Guy knows his stuff. We decided to let the kids play in the pool this morning and take it easy today. Tonight will be worth the wait. Until then, we chose Flagstaff and Salsa Bravo for an early dinner. We saw the place on Diner’s Drive-ins and Dives. MUY BUENO!! We had our fill and headed on to the Grand Canyon once again.
God’s light shows are the best. My parents really wanted to see the Grand Canyon at sunset. I’m glad they did! What a beautiful site! It seemed that every minute gave you a new portrait to look at. There was a slight haze in the canyon from a fire, but I think it only added to the scene. God’s creation truly is a work of art. If you ever get bogged down in life and forget that God loves you and is looking over you, just take a moment and observe something from creation. Look at the sunset. Look at a blade of grass or a leaf on a tree. Watch a bird care for her chicks. Then remember that Jesus said He cares for you more than they. The testimony of God’s creation is that He is mighty and that in His might He loves you.
Apparently everyone wanted to see the sunset. The buses were packed with people on the way back to parking. Debbie didn’t think there would be much of a crowd. WRONG! People hanging onto the bars like monkeys, emitting their odor-ific B.O. only added to the ambiance. That’s my dad’s grey head. Notice which way he is leaning. Jennifer and I have a code for body odor (B.O.) – Obi Wan Kenobi.
Itinerary: Salsa Brava – Flagstaff, AZ; Hopi Point – Grand Canyon
Sunday – June 28
If you want the oxen, you have to deal with the poop. Today was repair day. Jennifer and I went on a walk and on returning we noticed my slide topper had pulled out from the camper in the previous days winds. I think it was simply bad installation. So a 30 minute drive to Home Depot, Camping World, and some friendly camping neighbors to borrow some ladders, and the job was done. Just enough time to walk around downtown Williams and witness another shooting. Fun place to be. I’d say I much rather downtown Williams over Flagstaff. Less of a culture shock for me. :0)
In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. I want to ask you to keep this great wonder of nature as it now is. I hope you will not have a building of any kind, not a summer cottage, a hotel or anything else, to mar the wonderful grandeur, the sublimity, the great loneliness and beauty of the canyon. Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. – Theodore Roosevelt
Don’t bring your finger to a gun fight. What do boys love more than a cowboy gun fight! Prior to our trip up to the Grand Canyon, we were treated to a cowboy show complete with a gun battle. The boys loved it. And even the dead cowboys rose to life and took pictures with the kids. Is it just me, or does the sheriff look like David Letterman?
Sometimes it’s nice for someone else to do the driving. We’ve been driving a long time. So the thought of a someone else taking care of the transportation is a nice reprieve. The Grand Canyon Railway takes you from Williams, AZ to the Southern Rim of the Grand Canyon, complete with Air Conditioning, and another resurrection of the bad guys from the earlier shoot-out. They must have nine lives because they robbed the train.
I think Weston is enjoying the train. This kid has always loved trains. He has pointed them out every time we see them on the road. He’s played with them all growing up. Anytime we can do something like this we do our best to make it happen. Plus, I didn’t know he could play fiddle!
The Grand Canyon is certainly GRAND. Majestic would be another word to describe it. As would awesome, stupendous, gigantic, ridiculous, ginormous, unfathomable, etc. When you walk up on the site from below, your heart starts to beat a little faster. I think that is because your body knows once it sees the view, it’ll stop temporarily, as will your breathing. It is truly a site. I will warn you, that you have to get off the main area. Get away from the village. The our guide on the train said to avoid the shuttles. I say take the shuttles. Get away from the tourist trap. There is less people and more view if you move to the red line toward Hermits Rest. I got to hop on and see Maricopa Point and Hopi Point. Hopi is where you’ll see your first glimpse of the Colorado River. One day the boys and I are going to raft the Colorado! Until then Jr. Ranger will have to suffice.
Sometimes kids just need a break. We told the boys that they could plan the day however they’d like. They chose swimming practically all day and building legos. There was an amazing swimming hole at our campground in Three Rivers. HUGE bullfrog tadpoles made the site home. The boys spent all day splashing each other and trying to catch tadpoles. It took me and my hat to get it accomplished.
