Yellowstone National Park (Part 5)

July 15, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

We didn’t do anything yesterday and it was great. I finally got to do some reading and finished The Wild Truth, which is a follow-up to Into the Wild. Today was our last day in Yellowstone; mainly because I’m just bored of it and tired of having to spend 2+ hours just to get anywhere in the park. Today was especially irritating because idiots don’t know how to pull off the road to look at wild animals. Instead, they stop right in the middle of the road. And not briefly, either. They stop for several minutes and cause a four mile long line of traffic. What was so important to cause such a delay? A buffalo. Pooping. I really hate how stupid people are.

Anywho, today was dreary and wasn’t that exciting. We drove the entire Eastern road in the park because we’d yet to go up that way. It’s a lot prettier than the West side of the park, scenery-wise, as it’s filled with hillsides, trees, some plains, lakes, and the river. There are several areas where you can pull off to look around, but not as many designated stops as the West side. There was one area in Hayden Valley where we arrived a few minutes too late and missed a chance to see a grizzly bear. There were so many people crowding the area, it’s no wonder he walked off. I’m starting to dislike the idea of focusing on National Parks for this trip. There’s so much traffic and so many people, it kind of defeats the entire point of going to nature to get away from that stuff.

I barely took any pictures today. I honestly don’t even remember where they’re from.

Here’s a video of a “Mud Volcano”:

After finishing The Wild Truth yesterday, I felt I had to watch the movie Into the Wild again. I didn’t catch the reference to Slab City the first couple times I’ve seen that movie, but I’m really interested in it now. Slab City is located in the┬áSonoran Desert and is the site of old WWII barracks; the barracks have long since been gone, but the slabs they were built on remain. There is no electricity, no running water, no toilets, no trash service, and the site is completely uncontrolled. Sounds appealing, right? It does to me.

Yellowstone National Park (Part 4)

July 12, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

We took another easy morning today and decided to refresh ourselves with a real shower and then washed the bedding and towels. I know, living on the edge, right? By the time we were ready, it was 1pm and I decided we needed to take a lunch break from all our “hard work” before we did anything else. It was pretty late by the time we entered the park.

Today we focused on the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, visiting both the North and South rims. Frankly, I don’t like the name as it implies it somehow compares to the real Grand Canyon and it doesn’t by any means; it should have just been called Yellowstone Canyon, but I digress. There are two large waterfalls in the canyon, simply titled the Lower and Upper Falls. They have trails that lead to the base of the falls to get a really good idea of how immense and powerful they are. One of the trails on the South rim is called Uncle Tom’s Trail and has 328 stairs leading down to an overlook on the cliff-side. The majority of the steps are made of steel grating which you can see completely through and I can only imagine how people afraid of heights would hate walking down them. We took the whole thing down and got some really nice views of the falls. It was a beast to climb back up, but definitely worth it and honestly the best view out of all the places to look at the falls.

We saw a lot of wildlife today, way more than previous days. We had multiple buffalo right next to the van, saw a lot of elk, squirrels, chipmunks, pikas (they look like mice), bald eagles, and other birds. We’ve yet to see a bear, a moose, or a wolf.

We ran out of water today for the first time since day four when we filled up in Fargo at a park. Although I bought a 10 gallon tank, it seems to only hold about 8 gallons. I know this because twice now I have filled it up one gallon at a time using a water jug. But I think that’s pretty good cause it means we’re only using about a gallon a day between two people. Granted, almost every time we stop somewhere that has a water fountain, we fill up all the water bottles to avoid using as much of the van water as possible. We’re basically using the sink in the van to get water for cooking, to do dishes, and to brush teeth. It’s definitely an adjustment trying to conserve water as much as possible. Even at only a gallon per day, I still feel like we use a lot of water for the little amount we do with it.

Yellowstone National Park (Part 3)

July 11, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Today was filled with a lot of resting. And rain. Can’t forget about the rain. We didn’t do much at all until after 11am when we finally headed back into the park. Yellowstone is huge, so it takes awhile to get anywhere in there. There was a long line to get in, so we used the opportunity to get a pic of the entrance sign.

Our first stop was the Midway Geyser Basin, mainly to see the Grand Prismatic Spring. If you’ve ever seen a picture of Yellowstone other than Old Faithful, this is probably what it was of. It’s a very large, very blue pool of water surrounded by a ring of color. You can only see the entire thing with an aerial shot, so you’ll have to Google it if you really wanna know what I’m talking about because pics from ground level don’t come close to showing off how cool it is. There’s geysers and stuff at that stop, too, but the Grand Prismatic is the main thing we wanted to see.

