Bents Basin – so close to Sydney

New Years Eve was around the corner and we hadn’t planned anything. As usual, we left it too late. We decided to go camping so the next task was to find a spot. After hours of researching, Shruti found one spot available along a beach. After quickly checking on Google Maps, turns out, it was 7 hours away. Back to square one!

Then we decided, forget the coast, let’s find something inland. And we soon came across Bents Basin Reservoir. Only 1.5 hours from home, it had water and some trails for hike. DONE. We booked the campsite for two nights. We were going camping again! This time we decided to buy a gazebo. Aussie summer is harsh, we sure need some shade as the sun is still going down at 8:30pm.

After telling my mate Bharat about our plan, he decided to come along with Rumina. They quickly booked a site and went for their camping shopping. We were now going camping with others. Oh what fun!

Bents Basin

I had never heard of Bents Basin even though it’s in the Penrith district, where I went to school. This is a conservation area protecting a large part of the Nepean River gorge and popular with families in summer. Therefore, we loaded the supplies and drove down M4 and Mulgoa road to reach a rural part of Sydney. It was unbelievable to know that such parts still exist in Sydney with its house prices and traffic chaos.

Bents Basin, NSW, Australia

Bents Basin, NSW, AustraliaAlong the way, we saw beautiful mansions, rusting vehicles and cattle. We arrived at Bents Basin campground which was packed. We still got spots and set about pitching tents. Bharat and Rumina had to be taught since it was their first time and new tent. Soon we had 2 tents, a gazebo, 4 chairs and plenty of beers ready.

Bents Basin, NSW, Australia

It was too hot to go out and we chilled, and chilled, and drank, and chilled. It was a new experience to our normal routine where we go about doing one thing after another. However, this was the end of the year, we had company and we needed relax.

At dusk, we went for a walk above the basin. 300 or so steps led us to the top of the water body and we could see all around. It was pretty and peaceful. The gum trees and cockatoos being a clear indication of the tranquility of the Aussie bush.

Bents Basin, NSW, Australia

Night 1 – Chillin and Sydney Glow

The girls made the dinner while the boys cleaned up. While eating, we were admiring people’s rigs. Some had huge trailers, others had pop tops while others had 2 people swags. Camping really shows how much people love the outdoors, and what comfort levels they want.

Bents Basin, NSW, Australia

After dinner, Shruti tried to photograph the sky but, 1) there were clouds, and 2) the glow of Sydney as a city was too strong. Alas, we got some good shots of the glow itself. Somehow, getting used to the city life means we don’t know what a city looks like from the distance, but rest assured, if you were looking for Sydney from 50 km away, you would find it easy!

Bents Basin, NSW, Australia

Day 2 – Laziness and Waterhole

The morning was a lazy episode. We took our time to wake up, get ready and at around 9:30-10 we were preparing brekky. There was also light drizzle through the morning so the gazebo came very handy. We stayed in, played cards and drank some more.

By mid afternoon, the was dry and we decided to pick up our butts and went for a swim. Bents Basin is a scour pool in the Nepean River, the river comes down the rocky areas, enters a deep pool and slowly meanders its way towards Penrith. This made for a great place to swim and kayak in Western Sydney.

Bents Basin, NSW, Australia

We enjoyed cooling off in the cool water and were enchanted by the basin itself. The pool had a rocky cliff on one side, a gorge on another and a beach on two other sides while the river made its way out like a slow stream. The scene was no different to Crocodile Dundee, outback waterhole at it’s finest. We were glad this beautiful part of Sydney is protected.

Bents Basin, NSW, Australia

Bharat and Rumina left that evening while we stayed another night. The next morning, we stopped by Nepean River lookouts downstream. The lookout was 6 km off road but entirely worth it. We were quite high above the Nepean and from this angle, even this small, slow river looked mighty. A great end a getaway!

Nepean River, NSW, Australia

Final word

Bents Basin conservation is approximately 30 minutes from Penrith. It is a beautiful spot to spend some time, whether you want to camp or not. It is a great day picnic spot. The car day rate is $8 per day while the campsites can be booked at a generous rate.

