Day 14 – Leaving the Rockies

Monday, June 17, 2013

It was with mixed feelings that I packed up my tent and belongings left the peace and serenity of the Rocky Mountains, but it’s time to go home. Maybe its because there are no mountains where I live, that I enjoy them so much.

I grabbed a quick ‘ brunch ‘ before I left Estes Park and then meandered through the Rocky Mountains, one more time.

I passed through Denver and the landscape became flat. It reminded me of the Canadian prairies, where you can see for miles, quite a contrast from the mountains I had just left. I stopped in Limon, Colorado and spent part of the afternoon cleaning up, my motorcycle and myself.

Day 13 – Moraine Park Campground

Sunday, June 16, 2013

First of all, I have to make a correction on yesterday’s blog entry. There is a water tap near my campsite, and there are clean ‘ flush toilets ‘ with running water and electrical outlets in the ‘ reserved ‘ sections of the campsite that are close to my campsite and I have access to them. So that means that I should pay more for such luxury.

I slept in until 6:30 am and went for breakfast in town at a small coffee shop. The food was very good but the scenery was beautiful and relaxing.

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After breakfast, I picked up a fishing license and some recommended fishing flies before returning to camp and attending the camp nondenominational church service. The topic for the service was Father’s Day. I hope everyone had a wonderful day.

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The weather looked like there were thunderstorms in the area, so after waiting for a while, I went for a hike. The skies changed constantly all afternoon and I heard thunder but I didn’t experience any storms. I hiked for a few hours before fishing on a small river about 1/2 a mile from the campsite. I didn’t have much luck fishing. All I caught was a 13 cm ( 5 inch – it sounds better in metric ) minnow and one that got away ( honest…OK maybe it was just my imagination and I just hooked a rock or branch ), but I had fun trying.

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When I finally gave up, I hiked back to camp, only to find that some high winds during the afternoon had blown yellow pine dust all over everything. I cleaned my motorcycle and tent, as best I could before going to town for a nice supper. By the time I got back to camp, it was almost dark and getting quite cool, so I called it an early night.

Day 12 – Estes Park, Colorado

Saturday, June 15, 2013

As I left Rawlins for the Denver, the landscape slowly changed from a rugged rocky mountain terrain, devoid of trees and little vegetation to mountainsides covered with trees. Some of the mountains had the unusual, wrinkled appearance of a Pug, with traces of fine grass accentuating the wrinkles. Other mountains looked as if a giant had stacked rocks on top of each other.

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The elevation changed from 6500 ft to 8600 ft and back down to 6200 ft and back up to 7800 ft on Estes Park. The temperature varied from 65 F at the high elevations to 80 F at the lower elevations.

I stopped at the Colorado Visitor Center to check on the possibility of camping in the area and decided to head towards Estes Park, which is 70 miles northwest of Denver.

After checking with the Visitor Center in Estes Park, I rode to Moraine Park and I was lucky enough to secure a campsite in the ‘ non-reserved ‘ section of the park. Once you have one of these campsites, you can stay there for up to 7 days.

After pitching my tent, I headed back to Estes Park for some supper along the boardwalk next to the river. After supper, I walked along the board walk and listened to a street musician for a little while before heading back to camp.

A view from the restaurant.

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On the way back to the campsite I spotted 3 elk having their supper at the park entrance.

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The scenery here is beautiful. My tent opens up to a view of the mountains which are covered with evergreen trees.

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The campsite is more primitive than Bridge Bay in Yellowstone. There is no running water, electricity or flush toilets so I can’t use my hair dryer or wash up. In the reserved section, there is running water, sinks and flush toilets, so if I could use them, if I wanted to. All this, for the staggering fee of $20/ day. What’s a retired person supposed to do. I tried to get a senior’s discount, but they wouldn’t go for it.

