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Digital Nomad Life Month 107

Month 107 did have some fun highlights but overall it was a stressful month that definitely didn’t end up going as planned.

The month started out great with lots of hiking and National Parks in Utah then a fun return to Vegas for the first time in nearly five years. Unfortunately, it started to go downhill from there.

Brownie the RV blew a couple of fan belts which delayed our departure from Vegas, then Casper the van started having issues too when I was driving through Death Valley National Park. 

We traveled along Highway 395 visiting small towns and hot springs along the way, then we split up, with Toby going to the Gorge to start work earlier while I spent a couple of days in the Lake Tahoe area.

Lake Tahoe

And then when I was leaving Reno, the van got a lot worse. Ultimately I was stuck in Reno for two more nights and ended up selling it for $1. I rented a car for two days and drove up to Portland where I spent four nights buying a car and eating lots of delicious food.

It was definitely a whirlwind stressfest but I love our new car so it all worked out OK in the end.

From Portland, I drove to the Gorge to start getting ready for the season, and that is where I have been for the rest of the month, bar a half-day trip to beautiful Leavenworth.

Now onto the stats!

Miss Joni Baloney

Countries Visited: USA

Places Visited:

  • Utah: Moab, Fruita, Bryce Canyon City, Mt Carmel Junction, Virgin
  • Nevada: Las Vegas, Stateline, Reno
  • Arizona: Grand Canyon West
  • California: Lone Pine, Bishop, Mammoth Lakes, June Lake, Lee Vining, Truckee
  • Oregon: Klamath Falls, Umpqua Hot Springs, Toketee Falls, Portland
  • Washington: George, Wenatchee, Leavenworth

National and State Parks, Monuments, and UNESCO Sites: Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon West, Death Valley National Park, Manzanar National Historic Site, Emerald Bay State Park, Umpqua National Forest.

Islands Visited: Blackbird Island in Leavenworth.

Best Meals: Strawberry rhubarb pie from Gifford Homestead in Capitol Reef National Park; Wynn Seafood Buffet in Las Vegas; Berry and cream crepe from Paris Las Vegas; Biscuit with mushroom cream gravy and hashbrowns from Pine State Biscuits in Reno; Mushroom skewers, roti with chicken curry broth, and mango sticky rice from Hat Yai in Portland; Pear and coffee crumb fritter from Doe Donuts in Portland; Handmade pizza with hand-stretched mozzarella, garlic, and olives from Ken’s Artisan Pizza in Portland; Swedish hash with house-smoked trout, and Danish pancakes with lemon curd and lingonberry jam from Broder Nord in Portland; Sweet potato Banh Mi from Yodelin in Leavenworth.

Convict Lake in California

Best Craft Beer: Lanky’s Fruited Gose from Distant Brewing in Mammoth Lakes; Split Shot Oatmeal Stout with coconut and vanilla and Mr Tartacular’s Big Berry Tickler Sour Ale from Alibi Ale Works in Truckee.

Hikes/Walks:

  • Professor Creek and Mary Jane Canyon trail in Moab 8.4 miles
  • Corona Arch trail in Moab 2.4 miles
  • Cassidy Arch trail in Capitol Reef National Park 3.5 miles
  • Navajo Loop and Queens Garden trail loop in Bryce Canyon National Park 3 miles
  • Taylor Creek trail in Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park 5.2 miles
  • Timber Creek Overlook trail in Kolob Canyons section of Zion National Park 1.1 miles
  • West Rim and Telephone Canyon loop trails in Zion National Park 16.5 miles
  • Convict Lake perimeter loop trail in Mammoth Lakes 2.6 miles
  • Rubicon Trail to Rubicon Point Lighthouse in Lake Tahoe 10.5 miles
  • Link River trail in Klamath Falls 2.6 miles
  • Toketee Falls trail to the bottom of the falls, Umpqua National Forest 1.4 miles
  • Blackbird Island and Enchantment Park riverside trail in Leavenworth 2.4 miles

Watching: Unfrosted, The Brothers Sun, Life & Beth Season 2.

Reading: Happiness Falls by Angie Kim, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Night Bitch by Rachel Yoder.

