Favorites: Tiny Tool Kits that have everything you need!

I have always been a fan of tool kits. From the time I was little I wanted my own hammer. My own screwdriver. My own wrench. And I didn’t want a plastic one. I wanted a proper one like my dad had.

The husband and I have always fancied ourselves pretty handy people, and when I mentioned to him that I felt like I needed a small tool set for the trailer to fix small issues that may arise, he was quick to oblige. He put together a set for me that will fulfill most needs, and I have used it several times since I started carrying it with me.

Here are the tools we have assembled and deemed our most important tools.

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A run down on the list (starting from the right):
Pack of zip ties
10oz hammer
Manual folding saws-all (with an extra blade)
Adjustable wrench
Channel lock pliers
Standard pliers
Needle nose pliers
Wire cutters
Electrical tape
(Top row – left to right)
Extra fuses
Extra razor blades
Folding razor blade knife
4 standard screwdrivers (1/4 all the way down to mini)
4 philips head screwdrivers (2, 1, 0 & mini)

All of this fits neatly into this small zippered pouch (including the hammer, but I left it out to show the size).

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There are two additional things I carry which don’t fit into the bag – a roll of duct tape and some WD-40. As my grandpa used to say, you should always carry it because:
It moves what should, and stops things that shouldn’t.
Sound advice!

I have used several of these tools on various trips. Most of them are your medium grade (modestly priced) tools. In other words, they are not the Cadillacs, but they aren’t super cheap and should not fail on me.

This enables me to fix things within my abilities. If it requires more, I need someone with a higher skill set or I need to wait until I get back to our garage with the insane amount of tools (every new job needs a new tool – that is our motto!).

The best part, it fits neatly in a cupboard, within easy reach, and gives me an added bit of security when I am on the road. I am prepared, and being prepared is powerful!

Review: BioLite Grill

Out in these parts, the end of March isn’t known as much as the start of Spring or Easter time. It is better known as “Dividend Season”. For those who don’t know, we have an outdoor store called REI. It first opened in Seattle and has grown over the years. Customers can pay a life time $20 fee to become a co-op member and at the end of each year are awarded a dividend based on how much you spent at REI (the amount can also go up if you have their credit cards). That money can then be used to buy more stuff at REI. It is a Pandora’s box of goodness…at least as far as I am concerned! And that says a lot considering I am not a big fan of shopping.

This year I decided I was going to buy the accessories for the BioLite Stove I bought last year. The stove is fantastic and the company is one I love supporting with the great work they are doing in developing countries (you should check it out on their website here)! The stove burns super efficiently, with very little smoke (considering your options), and it also has a USB port to charge small devices (our iPhones have charged, but it didn’t have the power to charge my full sized iPad). The stove has 2 accessories now – a grill and a kettle. I got both!

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We always like to test things out before we take them on the road with us, so tonight was our night to test the grill. I had a 1.08lb New York Strip Steak I was making for dinner. We lit our fire, put the grill attachment onto the stove and let things heat up for a few minutes before putting the steak on the grill. One thing I read in the instructions is that grill is hottest on the right, medium heat in the middle, and cooler on the left. I was able to get the steak beautifully seared, but we learned you need to make sure the fire stays nice and big or the grill cools off. Especially if you are cooking in a breeze like we were. Adding fuel to the fire was easy. Simply lift the metal flap and drop your biomass in. Then close the flap to direct the heat back towards the grill.

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Our steak makes the grill look small, but we could have put a second one on easily. I also bet you could do a full pack of hot dogs or 4 hamburger patties on there at a time. This is an accessory I wouldn’t see a backpacker using (especially if weight and space is a concern), but car campers, tear droppers, or campers with larger trailers might enjoy this. It is on the bigger side for packing along, but small enough for us. It is great when you are off the grid too!

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My husband cut up some pine we had laying around in the garage, which gave the meat a wonderful flavor that only comes with cooking with wood. I love that Laddy labeled the box for me, so I would know what was in there!

