Several of you asked about our itinerary for our big road trip. I told Chris I feel like I need to make a million disclaimers before sharing this. Chris and I have both traveled overseas and can handle primitive/rustic living conditions. We are both pretty low-maintenance and can ‘go with the flow’. We travel that way. With a big family, we also try to do cheap and free. Mainly free. So, for whatever it is worth, here are some of the places we went and stayed. I don’t recommend them for everyone, but we sure had an incredible time! Most days we woke up and decided what we would do that day…we had a very loose ‘plan’ which allowed us to explore as we found things.

For the most part, we picked one location to camp and then explored several surrounding areas. This method worked well for us.

Below is the itinerary for our trip with a few notes (the blue font designates it links to a post I wrote during our trip):

Steamboat Springs, CO

  • we explored all over this town and surrounding areas for about a week. You can find tons of things to do on the city website.
  • Fish Creek falls – great hike for young kids
  • Sarvis Creek – drove until the road ended and then hiked (really rough, single lane road)
  • Pearl Lake
  • Steamboat State Park
  • Botanical Gardens – kids loved this
  • Dumont Lake – closed access (but we found a way in;))
  • Hiked to the top of the ski slope – drove up as far as we could, then hiked
  • Alpine Slide – my kids loved this
  • Horseback riding – my son and I made a date of this, he soaked it up

Wyman Museum- Craig, CO

Dinosaur National Park (CO, Utah) – we missed this because we got there too late, but it looks cool to explore

Flaming Gorge- Utah

Grand Tetons – it was really cold and snowing while we were here, so we didn’t do as much hiking and exploring as we would have liked

  • Colter Bay – we stayed in a handicap accessible spot in the campground that are a first come-first serve basis if not used. This spot was more spacious than the RV park spots. We really liked Colter Bay.
  • Jackson Hole
  • Jenny Lake
  • South Yellowstone Entrance/Old Faithful area (accessed this part of the park from where we stayed in the Grand Tetons)
  • West Yellowstone (the town) – great taco bus, Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

Shoshone National Forest

Glacier National Park

  • Avalanche Lake hike – 4 miles, but so worth it
  • Running Eagle Falls – super short walk to the falls
  • Lake McDonald
  • Polebridge
  • Bowman Lake – wish we could have spent more time here (bring bug spray, lots of mosquito), the road is bumpy gravel and single lane (4 wheel drive would be nice)
  • Glacier Campground RV park – this park allows for reservations, so we booked it instead of searching for one in the park. Free laundry service and showers – we really liked this one.
  • Whitefish – we got to visit The Red Caboose – so good!

West Montana

  • Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

Bozeman, Montana

  • Palisade Falls
  • Museum of the Rockies
  • Sola Cafe – we just tried the tea & lemonade bar before heading out of town…everything looked yummy though
  • Granny’s Gourmet Donuts – FireCracker got to make her own donut, totally worth it just for that. The donuts were yummy too.

Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming

Mount Rushmore (take the trail that leads up closer to the monument)

And some of my favorite phone pictures from the trip.

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Chris uses the Trip Advisor app tons too….and Google Maps:)

I’ll post more details about living in the trailer and hiking with kids. If you have any questions about our itinerary, you can ask them below. I’ll be in Africa when you read this, but Chris or I will try to answer your questions at some point.

 

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  • Tara - Love this! So inspiring. We are planning to explore some southern states in the next year in our travel trailer. I’m a little nervous on how we (as a family of 6) will manage going from an over 4,000 sq ft home to a 33ft trailer. I would love to see some behind the scenes pictures and tutorals on how to pack, organize, keep the trailer clean, etc.

  • Pamela - Africa? Where in Africa??? Anywhere close?

  • grace - it’s our dream vacation (to hit up all the national parks).
    If possible, could you show a map of where you went? I just want to see how much land you covered.

  • Amanda @ Click. The Good News - Wow- the trip of a lifetime! So glad we readers got to share in this with you- not only the incredible scenery, but the true joy and happiness of your family exploring these places.

  • Heather - Sounds like such an amazing trip – exactly what my husband and I hope to do when the kids are a little older. Our dream is to get an RV and travel around the U.S. during the summertime, so I’m really looking forward to how you all made it work.

  • Kimberly Oyler - thanks for typing all this out! now to just find a roadtrip buddy (or a husband ;))

  • Laura S. - What a glorious trip for your entire family. So happy to hear you are all safe and sound at home. I truly enjoyed every post and picture.

  • Ujjaini - I want to go on an American roadtrip very soon. This is very helpful!

    http://imyownmuse.blogspot.com/

  • Trisha - Memories for your kids that will last a lifetime! LOVE your blog!

  • Agnes - Please share how long your trip took.

