On June 21st, 2017, we packed our family-of-four in a little Toyota Prius and headed out on a two-month, cross-country, National Park Tour. Our plan was to hit 10 - 15 parks out west, and camp out all along the way.
So that's 2 months, 14 parks, 9500 miles... with 4 people in a Prius.
But let me step back a bit and give you a little backstory as to HOW and WHY we made this happen.
Last year, when my daughter was a third grader, I learned about the Every Kid In a Park pass program, which allows all 4th graders in the US (and their families) FREE access to all federally managed lands and waters - which includes ALL of our nation's National Parks and National Monuments. (To learn more about this initiative, started by President Obama in 2015, click HERE.)
You can actually buy a National Park pass for around $80 so it wasn't a gigantic savings, but what it did was give me the idea. I had never ever dreamed of doing a National Park Tour before, and then all of a sudden, it was all I could think about.
What a gift this would be to my kids! We would spend two full months together, outdoors, uninterrupted by work and laundry and toilet-bowl cleaning!
Then came the logistics. Could we do a trip like this in a Prius? Could we afford to take two months off from work? How in hell would all of our camping gear and clothes fit in such a small car? And will my husband's work EVER give him the time off?
But you never know until you try... so we talked about it like it was going to happen for MONTHS, and then in the late spring, my husband submitted a proposal to his company, and hell if they didn't say GO FOT IT!!
When we got the YES, we were shocked, realizing that we were really DOING IT!
We did some rough planning, made a few camping reservations, and then before we knew it, it was time to go.
We're the last-minute type, so naturally we started packing the night before we left.
We joked with the kids, telling them they could each bring one pair of underpants and that's it... and let me tell you, that's not far from the truth.
SPACE. WAS. LIMITED.
We did buy a Thule rack for the top of the car so we could jam all of our camping gear up there (1 tent, 4 sleeping bags, 4 sleeping pads, 4 camping pillows, 4 chairs, 4 backpacks), but the itty-bitty back of the car had to hold all of our clothes for multiple climates (hats, fleece and rain gear, along with bathing suits, shorts and t-shirts), our cooler, all of our kitchen gear (plates, cups, bowls, table-cloth, silverware, cutting board, pots, pans, french-press, dish pan, detergent, etc.), our bathroom stuff and our dry-goods/food bin. And our mini pharmacy + first aid kit. And water. And a gajillion water bottles. And my solar shower because I WILL NOT go to bed without taking a shower first. A pile of turkish towels. And a couple of battery-operated fans. And books books books and more books.
Up until 3 minutes before we left, we had NO IDEA how it was all going to fit.
And just to give you a little perspective... we allowed ourselves two (2!!) carry-on sized bags... for all of our clothes, FOR TWO MONTHS!!
Let me show you what made the cut for my quarter-section of carry-on space... for better or for worse.
You all know I'm a HUGE fan of earrings, so yes, I brought 7 pairs of them on my camping trip. As far as I'm concerned, earrings are THE BEST way to add BOLD to any outfit when it's hotter-than-hot outside because they don't touch your skin.
TOP LEFT - Leah Pastrana
TOP RIGHT - Roots in Silver
BOTTOM LEFT - Nickel and Suede
BOTTOM RIGHT - Mettle Edge
I ALSO brought a couple of leather cuffs... because I LOVE them, and 3 scarves (make that 2, the striped one didn't fit), because there is nothing worse than air-conditioner-neck! Plus, adding a patterned scarf is a great way to add whim and whimsy to any fit!
BRACELETS - The Turquoise Tomato
SCARVES - pink polka dots (ebay), pink stripe (purchased in Turkey circa 2004), and the blue chambray is from Aventura Clothing
Here's where the picking gets SLIM!
Town / light hiking clothes
- 5 dresses (3 handmade-for-me patterned dresses + 2 plain colored dresses from Aventura Clothing that were both antimicrobial, which means you can wear them for days and not get stinky!)
- 1 pair of under-the-dress shortie-leggings
- 1 jean jacket
- 1 pair of sandals
Outdoorsy hiking clothes
- 3 skorts
- 2 t-shirts
- 1 hoodie + 1 long underwear top
- 1 bathing suit
- 1 baseball cap
- 3 socks
- 2 sports bras
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 1 pair of Chaco river sandals
Basically, I left my entire closet at home.
You guys. Here is everything I brought. For two months. And no space in the car to shop along the road... unless I get rid of something.
PRIORITY ONE - I hadn't spent an entire summer outdoors since doing a backpacking course through Alaska with NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) about 25 years ago, and I remember FRYING my skin. Not this time! So, I brought Mom's Stuff Salve day cream + night cream to keep everyone's skin good and moisturized. I also brought their piñon salve because it's super for cuts, bites, stings, scrapes, etc. (NOTE - the piñon salve ended up being the BEST most useful thing we packed for our trip!)
PRIORITY TWO - Since I wouldn't be working on my computer or doing any housework at night (now that's a vacation!), I thought I might go a little bananas and do some "light" reading at night.
PRIORITY THREE - Barr Hill Gin, but I didn't get a picture of that! (Let me be honest... this was more important than underpants!)
Of course, the husband and kids had their share of space in the carry-on duffle bags, and as it turns out, we did a pretty darn good job packing. There were a few things that went unworn, and we were short a few REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS, but I'll tell you about all of that in the next blog post!
For now, I'll leave you with this awkward picture, taken minutes before we hopped in the car!