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Thread: Planning Roadtrip for June in Middle/Western USA

  1. #1
    Corran's Avatar
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    Planning Roadtrip for June in Middle/Western USA

    Tentatively I've confirmed taking the whole month of June off for a large-scale roadtrip I've been envisioning for a couple of years. This will be a solo trip both for enjoyment and with the intention of making a variety of photographs - probably taking 120, 4x5, and 12x20.

    I've planned this time period around two conferences in Arizona that I will be attending the first full week of June (Covid not withstanding). At the start of June I'll be heading west and hitting Big Bend NP before getting to Phoenix for one conference and then Las Vegas for the second.

    From there the places I've planned to hit as I travel west are:

    - Death Valley NP
    - Mono Lake
    - Yosemite NP
    - Layover near San Francisco with family
    - Travel up US 1
    - Redwood NP
    - Layover in Portland with friends, hopefully
    - Hoh Rainforest / Olympic NP
    - Seattle layover to see the city
    - Glacier NP
    - Yellowstone NP
    - Grand Teton NP
    - something something something
    - Go east towards home

    I've started a spreadsheet with timeline and estimated distances and etc. to plan how long this will take me. In total, leaving June 1 and getting back around July 4, I've plotted this out and come up with 6-7 extra days, which means I could stay a bit more at any of these locations or perhaps add more on the end as I haven't really planned anything between Colorado and coming home to north GA. Total distance about 8000 miles.

    As many folks on the forums here live out west or have much more extensive experience out there, my questions are these:

    1. Are there any must-see NPs or other parks/locations that would be somewhat near this loop? Or even if it was a little out-of-the-way, but worth it. I know I'm not even scratching the surface of what's out there - this list was just starting to get things going on a basic route.

    2. At these locations - what suggestions might you have for hiking/photographing that will be easy to medium difficulty - by which I mean, 3-5 miles roundtrip with cameras max, or even side-of-the-road lookouts like the Yosemite Valley viewpoint. While I am capable of much more, after thousands of miles driving and many days of physical exertion, I won't be able to keep that kind of pace up for long. I also struggled with altitude sickness before so I don't want to kill myself here! I'm envisioning 12x20 being for mostly roadside or nearly so views, 4x5 for most subjects, and 120 (Hasselblad) for the more difficult hikes or more snapshot-esque images, and for city travel.

    3. Anything to be aware of for June travel? I notice road closures on the map right now but will most things be open in June? I am fairly ignorant on this - we don't have winter road closures here, generally .

    4. Anything else I should be thinking about that I've forgotten?

    My plan for this is to do a lot of car camping - or more specifically, sleeping in my car, which I've done lots when travelling over on this side of the country. I've not had any issues when doing so at Rest Areas or 24-hour store parking lots. I'm hoping I might can sneak a night or two at some of these NPs the same way as my itinerary is not quite detailed enough for booking a campsite head of time. But if they have an opening day-of that would be fine too, and I was going to bring my tent as well.

    Overall I want to get a taste of the big important NPs and landscapes of the west. Later I can focus on just one place, bring my wife, and know a bit more about the location when exploring it more fully. I always find it nice to go to a place and get the basic feel, then focus with more detailed insight on the next trip.

    Thoughts?

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  2. #2
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Planning Roadtrip for June in Middle/Western USA

    The coastal portion can be especially lovely in June; expect a certain amount of fog. Mountain passes in the Cascades and northern Rockies should be checked in advance for snow conditions at the time. The eastern Sierra will be inviting. But some of your places are pretty crowded in summer. Yosemite now requires advance reservation to enter during Summer; and Yellowstone can be outright traffic hell, though there are many lovely things to see to and from it. Portions of the Northwest also require permits to camp or hike; those can be bought locally, but are easier to do in advance. That's additional to an annual or lifetime NP permit. Most National Forests and desert areas have plenty of open casual camping opportunities, unless you're in a crowded official Recreation Area. Roadside Rest Areas are generally considered quite unsafe for overnight camping - and don't take that remark lightly, despite your previous experience. Once you see drifters and meth types hanging around, you'll get the picture.

    I understand your master plan to gets a birds-eye view of a large area, and then come back later to certain sections which interest you. I've used that strategy myself many times. But you are looking at a huge area, much of which involves winding slow roads stuck behind endless trailers and motorhomes. Also realize the Southwestern portion is going to be miserably hot, even dangerously hot, that time of year - Death Valley unthinkably so! Do you really want to be standing under a darkcloth while the soles of your shoes are literally melting on the pavement?

