My American Road Odyssey 2021
The pandemic has affected travel and life in general in so many negative ways. From economic loss to cabin fever, 2020 and 2021 have been a challenge. Travel has come to a stand still due to the fear of contracting Covid and countries have been on lockdown for over a year now. We’ve all had to quench our thirst for adventure in other ways and to keep our mental health at a positive level has been hard.
One positive that has come out of this pandemic is that I’ve been forced to focus on traveling domestically. America has some amazing places and even better national parks. In the past, I focused on international travel but the pandemic has allowed me to enjoy the amazing national parks in the country. I’ve started my latest road trip, my American Odyssey. I’m trying something different this time. I’ll be posting every day with a short description of my odyssey so you can follow along.
My first day of the road trip was long, the longest day of driving for the entire trip. I left my home in Southern California at 7 in the morning and I didn’t arrive at my hotel in Provo, Utah, until 7:30 p.m. This included stops for gas and includes my meals, lunch and dinner, and a long delay due to road work on Highway 15 north of Beaver, Utah. It was more than an hour delay but my Google App found an alternate route that shortened the delay through some beautiful rural back roads.
I, also, stopped at the Parowan Gap. I know, it sounds like some far corner of the world. It’s actually just 15 minutes off of Highway 15. The gap is a 500 foot deep pass of red cliffs. It’s a historic site filled with one of the highest number of petroglyphs in America. The cliffs are a jumble of weathered and fractured Navajo sandstone petroglyphs.
The Zipper petroglyph, is said to depict a great journey and it’s the most famous of them all. The gap is also a site for dinosaur tracks. The turnout is on the right before you get to the petroglyphs. I didn’t post any photos, most of the tracks are too well worn and not very distinguishable. It’s a great place to stop and refocus during such a long day of driving. I spent all most an hour here and I wondered why I hadn’t visited the place during my many trips to Utah.
I had a hard time sleeping due to a noisy child that woke up at 2 a.m. And of course, woke up his parents and myself, unhappily staying next door. I got out early and made my way to Provo Canyon, conveniently just a 15 minute drive away from my hotel just off of I-15. I was at the canyon by 8 a.m. I stopped at the Bridal Veil Waterfall first and took in the spectacular view of the canyon and the waterfall.
I moved down the road and on to the Upper Falls that requires a short hike, just under 1 mile round trip. It’s a short hike but steep and it was a great way to start the day. I picked up my bags from the hotel and made my way north and stopped at Ensign Peak for the amazing views of the salt lake and of down town Salt Lake City.
It was another short hike and steep as well. I was so close to the state capital, I made my way to the building. After having lunch, The rest of the afternoon, 5 hours, consisted of windshield time. I drove through northern Utah, southern Idaho and to Montana to Yellowstone’s western entrance.
Today was my first day at the famed Yellowstone National Park. My morning started with a fairy tail beginning complete with a spectacular waterfall and a rainbow. All that was missing was a unicorn. Old faithful erupted on time as expected.
There w wildlife all along the road, bison roaming everywhere, even on the road. Ducks and geese along the river and in the sky hovered a bald eagle. Yellowstone Lake hadn’t fully thawed yet but it made for an even more spectacular photo. The heat was escaping from middle earth from all points of the park with dozens of geysers and steam vents dotting the park. And, that’s what impressed me the most.
The colors made from escaping gasses throughout the park was spectacular. I did the lower Yellowstone loop on a guided bus tour. I wanted to see all the best spots of the park with guide and choose spots I want to spend more time at when I enter the park on my own. And, gain their wealth of knowledge of the park, the wildlife and history of Yellowstone. Unfortunately I limited myself to three photos per day so you’ll have to wait for the detailed post after I finish my road trip for additional photos. My first day here is complete and I can’t wait for tomorrow.
The lower loop completed, It was now time to do the upper loop of Yellowstone. This route takes you north to Mammoth Hot Springs, east to Roosevelt Lodge, then south to Canyon Village and back to Madison to create a loop. But the road between Roosevelt Lodge and Canyon Village was closed so went as far as Lamar Valley and traced our path back to the west entrance. There were more waterfalls on the route and another thermal stop at Mammoth Hot Springs.
Mammoth is one of my favorite stops in the whole park. the landscape and colors are spectacular and I highly recommend a stop hear. As we headed east, this trip had become a safari as we viewed significant amounts of wildlife. Big horn sheep were grazing along the road, unfortunately the males, rams, weren’t present. A small, one year old, black bear wandered near the road and the mother wasn’t to be found, maybe for the best. Nesting ospreys near the road was such an attraction, we couldn’t find parking within a reasonable distance.