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We had a lovely meal with Trader Joes Harvest grains and butter crunch lettuce fresh from the garden. The Lad proclaimed, “this is the best steak I have ever had!” And I have to agree that it was really good. Food always tastes better cooked outside.

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We cooked our steak to about 145 degrees (internal temp), and it was lovely and cooked to medium. It took about a half hour, but the steak was thick. I am guessing we needed a few extra minutes as we were outside, but it wasn’t more time than I expected.

Clean up was easy after we waited for the unit to cool down. There were very few ashes due to the efficient burning of the unit. The grill cleaned up easily, then snapped into its case to keep any bits and pieces from coming out and making any sort of mess. I like that a lot!

At first we were feeling like the unit felt slightly flimsy, but it held up to our abuses tonight. I am assuming the unit is designed to be light weight and that is probably what gave us that feeling. We had no trouble with it at all and will use it with great joy in the future. We recommend the whole BioLite unit and grill, and will add a review in the future when we test the BioLite Kettle! I can’t wait.

LuckyBums Kid Snowshoes

I am a member of the TheClymb.com, where they send me deals on outdoor product there is no possible way I can live without. Seriously, they get me every time. One of my favorite sales they offer fairly frequently is on LuckyBums product. If you have read my blog before you will have seen reviews or comments about various LuckyBums items. Before Christmas TheClymb ran a sale and they were offering LuckyBums kids snowshoes at a discount. I have been wanting to get a pair of snowshoes for the lad and these looked pretty great. They usually retail for right about $65 a pair (I think I got our for around $35)

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I think the overall design of the snowshoe is very good. They are lightweight, the fit is good (the Lad wore his insulated Bogs boots with them), the plastic is durable, and my favorite feature is the ratcheting buckles to tighten the straps easily. Sometimes the release is a little tough to work, but I managed just fine.

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One problem we had was balling of snow in the teeth of the snowshoe. I am not completely sure if it was design of the teeth on this snowshoe or snow conditions not being ideal for these snow shoes (or a combination of the two). I had no balling at all on my adult Atlas snowshoes, but the slushy conditions seemed to be gumming up the works on his pair. I noticed this affecting his traction and he did end up sliding around a bit.

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The left one I cleaned out, and the right is with the balling. I am thinking the bolts on the underside create a small gap were snow collects (especially the slushy snow we were in). I might need to wax that to prevent it in the future. In really light powder we didn’t have this issue.

All in all, we did around 3 miles this weekend and it was lots of fun. I would give the snowshoes a rating of 4 out of 5 due to snow balling on the teeth and the release buttons being a little “stiff”, and a 5 out of 5 for fun and getting us out there!

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Gaming our way, part two: Swish, Jr.

Those who have read this blog probably have gathered we love to play games of all kinds. We have lots of them at home, and taking things on the road can get a bit cumbersome. When I find a game that is compact, fun across all ages, and is tidy I squeal (just a little bit, and mostly just in my own head)! We had 3 generations playing the game I am about to tell you about, and we all enjoyed it for several rounds.

On a recent vacation we popped into a small local toy store, as I am prone to do, especially when I see small family owned places. I love to have a look at game areas, especially in different countries, and this time we were visiting our neighbors to North. Games vary country to country due to popularity and cultural differences. Although sometimes they just have slightly different names (Chutes and Ladders is called Snakes and Ladders in England for instance). At this little toy store we found a really cool game called Swish, Jr. by Think Fun! Turns out they are a US company, but I hadn’t seen their game before. You can order directly from their web site or I saw Amazon had it as well…but check your local family toy store first if you can.

The game comes with its own little bag to keep all of the cards in, which makes it ideal for storage in our little cubbies.

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Nice, right? Especially for Type A people like me!

The cards are interesting too. They are clear, which allows you stack the cards to make and see “matches” after calling “Swish!”

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The other thing I like about the cards being plastic is that if something gets on them (say, spilled milk), they wipe off and you are ready to play again.

