Week 56: Colorado (before we moved there)

After leaving behind the awesomeness of Glacier National Park and spending a few days moving across Montana (it’s big!), we were planning to go to the Black Hills in South Dakota.  However… how do we put this politely?

We needed some goddamn Internet.

The unlimited Internet hotspot we had at this point in our trip used Sprint’s network.  But there is a giant hole in Sprint’s network coverage in the northern Rocky Mountain area, and that was where we had been living for months.

In the map above, the yellow represents “good service” and the red represents “good luck.”  Note the circled area in the map above.  We were within that circle, or someplace with even less service, between May 6 late July.  Let’s just say the idea of going weeks longer without Internet as we explored the Dakotas was a real non-starter.

No Internet and no civilization make Jake and Heather… something something.

So we called an audible and headed down to the bright yellow at Longmont, Colorado, a little bit north of Denver (where we live now).  It is an area full of brand-new big box stores and strip malls, restaurants, breweries, and — glory of glories — a strong 4G Sprint signal.

Not much to say about the drive there.  Wyoming is huge and empty, and although it can be beautiful, it is also very easy to drive through.  Then we hit Colorado, and suddenly – people!!  It’s an odd feeling to go from days of driving through nothing to gridlock all at once.

We stayed in Longmont’s county fairgrounds / RV park, which was both a good deal and the only open place to stay for about fifty miles.  It was a good spot to visit Jake’s sister Kate in Boulder, and also to explore Denver a little, since it was on our list of possible locations to move to.   And since we did pick Denver, we actually came back and lived at the fairgrounds for a while when we moved out to Colorado, several months later.

It was a pretty great time.  We hiked up the Flatirons, a famous set of vertical plate-like mountains near Boulder.

We hung out at a heavy metal-themed brewery, which was exactly as weird and awesome as it sounds, then caught a Rockies game at Coors Field.

We also caught a show at the iconic Red Rocks amphitheater.  They have movie nights during the summer, and we saw Labyrinth.  You know, that 80s one with David Bowie?  It’s a very strange movie, but Red Rocks is a pretty amazing place to see it.

Plus:  there was a whole David Bowie tribute band competition thing!

Mistakes Were Made

A few days after getting to Colorado, we decided to do what Colorado is famous for:  get high!

Yes, we climbed a so-called “14er” – a 14,000 foot peak – with Kate.  What did you think we meant?

It’s not quite as crazy as it sounds – the trailhead starts at around 11,000 feet.  Still, it is high, and both Fischers have had issues with elevation in the past.  We chose Mt. Bierstadt, a “beginner” 14er.

First note: we got there way too late.  It was almost two hours to get to the trailhead, and we didn’t make it until about 9 a.m.  Getting there early is important because the mountains in Colorado are notorious for afternoon thunderstorms.

Second note: it was a pretty hike.  Very pretty.  And not too steep!

Third note:  Oh god, the elevation!  Heather was relatively unaffected.  For Jake and Kate, every step was basically exhausting… and there were a lot of steps.

Taking frequent breaks, we slooooooooowly made our way to the top.  Halfway up, college-age workers were repairing the trail, moving heavy stones with ease while we quietly panted.  Occasionally, someone wearing Lycra would run past us, sprinting up the trail without seeming to sweat.

We finally made it to the top around noon.  No problem – the clouds were all fluffy and white.  We rested, ate some lunch, and took a few photos of the awesome landscape.

The actual peak was on a small mound nearby.  It required boulder scrambling, but we (Jake and Heather) decided to try it.  We made it up in about fifteen minutes, and assumed we would be just fine.  Jake posed for the cheerfully oblivious photo below.

See those dark clouds behind him?  Yeah…

Storms come fast in the mountains.

About ten minutes after that photo was taken, we were booking it down the trail while pouring rain and hail blasted down around us.  Soon, lightning started slamming down onto the mountains around us.  We took a look around and gulped – we were still above the treeline.  In fact, we were the highest thing around for miles.

No need to linger.  It was bad, but we survived.  Plus, so far as anyone knows, Jake didn’t get hit by lightning and then reanimated in a gross violation of biology and physics.

So.  Don’t need to ask about that.

Rocky Road

We did lots of fun stuff in Colorado, but one other stands out – our visit to Rocky Mountain National Park.  We were fresh off our Glacier high, but being National Park completionists, we couldn’t turn down the opportunity.

The main claim to fame at Rocky Mountain’s name is Trail Ridge Road.  It’s a scenic drive that winds along a deep mountain valley, stunning peaks visible in the background.  Unfortunately it was raining on and off while we were there, but we still liked it quite a bit.

But if we’re being honest… all we could think about was that Glacier’s is better.  (Note: that is not a popular opinion in Colorado.)

We do have to say that we live close to Rocky Mountain now, and we’ve been back a few times and really enjoyed it.   Even better, there’s a lot more to explore.  It might not be Glacier, but if you can’t be with the one you love, love you one you’re with.  – Michael Scott.

Final verdict?  Rocky Mountain is awesome.

(But it’s not Glacier.)

Roadtrip Time Travel

Next Post

Roadtrip Status

We’ve reached the end of our roadtrip!  We’re settled down in Denver, but we’re going to keep making blog posts and posting our favorite photos from the trip, so stay tuned for more.

