Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Trip reports, stories, track notes. Multiple/large photos are OK in this forum.
Forum rules
Posting large/multiple images in this forum is OK. Please start topic titles with the name of the location or track.

For topics focussed on photos rather than the trip, please consider posting in the 'Gallery' forum instead.

This forum is for posting information about trips you have done, not for requesting information about a track or area.

Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Thu 18 Oct, 2018 7:00 pm

Hi everyone,
some of you may remember that I went to the US in 2015 for 3 weeks, doing California, Utah and Arizona. This year, I had an opportunity with Norwegian Airway doing direct flights from Paris to Denver, Colorado, for around 500 €. At first I had though about doing the North West with Washington, Oregon and Montana, but it was much more expensive. Upon further research, my interest for Colorado grew. I only knew the national parks here : Rocky Mountain, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde. But as it turns out there's a lot more, with countless Wilderness Areas where you can find stunning hikes to alpine lakes, my favorite kind of hike. But the main "dish" of the trip was the Yellowstone/Grand Tetons area, somewhere I've been wanting to visit for a very long time.

So after landing in Denver and spending the night in a nearby town, I drove to my first destination, a park called Medicine Bow National Forest. I heard it was a nice mountain range seldom visited by tourists. Indeed, I found mostly locals here. The walk I planned was only 600 m elevation gain, but I'm used to elevation of around 1500-2500 m in the Alps. But here, the walk STARTS at 3000 m and ends at 3663 m. The camping was right next to the lakes at the foot of the mountain. It's an area sparsly forested, only pines seemed to survive here, no aspen. Crossing a boulder fields, I heard tiny screams, but couldn't find the source. It would take me 2 weeks to learn that they're from a pika, a small mammal related to rabbits, their call resembling a crossing between a duck and a baby goat. Then the track climbed steeply in zig zags, but I wasn't used to that altitude yet. So it took me a while, with numerous breaks. Many other hikers here, including one who carried a portable speaker playing loud music while hiking... Apparently it's now a "thing", and I would encounter it multiple times in the following days, really annoying. But anyway, the views were great once at the summit, and the track lead to the plateau behind, with open views. Unfortunately the sky was full of menacing clouds, it was really windy, and it started to rain. I fell a few times on the steep descent, even twisting my knee but with no injury. Then on the last few kms, it was raining violently, temperatures dropping to freezing. It wasn't fun anymore, and I really struggled. I don't know if it's better to start a trip with the worst hike, but that's what I did. Wet, cold, jetlagged, not accustomed to the altitude, I went to bed at 8 pm.

The next morning, I just went for a stroll for a bit of photography. I didn't see wildlife the day before, and was hopping to see some today. I had some nice light in the sky, but no clouds to catch the light, and no stunning composition. So I just shot the lake and the mountains. I packed up and started to drive down the mountain road. Luckily there were a great number of deers on the side of the road, they're a lot less elusive than in Europe. Then I had planned a hike at Lake Louis, in the Wind River mountains. It's the same mountains as in the 2017 movie of the same name, great movie if you haven't seen it. And I saw there the poverty of native Americans all living in mobile homes, right next to richer towns living off the tourism in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons like Dubois or Jackson. The road to Lake Louise looked very dry, and the fire danger cursor was on "very high" that day. But I saw many other hikers on the way to Lake Louise so at least that was reassuring. The lake and hike were very nice, but you couldn't go past the first viewpoint of the lake due to steep cliffs, you can't circle the lake.
Attachments
P1010544s-Exposure.jpg
P1010587.jpg
P1010607-Exposure.jpg
P1010616-Exposure.jpg
P1010644.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Thu 18 Oct, 2018 7:34 pm

Sleeping in the nice little town of Dubois, I explored the neighbooring red cliffs for a few nice shots at sunset. The next day, I drove to Yellowstone via the Grand Teton, a gorgeous drive. Despite being September, there's still a lot of tourists here. I think that with the cheapness of air travel nowadays it's gonna get worse and worse. Parks like Arches or Zion in Utah get really congested to the point of thinking about limiting the number of visitors. Luckily, Yellowstone is huge and only a few areas suffer from parking issues. In the park, there are about 10 different geyser basins, and the "problem" is that they're all incredibly beautiful. The first one I did was West Thumb, near the famous Old Faithful. It's right by the gigantic lake that sits in the middle of the park, so you get nice images where you frame both the geyser and the lake in the background. The smell of rotten eggs is poignant but not too bad. The most striking thing is the colors : you have the whole spectrum : blue from light to deep, greens, yellows, reds, browns... and they reveal the shape of the entrance of the geyser or spring, giving a striking depth to your photographs.
Attachments
P1010663 - P1010664-Exposure.jpg
P1010697.jpg
P1010732-Exposure.jpg
P1010758-Exposure.jpg
P1010778-Exposure.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Thu 18 Oct, 2018 7:47 pm