The only downside we have found to the game is that you need a slightly brighter background to lay the cards on, so you can see shapes better. You also do not want to play on a surface that has a lot of patterns on it (unless of course you would like the extra challenge!). I will need to make sure I pack something to put under the cards (even a white t-shirt will work).

You start by laying out 12 cards in a 4×3 grid.

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The dealer says “go” and players look for matches. A match is matching an inside shape with their outline, and you have to do it for both shapes on your card. The first person to call “Swish” gets to make the first match. You can either match 2 cards (which is easier and the shorties will have no trouble with that) or 3 cards which is harder (I try to do that to make the game to a little slower).

Here is an example of a 2 card match:

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Here is an example of a 3 card match:

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Then you put more cards out to replace the ones you matched from the stack of cards and continue on.

If you call “Swish” and can’t make a match, you have to give one of your earned cards back.

If I have completely confused you, I noticed there was a 3 minute instruction video on YouTube that shows you how to play (watch it here).

There are variations also listed in the instruction pamphlet to make things a bit more challenging. The game is rated for ages 5 and up, and I think that is pretty spot on. Some 4 year olds might do ok with it too. One of the things we like is that it gives our son practice with his S sounds, which is something he is working on with his Speech Teacher. It makes practicing fun!

The price is right around $13 for the game which makes it fairly reasonable too.

We highly recommend the game!

Favorites: Kid’s Stuff!

With the holiday season, I like to look back over the year and think about the things I am grateful for. We have so much and we try to make the most of life, whether it be family time all together or momma and son trips in our little trailer, we try to put an emphasis on “time” over “things”. Sometimes though, things can make an experience a little more comfortable.

Taking that into consideration, I thought it would be fun to write a little blog post about some of our favorite things for kids while camping.

The first favorite kid thing is the sleeping bag we bought from Lucky Bums. They offered 2 different sleeping bags at the time, and we chose the Kids Serenity II sleeping bag. This is a mummy style down sleeping bag, built just for kids, and is rated to 10 degrees. That is more than enough warmth inside our trailer and should be great if we tent camp. He has never been cold sleeping in it and finds it very comfortable. It stuffs easily into its own stuff sack too. I would also like to report the fantastic customer service this company provided when I called about the maintenance of the bag. I couldn’t find the washing instructions and called them about how to care for it. They were friendly, helpful, and a pleasure to speak with. Oh, and I learned the bags are machine washable on cold, but your should hang them to dry!

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Photo from the Lucky Bums website

Another favorite is the camp chair we got for the Lad. Also from Lucky Bums, we got him one of their kid’s Moon Chairs, and his actually looks like the moon! He loves it and says how comfortable it is. It looked cozy enough that I bought one of the largest ones for myself. They are incredibly comfortable. The big ones are a bit heavy, but they were replacing some big chairs, so we were actually saving on room. Each chair comes with its own storage bag.

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Photo from the Lucky Bums website

We love games of all types. Towards the end of our camping season we picked up the Snipe Hunt game, by Education Outdoors. This isn’t a traditional “snipe hunt”, but more of a hide and seek game where you hide your teams “snipe” (either Biela or Smartin), and the other team has to go find it. If you take too long, your snipe will chirp and give you a clue as to where they are hidden. We play inside and out, and this has been a great rainy day game!

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Photo from Amazon.com

Another favorite game is “Spot It” by Blue Orange Games. They have several versions, but our newest favorite is “Spot It! On the Road”. This is a great family game, for 2-8 players. Adults, you will actually enjoy it too! Even my husband, who self-admittedly doesn’t like playing games, enjoys the Spot It games. I especially like these games because they come in a nice, small tin which keeps things organized (although the lid doesn’t like to stay on this tin for some reason if it gets moved around a lot, which we haven’t had problems with the tin on one other version we have so I can’t explain it).

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We love books even more than we love games, and these two are definite favorites!

