Our Typical Day

Even though we are visiting a new park every few days, and each day brings a new experience, over time we have adopted a routine that suits us well for life on the road.  Routines are not a bad thing.  They bring predictability, efficiency and comfort to what could be a very unpredictable, stressful trip.

Theresa, Timm, Darby and Shadow in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada

In general we have three types of days: 1) Hiking Days, when we remain camped in one place and spend the day hiking in the nearby park.  Of course, these are the best days of all and the reason why we are on this trip.  2) Travel to Park Days, when we pack up the RV and drive to the next park.  It would be nice if we could just teleport ourselves from one park to the next, but unfortunately we have to deal with 21st century technology and drive our RV there.  3) Come Down From the Mountain Days, when we pack up the RV and drive to the nearest town so that we can restock supplies, do laundry, pay bills, run errands, etc.  These are also known as Reality Days.  We try to keep these days to a minimum.

Of course to keep life interesting, some days we mix up our routine, for example by hiking in the morning and driving in the afternoon, hiking on our driving days, visiting a city and doing something “touristy,” or by going to dinner and a movie.  But in general, following are the three typical types of days on our trip:

Hiking Day

Wake Up.  We wake up between 8-9 am.  What’s wonderful is we don’t use an alarm clock, but instead we just wake up when we’re ready.  We always wake up together.  If one of us wakes up before 8 am, we try to fall back asleep.  The first person awake will lift the shade and open the window–if it isn’t already open–to allow in the fresh morning air.  The dogs will begin to stir and scratch.  We lay in bed for a few minutes and slowly come to consciousness.  We feel the breeze and survey the weather.  We move a little quicker if it’s sunny and beautiful out.  When we’re ready, we’ll sit up in bed and say, “Good morning, doggies!”  The dogs crawl out of their beds, and Darby puts her paws on the end of the bed and peers over the sheets to ensure we’re awake.  Shadow will then do the same, and we’ll push him off, because he’s not allowed.  I’m usually the first out of bed, and I get dressed, put the dog beds in a bag, and put the collars on the dogs.  I put the dogs out on the leash (or just let them outside if we’re dispersed camping).

Theresa enjoying her morning coffee with the dogs at Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona

Breakfast.  Theresa feeds the dogs breakfast outside.  She fires up the generator and makes her instant coffee with milk in the microwave.  I put out the dishes and ingredients for our breakfast: either bagels, oatmeal or cereal.  Theresa grabs her coffee and takes the dogs for a walk around the campground.  I usually get started making and eating my breakfast.  If we have an Internet connection, I’ll get my email, check my Facebook, and read the news on my iPhone.  If we don’t have a connection, which is more typical when we’re hiking, I may read the cached news from yesterday on my iPhone, or I’ll read up on our hikes for the day.  Theresa returns from walking the dogs, then prepares and eats her breakfast while reading her daily Tao Meditations and Earth Prayers.

Prepare to Leave.  I start getting our backpacks, jackets, hats, phones, camera, GPS, maps, and other items ready for our hike.  Theresa makes our lunches.  We’ve made a checklist so we don’t forget anything.  I fill our drink bottles with Gatorade G2 for me, and water for the both of us.  Theresa makes her own drink, either Kool-Aid or iced tea.  We put on sunscreen.  Theresa grabs treats for the dogs if they’re hiking with us.  If not, Theresa will take them for a brief walk.  I pack up the car with all our stuff.  If the dogs are hiking, I open the RV door, and Shadow runs right into the car.  He doesn’t want to take any chances getting left behind.  Whereas Darby will sit outside nearby and wait until the very last minute to jump in the car.  If the dogs are staying, we arrange the cushions on the seats and couch so the dogs don’t jump on them.  We open the vents and windows as appropriate for the expected weather for that day.  We lock up the RV.

Drive to Trailhead.  If we’re lucky, we don’t have to drive and can hike right from our RV.  But most days we have to drive to the trailhead, anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour.  If we have to drive more than one hour, we’d prefer to move the RV to a closer launching point.  Theresa drives while I navigate.

Theresa getting ready to climb an 80-story cinder cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

Hike There.  When we arrive at the trailhead, we stuff our backpacks with our lunches and drinks.  I turn on the GPS so it can locate us.  If the dogs are with us, we put on their harnesses and leashes and give them a drink.  We put on our hiking socks and boots.  We put on the coat we’ll need for the day, or attach it to our backpack if it’s warm.  (We almost always bring a coat regardless of the weather, because the weather often changes out on the trail.)  I ensure the GPS has located us, mark the location of our car on the map, then restart the counter so it will measure the distance we hike and elevation we gain.  We lock up the car.  We start our hike, typically uphill.  We prefer hiking to some high vista where we’ll have lunch, then we can hike downhill later in the day when we’re tired.  But occasionally we’ll do a “pay me later” hike, where we descend into a canyon and have to climb out later in the day.