Most people come here though to see Old Faithful. It erupts approximately every 90 min and you can see it from two viewpoints. Either directly around the geyser, or from above in the hills. I opted for the lower viewpoint, which was very crowded. In the end it's nice, but I prefer the colorful springs, and insane fumeroles. Next, it was another emblematic sight of Yellowstone I went to check out, Grand Prismatic Spring. Unfortunately from the ground you can't take a good picture of it. But the surrounding springs are much better from the ground, and just as powerful a sight. This is really a stunning place, if only people stopped losing their baseball hats, veils, cowboy hats and other accoutrements in the springs (which you can't really retrieve yourself). In the afternoon, I checked in Madison campground. It is quite busy, but neighbors were quiet. I rented a fairly large SUV in order to sleep on my air mattress in the back, a bit scared of grizzlies I must admit, but the campground was so busy I decided to get the tent out and to stop being ridiculous. In the end there would be no bear sighting in any of the campgrounds I stayed at. Once settled, I went for a drive along the river, and saw my first herd of elks. They were just causing a bit of chaos, and I would learn the hard way they can create really bad traffic jams, like 2h to do 20 km bad. But that day I was just getting the camera out trying to find a cool shot. In the end the best shot was a very funny one, with a female yelling at a male sticking its tongue out seemingly making fun of her (in reality I think he was just horny, September/October is male rut season).
Attachments
P1010788-Exposure.jpg
P1010795-Exposure.jpg
P1010811-Exposure.jpg
P1010816-Exposure.jpg
P1010842-Exposure.jpg
Last edited by Hallu on Fri 19 Oct, 2018 7:11 am, edited 1 time in total.
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Thu 18 Oct, 2018 8:15 pm

On my second day in Yellowstone, I decided to explore the best place to view bisons, bears and wolves, an area called Lamar Valley. It's usually what people picture when you talk about Yellowstone. A river, surrounding hills and mountains, big meadows, and bisons. At first I saw nothing. It was very early, I witness the sun rising over the valley. Viewing animals in American National Parks is easy : you look for other photographers parked on the side of the road, not for animals. In this instance, I first saw two animals I could not identify. As it turns out, they're antelopes that Americans call pronghorns. They'd look more at home in the African savannah, though apparently they're not a true antilope, but related to giraffes and okapis. They're not very shy, and the beautiful golden hour light made for very pleasing images. After a few minutes at this spot, I noticed further down the road something no one had noticed. A herd of bisons was starting to emerge from the forest. Apparently they spend the night here before coming out at dawn. So I could witness about 30-40 individuals slowly kicking up dirt, fighting a bit, then progressing again, towards the road (ie me). At first I took bursts of photos from the meadows, retreating slowly towards my car as they approached. They mixed in with the pronghorns, without charging them. In the herd there were male fighting, mothers protecting calves, the whole thing. Of course once on the road they create big traffic jams but I didn't care, I had a huge smile of my face, and so did everyone else seeing this that day.
Attachments
P1010929-Exposure.jpg
P1010912-Exposure.jpg
P1020040-Exposure.jpg
P1020092-Exposure.jpg
P1020112-Exposure.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Thu 18 Oct, 2018 9:23 pm

Usually I do one reply and 5 photos per day of travel, but this day was so packed with goodness that I have to do two. Further East alongside Lamar Valley, there is a spot filled with wildlife photographers. I stopped there and asked around. Amongst the bushes accross the river and about 150 m away, I was told there was a pack of wolves feeding on a kill. These guys had huge lenses or binoculars, and I thought my 600 mm equivalent lens + a x1.7 teleconverter would be enough to see them nicely but it wasn't. First it took me ages to actually see the wolves. Yellowstone and Wyoming in general is covered in sagebrush, a green dry bush that provides perfect cover for wolves, coyotes and small mammals in general. Finally I saw the wolves, but it was a lot of work, and the shots I had were very noisy and pixelated, at least you can tell it's wolves. A few minutes later, we couldn't believe our luck when we saw a grizzly bear emerging from the forest. We thought he was gonna try and steal the carcass, but in the end he kept his distance and retreated. Wolves 1 - Grizzly bears 0. The same thing happened with a coyote later, who even got into a fight but again learned his lesson. I had never seen wolves in the wild. They've repopulated France, but are insanely shy. It is so amazing to see that in Yellowstone you just park your car and can observe them without disturbing them. Then, another 10 kms further down the road, there were big mountains with patches of grass dotting the cliffs. Apparently it's perfect habitat for those big white mountain goats. Again my zoom lens wasn't quite enought to get a good shot, although it's a bit more recognizable than the wolves. That wildlife bonanza wasn't over, as we saw an osprey in its nest, again by the side of the road.