Bents Basin, NSW, Australia

Warrumbungles National Park

We got back home from our travel in August; I started work right away while Shruti got 2 more weeks off. But, we were itching for fresh air. Labour day long weekend was around but the issue was where do we go? North and South coasts of New South Wales are notoriously bad as people head for the beaches and we didn’t have anything booked.

Just then Shruti thought, wait a second, what is the moon phase that weekend. Turns out, it was new moon. So the next search was – top places to photograph night sky in Australia, and we had our destination!

Warrumbungles National Park, NSW, Australia

Warrumbungles National Park emerged as a winner. It was on the top 5 list and was  about 500 kms from Sydney. We could definitely do it! We bought some new camping gear, tent, warmer sleeping bag for Shruti, chairs and a utility box and we were ready to roll.

First Stop – Lithgow

We drove out of Sydney immediately after work, as we were worried about the holiday traffic. Traffic jams on long weekend could result in being stuck on the road for 3-4 hours. But once we were on the road we realised, hardly anyone was heading in our direction. People in Australia are obsessed with the beaches and we were heading inland, to the west! Despite rain and bad weather, we made it to Lithgow before 8pm. A nice pizza for dinner and some glasses of wine later, we were ready for airbnb.

This was our first time Airbnb in Australia and we were not disappointed. Our host was as warm as her house and she babysat dogs. She offered us breakfast and some freshly cut fruits which we enjoyed while chatting to her about her travel stories. She was a very active woman who loved hiking. As we said our goodbyes, she recommended a couple of scenic spots to stop at before hitting the road. And we did. The view was breath-taking!

Lithgow, NSW, Australia

Getting to Warrumbungles National Park

The morning was cold and windy! Though we would have loved warmer weather, we weren’t complaining. We were finally hitting the road again. We drove from Lithgow towards Mudgee with minimal traffic and stopped along to take photos a few places.

NSW, Australia

We made it to Mudgee by mid-day. The town was small and we picked up a few last minute supplies. We made our own lunch in a beautiful park beside the river and ate as the country traffic rolled past slowly. Just then we realised that we had forgotten our quilt! We were slightly nervous as it was drizzling and cold. But we didn’t let it bring our spirits down. We left Mudgee with our best hopes.

NSW, Australia

The next 250 km drive was through deeper country. The towns were tiny, there were fields of mustard which Yash Chopra would be proud of, and everyone who lived there raced past us. Around 4pm, we made it to Coonabarabran, the nearest town to Warrumbungles National Park.

NSW, Australia

The 30 km drive from Coona to Warrumbungles was a highlight in itself. We saw kangaroos and the old mountains for which the national park is famous as well as the famous observatory on the hill.

Warrumbungle National Park, NSW, Australia

As we arrived, we realised all the good campsites had been taken up. After driving to another campground, we found a campsite beside a stream and no close neighbors. It was perfect! As we pitched the tent and got cooking, a mum and baby kangaroo skipped right past us. Great start!

Warrumbungle National Park, NSW, Australia

Starry Sky

We decided on Warrumbungles for one reason, and one reason only – the night sky. It is the star gazing capital of New South Wales as there are no big towns out here and mostly clear weather. As the sun went down, we wrapped up our dinner, got started with drinks and setup the camera. We stayed up till 11pm to catch the stars and there were millions. Shruti couldn’t get enough shots! We then decided to sleep but put an alarm for 2:30am for another photo opp.

Night Photography, Warrumbungle National Park, NSW, Australia

When we woke up again in the middle of the night, the milky way had drifted away. Bummer! But the sky had no empty spot. There were stars everywhere. And so many shooting stars as well. Just then, Shruti got her favourite shot.

Night Photography, Warrumbungle National Park, NSW, Australia

We were talking as we drifted back to sleep only to realise that the incredible view tonight was only possible after a 500 kms drive while probably our grand parents enjoyed it every other night.

Night Photography, Warrumbungle National Park, NSW, Australia

Hiking Warrumbungles Mountains

The Warrumbungles are ancient rocky outcrops which were results of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago. After breakfast, we decided to hike the main trekking route. It started out easy but soon we were waffling uphill for a long distance until we were above the tree line. What a view!

Warrumbungle National Park, NSW, Australia

This only got better as we got closer to the rocks up ahead. The last few metres were a mix of fast winds, beautiful view and dangerous, loose rocky ground. The view though made us forget everything.

