Route 66; road tripping with history and panache!

Road trip on Route 66; find history and mystery!

“Get your kicks on Route 66”, goes the popular song from 1946 by Bobby Troup. My first exposure to Route 66 occurred summer of 1962, when my mother packed my two brothers and me in the back of a Ford station wagon towing a Nimrod tent trailer and set off from Ohio to Chicago, then following Route 66 all the way to Southern California. Before our dad flew into Los Angeles to join us – we had two weeks on our own, on a journey that changed my life.

Route 66 was rerouted in the 1930s, from its end in Los Angeles,
to a more scenic conclusion at the Santa Monica Pier.

With travel dreams on your mind and time to plan future trips, consider Route 66. Named America’s Mother Road, the historic route connected existing highways in 1927 and knit them together in a new Route 66; our government responding to the continuing popularity of automobiles and more and more American’s willingness to travel long distances.

For the route’s debut, gas went for $.16-$.18 a gallon, new Fords and Chevys could be bought for $350 and $525, respectively – a large sum in those days – and Americans were beginning to revel in the open road. Then came the Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War II and its aftermath – more and more Americans used the highway to head west to rebuild their lives.

Historic gas station in Monrovia, on old Rt. 66.

The new highway took shape in 1926 and debuted in 1927.  The result was a meandering 2,445 mile highway that began in Chicago and crossed Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, ending in Los Angeles (10 years later the western terminus was shifted to Santa Monica). Aggressively promoted by the US 66 Highway Association as “the shortest, best and most scenic route from Chicago to Los Angeles”, travelers poured westward!  

Large to tiny towns along the newly christened Route 66 looked at the road as an opportunity to promote their businesses, restaurants, motor courts and gas stations.  And, today, many of these towns actively promote the “Mother Road” with museums, preserved service stations and motor courts, wall murals and more. Nostalgia reigns supreme!

The El Garces Hotel, once a venerable Harvey House,
on old Rt. 66 in Needles, CA.

President Eisenhower, seeing the success of the German Autobahn during the war, spurred the construction of a new, Federal four-lane highway system in 1956 that would become today’s Interstate system.  Five new Interstates (I-55, I-44, I-40, I-15 and I-10) would steadily replace Route 66 over almost 30 years, and in 1985 Route 66 was decommissioned (Williams, AZ was the last town bypassed).

To tour all eight states, Chicago to Santa Monica, you need at least 2 to 3 weeks. Better, for most, is to tackle the old highway in smaller segments.

Here is the compressed eight state route of historic Route 66.

Today, we’ll focus upon California and Arizona. We toured our first segment, from Williams, Arizona west to California’s border six years ago, followed by the Oklahoma, Texas and eastern New Mexico portion, then the Needles, CA to Santa Monica section four years ago, and, more recently, the stretch from St. Louis, Missouri through Kansas to Oklahoma. We still have the Chicago to St. Louis stretch to navigate – hopefully a diversion on our next trip across the central US.

Our favorite Route 66 memories would fill more than this column allows.  But, in California they have to include Needles and the grand old El Garces Hotel (an old Harvey House Hotel) built in 1906, the Needles Theatre, circa 1930 and old Union 76 and Texaco gas stations.  Like most states, California offers a good guidebook, offering notes like the moldering remains of the old Carty’s Camp Motor Court, featured in the Grapes of Wrath movie, just behind the Route 66 Motel. In lovely Monrovia, find the old Aztec Hotel and preserved service stations as they appeared in the 1930s, making the town a worthy stop. Amboy features the historic Roy’s Motel and Restaurant, and the end of the route, the Santa Monica Pier, retains its nostalgia. 

The historic Aztec Hotel in Monrovia, CA.

Arizona’s Williams takes a top spot for creatively capitalizing on the nostalgia of the old highway, and, just west, the tiny town of Ash Fork, with abandoned truck stop and motels, the town almost dried up, is sober testimony of a city that lost its luster when bypassed by the new Interstate. However, the next town west, Seligman, offers an example of how a small town off I-40 can recapture much of its grandeur by focusing on the highway’s drawing power.

The Canyon Club is an historic watering hole on Rt. 66 in Williams, AZ.

Near the California/Arizona border, at the end of a long, lonely stretch of Rt. 66, is the mountain town of Oatman, site of a half-dozen movies, still featuring the vibe of bygone days, and almost overwhelmed by wild burros that roam the city’s streets and mooch from visitors!

The Copper Cart, a local emporium on old Rt. 66, Seligman, AZ.
Wild burros welcome visitors to Oatman, AZ.
Wild burros mooch for food in Oatman, AZ.

By the way, that 1962 family trip down Route 66, then north through California and Idaho into Yellowstone Park, hooked me on the west and left me forever nostalgic about the old highway. That led me to a summer job in Yellowstone Park four years later where I met my future spouse. How can we not tour the balance of that old highway that changed my life?

For more info on Route 66: Overall historic Route 66: nps.gov/nr/travel/route66; for turn by turn insight, historic66.com; California, route66ca.org; Arizona, azrt66.com (other states have their own statewide associations).

Abandoned truck stop in Ash Fork, AZ, just three blocks off the then new I-40, offers mute testimony to the destiny of towns bypassed by the Interstate system.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com; search his blog, recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

Posted in Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Road Trip; Lake Tahoe’s western shore in age of pandemics

Take a Road Trip to Lake Tahoe’s western shore

Months into the Covid19 pandemic and a month into summer, Lake Tahoe lies resplendent, as always under a hot July sun.  Winter’s snows can only be spotted at the highest Sierra elevations, melting into shady crevices, and motels, hotels and restaurants are running at reduced capacity and shortened hours (some are closed). 

Suffering cabin fever, we decided upon a one-day road trip. Our advice, take your face masks, gloves and hand-sanitizer, hiking shoes, hiking poles, sunglasses (and bikes if a cyclist)! Plan to physically distance from others, take your own food and drink, and enjoy this stunning portion of the world with less-than-normal tourists.

We were in search of hiking and beach opportunities and drove up on Highway 50 into South Lake Tahoe, bright with sunshine and light crowds.  We turned north on Highway 89, running up the magnificent lake’s west shore. Just beyond the S. Lake Tahoe city limits, you will find a lovely bike trail paralleling the highway, running north about 10 miles. Our destination was the Mt. Tallac trailhead, a few miles off Highway 89, starting at 6400 feet and climbing to near the Tallac summit at 9,437.

