Summer 2003 Trip

Lisa and I had a somewhat abbreviated trip this year. Lisa has to fly back to Houston after only two and a half weeks when arrangements for the girls to be gone on a trip with a family member fell through. I was gone four weeks. We wandered around in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, in no particular order. What follows is some of the many pictures we took. We took a lot of pictures, somewhere around 500 between film and digital cameras, and some of those images will show up as paintings.

This was taken from Signal Mountain in Grand Teton National Park. I had never spent much time there, and it's a lovely place. There are lots of trails in the area, not only in the park itself, but in the Bridger-Teton and Targhee National Forests. Go a little further north, and there are the Beartooth and Absaroka ranges as well as Yellowstone National Park. It would take a long time to explore all the trails in that general vicinity.

The highest peak in this picture is the peak known as Grand Teton,  viewed from across Jackson Lake with the setting moon still visible in the picture.

The Snake river, near the Moran entrance station to Grand Teton National Park.

Lisa and I went for a little walk in the Park, up to Amphitheatre Lake, shown below. It's 5.7 miles each way, with an elevation gain of 3100 feet from the trailhead, so we did 11.4 miles and 6200 vertical feet that day. We were a bit sore for the next couple of days, but it's a really pretty place.

Eventually, we moved over into the Uinta mountains in Utah. This is Hayden Peak near sunset, as photographed from the Forest Service camp at Moosehorn Lake. No, I don't know why the campground is named Moosehorn, as moose don't have horns, but antlers.

This is Moosehorn Lake, which is clearly popular with fisherpersons. The Uintas are a popular weekend destination for the 1.5 million people who live in the greater Salt Lake City area, so, if you're looking for peace and solitude, you can either go during the week, when all those people are at work, or go in to trailheads on the north or south slope, which are less accessible from Salt Lake City.

This lake is in Naturalist Basin in the Uintas. It's supposed to be a very popular place, because it's only six miles from the popular Highline Trailhead on Utah 150 near the road summit. However, Lisa and I were in there during the week, and there were only a few other people there, two parties of two fishermen each, and another couple of people we only saw when they came down to the lake to filter drinking water. There are plenty of secluded campsites around the basin, too.

The lovely meadow below is China Meadow, on the north slope of the Uintas. The Uintas are one of the rare mountain ranges in the U.S. which run east and west rather than north/south, the other being the Brooks Range in Alaska. The north slope is, in my experience, less used than the southern and western slopes. For one thing, the north slope is less accessible - you have to enter from the Wyoming side, and there isn't anyone in Wyoming: the entire population of the state is only about a quarter of a million people, and there are, as previously noted in commentary about Grand Teton NP, lots of other places to go in Wyoming. For another, the north slope is colder and wetter - it rained every day we were poking about the north slope, and we ran through an area of fresh snow - yes, snow, in the middle of July - while exploring the North Slope Road. So, the lush meadow below is lush because it rains a lot, which it had just finished doing when this picture was taken.

The lovely flowers and lake below are in American Basin, which lies west of Lake City, Colorado, on the road which runs over Cinnamon Pass and enables you to reach either Silverton or Ouray. One map I have indicates that the road as far as that basin is suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles with good ground clearance. Don't believe that. If you want to go up to that basin, go in a four-wheel-drive vehicle with high ground clearance, or be prepared to pay for expensive repairs.

Colorado has lots of great places to go in a 4WD vehicle. It's lots faster to run over the pass between Lake City and Silverton than it is to drive around on the paved roads, assuming that you have the proper vehicle. Our new Ford F250 4WD had no problems on those roads. I recommend Charles Well's book Guide to Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel Drive Trails, and recommend that you not try anything that he rates difficult, which requires both specialized equipment and lots of experience. In my experience, though, Jeeps and any of the Big Three 4WD trucks will handle the moderate-rated roads without difficulty if you're careful and go slowly.

People mostly break equipment by trying to drive like the people they see in TV commercials for 4WD trucks. Don't do that. If you do, you will break things. I gave a ride back to Ouray to a guy who had broken a ball joint on his LandRover in Yankee Boy Basin, and LandRovers are reputed to be indestructible. They aren't, and that LandRover was going to have to be repaired where it sat, because the road is essentially impossible to tow a vehicle out of. That kind of problem will involve a most impressive repair bill.

The lovely peak below is Sunlight Mountain, as photographed from the Sunlight Forest Service campground on Colorado 145 south of Telluride. Down in the valley below the peak runs Forest Road 623, which can be driven by passenger cars, and should be, as it follows the South Fork of the San Miguel River.

I always take many more books on our summer trip than I wind up reading, because I spend most of my downtime sitting around and looking at the sky, which is not surprising when it looks like this. Also, we tend to get synchonized with the daylight, rising with the sun and going to bed when it sets. Someday, perhaps, I'll wise up, and quit carrying around all those books. Someday.

Below is the lower of the Alta Lakes, also in the area south of Telluride. The day I visited the Alta Lakes, I had run the 4WD road over Ophir Pass from near Silverton, which is a wonderful drive. That road can be driven up to the town of Ophir from the west side in a car, but don't try it from the east side, which requires high-clearance 4WD. That valley gets a lot of rain, as it is on the west slope of the San Juans, and has aspens and lots of flowers. You aren't seeing a picture of that valley because it was overcast when I was in there. Guess I'll have to go back another time to get good pictures. Darn.

The flowers below are on Gothic Road above Crested Butte, Colorado. I went up that road to investigate using the East Fork trailhead, which is a mile on the other side of Schofield Pass, as a southern access point for the Maroon Bell range. You can use that trailhead even if you don't have a 4WD vehicle, because the Town Bus service in Crested Butte will drop you off and pick you up there. I don't know what they charge for that service, but it will be worth it - the driver of the bus, which is actually a 4WD van, brought cold beers for a party of 4 young ladies he was picking up there. Service like that cannot be beaten. Crested Butte would make a good base for exploring that area, which, besides the Maroon Bells, includes the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, the Raggeds Wilderness, the West Elk Wilderness, the Sawatch Range, and the Gunnison and San Isabel National Forests.

I created this page to show you some of the sights we saw. Obviously, I couldn't show them all. In two years, when Emily goes off to college, Lisa and I will become nomadic, pulling a small trailer with the 4WD truck, and hang out in places like much of the year, until we get tired of the scenary. It wouldn't be prudent to place much of a bet on when that will happen. It certainly beats spending the summer in Texas.

The Rocky Mountains stretch from New Mexico to well into Canada. And then there are the Sierras, the Cascades, the Appalachians...and you get the idea. If you're looking for something to do with your time, you might wish to take a look.

Copyright 2003 by Linden B. Sisk and Charlisa Walker
All Rights Reserved