Back by popular demand (just my mom suggesting it, really) are my tales of traveling!
Summer vacation has been in full force for several weeks now. I’ve had a trip back to Michigan, a couple of weekends camping, and I have spent many hours hanging in my hammock reading books. It’s really been very lovely.
Friday, June 30th is when the biggest trip of my summer started. A couple of friends from Michigan were in town, and we went to see Umphreys Mcgee at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. We had three-day passes, so we rented an Airbnb house in Idaho Springs. The house was more of a condo, we were on the fourth floor, two bedroom, one bathroom, a trundle bed living space area next to the dining room/living room, and a Nintendo64! How lucky were we?! Umphreys was wonderful on Friday night. They were also wonderful on Saturday night. The second night we chose to sit up higher than we did the night before. Most times when people go to shows, getting as close as possible is the goal, but for me, at Red Rocks, that eliminates a lot of the experience of being there. Someone spent a lot of time creating that amphitheater and you better believe I’m going to take advantage of the view. And it’s a good thing we did because during the second set, fireworks started going off right behind the stage. So there we had it, Umphreys getting groovy on stage, the crowd loving it, and then on top of it all, fireworks! Happy Fourth of July weekend to us.
Sunday I decided to sell my ticket and hang out at the house with a friend who came to visit instead. The next morning we went to breakfast in Georgetown which is only a short drive away from Idaho Springs. We went to The Happy Cooker, a brunch place I’m familiar with because when I worked at Rocky Mountain Village summer camp, we would eat there on weekends (the came is in between Idaho Springs and Georgetown). My friend left, I met back up with my Michigan peeps, then we grilled our dinner at a friends house who now lives in Georgetown. She was the original camp go-er. Then she got my friend and I to join suite. We ate homemade bread, sausages, chips and dip, and mini cheesecakes. Mmm mm.
Tuesday morning was the 4th of July and I had been eyeing this hike right across the street from our Airbnb. Saint Mary’s Glacier could be seen from our (rented) backyard and I wanted to climb it! I got up, ate a quick breakfast and packed a bag. Off I went. Luckily, I could walk to the trail head because the parking lots filled up passed capacity by the time I was hiking back. Starting at the trailhead, it was about ¾ of a mile up some rocky, but easily navigable, terrain. At the end of that, I came to an opening that held a little lake. There were old trees, but a lot of open space and beyond the lake sat this beautiful glacier, so I made my way. Climbing up it, I was amazed at how many people were hiking up in their ski or snowboard gear. There was even a family that turned big garbage bags into sleds. I sat for a while on a rock near by the edge of the snowy parts and watched everyone enjoy themselves.
The sun was warm but the breeze was cool. After a while of bobbing my leg up and down, I realized that I really had to use the bathroom. The only problem being…there’s no bathroom on the top of a glacier. I (very stealthily) climbed away from most of the people, found a patch of trees and took a squat. Relieved, I decided to climb a little bit higher and ended up finding the end of what used to be some sort of ski lift. I noticed the other half of it down by the main road before the trailhead a couple days earlier and was happy to put the two ends together. On my way back down to the house, my friend texted me and told me she was making breakfast and when I got back, an egg sandwich was waiting for me. It was perfect timing.
By the time Wednesday came around, I was ready for a change of pace and scenery. My plan was to drive to Salt Lake City, Utah, but that quickly changed when I saw a sign for the Grand Tetons. Mt route took a turn North and I could not have been more pleased. Several hours out of Colorado, into Wyoming, mountains started appearing on the horizon. Big mountains, covered in snow. I drove alongside of them for many miles until I approached Grand Teton National Park. As soon as I pulled in the main gate, clouds decided to let go of all the rain they’ve been holding on to. It poured. It was getting late. Campsites were filling up. I turned the car around and found the only campsite with an open spot and set up camp. Settled in, I grabbed my camera and decided to go try and catch the sunset. Thankfully, the clouds had cleared and it was sunny again. It’s funny how it tends to do that by mountains. Weather changes so abruptly and seems to be more intense than typical.
