North Cascades, Seattle, Olympic Peninsula

Following Highway 20 and some back country road detours I drove to the North Cascade National Park. Unfortunately the smoke from wildfires in British Columbia was my constant companion. However, what I saw from the North Cascades was really nice and reminded me a lot of the Swiss alps. Even though it was super smoky I had to do at least one hike. I chose the Cascade Pass hike and found a beautiful spot for the night on the Cascade river.

Just like the Cascades, Seattle was covered in a think layer of smoke. The time in Seattle with Rachel was over way too soon and we didn’t do half of the things we planned (also thanks to the smoke…).
After almost 20’000km an oil change was due, the folks at the local Land Rover dealer in Bellevue were very friendly and super helpful, they also managed to organise a new oil filter in a day. Note to myself: Before promising to have an oil filter, check if you really do have one…

After all the oils have been changed I went to the Olympic National Park. This park has everything to offer, from wild beaches, to huge moss covered trees in the rainforest up to glaciers and mountain peaks over 2000 meters above sealevel.
I also got to know a wonderful young family, Jan, Tatj and Zoé at the Rialto Beach parking lot, they just arrived and were waiting for their baby Zoé to wake up. We used to the time to chat and since I already got a place at the near campground, I invited them to camp there too and we spent a great evening. They travel six months through the United States in there Mercedes Sprinter, you can read all about their travels in their blog: out-of-curiosity.jimdoo.com.

One day I got up super early to catch the sunrise at Hurricane Ridge, I can tell you it was totally worth it and the time lapse of it is awesome, more on that on a later post 😉

Missoula and Glacier National Park

After Yellowstone I drove further north to Glacier National Park but on the way there I stopped in Missoula to visit Rachel’s aunt and cousin. I had a great time there and they showed me an awesome place in the mountains where I decided to camp for the night. The sunset was fantastic, the smoke clouds from the wildfire nearby made it even more breathtaking. I also got some wildlife visitors but nothing that tried to eat me 😉 A bit later in the evening, the moon rose over the far mountains and another amazing picture opportunity arose!

The next day I went back to Rachel’s cousin’s home and got some advice on where to go. The Wild Bill OHV track was a great tip and a lot of fun, unfortunately I was too busy navigation through the obstacles thus I don’t have any great pictures of this, but rest assured, it was fun! I wish we had that many off road opportunities in Switzerland!

Glacier NP has two sides, an east and a west side. I arrived at the west side and after a stop at the visitor center I decided to head up to the Kintla Lake Campground. I arrived there at 9am and got the second last spot. The Kintla Lake Campground is a primitive campground with only pit toilets, but as the name suggests lies on the lake and is a good starting point for hiking. I spent the rest of the day relaxing, swimming, reading and dusting the car. Something that has become an almost daily activity in these dry regions with all the gravel roads I am driving…

The first hike brought me to the Upper Kintla Lake and back. All in all an 18.2 mile (30km) hike. The weather was great and the rising sun made for good light conditions. The Upper Kintla Lake was a beautiful place for a rest, a quick swim (it was really cold!) and lunch. Now I only had to hike 9.1 miles back… which turned out to be quite far, but I made it back in one piece 🙂

Having tired legs I decided to spent some time driving and go to the east side over the Going-to-the-Sun Road. If you are spoiled with (swiss) mountain pass roads, this road is nothing spectacular but the people here are very proud of it and it is a nice drive!
Since all the campgrounds on the west side filled up rather quickly I camped outside the park at the foot of Divide Mountain. Another spectacular camp spot. It seemed like the rest of the United States wants to make up with amazing and free camp sites for the shitty experience on the east coast 😀
Anyway, the next day another hike to the Iceberg Lake was planned. This is probably one of the busiest trails in the whole park but is totally worth it and only 10 miles. On this hike I spotted my first Grizzly Bear, luckily it was quite far away from the trail, busy eating berries not humans 😉

The name “Glacier National Park” sets some expectations, like you would see tons of glaciers. Unfortunately, out of the once 150 glaciers there are only 26 left and even those will disappear until 2030. So don’t expect something like the Aletsch Glacier. Nevertheless, the park has tons of great hiking trails and lakes to offer and is definitely worth a visit.

Grand Teton and Yellowstone

I crossed into Wyoming via back country gravel roads and headed north to the Medicine Bow National Forest. The mountains in this National Forest reach over 3000 meters and the small lakes make it a very picturesque landscape. Again, there would be many hikes to explore but I only spent two days there, having some “off road” fun with old snow drifts that blocked several forest roads.