New Posts: I wrote one new post this month, a sponsored post about the fabulous small group tour I did to Grand Canyon West and Hoover Dam from Vegas.

Bellagio Hotel in Vegas

Highlights

Hiking in Moab

The two times I had visited Moab before I had only hiked in nearby Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, so on this visit I wanted to do some of the hikes in the area that were outside the park. I ended up doing two really nice hikes – Professor Creek and Mary Jane Canyon which followed a river into a canyon to a waterfall, and the Corona Arch trail to two giant arches – Corona Arch and Bowtie Arch.

Mary Jane Canyon in Moab

Exploring more around Moab definitely made me enjoy it so much more and I can’t wait to get back there to explore more of the trails.

Finding the Best Dispersed Camping Spots

The west is definitely the best for dispersed wilderness where you are allowed to free camp and we had some excellent camping spots this month that were easy to get to and incredibly scenic.

Dispersed camping in California

My favorites were probably the parking lot for the Rock Tub Hot Springs where we soaked and watched a beautiful sunset over the mountains, a shaded riverside spot near Buckeye Hot Springs, and another creekside spot surrounded by mountains just outside of Zion National Park in Virgin, Utah.

I highly recommend using the iOverlander map to find free dispersed camping areas, dump stations, and other campgrounds – it’s a game-changer for RV and van life and it’s free.

Revisiting Some of My Favorite Utah National Parks

I was lucky enough to visit three of my fave Utah National Parks this month, albeit briefly – Capitol Reef National Park, Bryce National Park, and Zion National Park.

Hiking in Capitol Reef National Park

I got to do two short but breathtakingly beautiful hikes in Bryce and Capitol Reef, and three hikes in Zion National Park including two in a lesser visited section of the park that I hadn’t visited before – Kolob Canyons.

It felt great to be back in the red rock desert, one of my favorite places to be during spring in the U.S.

Doing My Longest Hike Ever in Zion

Zion is an absolute madhouse these days and if you don’t plan for the crowds, you will be disappointed. On this visit, as well as visiting a lesser-known section of the park, I also decided on a lesser-known hike in the main Zion Canyon section of the park.

West Rim trail in Zion National Park

The hike I decided to do is the West Rim Trail, a 15-mile point-to-point hike that is a popular backpacking trail and is usually done top down into the canyon. I decided to do a section of it starting and finishing in the canyon. I wasn’t sure how much I was going to hike but my main goal was to make it to the top of Horse Pasture Plateau.

The first part of the trail is the same trail as Angels Landing so it is beautiful but crowded. Once you get past the Angels Landing turn off it is even more beautiful and there are a fraction of the people.

I ended up having an epic hiking day, hiking up to the plateau, doing a loop around it, and then hiking back to my starting point. It was the longest hike I have ever done at 16.5 miles and it was tough, with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain, but so rewarding.

Zion National Park views

I highly recommend hiking at least some of this trail – even half a mile past Angels Landing the scenery is stunning and there are very few people.

Revisiting Las Vegas

I always used to think that I didn’t like Vegas but it turns out that I kind of love it, despite not being into the party scene (anymore) or gambling.

The Mirage in Las Vegas

This visit was my first time back in five years and the highlights were re-exploring most of the hotels on the Strip but especially the Wynn, the Bellagio and the Venetian, the Wynn seafood buffet – just wow, lunch at Eataly, staying at the Mirage and spending time at the pool, and visiting Meow Wolf Omega Mart for the first time – my final Meow Wolf.

I know I’ll be back again at some point, and I look forward to it.

My Day Trip To Grand Canyon West

I was invited on a sponsored day trip to Grand Canyon West and Hoover Dam with MaxTour during my time in Vegas, and despite it being a loooong day (12 hours) I really enjoyed it and was impressed by the quality of the tour and the fun and friendly tour guide.

Grand Canyon West Skywalk

We visited the Welcome to Las Vegas sign, the art installation Seven Magic Mountains, Hoover Dam, two spots at Grand Canyon West and the Skywalk, and a Joshua Tree forest – pretty good for one day! You can read more about my tour here.

Soaking at Lots of Natural Hot Springs in California

One of my favorite things in life is soaking in a hot spring, especially a natural one, and there are tons of them along Highway 395 in California. We ended up visiting four on our road trip and they were all great.

