Thursday, July 7th Trip to Lamar Valley (located in the northeast portion of Yellowstone National Park).
A trip to Yellowstone is not complete without an evening twilight safari through Lamar Valley. The valley teems with wildlife. The highlight this year was spotting not one, but two wolves on the north side of the road.
St. Mary Campground, Glacier National Park, Montana
Monday, June 27th – The girls slept in a bit. I got out the solar panel – great light here for using the solar panel to recharge the trailer’s battery system. The batteries really needed the juice. The morning was going to be quiet until…. I ran out of propane! I heard the refrigerator clicking and the check light came on. I tried to light the stove… nothing! We’d last swapped propane in Las Vegas (Day 12). I expected it to last longer.
I should have just gone to St. Mary to see if they exchanged propane canisters but I thought maybe the general store at Rising Sun might. Rising Sun is about 5 miles away and (I found out) does not exchange propane canisters. I turned around and was able to do it at the grocery store in St. Mary. Then we headed back to the campsite where I swapped the propane canisters. The food in the refrigerator was saved.
We rode our bikes to the Visitors Center. The girls got Junior Ranger books. We ate lunch in Babb, then headed into Many Glacier. We made it to the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn where our 2pm hike was meeting. The ranger leading the hike was the same ranger that lead our hike to Grinnell Lake last year (Ranger Monica). After the nature hike, we did a ranger tour of the Many Glacier Hotel. They are in the last year of the renovation plan. We had a fancy dinner at the hotel (topped off by a chocolate fondue dessert) and then drove back to camp. On the way to the Rising Sun Campground for their evening program, Sarah spotted a coyote. The evening program was about the history of the beaver in North America.
Apgar Village/Fish Creek Campground, Glacier National Park, Montana.
Friday, June 24th – We got up early to attend the bird watching ranger program in the morning with Ranger Sarah from Wisconsin. The girls enjoyed the walk and so did I. We were able to use our binoculars to see several birds.
Rains came at about 11am. Ate a second breakfast at Eddie’s, the restaurant in Apgar Village. Went to the Visitors Center and the girls received their Junior Ranger badges for Glacier.
Went to the 11:30am Junior Ranger program at the Nature Center in Apgar Village. The focus was for younger children; Emily had a good time but Sarah was a bit bored. Ranger Teagan ran the program. After a brief presentation she did an activity with the children were they each were an animal or plant and then formed a food web connected with string. Once one item was eliminated from the web, the rest of the food wed could feel the impact.
We headed back to the trailer, hiding from the rain. After a brief lunch and a nap, we headed back to the Nature Center for a 3pm program discussing the “Peace Park” nature of Glacier being connected to Waterton. Also talked about other Peace Parks.
Next we headed to the Glacier Conservancy book store near the West Glacier train station and picked up a few items. Then to the restaurant in West Glacier for an early dinner where we ate too much. We followed the early dinner by a trip to a gift shop on the other side of the grocery store in West Glacier.
Then a drive to Lake McDonald Lodge where we are awaiting the 8pm Evening Program in the auditorium on Night Creatures. We staked out a corner in the lodge’s lobby, making use of the electrical outlets to charge our laptops. With the campsite’s location in heavy trees and the poor weather, it is difficult to use the solar panel to charge our electronics.
Ranger interpretative tour with Ranger Grace Lily. Sarah and Emily finished and received their Zion Junior Ranger badges. Interesting couple from Tennessee occupied the site adjacent to ours. The girls and I rode our bikes to the Zion Nature Center. Attempted to ride back towards the museum but went the wrong way and ended up at the Visitors Center. Line for the shuttle was LONG. I promised the girls ice cream at the lodge. Instead I ask Christa if she wants to go back to the Bumblebee restaurant/gift shop to get ice cream. We depart the park around 2:30pm and the line to get in extends well into Springdale. The streets are packed with parked cars of people in the park. We get ice cream. I decide to start driving towards Rockville and maybe Hurricane. A huge storm comes in with lots of lightning and huge rain fall. I decide to head to Cedar Breaks National Monument. I have no idea what Cedar Breaks National Monument is. I just know that the it is a National Monument run by the Park Service and that the GPS says it is about 30 miles away. Off we go north on I-15. I see a sign to turn off for Cedar Breaks at exit 57. The GPS says that I want exit 59. I follow the GPS and it takes me to a location that is not the Cedar Breaks National Monument. Back on I-15 heading south. I forget what exit it says to get off on and there is no southbound sign saying exit 57 for Cedar Breaks. Christa deploys her cellphone GPS. I have to go a further 3 miles down to get an exit and turn around once again on I-15. Christa’s cellphone says Cedar Breaks National Monument is another 30 miles away. I look at my gas gauge and it is in between 1/4 and 1/8 of a tank (3/16 of a tank?). Gas is relatively cheap in Cedar Pass (the major town off of I-15). I decide to wait for gas on the way back from Cedar Breaks. Ends up the route up to Cedar Breaks (Utah Hwy 14) is your standard two lane, narrow, steep mountain road. The Cedar Breaks National Monument is up at over 10,000 feet in elevation. As soon as I pulled in to the parking lot the fuel light came on! Cedar Breaks National Monument is like Bryce Canyon on steroids. A huge, massive amphitheater of rock. 2000 feet drop. Beautiful. Cold too…. snow still on the ground. As the ride back down was downhill, I made it to a gas station without running out of gas (although I was sweating it). Dinner at IHOP. Easy drive back to camp. Hopefully going to a Ranger amphitheater program tonight.
