Tadd has decided that Colorado is now his favorite state (bad luck Montana!) and I am inclined to agree… we haven’t been able to find an ugly or boring part of it yet!
After a cozy night in our loaner cabin in Estes Park, CO, we woke up to see a small group of Elk crossing the stream behind the cabin. And so it was time to go explore some more of this Elk territory – off to the Rocky Mountain National Park.
As the whole world seemed to be headed up to Bear Lake for the view, we decided to turn back and find our own space… which we did pretty well; not seeing more than a few others on the trail we found along the south side of the Moraine Park.
Having left behind the marvels of nature in the Grand Tetons, we headed south then west towards Colorado. We had planned to stop for the night at another wonderfully remote campsite on a hillside… I had even heard there was a possibility of spotting wild horses in the area. However, we changed plans at the the last minute in order to try to catch up with friends back up in the Rockies. So, we found another, less-picturesque spot…
We made good time and shortened our drive for the next day so that we could spend time our friends… but the best laid plans and all that…
At least things worked out better than we initially thought: the very nice tow truck guy, Mr Brown from Jamaica, started out saying that as it was Friday, and Rawlins has 10 times more mechanic work than mechanics, no-one was willing to look at the RV that day… and we had the prospect of spending the WEEKEND in Rawlins, WY… certainly not a destination we had added to our Google Map when we researched the trip!
Luckily Tadd is rather persuasive… and convinced one of the crazily, overworked mechanics in town to have a look at it… it was only electrics after-all. I still wasn’t at all happy, but at least there was free WIFI from the “by-the-hour” motel next to us.
We lost 4 hours of our day, and limped away with a temporary fix… which meant by the time we got going again, there was no way to make our date in the mountains. But, our friend Kim was kind enough to let us stay in the cabin she wasn’t using that night, so we had a welcoming place ahead of us for the night. This was a particularly good thing, what with all the rain along the way.
We enjoyed a lovely night with hot showers (as much water as we wanted), TV, unlimited internet and a queen-size bed…. gorgeous!
After a couple of weeks on the road, generally trying to get far enough west to make Tadd smile… we made it to our first National Park…. Yellowstone!! We have been really excited about checking out some the amazing natural areas of the U.S.
We drove in through the east gate, and luckily something triggered Tadd’s memory and he got us hooked up with an interagency pass getting us into all the National Parks and more for just $80USD for a whole year… SCORE!!!
We climbed up and over the Sylvan Pass and finally got our first glimpse of what lay ahead.
Having passed a crowd on the main road (apparently there a mother brown bear and her cub had been spotted…. but no sign of them by the time we got there), we stopped off a few miles into the park for our first hike of the day at Indian Pond, along Storm Point trail.
Happily this was not a popular spot, so we had the whole trail to ourselves… or so we thought!
After a quick stop at the visitors center, and lunch on the side of the road, we set off to bike the trail to Natural Bridge… finally an actual bike trail!
Of course, no trip to Yellowstone would be complete without a visit to Old Faithful (well, at least when it’s your first visit!)
We stopped in to the Lodge and the Inn to explore the classic hotels
And then a little further north we reached the Grand Prismatic…
As we wound our way back over the Continental Divide for the 5th time… we fit in a quick stop for a waterfall.
From here it was time to head south out of the park, on another whirlwind taster of U.S. and out into the spectacular Grand Tetons.
And then we turned the corner…
I had found us another free campsite in the Bridger-Teton National Forest just off the main road a few miles to the east…
Given the amazing location and the fact that Tadd owns an original print taken somewhere just below us in the valley, we renamed the spot “The Ansel Adams Campsite,” Moran, WY.
Our journey took us through Cody, WY, but we decided to only stop for lunch and then head back out to nature for a hike, rather than spend the afternoon inside a museum.
The town is named for for the famous Buffalo Bill Cody, an impressive man, who among other stuff he’s probably more famous for, he worked on Native Indian rights and protecting the native buffalo!
We went for a hike that turned out being a horse trail, but we made the most of it and scrambled up the hillside and enjoyed the views.
Unfortunately, when we got back down to the camper, we’d been left a note by a ranger, letting us know that we weren’t allowed to stay at that campground below (unless we had horses or stock animals!) and would have to drive back 15 miles along the valley to Elk Creek Campground (our second of the same name on this trip!). But when we arrived, we were very happy with the spot, and finally we had arrived earlier in the day at our site for the night, so we got to enjoy the area a bit.
After a long day of touristy fun, we found a great little RV park in Custer, SD, where we were one of the very few travelers at this time of year. It was wonderfully quiet location, among the pines – the perfect place to watch the blood moon eclipse!
The next morning we cruised into town… sadly to go see a mechanic…. gotta love that check-engine light. They were too busy to really help, but one nice guy agreed to check the diagnostics to see what was going on. So we had a moment to enjoy the local wildlife…
Luckily we found someone willing to take a look at the electrics in the delightful town of Gillette, WY, and pretty speedily diagnose the issues, replace some stuff and get us back on the road ready to head off into the mountains and the national parks.
Finally able to escape from the interstate, we launched ourselves up into the Bighorn Mountains and the National Forest. As we rapidly gained altitude after leaving Buffalo, WY, we were assaulted by the beauty of White Birch trees turning yellow against the backdrop of all the pine trees.
We were headed to Meadlowlark Lake campground, but unfortunately it was closed, like most of the others, so as the sun was close to setting, we decided to make our own campground. We drove off the main road onto the old one, and found the perfect spot.
There were a few cows around, but they didn’t seem too bothered by us, so we weren’t either. We were just a short ways from the road, but out of site. And as the sun set, we realized we’d found the perfect spot up at 8,199 ft (2,499 m)!
It was almost a full moon so the light show after sunset was almost amazing.
And I got carried away playing with my camera and tripod again….
It was our first really cold night, but thanks to the handy furnace in the camper, we stayed toasty all night long.
We were greeted by the dawn and mooing cows!
Then it was off on the road down into the valley and on to Cody, WY.