Close to Mammoth Lakes, we stayed the night in the car park and soaked at The Rock Tub Hot Springs, a small pool that was around 100 degrees. We met a couple of locals in the pool who we chatted to and enjoyed the incredible views over the Eastern Sierras.

Wild Willys Hot Springs

Also close to Mammoth, we visited the popular Wild Willys Hot Springs which were surprisingly quiet on a weekday morning in May. We have heard how busy it usually is so we were definitely lucky. I loved the different temperature pools that cascade into each other and the stand-alone pool on the other side of the boardwalk. 

Further north we visited Travertine Hot Springs where there is a group of silica pools with waterfalls running into them, and then a couple of hidden small pools further along the trail, and, my favorite of the lot, Buckeye Hot Springs which was a bit of a hassle to get too on a one-way dirt road but so worth it for the epic location right by a forested river with a waterfall overhang. There were also two pools at the top of the hill.

Travertine Hot Springs

There were more we would have loved to visit if we had the time – definitely next time! California is fast becoming my favorite hot spring state, contending with Idaho and Colorado.

A Day Hiking at Lake Tahoe

I spent half a day hiking the stunning Rubicon Trail from Emerald Bay State Park down to Vikingsholm then along the lake to the Rubicon Point Lighthouse. As it was on a weekday early in the season, I only saw a few other people once I headed north from Vikingholm and it was peaceful and awe-inspiring 10 miles of hiking that wasn’t difficult – a great day out in Lake Tahoe.

Hiking the Rubicon Trail at Lake Tahoe

Hot Springs and a Waterfall in Oregon

To keep the hot springs trend going, I also visited a beautiful natural hot spring in Oregon as well – Umpqua Hot Springs. I first visited these hot springs with my Dad way back in 2010 so it was fun to return. These hot springs are in a forest and cascade down a rocky hill between different silica pools with a view over the river below – it’s definitely one of the most scenic hot springs I have been to.

Umpqua Hot Springs

I met a couple of fellow travelers in the pools and ended up doing a short hike with one of them to a natural spring with the most delicious water. He also bought a tea set up to the pools and a group of us enjoyed cups of tea while soaking which definitely added to the experience.

After leaving the pools, I did the short hike to nearby Toketee Falls, an impressive waterfall that cascades into a rocky basin surrounded by forest. I also scrambled down to the base of the falls which was quite sketchy but definitely worth it. 

Toketee Falls in Oregon

All the Good Food in Portland

I hadn’t planned on visiting Portland until the van died but I’m glad I did because I really do enjoy this city – especially the food. On this visit I furthered my way through the Portland donut scene, sampling Sesame Donuts and Doe Donuts, had delicious dim sum at Dough Zone, incredible pizza at Ken’s Artisan Pizza, great Thai at Hat Yai (the mushroom skewers!!), and a satisfying Scandinavian brunch at Broder Nord. Not bad at all.

Pizza from Kens Artisan Pizza in Portland

I also revisited Powell’s Books, went to Lord of the Rings-themed Treebeerd’s Taphouse, walked along the river and in pretty Mount Tabor Park, and explored some different neighborhoods, while also purchasing a new vehicle (used, but new to us). It was a pretty great visit overall.

Our New Car

It was a bit stressful having to find a new car quickly because my van died and I had to get to work but I managed to do it and I love our new car – a 2016 Subaru Forester! I really liked the dealership I went to in Portland too – Columbia Motors – and definitely recommend them if you are looking for an affordable used vehicle.

New car

I nearly didn’t get the Forester because, in the two hours between test driving it and loving it (but not putting a hold on it), going to another dealership where I had an appointment then coming back to buy it, someone else had put a hold on it! I test-drove a newer and more expensive Forester and it was better on paper so I put a hold on it but I still really wanted the original one I test-drove. 

Luckily the person who put the hold on it didn’t go ahead and I got my dream car after all. I love it so far. It’s roomy and I can still car camp in it but it’s not too big, I love that it is AWD, has a sunroof, and is pretty fuel-efficient too. I’ll be taking it on a Canada road trip for a couple of weeks soon so I’m excited to test it out more.

