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Our Epic Camping Trip - Summer, 2020

We have talked about a big camping trip since we bought our little travel trailer last summer, but between work and school schedules, we just never made it happen. I guess it took a global pandemic to get serious! Because I'm a crazy planner, and also because there was virtually NOTHING else to do, I planned every nitty gritty detail of our camp trip, down to the truck stops where we'd fill up for water, specific gas stations we'd need to hit in order not to run out of gas, and every meal that we'd be eating. Crazy, right? Of course, as a mom of three, I know that plans can go out the window really quickly, but planning our trip was so much fun, and gave me something to focus on for the weeks leading up to our trip.


A couple notes about this blog post.

*I don't have any affiliate links, so any links that I include will just be for informational purposes.

*With the exception of our group shots of us as a family, all pictures were taken with film on my Nikon F100. I chose to use film for a couple of different reasons. One: for the challenge of it, two: so that I didn't have thousands of images to come home and sort through and edit, and three: because there is something so special about real film. I'll be talking a bit about film and photography throughout the post, so feel free to skip over it if you're not interested!

*I used RoadTrippers to plan out our entire trip. Google Maps only lets you create a trip with 10 stops, so I needed something that would allow me to add more. Here is our original map, however, about half way through our trip, we had to adjust our destinations a bit. I will try to include links to campsites that we stayed at, but we mostly dry camped/boondocked (meaning we did not have any hook ups and camped on public land)




Our first stop was El Capitan campground in Santa Barbara. We made a last minute change of plans and left a day early to meet up with some friends here. I'm so glad that we got to see the Rivas Family here and play in the waves! The beach was super small, and while there were quite a bit of people around there was plenty of space to be socially distant.

Left, Lucy blissfully washing dishes. Right, our set up on Day 1! (Kodak Gold 200)

Adrian & Lucy boogie boarding and catching some waves! This was such a great beach for younger kids since it was really shallow, and the waves were super gentle. (Kodak Gold 200)

I'm not even going to pretend like we didn't use technology to get through the long drives. Some days we drove 11+ hours, so we had no shame in letting them melt their brains on their iPads for a big chunk of that time. As soon as we got to our destination, iPads were put away, and we were technology free while we camped. (Kodak Gold 200)



Long road trips with toddlers can be tricky. We are really lucky that Ellis is such a laid back little guy. It could have been a really tough trip if he hated being in his car seats. For the most part, he was content hanging out, taking naps, playing with random junk we could toss at him, or watching a movie with Lucy on the iPad. We let him out of his car seat at every stop for gas, which let me tell ya! When you are driving a Ford Expedition and towing a 4,000lb rig behind you, we stop A LOT! He was always happy to get out and climb around the car. (Kodak Gold 200)


Fun fact: we traveled approximately 3,500 miles, stopped for gas exactly 37 times and spent a total of $1,422.94. The most expensive place we stopped for gas was somewhere on Route 66 in Nevada where we paid $6 a gallon. Kodak Gold 200


Our next stop was Telephone Cove in Searchlight, Nevada. Evan found this spot during our planning, and we were so excited to be able to camp right on the water. We did read some reviews on Campendium that it has become a bit of a party spot, but we still wanted to check it out and hope for the best. We took the 40 minute drive down the dirt road to find the place literally crawling with people. We found the very last spot for our trailer and tried to see if we could stay there safely. We got to play in the water for a couple of hours, but ultimately decided to pack it up and head out after the sun went down. There were too many people, and we were parked next to the pit toilet... which when it's 115 degrees out, it's not a fun place to be. We also were having trouble with our generator. We ended up finding an RV park outside of a casino in Laughlin. Although it wasn't what we were expecting, it gave us a place to regroup, sort our generator issues out, and we got to sleep in the nice cool a/c. See! Flexible!!

(Kodak Gold 200)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

You guys, it was so hot. If you are noticing that our faces are beet red, it's not that we are sunburned, we are just melting in the heat. It was so hot that our water hating dog even galloped into the water for some relief. I also picked Ektar 100 for this part of our trip, which hindsight, was just not a good film stock for me. Ektar is known for bringing out reds and being a really bright and punchy film stock. My idea is that it would be amazing for the desert, but I just didn't love it. The picture (above right) of me and Ellis looks matte and weird because Evan accidentally underexposed. You'll notice a fun trend of the pictures that Evan sweetly took of me, haha)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

On the road again! Phoenix bound. Another gas stop, another opportunity for Ellis to roam around!



