Archive for October, 2011

After our rather adventurous day in Arches, we decided to take it easy the next day as we went to Canyonlands. Not that the state of Niels’ knees gave us a lot of choice. No way would we be doing big hikes in the next few days. So we drove through Canyonlands National Park, taking in the amazing views and having a pretty lazy day actually.
After our big hike the day before, we considered going out for a bit of a self-celebratory dinner, but we were too tired. We just fell asleep. So this evening we were going to treat ourselves. We had this gorgeous little campsite, in a canyon, right by the Colorado river, so we didn’t want to spend time anywhere else. So I bought some yummy steaks and lobster tails, and lighted up the campfire. Dinner with a view like that… I don’t think any dinner out in a restaurant would have been as wonderful as this.

The next day we hit the road again, for a very long drive. We head south towards Arizona, via the Navajo Nation, which is huge, more than double the size of Belgium. Originally we had planned to visit Monument Valley, but decided to skip it in favour of a visit to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. So on we drove and drove and drove, reaching Lees Ferry as our stop for the night. Again, quite an amazing location for the campsite. When we woke up the next morning and started driving to the north rim, which was still 100 miles away, we noticed how quiet the roads still were. And then it started to down upon me… we’re in Arizona, they’ve got their own time zone thing going on, which means it’s actually an hour earlier than we thought it was! Well, woohoo, more time.

We reach the north rim and it’s so quiet there, very few visitors and a gloriously sunny day. Niels’ knee is still not in a state to do a big hike and considering we’re at a very high altitude, I realise that it’s also not a good a idea for me. So we just go to a bunch of viewpoints. And at one of the points we saw something that actually makes Niels feel a bit better about the “incident” in Arches. At a small path on the edge of the canyon there’s another couple, and the girl all of the sudden starts sitting down. I immediately recognise what’s going on, it’s the same kind of vertigo that struck Niels. So we help her across, using the conversation distraction technique. She also never had anything like that happen before. Nice to know he’s not alone.
Anyway, the Grand Canyon was pretty nice, but it didn’t amaze us quite as much as some of the other parks we’d been to. For example, we liked the Black Canyon of the Gunnison better. Although smaller, it felt more dramatic. Don’t get me wrong, the Grand Canyon is amazing. Maybe we just were at that point in the trip where we had already seen so many totally awesome sights, that we had become a bit blasé.
What we did really enjoy tremendously was our campsite once again. We were only a few yards from the rim, with a fabulous view. Campfire and outdoor cooking once again, with a stunning sunset behind the canyon. Yes, that was perfect.
We went to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon the next day, and there, we just didn’t get the right vibe. The south rim is a whole lot busier, nearly feels like a theme park. The views are great, but not that different from the north side. We were ready to move on.

OK, now it’s time we really get to warmer places. Bye bye Colorado, it’s been great, really loved this state. Back to Utah and Arches National Park, here we come! We took scenic route 128 towards Moab, and scenic it was. You drive by the the Colorado river, from fairly flat lands rather suddenly into a big red canyon, awesome!
We go and explore Arches NP for a bit before settling for the night as we plan on doing a big hike the following day. One thing already is clear to us, this is a busy busy place. I would have thought things wouldn’t be so busy late in October, I mean, the guide books say it’s busiest between June and the end of September… and that one week that is Utah Education Week (or something) when all the schools are out and everybody seems to descend onto Moab. Yes, that was the week.

After a bit of research and a talk with a friendly ranger, we decided to take a hike in the Devil’s Garden area of the park. It’s a hike with lots of scrambling over rocks and uneven paths, or no real paths whatsoever. It’s listed under difficult, but seeing as it isn’t too long at 11km, and we like scrambling, it seemed like the right one for us.
As we were hiking, we chose to take part of the hike in the opposite direction that most would take, mainly because this meant we had to do the whole 11km and have the fun scrambling part first. Otherwise, if we had done the hike in the traditional direction, we might have decided at the final junction that we had enough already and not do that part. But doing the hike in the wrong direction presented us with a little difficulty, it was clearly not signposted for this direction. This we noticed at one point where it seemed we could go no further, the path became too narrow, down didn’t seem possible, and certainly not up. So we retraced out steps, did we miss a turn? Eventually, we waited a bit as we could hear other hikers in the distance, so let’s see where they came from. Ah, they came from up. How is that possible? That’s way too steep? Oh well, they managed to come down, so we shall go up.

