This is an account of the places I went and saw on my 2002 cross country trip. I will give you the scop on where I went, what I saw, and where I stayed. Hopefuly you can use some of the information if you travel to any of these places. It was a great trip. I am going to do it again as soon as I can. It would be ideal to bring along a mountain bike and a kayak. Next time I am going in June. It is a little cooler and the days are longer. Also I am going to spend little or no time on interstates.
Miles driven: 6064
Parks visited: Grand Canyon NP, Natural Bridged NM, Arches NP, Rocky Mountain NP, Badlands NP, Devils Tower NM, Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP, City Of Rocks NM, Great Basin NP
States visited: Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, South Dakota, Idaho, Nevada
Friday August 16th
I left San Jose early, 4:00pm. But it took me 2 hours to get the first 25 miles on 101. There was a grass fire. After that I made good time. I finally made it to Barstow around 12:30am. 400 miles down.
Saturday August 17th
Left at 8:30am. I was glad to be leaving so early because I would get more time at the Grand Canyon.
Highway 40 through the Mojave is nothing to write home about. I expected to see some large cactus or some Joshua trees. No dice. 150 miles into Arizona the landscape got more interesting. Next trip to the Grand Canyon I will look for a better route. I got to the Grand Canyon at 2:30pm.
Wow. It is fucking big. It was bigger than I thought it was going to be. Its approximately 5000 feet deep, depending on where you measure. I was noting on a sign that some of the features I was looking at on the other side where 17 miles away. I walked around the rim for a half an hour taking it in.
Then I went over to the Maswik Lodge to check in. It is a pretty nice place. All the features you get in a hotel room. $84 a night.
I took a walk to the rim in the evening.
Sunday August 18th
In the morning moved over to my campsite at the Mather Campground, a real nice place. $15. It has shower and laundry. The grocery store at Grand canyon is really nice for a National Park grocery store.
At 2:00 I went for a hike on the South Kiabab trail. I took it to Cedar Pass. It drops 1000 feet in the 1.5 miles to Cedar Pass. Good trail. It will be nice to come back here and backpack to the river one day.
Monday August 19th
I got rolling early. I headed over to Desert View. You get a good view of the canyon there. And there is a really cool stone look out tower. Next stop Natural Bridge NM.
The drive was awesome. Monument Valley on 163 looks like the cover of a Sci Fi novel. The people out here live in squalor though. They live in old mobile homes parked a few hundred yards off the road surrounded by nothing.
I was driving towards a mesa on 261. As I was getting closer I couldn't figure out where the road was going to go. I was approaching a cliff and I didn't see any roads around the mesa. I was scanning the cliff face and I didn't see a road cut into the cliff face either. As I got closer I was totaly suprised to see the pavement end and the road proceed up the climb up the cliff face. It was the tightest turning, steepest switch backs I have ever seen. There was no railing and if you went over 25 miles an hour you started fishtailing on the washboarded road. A sign at the top said 1100 foot drop next 3 miles.
When I got to Natural Bridges NM I decided to check out the Sipapn Arch trail. Sipapn Arch is the largest arch in the park and the second largest in the world. I hiked down to the bottom and started off on a trail under the bridge. The trail ended quickly but you could see that people had walked there. I decided to keep hiking along the river in hopes seeing some petrogylphs. I hiked for at least an hour and I didn't spot any and I was about to turn around but decided I would go around the next bend. Then I caught a glimpse of a petrogylyph and then some ruins. They were left by the Anazi. Indians that had left the area 700 years ago. Natural Bridges is very small but well worth a visit.
I moved on to Moab and checked into the hotel room I reserved at Hotel Off Center. All the rooms had a theme. I stayed in the Surf room. It had a beach theme, wicker furniture, a surf board on the wall, and so on. There was no phone and the bathrooms were shared. $44 a night.
I cruised on down to Eddy McStiffs around the corner to get some grub. The food was good. And the beer I had, the lime beer, was great. The world would be a better place if Corona tasted like that.
Tuesday August 20th
It was raining in the morning. I was planning on going over to the NP and trying to get a spot at the campground. But I didn't know if the rain would keep up so I stayed another night at the hotel.
