Thursday, September 24, 2015

Transition Time: Mountains to High Desert

We've had an incredible summer in the mountains of Wyoming and Montana but the time has come for our slow migration South and West towards San Diego for the holidays. It's going to be hard to leave behind the incredible wealth of wildlife we've witnessed this summer; the last month from Red Lodge, MT through Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming has been an endless bounty of wildlife sightings.

But move on we must, and our last stop in Wyoming was a couple of nights in tiny Boulder, WY allowing us one day to hike in the Wind River Mountains, a range we've heard lots of good things about.

The Wind River Range is part of the Central Rocky Mountain chain and has the largest system of glaciers (63) in the American portion of the Rockies. We chose to access the range from the Boulder Lake trailhead because it was close to our RV park in Boulder, WY. Very little information is available about the trail itself, so we just showed up and hoped for the best!

We hiked about four miles up Boulder Canyon. The trail is well marked and often follows Boulder Creek with dark granite canyon walls towering overhead, sometimes through thick forest, sometimes across rock outcroppings. It's a good idea to carry bear spray as grizzlies have moved into the range in the past few years.

Though we're still up at 7,000 feet the landscape has changed to sage covered hills.
We saw what we believe to be wild horses on the road to Boulder Lake.

A little fall color pressed up against dark granite canyon walls.

Pond covered with spent lily pads a couple of miles into the hike.

Boulder Creek

We stayed at Highline Trail RV Park, a nice private park with easy access to the Wind River Range from nearby Boulder Lake. We had a huge pull through site, and though there was noise from highway 191 right outside the park, it was very quiet at night. We had good 4G Verizon signal with our booster.

Site #1 at Highline Trail RV Park.

Moving on, we made the big transition from mountains to high desert and the fabulous sandstone formations of Utah. We're spending several nights in Vernal, UT at Steinaker State Park. Just a couple of miles from our park is the short but somewhat strenuous hike to Moonshine Arch, which we learned about from John and Pam who hiked it during a long day trip which you can read about here.

This vulture was waiting for one of us to keel over as we hiked to the arch!

The early morning light was terrible for photos, this one looks much better in black and white!

Great sandstone fins stand out above the juniper and sage desert.

A lone ponderosa pine thrived in a wash among the waves of petrified sand dunes.

Though we're sad to leave the cooler temps of the mountains behind, we're always happy to be in Utah's spectacular landscapes...despite their archaic liquor laws. We had dinner last night at Vernal Brewing Company and were reminded that any beer sold on tap cannot exceed 4% ABV.

Get ready for some sandstone hiking!


  1. Oh, how beautiful! My hubby and I are heading to southern Utah in three weeks.

    1. Utah is absolutely one of our favorite states to hike!

  2. You made it to the Moonshine Arch!! Can you imagine driving up part of that last mile! A few parts were tough climbing on two feet.

    Utah's beer laws are a little strange, for sure! I asked when we were at the Wasatch Brewery about buying the Polygamy Nitro Porter. That is even better than regular Polygamy Porter. He said that if I bought the beer at the brewery, they could sell the 6% alcohol but the store only had 4%. So I figured I would buy the beer I wanted to take with us there. But, wow, they wanted $11.99 a six pack for 6%!! I felt like I was in Canada. Needless to say, I bought it at the grocery store for $7.99 and only 4%. But that is all right. I just like the smooth taste and the fact that I can breath. I didn't realize the tap beer was only 4% even at the brewery.

  3. Moonshine Arch is a beauty, but the photo of the pond covered with spent lily pads is spectacular!
    Welcome to Utah! Will you be in Moab by chance? We will be here until Oct. 15.

    1. Yes! We arrive at Portal RV Park on Oct will be great to meet you two!

    2. Yeah! Looking forward to meeting you and Hans as well!

  4. Haha, no kidding -- Utah definitely has archaic liquor laws! That 4 percent beer is downright nasty. Other than that, Utah is awesome and one of our favorite states for hiking. ;-) I can't believe that it's time for you guys to head back to San Diego already. Then again, it's time for us to head to Florida…..where did the time go???? You definitely did have an awesome summer in Wyoming and Montana. Thanks for taking us along!

    1. Hans had the IPA and it was not good at all. The 4% factor definitely limits what the breweries can do.

      We won't actually arrive in San Diego till mid November, but since we don't want to rush to get there it is time to mosey along!

  5. Lucky for me the beer laws make no difference since I don't drink it. But I'll bet David would say he just has to drink twice as much due to the % factor. Gorgeous picture of the pond on your hike. It is amazing that we are all starting to think about heading south already. Where did the summer go?

  6. That is definitely a big site!! Love the water stops on your last mountain hike - beautiful. The vulture is hysterical - at least it wasn't circling overhead :-) Beautiful black and white pic. We're taking our time heading south as well with a full month to get to SoCal from the Oregon border.

  7. It is hard to believe that summer is already over. I have loved following your adventures this summer. You have shown us some amazing sights. I can't imagine what some of the micro-brews taste like with alcohol levels no greater than 4%

  8. The beer in grocery stores in Utah is actually 3.2%, if you want 4 or 5% you have to get it from the liquor store.
    We have wanted to hike in the Wind river range too, looks so wonderful.