Friday, July 26, 2013
Monday, July 22, 2013
|Grandma Joyce and great-granddaughter|
Glacier National Park is known as a "hiker's paradise," but you'd better be a fit hiker. There are plenty of backcountry campsites for long-distance treks, but the closest campsites are generally five or many more miles from the trailhead, plus a few thousand feet up. This makes it difficult to break day hikes into shorter multi-day backpack trips.
For our first hike, we settled on Cobalt Lake, which leaves from the south side of Two Medicine Lake in the southeast corner of the park. It's a moderate climb of 1400 feet over 5.46 miles, but almost all of the elevation gain comes in the last two miles.
We were on the trail at 8:30 a.m. and back at the truck by 3:20 p.m. Here's some of what we saw along the way, ordered as we saw it.
New birds sighted included two Pacific wrens and two lazuli buntings.
Sinopah Mountain from the Two Medicine Lake parking lot; we walked up the ravine on the left side of this photo, just right to the of the lamp post.
Early and easy water crossing, thanks to great trail engineering and construction
|Lovely Aster Falls|
Signposting; yes, we carry bear spray
On our way up; Two Medicine Lake as seen from above
|Not far now|
Our destination: Cobalt Lake
|Headed back down|
|Mid-afternoon at Two Medicine Lake|
Sunday, July 21, 2013
Kettle House Brewery, north side
Beers on tap at Kettle House, downtown Missoula
Missoula is home to the three largest breweries in Montana. Maybe that had something to do with my good vibe? Probably. On our first night we checked out the Kettle House Brewery's new location in an historic warehouse in Missoula’s Northside railroad district. We liked their Cold Smoke Scotch Ale, the Fresh Bongwater Hemp Pale Ale (which included Canadian industrial hemp), and (our favorite) a Cold Smoke with elderberries.
The (excellent) Riverside Cafe on Front Steet, downtown Missola
We stayed at the KOA because it was centrally located, which allowed us to get around on our bikes. On our second night we rode downtown with a packed lunch. We had planned to have a drink at the Tamarack Brewpub, then picnic by the river. But Colene suggested we first check out the Rhinoceros, where a local band ("Cash for Junkers") was playing in the back ally. See why I like this town? We sampled thee more local brews and danced a few two-steps before we ate our sandwiches and rode home.
|Rhinoceros bar, downtown Missoula|
Maybe someday I will have that luxury, but for now, we have reservations in Glacier, so off we go.
Saturday, July 20, 2013
Leaving Yellowstone was hard because we left so many things undone. We did manage to get one more night at our campsite. But our truck was shaking bad so we needed to get it looked at by a tire shop in West Yellowstone.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
|Lake Shoshone Geyser Basin|
|2nd night camp setup|
|Above & below|
Lake Shoshone Geyser Basin
|Lone Star Geyser|
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Tuesday was spent hiking all around the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. If you were unaware of this canyon as I was or maybe confused with the Grand Canyon in Arizona, read a little about this feature of Yellowstone. The Yellowstone River drops 308 feet over the Lower falls in this 20 mile long canyon.
Yesterday we drove the upper loop through Mammoth Hot Springs, checked out the Albright visitors center, and ate our picnic in the Lamar Valley. It was a long day of driving and to me it was more exhausting than a good hike.
Today we have permits to backpack into Shoshone Lake just south of Old Faithful. We plan to spend 3 days and 2 nights exploring the geothermal features of this area. We will give you a report on this area with photos when we return.
Monday, July 8, 2013
For this reason I have no business blogging for the next few days. This seems to be the perfect time to debut a new, perhaps regular blog feature: park sounds.
I recorded this video Sunday morning in West Thumb Geyser Basin. Let me know what you think--just remember that my video-capture skills are completely self-taught.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
|Thunderstorm over Buffalo Valley, west of Moran, Wyo.|
Yet even this sad, broken-down, over-priced, misrepresented place had its bright spots. For one thing, it introduced us to this amazing valley, which had lots of wildlife and not very many people or much traffic. We found it relaxing to drive out of the busy park each day, and mark my words, I will be back to float the Buffalo Fork River from Turpin Meadow campground to the national park boundary.
