After the unexpected nuclear power plant tour, it was time to put some miles behind me. From this point on, Honey Badger had given me a proposed route to get from Craters of the Moon to the Aurora, Colorado area, where I would meet Jenn who I camped with in Quartzsite last winter. I altered her route a bit — I didn’t feel that I had time to make a big detour to Grand Junction, Colorado, for instance — but for the most part, I liked her suggestions, and decided to check them out.
That night’s destination was Chateau Walmart in Chubbuck, Idaho. When checking out the area on Google Maps, I found Portneuf Valley Brewing in nearby Pocatello and couldn’t resist checking it out. I had a Belligerent Ass Nut Brown Ale, in honor of Lister’s meowing and yowling during the drive here. I followed that up with a Bitter Bitch Extra Special Bitter in honor of… yeah, let’s not go there. Dinner was a yummy quesadilla that was half price during happy hour. Everything was delicious, and Chloe, the bartender, was fun to chat with. After that was an uneventful night at Chateau Walmart.
The next day I pulled up a piece of shade at N.O.P. Park in Pocatello. There was no point in setting up Starlink for my morning department meeting because I could literally see a cell tower not far away from where I parked. I got a good bit of work done here, then moved on after I lost shade and the temperature warmed up. Traveling during the hottest part of the day lets me cool off in air conditioning. I also made Lister a happier traveler by having my roof vent blow air into the van instead of sucking it out. After showing him once, he quickly learned that he could catch a great breeze by sitting on the bed or even on top of the toilet. He’s been a much happier traveler ever since.
Soon I crossed into Utah, another new state for me. I stopped at one of Honey Badger’s recommended stops, the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. This is a curious crossroads between two major migratory routes, as well as fresh water from rivers as well as salt water from Utah’s Great Salt Lake. I had the visitor’s center all to myself as I learned about the area.
I saw signs for a 12-mile auto tour route of the refuge, and decided to drive it. I have mixed feelings about that decision. The refuge itself was amazing, with great scenery and countless different kinds of birds. A few literally made close passes by me, one or two of which I caught on video. It was a great experience.
The only issue was the dirt road was quite rough in places. Had I known what I was getting into in advance, I would’ve left the van and trailer at the visitor’s center and taken my motorcycle, which would have no trouble soaking up the bumps. It turned out okay, though, with a minimum of stuff falling off shelves inside the trailer, and the bike remained tied down securely. It was worth it, but next time I’ll just take the bike and enjoy an easy dirt ride in addition to everything else.
From there, it was onto another uneventful night at Chateau Walmart in Evanston, Wyoming. Yes, that’s two new states in one day!
The next day was supposed to be a short hop to yet another Chateau Walmart in Rock Springs, Wyoming. On my way down I-80, I began to see signs for Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Honey Badger told me this was a “must see,” but it was on my list for the following day, not today. But signs were already starting to guide me there. A search on iOverlander revealed a free 16-day dispersed camping area right on a lake. I’m hesitant to take my van and trailer to sites like these without scouting first, but the entry promised room for at least 15 RVs of any size, so I decided to take a chance and divert.
I’m so glad I did! While beachside camping was pretty filled up for the weekend, I took a spot nearby with an amazing view. The drive was a bit shorter than to Rock Springs, so technically I was actually ahead of schedule. Plus, this was a far better place to spend a night than yet another Walmart parking lot. I didn’t get to see the sunset because of the storm clouds and a bit of rain, but I enjoyed the lakeside view. I’m going to keep this place in mind for a longer stay at some point — especially if I come back with a kayak.
The next day’s route up and over a mountain pass took me solidly back into Utah. It also showed me why this place is named Flaming Gorge. The red dirt makes it look like it’s on fire. Pictures do not do this place justice. I also spotted numerous forest service roads going into the forest that would be worth exploring on the bike. Yet another reason to come back here sometime. I achieved a new “high score” of 8,500 feet, the highest altitude I’ve driven to yet.
I stopped in the small town of Vernal to do some laundry. True excitement, I know. From there, it was a short drive to my next significant destination, Dinosaur National Monument. This was another must-see attraction that Honey Badger had recommended. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any dispersed camping in the area, and the Recreation.gov app showed no available campsites. I don’t know how she did it, but from freaking Canada, Honey Badger went ahead and booked me two night’s worth of campsites for the weekend when I wasn’t able to. I’d have to move from one site to the next between days, but I’d be able to stay and explore all weekend. That’s a story for next time. Spoiler alert: It was very much worth it, and I’m thrilled that Honey Badger not only suggested it, but arranged my stay there.