Hills don’t bother me, hills and heat do. Leaving California, South of Bakersfield, you still have to cross the very bottom of the Sierras. It doesn’t look like the Sierras. There’s no snow covered mountain tops or alpine meadows. It’s lower. And it’s hotter. We left really early to beat as much of the heat as we could. It felt like we climbed all day. Slow stead hills were always ahead of us. And the Arizona roads felt like moon craters. Fortunately I have a temp gauge on my transmission and a tire pressure monitor system that also measures my tire temperature. The good news is we are now heading east!
Birthdays happen regardless of where you are. Wyatt turned 8. I remember the day he was born. He has grown so much, changed so much, learned so much, and has is becoming a little man. I am so proud of him. I hope he remembers this trip forever.
A magnificent growth of giants… one naturally walked softly and awe-stricken among them. I wandered on, meeting nobler trees where all are noble… this part of the Sequoia belt seemed to me the finest, and I then named it “the Giant Forest.” – John Muir
Yes. You can get carsick while driving. We are staying in Three Rivers, CA and entered the park at the Ash Mountain Entrance. From there it is a LONG winding, back and forth, 15-25 MPH trek up to the Giant Forest, possibly at least an hour. I was a little uneasy by the time we got to the top. After that drive we decided we were going to hit all we could in one day. I didn’t want to do that again. So off we went!
Sequoia’s ‘Giant Forest’ makes Mariposa seem sad. Not that Mariposa was bad. Jennifer put it this way, “It’s like going to Knoxville and seeing a couple of tall building then going to NYC.” Tall trees abound in Sequoia. You drive through a family of them. You drive around them. They are ahead, behind, on your left, and on your right – all bearing down on you wondering why you are there. You feel like a brontosaurus is about to peak its head around a giant one. If feels prehistoric. Finally, you have to just exist with them, flustered at the impossibility of taking enough pictures. There were paths, and trails, and acres of them we never saw. Such magnificent beasts of the forest.
General Sherman is the largest tree in the world by volume. The reason being is that its trunk is MASSIVE and rises majestically, never wavering of its girth, hundreds of feet up. The funny thing is that when you are driving, one will catch your attention and you ask, ‘how is that not the biggest one?’ But the General Sherman stands proud among its army. You truly have trouble fathoming its size while next to it. You can’t see the top when you are next to it. And you can’t grasp its size when you are far away from it. Cameras struggle to fit its entire height in their frame. I think the only way to understand their size is to either be one of them, or be God.
You see burning going on when you are at the park. There are crews, signs, and of course, smoke, that alert you to controlled burning. For years, those in charge of the park had a hard time understanding what the trees needed. Frequent fires are one of the main components to the size of sequoias. You see fire scars all over the trees. They have a way of healing themselves from fire. But its in the fire that they grow strongest. If you look closely at the rings in the picture above, you’ll see tight growth patterns, then a crack where the rings are dark… that’s a fire… then big growth rings. They flourish after a fire. I’m sure there’s a sermon in there somewhere.
It’s dark in a cave. The top picture is a cave with the lights out. The bottom picture is with the lights on. We decided to venture into Crystal Cave for a little adventure. This ended up being the favorite thing of the day for the kids. Who doesn’t love exploring the innards of a mountain?
I’m still skittish of heights. Our last venture of the day was Moro Rock. From what I read in the guide they gave us, it was a drive up to the top of a mountain, then a quick walk up a rock to a great lookout. Not so. It was a drive up a mountain. Then a harrowing climb up hundreds of stairs with nothing but railing holding you back from sheer drop off. If I had known I probably would have chickened out. Jennifer and I were holding the boys hands so tightly they complained we were squishing them. I thought if felt like Angels Landing in Zion (which we will not be doing) with handrails instead of chains. As soon as I thought that, the lady behind me exclaimed the same remark. But the view was beautiful, and the boys were braver than their parents. They don’t know what fear is yet.
Itinerary: The Giant Forest, General Sherman Tree, Lodgepole Visitors Center, Crystal Cave, The Giant Tree Museum, Moro Rock.
