Guest Interview – Weston Liam Pickwell, Age 6

I’m interested to see how this interview goes.  If my hunch is correct, you’ll see a clear dichotomy between Wyatt, and my very verbose 6 year old.  Hope my fingers can keep up.

Weston, would you like to tell me a little bit about your trip?

Hmmmm….. well, I liked seeing the bears.  Um…. I liked seeing the sequoias, the tall trees, and the Grizzly Giant.  I liked Yellowstone because I liked the campground, and it was clean, and I liked the geysers, fumaroles, and mudpots.  Um…. I liked staying in a camper. Um… and…umm… well… I liked…. seeeeing the faces of Mt. Rushmore.

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What did you think about all of the driving we had to do?

Um…..  It was fun when we got to watch movies and play on our iPods.  And um… we liked um…. well I liked seeing a whole bunch of flags on Mount Rushmore.  About riding in the truck…  Oh yeah…. well I did like going to McDonalds one time, I think… and um… we got a toy Minion.

What was your least favorite part about riding in the truck?

I think it was waiting 15-20 minutes for iPods.  Why did you have to wait?  We were acting crazy.

Was there was there anything fun about driving that far?

I already told you!  The iPods!

Do you have any thoughts about the scenery you saw?

Um… it was pretty, but we have no idea if way out there there are more sequoias.  The scenery was high and pretty.  And um… I think I saw a canyon with a road in the middle with rocks in it that looked like they were from Lion King.  I think it was in Arches.

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What did you think about Yosemite?

It was interesting with all of the squirrels.  They wanted to get fed so they got just like one inch away.  Well, they walked up to a lady and she shot them with a water bottle.  Then another squirrel came.  We weren’t supposed to feed the squirrels or they could get relocated somewhere else or killed.  I think in the Badlands, what we saw was a chipmunk.

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Tell me about your experience in Zion NP.  How was that?

I think it was quite burning up in there but it was a little fun.  We stayed at Zion River Resort and it was clean and I think it had a pool.  We even had a ‘smores’agbord.  And we swam in the virgin river.  And we even hiked the narrows.  What was that like?  Well, it was a little tricky.  We went like 5 miles through water, like, kinda a current, like tiny water falls that made the current.  Well, there was patches of land that we could go on.  We ate cold pizza for lunch and cookies.

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What was your top 5 National Parks?

1. YosemiteIMG_5485

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What were your 5 top experiences?

1. See the giant sequoias and the Grizzly Giant

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2. Seeing the geysers and hot springs

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3. Swimming in the Virgin River

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4. The Jeep Ride in Moab

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5. The ATV in the hail storm

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Why don’t you tell everyone what it is like to live in a camper for 6 weeks.

Well, when you live it in theres not much room.  For the kids, they can play in their beds with stuffed animals and they can come to life.  When you live in a camper on a trip, you have to drive like 100 miles or something to get to your campground.  And it is like 50 miles to get to a state.  And if you are going to skip a state, you have to drive 1000 miles, maybe.  I liked playing the Ranger game with Wyatt.

What was your favorite state?

Wyoming because we got to go to a cowboy thing.

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Anything you would like to add?

Yeah, there was this Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone and the highest it exploded was like 300 feet.  We didn’t get to see it, but it was the highest.  That’s all!

Guest Interview – Wyatt Lee Pickwell, Age 8

Wouldn’t it be a great idea to hear from someone else besides myself on how our West Coast Trip went?  Wouldn’t it be awesome to hear the perspective of a kid?  I thought you’d think so.  So here is Wyatt Pickwell, my oldest son, and his thoughts on our little adventure.

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Tell me about your trip.

Well it was really fun; it was really hot.  We went to 20 states, National Parks, and 9000 miles.

What did you think about all of the driving we had to do?

All of the driving was pretty much miserable.

Didn’t you get to watch movies?

Well, it was miserable for you guys.

What was your least favorite part about riding in the truck?

My least favorite part was when it rained really bad.

Was there was there anything fun about driving that far?

The fun part was watching movies and playing the iPods.

Do you have any thoughts about the scenery you saw?

It was really pretty; really exciting.  I think that’s about it.

What did you think about Yellowstone?



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We had to drive a long ways to get to each individual place.  Yellowstone, was actually the first National Park to ever be established.  In Yellowstone it’s actually a humungous active volcano.  I saw a lot of geysers, hot springs, a few mud pots, and a few fumaroles.  I saw a lot of wildlife.

What was your experience in Arches?

So in Arches, there is a bunch of arches… of course.  We actually went through a few canyons on a hike.  It actually took three hours.  And….um……what were we talking about?  Arches.  When we were in Arches and coming back from balanced rock, we saw so much rain pouring down in the distance it looked black.  And at that same time we saw a bunch of lightening hitting the ground.  It was really weird.

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What was your top 5 National Parks?

1. Yosemite
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2. Rocky Mountain
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3. Arches
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4. Bryce Canyon
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5. Shenandoah
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Why do you say Shenandoah?

Because we got to drive through clouds.

