Jackson to Yellowstone

Mesa Falls, Idaho
Upper Mesa Falls, Idaho

A large berry fire had closed the North Entrance of Grand Teton and the South Entrance of Yellowstone, our obvious route. A detour into Idaho was required to reach Yellowstone’s West Entrance, thus adding an unexpected new state to my tally. The drive wasn’t a huge amount longer, but we had no idea about sights along its route, whereas the road north through Grand Teton had many obvious stopping places. Here, social media came into its own. I’d been keeping an eye on both parks’ Facebook pages for news, and one helpful user commented that anyone taking the western detour should consider visiting Mesa Falls. That was our plan made for us!

Along the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway we stopped first at the overlook for Lower Mesa Falls – we’d be able to hike down to them later in the morning.

A short distance along the road was Upper Mesa Falls where the Big Falls Inn (built around 1915) now serves as a visitor centre. There is also a network of board walks taking you to the Upper Falls and their attendant rainbow.

From the parking lot, the one-mile Mesa Nature Trail takes you to the Lower Falls which we had looked down on earlier. Thank you Facebook commenter, we loved Mesa Falls!

After a lunch stop at the Angler’s Lodge in Island Park, where I had possibly my favourite veggie burger ever, we crossed back into Wyoming and continued on to Yellowstone. Before long, a line of cars stopped at the roadside signalled our first wildlife sighting – elk and a very lazy looking bison.

Our final stop of the day was Norris Geyser Basin. Our eyes popped out on stalks and remained there the entire week we spent in Yellowstone, which is basically the caldera of a giant volcano. We watched the earth’s surface literally boiling at our feet, through geysers, springs, mudpots and fumaroles, and had a constant smell of sulphur in our nostrils. We have so many pictures, I’m not sure how I’m going to whittle them down for the next few posts. In the meantime, here are some highlights from Norris – first, Porcelain Basin. The colours are caused by the different minerals and algae present in the water.

Back Basin is home to Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest active geyser. Major eruptions (300 feet) are rare, the last one being two years ago, but we certainly saw it ejecting water for 10-20 feet. We thought this was awesome till we went to Old Faithful a few days later!

After a long day, we arrived at our accommodation, Canyon Lodge, to be brought down to earth with a bump. It had one huge advantage – location: the main road in Yellowstone forms a figure of eight loop and Canyon Lodge is very central. It’s also the largest lodge in the park and the only place we could get in for a full week, but my advice would be “don’t stay there”. Built in the 60s, it has massively expanded since then in terms of accommodation and the services haven’t kept up. Our room was 15 minutes walk from the dining room up a pot-holed unlit road and, although superficially attractive, wasn’t terribly comfortable either (one hard chair). I could go on and on, but John has written a very scathing review on Trip Advisor so if you’re thinking of going to Yellowstone, read that!

If I were doing it again I would stay a few days in the south of the park at Old Faithful and a few days in the north at Mammoth Springs – if we could get in. However, we didn’t let the lodge dampen our enthusiasm for the park and packed as much as we could into the next few days.

Next up – Yellowstone Canyon itself.

Canadian Rockies: Lake Louise

Saskatchewan Glacier
Saskatchewan Glacier

On the way down from Jasper to Lake Louise, we stopped off to hike the Parker’s Ridge trail which overlooks the Saskatchewan Glacier. The weather seems to have deserted us here, but I don’t remember that. It all looks very dramatic in the cloud.

By the time we got to Lake Louise, all was sunny again. On arrival, we climbed to a lookout over the Lake and the fabulous Chateau Lake Louise – and we had to do it twice!

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

On the map, it looked as though you could do a circular walk by taking a steep rocky path down from the Lookout to the Lake and following it round the water’s edge to the original starting point. However, when we got to the Lake it seemed that any previous path was long submerged. We paddled for a bit, but when it became wading we had to turn round. I got back up that steep rocky path PDQ and was glad that a) this was near the end of the holiday and I was much fitter than when we set out and b) we had a table booked for dinner which we would miss if we didn’t hurry. This was a huge incentive as you can imagine!

