Despite 2020 being such a crazy year, we managed to fill it with wonderful trips around our state of Colorado and into Utah for Season Two. We are optimistic that 2021 will be an even better year for traveling around our country. Our six month travel plan for Season Three starts June 1st. Here’s hoping we get to execute that plan!
In 2020, we made eight loops, mostly around Colorado with the last loop extending into Utah. The loops lasted between six and twenty days in length, changing camping locations every two or three days, starting on June 1, 2020 and ending on October 27, 2020 for a total of 92 nights on the road. The loops allowed us to return home in between to resupply locally and do laundry at home. Google Maps says our plan covered about 6500 miles, but our odometer said it was closer to 9500 miles.
We visited places we had been before, some recently and some not so recently, along with quite a few places we had never seen before.
We hit the national park service sites in Colorado - Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado National Monument, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, Chimney Rock National Monument, and Rocky Mountain National Park. Then there were the national parks in Utah that we visited - Canyonlands National Park, Zion National Park, and Arches National Park.
In addition to the national parks, we tried to make it to all of the Colorado State Parks. Out of the 41 state parks, we managed to enjoy 23 of them. Many of the state parks are on dammed reservoirs, so we were very thankful when our back-ordered (like everything else in 2020) inflatable kayak arrived in August to allow us to get out on the water.
As part of our travels, we completed our 52 Hike Challenge - 52 hikes in a year. The challenge kept us motivated to get outside every week, even during the lockdown. We are trying the challenge again this year. Somehow we managed to keep up with it better during the start of the pandemic than we have so far in 2021. However, we should be able to catch up pretty quickly once we get on the road.
Amazingly, we were able to execute our new 2020 plan without very many changes. Once we made the decision in May to cancel our original 2020 travel plan and plan loops around Colorado instead, we made no changes to it due to the pandemic. However, we did make a few minor changes due to the record-setting wildfires in Colorado and a couple of snow storms. One was starting a loop a day early to get over the mountains before a snow storm while another was to extend our last loop by two days to wait out a snow storm before heading over the mountains. Our Hanging Lake hike was canceled due to a wildfire, and we had to take an alternate route home at the end of another loop as I-70 and the surrounding area was closed due to wildfires (Hanging Lake Trail finally opened back up on May 1, 2021). We kept our eyes on the wildfire reports as there were many days with smoky skies. However, we feel very lucky that the wildfires did not affect our travels more than that.
Looking back at 2020, the year was filled with so many special moments that it is hard to pick out our favorites. We’ll try to list just a few of them, in no particular order:
- Visiting Dinosaur National Monument twice, once for our wonderful boondocking experience (our first time), and the other for finally getting to see the Dinosaur Quarry.
- Exploring Maroon Bells for the first time, without the crowds of people, for its majestic views.
- Hiking the Ouray Perimeter Trail, for its variety of different and interesting sights along the trail.
- Biking Glenwood Canyon, for finding out the challenge was not as hard as we had imagined for years.
- Spending an afternoon in Telluride, for discovering the free gondola rides with beautiful views.
- Hiking the sand dunes in the Great Sand Dunes the day after a rainstorm, for the surreal landscape.
- Wandering around Steamboat Lake, for all of the wonderful wildflowers.
- Camping in Sylvan Lake State Park, for the peaceful lake scenery.
- Hanging out in Mueller State Park, for the mountain views and wildlife encounters right from our camp site, and for the maze of hiking trails we could reach from our camp site.
- Hiking East Inlet Trail to Lone Pine Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, for the adventure of climbing over, under, and around 104 fallen trees and for the moose in the lake.
- Crossing Wolf Creek Pass, for sharing the spectacular autumn colors with our friends Dave and Sandy.
- Watching the sunset from on top of the rocks in Needles Outpost, for the warm, orange glow on the rocks.
- Hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park, for the feeling of accomplishment.
- Meeting fellow VanDOit owners at VOX#2 in Moab, for the sharing of wonderful stories.
Thinking of all of the wonderful experiences we had during Season Two in 2020 is getting us excited to start Season Three. Our plan is a large loop, working our way north through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, east through the upper peninsula of Michigan, down through Ohio to visit relatives, then east and back north up to Acadia National Park by fall. Then we’ll follow the fall colors south, down through the Appalachian Mountains to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park before heading west to get back home. It will be 174 nights on the road covering 26 different states starting June 1st and returning home just in time for Thanksgiving. Google Maps says it will be over 11,000 miles so we're guessing the actual miles will be over 16,000. It’s a plan packed with so many adventures! We can’t wait to share it all with you.
When the future is uncertain (in reality, it always is), that doesn’t mean we cannot make plans. It just means that we need to be flexible and creative to work around the obstacles in our path when they pop up. Sometimes that means switching paths altogether. But that doesn’t mean that the new path is worse than the original path. We feel blessed to have taken the time to explore our own state so deeply in 2020. But we are just as excited for a chance to follow our original plan for Season Two as the plan for Season Three in 2021! We hope that you have found creative ways to follow your dreams despite what life has thrown at you.
Check out our related video: Season Two Recap of 2020 and Season Three Plans for 2021