Bend, Mount Hood, Goodbye Van Damme and Crater lake..

Heading back to Oregon, we stopped off at Bend – a place renown for its mountain biking, breweries, oh and that it gets 300 days of sunshine a year! Of course, we sampled the beers and took some bikes out for the day to take in picturesque Deschutes river – reminiscent of a scene from Wind and the Willows..

Here we also had our first experience of overnight parking/camping in Walmart – slept like a log..

Leaving Bend we drove and camped in the meadows around Mount Hood – it isn’t a mountain, it’s an active volcano, and boy is it beautiful.. perfectly symmetrical and forever changing in the light, we could’ve stared at it for ages…

Mount Hood
Mount Hood

We said goodbye to our trusted stead and upgraded to a Nissan for our drive down to San Francisco, taking in Crater Lake en route – again just stunning! No place else on earth combines a deep, pure lake, so blue in colour; sheer surrounding cliffs, almost two thousand feet high; two picturesque islands; and a violent volcanic past.

Crate Lake, OR
Crate Lake, OR
Tom taking in the view
Tom taking in the view

Pit stop in Idaho

Leaving Yellowstone, we headed to Idaho (a state over from Oregon, which we are heading back to) we found a few nice spots and chilled out by the river for a couple of nights… here’s a pic from one of the hikes we did.

Redfish Lake - hiked up for this vista point
Redfish Lake – hiked up for this vista point

 

 

Yellowstone National Park

We’re now on our final leg of the grand Van Damm tour, having left SLC we dove up through Idaho into Wyoming, where we are currently residing in Jackson hole, our base before we head up to Yellowstone National Park (and where I am currently sat in a coffee shop writing this blog)…

So we hit Yellowstone National Park – or as some might call it Jellystone (well those who watched Yogi Bear!) Wow what a place, for those of you that do not know, it is one of the planet’s largest time bombs – as it’s an active supervolcano, and home to over 300 active geysers – the most famous being ‘Old Faithful’, mudpots, hot springs and fumaroles. These provided a canvas of colours and some rather potent smells…

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Hot springs

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Mud pots
Mud pots
Crystal clear hot springs
Crystal clear hot springs

I should also mention that Yellowstone is home to more than 200 species of animals – from grizzly bears, black bears, to beavers, bison, moose to bald eagles. Now it pains me to say this.. but we still haven’t seen a bear, me and Tom are beginning to think they don’t exist!

Whilst there, we did two nights backcountry camping, which involves reaching a remote destination for a one-of-a-kind camping experience away from civilisation and at nature with the wilderness (in my case absolutely petrified that the bears might come), carrying all our supplies, food, tent etc and setting off on a planned hike that would take us through the next few days…

Before we set off we had to get a wilderness permit from the ranger, and also watch an 18 minute video on ‘safety’ mainly learning what to do if you encounter a bear, how to cook and store food at your campsite, and other useful bear information. To be precise the following, for those who are interested:

  • Secure all scented items, food, toiletries, rubbish, clothes you’ve cooked in, by hanging at least 10 feet off ground and 5 feet from tree.
  • Restrict all cooking, eating, cleaning activities and food storage to 100 feet downwind from tents (this included any toilet activity)
  • Do not sleep outside of tent or with any “smellables” in your tent including empty food wrappers.
  • Never leave any food scraps or garbage out
  • Wash dishes and utensils immediately – dispose of waste water downwind, 100 feet from sleeping area
  • Always use flashlight and extra caution when moving around at night
Cascade Lake
Cascade Lake

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep too great for fear of the ‘old bear’ – however it was an amazing experience – I got to see a beaver, and be at one with nature – and I obviously lived to tell the tale…

 

 

Utah – Life elevated

Leaving Yosemite, we pulled an all-nighter and drove across Nevada and into Utah… A state with numerous national parks to be explored Zion with its deep canyons and steep cliffs, Bryce with its brilliant colored HooDoo’s and Canyonlands with the Colorado River meandering around sheer cliffs.