In the afternoon, I wanted to see Mammoth Hot Springs. Confident I had already seen the best of the geysers and that nothing could surprise me anymore, I would be in for a shock. Mammoth Hot Springs is mostly famous for its travertine terraces, a type of limestone deposited by the springs. They form stepped mini-pools of colorful water, and seem to belong to another world. Only 2 other places like it exist in the world, one in Turkey and one in China. But in China they're rather small and in Turkey it's a "free for all" with people walking everywhere, damaging the area. Here you have boardwalks all around, and there's a ton to see. Canary Springs was by far my favorite, with this mix of turquoise blue and orange/brown water cascading down. You really have to see it to believe it.
Attachments
P1020139-Exposure.jpg
P1020167-Exposure.jpg
P1020186-Exposure.jpg
P1020235-Exposure.jpg
P1020238-Exposure.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 12:22 am

On day 3 in Yellowstone I went for the other wildlife hotspot in the park, Hayden Valley. Similar landscapes to Lamar, but with geysers dotting the landscape. Unfortunately the light wasn't cooperating, it was a mostly overcast morning. That was a shame because Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, with the famous waterfall, is a morning light place, I saw the day before that it was backlit and difficult to shoot. So I visited more geyser basins, with boiling mud, fumeroles in the forest that make it look like it's on fire, dead trees whiter than milk, and a superb viewpoint overseeing Grand Prismatic Spring, on the way to a nice waterfall with friendly and fluffy chipmunks.
Attachments
P1020263-Exposure.jpg
P1020328-Exposure.jpg
P1020360-Exposure.jpg
P1020377-Exposure.jpg
P1020406-Exposure.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 12:40 am

In the afternoon, I managed to still get quite good pictures of Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Artist Point is a stunning view, one of the best I've seen in the US. The mustard colored walls of the canyon are something I've only seen in Death Valley. I then saw Artist Paintpots, named because white mud boils and is thick like paint. It's another splendid area, if you ask what geyser basin you should do if you only have a couple of days there, I can't answer. Either one of them is stunning.
Attachments
P1020440-Exposure.jpg
P1020449.jpg
P1020533-Exposure.jpg
P1020634-Exposure.jpg
P1020651-Exposure.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 2:42 am

On my last day, I wanted to hike a bit. I had walked all previous days, but no more than a couple of hours. First I checked out Trout Lake, in Lamar Valley, as the park journal said there was the opportunity to see otters and bears. Unfortunately I saw neither, "only" a lonely bison. Then I started a potentially long hike, called Specimen Ridge. The views up were great, following the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Unfortunately, the ridge itself was a bit boring. There was no one else, but also not much to see but rocks and sagebrush. But at least it made me realise I was now accustomed to the altitude, and could hike pretty much normally as I would in France. In the afternoon, I revisited a geyser basin I had seen on an overcast day, Norris Geyser Basin. I think it's the biggest one in the park, and it offers a huge variety of geyser, including the tallest one in the world, Steamboat Geyser, who can spout water at 100 m. The most beautiful one I reckon is Porcelain Spring though, with unbelievable colors. I only stayed 4 days in Yellowstone, and I believe it's the minimum to appreciate the park. Some areas were closed for roadworks, but with everything open, you can spend a week in the park no problem, especially because you will want to revisit wildlife viewing areas. I believe it is one of the wonders of the world, that everyone should see once in his life, there's nothing like it.
Attachments
P1020679.jpg
P1020782-Exposure.jpg
P1020827-Exposure.jpg
P1020837-Exposure.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 3:01 am

Immediately South of Yellowstone is Grand Teton National Park. A name that'll make any Frenchman giggle, as it literally means "big nipple". People argue whether it was named after the shape of the mountains or the name of an Indian tribe, but neither is very flattering. It a park made famous for two things : first, its prominence above the surrounding great plains. It rise 2000 m above them, reminding me of the Belledonne range above Grenoble in the Alps. It's also the place where Ansel Addams took his famous photo, The Tetons and the Snake River, democratising the "S" curve in photography to lead the eye into the photo and the main subject, here the Tetons themselves. Unfortunately you can't replicate the photo, despite the lookout built at the same spot, as tree grew way too tall, and block the bottom of the "S" curve made by the river.