Timm enjoying lunch at Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

Lunch.  We stop for lunch between 12-2 pm.  We try to find a relatively flat spot in the sun, out of the wind, preferably high up on the edge of a cliff with a spectacular view of a mountain, canyon, glacier, river, lake, or on a great day, all of the above.  I lay down my coat on the rocks or in the dirt for us to sit on.  We wash our hands with sanitizer.  I typically eat Bumble Bee brand chicken or ham salad out of a can, or a sub sandwich.  Theresa usually has Bumble Bee tuna salad or a Lunchables pizza.  We have potato chips or Fritos.  We also have dried fruit (cherries, raisins and/or cranberries) and a fruit cup or fresh apple or orange.  For dessert we have cookies and some candy.  If the dogs are with us, we give them a bunch of treats.  Then we take our traditional “dining al fresco” photo that shows one of us enjoying our lunch in front of the incredible view.  Someday we plan to publish as website with all our al fresco photos from the past 20 years.  Next we collect our belongings, scan the place to ensure we haven’t forgotten anything, then start our return hike to the trailhead.  Occasionally we may continue on the hike.

Theresa hiking back to the trailhead in Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington

Hike Back.  We hike back to the trailhead, typically downhill.  Loop hikes are great because you see something new along the entire route.  But even out-and-back hikes are good, because the view on the return trip is usually much different than the trip out.

Drive to RV.  We take off our hiking boots and socks and put on our sneakers.  I usually drive back to the RV so Theresa can enjoy the view, unless the return trip has some tricky navigation, then Theresa will drive.

Unpack.  If the dogs didn’t come with us, they start howling in the RV when we pull up in the car.  We open the door and wait until they calm down before we let them outside.  We bring all our stuff from the car into the RV and put everything away.

Theresa getting dinner ready in the great outdoors at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Dinner.  Theresa gets dinner for the dogs.  If they didn’t hike with us, then she’ll take them on a nice long walk.  I update our trip log with our hike information and download the photos to my laptop.  When Theresa returns, we make dinner.  We turn on the water heater so we’ll have hot water to wash the dishes after dinner and shower later in the evening.  If the weather is nice, I’ll cook out on a little propane grill, either steak, chicken, pork ribs, pork chops or hamburgers.  Theresa may have a veggie burger.  If the weather isn’t nice, we’ll have microwave dinners.  Sometimes we’ll eat leftovers from the night before.  I cook outside on the grill while Theresa prepares the side dishes and vegetables on the stove top and microwave in the RV.  We don’t have an oven in the RV, but we haven’t found that to be a huge limitation.  If it’s nice out, we’ll eat outside.  Theresa may start a fire to keep us warm while we eat.  After dinner, we both clean up and one of us will do the dishes.  If we have a fire going, we’ll have roasted marshmallows for dessert.  Otherwise I’ll have ice cream, and Theresa will have pudding or cookies.

Timm, Darby and Shadow roasting marshmallows by the campfire at Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

Evening Entertainment.  Our evenings are quite varied.  We may do one or more of the following: hang out by the fire, write our blogs, write postcards, read a book, watch a movie or “Mission: Impossible” episode on Theresa’s laptop (we borrowed the original M:I series on DVD from Theresa’s brother David).  Often I’ll plan the next day’s hike and research future parks.  At some point we’ll each take a shower.  If we have electricity or can use our generator, Theresa may being the space heater in the bathroom with her.  I typically shower after she does.

Bedtime.  Theresa goes to bed around 10-11 pm.  I usually go to bed later, from 11pm-midnight.  If we stay up late watching a movie, we may go to bed at the same time.  Before I go to bed, I’ll take the dogs for one last walk.  If we are in a campground, it’s usually just a quick walk.  But if we are dispersed camping and the weather is nice, we may go for a long walk in the dark.

Travel to Park Day

Wake Up and Breakfast.  Same as above.

Theresa getting our Protect-A-Tow ready in Kanab, Utah

Prepare to Leave.  We prepare our RV to be driven.  Since it’s like shaking your house in an earthquake for a few hours, everything that’s loose must be stowed away.  In the bathroom, we remove shampoo bottles and soap from the shelves and put them on the shower floor.  We dump out any extra shower water that we’ve collected while waiting for the shower to heat up (we use this extra water to flush the toilet or for cleaning).  We put the soap in the sink and store any loose items in the cabinet.  In the kitchen, we wash and put away the dishes.  We place bars in front of each shelf in the refrigerator so the contents don’t dump out next time we open the fridge door.  We bring in the thermometer that we have hanging outside the RV window to tell us the outdoor temperature.  We place the soap in the sink.  We store our laptops in their cases.  We get a drink ready for each of us on the road.  We brush the dog hair off the RV driver and passenger seats.  We sweep the floor and shake out the rugs.  Outside, we disconnect the electric, water, and sewer if they were hooked up.  We drive the RV off the blocks and store them, if we needed them to level the RV while parked.  We put away the outdoor rug and mat.  We close and lock all compartment doors.  Theresa drives the RV to a flat place out of the way, where we hook up the car to the back of the RV.  We both walk around the RV and car to ensure that everything is hooked up properly, everything is picked up and put away, all doors and windows are closed and locked, and the dump and fill caps are secured.

