August 19, 2005

Travel Log - Day 9

We spent a full day hiking in Glacier and I have to say that I have never felt so alive. I often suffer from allergies and other ailments (IBS, CFS, Fibro) and was a bit worried that all the walking, hiking and generally just being away from home would end up really taking a toll on my physical well-being. But I found the contrary to be true. I loved the early morning hours, when dh and ds were still asleep in the cabin, and I took to taking a walk through our campground or just sitting in the lawn chair reading my bible and praying. Leaving behind all the stress and strain of life was such a blessing to all of us. DH relaxed, ds journalled and drew, we played family games, roasted marshmellows, and just enjoyed being together.

The landscape of Glacier N.P.

Hidden Lake, Glacier N.P.

Today we hiked from Logan Pass Visitor center to Hidden Lake. Considered to be a moderate hike, I found the altitude to be most troublesome. The air is thin and cold at this elevation and the more we hiked, the harder I puffed (I do have Asthma). It was a long hike but well worth it. The water really was this color blue.

August 18, 2005

Travel Log - Day 8

Okay, I have seen photos of Glacier N.P. but to visit in person and see the real-deal, well, it is just more than words can tell. It is an experience I shall never forget. We are blessed that we will be here for 5 days and can spend our time visiting Kalispell, Whitefish, Big Mountain, and Glacier with leisure.

Our first trip up the Going to the Sun road took place on the afternoon we arrived in Whitefish. We decided to take the drive into the park, even though, we didn't have a full-day to visit. As we entered the park it began to rain and the further we drove up the road (which crosses the Continental Divide), the more our visibility decreased. The fog set in, the rain began and we often could see less than a car length in front of us. We made it to the very top of the road, entered the rest stop to use the bathrooms and was greeted with a biting wind chill of about 20 degrees (down from 60 when we left the KOA). Dressed in a teeshirts and shorts, we were not prepared to do any hiking or even walking. We toured the visitor center and headed back down the mountain, hoping that tomorrow would bring us another day of sunshine.

After a good night in our comfy cabin, we ate a filling breakfast, checked email (hooray), and packed our lunch for the day. It was cold but the forecast said the highs would be 60 or so. Our camping director said that on the mountain even 60 would be warm. He helped us pick some easy to moderate trails and gave us some pointers on hiking in the park.

Did I mention that Glacier is beautiful?

Yes, there are bears here.

We even drove to the backcountry in the hope of seeing some Grizzly bears but to our dismay, there were none. This sign had a note saying that bears were spotted near the trail in the early morning hours and to pay special attention for them. We didn't see them but many of the hikers in front of us and behind us had bells on their shoes, backpacks and sticks. I read in the park newspaper that bells don't work but the visitors to the park like to wear them and so you always hear the faint 'tinkle' of grizzley bells where ever you go in the park.

August 17, 2005

Travel Log - Day 7

We left the Polson KOA and drove north up to Kalispell. Montana is the most beautiful state IMO and every turn and twist of the interstate affords a new breathtaking view of nature. I am in awe today as we drive around the lake. The day is sunny (so far we have had one day of rain - on our first day out) and warm. We have packed our lunch and hope to find a nice pinic spot for us to eat at. Here in Montana, outdoor life is everything so there are many places to pull off the road and just sit a spell. Our destination is only an hour and half away so we have a leisurely drive ahead of us. We will be spending the bulk of our trip at the Whitefish KOA, located about 20 miles from the entrance to Glacier N.P. We chose Whitefish as it offered some great freebies, namely a hot breakfast daily, crazy bikes, petting zoo, game room, pool, spa and computer access.

I guess I should mention that being offline is not only causing both DH and I to have withdrawls but it is also a business issue. I work from home as both website designer and server administrator and so travelling without the computer is a NO GO. Normally, we would choose to stay in hotels/motels that offer high-speed access so that I can continue to provide computer services to my clients. But this year we are camping and with WI-fi being so popular and available it is pretty amazing to think that in all most all our overnight stops and KOA visits, internet access was available.

