When it comes to camping in 2020, all bets are off. Global pandemic, rioting, massive fires, I’m just an alien invasion shy of a winning Apocalypse Bingo card. Flexibility is the key to any successful trip. This year it’s a requisite.
My name is Weston Miller - longtime Toyota enthusiast, outdoor junkie and perpetual road tripper. My current project is a 2019 4Runner that’s been built as both a capable off-roader and remote work vehicle. This trip is a special one because when I roll out of San Diego, I won’t be returning. I recently accepted a new position in the off-road industry, and I’ll end this trip at my new home in Denver. After five years I finally convinced my buddy to get into a 4x4. He and his freshly built Lexus GX460 are joining me as I take the scenic route to Colorado.
Our initial route was Idaho Falls > Glacier > Yellowstone > Jackson > Ouray/Telluride. The fires had already impacted much of California, and we left San Diego under a blanket of smoke. Our first objective was Idaho Falls to install armor on the GX460. After a quick stop in Vegas and unlucky stints at the blackjack and roulette tables, we cut through Utah and set up camp in Fishlake National Forest. We were surprised with a short reprieve from the smoke and our first clear night sky since the fires began.
By the time we arrived in Idaho Falls, smoke had reached much of the Western US. While the Lexus was in the shop, we revisited our route and educated ourselves on a factor I’ve rarely considered on previous trips – air quality. Using the maps at airnow.gov, we had been tracking the Air Quality Index at each of our stops. The AQI is broken into 6 categories:
Western Montana was rated Unhealthy to Hazardous, but Jackson, Wyoming was hovering around 120 the day we planned to leave Idaho Falls. At the last minute, we decided to head east for cleaner air and hope the AQI improved to the north over the next few days.
We crossed the Teton Pass from Idaho and dropped into Jackson. The Teton Range is an iconic part of the Rocky Mountains situated in Northwest Wyoming. As soon as the mountains came into view, it was clear how severe the smoke had become. One of my favorite landscapes in the country had been reduced to a silhouette. We camped in Bridger-Teton National Forest for 2 nights, enjoyed what we could of Grand Teton NP, then headed north to Yellowstone – camping just outside of the southern entrance of the park in Targhee National Forest.
The first day in Yellowstone was overcast and concealed much of the smoke’s impact. We opted to hit the southwestern portion of the park and end the day in West Yellowstone, where we got our first taste of rain. To our surprise, the clouds cleared later in the morning and revealed the first true blue sky I’ve seen in over two weeks. The next two days were a perfect fall experience with cameos from moose, elk, bison, pronghorns, and even a grizzly.
Our adjusted route work in our favor, as the AQI for Glacier has improved dramatically over the past two days and is now in the crosshairs. We’ve popped back into civilization for a quick recharge, then it’s north to Glacier NP.
Weston is equipped with our latest Trail Series addition the 703 wheels.
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