The drive from there until the Teton National Forest starts is rather boring, but as soon as the mountains are back it gets really pretty again. Only a small part of the Teton mountain range is part of the National Park. The Grand Teton NP is not that spectacular if you are used to mountains but it offers many nice hikes. Since all the campgrounds fill up super quickly in the morning I camped outside of the NP in the National Forest with amazing views of the Teton range. I also met a fun group of people working at one of the Guest Ranches one night.

After two days I left for the Yellowstone National Park. As usual I wasn’t prepared at all and had no idea what I’ll encounter. To make it short, I was blown away by what I saw. The park has so much to offer, from martian like landscapes to high peaks and an abundance of wildlife! There is no question why this area was the first National Park created, even though the start was a bit rough. The history of the park is quite interesting, you should read it up 😉

All in all I spent three days in the park and could probably have stayed another week and not have seen everything. But enough words, enjoy the pictures!

And because there are so many, here the iPhone pictures 🙂

Colorado and Rocky Mountains National Park

The drive to Colorado Springs was smooth and not half as boring as everybody told me it will be!
Colorado Springs greeted me with some impressive local thunderstorms. I stocked up my food and water supplies and left Colorado Springs. Next goal: Rocky Mountains National Park by only using back country roads as much as possible. To get started I drove some parts of the Gold Belt Tour. This is a gravel road that leads through the Phantom Canyon. The road used to be a train track, built 1894 to transport the gold out of the Cripple Creek Mining District. The history of the area is really interesting, some of the stories read like they are straight out of a Lucky Luke comic.


Afterwards I visited the Garden of the Gods, famous for the balancing rocks and the stone formations. From there a forest road leads into the Pikes National Forest. Tons of trails waiting to be discovered. A true off-roading and hiking paradise. I crossed quite a few burned areas. It’s a strange feeling driving through burned down forests, all that remains are dead black trees.


On the way to the Rocky Mountains National Park I crossed the continental divide on the Hoosier Pass at 3500m. The elevation is generally an interesting topic here. I think I haven’t been below 1800 meters for more than a week. The highest point in the RMNP is at 3720m. Luckily the human body is quite fast at adapting to the elevation, better than my Landy. I think it transforms some part of the Diesel into black smoke instead of horses 😀


The awesome free camp spots are also back, see the following gallery for some of the latest ones

Midwest and the Water Pump

It was time to head to the Mid-West and meet up with friends who used to live in Switzerland but moved to Kansas City end of last year.
The weather was quite hot and the drive wasn’t that spectacular anymore, thus I decided to speed things up again and do a 560 Miles drive in one day to KC.
Since starting the trip one of the things I checked daily was the coolant water level. A few days ago I noticed some spills off coolant on the cap of the expansion reservoir after the warm day but nothing serious. However there was also a tiny water spill under the car. The day after, there were no additional traces on the cap but the spill under the car got much bigger and I had to refill some coolant. On the third day, I was already in Kansas City, the spill was really big. Luckily there’s a Land Rover shop in KC (Aristocrat Land Rover). I went there on Saturday morning. They confirmed what I suspected was the culprit: the water pump is leaking. Fixing it will take a bit of time but nothing dramatic, however getting the right parts is another question. Unfortunately, on Tuesday was the U.S. Independence Day, thus things got delayed even more, turns out, getting all the parts over Rovers North would take up to 7 days. Luckily Ruedi from Switzerland (Overlandtechnics) had everything on stock and sent the package on Wednesday. Due to some miscommunication and time zone issues, a second package had to be sent with additional parts which arrived Monday afternoon.

Luckily I could stay at my friends place and they took me to all kinds of amazing food places. I just hope I’ll still fit into the Landy when everything is working again. I can’t thank enough Becky and Ronnie for let me crash at their place, showing me KC, and feed me all the awesome food!

Land Rover enthusiasts are everywhere and I got invited by Dave and his family for dinner. They saw the Landy at the Land Rover shop and got in contact with me. I spent a great evening at their house, chatting about Land Rovers, travel and the world. Because the Landy was in the shop, they couldn’t look at it, thus when I finally got back on the road I went to their office. The office is in Gardner City, which was on my way to Colorado. A big surprise was waiting for me there! They are running a sign company and they made decals and a custom Yeti cup for us! Now I wish I’d spent more time designing the logo 😀
Once more, thanks again, and if you ever make it to Switzerland you are more than welcome to stop at our place!

Since I have to be in Seattle by August 6th this delay will cut my plans a bit short, thus from here I will tackle the way to Colorado Springs and then up via as many off road trails as possible to Rocky Mountains, Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier NP.

Hiking, lots of water and other stories

More hiking was done in Lake Placid which is in the Adirondacks. In 1980 the Winter Olympics took place in this area. I spent three days around Lake Placid mostly hiking, but also doing laundry and shopping.

