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.

Into the Wild : Part 2

The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences.

The next day¬†I wake up early in the morning, get up and take in the view around me and I continue my drive to Seward along the beautiful¬†‘Turnagain Arm‘.

I look at the clock and decide to make one of those spontaneous detours. I decide to take the next exit on Highway 1 and that destination turns out to be ‘Hope‘. Hope is a 20 kilometer lonesome road away from the highway. When I arrive in Hope the little town seems to be in a deep sleep.¬†Not a soul in sight. I drive through Main Street and park the car to take some photos.

In the early afternoon I reach Seward. This coast town is located at Resurrection Bay and from the beach you have a magnificent view over the mountains around you. I check in at the Moby Dick Hostel. It’s a basic but decent hostel and decide to spend the remaining two nights of my Alaskan Adventure here.

After I dropped my backpack on my bunk bed I drive to Exit Glacier. As the name says, this is a spot where you see a glacier from real close. You can even hike the entire glacier which takes about six hours.

The next morning is different. I feel it in the air, I can smell it and when I open my eyes I see raindrops splashing against the window in the room.

I join the breakfast table and come to know that the weather won’t get much better for the rest of the¬†day. No worries, I am sure Alaska is still as gorgeous when it pours outside. My e-mails to the home front are overdue anyways so I dedicate my morning to send some messages and Skype with some friends.

When my Polish roommate walks into the room we decide to go visit the Sea Life Center down the road.

On my last day my roommate asks if I could drop him off in Hope. An hour later we arrive in Hope and this time the Sea View Café is open (opens at noon). Inside we find some tables with a the interior that reminds you of your visits to your grandparents. The stove is burning, the smell of soup is spreading through the room and the food tastes delicious.

After a delightful meal I wave my Polish friend farewell and return to Anchorage where I return my car and fly out to Los Angeles.

These five days in the Last Frontier were mind blowing ! Definitely too short and I really hope to come back here one day.

Into The Wild : Part 1

When I was on my flight direction Anchorage I had no clue what I was going to do. I had no plan, no accommodation. Only a plane ticket and a rental car. The greatness of this massive piece of land made me curious and anxious at the same time.

Once I got on board of my flight I tried to close my eyes immediately and catch some sleep. Not much later a mother with a little kid on her lap comes sits next to me. The kid is screaming for dear life and kicks me the first hour of the flight but finds peace eventually. In the meantime the guy in the seat in front of me tilted his chair all the way. I need some sleep !

A few hours later we start our descend into Anchorage.

By now it’s past midnight and most shops are closed already and the car rental office only opens in four hours so I got some time to kill before I can start my journey. These are the cons of a cheap ticket but all worth it. Luckily Anchorage airport has free WIFI and pretty comfy seats to get some sleep.

I close my eyes for a bit and to my pleasant surprise I wake up a couple hours later. I am heading downstairs and pick up the rental and start my drive to Denali National Park.

Once I arrive there I buy myself a ticket for the Shuttle Bus to Wonder Lake the next day. This 11 hour drive gives you a good chance to spot some wildlife and is your only way to get this deep into the park (with a motorized vehicle).

Now I still need a place to sleep for the night.

My travel guide recommends the Denali Morning Hostel nearby the park.

Once I arrive there I ring the bell but there is no one around. I notice a sign that says ‘Come look for us in the back’.

I follow the instructions but all I can find are a death silence and a tree filled with shoes.

When I return to the front office I see another guy looking for a way to check in. Not much later the receptionist is arriving with a van filled with guests who came back from the park.

I check in. Shower. Eat a cup of noodles and drag myself to bed at 7.49¬†PM …

Tomorrow will be a long day and I have to get up around 4 AM for the tour. Once I’m in bed I start noticing how quickly the temperature drops here once the sun is gone.

My alarm goes off and I started smiling as I was really excited for this tour. I felt well rested thanks to going to bed so early last night. I try to put my clothes on in silence and not wake up my roommates. It is freezing cold outside.

I get to my car and drive to the parking lot where the shuttle bus departs from. I booked a seat on the earliest bus of the day so I am back at a descent hour. As soon as we leave the sun starts to rise and we spot our first animals. A herd of moose cross the road like a New Yorker in Manhattan. This makes you realize that the animals rule the park and we are simply visitors.

Further down the road we also spot bighorn sheep, bears, caribous and a coyote. The bus drive takes you through some jaw dropping parts of Alaska and gives you an idea of how huge this Last Frontier is.

The weather is not bad at all but unfortunately not good enough to see Mount McKinley. The highest mountains of the USA is wrapped up in a bunch of clouds today.

A little after 5 PM the bus arrives back at the parking lot and I have still time to drive to Seward, a little town in the south of Alaska.

On my way I make a stop at the Alaska Veterans¬†Memorial and a ranger walks up to me and asks me if I am planning to spend the night here. Knowing it is illegal to do so I told him I was on my way to Seward but he shakes his head is disbelief. I get confused and I probably look dead tired from the last couple days of intensive traveling. The confusion is complete when he asks me if I am under the influence but I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol in days. I have no clue what he is after but this is just plain awkward.

