Western USA by Pontiac Firefly (yes, a car!)     April/May 2001
(c) 2001 Bruce Clarke

The following is a transcription of a journal I kept while touring in the western USA in my 1989 Pontiac Firefly car. The total distance I drove was about 7470 kilometres (4670 miles).

This journal may be freely distributed so long as it is unaltered. I have recorded my notes in metric measurements. At the time of this trip, $1 CND = $0.66 US. 100 kilometres = 60 miles; 1 meter = 3 feet; 0 Celsius = 32 F; 20 C = 70 F; 38 C = 100 Fahrenheit.

I've typed up my notes exactly as I first wrote them. Some of my notes were written late at night, so some entries were very terse or used poor grammar. Any questions or comments are welcomed by the writer and can be sent to the e-mail address: brclarke@islandnet.com

Saturday, April 21, 2001 - day 1:
 (Victoria, BC -> Aberdeen, WA: 298 km / 186 miles)

My cat woke me up at 5 AM, and I hadn't fallen asleep until after midnight. I packed and caught the MV Coho ferry. The ferry sailed late at about 10:45 AM.

The weather was very pleasant for late April: sunny and warm at 15 C. I arrived in Port Angeles at 12:15 and then drove south on Hwy 101 right away. The weather remained warm very nice, and soon there was almost no traffic on the road. The highway starts off very pretty as it winds past Lake Crescent. After passing along the coast at Hoh Rain Forest the road winds through a mess of clearcuts.

As I approach Aberdeen I feel incredibly tired. I drive into town and stop at a Les Schwab tire shop. My car tires are old and worn so I purchase a set of four new tires for $205. I eat some salad and a burger for dinner and then pick up my car. I'm feeling exhausted: I can barely keep my eyes open and I seem to be running a bit of a fever. I decide to splurge on a motel room rather than camp out tonight.

Food $15, gas $10, motel $45, tires $205.

Sunday, April 22, 2001 - day 2:
 (Aberdeen, WA -> Beachside State Park, OR: 370 km / 231 miles)

I slept well and was back on Hwy 101 by 7 AM after a banana and a coffee for breakfast. The morning was grey and cloudy. Not long after driving through Willapa Wildlife Refuge (basically a bird sanctuary) I saw several V-shaped flocks of geese and ducks. I crossed the Columbia River into Astoria, Oregon. Rain started to fall, and the traffic increased dramatically. The number of cars remained high until I passed the resort town of Cannon Beach. When I reached the town of Manzanita the traffic consisted of a few SUVs and RVs. I was hungry and so stopped at a restaurant in Garibaldi, where I was served an incredibly greasy club sandwich. I ate perhaps half and then drove on, stopping at a gas station food mart for coffee and some granola bars instead.

Just south of Tillamook is an old US Navy blimp hangar with the words AIR MUSEUM painted on it. I stopped and paid $10 to go inside. Ten bucks seems like a lot but it was worth an hour's visit. There are perhaps twenty aircraft that are restored and in working condition, including a US Navy Corsair, a Hellcat, a P51 Mustang, a German ME-109, etc.

In the town of Waldport, the rain stopped just as I went into a supermarket for some food. I then pull into the Beachside State Park. It was a nicely laid-out campground with good access to the beach.

Although the rain had stopped it was still grey and the temperature was maybe 8 C (48 F). I went for an hour-long walk on the beach. The ocean and sand were pretty but the strong wind made things seem quite cold.

Food $15, gas $10, tent-site $14, museum $10.

Monday, April 23, 2001 - day 3:
 (Beachside State Park, OR -> Patricks Point State Park, CA: 450 km / 280 miles)

I slept very well until woken by the sound of rain falling at 6 AM. I got up and on the road by 7 AM. There was little traffic on Hwy 101. The weather was cool and grey with light drizzle. Except for a coffee and muffin in Reedsport, I kept chugging down the road. As I reached Port Orford the rain slackened off. The ocean cliffsides offer many scenic views. Sometimes the road was very twisty and potholed. I see lots of deer on the roadside.