There is an assumption being from the east that a national park will have a gateway town next to it. Think Culpeper, Gatlinburg, or Pigeon Forge. Lots of shops. Lots of entertainment. Grocery stores. Restaurants. Civilization. Not so with Yosemite. And thus, for the past week, I have had ZERO cell service. Nada. Nunca. Niente. So I have a bit to tell everyone. I did keep up with my notes and everything will read, though, as if it is the end of the day. I don’t want to spoil anything. Let’s start with…
Monday – June 15
How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious starry firmament for a roof! In such places standing alone on the mountain-top it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make – leaves and moss like the marmots and birds, or tents or piled stone – we all dwell in a house of one room – the world with the firmament for its roof – and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving any track. – John Muir
Don’t try to pack egg salad sandwiches for lunch. You know that last day you see in Yellowstone? The one fishing and taking in Old Faithful one last time. It didn’t end very well. Everyone else was fine. Not so me. Only thing I can think of is that we packed an egg salad sandwich for me. Never again. I spent the better part of Monday sleeping off my queasiness. I missed walking around the very quaint and bustling downtown of Jackson. But being a contributing member of society was more important.
The Grand Tetons are Grand for a reason. We took a route through Yellowstone park and out of the South entrance. The fun thing about the Tetons is that you pull off really quick to get the only shot you believe you’ll get of the mountains. Um… not the case. Every time we topped a new hill, or turned a corner, the Tetons (out our right window) got bigger and bigger. Every angle we viewed them from, was grander than the last. Imagine flat prairie, then straight up mountains. They were stunning.
I’m a sucker for good ‘ol Western music.After sleeping off my queasiness, we headed out to the Bar J Ranch in Jackson Hole. Food, fun, laughs, and a great change of pace. And yes I did eat a steak. I’m also a sucker for a good ‘ol ribeye. I was feeling much better. If you are ever in Jackson, this is a must for you. Everyone was over the top polite. The kids loved it. The music was outstanding. The people who checked you in were the people who served you were the people who sang were the people who… well they did about everything. Some of the best Western music I’ve ever heard.
Final thoughts on Yellowstone… Unique. I found Yellowstone to really cater to crowds. You went somewhere, parked, walked a boardwalk, and saw what you wanted to see. Only thing we didn’t get to do was hike any off beaten trails. But with a 6 and soon to be 8 year old in tow, that is a tough order. Yellowstone was accessible. It was easy in and easy out. You did have to drive a bit to get to some of the other regions of the park. The visitor centers are almost brand new and have great displays. I wasn’t thrilled about Mammoth Springs. The geysers, fumerols, and thermal springs were quite a show. But the show stopper, per se, was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It was by far my favorite even over Old Faithful. Yellowstone also has TONS of wildlife. We saw Elk galore, bison galore, a black bear, a grizzly from a distance, and some fox pups. I finally saw my moose in Jackson. Only thing I wanted to see, but missed, were big horn sheep.
Route: West Yellowstone, MT through Yellowstone NP, through South Entrance. Through Grand Teton NP to Jackson, WY
Campground: The Virginian RV Park By far our least favorite RV park and the most expensive yet. However, it is right in the middle of Jackson.
Time: Left 8:00 AM CT. Arrived 1:30 PM CT. 5.5 Hrs with a stop in Grand Teton.
Tuesday – June 16
I’m not a fan of Nevada. If I said a couple of days ago that Wyoming is where you want to disappear, Nevada has won that title. Not only is Nevada vast, it is barren. We climbed over the south ridge of the Tetons, into Idaho (Yes they do grow lots of Potatoes) and then down into Nevada. I’m not a fan of Nevada. The gambling culture permeates the state and it just turns me off.
New isn’t always the best. We stayed at the New Frontier RV Park in Winnemucca. (Apparently Johnny Cash, in going ‘Everywhere’ was in Winnemucca too). The RV park was so new, that hardly anyone was staying there. Nice bathhouses. But when you are in there all alone it can be a bit creepy.
