We traveled Thursday for about 3-4 hours to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. The weather was overcast but still allowed us to get out and hike for a few hours. The hike was great as it was not only fairly flat but we were at about 900-foot elevation and we could breathe easily for the first time in a few weeks. We saw deer, wild horses, bison and lots of prairie dogs. The prairie dogs weren’t happy with us walking on their territory as they were screeching at us the whole way. They were very protective of their “house” but as soon as we got close to them they scurried into their little abode. There were many prairie dog towns throughout the park.
Traveling on the scenic road in the park, we came across more bison in the middle of the road that just didn’t care if they moved off the road or not.
Friday was a little sunnier so we were able to stop at Painted Canyon for a few nice pictures. This park was nice as it wasn’t crowded and we could stop and see the sites.
Traveling on Friday was spent mostly looking for a place to stay. Some we passed up as they didn’t look like a place we would be comfortable staying in. After four stops of looking for a place, one of the state parks recommended Lee Lake Campground. Since we had been on the road for about 6-7 hours we were ready for anything. This campground had 5 electric sites and the rest of the park was really mobile homes for summer use. But it was better than many we had stopped at along the way and sufficed for the evening.
Saturday brought us to Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota. It was pouring rain most of the day and as we got to Duluth, there were detours so it took a little longer to get to the park. This park has some beautiful waterfalls. Luckily the rain stopped as we arrived and were able to walk to see Lake Superior and the falls. It started raining again just as we were headed back to the camper so we were in luck once again with the weather on the trip.
6-15 Yellowstone National Park
6-16 Bear Canyon Campground, Bozeman, MT
6-17 Miles City KOA, Miles City, MT
Our stay in Yellowstone National Park wasn’t quite as wonderful as some other places although there were some good moments. We left Grand Tetons early in the morning to head to Yellowstone. It was only about a one hour drive so we stopped at the visitor center to check on campgrounds. They told us which ones were still available so we headed off to get a site. As we got to the first campground the sign outside said full so we continued on. Same at the next one and the next one. Amazingly there are over 800 campsites in the park and this was a Tuesday at 11 am and the CGs were full. We stopped to find out which ones were still available and were told Fishing Bridge (which is the only electric site in the park) had just opened up a new loop and we could get a site there.
We paid for the site and not asking the price until it was all paid for found out it was $54. (Most sites we have been getting range from $10 to $35.) We took it anyway and headed back another 20 miles. Upon arriving they gave us a site (told us we were the first ones to get into this new loop) and we headed through much construction and machinery to our site. The entire loop was empty except for a worker’s truck which was parked in our site. Finally got them to move their truck and when we went to set up there was no water spigot to connect to. Back to the reservation desk to get another site. She then told us that they are going to be paving and we couldn’t leave our site for at least 35 minutes until the asphalt dried. So we went for a walk to the shops (and you know how happy John is shopping). Their 35 minutes turned into about 2 hours. About 6 pm we decided to at least go see the Grand Prismatic which is a beautiful hot spring (39 miles away). As we got there the heavens opened up and it started pouring rain and thunder and lightening. It did stop long enough for us to get out and look but there was so much steam coming from the hot springs we couldn’t see it.
Along the way we did get stuck in traffic as a bison decided to walk down the middle of the road. And bison just aren’t the fastest of walkers. He walked down as if he were the master of ceremony in a parade. He was going to meet up with other bison on the left side of the road. After about 15 minutes he finally crossed over to the other side only to see his friends were now on the opposite side!
There was so much traffic and people in the park that other places we wanted to see, we just couldn’t get close to the attraction.
The one plus in this day was a beautiful elk standing at the side of the road posed for us and we were able to get a nice picture of him.
Next day before we headed out of the park we stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs which is a great section of the park. Prior to getting there we happened to stop at a pullout and I looked over and saw a bear. This was the last of the animals we hadn’t see so it was great to see the mother bear with her two cubs. The cubs were having a grand time romping and playing.