Departing early to beat the summer heat, we arrived at the trailhead parking area just after 8 AM, found the last space in the 20 car parking lot and were soon on the trail. The first ¾ mile is steepest, and then we began to climb a bit less dramatically on a breezy ridge high above Fallen Leaf Lake.

Author’s spouse Susan with Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe below.
Purple lupine frames Mt. Tallac above Fallen Leaf Lake.

Our journey led us up a long, steady slope on an exposed breezy ridge, with views of both Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe. Plenty of wildflowers, from purple Lupine and Indian paintbrush, enliven the trail. As we got closer to Mt. Tallac’s summit, the views became even more dramatic. The thinning air and our relative lack of fitness precluded continuing on – but even this portion of the trail ranked high in our hiking experiences.

Tahoe offers many dedicated bike (and hiking) trails, throughout South Lake Tahoe, just north heading up Highway 89, further north along 89 starting at Homewood and along both the Truckee River and Tahoe’s north shore. Hardy cyclists can tackle the entire 72 mile loop around Lake Tahoe, though it has its share of narrow, twisty turns and several steep vertical climbs – not for the faint of heart.

Don’t miss a stop at the Tallac Historic Site, located just north of Camp Richardson on Highway 89. Stop first at the Forest Service Visitor Center, get details on these three historic former luxury waterfront estates, the Baldwin Estate, the Pope Estate and Valhalla, then walk the paved trail to view what life was like for Tahoe’s glitterati in the 1920s and 30s. The remnants of the former Tallac Resort are just north of the old palatial homes; harkening to lively times in the Roaring 20s.

The stately Baldwin House is part of the Tallac Historic Site.

From the Tallac site, walk to Baldwin Beach, a half-mile sandy crescent right on Lake Tahoe. On this Monday, we found quite a few people enjoying Tahoe’s azure waters, but easy to stay 40 feet away from the nearest visitor enjoying the lofty views looking to the east. Paddle boards and kayaks for rent, right off the sandy spit.

Stop at the Forest Service Visitor Center, get details on these three historic former luxury waterfront estates, the Baldwin Estate, the Pope Estate and Valhalla, then walk the paved trail to view what life was like for Tahoe’s glitterati in the 1920s and 30s.

Baldwin Beach catches more than a few sun-worshipers on a Monday afternoon.

Further north on Hwy. 89 is Emerald Bay, perhaps the most photographed place on the lake. On the bay is the lovely Vikingsholm estate, built in 1929. A steep hike down to the bay allows closeup views of the old mansion and this highly-visited portion of the lake. Eagle Creek thunders into the bay nearby, still brisk with snow-melt; hike up Eagle Creek for access to an extensive trail system into the wilderness area, again, offering memorable views of the lake and Sierra.

We usually breakfast at our campsite, and occasionally pack a lunch for our daily tours. For dining out, our favorite restaurants in this part of Tahoe include The Beacon, and, though we did not get up to Tahoe City, our favorite breakfast place in the entire Tahoe area, Rosie’s – try it! Tahoe City and Squaw Valley Resort (home to the 1960 Olympics) are lovely destinations; they will have to await another road trip!

Eagle Creek tumbles towards Emerald Bay.

For more information: visitinglaketahoe.com, or tahoesouth.com. Since the Covid pandemic causes frequent geographical variations in visitor policies, check before traveling.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com; visit his archive,  recordnet.com/travelblogHappy travels in the west!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sierra Nevada | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Bucket list trips; Visit the Pacific ring of fire, California to Washington

Visit the Pacific ring of fire, California to Washington, fun for young and old!

We are now into 2.5 months of sheltering at home – reflecting on past and future travels. States across the west are entering into phased re-openings, as well as national parks, now’s the time to firm up one or more of those bucket list trip destinations. With California’s Joshua Tree, Redwoods and Lassen National Parks announcing re-openings, as well as Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and several of Utah’s iconic parks, here is an ultimate trip in the West.

Take a dramatic “volcanic legacy” trip, to Lassen National Park, Mt. Shasta, Crater Lake National Park and Mount St. Helens National Monument, about 1800 miles round-trip. Guaranteed to thrill both young and old, vivid in its scenery and showing off our most wonderful national parks, it’s sure to please the entire family. Traveling northward, see the highlights of Lassen, Mt. Shasta, Crater Lake, Mt. Hood and Mount St. Helens in memorable week or 10 days.

A frozen Lake Helen (in early July) with Lassen Peak looming behind…

Northern California is studded with active and dormant volcanoes, so let’s start with Lassen National Park, only 250 miles north of San Joaquin County. East of Redding, Lassen is part of the “Pacific ring of fire”, a ring of volcanoes that surrounds the Pacific Ocean. Mt. Lassen achieved national notoriety when, in 1914 and 1915, eruptions belched ash 30,000 feet into the sky and blasted huge boulders for miles.  

Start a tour at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Center explaining various volcano types and how they shaped the surrounding landscape. Beyond the visitor center, scenery becomes increasingly interesting, with views of Lassen looming in the distance. Soon you arrive at Sulphur Works, an area of eerie hot springs and smelly, burbling mud pots.

Sulphur Works steams away, smelling of sulphur, beside Lassen’s Hwy. 89.

Continuing through the park on Highway 89, find Bumpus Hell; an easy hike takes you to this lively area full of thermal wonders, much like a small version of Yellowstone Park. East of Lassen’s peak, find the Devastated Area which will wow the kids, offering an easy hike past 25,000 pound boulders blasted off the summit of Lassen in 1915, landing three miles away and knocking down many miles of forest like they were matchsticks.

Manzanita Lake, with a stunning view of Mount Lassen, offers a lovely campground near the park’s northwest entrance. The lake provides marvelous fishing (catch and release only) and the campground with secluded campsites, showers, store and museum. Due to COVID19 restrictions, check with the park; usually, two places offer food in the park, the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center and at Manzanita Lake. The historic Drakesbad Guest Ranch, accessed from Chester via the Warner Valley, offers overnight lodging, with trails to Devils Kitchen and Boiling Springs Lake.

View from Mazanita Lake, with Mt. Lassen rising in distance.

Headed north, Mt. Shasta is visible for 100 miles, a dormant volcano towering 14,180 feet with active steamy sulphur vents near the summit, dominates Northern California. But, we are headed further north, about 3.5 hours, to Crater Lake National Park.

Crater Lake “Is unlike any other natural wonder in the world.  It is the Jeweled Sapphire of the Cascades, set in a matrix of peaks and castled walls; we may look upon it but once then wear it in our hearts forever”, said author and poet Stanton C. Lapham in 1931. In all our visits across America, it’s one of the true jaw-droppers, along with Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton and a few more.

