Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Sent from Mammoth Lakes Library

Saturday 23rd July

We got up early to drive up to the Mammoth Ski resort where the $7 compulsory shuttle-bus left from to visit the Devils Postpile just a short one mile hike from the bus stop. The Basalt columns which greeted us were fantastic basically hexagonal pillars about a foot diameter please see the gallery for some of the pictures. We could also walk up to the top of` them where they had been polished by glacial movement. After the Postpile we hiked a further two and a half miles to Rainbow falls where the sun is just in the right position to form a rainbow in the spray and while we were there we could actually see two. Back to the shuttle-bus but there was a little backpackers shop so a couple of beers seemed in order after our seven mile hike which was quite steep in places and at one point we were so interested in a great looking wooden bridge over some rapids that we took a wrong turn onto the John Muir Wilderness Trail which comes all the way from Yosemite which added another two miles to our hike.

After a rest watching the kids on a climbing wall at the ski center we headed for Vons (Safeway) supermarket and then the library which we had read in a brochure had wi-fi and another night in our nice clearing in the forest.

Sunday 24th July

Off to Bishop today, it was quite a big town with a Vons petrol station where we could get cheap fuel and use our 10 cents off a gallon coupon which was on our ticket from yesterday. Every little helps at 10 mpg!

We drove a scenic route into a canyon with two lakes but they were a bit commercial as they were man made with dams and had boating facilities. So just a restful driving day today. On our way out we found a petrol station which had propane so we could fill up as we were getting rather low.

We headed for "Toms Place" which was at the head of Bishop Creek Canyon where the Visitor Center in Mammoth had told us was a beautiful hike. About 3 miles from "Toms Place" we found a good place for the night just off the highway.

Monday 25th July

We drove into Rock Creek Canyon and found the trail head parking which was already half full and set of on the hike into the canyon. The parking was at 10,100 feet elevation and both of us had great difficulty breathing so were not to sure how we would fare on the hike. And what a beautiful hikeinto Little Lakes Valley, it started at Mosquito Flats which was a bad omen especially as we saw people getting dressed up in "bug nets" over their heads so we decided that our long walking trousers and a good spray of deet was necessary. But after about twenty minutes the sun was hot enough to get rid of the mosquitoes. The canyon had 22 lakes and we visited 18 of them on our hike which was very pleasant with beautiful scenery and really nice people we kept meeting as we passed each other as each had a rest or photo stop. We finished at Chickenfoot lake and had our lunch just at the tree and snow line at 11,000 feet. There we encountered "Pink Snow" which was very strange presumably stained with resin from the pine needles. We had gradually got used to the altitude during the walk thankfully but it was a reasonably strenuous 6.9 miles and at that altitude we were quite happy with our effort.

We had seen a dump station at "Toms Place" so had a shower in the car park to get rid of all the deet and then to dump and fill with water which should take us through most of our last week.

So back to Mammoth Lakes tonight and our little clearing in the forest for another visit to the library to send this and upload our photos.


Steve & Judy

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Sent from Mammoth Library, Mammoth, California

Wednesday 20th July
We left our parking spot reasonably early for the drive from west to east of Yosemite and what a beautiful drive spectacular scenery and gradually rising to 10,000ft. We stopped at Tenaya lake for coffee & some photo's, beautiful (see Gallery) some climbers were practicing on the relatively easy rock faces behind us. We also stopped at the bottom of the Tioga pass as we saw a nice campground but it was full of mosquitoes so we pushed on to Mono lake which looked just like Crater lake with a volcano peak in the middle but at the Visitor Center they explained it was actually a salt lake three times as salty as the ocean with a cinder cone near the middle from a later volcano. There was no exit for the water so the mineral and salt content stayed high unfortunately though Los Angeles started taking the water from the feeding streams which kept pace with evaporation and the whole ecology of the lake was upset so the salinity trebled and the organisms started dying. However pressure groups fought through the courts and forced the city to reduce their extraction and raise the water level, not to where it was but 25ft higher than it is now where the balance may be adequate. Unfortunately it will take very many years to refill and the ecology to recover. After the visitors center we found a nice Forestry Service campground for the night where we worked our way through all the information we had trying to decide where to go tomorrow but got ourselves totally confused as the ranger had told us so quickly that we could not work out the order. So we would visit the Center tomorrow to sort things out.

