After a few days in Yellowstone, we headed south to the Grand Tetons. The summer crowds were really starting to pick-up, but we found a few reasonably quiet places. We hiked up to Taggart and Bradley Lakes, which were both beautiful alpine lakes nestled up against the Teton peaks. We took some time to wade around in the cold mountain water, and just take in the scenery.
The next day, we were up a little earlier to beat the crowds to the trail systems around Jenny Lake, one of the hot spots in the park. We hiked around the lake to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Lara and I had seen both of these spots 12 years ago when we first came to the park, and wanted to show the boys.
I continued my early morning photography hunt, again plagiarizing some of the most common photos from the park. I started with the Moulton Barn, also know as the most photographed barn in the world. I also made my best attempt to replicate Ansel Adams’ photograph of the Tetons with the Snake River flowing through the foreground. Next time, maybe I’ll come up with some original ideas!
We had to adjust our summer vacation plans due to the travel restrictions around the pandemic. Like many others, we decided to visit some national parks. First on the list was Yellowstone. We figured this was a good age to bring the boys to this American icon.
We spent 4 days and nights in the park, splitting our time between the Canyon Village and the Lake Cottages. Both areas were nice, if somewhat simple, cabins. Each with their own attractions within walking distance.
Our first day, we went to Old Faithful. As we approached the basin, we could tell from the size of the crowd that had gathered (what is social distancing anyway?) that the geyser was ready to erupt. We made our way around the edge of the crowd, pausing several times when it seemed an eruption was starting. Finally, we decided to hike up the overlook trail for a view from above. Naturally, as soon as we rounded the corner out of site, the geyser blew.
After hiking up to the overlook, the skies opened up and poured down rain. Despite our rain gear, we were soaked. We decided to hike around the basin to dry off a bit once the rain cleared. When we made it about half way down the trail, we could see Old Faithful gushing again in the distance.
We hiked around the hot springs and geysers in the area, finally drying off. Just as we made it back up to the Old Faithful basin, we finally saw it erupt from close range. All it took was a full afternoon walking around the place to see it.
The next day we drove up to Mammoth to tour the hot springs and meet up with some friends of ours to explore the Lamar Valley to the north. It was a beautiful day. We spent some time exploring along the river, and saw a black bear foraging in a meadow on the drive back home.
On Tuesday we rode our bikes to the Osprey Falls trailhead, which led down a steep canyon to a secluded water fall. It was very tiring, but a wonderful visit to a much more quiet part of the park.
I fell into a habit of getting up to catch sunrises in various parts of the park. Alex even volunteered to wake up with me to hike down to an overlook of the Lower Yellowstone Falls. We got up at 5:00 to walk out into a wall of fog. We tried going down the trail, but couldn’t see more than 6 feet in front of our faces. I thought that would sour Alex on the experience, but he asked to wake up the next day to try again. We ended up with some nice sunrise pictures of the falls.
We also had several wildlife encounters in the park, including black bears, grizzlies, coyotes, elk, and of course the bison. We even saw some wolves in the distance. On my only other trip to Yellowstone, I had written it off as primarily a collection of the bizarre thermal features. This time around we discovered that it is so much more. It’s very much worth the time and effort. We’ll be back!
Our plan was to hike through the Muir Woods in the morning and check out the redwood trees. Little did we know that this outdoor area now requires reservations to park. The Great California Shutdown means that no workers could be present to verify parking reservations, and so of course, an outdoor hiking area had to be closed.
So we headed down to the Marin Headlands a little earlier than planned. I had hoped for some nice pictures of the bridge and the city, but the morning sun was still in front of us. We hiked around Battery 129 at the top of the hill. The boys desperately wanted to get into the old bunkers to find what they were sure would be secret tunnels filled with hidden treasure. Alas, the entrances were all sealed off, so no treasure hunting on this day!
Next we went down for an obligatory walk across the bridge. It turned out to be a beautiful spring day in the city. When the boys saw Alcatraz, they lamented the tour that was supposed to be one of the highlights of the trip. We then went for a stroll along Fisherman’s Wharf to check out the sea lions. Since all of the stores and attractions were closed, we went for a little drive around the city, from Lombard Street to the Presidio, where we paused for one more family picture before heading off to the airport.
Nothing about this trip went as we had planned several months ago, but yet everything seemed to work out. We had a great time, saw some wonderful sights, and as far as we can tell all survived without catching any new virus. We’re sure to come back someday, but for now, it’s back to Denver, and more snow…
We couldn’t let a trip to Northern California go by without at least one stop in wine country. After driving from Yosemite, we took the boys past one of our favorite mountaintop vineyards for a quick tour. We stopped for dinner at our old standby (Rutherford Grill), and then it was off to the Best Western in Calistoga to hit the pool. It may have only been 50 degrees, but that wasn’t going to stop the boys from a few laps and splashes.
Today we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway from Mendocino to Jenner, before cutting back inland to our hotel in Petaluma. We stopped at several beaches along the way, exploring the tidal pools and wading in the freezing Pacific. While it was overcast and drizzly inland, the coast saw beautiful weather today. It was sunny and calm, with temperatures in the mid 50s.
As you might have guessed, it’s getting tricky to live on the road in California. Restaurants are closing to guests other than drive through or delivery, and gas stations are closing their bathrooms. This has made it terribly inconvenient the last couple of days. Since Alcatraz is also closed for tours, we’ve decided to cut our trip short and head back home tomorrow night. This will hopefully leave us time to take a hike through Muir Woods and check out the Marin Headlands before heading to the airport. We’ll check back in on Friday.