Monday August 28th until September 8th 2017
Wyoming, Utah and Colorado
Sunday evening we have another nice Ranger talk about the security aspects of Yellowstone. Most accidents in the park are not caused by wild animals or the icy cold water currents and big waterfalls but by the thermal spots, the water of pools and geysers is always above the boiling point. That is the reason that dogs are not allowed on the boardwalks in Yellowstone; sometimes they want to jump into the water (and his boss jumps after), resulting in severe burns or worse. After saying goodbye to our Irish neighbor Vincent and the camphost (of course we keep talking), we finally hit the road on Monday morning august 28th.
It is very busy on our way South and Yes, three times we cross the Continental Divide. In a short time we arrive at Tetons National Park where it’s even busier.
It looks like Switzerland, a huge lake with high mountain peaks. Even though there is sufficient space on the campground at Colter Bay it’s to busy and we don’t find it pleasant up here. The campground further South, at Signal Mountain, is full and has very small places so we decide, after one last look at the high mountains of the Grand Tetons, to leave this National Park.
In Jackson, Wyoming we stop to ask about campsites in the National Forests and so around half past 3 we find a beautiful large spot at the Snake River. Quiet and secluded. A lot better than those hectic and less attractive Teton NP campgrounds. It’s so quiet that the following morning we don’t wake up before 8 am and after a quick breakfast, we drive through a beautiful valley and once again we are hit by a stone, so in Alpine, Wyoming, while I get some food, Dick can show his window repair skills.
In Afton it starts to rain. It’s a pity because in this town is a huge Arch of Antlers but I really don’t want to get out so we wash our clothes and bedding and at a used bookstore I find another book from the series “Wagons West” by Dana Fuller Ross.
We drive to another National Forest, first we need to climb a steep mountain road and then our brakes are tested at a steep descent. But as a reward we find a small campground, almost empty and we enjoy the peace around us.
It’s warm, 83 degrees, the clouds are gone and we have blue sky so we can sit outside. As the sun disappears behind the ridge it cools down and at 7 pm it’s better to sit inside although at night fall we enjoy a starlit sky. The next day our destination is Geneva.
When we put it in our Hakuna (Garmin), it will bring us over the ocean so quickly we add the State of Idaho what brings us more in the right direction. In Montpellier, located a little further, is the National Oregon Trail center (the subject in my series Wagons West so of course we stop here) but inside are too many paintings showing life during the trail.
So after looking at them we continue driving along Bear Valley until we arrive in the City of Paris. There is not a greater contrast with its French sister city Paris. In this idyllic village of farmers, cowboys on horseback (Incredible we see this) rounding up the cows in the streets. There is only one large building, a Mormon Church. As we are on our way to Salt Lake City, where we want to visit the Mormon Temple Square, this is a nice stop.
Spencer and his wife Laurie (who plays the organ) give us a great tour. The Church is simple but beautifully made and reminds us of the Protestant churches in the Netherlands. However, the organ is placed in the front of the Church in contrast to the Dutch churches. Spencer tells us a lot about the Mormon faith and its founder, Joseph Smith, and we have to take the “Book of the Mormons”. 1½ Hours later we continue our travels until we arrive in Logan, Utah where we spend the night in the parking lot of Walmart. Luckily, there are some clouds so the heat disappears. Thursday August 31, it is very cloudy but still 62 degrees. We have Wifi so Dick can publish but unfortunately I don’t manage to skype with Auntie Ank. At half past 9 we leave Logan.
After all those rural areas we must get used to the heavy city traffic.
In Syracuse, Utah is a dam connecting the Mainland with Antelope Island. Fortunately there is a campground in this State Park so moments later we drive through the salt Plains and later along water to the island. When we find the campground we see that the only place with a tree is our spot (we don’t want that) so we drive the 7,3 mile long dam back to the park entrance.
Despite the fact that there are already many reserved places we can have another place, more beautiful. We take possession of this new spot, enjoy the view and drink coffee before exploring the island.