Thursday 21st July
Left the campground to visit the lake at the end of the canyon we had been told about which had a new campground just opened. The campground was very tight with bushes and trees and there was nowhere to stop by the lake so we moved on. As we left Steve saw an exhibit of two safes with their backs blown out with a brass plaque between them. Probably Buch Casidy or their like as this was a gold mining area. Must try to stop at a quieter time if we come back this way.
So back to the Visitor center to work out in which order to see things also to connect to their Internet to send the last blog. All that done we headed for South Tufa, which is a collection of stone towers which are formed by fresh water laden with calcium peculating up through the saline lake floor and forming Calcium Carbonate, Sandstone pillars which are now exposed because the lake is 25ft below it's proper level. We had a really nice wander round part of the lake the water of which is so alkaline it feels soapy. But teeming with life, no fish but mainly brine shrimp which feed the millions of migrating birds on their way to Argentina for the summer. A very simple food chain which is why it is so precarious.
After the lake we moved on to an old wood mill but there was nothing there except picture boards to explain, but it was very interesting.
Next was Panum Crater, this was an explosive volcano which erupted only 650 years ago. This volcano erupted mainly "Obsidan" rock which is basically black glass absolutely amazing. It was a very strenuous hike but well worth it to actually walk into a "dormant" volcano which could re-erupt at any time.
We then drove round June lake which was beautiful but very commercialized with boating activities. But on the way round we managed to see "Horsetail Falls" but there was nowhere to stop and hike up to them.
We had seen a forest campground in the papers from the Visitor Center so headed to it along a long dirt road, but very well worth it. A very large area with only a few sites spaced well apart amongst giant pine trees with the last of the evening sun streaming through the branches
We immediately went looking for some fallen wood and started a campfire in the grate provided. Steve cooked steak and sausages over the hot charcoal embers then we loaded on some of the enormous fir cones which were all around us and sat by the fire for the rest of the evening toasting marshmallows. Probably the best campground evening we have had and this one was free and no mosquitoes. For some reason there was no charge but grates, picnic tables and one pit toilet were provided, amazing. A real find and worth returning to if we come back this way.

Friday 22nd July
Reluctantly we left our lovely campsite and continued our sightseeing. We continued along the dirt road heading for Obsidan Dome which was another relatively new volcano this time almost entirely of Black Glass. There were glass boulders 3ft diameter everywhere another strenuous hike up to look into the crater and get a fantastic vista of the snow covered mountains in the distance. We continued on the dirt road but it became so narrow and bumpy that we had to turn round and return the way we came.
We were heading for Inyo Craters, these were a pair of explosive eruptions again only 6 or 7 hundred years ago where molten magma rose to hit the water table causing the superheated steam to blow craters a couple of hundred feet deep. Both now had water at the bottom but one was emerald green from the minerals it contained. (see gallery)

We then visited an earthquake fault which was a deep jagged crack in the ground about 30ft wide and about 50 ft deep, you could see that the faces would fit together. In the bottom was snow and the information said that the the early settlers would keep their food down there in the summer.

Onwards towards the Devils Postpile a collection of Basalt pillars similar by all accounts to the Devils Causeway from Ireland to Fingles Cave in Scotland. Fortunately at the Ranger Station they told us that the only campground with spaces was infested with mosquitoes, not for us so we turned round to find the town of Mammoth Lakes to get some fuel as we were very low then out into the forest to find some camping. We found a lovely clearing to have dinner and type up the blog before an early start to investigate the Devils Postpile tomorrow.


Steve & Judy

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Sent from Mono Lake, Lee Vining

Again sorry it is so long since our last blog, there is no usable internet in Yosemite National Park unfortunately.

Friday 15th July
We found a Loves Petrol (Gas) Station to stop for coffee and send our last blog and across the road was a Flying J both of which cater for large trucks and RV's and allow overnight parking, but also have facilities for RV's to dump waste and clean down as well as selling Propane gas so this would be a good place to clean out and fill up the RV before we take it back in a couple of weeks, down the road a little we also found a car wash which could take our height so we would be able to clean it outside as well on the day before we return it.

After sorting out the van ablutions before our return we had a slow drive towards Yosemite passing through vineyards and apricot & peach groves. We then started climbing again into the mountains and entered the Stanislaus Forest. We were sure Yosemite would be busy and campgrounds would likely be full because two BLM ones we passed had "Full" signs, so we found a small forest road which was perfect for us and had a really peaceful night.

Saturday 16th July

We got up early to drive the 15 miles into the park and were told at the gate that all campgrounds were full so we just found a parking place for the day and set about our visit.

Yosemite also has Shuttle Buses so we jumped on the first one and did the whole route. We were lucky to have found our large parking spot because by ten am there was very little parking to be had anywhere. In fact we heard later that they had closed the gates as the whole valley, which is the main attraction of the park was full. We took another longer bus ride then walked to Yosemite falls, a beautiful double water fall which dominates the valley view (see Gallery). Then to the visitor center and an Indian museum and exhibits of craft-work and Tepees etc. Back in the visitor center we saw a poster about a film show and presentation by a famous rock climber; Ron Kauk. Nik will probably know of him but we didn't, he was the one who helped Tom Cruise do the opening stunt in Mission Impossible "2" film. His film was fantastic with some amazing views of the park and some incredible climbing shots. The Q&A afterwords was really good, he was a really calm and spiritual guy, a Native American we think by his appearance.

It was really dark by the time we got back to the Motorhome so decided to leave by the nearest exit to find somewhere for the night. We had already confirmed with the Rangers that it was ok to stop at any lay-by (pullout) and found a large one just seven miles out. But it was really dark that night and the narrow roads with jagged rocks sticking out from the sides and trees leaning in was a challenge with the wide and high vehicle.

