Tag Archives: National Parks

The Tetons and Yellowstone – 7/12/13 to 7/19/13

Yellowstone River and Waterfall

Yellowstone River and Waterfall – it looks like a painting!

Click HERE for more pics from Jackson/Grand Teton National Park
Click HERE for more pics from Yellowstone National Park

We left Steamboat Springs and decided to just go for it and do the long drive all the way to Victor, ID instead of stopping for just one night in Rock Springs, WY as we had originally planned. The last bit of the drive from Jackson, WY to Victor is over another one of those fun passes (Teton Pass) we have gotten to know so well, and Traci hates every one of them! The MoHo has handled these high altitude/steep grade challenges like a charm, and I can’t say enough for the exhaust brake system. (The exhaust brake is a button I control and it basically downshifts the MoHo for me to keep my foot off the break. Awesome when you are trying to slow down 35,000+ lbs.) We stayed in Victor at the Teton Valley RV Park, mostly because Jackson was full. We arrived at about 5:15PM and there were 6-7 people there to greet us at the registration office. 5PM is the shift change for the park staff, and those leaving and the others not working decide to make it their own happy hour, what a welcoming committee!

Next day we headed to Jackson, also known as Jackson Hole. We had to drive back over Teton Pass, and I had to downshift the Acura to keep the brakes from overheating. Did some wandering in Jackson, and then did a nice little scenic drive from just south of the Grand Teton National Park to Jackson Hole village. The village was beautiful, looked like it would be a lot of fun in the winter. We stayed around to take a free Gondola ride and to have some early dinner up on the mountain, only to find out that it does not run on Saturdays, oops. Sunday we went back to Grand Teton NP for a hike and sightseeing. Took a short hike on a very quiet trail, so quiet that we decided to turn back as this is bear country and we just felt a bit nervous.  We hadn’t purchased any bear spray yet! We drove the rest of the way through the park; the Teton’s are absolutely stunning mountains! Some great wildlife and scenic pic’s (see the link above) and a nice overall day. We finished back at Victor with a brew at the Grand Teton Brewing Company, and I got to refill the 40 oz growler I got back in Denver.

Ansel Adams took a pic of this amazing view of the Snake River & Tetons in 1942.  I tried to capture the same shot - pretty impressive!

Ansel Adams took a pic of this amazing view of the Snake River & Tetons in 1942. I tried to capture the same shot – pretty impressive!

The next day was on to Yellowstone to meet up with my college roommate Eric and his family. We stayed at the Grizzly RV Park in West Yellowstone, a bit pricey, but nice big RV sites with grass, lots of room between RV’s and great access to the park. The first afternoon and night were quickly lost to being with friends, and a lot of vino was had by all…almost too much if that could ever happen. The next morning Traci and I headed in Yellowstone National Park about 11:15AM, a very late start and we paid dearly for it. There were three cow Elk inside the park about 12 miles from the entrance, but the backup was 7 miles long just to see them, worse than sitting in Seattle traffic! We finally got through that mess over an hour later and did a northern loop through the park.
Here is a short video of the elk that caused the traffic jam: MAH06810.

We headed up to Mammoth Hot Springs area, stopped a few times for wildlife and scenery. (Again see the pic’s attached in the photo stream, be sure to let them download completely to see the detail!) Mammoth was beautiful, but it was a bit wet that day, so we hurried through to keep the drive moving. Heading east, just past a road construction site, we saw the tell-tale signs of wildlife approaching. People just stop and halfway park their cars for a picture, regardless of the road, other drivers, etc.  It reminds me of the professional garage sale shoppers who just park in the middle of the street, really? This was an unusually busy area of cars so we decided to try and find a safe pull out. We got ½-mile beyond the main group and talked to a guy who said there was a grizzly bear back at the area everyone was stopped. We had to get parked closer, so we found a safe spot, and made the little trek out to the bluff where everyone was standing, listening to a Ranger talk about this particular bear. His name is Scarface, a 24-year old male whom the park-staff know well. He was way down in the canyon below, probably about ½-mile away, perfect distance for safe viewing. After leaving there we continued on and there again we came across another crazy bunch of people pulled over, this time someone said there was a bull moose nearby. This moose was lying down, taking his afternoon siesta, so the pic’s were challenging to see his rack in the woods/stumps, but still impressive. The rest of the day we just drove the loop and got back to the MoHo around 7PM for dinner and a lot less cocktails that night.

Mammoth Springs - a totally different landscape!

Mammoth Springs – a totally different landscape!