Follow Us On Social Media


Latest Posts


Week 55: Beartooth Highway

We traveled southeast from Glacier just over one year ago, on July 13, 2016.  (Yes – that means we have officially lapped ourselves in blog post writing!)  We drove across rolling farmland through rural Montana, an area exactly as desolate as it sounds.  We noticed with a bit of sadness that each hill was a little less roll-y as we moved away from Glacier and the Rocky Mountains.

Our first stop was Great Falls, Montana, because unlike the east side of Glacier, Great Falls was large enough to have a Target – and even better, wi-fi at the RV park!  Blessed, blessed wi-fi.  Plus, Jake’s dad was flying out of and staying overnight in Great Falls after spending a few days visiting the Fischers near Grand Teton.  So we had a nice reunion and some tasty food at – where else?  The local Jakers Restaurant.


The next morning, we once again drove southeast through rural Montana farmland, cutting a zigzag path through one of the country’s emptiest states.  We eventually made it to a real highway (I-90), and stopped for two nights in the tiny town of Columbus, Montana.  Our destination was a free, town-run campground, curiously called Itch-Kep-Pe Park.  We never found out the origin of the name, but for free, it was certainly nice. Itch-Kep-Pe Park sits on the banks of the Yellowstone River, and some spots offered amazing river views (but not ours, sadly).

One night, we heard a camper in a tent nearby getting sick outside.  An unexpected benefit to living in a motorhome is that you have your house with you when you travel, and so we happened to have Pepto Bismol on hand.  It’s just like lending your neighbor a warm, pink, goopy cup of sugar.

Highway to the Danger Zone

While staying at Itch-Kep-Pe, we took a drive down to see the Beartooth Highway.  The road runs from Red Lodge in southern Montana across the Wyoming border, ultimately leading to Yellowstone National Park.  It’s one of the most famous and beautiful highways in the country, switchbacking up steeply through beautiful mountain country and then cutting across a high ridgeline for miles.

After climbing the mountain, you arrive at a meadow formed by glaciers, with boulders and lakes around every bend.

It’s gorgeous.

And full of hairpin turns.

This would be an extremely bad place to bring an RV, but we saw people trying anyway.  We didn’t drive the entire length, as the road climbs to more than 12,000 feet and Jake began getting a headache and altitude sickness.  (Also, we had just been in Yellowstone!)  Nonetheless, there were some amazing views.

On the way back, as we passed through Red Lodge, we noticed an incredible number of motorcycles and bikers parked on the town’s main drag.  We had unknowingly visited during the Beartooth Rally, a large motorcycle gathering that attracted all sorts of people wearing leather.  We didn’t stay – it was a little intimidating, to be honest – but it nicely foreshadowed something we would soon be walking into face-first.

We’ll save that story for another time.

Roadtrip Time Travel

Next Post

Roadtrip Status

We’ve reached the end of our roadtrip!  We’re settled down in Denver, but we’re going to keep making blog posts and posting our favorite photos from the trip, so stay tuned for more.

Follow Us On Social Media


Latest Posts


Week 54: Glacier National Park: Part 2

We’re back with Part 2 of our trip to Glacier National Park, a place so beautiful it makes the background of our pictures look photoshopped.  If you haven’t seen Part 1, check it out here.

Logan Fog

Due to grizzly bear activity, hikes in Glacier tend to close without warning.  That happened to us when we reached Logan Pass, the top of Going-to-the-Sun road, and found the option we wanted was closed.  So, in the spirit of adventure, we persuaded Jake’s family to go on one of Glacier’s most famous hikes:  The Highline Trail.  The Highline Trail starts at Logan Pass, and it runs directly above Going-to-the-Sun road.

Oh, and it starts with a walk along the side of a cliff.

There is a handrail, of sorts.  A chain wrapped in long pieces of garden hose is bolted to the wall, reminding us of a more comfortable version of Angel’s Landing at Zion.  Jake’s mom is no fan of heights, but she got made it through beautifully – perhaps because a massive fog bank made it impossible to look down.

Unfortunately, the fog hung around for more than just the cliff walk.  The actual trail was bursting with birds and bees, Spring flowers and cute little animals, and melting snow (in July!) but we couldn’t see a damn thing more than ten feet away.  The swirls and eddies of the fog would provide tantalizing glimpses of the valley we knew was there, but couldn’t see.

We decided to turn back after a while, but as luck would have it, the fog lifted right before we made it back – and it was a stunning sight.

Incidentally, Logan Pass isn’t especially high by Rocky Mountain standards (6,600 feet), but it does have one thing going for it:  mountain goats!  They hang out right near the visitor’s center, slowing traffic and accomplishing basically nothing.  As far as we can tell, their life consists entirely of licking rocks and sleeping.

Animals after our own heart.

West Side > East Side

After our week with Jake’s family was up, we sadly said our goodbyes – to Jake’s mom and dad, that is.  Nothing Mundane’s official sister, Kate, stayed with us for a few more days, as we traveled around the park to… the East Side.

That probably makes no sense, so here’s the explanation.  Glacier is huge, and the main entrances are on the west side and the east side, connected by Going-to-the-Sun Road.   The west side is near a large tourist town with restaurants, breweries, grocery stores, and the coolest gift shop we’ve ever been to.

The east side has… an RV park, and a gas station.  And that’s about it.

That’s a slight exaggeration, but not by much.  There was a bar, a burrito stand, and the world’s tiniest and saddest-looking miniature golf course, but certainly no brewery or grocery store.  Our Internet connection approximated the AOL dial-up days.  We couldn’t even buy cooking wine, since the area is on the Blackfeet Tribe reservation and it was a tribal holiday (although apparently the bar was fine!).