Sunday 17th July

As Yosemite Valley was so crowded on Saturday we decided it would probably be worse on Sunday so left early to drive the thirty odd miles to Wowona where we could catch a shuttle bus to Mariposa Grove which was the area where the giant Sequoia's (Redwood trees) grow. These were different we were told from the Coastal redwoods we had seen last week. We had formed the impression that it was a comfortable short paved walk in the grove so didn't wear our hiking boots and take our walking poles and only packed one small bottle of water and a couple of energy bars, unfortunately we ended up walking about eight miles not properly equiped with an elevation gain of 2,000 ft, as a result we suffered for it the next day.

The Giant Sequoia's were impressive but we both thought that the coastal redwoods were better and gave the impression of being larger and the forest was far more tranquil, almost magical, but there were very many more of them there and they hadn't suffered the impact of destructive tourism for so long but it was a very good day albeit a bit more tiring than it should have been. Also any tranquility there could have been was destroyed by passenger "Trams" which were trailers carrying about 50 people pulled by Diesel Artic. (Semi) units screaming up the steep tracks in low gear with a massive hiss from their air cylinders every couple of minutes. These ran at about ten minute intervals and charged those who couldn't or didn't want to walk up $27 a go. We really couldn't believe the National parks Service doing such a destructive thing. Compared to the LPG Shuttle Buses which are nearly silent and non polluting. But I suspect they make a great deal of money from the "Trams" and perhaps the buses don't have the power for the hills.  Such a shame a better solution could not be found.

On the way back from Wowana we took the 16 mile road out to Glacier Point which we had been told was a must as it looked over the whole of the valley. It was indeed an impressive viewpoint and we were also able, with the help of a high powered telescope stationed there to see some climbers scaling the absolutely sheer vertical face of Half Dome rock, 5,000 ft. from base to top. The sheer face itself was probably about 3000 ft. Even with the telescope they looked tiny against it. See the photo in our gallery and spot them if you can. We had read earlier that sometimes the climb can take a couple of days and they have to sleep in their harnesses hanging from the rock at night!!

On the road to Glacier Point we had passed Bridalveil campground which had a sign saying spaces available so after a close-up encounter with a Mule deer who had decided that the bushes in the car park would make a nice evening snack we headed for the campground and took one of the last two spaces available.

Monday 18th July

We woke early very cold as the temperature had dropped to 5 degC in the night and a bit sore from the hike yesterday so decided to stay for another day to sort things in the van out, we were getting very short of cash as we hadn't been near a bank for ages but just about managed to scrape the $14 together in change which we had to check with the camp host first as it specifically said notes only.

We had a short stroll along the creek to relax our muscles a bit and cleaned and sorted out the van then cooked an early dinner over a camp fire and chatted to the guys in the tent next to us for quite a while before going to a Ranger Camp Fire talk on Bears.

Tuesday 19th July

Today was going to be another housekeeping day as we must get some more cash and must do some laundry so we headed in to the valley quite early and luckily found some parking just outside the Laundromat then caught the shuttle bus to Yosemite Village where we hoped the ATM was working. Luckily it was so we could get some cash albeit at quite a high service charge which with the bank surcharge would probably make it the most expensive dollars yet, lets hope the exchange rate hasn't gone against us as well.

Cash and Laundry all sorted out so after lunch we jumped on a shuttle bus to go to the trail head for the hike to Vernal falls viewpoint just 1.6 mile round trip the book says, but today we took the hiking gear just in case. At the bottom some Rangers said the trail was closed passed the footbridge but that was where we intended to go so no problem. The hike although it was paved and very busy was extremely steep so we were glad we had our boots and poles because they make it so much easier. On our way up we bumped into two guys from the campground Judy had been talking to before we left and they told us the terrible news that three people had climbed passed the railings at the top of the falls despite the warning signs and had fallen over, which was why the trail was closed as the Rangers were still searching for the bodies. In fact at the bottom of the trail presumably as we looked like hiking types a Ranger stopped us to ask if we had been at the top when it had happened. He said because of the amount of water over the falls at the moment the bodies could be trapped for weeks.

On our way back to the van and feeling a bit shaken by the sad news we decided to go to the patio for a beer to relax and shared a table with five really nice young women who had just done the Half Dome Hike, a 15 mile hike with an elevation change of nearly 5,000 ft, which had taken twelve hours, a bit out of our league.

We drove out of the Park again and found the same spot as a couple of days ago, first filling up with fuel the most expensive yet at $4.99 a gallon. But we needed some as we were going to drive right across Yosemite tomorrow to Mono Lake.

Till next time,

Steve & Judy

Friday, 15 July 2011

Sent from Stockton California

Sorry it has been so long between Blogs , just haven't been able to find internet we could get close enough to to send this.  Please look at the Blog for the updated GPS trace. We now have done the complete circle.

Wednesday 6th July

We found a forest campground last night but had to drive quite a way because there was a large recreation area of mainly boating etc. But we finally found a nice place for the night but it was by the river so quite a lot of Mosquitoes which now seem to make a beeline for Steve now he is not eating Marmite every day. Judy did find a small jar in Los Angeles but making toast is such a pain that we only have it occasionally.