It is noon and already warm, the temperature increases to 93 degrees. There are a lot of geocaches here so, while riding around the island, every now and then we pick up a cache. Ofcourse we see some herds of Buffalloo’s on the gentle slopes of the island. In 1893 they are introduced on Antelope Island and there are also herds of Pronghorns running along the shore. The island, now a State Park, has beautiful rolling hills but because of the drought, the current heat and the bare slopes it looks wild and desolate.
At almost the southern part of the island we see the vague contours of Salt Lake City, at the other side of the Great Salt Lake, fed by four rivers without any outputs. Here is a ranch, the Garr Ranch, where we may walk around and get an impression of life on a ranch in a place so far away from everything. The ranch was founded in 1848 by the Mormons.
The herds of the Church could be herded here and the profits of the ranch made it possible for other Mormons to emigrate to the west. We love this island so not before dawn we are back at the campground.
It’s still hot and we enjoy the views over the great Salt Lake during the evening. Because of the temperature, it’s still 90 degrees, we will not walk to the shore (more than 1,5 mile), so we still don’t know or the salinity of the Lake is so high that you float. Oh well to find out we have a reason to return. We don’t go to bed before eleven pm. Then a small breeze is rising so it’s more pleasant to be inside. When we wake up Friday at 6 am the sky is blue and the thermometer shows 70 degrees.
Next to our camper is a herd of Buffalo’s and of course we have to take pictures. However, our close presence and the clicking of our cameras, makes them nervous and quickly they leave. They really can run fast. After some shopping in Syracuse, Utah we drive to downtown Salt Lake City. We have to go around to find a parking spot not far from the Temple Square but only allowed for two hours. But it’s a short walk to this center of the Mormon faith.
The Temple of the Mormons is not accessible (perhaps for the many bridal couples who walk around here) but the Tabernacle next door is allowed. This one looks the same as the Church in the City of Paris and again we enjoy the organ playing. Unfortunately, the famous Tabernacle Choir sings only on Sunday and then we already left. After walking up the stairway in the Visitor Center and admiring the statue of Christ there, we walk back to our RV and leave town. It’s too hot to stay here. We notice that when we climb a long, long, steep slope. For the first time during our travels a red light is on, our engine is overheated.
We are obviously not the only ones with an overheated engine on this hill because if we stand still on the shoulder to let the engine cool down we see other cars in front and behind us, also waiting. Fortunately, the engine cools down quickly and we may continue the climb. We keep a close eye on the temperature now. The hinterland of Salt Lake City is very wild and we climb one after another mountain pass.
On one of this passes is a campground (at an altitude of 9442 feet) but it’s not tempting so we drive further and moments later we find in Ashley National Forest, Aspen Campground, a nice spot where we enjoy the shade of the tall pine trees (Yes, it’s really hot). Around us no place is taken so it’s incredibly quiet and you only hear Squirrels running around. At 8 pm it cools down to 68 degrees.
Saturday morning, september 2nd, we leave early. The land around us is yellow and dry except in the town of Hanna where around 80 nozzles irrigate the fields, nice to see.
While driving over roads without any traffic, we suddenly hear a huge bang and yeah, the middle of our windshield is damaged. Caused by what, a stone, a bullet? In Duchesne, Utah, it’s not possible to repair but In Roosevelt 10,5 mile away, it is. The shop owner inspects the windshield, then he fills the hole with an acrylic substance. We are not allowed to pay for it because, given the size of the damage, he cannot guarantee there will be no more cracking. Unfortunately, now we have a visible star in our windshield, let’s hope it will not tear apart.
In the next town, Vernal, we enjoy a Sonic milkshake (with pineapple chunks) and then we drive through a barren and dry landscape to Dinosaur National Monument. It is a long weekend because Monday is Labor Day so probably there’s no place on the campground but we are lucky. At 2pm we even have a choice between places.
It’s 95 degrees so the rest of the day we do nothing, lazily we sit in the shade of our motorhome and read. The next morning we drive to the Visitor Center and from there with a shuttle to the Fossil Bone Quarry, discovered in 1909.
The Morrison formation in which this rock layer is located houses many fossils of Dinosaurs from the Jurassic period and we see really huge bones in the rocks.
