Western Trip 2004

Watchman at Zion National Park

Home - Odometer 90, 044

Friday, 6/25/2004 - We started out after Jacob's last baseball game on Friday night. We still had to finish packing, as if there was even a chance that we would remember everything. It was about 10:30PM when we finally hit the road. We drove late into the night to make up for the late start.

Saturday, 6/26/2004 - was a full day of driving. Our only long stop was at Cabela's in Nebraska. We had a nice dinner and went through the store. Jacob and Brandon both got salmon stuffed animals. We could have made it to the park easily, but found a nice rest area about one hour away on I-25. We may not have found a place if we went to Estes Park. It felt good to get a long night's rest.

Cabela's in Nebraska

Rocky Mountain National Park - PDF Map of Rocky Mountain National Park

Sunday, 6/27/2004 - we could not check in until 12:00 so we went straight into the park and found a good spot at the Beaver Meadows Visitor's Center. It was easy to get a spot since we were early, still on Ohio time.

We decided to take a nice hike and tire the kids out. A good 6.2 mile loop with 500' elevation change. It started out nice and sunny so we were in shorts. We had lunch on the trail. But, we heard thunder when we were at the farthest point. We picked up the pace a bit. It started raining a little. But, while we were still about ½ mile out the hail started. After about 5 minutes, the kids were not doing well. It was very cold and the hail hurt. We did not know whether to take shelter from the hail or the lightning so we decided to run for it. Dakota said "I feel like I'm not going to make it!" But, we did make it. It felt good to get into the car and warm up. The road quickly turned into a river, so we got back onto higher ground as soon as possible. The Neon is not exactly an all terrain vehicle.

We checked in and recuperated. The storm caused flash floods from the national park down to Denver. But, we did not have any problems at the campground except that the kids could not play putt-putt.

We decided that we had enough adventure for the day so we would just take a drive trough the park. At the entrance to the park we saw a beggar coyote. He has probably been fed by people. We went up Trail Ridge Road. It was very foggy and the kids liked driving up into the clouds, but, Dakota was a bit worried about the cliffs. We saw many elk, pikas and yellow bellied marmots. The views were somewhat obscured by the clouds, but made some of the sights even more dramatic.


Beggar Coyote



Monday, 6/28/2004 - After Sunday's problems, we did not take and long hikes since the weather forecast was the same. We got up early to go to Sheep Lakes and try to see the big horn sheep. On the way we saw the Coyote by the entrance again. This time he was scavenging some road kill right by the car. It was to cloudy for the sheep to see down from the mountain to the lakes. So we did not see any all day. But, we did see a lot of elk and a family of coyotes. There were four pups.

Back at camp, the kids played putt-putt and more putt-putt. Then later they played putt-putt again.

Brandon and the Squirrel

Too much Putt-Putt

Tuesday, 6/29/2004 - Another attempt at sighting some sheep. Finally we saw big horn sheep. We have been waiting for 2 years. There were six rams at sheep lakes when we got there. They gave us a great show. They moved right up onto a ridge and posed for us.

Wednesday, 6/30/2004 - Colleen called around to find a good horse back ride. She found one at departing at 11:00. It was a private guided 3 hour ride up the mountain. With the rain, the trail was treacherous. It was very steep and rocky with deep mud between the rocks. It looked like a good way to hurt a horse's leg to me. We went up and stopped at the top to take a break and snack. Cheese and crackers for us and apples for the horses. It was a beautiful ride. It is much better than hiking because you can let the horse watch the trail while you catch the scenery. We decided to put on the rain gear on the way down, a good choice because it rained most of the way down. It was a great ride, we all had fun.

Colleen on Pat

Jacob getting ready on Chug

Brandon on Tucker

Going up! -Dakota on Trooper, Jacob & Brandon

It was raining so we decided to pack up and hit the road a little early. We left Rocky Mountain National Park at about 4:30 PM and drove toward Arches and stopped to sleep about 20 miles from Utah.

Thursday, 7/1/2004 - A short drive to Arches National Park (map). There was no place to park the RV but they recommended a rest area about 2 miles down so we parked there and drove the park. We unhooked the car and drove around the park. We made three short hikes to some of the sites. We hiked to Balanced Rock, The Windows and Delicate Arch and then drove to the Furnace Creek overlook. It was very hot. The kids were ready to hit the road again.

Dakota Under Balanced Rock

Turret Arch

South Window

We made the rest of the drive to Zion. We stopped for a short stop at the Kolob Canyon visitor's center, but decided to head on to the campground instead of touring the area. It is about an hour drive around to the main entrance where the campground is. We arrived at about 9:00 PM, checked in, had a fire and relaxed.

