• sparkfireswan

A&A Rate The 15 'Best of 2019' From This Nomadic Journey

Updated: Jan 13

End of Week #29


Jamaica Beach RV Resort, Galveston TX


Miles traveled since last week’s post = 0


Total miles traveled to date = 4,884 with trailer


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Happy Monday! We are just about halfway through our stay here in Galveston and can’t believe how fast December is flying by us. Today is rainy and gloomy, but the past handful of days have been super humid and sunny. It was so humid over the weekend that our tiny little humidifier was working overtime and the outside of the trailer was “sweating” all night long. My naturally curly mane does not know how to handle all this salt and wet air, it’s been quite the process to keep it tame.


But needless to say, we are loving life down here on the Gulf! We have been going to the beach a few times a week to just chill out oceanside for a few hours, and that has been utterly life changing! The other day when I was beating Adam in mini golf we also noticed that there are a few HUGE turtles sharing the RV park with us. I’ve never seen such a huge turtle move so fast before!

With just 15 days left of this decade, and of 2019, I wanted to dedicate this week’s post to rating and reviewing our ‘best of 2019’ while living in the RV and traveling along on this nomadic journey.


A&A Rate The 15 ‘Best of 2019’


I was originally going to try to keep this list more on the short side of things, but then as I was reminiscing on all the wonderful experiences that has been the past 7 months, my list grew and grew. So here we GO!


1. Best Campground


In order to vote for the best campground we have stayed at, we are considering the way the park is designed, what amenities they offer, location to other things, overall city it’s in, and basically every detail to make it a great place to stay – and to possibly visit again in the future!


& the winner is …. Jamaica Beach RV Resort!


Yes, this is where we are staying now! Hands down they are the nicest owners, have the nicest people staying here, offer the most amount of activities and amenities we have experienced … AND there are palm trees in every campsite!

Jamaica Beach RV Resort

2. Best Backyard


Now on this one, it’s mostly about location and location only. Where is our backyard and what does the view look like! And I’m going to have to share each of our answers because we also disagreed here too…


Adam = Bear Lake State Park, Bear Lake, UT


Now don’t get me wrong, this was a FANTASTIC location. It was like we spent a weekend in the Caribbean with the turquoise blue waters that make up Bear Lake. Absolutely beautiful location and I would definitely go back.

Bear Lake, Utah

Amanda = Atherton Creek Campground, Bridger-Teton National Forest, WY


But this spot right outside of Grand Teton National Park still wins for me. I can’t get over that campsite we had, perched up with the extraordinary view of Lower Slide Lake and the forest on the mountainside. I look forward to going back here in the future (& by then the road to get there will be repaved too – yippee!)


Runner up: I also really enjoyed the Saddlehorn Campground in the Colorado National Monument! It was no hookups (boondocking), but an official campground and right on top of the mountain and within walking distance to hikes and amazing views.

Atherton Campground, Wyoming

3. Best Boondocking Location


This one is a no brainer, and can be answered without any hesitations. The only sad part is that we did not get to stay there longer!


& the winner is …. Buffalo Gap Grasslands Overlook …. minus the part where we almost didn’t make it out alive.


If you remember, from back in August, this was the location we stayed at just before going to my family’s farm in the Badlands, and this was where we experienced our first (& worst) super severe storm! We were up the entire night wondering if we were going to tip over or blow away as 70 mph winds rocked our fragile home on wheels, all while nestled right along a cliff to the actual Badlands. Ugh…. but the VIEWS there. Really hard to beat. I’d like a round two next summer if the weather allows it!

Buffalo Gap Grasslands Overlook

4. Best National Park


This one is tougher than you would think – as we have probably already checked off about 10 or more National parks and they all offer something different and unique from one another.

But I’m going to have to go with … Zion National Park … because it actually MOVED me on a soul level to be there. While driving in you have to descend down these switchbacks to get from the top of the plateau to the bottom and the entire drive down I was crying and shouting things like “Is this real life?!” out the window. Zion was basically a magical place and really can’t be explained in words.


Runner up: But also Grand Teton National Park … comes in as a close second, because these are some of the best (although smaller) mountain ranges I have ever seen! So moody, so jagged, so stunning and such a panoramic view when you are staying in the area or passing through. I want to go back here one day and do some serious backpacking!

Zion National Park

5. Best State Park


We have stayed at a lot of State Parks throughout our travels too, but they are definitely not all created equal. SOME stand far above the rest and are right up there on National Park levels, but some are no more than open fields or run down forests.