It is a special park though, as there are no roads into the mountains, only in the plains and lakes beneath them. So first I explored those lakes, with magnificent tracks following the shoreline and great views of the mountains. I was a bit shocked to pay 29 $ per night at Jenny Lake Campground though, with just toilet blocks and no showers. The guidebook I have said it was 20 $, a book published in 2014. Camping is becoming expensive everywhere it looks like, not just in Australia... For sunset, I drove up Signal Mountain. It wasn't the most dramatic sunset in the world, but it had nice colors, and offered views both East and West.
Attachments
P1020880-Exposure.jpg
P1020921-Exposure.jpg
P1020956-Exposure.jpg
P1020961-Exposure.jpg
P1030064-Exposure.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 3:14 am

The park is not that big, especially compared to Yellowstone. So two full days is enough to see all the lakes and lookouts, then add some hiking. I decided to hike to Lake Solitude in a day. Already a long hike in itself, some tracks were closed, so in the end the total I would have to walk would be about 30 km. The elevation gain was normal, around 800 m, but I didn't know whether that long distance would be on nice dirt, grass, or rocks. As it turned out, it was mostly rocks. I started early at 7 am, joined until the first falls by a nice guy from Texas, a scientist like me. After the falls, I was then joined by an old timer from Utah, who had a nice walking pace, about the same as mine at first. We witnessed something very special : first in the river we saw a solitary moose, kicking up some water, but then we saw two bulls just fighting it out. It's already rare to see bulls this "late" in the day (by then it was 10 am) but to see them fighting was truly magical. My companion, who had seen his fair share of backpacking trips, told me he'd never seen this in his life. As for the walk, it was fairly easy technically, following the river in a nice colorful valley. After 10 kms, it started to climb again, and a few kms before the lake, my walking mate had to give up, I was already quite amazed he went this far. The lake was quite nice, and I saw an osprey diving several times for fish, unfortunately unable to get a good shot as it was extremely quick. The walk back wasn't so easy. I felt some blistering on my feet, worsened by the heat of the day, but I just powered through. I was amazed to meet so many nice people on the track, you just pick up new companions as you go, like this couple from Hawaii or a guy who walked 20 km in flip flops, Aussie style.
Attachments
P1030077-Exposure.jpg
P1030117-Exposure.jpg
P1030115-Exposure.jpg
P1030191-Exposure.jpg
P1030209-Exposure.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 3:21 am

The last day in Wyoming was simply a lot of driving. I tried my best at getting a good shot of the Tetons from the Ansel Addams lookout, but with no clouds in the sky it was difficult. It allowed me to learn HDR though, as I'm starting to take photography a little bit more seriously, adding more post processing (other than crop) to my images, you be the judge. Oh I almost forgot, it's also that morning that I saw my only black bear of the trip, it was just walking along a ridge above the road. Again, it was quite far, but I managed to get a better shot of it than I did the wolves.
Attachments
P1030366-HDR.jpg
P1030381-HDR-Pano.jpg
P1030505-Exposure.jpg
P1030534-Exposure.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 4:20 am

Amongst the people I know, some thought Colorado was just mountains, others that it was just deserts. In fact, the Rockies traverse the state, but on the Western side, it is very similar to its neighbor, Utah. Dinosaur National Monument and Colorado National Monument are perfect example of that. Although the former is named after the fossils you can find there, I explored the other half of the park where you follow several canyons. There's a very nice walk at the end of the road, on a ridge that gives you views to boths sides of the park. 3 years ago when I visited Utah I just loved the mix of desert colors and the vegetation, especially the Utah juniper tree. Dinosaur is full of them, but it was hard to isolate one in a nice photo.