Zion National Park - PDF Map of Zion

Friday, 7/2/2004 - We hiked the Riverside Walk and continued through The Narrows. The Narrows is amazing. It is a narrow canyon, about 100-200 feet wide with sheer sandstone wall that go up 1000-2000 feet. We hiked up the river, mostly in the water, for a few hours. Along the way there were amazing views and occasional pools deep enough for us to swim in and cool off.

Natures Swim Spa

A nice place to cool off

Our Favorite View - A wide turn / oasis

Brandon's Hole in the Wall

Dakota's Hole

We drove to Mt. Zion Junction for dinner. It was a great drive through Zion and the tunnels to get there. But the dinner at the Thunderbird Restaurant was not too good. Although after the long day without eating the kids thought it was good. On the way home we looked for a black light to help find scorpions, no luck.

Saturday, 7/3/2004 - We rented tubes and floated down the Virgin River. It took about 1 ½ hours to go about 2 ½ miles. We decided to go twice.

Sunday, 7/4/2004 - We hiked to the Emerald Pools and made it back in time for the kids to hit the 2 ½ hour ranger program. We planned on doing something while they were there, but, it was a special program for the 4th and the parents were allowed to attend with the kids. Of course they wanted us to stay, so we did. They had a show, played games and did crafts. At the end they earned their Junior Ranger patches.

For the evening we took the shuttle up to Weeping Rock at about 9:30 PM. We hiked the trail looking for ring tailed cats and scorpions. No luck on either. But, we did see humming birds, bats and a skunk. Dakota was worried that the shuttle was not coming back. He did not want to be stuck out there with no way back. But, it came and on the ride home Brandon got to see a ring tailed cat. The driver pointed it out, but the rest of us were not in position to see it.

We went looking for things that crawl in the night. We had no luck with scorpions, but, we did find a black widow spider. And, I have never seen so many cockroaches. They were everywhere, thousands of them, many different types. We even found the night blooming poisonous flower we heard about in the ranger program.

Black Widow Spider

Monday, 7/5/2004 - Checkout was 11:00. The kids ran around, Colleen went to the market and gift shop while I packed up. We hit the road just after 11:00. It was about a 3 hour drive to Las Vegas. We parked at the Flying J (I-15, Exit 46) and took the car to The Strip. The kids were impressed by the Hotels and Casinos. We parked at Monte Carlo and hit their buffet. Now the kids were really impressed with Vegas. Poached salmon, flank steak, chicken . . . and even rice crispy treats. Not a buffet from home, it was really good food. Of course Colleen and I had to hit a little black jack and a few slots. It went as expected, we will be returning to work.

Next we went to New York, New York to hit the roller coaster. The line was long and it was $12.95 each, $24 more than our dinner. We skipped the coaster and played some of the arcade games. We had hopes of winning a BMW Z4, but all we ended up with was an orange monkey. It was a great stop. On to California…..

The drive across the desert was something else. It was HOT, over 110°. I know that is hardly a shock, but, there were probably a hundred cars broken down along the way. After a while I started getting a little worried, after all out engine was doing a lot more work climbing the hills pulling all of our weight and the car. We ran the generator and roof air the whole way and kept the engine AC off to reduce the engine heat. Next time I think we will cross the desert in the night. It was amazing to be a hundred miles from anything on a six lane highway in a traffic jam, wall to wall cars.

Once we hit Barstow, the roads were empty. I set the cruise control and flew through the L.A. area all the way to Vista. Jacob did a great job keeping me awake. He was determined to stay awake until we got to Al's place. We arrived at about 11:30 PM. He had a great place to park. His house is at the top of a hill and he has two lots behind that have lemon, orange, kumquat and peach trees. Right at the bottom was a nice spot to park. A little work to level up but a great spot. The neighbors even offered electric and water hook-ups.


Vista, California (Alan and Lori's Place) - Odometer-92,611

Tuesday, 7/6/2004 - It finally caught up with me, I slept in and it felt good. We took the opportunity to do laundry and clean the RV. Dakota went with Lori to deliver some materials, always the one to try to help.

Then it was off to Lego Land. We started out slow, the lines were very long and the rides were a little young for the kids. Then we found our way to the more advanced rides. It was great, the lines were short and just perfect for the kids. Brandon and Dakota's faces were a good sign that the coaster was enough for them. They looked terrified but were laughing a few seconds later, just right. We went to the 4-D movie (3-D plus wind, water and smoke) and the Extreme Sports show. Jacob loved the sports show. It had bikes, skateboards and high flying basketball jamming (with a trampoline). The kids all climbed the rock wall twice.

