Camping Adventures

Investing in our family, one weekend at a time…


Time Traveling In Dinosaur National Monument


Earlier in the year we were looking for a weekend spot that we could go that we hadn’t been to previously. There are a lot of great Federal and State campgrounds throughout the state so there was no shortage of options.  We ended up picking the Green River Campground in Dinosaur National Monument.P1040316

The campground is located right along the Green River and is tucked away below the main road.  Several Cottonwood trees are located throughout the campground offering the chance of shade at different times of day.  While we were here the temperatures were fairly mild, but much farther into the summer and this place would be on fire.

P1040333After getting camp setup and exploring a bit we had some dinner and headed out on the River Trail that leaves from the north end of the campground and travels north to the Split Mountain campground.  It was a great hike to do in the late afternoon/evening as the majority of the trail is shaded by the mountain that you are hiking along.  The trail offers some great views of the Green River and the awesome Split Mountain area.  At the half way (turn-around) point you get to the abandoned section of the Split Rock campground.  Round trip the hike was about 3.2 mile and well worth the time.

Green River
Abandoned campgrond
One way

On Saturday we headed over to the Visitor Center for a Ranger lead hike on the Fossil Discovery trail (they do them daily at 10am).  Ranger Jim lead us down the trail from the Quarry back to the Visitor Center over the course about about 90 minutes.  Ranger Jim did a great job of explaining how things were millions of years ago and then taking you through the various layers of time showing and explaining the changes.  The content and visuals were defiantly geared to an older audience as it is really hard to grasp just how long ago millions and billions of years is, however Ranger Jim did a good job at calling out the kid by name and asking them questions along the way.  By far the highlight was seeing some of the exposed fossils, most notably a vertebra (pictured below).  This trail can be hiked without a ranger but I would highly recommend doing it with a Ranger as they can point out many items that you will likely miss if you go it alone.

Hiking with Ranger Jim

After a morning of hiking and time travel we were quite hungry and headed into Vernal to find a place for lunch.  We decided on the Plaza Mexicana restaurant and were very happy with the choice.  It was a bit higher price then we typically like to spend for lunch but the food was VERY good (I would almost drive back just for the chicken).  After finishing up lunch it was back to the Visitor Center and then up to the Quarry to explore the bone wall.  While there we finished up our Jr Ranger and Jr Paleontologist books and headed back to the visitor center to be sworn in and collect our (yes adults can be Jr Rangers too) badges.



We finished up the day by hitting a few stops on the auto tour and checking out some of the local petroglyphs which frequently include a lizard figure that is apparently not common outside this area.

On Sunday we packed up and headed back into Vernal to check out the Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum.  The museum was worth the visit and we enjoyed looking through the indoor exhibits and then strolling through he outdoor garden.  The museum has a lot of hands on, which is great for the younger crowd and we ended up spending about an hour checking everything out.  I would not say that it is a must see but if you have the time or are looking for some air conditioning it is a good way to kill some time.


Birthday at Wasatch Mountain

For my birthday this year I wanted to head up to Wasatch Mountain State park for a long weekend.  Truly I wanted to check out Jordanelle State Park but they were still closed, so Wasatch is where we went.  Friday night we basically hung around the campground and got things setup.  On Saturday we hiked the Pine Creek trail from the campground.  This was a new trail for us and a good test of the training hikes/walks we have been doing with Lily.  The trail can be accessed from the campground and is about 2.5 miles round trip with approximately 200 ft of elevation gain.  It is all on a well maintained trail and there are various nature signs along the trail that talk about the plants and animals.  This hike is one of the activities in the Jr. Ranger Activity book and the signs help you pass of a second activity.  At the top of the hike is a glacial outwash (basically a large pile of rocks) that we spent a few minutes climbing on and exploring.  At one point while climbing on the rocks Lily said “This is like my favorite part of the day.”   She did amazing on the hike and didnt complain once!  We realized that on the way down she was not wearing the new hiking boots that we had purchased for her and just her normal tennis shoes.  Oh well, I am sure there will be several more hiking adventures.P1040125P1040136


Salt Flats 100

SF100This weekend I helped support the Salt Flats 100 run which was held out on the Bonneville Salt Flats.  A few weeks back I traveled to the salt flats to do some range testing and this weekend was the actual event that we were testing for. My shift started Friday morning and went until about 10PM, then I was to be back on shift at 6AM.

