Planning the unplanned trip


Andrew, Yosemite National Park, Mariposas Grove, 2003

I admit it, I have a problem;  I pour over TripAdvisor, books, maps, charts, websites, and don’t even get me started on GoogleEarth; otherwise, I may not come out for hours.  I’m a planner.  There I’ve said it.  I developed this little ‘quirk’ (it sounds so much better than obsession) after visiting Yosemite in April.  Why then?  Well, the thing I didn’t know when I flew my then 15 year old brother all the way out to California and then stuck him in the car for 10 hours was that April is the WORST month to visit Yosemite.  Granted it’s great for viewing waterfalls, but April is the absolute WETTEST month as that is when the storms back up all the up into the Gulf of Alaska waiting to dump rain (or snow depending on your elevation) onto the Yosemite valley.   The entire trip had to be replanned on the fly because of my poor planning.   Granted, we got to experience the Giant Sequoias in solitude, but sitting around because of weather is not exactly thrilling for a 15 year old.  For the record, I did have a Plan B, but still not my best effort.

Since that time every trip I’ve taken there has been one more reason (missed sights, roads potentially controlled by drug cartels, trails I didn’t know about, needed yet unpacked gear, etc) that has only further drilled into me the need for proper planning  A few years back my cousin and I, in an attempt to ‘wing it’ down the coast of Maine failed epically when we attempted to find a hotel room only to discover that there wasn’t one to be found for 75 miles and wound up driving all the way back to NY in one day vice the 4 we had hoped to spend.  Yeah, I’m a planner.  It brings me comfort what can I say.   That leads me to this trip.

This trip is suppose to be the “unplanned trip”.  Ha!  That’s like asking a parrot to be a giraffe.  It started small with just the list of sights that Dad had wanted to see with a couple additions of the things I wanted to see, which I rationalized as prudent.  Then I started reading the parks websites to determine where Perry the Trail Dog could and could not go.  Again, in my mind exceptionally prudent.  Well those two tiny cracks in the foundation opened the flood gate of research.   I now own multiple guidebooks;  Hiking the Oregon Coast, The Best Hikes with Dogs Oregon, and several of Moon publishings books; Montana and Wyoming, Washington, and Oregon. I’ve been pouring over maps, and spent more time analyzing the back Forest Service roads than probably most USGS cartographers.  I’m sure by the time this trip is over I will be able to tell you more about traveling with a dog within DOI lands and various parks to write my own book!  Or at the very least accumulate several more badges on TripAdvisor!

My cousin Mary, Cadillac Mountain

Cousin Mary, Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

While there are those people who can travel without a plan I am not one of them.  I like knowing that the best time to get to the top of Cadillac Mountain is before sunrise as it is the first spot in the continental U.S. that sees the sun.  I find comfort in guidebooks that steer me to beautiful parks in New Mexico that allow me to swim in amazing clear (and soft) water.  Most importantly, though, I like being informed so that when I travel I know that I can pay attention to what is in front of me in that very moment and find the utter joy in it because that is the reason that we are there in the first place isn’t it? 



Decisions, Decisions

I’ve done the rough calculations of this Grand Adventure of mine.  Right now the mileage is some where in the neighborhood of 7k miles. I’ve added on a bunch of stops based on Dad’s list and yes, admittedly, some of my own desires.  Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, Glacier National Park, Mt. Rainer, Crater Lake, the coast of Oregon, and possibly Arches National Park on my way home.  Luckily, I have a month to do all of this.  Granted not as much time as I’d like, but enough time to do it all without feeling rushed. 

Here’s my dilemma.  I currently drive a 2009 VW Jetta TDI (that’s the diesel model.) Pica has about 82k miles on her.  She’s a great little car.  That said, should I put the 7k miles on her?  Should I rent a car?  Should I buy a new car and put the road trip memory miles on a new car?  I’ve heard pros and cons on all sides.  You know your car you should drive your car.  If you rent a car and something happens they will give you a new one.  If you get a new car you won’t have to worry about problems.  The list goes on and on.  I know that this decision is only the first of the many decisions that I am going to have to make, but it is the biggest decision that I think I’m going to have to make.  Now if I could just make it….


The Grand Adventure

To discuss the “Grand Adventure” we first must discuss what brought about the decision to go on the Grand Adventure and if I had to sum it up in one word; death.  I know that doesn’t sound like a very sexy reason to go on a grand adventure, but it’s probably one of the best reasons of all.

Dad Adirondacks 1977

See, my Dad is my super hero.  He is the center of my universe.  Most of my childhood memories are associated with him; being out in the woods, sledding down the mountains in the Adirondacks, teaching me to swim, ride a bike, hold a hammer.  All necessary skills for a girl to become self-sufficient.  “As some point in time you have to learn to put the shelf together.”

My Dad has end stage heart failure.  We aren’t exactly sure how much longer he has. There are places in this country that my Dad always wanted to see.  Honestly, he wanted to climb them.  He’s always been a bit of a mountain man.  Now, though, he can’t go to those places the doctors say that it is too risky for him to fly and way too risky for him to be out on the trail.  Despite the fact that we told him we’d put a “Please recycle me” sticker on him when he hiked he says he is done. That’s where the Grand Adventure plan came into being.

I’ve never taken a break.  Not after I got out of the military, not in between jobs, not one single day have I been unemployed.  Technically, I’m still not unemployed; however, I have enough leave saved up that I am going to take a month off.  Perry, my intrepid English Springer Spaniel and trail dog extraordinaire,  and I are going to go to every single place Dad has ever dreamed of visiting, wanted to visit, or wanted to go back to with a couple of additions of my own on for flair.  This blog is going to capture all of the planning and execution of the Grand Adventure.  This way my Dad can see all of those things he wanted to see all from the comfort and safety of home.

Perry on the trails

Perry on the trails