As I reach the California border the clouds clear away and it's warm and sunny. Once through the industrial town of Crescent City, Hwy 101 climbs and winds through a beautiful redwood forest. I ask at a small store in Orich for a campground recommendation. The clerk suggests that I check out Patricks Point State Park. I do; it turns out to be perhaps the most scenic state campgrounds I've ever seen. There are really magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean cliffsides, with good beach access and plenty of trails.

I pitch my tent around 1 PM and spend the afternoon walking on the beach and trails. The weather is now sunny and warm. I see a couple of jets fly overhead. I got a good look at them with the binoculars. They looked like A7 Intruders but I thought they were all retired from the Navy. Maybe the planes belonged to the Air National Guard?

By 7 PM the sun is low and a cool breeze is blowing in off the ocean.

Food $8, gas $10, tent-site $12.

Tuesday, April 24, 2001 - day 4:
 (Patricks Point State Park, CA -> Mariposa, CA: 780 km / 489 miles)

I woke up after a good sleep. It was now cold and damp with a thin fog in the air. I was on the road by 6:30 AM, after chucking my soggy tent into the back of my car. I drive just a few more miles of Hwy 101 before turning east onto Hwy 299.

After climbing a very long steep grade into the mountains I am above the fog. The traffic is very light. The road winds through valleys of pine and purple-blossomed wild cherry. There are many hawks flying overhead. I see a lot of pickups and SUVs pulled over to the roadside as the drivers fish in the nearby river. As Hwy 299 descends from over 3000 feet to California's central valley, the road banks left and right through hundreds of S-curves. It's a fun road to drive - almost like a roller coaster.

In the town of Redding the hills flattens out and I drive onto I-5 south. The interstate is flat and straight, with not much traffic. There's no scenery at all now - just acres and acres of crops, fruit orchards, and vines. It's very hot and dry without a cloud in the sky. The traffic flows along at a steady 70 mph.

Once I reach Sacramento the traffic increases drastically and the pavement turns into choppy slabs of concrete. Just after Stockton I turn east onto Hwy 120. I thought this might get me out of the heavy traffic but if anything the traffic is heavier and faster with the average pace being 75 to 80 mph. After reaching Oakdale the traffic dies off again, leaving just large family sedans and RVs heading for Yosemite National Park.

Reaching Chinese Camp I see a warning sign warning that Hwy 120 into Yosemite recommends chains. Looking at my map I realise that I can drive Hwy 49 south to the small town of Mariposa. This highway is a very narrow road that twists along the ridgetops, offering great views.

Once in Mariposa I rent a hotel room and then book a tent cabin in Yosemite Valley for the following two nights. I am only 30 miles from the main entrance to Yosemite, with another 12 miles to Curry Village, but I fill the gas tank anyhow so that I have lots of fuel. At 9 PM I went outside to look at the night sky. It was still too bright near the hotel to see many stars but I notice dozens of bats flying overhead.

Food $10, gas $20, hotel $50, beer $5.

Wednesday, April 25, 2001 - day 5:
(Mariposa, CA -> Yosemite, CA: 67 km / 42 miles)

I woke up at 6 AM. After a shower and quick breakfast I drove into Yosemite. For $50, I buy an annual pass for all National Parks, as this will be cheaper in the long run.

Once I check into the tent cabin that I booked previously, I spend the day walking around Yosemite Valley, Mirror Lake, and Yosemite Falls.

I ate some dinner. It was utter chaos in the cafeteria: some school or club must have been having a field trip, as about 400 screaming kids in the 13-15 years range showed up all at once in the cafeteria. About half of the tent cabins at Curry Village are full of loud-mouthed teenagers. When I checked in, the clerk was kind enough to place me in a cabin at the far end of the camp from the teens, but even so I'm glad I packed a box of earplugs. After dinner I went for a walk in a field near Curry. There were about half a dozen young mule deer grazing. There were several red-winged blackbirds and some funny-looking black starlings with bright white eyes.

