Sunday, September 28, 2014

2014 US Trip - Day 14 - Thursday September 18th 2014

Well this is it, the final day in the RV. Everyone was up at around 6am. The plan was to be away by about 7am and get into Salt Lake City by around 10am. It would have been around 7.30am by the time we got under way. The drive away from Bear Lake was met with some frustrated parents rushing to drive their kids to the bus stop to meet up with the local school bus and with some very long hills.

We had one final pitstop at a McDonalds for a coffee and toilet break before the final leg of the journey. The drive along the i80 into Salt Lake City was pretty intense. Traffic was certainly some of the heaviest we had seen so far. Not only was there cars but also lots of large trucks. Not sure what the speed limit was for that section of road. All we did however was keep up wth all the other traffic that was around us. The road was at times 4 lanes wide packed full of people wanting to get down the hill as quickly as possible. It swapped from long left hand turns to right hand turns as it made it's way down the hill into the valley basin.

Once we were done on flat highway we were all relieved and stopped off to perform our final refuelling before getting back to Cruise America by about 10.15am. As we still had all our luggage we thought it wise to use two of the RV's to drop off it off at the Hilton Hotel. Pete and Daryl made it back with a few minutes to spare.

We grabbed a late lunch at finally checked into our rooms by around 3pm and had one final celebratory dinner before calling it a night. Certainly was a great trip with lots of great memories and experiences.

2014 US Trip - Day 13 - Wednesday September 17th 2014

Well the plan was to leave early but even though Trev and I were up at 6am we thought we would have a sleep in. We left the RV park at around 9.30am and leasurely drove down towards the town of Jackson stopping off for pictures where it suited us. Made it into Jackson just before 11am and met up with the others who had left earlier on. This gave everyone a chance to look around, shop or to grab some breakfast. I decided to walk around and take some photos before grabbing a mocca and a croissant. We were back in the RV's around 1pm and refuelled on the way out of Jackson.

The drive down to Bear Lake was supposed to be boring but the scenery was still spectacular. The colours on the mountain side were amazing. The green of the pines being broken up by the yellows, organes and reds of other deciduous trees. Once again we followed river valleys before hitting flatter territory around Bear Lake.

The KOA RV park was very nice and not busy at all. The facilities were probably some of the best we had seen so far. After setting up shop we all walked down to the marina for some photos before getting back to top up our propane gas before we delivered the RV's back to Cruise America in Salt Lake City tomorrow morning.

As this was our final night there we spent time packing our bags and throwing out what ever we didn't need. We had bought some firewood so spent some time 

With this being the last evening for me to try to take some astronomical photos I setup a short distance away from the fire and then attempted to take some photos in wide angle and once I had zeroed in on my main objective of Andromeda (M31) I put on the large 100-400mm lens and took as many shots as I could. Will need to do some post processing once I get back home.

The plan for tomorrow is to be up early for the final jog into Salt Lake City.

2014 US Trip - Day 12 - Tuesday September 16th 2014

Had agreed with Pete that the night before that we were going to get up early and walk down to the edge of the lake and take some pictures of the sunrise on the Teton mountain range. I was up just before 6am, quickly dressed then knocked on Pete's RV. 
He had a coffee waiting for me which was great and he gave me the news that Lawrence had decided to sleep in. Shortly aftewards we were on our way down to the lake edge. We walked for around 30 minutes and possible not in the most direct path. It was around 6.45am by the time we got to a spot that we liked and started to setup. First it was the GoPro on a time lapse setting. Then it was onto the laptop controlled DSLR. Pete was trying all different types of shots with filters and composition. We stayed there until it was around 8.15am. And by the way the sunrise was spectacular with some nice cloud cover adding to the atomsphere.

The walk back was adventurous with a Blair Witch moment but we eventually got to the RV's. It was then time to grab some breakfast before meeting back up with everyone for the cruise on the lake. The weather was spectacular and the lake very still which made for a very enjoyable time. The captain and first mate were very knowledgable of the local area and answered questions from the passengers. I was surprised to hear that the lake completely freezes over in winter. Just goes to show the extremes that this part of the country experiences.

