Sunday, July 31, 2016
When I bought my new book I took it right over to the passport station and stamped it, the book is arranged by region and then state so I had a list of all the National Parks in Wyoming and discovered there was only one I hadn't been to, Ft. Laramie. Hmmmm...where was Ft. Laramie?
Surprisingly, it was right on route! I was planning to take US26 all the way across Wyoming into Nebraska to get to 80. I was planning on stopping at Chimney Rock - it was mentioned in the Top Ten National Parks book and looked interesting as a quickie stop. Ft. Laramie was 50 miles from Scottsbluff!
I left Colter Bay a bit after 8 this morning and started driving east! I had a hard time getting out of the Tetons since I kept stopping for more pictures! There was no smoke today and the first 20 or some miles of US26 climbed high to get over Togwotee Pass (9658 ft) and had views the whole way up that I had to stop to look at since I was heading east! After the pass it was all downhill - elevation and scenery. It quickly turned to desert and wide open nothingness.
I stopped for lunch at Boysen State Park. It appears that the state park goes around a lake, probably a reservoir, but I just stopped at the picnic area that was along 26 and sat at the one table that was under a cover. It was almost 100 degrees!
I was very surprised by Caspar - it's a huge city! Biggest city I've seen since Colorado Springs! After Caspar, 26 joined up I-25. It was really more of the same, just 4 lanes instead of two. And the speed limit was 80 rather than 70 (although I was still going 70). Finally I reached the turn off where 26 goes east and 30 miles later reached Ft. Laramie.
Ft. Laramie was really neat! It's the meeting place of three historic trails - The Oregon Trail, The California Trail, The Mormon Pioneer Trail and the Pony Express came through! It was a major stopping spot for all the pioneers! Most of the stuff on display was about the officers and military installment of the fort, I was more interested in the pioneers, but it was still a good stop to walk around (yes it was 100 degrees and the sun was blazing!) and got my passport stamped! Now I've got them all for Wyoming!
Most of the road I've been driving was part of the Oregon Trail. I can't even imagine making this trip in a wagon. And not only that, the pioneers didn't even ride in the wagons, they packed the wagons with their supplies and walked! Just walking around the fort today I was thinking about what it would be like to walk across the desert! And I thought it was long and slow to drive!
It was 4:30 when I left Ft. Laramie and it was so hot I decided I'd rather keep driving the 50 miles to Scottsbluff rather than stop at one of the overnight options that were closer. I found a lovely campground in a city park - Riverside Park. There were plenty of sites available and the ones that were filled seemed like normal campground people, not many permants, a mix of RVs and trailers, even some tenters. I got a water/electric site for $20 and settled right in!
Since I had electric I decided to use my convection oven for the first time ever to heat up dinner. This involved pre-heating the oven then cooking. Took me a few tried but I managed to get the over preheating! Since it had never been used for this purpose there was some dust on the heating element that had to burn off as well as some crumbs in the microwave that burned a bit. This was apparently enough for the smoke dectector to think something was on fire! I had the sliding door open and was standing right there and head this beeping...it wasn't the oven...oh! The smoke dectector! Ha! Well, I'm glad it works!
After dinner I took a walk on the walking path I'd found near the campground. It had gotten cloudy and the wind kicked up which cooled things off and made it very nice outside! The one path lead to a nice paved bike path that went along the North Platte River! The bike path wasn't very long though so I was glad I was just walking!
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Today's hike was much better, not quite as long and no sagebrush. In fact, it might be one of my favorite hike we've done!
There are canyons between each of the mountains, Cascade Canyon is the most popular and both Dad and I had hiked that before and we decided to see a different canyon and we figured Cascade Canyon would be crowded.
I think one of the reasons Cascade Canyon is popular is that it's easier to get to. We started back at String Lake and hiked toward Leigh Lake and up to the Paintbrush Canyon Trail. We hiked almost 2 miles before we were heading in the direction of Paintbrush Canyon, it was almost 3 miles before we really got into the canyon.
I'd decided before we left that 6 miles would be good. We were going to have to retrace our steps to get back so we could make the hike as long as we wanted. However, when we hit 3 miles we were just barely into the canyon and I didn't want to turn around yet. We ended up hiking 4.2 miles into the canyon. We came to a bridge over the river and stopped there for lunch. I wanted to keep going up, but I knew that the walk back would be hot and long and it would be worse if the hike were longer, we were already at 8 miles. This is what happens to me on long bike rides, I enjoy it until the last 5 miles and always wish I'd cut it short!
The mountains were less hazy from the smoke this morning, and by the hike back the haze had decreased and the views were much better! We could see Leigh Lake and Jackson Lake! Paintbrush Canyon seems more wild than Cascade Canyon. It also had more trees! Yay! Shade! But, more trees meant less view! There were definitely fewer people, most of the people we saw were backpacking - Paintbrush Canyon makes a loop hike if you go over Paintbrush Divide and down Cascade Canyon - it's 20 miles long! Last I heard Paintbrush Divide was still snowed in!
On the way back we hiked the other side of String Lake. This is where the hike got hot. It was after noon when the sun gets intense and the hike along the mountain side of String Lake was through a burn scar from a 1999 fire, so there were no trees. None. Just blazing sun. The views of the lake were nice because we were above it and we could see the whole lake. It was a long 1.6 miles. And, we had an extra half mile or so back to the car because that way was a bit longer than the way we'd gone. But the last part was flat and shady - we'd walked if before and it was the part I took Mom on.