Sometimes I do like Wal-mart. When looking for groceries before heading to Yosemite, sometimes its nice to see something you recognize. West Yellowstone had NOTHING for a grocery store. We were left to digging grub worms out from under rocks for sustenance. Actually my parents grabbed food in Idaho before meeting us. We learned our lesson there and decided to get groceries when we had the chance. Walmart was a site for sore eyes.
Route: Jackson, WY to Winnemucca, NV via Idaho Falls, I15, I86, Hwy 93, and I80
Time: Left 7:30 AM CT. Arrived 5:00 PM PT. 10 Hrs 30 Mins
Wednesday – June 17
Going to the mountains is going home. – John Muir
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. – Gen 1:1
Big hills can sneak up on you. When you route a trip like this, you pay attention to the mountains. Big mountains take some planning. You want to get fuel before hand. You want to rest after. You want to make sure your truck is in good working order. However, when driving in Nevada, there are hills everywhere. And they sneak up on you. You’ll start climbing, and realize you are still climbing a minute later. Then you hear your truck’s fan kick in and start cooling everything down. Climb, climb, climb. It happened several times. I would realize we were doing it until my speed dropped. Otherwise I’d have given it more fuel.
If I thought Wyoming was desolate, I was wrong – its Nevada. Want to lose a dead body? Look at Nevada first. We took a hwy 95 through Fallon, NV from I80. You’d drive miles without seeing a soul. Solitude of that sort makes you uneasy. There were no shoulders, no cellular service, and nothing to look at. I breathed easier when we got to Lee Vining.
California doesn’t believe in guardrails. One of the things I was looking forward to was the Tioga Pass. It is beautiful. However, it doesn’t have guardrails. It was a pretty harry drive. Fortunately I was ascending instead of descending. Thinking about descending that portion makes me faint-headed. I wish I got a picture of the ascent, but I was white-knuckled holding the wheel, and Jennifer, I think, had her eyes closed. Wyatt did happen to snap a fuzzy picture last second with his 100 year old iPod. I posted a stock photo just so you could see.
So far, from what I can tell, California doesn’t believe in mobile service either. I haven’t had a signal for hours. There is, of course, no signal in Yosemite. There is no signal outside of Yosemite. And the RV park has horrible wifi. It is going to be a long week.
Yosemite is freakn’ amazing. I can already tell this is going to be an amazing park. I saw things on the drive in I’ve never seen before. It is like driving in the Alpines. There are huge granite monoliths with pine meadows and lakes underneath. It really is amazing! I cannot wait to begin exploring.
Route: Winnemucca, NV to Buck Meadows, CA via I80, Hwy 95, Lee Vining, through Tioga Pass
Time: Left 7:45 AM PT Arrived 5:30 PM PT. Had quite a delay in Fallon, NV at a pharmacy.
Thursday – June 18
One day’s exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books. – John Muir
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. – Gen 1:31
Yosemite is more than freakn’ amazing. Driving into the valley really takes your breath away. You just about break your neck looking up at all of the granite walls. Standing right under El Capitan, you think if he decides to sneeze you are dead meat. Everything you look at begs to have its picture taken!
My boys are tough. We started our Yosemite adventure in style hiking the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. 1000ft elevation gain. Strenuous. And over 600 granite steps, many of which were doused in waterfall spray. It is hot here and the waterfall mist was a welcomed respite. Wyatt adventured with me to the top of the falls. Absolutely amazing. What is even more amazing is they didn’t complain once. We had a beautiful picnic under some amazing trees at lunch.
Itinerary: Vernal Falls via Mist Trail. Lower Yosemite Falls.
Friday – June 19
I never saw a discontented tree. – John Muir
How clearly the sky reveals God’s glory! How plainly it shows what he has done! – Ps 19:1
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. When I walked out this morning I could smell wood smoke immediately. The wildfires of California are close at the southern boundary of the park. The smoke actually drifted into the valley obscuring the valley at Tunnel View. Everywhere you drive you see remnants of the Rim Fire of 2013. In fact, our RV park is right off of Hwy 120 where the fire originated.
