The Rockies

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.

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Autumn in the Rockies

And autumn means Elk mating season….

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In The Middle There’s a Male Elk “Singing” for All His Worth

 

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Views and More Views

 

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I Seem To Find Thistles The World Around

 

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More Amazing Contrast

 

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Mountains!

 

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Headed Over The Pass and Down to Boulder

 

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Last Glimpse

We have fallen in love with the mountains!

The Lows and The Highs

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 Weren't The Only Ones There
We Weren’t The Only Ones There

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…

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Not What We Had Planned for the Day ūüôĀ

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.

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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.

 

Rainy Colorado Highlands
Rainy Colorado Highlands

 

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The Weather Didn’t Bother The Wildlife

 

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The Sun Came Back Out The Next Day, Estes Park, CO

 

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Idlewild by the River, Estes Park, Co

We enjoyed a lovely night with hot showers (as much water as we wanted), TV, unlimited internet and a queen-size bed…. gorgeous!

National Treasures

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.

 

The View West into the Heart of Yellowstone
The View West into the Heart of Yellowstone
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Sylvan Lake
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Continued Good Luck with the Weather!

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.

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Our First Sight of the Immense Yellowstone Lake

Happily this was not a popular spot, so we had the whole trail to ourselves… or so we thought!

 

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This Guy Took Little Notice of Us

 

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Just Stunning

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!

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A Bit More of a Trek Than We Thought, but Worth the Effort

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Of course, no trip to Yellowstone would be complete without a visit to Old Faithful (well, at least when it’s your first visit!)

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Actually Rather Impressive

We stopped in to the Lodge and the Inn to explore the classic hotels

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The Hallway Lights Were Cool

And then a little further north we reached the Grand Prismatic…

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA --- Grand Prismatic Spring --- Image by © Pete Saloutos/CORBIS
Image by © Pete Saloutos/CORBIS
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I Like the Closeup Colors and Patterns for Change
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Mars?

As we wound our way back over the Continental Divide for the 5th time… we fit in a quick stop for a waterfall.

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Kepler Cascade

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.

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Finally A Little More Than Just Yellow

And then we turned the corner…

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Grand Teton National Park

I had found us another free campsite in the Bridger-Teton National Forest just off the main road a few miles to the east…

They Said The View Was Good...
They Said The View Was Good…

Free Camping!

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.

 

Certainly Not An Adams

Getting Backcountry

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!

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Buffalo Bill Reservoir
North Fork of the Shoshone River
North Fork of the Shoshone River

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.

Almost All The Way West to Yellowstone
Almost All The Way West to Yellowstone
View Back East Down the Valley
View Back East Down the Valley
Winnie Down Below
Winnie Down Below
Trying Some Artistic Stuff Again!
Trying Some Artistic Stuff Again!

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.

Elk Creek
Elk Creek
"My first time mountain biking in the mountains," commented Tadd, although we didn't get very far before the trail went up and turned into another backcountry horse trail.
“My first time mountain biking in the mountains,” commented Tadd, although we didn’t get very far before the trail went up and turned into another backcountry horse trail.

So we went back to camp for cocktails and …..

Wittling!
Wittling!
Dusk Light
Dusk Light

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Another Amazing Camp
Another Amazing Camp

Head For The Hills

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!

Sadly Not My Picture
Sadly Not My Picture

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…

One of the Many Delightfully Painted Bison in Custer, SD
One of the Many Delightfully Painted Bison in Custer, SD

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.

Can't Stop Taking Pictures of the Landscape Along the Road
Can’t Stop Taking Pictures of the Incredible Landscapes Along the Road

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.

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 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.

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The View from our First “Boondocking” Site

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)!

The Sun Set in the Valley
The Sun Set in the Valley

It was almost a full moon so the light show after sunset was almost amazing.

The ridge above the camper glowed in the moonlight
The ridge above the camper glowed in the moonlight

And I got carried away playing with my camera and tripod again….

Night Sky In Bighorn
Night Sky In Bighorn

It was our first really cold night, but thanks to the handy furnace in the camper, we stayed toasty all night long.

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We were greeted by the dawn and mooing cows!

Curious Cows
Curious Cows

Then it was off on the road down into the valley and on to Cody, WY.

Descending the Windy Roads of Bighorn
Descending the Windy Roads of Bighorn

History of Diving Museum

We really enjoyed our stop on the way down the Florida Keys the History of Diving Museum in Islamorada, Florida.

These metal suits were used to protect the diver from the high levels of pressure at depths near a thousand feet, greatly reducing the decompression times. They look more like robots to me.

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Helmets were used way into the 1960s!

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There is an impressive collection of real diving helmets from every country in the world that has made them.

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We’ve always just driven past this amazing sculpture of a spiny lobster.

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This time, we just had to share this cool photo opportunity!

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