After a mad dash through Arches National Park and the nearby odd adventure hub of Moab, Utah, we were running low on time and energy. The final three days of the trip were a blur of lengthy drives, the first of which placed us at a roadside camp high in the Rocky Mountains near Vail.
We blew through the rest of Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa the following day and made camp in Illinois.
The next day we made it to my childhood home about a half-hour north of Pittsburgh for a brief visit before attending a family function in the Appalachian mountains of western Maryland.
From there, Samantha drove the Outback the final 100-odd miles to Warminster, Pennsylvania.
Photo: Craig Keener, Arches National Park, Utah Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Craig Keener’s Outback was more than a vehicle for transport. Read about its many uses and find Keener’s recommendations for packing it for the long haul.
The wilderness city of Whitehorse, Yukon, seemed out of place after a few days of only taiga, rugged peaks, highway, and the occasional roadhouse on the Alaska-Canada Highway (Alcan). Pulling into town, there were synchronized stoplights, trendy coffee shops, and a charming main street perpendicular to a Walmart shopping center.
Photo: Craig Keener
The Walmart is noteworthy not only for its guaranteed low prices, but also for the fact that travelers can park overnight without worry of being towed away or paying a fine. When we pulled into the lot in late June 2012, our Outback was burdened with two stuffed multiday backpacks, a large cooler, several bags of dry goods, tarps and tents for camping, a collapsible dog crate, camp stove and cookware, blankets, several sleeping bags, two pillows, hygiene products, a suitcase, and clothing for just about every climate imaginable. Mounted to the roof rack with three hardware store ratchet straps were our nine-and-a-half-foot lake kayaks. All of our other belongings were shipped home the week before.
With the rear seatback folded down, we were able to arrange much of our gear against the right side of the car, leaving space for a makeshift single bed and a small nook near the rear hatch where our Border collie could settle in for the night.
The Outback was packed considerably lighter than our lot mates, most of which were large RVs or trucks towing campers.
We played cards with the late northern sunset stubbornly keeping the night away. Our night in Whitehorse was an early experiment, and our space-savvy packing became increasingly sophisticated as we eventually acquired two spare tires, additional groceries, and souvenirs in the coming days.
Due to limited funds, we decided early that hotel stays would be used sparingly. Aside from springing for an expensive room in downtown Vancouver as a reward for a successful Alcan trip, we only stayed at three other hotels – in Hollywood, California; San Diego, California; and Williams, Arizona.
Friends on the West Coast were good for a few nights – in Portland, Oregon; Eureka and San Francisco, California; and an extra day in San Diego, California – but the brunt of our nights were spent in the car or tent camping next to it.
Packing and unpacking were lessons in efficiency.
- Our four-person Eureka dome tent could be assembled in about 10 minutes.
- Sleeping bags, Therm-a-Rest® mattresses, and pillows always were packed last for easy access when we pulled over to the side of the road, too tired to dig through a pile of random supplies.
- Clothing and cold weather sleeping bags that we needed in the Yukon later were replaced by lighter bags that we would use for the arid heat of Arizona.
- The two spare tires (for emergencies in the far north) we stowed for the majority of the trip were packed flat, side by side, and stuffed with souvenirs, winter gloves, and snow hats.