Friday, June 10th – Bryce Canyon trip. We packed quite a bit into a small period of time. Left at 8am (wanted to leave at 6am). The route goes through the Zion Tunnel. Twisty, curvy the first 13 miles. Beautiful scenery. Arrive at Bryce Canyon. Park at the Visitors Center (not full yet). Get the Junior Ranger handbooks. Take the park shuttle to Sunset Point to hike the Queens Garden Trail. Slow going down 0.8 miles as it was steep. Had an excellent snack break down at the trail’s end under the shade of a large rock. The sun was beating on us during the steep accent back up. That trail really winded us. Took the shuttle bus back to the Visitors Center. Ate our picnic lunch. The girls continued to finish their handbooks. Toured the Visitors Center and saw the movie about the park. Picked up another shuttle to Sunrise Point for a geology talk by Joel (Geology Joel) Allen. The talk was excellent and was almost an interpretative dance describing how Bryce Canyon was formed. Back on the shuttle to the Visitors Center. Requirements complete for Junior Ranger, Sarah and Emily receive their badges. We then take the station wagon to the General Store and make use of their pay showers. Afterwards I am able to complete one HF contact. We then drive out to Rainbow Point, the furthest point out. We complete our snacks as it is getting late in the day now and I want to get back before we run out of sunshine. The drive back is nice and we stop at the Thunderbird Diner in Mount Carmel Junction for dinner. We wind our way back through the tunnel and down the mountain into Zion.
Thursday, June 9th – First full day at Zion. The time change threw our wake up times off a bit. Instead of awaking at 6:00am, we awoke at 7:00am. That is a late start for Zion. We were at the Visitors Center ready to grab a shuttle a bit before 9am and the lines to board shuttles were already quite long. Fortunately Zion does a great job with the shuttles. The lines were maneuvered quickly on to departing shuttles and before we knew it, we were off to Stop 7, the Weeping Rock.
Wednesday, June 8th – Refit and reprovision. My concern for the axle seal and bearings on the driver’s side of the trailer had continued to grow since our time at the Meteor Crater RV Park in Arizona. Why was there grease coming from the end of the axle seal onto the tire rim? Why was it continuing? At fuel stops I would physically feel the axle temperature and compare it with the other side. There was no difference in the temperature. I was still worried. There was a van parked in the KOA that said 24/7 RV maintenance done on site. I called the number and an hour later I had a mechanic verify what was the best case scenario: excess grease from when the bearings had been repacked was making its way onto the tire rim. Although the house call was expensive, the peace of mind was worth it.
We got our laundry done at the KOA (it is good to change in a few $20s for rolls of quarters before the trip), Christa got the shopping done at the Walmart (across the street from the KOA), and I was able to swap out our propane tank.
Here is my note about propane. Last year I had two 20 gallon canisters with me. One hooked up to the trailer system and one carried in the bed of the truck. This year features no truck bed. I thought about carrying an extra canister in the back of the trailer (peace of mind with a spare canister of propane). Last year I only had to change out the canister once. The trailer really doesn’t use much propane. I decided to only go with one canister and no spare. The downside is that I have to swap out canisters even if I am not out. I guess in the end it is worth a bit of extra money to not have to lug a spare canister around.
Tuesday, June 7th – Departure from Yosemite went pretty well. Although when I went across the street to the dump station at Upper Pines Campground, I forgot that my drain is on the driver’s side and had to drive through a second time to get lined up properly. The drive out of Yosemite on CA 140 was pleasantly uneventful, as I took my time.
The Chevron in Merced (just prior to CA 99) has the nicest bathrooms we have ever seen! CA 99 from Merced to Bakersfield was better than I-5 (note to self – always take CA 99). A good portion of it was three lanes. My jaunt over the Tehachapi Pass seemed a lot less white knuckle going east bound than the west bound trip.
Staggering heat awaited us on the east side. Temperatures soared above 100F as we passed Edwards Air Force Base, through Barstow, and on to I-15. The station wagon continued to be a solid performer with the temperature gauge steady. We passed the turn off for Death Valley and the temperature was 110F. Christa got a heat advisory message on her cell phone. That sounds about right.
At last we pulled into Las Vegas, our GPS guiding us down past the major casinos. Pulling a trailer through the middle of Las Vegas was not my idea of a good time. We made it to the KOA campground. I assumed that the campground would be on the outskirts of Las Vegas, covered in desert dust. Nope. It adjoined a full-blown casino. And that is where we had a fine dinner at the TGIF inside the casino (that gave a 20% military discount – unbelievable!). A shower before bed… hadn’t seen a shower in a while.