So this morning we set of for Idaho falls which we had read had waterfalls to rival Niagara. We couldn't find any signs so Judy sorted through all the pamphlets and maps only to find we had come to the wrong place, we needed to be at Twin Falls Idaho which was 170 miles away and taking us on a detour of about 200 miles but the brochure said it was 50ft higher than Niagara and more spectacular and with the amount of water in all the rivers at the moment should be fantastic so off we went and arrived at about 4:30 three dollars to get in and drove down only to find the falls with only a trickle of water, what a disappointment we felt really cheated. We found there was a visitor centre about two miles away so drove over to find if there was anything else or if indeed we had found the correct falls. The gentleman there was very apologetic saying that ten days ago the falls were trhe best ever but the authorities had decided to divert the water to fill two large reservoirs and had basically turned the falls off.

Outside we found some guys folding parachutes on the grass and discovered the Perrine bridge over the snake river next to the car park was the only place they could base jump in the USA without a permit so it was a Meca for these guys. We followed them down to the bridge which was 500ft above the river and watched them jump off, so a bit of compensation for the falls. We started chatting to some people and the lady said that the falls had been fantastic and showed us a photo on her camera and yes they did look impressive. They also told us about another waterfall nearby we could visit in the morning which you could walk underneath.

The gentleman in the visitor center said we were welcome to stay in the car park there for the night so we walked to a nearby steakhouse then had a peaceful night.

Thursday 7th July

We visited the waterfall the lady had told us about yesterday and it was fun, Steve walked right under it without getting wet except a bit of mist. See the pictures in our gallery.

So onward to Salt Lake City and arrived at about 5:15 the Wal*Mart was a bit inner city with only a multi story car park so we looked for the KOA campground for the night. They wanted nearly $50 just for the night and we would have to be out and park elsewhere for the day unless we booked two nights so as it was already late and we needed some shopping we decided to go about 6 miles to another Wal*Mart Steve had seen on TomTom then we could book into the KOA in the morning for the next night which would leave us more flexible. Infact it was a very nice Wal*Mart but we were the only camper there.

Friday 8th July

We got up early to drive in to the City and came across a very large car park just a short walk from the Mormon Temple complex which we had been told about in a Visitor Center we stopped at yesterday just $5 for the whole day.

We walked to the Temple and decided to investigate the Genealogy Center first. There we were shown a short film about the Center then directed to the British Section three floors down there a very nice lady Sister Karen Bagg showed us how to start on Jody's Family Tree and in fact spent the whole day on and off working with us getting quite excited as we uncovered another pertinent record. At one point the record we wanted wasn't on the computer so we had to find the microfilm locate the record and take a print from it. All the facilities were there for everybody to use free of charge except a nominal 5cents per copy printing fee. We had a really great day and left the center at about 5pm. Arriving back at the Motorhome everything was fine after being parked there for longer than we expected so we decided to take a walk in the City which is very clean with very wide roads. "Wide enough to turn a cart drawn by a train of bullocks" it is said was the initial intention when the city was designed initially by the Mormon Settlers when they first arrived.

On our walk we came across a free Country & Western concert in the park and spent the whole evening there leaving at about 10pm. We had completely forgotten about booking into the KOA so headed out to Wal*Mart again for another comfortable night.

Saturday 9th July

We could not decide whether to spend another day in the city and see more of the Mormon Complex but Steve was a bit concerned about the really long 1,000 mile drive right across the country to California and the Redwoods in the Motorhome which was like a Camel to drive and really difficult on the Freeway and jumped around all the time because it is so out of balance, so we decided to push on. We drove across the salt lakes which were impressive and across the salt flats where we hoped to come across the Bonneville test track where the land speed records are run but found no evidence except a run down petrol station so we pushed on and stopped for a break at Elco where we found a large craft fair in progress which took a couple of hours walking round. We motored on and found a really nice rest area to stop for the night with all the trucks and another Motorhome. A sign actually said that vehicles were allowed to stop for 18 hours not the Measly two hours allowed on motorways in England.

Sunday 10th July

While we were having breakfast Steve spotted something which on further investigation turned out to be a dump station for motorhomes and presumably coaches so before leaving we drained down and filled up with water before continuing our journey. We didn't think about filling up with fuel at Winemucca because we had half a tank full but didn't realize we wouldn't find any more fuel for over 200 miles in fact we arrived at a little restaurant come saloon in the middle of nowhere with a petrol pump outside with only 12 miles worth of fuel left "The display said". The lady would only take cash so we just put $20 worth in to get us to the next town and the price looked a bit high at $4 a gallon whereas we had paid only paid $3.30 in Salt Lake City. We got to the next town ok only to find it the same price as we were now in Oregon where you were not allowed "to pump your own gas" they have to serve it even though the pump was a self service type which took credit cards. Steve had to put the card in while the girl served it. But it gave Steve the opportunity to chat after the inevitable "Where ya from? Australia?". She said "are you going to Crater Lake" to which Steve replied no it's too far and she said "shame you are really missing something".