Luckily, we have seen Yellowstone National Park in the past so our visit wasn’t the big disappointment that it could have been had we never seen the beauty here.
Animal sightings: Black bear with her 2 cubs, bison and calfs, pronghorns, pelican, elk (up close and personal), crane, eagle.
6-17 Bear Canyon Campground, Bozeman, MT
Leaving Yellowstone, our next stop was Bozeman, Montana to see our niece. We arrived later than expected so didn’t get to go on a planned hike. We had a wonderful visit with Megan and her boyfriend Gannett (sorry not sure how he spells his name) and went to a great restaurant in Bozeman.
Bozeman was our turning point to start heading east. We were going to go to Glacier National Park however the Going to the Sun Road was still not open and that is what we had wanted to see. So we are headed east and will go up by Lake Superior into Canada.
After driving four hours on Wednesday, we arrived at Miles City, MT. There is not much to say about Miles City. We did walk down to the Yellowstone River in the afternoon. The cottonwood trees are shedding their cotton seeds and it looks like a snowstorm with it all coming down.
Leaving Dutch John, UT we headed to Grand Tetons. We were in another cow roundup even bigger than the first one. This was one of our longest drives at 6 hours to reach the Tetons. We stayed three nights in the Tetons as the weather was just perfect and we were ready to stay in one place just for a short time. There was not as much snow on the Tetons as the last time we were here but they were still outstanding. We took a nice 6 mile hike around Taggart and Bradley Lakes. We came across an animal that we think is a badger (see picture) but we were not sure. On the hike back we came across some people that came from another direction and had just seen a bear. The one woman was pretty shook up but her husband and friend wanted to go back and see the bear. We opted not to go that route even though the bear is the only animal we have not seen this trip.
On Sunday after reviewing all the hikes, we opted for an 8 mile hike with about 800 foot elevation gain. Sounded doable and we started off early. This was through the woods and might have been a nice hike except for the millions (and I mean millions) of mosquitoes. Naturally, I had taken out the bug spray from the pack the day before as we hadn’t encountered any bugs up to that point. There were at least 50-100 mosquitoes around us at all times. Halfway through the trip we met up with a family of 5 (from Ohio) coming from a different direction but still encountering the onslaught of bugs. We never hiked so fast to the top of a hike in our lives.Even the elevation gain didn’t affect us on this trip. The views at the top were nice and we saw the same family at the top. They had sent their oldest son down the mountain with a tour guide to get their car so they didn’t have to hike back down the trail. They were so nice and offered to take up back down as well. We took them up on their offer as we couldn’t visualize going back thru the hoards of mosquitoes. Thank goodness for some nice people in this country.
Our stay at the Grand Tetons was worth the trip. It is a beautiful area both for the views and all the animals.
June 9 Capitol Reef National Park (Wonderland RV Park)
June 10 – Arches National Park, Moab, UT; James M. Robb Colorado River State Park, Fruita, CO
June 11 – Dinosaur National Monument, Vernal, UT; Flaming Gorge, NRA, Dutch John, UT
Another day in Paradise brings us to Capitol Reef State Park. The ride over was on a scenic byway so while the roads are pretty winding and up and down, the views make up for it. Most times when you get stuck in traffic it is due to an accident. This trip we found no accident but there was a roundup of about 50+ cows with the cowboys and dogs moving them down the highway to another pasture.
We were unable to get a site in the national park (again) so had to go to a campground outside the park. We did the scenic road in Capitol Reef in the park on Wednesday and again on Thursday morning as we were leaving. We hiked into the Hickman Bridge and also saw petroglyphs. The weather forecast was threatening rain all day with flooding but we had beautiful weather.
Opening up our camper when we arrived at this park gave us a chuckle. I got inside and saw something powdery on the floor. After opening up the cupboard (which had a bungee cord on it because the latch had broken) and found dry pancake flour everywhere. I had put it in a plastic bag which broke open during the ride. I’m thinking that when it burst there was a cloud of flour that went everywhere in the camper. It took a while to wipe it off the stove, countertops and floor.