  • Heidi Jo the Artist - I’ve always wanted to take the kids to Dinosaur National Park, among many others on your list. I will definitely be bookmarking this post! One of these days we will head out west to explore more. We went to Mt. Rushmore in fall of 2012, it snowed when we arrived and it was awesome, except Mt. Rushmore wasn’t very visible. We stopped back a couple days later and it was clear, so we were able to see its glory, and get some nicer photos. But we were on a time crunch, so next time we will definitely do the trail. We visited Crazy Horse too, which was pretty amazing and chocked full of history. Looks like you guys had an amazing trip. Love seeing all the beautiful photos and reading the stories.

  • Katie Founds - These are so much fun, Ashley! And it was such a joy for me to look at; these are the places I spent my childhood exploring, the mountains I miss so much during this weird season in Kentucky. I love seeing glimpses of you guys as parents and your crazy kids. It’s a ministry in pictures, to be sure :)

  • Ashley - What a great family trip! It inspires me.

  • Sarah - I love following your blog! God Bless you and your adorable family. I was curious if you had any advice on how to find campsites that worked with your Avion and it’s clearance? All of your campsites looked beautiful and remote. We have a similar camper and don’t want to always have to drive into to more formal campsites and have to pay for the hook up’s, etc. to park it. Did you use a phone app or book? Thank you for your help!

  • annaO - My family took a similar camping trip when we were all a little older than your kiddos. We’re from Kansas and went up through Nebraska, South Dakota (saw Mt Rushmore), Montana (Billings and Devil’s Tower), Wyoming (Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons and Jenny Lake!) and down through Colorado. These posts have brought back so many memories. I’m 31 and that’s still by far my favorite vacation. I’m so glad you are willing and able to give your kids these experiences. Kudos to you!

  • AshleyAnn - Thanks Sarah! On this trip, since it was one of our first with a trailer, we really tried to reserve sites as best as we could ahead of time for our trailer. We have not really “boondocked” but I believe in a lot of the national forests that it is an option too. If you really like rustic, we saw several folks just parked in the woods, still in designated areas but there I believe for free. I recommend doing the research before you go on the internet and having some set base camps that you can reserve initially. You could then leave a couple of days open where you could move to a different location after you scout out the area. Chris Campbell

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I love your ‘plan’. It sounds just my speed!

There are so many photos I took over the last month that will bring back such fond memories of our trip. There are photos that might stand out to photographers as ones with better composition or technical aspects. While those things are important to me, they are far from most important. I pick up my camera for so many reasons. It is my tool for artistic expression. It is a creative outlet. It captures the things my family does. Most importantly, it captures WHO those that I love are. While I appreciate beautiful portraits, I treasure those times I can capture an image that really tells WHO my kids are at any given stage.

The photos I wanted to share today may not be technically great. They have room for compositional improvement. But, they capture the “WHO” and that makes them my favorites.

It is hard to put into words my 6 year old’s personality. He is a perfect mix of quirky, intense and tender. Chris was playing his guitar while the kids were cooking over the campfire. The wind changed directions to push smoke towards my 6 year old. He immediately began laughing and dancing in the smoke. I imagine I will always smile at the sight of this image, it is just so him. (ISO 160, 1/630, f/2.8)

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Hiking, tree climbing, balance beam walking…always in pink and flip flops. She is tough and dainty all at once. This is the her I see everyday. (ISO 500, 1/400, f/3.2)7.14favorites-2

Peaceful sleep has been a long, hard battle for this little miss. Watching her nap, completely happy and peaceful in a trailer -  I love this photo. (ISO 125, 1/200, f/2.8)7.14favorites-3

This, perhaps, is my very favorite picture of the trip. I challenged the boys to jump from one bench to the other. Before my oldest would consider jumping, he started measuring out the distance on the ground and making calculations regarding the chance of him making the jump. As I was snapping a shot of him doing his measuring, his younger brother just went for it throwing caution to the wind. What I love about this is how perfectly it captures so much of their personalities. One way is not better than the other. They are just different and different is good. Seeing images like this also help me understand them a little better too. This will need to be framed in my house somewhere. (ISO 160, 1/125, f/2.8)7.14favorites-4

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  • Meg - I love watching our kids grown and seeing the beautiful differences in them! Such a fun perk of parenting!

  • Alex - You inspire me so much, Ashley! Not just to take pictures of life, but to really treasure it. And maybe to take a long trip in a trailer. Maybe.

  • Taylor - That last pictures is just fantastic! I love it!

    xoxo
    Taylor

  • danielle - These are great! I love capturing who they are right now :)

  • dana - Isn’t it awesome how God made each one so unique!? I often think how boring things would be if each one of my kids had the exact same personality! Love how these photos celebrate their uniqueness!

