Having spent the (UK) winter in the African wet season we thought we were accustomed to heat and humidity, however Texas thought differently. A combination of the 40 deg heat and relentless humidity made it impossible to be outside for more than a few minutes. So having collected Brenda we made a bee line to the Rocky mountains; covering 1000 miles in 3 days.
We made it to our first stop of the trip – Great Sand Dunes National park. Huge sand dunes with mountain backdrops bordered by the Medano creek meant there was something for everyone. The boys played in the warm shallow creek, and were given a sand board by a lovely family which they could use to slide down the sand dunes. The strenuous hike up the immense sand dunes was rewarded with some massive views, and the kids (and Amy) shrieking as they ran down was enough to wake the dead. We drove up the Medano pass dirt road; crossing deep creeks to camp in a stunning spot on the creek. Unfortunately, we also got treated to our first Rocky Mountain downpour, which flooded our campsite and soaked us to the skin. We spent the last night in the National Park campground where the boys had a great time playing with Maeve and Hazel, the friendly girls from our neighbouring pitch.
Our next stop was Grand Teton National Park, another 3 days drive away. During those 3 days we got our first taste of Dispersed camping, or Boondocking as it is known here. Basically in the US there is a LOT of national land – Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forest, National Wilderness etc. On a lot of this land you are allowed to camp for free (assuming you follow some basic rules) and as a result of this we were able to camp (for free) in some really beautiful places on the way to Grand Teton. I hope this is something we can continue to do for the whole trip.
Grand Teton is a breath-taking National Park. The towering glacier carved peaks mirrored in the green blue lakes made for one dramatic photo stop after another. We donned our backpacking gear, including bear spray (yes we’re now in Black and Grizzly bear country) and set off on a 4 mile hike to Bear Paw lake where we camped miles from anyone, skinny dipping in the lake, marvelling at the mountains and watching in awe as an elk wandered through our camp.
While in Grand Teton we also treated the boys to a White-Water rafting trip, another brilliant experience that we’ll all remember for a long time.
Leaving Grand Teton we headed into Yellowstone National Park, a park that needs no introduction. Unfortunately, Yellowstone in the summer is busy to say the least, and while it was brilliant to see the thermal features and volcanic sculpted landscapes, it’s spoilt by having to get up at the crack of freezing cold dawn to beat the masses to the limited parking spaces.
That said, leave the flagship areas behind and you can easily find solitude at Yellowstone, and it was during one of these hikes along a river that we spotted 4 otters playing in the water – for us a wildlife sighting to rival anything we saw in Africa.
Another highlight of Yellowstone was to swim in the Madision River. It’s fed by countless hot springs so it’s really warm, and the strong current means you can lie back and float down the river for a precious few seconds before swimming madly to the shore to walk up and do it again.
Unfortunately, Brenda has been having some intermittent electrical problems for a while now, which reappeared in a crescendo of badly timed crapness and she refused to start on our last day in Yellowstone. After a lot of head scratching, fuse pulling, and swearing I managed to get her started again, but it was time to seek out an electrician, and so with that we left.