To try some non-touristical activities today we start with a nice game of golf on a real American golfcourse. Ofcourse this is not my first time golfing, even in the USA I did it once before, but for my dad it is and he is having kind of a hard time. We started with some practising in a net and some putting afterwards, but it is hard to learn all the inns and outs of the technique in 30 minutes. Also for me it is a long time ago I was on a fairway, so together we try to pitch our way to the greens. It is fun to do, though sometimes frustrating, but the reward after 2 hours of golf (we played only 9 holes) is a nice and cold beer. What a life!
After our exercise we visit the grave of Buffalo Bill (not much more than a stone on a mountain, but there are nice hads in the souvenir shop) and wash our car at the nearest carwash. You should have seen our Chevrolet Cobalt shining, as he never did before (I’m sure). Back in our hotelroom we notice we missed some really nice touristical things today in Denver (of which one is the fourth largest Nature and Science Museum of the USA with the best digital planetarium of the nation…. too bad! :(). We visit it at sunset to make up our loss a little and find a really nice park with nightview on the city. Here we make some really nice pictures of Denver to conclude our Stay in the USA.
Well, this is it! Our trip has almost come to an end. That’s my overall feeling driving to Denver, the place where we started about two weeks ago. The last big drive in our rental car should take about 6 hours on the highway I-70, but we decide to take a more scenic tour. This tour brings us through Aspen, a very famous place for skiing America, and along viewpoints like we could have in the Alps. The highest altitude we reach there is even 12094 feet (about 4000 meter) making it the highest place we visited this holiday (and the highest place ever for Leo). The ride is very beautiful with the fall-colored trees and we stop several times to enjoy the environment.
The scenic tour should extend our drive today with just 90 minutes, but before we arrive in Denver it is almost 21.00 pm (there was also a big traffic jam that didn’t help us). We didn’t arrange a hotel here in Denver yet so we have to find one at night. After a long search we end up in an Econolodge, right in the center of Denver. The place is simple, the breakfast very minimal, but we have two beds and a bathroom, that’s all that counts. Maybe we have to adapt a little after our stay in Moab… Now let’s see what our last day in Denver will bring!
Well, after a little radiosilence here a brand new post from above the atlantic ocean, just between the USA and Europe. The past 4 days were the last of our USA 2010 trip and I didn’t want to spend them sitting behind my laptop. So I will tell you about our time in Moab now, before I’m back in Holland where I will probably be back in my old busy schedule very soon.
Our two days in Moab were very relaxed, we visited two natural parks: Canyonlands National Park (first day) and Arches National Park (yes, the second day). Canyonlands National Park consists of many red colored cliffs with strong linepatterns, forming a place of much geological interest. At some point there is even a huge circular canyon of what some believe is an old meteorite crater. We try to walk a loop around it (there is a trail making a full loop), but after 90 minutes walking we encounter a problem. We meet two people who are walking the other way and they tell us that they walked for 4 hours to get to this point. And since it is already 2 o’clock pm, it is like 35 degrees celcius and we have not more water than 2 little bottles, we decide to turn around and walk back to the car. The way back is uphill, so when we arrive at our car around 16.30 we are relieved and get back to our hotel for a good rest.
That the hotel is expensive can not only be noticed by having four pillows instead of two but also in the extra facilities we have. there is a large, heated, indoor swimmingpool (like 7 by 10 meter) with jacuzzi and fitnessroom, totally abandonned every day. I gracefully take a dive in the evening and try to work on my six pack (something that doesn’t really match with my eatpattern here… ;-)).
On day two we visit Arches National Park, with one of the most special rockformations we have seen so far. Here the canyon is transformed into a land of huge seperate sculptures and arches of almost orange stones. Most of the lower and softer layers are watered away by the ages, leaving sometimes unbelievable balancing rocks. This park contains a few hundred natural arches of which the biggest spands more than 300 feet! This large arch (Landscape Arch) is so thin that you think it can come down any minute (and it eventually will), but the last time rocks fell off partly was in 1991.
We walk several trails and before we know it it’s five o’clock. Although we are defenitely hungry we visit the Delicate arch (a 45 minute walk uphill) which is best seen bu sunset. At the arch it seems we are not the only ones, encountering at least a hundred men, waiting for the sunset and ready to make the photo of their lives. Two hours later we are back in the car with some really nice pictures on our memory cards.
