Category Archives: national parks

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Rocky Mountain High (revisited)

So, I am already a bit behind on our updates for those interested.  I guess, ultimately, it is a good thing as we have been without internet service (except for phones) since we started out all together in Denver a week and a half ago!  I have hijacked the wifi at Heather’s house in attempt to get back on track.

Th girls and I kicked off of the #2016summeroffun trip (as Brad has dubbed it) with a shuttle from DIA to the rental car area where our chariot awaited. Brad and the dogs successfully crossed many miles from NC to CO once again to allow for an easier launch from Denver. Many thanks to the Bloomers for feeding and housing Brad and the four-legged ladies, allowing them to meet up with us ready to roll!

We headed out on 70 and turned North to reach our destination just outside of Grand Lake Village, at the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. This was our first park in 2014 as well. Our campground specialized in campers with horses so there were many for us to ohh and ahh over. We took a beautiful drive along the portion of Trail Ridge Road that we missed last time. It is always breathtaking, in more than one way!

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12,000 feet and all smiles!

The first night in our campsite we saw two large male moose (from a safe distance) grazing in the pasture next to our campsite, they were huge! The morning of day two brought momma moose and her baby into the campsite…we definitely kept a safe distance from her!

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Blurry shot of the backside of momma and baby moose…clearly I did not have my camera handy when they arrived!

Our second full day Brad and Virginia even went for a trail ride on “Jewel” and “Cowboy”, where they crossed the Colorado River on horseback! We also planned to rent a pontoon boat to take onto Grand Lake, but the weather had other plans. We decided instead to head out a day early and stop over in Steamboat. What a fun town! We had a great dinner and graced the Walmart parking lot with our shiny rig for the evening.

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Friday morning we continued west towards Dinosaur National Monument, our next stop before finally getting to our second campground at Wasatch State Park in Park City, UT.

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View from our campsite in Utah…ahhh!

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Southwestern CO tour

We arrived at Mesa Verde Tuesday afternoon with a much appreciated drop in the thermometer compared to Moab.

We checked into the campground at the Park early enough to unhook and ride up to the Spruce Tree House, hit the visitors center, and visit the museum. I also bought tickets for a guided tour of Cliff Palace the following morning.

I visited this park about 15 years ago but it was great to return and share it with Brad and the girls! We ventured into Cortez for dinner and back for a nice night with the windows open!

While hooking up the next morning our 37 year old tongue power jack died on us. Fortunately we were hooked up so we could drive to an RV place in Durango to buy a new one (Merry Christmas Brad and Dani :-/). We had to miss our tour but Virginia was able to complete her 5th and final Junior Ranger program.

Durango was a lot of fun. It started off on the right foot at the RV place, where we met two lovely couples from NC! Just hearing their sweet voices made me homesick! We took it easy for a few days: swam at the campground, rode the bus up and took the train back from Silverton, fished in the Animas River, and took in local brew.

The drive from Durango to the Carbondale area was slow but beautiful. We passed through Ouray and took the scenic route up 133.20140726-133059-48659670.jpg

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Utah: We think summer is the “off-season”

Here is the list of potential titles for this post that we came up with:
Utah: Don’t waste your time 😉
Utah: Hot.
Utah: Honey, it’s a dry heat
Utah: I’ll have a pint of Polygamy Porter, please
Utah: They must market the hell out of this place in Germany!

Over the last week we bedded down in Salt Lake for a few days while Brad made a work trip to Twenty-nine Palms, CA….the only place hotter ;-). The girls and I made a trip to the hair salon, parks, took in a movie, and found a great Whole Foods.

Brad’s return flight was cancelled so he and guy from Parsons drove back to Salt Lake from Palm Springs….11 hours…..through the desert…..with a stop in Vegas for “dinner”!

The next day we loaded up, cleared out of the hotel, and headed to Moab. It’s hot there. Our campground had some shade so that was a sweet relief. I can say that the low humidity is a nice feature…as were the evening breezes.