For my overnight accommodations, I could have grabbed a hotel room nearby but I opted to bring my own bed via my trailer.  The trailer above was the base of our operations and it was really great to be able to finish up my shift and jump into my own bed with all of my own stuff.

For those that are interested, the first person that crossed the finish line had an elapsed time of 19 hours and 14 minutes.


No Shortage Of Salt


This past weekend we took the trailer out to the Bonneville Salt Flats for the day to do some range testing with my Amateur Radio.  We were testing for an upcoming 100 mile run that I help support where crazy people find enough courage to run 100 miles across the salt covered landscape.  The other radio operators were on the other side of the sharp pointy mountain range or the right side of the picture above.  We were specifically testing a digital communication path which will enable us to send the equivalent of email over the radio during the event which makes the communication of runners locations and times much easier.



In the days leading up to the testing the other radio operators were questing my choice to bring the trailer due to the distance.  I thought for a minute that they might be right and I would just operate out of my vehicle, then it hit me… that is one of the reasons we started looking at and purchased the trailer to start with.  Having a place that is comfortable to spend time and out of the elements is a huge thing.  My alternative would have been a 10×10 pop-up tent covering the back of my Xterra.  So was it worth it to pull the trailer out there, you bet!  Ashley and one of our dogs, Livy, joined me (that would’t have happened without the trailer) and when we arrived we actually needed to kick the heater on.  Toasty warm and working inside is hard to beat.  When it came time for lunch Ash made a couple of sandwiches with chips and diet coke and all was well.  It surly beat the gas station hot dogs that one of the other guys grabbed on his way out.  All in all the test was very successful and I think we will be better prepared to support the actual event.



Kicking Off The 2015 Season

With the weather being so warm, we decided to get a jump on the 2015 season with a visit to Antelope Island State Park.  This was our 4th time staying here and each time has been a great experience.


The views from the island are really something special.  Its amazing that a place like this has been around for a really long time and yet, so many of us that live in the area haven’t been over to see it.  Early and late season are our favorite times to visit as mid-summer can get hot and the bugs can get a bit out of control.

This time, Lily was working on her Jr. Ranger badge and so we dove a bit more into the history of the island.  We all learned that the name Antelope Island came from a promise that was made in 1845 to the local Native Americans by two explores to pay tribute to the Antelope that they shot on the island.  We also spend some good time exploring the Fielding Garr Ranch, which was build in 1848 and is the oldest Anglo built structure in Utah.

P1030564P1030565 P1030566 P1030572 P1030585

It is always good to get back out there and see what we have been missing.  I use to really enjoy the 4 seasons but I have to say that now I am really more of a 1 season kind of guy… Camping season!  I am really excited about 2015 and all the fun things we have planned.





No thanks, we are just looking….. Or are we?

Today we hit our local RV show to just do a bit of window shopping.  We currently own a Jayco 184BH that we are really quite happy with.  As with most RVers we are always looking at what other options there are and thinking about our next rig.  The Jayco 184BH was/is a great fit for us in nearly all areas but there are a few things that would cause us to upgrade.

So of the pros of the Jayco 184BH

  • It weighs 2700 and we can pull it with our Xterra
  • It is only 20 ft long

The biggest negatives of the Jayco 184BH

  • No dedicated “master” sleeping area
  • Black tank size is only 9 gallons

In my research I have been thinking about the fairly standard floor plan that puts a dedicated bed up front with a couch and dinette on one side and the kitchen area on the other and then the bathrooms and bunks in the back.

2015-02-15 18.15.34

The biggest struggle I have been having with this is that it takes us to 30 feet. How big of deal is 30 feet?  We already know we will need a new vehicle (regardless of what the sales people tell us).  I am not really scared of towing the extra length or weight with a new truck.  I am mostly worried about the limitations on where we will be able to take it.  I personally think as long as we can stay under 30 feet, we will be ok and only limited for a few campgrounds.

There is no doubt that the increased tank sizes (39 gallon black) would really enable us to extend our trips and that the dedicated beds would be a big plus/upgrade from the convertible dinette that we sleep on today.  Add those to the great discount price being offered and I have to say we started talking about it.

