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While driving down a two-lane highway across a broad expanse of a brown Wyoming, a weathered non-DOT sign popped up on a post alongside the road. It read, “Sacajawea’s Grave” and an arrow pointed to the right. We had just entered Wind River Indian Reservation, I couldn’t bypass that old sign. 

I hit the brakes and pulled into a gas station to ask for directions. The woman behind the counter handed me a photocopied hand drawn map and asked a guy hanging around to explain it to me.

We started down the road under a darkening, cloud filled sky. A cemetery soon appeared.

A large headstone for Shoshone Chief Washakie marked the entrance, but there was no grave for Sacajawea.

We drove on, and eventually found the right cemetery.

A smell of rain filled the air and Remy and Simon were a little creeped out after exploring a ghost town a few days earlier. But I made them get out of the car anyway.

I loved that each grave was colorfully decorated, with hand painted wooden crosses and artificial flowers.

The monument dedicated to Sacajawea is impressive compared to the gravesites in its company.

Upon further research, I found Wyoming isn’t the only state that claims her gravesite. In fact, her actual grave has never been found, but records say she died on the Wind River Reservation in 1884, when she was one hundred years old, and is buried somewhere on this hillside.  Other historians say she died in 1812 at Ft. Manuel, South Dakota, not long after returning from the Lewis and Clark expedition, at only 25 years of age, and left behind a baby daughter.

If you happen to find yourself driving down Highway 287 in Wyoming, look for an old weathered sign and ask for directions at the gas station to Sacajawea’s Grave. If you’re lucky, you too will have ominous Wyoming weather to make the expedition all the more adventurous.

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Road trip: dispersed camping & the bed-car

We started the morning in the desert. At noon, it was 108 degrees. We drove through a field of pumpjacks drilling for oil, past agricultural fields where open topped trucks were loaded with loose cherries, through vineyards with workers handpicking grapes, all the way to the chilly coast before the sun set. 

It was the road sign on California’s Pacific Coast Highway alerting us of elephant seals at Piedras Blancas that made me hang an immediate left turn. It may have been the best impulse stop of the entire trip.

The seals were so close!  We watched one use the force of the incoming waves to wash its heavy, awkward body back to shore.

   

Until finally it made it.

Signs gave further information about elephant seals.

And then the sun went down. 

So thankful we have places to keep the wild, wild.

This post is part of Delicious Baby’s California State Parks Photo Friday.

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The little dot on the map right next to 1-90 that read “ghost town” intrigued me. We exited and crossed under the freeway and drove until we found this sign. 

Ten miles feels never ending on a single lane dirt road in poor condition. The further we went, the steeper the road became and when the shoulder disappeared and the road clung to a cliffside, the children became worried. It reminded me of when we first moved to Colorado when I was a kid and we’d explore 4-wheel drive mountain roads in our Jeep Wagoneer and Mom would sometimes get out and walk when the road felt a bit too perilous.

We met not a single car on the drive so when we arrived in Garnet and found a full parking lot, it made no sense. Until we figured out a wedding was about to happen at the ghost town.

The town is fantastically preserved.

Remnants of layers of wallpaper remain intact.

Shoes are displayed in the mercantile.

Beware of the hole in the floor behind the counter.

Rooms in the hotel.

Is it just me or do these images have a ghostly quality to them?

For more travel photos, check out Photo Friday!

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Road trip: dispersed camping and the bed-car

5 reasons to roadtrip with kids

Coffee from the source-Nicaragua

 

I opened my eyes. It was morning. Yes! Our initiation was over. We had found a place to camp the night before just as the sun was setting, in the wilderness–not a campground, and slept in the bed-car, for FREE.

No bears or burglars came. And I was done lying on my right side, my pillow covering the gap between the laid down backseat and the door. Dew dripped down the fogged windows. I tried to roll onto my back, but I ended up on Simon. I opened the door next to my head and cool crisp air blew in. Too cold. I pulled it closed. The kids woke up. We got on our way.