Off we go!

Niels goes first, telling me to look closely so I can follow him. Well, that’s what I do and get all confused. What the hell is he doing? His feet are all wrong and he keeps getting stuck. I climb up, trying to figure out what the problem is. Well, it is really steep and quite scary, but I think manageable. But by that point Niels has gone into panic mode. A strange form of vertigo has taken over, he’s never had that problem before. But we now find ourselves stuck onto a little ledge, unable to go any further. But just like when I was in my hour of need in Yellowstone, there came some hikers to the rescue. A couple who had done this hike several times, in both directions, and who were very agile on the steep rocks offered their help. I still don’t understand what happened to Niels, it was just too weird to watch. He kept putting his feet in the wrong direction, he kept fearing he would slide off, which was pretty much a given with his feet like that. So he kept going down on his knees, trying to pull himself up by his hands, … But eventually, with the help of the couple of rescuers, he made it passed the most difficult part. Luckily, I went up without too much hassle and actually felt rather exhilarated that I had made it. Niels on the other hand, was sitting there, still shaking and not quite knowing what to do next.

Not the way to go…

The “trail” from above

Not so happy Niels :-(

After a little while, lots of water and a bit of lunch, we got on our way again. Despite the fact that he managed to hurt his knees quite a bit, everything seemed fine again…
Until we got to the half way point and relaxed for a bit while chatting with a fun group of people from Utah. As we wanted to get going, Niels found himself in no position to move, he just couldn’t get up. True, we were high up, but nothing as steep as the last time. A little help from the friendly people around, and we were on our way. That was until we had to walk over one of those fins, they are about 10ft wide, with steep drop offs on both sides, but nothing to worry about normally, perfectly safe. I went on ahead so Niels could keep an eye on me and see where best to step. Then all of the sudden he just decided to sit down and couldn’t go on. Luckily, some of the Utah group were just behind and helped Niels up again, and got him over the fin by distracting him with conversation. They managed to distract him so well, that he didn’t even realise that I was having trouble getting of fin at the end as it was a bit high and could do with a hand to lean on!
It was such a weird experience, Niels still doesn’t know what overcame him. But we got through it. By the end of the walk, I was getting rather tired, but I knew my friends Ben & Jerry were waiting for me in the RV.

Looks a bit like a cruise ship

Made it!

When we woke up the following morning in Rocky Mountain NP, the campground was covered in a thin layer of snow, a sign of things to come. We decided to move on, we didn’t want to get in stuck in the Rockies in the snow. No, we were destined to go to warmer places. So off we went, taking route 40 to the interstate, assuming this would be the fastest way out of the snow. Assume wrong. The many ski area symbols on the map should have been a give-away really. Route 40 takes you over the Berthoud Pass at 11315ft. Guess what, at 11315ft, it gets snowy and over windy and curvy little roads, that makes for an interesting drive. Niels was quite happy when he finally saw the interstate signs. Because, you’d think that the interstate would be an easier drive, right? Wrong again. Only a few minutes onto the interstate and we were driving through what we can only describe as a snow blizzard. Visibility went downhill rapidly, signs on the side of the road were telling truck drivers to put on the snow chains for certain parts. Luckily, snow chains weren’t yet required for other vehicles, but if they would have been, we would have been screwed as Bertie doesn’t have any. This weather went on for a good while, going up to 11910ft at the Loveland Pass and then the route starts to go downhill rather steeply for several miles. There are warnings for truckers about the declines, then warnings not to get cocky as it isn’t over yet and at several point there are these runaway truck lanes that look more like ski slopes.