Along the road we decided to stop and find where she was talking about and it was a different Crater Lake to the one we had seen on the map and was only about 50miles out of our way. So we made the detour and were very glad we did. Crater lake was a volcano which had collapsed in on itself then the crater filled with water to form a huge lake 30 miles circumference, leaving the volcano cone still sticking above the very deep water which was dark dark blue. The drive went right round the rim with many stops and overlooks. The only problem was that there was ten foot of snow at the side of the road and the road was closed for part of the drive because there had been a rock fall so we had to turn round and come back rather than driving right round the 30 mile rim. But it was worth the experience. The only camp ground open was full so we headed out of the park and found a 4x4 road out in the forest for the night.

Monday 11th July

We finished our journey towards Crescent City at the top of the Redwoods National Park. About 20 miles away from the town we crossed a river bridge and were suddenly in the Redwood forest with trees 10 to 15ft diameter and staggeringly tall on each side of the road with the road winding between them.

We arrived at the Visitor Center and found our second unhelpful ranger in all of the trip so far saying there was no availability for camping you will have to find a commercial site outside the park. We found the Wal*Mart but that was uninviting with "No Overnighting" signs so we decided to take pot luck and head into the forest.

We went down a couple of likely roads and on the first we came across a private exhibit of a "Drive Through" tree just a dollar each to walk in because our motorhome was too big. Sure enough there was a giant tree over 100ft high with a hole cut through it big enough to drive a car through (see the gallery).

Onwards to another scenic drive where we found a crowd of people at the side of the road. After parking we investigated to find that they were watching a mother whale with a baby whale in the river. The story being that there was a Killer Whale out in the Ocean and she had comer into the river with her baby for protection. We caught a glimpse of the baby about 20ft long but I think she sensed the people and went out into the middle of the river.

We then took another scenic drive through the forest stopping every few hundred yards to look at yet another amazing tree we will put the pictures in the gallery but they do not really do justice to the grandure of these amazing living things.

Steve's nose for finding parking spots turned us into a logging road about half a mile long where we found a trailhead parking spot where we spent a nice undisturbed night.

Tuesday 12th July

We woke very early because we were still on mountain time. Opened the curtains to find a VW van and a tent which had arrived in the night and we had not heard it!!

We set off to see one part of the scenic drive we had missed which was the "Big Tree" which was "big". The information sign said that it was narrowly saved from felling because an enterprising person wanted to cut a slice across to make a dance floor. The walk was realy good before anybody was about with the sea mist giving an enchanted feeling. There was an interpretive trail which explained very many of the questions we had been asking ourselves. We then went to another Visitor Center to watch a film about the forest and get more information on what to see then headed on to "The Samoa Cookhouse" which Elizabeth had told us about in Canyon de Chelle.

This was quite a lunch; Soup with bread and croutons, Salad, Meat Loaf, mash and vege and beans then Cake and Coffee. All served on long family tables as it would have been to the Lumberjacks of the past.

What a meal. So we set off to find a rest area for an after lunch snooze and stayed ther for the night!!

Wednesday 13th July

Another early morning to drive "The Valley of the Giants" a scenic road thirty miles long weaving between the redwoods. It was fascinating .

The rest of the day was spent driving the very wiggly Highway "1" which weaves its way all along the coast. We finally stopped at 4:30pm for an early evening at a private campground which was not cheap but much cheaper than the Californian State Parks.

Tomorrow we should reach San Francisco and the Golden gate Bridge and hopefully find a McD's to send this.

Thursday 14th July

Well we arrived north of the Golden Gate bridge and tried to get to the Viewpoint but signs said roadworks "No RV's" so we carried on and came to a Visitor Center. The lady there said it would probably be ok for us to go up to the viewpoint it was just a bit tight for the big RV's and 5th wheels. But before we go why not take in the Missile Site just up the road which opens at 12:30, so we did.

Very interesting, it was a de-commissioned Cold War Atomic defense missile sight with Nike-Hercules missiles. The guide was a volunteer and very good. He came out with wonderful phrases like "For your own safety, please hold on to the Atomic Missile while we descend into the missile storage area" I hope to put some pictures up soon so keep looking at the gallery.

After the missiles we made our way up to the viewpoint and had no problems with our size but the big RV's would have had difficulty. The view was great and nice to see it personally. We then decided to drive across the bridge to visit the city. It is interesting, $6 toll to get into San Francisco aacross any of the bridges but as we found later, free to get out. After we had extracted ourselves from the five lanes of high speed traffic we drove through the city itself. We noticed that the roads were exactly as in the car chase in the Steve McQueen film Bullet. A hill then a flat bit as it crossed a road then another hill. We were heading for a campsite and TomTom said to "Turn Left" which we did then both almost had a heart attack as ther road suddenly disappeared and we drove over a cliff! It wasn't a cliff but the road descended at least 45 degrees for about ten blocks with a flat bit every block as before, it was terrifying so we turned right as soon as possible to find a less steep way round.