Made it over to Arches NP. I hiked the Delicate Arch trail. The Delicate Arch is the arch on the Utah license plate. Great views on the trail. There were some Ute indian petrogyphs on the trail too. They could be a recent as 1850. Arches NP is great. I can't wait to go back and check out more.
I went to Zax that night and got some pizza. It was very good.
Wednesday August 21st
I left for Rocky Mountain NP. Highway 70 was pretty bland, where the high desert starts to give way to the big mountains. I stopped in Glenwood Springs to grab a bite, nice town. Then the landscape changed dramatically. It looked like a Bob Ross painting. It stopped for a short hike at a rest stop. I would like to come back and do some backpacking in the area east of Glenwood Springs.
I made it to Estes Park, where I had a room booked at Big Thompson Lodge. Estes Park is a nice little tourist town east of Rocky Mountain NP. I had a cabin by the creek. Nice place, hot tub, cable, the works. A little expensive for me at $95. But Estes Park is really expensive. In fact this one was cheaper than a lot I saw on the web. I see on the web there is a Hostel, H-bar-G Ranch Hotel. Maybe I will try that next time.
Why not camp and save some dough? After driving so far, 450 miles that day, I didn't want to rush to set up camp and cook before dark? This brings me to some rules of thumb I came up with on this trip. You can drive 300 miles or so and still have time to setup camp and do a little exploring. Or you can make it 600 miles or so and have time to get a hotel and go out for dinner. Another rule, it seems like if you do over 2000 miles a week you are doing to much driving and not enough exploring.
I ate at the Estes Park brewery. I got a gold something or another to drink, very good. And I got a moose burger. Not bad.
Thursday August 22nd
I got up and went to get a campsite at the Aspen Glen campground. It is a nice little campground near the Estes Park entrance. They don't have showers. And they don't take reservation. I believe it was $10.
I went for a hike after I made some lunch. I took the Lawn Lake trail. It was a pretty rough hike, 12.5 miles round trip with a 2000 ft climb. I would try a different trail next time. To much time in the woods and too few views of the mountains and streams. I walked most of the way up with a couple of guys I met named Brandon and Ricky. They were from southern Illinois. They camped out at the lake. I smoked out and walked back down.
I got back and drove into town and ate at a Chinese restaurant. Normaly it is pretty foolish to get Chinese food in a rural area. But after smoking out it sounded good so I gave it a shot. The egg rolls and soup were the shit you would expect. But the Kung Pao chicken was killer, really spicy, crisp veggies, and not greasy.
Friday August 23rd
I drove all day. I went through Kansas on 80 when I moved to California in 1990. So I decided to try 70 through Nebraska. The western half of Nebraska was desolate. Then it started to turn in to the Midwest, farms, creeks, lakes, forest. I stayed in a hotel St. Joseph Missouri that night.
Saturday August 24th
I finished the drive to my dads. I went through Missouri down highway 36. More Midwest. 36 passes through Hanibal Missouri, the birth place of Mark Twain.
Thursday August 29th
Left dads. Drove through Iowa on 80. More Midwest. If I had taken a picture of eastern Nebraska, northern Missouri, central Illinois, and central Iowa I would not been able to tell you which was which. Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska all have a 65mph speed limit. That pisses me off. You know those hillbilly politicians are keeping the speed limits low so they can keep their coffers full with money from speeding tickets. Iowa was having a sting the day I passed through it. I saw 5 or 6 pull overs within a mile.
I stayed in Souix City Iowa. An old industrial city that still has some industry. I asked the guy at the hotel where to go. Then I cruised on down to 4th street. There were a couple of nice bars and restaurants. I ate at Tom Fooleries. Not bad.
Friday August 30th
I finished up the drive to Badlands NP. I took 90 through South Dakota.
I stopped at Cabelas in Mitchel. Cabeles is redneck REI. It is a mail order hunting, fishing, camping outfitter. And they have these huges store here and there. The place was great. They had all kinds of cool stuff. I ate at the cafe there. They have elk, caribou, buffalo, and venison sandwhiches. I got the caribou, very good.