At least we were able to get reservations at the RV park here.  As it turned out, the RV park itself has its own restaurant.  The enterprise was essentially built by hand by settlers in the 1950s, and there were some interesting mementos.  Our favorite were the guestbook pages laminated into the table.

There is a downside to being a family run business, however, not to mention being the only game in town.  The waiters and waitresses may literally have never been to another restaurant, because their service was so terrible it was almost impressive.  They genuinely could not have cared less whether we enjoyed our meal.  Jake also learned that, while “chef’s choice” may get you something good and unique at a high-end sushi restaurant, it gets you “a pile of whatever crap we couldn’t sell this month” at family-run RV park restaurants in northwestern Montana.

Learning is fun.

Ice, Ice Baby

Undeterred by culinary atrocities, we struck out with Kate on a hike to Iceberg Lake.  The trail cuts through a beautiful alpine meadow teeming with wildflowers, set against a backdrop so magnificent we can’t possibly do it justice with words.   Just take a look at the pictures.

We passed through a dense forest with few people around, which made us slightly nervous because this is grizzly bear country.  We certainly didn’t want to surprise any grizzlies, so we clapped and talked loudly as we went.  (Some people wore bells for this purpose, but several different rangers later confided in us that these are worthless.)

No bears were encountered – maybe they didn’t like our singing – and we soon reached the lake, surrounded on three sides by sheer mountain cliffs.  It was July, but icebergs were floating in the water.

The waters here were crystal-clear, and very cold.  A few people were taking a dip anyway, but we decided that discretion is the better part of valor and politely declined that option.  We had a lovely picnic by the lake, made a photosphere, and headed back.

There was a lot of beargrass here – tall, white, fuzzy flowers, like huge cottonballs on a stick.  They were allegedly named beargrass by Lewis & Clark, who saw some grizzlies playing in a field of beargrass and assumed the bears must love them.

We have no idea if that’s generally true.  Buuuuuut… we did come close to a grizzly bear on the way back!

It was foraging just off the trail, nearly invisible becuase it was downslope and around the bend from where we were walking.  Jake caught a glimpse of someone down the path gesturing wildly, and somehow correctly interpreted it as, “bear nearby – proceed with caution!”  He stretched out his arm for Heather and Kate to stop.

Heather assumed someone was just taking a picture, and tried her best to barrel through Jake’s arm (and into the waiting paws of the grizzly up ahead).

Luckily she stopped in time, and no mishaps were had.  We waited a bit, then edged around the trail, bear spray in hand.  We were relieved to see the bear had dropped lower down the slope, and we quickly scooted past.  It had probably been just a few feet off the trail you can see below.

We reported the bear sighting, like good junior rangers.  And we took the opportunity to visit one of Glacier’s many beautiful chalets, set in a preposterously beautiful location right by an alpine lake.  We have no idea what it costs, but wow.   This would be a rather nice place to stay.

Light At The End of the Tunnel

After Iceberg Lake, Kate left to head back to Colorado, and we decided to stay one more day for one more hike.  Many camping spaces at Glacier are first-come, first-served, so at 7 a.m., we drove down to the park and snagged one of the prettiest parking spaces you’ll ever see.

The trail we picked is called the Ptarmigan Tunnel, named after the bird (the “p” is silent).  The first two miles or so share the trail with the Iceberg Lake hike we had just done, but we didn’t mind – that’s a view we would happily see every day.

The trail then branched off and became considerably less populated.  We trekked steeply uphill through an even denser, more enclosing forest than the day before, making us more than a little nervous.  A guidebook we read described this area as “natural grizzly bear habitat,” and we were grateful for our hiking prowess as we pushed hard to get out of the danger zone.

Then things opened up, and we picnicked for lunch near a beautiful alpine lake.  (Glacier has a lot of those.)  Several marmots – like beavers without the big teeth – frolicked nearby, cute, furry, and utterly unafraid of humans.  There was a lot of wildlife on this trail, all habituated to visitors – we even walked along the trail behind a deer for a little while.

Eventually, we tackled the final stretch of the trail.  The path switchbacks up an incredibly steep mountainside, almost a cliff.  Thankfully it was a relatively short distance to the top, because this was probably the most punishing stretch we ever hiked.  We were more or less delirious in the picture below.

You can’t see it in that picture, but we were facing the Ptarmigan Tunnel.  Created in the early 1930s by the CCC using dynamite, it passes through the very top of the mountain.  Due to massive winter snows, the rough-hewn tunnel is sealed by a large iron door for nine months out of the year – and it had just opened.

On the other side?  Paradise.

Friends, we had been on the road for over a year at this point.  We had seen the country’s most beautiful mountains, deserts, beaches and plains, but nothing – nothing – ever stopped us in our tracks like this.

It was the most fantastical thing we have ever seen.  At that moment, tired, sweaty, and half-delirious, we knew we had reached the pinnacle of our trip.  There were more places to visit, and a lot more pictures to take, but nothing would ever come close to this view.

We wandered around for a few minutes, taking photos and another photosphere, and prepared to leave as a storm began forming in the distance.  Before we turned, Jake took a look at the trail, which continues on, across the mountainside and down into the valley beyond, and made a promise to himself.