In terms of the ‘best of’, I’m coming in with a tie here…


Custer State Park – in the Black Hills of South Dakota, with insane mountain views, lakes, forests, and so many hiking trails.


Dead Horse Point State Park – because it’s literally perched on top of a plateau in Moab, UT, and just outside of Canyonlands National Park. From this “park” you can see for miles throughout Canyonlands Country and it feels like the backdrop is a painting behind you.

Left: Custer State Park, Right: Dead Horse Point State Park

6. Best Hike


Angel’s Landing? The Narrows? Black Hills? Tetons?


HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO PICK THIS ONE. We seriously hiked more than 80 miles in just a few months. It’s extremely difficult to pick my favorite, but I’ll do my best here.


Based on full hike, from start to finish, and scenery throughout said hike, distance of hike, endurance needed to survive the hike, and end viewpoint “reward”… I’m going to have to go with: …. a tie between the Harney Peak Trail we did at Custer State Park in the Black Hills with my little cousin Sam, AND the 10 mile hike we did through Grand Teton National Park. Both were quite strenuous, and required a lot of breaks and rest, but BOTH offered insane mountain views the entire way through.


[I would pick Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, but the first 80% of the hike was just a zig-zag switchback trail, versus a climb through a forest or mountainside.]

SO TOUGH TO PICK THOUGH.

Left: Custer State Park, Right: Grand Teton National Park

7. Best Sunset


First of all, I want to say that I’m so grateful for all the amazing sunsets we have seen across huge parts of this country. They all offer a new perspective on life and are ALL truly beautiful in their own ways.


In terms of this ‘best of’ list, the winner is …. Moab, UT.


We got to watch a killer sunset from the top of Dead Horse Point State Park, and catch the orange rays shooting all over Canyonland Country. We were with close friends we hadn’t seen in a long time and it was a super powerful view to take in.


Runner up: But also with the Texas Gulf sky coming in a close second place! Just about every night the skies are overtaken by hues of pink, purple, red and blue and make for killer sunsets.

Moab, Utah

8. Best Mountain Town


Ouray, CO, the “Switzerland of America”.


There is no other answer. There is no hesitation. And there is a LOT of unfinished business there. The town was cute, historic, authentic, cultural, fun, beautiful, and surrounded by stunning mountain ranges. Looking back to this place I can’t even wrap my head around that kind of beauty existing in our country. It truly is a special place!


Runners up: Crested Butte, CO, and Ten Sleep, WY. Crested Butte was more of a ski resort town, a bit more “fancy”, but still gorgeous. And Ten Sleep was really just a tiny town on the western side of the Big Horn Mountains that was surrounded by red rocks. It was so simple and that made it even more beautiful.

Ouray, Colorado

9. Best Wildlife Encounter


Honestly a lot of our more intense wildlife encounters happened before we even left Wisconsin over the summer, with all the black bears in Stone Lake and all … I mean they would just show up in my mom’s cabin yard and we would see them while driving to town or going for a walk. I was almost scared to go outside without knowing if they were lurking around the corner!


BUT, aside from that, I would have to say …


All of the wildlife that live in Yellowstone National Park! It’s such a condensed area of wildlife and within our first few hours there we saw a humongous elk, a mama Moose, and Adam saw a wolf run across the road. Plus the buffalo! Like, holy buffalo! They are such LARGE creatures. Burly.

Yellowstone National Park

10. Best Beach and Body of Water


Okay so this one might be a little biased since we really haven’t yet gone to all that many beaches… but it’s still a good beach to be closing out the year with and mentioning in this post!


Beach = Galveston Island, Jamaica Beach


Even regardless of the posts I’ve been sharing lately of me picking up trash on the beach, this is overall an extremely “clean” beach, that stretches for like 18 miles and is quite expansive. People are respectful here and utilize the beach to hang out, fish, suntan, have picnics, go for runs, and just take pictures at the ocean.


I do still have to go back to mentioning the infamous ‘Caribbean of the West’ too though, because that was one of the most impressive bodies of water I have ever seen … especially considering it was basically in a place you’d least expect to see it!


Body of water = Bear Lake in Utah/Idaho


If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend stopping there, and you definitely won’t be disappointed!

