2017-07-23 Banff to Jasper, West side of Canadian Rockies BC

We had dinner in Banff, which is kind of a crowded hoity toity town with a lot of designer outdoor gear and clothing stores and expensive trendy bars and restaurants. It might be a fun place to explore, but not at this particular time of year – just too crowded for our liking. Jennifer was told by several friends that Lake Louise was a place not to be missed, but the locals advised against it, saying it would be overcrowded, and that we should try Morraine Lake instead. Sure enough, the little town of Lake Louise was a madhouse, there was no parking available at the lake, and we had to take a “shuttle” (school bus) up from town just to view the Lake. Though it was beautiful and remarkable, the mass of tourists (6 deep in places) standing along the shoreline in front of the regal hotel kind of destroyed the moment.

I guess my tolerance and patience for huge amounts of tourists diminishes the further I am in the “wilderness”.  The volunteers traffic patrol wouldn’t even let cars drive the road to Moraine Lake, so that was out.

The road through the “icefields” between Banff and Jasper is a different story though. Some of the most awesome scenery seen on the trip! It seemed to us there was lake after lake as spectacular as Lake Louise – but without the close and convenient proximity to Banff.

The icefields themselves were a bit of a sad disappointment to me.  What used to be “icefields” are now vast stretches of gravely bottomlands that can’t seem to decide whether they are a field, a creek, a river, a glacier, or a gravel wash.

We walked up a long trail to actually get to a glacier that was in sight of the road.. on the way up there were concrete pylons every few hundred feet marking where the glacier USED to reach in 1918, 1935, 1950, 1983, etc all the way up to today (the trail was more than a mile long). The glaciers have receded, disappeared and shrunk, to something like 5 or 10% of what they were a hundred years ago. One can’t help to wonder where the water resources will come from when this constant steady supply finally stops altogether.

The lakes (and there are many) below the Glaciers and snow covered peaks were fabulous.

Jasper would be the furthest North we would voyage on this trip. A cool little tourist town, and we managed to pick up our share of tourist tokens; t-shirts, and stickers for the Van.

Had a great dinner on the rooftop of Earls Kitchen and Bar.

On the way back down South, we stopped and walked a couple of the trails that looked interesting from the day before. I think it’s pretty safe to say, ANY trail in this area would be worth the hike. We stayed at “Honeymoon Campground” South of Jasper. While there, we met a man from Germany who just finished a 4 day back country hike in the Canadian Rockies with his new wife.. There trip ended there at “Honeymoon Campground”.

Not wanting to follow the same road all the way back South to the states, we veered out of the Park West a bit, and came down through the Kootenay National Forest. It was every bit as beautiful, and is a place we would both like to explore further someday.

Aly went for a dip (about a 2 second long one) in the glacial waters, and decided this is where Gatorade came up with the name “Glacial Freeze”..

We made our way back into the United States and got to Whitefish Montana, where we took a laundry break at a place that had a laundromat, a bowling alley, a casino, and a bar and restaurant all under one roof… Ingenious!
That most excellent technique and form produced a strike…

We had loved the Hungry Horse area so much, we overnighted there again, hoping to do some horse back riding in the morning at Glacier. No such luck; all booked.

But we did get to cut through the park and experience the place in the morning.

Thought we’d take a “scenic route” through Eastern Montana.. That was not such a good idea…

Lots of this through Montana to South Dakota… But we made it close to South Dakota by the end of the day, and found a great little State Park on a lake getting closer to the Black Hills.

2017-07-20 Holland Lake, Hungry Horse Reservoir & Glacier National Park

Between Yellowstone and Glacier, we saw a little smoke from the wildfires – but this is about as close as we ever got…

We stopped at Holland Lake to Camp between Yellowstone and Glacier.. Found a nice place to swim, and met two opera singers from Idaho… (how often does one get to say that?)

Chef Jennifer prepared a fine Italian meal, and Steve supplied some sausage and the authentic table cloth..

 

 

 

 

 

In the morning we hiked up to great waterfall.

As we continued North, we stopped for Pizza night and then ended up at Hungry Horse Reservoir, where we found a most excellent campsite (after about 10 miles of washboard dirt road)

I got started on a painting of this scene (which is also right where we camped)

And in the morning, we headed into Glacier National Park.

Glacier is a pretty phenomenal place, and that is evident just a couple miles into the park..

The Going to the Sun Road is an experience everyone should have – we were lucky enough to have two drivers; so one could view, and the other could drive and switch alternatively. If one was traveling alone, I would definitely suggest the Red Bus tours to see the sights, and then Driving through also just for the fun of the drive.

 

 

 

2017-07-18 Yellowstone

Waking up with a view of the Tetons, we headed off to Yellowstone.Not far into the park, you can immediately start seeing some of the odd pools and hot springs. Of course, everyone has to endure the crowds to witness old faithful spewing out her steam every hour or so.. a little ice cream after Old faithful (Steve’s fault).And a quick tour of the immense, though crowded lodge.