Further South, Colorado National Monument really is a hidden gem. It's like Utah in a microcosm. It's not big, you can do all the lookouts in about an hour or two, but it's rich in rock spears, cliffs, wildlife (bighorn sheep), and insane views. If you suffer from a fear of heights, the road that's just on the rim of the canyon can be scary. If that's the case you can still hike low in the park, like at Devil's Kitchen, and I saw this crazy bonsai tree growing in the rock. In the evening, I couldn't get a great shot in the blue hour (sunset was poor as the cliffs mask the sun too early) but still enjoyed that magnificent view. The campground is also amazing, as you also get views from your spot.
Attachments
P1030585-Exposure.jpg
P1030593-Exposure.jpg
That photo would really need some focus stacking, unfortunately I didn't know how to do it at the time.
P1030600.jpg
P1030677.jpg
P1030695-Exposure.jpg
Last edited by Hallu on Fri 19 Oct, 2018 7:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 4:34 am

The next morning, before sunrise, I was ready. This time the sun would be low enough when it would light the cliffs. Unfortunately the sheer number of viewpoints to choose from confused me a bit, and I didn't know which one would work best. A photographer I met had the same issue, and my best photo would turn out to be of a tree, not the canyon itself. In any case, it's a beautiful area, not to be missed if you're in Colorado.

In the afternoon I found myself in Glenwood Springs, to hike Hanging Lake, a famous spot. Unfortunately the road was closed that day and the next following two, so I tried going to another area near Aspen. I was using the great app AllTrails, which is much better than any of the hiking books you can find for Colorado. It gives you the best hikes in your area, and people really take the time to comment, there's a lot of users. Unfortunately here I picked a hike inside the Maroon Bells area by mistake, which is a place that you can only access with the shuttle, and that's one of the most crowded insane spots in Colorado, just because it's got a nice lake reflecting the Maroon peaks, and everyone seem to gravitate here, so no car park is big enough and they enforced shuttles. Aspen is also one of the only things I don't like about Colorado : big rich ski resorts, with tight people who don't say hello. In the end I just did a cool hike above the town, looking at nice yellow aspen trees to photograph.
Attachments
P1030729-Exposure.jpg
P1030734-Exposure.jpg
P1030738-Panorama.jpg
P1030778-Exposure.jpg
P1030804-Exposure.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 4:51 am

That morning I had no plan. Hanging lake was closed, my blistered feet only allowed short hikes, and I ditched the idea of seeing Maroon Bells, I don't like overcrowded spots afterall, no matter how beautiful. So I drove to a spot I thought I wouldn't do on this trip, Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It's a huge deep black canyon, laid out like the Grand Canyon : a road following the South rim, main area of the park, and a North rim where only a few % of the visitors go. Unfortunately it was raining like crazy (one of the only two days of rain I would get the whole trip, pretty lucky), so let's fast forward to the following day. I started early again, but the sun wouldn't come above the clouds until around 9 am. Still, the canyon is really impressive. Much more scary than the grand canyon, as it just drops vertical, and the lookouts are right on the edge. It's also all black, whith a few white/pinkish stripes. It is not a park where you hike a lot though, as descending into the canyon is an off-track backpacking trip for which you need a permit (and it's full of poison ivy to top it up). So I stayed on the rim, enjoying every view. There's a road down into the canyon, but outside the park, and to a dam, so it's not that nice.

In the afternoon, I drove to Ouray, towards the San Juan Mountains, an area I really wanted to see, as it's supposed to be very wild and beautiful, far from busy Denver and Boulder. I walked up right from the town to some waterfalls, unfortunately dry. So I continued a bit aimlessly, following a track, to a sign which indicated a viewpoint. With all the autumnal colors it was really lovely. We do have some colors in autumn in the Alps, but only from the larch trees, or lower in the valley. Nothing like the aspen trees, which grows as high as 3500 m. Aspen also clone themselves to propagate, they don't use seeds, so that you see big clumps of aspens dotting the landscape, or waves of them amongst the mostly dominant pines.
Attachments
P1030826-Exposure.jpg
P1030856-Exposure.jpg
P1030879-Exposure.jpg
P1030960-Exposure.jpg
Last edited by Hallu on Fri 19 Oct, 2018 7:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 5:06 am

