Second week of road tripping and camping

How I love this lodge in Yellowstone. I write for a long time and then sit by the fireplace to read a couple of pages. I could stay here the whole morning, but Matt tells me that he’s ready to hit the road again. I can see that he’s bored, so I don’t want to let him wait too long and close my book. I take the mental note to come back here some day.
I drive to the Old Faithful geyser while Matt catches up on some sleep in the passenger seat. I listen to country music and really enjoy the drive through Yellowstone National Park. We arrive at Old Faithful at a perfect time, because about 20 minutes later it erupts. That happens several times a day and draws a lot of people to see the spectacle. In the souvenir store I see a big bear that calls out to me. I think about it for a moment and then decide I’m gonna buy it as a great souvenir. The guy behind the register laughs as he sees me walking towards him with the enormous bear. “The store won’t be the same without him and I can guarantee you we won’t sell another one this year”.
We then drive further south in the direction of Grand Tetons National Park which is right next to Yellowstone. The last time I was here was in January. Back then everything was covered in snow and it was -6° Fahrenheit / -20° Celsius. I hiked through over the frozen lake which was one of my highlights of the last trip. Today it’s 70° Fahrenheit / 21° Celcius outside and obviously no snow around. It’s interesting to see the area in a different season. I think I prefer it in the winter when it’s colder en quieter. We don’t go for a hike, but stop at several places to enjoy the views of the mountains. We walk around in the town of Jackson, just under Grand Teton National Park for a while, but my favorite place ‘Jackson Toy Store’ is gone. I have noticed during this trip that quite a few stores and coffee places have disappeared in the last half year. We eat dinner at a Mexican restaurant and then drive further to the town of Pinedale where I’ve found a rental cabin. The cabin is beautifully designed and feels like a very comfortable place to stay for a day. We have our own bedrooms. For a moment I consider sharing the bed with my big bear, but that doesn’t leave me with much space so I place him on a chair. In the morning I upload my pictures and the previous blog post and we continue driving to the Rocky Mountains. Looking back at all the pictures makes me realize how much we’ve already done and also makes me appreciate it more to do this part of the road trip together. We arrive at the Rocky Mountains in the evening and all campsites are full. I can’t believe it, because things usually work out for me. And indeed, it turns out that there is one campsite free on a beautiful place on top of a hill. We set up our tents and enjoy the view of the mountains and a bit later the many stars above us. Before I left on this trip I had bought marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate and Graham crackers and now we can finally make ‘s mores with them above the campfire. It’s something I learned a long time ago from my friends in Montana and it’s a delicious camping snack.
The next morning we go for a beautiful hike in the Rocky Mountains. It’s a popular and relatively easy trail, so we meet a lot of people during the hike. Sometimes I enjoy walking in nature by myself, but this morning I enjoy the company of likeminded people. Everyone is very friendly and seems to enjoy the beautiful views of the mountains and lakes. At the end of the trail is big mountain lake and I don’t have to think twice about going in there. I love swimming in cold water and on a warm day like today it’s extra nice. People are clearly impressed by what I do and give me an applause as I come out of the water. It makes it all the better. I’m honestly surprised that not more people go for a swim, because it’s absolutely awesome. The hike and the swim make me feel so alive, it’s a great day.
After the hike we continue our drive through the Rocky Mountains via Trailride Road. That road is closed a big portion of the year, because it goes right through the tops of the mountains up to 11000 feet / 3300 meter high. It’s a beautiful drive.
We set our tents up at a campsite just out of Denver and enjoy a good dinner at a local pub. Since Denver is so nearby, we decide to stop at a beautiful outdoor store we both like: Bass Pro Shops – Outdoor World. I’ve been here four years ago and really enjoyed walking around in that store. It’s very nice to be back here. There is a big aquarium with a waterfalls, stuffed animals and a shooting gallery. They sell almost everything under the sun related to outdoors, camping and hunting. I do an attempt to recreate my profile picture of four years ago and get very close to taking the exact same picture with one of the bears. We then drive to an 50’s style restaurant called Moonlight Diner for breakfast. I have pancakes, eggs and bacon and a milkshake made of real ice cream. I really love American breakfast and this place is amazing. It feels a bit like you step back into time when you’re walking into this restaurant.
When we’ve finished our delicious breakfast we continue our roadtrip to the town of Colorado Springs. There is a park with beautiful red rocks called Garden of the Gods and we walk around there for a while until it starts raining. One of my friends, Laura, comes from Colorado Springs and I text her to see if the’s in the neighborhood. Even though she has moved out to another part of the country since the last time I saw her, she happens to be in town this week and is happy to meet with us. We meet at an ice cream store and it’s great to see her again. It’s been years, but she hasn’t changed at all and we have a fun time catching up. We can’t make it too late though, because she has to get up early to drive to Kansas. That’s how it goes with traveling friends. Matt and I find a nice hotel close to the center and have a relaxing night watching some television and eating pizza. I enjoy mixing up the camping life with the comfort of a bed and watching some tv.