Thursday, April 26, 2001 - day 6:
 (Yosemite, CA: no driving)

I slept well and started off for a long walk at 6:30 AM. It was about 50F and very quiet. I saw a couple of mule deer. I walked out past El Capitan to the Pohono Bridge. After crossing over the bridge I walked to 620-foot tall Bridalveil Falls. I then returned to Yosemite Village. After walking this distance I was quite parched so I stopped at the food mart for a couple of sandwiches and a litre of orange juice. I mailed a postcard and sent some e-mail. When I got back to my tent cabin around 1 PM it was about 85 F. I took a shower and napped for a couple hours.

About 4 PM I took the shuttle bus to Happy Isle at the east end of Yosemite Valley. I hike up the Mist Trail as far as the footbridge. This give great views of river water crashing over the rocks near the Vernal Falls. I then return to camp for a sandwich and beer.

There are still lots of kids running around in "Earth Day 2001" T-shirts. About a dozen deer are grazing near the Camp Curry main office.

Friday, April 27, 2001 - day 7:
 (Yosemite, CA -> Beatty, NV: 1025 km / 641 miles)

I slept so-so. After packing up, I left by 6 AM. It was a pleasant drive through the mountains. In a few icy patches some sand was still in the road corners. At the park exit I asked the ranger about going to Death Valley. She told me that April is a good time to go there; it's neither too hot nor too cold.

I found Hwy 41 descended quickly from the mountains to the low hills. I find after passing the little town of Coarsegold the amount of traffic on the highway increased tremendously. Hwy 41 eventually turns into Hwy 99 in the city of Fresno.

I find the traffic in Fresno is insane. The interstate has three or four lanes, with the inner two being used by Fresno commuters to get from one part of town to another. Cars are darting in and out at 70-75 mph. One old guy in a shiny new sports car starts tailgating me at 70+ mph and is leaning into his horn because I'm just not driving fast enough for him. (This is in the middle lane two, so he could have easily passed around my left side.) I pull right into a narrow gap and old bozo zooms past. His impatience didn't seem to help him much because I caught up with him at the next knot of traffic.

Eventually the road becomes a dual-lane freeway through farmland. Traffic became lighter and is decent to drive in until I reached Bakersfield. Again, the traffic became nutty and was almost as bad as in Fresno.

I turn east onto Hwy 58. The traffic is moderate. It is now hot outside. I reach the desert town of Mojave and turn north onto Hwy 14. The terrain is very arid and dry. I pass through Red Rock State Park; not too much of the red canyons were visible from the highway. I thought of stopping but it is much too hot to want to do any hiking. At Ridgeport I head north on Hwy 178. I finally reach the outskirts of Death Valley National Park. Instead of taking the main entrance road, I turn up the side road into Wildrose. A few sections of road are unpaved but still easy enough to drive. The scenery is of rolling hills covered with green grasses and sagebrush. There are many wildflowers in bloom. The road now drops from almost 5000 feet down to below sea level in just a few miles.

Death Valley is actually quite pretty in an austere way. I ask about getting a hotel room - the thermometer says 100F. The only lodge in Stovepipe Wells is $128 US per night - ouch! The clerk recommends that I go out the little-used east exit to Beatty, Nevada. The road climbs back up to 5000 feet. I cross the state line from California into Nevada and after just a few miles enter a surprisingly pleasant sleepy little town. I find a decent air-conditioned room for $41 US. Dinner was a veggie burger with salad and a beer.

Food $15, gas $15, hotel $41, beer $5.

Saturday, April 28, 2001 - day 8:
 (Beatty, NV -> Grand Canyon, AZ: 600 km / 375 miles)

I woke up at 5 AM after a mediocre sleep. I packed and got under way by 6 AM. As I was heading south from Beatty I saw a great sunrise over the mountains surrounding Death Valley. The plains are very dry and flat with sparse grass and shrubs, yet moonscape-like craggy purple-and-red mountains seem to sprout suddenly from the arid soil.

