Downey, Geysers, Great Salt Lake, Hot Springs, Idaho, Idaho Falls, Lewis Lake, Ogden, Paint Pots, Road Trip, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake Temple, Thermal Vents, Thunderstorms, Travel, USA, Utah, Willard, Wyoming, Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake
Waking up in a tent on a Sunday should always be relaxing, doubly so when you’re in a Mormon town. Considering the reputation Salt lake City has, I was actually suprised to see people on the streets and some amenities open on a Sunday (at 6:30am no less). The City itself is fairly small but that doesn’t take away what they’ve achieved here and it really is impressive in it’s own way. Imagine coming across the land, finding a desolate piece of dirt and by sheer will power alone, making it into something sustainable; I couldn’t help but tip my hat to that. The Salt Lake Temple is another impressive feat, that took forty years to complete and in its own way, is up there with the other religious temples around the world.
After leaving downtown Salt Lake City, I then attempted to locate the Great Salt Lake. First mistake was not researching a good entrance before we started the trip and the second was asking directions. By time we ended up in Ogden, the cashier in the gas station politely informed me that “there are many roads to get there about twenty minutes back down the freeway “, followed by: “they’re not signposted, they’re just road names” and finally “I don’t know which roads you should take”. At this point I decided to drive down minor roads in the direction of the lake but the owner of the car I was driving was not getting too amused by the gravel roads, so we stopped a mile or so short of the visible beach. After coming back out roughly the way we came in, we eventually caught the best glimpse we could get of the lake, from a ranger station in Willard. We could have got closer but it was $9 to enter the bay state park and not really worth the money for a pic of a lake.
Next stop was on the I15 near Downey, Idaho, after the secondary driver briefly fell asleep driving and was rudely awoken going over the rumble strips. Here I found the gas station, which had a multitude of supplies that were exactly what I needed. About $50 lighter, I came out with a white t-shirt to cover my sunburn with, a straw cowboy hat that was not only cheap but fit too (which is a first for me), a red bandanna, some soothing lotion with aloe, and the all important ice-cream. Newly soothed and shaded, we headed on toward Idaho Falls, for a drive-through and brief stop of a small and uneventful place.
Finally got to the West Entrance of Yellowstone at lunchtime, amid plenty of heat and the amusing sight of the town that resembled a mix of something from the old west and a tourist trap. Here’s something of note too, that the board with the open/full signs for the campsites is not accurate and the campgrounds can often fill up by time you drive from the board to the first one. Heading to the preferred campground we made some brief stops for the attractions along the way, including the paint pots (boiling mud), some small geysers, hot springs and thermal vents.
Despite the beautiful view of Yellowstone lake, my concerns about full campsites were realised and we were left without any idea where to go next. After diving into an information center, the ranger pointed me in the direction of a smaller site that tends to fill up last. A shortish drive later and we ended up at the south end of Yellowstone, with thankfully some vacant camping lots. Considering these places have water, bathrooms and fire pits, I still think $17 for the night was an absolute steal; the camping was so peaceful and relaxing (which was really needed at that point) and I even got to chill out to a tiny baby squirrel, that was flitting in and out the trees.
At this point, we had our last bit of bad luck for the day, when it turned out the camp bed wouldn’t inflate. Despite the hardness of the ground though, I slept right through the night with not too much discomfort.
Worth a big mention is the time we spent on the lake shore next to the campsite. We got lucky to catch a huge summer lightning storm, igniting the clouds on the horizon and it provided a beautiful distraction, while the night took over.