A Travellerspoint blog

April 2012

Arlanda - Reykjavik - Seattle

View US West Coast on bejjan's travel map.


The first day of our long journey. This day was designated only to survive the long-haul flight we had ahead of us to get to US West Coast. It took 3 hours and 10 minutes to get from Stockholm to Reykjavik. On Iceland we had a short stop-over and then boarded the flight to Seattle. Now that was the big test, a long and time-consuming flight of total 7 hours and 45 minutes. I thought that part went relatively easy though, thanks to DVD, mp3 and a clear view over Greenland, Canada and snow-covered mountains underneath us.


When the plane had touched down on Tacoma Int’l Airport just outside Seattle, we were so tired both physically and psychologically and finding our way out of the airport was tricky. After a rigorous interrogation by TSA (U.S. Transportation Security Administration) about my plans for the trip in the US, I passed and was let into the country. We had now been up and traveling for 21 hours so were super tired and just wanted to go to sleep. But we had to collect our rental car in order to get to our hotel for the night. It was not so easy finding the way to the rental car office and we wandered around in the airport for a while before finding the right office.

When we had received the receipt, GPS and paid the final amount of money for the rental car we had to find our way to the garage. After wandering around on several floors in the garage we finally saw the sign with the right name on it. YES! Finally! We had booked a Compact Car but we couldn’t find one in the parking lot. Yaaay! Not really what we needed after our long-haul flight. After dealing with the rental car company we managed to get a free up-grade to a Full Size Car that they were supposed to drive back to Montana anyway – just where we were heading! So, the sum-total of all this was a bigger car (for free) and that we didn’t had to pay that extra one-way-fee ($250)! Great deal or what!?

So finally, we had gotten our car and started to drive off the airport. But don’t think all the problems were solved because of that. It took forever for the GPS to connect to the satellites. I bet it took 20 minutes. But eventually after a 90 minute-drive we reached Silverdale and our hotel for the night, all hungry and exhausted. We went to bed after a hamburger each.
So for us Monday April 23rd became totally 34 hours.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged road_trip traveling Comments (0)

Twilight, Forks and Hoh's Rainforest

View US West Coast on bejjan's travel map.

After a classic American breakfast, we checked out from the hotel and started to drive along Highway 101 towards Olympic National Park. It was pretty cold and chilly weather outside and the more west we drove the taller the trees became and all the vegetation only got greener. When we came to Olympic National Forest the trees got even taller. More and more mosses were growing on the trees as we got closer to the Pacific Ocean coastline. We passed Lake Crescent, a beautiful lake with turquoise water enclosed by high mountains – so beautiful! And the rain increased the more west we drove. After Lake Crescent we saw a big mountain range named Mount Muller along the road. We could barely see the mountain peaks because of all the fog, but we could imagine them – so amazingly beautiful.


By lunchtime we had arrived in Forks, well-known from the Twilight Saga. A larger main street runs through the city and you pass through Forks by car in only a few minutes. My fellow traveler, a huge Twilight fan, had a look in many of Forks Twilight stores with merchandise from the books and movies. At the time of our visit, I had never seen any of the movies nor read any of the books but two years later I finally saw all the Twilight movies.

68-Hall_of_Mosses.jpg 55-Hall_of_Mosses.jpg

64-Hall_of_Mosses.jpg 74-Hall_of_Mosses.jpg

We kept going on Highway 101 before we turned off onto Upper Hoh Road towards Olympic National Park and Hoh Rainforest (temperate rainforest). It felt like getting into a fairytale world while driving along the Upper Hoh Road. High old trees overgrown with different species of mosses enclosed the narrow, winding and sometimes steep road. Beside the road Hoh River flows with its turquoise water. It’s impossible to describe with only words how beautiful the nature was or even with the pictures I took here (the pictures cannot compare to the reality). You must travel to this place, it’s totally worth it! And if you get to Hoh Rainforest you must walk the Hall of Mosses! A trail for about half a mile lined with mosses in all shades of green that grows everywhere – on the trees, the ground and the rocks.


On the way back towards Seattle we made a stop-over in La Push by the Pacific Ocean coastline. It’s known for great surfing and whale-watching, but maybe mostly known for the second book in the Twilight Saga that took place here in La Push. I’m sure this is a wonderful place to visit when it’s nice weather but when we were there it was windy and rained like hell, so I didn’t like it.

We kept on going to Port Angeles at the north coast which has many ferries to Victoria (Canada) and a great view towards the glaciers on Mount Olympus and parts of Olympic National Park. We had no time to stop in Port Angeles more than to eat. But I’m sure you can do a lot of things here. It seemed like a nice and calm city. We drove non-stop from Port Angeles to Bainbridge Island to take one of the ferries over to Seattle. Unfortunately, we missed one ferry with only minutes so we had to wait for the next one. Bummer… but with ferry it took about 30 minutes to Seattle instead of driving for hours around the bay. Now it was late evening and dark outside, so we got to see an amazing skyline of Seattle with Space Needle among other things lighted up – nice! From the harbor to our staying in downtown Seattle took about 4 minutes to drive, perfect when time was late.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged road_trip national_parks twilight Comments (0)

Space Needle and whale-watching

View US West Coast on bejjan's travel map.

