• Kara Cushway

Rocky Mountain Road Trip

Note: In this post I include links to several business's websites, but please be aware that this post is not sponsored or partnered with any of these businesses. These are just a few places we have been to, and the links are there for your convenience if you'd like to explore their websites!

The month of November was hectic for our family. We had our house packed up in a day, and loaded the rest into our two cars for a HUGE road trip to our new home in Washington state. So, since it was a pretty cool trip for the most part (other than the extreme amount of driving – it’s over 24 hours to get from where we were in Oklahoma to Washington!), I thought I’d share some of our experiences and photos.

That being said, I’m not a great picture-taker, and November isn’t the most photogenic time of the year to be visiting any part of the U.S., so while they’re not NatGeo-worthy, we took as many as we could anyway, since this was our first time through the Rockies.

Our trip went something like this: drive through an ice storm in Oklahoma and Texas (we left on what was most probably the coldest day of the year so far, and it was SUPER windy); stare up at the big, shadowy clouds moving across the New Mexico sky, then drive up into Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. Continue driving FOREVER through the vast state of Wyoming to the Grand Tetons National Park; then drive up and down a bunch of narrow, rickety, ice-slicked mountain pass roads into Idaho, and finally, after more icy roads through pine-covered mountains, and a few hours across some barren flatlands, we landed in Tacoma.

I have residual exhaustion just thinking about all that driving.

Our first stop, the one I was most excited about on the trip, was Estes Park, Colorado, a popular stop for people visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park. It reminded me of lots of the tourist towns I grew up surrounded by in Michigan, and the other ones I've seen on my travels: places like Mackinac Island, Charlevoix, MI, and Gatlinburg, TN, where fudge shops, bookstores, and souvenir boutiques seem to dominate the scene.

Apparently all the tourists don't bother the local wildlife, though; the elk in the photo on the right stood near the main intersection in Estes Park throughout most of the day we were there. (The picture on the left is of old photographs inside the Stanley Hotel, along the main stairwell walls; apparently, they're not original - just there for the ambiance.)

The Stanley Hotel's Georgian facade.

Also during our day in Estes Park, we took a tour of the Stanley Hotel, which was the inspiration for the setting of Stephen King's The Shining. For those of you who don't know me, I would do MANY OTHER THINGS before I'd watch a scary movie. So, after reluctantly viewing The Shining for the first time this fall, I wasn't too keen on spending the night at this particular hotel, but Kyle wanted to see it, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to take a tour. In the daytime.

Here are a few more images from the Hotel, including the infamous Room 217 (from the movie, anyway; in the book I think the room number is 237).

The Stanley offers several different tours, if you're thinking about stopping in on your next trip to the Rockies. They even have nighttime tours for those who are braver than I, and they host many different events in the Hotel, depending on the season.

Our tour of the Stanley took place at noon, so afterward we headed back into the heart of Estes Park for lunch, where we were served baked Fontina and elk meatloaf, then sampled the local ice cream and poked around in their book stores and souvenir shops before calling it a day.

Our first glimpse of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.

After Colorado we made what felt like an interminably long trek through Wyoming. Wyoming is not an offensive state to be in; it's just bigger than I expected. It took us all day to drive across half the state, even going the speed limit, which was like, 85 or something crazy.

We had to stop to get a shot of this Wyoming stream - it looks like an oil painting!
REAL antlers make up Jackson's famous antler arches!

After arriving in Jackson Hole, WY, we took a day to explore the Grand Tetons National Park. We wanted to drive up into Yellowstone, but even in early November, the roads were already closed for the winter!

Rock Skipping Lake in GTNP. That's probably its real name.

The above picture is in the Grand Tetons National Park at one of their many overlook parking areas. We walked down to the water and Kyle skipped rocks for a while. It was utterly silent here; it's hard to wrap your head around utter silence until it's actually happening ... And then the view and the water access attracted a few more sightseers who *also* thought skipping rocks was a great idea, so we fled the scene.

I wish we'd gotten more photos of the landscapes as we were driving, but it's in the nature of photos taken while driving to be of terrible quality. It's your punishment for being distracted on the road. Idaho was actually a surprisingly beautiful state, at least the parts that we drove through. (I'm convinced that everyone only talks about their potatoes because they're trying to distract you from noticing the scenery.) We drove through parts of Montana and northern Idaho on our way over to Washington state, and I loved the views of pine-swathed mountains around each bend in the road. I probably would've enjoyed it more if I hadn't been occupied fearing for my life on snowy, icy roads, but again, it was November. Hopefully the next time we come into contact with those roads, it'll be during a friendlier season.

Our final stop on the road trip was our new home town, Tacoma, WA! We already have a few fun experiences under our belts for Tacoma, so I'll have to compile a few more pictures and share them with you sometime soon. In the meantime, be sure to check out my other travel posts, including our visits to Ireland, Texas, the Smoky Mountains, and more!

What about your travels? Have you ever been to the Rockies or the Grand Tetons? What were some of your favorite experiences? I'd love to get ideas from you for a return vacation! Thanks for reading!


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