LOVE TO WANDER
We travelled a total of 3,131 miles on this trip by road and about 100 miles on foot. That is a lot of ground. We could have cut the trip short by missing out the Wild West bit around Rapid City/Mount Rushmore, but we would have missed out on quite a bit of the flavour of the place then and I wouldn't want to have done that. The National Park annual pass turned out to be great value at $80. All the National Parks quieten down significantly after Labour Day at the end of August, so then is a good time to go, as long as you don't leave it so long that the snow arrives - it is a small window, RMNP is definitely the busiest park (people per square mile), so I would leave that as late into the season as possible.
With the great benefit of hindsight (always a gift to future travellers and part of the reason for putting effort into writing this blog!):
Flagg Ranch might have made a good stop - pitched between South Yellowstone and North Grand Teton, you could go either way, depending on your mood. Gardiner is a good place for the north end of Yellowstone and Red Rocks is potentially a good alternative to Billings en route.
Pepper spray - be prepared to rent it or buy it - but don't hike without it! You can't take it on an aircraft - even in the hold - so you have to get hold of it as soon as you get there.
This trip was great for living in the moment - not in the past, not in the future, but just really enjoying the here and now. Getting close to nature and the great outdoors is always the easiest way to accomplish this for me.
I have resolved to do much more hiking in the UK. There is so much to see on my own doorstep that I haven't yet had the chance to explore. I would like to hike in Winter too - just short hikes and not far from a roaring log fire - but to walk through undisturbed frost and snow would be just great.
Desert flowers and alpine meadows are also firmly on my wish list now.
The souvenir I did buy - The Spirit of Indian Women. The secrets of those faces that lined the walls of Denver airport arrivals finally revealed themselves to me. Do make the time to read it, if you can.
What I didn't need to pack - the headtorches (oh well - there were just too many menacing warning notices on that lake about the risk of tackling it on your own) and my warmest weight fleece - but the weather could have been very different - we were very lucky.
What I was very glad I packed: Apart from my camera - thanks again Kath - it would have to be those emergency steroid tablets. Taking the sunset photos resulted in a half closed left eye for three days as a result of a mosquito bite. There were very few of them around at this time of the year, but one was enough and it managed to zone in on me.. So that was my other souvenir - a travel mosquito net that goes right over my hat!
Now - time to plan our next adventure - to South Africa. Keep following ...!