It was a pretty okay breakfast at our staying at the downtown hostel. We could satisfy our hunger but that was it. We dressed up in warm clothes and drove off to Everett and the whale-watching we had reserved in advance. The sun was absent and the sky was really cloudy. The rain was on the way and it was drizzling at first but the further out on the sea we got the more it rained.

255-Valsafari.jpg 243-California_Sea_Lion.jpg

First, we spotted several California Sea Lions lying upon huge buoys where some of them were proudly posing for us when we passed while the others didn’t care at all. Magnificent animals!


Earlier during the day, they had seen the gray whales in a certain area which the captain was heading for. Then we waited... and we didn’t have to wait for long until the first water puff could be seen. The captain was well prepared about the whales and told us that one of the gray whales we saw today was called Patch since he had a patch on his body. Patch had been traced since 1991 and had been spotted here ever since. For about 1 ½ hour we watched the gray whales and I managed to get great pictures of the water puffs and sometimes even the tail fin could be seen. But in the end, it was freezing!


264-Utsikt..pace_Needle.jpg 269-Utsikt..pace_Needle.jpg

When we returned to Seattle it was time to pay Space Needle a visit. We felt pretty small standing next to the entrance looking up on the 184-meter-high tower, but we just had to get up there! We paid and got into line to the elevator… well, the elevators. It was four elevators and a host in each of them. I don’t know why, maybe because of safety reasons? Anyway, the elevator went up with racer speed and it took only seconds to go up to the observation deck and the restaurant. What a view! A view over the entire Seattle with the mountains in the background – beautiful! Unfortunately, it was cloudy but at least it didn’t rain. My fellow traveler had a hard time struggling with her fear of heights but I think she did great after a while. Then we took the elevator down again and visited the Space Needle gift shop.

After this day’s adventures we returned to our hostel and tried to find a somewhat cheap parking lot in Seattle (downtown)… which is not easy! It’s difficult to drive at all in downtown Seattle due to all 3 lane one-way-streets. And of you have a GPS that literally screams “TAKE LEFT!” when you’re in the right lane… is not easy! Eventually I lost my temper so my fellow traveler had to take over the wheels and find a parking lot. And when we finally parked the car and got back to our hostel we practically tumbled into bed; we were that tired!

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities road_trip space_needle whale_watching Comments (0)

Twin Peaks and Iron Horses

View US West Coast on bejjan's travel map.


15-Seattle_Aquarium.jpg 35-Seattle_Aquarium.jpg

We checked out from the hostel pretty early in the morning and parked the car to visit Seattle Aquarium at Pier 59. There were a lot of aquariums with many different species of fishes, jellyfishes, sea horses, octopuses and species I’ve never seen before. In another building they had sharks, rays, eels, seals and otters among other species. Totally worth a visit, even though you’re not that into fishes. After the visit we went to Pine Place Market with a lot of booths with flowers, handicraft, freshly caught fish, clothes, souvenirs and food all within a stone’s throw of Seattle Aquarium. There were activities everywhere and the market was spread out on several floors.


Now we felt all done with Seattle and started to drive towards Montana along I-90-East. First stop was Snoqualmie and the famous waterfall there, known from the TV series Twin Peaks (1989-1991). It was easy finding Snoqualmie Falls since it was well-posted signs and a lot of parking lots. During this time of the year when the water level was high, water drops whipped up from the fall even all the way to the Viewing Point which we were standing.


We kept going on I-90-East and soon started to see huge mountains in the horizon. It was Cascade Range piling up far away and we were soon enough right in the middle of those mountains. Cascade Range proudly piled up on each side of the road and it was beautiful to see the snow-covered peaks partly surrounded with fog. And the higher up in the mountains we got, the lower the temperature dropped. At the lowest it was 0 Centigrade. Eventually it started to snow and we drove side-by-side with snow banks close to 2 meters of height! At that point we had to drive very slowly at that since we didn’t know if our rental car had winter tires on. When the snowing stopped and we came down to a flatter and agriculture landscape again we could finally relax.


Later along the way we stopped by some View Point Area’s, which were well posted from the road. At one of those places there were huge iron horses upon a high hill. We just had to get up there! Said and done, we started uphill hike. It was very windy but it was damn steep too. When only half way up we could only state… “What have we gotten ourselves into?” But we kept on hiking uphill until we reached those iron horses. After some pictures taken and enjoying the amazing view, we had to walk downhill again and then keep going along I-90-East. We drove as far as we could and arrived in Spokane before we had to find a place to stay for the night.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged waterfalls cities road_trip Comments (0)

Rocky Mountains: Untouched Scenery

View US West Coast on bejjan's travel map.