Day 11 – Yellowstone to Rawlins

Friday, June 14th, 2013

I woke up at 6:30 to a surprise. I was warned the night before that it was supposed to get cold but I didn’t expect ice. There was frost everywhere including my motorcycle, but what surprised me the most was the large frozen raindrops all over it.
I dried everything as best I could and packed up my tent and belongings, before starting my frozen motorcycle. I had to warm my hands a couple of times under the hand dryer in the washroom to get some feeling back into them again.
I finally left Yellowstone at 8 pm and headed south towards. The temperature was 2 C ( 34 F ) but it was 20 C ( 68 F ) by the time I reached Jackson, Wyoming just before noon.

The landscape changed dramatically during the day from the vibrant forested mountain tops to lush valley grasslands surrounded by snow-capped mountains near Jackson followed by rocky and barren hills and flatlands as I approached Rawlins.

I took a picture of the landscape that people in the area wake up to and I wondered if they are as unappreciative of the beautiful mountains as I am of Niagara Falls due to its familiarity.

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The ride was enjoyable. The roads were not very busy and I was able to cruise with beautiful scenery in the background while listening to Patsy Cline tell me I’m ‘ Crazy ‘ ( true ), the Beatles telling me I need ‘ Help ‘ ( definitely ), Pink Floyd telling me I have ‘ Brain Damage ‘ ( the lunatic is in my head, you take the blade, you make the change, you re-arrange me tell I’m sane ), Linda Ronstadt telling me I move the beat of a ‘ Different Drum ‘ and Michael Smith telling me I have received ‘ Amazing Grace – My Chains are Gone ‘ ( not deserved but I am grateful ). Steppenwolf insinuated that I was ‘ Born to be Wild ‘ but that persona doesn’t match the BMW and the riding gear. It’s more like ‘ Geeks on Wheels’.

It became extremely windy, just before I arrived in Rawlins. As mentioned before, the motorcycle sliced through it without problem but the wind resistance from the rider almost sent me flying to Oz with Dorothy and Toto. ‘ NO ‘ Jim…that doesn’t mean that I would rather be ‘ short ‘ ( or more politically correct, vertically challenged ), because then I would need a ladder and pedal extenders to ride the bike!

I have met a number of interesting people from different walks of life, each with their own story to tell.

On Saturday, I will be heading towards the Denver area to see what mischief I can get into.

Day 10 – Yellowstone ( Fishing )

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

After breakfast, another thunderstorm with high winds hit the area and I stayed at the restaurant until it was over. Surprisingly, it became sunny and warm so I packed up my fishing gear, got a license. There is no fishing allowed on Yellowstone Lake and the river’s near the campsite, so I had to drive 40 miles ( near Old Faithful ) to go fishing.

On my way there, the traffic was stopped by tourists trying to take pictures of a grizzly bear on the west side of the road, foraging for food among the dead trees and 50 yards further, an Elk that was sitting on the east side of the road among the trees. I confess, I stopped and took some pictures but the they were taken with my camera so I am not able to post them at this time.

I rode to one of the picnic areas on the Firehole river and kept my fishing fly wet for a few hours. A fisherman who was there at the time, told me that he had caught a couple of fish earlier in the day but hasn’t had any luck since. Several other people tried but no one had any luck. I finally left and on my way back I saw a number of fishermen trying their luck on the Gibbon river, so whenI saw a ‘ pull out ‘ that was near the river and no people around, I stopped and quickly went down to the river ( in my motorcycle gear…that must have been a funny sight ) but when I reached the river, a car stopped and 3 fisherman got out and started fishing upstream of me. I tried for half an hour before I finally called it quits.

On my way back there was another bear sighting and although I didn’t stop, I caught a glimpse of his brown fur as he lumbered away.

I finally broke my piggy bank and paid for a shower and shave ( not that I needed one ? ) and then I went to the ‘Lake Lodge ‘ for a supper of prime rib.

Back at the camp, a couple told me that they were cleared from the trail they were on, by rangers, because a bear had attacked some hikers a little while earlier on the trail.

