National Parks

Grand Teton National Park Part 1

17 July 2020

The journey to the Tetons from Casper was geographically fascinating as well as stunning. Another journey of 250 or so, this time we were mostly not on one single carriage highway and not interstates. One road the whole way!!! It was the kind of route where it was 80 miles to the next nearest services and no cell phone signal. Keeping our fingers crossed we didn’t breakdown or get a blow out! Luckily the journey was uneventful, but the last 25 miles or so the Tetons teased us with their snow capped peaks. Apparently, it had only snowed in the mountains a couple of days ago. Brrrrrrr!

The Tetons teasing us on our way to Grand Teton National Park

We arrived at our campsite with the Tetons looming over us, abruptly out of nowhere. We made our reservations around April time when to our dismay, we could not find spots in any of the campsites we liked. So we had to split our week long stay in half between two campsites. The first half at Buffalo fireside RV, located 4 miles from the National park and the second half at Headwaters at Flag staff, located in the National Park.

On our first day at the Grand Teton National park we purchased our annual interagency pass (courtesy of my Colleagues as part of my leaving gift). We headed towards Moose entrance. Along the way we saw Buffalo and stopped at a beautiful vantage point of the whole range. Once we reached Moose we headed North on Teton Park Road. Our first stop was Jenny Lake to check out the boat we planned to take the next day. Aviana enjoyed paddling in the icy cool waters that lay at the foot of the actual Grand Teton. We quickly learned that the area became packed and parking was overflowing by 11AM and so figured we had better leave super early the next day for our hike around Jenny lake.

Our first close up view of the Tetons

Around the Jenny lake visitor center (which of course was closed, thanks COVID-19) there were brass figures next to benches that represented various wildlife of the park. Aviana enjoyed touching and learning about these animals, in particular their footprints in the concrete and the occasional brass poop on the floor!! Sometimes it’s the little things you don’t expect to be the most memorable!

The view from Jenny Lake

After Jenny Lake we got back on to Teton Park Road, heading North for signal mountain. Apparently (according to our National Parks secrets book) this area is often skipped over by visitors. We turned over the Park road onto signal mountain road that headed straight up the mountain that would give us a grand vantage point of the Teton range. Along the way up the mountain we found a small turnout to stop and have our picnic lunch. A little pathway led us to a secluded lake filled with Lillypads that had just finished flowering their giant yellow flowers.

A secluded picnic half way up signal mountain
More seclusion halfway up signal mountain

After lunch we continued up the mountain (driving of course!) where at the summit we parked up and finished the finals steps by foot. The vastness and unspoiled mountainous land went for miles around, it was breathtaking! We also found a painter who was painting the stunning view of the Tetons. Unsurprisingly his skin was like a brown leather from his clear passion to be outside painting without any shade. Much Kudos to him.

You can imagine this artist’s painting was stunning! Near the top of signal mountain
Panoramic from top of signal mountain

Aviana had a hard time listening to us whilst we tried to keep her safe. It’s a hard balance letting her explore and roam free in the outdoors versus staying safe, not running down Rocky paths Willy nilly with steep edges!! So eventually I had to carry her down the top of the mountain back to the car practically over my shoulders as she kicked and screamed. Fortunately she seemed to have learned her lesson and listened better at the next walk. Hopefully this lasts more than 24 hours!

After a long morning being out in the sun we headed back to the tiny house for some coffee and bubbles (obviously not at the same time!!). Plus some exercise (trying to keep up!!).

Exercise continues for us whilst we travel!

We decided after seeing how busy Jenny lake was to get up early the next day for our boat trip and 4.5 mile hike. We prepared everything the night before so we could get up, get dressed, hop in the car and drive to the national park to have our breakfast. We gave Aviana a small pot of Cheerios to keep her from hungrumpy whining and I made myself a tea to go (because a morning without a tea = grumpy Dani). After I was rudely awoken by howling (or laughing?) wolves at 4AM, we were through the park gates by 0630 AM. It took us a while to find a good spot for breakfast because we wanted to park up with somewhere in the sun as it was still bloody cold outside! (40 something Fahrenheit) Eventually we cooked our breakfast at Jenny Lake visitor center car park. It was the weekend and we had promised Pancakes to Aviana earlier in the week. So true to our word, we had pancakes in Grand Teton National Park at 7AM!!!

