The kids wanted to try their hand at fishing again. To discourage them I told them the best time to fish is early in the morning. Really early in the morning. That didn’t sway them so at 5:30am their alarms started going off and they got me from bed. It was a cold morning. But they still wanted to go.
We headed back to Gull Point Drive to a sand spit where we had seen others fishing the night before. The sunrise was beautiful over the Yellowstone River and Yellowstone Lake. We had the place to ourselves. And for good reason…it was cold. And windy. It may be in the 60s and 70s at 7800+ feet during the day, but in the early morning before the sun comes up its cold cold cold. We tried our luck anyway.
We fished a half hour on the point, then went back to where we saw that guy land the large cutthroat the day before and tried there. Still no luck. We tried another half hour near the entrance to Bay Bridge but again no luck. These fish were eating flies on the water and fly fishing was needed, not our spinner-and-spoon lures on casting rods and reels. We called it a day and went to get som coffee and cocoa spotting a white pelican in the early morning light as we returned to camp where Tawny was still asleep.
We drove out through the south entrance of Yellowstone to Grand Teton National Park. We stopped at Colter Bay Visitor Center to get oriented to the park and have the kids check off another park in their National Park Passports. Grand Teton is dramatic. We drove through the park transfixed on the peaks rising straight up from the high plains as we made our way to Jackson.
We dropped off the trailer at the campy but nice Virginia Inn Lodge (and Saloon, and RV Park, and Drive Through Liquor Store) which reminded us of the Madonna Inn from the first few days of our Great American Road Trip.
We went into Jackson to walk around town square and take the kids to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar so they could sit on at the bar on a saddle amongst the burl wood decor. This is more biker bar than cowboy. Unfortunately they have to be 21 or over to go into the bar. They wanted pictures so we sent the kids across the street to Ripley’s Believe it or Not while Tawny and I had a beer in the bar and took some pictures of the saddles for the kids at the suggestion of the woman who worked in the Cowboy Bar Gift Shop. Not 15 minutes later the kids called us to say they’d been through the Ripley’s Museum already – 3 times! We bailed and worked on finding a place for dinner. We ended up at The Rendezvous Bistro which had a line out the door when we arrived while thunder, hail, and rain poured down around us. The place was packed and offered us one of our better meals while on the road. After dinner the skies cleared and we enjoyed the large hot tub at the Virginian. Later that evening I updated my blog from amongst the taxidermic animals and patrons of the Virginian Saloon.
After a cozy night sleep, snuggled into our R-Pod listening to the thunder, lightning, wind and rain, we awoke to blue skies across South Western Colorado. By 9am we left Dolores, Colorado and headed towards Moab, Utah. We were so fond on Dolores we named the female voice of our new Garmin GPS after her so we’d never forget.
We headed across beautiful Colorado high prairie farmlands bobbing up and down between 5500 and 7000 feet. Beautiful area and Dolores has a great little independent radio station that we listed to until we were 27 miles away and could no longer get the signal. We dialed into something else…a classic rock station from Moab that acted as a beacon as we worked our way across Colorado into North-Eastern Utah counting the cute little prairie dogs popping their heads above ground like North American meerkats. We saw a lot of animals on that drive. A few deer, and even a coyote that ran across the road and paused at the edge looking at us before we passed him.
Before Moab we took a side trip to Newspaper Rock (A State Park) about 12 miles off the highway. Its a little understood set of petroglyphs used by Native Americans from about 2000 thousand years ago until 1300. Then used again by early settlers, even until some idiot in 1954 defaced it with his contribution and few other dimwits at other more recent times. But largely the “newspaper” has remained intact.
We knew we were getting close to Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands when we passed our first arch – Wilson’s Arch .
We also stopped at the road-side attraction “Hole in the Rock” which is a 5000 square foot house that was built into the side of a mountain back in the 40s-70s. Its now a memorial to the people who built it and lived there (the husband dying in the mid 50s in the wife in the mid-seventies. They wouldn’t allow photography inside so here are a few shots from around the grounds outside and a link to some shots I found online. We didn’t visit the zoo…I can’t support roadside attraction zoos of exotic animals. Cruel.
We got to Moab about 1:30 pm, checked in to our campground (Canyonlands RV Park). Great location but they have wifi problems and problems with their septic system…very smelly. But there was shade and a pool and clean showers. So we sent the kids off to swim while I made lunch.
After lunch we headed to Arches National Park which is just outside of Moab to capture the afternoon light. It was about 101-104 in the park so we took plenty of water with us so we could walk to a few of the closer arches (it was to hot to walk them all in the afternoon heat).
I had been to Arches on my 17-year-old road trip to Albuquerque with Ross. I remember stopping by Arches in February and it being a pleasant mid-seventies or low eighties. Nobody was there. Ross and I pulled to the side of the road by one of the arches and got out a hibachi grill and cooked up a big rib-eye steak. It was one of my fondest memories of that trip. And I think for Ross as well as the picture I took of him under North Window Arch became the photo he used in his Senior-High School Yearbook Page. I was excited to return and see more of the park, which we did. It didn’t disappoint. This is an otherworldly experience.
We planned to stay two nights in Dolores, Colorado so we could spend a full day touring at Mesa Verde. I had been here once before with my friend Ross when we were 17 and on mid-winter break road-trip to Albuquerque. We had just spent the night at a hostel in Durango and stopped into Mesa Verde on our way to Arches National Park. But it was February and the park was essentially closed. We could drive into the park and we could see Spruce Tree House from above, but we couldn’t access the trail to climb down to it. So I was excited to return and really see the cliff houses up close and take a guided tour.
We arrived at the new visitor center about 10:30 am and were able to purchase tour tickets for Cliff Palace (only $12 for a 1 hour guided tour for 4 people! – I was shocked and had to ask the price again. I put away my credit card and paid with some good ‘ol greenbacks). Our tour would be at 2:30 in the afternoon. It was about an hour drive into the park to get to the starting point for the tour. This gave us plenty of time to take a self guided tour of Spruce Tree House, visit the museum for an educational film to orient the kids, and time for a little grilled hot dogs before heading into the dry hot tour of Mesa Verde.
Spruce Tree House is impressive in and of itself. If you don’t have time to take a guided tour, this is a great way to get a sense of what life was like for the ancestral pueblians some 800+ years ago.
After Spruce Tree House, lunch, and a visit to the gift shop we drove another 1/2 hour to the meeting point for the Cliff Palace tour. This was the site first witnessed in the 1880s by two cow hands looking for stray cattle who stumbled upon the ruin which had been abandoned more than 650 years ago. It was so well preserved and full of pottery, weavings, and tools and was so magically entrancing to the two uneducated cattle hands that even they realized the importance of the find. They took the initiative to write to the Smithsonian and to many archaeologists around the world imploring them to come and investigate and preserve the find. The tour took one hour and at over 7000 feet in elevation was hot and strenuous, but also a fascinating step back in time.