Yellowstone, a focal point.
Yellowstone National park, and it’s famous geysers, was the centre piece for this leg of the road trip. First we had to get there and then navigate our way further east.
Stop off – Lovelock
Lovelock is a small town, with approximately 2,450 residents in Nevada. It had a nice peaceful, unhurried vibe about it, with a close knit community. There wasn’t much to do or see off course, but the sights to tick off are quaint and charming, making you feel you have stepped right back in time. Tourists seem just stumble across the town, without planning a visit, then they fall in love with it. I can see in the future how it would get more popular, so go now, before tourism ruins this pretty little town.
Built in 1880, it is the only remaining station in a series of residential No. 2 style, two-story station houses built along the Southern Pacific Railroad. The railway station closed in 1997. The building was originally located on the northeast corner of West Broadway Avenue, but in 1999 was moved by the town. It’s worth a peep at this historical building while here.
Built in 1920 the Courthouse has neoclassical architecture. Designed by Frederic Joseph DeLongchamps, it was modelled on the Pantheon of Rome. Inside a circular dome dominates over the circular courtroom. The Courthouse is central to the community area.
Lovelock is a beautiful small park for relaxing or having a picnic with your significant other. It’s a romantic spot, made even more so, by the lovers locks adorned to the Lovers Lock Plaza gates. It is said that in ancient Chinese custom that if lovers place a lock on a never-ending chain and it never breaks, their love for each other will last forever.
Tunnel Camp ghost town, Nevada.
The road to Tunnel Camp ghost town was long and deserted. I kept reminding Knox to to check the fuel and he kept explaining we had plenty. However, you can never be to careful lol. The last road was a dirt road and seemed to go on forever.
We came to a small, well kept cemetery, with flowers still being placed at some people’s little wooden crossed graves.
It looked a lonely place, but also the same time peaceful. A harsh environment to exist in.
There wasn’t a soul around when we arrived at the abandoned town, of several ramshackle buildings, including houses, sheds and a mine.
In houses, people’s personal items such as hanging clothes had been left, as if one was in a hurry to leave.
It had the ‘Hills have eyes‘ theme to it, that was intensified by the couple of trailer encampments further back along the lonely road.
There were bullet holes in the sign posts and no trespassing on their gates.
There were also bullet holes in the corrugated wall of one of the buildings.
In one of the derelict houses, there was also a spent bullet casing.
An empty whiskey bottle lay discarded on the floor, as if someone had a ghostly session on occasion, graffitiing the walls in their stupor.
The place was barren with no electricity.
I couldn’t imagine what things you would hear out in the empty dark nights alone.
You’re imagination would run wild.
I drove all night
Roy Orbison song ‘I drove all night’ surely gets in the head as we drive throughout the night. We decided to do this when hotels aren’t up to scratch in certain areas or when we want to get ahead of ourselves. It can be exhausting though, especially after an already long day sightseeing. There are rest stops dotted along the highway. We were envious of the ones in the enormous RVs, bigger than buses. They have a bloody bed to get into when they stop lol
Early start for Yellowstone
An advantage is the early morning starts, this means we are on the road when the sun is rising as we headed towards Yellowstone.
We drove through a mix of farm land and forested areas, delighting in catching the sight of wildlife living free.
A deer and it’s foal, startled by the car, skipped back into the undergrowth as squirrels and chipmunks clambered across falling tree trunks.
A hawk eyed us suspiciously, from its gatepost position, while we drove passed.
The natural feel was a great wake up call.
Yellowstone National Park
When on a road trip in the states, Yellowstone is a biggie national park to see.
At 8am, we could see how popular it was already as hundreds of cars were backed up trying to get into the park from Madison. The lady at the entrance station told us this wasn’t even bad, as sometimes it’s backed up to Idaho! My worst nightmare, too many tourists!
Yellowstone, the number 1
Yellowstone became the first national park, in 1872 for all to enjoy the unique hydrothermal. It is in fact the largest active geyser field in the world, as well as having hot springs and mud pots. It sits on top of a non active volcano, but indeed there is certainly something bubbling away under the surface that will leave you in awe.
$35 for a vehicle. A map of the park is provided.
Before you even get to Old Faithful, the most popular geyser, on the scenic drive you will see many other geyser’s whipping up, steaming in cloud-like form from the ground.
