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Sunday, September 27, 2015

YELLOWSTONE CRAZINESS


When we finish up at the workshop it is still raining, so we decide to head into the centre of Salt Lake City to tour the main attraction here. Yes, that is the massive Temple for The Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). We score a carpark practically outside one of the entrances & feed the machine (who would have thought $4 would get 2 hours!) Then head off to get our tour. The tours are more like instruction in their religion, but it is impressive to see inside the lovely temple, the older small one & then the gigantic conference centre. For the first 2 we had 2 lovely young girls showing us around, but the next guide was an older, much more boring guy. We finally escaped. Followed by a drive around town, before heading to Tim’s driveway for the night. John had met Tim at the Isuzu dealership. The long & the short of it is that Tim & his mate Brian are building a camper out of an ex USA army 4x4 large truck. Should be something special when finished as they are both very competent engineers,

Bright & early we leave the city and head due north. Next stop: Antelope Island State Park, set on an island in Great Salt Lake and connected by a long causeway. Such a great place - we spend the better part of the day exploring. Lots of bison & pronghorn antelopes (all other species here remain hidden from us.) Would be a great spot to stay – but more to see & do, so we continue on. To Logan & then through Logan Canyon. Really pretty, but nowhere to camp, so finally head up a side road until we find a nice spot beside the river. Brrr a chilly night – wake to find our roof vent encrusted with ice. GR2 takes ages to warm up.

On & up over the mountains, with great views of Bear Lake. Then on across the border into Idaho. Lots of farming communities, all with their own large Latter Day Saints Church. Even pass a really lovely LDS cathedral/temple in Paris. Another summit, & in to Wyoming. Lots more towns before we head in to Wyoming’s Grand Canyon. Again lots of white water rafting. Finally reach Jackson Hole – an incredibly touristy town, which we can’t wait to leave. Then on in to Teton National Park. Everywhere we drive we are overshadowed by these magnificent peaks. We finally find a spot in the forest to camp with views of the Tetons/peaks. A campfire, sunset & then sunrise. 

An early start means we get to see a huge male moose, lots of elk & a fox hunting breakfast. Some lovely views over the lake, then more scenic driving. We can’t drive all day, so head off on a walk. Back driving, the road continues straight in to Yellowstone National Park. It is massive, and there is no simple way to drive around & to top it off it is the weekend and the place is packed. We decide to explore the south east quarter & head out to Cody (that way we can return via the very scenic Beartooth Pass that has been highly recommended. On to explore the West Thumb thermal area with its wooden walkways. Lots of aquamarine steaming pools, little geysers going off, and bubbling mud right beside the huge Yellowstone Lake. Apparently fishermen used to cook their catch as soon as they caught them – in the bubbling water. Then we drive along the edge of the lake & up into the mountains, through yet another canyon and in to the town of Cody. And yes there is a Walmart. Campspot solved. Dinner out in a local restaurant with the old boys belting out country & western. Awesome!

The next morning we head to the incredibly famous (here anyway) Buffalo Bill Museum. A big section is about a guy by the name of William Cody/ alias Buffalo Bill: who was a famous tracker, explorer & finally entrepreneur who took his Cowboy & Indian Show around the world (rather like Circus Soliel). There are also sections about Native Indians, the animals in the area, the biggest display of guns we have ever seen etc etc. You really could spend all day here – in fact your ticket is valid for 2 days. But the weekend is nearly over – time to venture back in to Yellowstone, with hopefully fewer people. Finally leave town with an empty loo, full water tanks & full diesel tank (with the cheapest fuel in town of course – thanks to Gasbuddy) Head off towards Beartooth Highway – find a great spot for the night beside the river – it even has a pile of firewood waiting for us.

Up bright & early ready to attack the mountain. And what a drive it is. Near the summit we see a sign – Road Closed. But the barrier isn’t shut & the cars that passed us haven’t returned, so we carry on. Once it snows this road gets closed – and there is evidence of fresh snow all around. The summit is very chilly. Perfect to stop for coffee. Then a magic descent passing heaps of shiny blue lakes. Finally back in to Yellowstone. The list is up for camp grounds (yes we plan to legally camp in one). At least half are closed for the season, and only a few of the remaining have empty spots. We decide to book one once we get there – quite a drive away. On through trees & in to Bison territory. Lots of cars stopped & massive lens trained on these huge beasts. Another stop cameras are pointed to the hills – there is one lonely longhorn sheep there! Too far away for my camera. On to the camp ground – it is now full!!There are cars everywhere, and parking areas are already getting tight. Luckily GR2 can squeeze in to pretty small spots.

Head on south to see one of my must sees – the falls over Grand Canyon – awesome. Then we decide to walk down in to the canyon to the lower viewpoint – what a trudge back up – but worth the great view. More mud pools & crazy thermal areas before doubling up on part of the loop past Yellowstone Lake. No way will we be able to finish the Old Faithful & other geyser areas & exit the park today, so we turn in to Grant Village to see if we can find a spot there. The camp ground is closed. There are heaps of empty carparks…..couldn’t we just use one of them. We see a ranger vehicle & ask. Sure thing – just go behind the petrol station. What a relief! Here we meet a couple from Aus who have hit a moose in their VW camper & are waiting to be towed. What a small world.