Today will be a busy day! Not only do we have to drive from Cedar City to Moab (8 hours non stop), but also we would like to visit Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef, which we pass by on our way. So we got up a bit early and are on the road at 08.30. On our way to Bryce Canyon we make a stop at Cedar Breaks National Monument and make some pictures of the big impressive canyon. Though today will be sunny with a clear blue sky, it is very cold here because we are at 9000 feet (like 3000 meter) and it is a bit windy. So we take some photographs and get back in our car driving up to Bryce Canyon.
At the Bryce Canyon visitor center we watch an informative, award winning movie about the Canyon. Though it is not as great as the Hubble 3D experience, we had an interesting 22 minutes. Now we know more about the canyon we can explore it ourselves. We drive to Sunset Point and make a 1 hour hike down to the canyonfloor (the Wall Street loop, for the insiders). I kind of get boring telling how great and beautiful things are here in the National Parks, but what we see here is very very special. When you walk down the canyon you feel getting smaller and smaller, because the wall on both side get higher and higher. And the walls are not just walls, they consist of beautiful layered, red and orange colored sandstone, something I saw earlier in the Antelope Canyon near Page. But it is hard to explain the experience, maybe the photos will tell more here.
We leave the gorgeous Canyon behind and continue our way to Moab. The landscape transforms from prairy, to the moonsurface and to very sculptural cliffs, colored from red to grey to yellow (also at Capitol Reef, where we experience the landscape passing by since there is no time for walking around).
In the nighttime we arrive in Moab at the most expensive hotel of these 2 weeks, the Comfort Suites Moab (ze hebben een aantal mooie foto’s op internet Maai! Veel plezier in Turkije alvast!). All the hotels here are very expensive (this was the most inexpensive one) we think because we are in a rural area without any villages nearby. But our room here is gigantic, about 40 square meters of space and even our own “living area” with a desk and a couch. And they serve hot breakfast, something we didn’t have before here (our toasted bread not included). For dinner the pizzahut treats us with 2 enornous pizza’s of which we take home for breakfast more than half. It seems that our first hot breakfast will have to wait untill the day after tomorrow!
Of all the days we spend in the USA today will be the one with the worst weather. Yes dear readers, we really do experience a few clouds here, and sometimes even the sun is behind one of them for a moment, terrible!!! Luckily it’s still like 25 degrees Celcius, so we can’t complain in comparison to the weather in Holland (is it really 14 degrees Celcius overthere? that must be pretty lousy! ;-)).
Today our plan is to visit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. Unfortunately for our dayschedule, we are on the road at 11.00 o’clock, so pretty late. Our first stop, Zion, starts with a scenic tour (by car ofcourse, the Americans don’t really like walking) to the top of a mountain. There we have a really good view on a beautiful but partly clouded valley. We now realize how important the sun is for making really nice pictures. Hopefully the weather will be better when we arrive at Bryce Canyon.
The second stop is at the visitor center, where we explore the always interesting bookstore with many great books about geology (those stores are really everywhere here so we have the time of our life, especially Leo who almost can’t resist to buy a book everytime we enter one). Now we are ready to explore the Zion Canyon, where a bus will drive us because cars are not allowed here since the year 2000. It simply became too crowded with all the visitors parking everywhere, a problem that exists in many “smaller” (at least less roaded) National Parks today where it is still possible to enter by car, like Yosemity park and Bryce Canyon. The bus takes us all the way up the canyon and we can decide to hop on and off at 7 stops. We go all the way to the end of the canyon and proceed by foot where the bus can’t go any further. There are many tourists here, also a couple of Dutch people, causing a less special USA-far-from-home feeling. But the canyon is impressive and on our way we see some very nice and not very shy squirrels, which we ofcourse try (and succeed) to photograph.
After our canyontour (and eating the biggest icecream ever, just 2 “scoops” but what feels like an impressive 0,5 kg. Ohw I forgot, we are in America, this is normal here!) it is already 17.00 o’clock. Driving to Zion and doing the canyontour took us much longer than expected. And since Bryce Canyon is at least a 1 hour drive from here we will not make it to see that park nice and easy today, so we decide to move that one to tomorrow. We end our day by driving back to Cedar City and on our way we stop at the Mammoth Cave (unfortunately just a hole in the ground and no story anywhere of a mammoth) and Cedar Breaks National Monument (where it is too dark to see anything). While driving in the dark we spot many many deer, both alive and death due to the cars that hit them. It is dangerous to drive here at night, before you now it there will be an animal on the road in front of your car. Luckily we just have to use our breaks sometime and arrive at the hotel safely.