The walk I was the most looking forward too was probably Blue Lakes, in the Sneffel Wilderness area. I reached the carpark via a bumpy dirt track at around 7:30 am, a bit surprised by the temperature (around -5°). The hike up started steep, but I prefer climbing in the woods than in the open under the sun. In every way this hike was similar to the French Alps : the switchbacks, the narrow track, the boulder fields, and of course the lakes. There were 3 of them, one at the bottom, big and deep blue, and two at the top, one emerald green the other one deep blue again. At the green lake I saw a couple of funny marmots, just as playful as the ones we have in France, only with a darker fur and white nose. A couple of hikers gave me a great tip towards an off track vantage point above the first lake and the whole valley, it was really magnificent. The only difference to Europe is that the trees grow as high as 3500 m, so there are generally less views when you hike in Colorado than in the Alps or other European mountains. Not only is the treeline higher, but it was also never cut down for grazing, unlike on the old continent where people created those now famous Alpine meadows. Nevertheless, it was probably the best hike of the trip, and you feel a sense of pride when you walk down, all pumped up, and telling struggling people how far they have left to go. In Colorado you usually see either serious backpackers, or casual hikers. There is no passionate day hiker like in France where you can just hike for 7-8 hours in one day, logging sometimes 1500 m in elevation gain. Of course France forced this behavior by having such strict regulations on camping in the wild, while in the US you have campgrounds just about everywhere, both for car camping or backpacking. And that is one of the biggest appeals for me. Although I didn't camp every night in this trip (I did about half of the nights), I could have, easily. And in each campground you get at least a tent pad, a firepit and toilets. In all national parks, you get ranger talks at night, or even night ranger programs (like stargazing).
Attachments
P1030998-Exposure.jpg
P1040090-Exposure.jpg
P1040111.jpg
P1040142-Exposure.jpg
Last edited by Hallu on Fri 19 Oct, 2018 7:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 5:15 am

I would have loved to continue hiking in the San Juan, especially at Ice Lakes, but I planned to explore the Great Sand Dunes, 4h East, as well as the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, towering above the dunes. On the way here I would see one of the most scenic roads in Colorado, the Million Dollar Highway. It was just a splash of saturated yellow with all those aspen trees, I just took dozens of photos and I think I got a couple of very good ones. In the afternoon, I explored the dunes a bit. They're really huge, the tallest in North America (around 300 m high), and climbing them will just take the wind out of you. At sunset and sunrise it's just a magical place, it's also very isolated with very few towns which adds to the feeling. Plus you get ranger talks that are a bit special : the rangers here both play guitar and simply sing at night, before giving a talk about nocturnal wildlife, stars, etc... The area is a bit of a pain to drive to, but it's definitely memorable.
Attachments
P1040307-Panorama.jpg
P1040319.jpg
P1040345.jpg
P1040450.jpg
P1040485-Panorama.jpg
Last edited by Hallu on Fri 19 Oct, 2018 7:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 5:21 am

My next "serious" walk would take me to another lake, called Willow Lake. I had to drive through a pretty rough track to get there, saw a coyote on the way here, the only one of the trip, although I was woken up by a huge pack of coyotes one night at Jenny Lake. The walk up Willow Lake lacked views, and since it's plains for tens of miles around the Sangre de Cristo mountains, there's nothing to look down at. But there were a couple of nice waterfalls, and most of all, the lake was just gorgeous. An emerald lake in a natural amphitheater, with a waterfall feeding it, and ominous peaks, what more can you ask for. The harsh mid day sun made it difficult to convey this feeling on a picture, but it's definitely a must do hike.
Attachments
P1040500.jpg
P1040554.jpg
P1040568.jpg
P1040585.jpg
P1040587.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 5:35 am

Finally I was heading towards one of the busiest parks in the US. Yellowstone gets a couple million visitors a year, but it's 9000 km². Rocky Mountain gets a bit more visitors and is 9 times smaller ! Only Great Smoky Mountains (because of the proximity of East coast cities) and the Grand Canyon (for obvious reasons) get more visitors. Luckily, the West side of the park is still manageable as it's not easily accessed from Denver. So this is what I explored first, doing a bit of wildlife watching, and scouting locations for photos knowing I would come back later in the evening for sunset. I got pretty lucky with wildlife, with plenty of elks and a moose. Then I drove up Trail Ridge Road, the jewel of the park, climbing all the way to 3700 m, selecting my spot for sunset. When I was back later that night conditions changed with a strong wind that could easily cause frost bites (I think it was -10°). No tree grows up here, it's only toundra. So imagine my surprise when I saw a professional photographer taking this newly wed couple, in full wedding dress and suit, on a rocky spear, in the cold, for a couple of shots. People just do the craziest things.
Attachments
P1040677-Panorama.jpg
P1040773.jpg
P1040822.jpg
P1040873.jpg
P1040931.jpg
Last edited by Hallu on Fri 19 Oct, 2018 7:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 5:45 am