So, our overall mileage for our "short" hike was close to 9 miles. Only 3 more miles than I'd intended to walk.
On the way back to Colter Bay we stopped at Signal Mountain Lodge for fuel (for the car) and calorie replacement (for us!). We found some awesome ice cream sandwiches made with homemade cookies and ice cream. I had a double chocolate chip cookie with peanut butter ice cream and Dad had a snickerdoodle cookie with salted caramel ice cream. They were prepackaged but I'd never heard of the brand. It's definitely a freak for days you hike or bike a lot!
For dinner we went up to Leeks Marina (funny name for a marina, you definitely don't want leaks in your boat!) for pizza! It was really good! While we were there some storms were blowing across the lake. We had a few rumbles of thunder and then as we were leaving it started to rain. Mom and Dad had gone to the bathroom and I was walking to the car. The car was locked so I had to stand there in the rain. It was a light shower, but it was enough to be cold. Then I turned around and there was a double rainbow right over the parking lot! Sometimes you gotta stand in the rain to see the rainbow!
Friday, July 29, 2016
The other night I really enjoyed the walk around the Lakeshore Trail. It reminded me of the San Juan Islands near Seattle with the water and the evergreens and the mountains. It was also very shady, with no sagebrush. I was hoping the hike to Hermitage Point would be more of the same.
Spoiler alert: it wasn't.
The hike started out great - lots of lake views, shade. There would have been some great views of the Tetons but the smokey haze was thick this morning. You could hardly tell that the Tetons were there! The hike even featured a nice lily pad covered pond!
About halfway to Hermitage Point, the sagebrush meadow started, it went on and on the whole way around the point. Hermitage Point itself was a nice spot looking out over Jackson Lake and the Tetons. Only you couldn't see the mountains. We hiked on to a hiker/boater campsite with a view of Signal Mountain, which you could kind of see.
After lunch the heat hot going. Sagebrush meadows in the blazing sun are not fun. Eventually we did get back into the trees and to another lily pad covered pond, but I was hot and tired of walking.
Finally we made it made back to Colter Bay - 11 miles! A little long for my tastes, especially with the heat!
When we got back Mom came over to get Dad and they went to the Post Office in Moran to get their mail and I did a quick load of laundry so I'd have clean clothes to get home!
After my laundry was done we went back over to Signal Mountain Lodge for dinner, and then I had to finish my chores, dump, put away laundry, put other stuff away. One more day in the Tetons and then I head east!
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Ten years ago when I was here on a Backroads trip we spent some time in Yellowstone. It's a neat park, but it wasn't my favorite because it was very hot - very little shade, and all the geothermal features were smelly (because of the sulfur!). About 6 years ago Mom and Dad were here did explored every corner and had no real need to go back. At first we we weren't even planning to go up there. But, we decided to go up as a day trip. It's kind of a "must visit" place.
We headed out early this morning, we are about 20 miles from the south entrance. The cars were already lined up to get in the entrance station.
One this about Yellowstone, it's huge. And the terrian is varied, however the first 40 miles from the entrance station to Old Faithful was mostly lodge pole pine forest, which is very boring.
The Old Faithful Area was crazy. So many people. The parking lot was enormous. And full. Took us looking at several maps before we could figure out where the visitor center was to get our passports stamped. We had about 45 minutes until Old Faithful was scheduled to erupt again so we walked around the Lower Geyser Basin and checked out a number of pools and geysers. They were very cool, and less stinky than I remember! We looped back around just in time for Old Faithful!
After that we headed to a picnic area for lunch and then to Grand Prismatic Pool, one of the most photographed spots in the state! At Grand Prismatic the parking lot was fun, there were cars parked all along the road (which you aren't supposed to do). Mom decided she'd already seen it and she didn't need to go back so we left her with the car and headed in. The park service has built boardwalks to all the geothermal features and you have to stay on the boardwalk. This made for some very crowded walking. And when someone wanted to take a picture of their family and friends they'd take up the whole boardwalk. We did the "speed" version - walking as fast as we could and taking pictures, but not lingering. The pool was pretty cool and so colorful!
The next stop was the canyon area. We drove up from Grand Prismatic to Norris and then headed east to Canyon. This was about 40 miles and incredibly boring. Lodge pole pine might be worse than corn.
The canyon area also had a huge development. Giant visitor center, several stores, a big cafeteria, and another enormous, full parking lot. I don't think there's any other Nationak Park with as much development as in Yellowstone. We visited that visitor center to get out passports stamped then went out to drive the canyon rim.
We first wanted to do the North Rim drive, but it was clogged with people so we went to the south rim. The only place to stop on the south rim drive is Artist's Point, which has a view of the lower falls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was a neat place, but it was super crowded!
We could see the north rim drive had cars moving on it, so we tried again. This time it wasn't clogged so we drove down it. One of the first stops was a trail to the "brink of lower falls". Dad and I hike down there. It went all the way down into the canyon almost to the water level. Of course we then had to climb back up.
We made one more stop at Grand View - there's a grand view in every park! Then got back to Canyon Village a little before 5. We now had to high tail it back to Colter Bay because Dad needed to run his generator and generator hours only went until 8.
