This will be the first article in a series of maybe two or three articles on the US. I do not cover everything in great detail here, but I hope its enough so that you get an idea how it was.
The pictures in this article are publish unprocessed (only resized to 25% of original size because otherwise the filesize would become an issue for slow internet connections).
Driving 2500 km
After we crossed the border at Saint St Marie, we had to drive about 2500 km to get to Badlands National Park - which was the first National Park on our “checklist”.
Boy, that country is big! Driving 100 km straight is absolutely not a problem, even if you do not drive on the big highways! We had a bit of a hard time finding some spots to stay for a night, but in the end it worked out rather fine.
We even got a really nice shower - thanks to the Community of Parker, South Dakota, for that!
Badlands was awesome. We arrived in the afternoon and light was not optimal for some photography, but it worked out. The nature and especially the landscape with all the cliffs is so special and scenic - awesome!
On our way to the (primitive) campground, we even saw some Bison right there on the road!
Because we drove three days straight, we decided to stay a few days in Badlands NP. We decided to stay three nights. As we already had filled our water tank, the batteries were full (not that it would have been an issue if not - we had sun four days straight) and the greywater tank was empty, this was perfect for a few days of leasure time.
The campground was really nice. It was primitive - only two restrooms and a bit of grassland to camp on - but it was enough for us. Most of the people there only stayed for one night, although at least two other campers stayed as long as we did (or even longer).
We met a really nice couple from Colorado with their dog River, a really beautiful boy! They had some suggestions for our trip and told us that we really should not leave Utah out, because it’s so gorgeous there! Sadly, they left the campground after one day.
Our first Bison and other wildlife
On the next day, we had our first Bison on the campground. Boy, what a huge animal! We were really happy, as we got some really nice close-up shots from the Bison with our Cameras. Hah, if we had known then! On the second day, there were several Bison on the campground! And on the third day, the day we left, one couldn’t get to the restroom in a straight line because there were 7 or 8 Bison right next to the campground - and, of course, you want to leave some space for them! Getting too close to a 900kg-Bison Bull is no fun, I guess.
We also saw some really neat Prairie Dogs - those are really cute little guys!
The best thing, though, was when we drove out of the National Park - about 10 miles from the campground, a herd of about 600-800 Bison was crossing the road. We took so many pictures there, it was really awesome. And they even had calves with them. Luckily, we had plenty of space, so no dangerous situations occured.
Custer State Park
After Badlands, we drove to Custer State Park, in the Black Hills. Wow, I felt at home a little… it almost looks like Black Forst in Germany! We tried our luck with hiking here, but it turned out to be a bit more complicated as we did not want to go through rivers. In the end, we did a little walk around a lake. There was a wedding there and a lot of people visited the area (possibly because it was a weekend). So it was not really a hike.
Either way, we took some really great pictures on this route, not only during our drive through the “Wildlife route”, but also later when we drove the “Needles Highway” up north.
Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse and Devils Tower
After Custer State Park, we had a day with three really interesting things: Mt Rushmore, a must-visit for each tourist in mid-America, Crazy Horse, which is currently in progress but nonetheless impressive and Devils Tower, where we stayed for the night as well.
At Devils Tower we had a nice hike in the early evening and we were able to take some rather nice pictures there.
Yellowstone National Park was the first National Park in the US and the Yellowstone Lake, 460 square kilometer in size and above 2133 Meters is the largest high-evelation lake in North America. It is as cold as 4°C on average and covered by ice from mid December to May or even June.
Wildlife in Yellowstone is versatile. After Badlands, seeing Bison was nothing special to us anymore. But grizzly and black bear were not yet ticked off on our list. Despite we already have seen moose and bighorn sheep, we were eager to see more.
We visited Yellowstone several days, but never stayed on a campground inside, as it was simply to expensive. Paying up to $38 just for parking was not an option, as we could get this for free outside of the park.
Our first day at Yellowstone was a car-day. We drove from the East Entrance to the South Entrance, hoping to meet Mali from Dulliexploring. Unfortunately, we didn’t.
We got some really nice pictures, though.
On our second day, we got up early and visited the Old Faithful Geysir and the area around it. But before, we gave the West Thumb a visit, as it was on the way to Old Faithful from the South Entrance.