We arrived at the Camp Site only to find it had become a Safeways Supermarket. But the marina across the road had parking so we stopped there to walk into the historic "Fisherman's Wharf" area, which had a great atmosphere. At the end of the wharf was a WW2 Submarine which had audio tours. Neither of us had been on one before so we took the tour which was so interesting it took about two hours. We had to be away from our parking spot so decided we would research another campsite and come back to visit after Yosemite National Park, which was next on the agenda quite an interesting day even if it did have a bit of a wartime theme. When we hit the freeway across the Bay Bridge we were pleased we didn't leave it till the morning, at 11pm the traffic was bad enough what it would have been like in the rush hour. Outside the city we found a rest area and settled down with all the trucks for the night.

Steve & Judy

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Sent from Twin Falls, Idaho

Sunday 3rd July
By the time we had sent the blog last night we thought it too late to find a nice restaurant so we just had a night in at Wal*Mart.
Up early to get a good spot for the 9:30am start of the Sunday Parade which was great fun then we wandered around the stalls in the City Park then tried "Corn Dogs" & "Buffalo Burgers" for lunch then listening to some live Country & Western on the stage. We then wandered along the town looking in the shops. One was a cowboy supply shop which included bespoke saddle making the waiting list was four years for a made to measure which would cost around $15,000 an "off the peg" was around $3,500 and second hand from $2,500.
In one shop we chatted with the assistant about where to get a good steak and she recommended the "Steak & Chop" so back to the van first to go to the Launderette to get our washing done then back to the car park to have a rest then shower and change to go for Steve's Birthday meal.
Oops we should have booked, at 8pm they were queuing outside so we put our names down for a table and were told to come back in about an hour. Well half an hour later we tried our luck and they fitted us in. Well it really was the best steak either of us could ever remember having so worth the wait and a perfect celebration meal for Steve's Birthday.
So well satisfied we drove back to Wal*Mart for the night.
Monday 4th July (Independence Day)
After the wonderful meal the night before we slept in a bit and almost got caught out by the road blocks but managed to find our way by the back streets to our car park then to the main street to watch the parade. As today was the main parade the street was heaving with people but we managed to find a spot under some trees as Steve had got his legs a bit sunburned yesterday. The parade was the same as yesterday with a few extra entries but the atmosphere was much better. For lunch we finally found the "Elks Lodge" who were providing lunch, which we had failed to find yesterday. We had a great lunch for $6 each and met some really nice people. So back to Wal*Mart with the other 50 or so motor-homes for a rest before heading off to the Rodeo.
It was a complete sell out so the stand was packed. The seating was aluminum benches but they had measured out the spacing before the American Behinds had become the size they are now! We were ok because there were a few children on our bench which evened out the spacing. But it was quite comical watching 12 large rear ends trying to fit in space enough for only about eight!
The Rodeo was good and if we hadn't seen the Navajo one we would have been very pleased with it but it was "Professional" and did not have the spirit of the amateur one. But we enjoyed it very much.
Back to Wal*Mart to get ringside seats on the nice grass hillock at the back of the store to watch the fireworks which were great but the heavens opened just before the finale and everybody had to make a run for their vehicles.
Tuesday 5th July
Up early again to drive back to Yellowstone via the "Bear-tooth Highway" described as the best drive in the USA. You may remember we had intended to go into the park this way but the road had been washed out so we had to change course and go via Jackson Hole which we are really glad we did because we so enjoyed Jackson.
The Highway was fantastic with phenomenal views and climbing to 11,000 ft but not quite as exhilarating as the Tis-n-Tes in Morocco which was two way but mainly single track and no crash barriers with 3,000 ft drops over the edge. The Highway was wide two lane with crash barriers all the way. Sorry America, one up to Morocco!
The highway finished at the North east gate of Yellowstone where we finished visiting the last quarter of the park. We had a bit of excitement when we came across a bear jam but this time a Black Bear was playing with the traffic, not a good situation for the bear or the public so the rangers were trying to persuade him it was not a good place by scaring him off with thunder flashes shot from a distance with a special rifle.
Finished at Yellowstone we visited their dump station to get drained down for the next few days then headed out to the National Forest to find a campground for the night.
Till next time,
Steve & Judy

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sent from Cody, Wyoming, USA

Monday 27th June

After sending our blog from Dinosaur we motored on across the state line back into Utah and into the National Monument of Dinosaur where we found a Campground for the night again beside the Green river.

Waking early to explore what was on offer in the park. We drove to the end of the road to Rosie Morris' cabin. She had farmed here basically alone for 50 years until she died from complications after falling on ice and breaking her hip while feeding her cattle at the age of 90. Her cabin which she had built herself was in a beautiful spot with a stream and a box canyon to keep her cattle in but extremely basic.

On the way back through the park we stopped at Petrogliths on the walls similar to Newspaper Rock but these had some pictures of Lizards not found elsewhere but also the strange triangular spaceman like figure similar to the one at newspaper rock but this is over 100 miles away. Did traveling artists travel that far?

We had hoped to visit the quarry where the skeleton of a Dinosaur had been found but the building was being re-constructed after it had subsided but we saw copies of some of the bones at the Visitor Center.

On the way out of the park we saw a huge Golden Eagle (we think) sitting on top of a rock.