I bought an Aeropress for making coffee, easier to handle and I think the coffee tasts better than the one from the Bialetti. I just need to find the reusable filter for the Aeropress and I should have a solution that works for the rest of the trip. Also, I’ve switched to a MSR multifuel burner. My Coleman stove is already acting up (today everything was burning, except that part that was supposed to…) and handling with gasoline is just not so nice. I’ll keep it around for now but I mostly use the MSR burner.
Lake Ontario is quite impressive, obviously the size is enormous but currently there are floods along the coast. One local told me the lake had never had such a high water level before. Not sure if I should believe this but everything along the shore is under water and most beaches are closed because there is no beach anymore.

I couldn’t pass by the Niagara Falls without stopping. I took “Maid of the Mist” boat tour to get a nice shower 😉 Being so close to the falls is impressive. The Rhein Falls are not bad but Niagara plays in another league. Maybe we will make it to the Iguazu Falls, then I’ll know for sure who has the biggest … fall.
I only visited the American side of the falls, I didn’t want to bother with customs again and with the boat tour I got a good look at the Canadian falls. I guess in the end it depends on how much time and money one wants to spend if it’s worth to visit both sides.

My next stop was the Allegheny National Forest to get the Landy a bit dirty. There are a bunch of forest roads from good to bad, but nothing that couldn’t be done with any high clearance vehicle, thus I left after a day and headed to the Ohiopyle State Park. On the way there I passed by the Flight 93 Memorial Site. A beautiful place but thinking of the ramifications of 9/11 was quite depressing.
My plans to be in Kansas City for Saturday made me leave Ohiopyle after a short hike. I met the first “Vandweller” in the Wayne National Forest at a free campground, that was an interesting experience. Later that evening the Sheriff/Police came by, arrested her and towed to van. Don’t do drugs!

 

North East USA

After enjoying a few days in the Acadia NP I moved on and again followed the coast. The weather on Mt. Desert Island was rather cold and foggy, thus I sped up things a bit in drove down to Camden. A pretty down with a nice history center and of course good coffee shops, and a brewery. However, Camden was still in the fog so I moved on to Portland. Unfortunately Portland didn’t make me happy either. Here, it was very warm (28C) which was nice, but the humidity of over 90% was killing me. Nevertheless I spent some time in Portland which seems to be an interesting city with a great craft brew scene.
But the humidity kept me moving, up into the mountains. The White Mountains to be exact.
The landscape got more interesting again, hill after hill, completely covered by a never ending forest, here and there you could see actual rocks. The White Mountains region has a lot to offer for outdoor adventure, and obviously many winter sport activities. I was able to do a few shorter hikes, unfortunately the hike up to Mount Washington couldn’t be done because of thunderstorms and paying 30$ to use the road or 70$ to take the cog wheel train up, just to look at fog again wasn’t something I wanted to do.
Thus after two days in the White Mountains I went further west into Vermont.

Some famous things from Vermont: Bernie Sanders, Milk, Cheese and Ben & Jerry’s

Sad to say, I didn’t meet Bernie, but I ate plenty of cheese (sorry, not as good as Swiss cheese!) and I had to visit the Ben & Jerry’s factory and do the tour. It’s a shame we only get a handful of flavours in Switzerland.
Oh, and then there are the Green Mountains. Another large hilly region formed by the retreating glaciers. Did I already mention that I really like this type of landscape?
Lot’s of hiking again, a short dip in a river at the Bingham Falls (kinda like a small version of the Aare gorge) and finally enjoyable weather conditions, apart from the crazy rain storms which passed by from time to time.
Being in Vermont I also had to do a quick stop at Rovers North, probably the Land Rover parts dealer in North America. Thanks for the tour, hat and sticker 🙂 I hope I will never need your help but it’s good to know to have so dedicated people working there!
I left Vermont via the ferry from Burlington to Port Kent on the oldest ferry in the U.S., aptly named Adirondack, which is the area I was heading. I did only spend two hours in Burlington but I liked it a lot, probably it’s the vibe that most cities with big universities get?

The Empire State greeted me with a quite impressive waterfall/gorge. Now I am near Lake Placid in the Adirondack Park, another endless paradise for outdoor adventures and winter sports.
However, camping outside official campgrounds seems rather difficult in the U.S. All the nice spots have either “No Camping/Overnight Parking” signs or are private property. Maybe I am just not good enough at finding nice spots or it really is that bad in the east. Even iOverlander has almost no entries for these regions.
But I won’t complain, life on the road is still great. I have yet to have a bad day. Even on days I started to question myself something amazing happened to make up for it 🙂