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There’s Something about Roadtrips with Mary

Of all the ladies I follow on social media, my friend Mary is one of the most entertaining. Whether it’s her three year old watering the yard buck naked (yes, that ended up on Instagram) or boomerangs of various family members dancing (whether or not they know she’s recording), Mary and her family always seem to be doing something fun.


This summer, Mary and her husband Jethro took their three kids on a roadtrip to Colorado through New Mexico and camped in state parks and national forests along the way. Naturally, to those of us following along on social media, they seemed to be having a blast. Their adventures included lots of swimming–everywhere from hot springs to lakes–two UFO sightings (supposedly), a bear encounter, a middle-of-the-night thunderstorm at their campground, and even an impromptu recorder performance by her kids and husband. (Which was a real treat for Mary, I’m sure.) Her pictures reminded me of fun summer roadtrips when I was a child. Simple things like arriving at a new campsite or stopping at a rock shop were big events to me and I remember those days fondly.

Roadtrips are great for adults too–roadtripping is a relatively easy, affordable way to enjoy the beautiful parts of our country like the Rockies. Today I’m sharing Mary’s trip as inspiration for those of you looking for your next adventure. Enjoy!

Mary, thanks for being on Whit’s Wilderness today! Let’s start with WHY–What made y’all want to take a roadtrip to Colorado?

We had done a roadtrip to New Mexico the year before and so we wanted to push ourselves. Our kids are at an age where they can help with packing, building the tent, you know–it helps when they are a little older.


How old are they?

Ethan is 11, Bella is 7, and Isla is 2.

Traveling with three kids can be expensive, not to mention a big undertaking. How does this trip rank as far as affordability?

It was very affordable. Under $2,000 for 1 1/2 weeks, and that’s everything included. Food, gas, everything. Trips shouldn’t have to be expensive. You don’t need that much money for this trip and kids don’t know the difference.

Was it difficult planning, packing, and getting everything together for the trip?

It was a lot of effort, yes. But really not any more than going on another trip. And it was so worth it. The kids had so much fun. I may have forgotten all of Bella’s sweaters, but it was ok–we made do.


Tell us about the itinerary.

Day 1

  • The first day we went to Bottomless Lakes State Park in New Mexico. We got in at night so it was a little scary, but you know what–I trust my husband. I know he would take care of us. Waking up there was like Christmas the next morning, such beautiful scenery.


Bottomless Lakes


Bottomless Lakes


Bottomless Lakes

Day 2

  • The next day we went to the alien museum in Roswell. It was cheesy, but this was the best money we spent on the trip! The kids loved it and for the rest of the day, they were looking out the window for aliens. Our car was really quiet that day.


Day 3


Storrie Lake


Storrie Lake


  • (Mary’s husband Jethro chimes in:) There are campsites throughout the Carson National Forest in that area which are also really nice. I would have liked to stay there.

{WW note: Storrie Lake, Morphy Lake, and Carson National Forest are all strung out in that order along the highway. See map below.}


Day 4

  • This day we drove to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Storrie Lake to Pagosa Springs is a really nice drive. We stopped in Taos, and that was a nice town. We saw the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which is the highest suspended bridge in the nation.
  • Pagosa Springs was great! Awesome shops, nice people. I would make sure you reserve a hotel room in advance though. My husband is not the type to reserve in advance, and we ended up in a hotel room that was…not so great. I had brought our own sheets and pillows, thank God.
  • The springs themselves were great for us but not for kids. The water was too hot. (It was 110 degrees.) But the San Juan river is right next to the springs, and it is 60 degrees so we also swam there.


San Juan River


Hot Springs

Day 5 – 8

  • From Pagosa we went to Vallecito Reservoir, and that was beautiful. We rented a cabin (Cooper’s Cabins) and stayed for four nights. There was swimming, fishing, and hiking, and the inlet walk was beautiful.  One night we had a bear outside our cabin! We had left the cooler outside, and we hear this noise…we look out and he’s dragging our cooler.
  • Be sure to get food in either Durango or Pagosa Springs before going to the cabin, because there’s not a grocery store.


View from our cabin


Jethro was determined to catch a trout! He did, we cooked it, and it was delicious!


Lake Vallecito



Day 9

  • After we left Vallecito, we drove on the “Million Dollar Highway” from Durango to Montrose. The name was so fitting! It was so beautiful I wanted to cry. The road is on the edge of a cliff, with mountains all around. Spectacular. Be safe, drive slowy and take your time. Make sure your brakes work before you go on this road! Jethro fixed our brakes before we left and he was hoping he did it right. We loved this part of the trip.




It took us about 4 hours to get to Ouray (on the way to Montrose).

  • Ouray was awesome and we would like to go back there some time. Probably just the two of us for a romantic getaway. The town is surrounded by the mountains, there are hot springs, shops, a brewery. We didn’t spend much time there and we regret that.



Day 10

  • We drove from Montrose to Ridgeway and camped along the Gunnison Reservoir, the largest reservoir in Colorado. Our campground was the Cimarron Campground in the Curecanti National Recreational Area. (See map here.)





Day 11

  • Headed home. Went through Monarch Pass, which was scary.
  • There’s a sportsman’s shop in Gunnison everyone goes to, which is worth a stop.
  • On the way home, we stayed in Carlsbad. Book as far in advance as you can for Carlsbad!


Sounds like a very full itinerary! Would you do it again?

Oh yes! Of course. We had a great time. There were moments when we couldn’t stand each other. On the last night, we were down to a few cans of spaghetti and one last peach. We let the kids have the spaghetti and Jethro and I split the peach. That was our dinner. But we just had to go with the flow. We grew closer as a family and got so united. Imagine all sleeping in a tent, not taking showers! This week Ethan shared this trip in school and said how much fun he had with his family. That was my reward.



Is there anything you wouldn’t do again?

Probably Pagosa Springs just because of the kids. It was really nice, but we would have enjoyed it more if it had just been us.

What tent did you take?

We got it from Target. It was great because it was easy to set up and we could put it up in the dark.


Would you recommend doing this in an RV instead of a tent?

No. Our kids have grown so much because of this trip. Ethan already knows what to do at a campsite. In an RV, he would be more needy. There’s no restroom? Deal with it! He has to adapt.

Advice for what to wear & pack?

  • It’s cold so pack lots of sweaters. If you are from Texas, you will be cold.
  • Blanket poncho – we brought this blanket poncho and it was amazing, everyone used it.
  • Swimsuits
  • Water shoes
  • Emergency kit – with first aid, came in very handy
  • Bring lots of extras of everything
  • If I were going by myself, I would bring pepper spray. The state parks were pretty empty.


Any advice for people wanting to take a similar trip?

  • Stop at the alien museum in Roswell – that was the best money we spent!
  • We didn’t know late July/August was monsoon season in New Mexico, so it rained a lot on our trip. I wouldn’t go during this time.
  • We really liked Bottomless Lakes State Park. Be sure to stop there.
  • Get a hitch on the back of your car to carry your cooler (WW note: like this)

Above all, trust your instinct and your husband, go with the flow, and enjoy this time — your kids go off to college so soon.

Wise words. Thanks Mary for sharing your adventure with us. I’m feeling inspired for another road trip!






  • Juliet

    I love it! Definitely inspires me to step out of my comfort zone and share an experience such as this with my family. However, I may need the Vails to join us!

  • Nery A Vail

    Fun to read about your trip.
    It sure brings back memories of the travels we did when Kids were small
    Every summer we pack up to leave Brownsville for the whole summer.
    We also stayed at National Parks in tents and did most of the cooking in open fires.
    Glad to know , they enjoy those trips ,