We have to touch the bones of an Allosaurus, a fiery predator. Special if you consider that these Dinosaurs wandered here 150 million years ago.
For a long time we stay at the quarry, feel bones and listen to the story of a Ranger about the different types of Dinosaurs before we leave, look at rock art and find out that we cannot get to Box Canyon because of the bad road.
So around 1 pm we are back on the campground. Alongside is the Green River. Unfortunately, swimming in this fast-flowing water is not possible but people built dams of large stones so there you can stay in the water. For three hours I am in this part of the river, reading, until it cools down a bit to 78 degrees and we have dinner. Now we have structurally a propane failure and I’m glad we bought an American propane tank so we can use this outside of the motorhome. Monday september 4th at 10:00 am we arrive in Colorado. Here is another part of Dinosaur National Monument consisting of deep gorges but actually we don’t have the time to look around so we drive further South.
The landscape is very desolate, there is nothing but flattened mountains (mesa’s). Every now and then we see pumps for Natural Gas. A lifeless landscape. No wonder the former inhabitants said that this landscape was forgotten by God.
At 1 pm we arrive in Colorado National Monument. There is plenty of place on the campground. Of course, as always if we have a choice, it takes almost an hour before we take that one spot with beautiful views and Sun and shadow and then it’s up to Dick to level the camper. Unfortunately we do not have levelers on our motorhome. I was too sparing to buy them so we have to drive many, many times back and forward before our camper is leveled out according to Dick.
I mind my own business because I don’t see how the camper has to stand and I only place crams where Dick indicates them. After enjoying our usual coffee we walk to the Visitor Center and look at the movie about this monument, discovered in 1907 by John Otto. He was so impressed by the wild, desolate and beautifully colored canyons here that he continued to strive to preserve this piece of land and thanks to his efforts, in 1911 it got the status of National Monument and for $1 a month John Otto became caretaker of the Park, with pleasure, until 1927.
After we have all the information we need and of course a stamp for our National Park Passport, we hike along the rim of one of the canyons. It is awesome and enchanting. Red smooth cliff walls on all sides and massive rock formations rise vertically.
The trail goes along the cliff edge and in some places it is really scary to walk past it and looking down. We enjoy the walk and even more the trip the next day, leading us along the edges of all the canyons in the park.
The road, Rimrock drive, is built in the 1930’s during the great depression and offers on different spots an magnificent view of the canyons. One rock formation even looks like an Egyptian Mummy.
And we’re lucky because on one of the steep red rock formations along the way, we see three Bighorn Sheep walking. They really defy gravity because they act like hopping around on flat terrain. We can’t get enough to walk to the edges of the canyons and see new smooth red rock formations over and over again.
Late in the afternoon we have seen almost all and after some shopping in Grand Junction and visiting a laundromat in Fruita, Utah, we drive back to the campground in the National Monument where again we find another nice spot for the night.
After a futile attempt to skype Auntie Ank on Wednesday september 6th (her computer is offline) and a phonecall from Dick to our RV dealer asking what can be done to our ongoing propane failure, we drive through Colorado National Monument to the South. It is cloudy now so the colors are less beautiful but nevertheless, this way over the rim of the Canyon, is more enjoyable. At 10 am we leave the monument and drive again through the desolate landscape, the great nothing, to the South.
This is really an area for a prison and yeah, just before Delta we see large signs along the way that we’re not allowed to stop for hitch hikers because of a Correctional Facility. At noon we arrive at Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a National Park we never visited. After taking a spot on the campground we go to the Visitor Center.
This National Park consists of a deep canyon with towering vertical, jagged rocks. The canyon is so deep and narrow that only little sunlight can get to the bottom so that’s why they call it “the Black Canyon”. In 1873 part of this canyon was discovered and it proved to be inaccessible for the most part. The drive over the rim is unimaginable. This canyon is one of the most beautiful we have ever seen.