The next day, we hiked the Plain of the Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes trails. My main memories are that, despite my smile, I was very unhappy on the scree sections and (better) that there were two tea-houses on these trails. Unaccountably, we have no pictures of them, but I’ve checked the guidebook and my memory is correct. Scotland’s mountains need more tea-houses! 😉

On our final day, we ventured first to Moraine Lake:

Moraine Lake
Moraine Lake

Then we crossed the border into British Columbia. Many years before, we had a holiday in BC and the furthest east we ventured was Emerald Lake and Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park. So this time we ventured west to revisit them and our two holidays “met up”.

The following day, we drove back to Calgary for our flight home. I’ve really enjoyed writing this series – I remembered the Rockies being beautiful but they are even better in retrospect. I want to go again! If you read earlier posts, you might remember that this was my 50th birthday trip in 2007. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out that I have another big birthday coming up soon, so maybe I should celebrate in the same place? Especially as Canada also has a big birthday in 2017 (150th) and I’ve recently read that all National Parks will be free next year to celebrate. Watch this space….

In the meantime, our next Canadian trip will be to Toronto. Hints and tips from local bloggers welcome! And finally, this post is linked to Jo’s wonderful Monday Walks series. She has a lovely spring-time Algarve walk this week, which should cheer you up whatever your own weather is doing. Enjoy!

 

Lake District walks: Elterwater circle

Britannia Inn, Elterwater
Britannia Inn, Elterwater

We had one completely dry day on our recent Lake District holiday and we used it to do a beautiful circular walk starting in Elterwater village. First, we walked alongside Elterwater itself, with views across it to the Langdale Pikes.

Elterwater
Elterwater

The route then took us through fields and woodlands via two beautiful waterfalls, Skelwith Force –

– and Colwith Force.

Next to Colwith is this wishing tree, studded with small coins. Is this a peculiarly British practice? I know I’ve seen it before, but can’t remember if it was at home or abroad.

Coin wishing tree
Coin wishing tree

Continuing through more fields, our next discovery was the oasis that is High Park Farm. We were not expecting to come across a tea garden on our walk, but we were glad to enjoy a delicious lunch overlooking Little Langdale and the company of fellow hikers – and some beautiful Dutch Bantams. The farm is also a B&B and right on the Cumbria Way for anyone (not me!) considering a long-distance footpath.

After lunch, the walk descended past the spoil heaps of the disused Little Langdale Quarry. A pair of tunnels allows you to access part of it – Cathedral Cavern.

On the final part of the walk, we crossed the River Brathay by the 17th century pack-horse bridge – Slater Bridge – before climbing up the other side of  Little Langdale from where we took a bridle path back down into Elterwater.

The walk is 7.8 miles with about 1200 feet of ascent – the route is on the excellent WalkLakes site – and I’m linking it to Jo’s Monday Walks. Why not pop along there to see where everyone else has been walking this week?

New Lanark and the Falls of Clyde

New Lanark
New Lanark

New Lanark was built in the 1780s by cotton mill owner David Dale to house his workers. His son-in-law, Robert Owen, became a managing partner of New Lanark in 1800 and expanded the business while also implementing a series of social and educational reforms designed to improve the quality of life of his workforce. Today, the village is owned by a trust – the mills have been turned into museums and a hotel, and many of the millworkers’ homes have been restored and reoccupied.

Our most recent visit was not to view the mills – we’ve done that several times. We wanted to see a tapestry that was on display, and then have a walk up to the Falls of Clyde. Tapestries are quite the thing at the moment – last year, I wrote about both the Great Tapestry of Scotland and the Scottish Diaspora Tapestry. Those two were similar in that they had a theme but each panel stood on its own. This one told the story of the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745 (when Bonnie Prince Charlie defeated the government army) so it was like a giant comic-strip. Here’s just a flavour:

I also loved the banners round the walls:

Then it was off for our walk. We’ve done this before too, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much water in the Falls – the immense power which was available to the mills is obvious. We followed the Clyde Walkway past Corra Linn….

….as far as the even more spectacular Bonnington Linn.

We then looped back on the woodland trail and had a last stroll round the village before starting the climb back up to the carpark….

….via the Old Cemetery, reflecting on Robert Owen’s words as we went. Truly a man ahead of his time.

I’ve added this to Jo’s Monday Walk collection.