Sometimes words just don’t cut it. These trees are beyond description. We saw the Grizzy Giant today. It is taller than the Statue of Liberty and taller than a 747 Jet. It grows enough new wood each year to make up a 60 foot tree of typical proportions. It just looks gnarly. But every tree I see is big. Even the trees that aren’t Sequoias are taller than I’m accustomed to. You are always looking up. When you arrive at Mariposa, you barely even make it onto the trail because of looking at a massive Sequoia sitting right there in front of you! They are tremendous creatures, if I can call them that. They make me think of Ents from Lord of the Rings. I can imagine them all having discussions when we leave. The big pine cone isn’t from a Sequoia, rather its a Sugar Pine.
Itinerary: Mariposa Grove, Tunnel View.
Saturday – June 20
It is impossible to overestimate the value of wild mountains and mountain temples as places for people to grow in, recreation grounds for soul and body. They are the greatest of our natural resources, God’s best gifts, but none, however high and holy, is beyond reach of the spoiler. – John Muir
Hetch Hetchy feels somewhat like a graveyard. The National Parks story is very interesting and very complicated. For instance, Yosemite wasn’t a National Park at first. It first was set aside as parkland by President Lincoln and given to the State of California. Exploration was the parks enemy. And misuse of the land above the park began to show its effects. The land set aside was then enlarged to incorporate the High Sierras and Tuolumne Meadows. But as the country grew, and as the National Park system began to take shape, certain battles were waged to help define what kind of protection a National Park actually had. Many politicians in the early 1900’s wanted Hetch Hetchy Valley as a resoivoir for San Francisco. It was argued it was too remote and no one would care. John Muir cared. Hetch Hetchy was his favorite over Yosemite Valley because of its seclusion. He fought hard to protect it. But the earthquake of 1906 was too much of a persuasion, and Muir lost the fight. Coincidently he died a year later. The Tuolumne River was dammed and Hetch Hetchy was flooded. I knew the story before driving there today and it seemed a bit ominous. If you want seclusion and no park crowds, this is the place to be. It is a bit sad too. I can only think there had to be a better solution.
If you want to drive curvy roads, go to California. You see that road? 8 miles of that curvy stuff. At least it had a guard rail. There is nothing outside of Yosemite. It takes all of that driving to get to the nearest town of Sonora.
The drought is sad. The ground is crunchy. The rivers are weak. The streams are dry. And the trees look tired. Pray for rain.
God is watching out for me. We went into Sonora to get some circuit breakers and have a nice meal out. I installed a 2nd A/C unit before I left and we realized it wouldn’t run when we were passing through Nevada. Something about high 90’s makes you catch on real quick to air troubles. The simplest thing I could think of was a bad breaker. I was praying and praying it wasn’t a compressor or run capacitor. When I walked back to the truck at Lowe’s, Jennifer mentioned she smelled diesel. Sure enough, I had a diesel leak in my fuel filter housing. I called around and wouldn’t you know I talked to a guy at an Auto Zone who had just done the same fix on his Chevy last week. He knew the part I needed and pointed me to the directions on how to fix it. Looks like I’ll be spending my Father’s Day in Sonora working on the truck. Oh, and the breaker was bad. I pulled it out and the wire wasn’t holding. The set screw was stripped. Thank you Jesus!
Itinerary: Hetch Hetchy Valley
Sunday – June 21
God made me special. I know that’s an old Veggietales quote, but it suffices. I have always been mechanical and like to know how things work. At 8 I was taking apart my Fisher Price tape player and putting it back together. I am thankful God has wired me that way. It pays off in moments like these. That there is a housing for my fuel filter. A $25 rebuild kit, new O-rings, and an hour and a half later I’m back in business. I did all of the work in the back of my truck in the parking lot. Special thanks to Mr. Willie Rowe for giving me the confidence!
Final thoughts on Yosemite: I can’t get enough of Yosemite. It is by far the most beautiful place on the planet. I didn’t want to leave. Yellowstone I cut a day short. Yosemite I wish I had 5 days more. There are so many trails to explore, granite faces to look up, valleys to look down, trees to meet, rivers to wade, glaciers to scale, and images to burn into my mind. I will be back here again. It is too majestic to only experience once.
