One of my best memories of 2016 was a cross-country road trip to Colorado. We camped along the way in a roof-top tent, which was a great experience, despite some minor drawbacks, and I loved seeing the country that way. Now that 2017 has rolled around, instead of making new year’s resolutions, I’m planning this year’s epic trip.
I started planning after G commented that he definitely wants to visit a particular bucket-list destination sometime this year. He usually leaves trip-planning to me, so I started Googling and reading up on what the vacation would involve.
It turns out, quite a lot.
I won’t be plotting out every single thing we do, but a multi-faceted trip does involve a lot of basic education about where we’ll be going. Here is some of the preliminary planning I’ve worked out so far:
I plugged in the main destination on Google maps and looked at the suggested route to see what else there may be to see along the way. I checked my “destinations” bucket list to see if we should hit up any other must-see sites, and there were quite a few sites that I thought would make the trip fun. The stops quickly added up, and after calculating which days we would do what, I realized that this trip needed to focus more on features closer to the main destination and less on specific sites along the way. This probably seems like it deprives the road trip of the “on the road” aspect, but I feel that it leaves room for spontaneity. Now we can spend time stopping for breaks in random little towns we happen upon rather than bee-lining for the next stop. Some of my favorite road-trip experiences were in places we would have never known about if we hadn’t stopped for lunch or fuel or just on a whim.
I looked for campgrounds that will accommodate our needs. With the roof-top tent, it’s important to be able to drive into a campsite onto level ground with enough room to open the tent out on the side. I also looked for options besides for-profit campgrounds, like camping on public lands and whether or not camping permits are required. Also, timing is really important when making reservations. Almost all of the RV sites are already filled up for 2017 holiday weekends in this area, and getting a camping permit can take several weeks in some parks.
Are dogs allowed? That’s the most important question to ask if I want to bring my favorite fluffy trail buddy, Pippin. Not only must we find a campground that allows pets, but I have to take into consideration whether or not dogs are allowed in the parks or on trails that we might want to use. As it happens, one of the state parks I want to visit on this trip does not allow pets of any kind. I either have to change the possible activities we’ll do, leave Pippin at home with a sitter, or plan on buying a camper with a/c that can run for him while us humans are off adventuring.
The activities we plan on doing are weather dependent, so I built an extra day into the schedule as a rain date. If the weather is good, we’ll have that extra day to enjoy the awesome scenery and parks in the area.
Research is really important in determining when to go. I read blogs and information sites recommending what to avoid, like mud and mosquito season. I had a certain week in mind until I also checked weather archives on Weather Underground. I researched the temperature and precipitation in that location for the same day of the month going back 10 years, as well as the monthly precipitation, and I decided that doing the trip the following month would give us a better chance of good weather.
This trip will definitely take us well out of cell-phone reception range, but it won’t be uncharted territory. We just need to be prepared to navigate with print maps and iPad downloads.I already found a website that gives step-by-step directions of the logging roads to our main goal using a specific Delorme atlas, so I know what to buy/download.
There are a couple of things to consider before setting any plans into action, such as what vehicle and camping gear will we need and be using. We’ll need to decide if we’ll go with the roof-top tent or a more substantial camper. A camper will be better for cooler temperatures and may allow us to bring Pippin, but it may also be more involved in terms of requiring more fuel and special camping needs like water hookup or waste-water disposal.
I also need to read up more fully on the destination’s rules and regs, which, in addition to camping and pets, may includes vehicle height/length, campfires, and more.
I also have to check out accessibility and amenities. I plan on taking a different route home, which may take us through some remote areas. It will be a good idea to know where and when to fill up on gas to get in and out safely.
I still have a lot more research to do and decisions to make. This was only day one of planning! But now I have a rough idea of what the trip will involve. In the weeks and months to come, I’ll revisit last year’s trips in both the roof-top tent and a 4-wheel camper to go over the pros and cons and what we might want to change for 2017’s adventures.