After a brief layover in Owensville and Stanton to say goodbye to friends, and after a final rendezvous with the Current River in Southern MO, we were Kansas bound; the first obstacle that stood between us and our final destination.
Traveling through the state of perpetual prairies, in the dead of summer, promises many things: vast fields of blue stem and wheat grass, but also among them: no shade and sweltering temperatures We sweated it out during the day and got up early in the mornings to stay ahead of the daily highs above 100 degrees.
We spent our first night in Kansas camped under a beautiful cypress tree alongside Toronto Lake. What we thought would be a good watering hole offered little refreshment, offering lukewarm bathwater and requiring a 100 yards to submerge your body past your waist.
Our second night in Kansas we stayed at Scott Lake, a much smaller lake, nestled within subtle canyon walls, not too far from Monument Rock. Although hot, we were lucky to have shade and a shower house.
We crossed into Colorado the next day and chased the Arkansas River up to its head-waters, camping at Monarch Park. We traveled north-west, up the Rocky Mountain corridor, spending our second night at Turquoise Lake just outside Leadville. By this time we had been on the road for a week and had showered once, in Kansas, at an outdoor bath house. It was time for some modern amenities. We planned to hit up a RV park to score a shower, do some laundry and connect to some wifi; however, we ended up at a cheap motel because every campground (public or private) in an 80 mile radius was booked.
Colorado never fails to deliver diversity and as we traveled up HWY 24 we were reminded of its immense vastness seamlessly transitioning from desert dunes to barren peaks to colorfully carved canyons. Especially noteworthy on our ride through was the pass through Mountain Of the Holy Cross and the gap through Glen Canyon. Both remarkable. Both awe inspiring.
We scored a cheap motel in Parachute, Colorado. Never heard of it? Me either until I did a Google search for cheap lodging in the vicinity, and it lead me to the Parachute Inn. Judging by the website it seemed presentable enough; it boasted free wifi, continental breakfast, laundry faculty and, according to its availability, only had 3 rooms left, insinuating its high demand plus, and most importantly, it was the cheapest place around.
I must admit, I may have been a little misled. Its location was suitable, just off the highway, but it’s facilities were a bit rough. It was pretty obvious upon arrival that likely the reason for the scarce availability of rooms was largely due to the fact that the motel had residents rather than guests. Although a non smoking facility, the room reeked of stale Pall Malls. The carpet was a maroon felt and had a burned iron print in it. There wasn’t a cabinet in the room that was still fully connected to its hinge. Truth be told, judging by that night’s activity, we were both convinced that many of the residents likely achieved an income through prostitution. But, it had a shower, free wifi, a laundry mat and, lest we forget, it was affordable.
We departed the next morning for Dinosaur National Monument, crossing into Utah for a stay next to the Green River.
Dinosaur National Monument is significant not only because of its namesake, having dinosaur remains, but also as the confluence of the mighty Green River and the free flowing Yampa.
We stayed the next night next to the Green River though, due to a torrential down pour the previous night, was very much red having consumed the sediment from run-off carving its way down the sandstone canyon walls.
On our way out we visited the Dinosaur Quarry exhibit. Millions of years ago, when the drought came, dinosaurs often died next to river beds hoping for water to once again flow in them. When it didn’t, they died. Well, until the water finally did come, washing thousands of bones down river where they collected in one spot, in the north-east corner of Utah.
From there we followed the Green River up to the Fiery Gorge Recreation Area where it is dammed, one of several along its 730 mile meander to the ocean, in order to reservoir blue gold to water the desert.
Traveling through an ancient sea bed, we crossed over to Wyoming and spent the night under the iconic Chimney’s in Firehole Canyon, once proudly displayed on The Equality State’s license plate.
We continued north into the Bridger-Teton National Forest, chasing the Hodack and Snake River through their consecutively chiseled canyons. We hiked two trails while in the wilderness: Black Canyon and Huckleberry Mountain; both boasted great views and amazing wildflowers.
From the Tetons we headed into Yellowstone where we weaved between lodge pole pines and thermal landscapes . We treated the park more like a wayside, utilizing the shower and laundry facilities. We camped in the park at Bridge Bay and, although corralled like cattle, got to have a very intimate affair with the wild when a bison strolled into our campsite, proceeded to get comfortable, and coexisted with us for more than an hour before sauntering off.
The next morning we crossed into Montana and stayed the night in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. We stopped for a short hike to Memorial Falls, a waterfall flowing over some of the oldest, hardest rock in Montana, tucked inside the Castle Mountain Range; from there we headed for Glacier. We spent our first night along St. Mary’s Lake, in a private campground, soaking in the nostalgia as it was 10 years ago we spent our honeymoon on the trails of this National Park. We were “Going to the Sun” the next morning, traveling out the west entrance where we skirted the park boundary, choosing the forest side for a day hike to an alpine lake. The day was perfect for swimming, so we both waded out and paid our respects to the sun.
The temperatures started smoldering again, so we spent the next three days in water: first at Bitterroot Reservoir, then Stanton Lake and then at Hells Canyon, cooling off in the Snake River. During the day, we left early so that we could chase a trail where we explored
two ancient cedar forests: Giant Cedars in Montana and Grove of the Ancients in Idaho. Nothing makes me happy like a silent walk among ancient giants.
From there we lost the sun. Although the topography was still amazing, smoke from near-by forest fires stole the sun from shining its light on it. After spending some time with family in Kalama, Washington, where we floated the Kalama River and explored the lava beds of Mount St. Helen, we made a stop in Newport, Oregon and were off for the final stretch.
After 5 weeks on the road, we planted our feet in Eugene, Oregon. We arranged temporary housing at an extended stay hotel but found ourselves moving into an apartment within 4 days of arrival. We immediately began nesting, scouring thrift stores and 2nd hand shops until we were pretty much furnished. Although our mattress still resides on the floor, we feel settled in for the most part, allowing time for exploration.
Because everything is in biking distance, the first wheels we purchased were equipped with handlebars and pedals. Although I was a little wobbly at first, the old adage rang true: riding a bike was “just like riding a bike.” We’ve explored most of the
city in this fashion, linking bike paths, often with the dog in-tow (and by in-tow I actually mean in a dog satchel we picked up in Newport and later in a crate we attached to the rear of my beach cruiser). So that’s happened. Still too proud for a stroller, yet not ashamed to swaddle our 10lb cranky, old wiener dog; I suppose she likes adventure too.
We are anticipating a lot of adventure this coming fall and winter but are presently gearing up for a new school year. As I enter my 13th year in teaching, I will be starting my first year at a new school. Although the details on this new endeavor warrant a new post entirely, I will say that I am excited for what lies ahead, although I must remind myself to consciously remain in this beautiful present.
We’ll keep you posted.