Before going to the busy Eastern side of Rocky Mountain National Park, I had planned another long day hike in a wilderness area, this time it would be Crater Lake in Indian Peaks. But I just did the dumbest thing. First I forgot my water. Luckily I had a few almost empty bottles which amounted to about a litre. And the rest I filled at a campground, but not keen on drinking this unfiltered water. So in the end I ended up almost not drinking to save water for when the hike would turn difficult. What I didn't plan for though were cramps. Dehydration, especially in the cold, just gives you cramps, no matter how fit you are. So barely half way up the lake my left leg was feeling worse and worse. But I just bit the bullet, coz I didn't want to give up, and I knew it was probably just a cramp, not a real injury. Unfortunately, I didn't get to enjoy Crater Lake very much, conscious that the cramp was getting worse as I stopped for breaks. I needed to keep walking to keep the muscle warm. Luckily a very nice girl saved my *&%$#! on the way down as she had a few ibuprofens in her first aid kit. It allowed me to complete the walk almost painfree and rest. For the sunset, I took a few more painkillers and went to another spot on the Trail Ridge Road. This time it was a festival of colors : the alpenglow on the Eastern side, and just a festival or red and yellow in the West.
Attachments
P1040945-Panorama.jpg
P1040959-Panorama.jpg
P1050071.jpg
P1050111-2.jpg
P1050239-2-Pano.jpg
Last edited by Hallu on Fri 19 Oct, 2018 7:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 5:50 am

The day following the cramp, I was a bit apprehensive for two reasons : first how much would I be able to walk, and second, I would be camping in the park this time, whereas I stayed at nice log cabins the previous two nights, and it was getting really cold at night. Luckily my leg was a bit better, and I was able to do a couple of hikes. One to Cub Lake, a nice lillypad lake, and another one following a river to a couple of cascades. The most famous area, Bear Lake, was off limits though, as the car parks were full, and there were no shuttles in September. I tried my luck around 5 pm, but the sun was already behind the mountains so I saw the lake in the shade.
Attachments
P1050256-Pano.jpg
P1050312.jpg
P1050341.jpg
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 6:07 am

So that next day I woke up early and got at Bear Lake around 7 am. There's a nice track linking several lakes here, all giving great views. That day I was lucky to have the moon setting right in the middle of the view from the lakes. There were also a couple of very nice backlit trees, against the gorgeous colors of the water. It is a spectacular area, but other areas in Rocky Mountain are just as spectacular. So I wonder why it is so congested (car parks are full at 9 am). National Parks don't have better scenery than other areas, at least in Colorado. They merely have better roads, ranger programs, and less elusive wildlife. So if you want to avoid the crowds, there's plenty to do in Colorado.

On the last day next morning, I opted for a drive up Mt Evans, the highest road in the US, at a whopping 4300 m. Again it was windy and cold, but there's a lovely lake up top (the road was closed to the summit) with gorgeous views. Stupid me I managed to get slapped in the face by my car door though, as a gush of wind opened it violently. Through a strike of luck neither my nose nor my glasses were broken, only my pride.

I left Colorado thinking that it may have been the best trip I've ever done. A few bumps on the road, with a couple of bad motels, but for scenery that was just insane. Yellowstone and Grand Teton are beyond belief, especially for wildlife, and Colorado is so varied and full of nice little towns that you could spend months here. Accommodation though, both in Wyoming and Colorado, is expensive. Camping to save money is a must, and although food is great (I had an amazing bison burger in Jackson, or a great homemade taco in Glendwood Springs) it can be expensive as well. But when you think of the US, don't gravitate naturally to either the East coast or California/Utah. For mountain lovers, Colorado is just heaven, and by going in September at peak autumn color I think I made the right choice.
Attachments
P1050418-Pano.jpg
P1050424.jpg
P1050477.jpg
P1050647.jpg
P1050714-2-Pano.jpg
Last edited by Hallu on Fri 19 Oct, 2018 7:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby ofuros » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 6:55 am

Epic trip, Hallu ! ... :mrgreen:
Mountains view are good for my soul...& getting to them is good for my waistline !
https://ofuros.exposure.co/
User avatar
ofuros
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1459
Joined: Fri 05 Feb, 2010 4:42 pm
Region: Queensland
Gender: Male

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby gayet » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 8:09 am

Thank you Hallu!

Your posts make it very easy to be an armchair traveller, and the descriptions and images are just wonderful.

Keep them coming.

