Route 66… the beginning…

DAY ONE: We left Chicago in the morning, and had to drive to the starting point for the original Route 66… but we did it! We started at the actual beginning… driving through the city in the early morning calm before losing our way in the suburbs, then finding it again a few turns later…

The first thing we realized once we were on the road was that the road is something of a puzzle… Even with the directions and the maps and the signs, we still can easily miss a turn or misinterpret a direction and suddenly find ourselves off the Route… and yet, even those unintended detours led to some incredible discoveries…

The road is a collection of imagery… of sensations… of ideas… all threaded together by this ribbon of asphalt… taking us from one to the next. I have decided it is like a “treasure hunt” where we have maps and directions that give us clues, but it is up to us to find the road and keep our eyes open for the delights it has to offer along the way…

Day One took us from Chicago all the way to St. Louis (though we did have to get on the interstate a bit to make up time), and we spent the night camped at Meramec State Park in Missouri… satisfied with our day’s drive and happy to be on our journey!

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Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

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… mais la route

On a traversé plusieurs états déjà … de NY à Chicago : La Pennsylvannie a été longue à traverser hier.

Mais le soir on a eu notre récompense. Le camping était vraiment joliment situé sur la Cayohuga River avec sa belle chute d’eau. L’herbe était tout fraîchement fauchée et on a monté la tente en un rien de temps.

Et puis comme toujours le plaisir du feu! Ce matin encore je faisais le petit Turkish …

Puis une bonne petite randonnée pour commencer la matinée. Silly Squirrel et Blue Coyote semblaient prendre plaisir à chaque détail : les fougères, les champignons, les fleurs … tout était prétexte à faire une belle photo!

Pendant ce temps, Cactus Killer devait se fatiguer, marcher et marcher vite pour se sentir libre!

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On the road… Day One…

We finally got on the road early in the morning (though not as early as we would have liked) and the driving started out pretty smooth. The first day was a long long drive day. From New York to Ohio…

We were in PA before 9am, but Pennsylvania is a much bigger state than I imagined… and we hit some construction along the way, as well as some torrential downpours that made it almost impossible to see the vehicle in front of me…

But we made it into Ohio close enough to schedule… There was only one problem… by the time we got to Ohio skies were grey and rain was steady and heavy. Our first thought was that we would have to spend Day 1 in a hotel instead of our campsite! And that wouldn’t really be a great way to start the journey….

About 3 exits before the Cuyahoga Valley, as we were discussing our options, the skies began to clear… we would be able to camp afterall…

Made it to our site by about 6:30pm… very happy to be there! And our great reward was that we actually SAW A REAL BEAVER!!!!

beaverCROPPED

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A humorous look at what we NEED when camping…

We are winding down our preparations for the trip and starting to actually begin packing up gear to go! In the process there are still a few items we need to procure… and while searching for some of them online, I came across a really funny blog post “13 Unnecessary Camping Supplies“… (give it a read and you will surely get a laugh or two!)

…and of course, we have 2 of the things on this list (though considering we will be in Death Valley, I think the oral rehydration salts ARE an important item for our medical emergency kit)!

The same writer has a few more posts on camping supplies that are worth a read:

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The Zion Narrows permit scramble…

Picture 28

Was up really early this morning, and had alarms and reminders flashing and beeping since yesterday, because today is the day the reservations for permits on the Narrows opens up! There are only 12 campsites and only 6 are reservable in advance… And we have to have the permit for a specific day because of our complicated trip plan!

I had tried the site last night after midnight, but it was not yet showing the August reservations calendar (perhaps it posts after midnight Utah-time… which is 2 time zones behind New York… and I just couldn’t stay up that late… was too tired!).

When I went on the site this morning around 6a.m., there were already days/sites that were full! Luckily there was still a 4-person site open on our required day, and I didn’t hesitate to reserve! SUCCESS! We have a permit for site 3!

Now we have to get a shuttle reservation to the trailhead. And get to the park from Las Vegas in time for the early a.m. departure (which may be earlier than planned because of road construction that has caused disruption to the shuttle schedule).

… And we have to hope the weather and river conditions cooperate … we are only allowed to hike the river if it is flowing at below 120 cubic feet per second and if there are no flash flood warnings in effect. So there is a fairly strong likelihood that even with our permit we may not be able to do the trip. We need to be prepared for that eventuality as well… and we need to be SMART about considering the weather forecasts with due caution (and not the usual unbridled can-do enthusiasm)… as we have “graduated” to “grown-up” expeditions and the Rangers will not make decisions for us here! We need to make our own go/no go decision based on conditions on the day of the trip.

Here is the link to a video (it may take a few moments to download) the Rangers put together about safe Canyoneering in Zion. It is worth watching for the section on Flash Flooding…

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Checking out the Big Tent…

photo-8

The tent, unrolled and on the tarp...

Today was a nice enough day outside to check out the big tent and do the seam sealing. I decided to time myself to see how long it would take to put it up for the very first time (figuring that as we learn how to do it, it will go much faster).

I started at 11:04am and had it up by 11:43am — all by myself! (I didn’t bother to put the fly on, though, as I was just doing the seam sealing, and that wouldn’t make sense, as i wouldn’t be able to reach the seams!)

It went up pretty easily! The only difficulty at all was getting the little metal pegs into the bottoms of the wall poles. That required a bit of strength to pull and push. But otherwise it was extremely easy. And I imagine that when we will be doing it as a team it will go up in about 20 minutes, max. We should have no problems getting it done quickly, even when we have been driving all day. And it seems like it will make a very pleasant shelter!

photo-6

...with half the wall poles in...

It is really roomy! (I swear it is bigger than some studio apartments I have lived in! — especially in New York City!)

And the windows everywhere are GREAT! I also LOVE the skylight! It will let us see the stars at night without having to actually sleep outside! (we will have to figure out a way to cover it in the daylight so that the interior of the tent doesn’t get hot in the desert!!!)

It seems like a lot of thought went into the design, as it has a lot of good little details so you can open the windows in all kinds of different configurations, and it has a little thing so you can pull the floor down, and sweep stuff right out over the side!

Overall I think it will be a GREAT tent! (I will see how easily it comes down and can get packed up again, tonight once the seam sealer is dry).

photo-5While I had it out, I decided to put the cots in there to see how they fit. And even with the three cots we have a good amount of space and will not feel like we are “on top of each other.”

photo-4Overall I think we made a good choice with this tent! The windows and skylight make it very comfortable inside — and we can configure them in a lot of  different ways to maximize airflow while maintaining some cool shade.

The zippers seem to be pretty good quality, and the whole thing seems sturdy.  It looks like it will hold up throughout the duration of the trip, if we are somewhat gentle with it (and we will still have duct tape handy in case of emergencies)!

One detail I did think about though, was that we need some kind of floor mat (like a door mat) right inside the tent door — or just outside — to put the shoes so we don’t get the floor of the tent too dirty!

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Our new tent…

So we went to the store to look at tents in person today, and Cactus Killer and I came back with our backcountry tent. A 3-man Quechua 2 second tent. (The base tent of the same brand was just not practical in the end, because it had a separate floor, and there was a huge gap where water could get in, if there was much rain/flooding….)

And when we got home, Silly Squirrel was anxious to try it out… and so we took it out of the bag and started setting it up in the middle of the living room, but then decided to take it out to the terrace, and truthfully the set up WAS quick and easy! The two of us went inside to check out the space and comfort, and it seems like a fine tent for the hike-in days! Cactus Killer was “practicing” for the hike-in by carrying the tent with us all over Paris as we did some other errands as well…

Anyway, getting the tent back down and in its bag was a bit more complicated, but i think with a little bit of practice we will be able to do it all pretty quickly…

So a toast to the new tent!!!!!

And after buying the tent we headed up to Barbes to look at fabric… We wanted to get some very light comfortable fabric to transform into camp bedding for those hot nights when the sleeping bags will be way too hot… And so we did a tour of the fabric shops, and spent a really nice afternoon looking at different options, both in terms of colors and fabric types. I had originally wanted some kind of camo pattern, but after looking at the fabrics in that pattern I switched to a lighter, more comfortable batik, and chose a psychedelic green/pink combo that looks fun and feels inviting… Cactus Killer choose some very light weight cottons in the blue purple shade for Silly Squirrel and a beautiful desert color combo African pattern for herself…

We left Barbes with smiles on our faces and packages in our arms… It was a really good day!

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The tent dilemma…

Things seem more concrete every day. A few days ago we receive our first shipment of camp-related equipment: the cots which we got on a very good sale, as well as other miscellaneous items from our list. However, the search for a solution to the tent dilemma continues…

The problem we are trying to resolve remains the same. We need a big roomy tent that is quick to assemble and disassemble, is sturdy, and quite waterproof. But we also want something light enough to carry for those hike-in days.

The two tents we are currently considering definitely meet our requirements for jeep camping, but on those days when we have to hike-in with our gear, they are really too heavy. So we are still looking for a more portable solution that is not going to be super expensive (the ideal would be for us each to have one of those personal back-pack tents, that weight next to nothing and roll up smaller than a sleeping bag. The problem with those is that they are expensive — the best price I saw was around $90 each — and as we need 3, and only for a few days of the journey, it seemed like it’s not really a viable option.)

By chance the other day I was talking to a friend about the trip, and she suggested Quechua tents, which you basically can just toss out on the ground and they pitch themselves. And they are very inexpensive! And so I followed her advice and checked them out at the Decathlon store in Paris, where they had this amazing Base 4.2 tent, and then online I saw this interesting Base seconds tent. But also this super practical “2 Second” tent. There is the “one-man” version, which is very light, or a larger “two-man” and “three-man” versions which become heavier (though still not that heavy), however, these tents fold into big round discs, which isn’t really practical in terms of carrying them on a hike, when you have other gear as well.

Wanted to find out a bit more from people who had actually used these tents in the field, and found this Gear Junkie review useful, also the comments from folks at ukcampsite were quite helpful, as they had used the bigger version of the tent.

Hopefully on Monday Cactus Killer will take a short trip to this store with me to look at them, and maybe we will make some decisions after seeing them.

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St. Louis to Tulsa to Amarillo camping options

After discussion the other day, we decided that we will try to split this segment of the trip with shorter drives over a few days rather than trying to do St. Louis to Tulsa in one day, then have a rest day, then do Tulsa to Amarillo in one day, followed by a rest day, as our original plan indicated (and we can always go back to that formula if we come across something super interesting to do in a specific location).

So, on Day 5, we are spending the day canoeing at Meramec state park, then visiting the Meramec Caverns. The ideal scenario would be, if after visiting the Caverns, we can get a start on the next day’s drive by moving forward about an hour and a half or two hours (not sure how far we can get, depending on hour tired we might be, but any mileage we can do will make the next day a bit easier).

We have the great list of campgrounds put together by the folks at Route 66 News, but i decided to research the National Forest and State Park campgrounds in Missouri and Oklahoma as we might prefer more primitive camping options.

Was able to come up with a workable list of state parks/national forest areas that could make good stopping points along the way (none are that far off the Route 66 itinerary, though they may not exactly be “on” the route itself).

state park locations along the segment from St. Louis to Tulsa to Amarillo.

state park locations along the segment from St. Louis to Tulsa to Amarillo.

Here’s the best scenario (with some options):

The first possible National Forest stop is near Rolla MO, about an hour and a half west of Meramec state park. At the Mark Twain National Forest, dispersed camping is allowed. According to the main campsite page for the forest:

<< Dispersed Camping areas have few, if any, amenities or other facilities. Primitive Camping is allowed throughout the forest except in day use areas, administrative sites, within 100′ of springs, stream, caves and other natural features or archeological sites, or where otherwise prohibited. Follow Leave No Trace principles and protect the forest resouces. >>

Depending on time, we could try to find our own spot, but might be best if we head for the Cole Creek Trail, which is actually for horses, but hikers are welcome and primitive camping is allowed along the trail. The reason i suggest this, is because we have written directions to the trailhead, and if we tried to find our own location, we might spend a lot of time driving around looking for an entry point, etc. If we chose Cole Creek Trail, we will have to leave the jeep at the trail head and hike in a bit…

If we can drive a little bit further, about 2 hours west of Meramec (and a little bit east of springfield MO), is Bennett Spring State Park, in Lebanon MO.

So we sleep at one of these locations, then pick up the route in the morning of Day 6, with a goal of reaching the Keystone state park near Sand Springs, OK, which is just outside of Tulsa. If we need to stop sooner, there is a state park, Twin Bridges State Park, which is not that far off the route a bit east of Tulsa.

Then, on Day 7, we head for Crowder Lake state park, which is a good halfway point between Tulsa and Amarillo. But also has some interesting activities. We have some other alternatives for that night, too. Either Red Rock Canyon state park, which is a little closer to Tusla side, or Foss state park, which is a little closer to Amarillo.

Then Day 8, we get into Amarillo as planned, but a little more rested (hopefully) and ready to explore!

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