Warrumbungle National Park, NSW, Australia

In total, we hiked about 10 kms with some crazy steep climbs. It was tough but not unbearable. On our way down, we stopped to eat our sandwich and upon returning to the campsite, we celebrated with a couple of beers.

Warrumbungle National Park, NSW, Australia

Pouring Rain

On our way back from the hike, we stopped by at the ranger’s office. While we were up on the rocky hill, we could see dark clouds in the distance. We of course wanted to photograph the starry night but we knew that was not happening tonight. The weather forecast was – stormy.

We dined early, drank a little to keep ourselves warm and stayed inside the tent. Couple of hours later, we were awoken by the rain. Luckily, the tents these days have enough protection from the rain and in the morning we were dry. But the tasks ahead were going to be tough.

Warrumbungle National Park, NSW, Australia

Packing Up and Return

Packing up was going to be a pain  but we had done our diligence the night before. All we had to do was empty the tent and then pack it up. As we rushed through the task, we got a little wet. Again, we weren’t complaining. We had an awesome time out in nature and we were in car now with the heater on.

Warrumbungle National Park, NSW, Australia

Fortunately, the rain was local to the Warrumbungles and we had no issues driving back. At Coona town, we stopped to fill up and change clothes/shoes for the drive ahead. We noticed a significant person here, even in Coonabarabran, 500 km out of Sydney in the interior NSW, there was an Indian guy working at the petrol station. Some stereotypes never die!

Warrumbungle National Park, NSW, Australia

We stopped at Mudgee for lunch and swap drivers. Shruti drove the quieter route to Mudgee and I drove back home. We had lunch at Mudgee Brewing Company while tasting their variety. It was a great lunch, no doubt. The drive back was fast but mostly no traffic. We made it home by 5pm.

NSW, AustraliaFinal word

Warrumbungles are a beautiful part of NSW and Australia. This was our first time west of the Blue Mountains and it wasn’t disappointing. Whatever your interest, whether it is camping, hiking, or checking the night sky, Warrumbungles is a must-do. It can be quick 3 day trip to and fro Sydney.

Warrumbungle National Park, NSW, Australia

The End

Our time in Yellowstone came to an end and that meant our epic trip was coming to an end as well. We had to get back to San Fran, return the camper and then fly home. This was it, one year flew past in no time. Like they say, time flies when you are having fun!

We decided to ease the return trip, stop as much as we could and enjoy the last few days. On the way back we drove through parts of Montana, Idaho, Nevada and California.

The start of the end

Montana was a blur on the road and landscape hardly changed. Idaho, on the other hand, was flat, green and full of water. The places on the west of Yellowstone and Grand Tetons were perfect for fishing.

Montana, USA

We stopped at Twin Falls, Idaho, to indulge in the famous potatoes. Apparently McDonald’s used potatoes from Idaho for it’s french fries. They are grown all over and were really good! We decided to wrap up driving for the day and ended up in a RV park not too far from Twin Falls. We got there around 3pm+, showered, had our chairs out when a neighbour came over for a chat. Turns out he was a US veteran who had been driving from South Carolina to California. A journey of thousands of miles and the guy ended up injuring himself in the process. But we enjoyed the sun go down and chatted away from couple of hours.

Twin Falls, Idaho, USA

Nevada. Again.

The drive from Idaho to California meant crossing Nevada! We were going through the desert, crazy wind and heat all over again. We stayed 2 nights in Elko in a RV Park run by the Hilton group. After freshing up, we were ready for some action but it seemed like there were only casinos around. So we spent the day chilling in the air conditioned visitors centre, playing Scrabble and sipping on ice water. This helped fight the heat as the tempratures were easily in high 30s.

Elko, Nevada, USA

After a rest day, we were fighting the winds again to arrive in the town of Reno. This is in the north end of Nevada state but looked like mini Vegas. We of course parked ourselves in the RV park but enjoyed all the resort facilities. The amazing thing was the “beach” and a pool with an island bar. It appeared to be a popular spot for stopping between Nevada and California. We tried our hand at gambling (again!), watched a movie, hit some golf balls in the driving range, enjoyed the pool in crouching heat and cooked for ourselves.