An Afternoon in Leavenworth

I love Leavenworth and it is almost like a second home to me when we are working at the Gorge as I go there at least three times every summer. I was running errands in Wenatchee which is only a 25-minutes from Leavenworth so I decided to drive there for the afternoon.

Leavenworth

I had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants – Yodelin, walked the riverside trails to Blackbird Island and Enchantment Park, and had a look around the shops. It was great to be back.

Lowlights

Rainy Days in Utah

The last couple of times I have visited Bryce and Zion National Parks it has rained, and this visit was no exception. The weather was forecasted to be cold and rainy on the day we were meant to spend in Bryce so I ended up fitting in a quick hike when we arrived the afternoon before instead so at least I got to spend some time there while it was sunny.

Bryce Canyon National Park

As for Zion, we had some flexibility so we extended the time we were meant to spend there by a night and had two full days to explore the park when it was mostly sunny so it ended up working out OK in the end.

Zion National Park Craziness

I always tell people that Zion National Park looks like a red rock Yosemite, but it is also like Yosemite in popularity – it’s a damn zoo there these days. I took steps to avoid the crowds as mentioned in the highlights above, but I did end up getting stuck in traffic for 45 minutes at the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel because, although it is a two-lane tunnel, for some reason the Park Service was only letting one lane through at a time.

Kolob Canyons

Waiting in standstill traffic when you don’t know what is going on and how long it will be is one of my least favorite things so it wasn’t a great start to our time in Zion.

RV Issues

Brownie the RV started playing up when we were in Vegas and it delayed our departure by a few hours as Toby had to find fan belts that fit. We were then finally leaving Vegas and the fan belt came off again, further delaying us.

We’re still not sure what was causing it to do that but Toby found that if he stayed under 60-miles per hour it was working OK so that’s what we have been doing until we can get it looked at by a professional.

Casper the Van Finally Died

The worst thing that happened this month (well, this and the next item on the lowlights list) was when poor little Casper the van died and I had to leave him in Reno.

I started having issues when I was driving through Death Valley National Park from Vegas on the way to Lone Pine – I was losing power when I was going uphill and revving over 3000. It seemed to be something wrong with the transmission but if I took it slow and steady it was OK.

This continued for the next few days as we made our way north and we discussed selling Casper for cheap if it couldn’t be fixed and buying a new car in a month or so. Within two days of Toby and I splitting off (he had to be at the Gorge earlier than me) it suddenly got so bad that I couldn’t drive it.

I managed to limp to a transmission specialist who said I needed a new transmission at the cost of $4000+ and then back to the motel I stayed at the night before where I started calling charities who accept car donations. As I didn’t have the title on me and I didn’t have the time to wait around and to try and sell it as I had to get to the Gorge for work, I didn’t have a lot of options.

Downtown Reno

This all happened on a Friday so I ended up getting stuck in Reno for two nights before the handyman at the motel I was staying at offered to buy it for $1 if I could send the title to him as soon as possible. I was desperate and happy to be able to leave Reno so I sold it and rented a car for two days to get me to Portland where there were a few cars I had already been looking at online.

I ended up spending four nights in Portland, finding the perfect vehicle for us and getting it checked out by a mechanic before we bought it. It was quite the ordeal but I’m happy now that we have a new and (hopefully) reliable vehicle.

And I do love our new car, but I also miss Casper – we had so many great adventures together over the past seven years and 160,000 miles and that little van felt like part of the family.

Mt Tabor Park in Portland

My Website Traffic Dropped Dramatically

About three weeks ago my website traffic was cut in half overnight which was very scary. I had someone look into why this happened and they couldn’t find anything technically wrong with my site so it is almost certainly to do with a Google algorithm update, which means I’m pretty much shit out of luck.

It is depressing that after working on this site for ten years, Google can just take it all away in an instant. It isn’t going to stop me from blogging but it is definitely an eye-opener and it feels like blogging is dying even faster than I thought it would.

Gorge RV Issues

And if two vehicular issues weren’t enough this month, let’s just throw in a third one for fun. Every year when we arrive at the Gorge there is something not working on our staff RV who I lovingly call Billy Bob. This year it is the hot water.