What were your top 5 experiences of the trip?

1. Fishing
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2. The Jeep ride
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3. Playing in the pool
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4. Hanging out with my family the whole way
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5. When me and you were unhooking and I unhooked the water and it splattered all over me.

What was it like to live in a camper for six weeks?

Once you get used to it, it’s pretty much like your house.  It’s like driving around with a house on your back.

End of the Road

Saturday – July 18

Day 44

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Today we rolled into KOA in Fredericksburg.  What in the world is up with this humidity!!!!  Thought for a second to turn around a drive to dryer air, but held back.  It has been an absolutely amazing trip.  I want to thank you all for following along, enjoying the adventure with us, praying for us, and living vicariously!  But it isn’t over.  Stay tuned.  Hopefully in the next day or so I’m going to share a ton of what we experienced, learned, and even give Jennifer and the boys some room to comment on what their favorites were.

Route: Milton, WV to Luray, VA

Campground: Fredericksburg KOA

Time: Left 8:00AM ET, Arrived 9:45AM ET – 1Hrs45Mins

One Last Hurrah

Thursday – July 16

Day 42

Sometimes things don’t turn out like you imagined.  We thought we’d leave Colorado early and roll into Fredericksburg today.  However, every campground is booked over the weekend.  So we find ourselves in Luray for the next few nights.  Our lease on our apartment doesn’t start until Monday.  At least we have a home on 4 wheels.

Route: Milton, WV to Luray, VA

Campground: Outlanders River Camp

Time: Left 8:15AM ET, Arrived 1:45AM ET – 5Hrs45Mins

Friday – July 17

Day 43

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IMG_6525IMG_6547IMG_6548IMG_6559IMG_6568If you are stuck next to national park, go visit.  Why not make it 13 national parks in 42 days?  We ventured up into Big Meadows and got the boys books stamped and devoured some blackberry ice cream.  The campground we are staying at is amazing.  It is only 5 years old and sits on the Shenandoah River.  After 42 days of camping and fishing, we finally caught 3 small mouth bass.  Nothing like a little patience.

Itinerary: Shenendoah National Park, Big Meadows, Shenandoah River

Rocky Mountain National Park

Sunday – July 12

Day 38

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I might have found another favorite national park.  First its cold.  At least it was cold when we were there.  We had our heaters running overnight.  Second, its absolutely beautiful.  Third, its crowded – very crowded.   But there are still spots you can find solitude and solace.  It reminded me a bit of the Smoky Mountains and Yosemite wrapped into one.  Unfortunately, we ended our stay a day early to get home and possibly cut down some of our drive time.  It certainly is a place I’d like to return to.  Not to mention, the top of Rocky Mountain NP was BLUSTERY and FREEZING!  There are spots you can find snow still on the ground.  There are animals everywhere.  We saw lots of elk, and two huge bull moose right in our campground.

Itinerary: Adams Falls, Trail Ridge Road, Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Holtzwart Historic Site

Monday – July 13

Day 39

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We found hell on earth, and its in Oakley, KS.  Some parts are ‘amber waves of grain.’  But where we stayed was awful.  HOT HOT HOT.  The grass is crunchy.  And you track in these burrs that you constantly end up stepping on the rest of the day.  Poor Dorothy.

Route: Grand Lake, CO to Oakley, KS

Campground: High Plains Camping

Time: Left 8:00 MT.  Arrived 4:10 CT 7hrs 10 Mins

Tuesday – July 14

Day 40

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You can’t pass through Kansas City without hitting some BBQ – especially when the BBQ is in a gas station.  Can we say burnt ends and ribs?

Route: Oakley, KS to Danville, MO (VIA Joe’s Kansas City BBQ)

Campground: Lazy Day Campground – One of the nicest we’ve stayed at.

Time: Left 6:45 CT.  Arrived 3:45 CT 9hrs.

Wednesday – July 15

Day 41

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You can’t pass Culver’s without getting custard.  It is absolutely the BEST!

Route: Danville, MO to Milton, WV

Campground: Huntington/Fox Fire KOA

Time: Left 7:45 CT.  Arrived 6:20 ET 9hrs 35mins.

The Narrow Hike

Wednesday – July 1

Day 27

IMG_1002 IMG_5804 IMG_5802You don’t have to be in a National Park to experience N.P. beauty.  Driving into Zion, we kept asking ‘Why isn’t this part of the park?”  There are breathtaking views everywhere!

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The Narrows earns its reputation as one of the most amazing hikes in the U.S.  The kids are kids.  They expire quickly on hikes.  But I knew we were in good shape when Weston asked, “Is there more to go?”  When I said there was, he exclaimed, “YES!”  Most of it is in water.  Some of it is on sandy ground, but they preferred staying in the river.  There are pools to swim in, places where you wade waste deep (depending on river flow could be much higher), and towering canyon walls.  It is a hike that beckons you to look around the next corner.  We ended up hiking 5 miles round trip, taking us to the beginning of Wall Street, where the walls narrow considerably.  I think an overnight backpacking trip through the narrows has been added to my bucket list.