We hadn't been on the road five minutes when we came to a huge traffic jam. We were barely moving and the line of traffic went on as far as we could see. Dad even got out his binoculars at a point where we could see ahead. Just stopped traffic as far as you could see. It reminded me of home! LOL! Finally, after almost 40 minutes, the reason for the traffic was visible: bison. A huge herd of bison on both sides of the road, and even in the road. A classic Yellowstone Bison Jam. Very similar to I-95.
As we were getting closer to the bison I wanted to get some pictures, but you aren't allowed to get out of your car and Dad wasn't stopping for anything. So, I opened the sunroof and kneeled on my seat with my head and camera out the roof. Keep in mind we were going maybe 5 mph. It was then that a ranger passed us and used his loudspeaker to tell me to sit down and fasten my seatbelt. Busted. Not sure why he wasn't busting the people who were out of their vehicles. I was still in the car and not really doing anything super stupid.
The part of Yellowstone between Canyon and Lake and then between Lake And West Thumb is really pretty. The Yellowstone River runs through it and there are huge green meadows, with bison! Then the Lake is huge and really pretty! We didn't stop at all after the bison jam because we'd already lost enough time! But, it was the best scenery to drive through of the whole day.
We got back to Colter Bay at 7:15 to run generators, Dad did bend the rules a bit and ran his a bit past 8, and had dinner!
It was a long day with lots of driving and lots of sun, but we saw a bunch of cool stuff and I appreciate Yellowstone a bit more. Driving through and exploring on our own gave me a better sense of the park and what was where than I'd gotten from being on the Backroads trip. I might even like to come back sometime, maybe when there are fewer people there!
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
As you may notice, Mom kinda gets left out of most of these blogs because Dad and I do all the hiking and biking and stuff and she's no into that. So today, since Dad had to go to Jackson for the Jeep, Mom and I got to hang out! :-) I thought it was very nice and I really enjoyed it!
We had a nice low key morning, I finished my book and we weren't rushing to get stuff together and get going. We mosey-ed ourselves out of the campground around 9:30 and headed over to String Lake.
I'd thought String Lake would be a good walk for Mom since it had great scenery and no elevation gain! Even with our slower start we were ahead of the crowd, easily found parking and headed out through the picnic area. It was still cool in the shade and there was a slight reflection of the mountains in the lake. There were lots more people kayaking and canoing on the lake, including a group of kids from what looked like a summer camp.
After our walk we checked out Jenny Lake Lodge and decided it was too fancy for us and headed over to Signal Mountain Lodge, which had a much better menu! We had a lovely table out on the deck with a great view! After lunch we checked out the gifts shops, then headed up Signal Mountain.
Signal Mountain is kind of a random mountain - it's low and rounded rather than high and jagged. It blocks the view of The Grand from Oxbow Bend, but it has a great view from the top! You can see the flats of the valley as well as the Snake River. It was very hazy from the smoke from the Cliff Creek Fire (the one that re-routed us last week!), but without the smoke you'd be able to see The Gros Ventre Mts and maybe even Jackson. When you looked the other way you could see the entire Teton Range and Lake Jackson.
Next we went back to the gift shop and general store in Colter Bay and the visitor center. It was really hot so I decided to go swimming and Mom went back to her RV.
The swimming beach at Colter Bay is really nice...NO SAND! It's all rocks. The water was pretty cold, but it wasn't as cold as the Snake River! (Of course the lake was created by putting a dam on the Snake River, so technically it's the same!). The really neat thing was the you could see all the mountains! And, you could pretty much swim anywhere. There were a lot of people on the main beach area but I went out away from them. There was no restriction about where you could and couldn't swim.
When I got back to the campground Dad had returned from getting the car fixed. The report from the Jeep Dealer says: "remove blower motor to find two mice in blower wheel. One rodent still intact. One in pieces." Awwww. Poor mice! It went on to describe how they cleaned it out and disinfected everything. The last line says: "There may be a residual smell." LOL!
So, hopefully we are good to go and there aren't any more mice in the car, or in either RV.
After dinner Dad and I walked out the "trail to the lake" that is just beyond my campsite. It lead us right back to the swimming beach where I'd been earlier! We walked all along the beach to the Lakeshore Trail and then around a peninsula that sticks out into Jackson Lake. It was a great time to be out there with the sun setting behind the mountains! Great views of the mountains with the lake!
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
After we secured our sites for the next five nights, we packed lunch and headed out to Two Ocean Lake. It's named Two Ocean because it sits right on the Continenial Divide so some of the water flows to the Pacific Ocean and some goes to the Atlantic. We found a picnic table and in between swatting horseflies, mosquitos and other bugs, we had a nice lunch!
The 3 miles along Two Ocean Lake was almost entirely flat! There was a little uphill, but that was it! The trail was also mostly shady, a few times we passed through an open meadow, but it was short and wasn't too hot! We had some nice views of the lake, but mostly it was trees and wildflowers.
The mile up to Grand View was a different story! It was pretty steep, gaining about 1000 feet over the mile! But it was short and shady until the top. The view at the top was really nice. We could see Two Ocean Lake and Emma Matilda Lake. Then we walked to another viewpoint and saw the entire Teton Range!
The downhill part wasn't as nice. The first part was ok, shady, with views of the Tetons, and not too steep. But the last mile or so was across the sagebrush meadow and it was hot! But soon we made it to Jackson Lake Lodge, where Mom was waiting.