Our second stop was to check out the Morning Glory Pool, which looks like a colorful rainbow tunnel into the ground. It took awhile to get there and almost as long to find parking. It reminded me of the old days of working at The Tunnel in Hawaii, just circling the parking lot like a bunch of sharks looking for a space to open up and trying to get it before anyone else did. We found a spot eventually and decided to have lunch because it was already after 1:30pm. We started walking out in the direction of Morning Glory, but around half a mile in it started to rain. Being that I had my good camera with me and nothing to cover it with, we headed back and hung out in the gift shops until the rain let up enough to go to the van to grab some rain gear. And then out we went. Again.

The direct walkway to get to Morning Glory is a 1.4 mile trek from the visitor center, but there’s also a wooden walkway that curves around to see a bunch of other geysers on the way and that’s the way we decided to go. I didn’t take many pictures because much of the scenery looks the same as stuff we’ve already seen; holes in the ground filled with hot, sometimes bubbling, water. By the time we got to Morning Glory, it was raining again. It was a really beautiful view and completely looks like a rainbow shooting into the ground.

It was around 5pm by the time we got back to the van and we decided to call it an early day on account of the rain. Since most of our days go until 10pm or later, it was nice to be done around 6pm. We stayed in West Yellowstone again last night, camped out on the side of the street.

Yellowstone National Park (Part 2)

July 10, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

We started this morning with a walk around Gardiner, Montana, where we camped out last night. It’s a pretty small town just outside the North entrance to Yellowstone. There were a bunch of interesting shops, mostly catered to rafting and fly fishing, since the town is right on the river. It was after 11am by the time we decided to head into the park.

We stopped in at the visitor center and I, of course, had to get some postcards and one of the National Park “coins”. While we were there we looked at the map and found out it would be about a two hour drive to the South end of the park to check out Old Faithful, which was our main goal for today. It’s only a 48 mile drive, but much of the road is under construction and many other parts have low speed limits. Along the way, there are many pull-offs with things to see and we stopped at a few.

Eventually, we actually made it down to Old Faithful. We got there almost right in the middle of the time between eruptions. It erupts every two hours, plus or minus 10 minutes. We had about an hour to waste, so we walked around and checked out the junk at the gift shops and whatnot. There’s a surprising number of people who sit out and wait for the geyser to erupt. It’s funny to me because essentially we were all just there to see some hot water get blasted into the air. It was pretty nifty and I was surprised that it kept going for around five minutes; I figured it was gonna be much shorter.

We left the park around 6pm and headed out the West entrance, which leads back into Montana to a town called West Yellowstone. It’s a pretty small town and we were able to walk around the entire place pretty quickly. While looking for a spot to park the van for the night, we saw some other campers parked on the side of the road and after talking to them, they told us they were actually staying in a cabin right across the street that night and weren’t using the parking space for it, so they said we could park there. We thought it was really cool of them and ended up thanking them three or four times before we headed back out to walk around town some more.

We had dinner and some drinks at a place called Wild West Pizzeria and Saloon (14 Madison Ave, West Yellowstone, Montana). Pretty darn good pizza, would definitely recommend it to anyone, and they had some live music… even if it wasn’t the best in the world. A group of Chinese tourists next to us seemed to think it was good, and who can argue with that? They went full honky-tonk up in that place.

I forgot to mention it yesterday, but we drove through the Lewis & Clark National Forest on the way here, then later on drove through the Gallatin National Forest, but I wasn’t able to get a pic of the sign. Le sigh.

I have to admit, I thought Yellowstone would have been the most exciting part of this trip so far, but I don’t think it even compares to Glacier National Park. I like all the unique features that are here, but there’s a certain beauty to Glacier that’s hard to beat. I love the mountains, I love the green, I love the cliff-side drive, and I especially love the lake views with cascading waterfalls in the background. Granted, out of all the days up to this point, my favorite has been our random day in Minnesota when we went to the Rusty Bucket and later the Woodtick Theatre. Such a pleasant, unplanned day.

Yellowstone National Park (Part 1)

July 9, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

We started pretty slow today, taking the morning to catch up on some Interneting and then headed over to a Pilot Travel Plaza to enjoy a real shower. It was around 1pm by the time we actually headed out. Around 5pm, we decided to make a pit stop in a random town and do our laundry. Excitement!