Finally, things cleared up. At this point we decided not venture further into the mountains and go over more high passes, however “fun” this was, probably best not to seek out more of that kind of fun. But we did decide to go off course somewhat, making those warmer places wait another day (or two as it turned out). I’d been reading in one of my road trip books and thought that the Black Canyon of the Gunnison might be worth a visit. We didn’t quite get there that day, our progress was a lot slower than we had hoped for due to the snow, and Niels didn’t quite feel like a lot of driving anymore that day. So we found this little campground, fairly high up in the mountains of the White River National Forrest. This campground was set in a gorgeous bit of scenery, woods of Aspen trees, that had turned a bright gold with the onset of autumn. And it was free! How nice is that?! There were 2 other sets of campers on the campground that night, we were clearly the only tourist, the other 2 were there for hunting season. So as we sat by our campfire for the evening, for a moment it dawned upon me that here we were in the middle of nowhere, nobody knowing where we are, surrounded by people with big guns. Sleep tight…

After a quiet night, we drove on to our destination of the Black Canyon, it didn’t look that far on the map, maybe 2 hours driving, wishful thinking, it took us more than 3 and half hours. Now, in the beginning, we were quite happy, the scenery was amazing, I couldn’t get enough of those golden Aspen trees and then there was rather amazing mountain scenery. But then it got boring, and the last hour seemed to last forever.

Finally, we made it. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, you better be bloody worth it. And it certainly didn’t disappoint! It was freaking awesome! I don’t think it’s a park that gets a really high number of visitors, which on the one hand is nice so it doesn’t feel overcrowded, but on the other, this is a real little gem they’ve got here. If you ever get a chance to go, take it with both hands! It was so good that we decided to stay the night at their campground. We had a really lovely secluded spot with a lovely view. Another night, another campfire. I’m so loving all of this!

Saturday morning we woke up to a glorious day, warm and sunny, picture perfect. We treated ourselves to a big Cracker Barrel breakfast and headed out towards Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. It turns out we weren’t the only ones with that idea, it seemed like most of eastern Colorado was heading in the same direction. As we got to Estes Park, we saw something we hadn’t seen in a while: lots of people! And who could blame them, as I said it was a perfect day.
I had been following the Rocky Mountain NP twitter feed for a while and noticed that for over a week now, Trail Ridge Road had been closed due to snow, this is the only road that takes you from the east side of the park to the west side. As luck would have it, the road was open! But we weren’t ready to cross it yet. We had booked ourselves into a lovely little RV park by the river and were going to enjoy an afternoon relaxing. Consider it our day on the beach, lazy with a book, Niels dipping his feet into the river for a brief moment and a bbq in the evening.

Sunday turned out to be an equally lovely day and we headed further into the Rocky Mountain NP, Trail Ridge Road was still open and we wanted to get to the other side before the weather turned again. So up you go into the mountains, and you realise that the name Trail Ridge is pretty much spot on. There are times when you’d rather not look down. The higher you go, the more you realise what a tricky road this is and the more spectacular the views are. And you do go pretty high, close to 12000 feet high! At those heights you do really realise that your body is reacting in different ways, no matter how deep a breath you take, you just can’t seem to fill you lungs and Niels even became a little light headed. Luckily, no altitude sickness this time, we were taking it easy, not like my body was giving me any choice, even a small walk felt exhausting. It took us about 2 hours to cross, and it was amazing, nay it was Legen-wait for it…-dary! We felt so lucky that the road had opened again just as we visited the park, and less than 36 hours after it opened, it closed again as snow was starting to fall again over the mountains. This time it closed for the season, which meant, closed until the end of May next year. How lucky were we?!?
Happy that we made it to the other side, we staked out our claim on the campground at Timber Creek. Considering the campground on the east side of the park was full the night before, we wanted to make sure we had a nice spot for the night. Not too many people made it across the park to Timber Creek actually, that night, we shared the large campground with only one other RV. Well, that is to say, there were also plenty of elk making the campground home for the evening. This did attract quite a few people in their cars to come take some pictures. And as we were lighting our campfire for the evening and roasting our hot dogs, we too seemed to have become part of the attraction for the people in their cars, slowing down and smiling at us as they drove passed. Darkness fell over Rocky Mountain NP, no stars this evening as clouds loaded with snow were covering the area. All was dead quiet, except for the occasional bugling of the elk and the wind howling through the valley. Creepy!

Another reason why travelling in an RV is not a bad idea…

We’re about half way through the road trip at this point and it’s time to head to another state, South Dakota. The next few days are all about small towns and big heads. We’ve already driven through some small towns, but just before we leave Wyoming we have a few noteworthy mentions. Alva, with a grand populations of 50, that’s about all that’s noteworthy about it really, 50 people live in Alva, but they do still have a post office. And a bit further down the route, just a few miles shy of the border with South Dakota, we reach the town of Aladdin, population 15. Yes, 15, they bothered making a sign that says “population 15”. A few days earlier, we came across a traditional Mormon family, if they would move to that town, the population would double in a day.