We passed back through the tunnel and found the storm clouds had already blotted out the view from the other side.  It felt fitting somehow, like nothing else deserved to be seen after the beauty we had just experienced.  And then it was a long, tired walk back to our car.

On the drive back out, we spotted two more grizzly bears, foraging in a meadow near the road.

Nearby, another pristine lake beckoned, its shores lined by brilliantly colored rocks.

Perhaps there was more left to see, after all.

Thanks for an amazing visit, Glacier.  ‘Til next time!

Roadtrip Time Travel

Roadtrip Status

We’ve reached the end of our roadtrip!  We’re settled down in Denver, but we’re going to keep making blog posts and posting our favorite photos from the trip, so stay tuned for more.

Follow Us On Social Media


Latest Posts


Week 54: Glacier National Park: Part 1

Glacier National Park is the best place in the country.

That is a bold statement, to be sure.  And we can’t deny that the Grand Canyon is vaster, Yellowstone more unique, and the Redwoods more majestic.   However, we accrued a certain level of expertise in our travels around the United States, and we feel confident saying that Glacier beats all of them.  If the national parks are the gems of the United States, Glacier is the crown jewels.

The views were jaw-dropping and the hikes were the best we’ve ever done.  We spent a long time here, and we missed it as soon as we left.

Long RV Runnin’

Glacier is in the extreme northwestern corner of Montana, very close to the Canadian border.  It’s not the easiest place to get to.

We drove up from near Bozeman, Montana.  It was a long but beautiful drive around pristine Flathead Lake.

This was a very exciting trip for us because Jake’s family met us there!  Jake’s mom Ginny, his dad Jack, and his sister Kate have all made previous appearances in this space.  This time, we rented a house for a week and had a fantastic (but way too short) time in the outdoorsy perfection that is northwestern Montana.

Speaking of outdoorsy, it turned out the house was out in the boonies.  We were a little further away from the entrance to the park than we expected (about 45 minutes), but such is life.  However, Jack, coming in a rented vehicle, did come surprisingly close to dying in the wilderness when Apple Maps sent him down a wrong turn.

He was less than 100 yards from the house when it sent him the wrong way – but a long, long, long way from cell service.

We arrived late in the afternoon, and after some slope-based difficulties turning the RV around (see pic below), we managed to get it parked in the driveway for the duration of our stay.  The owner of our house was a cowboy, as all Montana residents are, and there were quite a few horses staying in the yard right outside.

Heather later discovered that the horses stayed behind the thin, wire fence because it is electrified.  She would prefer that we not mention how she discovered that.

We had been on our road trip for just over a year at this point, and were starting to feel decidedly feral.  Aside from a brief meetup with some folks we met online in Moab, the last time we had seen anyone we knew was in Seattle, two months prior.  A week of actual human contact, plus the magic of long, hot showers and stable WiFi, was just the thing we needed for the home stretch.

Stairway to Heaven

The main attraction at Glacier is the road that cuts through it, called Going-to-the-Sun Road.  The name is either based on a Native American legend, or completely made up to sound fancy, because history is whatever you want it to be.  More to the point, the road is freaking amazing.

Going-to-the-Sun Road hugs the mountain on an incredibly long, curving climb that offers spectacular views.  (You can view Google’s satellite render here.)  The mountains here are jagged and indescribably beautiful, banded with bright colors and painted with forest and snow.

On top of everything else, July is the height of spring in Glacier, and there were millions of wildflowers. Snowfall melting up above created delicate waterfalls everywhere we went.

This far north, summer comes slowly, like at North Cascades.  Parts of Going-to-the-Sun road receive an accumulation of more than 100 feet of snow per year, which is then painstakingly removed each Spring by road crews using avalanche spotters on skis.  It takes months; the road doesn’t usually open until mid-June.

You may also have noticed our picture of the red “Jammer” cars that give tours along the road.  We didn’t take a Jammer, but we were happy to use the shuttle after driving the road once.  It’s not the scariest drive we’ve ever done, but it’s hard not to notice that you’re driving next to a sheer cliff with only a small retaining wall.  In fact, due to hairpin turns, vehicles over 21 feet in length or 10 feet in width are prohibited (but we watched someone try in an RV anyway!)  See here for more on the road, an engineering marvel.

Wake & Lake

In addition to the mountains, Glacier is known for the beauty of its lakes.  We are happy to confirm that beauty.  Lake Macdonald was huge, pristine, and utterly clear, showcasing the colorful rocks that can be found throughout Glacier.

We were amazed by the perfect reflections off the water.  Nearby was  one of Glacier’s many lodges, which are in the Swiss chalet style and all exceedingly charming.

Even the boat at the end of the dock was scenic.

Jake also had some fun when we stumbled upon someone piloting a surprisingly realistic looking RC boat.  Look at how big those mountains must be!

On the other side of Going-to-the-Sun Road is St. Mary’s Lake, where we took a boat ride and ranger-guided tour.  The mountains above are a vibrant red, while the water is tinted brilliantly blue by “rock flour,” tiny bits of suspended particles ground down by the glaciers above.  Even the waterfall flowing into the lake had a blue tint!

We hiked around one side of the lake, and at first, we were bummed that the “forest” we were walking through was really the charred remains of a recent forest fire.  Interestingly, though, this meant that were an incredible number of wildflowers, because light could now reach down to the forest floor.

Later, we hiked through a spooky, 500-year-old forest to Avalanche Lake, where numerous glacier-fed waterfalls cascade down to the waters below.