We continue our roadtrip to the South of Colorado and stop at a state park with a petrified forest. That are trees that have turned into stone. It’s very interesting to see. The road to the south of Colorado is beautiful. I knew that from my last big road trip, about four years ago. Matt hasn’t been here before and also really enjoys it. I’m glad I can show him some new beautiful places in the country. We drive to a town in the mountains called Telluride. This area is also known as the Switzerland of America and looks a lot like the alps in Europe. We find a camping near a town called Mountain Village and again have the luck or blessing of one last free campsite. We set up our tents and drive to Mountain Village where there is a free Gondola to Telluride. We’re there just after sunset and enjoy a beautiful view of the mountains. It’s dark when we arrive in Telluride, but the town is beautifully lid and feels like a cozy mountain town. The lady at the campsite had recommended a pizza place called Brow Dog Pizza and that was a great tip. It’s some of the best pizza I ever had. The gondolas ride until midnight, so we have plenty of time to get back to the camping. In the morning I make coffee with my Italian Bialetti above the gas cooker, but Matt prefers coldbrew. I enjoy my Italian coffee and we continue our trip to Utah, to Arches National Park. It’s about 102° Fahrenheit / 39° Celcius today, so I put a lot of sunscreen on and fill my the bladder in my backpack with a lot of water. The hike in the park is hot, but we really enjoy it. We hike to the famous Delicate Arch and I’m happy surprised that it’s not busy there at all. Last time I was here, people were lined up to take pictures but on this hot day there are not too many people. After taking some pictures we do a hot hike back to the car. We make a quick stop at Canyonlands National Park, but when I look at the time and realize we’re quite in the middle of nowhere, we decide to continue driving. We make it to the town of St. George where we stay in a hotel again and drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in the morning. The North Rim is smaller than the South Rim and a bit harder to reach. Therefore it’s less crowded, but the views here are also amazing. We drive further to the town of Sedona. I was really looking forward to stay there, but it turns out to be a disapointment. Not because it’s not beautiful there, but this weekend is the national holiday Labor Day and it’s extremely crowded in town. We end up in several traffic jams and all campsites in town are full. Fortunately there is a free campsite out of town. Basically it’s stretch of nature where there is nothing, but you’re allowed to set up your tent there. It’s a bit more exciting to camp in the middle of nature without anything around us, but it turns out to be a nice experience.
In the morning we want to visit a state park called Slide Rock, a river that runs over smooth rocks creating a natural slide. Unfortunately all parking spots are full when we arrive and the expected waiting time is a couple of hours. I’m really bummed when this happens, because I had looked forward to spend some fun time here in Sedona, but it seems that’s not in the planning. I speed up the car and race out of town. I wanted to go to a big Barnes and Noble bookstore in Flagstaff that I enjoyed visiting last time, but it’s permanently closed. It’s not really helping to improve my mood. At some point Matt says that we better stop somewhere for coffee and he’s right. We stop at a Starbucks in Flagstaff which turns out to be a great blessing. The barista asks me how my day is and I tell her about the disappointing morning. She tells me that she hopes the day will get better and makes my coffee. While we sit down at a table, another barista walks my way. “I overheard you’re not having such a good day, so here is a free pastry”. There is a smiley on the bag. I’m touched by this very kind surprise. Every barista in that coffee place is super friendly and it completely turns my day around. I’m thankful that there are such friendly and kind people in the world.
Feeling a lot better, we continue our drive to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s also busy here, but this side of the park is very large and the trails are not too crowded. We walk several miles along the rim and enjoy the views. I didn’t plan to climb on the steep rocks this time, but can’t help it when I see some familiar rocks I climbed on last time. There is just something amazing about leaving the crowds behind you on the trail to find some solitude at the edge of the canyon. (No worries mom, since you’re reading this I didn’t fall down and am still alive. I know it might be a bit dangerous, but I think I know my limits and am very careful when I climb on those rocks).
The Grand Canyon never fails to impress me and I enjoy the views again. When we arrive at the lodge, I sit down in a rocking chair and start a conversation with two guys sitting in a rocking swing at the front porch of the lodge. It turns out they are farmers from Nebraska and traveled here by train. I’m reminded of some farmer friends I met on my previous trip and happily talk with them for about half an hour. I enjoy meeting new people when I travel. There are so many friendly and interesting people in the world.
From the Grand Canyon we drive about an hour to the town of Williams. On my last trip I stayed here in a hotel and since it was good, we stop here this time as well. Williams is a very touristy town. It’s on the famous Route 66 and has many themed buildings and tourist stores. The people in the town are very friendly. In the evening there is a Wild West show in the middle of the Main Street and we have dinner at a nice Beer Garden. Around eight o’clock one of the waitresses tells us to walk outside, because there is a fireworks show. I’m very thankful that she told us that, because it turns out to be one of the best fireworks shows I’ve ever seen. Because tomorrow is Labor Day, the town has organized this. For about half an hour long the most beautiful fireworks light up the sky. I feel very thankful and excited that we got to see this. Life is full of great surprises.
The fireworks show was a great final spectacle, because the next day is already the last stretch of road trip together. We drive back to California and say goodbye at one of Matt’s favorite coffee places, Keanes, where we also stopped at the beginning of our trip. Matt takes some time there to select his pictures of the roadtrip and I say goodbye and continue by myself to San Diego. I arrive there in the evening at my friend Brittany’s house and it’s nice to see her again. It’s been two weeks since I left there and it feels like it has been flying by. We’ve driven over 5000 miles and visited several national parks. I plan to stay a few days in San Diego and then go on another road trip by myself.

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