Capitol Reef is one of the newer state parks signed into law by President Clinton. It is one of the lesser visited parks but is still a nice park to go through.
June 7-8 Glen Canyon Dam, Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park
Leaving Page, Arizona on Sunday, we stopped for a quick view of the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell located in southern Arizona and northern Utah. Our 3-1/2 drive brought us through Red Canyon named for its vermillion-colored rock formations. We took a few minutes to walk along the narrow path taking in the colorful scenery and of course taking pictures.
Bryce Canyon National Park is probably my favorite park so far. The colors and formations are just breath-taking. The pictures don’t really do it justice but you can see the “Hoodoos” in some of the pictures. One of the books on Utah we bought (Frommer’s) says it best: “If you could visit just one national park in your lifetime, go to Bryce Canyon. Here you’ll find magic, inspiration, and spectacular beauty among thousands of intricately shaped hoodoos.”
We stayed in the park campground for two nights. This gave us a chance to hike both days and see the entire park. The first day was across the Rim Trail and Sunset Point to Inspiration Point to Bryce Point. For anyone that is into meditation, I think this is the place to be. You just need to get away from the crowds to meditate.
Monday we decided to do Queens Garden and Navaho Loop hike. This hike was down into the valley where you can look up at the formations. Although a great hike, it is also the most popular. At times we weren’t sure we were still in the U.S.A. because we couldn’t understand ¾ of the tourists or figure out what language they were speaking. The end of the hike was the Navaho Loop. I never saw so many switchbacks in a hike before. The end of the day we finished up driving the 18-mile road to see the rest of the park.
I could spend another few days here just hiking some more of the trails. A wonderful park to visit.
We lucked out weather-wise at Mesa Verde. We arrived on Thursday at the park and drove around to see some of the sites. This is the largest archeological preserve in the US and is fascinating to go through. We made reservations for Friday to do the Balcony House tour. It poured rain Thursday nite and into Friday morning. Our tour was at 10 am and luckily the rain stopped in time for us to go on the tour and as soon as it was over it started raining again. Balcony House has 40 rooms and is considered a medium size cliff dwelling. On this tour you climb a 32-foot ladder, crawl through an 18-inch wide and 12-foot long tunnel and climb up a 60-foot open cliff face with stone steps and two 10-foot ladders to exit. We were glad we picked this tour as it was just great and totally different from just walking around. The rest of the day was spent looking at some of the other dwellings through raindrops.
Saturday we left the park with thunderstorms and pouring rain. It did clear up on our way through to Page, Arizona. We drove through Monument Valley in Utah which was spectacular. Because of the clouds and rain my pictures didn’t come out great but the views were incredible. Our campground in Page is right off the highway and not really our kind of place. But it is a stopover and we were able to get Internet, take showers and wash clothes so it was a much-needed stop.
Animal Sightings: Lizard, Lots of deer at campground, coyote, wild horses
After this we head to Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Arches.
June 1 – Monument Colorado at the Primaveras
June 2-3 Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument and Great Sand Dunes National Park
Monday on our way out of Rocky Mountain National Park we made one last stop at Sheep Lake to see the elk and bighorn sheep. The sheep came to the water shortly after we arrived. They look a little mangy this time of year but it was great to see them along with a bluebird who also made an appearance.
Our next stop was in Monument, Colorado to visit friends Paula and Nick. The roads were very long and winding and at one point we went over a railroad track and everything including truc, and camper went airborne. Needless to say it was a little stressful ride but we arrived safe and sound. A thunderstorm greeted us during our arrival, but their storms pass quickly so we were able to go for a quick hike in the afternoon. We hiked to the Monument Rock which the town was named for. Later we were treated to a nice homecooked meal (camper cooking isn’t always the best). The evening ended with an intense game of bocci with the girls against the guys. I won’t tell you it was a close match (it wasn’t) or that the girls won (they didn’t) but we will need to come back again for a rematch.