Before we drive to Cedar City we first catch the IMAX Hubble 3D movie we missed yesterday at the Planetarium. This IMAX technique is very neath, creating a huge picture on a screen as high as a 6 story building. It is really as if you are there yourself, especially in combination with the 3D effect. We experience the launch of the Hubble telescope by space shuttle from Cape Canaveral, Florida, as if we are really there. An ironic situation since we kind of make up to the shuttle launch we could have experienced a few days ago if Nasa didn’t change its plan.
At 14.00, after the movie and a good Subway, we leave SLC and head to Cedar City. The whole trip we drive on the I-15 highway to the south, what makes us arrive in Cedar City at 17.00 (on the highway here you are allowed to drive 75 to 80 miles per hour max, like 120 to 130 km an hour).
In Cedar City we stay in the Americas Best Value Inn, the first hotel with working swimming pool and jacuzzi. Though the swimmingpool is kind of cold, the jacuzzi is like heaven. This hotel really fulfills its name!
In the evening we eat a good steak and watch some television on our room, satisfied from dinner.
What to do in Salt Lake City? All we know about this city is that it was the stage for the olympic wintergames in 2002 and that there are many mountains surrounding it. And even after a little googling we can not find any more famous cultural habits or architecture we already knew about. But in the lobby of the hotel we find some interesting things to see around this small city (small for American standards) out of a whole lot of advertising flyers. Near SLC we can visit the Kennecott coppermine that should be the largest in the world, we can swim in the salty Great Salt Lake (the lake is six times saltier than the ocean what makes you float like a cork) and there is a planetarium with 3D IMAX movies about the universe.
We visit them all! The swimming in the salty lake is very strange and funny, just to lay in the water, relaxing with your arms crossed, without sinking. You must be really stupid to drown here.
The coppermine is an unbelievably huge hole (like a canyon of 400 meters deep) created in the past 100 years by thousands of people. There used to be a lot of railwaytrack for transporting the copper rich stones, but nowadays there are gigantic trucks as big as houses driving around carrying up to 360 tons of rock a time (I once saw them on the discovery channel and now I can tell they are really out here). This is really a playground for men, with this extreme equipment and explosions that demolishes big parts of the mountain every day. I might sign up once to drive one of those amazing trucks here. For the people who are visiting this mine soon; the visitor center has the most funny and well made informative short video I ever saw. The whole process is explained in a very funny and at the same time understandable way. I will try to compliment the director when I’m back home.
After out visit to the coppermine we play a real game of American Minigolf and the evening we have dinner (2 kilos of rice each with loads of meat, sounding more delicious than it tasted) and visit the planetarium. Unfortunately the 3D movie we like to see (Hubble 3D) is only on for tomorrow noon, so we just take a look at the exhibition. It is very interesting and informative, we both learn some things about space we never knew before. Before we know it the planetarium closes and we are back on the streets, have we really been in there for 2 hours?
In the evening we try to get a nice view on the city from uphill, taking more effort than we thought. It is really hard to find a place with a good view because everytime we see a potentially good viewpoint there is a house blocking our way. Eventually we succeed and can finally use the tripod I brought for the job. The city is kind of magical to see at night with all the lights turned on, but I think LA, New York and Chicago were more impressive at night when I saw them last year, simply because they are much bigger.
Well, what a day, there is definitely more to see and do in Salt Lake City than I expected!
The drive to Salt Lake City (SLC) of today will take approximately 8 hours. We tried to leave early but eventually start driving as “late” as 08.30. On our way to SLC we drive through both Yellowstone National park, Grand Teton National park and Bridger National Forest, all mountainareas with stunning views. You might understand that the 8 hour drive soon became 11 hours, because of all the beautiful things we saw along the road. We even left Yellowstone at 12.10 pm because we wanted to see the Great Fountain geyser and the Old Faithful geyser once again.
On our way through Grand Teton we saw a big fire in the mountains like we saw in Yellowstone. It seems that this time of year those forestfires are very common since the trees and other vegetation are very dry. Luckily our route isn’t passing the fires and we can proceed to SLC safe and without any delay. Just before reaching SLC we pass by Bear Lake and the famous Great Salt Lake, both enormous lakes that make you feel very little.
We arrive in SLC at 20.30 and for the first time we have to look for a hotel because we didn’t make an internetreservation anywhere. Soon we find the Rodeway Inn, a hotel very close to the city center, where we decide to stay that night. After a hot-dog at the nearest gasstation our beds feel surprisingly soft.