IMG_5791This is the Court of the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Itinerary – The Narrows

Thursday – July 2

Day 28

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Zion may be one of our favorite parks.  I got to hike the Canyon Overlook trail today.  Breathtaking views of the canyon.  There is a beauty here you can’t find anywhere else.  And right in the middle of it is the refreshing Virgin River.  It is easy to get to from Virgin, UT.  You have a beautiful gateway town in Springdale.  You can hike and get all nasty, then jump in the river to cool off.  There aren’t too many places with this type of diversity.  Plus, they’ve restricted automobile access past a certain point, which cuts back on traffic congestion.  One of the more surprising things about Zion is how busy it is.  There are TONS of people in Zion.  If I were to come back, I’d try May.  Hopefully it wouldn’t feel like Hell.


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There are surprises everywhere in National Parks.  You really don’t know what you are going to experience around the next corner.  We wanted to take the Zion Tunnel (built in 1930) up to the Canyon Overlook trail.  I knew it was 1.1 miles long.  I didn’t realize its pitch black in there.  I also didn’t know about the great arch.  And I certainly didn’t know I was bout to meet up with some Desert Big Horn Sheep.  After reaching the overlook, I hiked back to Jennifer and the kids.  Getting our packs together, we heard some rock falling.  I just assumed it was loose rock.  We looked down and there was a family of Sheep climbing up the mountain.  This was the last animal I really wanted to see on our trip.  When we got back to the truck, we were still in shock we saw them.  Then out of the blue, they emerged up above us as we waited in line to go back through the tunnel.  Absolutely amazing!!

Itinerary – Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel, Canyon Overlook Trail

Friday –  July 3

Day 29

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Today we drove from Virgin, UT to Bryce Canyon City.  Its a whole new world!  Cool.  80’s.  Drops into the 50’s at night.  What a welcome reprieve from all of the heat!

Route: Virgin, UT to Bryce Canyon City

Campground: Ruby’s Inn Campground

Time: Left 8:15 MT.  Arrived 1:30 MT 4Hrs 45 Mins – Got stuck in traffic from a truck overturned carrying bottles of water.  Ironically it caught fire.

Heat Wave

Monday – June 29

Day 25:

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FullSizeRender 162 FullSizeRender 151Out West, if you don’t like the scenery, keep driving.  It will probably change within the hour.  Today is travel day and we have a modest drive to Virgin, UT.  To get there, we must go to Flagstaff, and head North, around the Grand Canyon, and up through the bottom of Utah.  First, I was pretty surprised by the terrain in Arizona.  Northern Arizona is cooler (higher altitude), and quite a bit of greenery to be seen.  As we drove around the Eastern portion of the Grand Canyon, we could tell it was getting lower, hotter, and more arid.  I was really excited that we got to see the Vermilion Cliffs.  They were beautiful red cliffs that showed layer upon layer of ancient history.  But as we climbed out of them, the scenery changed.  We started seeing scrub pine and small bushes – then larger pine.  The pine was thin enough that it looked as if someone had sprinkled them out on the hillside with a pepper shaker.  And suddenly, I felt as if I were back in the black hills.  At the bottom of the climb we were at 100.  At the top, where the Kaibab Forest is and the Northern entrance to Grand Canyon, we were in the 80s.  Then as suddenly as the pine appeared, they thinned to nothing and we were back in an arid dry landscape.  One of my favorite things about this trip is seeing how the climate changes from mile to mile.  It is an impressive site.

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There are more National Monuments and Parks than I realized.  When you go into your first National Park, you have to visit the Visitor’s Center and pick up a Passbook.  From then on, every time you visit a monument or park, you can purchase a sticker to put in the book and stamp it like a passport.  Driving 89A we came around a curve, descended a bit, and found this beautiful bridge spanning Marble Canyon what I think is the beginning of the Colorado River.  They had a visitors center and a place to stamp your book!  Plus we saw California Condor #54.

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“It’s just a dry heat,” is a load of crap!  HOT IS HOT!  Imagine walking outside and having a hair dryer blown in your face, and on your head, and on your body.  I’ve never felt heat like this before.

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Rivers cool the heat!  Thank goodness we are camping on a river!

Route: Williams, AZ to Virgin, UT via Hwy 89A

CampgroundZion River Resort 

Time: Left 9:00 Standard MT.  Arrived 4:00 MT DST 6 HRS

Tuesday – June 30

Day 26:

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Zion is like the desert version of Yosemite.  It has its own huge named peaks and rock faces.  Zion is beautiful.  It is a beauty you can’t find anywhere else.

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For some reason, Zion NP doesn’t believe in air conditioning.  Its the hottest park so far and none of the buses have AC.  The Visitors Center is actually cooled through natural cooling towers.  Have no idea how its works, but it does.  If only the buses had cooling towers.

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Water is life.  We hiked to the Lower Emerald Pool and made sure to drench ourselves in the falls.  Then we ate lunch and soaked ourselves in the Virgin River.  It is an oasis in the desert.

Itinerary: Lower Emerald Pool