent of driving the Going-to-the-Sun-Road in terms of popularity. Once at the top, the views were pretty spectacular.

Summit of Cadillac Mountain with the view of Bar Harbor and the anchored cruise ships that dump out the gazillion cruisers onto the town streets.
Didn’t quite make it for sunrise but it was a cloudy day anyway.

Back down at sea level, it was time to take a hike. I decided to hit the Precipice Trail and really have the unique Acadia experience. Precipice is a 1 mile vertical hike climbing 1000 feet up sheer cliffs and shelf systems using iron rungs and ladders ascending to the summit of Champlain Mountain. It was awesome!

Made it to the top and it was 100% worth it. Hikes in National Parks are my favorite.

On our last day, I packed up the pup and drove over to Schoodic Point to take in the less popular part of Acadia. As you can see, it was a foggy day but that didn’t keep the trees from showing their colors.

And so, after five spectacular Maine days and nights that treated us to sun, rain, thunder, lightning, and winds, we pulled out and headed south towards Portland.

Final sunset in spot B4 at Wild Acadia Resort. The trees were already losing their leaves when we said goodbye to this perfect camping spot.

Kennebunkport, ME

Just down the road from Portland is the historic ship building town of Kennebunkport. Also very popular with tourist groups and their charter busses. I stopped for a quick look around the village and then escaped the crowds to drive the coastal route along the seashore.

The Spirit of Massachusetts parked on the Kennebunkport River.
Walkers Point Estate aka The Bush Compound.

Before leaving Maine, I absolutely had to stop and get some potato donuts for myself, my friends, and my freezer. They are a Maine phenomenon and quite delicious.

And with that, we are done with Maine. Next stop is Massachusetts for spooky season, a long overdue friend visit, and the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Thank you Maine for your hospitality and all your splendid colors.

Be sure to check out our Instagram @paulandlilygoplaces for more pics and videos of our adventures. See you again soon!

The Crown of the Continent, part 2.

Lily and I crossed The Continental Divide and arrived on the east side of Glacier National Park on a super windy afternoon. It was so windy that after disconnecting the Airstream we just hunkered down for a day to let the gusts subside before venturing back into the splendor of Glacier.

St. Mary, MT

I really liked this side of the park. It felt more remote and isolated and the views made it seem like Glacier was “right there” – especially from the campsite. It was less PNW rainforest and more Swiss Alps, in my opinion.

Space A14 deluxe patio site at the St. Mary/East Glacier KOA with a fantastic view!

Once the wind became tolerable, we ventured out to explore the area and check out a few of the popular spots.

Posing for a quick selfie with St. Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island in the background.
Distant view of Jackson Glacier, the seventh largest glacier in the park, partially cloaked by clouds.
The Many Glacier Hotel on Swiftcurrent Lake located in the “Switzerland of North America”. The hotel was already closed for the season and “mostly” boarded up.

Grinnell Glacier

I had been reading about this hike ever since arriving in West Glacier the week before. It seemed a little daunting being 12 miles round trip but I knew I had to do it and see a real live glacier up close. So, on a crystal clear morning I packed some snacks, several bottles of water, bear spray, Advil, and set out on the longest hike of my life so far.

The trail starts at a tiny parking lot near Swiftcurrent Lake just opposite the Many Glacier Hotel. When I arrived at 9:30 am the lot was full so I parked along the road not too far from the trailhead. I felt lucky to find parking anywhere since this is one of the most popular hikes in the park.

Just starting out and viewing Many Glacier from across the lake.
Lush foresty trail to soothe you at the beginning of the hike.
Meandering along Swiftcurrent Lake for about 2 miles with Grinnell Peak in the distance.
View of Grinnell Lake glowing like a turquoise oasis in the mid-morning sun.

After 2 miles you begin the climb and really start to feel the gain in elevation. Eventually, Grinnell Lake came into view with its stunning turquoise glow. About a mile later the trail became a stone path carved into the side of the canyon.

Looking forward toward Grinnell Peak and getting really excited about the change of scenery ahead.
Taking a quick rest and looking all the way back to Swiftcurrent Lake where I started.