When we found Mom she told us that while she'd been driving back from Two Ocean Lake the Jeep had developed a problem. The fan was making an awful noise and emitting a very foul odor. Uh-oh. We were planning to do a 200 mile "car hike" into Yellowstone tomorrow. This wasn't going to work.
While Mom and I checked out the gift shop at Colter Bay General store Dad called the Jeep Dealer in Jackson. They suspect an animal got up in there and said they could fix it tomorrow. So, tomorrow morning Dad will take the Jeep back to Jackson, leaving Mom and I here to entertain ourselves.
Then it was back to the campground to make dinner and run generators.
Monday, July 25, 2016
Today's plan was to do laundry and grocery shopping in preparation for our move north to Colter Bay tomorrow. I didn't think those things would take all day so thought we could try again to hike to Phelps Lake while the morning was still cool. This was a great idea, on paper.
The preserve opened at 9. We got there at 9:50 and waited over an hour for a parking spot. But, we got one and took off down the trail. Mom started with us, but the terrain quickly became too much for her and she turned back. Dad quickly caught up with me and we continued on to the lake. Phelps lake was lovely, however Taggart and Bradley Lakes were more dramatic. We sped walked the 1.5 miles back to the visitor center since Mom was waiting and it was getting close to lunch time. The trail was smooth (smoother than yesterday's rail trail!) which made it easy to walk fast.
On our way back to the campground we went through Kelly to get sandwiches again! Once again they were awesome!
Then it was time for laundry and shopping! We found the Missing Sock laundromat and I was able to shove everything into one super size washer and they have wifi, that actually works! Got my blog updated and did some school stuff!
Sunday, July 24, 2016
We did two bike rides today, both of which were a bit insane.
Before we left home both Dad and I had found the Ashton-Tetonia Rail Trail. It was in Idaho and provided views of the "back" of the Tetons! I knew from driving that way to West Yellowstone with Backroads that the views on the Idaho side were pretty nice. This was also going to be a great way to beat the crowds in Grand Teton!
We headed out WY22, up and over Teton Pass! It was an impressive mountain pass! Looked a lot like Colorado with the trees, steep grade and windy turns! There were great views from the top, but the sun was wrong so we'd catch them coming home. We dropped down into VictoR, ID, which is where the Kate's bars Dad and I have discovered are made! We passed through severaL small towns on our way to Tetonia, the southern end of the rail trail.
I should mention that we didn't have much guidance in figuring out where the trailheads/road crossings were for this trail. The Trail Link app had a good map, but for some reason I couldn't purchase it. The trail didn't exisit at all on Google Maps. That should have been our first clue.
By linking together the trail end point from Trail Link and Google Maps we were able to find a well marked trailhead with parking and told Mom that's where she was going to meet us. We then continued on down the road to Ashton.
We found a visitor center and picnic area in Ashton, but it was closed and there was no mention of the rail trail in the literature available. We visited the nearby gas station for bathrooms and had lunch at the picnic table, then again used Trail Link and Google Maps to locate the beginning of the trail. There was no parking so Dad just pulled off the road. We got ourselves together and headed out. Mom was going to drive back to Tetonia to meet us.
The entire trail is 29 miles long. We'd planned to ride it all. That plan started falling apart for me about 5 miles in. The trail surface was really rough. Soft sand, big rocks, ruts, grass, deep gravel, some smoother sections, but it was slow going. At 5 miles my "map my ride" app informed me I was going 6 mph. So, 30 miles was going to take a lot longer than I'd planned. And, it was blazing hot. There was no shade. The trail was put in farm county - lots of potato fields and other crops we weren't sure about. No trees. No shade. No clouds. Middle of the day crazy hot sun. And I wasn't moving fast enough to get a breeze.
I did kinda get into a groove where I was worrying less about flat tires and riding a bit faster, the trail was more solid. And then came the detour. There was a detour around a section of the railroad that is on private property and we had to go around. The detour included a rutted, soft dirt road that had several huge steep hills (the rail trail stayed fairly flat because trains don't do up and down.). In most places it was too soft for me to ride so I walked. One hill was so steep we couldn't see the bottom from the top! Then we came to the gravel road. This road was better, but the gravel was loose and deep and the hills were steep. I did a lot of walking.
When we finally got back to the rail trail it looked to be in worse shape than when we'd left it. Idaho Route 32 was only a few feet away and looked so smooth and inviting. Never mind that there wasn't much shoulder, it was windy and uphill and the speed limit was 65, we were riding the road.
We'd texted Mom (how in the world we had cell signal out here I'll never know, but we had full signal the whole time) and she had come back up the road and parked in a pull out at Mile Marker 8! We were at mile marker 12! Only 4 more miles! We'd be climbing gently, with small brief downhills since we got on the road, but just after mile 10 was a huge downhill! Ahhhhhh! Followed by a very steep uphill. Ugh. But, as we coasted down the next downhill, I saw the pullout, Mom was waiting at the bottom! 19 miles, over half on the rail trail.
As we drove back toward Jackson Dad and I hatched a plan to ride down from Teton Pass! This morning we'd noticed a bike path at the top and bikers coming up! It reminded us of Vail Pass! We decided this would be our reward for putting up with crazy rail trail ride. When we arrived at the pass we got our bikes and headed down.
The bike path was actually the Old Pass Road and it was seriously steep, with tight hairpin switchbacks! We had to grip the brakes the whole way down. There was no coasting until the last mile. It was on pavement thought, even the part that was on a gravel road was smoother. However, it was not a fun ride down.