The first one is just a super lovely book by Chris Van Dusen called “A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee“. The pictures harken back to the 50s, and the sing-songy text flows in such a fun way. The book tells about Mr. Magee and his pup and the excitement of camping and what they come across in their adventure. It is a fun story for adults and kids, and it is one we keep in our camper for book time. All of Chris Van Dusen’s books are fantastic and worth checking out, by the way. We really enjoy them.

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The second is one, which we also keep in our trailer, is called “Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping” by Melanie Watts. Scaredy Squirrel is afraid of everything and is always preparing for the very worst, which is very funny. There is always a great lesson in each of the books about how Scaredy overcomes his fears and tries new things…usually because something has gone horribly wrong with his plan and he is forced to. These are fun books and the kids will love them.

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I have written about a few of our other favorites for kids already, so check those out if you haven’t too!
CAMP – Travel Game
The Kid’s Guide to Grand Teton National Park
The Original Little Hands Card Holder
Ikea Kusiner Box

A few things we will review in the future:
Lucky Bums Snowshoes (the Lad got them for Xmas and we are waiting for the snow now!)
Swish Jr. Card Game, a great new card game we have just picked up!

Recipe: Homemade Taco Seasoning

Hi friends!

School started, the weather rolled in, and the holidays are knocking on our door. That means our camping season has ended (unless we are able to sneak away for a weekend here and there) and we are getting ready for ski season to start (the snow has started to fly! Woohoo!). My posts are going to be limited for the next few months. As topics pop to mind (or folks give suggestions), I will post, otherwise it is going to be a little bit quiet here as I go on hiatus.

Before I do that, I wanted to share a new taco seasoning recipe I made tonight and will be making in bulk and bring camping with us in the future. It is so easy I am wondering why I haven’t done this sooner!

Here are the ingredients:
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder (optional, I left it out)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

I mix everything together in a bowl. The leftover mix is saved and will be use for another dinner. In fact, I am planning to make this in bulk to have a good stash on hand, but also to give as a Christmas gift to our neighbors.

How to use it:
Brown your meat (I like a super lean ground beef, but it will work with other proteins as well). I then added 2/3 cup water and 2 tablespoons of the seasoning mix (add more if you like it spicy, add less if you want it more mild). Stir well and simmer on the heat until it thickens a bit. Then make your tacos the way you like.

We like to put the meaty mix in a tortilla shell with Tillamook Mexican cheese mix, Nancy’s Organic Sour Cream, some avocado, and diced tomatoes. It is delicious! Enjoy!

Kids and Knives – teaching them safety and the basics!

When I was 5 years old, my dad brought out his old Boy Scout knife and showed it to me. He showed me how to open and close it safely, how to hand it to another person safely, and how to use it safely. He taught me the rules and enforced them strictly and because of his teachings, knives are still one of my favorite things that I use safely on a day to day basis.

When my son turned 5 (he will say he was 5-and-a-half), I got out a knife that would fit in his hand easily and started teaching him safety and the very basics of using a knife. Around the same time we started teaching the Lad about knives, a great organization in our area called Trackers PDX posted on their blog about kids and knives. My husband was understandably nervous at first, but listened, read the post, watched me teach Laddy safety and the rules so we were all on the same page, and agreed he was ready. You will have to decide when your child is ready to handle the big responsibility of using his/her own knife. It doesn’t have so much to do with age as it does maturity. I felt our son could handle it, and we haven’t had a problem at all this summer. A kid getting their first knife is a camping right of passage, but it is a right that comes with a lot of expectations.

Here are the rules we set out first. Laddy had to remember them before we allowed him to touch the knife.

1) Mom and dad keep the knife. If you would like to use it, just ask.
2) Mom and dad must be with you while you are using the knife.
3) You need to clear the material you are using the knife on with mom and dad. Some stuff is good, other stuff isn’t. If you use the knife to destroy things (like picnic table tops), you will lose the knife and will take responsibility for the repair of the destroyed item.
4) You must sit down when the knife is open. No walking around with it open, it is dangerous.
5) Always use a movement that goes away from you, when using the knife.
6) Never ever leave the knife open and unattended. You will also lose the knife that way.