  • Michelle Hill - That last shot is perfection! Love reading and see pics of your trip :)

  • kris - I read your post this morning and then went about my work and saw, what looked to be a pic of your son, on the next website I went to–The Chronicle of Philanthropy: http://philanthropy.com/article/Charities-Try-New-Strategies/147167/ I thought you might want to see if it you didn’t already know about it. Love you blog, and hope you are enjoying a great Africa trip!

  • Susan - Ashley,
    I would say this trip was once in a lifetime, but I would be wrong. I imagine that your family will take many, many memorable trips.
    Thank you for sharing with us. It is a delight to see how you describe your children and your affection for each individual they are.
    Susan

  • elizabeth - i sooooo love that last photo. it really says a lot about those two. thank you for sharing these beautiful images!

  • Rebecca Harrington - Yes! This is what I love about photographs. Capturing a moment that so perfectly shows me something about a person, especially my family. Your girl is SO much like mine. I always assume a lot of that has to do with having brothers….. who knows. I especially love the last one of your boys. My boys have such different personalities as well. :)

  • renee @ savoring life through creativity - oh, i love love LOVE this post SO, SO much!! i connect with it SO much because the message you’re talking about here is the EXACT reason WHY I take pictures of my kids…i even have a category on my blog that’s called ‘who my kids are’ — to me, these pictures are so much more amazing that set up, ‘perfect’, portrait pictures, because what you captured here IS exactly what life IS!! i love them all…every single one made me smile!! thanks for sharing this awesome, awesome message!!!

  • Diana - Love love love this. Capturing “who” they are is so much more important than a perfectly composed & shot picture.

  • Emily - These are such lovely captures. I’d frame all of them ;-)

  • Rikki - This post.. and these pictures.. are just so perfect. Those candid, real life images are what my business is all about. I love it more than any other photograph. Great job mama!

  • gHina - There are also 4 of us..and each has different personalities too. Your kids reminds me so much of me and my siblings :D
    I love the way you capture life through camera :)

  • Analise - I understand the perfect moment of capturing your kids personality.I’m not a photographer like you, but I use my camera every day capturing the little moments. You have beautiful children and you inspire me with how you delight in them. Love this post.

  • Leigh Ann - These are great. :) I think you’re so good at capturing the ‘who’; it’s one of the things that makes your blog so approachable, and probably makes many readers who are really strangers feel like you’re an old friend!

    Here’s something I’ve been wondering for a while: do the boys have nicknames? Firecracker and Little One are mentioned this way a lot, but with the boys it’s usually age-related. If they picked their own nicknames, what would they be? :D

  • Paige - I just love how you just let them be themselves. I’m really working on being better at that. Instead of seeing that, “Oh my, I don’t think my son ought to be jumping with flip flops,” I really want to see his adventurous side and allow him to figure out life for himself with me just in the background for guidance. I’m working on it! Lord, help me see my kids (and myself) as you see them!

  • Debbie H - I LOVE every one of these. Priceless

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - This is awesome! I love the measuring!

7.14junpI like my iPhone. I do. It is quick, easy, and takes really great shot with the right light. While we were driving we randomly ended up in the Ashley National Forest. When I saw the headquarters sign, Chris made a quick U-turn (with a trailer) and snapped a shot for me.
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After that shot, I thought it would be fun to create a series on instagram of me/us jumping at national parks and forests. You can create your own hashtag on Instagram to compile pictures you want to see as a collection. Hashtags aren’t private, so anyone can add to your collection. I try using personal hashtags to make it a little awkward for people to use them on their own pictures. Good online etiquette is to not add your photos to someone else’s hashtag if it is obviously a personal one. For my jumping shots I used the hashtag #campbell7parkforesthappyjump If you do a hashtag search on Instagram for that hashtag you will see my jumping shots. The fun thing is I will be able to continue to add to those photos as we travel in the future.

When I posted the pictures on IG, I got several questions asking “how?” I took the shots with an iPhone, so I thought I would share that here today.

