Travelogue: A Western US Roadtrip (image heavy)

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On August 28 after 3 weeks, 7202 miles and over 2,000 images my wife and I returned home.* Over those miles we had touched 16 states, 6 National Parks/Monuments, dodged wildfires, and seen countless beautiful sites across the country. From a striking sunset in the Nebraska Panhandle to mesmerizing boiling mud in Yellowstone, to a foggy Pacific Ocean and a smoky Canyonland vista, we have memories to last a lifetime.

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It’s a bit of a slog to get from East Tennessee to the US West by car. It took us two full days to reach southeastern Wyoming. Once there we were ready to start experiencing. Our first true stop was Fossil Butte National Monument outside Kemmerer, Wyoming. The National Monument was established in 1972 to preserve a small section of Eocene era Fossil Lake. The ancient lake gave rise to the vast collection of fossils found in the park and surrounding area. We spent all afternoon and well into the evening exploring the very nice visitor’s center, on a short hike at the edge of the butte and a drive up the butte to catch the surrounding landscape.

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Our next stop was to be Grand Teton National Park outside Jackson, Wyoming. What we didn’t really understand, though, was that the 3 hour drive can quickly become much longer once you start across the western Wyoming landscape. The shore of Fontenelle Reservoir was a shining sapphire in the arid sagebrush landscape.

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Eventually, though, we made it to Grand Teton and its majestic, craggy peaks. A short late afternoon hike along the shores of String Lake gave us the experience of watching a healthy mule deer wade across the shallow waters. The highest (literally) highlight of Grand Teton NP are the Mountains.

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Here is a recreation of a shot made by Ansel Adams in 1942. The vegetation is a little different today.

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The next destination, of course, was Yellowstone National Park. We spent most of two days in Yellowstone, but only really had time for areas on the western side. This meant we spent most of our time with the thermal features of the park. We saw Old Faithful and the geyser field, and the boiling mud of the Artist Paint Pots. And the grandest of features, Grand Prismatic Spring. There is nothing else like it on earth. It really was stunningly beautiful.

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Our next stop was Portland, Oregon. This meant a good 2 days of driving. The second of which ended with a large stint in the Columbia River Gorge. This also was our first encounter with the wildfires that would have an effect on the remainder of our trip. At one point in the gorge we witnessed a fire helicopter come down to the water to replenish. It was a fascinating site to witness from the highway.

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While in the Portland area, we took a day trip out to the Pacific Coast at Oswald West State Park. The park has a short hike through some large trees and comes out at a smallish cove with a sandy beach. Along the walls of the cove the retreating water of low tide leaves a few tidal pools worth examining.

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After a few days in the Portland area it was time to return home. The first stop on the return was Redwood National and State Parks. We spent one evening in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park on a trail almost all to ourselves. It is amazing how quiet and still the forest is with those giant trunks absorbing any sounds. After a night along the Pacific Coast in Crescent City we spent the day making our way through the parks and coastal areas.

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Unfortunately it was finally time to begin our trek back east. We left the Pacific Coast behind to make our way. However, the California Wildfires had already begun. We had to alter our route a couple times in order to steer well clear of the fires. This ended up with us high in the Sierras at Donner Pass just before sunset. The sky was smoky, but we managed a short, memorable hike at the Donner Pass rest area on I-80.

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We woke to more smokiness and eventually found we would be in smoky skies until Kansas. But first we had to make it across Nevada, Utah, landing in Moab for a couple of blistering hot days. When the temps are reaching 105+°F (40+°C) the best time to visit Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park is in the morning and evening. That is what we attempted to do. Funny thing is, our favorite arch we made it to was Mesa Arch in Canyonlands NP. The stone formation somehow defies gravity by hanging onto the lip of the canyon.

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Arches Day 1
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Canyonlands
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Arches Day 2
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I was a bit sad to leave the Moab area after only two days. There was so much more that I would have liked to explore. Alas, we had to get home. Colorado made that somewhat difficult. I-70 was shut down for 40 or so miles due to another wildfire. This led us down Highway 50, up over Monarch Pass. As mentioned above, it was well into Kansas before we were noticeably clear of smoky skies. We had an evening in Eastern Kansas and a couple days resting in Western Kentucky before making the last few hour trek home.

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For those interested, here is my gear listing. I brought along my Tenba Solstice 12L backpack. It carried both my E-M5ii and E-M10i, chargers and spare batteries and lenses. Those were the Oly 12-40Pro, Panny 35-100 2.8, Panny 100-300i, Kowa 8.5 and Oly 60 Macro. My most used lens by far was the 12-40, second to that was probably the 100-300 for wildlife. I did really enjoy using the 35-100 for landscape shots, especially for stitching. The Kowa came in handy in Redwoods and at Arches. But really the 12-40 was the workhorse, it rarely left a body for very long. It also did duty for close ups so well that I really didn’t use the 60 Macro much. This surprised me. (Note: any of the images in the thread without lens data were taken with the Kowa.)

*Disclaimer: Traveling by car for over 7200 miles in the middle of a dangerous pandemic is not a good idea. I would suggest not doing so as it puts yourself and others at great risk.

Sunset along the Madison River on the western Edge of Yellowstone.
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Thanks for looking!
 

AaronE

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Donner Pass Rest Area is the best rest area in the nation. From here you can hike north or south on the Pacific Crest Trail through incredible scenery to lakes and mountain tops.

Great images.
 
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One other thing. My E-M5ii took a tumble onto an asphalt parking lot. It sustained some damage on the hinge. Fortunately it still works just fine.
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