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Adventures of a nature lover - 5 national parks in 14 days

To unplug from work and recharge myself I do a 2-3 week trip every year where I am unplugged. Few of the reasons I can totally unplug from work is
  • Unlimited Vacation policy of Egnyte, 
  • Excellent support by the Infrastructure team 
  • Our ethos of pro-actively fixing issues before they become nuisance.

TLDR; It's a long post so you can scroll down and first see see images if you need motivation to read it entirely.

Me and my family like national parks and camping to recharge us as there is no cell phone  coverage in parks and you are completely unplugged from technology most of the times. We have done many of the national parks nearby and this year we want to see glacier national park as the glaciers may disappear in 10-15 years so see them before they are gone. Behind every successful trip is a "Trip planner" and for our family its my wife, she researched  and made a trip itinerary book.

  1. She booked camp sites 6 months in advance
  2. She researched trails and as days are few she preselected the ones we can do with the kid.
  3. She booked 2 boat tours with guided hikes at the glacier national park and a Glacier walk tour in Banff in advance as they run out quickly.
  4. I ordered bear spray as we were in bear country. They say "Its good to have it and not need it then not having it and need it".  We wanted to see a bear but we didn't saw it.
  5. As we were going to hike almost 30 miles and drive some 60 hours I ordered a good pair of hiking shoes as my nike won't do it. They were worth every cent.
  6. As we do camping frequently we had all the gear with us so we just hauled it with us in the car. We had also invested in hiking backback as they are much lighter and has water pouches.
  7. I have a 7 year old so to keep him engaged I got 25+ books from library on various non-fiction topics and some fictional books he like and we kept crayons/sheets so he can draw. We don't give him any technology on trips or we don't have a DVD system in car deliberately so even he is unplugged from technology. Road trips are a great way to increase bonding within the family.
  8. I booked hotel for first 3 days  but didn't booked rest as we weren't sure if we would need more days in Banff.
  9. As the trip was long and we are vegetarians so finding food is tricky, all we can find is "Subway" on the highways and Chipotle if lucky. We weren't too picky on food and to save time we packed tortillas, MTR, ready to eat noodles and a propane gas stove.  Plan was to eat out in the day and find some picnic table in evening and cook the ready to eat before going to hotel.
 At first I was intimidated to see the 30+ hour road trip from Dallas TX to Banff Canada one way but it was worth it. Its tough to describe the 14 day journey in a single post but I would try to paste some pictures a day and journal the days to keep it engaging. The idea of the post is to help someone who wants to take a similar trip and inspire others to unplug and explore the nature.

Day1:

Wake up at 5:00 AM in morning Drive from Dallas TX to Great Sand dunes national park. On our way at Rest area near Amarillo we saw a baby rattle snake too. I bought the yearly national pass here as I was going to visit many on the way. We had planned to spend 2 hours in evening and 2 hours next day but we got 3 hours the first day at national park due to timezone switch from CST to MST and we were able to climb the dunes and slide down and see the Medano creek.
Yes thats me on dunes

Day2: 

This was a normal driving day and as we took a 1.5 hour detour to the park we added additional 1.5 hour to the day. We drive from Alamosa Colorado to Thermopolis Wyoming. On the way we saw a mammoth at Cheyenne Wyoming visitor centre.


Day3:

Plan was to reach Polson Montana but via Beartooth highway

Due to some road closure we went via Chief joseph scenic by way to Beartooth highway, it took more time but it was worth it.
It was a day of driving but we took lot of stops at vista points and took pictures.

By luck the hotel I booked on expedia was directly in front of Flathead lake and the view from room was:
I expected to see northern lights but sun was out till 10:30 and this isn't the prime season for lights so I was disappointed.

Day4:

We were 2 hours from Glacier National Park This is where the real trip begins. We had decided to hike first to Avalanche lake and then come back and set-up the camp. The park ranger told there were few parking spots on the hike so we took a free shuttle to the trailhead but it took one hour to just get on the bus as queue was long and spots were few so we had to wait for 2 buses.  The hike was about 5 mile but well worth it, on the way back we saw a deer too.
I took panoramas from IPhone7 and couldn't believe that it's beating DSLR if lighting is perfect.

We came back and set-up the camp and in night attended two ranger programs about native Americans and the glacier national park and wolves. These programs are great way to educate kids and me too :). Below was the lake where the ranger program was:


Day5:

We had booked a boat tour and a guided hike to Two medicine lake at "East glacier" but we were camped at "West glacier" and the drive was 2 hour via Logan pass that has hair pin turns on some 7-8 mile area but the view points were awesome.

The Logan pass parking lot was full so we didn't stop and we were on the way to Two medicine and there was construction on road so it was blocked, we were 1 hour from the boat tour and I asked the construction worker how much time as I have a reservation, he suggested I go back 5 miles and take this road, I told him "but this GPS is telling this way", he said "The GPS people don't live here :)". The guy was right and we cut the time by 20 minutes and reached on time.

The hike with the guide was very educational as he was describing all the berries and local plants like huckleberry, thimbleberry, bear grass, cow parsnip and .... I am an avid gardener and grow figs, berries and vegetables in my backyard so it was fun for me.