Itinerary:Tuolumne Meadows, Tunnel View
Monday – June 22
No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening – still all is Beauty! – John Muir
Holy Cow does California have curvy roads!!!!!!! That 8 mile trek I posted about earlier? I had to do that for the better part of 2 hours! Up. Down. Around. Up. Down. Around. It was ridiculous. This is the first time I felt sorry for my truck. Do they not have highways around here?
Animal Style is the way to go! How can I go to California and not go to In-N-Out and order an Animal Style Cheeseburger? Did you know at the bottom of every In-N-Out soda cup is printed John 3:16? Now you know… and knowing is half the battle.
Memories are made each day. I look back through the pictures over the past two weeks and it is hard to believe that those experiences are over and have transitioned to memories. They seem so long ago. And the experiences I have tomorrow are destined to the same fate. It makes me think I need to slow down and soak in each day.
Route: Buck Meadows, CA to Three Rivers, CA via HWY 49 (NEVER AGAIN!!)
This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls. – John Muir What I learned, Day 10: We miss Lifepoint! It was great to wake up this morning and stream in the service. What a great message for my boys to hear! My wife shouldn’t accidentally send me pictures if she doesn’t want them publicly disclosed. That’s actually something she is learning. I already knew that. Some things bear repeating. Boys wanted to fish again. So far that is the thing they say is their favorite. Still didn’t catch anything. And untangled two gnarly knots. There are colors that exist that are too intense to describe. None of these pictures have filters. The bottom pictures is the Grand Prismatic Spring. What amazes me is this actually exists on planet earth. What is even more amazing is that you see it at every turn. We took a short drive on a side road and saw several more springs and geysers. All with the same blue hue. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZNTAUEoh2A Don’t sit downwind. The screams you hear in the video are everyone getting wet. We wanted to see Old Faithful one last time. She was predicted at 2:18 and arrived right on time. Lasted about 4 mins 10 sec. In the background you can see Old Faithful Inn. Would love to stay their one night in the future. BEAUTIFUL building! Another thing I learned, or maybe it is something everyone else will learn when they read this, is that I can alter the schedule and go off the spreadsheet. We are pulling out a day early tomorrow to hit one day in the Tetons. We were looking at our route to Yosemite and it added too much time to the driving. Instead we’ll just make a day of it! Route/Itinerary: Yosemite National Park. West Entrance, Madison, Old Faithful
None of Nature’s landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild. – John Muir
Day 9, What I learned:
If you want to know what it feels like to be in the Sound of Music, chances are you’ll find it right here in the United States. Sure, if you want to go to Europe go for it! But just as much beauty is right here in the 50 states. And these spot was just one of them. Mount Washburn is in the upper right hand corner of Yellowstone. Nice and brisk at the top! Tower falls came just after and thankfully only had a 150 yard hike!
You can have a picnic with the Elk. We ended up at Fort Yellowstone for lunch. Don’t mind the elk. They call the place home as well. Fort Yellowstone, right next to Mammoth Springs, was the original home of the calvary that was first called in to protect the park. After several harsh winters, they finally decided that tents weren’t cutting it and build some barracks. It was like a little city.
It’s not about me. Jennifer and I have seen the Junior Ranger program and have shied away from it because it seemed like it would take too much time. At the Canyon Visitors center there happened to be a ranger program starting up. That is one of the requirements. You have to attend a program and you have to complete so many pages in the workbook. Completing the pages isn’t the issue. It was the programs. We hate tours. We hate guides. We like to go on our own. But the program was starting and we thought, what the heck. Well today they turned in their books and got their Junior Ranger badges. They were so excited. I’d have to guess they were more excited about this than anything else they have done so far. They were very proud and so was I.
Sometimes a picture is better than the real thing. Don’t get me wrong. Mammoth Springs was cool. But the pictures I’ve seen are better. The whole place seemed very desolate and strange. What is unique about the spot is the springs dry up and appear elsewhere on the mound. So many spots you see used to be active but are no longer. Wasn’t my favorite spot, but I at least can say I saw it.
Route/Itinerary: Yosemite National Park. West Entrance, Madison, Norris, Canyon Village, Tower Roosevelt, Mammoth Springs
The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark. – John Muir
What I learned, Day 8:
I learned how to embed videos!! Now you’ll get to see what I’m talking about instead of relying solely on my description.