Bunnies free ranging in Whitefish

The Whitefish KOA has a petting zoo with rabbits, llamas, ponies, goats, ducks, geese, and chickens. The owners let their bunnies roam free and this is one of them. We often had them pop up to our cabin in the early am or pm looking for a snack. They were very snuggly and friendly - ds was enthralled and asked if we could have a bunny when we got home. Bunnies and Arizona are not a good combination - the heat is too much for them and they require such special care. We chose instead to just enjoy them while we were here.

August 16, 2005

Travel Log - Day 6

Today we left Yellowstone and drove on into Montana. We are not supposed to arrive in Whitefish (near Kalispell) until tomorrow but we are ahead of schedule. We decide to stay in Polson, Montana, just south of Kalispell for the night. Polson sits on the Flathead Indian reservation and is at the south end of Flathead lake. This is big-time fishing territory and you can easily see why. Flathead lake is a hidden jewel. As you arrive at the south end of the lake, it appears to be a decent size, but not as large as say Lake Tahoe. It is only after taking a drive around the lake, either to the north or west, that the size of the lake begins to fill your view. This lake is huge and is deep and affords excellent fishing. We didn't bring our fishing rods so for us we are content just to drive around the lake and check in to our KOA campsite early.

Kamping at KOA Polson

Okay, for you camping experts out there, go ahead and laugh at us. Yes, we are Kamping the KOA way. I mentioned earlier that we were newbie campers and so to get us started with the minimum output of expense, we decided to give KOA and their Kamping Kabins a try. Well, it was a great option for us. Each cabin sleeps 4 and comes with portable fan/heater (not needed here but definitely used in West Yellowstone KOA). The Polson KOA is a lovely campground, owned and operated by a family (versus part of the chain) so it is super clean, very well stocked, friendly, and though small, a great place to stay. We spent the afternoon in the pool and spa and took an early dinner in downtown Polson. Tomorrow we will drive around the lake as we head north to Kalispell.

Did I mention that if there was one state I would choose to live in, it would be Montana? Yes, I love the USA and have lived many places in my lifetime but have to say that Montana holds the top spot for me. I LOVED it and the people were so friendly. This is BIG SKY country, very western and rustic. It is a great place to visit or to retire to or just dream about.

Flathead Lake, Montana

August 15, 2005

Travel Log - Day 5

We drove through Yellowstone last evening, not knowing that the trip would take us 90 minutes from the entrance at Grand Teton to the exit in West Yellowstone. It was an eerie experience to drive through such a famous national park at night. We are on the lookout for bears and elk but our drive passes without any incidence. We do smell the familiar sulfur and see puffs of mist rising from the mud pots, geyers, and other volcanic openings scattered throughout the park. Our night will be spent in West Yellowstone in a hotel. Our reservations at the KOA campsite are not good until this evening so we have to find a place to stay that won't break the bank. Our luck - we do find a place - though it costs us a good deal more than we had planned on spending. We are tired and need a good night's rest.

We get up early and our hotel has a continental breakfast with fruit, bagels, waffles, yogurt, donuts, cereal and loads of gourmet coffee (hey, I didn't even ask for the gourmet part but I am very, very thankful this am). We eat a hearty breakfast and pack our lunch to help save on some costs.

Yellowstone in the morning is glorious. It defies words. It is cold, only in the low 40's, but clear skies and bright sunshine promise a good day for hiking and exploring one of our country's finest N.P.'s.

Hot Springs in Yellowstone N.P.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, we spent the evening driving through Yellowstone and kept a keen eye out for wildlife. Well, we hoped to see bears. Here in Arizona we have lots of Elk, some Moose, and Mule Deer. We also have a growing population of Bald Eagle. We have some black bears too - but they are not very frequently seen in our are of Metro Phoenix. We really wanted to see bears, black bears, brown bears or grizzly bears. Every where we walked, hiked, and drove, we saw signs warning us about the bears. We heard stories of families seeing bears near us, in the camp sites, and on the trails. But to our chagrin, we saw no bears in Yellowstone! Maybe better luck in Glacier.