All made of Legos

Alan and Lori took us to Macaroni Grill for dinner. Everyone enjoyed having a good meal. And we didn't even have to fix it or clean up afterward.

Wednesday, 7/7/2004 - We went to the San Diego Wild Animal Park at noon. It is nice. They have most of the animals in wide open, natural settings. All of the herd animals from a region are together in an open area with a variety of terrain. Hills, rocks, bushes, trees and a water hole. Most times you are not as close as you would be at a normal zoo, but, it is neat to see the animals in a more natural setting even if the herd is hundreds of yards away. They had some animals that are no longer in the wild. Most of them are from places, like the Sudan where there is no natural habitat left for them. They will release them back into the wild if their native habitat is restored.




We were planning on golf for the evening. But, we were all a bit tired. Alan has barely gotten any sleep since we have been here. So we just packed up some things and headed to the beach. Jacob, Dakota and I played in the surf. Great waves! Perfect size for us. Then we grilled some burgers and dogs and relaxed on the beach. Okay, the kids did not relax, they played and we relaxed. We topped off the dinner with s'mores cooked over an illegal fire. They had banned fires some time ago but there were a fire pits scattered around so we just burned enough to make s'mores and then put it out.





Thursday, 7/8/2004 - The kids wanted to go back to the ocean in the morning. The waves were even better. We could ride them all the way in to the beach. By the time we returned home Alan was there and ready for golf. We played 18 holes at the par 3 course.

After golf we loaded up the four wheelers and took them to the ranch where Al used to live. He has a 50 cc small quad that is perfect for the kids. The kids all had a blast. They all want to stay longer.


Colleen Takes a Spin





Friday, 7/9/2004 - Dakota and Lori washed the car for us first thing in the morning. We did the laundry and packed everything up while the kids rode the quad around the orchard. Alan came home early for our last day. We went back to the miniature horse farm, on Poinsettia where Alan used to live. The neighbor girls came along and Lori bought the horses 5 bags of carrots. The kids made sure they all got some.

Then we hit Rubio's for lunch. Colleen and I wanted some fish tacos before we left. Rubio's was the restaurant that originally brought fish tacos to San Diego.

We hit the road at about 2:30.  Four hours of traffic to get through Los Angeles. Too much for Colleen. Then to top it off we had a small leak in a power steering pressure sensor and started to lose fluid. We filled it and it was fine. Just a slow leak (more to come…).

Saturday, 7/10/2004 - We made the drive into Sequoia National Park. Arrived about noon. Quite a drive into the park. It is a fairly steep and winding road, about 40 miles to the campground.

Sequoia National Park - Odometer 92,968 PDF Map of Sequoia

Dorst Creek Campground - Site 27 - No hookups, nice sites.

sequoia illustration                  redwood illustration




To 311 feet


To 367.8 feet

To 3,200 years


To 2,000 years

To 2.7 million lbs.


1.6 million lbs.

To 31 in. thick


To 12 in. thick

To 8 ft. diameter


To 5 ft. diameter

To 40 ft. diameter


To 22 ft. diameter

By seed only


By seed or root sprout

As large as oat flakes

Seed Size

As large as tomato seeds

Shaped like a chicken's egg


Shaped like a large olive

Small, overlapping, awl-shaped needles


Single needles that
fall off in sprays


We made it to our camp site. The kids were disappointed because we had to move from our first site (by Bear Rock) to another site. I had the wrong one site number. We quickly made camp and headed out to take a tour. Right to the highlight in Sequoia, the General Sherman tree. Not the oldest, tallest or largest diameter. But, it is the largest living thing on earth … 2.7 million pounds. The last branch that fell off of General Sherman was larger than any tree in the eastern US (7 feet in diameter and about 140 feet tall)

Bear country!!! We finally saw our first bear. It was in the small meadow right across from our camp site. It was a small bear that was tagged (Pink tag # 27). We watched it eat for about 20 minutes. Then the rangers chased it away. We later found out that the tagged bears have caused trouble in the past. So they had to chase it away to try to teach it not to try to get food from the campground. The kids did not like it though. It was not causing any trouble where it was and was not bothering anyone.


Sunday - We got moving early so we could make the drive to Crystal Cave. We took the first tour in the morning. It was good because the tour group looked quite a bit smaller than the groups that were coming in as we were leaving. It is a wet cave with a lot of formations. It even had a nice river that flowed through with a several waterfalls along the way. The cave is about 700,000 years old.

