Saturday, 4 September 2010
The Far East.....(of Western America)
So, we “did” 4th of July in yeeha! Cody and the time had come for us to head back into Yellowstone to see some more of the animals, scenery & breathtaking geysers. Now, Yellowstone is a big National Park, with just one road looping the park in a figure-of-eight, so you’re kind of limited to what you can see from the road, especially as the Americans tend to tow with them their homes and another huge truck on the back of that just in case!
So, we ventured into the park. Now, the rules are do not approach animals and do not feed animals, keep the animals wild, which are very wise words until you’re driving along and you see in the corner of your eye a couple of bears… the breaks go on and you hop out of your car and go bear watching. I did think Tim was going to become lunch he got pretty close. Bears are cool, I know they could rip your face off, but they are so fluffy!!! Just like a teddy bear but a hell of a lot bigger. So this was our first bear viewing since getting into the park and it was fab, until the rest of the vehicles catch up with you and you’re no longer alone, time to move on.
Now, Bison or Buffalo or whatever you want to call them (are they the same thing?) they are huge too, and they are the ones that cause most of the hold ups in the park - they do literally own the road - and when they decide to cross you stop and wait, and they don’t go fast they just kind of ponder along with the rest of the herd, most of the older ones were shedding their fur/hair which made them look a tad rough but the little ones were very funny to watch as they tried to keep up, now they moved quicker. It did get to stage that when you’ve seen one Bison you’ve seen them all. Which is a shame as they are awesome beasts but also “common” beasts in Yellowstone, bring on the bears! Yogi, Booboo where are you? Probably hanging out with Mr Ranger I’d imagine or stealing picnics, just like in the cartoon…….
In Yellowstone you also see the odd Coyote, and I got a special photo of one… everyone has the crossing the road photo but mine I like to think is more natural! We drove round the whole of the park, which took quite some time, not just with the Bison maneuverings, but with the road works that you get to sit in for nearly an hour sometimes, but you do have one hell of a view while you wait, so not all bad. We had to go and see Old Faithful before we left, which is the most well know Geyser in the park and also the most reliable (hence the name) erupting every 10-15mins, so we drove over to see the old chap, where we met Steven a nice ranger who told us all about the old fella! There we’re loads of people sitting round waiting, it was fab, and when it went off it was very cool, although we like to think not as good as Grand Geyser that we had seen a few days before. On our drive we also got to the snow line one day, Tim insisted on getting out in shorts and flip flops and surprisingly it was bloody cold (as ice)!
So that was Yellowstone, time to head to the Grand Tetons. This National Forest is connected to the south of Yellowstone but a lot smaller, with plenty of places for us to camp. We entered the park and met Cathy a very helpful ranger who gave us lots of maps and info in return for our knowledge of British TV. She’s a big fan of Monarch of the Glen, Midsommer Murders and James Herriot! We told her she should try and get her hands on Doc Martin and Bergerac. So armed with our knowledge of the Tetons we headed off and only 10 mins down the road we came across a welcoming committee of bears, just chilling out in the trees, we pulled over (just one other car saw them at first, so we had them to ourselves for a few mintues) and took a few shots… a special moment.
The back drop of The Tetons are the mighty Grand Teton mountains, still with snow caps on the higher peaks, we fancied a bit of a break from our self-imposed rationing and Cathy suggested that we go to Jackson Lodge for a drink on the balcony and the most amazing view… good move. We splashed out and I had got a glass of wine, still not getting used to chilled red wine, I know Dad, who’d of thought I would ever say that!??!? Tim had a very cold beer; just a wine and a beer but it all felt so extravagant! The lodge itself was very grand (another place to return to if we ever have money again!). We had a lovely evening just watching the sun go down over the mountains; I even got my sketch book out which was a novelty and something I’d like to do more during our trip.
Ansell Adams took a lot of his great photos in this area; there is even a gallery at the information centre which is great. I tried to copy some of them we’ll see how they look once we get home and see them on a larger that 10inch screen. You can never have too many photos of barns!!! Or as Tim says, ” you have too many photos of barns”.
The Tetons are beautiful; the views truly are breath taking as is the wildlife. We did our drive round the whole park, right up to the top popping out at the South entrance ready to head onto Denver, where we had been told by a nice chap in Cody we really should go, if we’d come this far, and as with most of this trip so far we take peoples advice, fuel Jeremy up and drive.