Yellowstone National Park: We were driving in Lamar Valley in the evening and no one was around. The sun was low on the horizon and the clouds were dramatic. Phones need lots of light to capture action. Since I had a lot of light, I knew we could freeze the jumping action. We parked in a pull-out and I looked for the angle I wanted. I decided I wanted low on the ground near the yellow lines. Next I asked my 8 year old to hop out of the car. I took an example shot and then explained to him where to hold the phone and what I was hoping he would capture. He nailed it. If I wanted a silhouette shot I would have had him stand facing the sun instead of the sun behind him.7.14jump-2

Glacier National Park: It was our last night in Glacier and the sun was setting so I knew we didn’t have much time. I scoped a location that had a glacier in the background and ‘empty’ space for us to jump in. Jumping shots work best when you don’t have a distracting background behind you. For this shot, I showed my 8 year old what I wanted again. Then Chris and I jumped off that ledge you see…this gave us extra height so the mountains weren’t behind us.7.14jump-3

Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest: For this shot, I convinced my sister to jump with me. We found two stumps that were somewhat close together that we could jump off. She chose the lower, level stump leaving me with one that was hard to stand on, but was higher. We had tons of bright light so I knew the jumping would be ‘frozen’. I took an example shot for Chris of what I wanted and then he snapped this photo for us. I find if I take example shots first it is much easier for Chris (and my kids) to really see what I am wanting them to capture.7.14jump-4

Mount Rushmore: I knew before I took this shot that it would be blurry and grainy because the sun was already setting and the light was not very bright. For this shot, I just counted and asked the kids to jump at the same time.7.14jump-5

Now just a few example shots related to jumping shots with your iPhone:

In Glacier, we arrived at a beautiful lake after sunset. I thought we would attempt a jumping shot just to see if it might work. It didn’t. Without bright light, an iPhone just can’t freeze action. You can see the difference in quality between the action shot and the one of Chris standing still. You need light for action shots, especially with a phone.

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When I find a place I think might work for a jumping shot, I usually do a test shot first. Chris jumped in a lot of places before I found the ones I liked best. The second shot is Lesley doing my test shot where we took our photo together. Isn’t she cute?7.14jump-9

The next two shots are not related to jumping, but are fun things you can do with your iPhone. Most phone cameras keep the majority of your shot in focus, so you can really do some unique things with them really easily.

We were at Glacier and my 8 year old laid down on the ground near the lake. He asked me to take a picture that looked like he was sandwiched between the mountains and the ground. He is so stinkin’ creative! I just adjusted my angle until I could fit him between the two. Then I coached him on keeping his hands flat. I love this shot because it was totally his idea! He also had me take about 20 pictures of him ‘eating’ random wildlife while we were in Yellowstone.7.14jump-10

So random. This was my attempt to make it look like Chris was drinking my lemonade/tea. It is how I entertained myself while driving. He is such a good sport.7.14jump-11

If you are interested in learning more about photography from the view that your phone is your main camera, you can read more about my SnapShop: Phone online photography course on the course website. Registration is open for the August course and there will be one more in the fall.

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  • Connie - I love this because you give really great examples. I’m already signed up for your course in August and am so very excited!!!!!

  • Caroline R - I loved the phoneography snapshop, and this post was such a great preview of it. I took it before I got my dslr because I was so eager to learn how to take better pictures. So glad I did because it really helped to have learned the basics of lighting and composition while I tried to learn how to operate the dslr. So, fun to see the creative ideas you and your family come up with, the holding up the lake/mountains pose was so clever!

  • Tiffany - Thank you! I love your photography tips, and yes, your son is so creative! That shot is great! I also love the reflection of the road in your glasses in the last shot!

  • Carrie Campbell - You are fun! Jumping shots in national forests! :)

  • Taylor - These pictures are awesome! I love the one of your boy “holding up” the mountains!

    xoxo
    Taylor

  • Addie - These are all so great and fun!

  • Ceri - Love this! So excited for the Snap Shop next month!!! :)

  • Mandy - You’re awesome; I just love these!

  • Michelle - I have been reading your blog for a few years now and have finally signed on to take the Snap Shop Phone Photography course! Your photos are always so inspiring . . . I can’t wait!!!

  • Christina - So much inspiration for our next road trip! I love the test shot suggestion. I have never thought to do that, I usually just try to explain or pass the camera, but now i’ll show my 6 year old what I want first before passing it off to him. :)

  • Diana - Jumping shots definitely take some work/practice but you seem to have it down (as expected). =)

  • happy jumps {phone photography tips} » ashleyannphotography.com - […] happy jumps phone photography tips » ashleyannphotography.com […]

  • Katie M - Wow…taking an example shot for the person who will be pressing the shutter is a brilliant idea! I always get frustrated with those types of shots, because I can never quite explain what I have in mind and the photo never includes the elements I want in the way I want them. Thanks for such a simple but great tip! =)

  • Angela - I love these photos! I love your creative kids! I love that YOU were in some of the shots, and that you shared those shots with us! Have a wonderful Monday!

  • Ashley - My name is also Ashley Ann.. with a Murphy at the end though! I had no idea there was a national park named Ashley and I will be traveling towards there next year and will be sure to make a stop! I have been reading your blog all day and cannot express enough how much of an inspiration you are! Your home is gorgeous, your crafts are so much fun and they are beautiful, you have a great family and I wish you all the best for your future.