Scottish Snapshots: Moffat

Scottish Snapshots is a series of short posts about places I visited in 2013 but didn’t write about at the time

Moffat is a lovely little town in Dumfries and Galloway. John and I visited for a weekend a couple of years ago; this time (May 2013) we were meeting up with our friends, Val and Kenn from Yorkshire. We made an excellent choice of accommodation: I can’t praise McAdam House Holiday Apartments more highly – I wanted to move in! Our only complaint was that we couldn’t make use of the roof terrace because of the weather, but I guess the owners can’t be held responsible for that.

There are some easy walks around Moffat itself, but it’s also handy for the Grey Mare’s Tail and St Mary’s Loch where there is a good pub, Tibbie Shiel’s, for a hearty lunch to fortify you. Have a giggle at their weather report!

On our previous visit, we also walked at the Devil’s Beef Tub and there are many other walks to try. Add to that a selection of good restaurants and we have every reason to go back.

Maine rains again

But not much. We woke to a beautiful day in Bethel, so set off for Grafton Notch again to do some of the hiking that we had deemed it too wet for the previous day. As we drove upwards, the clouds grew thicker and when we got out at the trailhead it was raining lightly. We had decided to climb 900 feet to Table Rock to start with – this hike has two choices, a steep route and a more moderate path, so you can make it a loop walk. We chose to go up the steep route (because I feel safer climbing than descending) which was described in the information leaflet we had as “boulder strewn”. It certainly was. What the leaflet didn’t mention was that you had to climb over many very large boulders and scramble between them. Rock climbing if you ask me – occasionally, I needed a helping hand to pull me up and, once, a firm shove from behind. I was particularly despondent when we met two young men coming down who told us that the route got more challenging ahead, and I almost decided to turn back. Fortunately we didn’t because they were wrong – we were over the worst and the views from the top were lovely, despite the low cloud. Here we are enjoying our triumph.

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Going down the easier route was fine, but I didn’t feel like any more stiff climbs so we left the park (with the sun reappearing as we drove) and stopped at Step Falls, just outside it. We climbed (gently) as far as you could go without trespassing on private land and sat for a while enjoying the view.

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Thus ended our stay in Bethel – just one last word about its restaurants though. For a very small town it has a wide selection and we ate our best meal of the holiday (so far) here in 22 Broad Street. Tomorrow, it’s on to the coast. The forecast is dry – until Friday. I wonder what there is to do in Bar Harbor in the rain?

In Maine it’s mainly raining…

At least over Bethel today. There’s not much to do indoors here, so off we went out into it – in the car. This was planned as a hiking section of the holiday, but the rain was so unrelenting we decided on a driving tour with lots of short stops. Coffee and lunch are always good! However, we did stretch our legs at a couple of points in Grafton Notch State Park. I have loads of pictures of pretty waterfalls from everywhere we’ve been so far, but haven’t posted them because they all look much the same. These ones are a little different, accessorised by zipped up fleece and umberella.

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Our B&B host, Carol, had recommended this route as a good one for seeing moose. As we have been everywhere else, we were disappointed. Perhaps this creature is the only one we will meet!

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We’ve struck it lucky with our B&B again – or, rather, my planning and research has been superb. Bethel Hill is a much more modern house -1970s – than the Victoriana we have slept in so far, and has been extensively remodelled by the current owners. We love it!

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As I type, it is almost time to go in search of dinner, and the sun has come out. Tomorrow is another day – if the weather holds, we’ll go back to Grafton Notch and do some proper hiking.

There’s gold in them thar hills – Dahlonega

Well, contrary to expectations, we had a lovely day and reached the airport with no stress at all. We’ve said a sad goodbye to our trusty jeep which has got us about the place for three weeks:

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Now we are in the lounge waiting for our flight and I’ve copied and pasted my diary into this blog. On our way down this morning, we stopped for a short hike (2 miles) at Desoto Falls:

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We then had lunch in a lovely place called Dahlonega. It was the most successful gold mining town in Georgia in the 19th century, but is now set up for tourism – though in a much more tasteful way than Alpine Helen. All the old buildings round the main square have been turned into shops or restaurants – we ate on the balcony of the Bourbon Street Grill, a little piece of New Orleans in Georgia.

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The old courthouse in the middle of the square has been turned into an interesting little museum about gold mining, which we enjoyed.

