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  1. Default Summer 2018 Road Trip

    Hello everyone,

    New to the forum here as I am looking for (probably a lot of) advice.

    Just to get started, since last spring, I've been tentatively planning what I've taken to calling the "Great Western Road Trip", which involves 6 weeks and a good mix of National Park camping/hiking and hotel stays in select cities. However, the longest road trip I've actually undertaken was 3 days (a couple of times), and that was generally only for actual transport, rather than recreation, and also with a friend/co-pilot, rather than solo, like the majority of this trip. I'm hoping that some more experienced road trippers can temper my expectations and make some helpful suggestions. I've been using the Roadtrippers app to plan the stops at a high level, but every little bit helps.

    Just a quick note: My general National Park plan is arrive on day 0, do a longer/challenging hike on day 1, smaller hike/relax/rest/tour/etc. on day 2, then leave on day 3 (with some exceptions).

    First, the planned trip (with tentative dates and mileage estimated by the app):
    I live in San Diego, so that's both the start and end point.
    Stop 1 (6/16, 346mi) - Hoover Dam. Not staying, but mostly just for touring. I was planning 2-3 hours for touring and photography (a big driver for the road trip).
    Stop 2 (6/16-6/19, 193mi) - Zion NP. Standard NP plan.
    Stop 3 (6/19-6/22, 121mi) - Grand Canyon NP (North Rim, probably). Standard NP Plan.
    Stop 4 (6/22, 124mi) - Antelope Canyon. Just touring, again. Planning on another 2-3 hours.
    Stop 5 (6/22-23, 122mi) - Monument Valley. Just overnight, really.
    Stop 6 (6/23-6/26, 152mi) - Arches NP. Standard NP Plan.
    Stop 7 (6/26-6/29, 511mi) - Grand Teton NP. Standard NP Plan.
    Stop 8 (6/29-7/3, 135mi) - Yellowstone NP. Extra day.
    Stop 9 (7/3, 467mi) - Devil's Tower. Touring
    Stop 10 (7/3, 74mi) - Deadwood, SD. Overnight stay.
    Stop 11 (7/4, 49mi) - Mount Rushmore. Touring.
    Stop 12 (7/4, 540mi) - Regina, CA. Overnight.
    Stop 13 (7/5-7/7, 161mi) - Saskatoon, CA.
    Stop 14 (7/7-7/10, 380mi) - Calgary, CA. For the Stampede.
    Stop 15 (7/10-7/13, 79mi) - Banff NP. Standard NP Plan.
    Stop 16 (7/13-7/16, 526mi) - Vancouver, BC.
    Stop 17 (7/16-7/18, 141mi) - Seattle, WA.
    Stop 18 (7/18-7/20, 173mi) - Portland, OR.
    Stop 19 (7/20-7/23, 253mi) - Crater Lake.
    Stop 20 (7/23-7/27, 520mi) - Yosemite NP. Extra Day.
    Stop 21 (7/27-7/30, 179mi) - Sequoia NP. Standard NP Plan.
    Stop 22 (7/30, 351mi) - San Diego.

    I guess my first question is - is this plan a little too ambitious? I'm a little concerned with some of the 400+ mile stretches, though I have recently done some similar lengths. In 2015, I drove from San Jose to San Diego via Highway 1, which took about 10 hours and was 500+ miles. And last fall I took a late-night trip from San Diego to Joshua Tree, went on a 4.5 mile/2 hour hike in the morning, then drove back home via the Salton Sea in the afternoon (~400 miles).

    Secondly, is there anything I can skip or anything I'm missing out on within the route? I'll admit that stops 9 to 11 are probably expendable, but I wanted a more direct route to Saskatoon that didn't seem as much like I was going out of my way to go there.