This is a taster of what you will get from the most famous, Old Faithful.
There are also some wonderful streams, Firehole river, and stops where you can pull over without the hordes of tourists.
At the start of the park we came across a buffalo rolling about in the sandy earth, warmed by the thermals below. He seemed to be having a right old time as a puff of dust rose about him. So funny, you wonder why there are so many signs saying to be careful of buffaloes! How could those fluffy headed animals be dangerous lol
On a serious note, people have been killed by the bison buffalo in Yellowstone, so be cautious and don’t do anything to frighten them or make them angry. They can throw you in the air with a flick of the horn if they feel threatened.
We also saw one close to Old Faithful and the visitors centre. Seemly he’s a regular in that area. He was very chilled and unperturbed as he lay down, flicking his tail and chewing the cud, cute as can be! Everyone kept their respectful distance from behind the small wooden fence. We were so fortunate as it was only approximately 10 metres away.
Fountain Paint Pots
If you’re lucky you will find a parking spot. It gets busy early. We’d advise to go even earlier than 8am, otherwise you may find yourself queuing to get into the parking area.
You will walk along the boardwalk you and first come across watery flats on your left and the frothing Sandy brown moonscape cauldron of the Paint Pots. The thick, gloopy mixture cooking away is not for a hot tasty meal.
Yellowstone geyser land
Following the boardwalk loop further on, you next come across Volcanic Tableland, including Fountain geyser and jet geyser bellowing high in the sky, the rush of water heating from the earth, splashed up and fizzed, soaking whoever was in its path.
Knox enjoyed a cool down.
After it calms it just steams smoke and hangs delicately in the air, with bubbling water at its base.
Flood geyser, a spring was a treat for the eyes. It is easily found from the roadside pullout at the top of the rise just south of the main midway boardwalk area. Flood is located at the base of the hill on the edge of the Firehole River. We were surprised we were the only ones who pulled over to see this gorgeous creation.
It was still when we saw it, but don’t be fooled, Flood can reach 25 feet every few minutes to few hours.
Like clockwork the Old Faithful is easy to predict when it will steam and explode. It usually happens every 30-1 & half hours.
The visitors centre will have the time on the notice board outside and change it regularly.
We arrived 15 minutes after the last eruption so had a 40 minute wait till the next one.
In the meantime we walked around and checked out the Old Faithful Inn, an historical national landmark. The historical Inn was built between 1903-1904. It is said to be the largest log building in the world. You can rent a room for approximately $450 dollars a night with a view of Old Faithful making it’s splash!
At 10.50 am, we grabbed out front row stop away from the main crowded viewing area.
A multitude of people had already gathered on the many benches with anticipation for the forthcoming spectacle.
It started steaming at around 10.54 am but teased the audience and didn’t explode till around 11.05 am. It got many woo’s and aahh’s from the crowd as it shot jets of water up in the air reaching approximately 106-184 feet in the sky. The plums of cloud-like vapour catch on the breeze and drift high into the atmosphere.
It was an impressive show and sight that will be etched in the memory forever.
Do not under any circumstances walk of the boardwalks or paths. People have been scalded to death and badly burned, even through boots. Some pools can be very acidic. Indeed a little boy aged 9 years old fell to his death into the crested pool in June 1970. This tragedy is a warning to others.
Snow capped mountains of Grand Teton draw the attention of everyone’s gaze on your way out. The dramatic mountains, with the trees below them, are absolutely stunning. You cannot help to be impressed and pull over to take a picture. It was breathtaking.
A negative – The toilet facilities are filthy. I could smell them before I got fully out of the car. I don’t understand why they are not fully up kept, especially since they get $35 per vehicle and millions come through the park every year.
Dinosaur – moving on from Yellowstone
Names that give a chuckle, of places we pass, always deserve a mention. As we drove through Utah, we entered Jurassic scenery. Signs and notices along the route describe the ancient, earth moving history of the mountain range.
One small town, named Dinosaur, was right on top of the essence for the landscape. It even had a giant sculpture of a dinosaur along the stegosaurus highway. This brought smiles to our faces.
Colorado National Monument
Expect staggering panorama, sheer walled, red rock canyon views as you drive along the twists and turns of Rim Rock.
You are at great heights here and maybe that’s why they call Colorado National Monument, ‘Heart of the World’.
