Fifty Days of Summer Part 2: Garibaldi Lake / Black Tusk

Nothing ever becomes real ’til it is experienced.

After the wedding bells stopped chiming and my stomach was filled with delicious food over several cozy dinners it was time to leave the city and explore the beautiful lands of Mother Nature.

A good buddy of mine asked me if I was interested in hiking the Black Tusk, a trail that starts little bit south of Whistler and leads to a fantastic view over the area (if the weather permits it).

We drove along the scenic Highway 99 from North Vancouver through Squamish and a good hour later we arrived at the parking lot where our hike could start. We arrived around noon and the parking lot was quite full already.

We started our hike with our camping gear. We planned to stay overnight at the campground at Garibaldi Lake. The first two hours of the hike is pretty much a bunch of switchbacks in the woods. Once we got to the fork in the road we decided to set up our tent at Garibaldi Lake first and followed the signs for the Garibaldi Campground. We passed two more lakes on our right side before arriving at the gorgeous Garibaldi Lake. We installed our tent and had a late lunch.

We left our big bags behind and took a smaller backpack with us to start our climb to the Black Tusk. This trail leads you through the beautiful Taylor Meadows before you start ascending to the intimidating Black Tusk. During this climb you are treated with fantastic views over Garibaldi Lake. Once you face the “end of the trail’ sign you can still continue your hike up to the Black Tusk itself. From here on the climb is even a little steeper and it takes you some time to get to the chute of the Black Tusk but the view from up there is phenomenal. If you are a real daredevil you can consider to climb all the way to the top but I would not recommend it. Other hikers who did risk the climb up to the top told us it was pretty frightening.

We started our descend to Garibaldi Lake. Once we reached our tents we were treated with a smashing sunset that made the lake look like a magical wonderland. After that the temperature started dropping fast and the tiredness kicked in. We decided to call it an early night.

The next day we packed up our tents and explored a little more around Garibaldi Lake before starting our descend to the parking lot.

On our way home we made a stopped at the Sea to Sky Gondola and had a great lunch in Squamish to fill our empty stomachs and celebrate the beauty of British Columbia !

Fifty Days of Summer Part 1 : Wedding in Vancouver

Ever since I left for the Great North American Adventure last July I haven’t been able or trying to give you an update on my travels due to computer problems and time limitations. I have made tons of scribbles though that will never make it to this blog but some others will do.

And I will post those in the next few weeks.

Let’s rewind to the end of July when I shut the door behind me at 5 AM direction Paris Charles de Gaulle where I would take a flight to Vancouver.

All went pretty smooth. One travel tip ! If you fly Westjet and arrive with the train make sure to calculate enough time to walk all the way from the train station to the gate of your plane. At some point it felt like I would end up in the Paris Orly airport.

Westjet brought me all the way to Vancouver in one go.

The Wedding Days

The first few days were all about the wedding of two of my friends who live in Vancouver. He, a military guy from Vancouver. She, a young woman with a degree in psychology from Belgium. They met in a local bar in my hometown, Ieper and where both instantly smitten about each other.

They met up soon after and their love for each other has been growing ever since. Not much later she decided to leave her life behind in Belgium and follow her heart in Vancouver. The rest is history and on July 25th they sealed their lovely deal.

True story.

The wedding held place in a military base in downtown Vancouver, a great location for an unforgetable wedding.

Colorado Craziness : Winter has arrived

Life is full of endless possibilities. Explore your world. 

Once we arrived at Aspen we noticed how slippery the roads were and were glad we could park it in the underground parking garage near the information center. We got our information and strolled through the town of Aspen.

We had lunch at 520 Grill, a below street level restaurant with tasty burgers !

After we filled our bellies my friend Sarah decided to give it a try on the slopes of Aspen Mountain, one of the most intense ski hills of the USA. Myself, who had bare to none experience decided to sit this one through. I did buy a Gondola Pass for the day, giving me access to the cool gondola that starts downtown Aspen and goes up Aspen Mountain to the Sundeck and its panoramic view. Definitely worth its money during winter.

After I’ve sent Sarah off to a good ride down the hill I enjoyed myself in the cafetaria of the Sundeck where I was treated with awesome views over the Rockies. The ride with the gondola itself is already a treat.

After we had our fun in Aspen it was time to drive to our next hotel that was located in Silverthorne, another gateway along the I-15 to go to Breckenridge, another great ski destination in the USA which is slightly cheaper than Aspen.

On our last day full day in Colorado we left Silverthorne in the early morning to have some time in Breckenridge. Another cool spot for your typical fun in the snow. We tried out the gondola as well (which was free today) and headed to the base of the slopes. As much as we wanted to explore the ski hills, there wasn’t enough time to test the snow unfortunately.