So, we entered South Dakota, it didn’t seem too different from Wyoming at first, also not exactly highly populated. The first place I wanted to head to was the town of Deadwood (reasons for this are only clear to a select few). I had hoped it was a little old western town with old fashioned character, but it turned out to be rather touristy. A main street that was made to look old, but was just a collection of bars, casinos and a few shops. A bit disappointing, so we drove on through the Black Hills to our next destination. The Big Heads in the rocks, also known as Mount Rushmore. Americana at its finest, you could just feel the patriotism oozing out from the place. A monument to 4 dead presidents, 2 of them darn colonial rebels ;-) But it was good fun really, the rock there is really pretty, it glitters, so I was happy. With the sun shining on Washington’s face, he nearly looked like a shiny Twilight vampire!

Then a few miles down the road there’s another big face in a rock, that of Crazy Horse. For several decades now they’ve been working on a monument to Crazy Horse, way bigger than the Mount Rushmore monument. So far, the face is there, the Flying Spaghetti Monster only knows how much longer it will take to carve the whole monument out of the rock. But to be honest, the whole site didn’t give us a very good feeling. The entire venture is funded by private donations, like the entrance fees, any souvenirs you buy, or whatever; they’ve declined millions of government funding on a few occasions because they don‘t believe in government funding but completely in free enterprise. So they are building this monument which they want to share with the people and also add educational centres and a native American university or something, but they want to do it the slow way. And the slow way may take another 100 years or so. Yet, the government seems to think this whole venture could be of national interest and wants to help out. No thanks. It just doesn’t make sense. Anyway, the whole visit just didn’t sit right with us.

On to Windcave National Park, an underground experience for a change. Special cave system, not the prettiest cave we’ve ever been in, no shiny minerals or stalactites or malachite, but very interesting none the less. And there was a lovely campground that came with it at only $6/night! Bargain, and it was a really lovely campground at that with deer, elk and bunnies. We were happy.

The following morning we set off towards Nebraska via some national grasslands. OK, nice for the first 5  minutes. Then it gets boring, really boring. You know how they say that the Eskimos have 30 different words or so for the word snow? Well, we started to wonder if the people in that area of Nebraska had 30 different words for the word grass and then it dawned on us, they more likely have 30 different words for the word bored. We would drive for miles and miles and miles and not come across another living soul. We drove through this one town that looked completely abandoned, except for 1 house. And then you start to wonder… Did we suddenly drive into a Stephen King novel? You could just imagine the net curtains twitching on one of those abandoned houses. Were we suddenly going to be in a weird and creepy little battle of good against evil?

OK, we’re out of Nebraska and back into Wyoming for a little bit. As we’re driving towards out next destination, we start overtaking a train. Now, we’ve been noticing that trains here can be very very very very long, well over a mile long, which is so awesome. So I get the camera out and start taking pictures, and as we get to the front engine, the train toots its whistle. I could just burst with excitement, and I’m not at all into trainspotting. As we get to our destination, the small town of Lusk, the train pulls in and rides passed one of only 6 remaining old railway water towers. Perfect. In the little town of Lusk we visited the Stagecoach Museum and I must say, this has been one of the highlights of our trip so far. The Stagecoach Museum is a little museum housed in the old armoury. As we walked up to it and took a picture from the outside, the door opened for us and there was Ray. Ray is a volunteer at the museum, Mary the curator, wasn‘t around as she‘s also the town organist and had to play at a funeral. So we put our $2 entrance fee each in the jar, signed the visitor’s log (they had about 2 visitors or so a day this month) and Ray showed us around and told us all he could about the place and the exhibits. He told us about how he kept an eye on the couple that visited who told them they sold old vintage clothes on the internet; about how he had a collection of barbed wire, but he sold it after he moved to this town in 1974; he told us about the local “Madam” back in the day; and every once in a while he apologised when he didn’t know something, but Mary would know this. The museum wasn’t so much about stagecoaches, there was only the one in the museum really, it was more about the history of the town, the area and the pioneer way. There was even a little one room school house at the back at of the museum. It was an utterly delightful visit, and we enjoyed every minute of it.
Afterwards we headed towards Torrington where we visited another museum, the Homesteader Museum, which was in many respects similar to the Stagecoach Museum. According to the lady showing us there, we were probably the first visitors from out of the country! Again, it was a lovely little museum, sweet and quaint.
We drove on that evening, all the way into the next state, Colorado, where the Rocky Mountains were waiting for us.