These two days we get to know the most beautiful places in Yellowstone Park. This park is located on top of a so called “hot spot”, a place where the earthcrust is much thinner than elsewhere on our planet. Because of that many underground substances (like stone/rock and water) are heated by the higher temperatures from below, what causes different spectacular phenomenons such as geysers and hot springs on the earths surface. Those spectacular phenomenons are what we experienced the last two days, with much sun and no rain at all. I can say we were really surprised by what we saw nature doing here (hopefully the pictures on the site support this). To sum up our experiences (or at least try to): we saw many hot springs, most of them with a combination of very beautiful colors, like clear blue, dark blue, orange and yellow, we saw many geysers erupting, for the insiders: Old Faithful (ofcourse) and the Great Fountain (even twice, we were very lucky because it only erupts once a 10 to 14 hours and you never know exactly when) and we saw other strange things like a mudpot, steamholes and terraces formed by calcite. And besides all this beautyful geothermal pleasure, there was a whole lot of amazing nature, containing wild waterfalls (up to 94 meter high!), tasteful autumncolored greenery (in that way this time of year is really perfect to visit the USA) and very different rockformations. I think I saw many natural environments in my life, but never so different and beautiful as I saw these two days here in Yellowstone park.
About the wildlife here (the animals); We spotted many bisons, elk, deer, squirrels, birds and last but not least bears! We got so lucky that we even saw both species of bears that live here, both the Black bear and the Grizzly bear. Ofcourse we saw both on a very respectable distance (the closest was the black bear with about 30 meters), but that didn’t make it less impressive to see something that wild walking around just in front of you.
On our last day we saw a big fire in the north of the park near Tower Roosevelt. Although it was a “controlled fire” it looked quite heavy and the helicopters kept flying with water to extinguish the flames. What an operation to manage these kind of natural disasters in a proper way.
After two days of very intensive sightseeing (getting up at 06.00 every day and being back in the motel at 19.00) we even didn’t see everything we wanted. And if we did, that would just have been 2% of the whole park! I think next time we have to spend at least 3 weeks here…
Today we will travel to Yellowstone National Park (finally!) by driving through the Bighorn Mountains. As soon as we leave Sheridan it becomes clear that this day is not going to be the most efficient of our journey. The drive from Sheridan to West Yellowstone should take about 5 and a half hours, but because of the many viewpoints and other nice scenery in the Bighorn Mountains that schedule seems really impossible. Every time we agree that we stopped for the last time, whatever beautiful environment may come, things get more beauty and we just cannot refuse to stop for a moment. In some places the fall is doing his job and colors the leaves georgious yellow and orange, in other places very nice rockformations, lakes and waterfalls attract our attention. This mountainarea is much more beautiful than I could ever imagine (see photoalbum).
After we could finally let go of the Bighorn Mountains we are already on the road for 4 hours and we have still 4 hours to drive! Never the less, tourists as we are, we take a unhardened sideroad for 15 minutes to see a dinosaur footprint site. The landscape we see over there is unbelievable, so abandonned and full of red colors and lineair rockformations. Unfotrunately the dinosaur footprints are a little disappointing. Only thing we can see are some very small (like 10 cm) footprints consisting of 3 triangular holes, and that’s after searching for 5 minutes. But the idea that those animals walked here 167 million years ago is very interesting, and so agree the little schoolchildren who came here today for a thorough investigation of the site.
At about 18.00 (after all the delay and yes, another Subwaysandwich) we enter Yellowstone Park at the eastern entrance. Immediately our attention goes to the white, leaveless trees and the snowy peaks we see in the far distance; again a complete other environment worth taking pictures. At Yellowstone Lake we spot our first Geysers, in fact steamy smoke, stinking like rotten eggs, just blowing from holes in the ground. Very strange to see this phenomenon for the first time, it’s a bit unreal. Later on we see more of them, sometimes in combination with small pools of boiling water. The geothermal activity in this park is really visible and we didn’t even see a real geyser in action yet (a thing we hopefully will see tomorrow).
At 19.00 we arrive at West Yellowstone, a small place just outside the west entrance of the park. Here we will stay the next 3 nights at the Dude/Roundup motel to explore the park. Our hotelroom is exectly the same as those of yesterday and the days before; just 2 big and nice queenbeds, a good bathroom and television. Only thing that isn’t available this time is the wireless internet, so the posts and pictures might be a little later than you are all used to!
At 06.00 my eyes are already open. It seems I’m still living on my dutch schedule here, hopefully after today things will be different.