We came close to 30 miles on the bike today, but the 7 miles down Teton Pass don't really count since we didn't pedal at all!
After we got the bikes loaded back up we headed to Bon Appe Thai in Jackson where I got some of the best Pad Thai I've ever had! It was all veggie with just enough kick! So yummy! Then of course we had to stop by Moo's for our ice cream fix! I got chocolate chip this time. The other night I got some of Moo's sorbet at Albertson's and I think that's my favorite, it's only strawberries and sugar and has 45 calories per half cup. You could eat the entire pint for less calories than a small serving of ice cream. And it has great strawberry flavor!
Then back to the campground to run our generators!
Saturday, July 23, 2016
The morning was still cool and nice as we headed out of the campground! We zipped right down the Gros Ventre Road to the bike path! The bike path was a nice ride, great views, mostly flat, paved! Once we got to Moose we turned onto the Moose-Wilson Rd, which was narrow and windy, but the speed limit was low and it was shady! Almost immediately we came to a big hill! It was really steep too! I had to go down to 1st gear! But the rest of the ride was downhill. We stopped at Death Canyon Rd and Dad said it was another 6 or 7 miles and we had some more elevation to gain back. As we headed out it was a nice, coast-able, downhill. And then, there was the preserve! Turns out it was only 16 miles.
Laurence Rockefeller, son of John Rockefeller, gave the park his ranch in 2001 so that it could become part of the park. They tore down buildings to return to land to a more natural state. There is a visitor center there, but it was built to be fully green and a very elaborate composting toilet system. The whole place is dedicated to Laurence Rockefeller and you can tell the visitor center and toilet system was very costly to build. Supposedly it's part of the park but it seems very different from the rest of the park and doesn't really fit. It's a nice place, but I don't think it's going to be my favorite place in the park. If it had been me giving my ranch to the park service I would have demanded that they just install some trail heads and let it all be wild, without the glitzy visitor center and constant reminder of who gave it to the park.
Parking is very limited at the preserve. There were about 10 cars waiting for a spot to open up when Mom got there. We waited a little while, but there are no picnic tables to eat on and it was going to take a long time to get a spot. We did learn that this weekend is "Pioneer Days" in Utah and then entire state of Utah gets a 3-day weekend, so there are more people up here than usual. So, we gave up our spot in line and went to an overlook to eat.
From the overlook we could see a creek and it's probably a great place to spot a moose at the right time of day, but not at noon. There were lots of birds and Dad got out his spotting scope and spent nearly an hour looking at stuff.
The next stop was a return visit to the Visitor Center - Dad wanted to look around and Mom hadn't been with us. Then we went over to Dornan's in Moose and walked out a short trail to the river where Mom had heard that there might be hummingbirds. There weren't. Next it was back to the campground so we could run our generators early since we were planning to go to the Rodeo in Jackson tonight.
We had a great dinner at the Merry Piglets in Jackson, checked out 2 nature photography galleries and headed over to the rodeo arena.
The rodeo was really fun! I'd never been to one before and this was the real deal! They did a lot of "bucking" events where a cowboy rides bull or bucking horse and tries to stay on. They also had some roping events where a team of two tries to rope a calf around the horns and around one leg. Seemed like more of the Cowboys weren't able to accomplish the task than were so it was an excersise in accepting failure and figuring out how do better next time.
In the middle they he the "Sheep Scramble". This is where they invite all the kids 12 under into the arena, they then release 3 sheep, two with bandanas, one without. Whichever kids get the bandanas win. There's no way that could end badly. None at all. LOL. There were a lot of kids down there - more than 100 for sure, maybe more, some were so little they could barely walk! No one got hurt and they all seemed to have fun!
They also had kids competing in the bucking events! Tiny little kids, under six, getting on sheep and getting thrown off! The kids also did the bull riding, but those Bulls were pretty little and very tame! The kids had to wear helmets, but the adult didn't!
It was definitely a fun way to spend the evening!
Friday, July 22, 2016
Today's plan was to go whitewater rafting on the Snake River! We'd signed up for the 12:45 trip so we had a nice low key morning. I read a lot of my book and then went into Jackson a bit early so I could get diesel and propane. Although I wasn't able to get the propane until after the trip.
I met Mom and Dad at The Bunnery for an early lunch/brunch! The Bunnery is a great local breakfast and lunch place with yummy omelets and baked goods!
After lunch we made our way over to Dave Hansen Whitewater to wait for our trip to depart! Promptly at 12:45 we boarded a school bus to get to the put in spot. Being on the school bus brought back flashbacks of school and constantly reminding kids to behave. Luckily all the adults followed the rules and I didn't need to use my teacher voice!
Once we got to the put in spot we met our guide Sandy (who was awesome! So passionate about rafting and really had fun taking us down the river!) and got our PFDs, paddles and piled into the boat! The river was seemingly gentle in many places, but the rapids were fun! They were class I & II so not very big, but big enough!
My favorite part of the trip was when the guide let us get out and swim! There were a few others from the boat who got in, but mostly it was the kids! The water was cold and it was moving a lot faster than I thought it was! It looked calm on the surface but it was moving fast! I was just floating along and the current was carrying me down the river! I did get a bit far from the boat and the guide wanted me closer and I tried to swim upstream and I couldn't get anywhere! I was barely even able to stay in one spot! Soon we were getting past the swimming spot and I had to get back in the boat! That was harder than it looked! Dad pulled me up by the straps on the PFD and it was hard getting up high enough to get my leg over the side of the boat! But I made it back in, ready for the last rapids!