After a stop for fuel at Indian Springs, I charged through Las Vegas. Even though it's only 7:30 on a Saturday morning there's still a fair amount of traffic - though nowhere nearly as crazy as in southern California. There are lots of open-piped Harleys heading to a motorcycle rally at Loughlin. Soon I am winding through the hills around Hoover Dam.

I then drove along the straight-as-an-arrow highway 93 through dry desert. As I was driving along at a steady 70 mph, I'd often get passed by Harleys heading for Loughlin. As I saw them coming up behind me in my rear-view mirror, I'd cover my left ear to block out the sound of the loud pipes coming through my open window. One motorcycle zipped by and was surprisingly quiet. It was a Suzuki Intruder.

I reached the town of Kingsman where there are Harleys galore. On I-40 east the overall amount of traffic is moderate, with most of it consisting of semi-trailers hauling cargo. I don't mind 18-wheelers: they seem to generally pay attention to what's going on around them - which is more than I can say for some of the 4-wheeled traffic. In particular a pickup truck with a trailer pulled out in front of me from the shoulder with no signal and without bothering to actually look where he was going. I had to slam on my brakes to kill my speed, then swerve into the left lane after checking to see the lane was clear.

Coming into the Grand Canyon on Hwy 68 the traffic seemed to ignore the posted limits of 55-65 mph. I find the flow of traffic is 75 mph, which seems a bit surprising given the condition of this bumpy, pot-holed and narrow road.

I drive into Mathers Campground just after 12 noon. The weather is warm and sunny. I get a tent site for three nights at $15 per night. After pitching my tent I walk down to the Rim Trail for a walk of maybe a mile to enjoy the magnificent views of the Grand Canyon. At about 5 PM I grab some sandwiches and beer for dinner. I then spend some time doing a load of laundry. By the time I get my dry clothes back to my tent it's already getting dark outside.

Food $10, gas $20, tent-site $15, beer $5, ball cap $10, laundry/shower/e-mails $10. Park fees were included with my annual national park pass.

Sunday, April 29, 2001 - day 9:

 (Grand Canyon, AZ: no driving)

I fell asleep around 10 PM after listening to the radio. I slept very well until about 6 AM. Although the temperature dropped close to freezing, I'm snug as bug in my sleeping bag and quilts. I get up with the sunrise and walk down to the Rim Trail. It's still crisp, and after taking in the view I start looking for breakfast. I watch the cowboys getting the mules ready for the Bright Angel trail ride. In the Bright Angel Lodge I have a tomato and onion omelette with lots of black coffee - my first hot breakfast in days. I then walk along the Rim Trail, enjoying the fantastic views.

After about 4 miles of twisty trails I reach "the Abyss". By now it's 11 AM and the sunshine is quite warm. I catch the free shuttle bus to first Pima Point, and then on to Hermit's Rest. After a short view of the Canyon I catch the shuttle back to Yaki Point at the eastern part of the South Rim.

Eventually I wander back to the Mathers Campground for a quick shower and change of clothes. I grab my flashlight and head to the cafeteria for a big dinner of spaghetti, soup and salad. I noticed today that although Mathers Point and the main village are fairly busy and hectic, away from the main areas on the Rim Trail there is almost no one walking the trails. On the unpaved part of the Rim Trail I might have seen another walker maybe once every 5 or 10 minutes. It looks like a lot of folks come in on the air-conditioned bus from Las Vegas, stay for a few hours to see the Canyon from the easily access points, and then leave. That's no way to see such a great place; I'm glad I'm staying three nights and am tempted to stay longer.

I walked along the Rim at 6:30 PM to watch the sunset.