Some of these rules we will ease up on when he is older and has proven how responsible he can be and as he matures (mainly rules 1 & 2, and eventually he will know what wood is safe to work with). We also make an exception to rule #1 when we are out on hikes. He may have his knife in his backpack, but we put the knife away when we get back.

After the rules were taught, we started with the basics and safety:
1) Find a knife that is basic and small enough to fit comfortably in the child’s hand. It only needs to have one or two blades, which will keep the child focused and not curious about all of the other goodies on the knife. I have a small Victornox and another small Gerber knife we use with him. The fewer gadgets, the better.

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While super awesome, something like this might be a little too much for your kid to handle! Photo from the Wenger website.

20131005-120749.jpgSerious now, this is the knife Laddy uses. A simple one blade Gerber.

2) Teach the child to open the knife without your help (if it is a folding knife, if not teach them to unsheath the knife safely). First show them. Then let them try. If they can’t open/unsheath the knife alone, you might consider a different knife or wait until they are older. It was taught to me that I wasn’t allowed to use a knife until I could open it myself. We have applied the same principal.

20131005-120824.jpg In the above picture Laddy shows how he safely opens a knife. Holding the outside of the casing, he lifts the blade into place, keeping fingers clear of the blade’s housing area, just in case it snaps back.

3) Teach the child how to close the knife without your help. It is scary giving your kid the space to try and figure this out. I get that, but it is really important for them to know how. Some knives will be easier than others, especially if there is a locking mechanism. That lock can get sticky and be a pain, so make sure it is maintained well and the child is taught how it functions in the safest way possible. We showed him first, and then had him try with us right there. Fingers should hold either side of the handle, keeping clear of where the blade nests and they should control the blade slowly into the housing at all times. Don’t let it snap closed – that is how we get cut. This was another step I had to master before I was allowed to continue on with my “basic use” lessons.

20131005-120917.jpgHere Laddy demonstrates how he closes the knife safely. Similar to opening the knife, he holds the outside of the casing, keeping his fingers clear of the blade housing slot. With control, he slowly lowers the blade into the housing, not letting it snap closed.

4) Teach them how to safely hand a knife to someone else, while it is open. The best way to hand it off to another person is to close the knife, but sometimes that isn’t possible. What happens if the child can not close the knife and needs to hand it to an adult for help? This is an important lesson because that happens! There are other scenarios too where handing and open knife to someone is necessary. They need to carefully hold the blade between their fingers and hand the handle to the other person. They should also learn how to take the knife safely from someone.

20131005-120759.jpgIn this picture Laddy demonstrates how he safely hands the knife to me. Holding the blade between his fingers, handing the handle to me. I take hold of the handle (holding the knife in place) and he releases moving his hand to safety. This is how we do it at our house.

5) Teach the child how to hold the knife properly.

20131005-123408.jpgLaddy is demonstrating above how we taught him to grip the knife. Sometimes he puts his thumb on the top (as you will see in the next pictures). The grip stays the same. Nice and strong.

6) Teach the child how to use the knife safely. The knife always goes away from the body. Use strokes that go straight out, and if they must go down make sure the child’s legs are spread so the knife and arm go between them.

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The knife is never to be left open, and if it is open it should never be left unattended. Never walk around with an open knife. Make sure the sticks or bits of wood are not too dry. If they break easily, it can lead to injury.

7) Make sure the child knows how to take care of the knife (especially by seeing you take care of your own knives). If it is a folding knife, teach them how to oil hinges. Make sure the blades are kept sharp (for us we tend to send them off for our camp knives as many companies offer a sharpening service, most of our kitchen knives are sharpened at home). Many people believe a dull knife is safer, but that has not been proven to be true. In fact a sharp knife is a safer knife for many reasons, and if you happen to be cut by a sharp knife, the cut will heal much better than that of a dull knife. Take it from me! Also, the knife should never be left out in the elements. It will ruin the knife.