Travel Log - Day 4

Grand Tetons and Wyoming

Well, after a very long day's drive through some of the most verdant and pine covered/timbered landscape, we cross the border from Utah into Idaho and then on to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I have never seen the west as our pioneer ancestor's did but can imagine what it was like for them when we drive through this part of the country. It is just as wild as the west can be and we take a country road through the backwoods so we can see the horse farms and cattle ranches that dot the horizon. The creeks run through stands of birch and aspen trees as the pine peeks over the top. It is breathtaking beautiful (do you see a thread here - beautiful - I need to think of another word because you will get bored to tears with me saying it was 'beautiful!').

The Chapel of Transfiguration
Grand Teton N.P.

This is my favorite photo from Teton N.P. I took this shot from inside the chapel, looking out the window at Grand Teton (the mountain in the forefront).

We arrive at Grand Teton late in the afternoon and visit the park but decide to drive through it to Yellowstone. We will come back to the Teton's on our return trip so today is really just to browse about, uncover some good hiking trails and picnicking spots to visit on our return leg.

August 14, 2005

Travel Log - Day 3

Today we are driving to Salt Lake City and then on to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We forgot to add that among our park tours, we will be spending some time at the Grand Teton's in Wyoming. I have never been to this part of Wyoming so I am very excited about seeing them. I have seen beautiful photos of the Teton range and hope to get some good pics of our own.

We plan on driving by the Great Salt Lake and stopping so that ds can stick his feet in the salt sea. Instead, we take 80 West and drive up to Park City and Deer Valley to see where the Olympics were held. It is a warm and sunny day and traffic is light on 80. Park City is an adorable town -- very pricey to live in -- but nonetheless a sophisticated western town. We stop by a cute Victorian home that was offered for sale at $800K -- nothing fancy mind you -- and a home in need of major work. It was small, a two bedroom, wood clad Victorian home. I honestly do not know how people can live here because housing is out of the reach of most families.

Playing with the Camera
Olympic Ski Runs at Park City, Utah

Our next stop is Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Another long day's drive but we are anxious to get to Yellowstone.

August 13, 2005

Travel Log - Day 2

We are up early and ready to head to our first National Park. We hope to spend two days here and tour both Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon. It is a beautiful day today, warm but not too hot (a nice change from hot and humid AZ). I have never been to either park but have seen friends and families photo albums of the beautiful natural rock formations. We have purchased a National Parks Pass - a must for anyone who plans on visiting more than one National Park or who wants to spend several days coming and going through the toll gates. The cost is $50 and is good for the entire year. One visit to a NP costs $20 and is good for a 7-day period. In our case we are planning on visiting five parks and spending several days at both Yellowstone and Glacier. The park pass is a great saver!

Zion National Park
Zion National Park is a wonder! I was so impressed with the beauty but also with the entire logistics of how the park is setup. If you have never visited Zion and plan on doing so someday -- keep in mind that during the summer the park shuttle's visitors in (a great way to see the park). In winter most of the drive is closed. We were able to take the shuttle, which runs every 90 minutes, and get off and on at every camera spot, hiking spot, or just lunching spot in the park. The shuttles are frequent so you can get off and without spending more than 5-10 minutes wait, you can get back on and ride to the next stop. The entire loop takes 90 minutes and if you wanted to, you could just stay on for the ride. The bus drivers offer wonderful tour information and interesting stories about the park. We were blessed and spent most of the day in Zion.