Soon we were at the take out! I kinda wanted to jump in again, but with the fast current I didn't dare! Then it was up the hill to the bus and back to Jackson.
The ironic thing about the rafting trip - it's been hot and sunny in Jackson the last two days, it was hot and sunny when we left Jackson and when we returned. But when we were on hand river....clouds. Seriously?
After rafting we visited Lucky's, a local grocery store that features lots of whole foods. Then I got propane. The guy who filled it was the 1st who'd asked me to turn off the propane! I'd turned off the fridge, as I always do prior to filling up with diesel also. So, I'd thought I'd turned everything off, but I was happy to shut off the main propane shut off. It was later that I realized the hot water heater is running on propane and I haven't shut it off since I left home! So much for being "safe" and turning off all propane devices before refueling! Doh! I guess I should flip the main shut off switch before refueling to ensure that everything is off.
After the errands, it was back to the campground for dinner!
Oh, they did open 191/189 today at Noon. That's the road we wanted to take from Pinedale that was closed. They closed it Sunday afternoon and it didn't re-open until Friday at Noon. So glad we went around.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Hiking in the Tetons is interesting, the hikes are all really long backpacking trips or super short strolls. We found one that looked pretty good - we combined two hikes to make one 6 mile hike.
On our way to the trailhead we stopped at the Moose Visitor Center so I could get my passport stamped and get one for Mom. It's a very nice visitor center, but we didn't take much time to look around, the trail we were headed to is very popular and we wanted to get a parking spot!
There were already many cars in the lot when we got there, and a line at the outhouse! A Ranger led hike had just departed, so we headed around the other way.
The trail was very nice, rolling, with ups and downs, none very steep or long. We had some views of the mountains, mostly framed with trees!
Taggart Lake was really nice! The sun was hitting the mountain and making a perfect reflection on the lake! We continued around the edge of the lake and up to Bradley Lakr. This section had a bit more up, but it was still pretty gentle. As we climbed we got views of Taggart Lake.
Bradley Lake was a smaller lake but it was closer to the mountains so the view was slightly different! We had lunch on the rocks by the lake and I put my feet in - it was cold, but not as cold as Cathedral Lake! There were people swimming in it and expressing how cold it was!
The hike back was mostly down, but it was more exposed, and since it was now 1:00, the sun was intense and it was hot! Part of the trail went through a burn scar from 20 years ago, and there were no tall trees, which made for great views, even though it was hot!
The wind shifted while we were eating lunch and smoke started blowing in, creating a haze. Interestingly, the wind shifted again and by 4:00 there was no smoke in the valley! Oh, and the road we wanted to take from Pinedale on Sunday....*still* closed! So glad we drove around!
It was 2:00 when we got back from the hike, so we got Mom (who is feeling a lot better!) and went into Jackson. We ran some errands, got ice cream (I had strawberry this time and I liked it better than the huckleberry!). Then we secured our spots on a whitewater raft trip for tomorrow!
After dinner Dad and I went back up to North Jenny Lake area to hike to Leigh Lake. This was an easy, mostly flat hike, and we thought it might provide us an opportunity to see some moose and other big wildlife. We'd also seen something about the top 6 Nationak Park Beaches to visit, and Leigh Lake was mentioned. What? Beach? In Wyoming?
It was definitely a flat hike, and there were several beaches along String Lake. Leigh Lake was harder to get to - further from the parking area! We only looked at it, didn't go around it. But, when combined with visiting Taggart, Bradley, and String, we visited 4 glacial lakes today!
The only big wildlife we saw were a few deer, but we did get to see the setting sun hitting the Catherdral Group again, this time with the lake in the foreground and the reflection!
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
I biked a huge loop all around Grand Teton National Park! Mom hasn't been feeling well and Dad spent the day with her! She's got good media and should be feeling better soon!
I started at Moose and headed up US191 toward Moran Junction. The first mile or so was on a bike path and after that I was riding on the shoulder of the road. The shoulder was wide and paved and smooth so it wasn't bad, even though cars and big RVs were whizzing by at 60+ MPH (speed limit is 55!). The valley looks flat, but it's not! The road climbed gently, then had a steep descent, followed by more rolling hills. None of the hills were all that big or long which I liked, I like more rolling terrain with variety!
18 miles in US 26 continued east to DuBois and 191 turned left to continue into Yellowstone. This is where the entrance station to the National Park is. I'd left my park pass in the van. I did have $20 I was going to use to buy lunch so I figured I'd be able to get in. However, once I got to the entrance station the Ranger told me they had a power outage and she couldn't do any sales. It was free admission! YAY! Turns out a big power substation in Idaho went down and most of Jackson Hole was without power for a long time! Things you don't know when you dry camp!
I stopped at Oxbow Bend overlook, one of the most popular, I was disappointed though because Signal Mountain blocked the view of Grand, Sout and Middle Teton. I continued around to the dam that created Jackson Lake. It was about there that I saw the mileage sign. I'd gotten it in my head that this was a 38 mile loop. So I was surprised to see that Moose was 20 miles away. I'd already ridden more than 20 miles. This was going to be a 40+ mile day!