8) Practice. This is one we just discovered. Practicing even out of camping season is a good idea so your child doesn’t get rusty with the rules or their skills!

Making your own s’mores sticks or other fancy wood items using knives can be a lot of fun, especially when camping, and even more so when you come away with all of your fingers in tact! Have fun and be safe!

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Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park (Whitehall, MT)

  After a night with friends in Couer d’Alene, we headed toward Butte, MT so we could camp at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park. Lewis & Clark Caverns was formerly a National Park, but then changed to Montana’s very first State Park.

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The campground is right off the road, and was very easy to find. It wasn’t far from Butte either, so if you need to run to town for something, you can. There isn’t too much shade in most spots. Once the sun drops behind the hills all of the spots are shaded, but that happened around 8:00p. We were in spot E4. We noticed some of the spots in the A Loop seemed to have a bit of shade if you are interested. There is a playground for kids which was nice after being in the car to run some of the energy off. The playground was really nice and the kids were having a blast. It seems like a place families like to frequent. The campground has toilets, showers ($2.00/5-minutes), and our site had a fire ring, picnic table, water and electric.

There is a visitor’s center right next to the campground that gives information about the caverns which are up the hill about 5 minutes by car. You can pick up a Jr. Ranger Packet and badges here as well!

20130930-130808.jpgYou walk up the top trail to get to the enterance and the bottom trail to get back to the visitor’s area.

Make sure you head up the hill to see the view, even if you aren’t able to go into the cave. It is a bit of a hike to get to the cave entrance, and being at altitude makes it even harder than usual.

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The cave is one of the best I have been to. It is a series of steps up and down, you have to slide along the rock at one point, and you see some amazing formations. All tours are guided, which will give you better understanding and explanations, full of plenty of puns and jokes, of everything you are seeing. It was great! If you are lucky, you might even see some of the bats that call the caverns home! The fees to tour the caverns are $10/adult and $5/kid.

20130930-130452.jpgSome of the new steps

20130930-130446.jpgStalagmites meet stalactites

20130930-130440.jpgThe tunnel on the way out

This is an area I would love to bring my husband back to, as he wasn’t able to join us. It is a really amazing and ever-changing place. The campground gives you everything you need as well and we would recommend staying here. It is only about 2 hours from the West Entrance of Yellowstone also, which gave us an easy drive to Madison Campground for our next night of our trip.

Three Island Crossing State Park (Glenn’s Ferry, ID)

After leaving Gros Ventre Campground in Jackson, we drove for 7+ hours and landed on the surface of the sun for the last night of our trip. It felt like it at least! Pulling into Three Island Crossing State Parkat 3:30, we were greeted with 104 degree temperatures. I had a feeling this might be one time I wished I had air conditioning in my trailer! Neither of us wanted to get out of the car, but we did, got it unhitched and headed over to the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center to enjoy some air conditioning. We got there at 3:55. They were closing at 4:00, but let us come in for a bit to cool off an buy a couple of ice creams.

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In our quick walk through, we were able to learn a little more about the area. It is right on the Oregon Trail, and pioneers passed through here in about July on their journey to Oregon. This was the point where they crossed over the Snake River. There are movies and exhibits about the journey and how they made it. It was newly built and really well done. Entrance fees are covered with your camping fee, so it is worth a stop. There is a nice little gift shop inside too.

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The campsites are nice and spaced well. Some are more private than others as well. Many are shaded and all come with a fire ring and picnic table. There was a burn ban in effect while we were there, so we were not able to use the ring, plus, it was too hot to have one anyway. The park sprinklers were on, so we spent a couple of hours running through those to cool off. The campground also has flushies, sinks, and showers. Make sure you take soap with you to wash your hands, as that is not provided. The park has lots of hiking trails and a winery next door (can’t beat that!).

We would recommend staying here, but we likely won’t do it again in July or August. It is too hot for this gal! It is a beautiful place though.

