The West Coast Swing – Camping 2022

We took our little “Ham Can” camper for a trip out west just to see the sites and make use of our Senior Pass for the National Parks. We had a great adventure…. here are some highlights.

Kaufman Stadium, Kansas City!
First campsite – west of Kansas City

Off to see America Tour: KC to the Platte River via Red Cloud, Nebraska.

Chow time for the bison! We went to the Terry Bison Ranch south of Cheyanne, Wyoming were you buy a ticket to feed bison from a skoolie. Stefanie finally got her long time wish come true… to pet a bison.

(And Stef got to hug a turkey!)

Four days on the road to get to Wyoming. Stef picked the site and hit Camping Jackpot! Curt Gowdy State Park is a regular wonderland. A storm warning seems to have scared off all but a few of us. Most of the snow stayed south apparently. A few skiffs left in the shadows here. Tomorrow we hike!

The Stone Temple Loop trail lead you up into a gorgeous rock grotto above the reservoir lakes here. Well named for this sacred space! We were enchanted by the scenery and well tuckered after the hike. Stefanie made a snow angel. 20 degrees last night.

Knockin’ around Cheyenne after our hike. Coffee at the Paramount Cafe with very nice murals out back. Had a great conversation with two local artists in their studio across the street. (She does very cool fiber “paintings”: georgiarowswell.com)
The old train station museum was closed but we checked out a nice bronze out front celebrating women of the old west.
The city has 6ft painted boots parked all over the place. The one on the Pony Express theme got my attention. Map on the toe.
Saw “Big Boy”, the largest steam locomotive ever built. Just plain gobsmaking huge.
Excellent sushi for dinner at Wasabi.
Off to Lander tomorrow.

Glorious Sinks Canyon at Lander.

A spectacular drive across Bridget-Teton National Forest today. Stopped to track down the (supposed) Sacajawea gravesite. Met a guy named Stephen there who got put in jail for taking a gun he didn’t know he had (?) across the US- Canadian border at Blain, WA. We’re in Jackson now. The Tetons are in a snow squall. Better pictures tomorrow!

Beans and biscuits!

Beautiful morning in the Tetons. First moose sighting along Gros Ventre Road. Then into the park for a hike up to Leigh Lake returning back along String Lake. Took a relaxed drive (tired legs!) to Jenny Lake for some classic Teton viewing. This afternoon we plan more car touring, first stop Signal Mountain.
This place just keeps stunning us!

Jenny Lake conversation: (Stef) “It’s 2.2 miles. I think I can do that.” (Dave, responding to throw down) “Let’s walk a ways and see. We can always come back to catch the ferry.”
(Dave, down the trail a mile or so, man or no man?) “We got this!”
Current state: beat but proud. And yes, we took the Jenny Lake Ferry back. Should be a free ride back for seniors who walk out, right

Mormon Row, Grand Tetons.

Mama bear and her cub.
A nice elk sighting as we left Grand Teton.
Misty mountains between the trees headed north.

We wanted to take advantage of the one nice weather day in Yellowstone, so we headed up to the Firehole River and into Geyser Basin. The sinkholes and paint pots and little hot springs had endless variety, no two the same. Whatever geology or biology contributed to the variation I would need to consult and get back to you. I do know the colors and shapes were eye candy.

Old Faithful

We were actually grateful, at least a little, for the rain when we got to Artist’s Point below Yellowstone Falls. We had the viewing platform all to ourselves! I could only imagine the crush that usually crowds this spot.
But I get it, because this canyon is absolutely spectacular. It gives our Grand Canyon a run for its money.
To have ten minutes alone there was a much appreciated and unexpected exclusive.

Our drive along the Snake River through southern Idaho included two stops at state parks that hugged the riverside. The second stop was Farewell Bend where the Oregon Trail travelers left the Snake to cross over a range of hills to reach the Columbia.
The morning broke clear after many days of rain and I was dealt some very favorable light for these views of this amazing landscape.

Above Columbia Gorge near Moser, Oregon. Up for it!
McCall Point hike. Wildflower meadows and endless views.

Above Columbia Gorge near Moser, Oregon. Up for it!
McCall Point hike. Wildflower meadows and endless views.
Multnomah Falls, Columbia Gorge

Our camp on the Olympic Peninsula was all the rainforest I could dream of. Lush green moss coated trees just off aqua blue Crescent Lake. We hiked its north shore and found more wet wonders, bright succulents and wild flowers clinging to rain blackened rock walls, misty mountains doubled in the glassy lake. We had the place to ourselves.