Soon I came to Signal Mountain Lodge, the was a general store there and I got a sandwich, some chips, a drink, and another "Kate's" bar like the one we got in Leadville - I decided I like them! I was really glad I hadn't had to pay the entrance fee because lunch was really good!
After lunch there was more climbing, and then on the downhills, the headwind got going and it was fierce! As soon as I'd start to go up the wind would stop, but on the downhill side it was so strong I couldn't coast, had to pedal! A few times I even almost stopped with just the wind holding me up.
A few miles after lunch I met up with the only other cyclist I'd seen on the loop. He was from the Netherlands and was riding the Continential Divide Trail. He and I joined up after Jenny Lake and chatted the last 8 miles. He seemed really nice and it was fun to ride with him!
The total ride ended up being 44.5 miles. After I got back to Moose and got a drink & changed out of my bike shirts I headed into Jackson. I'd figured out how to get to Moos Homemade Ice Cream without going through the square. I even found a great place to park!
Yesterday when we were exploring we saw that Moos had a kind out the door. Always a good sign! Turns out they are all organic, no junk, and the huckleberry had won "best desert in Wyoming" from the Food Network! I thought it was ok.
Since I was parked next to a shady picnic table and I had signal, I decided to spend an hour or so updating my blog, then I ran over to Albertson's so some stuff we needed for dinner. I discovered that they sell Moos ice cream in pints! I picked up some strawberry sorbet. It's just strawberries and sugar and has only 45 calories per 1/2 cup! And it's really good!
Then it was back to the campground for dinner & blogging.
Something I realized....there is probably just as much, if not more "money" and rich people living in Jackson as in Aspen, but Jackson is a much nicer town! Some of it that there's a lot of tourists, more than in Aspen, but it's also just a nicer place! People are friendlier, the town is very "outdoorsy" and they embrace it!
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
We finally made it to Jackson!
I was up early and dumped and put on water then headed out so Dad could have my makeshift site so he could dump.
Once I got to Alpine there was a lot of smoke! The road was very scenic and remote going up the valley with the snake river, a lot rougher than where it flows in front of the Tetons. The smoke had settled in and was very thick, obscuring the views, but adding to them as well!
When I got to Jackson there was less smoke, but it was still obvious there was a large fire burning nearby. When I drove out of town toward the campground I was surprised when I looked up and saw just the very tip of a "Teton" sticking out of the haze! The mountains were *right* there, but you could hardly see them for the haze of smoke!
I was able to secure two sites at Gros Ventre Campground. It's "first come, first served" and every day many people leave and more people come, which is why we wanted to get here early to ensure we got sites, and now that we are here the sites are ours until we want to leave or 14 days whichever comes 1st, we just have to make sure we have paid by 11am (checkout).
After Mom and Dad got here we went out exploring. We drove out Gros Ventre Road to Kelly, where there is a neat store with awesome sandwiches! Then we continued around to the Antelope Flats road where the barn is that everyone takes pictures of with the mountains in the background. We hung out there for awhile taking pictures, the headed in to explore Jackson.
We walked around the square, checked out some outfitter stores and got information on things we might want to do while we are here. Then we came back to the campground to make & eat dinner!
After dinner Dad and I went out to Jenny Lake. We were going to walk to the moose ponds, but it was too far! We walked a bit around Jenny Lake and the drove out to some trailheads and saw alpineglow on the Catherdral Peaks - Tweeinot, Grand Teton, and another I can't recall the name of.
Monday, July 18, 2016
Sleeping in the Ranger Station Parking Lot makes it a lot easier to get answers to the the fire questions this morning! We went into the ranger station around 8:30 and it was already packed with people asking questions about how to get around the road closure. We didn't get much new information, we'd been able to get the most up to date information about the fire from Facebook! We did learn that WYDOT was wrong about a closure they had listed, which meant we could choose a northeastern detour or southwestern route. Both were about 300 miles. I voted for the southwestern route because I was planning to use the northeastern route when I go home. The southwestern route would allow me to see some parts of Wyoming and even a teeny bit of Idaho that I wouldn't have seen otherwise.
We called and reserved overflow camping spots at Wolf Den RV Park in Thayne, WY, then went and got a few things at the grocery store/hardware store that was in the parking lots next to the Ranger Station. Then we were off, heading on the scenic route to Jackson.
The first 150 miles were exactly like the 150 miles we drove yesterday. Flat sagebrush as far as you can see. And, there were even fewer towns! It was really very remote and very barren! So much wide open space!
About 15 miles outside of Kemmerer was Fossil Butte National Monument. I'd never heard of this one before I'd seen it on the map, but it was a passport stamp and I had to stop! It made for a good lunch and stretch your legs stop! There wasn't much to see, it was even more about the prehistoric times and the wealth of evidence found in this area about life in prehistoric times. We did meet a neat young lady in an RV who is traveling to all the National Parks in one year. It was fun to talk to her! You can find her on Facebook at 48in366.
After Fossil Butte we continued around and started heading north rather than west and the scenery began to improve! Slowly there were more hills, more plants, and slowly we began to climb! It wasn't long before I reached the top of Salt RiverPass (7,630)! There was a pullout at he top with great views!
After I came down from the pass I was in the Star Valley. I'd met a lady while I was getting fuel this morning who said the Star Valley was really nice! She was right! There are mountains on all sides and a big flat valley filled with farms! Soon I came to the town of Afton which featured the largest elk antler arch in the world!