The Great White Throne, Zion N.P. Utah

It is late in the day and we decide to take the trip to Bryce, even though it will take us 2 hours to get there. We see no reason to back track and return to St. George for the night and so we brave the hour and head for Bryce. Bryce was a dissapointment to us. Maybe it was because we had seen our fill of "hoo-doos" on our trip to the Badlands in S.D. a few years back. Bryce is a park full of Hoodoos - or salt deposits that nature has carved into strange and wonderful patterns and sculptures. The entire park consists of a drive in and out, a loop, with many photo spots to take pictures of these unique rock formations.

We drive through Bryce and end up spending the night in Fillmore, Utah. We find a good family restaurant and a clean room to spend the night in. Our hotel has an indoor heated pool and spa - a bonus - so we spend the late evenings soaking our tired muscles and then drifting off to sleep. There is something about spending a day out of doors and hiking and being in the fresh air that just helps one to sleep. We drift off thinking of tomorrows drive - on to Salt Lake City, Park City and hopefully Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

August 12, 2005

Travel Log - Day One

We finally got the car packed and are on the road. It is hot here in Arizona and very humid. We are really looking forward to getting out of the desert summer and into some cool, mountain air. It is raining as we travel through Kingman and on into Nevada. We are all excited, ds the most, and are finding it hard to contain our joy at the thought of actually getting under way.

I should mention that we have debated leaving today. We had hoped to leave last week but a last minute job came up and needed our full attention for the week. We also needed to make arrangements for our cats and our house (thanks to my parents, both are covered) and to pickup our cool rental car (a SUV). We knew we would be camping and our well-used sedan just wouldn't make the 3000 plus mile trip.

So here we are (actually I am writing this after the fact) in our new SUV, eating M&Ms, and singing to our favorite CDS (ds is begging for Styx but that is a last choice - Yanni, Enya, John Tesh along with some good oldies like the Moody Blues, The Doors, Simon and Garfunkel). I should mentioned that we are a car-driving vacation loving family. We like to drive in the car and often take short trips around Arizona on a few minutes notice. We love to look out the window and often make side trips to interesting places we spot along the road. We always try to incorporate anything educational, historical, or most all national or state monuments. DH is a great driver and never seems to get tired. Mom loves to just look out the window and dreams often of what life must be like for the families that live in the homes we pass on small country roads, large interstates, or even mountain trails.

We hope to make it to St. George today. We are driving on a prayer as we have no accomodations set for us this evening. DH and I never make reservations - except for our two camping destinations, Yellowstone and Glacier. We usually just arrive in town and drive around until we find a place to stay. We are not big campers - not that we don't necessarily like camping - but just that we have never really done it. This year though we are planning on camping for two weeks -- a lot for newbie campers like us.

Lake Mead, Nevada

We arrive in Las Vegas and take a slight detour through the strip. It has been 30 years since I was last in Las Vegas and my, oh my, has it changed. In hindsight, I wish we could have by-passed it -- but we wanted to see the famous hotels and casinos -- ds saw more than I was comfortable with as far as the female persuasion was concerned. Thankfully, he was more interested in Treasure Island, the Eiffle Tower, and the cool pyramid hotel, than anything else.

After a very long day's drive, we finally arrive in St. George and find a room for the night. There is considerably road construction in the down-town area but we are grateful for a safe journey, a warm bed, and a good nights sleep.

Vacation Time

Well, I cannot believe it but we are actually going to leave today for our well-deserved vacation. We have been planning our summer vacation for several months but up until the past week, we didn't really know if we would be able to take it. Thankfully, work and finances seemed to flow and we are going on vacation. I know it may seem odd to be exuberant but it has been several years since we were able to take a prolonged vacation and we are both (dh and I) long over due.

We are taking a driving/camping tour of the Mountain West's National Parks. We will be leaving Arizona today and our first stop will be St. George, Utah. We hope to stop and see the Hoover Dam before spending the night in St. George. National Parks include: Zion and Bryce Canyon in Utah, Yellowstone in Wyoming, Glacier in Montana, and the Grand Canyon on our return trip to Arizona.

Stay tuned for more...