On my way around the F Loop of Gros Ventre campsite, a man stopped his bicycle and asked me,
“Did ya get-ta take a picture of the moose?”
I said, “Moose!?! No! I didn’t!”
Kindly, he directed me towards the back of the loop and sure enough, there was a moose. It was only several feet away from a tent, and the owners of the tent told me to come closer to them so I could get a good picture. After that, I walked towards the front of the campground which faced the Teton Mountain Range. The sun was slightly hidden behind some clouds that were glowing orange and pink and I was sure I could reach up and grab cotton candy from the sky. The mountains leave this drastic outline that seems so harsh, yet calming, next to the flowing clouds.
Thursday morning I woke up with the intention of exploring the Tetons more. Maybe going for a hike, a scenic drive, ya know, tourist stuff. Well, I got to the scenic drive part and quickly realize just how close I was to Yellowstone National Park. Now, my parents bought me a National Park Pass for Christmas and I plan on utilizing it fully, so on to Yellowstone I went! But first, I pulled off on a Teton Range pull off spot and took out my camp chair. I’m not sure how long I sat there staring at those mountains. They looked so sharp, so crisp, so incredible intimidating, but also soft. I’m so used to seeing foothills in front of mountains, but not that the Tetons.
Maybe there’s a little hill, or a lake, but then BAM a big fricken mountain just piercing through the sky in front of you. It made me wonder about the moment they were made. Was it was swift movement? Did they almost explode into existence or was it a slow creaking growth? How loud was it? What gives people the oomph to climb up those peaks and not shake in their shoes? Grand Teton National park deserves a lot more exploring than what I had to offer, but I’ll save that for next time.
In driving through the Tetons, I came to understand how close I was to Yellowstone (remember, I didn’t plan on driving this far North so I didn’t map out any of these things…) so it had to be seen. I drove a little over 20 miles from the Northern end of the Tetons and drove right into Yellowstone. It took 45 minutes to get to the visitors center/shop! Trees lined the street. So many trees. It’s no wonder bears and other animals love it there, there’s no way they can be seen with that thick foliage. I stopped at a few different basins, but my favorite was the Grand Prismatic Spring: Prism of Light, Spectrum of Life (there’s a much simpler name but I like that one better). There are the most beautiful yellows and browns and oranges surrounding this bright turquoise spring. There was steam rising from it since it’s 160 degrees F. There are microorganisms that line the hot springs’ runoff channels called “Extremophiles” because they live in places that are thought to be too extreme for life. Fun fact: Because conditions on other planets in our solar system are harsh, if life exists elsewhere it is probably as some form of microscopic extremophile. Neat!
After a couple of hot springs I drove even farther north to find some waterfalls. Yellowstone’s geography is so mind boggling to me. First, but rolling mountainous hills with trees covering what seem to be every inch. Then, beach-like land with bubbling aqua blue hot springs. Then, huge cliffs lining a river with a couple waterfalls thrown in the mix. It’s hard not to be amazed.
Last night I finally made it out of Yellowstone (it took me an hour longer to hit the exit than I thought, remember, it’s huge) and drove towards Missoula Montana. There was a beautiful creamsicle sunset that hung over the mountains, illuminating all the layers in between each peak. It was quite the sight. I made it to Missoula, did not feel like dealing with the hassle of a campground/car sleeping, so I bought a cheap motel room at Ruby’s Inn and Convention Center. When I got to my room, there was a note that read,
“Welcome to Ruby’s Inn! Please enjoy your stay! –Emily”
Well, in my driving-for-too-long mind, I read that as,
“Welcome to Ruby’s Inn! Please enjoy your stay, Emily!”
For a moment, I’m not gonna lie, I was scared. How did they know I was going to be in this room? How did they write that note in between the time I got my key and opened the door? The answer is, they didn’t. It was just an Emily wishing another Emily a happy stay. After my nerves settled a bit, I fell asleep soundly. This morning I am eating a continental breakfast and driving all the way to Seattle to see my lovely cousin, Sheila.
And the adventure continues.