Sadly, due to global warming, the park’s glaciers may be gone in as little as ten years.  If you or someone you know denies that climate change is happening… just visit Glacier.

Better hurry, by the way:  “In 1850, at the end of the Little Ice Age, there were an estimated 150 glaciers in the area that is now Glacier National Park. By 1968, these had been reduced to around 50. Today the number of glaciers in the park is 25, many of which are mere remnants of what they once were. Rapid retreat of mountain glaciers is not just happening in the park, but is occurring worldwide. If the current rate of warming persists, scientists predict the glaciers in Glacier National Park will be completely gone by the year 2030, if not earlier.”

(More examples at: USGS Repeat Photography Project)

We did our part to preserve the view.  We took an insane number of photos at Glacier, over 3,600, and we can say without conceit that most of them are amazing. Close your eyes and snap a photo, and the results were usually good enough to frame.

Heather had a very painful job choosing the pictures for this post.   We couldn’t squeeze it all into one post, but we’ll be back soon with the rest.  They’re even better!

Room with a View

Incidentally, we planned on taking a horse-riding expedition with our cowboy/AirBnb host, but unfortunately were rained out.  Instead, we took a gondola ride up nearby Whitefish mountain, where we gawked at mountain bikers speeding down the slopes and watched the impending storm slowly roll in.

We weren’t too sure what to do once we got to the (very chilly) summit, but it turned out there was a ski lodge there!  We stopped in for some quick refreshments, because when the opportunity arises to have a beer at the top of a mountain – you get a beer at the top of the mountain.

Roadtrip Time Travel

Roadtrip Status

We’ve reached the end of our roadtrip!  We’re settled down in Denver, but we’re going to keep making blog posts and posting our favorite photos from the trip, so stay tuned for more.

Follow Us On Social Media


Latest Posts


Week 53.1: Bozeman, Montana

After three days at glorious, crowded, beautiful, stinky Yellowstone, we had had our fill of the press of humanity for a while.  So we headed to Bozeman, Montana – because if you’re looking for a wonderful place to get away from other humans, it’s tough to beat Montana.

That’s true for most of Montana, anyway.  But Bozeman itself is actually a fantastic little city, a gem of a college town in a seriously rural state.  It reminded us of Ithaca, New York, a place we love, or a smaller version of Boulder, Colorado.  There was an incredibly cute evening farmer’s market, teenagers dressed to the nines; a hip breakfast spot with giant cinnamon rolls; and a funky coffee shop, where we listened in on the world’s most awkward first date.

In fact, the town is so charming that we found ourselves Googling things like “Reasons not to move to Bozeman.”  Turns out that multiple winter days colder than “10 degrees below zero” is a pretty compelling reason, but being there in the summer sure was nice.  The only downside was that we were parked on the edge of town, and somehow got no Internet through our Internet hotspot at all.  Took it out one day to test, and found out we were about 100 yards away from full service.

Ah well.  We were in Bozeman for 5 days anyway, 4 on purpose, and here’s what we did.

Lachingly Beautiful

Montana in general is beautiful, and the area around Bozeman is no different.  The outdoorsy options around here are top-notch.  We drove through a heavily wooded, steeply-sided canyon and parked in Gallatin Canyon for a hike to a place called Lava Lake.

The “Lava” levels were frankly disappointing, but we awarded top marks for “Lake.”  The water at Lava Lake was a stunningly deep blue, surrounded by a pristine pine forest.

It was gorgeous.

We sometimes joke that the best part of hiking is eating your lunch at the top.  Definitely not always true, but it might apply here.  How can you not love a sandwich with a view like this?

Water Sports

We did one thing in Bozeman we have never done anywhere else: give our RV a bath!  True story.  The RV is so large that it isn’t easy to wash – most RV parks forbid washing, so it can only be washed in a special truck wash, and those can be expensive.  Because we were constantly on the move, we just never really saw the point.  But after spending months murdering the insect population of the United States with our overhang—and maybe because we were about to see Jake’s family and had to pretend to be adults again—we decided it was finally time.

Armed with a hose, a long-handled sponge, and a beautiful summer day in Montana, we went to work.  It ended up taking the entire day and an exhausting amount of scrubbing, but it looked fantastic when we were done.

Until we drove through the next insect cloud, of course.

Double Time

It took longer than we expected to get to the next insect cloud.  As we headed out of Bozeman, we started to encounter strange issues with the RV and the tow car.  As it was a busy summer Friday, we had to scramble to find a place that could look at the RV on short notice.  It ended up taking about five hours to get everything fixed.

What was the problem?  Well, a fuse was blown up front, something they fixed right away.  But it wasn’t until they had checked everything else out that they realized that one of the “truck” fuses under the hood was missing.  (There are several empty slots and no legend, so we can understand missing it.)  Where did it go?  How could a fuse just jump out of the RV without causing any other problems?

We may never know the answer.  But since we didn’t get the RV back until late in the afternoon, we ended up turning around and staying at the Bozeman Wal-mart.  As it turns out, it was July 1st, and a year to the day exactly after we did something similar on our very first night in the RV.


On our way up to Glacier National Park (coming next, and probably not for a while), we stopped off for a day trip at Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park.  “Lewis & Clark” had nothing to do with the park – their name gets slapped on a lot of things out West – but the caverns were excellent, well-developed and full of interesting formations.