Arches NP is really beautiful. We visited the Windows area, Balanced Rock, and took in Delicate Arch from the viewpoint. Virginia completed her fourth Junior Ranger program.

Brad rode the famed Slickrock mtn bike trail on Sunday morning…apparently he should have started a little earlier in the day! He finished up around 11:30 and was getting cooked. He took the GoPro so we watched the footage that night….of course replaying the part where he went over the handle bars into the sand wash over and over!!

That evening we picked up the off road jeep we rented for the following day. We drove back to Arches that night to watch the sunset on the rocks. Gorgeous!

Monday we spent the better part of the day in the jeep exploring back country canyons, checked out Gemini Bridges and drove down Schaffer trail in Canyonlands NP. It is very unusual to be able to off-road in a NP, but the rangers insist it is the best way to experience this place.

Today we travel to Cortez/Mesa Verde NP. Tomorrow we will explore the cliff dwellings and then head on to Durango.

We are back in Colorado now. The temperature gauge in the car reads 82 and it’s 1 in the afternoon. Ahhhh!20140715-183806-67086571.jpg

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Lush is an understatement!

The west side of Olympic NP did not disappoint…it was green on green on green.

Our campground was in the NP, Kalaloch was amazing!! I feel so fortunate we were able to reserve two nights there!! We could hear the ocean from our site in the temperate rainforest!

We made a trip down to the beach as soon as we set up camp. Huge drift logs and gorgeous stones were everywhere. Amazingly different than our east coast shoreline. It was misty, cool, and windy but beautiful none the less!

We biked around and had our first campfire since RMNP. Hot dogs over a fire just taste soooo much better! Thursday we trekked into the Hoh rainforest…through the Hall of Moses. What a place….

Virginia and Kimberly received their Junior Ranger badges and Virginia also completed the Ocean Steward Program.

Friday we headed out through cloudy, rainy skies…Portland bound.

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Contemplating Scale

imageSince we arrived on the Olympic Peninsula and in the vicinity of Olympic NP I have been feeling a bit small. Not in the sense of being insignificant maybe, but more about just our physical presence as well as how short our time is – when you really think about it.

Being in a place like this will make you think about these things. The isolation in time and space of this area has created an environment that is truly unique, not to mention, there is a lot here that is really big: snow-capped mountains, huge trees, the wilderness in general really…

This park is quite different than any other I have experienced, especially related to the three we visited before this one on our current journey. The road access is really just around the perimeter, and outside of the park at that. Venturing into the heart of the park is an experience exclusive to backpackers. I think that is awesome. I wish I was packing in for a week. I have lamented the fact that I am not several times a day so far.

One reason for that desire is that there is so much of the park you simply cannot experience any other way, and another possible reason is that Brad took off for CA for four days right after we got here…maybe I was longing for a little “quiet time” away from the girls :-).

We have managed to take in a few of the more accessible areas including a drive up to Hurricane Ridge…known as such for the high winds that, coupled with the 30+ feet of snow a winter, make for a most inhospitable environment! You can see several beautiful snow capped mountains from here, including Mt Olympus. You can also see back over Port Angeles to Canada…not very far away. The city of Victoria is easy to make out right across the Straight.

The girls and I ventured to Sol Duc Hot Springs and soaked for an hour or so. It is a more pungent spring than our last experience as has a slightly slimy feel to the water…tried not to think about that too much though as the girls were having fun. There were quite a few people there when we went and many were Eastern European…they have us beat in the “distanced traveled” department by a long shot!

Several of our excursions have taken us past Lake Crescent, a glacial lake that is several hundred feet deep and the most striking azure blue you can imagine. It is very distracting when driving along the shoreline…you have to keep looking over at it to convince yourself that it really is that surreal color. Quite beautiful.

Another adventure led the girls and I to Salt Creek Recreation Area, not too far from our campground. I had read somewhere that the tide pools at low tide were fun for exploring. We were right on time tide wise and were able to investigate the mid tide range with mussels and limpets exposed on the rocky shore and loads of beautiful driftwood and seaweed, unlike anything we have at home, on the beach area. It was probably my favorite outing so far.