Monday, April 30, 2001 - day 10:

 (Grand Canyon, AZ: no driving)

I slept okay and woke up around 6 AM. When I got out of my nice warm sleeping bag it was a chilly 35F. I ate some breakfast and checked my e-mail on an Internet kiosk. I then caught the shuttle bus as far west as the Abyss so that I could finish my walk from yesterday. By 8 AM it had already warmed up to 60F. Again, there was not a cloud in the sky as I enjoyed the excellent views. I walked from the Abyss to Pima Point without seeing another person - about three miles of rough track. At times the Rim Trail seems to disappear and I end up having to pick my way between bushes. I notice some cacti and quite a few wildflowers: some bright red wildrose, tiny little white daisies and these small purple-coloured windmills with white centres.

I saw a deer, ravens, hawks, swifts, swallows, and several small lizards. I reach the Hermit's Rest at about 10:30 AM. After looking at the Canyon views for half an hour, I hop on the creaky shuttle bus the ride back to the campground. I then make arrangements to extend my campsite from three nights to five nights, meaning I have two more full days here.

I grab a shower and some clean clothes. I write up a couple of postcards while having soup and salad for lunch. I then walk down to the Rim with my binoculars. Near the Yavapai Observatory I listen to a park ranger talk about the geology of the Canyon. I then stroll back to the main village. It's very crowded with busloads of tourists, as opposed to the nice quiet walk I had on the Rim Trail this morning.

Eventually I work my way to the cafeteria at the Yavapai Lodge and have some more soup and salad for supper. I feel absolutely bushed and head back to my tent around 7 PM without bothering to watch the sunset. Since my car has sat unused for a couple of days I decided to start it up and drive it a mile or so.

Tuesday, May 1, 2001 - day 11:

 (Grand Canyon, AZ: no driving)

I was dead tired and fell asleep around 8:30 PM after listening to the radio. I slept like a log until about 5:30 when the sky lightened. It was about 35F. I got up at 6 AM and walked down to the trailhead for Bright Angel trail. I started down the trail at about 6:50 AM. This trail is the same one used by the mule rides, and the path is wide and well maintained.

At first the air is cool and I make quick progress to the Mile and Half Resthouse, a little hut with drinking water and toilets about 1100 feet down from the Canyon Rim.

I kept going down another 1000 feet to the Three Mile Resthouse. By this point only an hour or so has gone by, but I realise that it'll be much harder to hike back up then down. While refilling my water bottle a very attractive French woman (who looked a lot like Marlee Matlin) plunked her pack down. She was absolutely exhausted and looked like she was about to have a stroke. She told me that she had stayed overnight at the Phantom Sky Ranch campground at the Canyon bottom. A Japanese couple pointed out that they had rented a room for the night at this lodge, saving them having to pack in a lot of weight.

The views are great but the hike back up was bloody exhausting. By the last quarter of the hike up, I would trudge from one patch of shade to the next, then stop and rest. The last few hundred feet, I started feeling light-headed and realised I'd pushed myself a little too hard. On the way up I passed several mule trains heading down; I think if I ever wanted to go back down that trail a mule ride would be the way to go. I finally managed to drag my arse back to the top.

I crawled back to the campsite for a shower and fresh clothes, then ate a big lunch of soup, salad, and sandwich. After lunch I slowly walked on my sore feet down to the Rim Trail. After sitting in the shade looking at the Canyon with binoculars. I walked west to Bright Angel Lodge. There were lots of tourists eating ice cream. I can look over the railing and see the Three Mile Resthouse far below me. Looking down at it, I need my binoculars to see the tiny humans on the trail next to the resthouse.

I catch the shuttle bus back to the campground and then drive my car (because I'm too tired to walk) to the market for a carton or orange juice and a sandwich. In the parking lot I noticed a Rebel 250 from Nevada with saddlebags and camping gear strapped to it. I feel utterly zonked. Back at the campground a big raven is picking through the next door neighbour's food.

Wednesday, May 2, 2001 - day 12:

 (Grand Canyon, AZ: no driving)

I fell asleep about 8 PM and slept okay. This morning is not as cold as the previous day, but it is cloudy and windy. I walk down to the Canyon Rim and stroll down to Bright Angel Lodge for breakfast. I decide to be lazy today and use the shuttle bus as much as possible to hop from lookout to lookout along the West Rim road. Between Hopi and Mojave Points I get out and walk because the shuttles are full of noisy obnoxious German teenagers. When I reach Hermit's Rest I drink a nice hot coffee while looking at the Canyon.