Tuesday we headed out to Great Sand Dunes National Park. Along the way we stopped at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument in Florissant. There was a volcano tens of thousands of year ago with a wall of ash and mud traveling 150 miles an hour. This trapped the flora and fauna of the area under layers of ash and silt and created the fossil bed. The displays showed some incredible fossils and huge redwood tree stumps that had petrified. The Big Stump actually has a sawblade that broke off as they were trying to cut it in half and ship to Chicago. They were not successful in cutting this massive tree. A very interesting walk around a place that we hadn’t heard of before.
Our plan was to camp at the Great Sand Dunes National Park figuring that on a Tuesday there would be no problem getting a site. Unfortunately, they were completely full when we arrived. So another 15 miles back to the San Luis State Park gave us our site for the next 2 nights. The view of the sand dunes and mountains from our campsite was spectacular. We did look at the national park campsites on Wednesday but they sites were small and it was difficult to find a place. So we ended up going back to the state park.
The Sand Dunes are unlike anything we have seen in the past. To climb up the dunes you first need to go over Medano Creek with surging water running. We took off our shoes to walk across and we thought we were in the ocean as the water was so cold. Walking up the sand dunes at over 8,000 foot elevation proved to be a challenge for our east-coast lungs. We were determined to get to the top. When we looked at the top it appeared to be an easy hike however, each time we hit the top of a dune there were more to go down and up to reach the top. I got to the point that I would take 50 steps and stop to catch my breath. Towards the top it got to about 25 steps before I had to stop but we finally made it. At first we walked barefoot up, but the sand got so hot we needed to put our shoes back on. Going down was much easier.
A short nature walk after lunch ended our dunes day adventure. Our evening ended with a spectacular sunset (first one of our trip).
Animal sightings: Jackrabbit, llamas, mule deer, turkeys, pronghorn antelopes, prairie dogs, and lots of grasshoppers at Florissant.
We spent two beautiful days at Rocky Mountain State Park. The campsite was just okay but the view from the site was just spectacular. We did a few small hikes as our lungs only could take so much. We were at about 8,000 feet and went up to about 12,000 feet on the Trail Ridge Road. This was the furthest we had been as in the past the road was shut down due to the impassable roads. The roads were cleared and as we went up it was something to see the snow on the sides of the road. To go all the way through the park is about 3 hours one way so we opted only to go as far as Alpine Center. The weather was great with some clouds and temps in the 70s. The lows were only in the 50s. A small hike we did around Bear Lake had a lot of snow and I had had my fill of trudging through snow this winter so we didn’t go around the whole lake.
Our entertainment at the campsite was spent watching a family put up a tent. It probably took about 1-1/2 to get this 5-person tent up and they finally gave up on putting the rain fly on the tent. Luckily it didn’t rain. The surprising part was they fit 7 people in this tent made for 5 people. And as you tenters know, a 5-person tent is good for about 3 people max. It did provide some great entertainment however.
As with most parks, Internet and cell service is pretty much non-existent so posting will be very sporadic as we continue on to Colorado and Utah.
Animal sightings: Mule deer, lots and lots of elk, bighorn sheep, blue jays, bluebirds, osprey (carrying a fish), chipmunks and squirrels, and no bugs.
The past few days has brought us through Missouri and Kansas. We have had thunder showers mostly at night with good driving during the day. Arrow Rock State Park was a small park but there were some trails to walk around. Not much animal life although we did see a turtle with a bright yellow head (no camera, of course). We walked to Big Soldier Lake which we wouldn’t even consider it to be a small pond although there were some people fishing there.
There are a ton of state parks in Kansas and we stayed at Milford State Park on Thursday evening. There was a fishing tournament and our campsite was close to the marina. We were able to watch all the boats coming in to weigh their fish. The tournament continued on Friday with the shooting of the gun at 7 am and the singing of the national anthem for the start of the day. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain and we felt bad for all the people going out on their boats. It must be worth it as the grand prize was $30,000 and the 5th place was $15,000. All they fisherman had to do was put their boat right by our campsite as we watched the fish jumping all evening long.
