5. Rocky Mountain National Park

It was with a heavy heart that we left the majestic Grand Tetons, but at the same time we were excited to get to Colorado to see the Rockies, friends and family. Along the way we stopped in Thermopolis, Wyoming for a couple of days on the recommendation of our good buddy Jeremy Philips. Thermopolis, apart from the cool name, is home to the worlds largest mineral hot springs, rock shops, and a sweet dinosaur museum. Great little town! Wendy was a little put off by the huge mineral pools our RV park, aptly named “The Fountain of Youth”, said it reminded her of a B version of the pool in the movie “Cocoon“. However, I found soaking with the elderly campers from our RV park, under the stars, quite relaxing.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After soaking in Thermopolis, we moved on to the Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins. We found a good campground to explore it from, called Inlet Bay. Unfortunately, we just missed the season but in warmer weather, you can rent out everything from party boats to stand up paddleboards (SUPs). Right next to the campground is a great restaurant you just can’t miss called Al’s Canyon Grill where we waited out a few storms in the comfort of classic rock, bacon cheeseburgers, pizza and Shirley Temples (Indi). However, we were sad to miss the Tuesday special:

Canyon Grill near Horsetooth

Another highlight of this leg was not only exploring the sites of Fort Collins, but also taking our brewery visit count to four. Make sure to check out Odell and New Belgium (and the other 50 kazillion breweries) if you find yourself in Fort Collins.

We did run into some inclement weather during our stay in Fort Collins. I guess we can’t complain, as it has been sunny for 21 of the 22 days we’ve been on the road so far. But after looking at the forecast, we sadly decided to bypass the Rocky Mountain National Park. We were sure it was beautiful, but figured rain, sleet, and freezing temperatures would put a damper on our stay. Regardless, it was more or less on our way so we decided to do a drive-by. Upon reaching the gateway town of Estes Park we found blue skies, warm temperatures, and elk that were in the middle of their rutting season. Glad we didn’t make any reservations in Boulder because we headed into the park and got the last campsite in the Moraine Park campground, definitely the best campground we’ve stayed in so far on our trip.

Not a bad spot

Not a bad spot

The weather forecasters continued to be proven wrong and we got three days of sun and mild temperatures at night. The elk were in full on rutting (mating) season as advertised. We probably saw a couple hundred during our three days in the park; our last day there, we woke up to a harem of more than 15 elk probably 20 feet from our trailer (for you city folk that’s what you call an elk herd). Not only could you see the elk, but the bulls were busy bugling to announce their presence to other elk, either staking claim to their territories and harems, or posturing.

We enjoyed a great ranger talk all about the park and the non-stop elk party.

Aside from the wild life, we of course went on a great hike to Cub Lake, where Indi discovered a love of “bouldering”. We also drove across the park on Trail Ridge Road, the highest paved road in the U.S., topping out at more than 12,000’ (3650 m).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our final night, we met up with our neighbors in the campground, a younger couple on their honeymoon. Jill and Ronan. Jill was from Connecticut, where they started their journey, and her husband Ronan was Irish. Well, we figured it would just be rude to not invite an Irishman over for a wee bit of Jamesons, which of course turned in to a fun evening of sitting around the campfire getting to know one another.

All in all, a great stop on our journey. Next up: catching up with friends and family in the Denver area before heading on to southern Utah.

4. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Da da da! I give you the ginormous and ridiculously, unbelievably pointy—well they are part of the Rockies—awe inspiring, jaw-droppingly, Hollywood special effect-y Grand, Middle and South Teton mountains. Take a look at these babies.

Equine residents and Grand Teton spires

The Grand Teton National Park is just one of those special places that you don’t want to listen to music or read a book (while someone else is driving!) or make conversation dare you miss out on any of the wild and majestic scenery. Each curve of the road brought the mountains into view, visible throughout the park and, if I may say, each new vista and viewpoint brought, somehow, an even better view.

Hello beautiful

Hello beautiful

Sunrise? Check. Pink and mysterious and misty. Sunset? Yep. Check it out. We oh so secretly tramped through another campsite in the Gros Ventre campground to get this picture. We had to. What you don’t see is the field full of white-butted deer, unworthy of our attention, shadowed by this flirty mountain range rising mystically into the clouds 7,000 feet above us.

Sunset @ Grand Teton NP

Jenny Lake Hikes

First of all, as we rolled through the Jenny Lake campground, we were super-jealous of the tent campers and would highly recommend this spot. In retrospect, we should have ditched our tent trailer in the parking lot, trading it for the tent we decided to leave at home. Next time. This campground not only supplies views for days but the sites were spacious and private, two features we hadn’t seen in national park campgrounds until now. After a few moments of regret, we picked ourselves up from a mental tantrum and decided a hike would make us feel better. From the Jenny Lake parking lot, you have two options, one lazy (boat shuttle) and one awesome (leg locomotion). Heading clockwise around the lake to Hidden Falls, a very nice lumbersexual convinced us to check out Moose Ponds to see the beaver dam and the herd of moose. A flat 2.7 miles later, Indi, our little magpie, had pockets full of metamorphic and igneous quartzite, silica and mica studded rocks. We got to check out the beaver dam and evidence of the yellow-toothed rodents but only heard and didn’t see any moose on this hike.

When we made it back to the trail, we headed to Hidden Falls for lunch and then round-tripped our way back to the parking lot. Total miles hiked: 7.7. Calories worked off: who cares?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mormon Row

On our way back to our campsite, we accidently stumbled upon a really cool old homestead and decided to check it out. The gravel road brought us to Mormon Row, previously homesteaded with 17 buildings, and originally named Grovont. Now, as you can see, there are only a few rickety testaments to the Mormons who left their comfortable lives in Salt Lake City and Idaho to expand new communities in the rocky soil in the shadow of the Grand Teton mountains.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We loved our time at Grand Teton National Park and the moose, beavers, water features, and wide-open sky and scenery. Next time, we will make sure to hike the Two Ocean Lake Loop (the trail was closed due to contained burning), we will stay at the Jenny Lake campground, and stay away from the uppity town of Jackson Hole.

Next stop: The Rocky Mountains!