From the many viewpoints at the end of small trails we catch a glimpse of the raging Gunnison River deep below us. It is particularly impressive and certainly more impressive than the Grand Canyon. What a depth, some paths are pretty scary to walk over. Almost at nightfall we are back on our, now fully occupied, campground and after some toasts with cheese, our dinner, we walk to the amphitheater to attend the evening program.
Ranger Molly tells us all about the nightlife in this park and of course the star consolations. She is doing a great job and very satisfied, we walk back at night, lit by a bright red moon (caused by the smoke of the many fires in Montana). It is significantly cooler when we wake up on Thursday. Yesterday we put away our duvet comforter but last night it was so cold that we had to take an extra blanket.
After a steep descent from the National Park, we smell our brakes, we arrive in Montrose and moments later we are in Ouray, Colorado, also called “Switzerland of America”. Our friend Susan told us that they had the last available spot on the KOA campground, so we drive straight to a Forest camp above Ouray. It’s a steep drive up and on the campground the paths narrowing but we find a beautiful large spot.
It is a handicapped one but the camphost says it’s no problem to stay there. We call Mike and Susan and if they don’t respond, Dick get the bikes so we can ride to their campground. While Dick is cleaning the bikes (they are so dirty) Mike, Susan and Penny (their Beagle puppy) arrive at our place. Before leaving for their campspot (it is lunch time) we get us a delicious burger in the town of Ouray.
Then, with filled stomachs, we drive a jeep trail with Mike ’s Jeep Rubicon, the Yankee Boy trail. Under overhanging rocks and through streambeds the jeep crawls higher and higher until the trail ends.
We are arrived at 12.250 feet and around us high alpine conditions prevail. It’s awesome here. Despite the fact that the sun is not shining, there are dark clouds and every now and then some snowflakes fall, we have a magnificent view of the mountain world towering above us. It is much cooler at this altitude and wearing a hoodie is more pleasant than a T-shirt.
After a lot of pictures the Jeep crawls back down over loose boulders. It is incredible how gently this Rubicon concurs the everywhere scattered boulders. Mike masters the Jeep completely, driving this jeep is in his genes.
Mike says, Dick also has to drive the Jeep, because after all, Dick is also qualified for this jeep because of his driving license for large trucks over 50 tons and Dick doesn’t disappoint us because he brings us safely back to the KOA campground where we enjoy the Birthday cake, Susan baked for me.
The cake is not only delicious but I also feel (again) a birthday girl, when I blow out the candle in the middle of the cake. In the evening Mike, Susan and of course Beagle Penny, drive us back to our campground. On Friday Mike and Susan arrive around half past 9 at our place.
A new day awaits us in this “Jeep Capital of the World”. However, before driving the trail to the Red Mountains we first visit Ridgeway. There is a small place where a nice guy produce (already for 41 years) the Grammy’s (from the Grammy awards).
Although the shop is closed, we may look inside. After some pictures of the ranch of Ralph Lauren nearby, we drive part of the Million Dollar Highway until the trail to the Red mountain. A steep stony path leads us up through the Woods. We rise very fast and look at the enormously tall Spruce Tree’s at this altitude.
Finally we arrive above the tree line and a beautiful colored landscape is waiting for us. Bare slopes rise up, gray and red colored. It is an almost unearthly landscape, magnificent.
The camera keeps going and going. At the highest point 12325 feet, we walk around and enjoy the view to both sides. It’s been pretty quiet on this trail but that changes when we drive down.
One after another jeep and ATV meets us on places where sometimes only a few inches remain between the Jeep and the steep precipice. It is really spectacular to drive here but I am glad I’m not behind the steering wheel. We slowly crawl down, drive past gold mines and finally arrive in Silverton, CO where we walk around and of course look in shops and buy a t-shirt. We also find a shop for nuts and bolts because along the way the Jeep lost some bolts. Fortunately Dick could bind the components together with the string of his Hoodie but that is only a temporary solution.
When we are back in Ouray we find out that neither Susan nor I, took food from the freezer so again we buy us a burger in Ouray. This one is tastier than yesterday. After a great evening together and lots of talking about the great days in the mountains, Mike drives us back again to our campground high above Ouray.