Friday we planned on staying in Goodland, KS but the site we stopped at was so bad John said he would drive another 2 hours to Limon, CO. This is the first night we have stayed at a public campground. Not our favorite place right off the interstate, but we had a shower in a highly rated bathroom and even had great Internet access.
After Missouri our GPS would not work. After calling Garmin, they told me we had only service up to Missouri and I needed an additional memory card and had to download the maps for the rest of the country. Of course we forgot the cord for the GPS so after buying a new cord and a card, we were able to download what we needed. If we want Canada, we would need to pay more for that. I did okay for two days doing the navigating from maps but certainly prefer the backup of having the GPS as well. We are set to go now.
Saturday will bring us into Rocky Mountain National Park for a few days.
Animal Sightings: turtle (bright yellow head), male and female cardinal, heron, fish (splashing in water), nasty flies that like to bite, cows, horses, hawks, 60-70 bison, rabbits.
Sunday brought us to Mammoth Cave National Park. It was quite busy when we arrived since it was the holiday weekend but we got a campsite with no problem at the national park. This is the first place John was able to get his National Parks SENIOR pass. Only cost $10 for a lifetime and you get into all the national parks as well as a discount for campgrounds. He was pretty exited to get discounts of $25 just on his first day of having the pass. There is something to be said for turning 62.
As with each campsite we have been to, we find out where the hiking trails are and whether we are up to the task of the trails. We didn’t walk too much on Sunday as John was still recouping from his sore back and 24 hours after my bee sting, my leg decided to swell up so much it was painful to walk. But by Monday we were good to go.
Monday was a rainy day but we signed up to do the cave tour so weather wasn’t a factor. The tour was fascinating. It was 2 hours underground and the first part was walking down about 300 stairs and the last part was walking up 100 stairs. I couldn’t get any pictures in the cave as they wouldn’t allow flash photography and I couldn’t get anything without the flash.
Since it was still raining after our tour, we decided to head into Bowling Green to the Corvette Museum. I decided I wanted the 1963 Corvette and not the later models. They showed the area along with some of the Corvettes that were involved in the sinkhole in February, 2014. There were 8 that fell into this sinkhole. Some will be restored. There was special parking outside for Corvette parking only but we didn’t think our truck and camper would qualify.
After dinner we took a walk around the park and at the visitor center we looked up and there were 5 deer within 5-10 feet of us. They didn’t seem to mind that we were there.
Tuesday we went on another small hike to the river and came across a ferry. It holds up to 3 cars and you could throw a stone across the river to reach the other side. The man we talked with at the ferry was interesting and told us it was cheaper to have this ferry manned 364 days a year (except Christmas) than to put in a bridge. Hard to believe. They transported 720 cars back and forth just on Memorial Day.
May 26, Nashville, IL Washington County State Reservation Area
This campground was probably the best we have been at yet. Of course, by looking at our capsite pictures, I am sure they all look the same. We arrived in the afternoon took our usual afternoon walk and then another in the evening. The evening walk brought us to the lake where we saw geese and a beautiful heron posing for us at the water’s edge. Of course each time we see some picture-worthy photos, I haven’t brought my camera. So you’ll just have to take our word for it. (Kind of like the fisherman story of his catch.) After this walk, I said I will continue to bring my camera everywhere we go.
With all the technology gadgets we have with us, it has become a challenge to get onto the Internet at the places we stay and upload pictures to the blog. And on this trip, our GPS has decided it can’t find Missouri, Colorado or a number of states going west. Maybe there just isn’t much past Illinois?
Animal sightings: More squirrels than you can imagine (Jim you would love it here.), heron, egret, hawk, goose, deer, red-wing blackbird, woodpecker.