I get back into my car and noticed the ranger followed me. I started to get nervous and agitated at the same time. What is his problem ? Half an hour later he gives up and turns around.

That evening I keep driving until midnight and decide it would be better to get some sleep for a few hours. The next morning I would drive along one of the most scenic routes of Alaska, the Turnagain Arm.

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.

Friday, Freedom, Fog, Falls … Flat Tire

To embark on the journey towards your goals and dreams requires bravery.

To remain on that path requires courage.

The bridge that merges the two is commitment. 

I saw Raine again at the airport of Seattle on a Thursday night in February.

She left the sunny weather from California behind and exchanged it for a rainy weekend in Washington State and Oregon.

From the airport we picked up our rental car and drove into the night down the Interstate 5 until we reached Vancouver, Washington State, right on the border with Oregon State and Portland. There we checked in to some local low budget hotel right off the interstate with free parking. This way we avoided the high hotel prices from Portland and an additional parking fee. Portland is only a half hour drive from there.

On Friday morning we entered Oregon.

But we didn’t drive to Portland right away.

Instead we decided to drive on one of the most scenic routes of the USA, The Historic Columbia River Highway. The scenic route starts in Troutdale and goes all the way to The Dalles. We were really excited to discover this stretch of awesomeness.

As soon as we left the Highway 30 it started to get foggy.

It was a curse and a blessing. The fog prevented us to look far around us and some lookout points we stopped at were just like we were staring at a blank wall like at Vista House.

But the fog on the empty road and between the woods made the experience so much more fun.

Until we got a flat tire.

We pulled over and evaluated the damage. We had to replace the tire with the spare donut we had underneath the car. After a little investigation and some good help of that one car that passed by and pulled over we got back on the road with only half an hour delay.

We had places to go that day.

Not much later we arrived at Latourell Falls and the fog disappeared for a bit. Latourell Falls is a little less popular then Multnomah Falls but definitely worth a visit. We hiked up to the top of the falls and enjoyed the stunning views along the way.

Not much later we arrived at the famous and marvellous ‘Multnomah Falls‘. Most of the visitors make the little hike up to the Benson Bridge which is pretty close. If you have more time and a little bit of hiking experience you can also continue the trail until¬†the top. The view up there is magnificent and worth the effort, even if it is a series of switchbacks you are about to conquer for the next mile.

We made Multnomah Falls our turnaround point on our scenic drive and drove off to Portland for more adventures where we switched our rental car at one of our rental car offices without any extra charges and a new full tank !

Winner !!

Keep Portland Weird

When you decide to visit Portland you will quickly be introduced to the funky vibe that this city possesses and the most awesome thing you can do is embrace it with both arms.

Portland is a city for bikers and for people who adore books, music, bridges, beer and one way streets.

One of the main things to do in Portland is visiting the Powell’s City of Books, where you need a travel map to go from Archeology to Zen.

Make time for a stroll in Riverside Park along the Willamette River. If you walk passed the Burnside Bridge you’ll find the famous ‘Made in Oregon’ sign on your left.

If you are hungry from all the walking and you are up for a snack than you can get a doughnut in the popular ‘Voodoo Doughnut‘ place. You might have to wait in line for a bit until you can devour your piece¬†of sugar.

Maybe you noticed it in the meantime… the state of Oregon has no sales tax which saves you some dollars on your shopping . Maybe a good time to by that new Iphone¬†in the Apple Store in Portland.

For good food you can always try Kenny & Zuke’s¬†and definitely try some local microbrews when you are in Portland.

The 101 – The Oregon Coast

Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.

One of my favourite parts of road tripping down the 101 is driving over the Astoria-Megler Bridge which connects Washington State (Megler) with Oregon State (Astoria). Tell your loved one in the passenger seat to keep the camera ready!

A little bit further down south you will arrive in another awesome spot, Cannon Beach. You most likely remember this beach from the end scene of ‘the Goonies’. Go to the beach, take off your shoes and enjoy a relaxing walk along the shore towards Haystack Rock. This enormous rock is accessible by foot at low tide during summertime. The first we visited Cannon Beach in July the weather conditions were perfect. The second year we went we missed that slot by far and got soaking wet in February instead. Still a fun and very natural experience. At least we¬†didn’t have to roll up our¬†pants anymore.

After our little walk, we basically almost drifted back to our lodge (Ecola Creek Lodge) to get a hot shower and jumped in the car to get some late night dinner. Because it was low season the town was quickly turning into a ghost town after 9 PM.

We lucked out and got a great meal at¬†Bill’s Tavern & Brewhouse. They were¬†very kind to get us some food right before the kitchen closed and we got a great service and good food !

From Cannon Beach most people travel east to see the area around Portland.

Those who want to keep going along the 101 will experience some wonderful ocean views along the way. You’ll also make some stops in¬†Tillamook, Coos Bay or Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area to get a break from sitting behind the wheel.¬†