Our next stop was Lost Dutchman State Park. This place was such a gem, and I would go back here in a heart beat! We got to camp right at the base of the Superstition Mountains and had the most incredible view outside of our trailer. While there were no sewage hookups, we had electric and water, which was nice since it was 119 degrees, and we got to play in the water to keep cool. The campground was virtually empty, and the girls loved being able to take short hikes around our spot. We saw tons of wildlife here. Tons of rabbits, quail, and bats. We even saw a lone coyote and a wild boar family! And lets not forget a beetle that flew into our laundry hamper. It was so big that we honestly thought it was a bat that had flown in! (Above picture is digital from my Nikon D850)



(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Again, poor little guy is not sun burned, but we were melting! (Plus Ektar highlighting those red tones) The water that came out of our hook up was warmer than bath water. We even did our laundry and hung it to dry on a line which took approx 5 minutes! Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

The Arizona sunsets did NOT disappoint. Those skies were so incredible. (Ektar 100)



Our trailer is 17 feet, which is TINY for a party of 5+ a giant dog. Space and storage is extremely limited, so we really had to pack wisely. Looking back, there is a lot of stuff that we brought that we could have left at home, but in terms of what we brought for the kids was kept to a minimum. I brought a basket of art supplies. Water colors, colored pencils, tons of watercolor paper, and drawing journals. We also brought some fun new things like a kite, boomerangs, and lots of bubbles and a couple of different books on camping and survival. We were glad to have a good supply of art supplies because it's what they used the most. Even though we were on summer break, this trip was such an incredible learning experience for all of us. Whenever they asked questions or showed interest in something, we'd research it and talk all about it. Did you know that the large saguaro cactus that you see are actually about 150 years old?! (Kodak Portra 400)

(Kodak Portra 400)


(Kodak Portra 400)

Really wishing that I brought more of this film stock with me! Portra is such a good stock with true to life, rich colors. Sadly my camera store was out before we left! (Kodak Portra 400)



(Kodak Portra 400)

We woke up super early to try and get a hike in. Truth is, we didn't get very far. Even at 7am, it was so hot out, and the kids just did not have it in them to go more than a third of a mile. (Kodak Portra 400)


(Kodak Portra 400)

Water that felt like bath water! It was heaven to have some water to splash in. (Ektar 100)


(Ektar 100)

(Kodak Portra 400)


We headed out to Canyon Lake to splash in the water and beat the heat. All of the kids are the happiest when there is water involved! We really wanted to rent a boat, but they were all snagged by the time we got there. Luckily we found a little cove that wasn't too crowded, and we got to splash and play all day!

(Kodak Portra 400)

(Kodak Portra 400)

(Kodak Portra 400)


Our next stop was Sedona, Az. This was our first real boon docking spot where we camped in the middle of nowhere without any hookups. We stayed on Loy Butte Rd/Fire Road 525. We thought this was going to be way off grid, but we had full cell phone service, and we stocked up at Walmart about 20 minutes away. Being beginner boondockers, we were glad that our first go was somewhere that we could still call for help if we needed to. When Evan first proposed the idea of going boon docking, I was seriously skeptical. No one around? Isn't that a little creepy?? What if we needed help, or what if we ran out of water? However, when we actually did it, it was seriously fun. We probably saw 1-2 cars drive down the road the entire time we were there. It was so nice not to have to hush the kids or have have quiet time hours. When we arrived, there were coyote's yipping, and the girls yipped back at them for an hour. I didn't have to tell them to quiet down once since it was just us and the coyotes out there!

(Digital Nikon D850)


If you really want to wow your kids, get yourself some giant bubble mix and take them to the desert. It was so messy, and maybe it wasn't the best idea when we were limited on water, but my goodness, the joy on their faces... I want to bottle it and keep it forever. (Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

Evan deserves Dad of the Year for carrying a little critter on his back through the heat we experienced. We bought a really nice, pre-owned carrier from Craigslist before our trip, and it was such a good investment. Ellis would walk around until his little legs got tired, and then would reach up to be put in the Kelty pack. It was so awesome because we were able to put our water bladders in there, and he was able to chug water while he got a free ride! Lucky pup!