So Denver, well we ended up in a hostel which was a culture shock after having our own Jeremy space for so long, and quite frankly the place was a dive – an expensive dive - , but hey ho.
We headed out of said dive and wandered into town. Denver is really nice, lots of bikes, the people are smiley it’s quite a cosmopolitan city, with parks and a river and big shops and lots of art dotted around the city. We liked the knitted flowers in the fencing to take the attention away from the building works, (Nerys I know you’ll going to like these). I personally loved the big blue bear that towers over the conference centre, looking in through the window. The city was a lovely place to spend a couple of days; somewhere we said we’d like to come back to… another one for the list (but not the hostel)! After visiting the info centre we we’re told of the natural amphitheatre - Red Rock. Never heard of the place before but many famous rock bands have played there over the decades, so on our way out of the city we headed that way and it is truly a magnificent , if really hot, structure and somewhere we would of loved to of seen anyone “rock” apparently U2 were awesome….(let me see those horns!?!??).
We continued our travels… after a very hot, long drive and we came along a place called Grand Junction, a lovely campsite with a very inviting pool, and great wifi connection. We stayed a couple of nights and while we were there we decided that it was time to get into the Colorado River, we found a great canoeing place, it’s not Wye Valley Canoes granted but Catfish Canoes was close. So off we went with a laminated map, life jackets, paddles and a Canadian canoe, or for you Canadians out there, just a canoe really! It was great, Tim was rear gunner, and rudder control, I was on forward paddling. As a team we did very well, and even surprised the chap when we called him to pick us up, even though we’d stopped for lunch and pottered, even slowly passing the young people who just get into the river miles up then get on inflatable devices from inner tubes to crocodiles to inflatable chairs and just float on down!
After the river we decided it was time to head to the hills, well mountains really… we were on our way to Moab! Now, Moab for you people who don’t know is mainly full of amazing red rock formations, and mountain bikers. I remember sitting in the hostel at Lake Louise and Mike saying, via Skype, we should go there, I had an atlas had a look and thought, “don’t think so…it’s too far over to the right!?!??” but hey ho and as much of this trip has been so far, full of no real planning, and mainly getting our next destination either from people we meet or going to the information centre, we end up all over the place, and along the way we get to meet nice people:) so on that note we found ourselves in the hottest place we’ve been to so far. Deciding that a hostel would be a good idea rather than frying in our red metal box, we turned up and we’re so pleased to find A/C in the rooms, so we booked in then went and hired ourselves some bikes, after chatting to the lovely lady at the Chili Pepper bike shop (Freja hope you’re growing into your t-shirt) we we’re informed that the best time to get out and do the slick-rock was REALLY early, before the sun comes up too high & hot. So bikes on the back of Jeremy, (they suited him) and time for an early night for the alarm to be set at 5am. A great night’s sleep, up early ready and raring to go, so excited, and off we went, driving up to the rocks, just and as the nice lady had said, cooler and as the sun came up amazing. Bikes off and away we go, making sure the camel backs we’re full of water. The views were amazing looking into the massive gorge, and riding on the slick-rock was great fun, trying to follow the trail was interesting as they were marked with rough bits of wood and stones but then there is a lot of that sort of stuff that isn’t trail. But we did just fine (except for the occasional section composed of sand where you just sink no matter how hard you pedal). Finishing our ride just when it was warming up. I wasn’t ready to stop but Tim was, so after asking a ranger where else we could go, as we had the bikes until 1pm and it was still early, we found a track that was a rubble dusty downhill,
I got my fab Marin bike back off the back and Tim followed me in Jeremy, my own back up crew. It was great a thrashing downhill, but as it went on I noticed that it was getting quite bumpy for me and I feared for Jeremy, he’s good but not that good! So I stopped and waited and eventually and carefully they arrived. We agreed that we should go back, and me being me, decided I would see how far I could bike back up, and so slowly started climbing with the sun beating down on the back of my neck, Jeremy following, every now and again Tim would come up level to see if I’d had enough, but I was on a mission and eventually made it back to the top, hot, thirsty and sweaty and so very happy…
So that was Moab, red rocks, hot sunshine, awesome views and mountain biking, fun fun fun… hard work and so very hot but any of you mountain bikers that read this, you’d LOVE it!!
Just for info, this section of the trip (Cody - Moab) was just over 1,000 miles!