The afternoon was spent driving down to Jenny Lake, taking a another short boat cruise and doing some short walks to admire some stunning waterfalls and scenery. On the drive back to Colter Bay we stopped in at Jackson Lodge where we initially grabbed a drink before spotting a moose and possibly a bear.

After getting back to Colter Bay I defrosted some of the stir fry I had cooked one one of the previous nights. It wasn't too bad. Givne the early start I wasn't going to have a late night so did the usual photo/video hosekeeping and then headed off to bed.The plan for tomorrow is to get up early and go back to Jackson Lodge to see if we can spot some more animals.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2014 US Trip - Day 11 - Monday September 15th 2014

No one was in a rush to get up this morning. The previous couple of days had been long and we had no set agenda as yet. As the showers in the RV park were located a long way away and around $5 per shower I decided to bath in the small RV shower. It did the job.
After a quick breakfast and then meeting up with Pete and Maggie for a coffee we walked down to the local marina. We had just missed a lake cruise so we booked in tomorrow morning. Amazingly, or not, had to sign a disclaimer form for the 1.5 hour trip around a relatively calm lake. Oh well, this is America. We then decided to head up to a place called Jackson Hole where there is a ski village and a gondola ride up to the top of the mountain. The journey there took over an hour but along the way we saw some amazing views of the Grand Teton mountain range. If you've been to Queenstown in NZ, a bit like that but a lot bigger. 

The gondola ride up was very quick taking only about 15 minutes. It can hold up to 100 people which is very impressive and took us all the way up to 10,500 ft or 3200 metres. After a quick photo shoot we grabbed some freshly made waffles from the small restaurant located at the peak. We then had a walk around and admired the mountain range that was behind and to the sides and the valley in front.
On the way back down we spotted our first brown bear in the wild. It was a small glimpse but definitely saw him. I will have to check the video when I get home to see if I captured him or not. Once we arrived back down in the village, the others grabbed a bear and we sat on the grass and caught some sun. It was now past 4pm so decided it was time to head back towards the RV park.
Along the way we stopped off at a restaurant located by the lake and had a very nice meal whilst watching the sun setting over the Grand Teton mountain range. The silhouette was amazing and hope the that the photos do it justice. It was then another 30 minute drive back to the RV park where we finished for the evening.

A quick picture of the Grand Teton mountain range...

2014 US Trip - Day 10 - Sunday September 14th 2014

For Pete, Maggie and Ragnar this was a very early morning. They got underway just after 5am with the intent of getting up to a valley where a lot of animals would congregate early in the morning. The remainder of the group left around 7.30am and made our way back into Yellowstone and then up towards Mammoth Springs. Along the way we passed a number of geysers and we stopped for a photo opportunity at one of the them. Being so early still the air was quite brisk still so time of beanies and thermals.
From there we traveled up stunning valleys that seem to change geology around every corner. I cant really describe it other than to say you need to see it for yourself and for those of you that have I hope that I am doing it justice. We pulled into Mammoth Springs just after 10am. Located on the northern border of the Yellowstone Park this is an area filled with different types of geysers. All unique and very beautiful.
We eventually met up with Pete and Maggie at a waterfall located around 20 minutes out of Mammoth Springs. We grabbed a bite to eat, checked out the falls then pressed on further south. We wanted to check out two additional waterfalls, Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls. Located in the Canyon area of the park the views from the looks outs were amazing. Colours of the rock and soil added to the spectacle and we were left in awe.
Another stop on our journey south was Fisherman's Bridge where we took a few photos of the Yellowstone River and the large lake that it feeds into. We then pressed on for the final hour or so of driving stopping at Lewis Falls before reaching Colter Bay RV park just before 6pm. This RV park appears to be quite old given the maturity of the trees that we find ourselves in.
Cooked a stir fry for dinner and froze 3 additional meals but I suspect I will only use one of these before we finish up on Thursday. Headed down at around 8.30pm to do some washing at the local 24 hour launderette. Caught up on some emails and Facebook before heading back and crashing.