We experienced a great show at Old Faithful, which goes up every 90 minutes (+/- 10 minutes) and Grand Geysir, which only goes off twice a day and I took hundreds of pictures and even did some filming of the Geysirs.
We also visited the Grand Prismatic Spring, which was really impressive. The many hot springs and coloured water pots are awesome for hobby (and professional) photographers!
We left via the West Entrance and stayed one day outside of the park on a really nice (free) site. To be honest, the day outside was almost boring. Anyways, we met the Ranger of the area and even the Sheriff visited the site. Maybe to check if everything was alright, because there were Deer and a Grizzly beeing reported near the site. Unfortunately, we did not see any of them, so we couldn’t tick them off of our list.
Our third day in Yellowstone started with a really cloudy sky. When we woke up there was no rain (yet), but it looked like it would get a pretty wet day.
When we arrived at the Visitor Information in West Yellowstone (for using the Wifi a bit), though, it started raining like crazy. Throughout the day it got a bit better, but it was still a rainy day, even inside Yellowstone NP.
Though, we did the West-to-North-Entrance route and it was really nice. The pictures we were able to take are not that great (at least unprocessed), but it was a nice visit anyways.
Too many people
Overall, there were just too many people at Yellowstone. And we weren’t even there during the holidays or weekend! On the second day I said: “Here at Yellowstone we saw as many people as we saw at the Airport when we came over from Europe!” and that’s a fact.
We even fled from the masses because it seemed like everyone (especially people from asia) wanted to take a picture of our car. It got rather annoying, to be honest. Some of the people, though, are really respectful and nice. To be fair, not all asian people were annoying! Some of them greeted really friendly and told us they really liked our car. Others, though, wanted to know everything about it. Asking how much we spent on it or how much money it took us to get it over from Europe is considered unfriendly for us germans! It’s just number-crunching and won’t get you anywhere, right? Overall, we got much more thumbs-up on the road in the west then we did east of Missouri River, which is really nice. And the occasional “Badass!” yelled over the street is really funny, especially because we do not know how to properly translate this into german!
Either way, we’re heading further north! Someone said that long trailers and RVs are not allowed in Glacier National Park - lets hope that’s true, because it means (hopefully) less people!
Glacier National Park
Before we arrived at Glacier, we met Ali and Malte from Dulliexploring at a Campground near Missoula. We had a really nice dinner together and shared stories of our travels. And, of course, shared experiences about driving Land Rover in America.
The next day though, we started heading further north to Glacier. We stayed three days in Hungry Horse Res., which was an awesome time, but unfortunately the weather was not as good as it used to be.
When we entered Glacier, the weather was better. We did three hikes on three consecutive days. The second hike being the one which got us to tick off “Black Bear in the USA” on our Animals-we’ve-seen-list. Three times actually, as we saw three black bear near the Lake. And we even saw a Deer standing not even five meters from the trail, completely calm. We got great pictures, of course.
One word on hiking in National Parks, though: “Hiking” is a rather broad term. We wouldn’t call the little walk we did “hike”. It was rather a nice three-hour afternoon-walk which could’ve been done in everyday-shoes. 200 Meter in altitude, through the forest. We didn’t even use our hands! It was funny for us to see some people in full gear! We even saw two guys with a GPS on them. In a national park. On a marked route through the woods. Others, though, went on this “hike” in Sandals or even Flip-Flops. So we got to see both extremes here.
As camping inside the park was most certainly too expensive for us, we had to look for an campground outside it. And we found a really nice spot in the National Forest (so for free) next to the river, where we stayed for two consecutive nights, driving to the NP during daytime and returning to the same spot in the early evening. We met a really nice guy from England who was traveling on his own. We shared a coffee and a really nice conversation. Wherever you are right now, I hope you’re alright!
A brief summary
Our time in the US has been great. We love(d) the country, the nature is awesome, the people are really friendly and the weather was mostly awesome (only four days of so-so weather).
The national parks were spectacular, especially Badlands and the Geysirs in Yellowstone. The wildlife was great, too.
Now we’re back in Canada, heading for Banff NP, Jasper NP and then further north, hopefully making it to Watson Lake to get our sign up there.