I return to camp and do some laundry. By 1 PM I walk out of the laundry room and am surprised to find it is now sunny and hot again, though still windy.

At Lookout Studio there is some kind of commotion going on: a fellow from a California condor relocation society is using a telemetry antenna to track condors released into the Canyon. Some California condors that were bred in captivity have been released in the Grand Canyon in the last couple of years. Well, a pair just started hanging out near the South Rim village on a rocky ledge about 200 feet below Lookout Studio, near Bright Angel Lodge, in front of all the tourists. The crowds of visitors are eating ice cream while staring down at the condors below. The male condor kept circling around the area, scaring off hawks and ravens.

While watching this, dark clouds blew in and it gets very cold and windy. For a few minutes a few flakes of snow actually start falling from the sky. After an hour the clouds blow over and it gets sunny again, but now it is only 40F or so. It was still quite cold when I went to sleep.

Thursday, May 3, 2001 - day 13:

 (Grand Canyon, AZ -> Zion National Park, UT: 410 km / 255 miles)

I slept poorly until 4 AM - when I woke up shivering from the cold. Eventually I crawled out of bed and pack up my tent. I leave the campground about 5:45 AM with the car's heater cranked up to full power. It's sunny and clear. I stopped at the various viewpoints along the East Rim drive, getting out of the car for a few minutes at each stop. I recommend the Grandview Point and the Desert View with its stone Watchtower. At the Desert View there's a campground, coffee shop, and the Watchtower giftshop. The Watchtower is a beautiful structure: a cut stone tower about three stories high that overlooks the eastern end of the Grand Canyon. While here I see a flock of about 100 grouse flying overhead. They suddenly dive like dropped rocks about 1000 feet into the trees below me, making a whistling sound as they whip by.

By the time I leave the park at 7 AM it was already warm enough that I could turn off the car's heater. The road heads into flat dry desert. I turn north and make fast time to Antelope Pass and the town of Page. I cross into Utah. The terrain becomes much more rugged and hilly, like the terrain from a Road Runner cartoon.

I drive along at a steady 65-70 mph through the striped brown-and-white hills of Great Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The conical hills have broad bands of brown, pink, and white, like payers of Neapolitan ice cream.

After a stop in the town of Kanab for gas and coffee, I head past Mt. Carmel into Zion Canyon National Park. Flakes of slushy snow splattered on my car window. I climb over the mountain pass and descend into the park's valley. Along the way the road snakes through strange conical hills of layered pink and grey rock; the hills are shaped like giant beehives. The rock formations are something else. I have never seen such odd and colourful hillsides in all my life. I stop and take a picture or two of the rock beehives. I then drive through a very long tunnel through the mountains and emerge into the main canyon. It is now warm and sunny.

I find a nice tent site for $14 per night in the South Campground. After pitching my tent I spend the afternoon exploring Zion Canyon by the free shuttle bus. What a beautiful place! It's a narrow V-shaped canyon of layered red sandstone with the floor of the canyon filled level by river sediment. The valley floor is lush of various types of maple, elm, etc. It's like being in the Garden of Eden. There are dozens of paths to walk and some serious trails for hikers. It is really among the most beautiful parks I've ever seen. It easily compares to Yosemite or Banff.

At 6 PM I return to my camp for a can of beans and to do some reading.

Friday, May 4, 2001 - day 14:
 (Zion National Park, UT: no driving)

I slept quite well, waking up to temperatures of about 45F. I got up at 7 AM and walked into town for breakfast and a newspaper. I rode the shuttle bus back up the valley to Weeping Rock. This is a horseshoe-shaped grotto or cave overhang, creating a hanging garden.