Wizard Island rises from the azure waters of Crater Lake.

We camped at the Mazama Village campground (check with the park; it usually includes a cafeteria, store, showers, ranger talks in evening, fire rings and 200 spacious trailer and tent sites).  We do our own meals, though the park has several other places to purchase prepared food like Crater Lake Lodge.

Crater Lake, which filled the volcano’s caldera some 7,700 years ago, is the bluest blue you’ll ever see.  The lake is 5 miles across, and 6 miles long; two islands appear from the azure waters, Wizard Island, the larger, and Phantom Ship, at the lake’s north end. Walk from the Crater Lake Lodge area on Rim Drive’s southside.  The old lodge is a treasure in itself (celebrating its 105th anniversary in 2020); treat yourself to a meal there!  Walking to the crater’s nearby rim, that first view remains always inspirational.

The historic Crater Lake Lodge lies right on the lakes rim, with marvelous views!

There are several “must dos” while enjoying the park. Visit Steel Visitor Center at park headquarters and watch the graphic film that explains the chain of volcanic events that formed Crater Lake, and presage a future eruption!  Then tour the 33 mile Rim Drive, by auto, or by bicycle (though, with almost 4,000 vertical feet of elevation gain, one best be in good biking shape; we saw scores of cyclists). 

Heading north, the Cascades are lined with old volcanoes, and Mt. Hood is hard to miss, just east of Portland. Make a final stop at Mount St. Helens, just into Washington State, the volcano that exploded on May 18, 1980, killing 57 people, destroying mountain homes, bridges and leveling the forest for miles to the northeast. Ash/pumice plumes rained down on Yakima, Spokane and drifted across northern America. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument preserves the dramatic aftermath of this violent natural occurrence.

Mount St. Helens jagged crater looms over Spirit Lake, created by volcanic ash and rock flow.
Mount St. Helens explodes into the May 18, 1980 sky (NPS photo).

For more info: For California travel insights, visitcalifornia.com ; for Oregon travel, visitoregon.com; for Lassen National Park,  nps/gov/lavo; Crater Lake, nps.gov/crla: Mount St. Helens National Monument, fs.usda.gov. Camping can be booked through recreation.gov.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com; find his archive, recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Utah’s iconic national parks, plus Grand Canyon’s North Rim, make for travel bucket list inclusion

Make a trip to Utah’s iconic national parks, plus the Grand Canyon’s North Rim, part of your travel bucket list

Many of us have been homebound, or mostly so, for more than two months – often dreaming of past and future travels. With states across the US beginning phased re-openings, as well as our national parks, now’s the time to firm up one or more of those bucket list trip destinations. Just in the past 10 days, California’s Joshua Tree, Redwoods and Lassen National Parks have announced re-openings, as have Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and several of Utah’s iconic parks. Here are suggestions for ultimate trips in the West.

Utah’s five iconic national parks: Plan a 10 day or two week trip in early to mid-Fall, taking in all five of Utah’s lovely national parks on a grand loop, and, include the north rim of the Grand Canyon to make it six parks. Begin your trip in Utah’s oldest national park, Zion and spend several days hiking these huge valleys flanked by vertical cliffs curve by the Virgin River, and shades of white red and blue hues, going to iron manganese shading the limestone.

View down Zion Canyon, carved by the Virgin River.

For easier hikes, tackle the Lower and Middle Emerald Pools trail and the Grotto Trail above the Virgin River. A short hike takes you to the Weeping Wall, a pleasant, drippy and misty respite on a day that can often get quite hot during summer months. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike The Narrows, a section in the narrowest part of the canyon with walls only 20 to 40 feet wide, towering thousands of feet above your head. You’ll need good foot gear that can get wet, and heed weather forecasts, for thunderstorms can breed flash ones that have recently killed unsuspecting tourists.

Water cascades lightly over Zion’s Weeping Wall on a hot day.

Bryce Canyon National Park is just east of Zion, about two hours away. With the main road and campground on the canyon’s rim, views are mind-blowing of the land that Ebeneezer and Mary Bryce homesteaded in 1862; when asked about the awesome canyon behind his homestead, Bryce noted “it’s a tough place to lose livestock”. Highway 63 traverses the canyon rim, running 16 miles south to Rainbow and Yovimpa Points.

Stop for amazing views of hundreds of red rock spires, called Hoodoos, repeated in the succession at Aqua Canyon, Natural Bridge, Farview point, Swamp Canyon, Bryce Point, Inspiration Point and Sunset Point. Camping is lovely, and Bryce Canyon Lodge, opened in 1926 by the Union Pacific Railroad, offers lovely lodge and cabin accommodations.

Hoodoos balance precariously in Bryce Canyon National Park.

From Bryce, continue to Capitol Reef National Park, then onto Canyonlands and Arches National Parks; the latter two are only miles apart. Capitol Reef is named for a section of the earth’s crust where overlapping plates create white rock domes atop red cliffs, looking like the US Capitol and rocky ridges looking like marine reefs. Hike a portion of the Waterpocket Fold, where overlapping layers of white Navajo Sandstone, red Wingate, shale and pink Entrada Sandstone offer hues like a colorful wedding cake. You’ll also find evidence of ancient indigenous people’s settlements and the Fruita Valley, where early Mormon settlers planted apple and peach trees, still producing well over 100 years later.

Bryce Canyon’s Natural Bridge is always a show-stopper!

Moving onto Utah’s final two national parks, expansive vistas are presented in Canyonlands, while Arches features not a few dozen, but 2,000 natural rock arches, from very small to spans more than the length of a football field. Canyonlands, in addition to stunning views, offers serious hiking opportunities into the Green and Colorado River canyons, while Arches offers numerous rocky spans just a short hike off the main highway.

Author and spouse Susan in front of Landscape Arch,
spanning well over 300 feet in Arches National Park.

In two days in Arches, we hiked to 15 of the 2,000 arches; the visitor center helps plot your destinations in this amazing park. Treks to Turret Arch, South and North Arches, then Double Arch (at 144′ wide, 112′ tall, 3rd largest in park) were eye-openers. Later that cloudy, cool day, we climbed from the Arches campground to Tapestry Arch – and had it all to ourselves.  We continued onto Broken Arch, following three hikers – equally impressive – logging 3.5 miles hiking over all. That night we enjoyed spectacular starry night skies above our campsite.

