What’s your travelosophy?

What’s your travelosophy? In other words, what’s your philosophy of adventure? How do you structure a trip for maximum enjoyment? There’s no one right answer, and people have been creating different experiences based on their tastes.

I want to delineate two different approaches to a vacation/adventure. See which one appeals to you the most.

The road trip

The road trip

In this kind of adventure, you travel (generally driving) from place to place. The idea is to see as many different places as possible. And this is really the point – to catch as many of the “sights to see” as you can.

This is often a longer excursion, needing as much as a month or more to fully take advantage of the opportunity. However, I have known of some families who try to do this in a 2-week window. There are obvious disadvantages with such a short time-frame; taking up full days just for driving, for example.

The road trip is ideal for those places where there are many destinations in a relatively small amount of space. The Canyons regions of southern Utah and northern Arizona would be an example. An adventure in this region would allow you to see Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks (not to mention numerous other national monuments) in a relatively small region. You’ll get lots of stamps in your National Parks Passport book! Keep in mind that spaces, particularly in the American West, are much farther apart than they seem when you look at a map. So don’t overestimate your ability to travel from point A to point B. I once had someone tell me they wanted to take a road trip and see Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. I pointed out that this would be like taking a day trip from her home in South Florida to Louisville, Kentucky!

The key to a road trip is careful planning of routes and lodging. The problem of an adventure like this is that everyone else is occupying the same roads, restaurants, and campsites! There’s a reason these places are popular. This type of trip may help you check off destinations on your bucket list, but if you’re looking for a peaceful excursion like you see in the car commercials, this probably won’t be the one.

Yeah, your road trip won’t look like this. Besides, this is in Chile. That would be a heck of a road trip. (Toyota commercial)
The home base trip

The home base trip

This has become my preferred method of travel. Find a spot that is somewhat central to a desired location and hole up there. We have undertaken adventures like this that have enabled us to see (in different years) Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Shenandoah National Parks, as well as the many outlying areas that aren’t part of the National Park system, but are nevertheless beautiful and engaging.

We are not campers, so our best bet for lodging is to find a good cabin. Vrbo and Airbnb have made this easier and in many cases, provide a more desirable home base. Oftentimes, I want to go and do something that’s not in Carolyn’s wheelhouse. Our cabin for our last trip was a destination unto itself and as such, was a great place for her to hang out while I traipsed about on a hiking or photography excursion.

Give Carolyn a porch, a sunrise, a book, a cup of tea, and a nearby stream and she’s a happy camper!

We have managed to select home bases that are close to, but not within the major national parks. One advantage of this is that we can get to the usual popular sights if we want, but we can also take advantage of the less crowded, but still wonderful places that are on the fringes of the park or outside the park itself. One of my best hikes ever was in a canyon outside of Yosemite on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada range. There are so many no-name places that elicit the same sense of wonder and awe as the iconic ones in the parks; you just have to get to know the area well.

A no-name lake along the Beartooth Highway in Wyoming. No crowds.

Speaking of getting to know an area, we were faced with a conscious choice a number of years ago: Do we visit new places, or do we return to familiar destinations for a deeper dive? At the time, we had made several trips to western North Carolina (before we moved there) and one trip to Yosemite and one trip to Rocky Mountain. At this point, we were looking at other national parks to take in. But, there was also this sense that we had only begun to scratch the surface at those visited places. After our trip, I would look at a map and notice another trail we could hike, another sight to see. With several vacations in North Carolina, we knew the advantage to going back to the same location. Eventually, this is what we settled on. We’ve returned to Rocky Mountain once, and Yosemite probably half a dozen times. We’ve been rewarded for that increasing familiarity. It was only when my boss paid for a lodge for our leadership team in Jackson, Wyoming that we diverted to a new destination. Then, the Tetons/Yellowstone became our destination for the next 4 years.

The key to a successful home base trip is lodging. What if you are stuck there (weather, sickness, etc.)? A hotel room is not optimal. At the end of our trip last year in Wyoming, we spent the last full day in a hotel in Jackson. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a problem, but there were issues with going out. First, it was extremely hazy due to wild fires in California, rendering outdoor activity fruitless in terms of seeing grand vistas and potentially harmful due to air quality. Mix that with road construction begun in town that made every street and alleyway a parking lot, and we had a situation where we opted to stay in. It was OK – restful – but not the best.

As I said, finding a good cabin/house that’s a home-away-from-home is ideal. That, or a great campsite. You need a sense that the place where you put up your feet is a destination of itself, a place you like going to. That way, if you have to or want to stay put, you still feel like you’re on an adventure. There are always rest days in a good vacation, and having a homey place provides that rest and rejuvenation. And a place to work on a puzzle.

Puzzles. A brainless cabin activity for disconnecting. Probably the most “old man” thing I do.

So, what’s your travelosophy? Have you taken a road trip? Was it enjoyable, or frustrating? How about a home base trip? Was it restful and engaging or boring after awhile? Let me know in the comments. Please like and follow. I don’t always write about travel, but when I do, I like to put up lots of pictures.

