Even though we wanted to be at the Refuge entrance before sunrise, we were not able to be there. We were wondering if the late barbeque we had the night before or the stars I couldn’t stop gazing at in the middle of the night had something to do with this. Anyway, with a fresh enthusiasm we got to the Refuge gate around 10 am, an hour drive from Munising, where our host was living. The late August sun was up in the sky, and I knew the wildlife was well hidden at that late hour of the morning. The refuge is vast, and has several trails for hikers, or bikers, and needs a lot of time to have it explored. Since we were late already, we decided to have only the drive-through ride, with few stops along the way.
Leaving Canadian land via the International Bridge that links the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie of Ontario and Michigan let us have a glimpse of what kind of weather would be greeting us in the neighbouring country, where we were going to continue our road trip around Huron Lake.
After a beautiful and serene sunset on the St Mary’s River shore, we didn’t expect this kind of weather. Gloomy clouds and foggy roads were following us from the morning, but when we saw the post of Paradise town, we knew the rain would stop soon.
If you are ready for a road trip along Columbia River, then Columbia River Gorge is the destination you are looking for. The 130-km gorge, the boundary between states of Washington and Oregon, offers wonderful places and stops along the way.
The Columbia River, the largest river in the Pacific Northwest, is about 2,000 km long, starting its journey from Columbia Lake, in the Rocky Mountains in BC, Canada, and ending in Astoria, between the states of Oregon and Washington in the U.S.
After a night spent in Greybull and a quick stop in Cody, the road took us from Devils Tower to Yellowstone National Park. It was still morning when we reached the East Entrance. The long lines at the entrance didn’t scare us, we were excited to get in the park. The Interagency pass we obtained at our first destination (Badlands National Park) let us move quickly once we had arrived at the booth. I didn’t really notice when the scarce vegetation thickened and became greener, and when the surrounding heights became elevated.
Of course, the Tower reminded me of one of the first Steven Spielberg’s famous movies Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Faded memories of a black and white wallpaper, or a strange pile dumped on a wrong spot. Watching this movie as a kid left me with impression of a mysterious place, a picture painted with non-matching colours on a rough, and old wallpaper. No nightmares about aliens, but only fantasies about foreign places. Growing up without computers and internet, I only found much later what Devils Tower was. Continue reading →
Black Hills are only one-hour drive from Badlands National Park. The name comes from the native Lakota Paha Sapa meaning hills that are black, because they look dark from distance. And this is not because the hills are dark, but because of the green vegetation standing out in the middle of the plains. Coming from the eastern grasslands, we could see Black Hills rising from afar, where the pine forests and the granite peaks create a distinctive landscape from what we’ve seen until now. One of the oldest mountains in North America, these hills are actually the highest mountains east of the Rockies with its highest peak little over 2,200 m.
There is a time when one will go backpacking, there is a way where one will go biking, but here is the time when one needs a car, as long North American roads require.
Heading South through North Dakota happened in a blink of the eye. The friendliest (Dakota is the native Sioux word for “friend/ally”) highways with almost no traffic gave us the chance to reach our first way point very soon: Badlands National Park. Not that the lands we’ve seen in the first 2 days of our trip were any better (chuckle!), but I can’t really say that the prairies, or rather the Great Plains, were very appealing. The Great Plains cover most of North and South Dakota, and the endless plains, hills, shrubs and grass that you can see all over can make you think if these areas are really inhabited. But yes, ranching is the predominant agricultural activity, as we could see hundreds of herds of cattle with alternating fields with rolls of hay; so we figured out people are still living in these places (I guess only the brave ones), even though we very rarely saw anyone.
There is absolutely no doubt this was the most colourful scenery I’ve ever seen!
After getting over my initial fear about the long drive to Vermont, I had no other thought than looking forward to a new experience and to a new place. The 7 hours’ drive through the rain and clouds didn’t discourage us, since we knew the sun will come over in the following days. We were already stunned at the beautiful landscaping through the curtain of clouds and the rain intermission, but still ignorant at the upcoming events.
As you might wonder, our destination was Mount Snow, located in the Green Mountain National Forest, Vermont. But how to recognize for a Green Mountain, when all kind of colours and shades of red, yellow and green are surrounding you?.. Following our trail through the hills and mountains, a great journey through the western side of Vermont, was, as you have realized, in the middle of the fall, one of the best seasons when one can visit these wonderful places.