Sunday, September 30, 2012

Olympic national park

At this point my journey this has been my favorite park.
I never once got bored or overwhelmed with the crowds.
If anything it appears that good looking men flock to Washington... Not that was the reason I enjoyed my day and a half there it was really just a change of pace seeing young people for once over the older folks.

The park itself prides itself on being three parks in one:
Mountains
Rain forest
Ocean

And each part extended my expectations.
And each part had their own awesome trails... Ones that I found myself pushing myself to complete.

crazy beautiful.

This was also my first time meeting a fellow solo traveler... Who happened to be from Virginia and doing the opposite route as me. I appreciated all of his advice and he really made me feel like my concerns were not a big deal at all.
Greatest advice he gave me: aim to arrive at your campsite by 4 (I always try to do this but never really achieve this)
Also he reminded me that I have nothing to worry about because I'm from the Midwest and I'm alway half way home.

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Also I stopped by Forks Washington... They practically make you drive through it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Grand Teton, Idaho,and Crater of the moon National Monument

I wasn't planning on driving through Grand Teton but since I was so close and everyone around me was talking about it I decided to give it a try.
Which really meant one thing I would no longer be driving through the tip of Idaho and I wouldn't get to mark Montana off my list.... And I was so close!

Grand Teton decided that fall needed to arrive a couple of weeks early. Everything was the beautiful colors that you think of when you think of fall.
But besides that it was too foggy to really see anything ( it is beginning to become a trend on this trip... Smoke or fog ruins most of the beautiful scenic images.)

During the day I decided I would stay in a hotel. I was going to play my girl card and I needed to shower. I decided someplace outside of Boise.

Before heading to Boise I drove through craters of the moon national monument and it was awesome. I have (obviously) never seen volcanic features before and it was great being able to get so close.
It was definitely the one time I wanted I brake the "stay on the trail" rule. *i didn't but I wanted to*

And then I was off to Boise... Where. The 6 hotels I stopped at were booked. The last one had a room or 95 and I just couldn't justify that.
So I formed a hatred for Idaho.
And after I passed through the time zone and it was now midnight.. I did the only thing I could think of: I slept in my car. And I slept until 730 in the morning... I know I was also shocked. Apparently I was more tired then I thought.

The next day I left Oregon for Washington (state) and drove through mount rainier. The drive leading up to that was the prettiest/scariest thing ever.
I also missed my opportunity to take a picture of the actual mount rainier. The car following me decided that driving up a steep incline was the perfect time to tailgate my car.
But next time I'll stop!

I arrived in the seattle suburbs right around rush hour where I decided to hang out in a Walmart for an hour.
I drove past three targets after leaving Walmart. Fail

I stayed in a hotel. Watched some tv, showered, and slept in a bed. Glorious.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Yellowstone

I arrived to the park around 7am on Sunday morning. Everything I read online stated that you should arrive early to get a spot... Of course it also stated that this was important in the summer and not so important in the fall. But I was nervous.
By the time I arrived at the campsite I wanted (Norris) it was around 9 and there was still plenty of time to get a nice spot.

My first reaction of Yellowstone was amazement. It was absolutely beautiful and the drive from the east entrance to the camp was very peaceful.

I stopped at some tourist hot spot on the way to the camp and that is why it took so long.

After setting up my tent my campsite neighbor who noticed that I was looking at the map came and offered some suggestion.
They were an older couple (just like everyone else there) who had been plenty of times before.

He recommended a scenic drive and a short hike that lead to a waterfall.
I did both. Both were beautiful.

Now my one problem with Yellowstone: it is beautiful no question about that and there is no other place like it in the world BUT it didn't leave me with an all around feeling of peace.

In the early morning it was fine. People are still sleeping, but as soon as it hit 11 it was hard to find parking spots or even enjoy the scenery without someone screaming in your ear.
After day one I wanted to leave.
I was stressed.
It was raining.
I couldn't start a fire.
I wasn't enjoying this amazing place.

Second day:
I woke up early (well it is hard to sleep when the sun is up) and drove up to the trail my neighbor told me about. I was the only person out there and it was exactly how you should see nature. Absolutely stunning.. The morning mist was still out and I even saw a family of deer crossing the water.
Peaceful.

On my walk back from the hike at around 9:45 I saw about 4 other group of people walking it as well.... One lady even asked me "is this worth it? Is there anything beautiful at the end?"
You're seeing nature how it is meant to be seen everything is beautiful.
Conclusion: I'm glad I woke up early and did the trail early on.

The second day as you can tell from my second group of pictures I explored more of the typical nature images you think of.

I also saw the grand canyon of Yellowstone (it is also currently the background image on my phone).
To get the image you had to walk down a steep long trail... Which was fine, but walking back up I thought "if I pass out right now that would be super embarrassing."
In the end me burning some calories was worth the picture.