Gros Ventre Campground – Grand Teton National Park

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After our night at Signal Mountain Campground, we decided to get up early and have breakfast. We loaded up the car and started on our drive to Gros Ventre Campground (pronounced Grow-vont…I was corrected a few times). Before we left the Signal Mountain area we noticed lots of cars parked along the side of the road. We pulled over really quick and hopped out. Everyone was well back, but we all stood there in awe as a big grizzly loafed across the grassy area away from us. It was the one and only grizzly we saw on our whole trip. Some would say that is a good thing we had so little exposure to them, but I was happy we got to witness that.

We got back on the road and made a couple of stops to check out the views along the Snake River. I made sure to stop at “Snake River Overlook” which is where Ansel Adams took the picture that hangs in my living room. The morning was amazing for me!

We pulled into the campground and checked in at the office. The folks there were very friendly and helpful. They put us in C loop in spot 134, which was right near the Gros Ventre River where a group of Moose had been spotted. We actually saw a cow and her babe resting under one of the trees on the way in, so we didn’t have to wait long to see a moose! The site was nice and big, there was lots of room between spots, however there was very little shade (it was nice a cool anyway, so we weren’t bothered), and we had a fire ring and picnic table. The views aware also really nice. Bathrooms had toilets and sinks and were a little dated but were enough for us. Showers could be found either in Jackson or at Colter Bay. The campground is nice and flat, which was great for a new biker to ride around as well!

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There is lots to do in the area of Gros Ventre as well. We started off by turning right as we pulled out of the campground and then took a quick left just down the road. This put us on Mormon Row where we saw a pronghorn and got caught in a Bison traffic jam. The Bison were more concerned with grazing and I am pretty sure they had no concerns with us being there, but they were right up next to us. It was pretty cool to see them so closely, but safely from inside the car.

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Just after the “traffic jam” we stopped to have a look at the Moulton Barn. While we were there they were doing some renovations in preparation for the 100 year anniversary of the barn. It is beautiful with the mountains framing the barn, the sage brush flats, and the water running through the irrigation lines. The Lad learned all about water diversion while we were there, which was fun.

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After having a quick lunch at Dornans and enjoying the view from the patio, we headed to the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. This has to offline of our favorite Visitors Centers ever. The exhibits on the history of the area, the animals, the environment, etc were fantastic. The Lad loved playing on the “water” they had on the floor (it was lighting behind a panel, but it was cool). The talk on bears was really good, and you got to see and feel two different pelts – one was a black bear and one a grizzly.

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One great thing this discovery center offers is a “Family Backpack” to borrow and use. It is full of different activities to do. Most of them are art based and help you learn about our natural environment. Water colors, pencils, and plaster molds, assist in learning to observe what is going on around us and to catalog them. Folks of any age will enjoy this. After checking a pack out, take a hike in the area and find something inspiring. Then pick an activity and follow the instructions.

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After a busy day, we headed into Jackson for a quick look around and stopped for an ice cream at Moos (it was recommended to us by one of the rangers and it is some of the most delicious ice cream we have had). Jackson is a neat town and we enjoyed our time there. I would love to get back and do some skiing there in the winter. One thing the Lad would say any kid should do is stop in at Teton Toys. It is a great toy store in the basement of one of the buildings right near the square. He had lots of fun playing and I enjoyed a few minutes of sitting on a couch with my thoughts!

Before we left town the next day, we turned right out of the campground again, and followed the road for 3 miles (give or take) to check out what had been touted as Jackson’s best espresso. Kelly on Gros Ventre is a neat little place with great coffee, really tasty waffles with your choice of toppings, and some of the most amazing sandwiches. We will go back here for sure the next time we are in town. Plus, the view from their deck wasn’t terrible either!

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This is the sandwich that got me over WY-22 with my trailer and the long drive to Three Island Crossing State Park in Idaho. Which is where we stayed the next night. I still dream about this sandwich and we recommend the campground. It isn’t as private as some, but we felt very safe and enjoyed it here.

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