We had lunch in Breckenridge before driving all the way to Denver where we would spend the rest of the afternoon.

Denver was a slight disappointment. Except for some governmental buildings and some nice parks I wasn’t overly impressed of the city. Maybe my expectations I’ve collected over the years were too high and I was just still overwhelmed with excitement of my trip through the Rockies.

After exploring Denver for a bit and even driving down to Colorado Springs we spent our last night in a hotel near the airport (also cheaper) before catching an early morning flight the next day. Luckily both our flights left on time this time.

The Gems of Grand Teton National Park

It is not the position you stand but the direction in which you look that counts

One of the parks I’ve visited in the United States is Grand Teton National Park.

It left a big impression on me.

Sometimes this park gets less attention because of its famous neighbour, Yellowstone but it definitely deserves a couple days from your precious time.

Here are my (current) top 5 highlights of this park.

5. Jenny Lake Scenic Drive

This one way drive gives you a great view over Jenny Lake on your right. Put on a good tune and let your eyes take it all in. Not you, driver, you keep your eyes on the road and you can enjoy the music and the road ahead.

4. Blacktail Pond Overlook 

Visit this place at the end of the day to get more chances to see the beavers. You can also bring a visit to this place to make some stunning reflection pictures of the Teton mountains during the day.

3. Snake River Overlook 

Another overlook, another great view of the mountains and the snake river. My friend once gave me a motivational poster of this shot. That poster hanged up in my room for years so I HAD to make a stop at this beautiful place.

So worth it.

2. Phelps Lake 

Not the most famous lake of all but it’s a great spot where you can jump of a huge rock. Just make sure you push yourself off the rock when you jump off. As my friend already jumped threes times I felt the pressure rising. My heart was starting to beat even faster when a joyful family joined us to have a picnic on the rock and started cheering for me.

I felt like there wasn’t a way back.

I had to jump off or I would regret this all my life. So I went a couple steps back, breathed in and out a couple times and started running. Instead of pushing myself of the rock I stepped off the rock and made my descent and finished gracefully with a nasty face plant in the incredibly refreshing water.

Classic.

Still glad I did it.

1. Surprise Lake and Amphitheatre Lake

Two lakes fairly close to each other high up in the mountains. This is a day trip hike that starts off with a bunch of switchbacks but once you conquered those you will soon be rewarded with great views over the park and Jackson Hole.

We did this hike begin of October and lucked out with the weather because we traveled during the few last warm and sunny days of the season.

During the hike you will be stunned with great views over the park and beautiful lakes.

Make sure you bring enough water on this hike as it took us nearly 7 hours to complete the hike from beginning to end.

Discovering Wyoming : All over the Place

And then there was this time I made a road trip through Alberta, Montana and Wyoming with Gordon.

After driving through Alberta and Montana we finally made it to Wyoming after passing the Roosevelt Arch. This arch marks the North Entrance of the park and is named after President Roosevelt after he placed one of the corner stones of this arch over a century ago.

We lucked out with the fantastic weather as it is October and the area is at the verge of winter. If we would have arrived 10 days later a lot of the roads would have been closed off already. So make sure you always check the road conditions on the website of the National Park you will visit.

Also, if you visit a couple National Parks on your road trip through the USA and you arrive at your first park, make sure to consider buying an annual pass if you are planning on visiting more than 4 National Parks. It will be cheaper in the long run.

The first big stop we made in the park was Mammoth Hot Springs followed by the Midway Geyser Basin and Old Faithful. Three very impressive stops where every photographer among us can take a million pictures.

Unfortunately the sun was already setting once we made it to the Old Faithful. We were able to still witness an eruption before it went completely dark. Don’t forget to bring a visit to the Old Faithful Inn when you are there.

We exited the park and drive all the way down to Jackson Hole where we had accommodations booked for the next two nights so we could explore Grand Teton National Park and Jackson for a bit.

We stayed at Miller Park Lodge and had a very enjoyable stay. Nice rooms, free parking and located in the center of the touristy town of Jackson Hole. We arrived very late but had no problem checking in.

The next day we got ourselves a good breakfast burrito before we hit the road again. Today would be the highlight of our trip as we were about to go hiking in Grand Teton National Park.

Once we entered the park we made a quick stop at the visitor center for some recommendations about the park. The ranger was awesome and gave us some fun places to do and see. I will share my top 5 of things to see and do in the park in my next post.

At night we grabbed a bite at McPhail’s Burgers where they use fresh ground beef to make their delicious burgers.

Afterwards we visited the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar near the Jackson Town Square. If you want the Western Cowboy Bar you’ve seen in the movies, than this one is your go to place. It even has saddle bar stools inside and the place to have a good time in Jackson.

Discovering Wyoming : Race Against Time

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

Sunday morning,

I woke up and tried to open my eyes.