I walked up to the Hidden Canyon. At first the trail was paved and wide, though steep. About two-thirds of the way up a sign warns that people have fallen to their deaths on this trail. The pathway then becomes a very narrow walk on the face of the cliffs, slippery with dust from the worn sandstone. In places there are chains to hang onto so one doesn't slip and fall. At one overlook I sit down to take a rest. When I stand up to leave, a plastic bag I'm carrying my water and other items with bursts, spilling binoculars, sunscreen, etc. all over the pathway. For a moment I worried that my water bottle would roll off the cliff and splat on the rocks below.

Eventually I work my way back down to the canyon floor and visited some of the other sites and trails. Zion sure is a beautiful place. I stop at a cafe that has Internet access - 15 minutes for $3. After checking my e-mail and firing off a couple of quick notes. I check the weather in Bryce Canyon and Yellowstone. Bryce is a few thousand feet higher than Zion, and as of this afternoon was sunny and only 30F. This is unusual and the forecast is for it to get into upper 40s tomorrow. I think I will extend my camping stay one more night in Zion: I'll leave my tent here tomorrow and drive up to Bryce for the day. It is only a two-hour drive each way. This will save me the hassle of packing and unpacking the tent, and it will be a lot warmer for sleeping tomorrow.

As for Yellowstone the interstates in Wyoming are closed in places due to heavy snow, so I think I will forget about Yellowstone. At 5:30 PM it's sunny and 75F.

Saturday, May 5, 2001 - day 15:
 (Zion National Park, UT <-> Bryce, UT: 270 km / 170 miles)

I woke up early and drove my car east out of Zion past all the beehive hills. After an hour of driving through farmlands. I drove into Bryce Canyon National Park. This is an area where the sandstone has eroded into valleys of thousands of 'hoodoos', pillars of rainbow-coloured rock, jutting up like giant knobby fingers. It's fiercely cold - below freezing and a strong biting and from the Southwest. Bryce Canyon consists of a 13-mile drive through a series of lookout visitors. You can start at the far end and turn out to the right at each vista. These are many trails and campgrounds, but it's too cold for me to be interested.

The morning slowly warms up and by the time I've stopped at all the lookouts the temperature is 55F. I stop at a gas station for fuel. I absolutely detest how almost every station maker you prepay before you pump. Every time I go to pump gas, I have to make a guess as to how much fuel I need, walk in and prepay, and then hope I've guessed right. I upset an older couple with my colourful combination of swearing and taking the Lord's name in vain.

I drove back into Zion, stopping at the 'beehives' to snap a few pictures. I get back to my camp around 2 PM. I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the Emerald Pools in Zion.

Sunday, May 6, 2001 - day 16:
 (Zion National Park, UT -> Rexburg, ID: 860 km / 537 miles)

I slept well, packing up early in the morning. On the road by 6:15, driving under sunny, pleasant skies. After almost 30 miles of country roads, I merged onto I-15 north near Torquerville. The Sunday morning traffic was light, and I made good progress while enjoying the farmland and mountain scenery. I grabbed a quick Burger King breakfast just south of Beaver, Utah.

As I reached Provo the traffic increased, and the interstate had all kinds of construction with detours. At one point three lanes had to merge down to just one near Salt Lake City. I can only assume it's because of the upcoming winter Olympics.

Traffic remained hectic until Ogden - a total of maybe 50 miles. I can't imagine what traffic will be like on Monday morning if it's like this on Sunday.

I crossed into Idaho amidst very little traffic. The landscape is mostly flat farmland with some hills. I stopped at a gas station and noticed a couple of camouflage-clad rednecks in their jeep off to the local militia meeting. Scary - I think I could hear the banjo music from the movie 'Deliverance'.

About 3 PM I felt really tired of driving, so I stopped at a Best Western in the small town of Rexburg. The price was $61 for the night. My oil pressure light started flickering as I pulled into town: I checked it and found it was low, so I added half a quart. I did some laundry and caught up on my e-mail.

I also checked the weather forecast on the hotel's Internet access. Tomorrow in West Yellowstone the forecast was sunny with highs of 70F and lows of 30F.