Yellowstone isn’t that far of a drive from Great Falls, Montana, where we stayed last night. Even starting as late as we did and stopping to do laundry, we still made it here right before 8pm. We had enough time to check out Mammoth Hot Springs and take some pics before camping for the night. The hot springs are like a whole other world; they’re just so different and interesting. This is my first time seeing anything like it.

We passed Yankee Jim Canyon (aka the Yellowstone River) on the way into the park and I got a little excited because of the history I’ve read about Yellowstone and how it all relates to Forrest Fenn’s riddle. Of course, I only speculate that he’s making a reference to Yankee Jim Canyon. The only way to know for sure is by finding his gold. Granted, I won’t be looking anywhere near the river as my first guess.

Today was the first time someone complained about us “free camping” so, to avoid any extra hassle, we’re camped out in a residential area parked with a ton of other cars on the side of the street.

Glacier National Park, Montana (Part 3)

July 8, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

It was chilly this morning at Logan Pass and it felt great. We spent the morning getting ready and restocking some of our water supply. Around 11am, we headed up the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail, located directly behind the visitor center. It’s a well maintained trail made up of wooden plank walkways and some gravel paths here and there.

The Hidden Lake Overlook Trail is half of the entire trail to get down to Hidden Lake in Glacier National Park. Due to heavy bear activity, the second half of the trail was closed and we were not able to walk down to the lake. The first half is a 1.6 mile well-maintained pathway made up of a combination of wooden walkways and gravel covered ground. There is about a 460 ft gain in elevation throughout the hike.

It was only about a 1.6 mile hike, one way. There’s a second half to the hike that goes down to the lake, but it was closed due to high bear activity so we weren’t able to do it.

We started to drive back around to the East side of the park and were gonna do some more hikes, but almost every pull-out was closed due to road construction in the park. Since we weren’t able to park anywhere, we decided to head out and start the next adventure.

It was a pain leaving the park, as I mistakenly took Hwy 89 the entire way to Browning and part of the road just stopped existing. I’ve never seen a road construction crew that just ripped up the entire old road before putting in a new one. They also ripped up a road’s width of land on each side of the road, so they must be doing something more than just repairing the road.

We stopped for the night in Great Falls and camped out at Walmart. Tomorrow is shower day, followed mostly by driving, as we’re headed out towards Yellowstone National Park to go on a treasure hunt looking for Forrest Fenn’s gold.

Glacier National Park, Montana (Part 2)

July 7, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

Today we spent another day in the awesome Glacier National Park. We started the morning by doing a couple hikes and it ended up taking over most of the day. The fist hike we did was called Trail of the Cedars and wasn’t actually planned, but you have to hike at least part of the trail to get to Avalanche Lake, which is where we were going. It’s a really easy, wheelchair accessible trail that follows a wooden walkway through the forest. There’s a really beautiful waterfall halfway through.

Then we took the junction at the back of the Trail of the Cedars that leads to Avalanche Lake. It’s a two mile hike, but well worth it. The lake is absolutely stunning and we probably spent more time sitting out there than we did hiking to it. I don’t think we got back to the car until almost 3pm.

Adela spent a good amount of time at the far end of the lake trying to skip rocks. It was quite entertaining.

After we hiked back to the car, we took some time to just relax and do nothing. Before we knew it, it was close to 9pm and we decided to head back out and check out Lake McDonald now that most people we off the road. The park is a lot more peaceful at night when very few people are there. We ended up driving all the way back to Logan Pass and stopped for pictures at more than a few spots along the way.

Glacier National Park, Montana (Part 1)

July 6, 2015 Categories Camper Van, Road Trips, Travel, USA

OH. EM. GEE. Glacier National Park is amazingly beautiful. I’m extremely glad I decided to stop here before heading to Yellowstone. It was a pretty brutal drive getting here, though. We drove almost the entire day, only stopping for gas, and we still didn’t get to the visitor center until around 7pm. Of course, the visitor center is closed by that time, so we just headed out on the main road across the park to check things out. We spent the next three hours being awestruck by the views, and that was rushing it. I can’t even explain how intense it is to drive through the park and just experience the magic of the nature here. Almost the entire drive across Montana was filled with fields of nothing (some people might call it “hay”), then as if out of nowhere, mountains broke the skyline and we were tossed into a wonderful world of curving roads, trees a plenty, mountains, snow, waterfalls, rivers… it’s just amazing. It’s around 50 miles to drive across the entire park.

We’re camping out near the West end of the park tonight. Gonna do some hiking tomorrow and probably the next day.