Back on the highway we headed for Yellowstone National Park, unfortunately the Visitors Center at Jensen had told us that the North East entrance was closed which we had hoped to enter by because the road had been washed out with all the high water. Which was a shame as we had been told that this was one of the most exhilarating drives in the world especially with a large vehicle like ours. ( As good as the "Tisna Tes in Morocco? I wonder. That had "Z" bends for 111 km across the Atlas mountains without crash barriers) we will tell you after we have done it.

We took the scenic route across "Cowboy" country through the Flaming Gorge to above 8,200 ft and into Wyoming then onwards towards the Tetons on the 191. Mile after mile there was nowhere to stop any likely ones having "No Overnight" signs.

Eventually we found a large pull-out for viewing the migration of the Pronghorn Antelopes which had no signs so we had a good night there. A sign said that up to 40,000 antelope live on the prairie before us, an animal that could run at 60mph. Just before we closed up for the night we saw some come down to the river to drink.

Tuesday 28th June

We woke very cold as the temperature had dropped to 11degC overnight so we made some porridge (made by Quaker but not as good as in the to warm us up before continuing our journey towards Yellowstone. Just before arriving at Jackson Hole the warning on the dash came on to say we had to do an oil change so we asked at the Visitor Center in Jackson who told us where there was a "Lube` Station" to get it done. We phoned Cruise America to approve the cost and the whole job done in 15 minutes $58 (£35) which is less than the oil would have cost in Europe that's including the filter and labour.

The rest of the day was spent walking round Jackson Hole the center of which has been carefully kept looking like a "Cowboy Town" while still allowing it to keep up with the times. The day ended with a gun fight at the crossroads.

We picked the nearest campground to the town so we could come back in for the evening for a meal. But it was about 8 miles along very bumpy dirt roads which took nearly an hour so we didn't fancy doing it more than necessary. So dined at home! But there were so many midges around we found some logs and had a camp fire in the grate which are provided in all the campgrounds. It kept the midges away but we smelled like a couple of Kippers.

Wednesday 29th June

Although we were in the mountains the temperature didn't drop as low as on the prairies so we woke early to head for Jenny Lake where we had been told there was a very nice hike to the "Hidden Falls" about 3 miles each way. The walk was very nice and the falls were stunning as there was just so much water this year. With the exceptional late snow the water was very high which had caused some flooding along the Green River but it all drains into lake Powell and lake Mead which were expected to fill up for the first time this year since their construction.

Judy's hip was hurting after the walk there so Steve decided that the Horse Trail would be easier going back which appeared to be a similar distance on the map but he thoughtthat there would not be all the steps put in to resist all the erosion from foot traffic. The Horse trail was an easier walk even though it climbed higher but we were totally on our own and Judy especially was terrified we were going to turn a corner and come face to face with a Gizzly Bear. So Steve was clapping his hands at every bend so as to make enough noise not to surprise one if they were there. We came across none and it was actually a very nice walk back without the hundreds of other people on the trail as there had been on the way there.

We had seen piles of "droppings" along the trail and Judy was convinced it was Bears so we asked at the Ranger station who assured us it was "Moose Droppings" and told us what it would look like if it was bears. I am not quite sure what our reaction would have been if we had come face to face with a Moose but I am sure it would not have been as bad as with a bear.

We had decided to camp on BLM land just before Yellowstone so headed off there after our hike. But on the way we came across vehicles all over the road. It looked like a bad accident but as we drew nearer we saw people pointing to the tree line so Steve pulled over to the verge and we sarted looking, finally we saw an enormous Grizzly Bear easily seven foot tall grazing at the tree line about 100 yards away. After about 10 minutes watching Steve spotted a baby bear obviously with it's mother then Judy spotted another baby. By this time some lady Rangers had arrived to sort out the traffic chaos. Steve chatted to one of them who said it was a Grizzley female number 399 who actually had triplets and she weighed about 350lb. This was the second set of triplets she had had. We must have watched along with the hundreds of other people for about 40 minutes finally seing the third cub who was quite large. So show over we carried on then about half an hour later we came across another "traffic Jam" this time it was a Black Bear on it's own again about 100 yards away. We spent another half an hour watching this one, it was only just a bit larger than the largest of the Grizzley Cubs.

So an exiting end to the day, after half an hour we came across our Campground which was a free site beside the Snake River similar facilities of a pit toilet, picnic tables and a fire pit but no water which we didn't need anyway, the only problem was that there were enormous midges, mosquitos or whatever which set about Judy when she jumped out to see Steve back into the pitch. So no walks, no camp fire and no use of the picnic table. Seal doors and windows and set about the bites with the miracle stick we had bought in Wal*Mart which seems to stop the irritation instantly.

Another good but eventful day.

Thursday 30th June

We left our forest campsite heading for Yellowstone National Park and arrived at the visitor center to plan our visit. Unfortunately there was no Internet here so this post will be a bit long until we find a connection. The Ranger at the desk reminded us that it was the 4th July holiday weekend and the park was almost full already so our first task should be to find where we should stay. She then outlined what we should see. Back in the van we looked at the map she had marked for us and decided that Norris Campground would be the most central. The park roads being basically a figure of eight Norris was just above the West Center join. Unfortunately we had to drive past the major attractions to Norris which was thirty miles to the north. We arrived at the campground at about 11 am first encountering an enormous Buffalo (Bison) in the parking area, he was at least 6 foot at the shoulder and just standing there eating the long grass at the bottom of a sign post. Photo taken we drove round the campsite finding every spot taken. Finally we had the choice of the last two pitches so chose the flattest and filled out our envelope and paid for two days, we could always pay for more while we occupied the spot but might want to move on elsewhere to save all the driving.

