Buffalo River State Park and campground is our first Minnesota State Park. Nicely maintained by the State of Minnesota, The Nature Conservancy and Minnesota State University, the park features hiking trails, swimming, picnic area and the Minnesota State University Moorhead Regional Science Center.
We spent a few days camped outside the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. During that time we visited both the North and South Units and the Painted Canyon Visitor Center. The North and South Units are 68 miles apart.
"Hell with the fires out."-- Brigadier General Alfred Sully, 1864
We've spent almost six days close to Rocky Mountain National Park. There are wildfires to our north and to our southwest. It's like being in the Smokey Mountains on a grander scale and with real smoke. It was what it was.
We're located about a mile away from the Grand Lake entrance. At this time to get into the park after 6:00 a.m. requires you make a reservation. We were up at 5:00 a.m., made coffee and passed the entrance at 5:45 a.m.
The photos are our driving tour on Trail Ridge Road (Hwy 34), Highway 36, Bear Lake Road, a short distance on Old Fall River Road, an afternoon bicycle ride on Trail Ridge Road, and our current campground.
We left Grand Teton National Park this morning after spending 9 days at Gros Ventre Campground.
The weather could not have been better for August. Lows were in the 40's and highs were low to mid 80's with humidity at around 20%. We enjoyed a driving tour one morning driving north on Teton Park Road towards Yellowstone National Park driving as far as Jackson Lake Overlook. We returned via Highway 191. Getting an early start is a good idea this time of year. The park and roads are generally crowded during the middle of the day.
If you enjoy a good bike ride, the North Pathway runs from Jackson Hole north to South Jenny Lake. Our location at Gros Ventre was only 4.5 miles away from the trail. I made several trips into Jackson on the trail and several trips north to Jenny Lake. The North Pathway can't be beat for spectacular scenery. If you're lucky, you'll also be able to see Pronghorn grazing. There are also moose in the vicinity and bears too.
We were up at 5:00 a.m., made coffee and were on our way in time to catch the sun coming up as we drove along the Madison River in West Yellowstone. I really like that the park has many areas in which you can pull off the road easily to catch a view along a river or view a mountain range or have lunch while watching the Bison graze in the Hayden Valley or Lamar Valley.
I spent much of my (Steven's) vacation and long weekend time during my adult years planing backpacking trips with friends to some pretty exotic locations within the U.S. The idea was to get away from the crowds and find isolation in nature. Nature was my church.
Traveling in Miranda has offered us some of that kind of isolation also, but not as much. For one thing, Melanie is still working part-time and we need to be connected at least 5 days a week so she can perform her job.
We've done a few national parks, but mostly in the off season, that is, when the kids are in school and there isn't as much competition for space in the campgrounds. Yellowstone, I believe, is our first park we've stayed in during the summer months. And I have to tell you, since we fly by the seat of our pants (generally no reservations too far in advance), I don't mind the idea of first come, first served camping spots, especially since we don't mind an early morning cue in the van. I mean we have coffee and breakfast at hand. We're home.
Anyway, here's day two of driving Miranda in Yellowstone. This time we did the upper loop of that Grand Drive thing. Yellowstone, the first and oldest national park. It's an amazing place. A treasure.
We were in residence in West Yellowstone last week for 5 days. We were able to get into Bakers Hole Campground by showing up early on Monday morning. Lucky enough to score one of the few electric sites there too.
Our cell service was good enough and a bicycle ride into the town of West Yellowstone was a breeze at only three miles. I also took a bike ride into Yellowstone from Bakers Hole Campground one day, riding to Madison Campground and made the Firehole Canyon Scenic Drive before peddling home .
We took Miranda on a drive around most of Yellowstone's Grand Loop on two different days. We missed a portion of the upper loop from Canyon Village to Tower-Roosevelt due to road construction.
Pro Tips: If you're visiting Yellowstone in the summer months and want to avoid large crowds of people gathering at various points interest, set out early, very early, and finish just after noon. We made coffee along the Madison River near the Madison campground on day one before sunrise. We would have gotten in the park for no charge anyway (geezer pass), but the gate is open 24/7 and doesn't start processing visitors until 6:00 a.m. The temps are cool in the morning, when we were there, low's were in the mid-forties. The geysers are visible at those temps too.
Lower Loop Day One
We've been unsuccessfully trying for the past week to locate a spot where the temperatures won't exceed 90+ degrees during the daylight hours. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, Eureka, Montana and now Whitefish, Montana have all been unseasonably hot by about 10+ degrees. Lucky us.
While it's true the low humidity of this region of the country helps with high temps compared to, for example, the southeast, and being outside isn't necessarily as oppressive, we still must run our air conditioner during the middle to later portions of the afternoon, if we are inside the van. That means either being plugged into a power source or running our generator. Either is okay, just not necessarily our preference. I'm writing this parked on the street in downtown Whitefish, Montana, generator running, current temp, 92 degrees, humidity 33%, and a heat advisory out.
We had discussed trying to camp in Glacier National Park, but after some cursory research, knew, mostly due to COVID-19 restrictions in place, that was unlikely. Here's the latest on what's happening in Glacier.
After a few days in Eureka, Montana where we traveled to check out a future approach to Canadian and possible future Alaskan adventures, we decided to move south and east towards Glacier. It's beautiful and very remote in Eureka and our drive up Montana Highway 37 from Coeur d'Alene along Lake Koocanusa is not to be missed.
Just an aside, there are Forest Service campgrounds along Highway 37 approaching Eureka, but given they are (mostly) dry camping and again, the weather's hot, we opted not to use them. I'm pretty sure those campgrounds, mostly uninhabited when we drove through, would have been busy this time of year, but for the Canadian Border being closed. As such, we saw very few campers and very few vehicles on the road after Jennings, Montana.
Our approach to seeing Glacier, given COVID-19 restrictions and the day-use crowds we anticipated, was to get up early, leave Eureka, Montana and get there around 7:30-8:00 a.m. It was a good choice. There was a small line of cars in front of us as we arrived, but we were able to access the west-side visitor center easily, get information and a map, and spend a few hours checking out a brief portion of Going-to-the-sun-road at our leisure.
While not optimal, we nevertheless had great fun and look forward to returning when conditions are better.
We've been in Coeur d'Alene for nearly three days. It's beautiful here. We've had good eats, enjoyed the extensive bike trails that connect much of the city and the setting on Lake Coeur d'Alene is amazing. It's worth a visit, but you should know like many red state places there's a large faction of people who fancy themselves "patriots" and there's much freedumb to go around. In the time of pandemic they deny the science and, as a result, put all of us in danger.
To the panhandle's credit, the Kootenai County Health Board passed a mandatory mask ordinance on the 23rd of July resulting in demonstrations around Coeur d'Alene with strong currents of white supremacy. I saw my first confederate flag being driven around in the bed of a pickup with a Trump 2020 flag beside it on my way to dinner this evening.
We happened on a demonstration Saturday past complete with many carrying side arms. Peaceful intimidation.
Since beginning our travels again, we're increasingly finding some great outdoor venues opening where physical distancing is not a problem, Portland's Japanese Garden is no different. The garden landscape is all about colors and shapes and textures, beautifully choreographed.
They've arranged your tour to flow in one direction so everyone can keep the proper distances.
Check it out when you're in Portland.
A few miles off I-5 in Woodland, Washington and about 25 miles north of Portland, Oregon, Columbia Riverfront RV Park is a nicely kept park on the Columbia River. We spent a night there on our way from Northern Washington to Portland.
Steven and Melanie