Left: Galveston, Right: Bear Lake

11. Best Random People/Person Met


We go through spurts where we are meeting a lot of new people, and where we are more or less secluded to ourselves. Lately we have been in a lot of communities with people mostly twice our age and haven’t been making as in deep of connections as we did earlier this year.

But for this one, I have a few encounters I do want to mention!

  1. Mark in Springfield, MN – We already knew Mark, he’s a friend of my dad and step mom’s and stays at their same campground in the summers too. But we had no idea Mark was from Springfield, and we had no idea we were going to last minute be staying in Springfield, and we had NO IDEA we were going to run into Mark there. It was such an emotional surprise at such a perfect time for us. Now we even talked about maybe going back to Springfield again next year too.

  2. Renee & Gary in Ten Sleep, WY – Another one of those right moments at the right time kind of situations. We were exhausted and decided to go out to eat. While walking to dinner we actually changed plans and went to a new place that wasn’t on google yet because it just recently opened. The people in front of us to be seated, and then we sat next to them, were Renee & Gary – a couple about our age that were on a long 2 week road trip through the same areas of us, from Ohio. We all vibed so well at dinner and they ended up inviting us to a brewery later that night. Renee and I still talk to this day!

  3. Isabel in Zion National Park – And lastly, the time I didn’t even know I needed a new friend, and she just showed up! We were trying to figure out how to use the shuttle system at Zion and had accidentally gotten on the wrong one and had to try again. This next shuttle was packed full and we seperated. I sat next to a friendly younger person who turned out to be Isabel and our new best friend for the next several hours while we all climbed Angel’s Landing together. She is an amazing human being, and was so fun to get to know – and I still talk to her to this day too!

Left: Springfield with Mark, Middle: Tensleep, Wyoming, Right: Zion with Isabel

12. Best Scenic Highway/Drive


In a lot of the mountainous areas of the country there are what they call scenic byways – highways through incredibly beautiful areas that oftentimes also have some sort of historic reference to them.


By far, the most incredible scenic drive we took was while we were staying in Cody, WY and we decided to head north towards the north gate of Yellowstone and into the bottom of Montana. It was some of the most scenic 50 miles of road we have driven on to date!

The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway goes through the Absaroka Mountains and is part of the original route that Chief Joseph himself used to lead the Nez Perce Indians away from the US Calvary.


BEAUTIFUL COUNTRYSIDE.

Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

13. Best (Consistent) Weather


I like to think that we have already encountered it all when it comes to weather – from severe storms, to hot and humid, to cloudy gloom to sunshine for days. Even snow! But few places seem to stay consistent in their weather, versus more places than I thought seem to have extremely up and down bipolar weather that reminds me a lot of my home state of Minnesota. 🙂


In terms of consistency, I’m going to have to go with …


Southern Utah & Western Colorado.


Basically clear blue skies and sunshine every single day. Warm temps. What more do you need!?

Left: southern Utah, Right: western Colorado

14. Best Meal in the RV


Honestly, I think you’d be overall surprised by the meals Adam prepares in the RV. From full on brunch spreads to fancy dinners, he has this smaller space and smaller cooking area down! But if I am to rate what the best meal that Chef Adam has been able to pull off in the last 7 months, it would definitely have to be …


Thanksgiving!


The man cooked ahi tuna steaks, 2 different kinds of potatoes, green beans, stuffing, and it all turned out super delicious and warm and was done at the same time! PLUS he made a few appetizers earlier in the day too. It really did turn out great and I’m excited to see what we conjure up for a Christmas meal next.

15. Best Surprise


I’ve got two for you since we have started on this journey…

  1. When our “See You Later” party turned into a surprise engagement party with Adam getting down on one knee in Stillwater with so many of our closest friends and family there to celebrate with us.

  2. When my mom and her friend Kae pulled off the mega surprise of visiting us in Burleson, TX without us even having ANY inclination they were coming. Still so proud of my mom for that one!


Fort Worth Stockyards

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NEXT WEEK:


Oh wow, and just like that next week is already the week of CHRISTMAS! I can’t even believe it. But in honor of the holiday week we will just be doing a nice touch base life update, and I’ll share more about our anticipated travel route & plans for 2020!


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For more reviews, content, and other adventures, be sure to follow me on Instagram at Spark Fire Swan.

xoxo






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About Me

Hi, I’m Amanda. Thanks for visiting my page!

I was born & raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. I lived there for 30 years of my life, and always dreamed of warmer winters, mountains & palm trees, and life outside of what I always knew. 

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