So accommodation secured we headed north to visit Mammoth Hot Springs. Ten minutes along the road we encountered oncoming cars in a que waiting behind another Bison lumbering along in front of them while another was about to cross our part of the road. Bear in mind that these magnificent animals can weigh up to two tons and can run faster than a good human runner. We waited and the one on our side decided to move over for us so after the pictures we cautiously drove past it.

Mammoth Hot Springs were nothing like we had experienced before and it is best if you look at our Gallery to get a feel for what we saw. After a lot of walking round the boardwalks we arrived at the village and immediately encountered Elk who had taken up residence on every bit of grass around and one very harassed Ranger on Elk Duty trying to stop the tourists from approaching them too close. The law is 25 yards for all large animals except Beers which require 100 yards. More tourists are injured by the seemingly harmless lumbering Bison than anything, just by invading their personal space and making them uncomfortable. So a fairly tiring afternoon and back to the campground where we decided to cook our dinner on the campfire which was very enjoyable although a bit of a challenge, cooking on wood rather than charcoal.

Friday 1st July

Up very early to head for "Old Faithful" geyser to catch the 7:30 eruption but it was thirty miles away and Steve's calculations didn't take into account the Bison we again encountered in the road so we arrive five minutes after it had finished so about 90 minutes to wait. The visitor center opened at 8:00 and they ran their film early for us so we could watch that and join Ranger Sam on a walk round the Geysers. Sam had been working Summers at Yellowstone for 45 years so was extreme knowledgeable and gave us a good two hour tour. We saw "Old Faithful" erupt from the back along with very many other sights then after the tour we saw it from the front then somebody said that the "Grand Geyser" would be erupting in half an hour giving us just enough time to get there but then we met some "Geyser Gazers" who spend all their vacations just watching and monitoring the Geysers they said that "Beehive Geyser" was going off first so to go past that one first. What an experience ten minutes of an enormous eruption of boiling water and steam out of a four foot diameter spout with aterrific roar. That done the "Geyser Gazers" radio's started saying that the "Turban Geyser" was spluttering so "Grand" should follow shortly so hot step along the boardwalks between the hundreds of people to get there just in time. We sat next to some more  "Geyser Gazers" who talked us through all the indicators and then a wonderful show of three connected geysers erupting simultaneously. The "Las Vegas Fountains" pale into insignificance against natures display. The "Geyser Gazers" then told us about "Great Fountain Geyser" which would be going off at about 2:30 about 12 miles up the road which gave us enough time to visit the General Store and drive there to wait just fifteen minutes for another staggering display. We were really so lucky to have experiences Ranger Sam's tour and he had told us about the "Geyser Gazers" who were more knowledgeable about the timings of the Geysers than the Rangers who in turn helped us to experience so many terrific shows.

We had a late lunch and a bit of a rest while downloading all the photo's, thank goodness we had bought a second battery for the camera in Jackson Hole as we would never have managed. We used two batteries and two memory cards plus charging the dead battery between stops.

We finished the day visiting all the rest of the sights back to our camp ground arriving at about 8:30 pm absolutely exhausted but excited after all we had seen and the smell of the pungent sulfur still in our nostrils.

We have decided to head out of the park for the 4th July towards Cody and hopefully some of the celebrations so hopefully we can send this update tomorrow. The pictures unfortunately will have to wait until we have time so sort them out to upload hopefully next time.

So check the gallery regularly to see the pictures of our blog.

Saturday 2nd July

Got on the road early to see the sights on our way out of the park before the crowds arrived. This part was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone the first being a short hike to the brink of an amazing waterfall falling about 250ft then we saw the upper part which was not quite so high but very impressive. The canyon is about 1000ft deep and really as we expected the Grand canyon to be but that was so huge that it was not as impressive as this one. Strange really but everyone we speak to says the same. The scale of the Grand canyon is just too large to take in. We saw some more bubbling mud pots and boiling water pots and some extremely acidic sulfur pots which were nearly as corrosive as battery acid!  It was a nice morning seeing some different things before setting off to Cody, Wyoming.

We arrived at Cody at about 4:30 and found the Visitor Center to sort out what there was to do. Being the 4th July weekend there will be a street parade tomorrow and Monday and the Rodeo will be on each day so we headed out to the Rodeo to find out more. After finding that tonight and tomorrow were the qualifiers for the 4th we booked our seats for the 4th, it will be interesting to see the difference between the local Navajo Rodeo that we saw before and this one which is the top professionals.

We will tell you more next time as it is Steve's birthday we will be finding somewhere to eat after sending this. Thanks for all the birthday emails and facebook greetings, with our limited internet time I can't email everyone back but hope you all receive the blog.

Steve & Judy