USA Road trip 2017 – Day 2 – Fort Morgan, CO to Rapid City, SD

Sunday, May 7th 2017

Fort Morgan, CO to Rapid City, SD

Thanks to the jet lag we were up early. The breakfast buffet was pretty extensive so we took our time to strengthen for the day. Our drive of about 550km to Rapid City would take us on seemingly endless roads from South to North through the whole state of Nebraska.Nebraskaendless roadOn the way to our first stop we encountered a stray bison that was crossing the road just behind a low hilltop. I was wondering why the car in front of us was swerving when we came over the top too and saw the bull trotting slowly on the right curb and away from the road. Unfortunately this happened so fast that we didn’t have time to take a photo. But we should see more bisons later on.

Scotts Bluff National MonumentScotts Bluff NM signAfter about 2 hours we reached Scotts Bluff. With a height of 800 feet you can’t really miss this landmark in the mostly plain landscape. The American Indians knew it by the name Me-a-pa-te which means „hill that is hard to go around“. Our plan was to hike up and take a look around but at the visitor center we learned, that the trail up was closed due to a rock slide. So instead of hiking we had to take the car to the top where we just hiked the two short trails up there (North and South Overlook Trail) and stretched our legs while enjoying the views over the plains.Scottsbluff NM viewNebraska road signAfter the hikes we continued our way in northern direction. You expected to come across some settlers with their covered wagons after each of the countless rolling hills but the only ones we saw where on the road signs. After another hour of driving we reached our second stop of the day.

Agate Fossil Beds National MonumentAgate Fossil Beds NM signAs the name suggests this National Monument is home to a lot of fossils. About 20 million years ago the western Nebraska plains where struck by a drought. Without enough food and water, hundreds of animals died around the few shallow water holes where over the years they were buried and preserved by deposits. We took a hike on the Fossil Hills Trail to see where most of the digging took place. Unfortunately for the inexperienced eye there was not much to see in terms of fossils but on the way back we encountered a snake that was just about to cross the trail. It looked like a rattlesnake at first but it had no rattle. Anyway we waited in safe distance for it to pass and headed back to the visitor center. We asked on of the rangers and after a looking back and forth between our photos and his classification book he finally concluded, it must have been a non-poisonous bullsnake.Bull snakeSince it was already early in the afternoon we decided to skip the second trail at the monument, the Daemonelix Trail, and head on to Rapid City. When passing the state border we were greeted by the four gentlemen, we would soon meet in person.South DakotaWe checked in at the hotel in Rapid City at 5:30pm which left us with enough time to explore the local Walmart and shopping center before putting our legs up.

To the 2017 road trip overview

USA Road trip 2017 – Overview

USA Roadtrip 2017 – Overview of related blog posts

This article should give an overview over all already published or planned blog posts related to the 2017 USA roadtrip. It will be updated with links as new posts are published.

Day 0: Reservation Madness
Day 1: Hamburg to Fort Morgan, CO
Day 2: Fort Morgan, CO to Rapid City, SD
Day 3: Custer State Park and Mount Rushmore
Day 4: Badlands National Park
Day 5: Rapid City, SD to Miles City, MN
Day 6: Miles City, MN to Gardiner, MN
Day 7: Yellowstone – Bunsen Peak and Mammoth Terraces
Day 8: Yellowstone – Old Faithful and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Day 9: Yellowstone – Lamar Valley and Beaver Pond Trail
Day 10: Gardiner, MN to Kemmerer, WY with a glimpse of Grand Teton
Day 11: Fossil hunting and Kemmerer, WY to Vernal, UT
Day 12: Dinosaur National Monument and Fantasy Canyon
Day 13: Vernal, UT to Moab, UT
Day 14: Arches National Park
Day 15: Canyonlands NP – Island in the Sky
Day 16: Canyonlands NP – Needles District
Day 17: Moab, UT to Torrey, UT
Day 18: Torrey, UT to Springdale, UT
Day 19: Zion National Park – Observation Point
Day 20: Zion National Park – West Rim Trail
Day 21: Zion NP Kolob Canyons and Snow Canyon State Park
Day 22: Springdale, UT to Grand Canyon Village, AZ
Day 23: Transfer from Grand Canyon South Rim to North Rim
Day 24: Grand Canyon – North Kaibab Trail
Day 25: Grand Canyon – Phantom Ranch and Clear Creek Trail
Day 26: Grand Canyon – Bright Angel Trail
Day 27: Grand Canyon South Rim
Day 28: Grand Canyon Village, AZ to Mancos, CO
Day 29: Durango Silverton Railway and Mesa Verde NP
Day 30: Mancos, CO to Pueblo, CO
Day 31: Pueblo, CO to Estes Park, CO
Day 32: Rocky Mountain NP – Trail Ridge Road
Day 33: Rocky Mountain NP – Emerald Lake and Bear Lake
Day 34: Rocky Mountain NP – Grand Lake and Trail Ridge Road
Day 35: Estes Park, CO to Hamburg