As we left Yellowstone, we got to experience what the rest of the state of Wyoming had to offer. In one word: space, lots of space, really a lot of space. Wyoming is just over 8 times the size of Belgium, yet has a population of only 563626 (Belgium has 10 million). So you can find yourself driving for miles and miles and miles without coming across another living soul.
The first town we drove through was Cody, a bit of a tourist mecca and we didn’t stay long. We had planned on visiting the Buffalo Bill museum, which had been recommended by several people, but it had closed for a refurb, so we drove on. Meeteetse with a population of about 300 was a super cute little town, but we didn’t really stop to take in its delights, which I rather regret now. Onwards to Thermopolis, which isn’t quite as fancy as the name would make you think. One of our silly highlights there was seeing the local high school football team practise, it was just like in the movies. And then we had to find a nice enough place to park the RV for the night, preferably one with laundry facilities! Well, the next town we drove through had an RV park or two, but let’s just say that seemed to be the kind of place for “local people”. So as night started to fall over Wyoming, we kept driving on. The town with the promising name of Ten Sleep was on the horizon and yes, we found a nice place to stay there. We were definitely the odd ones out though. At this time of year, we were the only “tourists” staying at the site, which you can apparently tell by how busy the laundry room gets. In summer, no matter how many machines the owners keep buying, there’s always a line. In autumn, hunters are the main occupants of the campground and they don’t seem too bothered about clean clothes.
Ten Sleeps is right outside the Bighorn National Forest, route 16 goes through this part of the state and this was the route we needed to get to our next destination, Devils Tower Monument. What I didn’t quite realise was that Bighorn National Forest is STUNNING! We could see the snow capped peaks of the mountains as the sun was setting the night before and were we glad we didn’t drive on that night. It was just too beautiful to miss.

We arrived at our destination in the afternoon. Devil’s Tower Monument is pretty darn cool, no aliens around, and they don’t try to cash in on that theme in any way either (I wouldn’t have minded). We saw the movie Paul just a few weeks before, so it was fun seeing the “set” and walking around the odd geographical thingy that is the monument. There were even some people climbing on it, scary! We settled for the night at the campground in the park with a view over the tower, lovely.

As we drove away the following morning we found ourselves being entertained for quite some time by dozens of prairie dogs. Cute little fellows they are! Although best not to get too close, as they might have plague-carrying fleas, yikes. And the holes where they live, also tend to house rattle snakes and black widow spiders, double yikes! Anyway, we’re so loving all the wildlife we see on this trip and much of it we see because of the campgrounds we like to stay at (the ones in the national parks, rather than the private ones). If we had done this trip in a car, rather than an RV and stayed in hotels and motels along the route, this is something we would have missed out on.

The weather turned back from winter into autumn on Saturday and we could see more and more of the park. We ventured out to the Canyon area of Yellowstone to Artist Point (my Disney friends should know why we wanted to go there) to see the Upper and Lower Falls. Well, it was beautiful, just as expected. I can really understand why they called Artist Point.