What goes down, must come up. Our first stop of the day was Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It was probably the one thing I couldn’t wait to see in Yellowstone. Sure, you can see it from above. But why when you can see it from below? So down we went the Brink of Lower Falls Trail. Here again maps fail you at scale. The trail didn’t look too bad. And several times we thought we were nearing the end. Why not? The water was right there! We could hear the falls! But switchback after switchback down we went…. down down down. No one warned us about up up up. They did look winded coming up. But they were all so unhealthy looking. Nope. All of us look unhealthy coming back up. The air is thinner too so everyone is breathing heard. Fortunately it was well worth the effort. It was one of those moments when you get down to the bottom, your knees weaken, you grasp the handrail with white knuckles, and maybe say a choice word in your head. It was magnificent. One of my favorite things I’ve done so far. Yes, it really is that color. Every time I saw pictures of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, I thought, “Why do they have to put that old timey filter on it?” It just has an appearance of an old photograph. But it really is that color! These photos have no filter. The whole canyon looks like it is oversaturated, over contrasted, and over the top. It is breath-taking. By far the best spot in Yellowstone. This guy is an idiot. That’s all I have to say about that. The elk don’t care you are there. These females were just enjoying their morning. What you can’t see is to the left a baby elk romping around. The bull we saw at the Canyon. If you see a traffic jam, its probably elk… or maybe these…
The bison don’t care you are there either. Just don’t get too close. That big one in the picture was grunting a lot as we passed by. I just figured it was best to keep moving. I love the candid moment in the video…. “What’s nursing mom?” Another discussion for another day.
Blue means hot. The center of these pools are around 198 degrees. Some of them can be more acidic that stomach acid. And they all usually smell. But they are so beautiful to look at. Deep blue colors that look like the ocean waters of the caribbean. Fishing is good for the soul, even if you don’t catch anything. A majority of Yellowstone is fly fishing only. We have spinner rods. What I learned is that a fly is too light to cast. That is why fly fishing uses the weight of the line and the whipping action. So to fix the problem they sell you little clear bobbers. Worked like a charm…. except we didn’t catch anything. Kids could have cared less. And I have no idea why Wyatt is ducking.
Route/Itinerary: Yosemite National Park. West Entrance to Canyon.
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin. – John Muir
What I learned, Day 7:
Sometimes you just need to rest. We’ve been going hard since leaving Fredericksburg on June 5. And Thursday morning we set no alarms, made no plans, and just took it easy. I was able to piddle around the camper and fix some things the rough roads had knocked loose. Found a great hardware store that was super helpful in getting me what I needed. The boys road their bikes. Played Mario Kart. We cleaned a little. It felt very much like a Saturday.
West Yellowstone is not a thriving metropolis. The grocery store is really non-existent. Imagine Armageddon has taken place and you walk into a grocery store to get your bare necessities only to find it has been wiped clean. No bread. $10 chicken. $5 milk. It was no bueno.
It is good to have family! When we began planning this trip, we asked my in-laws and my parents if they wanted to join us at any part of the trip. My mom and stepdad chose Yellowstone. After bailing us out at the supermarket where they were staying, they rolled in around 1PM and we took off to Yellowstone.
Maps are a poor representation of what you are about to experience. Yellowstone is HUGE. I got a glimpse of this driving in on Wednesday. It is very big. Very very very big. Its hard to comprehend its size when you see a little square box up in the upper left hand corner of Wyoming. And within that little square box you have the wildest of geological changes. One moment your in a canyon with a river, then a valley with grass as far as you can see and buffalo grazing. Then you are up into a pine forest. Then you have steam all around you. Such wild diversity.
Yes, Old Faithful is faithful – and very cool. You worry that the blind are leading the blind. You see a crowd gathered (very large crowd) around the circle of Old Faithful. Maybe they are mistaken. Maybe no one has actually looked to see when the next eruption will be. Because you wait, and wait, and wait. You have some teasers of abundant steam. Then nothing. Finally, when the steady plume of steam has lulled you to boredom – BOOM! Old Faithful proves its worthiness of a must see. I hate I can’t figure out how to upload video onto a WordPress site.