Today we hiked to Sol Duc falls and it was beautiful!! Such spectacularly clear water…unlike anything I have ever seen – and I spend quite a bit of time in that environment!

Tomorrow we will leave this campsite and head around 101 to the west to stay at Kalaloch campground for two nights. We will visit the Hoh rainforest. I am super excited!! Hall of Mosses here we come! This region of the park gets 12-14 FEET of rain a year!!!

Only negative to report: last night my purse was stolen out of the truck – which was accidentally left unlocked for the first time the whole trip. A morning spent canceling credit cards, etc was no fun but we have taken care of everything and minimal damage was done. I need to replace our camera so am stuck with photos from the iPhone for a few days. Otherwise, just a small bump in the road!

More Olympic to come…

 

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Yellowstone Round Up

Due to our lack of wifi and minimal cell service in the park, updates have been few and far between…but it certainly wasn’t for lack of doing!  I think we drove every road in the park, some several times over.  Each time was like the first though, as we constantly marveled at the scenery, wildlife, and how the time of day and lighting affected some of the features.

Lower Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs

Lower Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs

On Monday we visited Old Faithful first thing, the crowds were not bad and we arrived about 10 minutes before an eruption…got lucky on that one. It was interesting how built up that area is compared to other park “centers”.  Our next stop was a family favorite, Grand Prismatic Spring.  It was like being on another planet, and the wind being strong that day, made the steam even more dramatic.  It was in that area that we found the Fire hole River.   I had received a tip to fish that and/or the Madison and despite the high water in most places, both were quite fish-able.   I tried my luck, yet without some “local knowledge” on what flies to use I couldn’t manage to catch the attention of the fish.

We later headed to West Yellowstone to check out the Wolf/Grizzly Discovery Center and I stopped by a fly shop (Blue Ribbon Flies) where I got the “local” I needed…a few flies in hand we headed on back to camp.

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Tuesday, Brad decided to bike for a bit and I had the girls in tow as I tried my luck again on a much too popular fishing hole further downstream…they bit, but I never got to bring one in for the girls.  I was disappointed but it was still fun!

Getting to that area of the park was about a hour+ drive each way for us, and the travel times were starting to wear us down.  We took a breather on Wednesday: laundry, showers and making blends took up the morning.  Not being ones to sit still too long though, we headed up to Canyon in the afternoon to check out another overlook of the Yellowstone Canyon and grab dinner.  I am sooo glad we went as a traffic jam alerted us to something “good”…we pulled over and joined the spectators as they watched a very large grizzly dining on some delicacy along the banks of the Yellowstone River.   We were all about 400 ft away and he still looked big!  My point and shoot camera didn’t stand much of a chance though.

Girls working on Junior Ranger books at Steamboat Geyser

Girls working on Junior Ranger books at Steamboat Geyser

Discussions Thursday morning led us to decide to head out of the Park a day early, feeling as though we had covered the ground that we could…it is hard sometimes for Brad and I to remind ourselves that the girls don’t have the stamina we do and carrying Kimberly up and down these trails was not so much fun after a while.  Ironically enough, it was a fruitful drive out.  We took the route: Fishing Bridge to Canyon to Norris to Mammoth (for those of you familiar) and were rewarded with a wolf sighting in a small valley near Norris…and another grizzly sighting, this one much closer, about 150 feet away, along a small stream, also eating…and finally, a big Bald Eagle as we neared Mammoth for our exit from the park.

Exiting the Park through the Roosevelt Arch

Exiting the Park through the Roosevelt Arch

It was a fantastic visit…one I will never forget and I hope it has a lasting impression on the girls as well.  My most memorable moment:  watching Virginia AND Kimberly receive their Junior Ranger badges at the Lake Visitors Center…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girls receiving the badges from a Seasoned Ranger at the Lake

Girls receiving the badges from a Seasoned Ranger at the Lake