It was only about 20 miles later that I reached the campground. Carla, who needed to check us in, had run to the bank, I talked to her when I arrived. So while I was waiting I went to check out the resteraunt that was right on site. They had blackberry milkshakes so I had to sample one. It wasn't quite as good as the place in Sisters, OR, but it was tasty. Mom and Dad pulled in just then so they got ice cream too, then we got checked in to our makeshift sites. 2nd time this trip I've gotten into a campground only because I was willing to be tucked away in sub standard site! This one has water & sewer, but no electric! It works because I need to dump and put on water!
We spent the evening doing laundry, returning to the resteraunt for dinner, doing some cooking, washing to bugs off the windshield andwalking around, and around the campground to get my steps.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
We spent most of the day exploring the Flaming Gorge and the Ashley National Forest. We started a the Red Canyon Visitor Center. They had a very old school movie featuring Loni Anderson! I'm pretty sure it was from the 80s! At the end Loni was dressed like a Barbie doll! After the movie we walked around the trail to see the view of the lake with the steep red rock walls!
After the visitor center we drove up and parked at the Sheep Creek Overlook and took the Jeep to explore the Sheep Canyon Geological Loop. The big feature on the loop was all types of huge and different rock formations!
A little over halfway around the loop we came to the road to Spirit Lake. It was 17 miles down the dirt road to the lake, but Fred, at the Visitor Center had told us there was a lodge with a resteraunt down there and it was a nice place for lunch, so we went down there.
Spirit Lake Lodge was quite a place! It was very eclectic and a bit run down, but the owners were very friendly! The menu was very basic, grilled sandwiches served on paper plates and bags of chips. The bags of chips were usually served by the owners 2 year old daughter, but ours were served by a young man. The owner/waiter/cook was barefoot, as was the little girl! And then, right after we finished, the owner called his daughters attention to the squirrel...sure enough the squirrel was checking out the crumbs on the floor! The other customers asked and the squirrel lives outside, but occasionally comes in. Very interesting place and the food was pretty good!
On the way back to the Sheep Canyon road we stopped at the Ute Fire Tower. The fire tower was built by the CCC back in the '30s and it is not longer used but they offer tours on weekends. Dad and I and the volunteer climbed the tower and learned a lot about fire fighting - they used carrier pigeons to communicate with rangers and others "in town", and they had some interesting tools to help them determine the location of the fire.
After the fire tower it was a quick drive back to where we parked the RVs and then it was off to Pinedale. We were planning on staying Pinedale, WY tonight and then drive the last 70 miles into Jackson tomorrow. We are trying to get first come, first served sites at the Gros Ventre campground and want to get in early in the day if possible.
Once we came down the mountain into Manila, UT, the mountains ended and it was back to desert. Very flat desert. We also crossed over into Wyoming very quickly! At the Visitor Center we'd gotten a tip about an ice cream place in Farson, it was a very easy stop - it's the only thing in Farson! Even though it was 5:00 and more dinner time than ice cream time, we had ice cream before moving on!
It was another 50 miles, across flat Wyoming ranch land, to Pinedale. The sun was getting low in the sky and the clouds were really cool! There was one cloud in particular that looked a bit different - looked liked a mushroom clouds, like maybe something exploded. It was pretty cool looking!
We reached Pinedale and kept going, we'd found a forest service campground 10 miles out from Pinedale and thought that would be better than the ranger station we'd found on overnight RV parking. When we reached Daniel Junction however, 191/189 was closed due to fire! What? That explains the funny cloud I was seeing!
There was an RV park right there but it wasn't satisfactory for a number of reasons that I won't go into here so we decided to drive back into Pinedale to the ranger station. But, first we walked over to talk to the Sherif who was manning the road closed station. He said the fire was started by lighting this afternoon, around 2:00, and the road had only been closed a few hours. He had no clue as to how long it would take to reopen the road. We can go around - it takes about 6 hours from here to go the other way (would have been easy from 80 had we known when we were down there.) but it's about 70 miles to go the way we were planning.
We tried to look up information on the fire online but there's not much available. We are camping at the Ranger Station and there's been a constant stream of people coming and going for the hour that we've been here. Hopefully tomorrow morning we can get an update and hopefully the road will be open!
Saturday, July 16, 2016
It did finally cool off last night, but it took awhile! This morning there was more cloud cover which made it bearable in the desert!
We headed back up to the visitor center to check out what's here. The dinosaur quarry was very cool! They have left the dinosaur bones in the rock as they found them (well, some, others have been removed and are on display in various musuems around the world. It was neat to see where they have dug and learn about how they found them! Makes the dinosaurs seem so much more real! They aren't just skeletons you see at the natural history museum, they really existed!
After lunch we drove out the road near the visitor center. The main feature of the road was rocks. The rocks were interesting and neat looking. At the end of the road was a homestead that had belonged to a woman who lived out there by herself. There were also two box canyons, Dad and I hiked to one of them. It was a neat short hike, the rocks were pretty interesting.
We got back to the visitor center and got back in the RVs to drive up to the Flaming Gorge. We drove out of the desert and back into the forest! After we left Vernal, Utah we headed up a big mountain and slowly to desert landscape turned back into Aspen trees and evergreens! And the temperature dropped! We are staying at the Firemans Memorial Campground, in the Ashley National Forest, right on the edge of the flaming gorge reservoir.
After dinner we drove around a bit and checked out the dam and some of the views! It's a really pretty area and it was really neat driving around at sunset!