Reno, Nevada, USA

California

From Reno, we drove to the west part of Napa Valley as our final destination before San Fransisco. Our campsite was in the bone dry area near Lake Berryessa. The campsite was primitive unlike the previous two location but we had a good time by the lake. As the sun set on Lake Berryessa, we realised our holiday, road trip, crazy and alone romantic times were at an end.

Lake Berryessa, California, USA

Just before we returned the Beast off, we decided to do a laundry stop to pack our bags and chuck unwanted items. Driving through the CBD and Mission District was a painful. Firstly, of course the traffic and secondly, the San Fran marathon was on so roads were closed! Anyway, after going around in circles, we finally said goodbye to our home of 45 days. But first, we had to settle the bill with Escape Campervan. We knew we were way over the mileage limit, but when we mentioned that we experienced the flat tyre, they decided to one third the mileage cost. We were amazed and shocked at the same time. WoW, we get to save some more money. Thanks Escape!

A uber to Oakland later, we were in a Holiday Inn for one night, booked by Suyash. The best thing here was meeting my chidhood friend, Harpreet a.k.a. Winky, whom I had not met in 16 years. It was a great night with him and his wife, talking about our life and times in Faridabad, 16 years ago. Good to see you bro!

Meet up with friend, California, USA

Journey home

We arrived at the airport, way earlier than we needed to. A few hours later, we were ready to leave. The AirNZ flight went through Auckland and was one of the longest flight since Gujarat to New York. We enjoyed it though, as were were going home. We even managed to surprise Mum on a cold Sydney day by arriving a day earlier. She couldn’t believe her eyes for at least an hour or so. Well done to us!

Yellowstone National Park

We finally arrived at Yellowstone! After first learning about it in December 2015, in one of the museums in New York, we were determined to visit the oldest National Park. But we never thought it would happen so soon!

After leaving Grand Tetons at 5:00am in the morning, we crossed the Yellowstone National Park checkpoint at 5:30am. There was no one at the point so we grabbed a map and drove in. We noticed the landscape had changed, it was flatter now. And although there was some light at dawn, we could see steam rising in the distance. We were in hot springs country.  We were in the place where we can see, hear and feel the Earth breathe!

Yellowstone National Park, USA

The Mighty Yellowstone

Yellowstone is officially America’s oldest national park. In fact, it is the oldest national park in the world! It is a massive 2 million square miles area and spreads over two states. Having been to Yosemite already, we knew we wouldn’t be able to see it all. But we decided to spend 5 days and see as much as we could!

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Entry and West Thumb

Considering the distance between campgrounds within Yellowstone, we decided to stay at first come first serve Lewis Lake campground, which was close to the south entry. After reviewing the map of the park, we come up with a plan. We decided to split our excursions within the park based on our campground.

West Thumb was the closest geyser basin and further east was the Fishing Bridge. We decided to cover these spots while we camped at Lewis Lake. As we parked at West Thumb parking, we realised there was steam escaping from protected holes within the car park itself. Of course that got us excited! Moving on, as we got to the basin area, it smelled like rotten egg. Of course it was foul smell but what lied ahead of us was just amazing. There were colourful hot springs, small geysers and other volcanic plumbings!

West Thumb Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

The temperature of the steam was extreme and could burn us. Luckily it was still cool weather and we quite enjoyed the hot air touching against our skins. This was nature’s beating heart and it was there to see.

West Thumb Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

The basin was adjacent to Yellowstone Lake and water from the hot springs was flowing straight into it. We spotted a small heart shaped geyser within the edges of the lake. It look like it had popped out of the ground which actually is not uncommon in Yellowstone! What a start!

West Thumb Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Fishing Bridge

We drove from West Thumb to Fishing Bridge area for a few walks. Shruti was sound asleep and I took a wrong turn for the camping area. Good thing I did as there was a big male Bison standing 20 yards away. He was busy eating grass and didn’t care. We managed to get a nice photobomb photo with him. Having said that, this was not the closest we came to a Bison in Yellowstone! Read on for another epic encounter!

Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone National Park, USA

At the Fishing Bridge, there was a traffic jam of Chinese tourists but the bridge was spectacular over the Yellowstone river. We parked at the visitors center, bought a junior rangers book for me and managed to catch a “animals in Yellowstone” talk. Shruti went to the bathroom while I waited near the car and upon returning she told me this:

Ladies queuing for restroom
Lady 1: oh look! Buffaloes walkin past.
Lady 2: *African American accent* Thats a buffalo!! Where ma man? Stevennnnnnn! Come quick take a photo! Grab your camera! There is another one coming. I ain’t never seen one! Ermaghard!

Failed Hike

We then decided to walk to a trail head instead of driving. We had miles to watch and Shruti wanted to walk. We walked around 8km up and down a road and a little through a forest but never made it to the trail head. Fortunately, never saw any bears but we did see a walking trail of Bisons. Their hoof tracks were everywhere and so were there rubbing pits.

Fishing Bridge, Yellowstone National Park, USA

On return to the campsite, we got stuck in an animal jam! This is basically like normal traffic jam but caused by an animal. This time it was elk stags with beautiful antlers just grazing along. They were definitely loving the attention. The issue was getting out but we eventually managed and saw more elks. This was just day 1 – hard to believe!

Elk, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Old Faithful

The most famous Geyser in the entire world is Old Faithful. It’s has been so consistent that it is named accordingly. We arrived to the basin, and the enormity, and the popularity dawned upon us. The carpark was the size of a Walmart carpark, there were 6-7 strong wooden buildings, and even hurts for glamping.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, USA

We visited the visitors center where we learnt a little about why Yellowstone is the way it is. There were huge volcanic explosions millions of years ago and a supervolcano still exists underneath the surface at Yellowstone. The heat from the magma coupled with rain and snow melt causes geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mudpots. As we finished, we realised that the time for the next Old Faithful eruption was almost there. Bring it on!

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, USA

The old faithful geyser is the most consistent of the big geysers. It is so popular that there tables for hundreds of people to watch it erupted. Like others, we grab a spot and waited. The eruption time had 10 minutes buffer however we waited past 10 minutes and nothing happened. People around us were assuring the kids that it will happen.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Occasionally, there were spurts of water and we would think “is that it?”. Finally, it erupted! It went on for 10 minutes and as high as 100 feet. We could see, hear and smell it! Exactly what we were told in the documentary we watched.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, USA

There were many other geysers and hot springs in the area. Castle geyser was going off when we saw it while Grotto geyser looks like its about to pop anytime.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

There were some famous springs like the Morning Glory, which sadly is turning green from a cool blue. There were many other springs in the basin and its hard to remember all of them. Each of them were magical in their own way and represented the power of nature.

Morning Glory, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Biscuit Basin

Biscuit Basin, a 15 minute walk, from Upper Geyser Basin was another unbelievable area. There were only 5-6 geysers and springs but the amazing things were the colours. Some were bright orange, aquamarine and steel blue.

Biscuit Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Another great thing was we spotted a in the area! At first, we thought it was a wolf but a ranger corrected us. It was a coyote. They are the poor cousins of the wolf and have taken over many areas. Afterwards, we walked back, grabbed some American fast food and headed to see Mother Earth.

Cayote, Biscuit Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Eye of the Earth

Midway Basin is a collection of several springs not far from Upper Basin. The most famous of these is the Grand Prismatic Spring also known as the Eye of the Earth. The spring was the biggest we saw in Yellowstone around 379 feet in diameter. It is popular due to its colors. Blue in the middle, yellow, orange, and green at the edges. Being on the boardwalk around it, we were hit by the warm steam. It was a pity we couldn’t see the entire spring as a whole from the top but it definitely was our favourite volcanic lake.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Walking back to our van, we spotted a couple of massive birds in the sky. Hoping they were bald eagles, we watched them for a while. After taking a few photos through the binocular, we went to the rangers and asked them to name the bird. Turns out we were watching ospreys!

Ospreys, Yellowstone National Park, USA

We even managed to squeeze in a hike to the top of a hill! Though it was only 2 hours hike, it was mostly up the hill. Such a strenuous hike but the view was rewarding!

