Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bison Crossing River in Yellowstone

I took this video in 2010 in Yellowstone National Park.  A couple of bison crossed the river, then went across the highway.  Notice Bob quickly running back to the truck as the one big bison comes near.  They will charge you if they get aggravated, so you have to be careful!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Olympic National Park

Bob and me on Hurricane Ridge

During our 2010 trip from New Jersey, the furthest Northwest US point that we traveled to was Olympic National Park. This huge 632,000 acre park was designated Olympic Forest Reserve in 1897 by Grover Cleveland, and was declared a national park by Franklin Roosevelt in 1938.

The diversity of the park is what makes this place so unique and wonderful to visit. You can see rain forests, soak in hot springs, hike along the rocky ocean beaches, or explore Mount Olympus with its glaciers and alpine meadows. And we got to do it all!

We stayed in the RV campground adjacent to the Sol Duc Hot Springs which is run by Aramark. We were very disappointed by the campground, which for $30.00 a night was little more than a parking lot with trailers and RVs shoved up against each other. There was water and electric, but no sewer, and no bathrooms in the campground. You had to walk over to the lodge and shower for a charge (I think it was $1.00) at the Hot Springs. The only nice thing about the campground was that our site backed up the the woods where you could walk along the Sol Duc River. You are within walking distance of the hot springs, and it costs $12.25 to go into the pool and hot springs for the day. We did this one evening, and were disappointed that the mineral water from the hot springs was warm, not hot, and very crowded. I honestly think that the bordering Sol Duc National Park campground is a much better deal if you have your own generator.

Sol Duc River bordering our campground

Deer wandering through the campground

Outside of not liking the campground that much, I will say that the location was really convenient, since it was the closest location to Port Angeles where we were planning on catching the ferry over to Canada on our next stop. It was also pretty central to all of the sights.

The first day we spent hiking through the Hoh Rain Forest, which had fascinating foliage. We even got treated to seeing some large elk on the walk. Olympic National Park has the largest herd of Roosevelt elk in the world.

Hoh Rain Forest

Our next stop was to see Hurricane Ridge on Mount Olympus. The views were spectacular, and we enjoyed a walk in the alpine meadows there where we saw many deer wandering around.

Deer in alpine meadows at Hurricane Ridge
View from Hurricane Ridge

View from Hurricane

Our third day was spent touring the coast, ending up at Cape Flattery, where we hiked to most northwestern point in the contiguous United States. The rugged scenery made the hike well worth the effort.

Northwestern most point of contiguous US

Lots of driftwood!

Bob on coastal walk

During our drives around the park we went through Forks, the setting of the popular Twilight series. The town really capitalized on being somewhat famous, and features Twilight tours and businesses with Twilight woven into their name such as a the “Dazzled by Twilight” store which features everything Twilight.

Looking back on our time spent in Olympic National Park, I rate it as one of the most interesting parks that we have explored so far, and one that I would love to return to. There is just so much to see and do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Custer State Park

The elusive big horn sheep
One of my very favorite parks in the country is Custer State Park in South Dakota.  Bob and I first explored the park on a three week trip to Yellowstone National Park that we had taken before I retired.   We were camping outside of the park and only visited it for a day.  We loved it so much that we decided it deserved further exploration.  When we went cross country in 2010 we camped there for five nights and really got to enjoy this gem of a park. 

Custer State Park is like a mini-Yellowstone, but without the crowds.  You have close up adventures with the huge bison herd that resides there, the wild donkeys, antelope and even big horn sheep.  The proximity of the park to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse monument, the historical town of Deadwood, Wind Cave National Park and Badlands National Park make this a great central spot to stay and explore South Dakota.

We had already visited Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, and although we saw bison, bear and mountain  goats we hadn't seen any big horn sheep.  We stayed in the Blue Bell campground and were very close to the wildlife loop, so every day we went around the loop and were treated to plenty of sightings of bison, antelope and the resident wild donkeys.  The donkeys are extremely tame and beg for apples or other treats that they have become used to.   Often we would be caught up in a bison traffic jam, as they surrounded your car to cross the road.  This was all wonderful, but still no sightings of big horn sheep!

The day before we left the park we were driving into our campground, and guess what we almost drove into - a female big horn sheep that froze long enough for Bob to get a shot of her, and me to get some wonderful video.  Well, that up-close encounter really made the stay for me!

This is such an outstanding park that we will return again if we are out that way.  It is more than worth the $20.00 nightly fee.

One of the many antelope we saw

Feeding the "wild" donkeys

View of Mount Rushmore from the highway

Bison seen during an evening drive on the wildlife loop

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