Right to the limit of the continental US. Cape Flattery above Neah Bay. Part of the Makah reservation. A wet and rainy day down a 3/4 mile trail to the viewpoint. Some of it was slick cedar plank boardwalk but most was mud gulley. Worth every soaking minute!

It’s been great connecting with Northwest friends and family. Bellingham and Seattle visits for a few days to see old college/Holden Village/fruit tramp buds plus a really terrific introduction to my new grand niece Janae in Seattle.
We met her sister Livia there in Seattle three years ago and came back to meet her new playmate. Janae is just under two weeks old, so delicate and fascinating. I was besotted!
Livia is a charming “kid… not a baby” and I had some serious playtime with her, interviewing her toys to find her lost blue jewel (a pretty glass crystal she loves).
What a wonderful family! My niece Lela and her husband Eric are excellent parents and their older daughter Livia is simply amazing; sweet, curious, creative, polite, gentle and yet assertive when she needs to be.
On to Sandpoint for more family fun!

We kind of stumbled on the Grand Coulee by getting off the expressway between Seattle and Sandpoint, Idaho. Heading north from Moses Lake to Soap Lake we decided to take a road marked by dots on our Rand McNally map, promising a scenic highway. And was it ever. I never even knew this was here!
This is the canyon the famous Grand Coulee Dam is named after, but the result of that fame is that the existence of this geological wonder has been given short shrift. Dry Falls at its head was the once highest falls in the U.S. before sedimentation. The dramatic coulee with its 1500 foot basalt cliff walls was formed after the ice dam broke that held in Lake Missoula. Now a gorgeous basin of scrubland, high mesas, and placid lakes.

Sandpoint, Idaho
Brunch at the Blue Heron Cafe (pancakes!) and then a walk around Sandpoint to City Beach.
The weatherman got it wrong again.

Brother Peter at a jazz gig near Hope, Idaho

The National Bison Range was spectacular! (Northwest Montana)

Glacier National Park was up to its reputation. Shear rock walls rising to the clouds above, rambling rivers full of the rain from yesterday and from spring snow melt. The Lodge on Lake McDonald was built before the road, accessible by boat only for over 30 years.
And the drive across the Continental Divide was equally spectacular.

Devil’s Canyon just outside of Bighorn National Forest is a gem. We were headed up to see the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range and stumbled on it. The Bighorn River runs through it like a sheet of polished antique gold. That color!
Swifts darted overhead with incredible speed. Made a buzzing sound as they passed near.

We saw a bald eagle swoop down in front of us on the road to snatch a prairie dog (dead?) off the highway. No picture so you’ll just have to trust me on that.
Up in the Bighorn Mountains it’s been anything but your run of the mill pronghorns, moose, elk, wild horses and bunnies (those were at the campsite).
Oh, and after much personas dramatis whining about not seeing bighorns in the Bighorns, we came across three females and a yearling grazing by the roadside. Good thing I was wearing a seat belt because I nearly fell out!

The entry we made into the Badlands ran through Buffalo Gap National Grasslands. The Western Meadowlark and Dickcissel sang out, as did these undulating hills of soft grasses marked with woodland copse.

After almost five weeks on the road our last “must see” was Badlands National Park. We came at it from the west through lush grasslands (see previous post) which set a dramatic contrast coming to this landscape.
Scattered pockets of rain fell in the distance but the cloudy sky gave way to glorious sun as we moved from one vista point to another. Finally parking ourselves in lawn chairs we let the natural light show play out on these strange hills.

Well our “little west coast swing” is a wrap. We put about 6000 miles on the rig, discovering in the process that this is one vastly gorgeous country. Had enough rain to make us wonder about the plan at times… but that just made for fewer crowds when it counted (like in Yellowstone) and lots of green where it usually isn’t (like in the Badlands and just about everywhere else).
Went below freezing a couple nights and then got up near 100. That last bit coming on our final three days, just to tweak me I suppose for talking about not using the camper’s AC.
Thanks to all our friends and family for being such a joy in reuniting, and for letting us hose ourselves and our laundry off.
If the goal of the wanderer is met by good travels with a safe return well we now sit home grateful to have made the mark.

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