Our second day, we started early to hike Arches’ Devils Garden area.  Our reward was the Landscape Arch; a 1.4 mile hike to this famous arch, tall, thin and spanning over 300 feet, attracts a large crowd.  Spur trails to nearby Tunnel and Pine Tree Arch both proved memorable.  Nearby  Moab is a busy town, humming with restaurants, motels, bike shops and canyon tour-providers!

Young couple admires the view from Canyonlands National Park, with the Colorado and Green Rivers in the distance.

If you still have time and energy, complete your parks tour with a stop at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Here you will find all the park’s jaw-dropping vistas, only 10 percent the tourism of the South Rim, and spot some of the 400 bison that populate the area since a small herd was imported from Yellowstone over 100 years ago.

Next week, we’ll bring you suggestions on a “volcanic legacy” trip, taking in Lassen National Park, Mt. Shasta, Crater Lake National Park and Mount St. Helens National Monument.

Bright Angel Point, looking serene, from the Canyon’s North Rim; unparalleled views and about only 10 percent of the visitors that jam the canyon’s South Rim area.

For more info: For Utah travel insights, go to visitutah.com. For Bryce Canyon National Park, nps.gov/brca, (435) 834-5322;for Zion National Park, nps.gov/zion, (435)772-3256;Camping can be booked through recreation.gov, 877.444.6777.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com; find his archive, recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in the west!

Pictures to use:

Zion NP:

  View down Zion Canyon, carved by the Virgin River

  Weeping Wall’s dripping water keeps summer visitors somewhat cool

Bryce Canyon:

  Natural Bridge in Bryce Canyon

  Hoodoos tower precariously hundreds of feet above canyon

  Ascending the Wall Street Trail in Bryce Canyon

Grand Canyon:

Grand Canyon North Rim’s Transept Trail offers grandeur, but modest crowds

Posted in Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas) | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cycling your hometown in the age of Coronavirus

Get out and cycle your city and county during Covid19 challenges…

Though spring is in full-bloom, the COVID19 challenge has residents of Stockton and San Joaquin County wondering how it affects their ability to ride their road or trail bicycles. A host of options await cyclists, even though today’s health challenge means new safeguards.

San Joaquin County Public Health agrees outdoor activities such as cycling are healthy and recommended activities; though current orders suggest not crossing county lines for recreation, just for essential travel. With the state, counties and cities now beginning to phase in reopening procedures, watch for those restrictions to be eased.

Stockton’s Children’s Museum on Weber Avenue, near the Joan Darrah Waterfront Promenade, offers another fine cycling destination.
Author’s grandson Jack gives the museum a hearty “thumbs up”!

Hence, dust off those bikes, air up the tires and prepare to ride. Several studies note that cyclists throw a longer/wider “slipstream” as they pedal down the street or trail, so better to maintain extra physical distancing if riding with a partner, and not to ride abreast (riding with a mask also reduces that slipstream).

For touring your neighborhood or your city, bikes offer a timely option. With many folks still sheltering at home, local bike groups offer good suggestions. Kari McNickle, of San Joaquin Bike Coalition notes, “Lots of people are bicycling who normally don’t. Awesome! It’s a good opportunity to reintroduce the rules of the road. Calbike has been sharing lots of resources, like their summary of CA bike laws: calbike.org/go_for_a_ride/california_bicycle_laws/. With reduced traffic, streets are more appealing to cyclists – including those that were previously unfriendly to all but confident cyclists, such as Pacific Avenue on the Miracle Mile”.

Several riders pedal north into Lodi vineyards area on Thornton Road.

McNickle adds that the down side of this is an uptick in speed. While generally frowned upon for environmental and sanity reasons, vehicle traffic does force drivers to travel more slowly. She adds, “without those extra cars to slow things down, people seem to be speeding and driving more recklessly (think of the car commercials you see during the Superbowl – empty streets mean people tearing around corners and burning rubber in their muscle cars). I’m not any less nervous riding on any of our roadways than I typically am”.

Matt Beckwith, also of the Coalition, adds, “Given the stay-at-home order issued by San Joaquin County, and because I have now been working from home for several weeks, I find myself riding a lot more, and more by myself. Also, it’s hard to not take advantage of the warm weather and fewer vehicles on the roads. The County order does not forbid outdoor recreation such as bike riding or running, but it does require that participants “must at all times maintain social distancing of at least six feet from any other person when they are outside their residence”.

Beckwith continues, “I’ve always enjoyed riding in and near the neighborhood where I live, and now I seem to do more of it. I’ve really been enjoying easy rides up and down Mariner’s Drive and the neighborhoods at both the north and south ends, Lincoln Village West around Embarcadero and Five Mile Drives, as well as the tried and true route around Brookside to Buckley Cove and then to University of the Pacific along the Calaveras bike path. Also, the 5-mile out-and-back route of the Weston Ranch bike path has always been a favorite of mine”. 

As another safety measure, Beckwith adds, “I now always ride with Buff headwear around my neck. It’s not ideal as the temperatures have soared to above 80 degrees but it works as an easy face mask when I inevitably meet up with other bike riders. I also have found that I’m actively trying to take fewer risks than before. Not that I was wildly riding through town before, but I keep reminding myself that I don’t want to do anything that might unnecessarily increase my chance of injury, given the last thing I want to do is a be an avoidable burden to our health care system”.

This bridge links the lovely University of Pacific campus with Stokton’s Calaveras Bike Trail, providing a safe route running east and west along the old river.

Rich Freggario of the Stockton Bike Club also notices more solo riding and that the club’s members look to the day when they can travel freely and ride in the Sierra foothills. He adds, “If it is routes for casual cyclists you are looking for, our county is blessed with plenty of flat, straight roads. And cursed with only flat, straight roads. Casual cyclists looking for some legal way to get out of the house have plenty of options”.

City of Stockton offers a good on-line map of local bike trails and bike lanes along city streets; go to: stocktonca.gov/files/CitywideBikeNetworkMap.pdf. Don’t overlook the quiet side roads into the Delta, up into Lodi-area vineyards, to the east of the city in peaceful farmland and the bike trails offered by Lathrop, Manteca and Tracy. And don’t overlook nearby iconic destinations for rides when reopening takes place, like Yosemite Valley or Lake Tahoe. Look to both bike organizations to resume their monthly club group rides once the COVID19 situation begins to resolve itself; but plan to maintain physical distancing well into our futures!

Kensington, running north and south in Stockton, is typical of many city streets that offer shady riding options and relatively little traffic.