Wyoming, Days 6 & 7, Hike & Drive

Day 6 – hike

On Friday, I returned to the mouth of Clarks Fork Canyon, not to off-road with the car, but to hike a bit into the canyon. Carolyn was happy to stay behind at the cabin, reading one of her now 10 books that she’s completed during this trip.

It was a hot day, and I didn’t plan on a long hike, but I did want to get a little bit into this canyon we looked down upon a couple of days earlier from above during our off-road excursion.

As you approach the canyon, it appears that the mountains rise in a sheer wall from the floor of the advancing plain. In fact, the plain actually descends as you draw near the mountains, and then they arise out of the plain floor. I guess that has something to do with the formation of these ridges as the peaks were uplifted and the surrounding floor fell downward. In the Tetons, this same formation has resulted in numerous lakes at the base of the range.

The picture of the red rock formation is interesting. From one angle, it simply looked like a layer of rock within the rock wall. From another angle, it was clear that it was a separate wall of a hollowed out section. One of many surprises we’ve experienced.

Day 7 – road trip

Saturday began with the clearest air we’d seen up to that point of the trip. All week, the views were veiled with the presence of a smoky haze from the fires in California and Idaho. We awoke to clear sunlight with some mixed clouds. This created some deep shadows on the landscape, both from the sun’s angle and the shadows cast by clouds. All day long, sunlight and shadow created some great views and hopefully some striking photos.

We headed back up onto the Beartooth Highway, location of our “walkabout” two days earlier. We decided to drive the loop in reverse from what we’d done before. That meant heading north to Red Lodge, Montana and then driving south on the “212.” One thing we’ve discovered this year is that sometimes, driving in a different direction allows you to see things differently than when you always travel in the same direction. This was now our 4th trip on the Beartooth in three years, but our first time going north-to-south.

Once we finished the Beartooth, we continued on to the southwest through Cooke City (our AirBnB location in the past two years) and on to Yellowstone National Park through Lamar Valley. We hadn’t really seen much in the way of large wildlife, so it was good to get up close with some Buffalo. We opted not to spend much time at all in YNP this year, partly because of the crowding and partly because we’d been through parts of the Park in the three prior years.

In completing the loop, we travelled west-to-east on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. Again, the first time we’d moved in that direction. We saw plentiful quaking aspens in golden and orange colors. It seems the colors in Wyoming appeared early this year, possibly because of the dry conditions.

Enjoy the photos!

Vacation

Vacation is not the absence of work. It is the pursuit of rejuvenation.

M. Graham Knox
One of the spots we hope to revisit

I’m going on vacation next week. Here are a few random thoughts.

We’re going to Wyoming again. This makes the 4th consecutive year. A different spot this time, so there will be a sense of familiarity mixed with unfamiliarity. I’m excited about that.

In the picture above, I’m wearing a Blue Ridge Parkway hat…in Wyoming. I have a Yellowstone hat, but I’d look like a tourist. Don’t be that guy. This way I look like a well-traveled adventurer.

At my work at Chick-fil-A, I often engage with guests who are traveling on vacation. This always energizes me, because it turns my thoughts toward my own adventures. Since we live and work where we used to vacation, I really love giving advice on things to do. One of the many services we provide.

My operator at Chick-fil-A is an epic explorer. He recently said, “The thing about adventures is that they make you want to have more.” This is why we’ve been planning this trip for over 6 months, and why I’m already scoping out new spots to travel to.

Carolyn has completely recovered from back surgery last December. She’s been a trouper on our adventures, even with her chronic back pain. I’m eager to see how the lack of pain will increase her enjoyment. I hope I can keep up.

We will be right outside of Yellowstone National Park. However, since we’ve been through the park several times in the last 3 years, and with all the record crowds, I’m not sure we’ll get into YNP very much. There’s plenty to see in the outlying areas. We’ve done that before in Yosemite in California. Some of the best sights are outside the borders of the parks.

Speaking of sights, I got a new lens for my camera. Last year, my lens broke during the trip, so most of my pictures were taken with my phone. Now, a Galaxy S20 takes really nice pictures, but I was missing my Canon.

Every article I’ve read about travel in the national parks this year is that they are bursting at the seams with record crowds. One article talked about the lack of rental cars and prices of upwards of $500 a day (!!!) in Jackson, where we fly in. A couple of months ago I encouraged Carolyn to reserve a car early. Prices were staggering. She finally found something that was only twice the cost of what we paid last year. She later found a better price, but it’s still not cheap. And don’t even mention Turo (the AirBnB for cars); prices aren’t much better and the owners can be sketchy, pulling out of a rental agreement last minute.

I’m not planning on doing a lot of writing during my trip, but I will try to post on this blog some of the best pictures each day. Stay tuned.

Our cabin is pretty isolated, well outside of town. I plan to contemplate the stars and the God who marks them off with the span of his hand.

I’ve got Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend” running through my head: “Hitch a ride to the end of the highway
Where the neons turn to wood.”
Yep, we’re leaving the sinking ship behind and goin’ up around the bend.