Yellowstone is the final resting place of thousands, 10’s of thousands, no probably 100’s of thousands of tourist hats. Its hot and sunny – people walk out on the elvated boardwalks to get a view of the springs where the wind comes in gusts and removes your sun hat in the blink of an eye. You are instructed not to leave the boardwalks, and indeed, many places are life threateningly dangerous… So there the hats lie. We wondered whether employees come along to pick them up, or they just wait until the wind blows them out to a safe place…

We exited the Park at West Yellowstone and found some National Forest camping on a beautiful lake. The only problem was the water was infested with a dangerous algae bloom, and the air was infested with mosquitos.. We stayed in our Travato all evening with the screen doors shut. In the morning, they all had mysteriously vanished… We continue on our yellowstone tour, saw a Buffalo taking a dust bath, and took a few short hikes.

On the way out the North Gate, we stopped to see the Grand Prismatic. Jennifer remembered it having much more water in her visit a decade ago, and sure enough, we later read the water was very low at this time. It turns out the hot springs under yellowstone are actually moving under the surface of the earth and heading North east. Some day, yellowstone will be dry..

This Elk was calmly chewing his cud in the shade in front of the Mammoth Springs Hotel in downtown, with thousands of cars full of tourists slowly rolling by in the traffic bottleneck.

Exiting at the North Gate of yellowstone:
A few miles North of yellowstone we found more cheap National Forest Camping at the Tom Miner Campground, several miles down a dirt road and past a popular grizzly bear sighting spot.

 

2017-07-16 Meet up with Steve, Wyoming, Idaho, Lake Atherton

At this point we were making arrangements, and successfully managed to meet up with a Travato friend in Evanston Wyoming after bypassing Salt Lake City. We did some Laundry and had lunch there.

And then carried on to Atherton Lake Campground, up yet another rough dirt road, just adjacent to the Tetons in the Bridger Teton National Forest.

The next morning we hiked around Jenny Lake in the Tetons, and up to a waterfall and inspiration Point.

The critters ’round here seem to be much more used to people than they are in the Ozarks…

We took a boat ride back across, and continued the hike around the lake back to the Vans. On the way back a little storm started brewing. We were walking in the rain, and just about the time Jennifer said “Well, at least it isn’t hailing”… You guessed it, it started hailing.

I think Steve said we logged over 9 miles, so we rewarded ourselves with dinner and Ice cream in Jackson Hole. (the ice cream was Steve’s fault).

That night we found another “semi” private free camp site (recommended by yet another Travato friend), with a great view of the Tetons.

 

 

 

 

2017-07-14 Capitol Reef, Escalante, Petrified Forest

The scenery started to improve in Capitol Reef

And we found a nice little campground at Escalante Petrified Forest

We camped near the lake – Jennifer and Aly got try out some standing paddle boards while I was showering, and we hiked a little in the morning..

Saturday, the 15th, we headed through Bryce, and North on 89 to Panguitch – (Where we had a chubby).  Don’t go through Panguitch without getting a Chubby!

We continued on North on 89 up to Manti, where we took off East on Forest Road 45 to find the Manti Community Campground (FS), which was OK,but they seemed to be having some bear trouble, and we had seen some cool sites on the way, so we ventured on back down the dirt road to a nice private little spot where Aly went swimming again.. The awesome scenery is something to see, but the hanging out at the private little “undiscovered ” campsites always seems to be the highlights for me.

Happy Campers; after a gourmet meal of Hot Dogs on the fire.

2017-07-13 Canyonlands, Devils Canyon, Natural Bridges

Our campsite overlooked Canyonlands the night before, though we hadn’t realized it.

We spent a couple hours roaming around in there, but the most of the views (and hikes) were long distance affairs… It was dreadfully hot, so we found ourselves a little “swimmin’ hole” to cool off at and have lunch.

We headed off further west, and came upon this guy who seemed to get himself in a bit of a pickle… 😉

Stopped off for a bit at Natural Bridges National Monument where Aly got another Junior Ranger badge, 

and found one of the tiniest “Natural bridges”…

We camped and had dinner at Devils Canyon Campground because it seemed to be the first pace we had seen for days with actual trees.

We then headed off through Fry Canyon (aptly named), and came upon a man in a broke down Subaru, stuffed to the gills with all his belongings, in a beautiful, but dreadful place on US 95 South of Hyte. It seemed hours in either direction to water or civilization, but he was content in waiting it out. He gave us a phone number of someone nearby (3 hours away) to call who might be able to come help him. When we called the person, (an hour away where we first got phone service) they seemed a bit bent out of shape that we bothered them. Once again, we felt blessed to have our traveling home on wheels.

Had lunch overlooking a reservoir at Hyte Canyon. Then carried on up Hwy 95 through an area so desolate, I dubbed Utah as Americas Gravel Pit. No offence to Utonians, but this place is dry, arid, treeless and waterless.

Where is the exit?

2017-07-12 On to Utah: Arches National Park

Got some sugary doughnuts at ColoraDOUGH donuts for breakfast which proved to be a little much for ALL of our bellies. We left Glenwood Springs going South on 133 thinking we would get a view of Maroon Bells (which we never did), but it was a beautiful road none the less. Again we found a great place to pull over and have lunch at the summit of the mountains.