For more information, San Joaquin Bike Coalition, sjbike.org; San Joaquin County Public Health, sjcphs.org/coronavirus.aspx; Stockton Bike Club, stocktonbikeclub.org; Visit Stockton for additional cycling routes, visitstockton.org.

Contact Tim, tviall@msn.com; find his archive at recordnet.com/travelblogHappy travels in the west!

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The American River Parkway’s Jedediah Smith Trail offers alluring options

Take a cycling journey on the American River Parkway’s Jedediah Smith Trail…

The American River Parkway begins where the American River flows into the Sacramento River and follows the American River east to Folsom State Recreation Area, just beyond Folsom Dam.

The Parkway and its Jedediah Smith Trail offer a network of well over 40 miles of paved trail, and an almost endless array of side trails into riparian forests, making one forget it courses through one of the larger metropolitan areas on the West Coast. It’s home to a variety of historical sites and recreational opportunities, as well as stop-you-in-your-tracks scenery.

The Fair Oaks Bridge, over 110 years old, takes cyclists off the Smith Trail and up into historic Fair Oaks and its quaint downtown.

The American flows through a landscape that was occupied for more than 10,000 years by the Valley Nisenen (translation, “on our side of the river”), the southernmost of the three groups of Maidu indigenous peoples who lived near the Yuba and American Rivers. The natives prospered for centuries, but a sea-change was coming with pioneers like John Sutter.

John Sutter, a German-born Swiss immigrant, received a Mexican land grant in 1839 giving him rights to develop a good portion of the Sacramento and American River Valleys. As his empire expanded from Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento, he needed lumber to fuel his construction projects. He partnered with James Marshall to find and build a nearby lumber mill in the Sierra foothills, finding in the Cul-Luh-Mah Valley (now Coloma) plenty of pine trees and a river (the South Fork of the American) flowing strong to power a sawmill.

California poppies near mile 20 of the bike trail.

Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento (it’s worth a future travel exploration) received the first boards milled in March, 1848; Marshall found gold in the tailrace of the mill on January 24, 1848. With the discovery, the Gold Rush was soon on and the land became too valuable for lumbering; gold claims multiplied. California’s population would quadruple in the next ten years and dramatically alter US history.

As California’s wealth and population swelled, change came with lightning-speed. In the 1860s, in rapid succession, came the Pony Express, whose riders thundered along the American to the Pony Express’s terminus in Old Sacramento. Soon, the Transcontinental Telegraph followed, putting the Pony Express out of business; then came the Transcontinental Railroad – all ended in Sacramento and added to population growth, but decimated the indigenous peoples.

Cyclists head up Old Sacramento’s Front Street, to connect with bike trail extension to take them to Discovery Park and Mile One of the Jedidiah Smit Bike Trail.

With this storied history, the City and County of Sacramento acted to preserve the pristine river access and the American River Parkway was the fortuitous result. It is a Mecca for hikers and cyclists; walkers can chose from scores of miles of scenic trails, and cyclists can ride a few miles, or tackle all 32 miles in a single day (or even do an out-and-back totaling 64 miles). The route is laced with parks and picnic areas, providing prime fishing and rafting options.

Here are suggestions of where to start and what to see.

One place to begin is in Old Sacramento, home to seven museums including Sacramento History Museum and the California Railroad Museum. Mile One of the bike trail starts right outside their doors, just north in Discovery Park, and heads east up the river. Of many other mid-trail starting points, the Cal State Sacramento campus is a lovely option, and the Guy West Bridge (a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge) takes you across to the American where you can ride either east or west on the scenic trail.

My favorite stretch of the Parkway runs from Sunrise Boulevard, east to Nimbus Dam, then into Folsom, offering a selection of unique recreational prospects. On the bike trail, it’s mile marker 19 just west of Sunrise, up to mile 23 at Nimbus Dam and mile 28 near Folsom. This stretch, heading east from Sunrise area, includes the historic Fair Oaks Bridge, circa 1909, providing a detour north on a side trail to old Fair Oaks, featuring a downtown preserving its quaint and historic character, where free-range chickens abound around every corner. Don’t miss the short hike east into parkland at the northern end of the old bridge, yielding breath-taking views of the river off the tall bluff.

Boats at the Cal State Aquatic Center on Lake Natoma, just off the bike trail.

 A few miles up the river trail, reach the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, open for tours on selected days; and the lovely Sacramento State University Aquatic Center, which rents kayaks, SUPs, sail and pedal boats for tours on Lake Natoma.

Once you reach mile 28 near Folsom, you have the option to continue riding to trail end at Folsom State Recreation Area, detour along the relatively new Johnny Cash Trail or take a break in Folsom’s historic district. From the trail’s eastern reaches, it’s mostly downhill, heading west.

How to get to the American River Parkway: From San Joaquin County, take I-5 or Hwy. 99 north to Sacramento to CA Hwy. 50; access to the parkway is just off Hwy. 50 from a variety of starting points.

For more information: American River Parkway, regionalparks.saccounty.net; California Railroad Museum, californiarailroad.museum; Sacramento History Museum, sachistorymusuem.org.

Contact Tim, tviall@msn.com; find his archive, recordnet.com/travelblogHappy travels in the west!

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Walking and running in your hometown in the age of pandemics

See your hometown; walking and running in the age of pandemics…

We’ve been mostly homebound for the past seven weeks, and many of us are wondering how do we stay active and maintain some semblance of fitness in this new age. My spouse and I are blessed living just a block from a scenic walking and cycling trail and we’re determined to use that on most days.

Using your feet to walk, jog or run also allows you to get up-close and personal with your hometown or nearby destinations. For travelers who walk or run, it’s a great way to see your state or the western US. With this column, I decided to talk to a couple of my favorite Stockton walking and running gurus.

Author’s grandkids, L to R, Hunter, Jessica and Jack, on a hike around
Shima Tract in N. Stockton (yes, photo is a couple years old…)

Ralph Womack, age 71, provides perspective of a former non-runner who started later in life but, with determination, became a regular runner. He relates, “back 20-some years ago, I knew I was not getting enough exercise. I had run in boot camp but never really liked it. The difference later in life was that I decided to go above being “determined” to get more exercise to being “committed” to doing something about it. I would say for sure that determination, commitment and consistency (D.C.C.) made the difference, and it was fine to start with small, achievable goals.

First, I measured a one-mile loop from my home and back; then each day I would slowly run until I had to walk. Then I would walk until ready to run again. It became a challenge to then run a little further each day; I eventually could slowly run the whole loop without walking.