The Lamar Valley is like the Serengeti of America with herds of bison roaming throughout the landscape flanked by elk, prong horns, and moose. It’s a great place to view wolves as well but not on this day. We, also, stopped at the north entrance in Garner, Montana, and the Roosevelt Arch. The great weather I’ve enjoyed during my road trip is coming to an end. Weather is coming and rain is the forecast for tomorrow
With most of the major attraction covered in my first two days, it was now time to get my boots dirty. A few of the short popular trails are closed due to bear activity so I found some close to the road. I don’t know if there are any bad trails at all in Yellowstone. I kept my bear spray on my belt for protection but these were heavily trafficked trails so my level of danger was minimal.
I also drove The Firehole River Road and got some amazing shots of the river and the waterfall. There is a small cascading waterfall at the end of the road that little know about as well.
Also, I did a couple more geothermal sites and I was amazed at the Grand Prismatic Spring. It’s hard to view from ground level with all the smoke coming from the springs. There’s a viewpoint on top of a neighboring hill that can give you a full view of the spring. Unfortunately, the trail to this spot is one of those that are closed.
Also, I visited Biscuit Basin which is less visited and I found this amazing pool that was off the main loop. I made quick use of it and got a great shot before people noticed me there and drew there attention as they made their way to the spring.
I was back to the west entrance by late afternoon and I had enough time to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. They have rescued animals on the site, grizzlies, wolves, birds of prey and don’t forget to visit the otters as well. I had such an amazing time here and I wondered why it took me so long to visit the world’s first national park? I’m just happy for the incredible experience I’ve had. Tomorrow is travel day and on to the next destination.
Today was filled with unexpected events. This morning was travel time and I hit the road knowing it had rained earlier. It was cold but no longer raining. After a short time, I noticed cars with snow on them and traveling in the opposite direction. I just thought they were locals who’s cars accumulated snow overnight during the storm. Then, I noticed it was snowing as I neared the Montana and Idaho border. The temperature in the West Entrance was 45 degrees when I left. It was now 22 degrees and I was in an unexpected snow storm. Actually, it wasn’t that bad. The snow hadn’t built up on the road yet. As I made my way down the mountain, snow turned into heavy rain on the Idaho side. My direction turned southeast toward Wyoming and the rain had disappeared. I arrived at Jackson Hole just before noon and noticed it had rained here as well and the skies were still gray and clouds were still looming.
I was now at my first destination, Mormon Row right outside of the Moose entrance of the Grand Tetons. I wanted to photograph the old barn with the Tetons behind it. The weather wasn’t cooperating as the storm clouds clung on to the mountains and wouldn’t let go. I got my shots but the Tetons weren’t clearly visible. I had lunch near the park entrance and the skies opened up like the rains Noah was so afraid of. I decided to take the loss and spend the afternoon in town, Jackson, Wyoming, where I’m staying during my visit. It was still raining but I was under the eves of the shops as I wandered around town. The forecast for tomorrow is cloudy but without rain.
I’ll see you tomorrow Tetons.
Today was a new day, literally. The sun came out in full force. I started the day early and passed through the gates of the Grand Tetons with no wait. The rain of the previous day set me back on my itinerary. Now, my plan was to do the Teton Loop Drive to see as much of the park as possible. This meant that hiking would be at a minimal. I made a couple of stops at the many turnouts before I got to Jenny Lake. My initial plan was to hike the Jenny Lake Loop Trail but it would take up too much time so I just did two miles.
The scenes from this lake are spectacular with the Tetons as the backdrop. It was tough to not complete the whole loop but I had to continue on. I made some more stops at some more beautiful turnouts before I made my way up the narrow Signal Mountain Road. I definitely recommend the drive to the summit as the view here is spectacular.
I made my way back down the road and drove to the Signal Mountain Lodge where I had lunch. The lodge is on the shore of Jackson Lake and I had a beautiful view my lunch. I continued on and made a right on highway 191 and exited the park and drove back toward Jackson. Of course, I made several more stops on the way.
One stop I really enjoyed was Schwabacher Landing where I walked a short trail along a creek. A beaver had built a dam on the creek but the beaver was no where to be found. From there, I went back to Mormon Row. I had to get that shot of the old barn in front of the Tetons. The clouds were no longer clinging to the peeks. But, rain clouds where still present as the mood of the day had changed. My day was ending and just in time as the rain was on its way.
I wish I had more time at the park but my journey would continue in the morning.
It wat hard to leave Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons, there were more things I wanted to do there. It was lightly raining as I left the hotel so my thoughts went to the Teton Pass and I wondered if it was snowing up there. It wasn’t long until I got my answer.