You will feel as if you can accomplish anything here. It leaves you inspired!
The monument boasts canyons as deep as 500 feet and rock monoliths as tall as 450 feet.
The Colorado Monument is also home to mountain lions, deer, foxes, coyotes, squirrels, among others.
It is usually $25 per vehicle, but the fee booth was closed and the gate was open, so we drove on through behind other hikers.
We started off at the visitors centre where there is information on the park, toilet facilities and picnic tables to have a bite to eat.
Also Infront of the visitors centre there is a small garden of the local hardy flora with name tags of each plant so you can have a better understanding. Knox was in his element with the prickly cacti.
There are 14 trails at Colorado Monument, ranging from 1.6 to 20.4 miles and from 4,711 to 6,732 feet above sea level. They are all quite easy trails.
Although don’t get too close to the open edges if you are frightened of heights. Looking down can make you feel dizzy! One can not deny that the landscape is astounding, with sheer drops into the dry dusty canyon below.
If walking trails aren’t your thing, you can just drive and look at the magnificence, or stop at the overlooks and snap pictures. Some people challenge themselves by cycling here.
Even though there were a good few cars at the visitors centre car park, it was still quiet, peaceful and certainly not the crazy crowds we had at Yellowstone.
Of course great monumental peices deserve to be given names. Praying hands, kissing couple, Independence Monument are a few of the personalized formations to be brought to heart.
As you drive into Aspen, you will see the private jets lined up in the small airport. It is a wealthy place and the rich flock in droves.
Maroon Bells, towering at a mighty 14,000 ft is the most photographed mountains in North America and quite a capture which hangs over and dominates the town of Aspen. We could only imagine the snowy mountains in winter when the ski enthusiast’s take to the slopes.
John Denver Sanctuary
A trip to Aspen is not complete without visiting the John Denver Sanctuary, next to the Rio Grande Park
The memorial is a beautiful tribute to John, with boulders with his lyrics cut into the stone.
The landscape retreat are peaceful and reflective, with lush gardens, water features and seating areas. Sit back and reap the benefits of the tranquil meditation.
Even if you aren’t a John Denver fan, you will still enjoy the calmness of the sanctuary away from the traffic and crowds in the shopping, bar and restaurant areas.
Theatre Aspen is also in the grounds, offering entertainment and theatre education programs for children.
Rio Grande park
Rio Grande park is a wide open spaces park home to a professional sized rugby, basketball, skate park among other recreation facilities for kids. The rugby field is also perfect for a game or football or running.
We saw many kids making use of the park, especially the state of the art skateboard ramp, there were also dog walkers and picnickers enjoying the park, which was a lovely relaxing vibe
The leafy streets are lush and green, making the town of Aspen feel secluded by the overhang of the trees, which can give an impression of exclusiveness.
Too many Louis Vuitton type shops to get me excited. Too much fur in Windows, too much hotels with dead animals stuck to the walls or bear rugs. As veggies I guess it wasn’t for us. However, you could see the beauty of alive nature around, reminding us of the French countryside. There is so much wildlife to, which I guess why there’s a lot of hunting accomodations in the area. You even have an area called Hunter Creek.
The winding road out
Driving out of Aspen you start to climb further into the mountain, following the narrow road that hugs the craggy cliff side and surrounded by variation of greenery as the trees cling to every bit of soil they can get. Down in the gorge crystal clear streams babble and rush down the hillside. The sharp bends in the road offer frightengly stunning vistas.
We bypassed Denver as we were missing meeting with friends. They were flying out to Mexico. What timing!
We punched Chicago into the satnav which stated over an 18 hour journey. We needed a hotel.
Highlander – Iowa
We choose the Highlander in Iowa city, a contemporary, with a touch of bohemian style hotel. It has more interesting qualities than the like of the Hilton etc. The bedroom had a glow of gold, with classic navy and crisp white linens.
It was also a bonus after our long drive that we got offered a free beverage. The hospitality was excellent. It was definitely one of those hotels, where we could have stayed longer, but the crazy miles had to continue!
Oh my! For a on the road breakfast we were passing through Sacramento, so called into Pushkin’s. We had a Portobello Cruz and the buzz. Both were so delicious and tasty. Such a veggie delight! We also treated ourselves to banana and walnut bread, a marble cake and a mud cookie!! Highly recommended when in the area.
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