Camping outside developed campgrounds on national forest land, called dispersed camping, comes with responsibilities. Always check with the  US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management for rules specific to where you’d like to camp, but here are some general rules: 

  • Locate your camping spot at least 1/4 mile from major roads, outside of fragile meadows and restricted areas, and preferably on bare or mineral soil.
  • Camp at least 100 feet away from lakes and streams.
  • Use camp stoves to help conserve ground cover resources.
  • Check for fire restrictions before building a fire.
  • Never leave fire unattended. 
  • Use an existing fire ring where available. If you need one, build it small and in a safe place.
  • Gather only dead and down wood for your campfire. Never cut live trees.
  • Be sure your fire is out before you leave — drown it, turn it, stir it until it’s cool to the touch.
  • If no toilets are available, dig a hole 6-12 inches deep and refill after use. Bury toilet paper in the same hole or pack out in a plastic bag.
  • Take all trash with you when you leave.
  • Leave site as you found it (or cleaner) when you depart

The rewards of dispersed camping are endless. You’ll have no campsite neighbor blaring annoying country western music. It’ll be just you and the wilderness and the stars in the night. It’s CHEAP. You may even be treated to a herd of bovine and their calves blocking the road on your way out.

Bed-car is a term I stole from the parents of Brian’s aunt. Well into their retirement, they’ve crossed the U.S. twelve times in a mini van outfitted for sleeping. They’ve removed the back seats and built a wooden platform that holds a queen sized mattress and they stow their cooler and suitcases below the platform. Travel is cheap. I was inspired. Remy and Simon were excited. 

But we have a Subaru Outback, not a van, and this trip had three people traveling. There actually were some novelties to sleeping inside the Subaru. It was the first time I ever slept the entire night in a car. It was the only time I ever watched a movie on a little dvd player in bed while camping. And I got to sleep more snugly and cozily with my children than I had in recent years.

But where we were going was warmer than the Montana high country and sleeping in crammed quarters with growing children was quickly losing its appeal. I decided future nights would be better spent luxuriating in the tent. Then the ranger at Nine Mile Fire Station down the road told us he spotted a GRIZZLY bear the day before romping through the meadow with an elk calf in it’s mouth. Maybe the car wasn’t too cozy after all.

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5 reasons to roadtrip with kids

Hiking the Na Pali Coast, with kids

Most people roadtrip for the obvious reason of saving money. It almost always costs less to drive a couple of states away to Grandma’s than to fly a family of four. But saving money isn’t the only reason reason to hit the road with your kids. Here are five more:

1.  Slows You Down to See the Good Stuff

Before I had kids, road trips consisted of a starting point and a destination and I drove as fast as I could between the two. But how much stuff did I miss back then? A lot, I’m finding. Since kids can’t sit in the car for a twelve hour stretch, scan maps for points of interest a short distance from the road, or just keep an eye out while driving.  Over the years, we’ve explored dinosaur excavation sites, ghost towns, gravesites of famous explorers, caves & caverns, museums, defunct gold mines, and more. But don’t feel pressured to find high-thrills. After stopping at an open space to picnic on a boring stretch across Wyoming one year and being treated to a river jumping with frogs, we began pulling over randomly at rivers and bodies of water in hopes of finding more treasures. Sometimes the treasure was just tromping barefooted in squishy mud, but always it lit up the faces of the little ones.

 2. Builds Character

Ok, so maybe you think you’ve got enough character, but we can all use more, and you’ll be forced to transform from your usual self to Road Trip Parent. About 30 minutes into a trip I remember I must put aside my usual quick-to-be-annoyed attitude and readjust to Roadtrip Mom. I try to let all complaints and whining slide right over me and quickly pull over to assist whenever anyone in the back seat needs something they can’t get or do on their own. When I start to get annoyed, I take a deep breath, remind myself we’re on a roadtrip (woohoo!), and release the occupants to run free.

 3. People are Nicer to You

I’ve always been met with kinder service and a more pleasant demeanor from persons I’ve encountered when traveling if my children are with me. I was reminded of this recently when I woke up extremely ill at a campsite in the desert with my two kids and needed to get out of the heat and lie down close to a bathroom. I checked into a motel at 7:30 am and before the hotel clerk knew I had children, she seemed suspicious of my intentions, maybe because it was so early and the motel was so seedy, but once she and her co-worker saw I had children with me, they were more than accommodating and helpful. Traveling overseas, this especially rings true.

 4. You’re Educating your Children

All that good stuff you’re stopping for because the kids can’t sit too long is covering history, science, arts, geography, social studies, etc., etc. It’s education disguised as fun, and they’ll remember the details much better than something they’ve read in a book.

5. You’re Building Family Memories

This is gold. Even the disastrous moments go down in family history and are something you’ll talk about (and laugh about) long after they’re grown.

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