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Norris Campground

Our two days in Lewis Lake campground were coming to an end and we had to move so we could explore other parts of Yellowstone. We picked Norris Campground, another first come first serve spot. We knew Yellowstone is very popular during the summer so the only way to get a spot would be to get in early! We found our how long it would take us to drive and prepared for an early morning next day. We left our campsite at 4:30am and were on the road for 1.5 hours before we got to Norris. Driving in the National Park at night / dawn is scary. We didn’t want to hit any animal of course. I had my lights on high beam while Shruti had a close watch on the side of the roads.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Arriving at the campground, we noticed some people sitting in front at the ranger station. There were already 3 people with their sleeping bags and quilts waiting to get a campsite from 5:15am! It seemed like a line to buy an iPhone honestly. We sat along with them on our chairs with our blanket and waited. The queue got longer and people from different backgrounds, places and of different age waited patiently while chatting away. Cars started driving out of the campground from 6:30am and we were getting excited. It felt like winning food during rationing but that shows how popular camping is in Yellowstone!

At 7:50am the camp host got to the station. We were explained how the allocation worked. Luckily we were 3rd in queue and had our campsite by 8:30am! Planning ahead and waking up early definitely worked in our favour.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Norris Basin

Norris Basin was around the corner from our campground. After parking at our spot, we relaxed a little. Post breakfast, we slowly got ready to walk to Norris Basin. As we entered, we first thought we had stumbled upon a desert in the middle of a forest. The sand was all white but the springs were blue, saffron and green colours. The water was spilling out into the ground and it made for a great start!

Norris Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

The basin is so toxic that the colors in the springs are stunning. Some colours, quite rare in other basins, were prominent here. We walked along the boardwalk and stopped to occasionally to watch and observe the springs.

Norris Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

The tallest geyser in Yellowstone, steamboat, is also in this basin but it didn’t go off on the day we were there. Well that was alright with us. In all, we spent a few hours walking around Norris Basin and were just overwhelmed at nature’s game play.

Steam Boat, Norris Basin, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Mudpots Basin

30 mins drive from Norris Basin was the mudpots basin. A unique geothermal feature that exists in the Hayden Valley. Here the water from the springs mixes with mud and forms mudpot. Over time and depending on the season, it looks like mud boiling. As it hadn’t rain and snow had already melted, most of the pots were dry. Having said that, we did see the Mud Volcano which was a scary boiling natural vat of mud boiling. If the Grand Prismatic Spring was the beautiful spring, mud volcano was the scary spring.

Mudpot, Yellowstone National Park, USA

The best thing though was a Bull Bison sitting next to a hot spring. It was so close that we could have touched it. But of course we didnt! And just across the basin was Hayden Valley, a meadow home to plenty of animals.

Bison, Mudpot, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Wildlife Spotting in Hayden Valley

We made it a habit to visit the Hayden Valley early in the morning and late in the evening from Norris Campground. Wildlife watchers with hi-tech equipment sat for hours watching wildlife activities.

Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, USA

One morning, we parked near an animal jam and next thing we knew, we were watching a grizzly bear walking around. Luckily we were a 50 meters away from him!

Grizzly Bear, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Another morning, we were photographing a huge bull Bison when he decided to walk towards us. It was getting close and for our safety we ran inside the van!

Our favourite moment in the Hayden Valley, though, was when we were watching wolves with a family from Utah. Yes, you read that right! Wolves! The family had a hi-tech monocular and had attached their phone onto it. This meant, more than one person could watch at the same time! As it was getting dark, we spotted plenty of wolves jumping around and a grizzly bear walking around a hill! It truly was an amazing experience. We had seen quite a few exotic animals of the lower 48 USA!

Wolves, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone National Park, USA

Gooodbye

Sadly, all good things come to an end, and so did our time in the Yellowstone. We decided to leave from the western entrance. On the way, we picked up a Slovakian hitchhiker who we dropped to the nearest town outside. We drove along the meadows and could see Grand Tetons in the distance. We knew just then that we would never forget this place and our experience.

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Grand Tetons

After successfully extending our campervan for another 5 days, we were on the way to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone from Bryce Canyon! Flat tire and no campsite booking on Saturday but everything was working out well. It almost seemed like the world was making it happen for us – Bollywood reference from Om Shanti Om right here!

Wyoming

The drive from outskirts of Ogden to Grand Tetons was one of the prettiest. The landscape reminded me of South Island of NZ, minus the lakes.

Wyoming, USA

We stopped for coffee and spotted a cowboy family! The dads and sons were dressed appropriately and Shruti couldn’t help but snap them from the car.