Phew another day exploring & tackling the crowds (even carpark queues!) First to the very famous Old Faithful – who faithfully puts on her show. The Beehive puts on an even more spectacular display. Lots of boardwalks to explore – and 100’s more photos taken. More geyser areas to explore – more boardwalks & even more photos! One special stop was a walk to the unofficial outlook over the incredibly gorgeous Giant Prismatic Spring (surely the most vibrant, amazing pool of water). The carpark in to view it was jampacked with a queue waiting – but we got there. Many more thermal areas before it really is time to start heading out of the park. We are geysered out. But one last stop at Mammoth Falls to trek yet more boardwalks, to see the limestone terraces. Magic. Then in town we finally see lots of elk. Males rutting & bugling (all to catch the female’s eye). Finally we are out – find a spot beside the Yellowstone River for the night. Two other motorhomes join us – and yes they are both Aussies! And no we did not see Yogi or Boo Boo.

Coming Soon: “Going to the Sun”  

 

YELLOWSTONE CRAZINESS - PHOTOS

The Temple in Salt Lake city - very opulent

Bison grazing on Antelope Island

A close up of the cute guy - not.

One of the prong horn antelope on the beach

Heading through yet another canyon

Camping for the night beside the river - just off the Logan Canyon

The whole thing is made of antlers

Looking down the Grand Canyon

The Grand Tetons

Our magic camp spot in Forestry land overlooking the Tetons

Morning moose

Elk

Mule deer

Jenny Lake

Red fox

More scenic lake pictures

Baby mule deer

Final view of the Tetons - time for Yellowstone

The bright pools right beside Yellowstone Lake - West Thumb area

The Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody

A Pioneer town in Cody

Starting Beartooth Pass

Heading down the other side

Such pretty lakes

Escaping from Yellowstone!

But there are plenty more left behind

The falls over Yellowstones Grand Canyon

A selfie - very arty

The Beehive Geyser

Old Faithful

There were so many

My top favorite - Giant Prismatic Spring

Look at those colours

We watching this guy getting his lunch

Mammoth Hot Springs - the limestone terraces

More limestone terraces

Bugling Elk - not a pretty sound

Who is going to get the girl?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

BACK IN RED ROCK TERRITORY


We love Utah. On our last trip we explored lots of National Parks here, but there are so many more. We plan to add a few more before we carry on north.

We leave our new friends and continue along the now dry track. This section is much more scenic, but also much windier & bumpy. We stop to peer down in to Bull Valley Gorge and then on to Willis Creek. Here there are quite a few vehicles – most have come from the other direction. We head out to explore the slot canyon. Finally! And it is lovely. We give up trying to keep our feet dry – and it is lovely padding through the creek surrounded by curved, convoluted walls of rock. Nothing better than a picnic lunch inside a canyon.

Not much more dirt track before we reach the Cottonwood Rd we had wanted to take. This leads us to Kodachrome State Park, but first a detour down the Cottonwood Rd (the first part is still open) to view the huge Grosvenors Arch. Then back to lovely little Kodachrome. Few tourists and yes lots of red rock – this time with lots of pillars. By now it is getting late, so we leave the park & camp beside the river. A pretty spot with cows mooing & even maybe a coyote howling.

Today is Bryce Canyon National Park day. We plan to get there early in the hope of missing the crowds, but it is not to be. We try out our new washing machine – and it passes the test. Then head through Tropic & stop at a walk – have to do it. So we arrive later at Bryce and yes it is packed. Car parks are at a premium inside, especially where the most popular walk heads off. Second time around the loop we grab one, get ready & set off to hike into the canyon. Phew it is a long windy way down. Those coming up look pretty pooped! John thinks maybe I shouldn’t go, but no ‘if those oldies can do it, so can I”

It is a magic walk inside the rim. Hours later we reach our exit point at Wall St – an absolutely amazing climb through a towering red canyon – but what a climb, hairpin after hairpin. Plus it is pretty hot by now.  Phew. A great hike. Then drive on along the scenic drive stopping at all the viewpoints to gawp at the staggering views, then fielding all the questions of people gathered beside our truck. Kind of a relief to finally exit the park & head up to the local reservoir to find our camp for the night, as suggested by Beat & Betti.. A magic spot for another roaring fire. Those great fires are my excuse for not getting my blog done. Much nicer sitting outside than typing on my laptop!

Our plan is to head directly north on a back road, but I have seen pictures of a red rock tunnel on Highway 12 & want to get one. So we turn west and drive the scenic route to Red Rock Canyon. Good choice – it is a gorgeous drive & I do get the photo. A short hike up the hills, but both of us has sore legs, so no more. Decide not to retrace our steps (John really hates driving the same road twice) so head on to the town of Panguitch. The brochure looked great – but in reality there is only a very short row of old shop fronts – nearly all empty, and not much else. We decide to head on along the main road through farming areas before heading along more mountainous back roads. Magic. Finally reach Fish Lake in time for lunch. Lots of great camping, but too early to stop. As we crest another mountain range we get views all the way to Capitol Reef – yes red rock territory again. As we head into another badlands area we start looking for a spot to camp. We spy a side road & head down it. About 2kms down we find a great flat spot near an old homestead with magic views. Great for yet another fire!