Is now the right time to upgrade? What type of vehicle would we need? 30 foot, really? Are we ready for a slide?  Do we really need bunks? How long would a model like this last us?

All questions being ask in the Neilson house tonight…


Is it spring?


This winter has been a really odd one.  We were heading into Christmas with very little snow but then right on Christmas day we got some.  It was short lived though and January ended up being one of the warmest and driest on record.  Now here we sit on February 7th with a temperature in the low 70s and I find myself yearning to breakout the trailer and hit the road.  Our 2015 planning is well underway but our first trip is looking to be in May, but with weather like this, it is hard to not grab the trailer and go this weekend.

Because it was a nice day I was able to get my propane holder upgraded.  The picture on the right shows the dual tank holder I installed and the one on the left shows how it use to be (forgot to grab a before pic, but fortunately there is another Jayco 184BH in our lot that I grabbed a shot of).  The original design used nuts and bolts that went through some brackets welded to the frame and through the bottom of the propane bottle.  This holds the bottle on really well but is a pain to remove for refills.  In doing some searching I found these dual bottle arrangements that were quite popular.  I could easily just put a larger bottle on but felt that having 2 smaller ones allowed for more flexibility.  I hadn’t thought much about this until we were traveling last year and I had to refill my tank while we were in Yellowstone.  If I woudl have had this dual bottle setup I could have just disconnected the empty bottle and taken it with us to get filled up while the other one stayed connected to the trailer.

As most of our camping not in really cold weather we can typically get by with just a single bottle.  So my plan is to us the second space for a gas can.  Last year I was strapping the can in an area near the hitch, but now I will have an actual space that it can sit.

Hopefully it will all work out and who knows, I might just test it out in a few weeks :)


RV Family Travel Atlas


To help stay in the know and feed my RV bug, I read several blogs and listen to a few podcasts related to RVing and the surrounding lifestyle. One of my favorite Podcasts is the RV Family Travel Atlas which focuses on RV travel with kids. The hosts of the show (Stephanie & Jeremy) recently reached out to me and ask if I would be a guest and provide a small review on our trip to Devils Garden Campground in Arches National Park.

You can hear the interview in episode #20 which is conveniently embedded below or you can download HERE.  If you like the podcast, I highly recommend that you subscribe to it as they release new episodes each week.  It was fun to be a part of the show and I look forward to doing it again in the future.  It also brought back several memories of my old podcast, SABAGsecurity, that launched 10 years ago this year.




An Island Good Night

2014-10-25 18.24.34As the sun sets on our 2014 camping season we are reminisce about the good times we have had and all the awesome places we have been. The 2645 miles traveled and 24 nights invested have made for some great memories.  We are really looking forward to the 2015 season and are already talking about our list and schedule.

Watching the sun set last night on Antelope Island reminded me of a vacation many years ago to Marco Island in Florida.  Every night, people would gather on the beach, sip a great drink and celebrate the day as the sun drop behind the horizon.  I think that this should also be a camping tradition.  As we explore, we get to see some of the most beautiful and amazing places in our country.  By celebrating each day we could all be reminded of just how lucky we are to live a life that allows us to see and enjoy these great sites.

Tops three campgrounds this season:


Birthday at Utah Lake State Park

This seems to be a good October place as the weather is not really cold at this elevation.  The campground is just ok but we have always enjoyed our stays here.  We were in Arches for my Birthday and wouldn’t you know it we are camping again for Ashley’s birthday (Dont tell her but I think I won with my birthday destination).

While at Utah Lake we meet Leigh and Brian, AKA Aluminarium.  Brian was nice enough to offer up some Benadryl to assist with a bee sting for one of the people we were with.  Earlier in the day I had noticed his flag and was trying to figure out what it was for.  So after the Benadryl situation was covered I ask and found out that they are starting an Campsite Review site called Campendium.


It is oddly coincidental as I was just struggling with where and how to review campsites.  After our Yellowstone loop in September, I wanted to tell others what we thought about the places we stayed.  I checked TripAdvisor and there were some listing for campgrounds but not many.  I added in a review and it just wasn’t right as they are very geared to hotels.  Campendium aims to fix that by providing a central place for details, reviews and pictures of campsites.  I am very excited about the site and have been digging through my archive adding pictures and reviews for the places we have been.