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So now we have two flights to go and then we’ll be home. Time to start planning the next trip.

Waterfalls and Alpine Helen

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Friday 29th July, 5.30pm

Back on the balcony, this time with beer and chips. An easier day today – after yesterday’s tumble we decided to limit the hiking. All the mountain areas we have been in are very proud of their waterfalls. We visited three today, driving in a loop round scenic backroads. Helton Creek Falls is not far from the cabins and these were the least spectacular. Dukes Creek Falls are 300 feet high and beautiful. Anna Ruby Falls (pictured) are unusual because they are double falls – two creeks falling into the same basin, one from about 50 feet and the other from about 125 feet. None of these falls are just off the road so we’ve still done 3-4 miles and a fair bit of descent and ascent so I feel we still deserve the beer.

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We also visited the town of “Alpine” Helen. This sounded intriguing in the guide book, a little bit of Bavaria in Georgia. It was certainly everything I expected, and more – truly tacky! Still, it had a good grocery store, Betty’s, which concealed all mod cons in a log cabin style early 20th century general store ambience. We stocked up our bread supplies there and had a tasty lunch in one of the cafés. The guy playing the oompah music in the centre was authentically dressed on his top half, but I don’t think floral shorts really cut it instead of lederhosen.

11pm. Still up so must be getting used to the mountain air. Microwave Chinese dinners tonight, not a patch on the real thing (including John’s own stir-fries).

The Smokies are still smokin’

As I write, we are spending our last night in the Smokies. We are in another lovely B&B, the Charleston Inn in Bryson City – which is not, of course, a city but a rather charming small town. Our room is called the Treehouse because it’s two flights up and has a balcony overlooking a walnut tree. Excellent for the drinking of beer after a hard day, as you can see.

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We also have this lovely lily pond just outside our building.

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Yesterday, on our way over, we hiked a trail called Chimney Tops. It wasn’t the best choice, because the guide book we had didn’t warn us about the rock climb at the end. John made it some way up but was impeded by a large group of tourists who were taking their time (and lots of photographs) – and also by my anxious face peering up from below. It’s harder than it looks, so we missed the best views.

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Today, however, has been the best day’s hiking so far. There are two entrances to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from Bryson City and we explored both. In the morning, we visited the Deep Creek area which was very busy – not with hikers, but with people going tubing. This looked great fun. However, we did the Loop Trail which took in three waterfalls: Juney Whank, Tom’s Branch and Indian Creek.

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After a picnic lunch, we moved on to the Lakeview Drive, known to locals as the Road to Nowhere. As part of FDR’s New Deal, a dam was built to create Lake Fontana and, to replace a road flooded in the process, Lakeview Drive was promised. That was 1943 and it has never been completed. It ends within the park at a 1200 foot tunnel, now only accessible on foot, and through that are various trails. We did the Goldmine Loop which took us down to the lake and back up – a stiff climb which left us needing those beers. In contrast to the morning, we didn’t see a single other person on this walk so, apart from worrying about meeting a bear, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think we’ve done 8 or 9 miles today.

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As you might have gathered, I am fascinated by the variety of fungi here and today we saw several new kinds.

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As I said, Bryson City is a pleasant little town. Last night, we ate in Trip Advisor’s number one recommendation, the Cork and Bean, a wine bar / coffee bar combination which also does wonderful crepes. On the way home, we spotted a Chinese restaurant and went in to see if their menu was suitable for vegetarians – this is a frustration with this country, they don’t have to display a menu at the door. Anyway, the staff were friendly and it looked fine and I was ridiculously excited all day about going there – there have been some definite culinary highlights so far, but a lot of pasta and veggie burgers too. In the end, it was very good – despite the staff who were on tonight not having such good English as last night, any misgivings were unfounded and the veggie meal turned out to be completely veggie. Kung Po tofu with cashew nuts was particularly good.

So, last words on Bryson City – it’s a pretty little mountain town….

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……which post-dates the Civil War and therefore has a statue of a 1WW soldier instead of the usual Confederate…..

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…..and best of all, takes pride in encouraging its kids to read:

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This has been a long post but there was a lot to fit in. Tomorrow, we head back into Georgia to a cabin on Blood Mountain. No wi-fi and probably no phone signal, so might not be online again until we get home. Ciao.