Two New National Park Shows

Travel Channel is launching a new show America The Beautiful narrated by Robert Redford for the National Park Service’s 100th Anniversary in 2016. It starts August 23rd, 2015 and sounds great!

Another new show is Rock The Park. It follows hosts Jack Steward and Colton Smith as they visit National Parks around the US. 

Check out these shows if you are interested in the National Parks! 

 

 

Airstream Travel Dreams

After taking a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in 2014, Craig and I realized how much of the US we had not seen yet. The amazing parts. I used to be a travel agent for many years, so we spent a lot of our vacation time at all-inclusives in Mexico and the Caribbean, on cruises and at Walt Disney World. At tourist spots like New York City and San Diego. I needed to experience the places I was selling. While we have loved all of our trips and do not regret taking them, we do regret waiting so long to see our national parks. Seeing a place like Yellowstone for the first time can be life changing. To know places like that are out there will change you. The only other trips that have come close are sites we have seen in Europe and the ruins in Mexico.

Our national park trips have made us long to see so much more of the world. It is frustrating to have a small amount of vacation time, but we are grateful for what we do have. Still, our dream is to save as much as we can, retire early and full time travel in an Airstream. We would love to travel for a few years, see everything we want to see and find some land to build a small home or cabin on. By small we are thinking under 750sf. We love the 25 foot and 27 foot Airstreams. An older one that is in good shape would be great too. Hopefully we will have one soon!

What are your travel dreams?

The Mist Trail

One of the trails we hiked in Yosemite National Park was Vernal Fall by way of the Mist Trail. The hike started at the Happy Isles shuttle stop (#16.) If you are not staying in the Valley in Yosemite, you could park at the the trail head parking or Camp Curry. The first part of the trail is paved for about a mile. It is all uphill but the views are great! Around 0.8 of a mile you reach the Vernal Fall Footbridge. There are bathrooms here and water.  The day we hiked was very warm-over 90 so we took a lot of water with us. It is nice to be able to refill here.

To get to the top of Vernal Fall, you have to climb about 600 granite steps. When the falls are really going in the spring, they can be wet and slippery. We planned on going all the way to Nevada Fall, but Craig wore his sneakers and was slipping everywhere. There were puddles to climb through and many people on the trail to deal with. It is one of the most popular trails in Yosemite, but many people underestimate the elevation and have to be rescued. I wore my new Ahnu Montara Boots and they did great. I got the purple and I love them. They are light and waterproof and did not slip at all.

The views and hike are amazing. Just bring plenty of water and stop to enjoy the sights along the way!

 

Where Should I Stay in Yellowstone?

When I first started researching a Yellowstone National Park trip, I was not aware of how many hotels, lodges and cabins there were at the park. I only really knew about the Old Faithful Inn. The park is very large, and driving to each section can take a long time. You want to stop and see the sights and there may be traffic jams due to animals on the roads. It is not safe to drive when it is dark because you may hit an animal. You do not want to hit an elk or buffalo!

About a year ahead, I started to research the different areas and concentrate on what we wanted to see the most. We decided to split our time between the Old Faithful area, Mammoth Hot Springs, Roosevelt and Lake.  Reservations open May 1st for the next summer. If you want an Old Faithful Inn room with a bathroom, a Roosevelt Lodge cabin with a bathroom or a Mammoth hot tub cabin, you must book ASAP. Xanterra runs the hotels and lodges at Yellowstone. You want to book through their web site or call them directly.  Here are some pictures of the different locations and what is near them.

The Old Faithful Inn area is very crowded during the day. Around the hotel and Old Faithful were the most crowds we saw the whole trip. A short walk away, the Upper Geyser Basin was much less crowded. At nighttime a ton of people also cleared out. We held a room in the old house section of the Inn. It had a sink, but shared bathrooms down the hall. The bathrooms were very clean and the shower stalls had shower gels and shampoo in them. The Inn is beautiful and they do give tours during the day so you can learn the history.

The Mammoth area is near the North Entrance and Mammoth Hot Springs. Mammoth Village has a hotel, cabins, a post office, visitor center, chapel and restaurants. Historic Fort Yellowstone is here and there is a walking tour you can do.  Elk are often seen in this area.  We stayed in a hot tub cabin and it was nice after walking all day.