Wyoming, USA

As we got closer to the Twin National Parks (Grand Tetons & Yellowstone), the hills became mountains and eventually we were seeing the most beautiful mountains I have ever witnessed!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Grand Tetons National Park

We drove towards Jackson Hole which is the epicenter for angling and other sports in Wyoming. The town is at the edge of the National Park. With hundreds of people visiting the area, the town was bustling with energy. What a pity we had to skip the town as we had to rush for a campsite.

Upon entering the park from Moose entrance, we were surprised to see that most of the campsites were full. We hit the accelerator and rushed towards Coulter Bay at the northern area of the park and hoped they had a spot.

The drive was through some of the best mountainous country that we had seen in the USA. In the winter, the place would be in several feet of snow. We went past several lakes before arriving at Coulter Bay. Again what a pity we couldn’t stop anywhere. Well it all paid off. Upon arriving at the campground, we realised that only a handful campsites were available. Alas, we were here and thats all that mattered. Oh and the camp host told us not to leave anything outside unattended as bears lived in the area. What!!!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

The first day, we checked out the lake itself, the visitors centre and the facilities. Unlike many other national parks, this place had paid showers, internet and laundry but no shuttle service. Moreover, this was serious bear country. Both Grizzly and Black bears lived in these parts along with wolves, bisons, moose, ploghorns and elks. This was real America and we were quite pumped. We decided to buy a pair of binoculars. But first we had to go get cleaned up.

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Ranger Talks

After being at a few National Parks, we wanted to take full advantage if ranger talks and their knowledge. The first talk we attended was on an American animal sometimes called Buffalo. The ranger was a little nervous as we sat around the ampitheatre. She explained how White Americans nearly wiped out the Bison off the earth. 1000 were saved and now there are 30,000 wild bison. The next talk was about photography in Grand Tetons. We realised during the slideshow, that we had missed the best scenic parts of the park as we rushed towards North for campsite. Bummer!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USAThe final talk the next day was eventful. We scheduled to attend another ranger talk on predator and prey. We reached 5 mins late and the talk was underway. It had only been a second in the talk when a little girl pointed to a bear 50 metres from us. Next, the crowd went wild. Everyone clapping to get the Black bear away from us especially the kids. That had no effect on the bear though, and he kept looking for food. He wasn’t scared which was scary, though he eventually left. Phew!

PS, this was probably the only time Shruti didn’t carry her camera :(

Hikes in Grand Tetons

We did a few hikes in the area. First, we went up a hill in the area early in the morning which would give us a view of the entire region and the mountains. We had been told that there were a couple of grizzly bears in the area. I was shit scared for obvious reasons! We drove down a dirty road to the entry of the trail and started walking up a steep quiet trail. The entire time I was knocking things, making sounds, and trying to make sure we don’t run into a grizzly looking for breakfast.

Once we reached the top, the view was enchanting. At the top, looking east, we could see two elks peacefully grazing in the distance on the paddocks, while looking west, we could see the mountain range in all its might. A true paradise!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

We also did a 4 hour walk around the Coulter Lake. It was mostly a pine forest walk with a few lakes, though we lost our way along with many others. The forest was thick, and we were struggling to talk loudly to avoid bears again. However, once the forest opened, the view was picture perfect. The Grand Teton mountains were only across the lake. Incredible!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Wildlife Spotting

On the last day, we wanted to see more animals, especially wolves. We had heard from rangers that wolves hang around young Elks. We arrived near the Elk calving area at 6:30am sharp and stayed til 8am but we couldn’t see any wolves or bears. But nevertheless, the massive herd of elks provided enough entertainment!

Elks, Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Later on, we focussed on spotting a bison. We had heard from people that a herd usually grazes at a ranch nearby. The herd was too far from the road, though we could see the iconic American animal with our new binoculars. On return, we again tried to find wolves to no avail.

Buffaloes, Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

Finally, it maybe a bit offtrack, but one of the best things about this NP was that there was internet. We could sit there and plan out the next few days while also working on our blog. It provided some downtime so we could recharge our batteries. This NP was one of the prettiest in our trip. We would love to return someday!

Grand Tetons, Wyoming, USA

But right now all we could think about was – Yellowstone, here we come!