    Finally, and this one is more directed to the vehicle aspect of the trip, but I'm planning this trip in a 2006 Porsche Cayman. For reference, it's a low two-door, two-seater sports car with somewhat limited storage capacity and no spare tire (but it's a helluva lot of fun to drive). Is that a crazy idea? Are there any road surface concerns with any potential campsites that I should be aware of? I did plan on joining AAA to alleviate some of the driving concern, but will that be enough?

    And aside from the concerns regarding vehicle condition, is the packing aspect even feasible? I need a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, clothes, camera bag, hiking equipment, cooking equipment, tools, and food/drinks. My plan for food was to stop at groceries between parks for the first stretch and fill up 2-3 days worth each time (with additional camping-ready meals for emergencies). Is that doable given the locations and timeframes?

    I should also mention that I'm not really an experienced camper. I've been on a handful of weekend camping trips in the last few years, but usually with friends who A) are more experienced campers, and B) drive trucks capable of carrying many things. So please take that into account as well.

    Any and all help would be appreciated. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona


    Hello, and welcome to the RTA Forum!

    Your trip sounds like a blast; those 500+ mile days will be long, but not beyond the realm of reason, especially since you're not doing them back to back. Where I see an issue is using your Porsche to haul camping gear. Do you already have everything you plan to use, and have you tried packing it all into the limited space you have available? When I pack for a long solo trip that includes camping, I pretty well fill up the interior of a Grand Cherokee. But that's me.

    The other issue with the Porsche, it's pretty darned low to the ground, made for paved roads. Most campgrounds, even in National Parks, involve unpaved sections of road. There could be issues with clearance. Since you're not doing this until next year, You might want to "test drive" your vehicle and your gear on a 3-4 day trip to somewhere in southern California--Joshua Tree, perhaps--before committing to a 6 week odyssey of the sort you've mapped out. See what works, and what doesn't.


  3. Default

    Hi Rick,

    Thanks for the welcome and for your input.

    As far as gear, being at best an infrequent camper, I'm still in the process of accumulating all the required gear. I do have a tent, sleeping bag, pillow, and day/hiking backpack. I've previously packed all that just into the rear trunk of the car without issue and even with some leftover space. To my mind, that leaves the frunk of my car with a good amount of room for a medium-sized cooler, cooking equipment, and clothes. But I do still need to buy a lot of those things to make sure they fit. Can you (or anyone) recommend a good packing list published somewhere so I have an idea what I have and need?

    Yes, the Porsche is low to the ground, and I am concerned about that, but I've also taken it onto unpaved roads (though only barely). When I went hiking in Joshua Tree last fall, for instance, the road from the main paved road (which was in remarkable condition) to the trailhead for Lost Horse Mine was all unpaved and uneven in spots, but I found that getting in and out wasn't too bad if I went slowly enough. It wasn't a significant distance, however. I went camping with friends last year in a place called Boulder Basin and that was about 2 miles of very uneven and unpaved road that I would not take my car through. Is there a reliable way to determine the condition of roadways leading to campsites (short of google Earth or Street View)?


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default The Great Unknown

    Rick has pointed out some practical questions you'll need to address before you embark on such a great adventure. I'd like to raise one more that is slightly more philosophical: How do you deal with solitude? You say you've never been on a RoadTrip longer than three days and that you've only camped a "handful" of times and "usually with friends". Spending six weeks on the road and camping alone night after night is an entirely different kettle of fish. You are looking at a lot of alone time, much of it without connection to WiFi or even phone service.

    So, by all means, get your camping gear together, make sure it all fits in the Porsche, and then do a shake-down RoadTrip where you do a local loop trip over a long weekend so that you can visit at least three different state parks in your area (but never be farther from home than a day's drive). Set up camp each night and break it down and repack each morning. Bring your phone but use it as little as possible. If you find that you can't stay off it or are already bored after three days of being by yourself, then you've learned that a six week solo RoadTrip isn't for you, and no it isn't for everyone, long before you've committed yourself to the full six week trip.