We decided to take little hike down Uncle Tom’s Trail. It didn’t seem like too much of a strenuous hike, just going down about 500ft into the canyon to get a more up close view and feel of the Lower Falls. Going down was a little scary, there are about 300 metal steps and it gets a bit steep at times and you can see through the steps. Not recommended for those with vertigo! But when you were down there, it was all worth it. Now comes the trouble, going back up those 300 plus steps. About two thirds of the way up I was getting a bit short of breath, nothing to worry about, just a bit tired, have a sip of water, rest for a bit, I’ll be on my way again in no time. Or so I thought… The out of breath thing soon turned into feeling dizzy. Then my complexion turned from a glowy red from the exercise into a colour that rivalled my lovely warm coat (also know as the wearable duvet). I wanted to throw up, but didn’t wanted to spoil the landscape. We thought it might have been some kind of motion sickness somehow, that’s what it felt like. So I tried to do what they teach you when you get seasick: stare at one point. No, that wasn’t making it any better either. In fact, it got worse. I couldn’t focus on anything anymore, everything started to go blurry and I was starting to see white blobs. This was the point where Niels asked “Shall I get a ranger?” and my answer was “yes, please”. But as luck would have it, at that point some other hikers came by who quickly started helping out. One of them asked a bunch of questions and said “it’s the elevation”. At this elevation (higher than 7000ft), you tend to react differently and the combination of the quick hike up and the not insignificant difference in altitude, turned out to be the culprit. They quickly cleared a bench of snow for me to lie down on, heart and head at the same level, and concentrate on breathing (and drink some water if it won’t make you throw up). Strangers can be so nice at times. As I was lying there for about 20 minutes, slowly feeling better, a few more hikers came by, all offering help or their water bottles. I managed the rest of the hike up, going at a snail’s pace. We came across the people who helped out on the way back up, turns out one of them was a doctor. Lucky me. We took it really easy the rest of the day. That was a scary moment out there.

Anyway, the rest of the day was so lovely. We drove to areas of Yellowstone we hadn’t seen yet. And at this time of year, there are few tourist in the park, at times we even felt like we had the park to ourselves. We went out by Lake Yellowstone, it was soooo quiet out there, you could only hear the sound of the water hitting the shore. Pure serenity. Bliss. We were so glad we came to Yellowstone at this time. People had been telling us how busy it gets here in summer, bumper to bumper pretty much. Now, everything was so peaceful and quiet, just how you’d imagine it should be.

We loved Yellowstone so much that we decided to stay an extra day. That meant we wouldn’t get to go to Badlands, but we just didn’t want to leave. So after the final morning at the Old Faithful Inn (it closed for the winter that day!) and seeing the Old Faithful Geyser go off once more, we went to the Mammoth Hot Springs area. Now, the weather had turned into a really beautiful autumn’s day! It was just perfect. The Mammoth Hot Springs are so weird and wonderful, like nothing else on this planet. In fact, it felt all rather alien, but so cool! At the old fort area, elk were roaming about as if they owned the place. We parked the RV at the Mammoth Campground, made a campfire again and spent the evening outside. It was a perfect last evening in Yellowstone. As we left the campground the following morning, we were greeted by some more elk. Now, you are supposed to stay 25ft away from them at all times. Not always as easy…

Bye bye Yellowstone

Not exactly in the right order, but you can figure it out :-)

Disclaimer: Right, we’ve been in the wilderness for a while now, so no internet (or even phone). So will do a few blog post in quick succession, but you’ll have to wait for photos a few days longer as I’ve been too busy having fun to even sort through them!

Well, as it turns out, we didn’t get too cold that night, in fact, it was just a bit too warm even! As we opened the door of the RV, there were icicles hanging from it, but there wasn’t a huge new blanket of snow, so it seemed things didn‘t get too bad. Niels went to check at the campground information, find out if any roads would still be closed so we could plan our accordingly. “Do you want to the good news or the bad news? Well, the good news is that you came to check…” said the lovely at the campground. Turns out, the Madison area was pretty much the only area that was not adversely affected by the weather. The options were: you could go out of Yellowstone via the West Entrance, or you could take the road to the Old Faithful area. Everything else, including all the other entrances, was closed off! Geyser-gazing it would be then!
Thermal undies and big winter coats on, it wouldn’t really get any warmer than freezing. We saw plenty of bison again, this time they were really close to the road, well, they were crossing the road actually. First time ever we got stuck in a bit of traffic jam due to bison, how novel! The other thing that struck me as rather odd, was the fact that there were so many people out fishing out in the river (not by the river, in the river). Nutcases…
Anyway, geyser country, how freaking awesome was that!!! You see these plumes of smoke from a distance, looking like the forest is on fire. Then you get up close and personal and it feels like you are on a different planet, it all looks so alien. Oh, and it stinks, literally, sulphuric gas doesn’t exactly smell of roses. But you don’t care, this is just way too cool.
And then we ventured into the back country for a bit of a hike, up to Mystic Falls (unfortunately not the Mystic Falls with the yummy vampire as I soon found out). No, this was the Mystic Falls with the “Bear Country” warning. Just a week or so before we arrived in Yellowstone 2 people were killed by bears, so we were told be careful by every ranger we came across. We weren’t carrying any bear spray, but I did make sure I was singing loud enough to scare any bear away… (they really do tell you to sing, or make loud noises). The landscape from the geyser and hot spring area changes dramatically fast into tall pine woods, and then you are truly walking in a winter wonderland. Beautiful beyond words.
We didn’t spend the next 2 nights in Bertie, I had booked ourselves 2 nights in the Old Faithful Inn. This was the one place I really REALLY wanted to spend some time, so it was the first thing I booked once I knew the approximate route. The Old Faithful Inn is a gorgeous building, built over 100 years ago. It took them only 1 year to build it, which is quite astonishing and quite the engineering feat! One of the reasons I really wanted to stay here was because my favourite hotel in Disney World, The Wilderness Lodge, was based on it, so it was cool to stay in the original. We stayed in one of the old house rooms, which meant shared bathrooms and really bad sound insulation (the whole building is made out of wood), but it was soooo cool! Across from our room were 2 little rooms with gorgeous cast iron bath tubs (luckily not a lot of people know about these, they don’t actually tell you, they just tell you about the showers). Anyway, after our hike to Mystic Falls, those bath tubs looked more than inviting. And oh my goodness, heaven can come in the shape of a bath tub! I savoured every minute of it and didn’t want to come out…

