Travel Report/Photo Post: Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah

Maroon Bells att he peak of fall colors
We were fortunate to be in Aspen early October when the fall colors were peaking. This shot is of the mountains known as Maroon Bells. They were named due to their color which is somewhat reddish and their shape which is reminiscent of bells.

My, how time flies. My last post was apparently made way back on August 7, 2019. Thats a few days more than 2 months ago but it seems like a million years! In that post I wrote about our travels to the Lake Tahoe area, Grand Canyon and Bryce National Parks (NP). Since then, where have we been? I mean where have we been… who can remember??? I’ll try…

Trestle, Route of the Hiawatha
This is one of the numerous trestles over which the Route of the Hiawatha trail travels.

Our original plans had been to visit the national parks in southern Utah after the Grand Canyon but because our launch date had been delayed by the time we hit the road it was too hot to visit all but Bryce which is cooler than the others due to its elevation. So, we visited Bryce, which I posted about here, then we turned north toward the panhandle of northern Idaho in order to ride the Route of the Hiawatha. Well, that, and to avoid the heat. Have you heard of the Route of the Hiawatha? I hadn’t, but Diane, being the finder-of-things in our two person crew, unearthed information about this very cool Rails-to-Trails bike ride. The route is also open to hikers and in the winter cross country skiers. If you aren’t familiar with Rails-to-Trails its a nonprofit organization that converts former railroad lines to trails.

Vista: Route of the Hiawatha
One of the many views along the Route of the Hiawatha. The trail takes its name from the train that used to run along the route. Signs along the way are full of interesting local history and information about the railroad.

Our bicycle ride along the Route of the Hiawatha took us through stunning scenery of the rugged Bitterroot Mountains, across long railroad trestles and through pitch black tunnels, one of which is over a mile and a half long.

Entering the Taft Tunnel, Route of the Hiawatha
We began our Route of the Hiawatha bike ride at the east portal because it’s 15 miles downhill all the way from there and you can take a shuttle bus back. The trail at this end begins with the Taft tunnel: 1.6 miles of pitch black, soggy, muddy, drippy, 47º degree fun. Good lights and warm clothes are needed.

I should say that on our way north toward the Route of the Hiawatha we stopped for a spell in Ketchum, Idaho, a cool little town that is something of a mecca for bicyclists. There we biked both paved and unpaved trails. We happened to be there Labor Day weekend during their Wagon Days celebration when they have the largest non-motorized parade in the pacific northwest. It commemorates the days before the railroad was built and has a lot of horses and horse-drawn wagons. A local hockey team armed with large shovels and wearing rollerblades served as the clean-up crew zipping around to clean up after all the horses who had no sense of decorum. I found this to be part of the entertainment.

Standing on Horses
The Wagon Days parade in Ketchum had all manner of entrants, some of which were patriotic, others historical and others yet just downright humorous.

We also visited the grave site and memorial of Ernest Hemingway in Ketchum. Tom Hanks reportedly owns a home there but we were too busy to visit with him 😉

Wagon Days Parade Cleanup Crew
I was quite amused by the Wagon Days Parade cleanup crew, apparently a local hockey team armed with shovels. They zipped around skillfully scooping up the mess made by horses in the parade.

Having turned south from our sojourn to northern Idaho we headed next for the Grand Tetons. We were there last year but it was so smoky from forest fires further west that we thought the mountains might only be a myth because we never did see them. We wanted to see them just to be sure they really existed. This year our luck was better and we enjoyed glorious views and wonderful hikes through the mountains as well as a visit to the Wildlife Museum in Jackson.

Taggart Lake, Grand Teton National Park
Diane finds her happy place along the shore of Taggart Lake during a hike in Grand Teton National Park.

We could have passed through Yellowstone on our way to the Tetons but opted not to because we were there last year, wanted to avoid the crowds and chilly temps that were forecast for the area.

Early Morning at Henry's Lake, Deer Park, ID
Early Morning at Henry’s Lake, Bill Frome Memorial Campground and RV Park, Deer Park, ID

On our way to the Tetons we stayed at a free campground on the shore of Henry’s Lake near Island Park, ID which is apparently a mecca for fisherman. The campground, which I hope to blog about later, is called Bill Frome Memorial Campground and RV Park. It has something like 30, mostly long, narrow campsites, no hookups, but vault toilets and a boat launch. Details to follow… some day… hopefully… the route from Island Park to the Tetons took us over Teton Pass. We waited at Frome an extra day or two because of the possibility of freezing rain or snow on the pass. The pass, by the way, is generally closed by Nov. 15 and has 10% grades so travelers would be well advised to research this route before taking it.

Bill Frome Memorial Campground and RV Park
Our spot at Bill Frome Memorial Campground and RV Park. A free, Fremont County campground on Henry’s Lake. Many sites are not so level and/or bumpy. Most are quite narrow and the trees were in need of trimming. The campground ranged from nearly empty to maybe 3/4 full when we were there in September. One spot (right side near the end of the campground road) had a concrete pad. We might have fit on it but didn’t travel to the end of the road before settling into our spot.

From the Tetons we opted to travel through Colorado on our way back to southern Utah. We were fortunate to hit the timing just right to catch the peak of the fall color change in Aspen. Of course, it’s going to cost and arm and a leg to repair the damage done to the RV getting in and out of Difficult Campground near Aspen where we stayed. I’m not sure how the campground got its name but it has narrow roads and even narrower camp sites most of which are tilty and too difficult for me to navigate successfully. If you’ve got a rig longer than say 30′ my best advice is to steer clear of this place unless you are super-expert at maneuvering your equipment. We spent an hour trying to get out of our campsite only to find out that by accident I had maneuvered the rig into a position that would allow us to escape in the opposite direction from that which I had intended. Even then there was some damage to the RV… added to the damage I did trying to get into the site.

Dinosaur Footprint, Dinosaur Stomping Grounds
My foot is dwarfed by this dinosaur footprint found at Dinosaur Stomping Grounds, about 23 miles north of Moab, UT. It’s a round trip hike of some 3 miles to get to the Stomping Grounds where some 2800 footprints can be found. Yes, you’re allowed to touch them and photograph them, but not to do anything including pouring water on them that might damage them.

Leaving Aspen we landed in Moab, UT a couple days later where we are now, boondocking along Willow Springs Road about 10 miles north of town. It appears there is quite a bit of BLM and other land where folks boondock in these parts, We’ve had a mix of really nice weather, super windy conditions, and are expecting nighttime temps in the 20’s the next couple nights. We’ve also enjoyed a visit to Island in the Sky, part of Canyonlands NP, a couple hikes in Arches NP and Diane found a hike to some dinosaur tracks at the Dinosaur Stomping Grounds–a fun hike for kids of all ages.

Grand View Point Trail, Canyonlands
Diane takes in the view along the Grand View Point trail at the Island of the Sky district of Canyonlands National Park.

Next up looks like the Needles district of Canyonlands NP, Goosenecks State Park and Monument Valley followed by Capitol Reef NP, Zion NP and perhaps a stopover at Bryce NP although it’s already getting pretty cold near Bryce so we may skip that or keep the visit short.


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