    Logistically, I think your gear kit is overcomplicated. I'd leave behind the 12X20. A certain amount of thief-prone spots are inevitable. I suspect that your plan to taste all 31 flavors of Baskin Robbins ice cream during a single visit will prove counterproductive. If it were me, I'd lop off the entire southern section and save that for another trip at a more realistic time of year. And don't forget how easy is it to get stuck somewhere in the northern portion in a blizzard even in June. Having extra food, water, and fuel, and above all, a good sleeping bag, can spell the difference between a fun time, and the end of time. And don't trust navigation devices heading off onto side roads. Always ask locally first.

    Day hiking, even a few miles - have all the necessities. Plenty of water, a good sweater and rain/snow parka in mountainous areas. Decent hiking boots. The weather can change drastically fast. Don't take it for granted. Beware of exposed areas in lightning storms.

  3. #3
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Planning Roadtrip for June in Middle/Western USA

    Phoenix in June? You're going to love it...

    There's a good-sized contingent of large format photographers in Tucson if you'd care to visit. Around a dozen of us gather for coffee each Monday morning...
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  4. #4
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Planning Roadtrip for June in Middle/Western USA

    Last time I was in Phoenix was in July of 2017, when they were having issues with plane tires melting on the tarmac. I gravitate towards a biphasic sleep schedule, which worked well for getting up at 4-5am to go to a location, hike till 10-11am, then rest until it was cool enough to go back out at 4-5pm for sunset.

    Mark, I'll definitely hit you up closer to the date. Looks like Monday June 6th would be the day. Like I said, I have 2 conferences to catch, so not sure exactly if it'll work out but hopefully.

    Drew - as a flatlander, I certainly was not expecting the possibility of a blizzard in June. I do usually travel with a fairly robust sleeping bag, as well as a space blanket and such for extra warmth. As I have to be in Phoenix / Las Vegas, I'm inclined to keep the southern route at the minimum. I will have to look up Yosemite reservations. I've done the Cade's Cove Loop in the Smoky Mountains, which is the most visited park in the nation, during peak season, so I certainly understand the possibility of traffic.

    I like the idea of the 12x20 but that's certainly not set in stone. A 3-lens Hassie set and probably 4-lens 4x5 kit is the minimum for sure. Also depends on my final space constraints. RAV4 SUV is not huge, but comfortably fits a lot of stuff. I have done a few smaller roadtrips, like a solo trip up to New Jersey some years ago in winter and several marathon drives through the entirety of Florida, so I'm not stranger to these lengths of drives (just hit 40k miles in my car after 2 years, even with Covid making it so I traveled much less than usual). I just bought new 3-season tires for the car and will be keeping the best of the current 4 as a full-size spare for this trip.
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | Portfolio
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

  5. #5
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Planning Roadtrip for June in Middle/Western USA

    Per Yosemite - if you have your permit, Tioga Pass over the top will probably open on schedule by Memorial Day, and is the more scenic less crowded way in from the east side of the Sierra, directly above Mono Lake. Yosemite Valley itself can be crowded and smokey in summer, but is not as bad in June as later. As far as gear security, try to look understated, like an ordinary tourist rather than a photographer. The NP's and State Parks aren't so bad in that respect. But generally, don't load and unload your gear from your vehicle in plain sight of others when camping. Above all, don't leave anything of value in your vehicle unattended in cities like SF or Seattle, where smash and grab types home in on out of state vehicles like bears to honey.

    Also remember there are many many spectacular locations besides the "must see" National Parks; and even within those, many enjoyable private areas that aren't on postcards. Also, alternate routes besides the large interstates are often more interesting and less crowded. My habit is to take boring Interstates at night, if I have to get somewhere fast, and leave the more interesting routes for daytime.

    Hope you have a wonderful trip! You still have plenty of time to research various route options.

  6. #6
    Les
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    Re: Planning Roadtrip for June in Middle/Western USA

    The West is full of wonderful and iconic places/gems. I do like some and steer far away from others. Bryan, whatever you do try not to overplan, since you'll introduce plenty of stress that way. DV is a great NP, but between Nov-March....most people that live here are aware of this....except the German marathoners :>). Outside of that you should be fine. Certain places like Tuolumne Meadows or Cedar Breaks/Bryce tend to reach 7-10K elevations and you'll need warm gear....tho I've never felt sick there, your body may react differently. Oregon Coast and No. Calif can be special....and in the right weather (right for your images) it may require longer stays at some spots. Olympic NP takes way longer than anyone thinks. I've camped near La Push and few other spots, and it took me over 3 weeks to really check out and enjoy the park....I had no idea, that it would take this long....nor am I saying that you should take this long.