That said, it was a nice stop-off, but nothing worth making a trip for.  Maybe if we hadn’t been to cave nirvana at the Caverns of Sonora, we would have been more impressed.  As it was, our favorite part was probably the beautiful hike to the entrance, or the gorgeous drive back to the highway.

Pretty awesome.

Now, on to Glacier!

Roadtrip Time Travel

Roadtrip Status

We’ve reached the end of our roadtrip!  We’re settled down in Denver, but we’re going to keep making blog posts and posting our favorite photos from the trip, so stay tuned for more.

Follow Us On Social Media


Latest Posts


Week 53: Yellowstone National Park

After a few days at the glorious Grand Teton National Park, we headed a few miles north to the granddaddy of all national parks, and one of the weirdest places in the world: Yellowstone.

Yellowstone is beautiful, huge, unique, and just a little scary.  One of the most geologically active places on Earth, the park is basically the thin covering over a gigantic super-volcano.  It’s not likely to explode anytime soon (although: if it did, we’d all be screwed), but the volcano’s heat causes underground water to bubble up and burst out through the surface.

Everywhere you go, things erupt, vent, slosh, fizz, or sometimes just lie there looking pretty.

Yellowstone was the first national park in at least the United States, and probably the world, because it is so freaking crazy.  The density of exploding stuff here has no equal.  In fact, half of all the geological features in the world are located at Yellowstone, and two-thirds of all the geysers.

We spent three days at Yellowstone, and saw almost everything – just barely.  It was a whirlwind of geysers, hot springs, and bubbling pools, but also wide-open plains, wildlife, waterfalls, and a million stunning vistas.  It’s a truly beautiful place, preserved for us all by a far-sighted act of conservation.

And judging by the throngs, approximately 12 billion people visit every day.

We took 2,600 photos here.  Here are our favorites.


The geysers area of Yellowstone feels decidedly unreal.  You walk along huge boardwalks past a thousand little bubbling pots of nonsense, each one more brightly and improbably colored than the last.  They all erupt according to their own schedule, which typically means that they will do nothing while you wait and stare, until the exact moment you turn your back or start fiddling with the settings on your camera.

Old Faithful is the most famous of all these geysers, and probably of any geyser.  Its name derives from its consistency – Old Faithful erupts reliably, roughly every 65 or 91 minutes, depending on the length of the previous eruption.  There is a ten-minute window or so in which it is likely to blow each time, marked by a large clock in the ornate hotel a few steps away.

Heather got a prime spot on one side of the large viewing area and snapped away.

Jake… thought he had enough time before the eruption, and was in the bathroom.

Whoops!  The show goes on for a long time, though, and he at least caught the middle and the end.  Plus, we got the nice shot above of the crowds as he ran back to the viewing area.


Aside from the geysers, the most famous features in Yellowstone are probably the vibrant pools.  Each is brilliantly colored and totally unique.

Many pools have a range of colors, caused by the temperature bands in the water itself – certain bacteria prefer the hotter water in the center, while others live in the cooler areas nearer the edge.  The end result creates beautiful, concentric gradients of color.

The most famous of these types of pools is known as Grand Prismatic Spring, and it is stunning.

Also: crowded.

Also: smelly.

There’s no way around it: A lot of these geysers and pools smell horrific.  There’s a lot of sulfur, and the smell is equal parts “hell” and “rotten eggs.”  It’s constantly wafting everywhere.

At Grand Prismatic, the stinky steam constantly obscured our view.  Worse, the wind blew it all around, sometimes right into our nose and mouth.  Eww.

Some things are better in pictures than real life.

Aside from being pretty and smelly, these hydrothermal features are also wildly dangerous.  Some of the pools and geysers are at or above the boiling point for water, and they’re loaded with dangerous chemicals.  The ground is unstable.  The Park Service has built boardwalks everywhere, which are safe, and every year, people leave the boardwalk and die.

Seriously.  Right before we came to Yellowstone, a 23-year old Oregon man “essentially dissolved” after walking far off the boardwalk and falling into a hot spring.  That’s tragic, but there’s not much danger for more careful visitors.  We walked by the area where it happened: a barren, smoking field, no vegetation, sitting on top of super-heated water loaded with sulfuric acid.  (See the picture above.)

We’d rather walk through a minefield, but people routinely do crazy things here.  In fact, while we were looking at geysers, we saw some international tourists walk off a boardwalk, bend down, and taste the water from a random hot spring.

God!  We think this warning sign says it all.

Hot Springs

The final hydrothermal feature at Yellowstone are the hot springs.  We stayed just north of the park, in Gardiner, Montana – incidentally, the most expensive RV lodging of our entire trip – and we were located very close to Mammoth Hot Springs.

The bubbling springs here have created brightly-colored mineral deposits, and they form in pleasing geometric shapes.  It’s almost like shelves.

Like all the hydrothermal features in Yellowstone, the springs are inherently unstable.  Geysers and pools shift, drain, and refill based on movements deep within the earth.  At Mammoth, the springs sometimes dry up in one place and restart in another, leaving behind a bone-white skeleton.


If the geysers, pools, and hot springs were all that there is to Yellowstone, it would be enough for a satisfying vacation.  But frankly, it just scratches the surface of a truly amazing natural preserve.  The scenery here is incredible in a million ways, and the most beautiful part of the park has nothing to do with volcanoes at all.  Instead, it’s a canyon.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

You might not have heard of it (we hadn’t), but the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (“GCOTY”) is magical.  There’s a huuuuuge waterfall, and then some other waterfalls, and the whole thing is framed in this incredibly perfect yellow canyon.