We woke up to a sunny but chilly and windy day in Spokane. We walked to Riverfront Park where Spokane River divides into a waterfall in several stages. After some photos we walked towards downtown and visited Macy’s for some shopping. I bought a brand shirt and a pair of shoes. It’s crazy how much money they add to imported clothes and shoes in Sweden. I paid about 300 SEK here in the US for the shirt and shoes… back home in Sweden I would have to pay about 1200 SEK for the very same shirt and shoes. We also visited a book store and next door they had a small store with arcade games, card games, puzzles among other things. I was looking around and found different games with “Family Guy”, you know the cartoon TV series. If I had had more space left in my suitcase, I probably would have bought some of the games.

44-Mot_Montana.jpg 66-Montana.jpg

55-Montana.jpg 63-Montana.jpg

We kept on driving along I-90-East and drove through northern Idaho. High up in the Bitterroot Range it started to snow (again). But pretty soon we drove into Montana and the snowing stopped when we got down from the mountains again. When we got closer to Missoula, we could finally see Rocky Mountains far away. The time zone changed when we crossed the border into Montana and suddenly, we had to hurry up finding a place to stay for the night due to the 1-hour loss. We drove by several villages with signs that said “No Services” which is great so you don’t have to make an unnecessarily stop. Thumbs up! Finally, in Deer Lodge we found a staying for the night, beautifully situated and surrounded by Rocky Mountains.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged mountains cities road_trip Comments (0)

Where they filmed the Horse Whisperer

View US West Coast on bejjan's travel map.

7-Rocky_Mountains.jpg 20-Rocky_Mountains.jpg

After breakfast and check-out, it was time for photographs. We drove to Deer Lodge center and found a nice place next to an old railroad with Rocky Mountains in the background – so beautiful! Many great pictures were taken. And the sun decided to shine for a while too. Even though the sun shined it was really freezing outside. We got into our rental car and kept on driving along I-90-East towards Big Timber. On the way we passed Butte, Whitehall and Three Forks with unimaginable amazing nature, flat countryside mixed with mountain ranges. That distance represents the whole Montana in my opinion! So beautiful and fascinating nature with colors that only exists there… We stopped for lunch in Livingston. We had to try a Blueberry Pancake of course! My friend and I decided to share a portion of food and we barely finished it. How can you eat all that food on your own – is it even possible?

53-Montana.jpg 60-Mot_Boulder_Valley.jpg

Then we headed towards Boulder Valley. The GPS suggested another and (according to the GPS) even faster route then the one we had planned to drive, so we took a chance and chose the faster route. Now afterwards we should never have done that, because that route was NOT faster… but it’s always easier being wise afterwards! That route started off on a narrow lingering road among mountains and valleys and not really suitable for that rental car we had. Due to the frost in the ground the road was breaking up here and there and further along the road was unevenly scraped and bad that we barely could drive. So, after cursing and threats against the GPS we eventually got to a paved road.


Finally, we had reached Highway 298 and we arrived at the Engle Ranch after only few minutes of driving. As a true Horse Whisperer fan, you know that’s the ranch where the movie Horse Whisperer was filmed in 1998. Both the white house where the Booker family lived in and the Creek House were visible from the Highway 298. We spoke with Mrs. Engle who owns the ranch and asked if we could take some photos. Since it was spring and the cows were calving, we weren’t allowed to cross the bridge over to the Creek House, but other than that we could walk around on our own. Mrs. Engle briefly told us about different scenes and where they were filmed on the ranch.

Here follow some fun film facts for those of you who don’t already know…The white house where the Booker family lived in was built only for the movie. It literally consists of four walls and a roof. No scenes were filmed inside that house, they were all filmed in a studio. Today the Engle family more or less uses that white house as storage and the house is nowadays a ramshackle. The Engle family lives in another house only like 10 meters away from that white house. After visiting the Engle Ranch, we drove to Big Timber and stopped for gas. Lazy J Motel (where Grace and Annie live in the movie) is located in Big Timber. But the real motel name is Flying J Motel. Unfortunately, we had no time to find that motel and its location was unknown for the GPS. Perhaps it’s out of business? After filling up the car with gas, we accidently chose the wrong way trying to get out of Big Timber and ended up at Crazy Mountain Museum, though it was closed. So, I had a look around and saw a cemetery right next to the museum. I immediately recognized that gate to the cemetery which was used as the Big Horn Battlefield gate in the Horse Whisperer movie. So, fact is: the scene where Grace and Annie stop at the Big Horn Battlefield gate (or what you are fooled to believe anyway) was filmed in Big Timber, just outside that cemetery.