As it turned out, the weather stayed sunny and warm until 8 pm when it got overcast, windy and cold. The camp staff drove around the campsites at 10 pm and told us that 60 mph ( 100 kph ) winds were expected in the area within 15 minutes. Fortunately, that never occurred or I fell asleep and missed the excitement.

Day 9 – Yellowstone ( Upper & Lower Falls )

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

The campsite has all the amenities I could possibly want, cold running water, washroom facilities with electricity ( so you can plug in a hair dryer, although I wouldn’t know anything about that ) located near the tent, pay showers ( $3.62/shower) laundry, groceries, gas, a restaurant 2 miles away and a diner 3 miles from the Bridge Bay campsite. This is luxury camping. But there is no cell service at the sight, although there is some coverage in various areas of the park. Wifi is only available to hotel guests so it gave me an opportunity to electronically detox!

I got up shortly after daylight, refreshed myself, straightened a few things out and then went for breakfast. I arrived at the diner at 7:20 am, 10 minutes before it opened. As I left the diner, there was a bear sighting in the area so I looked around for a little while, but he was already gone, so I headed north to see some waterfalls. The canyon,the Upper and Lower waterfalls were all spectacular.

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The Tower Falls which are a little farther north weren’t as impressive, in comparison, but still worth the trip to see.

On my way to the falls a number of cars were blocking the roadway as the got out to take pictures of a small black bear, a short distance from the roadway. I chose not to add to the congestion by stopping. There were more traffic slowdowns, mainly by tourists taking pictures of bison…I’ve seen enough of them by now!

As I left Tower Falls, I saw storm clouds rolling in, so I headed to Canyon Village for a bite to eat and to wait out the storm.

At one point there was a slow moving car ahead of me, so I sped past him at at a blistering 35 mph to get to the village before the lightening started. It wasn’t long before a thunderstorm hit the area but it was short-lived and I headed back to the campsite to see if I could reserve a campsite for a third day.

After reserving a campsite for another night, rain clouds rolled in and we had intermittent rain for the rest of the afternoon and early evening so I took time to relax.

Day 8 – Yellowstone ( Old Faithful )

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

There is sporadic cell phone service and no wifi available in the park so I wasn’t able to update my blog until I was out of the park.

I left Cody Tuesday morning and headed for Yellowstone Park. I reached the park entrance by mid-morning, proceeded to one of the campsites, reserved a spot for two nights ( which was all that was available ), had a quick lunch at the nearest diner and then rode around the ‘ Grand Loop ‘ to Old Faithful, arriving there one week ( to the hour ) from the time I left home. I hiked the trail to numerous other geysers before returning to the entrance to see Old Faithful ‘ erupt.

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The scenery in the park is beautiful.

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On my trip around the Grand Loop, I saw several herds of bison, some deer and two Elks.

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There are numerous sulphur caldrons along the road but I skipped them. The ‘ rotten egg ‘ smell brought back memories from one of my student work terms at the INCO smelter and if I want to experience a foul oder, I will arrange an engineering fishing trip.

Shortly after I left to go back to the campsite I was greeted with large droplets of rain together with sleet. It didn’t last long but it was just long enough to make my hands and arms cold. I understand why so many bikers wear little or no protection but it doesn’t make sense to me. Every time I go for a ride I have to clean my windshield and helmet from all of the bug carcasses and they make quite an impact at highway speeds.

It is obvious from the burned sections of forest around the park, that forest fires are common. It is interesting to see the regenerative power of nature due to natural occurrences. Its too bad that it can’t regenerate man’s pollution. Each of the areas that suffered a forest fire was at a different stage of re growth from young saplings hurrying to become the tallest trees among large white & black tree trunks devoid of any branches or foliage to areas where the new growth has replaced the old forest and only left a few reminders of the fire of long ago.

The campsite is at an elevation of 8000 ft. Although there is no snow there, many of the mountains still have snow patches on them at this elevation and higher.