There’s even a constant rainbow!

Seeing all of the GCOTY requires about half a dozen trips down into the canyon from the parking spots along the rim.  Of course, we had to see it all.  But there were a lot of stairs.

It was a whole day of:  Down and up.  Down and up.  Drive 3 minutes, spend 8 minutes parking.  Down 328 steps on a rickety metal staircase suspended over nothing that looks like it was built in 1965 and then never serviced again.  Take some pictures.  Go back up those steps.  Down and up.

We’d do it again in a heartbeat.


Another big draw at Yellowstone is the chance to see some truly big game.  Numerous animals roam Yellowstone freely, most notably American bison (NOT buffalo), but also including deer, bears, bighorn sheep, wolves, and much more.  We were lucky enough to catch some bison, including adorable babies.

We could always tell when an animal was visible from the road.  Yellowstone is crowded to begin with, but roadside critters create massive traffic jams, since people recklessly slam on the brakes for a photo of the (usually unimpressed) animal.

We tried our best not to be those people.  We just snapped pictures out the windows blindly as we drove by, like civilized folk.

When Jake was here as a kid, a large herd stopped traffic by ambling across the road – and around all the stopped cars.  We only really saw one big herd of bison, and they were in a field, but we did see a a lot of individual bison just hanging around.  They’re truly massive, and reasonably mellow.

Tourists do a lot of dumb things – like trying to rescue calves by putting them in the back of their SUV – but the bison seem pretty resigned to the swarms of fools surrounding them at all times.

We didn’t see any bears or wolves at Yellowstone, but there were plenty of deer and other large mammals.  We ended up on the opposite side of a canyon from a herd of mountain goats, which we futilely tried to photograph using our zoom lens.

Our favorite of all the wildlife was the herd of elk that hung out near Mammoth Hot Springs in the evening.  We always passed this area by as we finished for the day, and they were always there, lounging on the grass near the visitor center and paying the rest of us no mind.  Human development has worked out just fine for some species, apparently.

This one appears to be licking a light pole.


Although the geysers get all the attention, Yellowstone is a beautiful place nearly everywhere.  The landscape is incredibly varied, with windswept plains and dense forests, waterfalls, a huge lake and a mountain pass.  We constantly stopped at overlooks, or just pulled over to gawk and take pictures.

There are multiple huge and pristine lakes.  We stopped by Yellowstone Lake, a gloriously deep blue when we were there in June 2016 (yeah – we’re slow).  It’s the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America!

More importantly, they sell ice cream there.


We’ve mentioned the crowds at Yellowstone a few times, and that’s because there’s no getting away from them.  The park has long been busy, but last year it was exceptionally so.  Before 2015, the record for visitorship was 3.6 million people in 2010.

Last year?  4.25 million people visited.

Everywhere we went, we struggled with overfilled parking lots, long lines, and traffic jams.  Unfortunately, the park is so big that there’s no easy way to get around except by driving.  And also unfortunately, as an international tourist destination, the park attracts plenty of visitors who have never driven in the United States before.  Jaw-dropping maneuvers are common, oncoming traffic be damned.

There is also an ecological cost to having so many visitors, and that cost can be measured in hats.  Yellowstone is windy, and the non-boardwalk areas are toxic.  The combination is lethal for headwear.  At every pool, every geyser, every hot spring, we saw enough fallen hats that we briefly considered starting an entirely new blog, the Hats of Yellowstone.

We’re not going to just give away all that content here.  Consider this your free taste.

Roadtrip Time Travel

Roadtrip Status

We’ve reached the end of our roadtrip!  We’re settled down in Denver, but we’re going to keep making blog posts and posting our favorite photos from the trip, so stay tuned for more.

Follow Us On Social Media


Latest Posts


Week 52: Grand Teton National Park

After visiting the Black Canyon, it was time to head out of Colorado for a while (but not forever!).  We traveled west, past Grand Junction and Moab, and stayed overnight in a dusty and quiet RV park in Green River, Utah.  Anecdotal reports (read: some guy at a gas station) suggested that we avoid heading west on Interstate 70 from there, so we took Route 6, an easy ride through typically gorgeous Utah terrain.

With a little bit of time before the events to come, we ended up spending three days in Ogden, Utah, just north of Salt Lake City. You can see pictures from our stay there, including stunning Antelope Island, in this blog post.  Then, still taking it easy, we stopped for an overnight stay on our way north to Grand Teton National Park.

We picked the location based entirely on the name: Lava Hot Springs, Idaho.

We forgot to take pictures, so we borrowed this one from the Internet.  We’ll return it later!

True to its name, the town has several hot springs, along with cold-water river tubing.  To be honest, it was pretty hopping for a Sunday night in an Idaho town with a population of 407!  All of our neighbors at the RV park were partying it up – loudly, outdoors.  Not to worry – we were headed for the springs anyway.

As it turned out, the hot springs were very nice, but the “lava” part is not entirely an exaggeration.  It was hot enough that we could only spend a little bit of time in the water before hopping out to cool down.  After repeating that process about four times, we walked back to the RV, which was parked approximately one hundred yards away.

Not sure it would be worth planning a vacation around, but Lava Hot Springs was a pretty nifty place to spend an evening.