The road from the West Entrance to Old Faithful has been open since April 12. I plan to leave here early tomorrow, spend a day in the actual park and then find a hotel room nearby.

Monday, May 7, 2001 - day 17:
 (Rexburg, ID -> West Yellowstone, MT (plus Yellowstone Park): 425 km / 265 miles)

I woke up and drove the 90 miles from Rexburg to West Yellowstone. It is clear and frosty at only 28F. The road rose from farmland to the forests. I stop in the small town just outside Yellowstone's West Entrance and reserve a cheap hotel room for the night at $41. About 8 AM I drove into Yellowstone National Park, where I immediately see several elk grazing by the roadside.

The scenery is very pretty with rivers, mountains, and forest. I can see many young pine trees sprouting up in the areas left barren by the forest fires of several years ago. Soon I encounter some bison on the road. I must have seen hundred of bison today - more than any other animal by far.

I saw an osprey swoop up from the river and fly directly over my car. I was able to look up through my sunroof and see the osprey perhaps 30 feet up, clutching a fish in his claws. It was an amazing sight.

I drive first to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Many of the trails are still closed off due to snow pack. The temperature is now in the 50s and it is sunny.

I then drove up to Mammoth Hot Springs. I was a bit disappointed as there wasn't that much geothermal activity; a lot of the hot springs are dormant. Returning past Roaring Mountain many cars were stopped to watch a grizzly bear and her two cubs munch nonchalantly on some shrubs about 300 feet from the roadway.

I then drove south to Old Faithful, where I sat and watched the famous geyser erupt.

It was 5 PM by this time so I drove back to my reserved hotel room in West Yellowstone. I'm tired from the walking and the driving of today.

Tuesday, May 8, 2001 - day 18:
 (West Yellowstone, MT -> Libby, MT: 998 km / 624 miles)

I left West Yellowstone early at 5:30, just as the sky was getting light. As I passed by the man-made Hebgen Lake, I saw a moose run across the road. I then passed a lake that was full of dead tree stumps. I thought this was very odd until I reached a huge landslide. The landslide blocked off a river, forming what is now known as Earthquake Lake. I see several elk, pronghorns, mule deer, and even a few bison.

I reached I-90 and somehow managed to miss my turn-off in Butte. I kept going north on I-15, wondering when the heck I would reach I-90. Finally I reached the large town of Great Falls and stopped to take a look at the map. Whoops - I really screwed up! I decide to continue north to Shelby, just south of the Canadian border. I then drive west on Hwy 2.

The highway skirts the southern edge of Glacier National Park. I pass through the rather ugly town of Kalispell - a town that consists mostly of strip malls and car dealerships. I have a couple of 15-minute delays due to road construction. The terrain is pretty; many forested hills and small lakes. I reach the small town of Libby, and get a hotel room for $40.

Wednesday, May 9, 2001 - day 19:
 (Libby, MT -> Victoria, BC: 918 km / 574 miles)

I woke and early and started driving. Arriving at the border crossing in Idaho, I am delayed for 15 minutes because I have crossed into the Pacific Time Zone, and reached the crossing before it was actually open at 7 AM. I then cross back into Canada near Creston, BC. Near the border crossing I spot a large pheasant and even a dozen big horn sheep.

This is a part of the province I've never been in before, and I enjoy the drive through the small mountain towns of Castlegar, Trail, Osoyoos and Princeton. I reach Hope about 3 PM and sprint down the Trans-Canada Highway to the ferry terminal. I reach home by 7 PM.


Drivers: Reasonably courteous, except for the larger cities in southern California.
Speeds: Most of interstates and major highways are 65 to 75 MPH.
Roads: pretty good conditions. Usually well marked with signs for curves, distances, etc.
Fuel: anywhere from $1.65 a gallon in Idaho to $2.05 a gallon in California.
Food: Supermarkets and restaurants in the local towns.
People: Friendly and helpful.
Weather: Generally very pleasant spring weather.

Bruce Clarke