I needed some gas so I pulled off at this exit that said it had a ghost town. There was not a lot to see. But there was an abandoned grain elevator that I got a kick out of. Some of the furnishings where still there. There was a desk, a scale, and a stove. I love how they used to put effort in to the esthetics of things back then. The old stove was a work of art. There was even nice detail put into the construction of the old elevator. It was a nice find right off the interstate.
I got to the Badlands NP and I checked into the cabin and the Cedar Creek Lodge. It was a nice little place. No phones. $48 a night.
I went for a hike. It was great.
Saturday August 31st
I woke early so I decided to start the drive towards Yellowstone instead of camping at the campground in the NP. The parks hiking trails were not that long, and I wanted to get some of the long drive to Yellowstone over so I could spend more time there the next day. After hiking the trails I drove through the road that goes west through the park and stopped a couple of time along the way. It is a good drive.
South Dakota ought to be called the billboard state. There are an obnoxious number of billboards along 90. I needed some supplies so I thought I would stop at a drug store I had seen literally a hundred or so signs for, Wall Drug. They had the largest collection of tourist trash I had ever seen. I gave up trying to search through all the trash for the stuff I needed and split.
I went on to Rapid City and got some grub at a greasy spoon called the Nifty Fifties dinner. I think they hate vegetables in other states. Rapid City is the turn off for Mount Rushmore. I never liked the idea of carving faces in a cliff side so I decided to pass. I headed on to Devils Tower NM.
I turned off 90 at Sundance. This hole is obviously not where they have the film festival. The country around there was awesome. Ponderosas, oaks, and aspens on the hills with green grass in the valleys. There were nice farms and log cabins here and there. Devils Tower was great. You definitely have to see it.
Wyoming has this huge contrast between the plains and the mountains. The plains are desolate and barren. The mountains and hills are the nicest places I have ever been.
That night I made it to Gillette and got a hotel.
Sunday September 1st
I started the drive to Yellowstone early. I got off the interstate at Buffalo. Nice town. I stopped in Cody, a nice town too, and got lunch at La Comida. Then I finished the drive to Yellowstone and checked into the cabin, Canyon Lodge Cabins. It was real basic, no tube, no phone. $60 a night.
After I checked in I went down to Yellowstone falls. Its really nice because it is so colorful. It gets a lot of traffic and it is not what you would call and adventurous hike. But it is still worth the visit.
The literature they handed me at the entrance didn't have any good information on hikes and the map didn't show the trails, the park is to big. So I went over to the store and browsed through the books for some trails after that.
I have heard people talk about how great Yellowstone is, how it was the best park they had been to. I figured it couldn't be much different than the Sierras. Wrong. It is the best place I have ever been. It has big rock features, streams, meadows, and lakes, lots of big wildlife, and more geothermal activity than anywhere in the world. If you see only one NP this year, make it Yellowstone.
Monday September 2nd
I drove over to Mammoth Hotel and checked into my cabin. Very basic, no tube, no phone, and a shared bathroom. $58 a night. Behind the hotel is a trail that leads to some beaver ponds. A very nice trail.
I went to the store to get some food for lunch after I got back. The stores I went to in Yellowstone were very limited and very expensive, nothing like the one at the Grand Canyon. Make sure you go to a grocery store in Jackson or Cody before you get to the park.
In the evening I went to check out the hot springs.
Tuesday September 3rd
My plan was to drive over to the City Of Rocks NP in Idaho and stay at a bed and breakfast in the town outside of there, Alamo. But the drive was only 300 miles. And the park is small so I could see a lot of it in one day. So I decided to spend the day in Tetons NP and stay in Jackson.
Tetons is a great place. I wanted to see some glaciers so I stopped and asked a ranger for the skinny. She said start at South Jenny Lake and go to Ampatheater Lake. It is 13 miles round trip with 3000 foot vertical change. I had no chance in hell of making it as late as I started but I decided to try and get as far as I could. But I couldn't get very far at all because as soon as I started I ran into a sign saying the trail was closed due to bear activity. I will do that trail next time. So I took off on an adjacent trail to Hidden Falls. It is a nice 2 mile trail with great views. I lucked out and caught the last fairy back.