In the parking lot afterwards really demonstrates the hot mess that is Yellowstone tourist.
Me being a nice driver who is in no real hurry was letting a big RV backup when out of nowhere a group of foreigners in a rent a car backs in to me.
It left a nice size scratch on my car.. A scratch I would never actually fix, but the guy who hit me could have cared less. He barely even gave me his contact information.
And once again I was annoyed that I had to drive to see all the beautiful sites Yellowstone had to offer.

That night I was able to start a fire with no trouble and the night sky was clear.
No rain
But there still ice on my tent when I woke up the next morning.

Overall I can't image how insanely busy and stressful this place would be on the summer


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Day three: Wyoming

I didn't do much today. Mostly because there wasn't much to do.
I spent the good portion of the morning driving through bighorn national forest and let me tell you there is nothing scarier then driving through curvy roads when you have no idea where you are okay.
Well at night.... But i don't want to think about that.

The whole time all I could think was "I hope my breaks don't all of a sudden stop working" or "I hope that other driver coming at me brakes are working."

I did get to take a lot of scenic images of the forest.. Which was gorgeous (but still scary)
I'm definitely not looking forward to the many other curvy roads I will be driving through.

Second most irrational fear when I'm driving... Tunnels. They could just fall on you. Irrational I know. But I drove "in" one for the first time in my life and I'm still around to tell you about it so maybe they aren't so bad.

After Cody Wyoming (town closest to yellowstone) it was about 3-ish. And everyone I talk to tells me to arrive at Yellowstone earlier to get a camp spot and even though I'm about 30 miles away from Yellowstone I decided to stop for the day.

Buffalo bill* state park was the lucky camp that I picked (it was the first one I saw) and it is absolutely beautiful.

It is getting my super excited about Yellowstone!

Also, I had my first campfire tonight. It was a slight fail bc I didn't have any real camp wood and the only wood they had laying around was pretty weak.
But still a fire!

* everything around here is Buffalo Bill themed and I fell like a slight idiot bc I have no idea who he is... And for that very reason I was too cheap to pay money to go through the buffalo bill museum. I'll wiki him later.

Friday, September 14, 2012

day two: Mt Rushmore and Wind Cave

After realizing that I tried to drive too far yesterday I decided that today I would take a more relaxed approach.

I started off at the tourist hot spot Wall Drug. Lots of shops full of stuff you want but don't need. I had breakfast at a diner there and fully enjoyed my bacon big and crispy just the way Midwest bacon should be.
And on my second day of this journey I quickly realized I am not the average age for road-trippers... But then again both me and this "older" age group are "probably" jobless so maybe I need to rethink that.

After wall drug I headed out to Mt. Rushmore (insert first group of pics).

The one thing South Dakota is great at is tourist traps ... Or at least trying to make you feel better about driving such a long way to see mt Rushmore.

I wish I had a desire to see a reptile farm, play mini golf, go to 1880 town, Santa village, etc... But I don't.
But if I ever make this journey with kids I know there will be a ton for them to do.
If I wasn't doing this trip solo and I had a person to take fun photos with I probably would have tried to stop at more of these places.

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Mt Rushmore: it is what you expect it to be four faces carved into the side of a mountain. And the image you see on your postcard or on tv will always look better. But I'm glad I went for the sole reason that I never need to go again.

Also as you will see and learn from my journey I'm not the greatest at taking pictures of myself and when I get the chance for someone to take a pic of me it tends to be on my real camera and not on my phone.

I decided not to go to crazy horse... I'm still deciding if that makes me a bad person or not

Wind Cave National Park
My friend James told me to check it out if I had time bc they have the only American raised bison left in the US. When I arrived I saw no bison and at the visitor center I learned they had cave tours *given its name I should have realized*
I paid the money and waited until 330 for the tour. In reflection it was a bad idea... I had to wait about 45 mins and when I got down I didn't have a real chance to explore, but I took the risk.

The only images I have of the cave are on my camera.. Sorry.
Over all it was "neat" but could have gone with out the lady in front of me complaining about the stairs and her joints *don't go on a cave tour if you can't walk .5 miles* and the screaming babies *don't bring your kids who can't talk and are afraid of the dark*

After that I drove around the park for a bit and immediately saw some actual wildlife.. I was beginning to think bison were a big fat lie that the NPS used just to get funding.
The bison were crazy big and crazy close to my car... All I could think is they are going to charge my car and my dad saying "I told you so"

I decided not to camp out at wind cave and the $12 camping fee seems like nothing now.
I wanted to make it to Wyoming before settling in and I was unaware that Wyoming (apparently) does not advertise to tourist like SD.
But I learned my lesson when I found a campground on the outskirts of a city that cost me $20... But hey at least they have cell phone service.

road trip day one: badlands national park

Two collage pics to sum up my first day on my road-trip.

The first is pre-badlands.
Falls park, corn palace, grasslands, and a random scenic overlook.

The second is Badlands.
I hiked for the first time in my life... It was relaxing and I loved that the only thing I could see for miles was land. No tall building, no stupid metro, no people.
Also you can see my attempt to do a jumping photo by myself... Where my gigantic hiking boots are really taking up the image.

Of course you can always follow my Instagram and twitter (@ksloss) to get "real" time updates.