Utah – Life elevated

Our first stop was Zion.. where we camped for 2-nights in the park – here we scaled Angel’s Landing – a hike discovered in 1916, by Frederick Fisher who exclaimed it is so high he figured, “only an angel could land on it.” It has quite a reputation as being a dangerous walk – at least six people have fallen to their deaths, many of the deaths come from tragic accidents when people have slipped off the edge while crossing through exposed areas where it is necessary to hold onto cables.  Anyway, we manged to accomplish it alive and live to tell the tale, I’ll let the pictures do the talking…

Me sat at the top of Angel's landing ridge
Me sat at the top of Angel’s landing ridge
The cables and sheer drop offs
The cables and sheer drop offs
The cables and sheer drop off
The cables and sheer drop off
Me and Tom at the top
Me and Tom at the top
Near the edge!
Near the edge!

Leaving Zion we headed to Bryce Canyon – this one’s been on my list for a while and it didn’t disappoint.. with its amphitheater of brilliant colored HooDoo’s watching over you – I could have gazed out at them for hours…

Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Bryce Canyon
Close up of the hoodoos
Close up of the hoodoos

Tearing ourselves away, we drove to Moab – a town surrounded by National Park’s, Dead Horse Point State Park, Canyonlands and Arches. Finding a nice spot, we camped for two nights on the Colorado river away from the hustle and bustle of the town.. A few things I need to mention, during our stay we saw a snake and one night, whilst we were sat around the camp fire, we saw a tarantula run across the floor – the size of my hand –  let me put it this way, after seeing that, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to getting into the tent!

Camping by the Colorado river!
Camping by the Colorado river!

Here’s a few pictures from the parks we visited..

Dead Horse Point State Park
Dead Horse Point State Park
Canyonlands
Canyonlands
Canyonlands
Canyonlands
Mesa Arches - Canyonlands
Mesa Arches – Canyonlands

Leaving the parks we headed up to Salt Lake City, where we treated ourselves to a few nights in an air bnb away from the van – our host(s) Celeste and Cori were incredible and by the time we left they felt like family…In SLC we recharged the batteries, visited the breweries sampled the craft beers and visited Crown Burgers, a burger joint which was on Man V Food, famous for its beef patties and pastrami stacked burgers – they were pretty darn good!

 

Highway 101 continued….

Leaving Oregon, we continued down the coastline entering California… albeit briefly, before heading inland (we’ll be doing the California coast in a couple of weeks) en route to Yosemite National Park.

First stop was ‘Avenue of the Giants’ a Redwood National State Park, which which has the largest remaining stand of virgin redwoods in the world.

One big ol'tree
One big ol’tree
Biggest tree in the Park - Ironically called BIG TREE
Biggest tree in the Park – Ironically called BIG TREE

 

Big Trees measurements
Big Trees measurements

Now history has it that ‘Big Tree’ was very nearly cut down in the early 1900’s as one chap wanted to make the stump into a dance-floor, which would fit 30 people – luckily campaigners pooled together to save the tree and many others for that matter..

Next stop Yosemite – wow what a place! Immersed in beautiful scenery everywhere you stand.. We camped here for four-nights, and threw ourselves into everything the park had to offer..

Day one: we drove upto Glacier point, where you can get a view of the whole park, El Capitan and Half-Dome, two of the most famous rock formations in Yosemite

View from Glacier Point
View from Glacier Point

Day two: we hiked to the top of Nevada Falls – a 181 metre high waterfall. The 6 mile trek saw us first hike to Vernal Fall and then trek another 2 miles to reach the top of Nevada falls..

Vernal falls
Vernal falls

Day 3: we leisurely strolled around the valley of Yosemite taking in the sites and the wildlife, whilst walking to the base of El Capitan – watching the climbers make there ascent..

Day 4: we hiked to the top of Yosemite falls – the highest waterfall in Yosemite National Park, dropping a total of 739 metres from the top of the upper fall to the base of the lower fall. It was quite a hike, providing some pretty scary drop offs.