I started talking to a guy name Girard on the way back. He was from Oxidental California. We started talking about our trips. I told him I was going back to California via Nevada instead of Oregon like originally planned. He grew up in Nevada and told me about a lot of places to see.
I made it into Jackson and checked into a Hostel there. It is part of the Anvil Hotel. It is fairly nice and only costs $22 a night. Jackson is a really nice town. I want to go back there and go snowboarding sometime at Jackson Hole. I went down the street to the Million Dollar Cowboy bar to get a beer and a burger.
Wednesday September 4th
I took off for the City Of Rock NP. I stayed off the interstate for most of the ride. In fact I took this dirt road between Holbrook and I84. I have no idea why it was on the map. It really takes the meaning out of being on the map. South eastern Idaho is pretty barren for the most part. Not as desolate as the plains of Wyoming though.
I got to the City Of Rock NP and found the campsite I had reserved. The campsites are primative with no showers. In fact I believe the only place to get water is at the park office a couple miles outside the park. The sites are $13 a night. The park is really nice. If you go there check out site 19. It is in a little canyon and protected from the wind.
I went for a hike in the evening.
Thursday September 5th
Started the day off with another hike through the city. The I took off for Great Basin NP in eastern Nevada. I had been wanting to see this place and Girard had raved about it.
It was tricky getting out of the park. I decided to take the country roads rather straight towards Nevada instead of going back the way I came because it would have been a lot of extra driving. I just followed some signs to some towns on the map and eventually got to highway 30.
Then I ran out of gas. There were a lot of towns on the map. But calling them towns is a little bit of a stretch. And these towns didn't have gas stations. I ran out of gas 20 miles out of Montello Nevada. And I wasn't even sure they were going to have a gas station. I hitched a ride to Montello. When I got there I saw the gas station was out of business. I talked to a guy on the street and eventually got some gas from a friend of his. The next town with gas was another Wells another 50 miles away.
I was getting pretty frustrated and was think about cutting the trip short and driving home. But I stopped for a burrito and a couple beers at Dees Dinner (best place in town I was told). I started to feel a little better and decided to resume my trip.
I finally got to Great Basin NP a little before dark. I tried the Lower Lehan campground first. I figured it would be better because it was a couple hundred feet lower and would be warmer. But it was full so I went on to Upper Lehman. It is a lot nicer because it has a creek running through it. It is $10 to camp and there are no showers available.
Friday September 6th
In the middle of the night it started raining. I wasn't very worried because I figured chances were good that it would stop by the morning. Come early in the morning the rain slowed to a drizzle. Just in time, my tent was starting to leak. I packed up and got ready for a hike.
I wanted to hike to the bristle cone pine forest and a glacier. I was really apprehensive about the hike. It was still drizzling and it was likely the weather would get worse. I would be in trouble with only had a raincoat. The hike started at 10000 feet and went to 13000. Weather can be crazy in the mountain tops. But I wasn't going to miss the bristle cone pine forest though. So I decided to cut the glacier out. Now it was less than a four mile hike and only about a 1000 feet of vertical change. From a photo I saw it was not that impressive of a glacier anyway. It is a really nice hike. The trees really leave an impression. The oldest living things on earth. Some of them are approaching 5000 years old.
I got back from the hike and took off for the hot springs Girard told me about. To get there take 376 south from highway 50. 376 is 12 miles east of Austin Nevada. Go .3 miles south and turn left on a dirt road. Go 5.5 miles and make another left. Then go 1.3 miles and there will be an area on your left with a couple of hot springs. Setting in some hot springs in the middle of the Nevada is pretty cool indeed. I search around for the nicest one of the pools and got in. Rex, a native american who make turquoise jewelry was there. Rex lives in a tee pee. He had just bought a RV and was taking a break from the drive because the wind was blowing him all around. I have to come back here and check out the cave with the petroglyphs and search around the old turquoise mine for some pieces that might have been dropped.
After I left I drove on back to the bay area completing my adventures and this story.