It was snowing, and a little harder than the day I left West Yellowstone, and road was a little more treacherous. The incline of the pass is at a larger grade and the road has multiple turns on both sides of the mountain. I drove slow and made it safely to the bottom. I thought that would be the last drop of snow I would see on this trip. But, when I took Idaho’s Highway 31, I had to pass another mountain and I got some snow again. It didn’t take long until I passed this mountain as well and I made my way to Idaho Falls. This would be my lunch stop.
I chose to have my meal near the Idaho Falls River Walk. The Falls is wider than I thought it would be and it was a great spot to rest and get some great photos.
I continued to follow the Snake River and I drove on to Twin Falls, Idaho, where I would rest my head for the next three nights. The city sits along the Snake River as well and I look forward to discovering the area in the next couple of days.
I started the day with hike at The Little City Of Rocks just north of Gooding, Idaho, and only 50 minutes from Twin Falls. The canyon is aptly named with hoodoos shaped like skyscraper that flank both sides of the canyon. The “city” even has a wall at the entrance.
The skies threatened to bring rain but the time I started the hike the clouds had moved on. I hiked to the waterfall but it wasn’t to be as the creek was dry. The city is an other-worldly hike and easy hike which I appreciated on this day with so much to see.
I moved on and after lunch I visited the Thousand Springs State Park. The park is made up of five location that aren’t connected.
I went to the Malad Gorge that provided some spectacular and breath taking views.
I moved on to Ritter Island which was still closed for the season and would open after Memorial Day. That didn’t stop me, I went anyway knowing that there is an incredible waterfall just outside the gate. It was definitely worth the visit, even though the park was closed.
I moved on to Earl Hardy Box Canyon which is just a few minutes from Ritter Island. The canyon featured a turquoise pool. Unfortunately, rain clouds had moved overhead again and the vivid colors weren’t so bright. I completed the short easy hike along the rim of the canyon before calling it a day. It was now after 6 pm and the clouds had turned dark.
Day 10 was to be another hectic day which would have included kayaking the Snake River and hiking to a cascading waterfall. The water was to cold for kayaking and I was too tired for the hike. All the activities I’ve done have left me exhausted so I decided to keep the expedition within city limits. In Twin Falls, it’s still an exciting time.
My first visit would be to a spring fed waterfall just below the cliffs of the city. It was just a five minute drive from my hotel to Perrine Coulee Falls. I’m not sure where the official trailhead is so I parked at the viewpoint turnout and took the short trail from here. It’s very steep but well worth the effort. It’s one of those unique waterfalls that you can walk behind and so I did. The mist cooled of my body and the sound made me forget my fatigue.
It was time to move on and I had seen a trail that interested me on my way to the waterfall. It was a short trail along the Snake River that went under the Perrine Memorial Bridge. I kept it short and made it just under the bridge and turned back. You can also see the base jumpers during the hike as they jump from the bridge. The trail also includes another spring fed waterfall and a great vantage point of the bridge.
I moved on and drove to Shoshone Falls. It’s the iconic symbol of Twin Falls so of course I had to pay it a visit. No hiking needed here, unless you wanted to. You can hear the power and the volume of the waterfall as the water quickly flows down the Snake River. I also got a rainbow to show up before I left.
My time here in southern Idaho has been amazing and it’s sad to say that I have to leave in the morning. The wheels will be spinning towards home and I can see the end of this road trip in the short future.
I woke up this morning and said my goodbyes to Idaho. It was another long drive to my next accommodation. I drove from Twin Falls, Idaho, to the famed Sin City, Las Vegas, Nevada. It took almost 9 hours to drive through the middle of Nevada which included lunch and some bathroom stops. The road consisted of a two lane highway throughout the trip until I got to the I-15.
I also drove near Area 51, a secret military base said to house aliens, and I had to stop and take a photo of the sign. I checked in my room late in the afternoon and even had dinner delivered to my room as I enjoyed the view of the Vegas strip below. The people have returned to Vegas in droves as the sidewalks were packed with people, and this is a weeknight. I took a short walk on the strip and enjoyed the water show in front of the Bellagio.
It’s been over 10 years since I’ve visited and nothing seems to have changed. The Covid restriction have been relaxed and a since of normalcy is returning to the city. I’m not a gambler, I don’t enjoy giving money for no return, so I returned to my room.
The only thing left on my road trip is a three and half hour drive home so this is going to be the end of my live posts. I’ve had some amazing experiences and seen some beautiful things during this road trip. Days of adrenaline filled moments and nights of exhaustion but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ll post a more detailed account of some of my experiences in the coming days.