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right

The next day we got to our real destination.  Well, close to it, which is to say, Victor, Idaho, population 2,000. As it turns out, Grand Teton National Park is not the easiest place to get to. It is literally built into a mountain range.  Victor is on the western side of that range, and our drive in involved switchbacking up and then down an insanely steep mountain, eventually bringing us into Jackson, Wyoming.

We were glad we stayed in Victor, because trying to get over that mountain in the RV would definitely have landed us in some kind of viral video.

View from the top of the pass.  F the Old West, indeed.

We spent our two days in Victor visiting Grand Teton National Park, and it was glorious.

On the first day, we drove the big scenic loop drive, taking approximately one million photos and swearing continuously at how gorgeous everything was.  Even the visitor center was awesome!

If you’re not familiar with the park, it has two main parts. One part sits on a broad, shockingly flat plain (there’s even an airport!) between mountain ranges, dotted with beautiful trees, rivers, and lakes.

This valley is called Jackson Hole.


The second part of the park encompasses the mountains themselves. “Grand Teton” is both the name of the park and the name of the highest peak (the one in the middle below).  It’s a handsome, brooding crag, and you’re about to see it in the background of a lot of photographs.

The scenic drive took us past the peaks and then back, showing us Grand Teton and his friends from a thousand angles in a thousand shades of sunlight. We were fascinated with photographing the mountains, long past the point where we normally get bored, and the park just kept showing off in new and stunning ways.

Room With A View

We could spend forever naming these places, but we’ll just show off a few, like this awesome picnic spot near Jackson Lake where we munched our lunch. (We were champion lunch-packers by this point in our trip, by the way.)  It was mid-June, the weather was amazing, and there were flowers everywhere.

Rough life.

There was also the beautiful Jenny Lake, which Jake’s family fell in love with during a trip out West in his early teenage years.  Owing to parking issues and some off-camera construction, the experience in person was a little lackluster this time, but you still can’t beat that view.  The water here is a preposterous blue.

(Incidentally, Jenny Lake features in a beautiful story written by our friend Maggie.)

If you’re wondering, Jake’s bright blue shades were purchased in the gift shop after his existing pair broke – and yes, they do say “Grand Teton” on them.

Effing Gorgeous

Everything at Grand Teton was stunning, but our favorite of all was probably Oxbow Bend. Even though this picture turned out really well, it was truly awe-inspiring in person.

Remember how we mentioned swearing at the beauty a lot?  Well… this was definitely a 4-letter view.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

We saw most of the tourist-friendly stuff on Day 1, so Day 2 was spent doing our favorite national park activity: hiking! We drove a few miles down a bumpy dirt road (a common Jake and Heather refrain) before getting nervous about the road conditions and parking in a random dirt lot.  We thought we were close to the trailhead… but we were actually a mile away.  D’oh!

After finally making it to the trail, we set off through a dense pine forest which just smelled amazing.  Soon, we emerged to a glorious view of… well, whatever this lake was called.  “Lake Something.”  Or maybe… “Something Lake.”

Whatever.  It was pretty.

(Note from Heather: It’s Phelps. Phelps Lake.)

We knew this was supposed to be a difficult hike, but getting to the lake was easy.  We decided at this point we were just so badass that it felt easy.  Then… we started going up.

And up.

And up.

Friends, this is what happens when you choose to hike up something named “Death Canyon”: you get your 3-letter word kicked. The hike ended up being 10+ miles round trip, most of which was spent going straight up a mountain, before turning around and heading right back down.

Oh, and as a fun bonus? The trail runs directly through grizzly bear habitat, and as it happened, we coincidentally went about an hour in the morning without seeing any other humans.  It was just us, a can of bear spray, a walking stick, and some very close vegetation – making lots of worrisome noises.

We never did see a bear, though – at least not at Grand Teton – and the closest we came were some frolicking marmots at the top.  The scenery was unparalleled, as was the feeling of hiking through the huge, U-shaped glacial valley.  We enjoyed another picnic lunch with a view, sitting near a mountain waterfall and a cool old log cabin, before enjoying the bear-free scenery on our much easier descent.

It was a tough but satisfying day, and who would know if we later saw a bunch of young children scampering up that supposedly-difficult trail with infuriating ease?  Certainly not our readers.

Go Fisch

Our final note from Grand Teton has nothing to do with scenery. Jake’s great-uncle on his father’s side moved out to Idaho with his family many years ago, and as it turns out, they all still live out in this area.  We met up for a fantastic home-cooked dinner at the home of Jake’s cousin (once-removed), which turned out to be in… Victor, Idaho.

In fact, after getting lost and driving around aimlessly for a few minutes, we realized her house was basically directly across the field from the RV park we were staying at.  Imagine a Family Circus cartoon, and you’ve pretty much got our driving route.

Courtesy of xkcd

All’s well that ends well, though, and we did finally make it.  It was great to reconnect and, in Heather’s case, meet the other half of the Fischer family for the first time. This was the end of a very long stretch of time in which we saw literally nobody else we knew, so this was a special and much-needed night for us.

We forgot to take a group picture to commemorate, but we did leave laden with food, so we’ll call it an A+ evening on the whole.  Thanks again, Idaho Fischers!

Roadtrip Time Travel

Roadtrip Status

We’ve reached the end of our roadtrip!  We’re settled down in Denver, but we’re going to keep making blog posts and posting our favorite photos from the trip, so stay tuned for more.

Follow Us On Social Media


Latest Posts