Some of Ralph Womack’s running pals on the Calaveras Bike Trail.

I wanted to have something to work toward so I picked out the 5k Asparagus Run (then at Oak Grove Park) and began to work on the same method to now stretch my run out to two miles, later to three. Then I ran my first 5k and it felt great to have the goal, work toward that goal and then accomplishing it.

This experience that got me hooked, kept me running regularly and why I still run today. It was also the enjoyment of running and its benefits that came to mind when I was a board member at the Emergency Food Bank, suggesting that we put together a 5k run as a fundraiser. The annual Run and Walk Against Hunger was born” (author’s note: Ralph was the event’s founder)!  

“This would also be a great goal for anyone to try training and then entering in the Run Against Hunger, Thanksgiving morning, or other run (once the current restrictions are lifted of course). However, do not wait for an organized run to get started. I run from my home these days and simply do a loop to get my distance in. Speaking of distance, I can easily keep my distance from others in the wide open, fresh air of my own neighborhood. Run, walk or run/walk but remember, DCC”!

Runners head east and west on Weber Avenue for the annual Run and Walk Against Hunger, help each Thanksgiving morning as a fun and fundraiser for Emergency Food Bank.
Ralph Womack takes a sunset run along Shima Tract in Stockton.

Tony Vice, Owner of Fleet Feet in Stockton, Modesto and Brentwood, is one of the area’s most outspoken walking and running advocates. Vice shared, “luckily, our state government has blessed running and walking while observing social distancing practices. Outdoor activities naturally allow us to create space among each other. Be a friendly steward of our streets and trails; offer a friendly hello or give a wave while you distance.

Now is the time to get started on that healthy, active lifestyle journey. It’s a simple as making a plan around your shelter in place day – work from home duties, distance learning and so on. If you’re new to running/walking, start by just going around your block. Add a little more distance as you feel stronger – and I promise you, you will. Experienced runners know the drill.

Walkers, runners at a recent Resolution Run, held annually by Fleet Feet Stockton.

Everyone can track their distance and/or time using phone apps or wearable tracking devices. These keep you accountable since your running/walking buddy can’t be around. Make sure to join a social media group to share your adventures. We’ve started a Running is NOT Cancelled group on our Facebook page (fleetfeetsmb); post your workouts, pictures and comments about your day. It’s a fun way to distance meet new people, so when orders are lifted we can start doing this together in groups”.

Fleet Feet Stockton offers curbside pick-up or home-delivery as well as ‘virtual fittings’, offering clients gait analysis and Q&A through the video function on one’s cell phone, staff then recommends proper gear.

Favorite walking or running routes in Stockton/San Joaquin should logically start from your home. Other choices may be more distant, like the running trails along the Calaveras River between University of the Pacific and Brookside, the Bear Creek Trail, the Joan Darrah Promenade along Stockton‘s Deep Water Channel, neighborhood loops around some of Stockton’s lakeside communities, nearby Delta levee access such as Shima Tract at the west end of Hammer Lane, or quiet roads in the vineyards to the north and east of Stockton.

Elijah Dennison and grandfather take a walk in the Quail Lakes neighborhood.

For more Stockton walking and running inspiration, including a self-guided downtown walking tour and six running/cycling routes, see Visit Stockton’s website, visitstockton.org.

Contact Tim, tviall@msn.com; find archive at recordnet.com/travelblogHappy travels in the west!

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Tiny trailers; touring the west in a small, cozy travel trailer

Touring the west in a small, cozy travel trailer, how to do it…

Most of us are sheltering at home and thinking future travels – now is a good time to consider making small travel trailers a part of your future treks. We moved from tent and car camping to tiny trailers about 15 years ago, first with two tiny, teardrop travel trailers, then on to a slightly larger, classic 13 foot Scotty trailer.

We thoroughly enjoyed the two tear-drops, each 4 feet wide, 8 feet long, 4 feet tall. They offered cozy sleeping for two, a tiny kitchenette in the hatch-back area and ability to tow with a four-cylinder auto and get 27 miles per gallon towing. We still own our 58 Scotty teardrop, which took us across the US and Canada, three times. It’s under a tarp beside our house; I occasionally suggest to my spouse a six-week trip up to Alaska – though she isn’t buying the idea.

Our 58 Serro Scotty teardrop, a fine reproduction model, trying to one-up a huge fifth wheel.

But, we longed for something a bit larger; a few years ago, I found a vintage 1964 Serro Scotty in Southern California. I paid only $900, thinking it needed some modest repairs in the back of the trailer. Upon getting it home and looking more closely, discovered lots of dry rot precipitated by years of leaky roof seems, necessitating a down-to-the-frame rebuild.  After about 500 hours and another $4,000, we had a totally rebuilt, cute little Scotty. 

The Scotty features a front dinette for four, making into a bed large enough for two grandkids, a small cabinet with sink and two burner stove and wardrobe in middle, and a full double bed in the back. It’s comfy, turns heads in campgrounds, and remains, at 1200 pounds, light enough to tow with a four-cylinder Ford Escape and fit into the smallest of campground-sites.

Our 64 Serro Scotty, rebuilt from frame-up, with spouse Susan,
in the June Lakes area, Eastern Sierra, April, 2019.

If you’re thinking vintage travel trailers, be prepared to pay good money, $6,000 to low-teens, for completely rebuilt trailers. A benefit, should you make a wise purchase and use the trailer for a number of years, it will be worth as much upon resale as you paid for it. Classic trailers prized in the west include Scotty, Shasta, Airstream, Little Caesar, DeVille, Terry – most have Internet and Facebook owner sites with lots of advice about both purchase and refurbishment.

Should you seek a more modern trailer, you have the choice of purchasing brand new, or finding a nice slightly-used model. Favorites we’ve seen include T@B, R-Pod, Casita and A-liner trailers; the first three range in length from about 17 to 20 feet, while the A-liner is a hard sided pop-up that fits easily in most garages.

An almost new T@B trailer, owned by our friends the Lewises, in Carmichael, CA.
A small and very classic Airstream trailer, and equally impressive tow vehicle.

Smaller trailers share common attributes; small, easy to maneuver into tight campsites, towable with many four and most six cylinder vehicles (delivering decent gas mileage) and creature comforts for up to a family of four. For retiree couples like us – plenty of room to spare!