Gaye
gayet
Phyllocladus aspleniifolius
Phyllocladus aspleniifolius
 
Posts: 889
Joined: Sat 12 Feb, 2011 8:01 pm
Location: Adelaide
Region: South Australia
Gender: Female

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Vee » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 8:33 am

Thanks Hallu. Amazing and beautiful.
Vee
Nothofagus gunnii
Nothofagus gunnii
 
Posts: 39
Joined: Mon 09 Feb, 2009 6:37 pm
Region: Tasmania

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby eggs » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 2:07 pm

Absolutely stunning. Thanks
User avatar
eggs
Lagarostrobos franklinii
Lagarostrobos franklinii
 
Posts: 8084
Joined: Fri 23 May, 2008 2:58 pm
Location: Para Vista, South Australia
Region: South Australia

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby johnw » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 9:33 pm

Wonderful and stunning images Hallu, thanks for taking the time to post them. Many of them and your comments bring back great memories of our own visit to the US early-mid spring 2014.
We also spent time in Wyoming and Colorado including about a week in Yellowstone NP and a few days in Jackson Hole near the Grand Tetons. I couldn't do a lot of hiking as many of the trails were still closed or snowed in. My first experience of driving in the USA was through near blizzard conditions on the way to Mammoth Hot Springs from Cody (yes the travertine terraces are spectacular). Your comments about looking for photographers with big zoom lenses is spot on. We did exactly the same thing in the Lamar Valley and got to see black bears with cubs and a lone grizzly at fairly close range among a lot of other wildlife. Unfortunately the Hayden Valley was a whiteout when we drove through, but did see the many fascinating thermal features around the lower geyser basin on the way through to the Grand Tetons, including Old Faithful erupting as we walked up to it. I'm determined to undertake a return visit but later in the (short) summer/fall season. and hike more extensively.
John W

In Nature's keeping they are safe, but through the agency of man destruction is making rapid progress - John Muir c1912
User avatar
johnw
Lagarostrobos franklinii
Lagarostrobos franklinii
 
Posts: 5480
Joined: Wed 23 Jan, 2008 11:59 am
Location: Macarthur Region - SW Sydney
Region: New South Wales
Gender: Male

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Fri 19 Oct, 2018 11:58 pm

johnw wrote:Wonderful and stunning images Hallu, thanks for taking the time to post them. Many of them and your comments bring back great memories of our own visit to the US early-mid spring 2014.
We also spent time in Wyoming and Colorado including about a week in Yellowstone NP and a few days in Jackson Hole near the Grand Tetons. I couldn't do a lot of hiking as many of the trails were still closed or snowed in. My first experience of driving in the USA was through near blizzard conditions on the way to Mammoth Hot Springs from Cody (yes the travertine terraces are spectacular). Your comments about looking for photographers with big zoom lenses is spot on. We did exactly the same thing in the Lamar Valley and got to see black bears with cubs and a lone grizzly at fairly close range among a lot of other wildlife. Unfortunately the Hayden Valley was a whiteout when we drove through, but did see the many fascinating thermal features around the lower geyser basin on the way through to the Grand Tetons, including Old Faithful erupting as we walked up to it. I'm determined to undertake a return visit but later in the (short) summer/fall season. and hike more extensively.


Thanks John, looks like you had better luck than me with bears. I'd love to see Yellowstone in winter, but that means no camping and accommodation is bound to be very expensive. I think I'd love to do a winter trip mostly in Utah, with a side trip to Yellowstone.
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby biggbird » Sun 20 Jan, 2019 1:57 pm

Thanks for that Hallu, it looks like a beautiful trip. Can't wait to get there one day! The Tetons in particular look like a stunning part of the world.
biggbird
Phyllocladus aspleniifolius
Phyllocladus aspleniifolius
 
Posts: 690
Joined: Wed 25 Apr, 2012 10:43 am
Region: Tasmania
Gender: Male

Re: Wyoming and Colorado : 3 weeks

Postby Hallu » Mon 21 Jan, 2019 11:52 pm

Thanks, the Tetons are great, but you'd get better scenery in the European Alps or even the Southern Alps in NZ. What makes the Tetons and America special in general is the wildlife in my opinion. I don't know of anywhere else where it's so easy to see a bear, a wolf, a bison or a moose. Europe is so frustrating for wildlife, in some areas it's getting there through conservation programs (like the vultures and the mountain goats in the Alps) but mostly when you walk in a forest or a mountain you consider yourself lucky if you see anything. In the US, you're unlucky if you don't see anything.
Hallu
Athrotaxis selaginoides
Athrotaxis selaginoides
 
Posts: 1831
Joined: Fri 28 Sep, 2012 11:19 am
Location: Grenoble
Region: Other Country


Return to International Trip Reports & Track Notes

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest