When Alex turned 30 last year I surprised him with a weekend to the vineyard - the highlight was heading to the airport and hopping in a puddle jumper to get there. A bit selfishly I started thinking about my 30th birthday and "Grand Canyon and hot springs" came to mind, I wanted something that I had never done, somewhere I have never gone and something new to experience. With 99% of the trip currently planned and booked unfortunately Grand Canyon isn't a part of the plan-but there should be some hot springs involved.
The day after I got back from Whistler, Alex was still in Jackson Hole. I was home, alone, and feeling some post vacation blues. I filled about 5 hours of my day with planning. It was the first piece to making this trip real, and having something upcoming to focus on made getting back in reality a little bit easier.
Alex and I had previously figured out dates for the trip, and had already figured out that my grand plan of flying to Flagstaff, AZ, renting a car and finishing in Bozeman, MT was not realistic with the time frame. We had tried to shorten the trip; Salt Lake City, UT > Bozeman, but with the price of a one way rental car it was not feasible. In those five hours I sat down at the computer and mapped, re mapped, picked destinations, found cool lodging, found adventures and came up with a 10 day road trip adventure starting and ending in Salt Lake City. I'm sure I'll talk more about the itinerary in a future post, but it looks something like SLC>Moab, UT>Arches National Park, UT>Ashley National Forest, UT>Jackson, WY>Grand Teton National Park, WY>Yellowstone National Park,WY>Caribou Targhee National Forest, ID>Park City, UT.
The next piece of planning after having trip dates was picking places that I absolutely wanted to hit; Yellowstone, Arches/Moab and Park City were on list. Having that down the route started to take shape. What guided the route further was lodging. I used http://www.recreation.gov/ to find some quaint ranger cabins almost in the middle of no where that you can rent for $40-$50/night. I had no idea how many were out there! Some were booked for dates we needed (and I'm booking 4 months in advance), but I was able to book three. One in UT, one in WY and one in ID. Figuring out dates and time spent at each location was a bit of a challenge. It was hard to find a mix of spending enough time in one location and not spending all the time driving. I wanted to pack a lot in, so some nights are simply a stop along the way. We have two long days of driving (6 hours) but they're a few days apart. And in between each location are lots of adventures and sights to be seen.
I used Google Maps and zoomed all the way in would go through the driving route. This let me see any towns, parks or points of interest along the way and I jotted them down. I also used https://theoutbound.com/ like crazy! I have mentioned this site before, it is worthwhile checking out and was helpful in pinpointing adventures along the way and at destinations. You can create a profile and then create lists and save adventures (they also have a user friendly app) I have a list for each state and some destinations. I've also slowly purchased maps through out the planning process. They're so fun to look at and also help identify spots along the way. I've purchased the nat geo ones for Arches and Yellowstone National Parks and others mainly for where the cabins are that we'll be staying in. This part of planning has taken some time and I'm not quite all the way through the route yet. I'm certainly planning more than needed but it's been fun and exciting, something I've enjoyed more than I would have ever thought! Next on the to do list: pack list and purchasing a few new supplies!!