The continental breakfast we have this morning is better than yesterdays’ (there is even peanutbutter!), but Leo thinks otherwise. Luckily for him we make a stop at the Subway later on (we both like that place so they have two good costumers next 2 weeks). In the morning we drive past Mount Rushmore again, this time in more sunny weather. To clarify something; yesterday we didn’t pay for the parking (of 10 dollars) because we thought it was too expensive for just a few photos. Instead we parked alongside the road on a prohibited area where we could also see and photograph the four faces. I see my previous post was not very clear on that topic. This morning we parked our car alongside the road again for more nice pictures and that worked out really well (see photoalbum).
After saying goodbye to Mount Rushmore for a last time we head to Sheridan, the place where we will be sleeping tonight. The scenery we experience along our way in Black Hills National Forest is beautiful. Rough rockformations are combined with lots of pineapple trees and other greenery. The curving, hilly landscape makes me think of the Ardennen, but is also a bit different.
On the way we pass Jewel Cave National Monument (somehow that name attracts me…) and decide to take a look at the visitorcenter. We find out there are several cavetours we can join today, but the pictures we see about the caves are so similar as yesterdays’ that we don’t think about paying 20 dollar again. Instead we walk the 3,5 mile (about 5,6 kilometer) Canyon Trail, a scenic tour through the Jewel Cave National Monument Canyon (kind of logical maybe). The trail is very nice, maybe because there are lots of burned and leaveless trees. This may look strange but the presence of the death trees create a special environment that I never saw before.
The rest of the day we drive through amazing prairie landscapes with very wide and far views. Leo repetedly sees the native american people driving around here on their horses, something we know from movies. It’s interesting to imagine how it would be to drive on your horse through this for miles and miles abandonned landscape. Only thing we missed today was the tumbleweed we saw yesterday!
Our first day in the USA starts with a pretty serious roadtrip of 600 km. Since we are both already awake at 07.00 we decide to leave early. After a small continental breakfast (some toast with jam and a glass of cold milk) we start our engines at 07.45. The scenery during our trip is mostly beautiful; near Denver we started with a wide view finished with a big mountainrange in the far distance, but dirng our trip this environment changes to slightly hilled wheatland with sometimes beautiful rockformations. Along the way we almost hit a few branches of tumbleweed, twirling across the mainroad. It really feels like your in an old cowboymovie when that happens.
After about 5 hours driving we arrive at our first destination of today; Windcave National park. Here we have a guided tour through a deep and very big underground cave with a discovered length of 134 miles (approximately 5 to 10 % of what is really out there). It is amazing to see the many hallways and chambers that are created here by nature. Unfortunately we only get to see a very small part of the caves as the are discovered now, but it gives a very good impression of what must be out there. Geologists are still discovering new parts of the cave, making 4 day long expeditions (it takes them an astonishing 8 hours to even reach the point from where they start discovering).
We continue our tour to Mount Rushmore, the wellknown rocksculpture of the 4 presidents. In real the sculptures are impressive, the 20 meter tall heads look really like the persons they must present. We make a few of Americas most famous pictures alongside the road (parking here costs 10 dollar, crazy!) and continue our way to the hotel 3 km further. From the balcony that comes with our room we can see Mount Rushmore far uphill. Lighted at night it creates a very special sight.
Goodmorning Holland! As promised this post is updated from the USA, Denver Colorado. Local time here is dutch time minus 8 hours. You can imagine how we feel after departing from Sint Michielsgestel at 07.30 (local time) and arriving in Denver at 20.30 (local time). For the bad calculators in our middle: our trip lasted an amazing 21 hours, and we still have to pick up our rental car and find our way to the hotel.
Actually we expected to land in Denver at 18.15 o’clock, but our transferplane got delayed for an astonishing 2 hours. But we are alife and fine here so now our journey can begin!
About the flight itself; everything went smooth, except for a few normal turbulence periods. From Amsterdam to Washington we had 2 seats in the middle of the central aisle, what was not very good since we constantly had to ask if we could go out for the toilet and didn’t see anything through any window. The flight from Washington to Denver we were more lucky. We had two nice places (with one windowseat) and could even see Chicago and Lake Michigan during our flight. Very unreal to see that amazing city from 11000 meter in the air with the knowledge I was down there about one year ago.
So now we will look for our rentalcar and drive to the Best Inn and Suites Denver, where they will hopefully still remember our booking of 2 weeks ago.
Finally the time has come and we are ready to fly to the United States of America. Tomorrow we will depart from Schiphol Amsterdam to Washington DC and after a short stop from Washington DC to Denver. The next 2 weeks we will be visiting several National Parks such as Yellowstone Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Arches. On the image and table below you can see our travelplan more detailed.
Now let us hope our flight will be smooth and in time tomorrow. Next post will be sent from the US of A!