The “Resort” also introduced us to lots of interesting people who came and went during the eight days we parked there. And thanks to Rex, of course, we knew most of them, including the early thirties couple with three big dogs, an even bigger kayak, and cutest little pull-behind camper you ever saw. I guessed that they were from California. Rex guessed Austin, and he was right—Hyde Park, specifically.
|Rainbow Finds the TI at Grand Teton Park RV Resort, near Moran, Wyo.|
We always assumed half of our adventure would be the people we encountered along the way. And as we headed into Yellowstone, we knew we would be encountering lots of people.
For our nine days in one of the country’s most-visited national parks, we will be staying within park boundaries at a place called Fishing Bridge, which is a campground built specifically for hard-sided trailers like ours. We are excited about the convenience of staying in the park, and I am really grateful that Rex took the initiative to make reservations in advance. But we are leery of what we will find in an 380-trailer park in the middle of Yellowstone.
Unfortunately, Fishing Bridge as no cell phone or internet access, so we will be posting only sporadically for the next few days. More as I can….
Thursday, July 4, 2013
On Thursday, we drove into the national park to hike along String Lake to Leigh Lake. The birding here wasn’t as good, but the lake and mountain views were amazing. And we did identify several Swainson’s thrushes, singing their hearts out.
|Swainson's thrush on the shores of String Lake, Grand Teton National Park|
Friday we pack lunches and set out to tackle a very strenuous hike towards Amphitheater Lake--just the thing to get our legs sore. We didn’t make it to the lake, but the views were the best so far, and it was obviously Spring in the mountains as many flowers were in bloom.
|Hike to Amphitheater Lake, Grand Teton National Park|
|Bison-Induced Traffic Jam, Grand Teton National Park|
|Buffalo Valley Road, Bridger-Teton National Forest|
We would like to stay longer, but we are agreed that it is time to go back to “civilization” and stay in the RV park so we have better internet. This week has been a good first test of our solar system, and it worked like a champ. Every day was sunny so we never had to worry about conserving energy. We could run the vacuum, the microwave, the toaster, the bread machine, roast coffee, and turn on all the lights we wanted. Maybe next time we will get a couple cloudy days to see how we do. As far as water, we added 10 gallons on Wednesday to give us a total of 60 gallons but I dumped close to 10 gallons of clean water before we left the campsite, so we made it 6 days on 50 gallons. When Colene no longer needs internet connection every day for her job, we definitely plan to do more boondocking.
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
We arrive here on the first day of summer, Friday, June 21. Saturday morning, we got a nice hike in--just two miles from where we were staying. The hike highlights included a great view of the mountain range, a small herd of elk cows and calves, a pink-sided junco, a Brewer's sparrow, and a hairy woodpecker.
|First hike, Bridger-Teton National Forest|
On Sunday, we were up at 5:45 a.m., and I realized that we did have a good view of the Tetons out our dining-room window, even if this pricey park was a dump. I started some dried tomato herb bread in the machine, but that would get interrupted soon.
After breakfast we headed up Buffalo Valley Road for another morning hike, when we came upon an RV breaking camp--100 feet above the valley. I had to stop and ask how they got permission to camp in this amazing spot. They said you don’t need permission and it is free. When I looked at Colene, she could see the pleading look in my eye. You see, I spied this spot from the road the day before, and it looked like something I had seen in a magazine--but never dreamed I might be that camper that got to enjoy a spot like this.
|Our boondocking spot|
Anyway she must love me a lot because she agreed to go pack up and move our TI out of a paid-for spot in the RV park and go boondocking, which is trailer camping without any water, electricity, or sewer hook-ups. The Forest Service calls it dispersed camping. It is free, you can stay up to 16 days. Like hiking in the parks, you should leave to trace that you were there.
Our TI carries 50 gallons of potable water, and we can store up to 50 gallons of "gray" water plus 50 gallons of "black" water (sewage). And thanks to the four photovoltic panels I installed on the roof, plus four storage batteries, we have should have had enough electricity as long as the sun shines--but this would be the first real test of the system!
Two hours later we are set up in this new spot and the bread is restarted, thanks to solar power. Now we are on our way to hike Lava Creek Trail about a mile on up this road. It is 1.5 mile up a mountain, with good elevation gain. Hike highlights were a pair of red-naped sapsuckers feeding their young, a solitary western wood-pewee, and a western tanager spotted by Colene.
After our hike we come back and settle in to our new location.