Getting Ready for The Rockies!


In late August, we are going on a very long anticipated road trip, exploring the Rocky Mountains from the USA/Canadian border in Glacier National Park, to south Colorado.  In between we visit: South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado over a period of about 7 weeks.

For reasons I can’t quite fathom, it’s one of the few parts of the USA we have not previously visited in the many visits since we lived there 30 years ago.  We’ve long wanted to visit Glacier NP, Yellowstone NP, Grand Teton NP and of course Rocky Mountain NP, and they all feature heavily in our trip.  We will be travelling back roads in the main, getting off the Interstates as much as possible.  Which is quite a lot!

In the planning of this trip we have had huge help from the forums on TripAdvisor, both the individual State forums and also the Road Trip forum.  We have devoured road atlases, guidebooks, Tourist Board Information, TripAdvisor reviews and other online resources.  But… it is true to say that the TripAdvisor Forums have been particularly useful.

Some of the Road Trip Forum subscribers are a bit errr….. robust in the wording of their advice…. shall we say…. but it’s all well meant and we have also met extraordinary kindness and generosity ie. the frequent advisor who noticed we were heading for one of his favourite hotels and arranged to pay for our night’s stay.  A pay it forward sort of guy… and we will keep that going.

We have preparation underway.  Firstly, we recognise we are getting a bit creaky to be starting a visit to this part of the world.  So, we’re going to keep the walking going that we enjoyed over the winter on our travels.  And we’ll step it up a gear over the English summer to try and get a bit more walk fit for the Rockies.  Not that we’ll be undertaking any major hiking treks.  But we do want to be able to take some day hikes, less than 10 miles (much less than ten miles LOL) bearing altitude into account.  It’s now or never maybe….

In addition we’ve been doing a great deal of reading.  Not just maps and guidebooks, although a lot of them.  There’s a lot of history along our way.  We want to have the understanding and context of the places we visit.  So, we’ve been reading a lot about the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804-06.  An amazing tale akin to what it will be like when mankind eventually begins to explore the planets.  Although it won’t be, because we won’t take the chance of sending people to places where we have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA of either the geography or the conditions of the location.  Which is how Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark off to explore the West…..  They had literally no actual idea of what existed or what they would find beyond the Missouri River.  Received wisdom was that the Rockies were a single range much like the Alleghenies in the East…  visualise their disappointment and dismay as they crested the first range only to see more ranges stretching ahead.  The dream of a simple portage between the Missouri and the Columbia died right there and then….

If you want to read the adventure of a lifetime, I highly recommend

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the America West

There are others and my main recommendations are:

The Oregon Trail:    The journey of Francis Parkman, 40 years after Lewis and Clark.  An interesting contrast.

Custer and the Little Bighorn The last great battle of the American West.

The American West  A history of the opening of the frontier.

Then, modern journeys in the West, some of which aim to follow the route of Lewis and Clark, others that don’t, but all incredibly readable and interesting:

Out West: An American Journey following the Route of Lewis and Clark   A wonderful account of a journey along the L&C route in the early 1980s.  Great to contrast with the 1800s…

River Horse: A Journey Across America

Blue Highways: A Journey Across America   Probably one of the best travelogues of a road trip through the American West ever written.

The Outlaw Trail: A Journey Through Time Robert Redford’s journey through the outlaw lands.

We are not by any means following the Lewis and Clark journey, but we do cross their route a few times.  We will visit the Little Big Horn battlefield and many of the places referenced in the other histories and travelogues.   Some of the key flashpoints of a pivotal moment in American history, when the great push west came up finally and irrevocably against the culture of the Native American.  The realisation of the Manifest Destiny.  The books have opened our eyes to the driving forces behind the opening of these lands, the cost to both animals and humans…. the way they have shaped the American consciousness.

So.…. this is a mighty road trip.  We are staying in over 30 different locations.  We are visiting numerous national parks and hoping to see buffalo, black bears, grizzly bears, elk, moose, wolves, eagles, deer….. we’re stargazing in the Badlands, visiting Mt. Rushmore and the Devil’s Tower (Close Encounters), white water rafting, floating down rivers on tubes, hiking, staying in historic hotels including Buffalo Bill’s hotel, attending a rodeo, riding historic trains including the Durango-Silverton mountain train, panning for gold, visiting the Little Bighorn Battlefield with a Native Crow Guide, staying overnight in a gold mining historic town, riding a stagecoach at full gallop, exploring the Black Hills, Laramie, Deadwood, seeing Old Faithful erupt…. and hopefully much more.

This is by way of a teaser.  We’ve really enjoyed this planning phase and I will write more about the actual logistical planning later.  Most of all I’ve enjoyed reading about the exploration of the American West. I hope you will read along with us before and during our travels and maybe be inspired to visit too.



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