I felt the exhaustion in my body.

The intense road trip was slowly catching up on all of us but we didn’t let that get us down.

We packed our stuff and left the historical Lake Yellowstone Hotel early in the morning. We had the whole park to discover plus a flight to catch in Salt Lake City in the evening.

Our first stop was at the Old Faithful, one of the main attractions of this park. This is an active geyser that erupts every half an hour to two hours. For time estimations when the next eruption will be, go check in the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn, the largest log hotel in the world that was built over a century ago. Worth a peek !

We continued to our next stop, Mid Geyser Basin. Here you can behold the Grand Prismatic Spring, a pool with very special colours caused by the bacterials mats and the extreme pure water caused by the constant heat of the pool.

On our way north we passed some bisons who were not giving a damn about the tourists in the park while strolling over the roads.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone was our next place to explore. Unbelievable how much diversity and beauty this one National Park has. Here you hike down a little path to get to the giant waterfall.

After a few snaps we decided to squeeze Mammoth Hot Springs in to our visit to this park and had a glance of the lower and upper terrace. Then we evaluated our time frame and it was not looking good.

We exited the park through the West Entrance (or West Exit if you want to call it that) and started our race to the airport of Salt Lake City.

After a few hours of driving I handed over the wheel to one of my German friends.

She stepped on the wheel.

And then she got pulled over by the cops.

We were four foreigners racing through Idaho to catch a plane to Los Angeles. My friend explained the situation to the highway patroller and told him we had a plane to catch in a few hours in Salt Lake City.

He gave us a well deserved ‘you guys are poor planners’ look and let us go with a warning.

Twenty minutes lost on our clock – We already had a whole game plan figured out. Two of us would go check us in while the other two would return the rental car and catch up with them.

With less than an hour before departure we entered Salt Lake City and two of us rushed inside the airport while the remaining two were dealing with the drop off of our rental car. After some rude customer service we finally could start our chase to the gate.

We made it right on time.

With our hearts beating fast and our minds full of great memories we flew back to Los Angeles.

This weekend was too short but if I only would have a weekend to do it, I would do it all over again.

Discovering Wyoming : Western Pleasures

I have visited the State of Wyoming twice in my life.

Both times were time bound.

In this blog I will share you the first part of my first time

The first time I visited “the Equality State” was back in 2012 with three lively ladies. We flew from Los Angeles and landed in Salt Lake City on a Friday night. From there we picked up the rental car and started the long drive to Jackson Hole which was 4.30 hours away.

A long night ahead but we were all filled with excitement. If we would drive at a constant speed and make short and calculated stops we would made it by midnight.

That plan fell apart on our first stop of the night.

We managed to waste an hour of our time to eat and get gas. But it was all worth it.

We continued our drive and had to get off the Interstate 15 at one point and that’s where the exciting part started with only an empty road and complete darkness ahead of us. And very occasionally a little village.

We passed by one of those villages and there was a bar that was still open. We looked at each other and realized our precious night sleep would be crap anyways so decided to get a shot at a real cowboy bar. The parking lot was pretty full so we expected that the place would be busy until we walked in and saw nothing but a loving couple at the bar and a drunken waitress.

We had a couple shots (DD not included) and decided to continue our drive until an cowboy walked towards us from the back of the bar and told us to join the fun upstairs… So that’s where the party was happening. We got upstairs and couldn’t believe our eyes when we walked into a western brothel.

We turned around and got back to the car.

Welcome to Wyoming.

And that was only the beginning.

We arrived in Jackson Hole around 2 AM and tried to look for our hotel. We came to realize that our hotel wasn’t located in the historic downtown area of Jackson Hole but its nearby village, Teton Village.

We slept for 3 hours, got ready, had breakfast and hit the road again.

We started in Teton Village where we took the aerial tram up to the top of Rendez Vous Mountain. From the top you have awesome views and great hiking trails. Or you can just be crazy and paraglide down the mountain.

Around noon we had a reservation with Dave Hansen Whitewater and Scenic River Trips. They are located Downtown Jackson Hole. The staff was fantastic and the experience unforgettable ! We had a blast whitewater rafting and I would recommend this activity to anyone. Fun guaranteed !

Late in the afternoon we got back to the car and had another long drive ahead of us direction Yellowstone.

We were blessed to drive along US highway 89 with a marvelous view of the Tetons of Grand Teton National Park to our left. A place I was able to explore last year and now belongs to one of my favourite National Parks.

To be continued

This is why Hannah loves Montana

Look at everything as though you are seeing it either for the first or last time, then your time on earth will be filled with glory. 

The last few miles in Canada were a little nerve wrecking.

The US border is in sight.

I drove next to the border patrol station and rolled down my window and handed over our passports.

My buddy Gordon got his passport back immediately.