Back to the main road & on through some same farming towns – Ferron, Clawson, Castledale & Huntington. Yes, mining is huge here – especially coal. We head off on another scenic Drive – The Energy Loop through the Manti La Sal National Forest – gorgeous. There are camping spots everywhere. We could spend years in Utah! At the summit there are numerous shimmering lakes with even more camping. But on we move, back down to the main road & yet another rocky canyon to the mining town of Helper then Price, where we finally track down the Visitor Centre. Loaded down with more brochures we head in to the Nine Mile Canyon – home to some amazing petrographs (we are told). Fortunately it is a magic drive – all tarseal, and we do finally find some drawings – signage leaves a lot to be desired. We end up overnighting at one of the picnic areas.  

We head out of the canyon on a back road – a few miles of dirt – but not too bad, before we are back into badlands territory, covered with oil rigs. Miles & miles of them – sucking out as much oil & gas as possible. Finally back to crop growing areas and a more main road. We are heading to our final National Park in Utah. Flaming Gorge. At Vernal (home of the dinosaurs – and no we don’t go to the famous dinosaur Nat Pk – now we don’t have our boys with us there is no need) but we drive through some rainbow coloured rocky territory with signs up telling us what dinosaurs walked here & what kind of rock they are (a great area for you Brad). On to our gorge…hmmm, doesn’t look all that red & exciting. We head to the dam and go on their free tour, then drive out to Red Canyon – and here is the wow! Amazingly layered cliffs dropping into the lake. Again it is getting late and the ranger tells us where we can free camp – just up the road at the start of the Geological Loop that we had planned to drive. So yet another roaring fire & quiet night. A chilly night – we even haul out our winter jammies.

We wake to a cool gray day. But despite the clouds, the Loop drive is truly sensational. The road surface is bad, but scenery staggering. So many diverse rocks in such a tiny area. Plenty of wow here. Back to the main road – we are heading to Salt Lake City. To get there we have to cross in to Wyoming – lots of wide desolate pastures & then long straight motorways. Kind of suits the gray drizzly day. Stop at Evanstown for new wiper blades – they are dry and useless after sitting outside in San Diego for months. Then on across another Scenic Drive – The Mirror Lake Highway – and yes lots more wow as the Aspens are turning gold. Haven’t seen such magic autumn colours since leaving Auckland. Again heaps of amazing places to camp, but we want to get to the Isuzu dealership (to get a slight oil leak fixed from a previous repair in Suriname) in Salt Lake City before closing to make a booking at the workshop. We get there before 5pm and are booked in for Wednesday morning. Today is Monday – so we decide to head to Bonneville Salt Flats. We already know that Speedweek has been cancelled – the salt is not thick enough, but we will still go and have a look. So we head out of town in rush hour – actually not too bad. As we head along beside the huge lake I look for campspots & suggest we head out to Stansberg Island. So we turn off, head through the salt farms and settle for the night on a salt “beach”. No fire tonight – too chilly & wet. Pretty windy too in the middle of the night.

A slow start in the morning – we have heaps of time – then on across miles of flat to the lookout over the actual Bonneville Salt Flats. On a sunny day it would be blinding! Then on to the starting area. Not much more to see. Cross over the border into Nevada so we can go to a Casino for lunch (sadly very disappointing) Then we retrace our steps to Salt Lake City where we find a spot at Sam’s Supermarket only a short drive from the Isuzu place. Great to be able to Skype Claire, Sam & Toby and then Stacey. And finally get an update on our blog.

Bright and early we head to the Isuzu workshop. A perfect chance for me to update paperwork (yucky MYOB stuff) and get our blog right up to date. John can hang out with the mechanics – keeping an eye on the work been done. It also pours with rain, so a good day to be inside a workshop.

Coming up: Yogi Bear & Booboo (in Yellowstone)                                               

BACK IN RED ROCK TERRITORY - PHOTOS

Inside the slot canyon at Willis Creek, Escalante

Following the creek in the slot canyon

Grovseners Arch

Trying to push over the rock in Kodachrome

Driving through Kodachrome

Red rock at Kodachrome

More at Kodachrome

Our lovely campsite outside Kodachrome

Magical Bryce Canyon

Down inside the canyon

Hiking inside Bryce

Leaving Wall St in Bryce Canyon - very hot & steep

An overview



The only old buildings left in town -

Billy the Kid was here

Yet another great camp spot

The Energy Look Rd

Helper

Nine Mile Canyon

The Great Hunt

Flaming Gorge

The amazing overlook at Flaming Gorge

Yet another great campspot

The Geological Loop

The Loop

Heading out of Flaming Gorge

and into Wyoming - wide open spaces

Glorious autumn colour

More

Mirror Lake Scenic Rd



Mirror Lake on the scenic Mirror Lake Highway

Our camp spot on the salt beach

The road across the Salt Flats

John on Bonneville Flays