2014 US Trip - Day 9 - Saturday September 13th 2014

After a poor nights sleep, combination of being hung over and a bit too hot we got ready to head into Yellowstone National Park for the first time. Instead of taking 4 RV's, we opted for 2 so Trevor and I went with Daryl, Kate and Lachlan. I was a mute for most of the day as I tried to consume food to then down some Nurofen.
Due to some road closures in the park we decided to visit Old Faithful, the regular occurring gyser. We arrived there around lunch time but prior to that we negotiated slow traffic which stopped to watch a large male elk in a field. Then there was a bison walking down the road just doing his own thing. It passed the RV within a metre or two.
Yellowstone is full of volcanic activity and we stopped off to see smaller geysers, mud pools etc. The smell of sulfur did not assist my fragile stomach state but I managed. We would walk across a series of board walks so not to trample on bacteria mats that had formed from the flowing vents.
We arrived at Old Faithful at around lunch time. We were worried that there would be a large number of cars trying to get into the car park but we didn't have any issues. Plenty of space for everyone. As we ate in the car park we notice a large steam release so we knew we had just missed Old Faithful going off. So we finished up and headed to the large visitor centre to figure out the next activity. It was around 90 minutes away so we walked around exploring some of the other geysers that are located close by.
The next performance by Old Faithful was to be at around 1.52pm +/- 10 mins. We got ready by about 1.35pm and waited for the sign that she was going to erupt. It certainly threw up a lot of water and released a lot of steam before quietening down around 4-5 minutes later. After a quick group photo we headed back to the car to visit some other geysers. Then on the way back we passed a large group of about 50 bison grazing near the road. It is quite easy to tell when there are animals about as a traffic jam results with everyone slowing down. On the way back to the RV park we saw some more elk grazing in one of the rivers and another bison trotting on the road. It was great to see these majestic animals in a natural habitat.
Arrived back in the RV park just after 5pm and headed out to dinner about 6.30. Had a very nice dinner but most of us were feeling pretty tried that we then made it an early night with most getting into bed before 10pm.

2014 US Trip - Day 8 - Friday September 12th 2014

The stop in this RV park was for only one night and we packed up and headed back into town, only a 5 minute drive away. We wanted to refuel and also fill our propane tanks which we use for cooking, heating and running the fridge when we are not on power at the RV park. After checking with one service station, they couldn't do it as the propane tank can't be removed from the vehicle. So we went across the road and they helped us out.
The gentleman who ran the business had a truck out back so we lined up the 4 RV's and filled them in no time at all. Total cost per vehicle around $15. We also took the opportunity to refuel before heading towards the evenings destination of West Yellowstone.
Starting out on the planes once again we started to head towards a stunning mountain range capped with fresh snow. We then crossed the mountain range enjoying once again pine forests covered in snow. The drive was very enjoyable as we passed some very nice ranches and another ski resort before stopping in the town of Bozeman.

We grabbed a coffee in a local book store before starting the last leg of the journey towards West Yellowstone. Once again the scenery along the way was stunning. We travelled up valleys flanked by a river on one side and sheer cliffs covered with pine on the other. On crossing rivers this would switch so it never really mattered which side of the car you on the views you got were breath taking.

We eventually arrived in the town of West Yellowstone around 2pm and after checking in we were setup. This park is simple amazing with over spots for RV's of different sizes. Walking around we spotted some very large ones worth at least $100k US. Not sure what you would pay for equivalent in Australia, certainly a small fortune.

Located a short walking distance away was a bear and wolf park. This was a great opportunity to see these elusive animals. There were a number of enclosures for the different animals and they spend a short amount of time looking for food placed, or hidden, by the staff. This was to allow the animals to mimic their normal behaviour. One group of bears performed for around 30 mins then a 15 minute break to setup for the next bear, Sam. Now Sam was a grizzly and he was huge. Searching for food he was flipping large rocks with ease. After a short swim he finished up and then the preparation for the next performers was underway. The wolves were in siesta moood and were lounging about. Beautiful looking animals.

In the evening we retired back to the RV park for some drinks as we watched the sunset. Once the direct sunlight disappears the temperature starts to drop and this was time for us to get dinner ready. I once again scabbed off others and had a steak and pasta meal with Pete, Maggie and Ragnar. Then it was time to pour a vodka, or two, and continue the Presidents and Assholes card game. Many laughs were had as we talked about nothing and everything.