In only half a day you can see things that will amaze you. Mud pots. Crystal blue springs. Geysers. At one point, we were looking one direction at a geyser. Then Wyatt noticed something making a bunch of racket behind us and we got to see Jet Geyser show off for us.
The sun, for some reason, is different here. 71 degrees doesn’t feel like 71 unless you are in the shade or have a breeze. Its dry. No humidity. But the sun is intense. Many times I feel its in the 80s. Not sure why. Maybe we’re closer to the sun.
Route/Itinerary: Yosemite National Park. West Entrance to Old Faithful.
One day’s exposure to mountains is better than a cartload of books. – John Muir
We pulled in late Wednesday night. Also our campground’s wifi is super slow. So tonight I’ll be a day behind.
Day 6 – Over the Mountains
What I learned:
My wife is not part of the Audubon society. Before we left the Black Hills, Jennifer was wondering what alarm was going off. It was loud and it happened at regular intervals. She didn’t believe it was a bird until I showed her. Noisy sucker. If you want to hear it click HERE.
11 hours with windy roads is harder that 14 hours with straight roads. The last bit of our treck was through Yellowstone. It is 2 lanes. Slower. Lots of cars. It winds. And it has some fun decents. I was exhausted by the time we got to our campsite.
Pull-through sites do not mean easy sites. I pulled into the site and realized one of my hoses didn’t reach. I corrected and realized my kitchen slide-out was too close to the picnic table. I moved, hooked everything up, and realized I couldn’t extend my awning because of a tree. Not a fun 20 minutes.
Pictures aren’t immersive. I realized that the reason a picture doesn’t communicate, is that it doesn’t show you what is on the left and on the right. It seems futile to try to explain to everyone how incredible the scenery is. Every time you turn a corner it is something new. Every bend in the road reveals some amazing formation. Every horizon holds a new treasure. And that was just on the road. It was amazing! Our favorite part of the drive was easily crossing the Bighorn Mountains. Majestic is a good adjective. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, you got to descend into an amazing canyon.
People get worked up over silly things. I was reading whether to use Hwy 14 over the Bighorns or Hwy 16. My initial research was avoid Hwy 14 because the descent can be treacherous. I had Jennifer look it up one more time just to make sure and she found a post of someone who claimed to be an experienced RVer griping about how Hwy 16 was so bad and that they would never do it again. I just didn’t see what the big deal was. And honestly I’m so glad I did it. It was breathtaking. You climbed this incredible ascent, into peaks, pine forest, and snow pack. Then on the way down it was a pretty smooth 6-7% grade. I barely had to use my brakes. I assume it all depends on your rig. If you have good exhaust or transmission braking you are fine. My Allison uses transmission braking and I rarely had to use my brakes. Very smooth ride. I checked and had 6.6 MPG at the top, 10.6 by the time I hit the bottom. Is it colder at the top. YES! I was a little too giddy the entire time. Honestly, the descent into Yellowstone was way more stressful. For some reason the National Parks don’t seem to think they need to put up a sign that says “Hey! Curves ahead!”
Taco Johns is not Taco Cabana. We saw a place called Taco Johns that claimed ‘West-Mex’ food. So we figured what the heck. Think Taco Bell and down grade it a bit. I wasn’t a fan. We miss Taco Cabana of Texas. It’s what Taco Bell could be.
Pictures don’t capture smell. I know I’ve said this before, but it becomes even more evident when driving into Yellowstone. Wyatt and Weston were bickering about who passed gas. Of course, it was the sulfur rising from the vents in the park.
The land is VAST!!! In Wyoming we saw beautiful mountains, a whole lot of nothing for a very long time, and then beautiful mountains again. If you want to disappear off the face of the planet, move to Wyoming.
Lastly, GPS’s aren’t always so smart. Mine refused to take us through Yellowstone. Even halfway through the park it was trying to turn me around and route me up through Montana. Finally it figured out what I was doing.
Route: Custer, SD to West Yellowstone, MT, via Hwy 16 and through Yellowstone