We haven’t been able to get it fixed yet and I don’t see it happening until after our second show so annoyingly we have to go to site to shower rather than just being able to shower in the RV. The showers at the Oasis are much nicer but it’s a hassle.

Mammoth Lakes

Spending

I don’t include international flights in my recaps. Some of my costs are shared with Toby.

Total: USD$2563.50

It was a pretty average month for spending, lower than normal for food and drinks, but with some extra costs for accommodation and random stuff I needed to buy. In reality, it was probably my most expensive month ever but I am not including buying my car in this recap.

Accommodation $647

My16 nights of paid accommodation for the month consisted of one night at an RV park in Moab, one night at an RV Park in Mt Carmel Junction, one night at an RV Park in Las Vegas, three nights in a hotel in Vegas (the room was on points but I had to pay the resort fee), one night in a hostel dorm in Lone Pine, one night at a motel in South Lake Tahoe, three nights at a motel in Reno, one night in a motel in Klamath Falls, and four nights at a motel in Portland.

My 14 nights of unpaid accommodation for the month consisted of eight nights free camping in the RV in dispersed camping spots in Utah and California, and six nights in our staff RV onsite at the Gorge Amphitheatre.

Food and Drink $761

Less than I thought it would be this month considering $94 of this was on one meal (Wynn Seafood Buffet in Vegas – 100% worth it). I did make an effort to cook a lot and have sandwiches for lunch so I am glad to see this did bring down my food spend compared to previous months. I also didn’t drink a lot this month which also definitely helps cut down costs.

Brunch at Broder Nord in Portland

Clothing $40

  • Hiking shorts $40

Transport $398.50

  • Gas $258
  • Uber and Lyft $37.50
  • Two-day rental car hire one way $100
  • Bus in Portland $3

Activities $64

  • Meow Wolf Omega Mart entry in Las Vegas $54
  • Emerald Bay State Park entry fee $10

Other $457

  • U.S. Phone plan $35
  • Spotify $12
  • One Drive storage $2
  • Toiletries $66.50
  • Cat stuff $66
  • Garmin monthly subscription $7.50
  • Netflix $3.50
  • Hulu $8.50
  • 5 x National Parks pins $16
  • Haircut $34
  • Charity $81
  • Hostelling International One Year Membership $18
  • Dumbbells $10
  • Foldable electric kettle $32
  • Crampons $22
  • Book $11
  • Bag repair patches $5
  • Postage $7
  • Kitchen stuff $20

Website Costs $12

  • Monthly payment for Keysearch $12

Vehicle Costs $184

I didn’t include the purchase of our new vehicle because it would skew the total so much.

  • RV and van insurance for two months $89
  • Mechanic pre-purchase check on car $70
  • Mattress topper and window shades for car $25

Hiking around Moab

What’s in Store For Next Month

Hopefully the next month will turn out more how I have planned it. I am spending the first nine days of the month at the Gorge, working two shows – Illenium and Red Hot Chili Peppers – and doing some admin and site prep work for the two days in between the shows.

After the first two shows, we have a 2.5 week break before the next run of shows so I am taking advantage of that and doing a Canadian Rocky Mountain road trip with my friend Dani who is flying into Calgary. I’ll take two days to drive up there, stopping to check out Spokane in Washington, Sandpoint in Idaho, and Fernie in British Columbia along the way.

We have 13 nights together and we are doing the road trip from Calgary to Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, Yoho National Park, and Jasper before returning to Calgary for a night. I am so excited to return to one of my favorite parts of the world and to show Dani around. It’s early in the season so hopefully the crowds won’t be super crazy yet and there won’t be too much snow on the trails (we are bringing our crampons just incase).

We’ll be staying at a mixture of hotels and hostels including one of my favorite hostels in the world, HI Castle Mountain, a wilderness hostel in Banff National Park which is super cozy and friendly.

I’ll take a couple of days to get back to the Gorge after that and after a day preparing for the next show and picking up our worker and supplies in Wenatchee, I will be finishing out the month working at Beyond Wonderland festival which always has a great crowd.

To read additional Monthly Recaps, you can find them here

2 Comments on Digital Nomad Life: Month 107

  1. Nice to hear about your adventures and glad you’re doing so well. Maybe see you down here next winter?

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