  5. Default

    Thanks for the reply AZBuck,

    I think I do pretty well with solitude, overall. I've been on several trips on my own (though not extended road/camping trips), including 10 days through Europe (mostly by rail) and 8 days in the Dominican Republic. Additionally, the drive from San Jose to San Diego was the cap to 4 days on my own in the Bay Area and the Joshua Tree trip was also completed solo (though again, in just one day). I also spent a good amount of time last year hiking various spots in the San Diego area on my own (and usually during times when seeing other people was rare). So I'm ok with solitude. The lack of technology is maybe a concern, but I have a few ways to deal with that.

    Though, for clarification, the entire trip will not be solo. My girlfriend is currently planning to meet me in Calgary and continue with me for the middle two weeks of the trip until Portland. But the only drive that really concerns me in that frame is Banff to Vancouver, as the rest are all pretty short hops.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona


    Hello again:

    It's great that your girlfriend is joining you for part of the trip; an adventure shared is often more enjoyable, and a road trip is the best way I know of to "test drive" a relationship ;-). That said, I've never met a female of the species who doesn't over-pack when she's taking off on a two week trip. Where's her stuff going to go? Will you really have enough space for another person and their luggage, in addition to your camping gear? Would she be camping as well? If so, add another sleeping bag, sleeping pad, bulky coats and sweaters (it gets cold in the Rockies, even in the summer). I'm wondering where either of you is going to sit! Just make sure you really think that through--the parking lot of the Calgary Airport would be a bad place to discover that you've got more stuff than you can carry in your vehicle.

    And don't worry about the drive from Banff to Vancouver. There are plenty of places to stop along the way if it proves too long a drive for you.


  7. Default


    That's actually something we discussed. I do need a test-run of my full carload to ensure I can pull it off without using the passenger seat (aside from maybe a small cooler for drinks and/or snacks), true. But we've also talked about her packing list. Luckily, since the only part of the combined trip that involves camping is (tentatively) Banff, the rest of the stops in major cities are going to be at hotels with laundry service, so she actually mentioned that she could pack reasonably light for that stretch and just use the laundry service.

    I say "tentatively" for Banff because rather than outright tent camping, we may decide to glamp in a cabin or something similar to reduce the required equipment (I guess just sleeping bag/pad in that case). Our plan was to just rent what she needs at an outdoor equipment store and then return it so she doesn't need to fly with it all and it doesn't need to stay in the car for very long.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2016
    Phoenix, Arizona


    That sounds like it might work--though you might honestly be better off doing a hotel room in Banff as well, as opposed to glamping with rented gear (there are many hotel options in and around the park). Whatever you end up doing, think about making reservations well in advance--at least for Banff. The Canadian Dollar has been week against the U.S. Dollar, so more and more Canadians are taking their vacations "in-country". That makes a premium National Park like Banff a VERY popular destination in the prime summer months. There are also tons of Chinese tourists in that part of Canada--once again, largely thanks to favorable currency exchange rates. Bottom line, expect crowds, and facilities that are near capacity.

    Would you like to treat your friend to an insanely romantic lodge nestled along the shores of an emerald green lake? Check out this link to the Emerald Lake Lodge, in Yoho National Park, which is adjacent to Banff, just as beautiful, and at least a tiny bit less crowded.

    Banff is just one of half a dozen Canadian Parks, all close by one another in the Canadian Rockies. They're all worth visiting, since you'll be right there anyway. I have a website with some cool photos of the area, if you'd like to take a look. Give the first page a minute to load, then the photos advance automatically, like a slide show. (My site is strictly pictures. There are no ads or popups).

    Here are some links:

    Banff and Jasper National Parks

    Yoho, Mount Revelstoke, Glacier, and Kootenay National Parks

    Even a brief visit to these beautiful parks is well worth your time. I'm an old guy, not an avid hiker (not anymore), so most of the photos in these slideshows were taken right alongside the road, or a very short distance away. The Canadian Rockies could well be the highlight of your road trip. It's certainly one of my favorite parts of the world.


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