USA Road trip 2017 – Day 1 – Hamburg to Fort Morgan, CO

Saturday, May 6th 2017our luggage

Leaving on a jetplane

After a year of planning, today is the day. Our bags are packed, we are ready to go, we are standing here outside our door, when at 5am a good friend picked us up to not only say goodbye but take us to the airport in Hamburg. I can’t help it but I get this earwig prior to every overseas travel. USA Road trip 2017 – Day 1 – Hamburg to Fort Morgan, CO weiterlesen

USA Road trip 2017 – Reservation madness

Flashback. May 1st, 2016, 3pm local time. I’m sitting at the phone booking the first accommodation for the 2017 trip. Or at least I’m trying to. For next year I didn’t want to settle for a day hike into Grand Canyon as we did last time with the hike to Plateau Point down the Bright Angel trail. So we need a place to sleep in the canyon and since we both dislike camping, there is only one chance: Phantom Ranch. If you google Phantom Ranch reservations, you’ll find one advice on each hit you get: Book early! Reservation opens on the first day of each month for the full month of the next year so you’ll be able to book up to 13 months in advance. This will change on January 1st 2018 when reservations will switch to a real lottery system. For me it was just the phone lottery. 7am mountain time sharp the phone lines at Xanterra’s reservation hotline opened and I started calling. And calling. And calling. In the end I was sitting there using the land line and two mobile phones simultaneously just trying to get a dialing tone. After about 90 minutes and 170 unsuccessful calls on all three phones I finally got through to an operator.
Phone log
The lady at the phone was very friendly but cut me off mid sentence after I said the magic words ‚Phantom Ranch‘ – for a good reason. She wanted to secure a date first before we talk about other details. My desired dates where May 18th to May 20th but for these dates all cabins were already fully booked. Since I expected this I asked her to look up the first available two consecutive nights after May 15th (the North Rim opening date). We were lucky there were still dates with two nights and so she reserved a cabin from May 29th to May 31st for us. After the dates were settled I could relax a little bit before we went on with the details: Dinner and breakfast reservations for the two of us. Stew & veggie dinner on arrival day, the late breakfast (6:30am) and another stew & veggie dinner for our rest day and finally early breakfast (5:00am) on departure day. After all info was double checked I hung up and couldn’t believe how lucky I was. I’m pretty sure I literally scored the last available cabin.
Since the dates were now a bit of from my already existing planning, I had to do a complete rescheduling. After some route shifting I came up with this first basic draft.

This draft marked only the main destinations of the upcoming trip. During the next two to three weeks it was refined to include all main and minor destinations and the number of nights we would spend at each stop. With this information finally available it was time to look for flights and start booking hotels for all nights. Booking way in advance (with option to cancel) worked good for us the last time so I didn’t see a reason to change that.

The final schedule

May 06th 2017: HAM – MUC – DEN – Fort Morgan, CO
May 07th 2017: Fort Morgan, CO – Rapid City, SD
May 10th 2017: Rapid City, SD – Miles City, MN
May 11th 2017: Miles City, MN – Gardiner, MN
May 15th 2017: Gardiner, MN – Kemmerer, WY
May 16th 2017: Kemmerer, WY – Vernal, UT
May 18th 2017: Vernal, UT – Moab, UT
May 22nd 2017: Moab, UT – Torrey, UT
May 23rd 2017: Torrey, UT – Springdale, UT
May 27th 2017: Springdale, UT – Grand Canyon Village, AZ
May 28th 2017: Grand Canyon Village – Grand Canyon North Rim
May 29th 2017: North Rim – Phantom Ranch
May 31st 2017: Phantom Ranch – Grand Canyon Village, AZ
June 02nd 2017: Grand Canyon Village, AZ – Mancos, CO
June 04th 2017: Mancos, CO – Pueblo, CO
June 05th 2017: Pueblo, CO – Estes Park, CO
June 09th 2017: Estes Park, CO – DEN – MUC – HAM

Blog posts covering the whole route will appear from time to time. So be sure to subscribe to one of the feeds.

To the 2017 road trip overview