I haven’t written the next part of our Yellowstone adventure yet (and trust me, it has been an adventure at times… altitude sickness is not nice…). I hope to do this very soon and upload it along with photos soon.

Disclaimer: Right, we’ve been in the wilderness for a while now, so no internet (or even phone). So will do a few blog post in quick succession, but you’ll have to wait for photos a few days longer as I’ve been too busy having fun to even sort through them!

We didn’t managed to make a campfire on our first night at the Signal Mountain campground, we tried but then it started raining, and it didn’t stop for most of the following 36 hours. So when we woke up the next morning, we decided to take it easy that day and not go on a big hike. A little walk through the campground was already very lovely, seeing squirrels and chipmunks and deer just a few feet from us. Grand Teton National Park has a rather excellent visitor centre. Among many other things, we now know where the park got its name from, and it is indeed a little naughty just as we always thought when we said the name. Some -apparently depraved- French explorers came up with the name which basically translates as the Big Boobs. Grand Teton looks quite a bit like the Alps, but with bears, not that we came across any. Despite the weather, which cleared up for a little time in the afternoon, we did have an excellent day yet again. We retired for the night with a forecast just below freezing and the ominous news that the first snow storm of the season was on its way to the area.
Luckily, that snow storm hadn’t quite arrived when we got back on the road the next day on our way to Yellowstone National Park. “Quite” being the operative word in that sentence. It didn’t take long for the snowflakes to fall from the skies and by the time we arrived at the South Entrance of Yellowstone Park around 10am, you could barely see anything but the white stuff. We drove on, not seeing anything but the road in front of us and every once in a while I could catch a glimpse of the cliff drop right next to the road. It was a somewhat stressful drive up to the visitor centre at Old Faithful. When we arrived there, the snow had turned into miserable rain. But we had just arrived in time to see Old Faithful erupt, even the rain couldn’t stop my excitement at seeing the water jet 130ft into the air. It was awesome! Then, it was onwards to our campsite for the night, Madison campground. On the way there, we saw some bison. It was awesome! At the campground we found out that the South Entrance had closed due to the weather only an hour or so after we went through it. Well, that was lucky, a detour to another entrance could have taken us at least a half day’s drive. In the evening, just before dusk, we decided to venture into the town of West Yellowstone in Montana (that way, we got to tick another state of the list). On the way there, we saw some elk. It was awesome! Now for the town of West Yellowstone, there isn’t really much to it to be honest, we did have dinner in a local restaurant which felt like we stepped into a time warp. We had to keep a close eye on the weather though, as we had left the campground, the snow started coming down again and we didn’t want to be stuck out in the town in case the West Entrance would close too. Back at our site, we prepared for what would be our coldest night yet, just below freezing. A duvet, some super warm sleeping bags, a thermal nightie and bedsocks would have to the trick (along with leaving the thermostat on so the water lines wouldn’t freeze in the RV)…

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