At the 4 mile mark I finally got a glimpse of the top of the glacier and the waterfall that feeds Grinnell Lake from the glacial melt off. The trail through the valley gave way to a narrow cut in the cliff that takes you to the switchbacks where most of the traffic congests as hikers stop to catch their breath on the way to the finish line.

Glacial runoff waterfall (in the center-ish of the pic) from Little Grinnell Lake that feeds Grinnell Lake below.

I didn’t get any pics of the switchbacks because they were too steep and it was jammed with other hikers gasping for air while slowly traversing up. Then, finally, at the top and completely out of breath, I arrived at Grinnell Glacier and Little Grinnell Lake. It was really awesome.

The red water is actually melted “Watermelon Snow” that contains super concentrated red algae. Allegedly, the snow will be pinkish-red and smell like sweet watermelon before melting.

Sadly, the glaciers are rapidly melting and Grinnell Glacier has been retreating dramatically since about 1950. In 2003, a study concluded that nearly two-thirds of the 150 glaciers that existed in Glacier NP had completely melted by 1980. So, I’m greatful I had the opportunity to see this before it’s completely gone.

Behind me is all that is left of Grinnell Glacier. It was much bigger in real life.
Fascinating circular patterns in the rocks that were probably buried under glacial ice for centuries.
Interesting lines formed by ice moving and slicing into the solid rock.
The top of the tan rocks is where I sat and ate my snacks.
One last look at the glacier before leaving.

I spent about 45 mins hiking around, taking pics, and observing the interesting rocks all around. There were quite a few other hikers there but when they started packing up and leaving the place felt a little spooky. So, I too packed up and hit the trail for the 6 mile hike back down.

Looking toward the valley I was to hike back down into. Grinnell Glacier was behind me at this point.

Back home at the Airstream, I felt pretty accomplished and happy. It was such a great day and an amazing experience. And just like that, our time in Glacier came to an end. We spent 9 days inside this Crown of the Continent and it was the perfect way to kick off our second Airstream Adventure.

One last look as we leave this stunning National Park.

Next up, we continue east along the Lewis & Clark route of northern Montana until reaching North Dakota and dipping down into Theodore Roosevelt National Park and then crossing into Northern Minnesota. Along the way we stopped overnight at Walmart to stock up on supplies and relax.

Grocery shopping, sunset, happy hour, and sleep. A perfect stop along the way. Thanks Walmart.

See you soon for the next adventure update. Until then, check out @paulandlilygoplaces on IG for more pics and videos. Stay safe and happy travels.

The Crown of the Continent, part 1.

It’s official, Lily and I are back on the road for our next Airstream Adventure. This time, we are headed east along the northern most states en route to New England for some epic fall leaf peeping and then down the east coast towards Florida and the southern most point. Along the way, we are stopping at a few National Parks and other interesting places.

Columbia River Gorge

First stop after departing Seattle is Wanapum State Park along the Columbia River to visit friends and take in some of the amazing Washington State wines. Once again, I shall declare that State Parks are really truly amazing. When the wildfire smoked finally cleared and revealed crystal clear skies it was time to get to the wineries.

Space 35 with great views of the Columbia River and beyond.
Cave B was my favorite and their Chenin Blanc was delicious.
I’ve been enjoying Merlots again since being reacquainted over the summer.

In addition to wines, and in keeping with tradition, I stopped at a local coffee shop to grab an oat hazelnut latte (my new favorite), and a bag of their signature roasted beans for the road.

A great little eclectic coffee bean in downtown Ellensburg.
How about a sit and sip on this technicolor bench.

Alas, it was a great few final days in Washington State but we were eager to begin crossing state lines and enter the first National Park on the trip.

Glacier National Park

The Crown of the Continent! Established and protected as a National Park in 1910 and host to zillions of people each year. I was lucky to find parking anywhere! Since Glacier encompasses more than 1 million acres and is bisected by the Continental Divide, we split our time between the West and the East sides of the park. I thought this would be the best way to experience the entire park and still be home in time for a relaxing happy hour each evening.