We went to Buck Rock for the evening. There is an old fire lookout on top of Buck Rock, unfortunately they close the tower at 6:00 PM. But, we could climb up to the last level just a little below the lookout. It was a great view of the Sierra Crest. We drove back for sunset at the campsite. We saw another bear in the meadow by the entrance to the campground. This one was bigger and was not tagged.

Monday - We had a nice breakfast, cooked over the grill and then went to Lodgepole Visitor's Center for good long hot showers. It felt great. Then we headed on down to climb to the top of Morro Rock. There are steps all the way to the top and great views in all directions.

Tunnel Log

Squatter's Cabin

The kids were not up to another hike. So we drove by some of the sites that did not require much walking. We saw Tunnel Log, Dead Giant, Huckleberry Meadow, Squatters Cabin and Auto Log. Only about a mile of walking, mostly driving. Then we stopped by the Historical Museum. Brandon found a Long Horned Beetle. It's larvae cause the sequoia trees to drop their seeds instead of waiting for fire. We took pictures as usual and the Ranger (Laura_Delman@nps.org) asked us to send a copy to her.

Long Horned Beetle - The larva bores into the sequoia cones and makes the seeds fall.

Homeward Bound

Tuesday, 7/13/2004 - We took our time getting ready to go and left the park around 11:00 PDT. We did get a chance to see one more bear. It was in the small meadow across from our camp site again. We left the car off and drove down separate. But, we did not need to, the drive down was much easier than I expected. Then disaster struck, we sprung a leak in a power steering pressure sensor. We were not sure what to do. But, we got Good Sam Emergency Roadside Service just a few months ago since we knew we were going on this long trip. I called and they said someone would be there in 60 minutes. Since we had pulled over in a parking lot at a diner we went in and had lunch. The tow truck arrived early, just after we finished lunch. I told the driver what was wrong and that all I needed was a ¼" pipe plug to replace the sensor. He found a plug on his truck and helped me install it. The engine had cooled enough and I was able to crawl up by the engine and reach the sensor. We were back on the road again, only a 2 hour delay, and we had a good lunch. P.S. The sensor is only used to control the parking brake indicator on the dash, no control or protection, do not worry.

We decided to drive hard and make some distance. But, we reached Reno at about 9:30 PM. The kids wanted another buffet like in Las Vegas. After the parking we saw in Vegas we decided to drive right in with the motor home. It was great. The Circus Circus had an RV & bus parking lot right as we hit the downtown area. The buffet was closing in 10 minutes, we started to leave and then decided to go load our plates and eat. We probably ate more food than if we had taken our time. Then we hit the arcade games and won a bunch of stuffed animals. We finished off with a trapeze act.

Everyone was wide awake and ready to go when we hit the road. The kids stayed up and helped me drive until about 3:00. Nice flat drive east of Reno. We stopped at the Flying J for the night. (I-80, Exit 176, Nevada)

Wednesday, 7/14/2004 - Driving . . . Nevada . . . Utah . . . Wyoming. We drove hard and made it to the Buckboard Marina on the Flaming Gorge Reservoir. We wanted to find a place with a hookup so we could have AC and nice long showers. The reservoir is down 32 feet, the snow melt is not done yet. But as with everywhere else, it is lower than normal. There was not a great place to swim at the campground so took the car south to a swimming beach. The water was cold, but we played for quite a while. We saw a small town to the south as we pulled out so we decided to pick up some goods. There turned out to be a nice restaurant attached to the carryout so we had dinner. By the time we got back we just relaxed, put up the dish and watched some television.

Jacob & Dakota in Flaming Gorge

Jacob wanted to leave them in prison

Thursday, 7/15/2004 - We were planning on renting a boat and spending the day on the water. But, in the morning it looked like it was going to be an overcast, rainy day. So, we packed up and hit the road at about 6:30. We drove solid to Laramie, WY. We stopped at the old Laramie Territorial Prison. Butch Cassidy spend some time there before he was pardoned by the governor and went on to meet up with The Sundance Kid and the Hole in the Wall Gang. We spent almost 2 hours there and then went to the historic downtown of Laramie. We got caught in another hail storm. But this time we were close. On the road again. Lightning all around, but we stayed ahead of the storm most of the time. We drove late into the night and made it about 50 miles east of Des Moines, IA.

Friday, 7/16/2004 - We are ahead of the rain, but it looks like we will not have very nice weather if we stop. So, we decided to drive steady and get home. No stops. We arrived at home at about 5:00, one day ahead of schedule. Amanda was there but no Chewy.

Home - Odometer 95,545