The next morning we were out of the MoHo by 7:00AM, not to get stuck in that same mess of cars again, and headed to Old Faithful for the approx. 8:30AM eruption. She came through like a charm at about 8:40AM, just as I remember when I was here as an 8 year old kid. We headed over to the General Store and I found a fly rod; pole, line and reel ready to go. (I used to fly fish, lost my gear in a move and never replaced it, now was the time!) We continued to see the sights of the southern loop, tons of bison in herds and on the road, very large animals that you can almost touch from your window, but I would not recommend it! Met back for dinner and drinks at the MoHo with the Overholt’s, and another late evening. I got up early the next morning, chomping at the bit to get out and use that new fly rod. Tried my luck on the Madison River on the west side of the park, but it had been awhile and my presentation and limited fly selection were not to the liking of any of the resident fish, oh well. We spent the day in West Yellowstone, shopping and tourist stuff. That afternoon, we took a cooler, chairs, and poles back to the Madison River for a relaxing afternoon of fishing and sunning, before coming back out of the park for a dinner at the Wild West Pizzeria – darn good pizza! Friday AM I was back on the river for awhile, again shut out but had a great time. We said goodbye to the Overholt’s and headed out about 11:00AM to our next stop, Pocatello, Idaho for a few nights before heading to Boise, and then Yakima for pool party!

Overholt's and Miller's in Yellowstone NP

Overholt’s and Miller’s in Yellowstone NP

Bison - HUGE animals!

Bison – HUGE animals!

Note from Traci – this was my first visit to Yellowstone (at least that I remember) and I was so impressed by the diversity of the park.  It is the first established park in the national park system and it did not disappoint.   The wildlife was amazing – I saw more here than I have ever seen in Alaska.  The geyser’s everywhere were bizarre to me, but very cool.  Seeing Old Faithful was the most touristy thing we did, but one of those sites you just have to see!  Then there were lakes, rivers, waterfalls and mountains that were spectacular.  The number of people rolling into this park every day was staggering, but once inside the park, and cars branched out to different areas, it didn’t seem that crowded.  If you have never been, this is a must-visit on the bucket list!

Old Faithful!

Old Faithful!

Estes Park and Rocky Mtn Nat’l Park – 7/7/13 to 7/9/13

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

Colorado continues to impress us with its breathtaking scenery, cool towns and friendly people! The weather here is wild. We could go from hot sun to rain, hail, thunder & lightning back to sun in 15 min’s. Kind of cool, especially for weather boy, Mike. His Intellicast app is definitely getting a workout! It is nice though as we know any bad weather will soon pass, unlike Seattle, where the rain pretty much stays all day once it arrives.

IMG_0273We said goodbye to the Arreola’s in Broomfield after being treated to 3 nights of luxury at their house, and headed north to Estes Park. This is a very cool town in the mountains, surrounded by snowy peaks, lakes and rivers at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Our home for the next 3 nights was Estes Park campground at Mary’s Lake. A great spot and Mike finally had a chance to fish! He caught one small trout, but not worth keeping, so threw him back in.

We explored the town of Estes Park which consists of lots of shops, galleries, restaurants, bars, a winery and brewery. We headed up to one of the main attractions here, The Stanley Hotel. This is the hotel that Stephen King based the Shining on. But, better yet, it is also where many scenes from the movie Dumb & Dumber were filmed. This is one of Mike’s favorite movies and I love anything Hollywood-ish, so we had to go! We had a drink in the bar and took some pics. See if you recognize any of them from the movie.

The Stanley House - In the movie, they drive up to the hotel in their sports car

The Stanley House – In the movie, they drive up to the hotel in their sports car

This is the staircase they race up

This is the staircase they race up

This is where the bar scene took place

This is where the bar scene took place

View from deck of Mary's Lake Lodge

View from deck of Mary’s Lake Lodge

After exploring town, we headed back toward our campsite and detoured to Mary’s Lake Lodge. Sat on the deck, had dinner and enjoyed the incredible view. Doesn’t get much better than this. I would recommend this area to anyone coming to Estes Park as it feels out of the hustle bustle of town, but still close and provided great access to the National Park too.

The next day, we planned to head into the National Park. Mike was gung-ho to do some more fishing, so we planned our hike out to a lake and he packed his gear. When we arrived in the park, we learned there was road construction in the area we wanted to go. We weren’t allowed to drive our car, so had to rely on their shuttle system. They could certainly take a few pointers from Zion, but it all worked out. About a mile into our hike, we arrived at a cool waterfall. We got caught in a huge hail/rainstorm which we weren’t prepared for. I wasn’t feeling that great, so we decided to turn back. So much for the hike to the lake. We made our way back through the shuttle ordeal to our car and decided to take a scenic drive to another part of the park – a gravel switchback road to the Alpine Visitor Center at 11,796 ft elevation. The rain followed us though and unfortunately, we couldn’t appreciate the view as much as we would have liked. Headed back to the MoHo where Mike did some more fishing at the lake and we had a delicious taco dinner!