West Glacier

We rolled into West Glacier, Montana on a cloudy afternoon and the area reminded me a lot of the PNW – similar to a rain forest, in my opinion. And, it rained twice while we were there. We settled in for 4 nights at the KOA Resort which seemed like the nicest RV park closest to the west entrance to Glacier.

Space 127 deluxe patio site, perfect for relaxing and soaking up the sun when it was shining.

Our first full day inside Glacier NP was dedicated to just navigating the park and driving the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. Along the way, we passed Lake McDonald and its beautiful colored rocks.

The color of the rocks is determined by the presence or absence of iron.

The red rocks were deposited in shallow ocean waters where the iron was oxidized by the tidal exposure to air. The green rocks were formed in deeper water where oxidation was limited. Actually, I noticed colored rocks big and small all over the park because they had been scattered everywhere by the glaciers.

Hugging the lakeshore is the historic Swiss Chalet themed “Lake McDonald Lodge” where the iconic Red Busses from the 1930s pick-up and drop-off tour passengers.

The road to Logan’s Pass, aka the “Going-to-the-Sun Road” or “The Sun Road” or “GTTSR”, was completed in 1932 and is a very narrow two-lane winding road with hairpin curves hugging the side of the Rocky Mountains. Driving it wasn’t nearly as bad as most people reported on TripAdvisor; unless you have never driven a mountain road I suppose.

The beginning of the climb to Logan’s Pass at 6,647′ elevation.

Granted, the road is exceptionally narrow, and rocks hung over sections of the roadway at times, but that is what made it exciting and interesting and exhilarating.

This was part of a sketchy seven mile stretch about half way up.
Lily taking in the view at the summit.

We drove the GTTSR twice, one day was cloudy (as you can see), but the other day was brilliantly sunny and there seemed to be more traffic because of that.

The GTTSR crossing the little arched bridge at Bird Woman Falls (it’s the lower center of the pic).
The truck was nearly at the width limit for driving the road, so we hugged the yellow line all the way up/down.

Here are a few more pics before we head back down to earth. The views from every turnout and around every curve were spectacular.

These one-dimensional photos don’t even come close to replicating the grandeur of the experience.

Back down on earth, and as soon as I could find parking, I set out on a few hikes. Unless you wake up at the crack of dawn it’s nearly impossible to find parking at any of the popular trailheads. Having patience and a plan B are keys to enjoying your time in Glacier. So, the first hike was part of the Lake McDonald Loop which went along the upper McDonald Creek and showcased some gorgeous pools and waterfalls.

Even with the cloudy sky you can see the multi-color rocks in the water. When the sun is out the colors are much richer and way more vibrant.

The deep blue water color is the result of ground up rock and sediment called “glacial flour”. The movement of nearby glaciers provides a constant source of “flour” for the lakes and rivers.

All the trails in Glacier offer stunning scenery but my favorite on the west side was the Avalanche Lake Trail. Again, parking was guaranteed impossible but I was lucky to be there just as a car was pulling out.

The trail started on a boardwalk that meandered peacefully among the ancient cedars and then continued along the Avalanche Creek Gorge until it reached Avalanche Lake.

Resting and a quick selfie along the trail with the glacial valley behind me.
First view of Avalanche Lake from the trail.

Arriving at the lake was such a highlight. I sat on a log taking in the view while munching on trail mix and hydrating. Legend says the lake was named “Avalanche” because in 1895 when it was discovered they could hear the avalanches of glacial ice falling and echoing loudly through the gorge. The lake is fed by glacial runoff and that makes the water crystal clear and turquoise blue. It was such a gift to have this experience that day.

Back home at the Airstream, I enjoyed several happy hours with some local gin and whiskey I tasted and then acquired at Glacier Distillery.

My favorite kind of street sign.
Huckleberry Whiskey and Gin is delicious.

And so, on a cold and rainy morning, we left West Glacier and drove two hours towards East Glacier crossing the Continental Divide to begin the second half of our Glacier NP experience.

One last look at Lake McDonald as we depart on a cold and cloudy morning.

Stay tuned for the second half of our Glacier NP experience with more hikes, lakes, waterfalls, and an actual glacier!