Dump.  Some campgrounds have a sewer connection right at the campsite, so we dump before we disconnect.  Other campgrounds have a single shared dump station, so after we vacate our campsite, we drive to the central dump.  And if the campground has no dump station, or if we are dispersed camping, we have to drive somewhere else to dump our tanks.  We can go for about 4 nights before we dump, so if it’s only been a couple days, we may get by without dumping.  Otherwise we use the Web to locate the nearest free dump station.  Some cities provide free municipal dumps.  Some gas stations provide dumps, which are usually free with a gas fill-up.  Most RV parks will let you use their dump station for a small $3-$5 fee if you are not staying at their park.  Darby likes to sit outside the RV while we dump.  First we dump the black tank, then the gray tank.  Then we fill our fresh water tank with potable water.  We also have to add a biodegrading chemical to the black tank via the toilet, along with a full bowl of water.

Drive.  Theresa usually drives first while I navigate out of the campground and plot our course for the day.  Sometimes we use the GPS, but often we’ll just use the Maps program on the iPhone.  We pull off the road about every 60 miles or 90 minutes–whichever comes first–to go to the bathroom, stretch our legs, and switch drivers.

Lunch.  We stop for lunch between 12-2 pm.  If we happen to drive through a city, we may stop at a fast food restaurant so I can get my weekly fat fix.  My favorite stops are Dairy Queen, Burger King, Wendy’s and McDonalds.  If we’re not near a town, then we stop at a rest stop or at a park and eat lunch in our RV.  Typical lunches include grilled cheese or cold sandwiches, with chips, fruit, and cookies for dessert.  We walk the dogs.

Theresa getting ready to shop at our favorite store in Dawson Creek, British Columbia

Grocery Shop.  If we drive through a city, we stop for groceries.  We prefer Walmart for their low prices, good quality store-brand items, great selection, large RV-friendly parking lots, and predictability.  Most Walmarts are laid out in similar fashion, so we don’t have to waste a lot of time having to find stuff in each new store in every city.  It takes us about 30-45 minutes to shop.  Theresa packs our groceries in the RV refrigerator and freezer, while I pack the non-perishables in the external storage compartments.

Find Our Campsite.  Sometimes we know exactly in which campground we’re staying, so we simply drive there.  Otherwise, we need to look for someplace to camp.  If there is no national forest or BLM land near the park we are visiting, or if we are in a hurry to get out on the hiking trail, we look for a campground.  But we prefer to dispersed camp.  In this case, we’ll have previously downloaded forest road maps from the Web and printed them out.  We highlight forest roads which allow dispersed camping and are within 1 mile from the nearest paved road, so we don’t have to drive the RV too far on gravel roads.  We drive close to where we think we’ll want to camp, then park the RV in a pullout, as far off the road as possible.  We unhook the SUV from the RV.  We usually leave the dogs in the RV, lock it up, and drive around in the SUV on forest roads until we find a desirable camping spot.  This can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours.  We look for a nice view if possible, far enough off the main road so we don’t hear traffic, preferably off the forest road so we don’t have to worry about the dogs getting run over nor worry about dust from cars passing by on the gravel road, a flat parking space large enough to turn around the RV, near a stream or lake if possible, and with some shade so the RV doesn’t get too hot during the day.  Once we’ve found our campsite, we drive back to the RV, drop off Theresa, then I drive ahead to claim our campsite while Theresa follows with the RV.

Dispersed camping in Modoc National Forest, California

Setup Camp.  First we park the RV so that it’s as level as possible, safely off the road, positioned so we have the best view out the RV windows from our dining room table and bed, and angle the RV to give us the most privacy.  I put blocks down under the RV tires, and Theresa drives the RV up on the blocks, as necessary to ensure the RV is level.  Theresa sets the parking brake and locks the cab doors.  We remove the refrigerator bars and put out the thermometer, hanging its sensor out the RV window.  I record the RV mileage in the log book.  We lay down our big green carpet and floor mat outside in front of the RV door.  We attach the dog leashes to a nearby tree or picnic table, then lets the dogs outside.  We get them a fresh bowl of water.  Theresa cleans up the campsite if needed.

Dinner, Evening Entertainment, and Bedtime.  Same as above.

Come Down From the Mountain Day

Wake Up through Dinner.  Same as the Travel to Park Day above.

Chores.  Instead of evening entertainment, we have evening chores.  Theresa does the laundry.  Some campgrounds have laundry facilities, otherwise Theresa has to drive to a coin laundromat nearby.  Meanwhile I pay the bills and take care of any business.  Theresa returns to the RV and puts away our clothes.  Then she may clean the RV.  Since we are in town, we try to take advantage of the good Internet to upload any blog articles we may have written and do research on our next parks.

Bedtime.  Same as above.

Next Morning Calls.  After breakfast, we take advantage of the good cell phone coverage in town to make any calls.  Since we are usually on the west coast or Alaska 3-4 hours behind who we’re calling on the east coast, we make our calls in the morning instead of at night when everyone is sleeping.


Even with our three typical days, no matter how predictable our routine, there is nothing routine about waking up in the morning, looking out our RV window, and seeing the 11,000-foot stratovolcano Mt. Hood.  Experiences like these make our typical days nothing short of spectacular.

Mt. Hood in Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon

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