Purchased new, these trailers cost from the high-teens to upper-$20,000 range, depending on length and options. Most have inside bathrooms, with showers and inside-kitchens. Search online and find used versions of these trailers at 25 to 40% discount compared to buying new; with the pandemic, it should be a buyer’s market for the next six months.

A popular R-Pod, owned by my cousin Anne Linton of Bend, OR.

T@B trailers have been around for almost 20 years, and are favorites in campgrounds, based on their retro look and positive owner comments. Friends Steve and Christine Lewis of Carmichael, CA, travel as a twosome with one dog in a T@B trailer towed with a six-cylinder Toyota SUV. I asked Steve how they came to purchase their trailer a year ago. Steve notes, “We’ve been kicking tires on trailers for years; we saw this one and fell for it, just the right size, we thought. We purchased from a Folsom RV dealer and liked the idea of a new trailer”. 

Casita trailers are sleek fiberglass trailers, looking a much like the classic Airstream shape.  Several owners have raved about their Casitas, including Bill Palmer, happy to show off his trailer in Bryce Canyon National Park, noting he tows with a six-cylinder Toyota Tacoma pickup. Small

A nicely rebuilt 1955 DeVille trailer.

Airstream trailers are top-of-the-line, and the most expensive to purchase. Hard-sided pop-up  trailers like the A-liner have grown in favor – with owners noting that they fit handily into their garages when not in use.

A Vintage, rebuilt Shasta, built in Los Angeles, seen at Trailerfest at Tower Park Marina.

R-pod trailers (built by Forest River) are another favorite, offering the additional space amenity of slide-outs. My cousin Anne Linton and husband, Bend, OR, travel both in sunny summertime and cold seasons with pets.  Anne notes, “We went to an RV show and really loved the R-pod 179 with slideout (at almost 18 feet, the slideout gives them even more internal room). We have found the R-pod light and easy to transport. We also wanted a kitchen and bathroom inside so the really small trailers were not enough; we absolutely love it as a four-season trailer!”.

A vintage Terry cab-over trailer, seen at Tower Park Marina at last year’s Trailerfest.

Before purchasing a new or used trailer, be sure your intended tow vehicle can handle the weight of both trailer and the contents of the tow vehicle.  As example, if your vehicle is rated at 3,000 lbs. tow capability, and your trailer weighs 2,500 pounds, when its loaded with camp goods and you pile two adults and additional camp items in the car – you’ll exceed the car’s tow abilities.

Where to find a trailer: Most can be found locally; do a web search for favored models; vintage and used versions can be found on Craigslist or eBay; put up a daily search for “vintage trailer”. For more insight into classic trailers, see Tin Can Tourists fine site, tincantourists.com; for info on particular trailers, search the Internet where you will find owner’s sites like the National Serro Scotty site, nationalserroscotty.org.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, find more photos at recordnet.com/travelblogHappy travels in your world!

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Travel in the age of pandemics, virtual tours of your home town or region

Travel from the comfort of your home with virtual tours of your city or region

Governor Newsom encouraged Californians to shelter at home effective March 20. Since then, many of us have been home-bound, finding ways to function and stay active from the friendly confines of our house, get groceries or meals home-delivered and have learned the intricacies of online video conferencing with family and friends through Facebook Messenger, Zoom, Go to Meeting and the like.

Many of us have had to cancel travel and vacation plans, but, we are dreaming of future travels. With a bit of discussion and planning, many families have built dream travel lists to nearby and further-afield travel destinations – yet we don’t know when the ability to travel beyond our county or state will return to something akin to “normal”.

What to do to end cabin fever and “get on the road” – all from the comfort of your home? Here are ideas for local, regional and more distant travel, which can be done from home by you, kids and grandkids. If you will, “virtual road tripping”.

I started locally, by checking in with Visit Stockton, our local travel and visitor organization. Delightfully, Visit Stockton offers virtual tours of many of our area’s most noteworthy visitor attractions – and I’m betting many of us have not yet toured to these in the flesh.

Stockton Cambodian Buddhist Temple (Visit Stockton photo)

Hence, jump to the VisitStockton.org website, for tours of the Stockton waterfront and the Joan Darrah Promenade in Downtown Stockton, stand on stage at the historic Bob Hope (Fox California) Theatre, or gaze at home plate from the pitcher’s mound at Stockton (Banner Island) Ballpark. Tour the Children’s Museum, the Haggan Museum, even the evocative Stockton Cambodian Buddhist Temple and more, including a walk through the gorgeous grounds of University of the Pacific.

Use your smart phone, tablet, iPad or laptop computer; from the VisitStockton.org website, scroll down to the blue section and select the suitcase icon that is labeled “VIRTUAL TOURS.” This link will take you to the homepage for these exciting adventures. You can immediately start with the full screen experience, or scroll down the page to start with one of the most popular tours.

Author’s grandson Jack drives an RTD bus and Stockton’s Children’s Museum.

Once you make your selection, you will be transported to your destination in a slick display of virtual technology. Upon arrival, you can look up and down, left and right, using your mouse (desktop) or finger (mobile device) and experience the space as if you were there. Tap or click the blue location icons to travel, by high-speed video imagery, to the next stop on the virtual tour.

To move between different locations in the city, select the menu icon (four dots next to four stacked bars) located on the left side of the grey task bar that sits across the bottom of the page. This will bring up other virtual tours available for you to explore across Stockton. Select one and continue your virtual experience. It’s fun, kids and adults can do it, and, it really is that easy.

Wes Rhea, head of Visit Stockton, notes, “While staying at home to protect the ones we love and our community I highly encourage you to take the opportunity to explore places close to home in a new and exciting way. Virtual tours are an excellent way to do this so, what are you waiting for? Head over to VisitStockton.org today”.

In the Sacramento area, with popular museums and destinations temporarily closed many local area museums have gone virtual with fun and free activities for families to do at home. Many of our favorite stops have joined the virtual tour society, including:

Southern Pacific locomotive 6051 pulls out of the California Railroad Museum.

The Aerospace Museum of California offers hands-on activities and tutorials that are fun for children and families. Easy-to-replicate demonstrations are available on the museum’s Facebook page @AerospaceMuseumCA; for online events, including Hubble’s 30th Birthday Celebration, see: aerospaceca.org/events.

The California Museum launched a new Distance Learning program providing educational materials for K-12th grade students aligned with Common Core and California State Content standards. A State Symbols Coloring Book and a series of five California Indians Oral History worksheets are currently available. For details or to access activities, visit californiamuseum.org/distance-ed.  

Sacramento History Museum docents celebrate Easter a few years ago.