One of our favorite locations was the Roosevelt Lodge and Cabins. Roughrider Cabins are basic and have a stove for heat. This location is near Lamar Valley and the Northeast Entrance. You would get to the Beartooth Highway from this entrance. You can sign up for the Cowboy Cookout during the summer and ride a horse from the Roosevelt Stables or take a stagecoach! The Lamar Valley is beautiful and a great place to watch for bears and wolves. If you want a cabin with a bathroom, you have to book on May 1st for the next summer. There are only about 14 of these cabins! Otherwise there are shared bathrooms.

The next area we stayed in was near Lake Yellowstone. There are several nice hikes near Lake. You can take boats out or go on a guided Lake cruise. The Lake Hotel rooms are refurbished and expensive, but there are also bright yellow cabins here. Lake Lodge is next door and more rustic. There are cabins in this area as well. You can walk over to the Lake Hotel’s dining room. This is a good spot to get to Hayden Valley and The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone as well. There is a nice large laundry area at the Lake Lodge.    

I hope this gives you some info on where to start planning. There are other areas to stay at near Canyon and Grant Village as well as campsites spread throughout Yellowstone. The Old Faithful area also has the Snow Lodge and Cabins. TripAdvisor has some great info that you may want to start with. Yellowstone Treasures is also a wonderful book for research! 

The Crow’s Nest at Old Faithful Inn

High in the rafters at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park, is an enchanting place called the Crow’s Nest. It is said that Robert Reamer, the architect that built the Inn designed it from a childhood fantasy. Bands used to play here for guests high in the air. It is 76 feet up and looks like an amazing tree house.

When I was researching our Yellowstone trip, I came across info on the Crow’s Nest. It turns out you can call the Old Faithful Inn bell desk, and if there is space during your stay, they will take you up to the Crow’s Nest and the roof of the Old Faithful Inn for flag lowering. I was lucky to read this in May when they first opened for the season. I was able to get a spot for our August trip!

We met at the bell desk at 6pm as requested. The bell person that we went up with told us another family might be joining us and was that OK. We said sure. We waited a bit more for the family to show up, but only the mother decided to go. (Wow, who would turn this down? Maybe someone was afraid of heights!) Then we set off for the stairs. They keep the stairs to this area locked for safety.

People were watching and wondering why we got to go past the gates. It pays to do some research ahead of time.

The Crow’s Nest was amazing, but the real honor was getting to lower the United States flag and state flags on the roof of the Inn.

This would be a great thing to surprise someone with on your trip. It is pretty high up, and the railings are low so be prepared. It can be windy as well. The view of the Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful is stunning.

 

Trip Planning

One good place to help with your trip planning is AAA. If you have a membership, you can go in and get maps, guide books and Trip Ticks.  Even though we use a lot of online resources and Apps like Roadtrippers to plan our trips, we like having paper maps in the car/truck. Sometimes a GPS will be wrong in more remote areas or you will have no signal. Today, we went into our local AAA and got some maps and guide books for our California road trip in June. They even had some Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon Ranger booklets. These have some good info on visitors centers, hours, etc. I also grabbed some Alaska cruise brochures for future planning!

I will do a post soon on trip planning for a National Park trip like Yellowstone or Yosemite. Planning can be overwhelming because a park like Yellowstone is so large. There are several lodges to choose from and you need to book a year in advance to get your summer dates!

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea

Have you seen the great PBS show The National Parks: America’s Best Idea? It was a 6 episode series produced by Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan that came out several years ago. You can rent the DVDs from your library or watch it on Netflix. Craig and I spent some time watching the episodes and it made us want to see our National Parks even more!

I  especially loved the story of Margaret and Edward Gehrke from Lincoln, Nebraska. For 30 years the Gehrkes traveled to every National Park that existed at the time by train and car. They started in 1915 at the Grand Canyon.  Margaret wrote about the trips in her journals and Edward took many photographs. Margaret put the pictures in scrapbooks, and they were given to the Nebraska State Historical Society. I have some of their photographs on my National Park Pinterest page.

Here is one from Rocky Mountain National Park-their favorite. (From PBS.)