We decided to come back via Logan pass as there was enough light in day and luckily the parking lot had some space. The pass has a hidden lake hike which is icy and a 3 mile hike. This was one of the beautiful hike and it looked like below

On the hike we saw mountain goats and on the way back I saw a goat on top of visitor center

Day6:

We had another boat tour and guided hike at "Many glaciers" so we went early and on way to the lake we did a 4 mile hike that was worth this picture.
 

The best picture at "Many Glaciers" I could take is the one below, but morning is the best time to take picture here when there is reflection of mountain in lake and water is still.
The glacier we saw way far from boat was salamander glacier and  I was disappointed as I hadn't expected this as a glacier.

On the way back the road had lot of pot holes and it was 6:00 PM and suddenly my car said "Replace battery", I was tensed but then I drove back via "Going to the sun road" without stopping and reached camp site and I remembered 3 year ago on trip to california car had same problem and it was a loose battery cable. I opened the hood and tested and seem like it but I didnt had a ranch to tighten the nut so I went and asked a fellow camper who had a RV and he was local and he had a toolbox and helped me. Lesson learnt is carry a toolbox next time :).

Day7:

We didn't wanted to go to Banff  via "Going to the sun road" as we drove it two times in two days and its hair pin turns were giving butterflies in stomach so we said we would go to Banff via west instead of Calgary. Luckily this was a great decision and the way was via "Kooteney National Park" and on the entrance station was a Big horn Ram welcoming us lol. Its 150th anniversary of Canada national parks so entrance to all national parks was free.

 We were may be one month late on this national park by pass as the ice was gone and  I was disappointed but the river water color on the way were awesome due to all the glacial silt.

 We just stopped by few points in this park as we had to reach Banff and camp. We reached Banff around 6 and set-up the camp.  They had charged for wood mandatory, this is the first time I was seeing but there was a lot of wood for you to burn so we did bonfire all 3 days. I even helped fellow campers to start the fire with pine needles as fire starter.

Day8:

We had read the parking on Banff lakes is a pain because the lakes are so easily accessible by road so we head out very early around 5:30 AM in hope to see wild life on the way and go early to get a good chance of parking. This was the best day of entire trip and picture of Moraine Lake was awesome.

From this lake we ventured to a 4+ mile Consolation lake trail that went through icy paths and finally to boulders where you make your own way.

And then finally I saw a big huge glacier that blew the hell out of glaciers at glacier national park.

From here we went to Lake Louise and did a 3 mile hike and saw more glaciers
Then we went to Peyto lake and this is one of the best lake I had seen in the trip

On the way back we found out there is some fire in the park as sky was red and we were worried  if we would be able to camp or not, luckily it was ok.

Day9:

We had booked Glacier walk tour to Athabasca glacier and it was some 100+ miles far so we again head out early in the day to Columbia ice fields via ice fields parkway. We didnt saw a bear but we saw a Elk on the way and some glaciers from far.
Our tour was at 1:30 but we reached at 10:30 so I requested if he can take us on next slot, they agreed and we did a guided glacier walk with spikes on shoes and drank glacial water by doing pushups so hands wont freeze.  But then a storm came and it started lightning and hail/snow started falling. We had to cut the tour and they refunded us half the cost due to this but sad part was even though I took precaution some snow went in the DSLR or moisture built inside it due to extreme temperatures and the DSLR died (I was sad).
.


Then we went back to camp as temperature dropped and it was rainy so visibility was poor there was no point in going forward on road to see things. We came back to camp and rain stopped and did lots of bonfire.

Day10:

We drove back from Banff via Calgary to Pocatello Idaho and stayed the night. On the way near Calgary we saw two bikers from Texas, man they were doing a way more endurance test than us as we were in car and can switch drivers but they can't so hats off to them.

Day11:

We drove to Moab Utah where we went to Canyon lands national park

It was hot as hell and the Park ranger told us to wake up early and do everything before 12:00 or after 7:30 PM. We did just all vista points and a 0.5 mile hike and went to hotel.

Day12:

Moab also has Arches National Park so we woke up at 5:30 in morning and did breakfast and went early, we did lot of arches vista point and started the treacherous "Delicate Arch" 2.5 mile hike one way and temperature started climbing, finally we made it.

By the end of hike we had finished all water that we took on the hike. One should do this very early and this was more tough than other hikes.

at 1:00 PM we just went to hotel and called it a day and rested.

Day13:

Home from here was 980 miles and we reached Amarillo around 7:00 PM so I wasn't going to stay a night in hotel as home was only 5 hours away. The last 5 hours were painful but we just drove and reached home  and this is the most we had ever driven in a single day.
Entire trip was 5438.5 miles.

Day14: 

We came back one day early so we relaxed at home, My son had a plan to build titanic on reaching home  so he did it for hours and I did my gardening catchup.



Comments

  1. Nice long trip!! Is camera repairable?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are some videos on youtube of people replacing the Main board and I did saw the camera writing a USB crash file on the SD card, I am almost thinking of gambling $120 and buying the board over ebay and trying to replace it myself.

      Delete

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