Early morning sunrise at the Tetons
Cooking Pancakes in Jenny lake car park!
Eating pancakes on the curbside 🙂

By the time we made it on to the boat (thanks COVID-19) it was 0830. It was a beautiful short 5 minute boat ride over to the otherside of Jenny Lake where we took the 1 mile trail to hidden falls and inspiration point.

Boat ride on Jenny lake

Hidden falls was spectacular, just half a mile from the boat – a huge fast water waterfall from glacier melt that caused the surrounding air temperature to dip by about 10F. It was a little busy so we masked up. Aviana was more interested in climbing the boulders and other rocks more than a anything else. But she impressed us by hiking almost the whole mile all the way to inspiration point with a 900ft climb. The last few hundred feet Aviana wanted to be carried in the carrier, which was just as well because there were sheer drops along the path! Aviana still has a lot to learn about sticking to paths. The climb was totally worth it, an aptly named view point.

Hidden falls – worth the trip
Can you Spot Chris and Aviana!
The top of inspiration point

After the dramatic views of hidden falls and inspiration point we descending back down to Jenny lake where we opted to hike around the lake back to car. The trails were starting to get really busy and it was hard to keep 6ft away, so we were constantly pulling to the side and donning our masks. There were a lot of rude people who did not seem to appreciate us stopping to let them past (which we would have done regardless of the virus). Despite the business of the trails we had a good hike along the lake. Aviana remained in the hiking carrier for most of the way and I carried her in the soft carrier for the last part of the hike as Chris needed a break. Aviana is over 32lbs now so that plus the framed hiking carrier and all our lunch is a pretty heavy load!

Chris was a trooper carrying Aviana in this!

After making it back to Jenny lake car park we spotted the little beach we paddled at the day before and decided to eat our lunch there. One really couldn’t complain about the views and tranquility. It was fascinating to experience a sudden change of wind over the lake. It went from calm and warm to windy and cold in 3 seconds. So we decided not to hang around for too much longer and headed back early.

What an amazing day. How can we beat that?

Yes – we did mask up at busy places
The Road Trip

Panic!

Chris received an email from the people we were planning to boondock and store our trailer with for a week whilst we camp at Yellowstone National Park. They said ‘sorry something came up we have to cancel’. That was it. Aghhhhh it’s July, peak season at Yellowstone, even with COVID-19 when we were booking in April everywhere was seemingly full. We were lucky to score this free boondocking camp site through ‘boondockers welcome’. We also had the challenge of almost zero internet and just 7 days to find somewhere to stay for two nights as well as store our trailer for 5 nights.

Oh did I tell you it was peak season….at YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK!!! This place attracts up to 30 000 visitors a day at old faithful alone. Yes, think I may have mentioned this.

Oh bugger.

Chris called around some campsites and found out there was somewhere we could leave our RV on some chamber of commerce land. But every time he tried to email them the internet stopped. But then he found another boondocking location to the north of Yellowstone. It took a while for the site owner to reply and she said it was possible for us to stay!!! Woohoo!!! The small ask the owner had was on the second night we wouldn’t be able to wander the property because they had guests. We can cope with that limitation 🙂

Keep your fingers crossed this doesn’t fall through for us!

The Road Trip

Goodbye and Hello

11 July 2020

Friday was a tough day. A lot of goodbyes were said. Aviana’s teachers and school, my work colleagues, my car, our medium sized house we rented for 3 months, our city-Chesapeake, VA, plus a whole lot of personal items that we ended up donating or throwing away. It was a busy day full of all sorts of emotions.

Goodbye work 😦

Meanwhile, Chris was completing his cross country five day road trip from Chesapeake, Virginia to Estes Park, Colorado. Thankfully Chris arrived safely, the tiny house all in one piece.

Chris pulled the tiny house to Denver alone for 5 days!

Aviana’s sitter, Vanessa, housed Aviana and I up for our last night in Virginia at her condo in Virginia Beach. This was not far from where we used to live when we first moved to the US 7.5 years ago. It was a bit surreal to be finishing up in the same place we started.

