Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Yellowstone Roadtrip: Part 3

Our last two days at the park included visiting Grand Teton National Park, and a final round of geysers and such in the West Thumb and Old Faithful area. See end of post for tips and tricks as well as a breakdown of our budget for this adventure.

Grand Teton: 

We had originally planned on driving all the way down to Jackson Hole to ride the tram to the top of the hill and do some hiking. We had another sleep-in and thought of scrapping the plan altogether, but we'd already paid for the discounted admission to Teton when we entered Yellowstone and so we went anyway figuring we would just drive around.

Lots of great mountain views. Unfortunately it was raining at some of the more stellar lookouts and didn't get out to take any pictures.

We drove as far as the Craig Thomas Discovery Centre and had lunch in the area on a patio. Service was pretty crap. Ended the day driving down Mormon Row to see the famous historic buildings.

Etc: Below are the pictures from touring around all the other geysers and the main attraction, Old Faithful.

 Evan getting "steamed out"

Tips and Tricks: 

We only had 4 full days in the park. If you're looking to relax and have more time hanging out at your campsite, you'll probably want more time. We found this sufficient enough time to see most of what needed to be seen. You could knock off Grand Teton and do our trip in 3 days easily if you were just wanting to do the highlights.

As for provisions, all the general stores have small grocery sections. It's not cheap, and they'll really nail you on the essentials. We paid 4 USD for a toothbrush and travel toothpaste. It's worth shopping in whatever entry town you arrive from. We did a trip through Bozeman's massive Walmart Supercentre to pick up groceries beforehand and it felt like the smarter choice. If you are in the park and needing groceries, you might stock up while visiting Grand Teton. Their general store had a pretty huge selection and seemed to be more competitively priced than the general stores in Yellowstone. All the general stores sell cheese, some basic lunch meats, canned goods, a few frozen items, and a very small selection of produce. You won't starve to death. Hot meals are offered at all the general stores as well and are very affordable.

As for pets, don't bring them. We take our dog whenever we go out to Banff or Jasper, but Yellowstone was as un-pet-friendly as I'd read. It would be fine at the campsite, but as soon as you went anywhere you'd be leaving a dog in a hot car in one of the many attraction's parking lots. We boarded Maybel for the trip and we were glad we did.

Make sure you have ice cream while visiting any of the general stores. It's delicious. If you're Canadian, be sure to buy some jalapeno bacon while you're at Walmart. Amazing. If you're staying at a campground, you'll be given a shower card for a shower everyday. The firewood is expensive, but you're allowed to gather any dead wood and use it for fires so it could be worth it to bring an axe.


Gas: $200
Hotels: $335 (3 nights)
Camping fees: $167 (4 nights)
Entry fee: $66 (50 USD, for both parks)
Spending money: $500 approximately (groceries, beer, meals out, bozeman bears, daily ice cream, firewood)

So in total I'm guessing it cost us about $1,268 CAD in total for our 6 day road-tripping adventure. We made all of our breakfasts and dinners at the campsite, and one or two days we picniced at a rest-stop. I'd guess that we ate out about 5 times. We went through a box of firewood everyday (or more). Having a meal plan helped a lot with making sure we had only what we needed and didn't waste a whole lot. Also, we bought all alcohol outside of the park which made it a little bit more affordable.

Yellowstone Roadtrip: Part 2

As many of those who are close to me know, I'm a bit type A and love planning. My Yellowstone itinerary (yes, itinerary) was overly ambitious as usual and unfortunately we didn't see everything I wanted to see.

I had really hoped to start off our first day in the park with a hike to Mt. Washburn. After setting up our tent and picnic shelter, I managed to trip over those stupid tent guy lines and flew 4 feet in the air before landing in a pile of embarrassment. I was pretty bruised up and not interested in hiking. 

We had a sleep in and toured around Hayden Valley on our way to The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Lots of buffalo! 

We then cruised around to a bunch of geysers. At this point I'd pretty much thrown my itinerary out the window as we began stopping at every tourist marking. 

 I can't remember any names aside from this one, Dragon's Breath. It was pretty cool.

We ended the day back at our little slice of paradise. Any by paradise, I mean between the hours of 8-10pm when the neighbors generator wasn't on.

Yellowstone Roadtrip: part 1

While completing his internship this summer, Evan was offered the opportunity to end a week or two before school started in case he felt like taking holidays. Dreaming of an exotic scuba diving trip to Belize, we had a look at our accounts and realized that was totally out of the question and began looking at other options instead.

Having had so much fun on our cross-country camping trip to Alberta last summer, we decided we would do a road trip to 'Murica instead. Neither of us have any experience crossing the border from this side of the country and so the options were unlimited. After lots of thought and consideration we ended up plotting an adventure to Yellowstone National Park. Because, buffaloes.

We left from Edmonton in the evening after coming home from work, and drove through the night until we got to Great Falls. Holy slot machines. We then drove a few more hours and stayed in Bozeman.

We had so much fun in Bozeman: Weird Christian radio stations, grizzly bear encounters and a phenomenal meal at Montana Ale Works. I also really enjoyed lolly-gagging down their main street and checking out all the shops. It was a sad time for me, with the Canadian dollar so low.