(Ektar 100)

It ended up raining for a couple of hours while we were in Sedona, so we had to pack it in and hang out on the bed for a bit. Real life moment! (Ektar 100)

Because it was so secluded, we got to do a bit of off roading. Lucy clearly LOVED being at the wheel! (Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

The red dirt was so cool to see. In fact, we are still seeing it in our car. Crazy!! (Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

In most of the places that we stayed (up to this point), fire pits were not allowed. Of course, s'more were non-negotiable, so we roasted our marshmallows on our gas grill. (Ektar 100)

The skies in Arizona were just incredible. I cherish this moment of the girls cloud watching. It was moments like this on our trip that I lived for! (Ektar 100)

Bye, Sendona! Funny story: My mom texted me while we were in Sedona saying "Off to the Grand Canyon tomorrow, yay!" Evan and I both thought that we were staying in Sedona for 2 nights, but I checked the itinerary that we sent my mom, and sure enough, she was right! So we packed it up and headed out after one night there. As we were pulling out, I checked my master itinerary and saw that we actually were scheduled for a 2 night stay there. WHOOPS! Even though I'm super organized, I'm also completely scatter brained. Is it even possible to be both of those things? Either way, we stayed flexible and headed to the Grand Canyon a day early! (Digital Nikon D850)




Stopping at a rest stop somewhere in Flagstaff and happened to peep this view! What a sight! (Ektar 100)


We camped on another forest road right out side of the Grand Canyon National Park. It was 2 miles from the front gates of the National Park, and because it's public land, it was totally free! Again, no hookups, but we were prepared and found a great spot. The downside was that this was a pretty popular spot and there was tons of trash and junk on the forest road. It's such a bummer that people don't pick up after themselves while they're camping on such beautiful land! I digress... But we arrived at the Grand Canyon in the late afternoon. We set up camp, and then decided to head into town for some ice cream! While we were eating it, I saw another family grab their cones and say "Hurry up, or we're going to miss the sunset!" I can't believe that it didn't dawn on me to watch the sunset at the Grand Canyon. We packed up, cones in hand, and headed straight to the canyon. I'm so glad we did because it was truly the most incredible view of a landscape I've ever seen. Walking up to the canyon gave me goosebumps. Pictures just do not do this place justice. (Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

I'm so grateful that a sweet lady walking by asked us if we wanted her to take our picture. I totally forgot to do a group shot at the Grand Canyon, but she pulled of a miracle with everyone, including Rover, looking at the camera! (iPhone)


(Ektar 100)


(Ektar 100)

There were some pretty... ahem... brave... people who hopped the gates to take selfies of themselves in front of the canyon. Meanwhile, my palms were sweating as I was gripping onto all of my children who wanted to run along the path and step way too close to the edge for my sanity. On the third day there, I thought... maybe we can loosen up a little and let them walk a tiny bit closer to the edge. At that moment, I saw an adult woman fall right next to the edge of a very steep cliff. Thank goodness she fell backwards onto her butt, but that was all I needed to basically pack up our stuff and head for lower land.


(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(There were definitely some pros of going camping during a pandemic. The Grand Canyon, which would normally be swarming during the summer, was nearly empty. The downside of that is a lot of places were closed. We were hoping to use laundry facilities at the campground inside the park, but all facilities like that were shut down due to Covid. Luckily, we found a private RV park that let us use their laundry mat. While we were waiting for our clothes, the girls spotted an elk in the parking lot and they were completely mesmerized! (Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

Seeing the Grand Canyon in the middle of the day was nice, but seeing it at sunset was spectacular. Lucy journaled the entire way through our trip and loved documenting all of our spots with her sweet drawings. (Portra 400)

Lots of elk! (Ektar 100)

(Portra 400)

(Portra 400)

(Ektar 100)

(Ektar 100)

(Portra 400)

(Portra 400)


The day before we were set to leave to Bryce Canyon, I was mapping out our route when I saw that we were headed into an 11 hour drive when we were really anticipating a 5 hour drive. When we looked into it, we realized that the major road we were supposed to take was closed since Navajo Nation was shut down due to Covid. Not only were we majorly bummed about not getting to see Navajo Nation, but we also didn't want to drive back to Flagstaff, or even worse, down through Las Vegas! We stopped by a Ranger Station and asked if there were any back roads that we could take if we were just trying to get through to Bryce Canyon. Luckily, the Ranger gave us some awesome directions and we got to take a super bumpy, dirt road that bypassed the closed road. We were SO grateful for that Ranger who saved us hours on our trip! (Portra 400)

It was so sad to see all of the little shops completely empty. We did find one little shop that was open and we stopped to quickly pick up a couple of treasures. (Portra 400)


When I take cute pictures of my husband with the kids vs. when he takes cute pictures of me with the kids... (Portra 400)

(Portra 400)

Ok, but he did redeem himself in this one! Finally in Utah! It felt like this drive too FOREVER, so we were really excited when we hit the Utah state line. We still had a long drive up to Bryce though! (Portra 400)

(Portra 400)

Our original plan was to stay












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Laura Pope Photography is a San Jose photographer offering maternity, newborn & family photography with clients throughout San Francisco and Bay Area. Her photography style is fresh, natural, and timeless.

 

©2019 Laura Pope Photography