As we crested the Mountains and came down the western slope towards Utah the terrain became more and more treeless and drier.

We stopped in a Visitor Welcome Center, got some info on dispersed camping, the low down on visiting the parks, and got out of Moabs crowded touristy atmosphere as soon as we could..
Ended up in the La Sal National Forest just South of Moab where there was plenty of “backwoods” camping, the elevation was higher, the temps were cooler, and there were even a few trees!

In the morning, we made an early run for Arches to try and beat the crowds and the heat.
Hiked a couple shorter trails and admired the other wordly landscape. Arches had just received their first rain in two months (though you couldn’t tell it, I cant imagine how it looked BEFORE the rain), and a few of the trails and roads were closed down “due to flooding”…. Flooding?? Hah, these folks don’t know what “flooding” is…

And. apparently, some of their tourists have a little difficulty with toilet training….

Really?

“Sit on the toilet during use”?
“Do not stand on the toilet”??
“Do not use the floor. Use the toilet”??
These are things people need a SIGN for????

 

2017-07-11 Colorado: Glenwood Canyon, Hanging Lake

We headed down the Trough road (some dirt) along the Columbia River and had lunch roadside in the Aspens near the crest of the mountains.

   

The Glenwood Canyon Highway is worth the trip in itself! Awesome Road built through a narrow canyon. Indescribable – the last major Highway project done by the federal government I am told.. This cost us lots of money – go drive it!

The trail to Hanging Lake is somewhere along the highway. The road department went to great effort to avoid destroying this natural wonderland.. again – go see it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer says it is still the favorite thing she saw during the entire trip. My pictures don’t do it justice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t miss the big waterfall just above the lake..

C’mon, you’ve made it this far;

you. can. do. it.

 

  After Climbing 1000 feet in a little more than a mile, and then descending back down the same trail, this is how I felt als0…

only I didn’t have the energy left to jump. 🙂

 Afterwards, we stopped at Glenwood Springs and took a natural hot mineral bath with live music playing in the background. The questionable weather kind of cleared out the pool, but the folks there assured us that in over their 100 year history, lightning had never struck the pool..

The town itself was fun too – going through a little bit of growing construction pains at the moment, but great shops, restaurants, and a beautiful downtown. We ate at “The Grind” in downtown, and afterwards as we were sitting in the van trying to figure out where we would camp, we noticed a sign in the parking lot that said “Max 24 hour parking”… Problem solved, pulled the curtains and we were all out like babies in our comfy little nest. I love this vehicle.
We will revisit Glenwood Springs.

2017-07-08 Headin’ West!

On the 8th of July we headed out for our “Epic” Trip to the parks in the West. We had originally intended to hit the National Parks in California, but after some research, reading about year ahead reservations, full campgrounds, lotteries to hike trails, extreme heat, and ridiculously priced campgrounds (combined with the fact that I recently “removed” our generator with a solid rock on a rough road, which would mean no air conditioning in the back of the van without plugging in or running the now non-existent generator), the shine wore off, and we decided instead to head to Canada.

We packed up Friday, and headed off early Saturday Morning just past Kansas City, where we spent a few hours visiting with Family, and then Jennifer whipped up a dinner of fresh Tomatoes, squash, potatoes and Corn on the Cob from “Uncle Kenneths” huge garden. An earlier stop at Oceola Cheese added a little dairy. We plugged into his house and “camped” in his driveway that night, serenaded by the constant stream of long freight trains about 1/8 mile away in his backyard. Kansas was hot, and the mosquitos were on the hunt (screened doors and windows really came in handy).

In the morning we said our goodbyes and headed west, driving all day through the green Kansas fields of corn and soybeans. On the way, we contacted a Travato friend, Shirley Price, on FB who offered her driveway for surfing in Colorado, but we wanted to get to the Rocky Mountain National Park. Shirley put us in touch with another B Van owner closer to the Park, who also freely offered up her driveway, but also gave us some recommendations (even calling for availability) on campgrounds. Appreciating the hospitality, but wanting to get into “camping mode”, we ended up steering towards Hermits Park Campground near Estes Park.

Stopping at a gas station outside Boulder, we saw our first Travato “in the wild”, and had a chance meet up with Gail Blummel, yet another Travato owner from the facebook group. She had just flew back from Alaska and had spent all day driving, and was looking for a place to spend the night herself, so she followed us up to Hermits Park. Hermits Park is a great campground, with spacious level sites (no amenities except pit toilets) and beautiful views. We parked in adjoining sites and made burgers on the campfire.

 

 

 

 

 

In the morning Gail and Jennifer hiked to the top of a peak overlooking Estes Park while Aly and I hung out in the camper (I was a bit under the weather). When they returned, we headed up into Rocky Mountain National Park (Gail was working on a much more relaxed time frame, and wanted to do some more hiking). We drove through RMNP and did a short hike up at the peaks of the mountains.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way out of Rocky Mountain National Park we saw our first Moose, ate at a Cowboy Diner, and found a campground Lakeside on Grand Lake. The Sun was setting and there was a beautiful double rainbow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of these RV’s, is not like the others…

One of these RV’s, just isn’t the same…

Do you see Ole Abe resting in the Mountains?