Bears at Bozeman Grizzly Encounter

 What sharing the bathroom with Evan is like in the mornings.
 This young bear came out for a quick play as the sun started to set.

Entering Yellowstone: 

We entered through the north gate, in order to stop at The Boiling River and Mammoth hot springs before heading to our campsite at Grant Campground, right on the shores of Yellowstone Lake.

Looking back on the trip I still think that Boiling River was the biggest highlight of our trip, hands down. We got there just as it had stopped raining so it wasn't too crowded and it was just perfect. Basically the hot spring mixes with the cold water of the Gardner River, and somehow it all pools together in a nice big area to relax in. Absolutely sublime.

Following the boiling river we checked out Mammoth Hot Springs. We were there in the afternoon and the lighting wasn't the greatest for any amazing photos to share but still an enjoyable thing to see. While visiting Mammoth you will also get a chance to check out Fort Yellowstone. 

We eventually made it to the campsite. A lot of driving that day but it wasn't so bad with all the little stops along the way. We arrived to an awesome, oversized and secluded site backing onto Yellowstone Lake. I was in paradise, Evan was sort of terrified. Because, bears. The only wildlife entering our site was an elk prancing about that almost took our tent down. Scary stuff.

See Yellowstone Roadtrip: part 2 

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Golden Long Weekend Part 1: Golden, BC

After a million trips out to Banff, I've grown curious about Golden. It's not that far, but it's that one extra hour that makes it a no-go on a regular weekend....and so this destination became like my mystical unicorn that I longed to visit and tame.

Golden is kind of a confusing place. It's not in a national park, but instead close to six. It's a popular place but doesn't have the same routine laid-out plan that say, Banff does.

We ended up booking a campsite at a place called Golden Eco Adventure Park. They cater to Rvs, tenters and even people looking to stay in a yurt. Bathroom facilities were spotless, people at the office super friendly. They were hosting a VW Camper-Jam and a paragliding competition in the same weekend. We are still working through our feelings of envy and poverty at the sight of some of those set-ups. It was a stellar campground all round. All the areas are spaced apart so you'll never end up at a camping site next to someone running their generator for 12 hours per day out of their RV.

Due to the crazy dryness of the summer, there was a fire ban on while we were in Golden. This is kind of a deal breaker, and led to a lot more loitering around town checking out the exotic BC provincial liquor stores and finding places to grab a beer by the river.

First on the list was rafting the Kicking Horse River. We booked ahead with wet'n'wild rafting, with it being the long weekend and all. Probably could have just arrived and gone with whomever, but we enjoyed the tour company. We booked the half-day, and ended up staying on for the lower canyon which was amazing. Highly recommend. This was our third time rafting, and on an entirely different level. Worth the splash of the cash. The views going down the river are incredible. You can see the trains coming through the mountains, and it's all quite beautiful if you have a moment to concentrate on anything but the waves and your paddle. Our leader was a kook, but an awesome one. We hear spring in the upper canyon is even better, so we hope to go back then for round two.

I mentioned it was hot that weekend? We ended up seeking refuge at Cedar Lake. Very chill, family friendly spot where all the locals and seasoned Goldeners seemed to be. I recommend, even if just for an hour or two. Evan locked our keys in the car, which led to an even longer, more leisurely afternoon. Evan thought it was a horrible day. I personally thought it was the greatest day of all time: I will never be able to top his dumb-ass move. Another option appeared to be grabbing a six pack and staying in town, taking a dip in the river. I predict it would be very cold, but not altogether bad.

We got kind of curious about all the paragliding happening, with everyone landing in the field next to our campsite. As I mentioned earlier, it was a competition going on with people competing for things like most launches in a day, longest time in the air, and so on. We then learned about Mount Seven where everyone launches, and opted to trek up there to see what was going on in lieu of going to Kicking Horse for the tram which had been the original plan. I'm not sure that I recommend doing this in a was a real struggle and I'm not sure the suspension is going to ever recover. However, the experience was worth the cost of the car. Sounds lame but we had the most chill afternoon watching everyone taking off and got some pretty sweet photos. 

Super awesome campsite views. We were a little further back into the bush with a bit more privacy. 

These little fuckers were everywhere and had some strong pipes. 
The infamous river.

Do like the locals and head to Cedar Lake for a dip. Very peaceful and also family friendly.

Views from the top of mount 7

My Heroes.

Tips and Tricks: 

If you are planning on making a trip out to Golden and want to stay at the Eco Ranch, you might wanna book far ahead as they only had one site left when I made our reservation 3 weeks prior. If you can, check out the yurts. They looked pretty badass! Make sure you take a trip up to Mount Seven but ask your friend to take their car, it was intense. But worth it. And way cheaper than paying to ride the tram up Kicking Horse. Plan to spend more money after you've already booked the cheaper rafting trip-- it will be worth it. Google ahead to see if there's a fireban-- might change your meal plans. Anywhere along the river was good to eat at, no true recommendations. Tripadvisor. There's an IGA or something like that in town to get any necessary provisions. Take an afternoon at Cedar lake to chill.

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