I shared a bed with Aviana who has been ridiculously excited for months about the tiny house adventure. Of course she woke up at 4AM!!! I also discovered she is also a crazy sleeper-flailing, kicking, sleep talking, duvet stealing (I’m sure Chris would tell you she gets it from me!!) so I was running on poor sleep anyway.

We arrived at the airport early morning and I found myself pondering how many times I had been to that airport in the past 7.5 years. I estimated around 200. It was strange to think that might be the last time I could see it, and it was even more surreal that everyone was masked up. Well, almost everyone, a large number of people were wearing their masks below their nose. *sigh*

Naturally as I had a short connection in Washington Dulles something was going to be screwed up with the first flight. It’s called the law of short connections that should never be sold to you. (We didn’t choose these flights as our direct flight to Denver was cancelled due to COVID-19).

The plane and crew were already there to go. But this time the gate door wouldn’t open. It was rather amusing to see the number of people it took to figure it out. Not so amusing as time ticked away delaying us. Just as they figured out a plan to get us on the plane without going through the gate, the gate door magically opened. So in the end we arrived 25 mins late, leaving just 15 mins for me to get from one end of one terminal to the end of a completely different terminal. I made it by the skin of my teeth carrying Aviana on my back with FOUR bags on my front. (Not planned, my checked bag was overweight!) I will not miss running across airports, that’s for sure! I think I have done my fair share for life.

The flight into Denver was mostly uneventful (apart from weirdness from COVID-19). I did fail majorly and forgot to charge up the tablet for Aviana, so I had to get creative on our 4hr flight!

Getting creative on the plane!
Just before landing in Denver

And so after all of those goodbyes, it was finally hello! Hello to Chris who was waiting for us at Denver airport, hello to big the Rocky Mountains, hello to our tiny house….and….hello to our new adventure!!!!

Hello Rocky Mountains!!!
General Chit Chat

Plans Fail: change the plan not the goal

I’ve been meaning to write our first post for a while, but planning and preparing for our tiny house adventure has been the top priority. Finally today we packed up the tiny house. Our home for the next months. We are almost ready to leave Hampton Roads, Virginia, and head to the mountains on our big sabbatical road trip! Whoop whoop!

Here are some stats about our tiny house adventure…

  • 7307 miles (at least!)
  • 198 hours of driving
  • 75 points of interest marked on our route
  • 120 days that’s 17 weeks and 1 day!
  • 14 National Parks
Our current route over 120 days from July to November

This list is totally dependent on just one thing! The US borders have to open up to tourists before the 14th August OR USCIS let’s us stay after we make an appeal to them (but we can’t do that until August). Otherwise we will have to cut our trip short and we will only go for 38 days.

The truth is, we have always been flexible about this trip. And with COVID-19 we knew we would have to be extra flexible and go where COVID-19 wasn’t, as well as isolate when needed to. But the borders remaining closed is highly problematic for us. You see we are Brits living in the USA! We have been legal non-immigrant aliens for the past 7.5 years. So, our plan was to fly from Spokane to Vancouver for a short city trip and return on tourist visas. But the US aren’t allowing tourists in (understandably). And we can’t simply just stay in the US.

I didn’t want to start this blog with a seemingly negative post. Whatever happens we WILL have a sabbatical (even if that isn’t in the USA) and COVID-19 won’t get us down!!!

Today we packed up the tiny house. It was HOT!! 93F feels like 110F! For those of who know, air conditioning doesn’t work on battery, so we unpacked the house without it. As you can imagine, we were hot sweaty messes! We still have a bit more to pack and organize before Chris takes the Tiny House and departs on Monday. We were pleasantly surprised all this fit….

So much to fit in such a tiny space!

We are packed as if we are going to do the full 120 days, including two excursions to Canada and Hawaii AND tent camping in Yellowstone National Park for 5 days! Whoever buys our tiny house at the end of our trip will have a fully kitted out trailer. Everything from kitchen ware, to blankets, to boxes, to cleaning stuff 😝

Enough for our first post…it’s going to get exciting soon.

By the way, we think this is a good omen that Chris found this wine today (Yosemite is one of our last stops).

A sign?