“We are you guys going ?” asks the border patrol agent with a concerned tone after he glanced over to our backseat filled with my life belongings.

“Off to a road trip through Montana and Wyoming” I assured him.

Then he asked me the question I feared.

“Where do you live now ?”

I answered in all honesty that I was between jobs and had no current address. I don’t know why I was this nervous about this. I am sure there are a lot of cases like this on a daily basis.

“I need you to park your car and come inside” he demanded me while he hands over my passport to another officer.

We do as told and answer a couple more questions. The officers inside were more relaxed and soon enough we realized we were perfectly fine. The main reason why I got pulled over was because of the mandatory ESTA fee. Although I paid my ESTA fee for my US flights and it was still valid I still had to pay an additional six dollars (USD) before I could enter the USA.

Done !

We got back to the car and cheered !

We made it.

The United States of America !

Not much further we made a stop next to the ‘Welcome to Montana’ sign and we hit the road for a long long drive.

The roads on highway 89 are windy but the views are magnificent ! Good weather is on our side and we got some sweet tunes blowing through our speakers.

Because we were a bit short on time and had so much driving ahead of us we had to skip Glacier NP, a National Park that is high on my list. A great reason to come back here !

A couple hours of driving later we reached Highway 15. We already covered a bunch of miles but had a long way to go before we reached Bozeman, our stop for the day.

We reached Bozeman late in the evening and checked in the Motel 6.

And we crashed.

The next morning our batteries were fully charged again and we explored beautiful historic Bozeman before we continued our drive to get some good breakfast.

And we got what we wished for. It was even better then we hoped for, right on Main Street.

This breakfast place called Main Street Overeasy serves delicious food and drinks. You can also get some lunch there.

Once we filled our tummies we could continue our one and a half hour drive to the North Entrance of Yellowstone, Gardiner.

The Lost Coast for the Lost Cause

Last week I was catching up with a dear friend of mine. We were reminiscing about the good old days and awesome memories we collected over the years.

One of those great memories was our road trip along the 101 (From Seattle all the way to Los Angeles)

We made stops in Washington State and Oregon (see previous posts) and saw fantastic places. But one of the most memorable moments was the day we drove to ‘The Lost Coast’.

The day started off with a visit to Redwood National Park which is known for its gigantic trees.

After a small walk we set course south and had some spare time for a little detour…

The thing with detours is… I love them ! Just leave the main road a get lost by taking side roads.

That’s how my friend and I discovered ‘The Lost Coast’.

We got of the Highway 101 and planned to drive along the Highway 1 along the coast to see the sunset.

The only thing was, we discovered it with a half empty tank and in the late afternoon.

The small winding mountain road took us through a forest to end up in Shelter Cove when the sun was touching the ocean.

By now we were also desperately looking for a gas station to fill up our tank. We found a gas sign but couldn’t retrieve the gas station. So we made a stop at ‘Vernes’. The guy over there informed us that Shelter Cove is a ‘Dead End’ and you could only drive on that part of the Highway 1 with a SUV.

That also meant we had to drive all the way back over that little mountain road. Panic was complete when the guy informed us casually that the local gas station just closed for the day and we had to return all the way with an almost empty tank.

He left us with the very inspiring and memorable quote : “Hey, at least you saw the lost coast” – He snickered and left us speechless at the entrance of the bar…

The Lost Coast… This piece of land in Northern California was named like this because it was initially meant to be part of the highway but because of difficulties of building roads through the surrounding mountain they cancelled the road plans. Resulting little beach towns like Shelter Cove to become very secluded and only accessible by boat, plane and that stupid single winding mountain road.

We gave the ocean one last big glance, crossed our fingers and drove back to Thorn Junction, our closest gas station. Not much later we saw the empty fuel indicator glow.

Outside it was completely pitch-dark.

Half an hour of nerve wrecking turns we made it to Thorn Junction and pulled over at the gas station.

We made it.

So people, please fill up your tank whenever you can and don’t take unnecessary risks, hoping the next gas station will be only a few miles away.

Visit Oregon

Oregon is underrated.

When people talk about US travel destinations they always think about Sunny California, Vibrant New York or Hurricane season in Florida.

But it’s clear to say the US has so much beauty captured in one country each with its own charms.

Oregon is filled with beautiful places.

Visit Corvallis and go strolling through the city center.

Jump into Crater Lake, one of the deepest lakes on earth.

Hike Mount Hood, Oregon’s tallest mountain (but be well prepared)

Go try some beers in Portland

Make a stroll along the beach in Cannon Beach

Don’t hesitate – Crawl behind the wheel and take that drive.

You won’t be disappointed.

Just keep in mind that Oregon is one of the two states in the US where it is illegal to pump gas yourself. It’s one of those old laws  where the government decided it was not safe for customers to just get gas themselves.