We drove back to Bozeman and then took off south towards West Yellowstone. When we arrived in West Yellowstone, we found a staying for the night just outside of the city. Due to low season we could easily find a staying, otherwise I highly recommend that you book staying in advance in or outside of Yellowstone National Park.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged road_trip the_horse_whisperer Comments (1)

Yellowstone National Park

View US West Coast on bejjan's travel map.

37-Varg.jpg 84-Grizzlybj_rn.jpg

We started the day by visiting the Grizzly & Discovery Center just outside the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park. And just as the name reveals there were grizzly bears and wolfs there but also black bears. They had a large exercise yard for the bears where they let them out two and two in different turns according to a schedule. In between, the handlers walked in the exercise yard and hid food for the bears to find and look for. Further away they had two different yards for the wolves. River Valley Wolfs in one yard and High Country Wolfs in the other. In between the two yards they had built a warm cabin where we visitors could go inside to warm up and yet see both of the yards through big glass walls. I managed to get really great photos of both bears and wolves. Then we went to another building and watched the Birds of Prey Program and sat on the first row (to get the best photos taken). Trent, the man who handled the birds, showed two birds; an owl and a falcon. All birds that participate in these shows are so called Rescue Birds and wouldn’t have survived in the nature on their own.

385-Bison.jpg 226-Lower_Geyser_Basin.jpg

After eating some lunch, we finally drove into Yellowstone National Park. Some of the first animals we saw after only minutes of driving were bison and mule deer. On our way towards Old Faithful Geyser we experienced amazing surroundings with distanced mountains with snow-covered peaks, hot springs and geysers. Totally amazing. Even though the smell from these hot springs and geysers aren’t so nice (smells sulfur) it was beautiful to see all the different shades of color and phenomenon that were there.

379-Geyser_Hill.jpg 382-Cyanobakterier.jpg

At the Old Faithful Geyser, we went inside the Visitor Center, where they had the gift shop and a schedule when to predict the next outburst from the geyser. They predict an outburst every 90 minutes +/- 10 minutes. When the outburst was near, people started to gather around the geyser just to watch the 2 minute-lasting water cascades. And it was kind of special to watch actually.

283-Old_Faithful_Geyser.jpg 399-Yellowstone_N_P_.jpg

Then we headed north towards Norris and Canyon Village with its amazing nature and big waterfalls. On our way to the north entrance of the park we saw more bison and deer and also lonely coyote hunting in the sunset. We spend the night in Gardiner, just outside of the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The hotels inside the park are closed during winter season and don’t open until May 1st. And since it wasn’t high season there was no problem to find a staying for the night. But as I wrote before, during high season you must book the staying in advance.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged animals road_trip national_parks yellowstone Comments (0)

Yellowstone National Park and Lamar Valley

View US West Coast on bejjan's travel map.


We started the day by driving south back into Yellowstone National Park and Roaring Mountain and took the photos we didn’t had time for to do yesterday. We kept on driving north to Mammoth Hot Springs and stopped by Devil’s Thumb among other things. Devil’s Thumb is a big rock surrounded by hot springs that someone thought looked like a thumb – thereof the name. I don’t really agree with that comparison though. Then we drove east towards Tower-Roosevelt and paid the Petrified Tree a visit. It’s simply the remains of a poor Redwood Tree that suffered from a volcano outburst in the area many, many, many years ago… in other words, a fenced tree (or should I say a ripped off burned stump). Not that impressive in my opinion so I didn’t even take a photo of it.


27-Mammoth..errace_Area.jpg 25-Mammoth..errace_Area.jpg

After Tower-Roosevelt we got to Lamar Valley, a valley well-known for all the animals you always get to see here. And we didn’t have to get disappointed… huge quantities of bison and pronghorn (kind of deer). After driving for a while, we randomly stopped at a resting-place that was crowded with squirrels (Uinta Ground Squirrels) that lived underground in holes. They immediately approached us and wanted something to eat and were definitely not afraid of human beings. It was obvious people had fed them many times before even though it’s prohibited to feed wild animals inside any national park in the entire US. Since they weren’t afraid of us, we could get pretty close and take great photos of them.


In hope of exiting the park by the east entrance close to Billings, we kept on driving towards Cooke City. But due to snow that road was still closed so we had to turn around and go back to Mammoth Hot Springs. And I’m lucky we did, because somewhere along the road to Mammoth Hot Springs we actually saw a wild Black Bear – photo time of course!

83-Montana.jpg 96-Regnb_ge.jpg

We had to drive all the way back to Livingston, via Big Timber before we finally got to Billings. During the way we managed to see a big and beautiful rainbow arched in the sky – so nice. We had booked our staying in Billings in advance close to the airport.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged animals road_trip national_parks yellowstone Comments (0)