Driving through Rocky Mountain National Park on our way to Steamboat

Driving through Rocky Mountain National Park on our way to Steamboat Springs

This morning, we did a major cleaning in/out of the MoHo before departing at 10am on our way to our final destination in CO, Steamboat Springs. We had to drive back through Rocky Mountain National Park (this time with the MoHo and toad). A little dicey with the hairpin turns and steep grades up and down, but Mike is a pro! I however have huge anxiety, so had to settle my nerves with a Sofia Coppola mini. The weather was much better today, so the Rocky Mountain views were outstanding and we even saw a few groupings of elk. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading!

Moab, UT – Arches NP and Canyonlands NP – 6/18/13 to 6/21/13

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

Landscape Arch, Arches National Park

We arrived to some heat, 98 degrees here, but it is a dry heat as “they” say in the desert. The drive here was another spectacular trip. Only about 180 miles, but still awesome at every turn (and I notice every turn when I am pushing 31,000 lbs. down the road, and towing another 4,500 lbs.)! As you can guess, I need a cold one or two after the drive, so we headed to the Moab Brewery. As luck would have it, it was Tuesday night and from 4-6, all chicken wings were $.25 each; can you say HEAVEN!! (Weird Utah laws, no happy hour’s for alcohol at any of the dining establishments, but “nightly specials” for food are allowed).

We stayed at the north end of town at the Moab RV Park, nice gated place that has really easy access to town, would come back for sure. Our first full day here we decided to go to Arches NP. Everyone has seen some photos of this place, and after spending the last two weeks here in Utah it seemed familiar as we entered the park. (We entered twice, I forgot to turn on the AC, so we had to go back and turn it on; that would have been a devastating return to the MoHo in this heat late in the day). We got to see some 8 or so arches on the hike we chose, and each one was amazing in its own way. They all have cool names like North and Sound window, Delicate arch, Landscape arch, Double O arch, etc. Some small, some large, all distinct, and amazing that they are still standing. We drove through the park the rest of the day, and took in some of the more easily accessible arches. Some of these things are massive! It shocks me to see these wonders of the world in person, another place the pictures just do not do the justice that the naked eye can see.

The next day was our day to cool off, a float down the historic Colorado River! We chose a ½ day trip, with lunch, transportation and equipment. The river is not running too high now, so it was more of a float like the Yakima River for those of you who know what I mean, but still a bit of rapids here and there to get you wet. They also had 2-person blowup kayaks called “duckies” that we got to use which we took advantage of. A great group of people on the trip and we would recommend Canyon Voyages Adventure Company if you are in the area. We ended the evening with a really great dinner at Pasta Jay’s, a Boulder, CO company that has a location in Moab. Great sidewalk table, and more food than anyone could eat — there are going to be some great leftovers.

The last full day we headed to Canyonlands NP. Much smaller of the parks, as there was only one “pay” station at the entrance, and it was unattended, the honor system. (We bought the yearly pass to all the National Parks for $80 back in Crater Lake, so now we are getting in for free, so to speak). This area is about 6,000-7,000 feet in elevation, so a bit cooler than Moab – by about 10 degrees. We decided to go to the end of the road and take our hike in the “Islands of the Sky” region to see this area from above. (We had met a couple of teachers from Missouri on our raft trip the day before, and they said if you have not seen the Grand Canyon, this will give you an idea of what it looks like). We did a short 1-mile hike out to the end of the bluff, and you better not be afraid of heights here, as it is a long way down to the area I would call the “subfloor.” (There is a 100-mile drive through this subfloor area, called the White Rim road that is for 4-wheel drive only, high clearance vehicles. They recommend you take two days to do the drive, and you can see much of the road from up here). From the subfloor area, the Green and Colorado rivers have carved this place up and you get the complete picture of why it is called Canyonlands NP. You can see for some 35-40 miles in almost all directions, truly awesome to be there. We finished our day with a quick stop at a local winery in Moab, Spanish Valley Vineyards and Winery – one of 11 wineries in the state. Similar hot and cold weather to our Eastern Washington, but the soil is a lot different.

Canyonlands National Park - it's a long ways down!

Canyonlands National Park – it’s a long ways down!

Next, we are on to Bluff and our last few days here in Utah. We both agree, this state needs to step up their marketing within the US of what they have; these parks are incredible. We found that most of the people we encountered in the parks were foreigners, which surprised us. We had very little knowledge of what was here, now we will never forget and tell everyone we know this is a must for the bucket list!

Pics are HERE for Arches National Park
Pics are HERE for Canyonlands National Park