The California State Railroad Museum offers virtual versions of All Aboard for Story Time! on Mondays at 11 a.m. with local influencers reading children’s railroad-related books via Facebook Live. Each week, live and previously recorded book readings are available for viewing on both the California State Railroad Museum and Foundation Facebook pages @CaliforniaStateRailroadMuseum or @CaliforniaStateRailroadMuseumFoundation.

The Crocker Art Museum offersgallery tours and activities for all ages are available on the museum’s blog at crockerart.org/oculus and on the museum’s YouTube channel as well as on their social media channels @crockerart.

The Sacramento History Museum offers a website and free app for iOS and Android devices that takes users on a journey through some of the more amazing moments in Sacramento’s history. “Anytime Tours” feature 50-minute digital walking tours through the Historic City Cemetery and Old Sacramento Waterfront highlighted by 10 stops at each location. The tours can be accessed at sachistorymuseum.org or downloaded free of charge from the App Store or Google Play by searching Anytime Tours.

For insight into 25 additional greater Sacramento area museums working in partnership, check out Sacramento Area Museums, sacmuseums.org.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com or follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world.

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Travel in the age of pandemics; plan six months out!

Travel in the age of pandemics, why plan for six months out?

After more than two weeks sheltering at home, I am going on the assumption that you and family members have spent time thinking about and discussing future travels. Whether it has been face to face with your spouse, or via Skype, Zoom, Facebook Messenger or other high-tech modes connecting to family, you have, or soon will have, identified the destination(s) and felt the excitement that comes with visiting nearby or distant exotic places.

If you have finished your discussions and planning, you have:

  • Captured a running list of travel hopes and dreams,
  • Challenged members of your new “travel team” to do research (web searches, your local library, scanning TV resources like Travel Channel , Nat Geo)
  • Visited sites like Visitstockton.org (for Stockton travel), Visit California or similar state sites for overall state travel info, or specific national park sites,
  • Shared that research with family (using Skype, Zoom or others), and,
  • Updated your written bucket list, and now you are ready to make reservations.

Let’s also assume that, within five to six months, the coronavirus will be mostly behind us, and we can freely travel through the western US and beyond. Be forewarned that pent-up travel demand will see prime vacation spots book quickly for September and beyond. Whether your destination is Southern California beach front condos, the state’s pristine state parks like several on the Big Sur coast or one of California’s nine national parks, they will book fast for the fall.

Perhaps you are dreaming of a fall trip to a scenic beach in Newport Beach, CA.

Perhaps you are also thinking of an ultimate bucket list destination, like the national parks of Yellowstone, Grand Tetons or Glacier in the winter; or something even more exotic. But, those parks, and Glacier, virtually overrun by tourists from June through September, are nearly deserted in the winter; making for memories to last a lifetime. Such special trips may necessitate planning even more than six months out, perhaps a year or more.

Let’s target just a couple suggestions, where the methods will work for other destinations. We already have a campsite booked in Yosemite for May, but the park will likely remain closed due to the pandemic, as it is today. Hence, we are thinking of early September. Whether you plan to book the historic Ahwahnee Lodge, or a campground, get planning, and reserving, now!

Visitors gather on Glacier Point for view of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
Bison and calf, Midway Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park.

For Federal campgrounds, like Lower Pines in Yosemite, or Sequoia, Yellowstone and others, use the recreation.gov site. Yosemite campgrounds are currently reservable through August 14, 2020 (but currently booked almost solid). On April 15, 2020 at 07:00 am PDT, availability will be released through September 14, 2020. Hence, log in and book moments after 7:00 AM on April 15!

Old Faithful Geyser thunders into a dusky sky and an absence of visitors, January, Yellowstone National Park.

Lower Pines Campground, located in stunning Yosemite Valley at an elevation of 4,000 feet, is surrounded by waterfalls, sheer granite cliffs, deep valleys, grand meadows; make that timely reservation to secure a site.

Perhaps I have piqued your interest in the national parks of Montana and Wyoming for a winter visit. There are about three choices how you might do such a trip; drive the 1000 miles to Montana, or fly into a city like West Yellowstone or Kalispell and rent a car, or – the ultimate – book a snow coach trip deep into Yellowstone Park and spend several nights at Old Faithful Snow Lodge as we did about seven years ago.

I will always remember, on our first day in Old Faithful in January, we walked the three blocks on snow-packed board walks to Old Faithful Geyser, stood in the clear, crisp -5 degree evening, noted one solitary fellow other human a hundred yards to our left, a skittish coyote on the geyser’s far side, and watched the geyser thunder into the Wyoming setting sun. Hot water and steam rising a half quarter-mile into the sky; a moment all to ourselves, forever frozen into our memories.

The drive to, or fly and rent a car option, gives you opportunity to visit one, two or all three of these iconic parks. But, with main roads through both Yellowstone and Glacier closed in winter, interior access can be a challenge. With Yellowstone, one can drive into the park’s North Entrance at Mammoth Hot Springs (adjoining Gardener, MT, offers a selection of motels and hotels, including our favorite, the Park Hotel). Mammoth Hot Springs are a destination in their own right, and one can motor relatively deep into the park, including the Lamar Valley, where wolves are frequently sighted, and out the park’s northeast entrance.

Four bison cross the Lamar River in the Lamar Valley, Yellowstone, in February. Visitors can drive into the Lamar Valley in winter, from the park’s northeast or north entrances.

Grand Teton National Park, while adjoining Yellowstone’s south boundary, requires a bit of circuitous driving to access the main jumping off point, Jackson, WY. Here you have the choice of numerous hotels and motels, skiing at two ski areas, including a favorite, Jackson Hole, and the National Elk Refuge on the edge of the city.

Likewise, Glacier allows you partial drive-in access, to the Lake McDonald Lodge on the park’s west side, and limited access on the east side. For Glacier, consider spending some time in the lovely nearby resort town of Whitefish, MT, ski a day or two at Whitefish Mountain and visit the park over several day trips. Our favorite overnight stop is the Grouse Mountain Lodge, surrounded by a cross-country ski complex, with free shuttles up to the ski hill and into the town a mile away.

Glacier National Park’s roads are kept open from the park’s west side entrance, to Lake McDonald Lodge (about 12 miles into the park).
A frozen Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park, February.

For more information: Glacier Park, nps.gov/gla/: Yellowstone Park, nps.gov/yell/; Yosemite Park, nps.gov/yos/; Camping, recreation.gov.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com or follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Happy travels in your world!

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