    Here are few places that I'd look at as alternatives:

    Pinnacles NP
    Sequoia NP
    Kings Canyon NP
    Lassen NP

    Oh, as Drew mentioned, there are some really cool places or state parks along that route. You might even enjoy Bodie SP, since it's not far from Mono Lake. Also, you might want to veer towards Mon Valley/Antelope Cyn....tho that part might be heating up.
    Check the weather & temps ahead and you can make your own determinations. Yos and more popular spots will require camping reservations....months ahead of the travel. Enjoy.

    Les
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    Les

    On occasion I noticed there is real life outside the GG/viewfinder.

  7. #7

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    Re: Planning Roadtrip for June in Middle/Western USA

    I'll suggest that it's best to spend more time at a place than traveling to/from. Most of those locations you mention deserve more than a drive-by... you might consider fewer spots and more time at each. That said, you're always welcome in Tucson (and it's not quite as hot as Phoenix). We'll be happy to see you!

  8. #8

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    Re: Planning Roadtrip for June in Middle/Western USA

    Hope you like hot weather.
    On the way back why not Devils Tower in Eastern Wyoming. Then Black Hills in South Dakota and down to Badlands National Park?
    You are making a big swing and really just hitting highlights. Many you will hope to get back to at some future date. A LOT of driving with many great spots between your highlight stops.
    Many smaller highways and roads will get you through quiet places where you can stop and look if you want. InterState highways won't let you do it.

    Good luck.
    "My forumla for successful printing remains ordinary chemicals, an ordinary enlarger, music, a bottle of scotch - and stubbornness." W. Eugene Smith

  9. #9
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Planning Roadtrip for June in Middle/Western USA

    Drew - yes I'd like to do Tioga Pass from what I've seen. And I definitely like taking more leisurely routes when possible. As a bonus, my hybrid gets better mileage out on those roads compared to interstate travel (44mpg if I'm careful!).

    Thanks Les. I forgot to put Sequoia on my list, and I'll also research the others.

    I need to research weather at each place I want to go. Of course our highest peak here is just under 4800', so I have very little relevant experience about what to expect weather-wise. When I was in AZ in 2016 and 2017 I hiked the Chiricahua National Monument, which is at about 10,000', and the first time it gave me bad altitude sickness. Second time, I was perfectly fine. I'm hoping I remain unfazed at the elevation, but I will pack layers and appropriate gear.

    Regarding Death Valley - I was under the assumption I could drive from Vegas down to Shoshone early (4am) and drive through Badwater Basin up to 190 and then west around Telescope Peak to get a tour of the area, stopping to make photographs or do a small amount of hiking and be okay at dawn and/or dusk. Maybe I'm showing my ignorance there, but I'm just looking at Google Maps at the moment. I need to rustle up all the relevant maps of the NP's once I dive deeper. I'm starting this research to push myself to be meticulous, rather than my more typical "figure it out on the road" way!

    I'm definitely interested in the lesser-known places that you all may be knowledgeable about, outside of the big and obvious NP's. Just like I could tell you all about cool backcountry stuff here in GA, where to avoid during the busy season, etc., so I definitely appreciate that kind of thing.

    Speaking of camping - I don't know if this would be a big no-no, but I've slept in my car for a few hours at NP's and state parks that are 24 hours. No camp reservation required? I did that at the Grand Canyon once as well.

    Thanks Mark! I will probably be staying a day or two down near Sonoita (family) so maybe I can ping you on my way through Tucson. I definitely get not just passing by things - I want to spend a bit of time at the big places, while also driving through scenic byways.

    PS: speaking of LF photographers, if possible I certainly would be down to meet some of the folks from here. Maybe even bum a couch if you're feeling generous .
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | Portfolio
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

  10. #10

    Join Date
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    Re: Planning Roadtrip for June in Middle/Western USA

    Might consider this previous discussion on visiting San Francisco to Monterey..

    https://www.largeformatphotography.i...nterey-10-Days


    Bernice

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