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Who are these gypsies?

We are a retired couple who enjoy travel.  We love meeting new people, new cultures, and exploring unique experiences.  We will share our discoveries on our blog and photo album as we wander about our wonderful world.

Check out our (almost) daily blog that follows below.

When we’re traveling we blog nearly daily.  When we’re home and not planning a trip, this blog may go quiet for weeks or months.  Check out or DailyBlog for a sense of our day to day life when we’re not travelling

Categories

Use the categories filter on the right side to select the blog entries that interest you. Alternately you can scroll back “in time” through our blog.

International Travel

We love to visit Europe, Italy in particular.  Spring 2015 we took our inaugural “Retirement Celebration”  trip to Europe.  We visited the Galapagos Islands on the National Geographic Islander with Safari Experts & Tim Lapage in the spring of 2016. In 2017 we visited Vietnam with Gate1 Travel and took two months out to travel Italy with six weeks living in Florence. 2018 has been a quiet year with trips to visit friends and family.  We have an extended motor home trip to Yellowstone NP visiting Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and some of BC. Departing in 2018 we will visit Scandinavia for two weeks to see the northern lights and the Ice Hotel. In 2019 we will visit Central Europe. We have a long “wish list”.

Our International Trips:

  1. Seabourn Cruise of the Greek Islands, Rome, Istanbul, Venice, and Florence, 2015
  2. The Galapagos, 2016
  3. Vietnam, February 2017
  4. Italy for two months, spring 2017
  5. Pacific North West, Montana, Yellowstone RV trip Fall 2018
  6. Northern Lights trip to Norway & Sweden spring  2018-2019
  7. Eastern & Central Europe trip spring 2019
  8. Around the World Cruise, 4 months 2020.
  9. Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, and the Amazon, future
  10. Alaska, future
  11. Antarctica, future
  12. Africa: Zambia, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, future
  13. Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, future

Road Trips

We purchased a 2015 Winnebago View in February of that year in Connecticut and drove it back to California in some of the coldest weather that winter.  We have since taken a number of trips in “The Beast”, as we call “him”.  We’ve taken to calling him “Li’l Beast”.  As large as our 24′ RV is, it is dwarfed by some of the 44 footer’s.

  1. return trip from Connecticut, 17 days
  2. San Diego, 1 week
  3. Napa Valley, 2 days
  4. Whidbey Island, Washington state, 2 weeks
  5. New England, 9 weeks
  6. Thanksgiving, San Diego, 2 weeks
  7. Springdale, Utah 1 week (Tesla S)
  8. Next: Nevada,Wyoming,Yellowstone NP, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon (8 weeks)

Notes from each of these trips can be found on our blog.  We are now enjoying a week in San Diego during a heat wave summer 2018.  We’ll take our RV to Washington State, Canada, Idaho, and Montana this fall.  Over thanksgiving we’ll visit Joshua Tree.

The photos that rotate through in the top banner capture memorable events in our travels.  They are not necessarily related to the day’s blog.

“Track our Travels” (on the top menu) will show you where we have been today.  You can also access our photo albums or other nooks in this website. If we’re not traveling, TrackOurTravels will not be operable.

Enjoy!

<last updated, 9/8/18>

10/17/2019 Points South, day 37

 

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No Hunkerin’ Down with This Mess Coming.

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YUM!

With the cycles packed away, a quick search of Bakeries turned up Persephone with rave ratings.  A propane fill and pot pies can wait for a stop at the bakery.  Our GPS guided us to Café Genevieve.  Oh No, it’s “shut”.  The bakery was right beside the café.  With no parking I stopped to let Ellen out and noticed that all the outside tables were full. The place was crowded.   I parked just up the street and waited.  After a long time, Ellen saw The Beast and walked up with a package of goodies. 

Last year we topped our propane at the shell station. I pulled in back at the propane station.  A fellow working on a drain overflow stopped to ask what I wanted.  “I’d like a propane top-up”  “Oh, we don’t to that”  “But I filled here last year” “yeah, our fitting for your vehicle drove off weeks ago.  We have another on order, but until it arrives we cannot help you.”   He mentioned propane was available at Alpine, “You’re headed to Alpine, right?”  Yes, we were.

Pot Pies.  Albertsons was just up the road.  Again I dropped Ellen of and parked.  A LONG time later Ellen came back with two pies.  “There were none on display and I asked if they had any”  “Oh, I’ll look in back.  We may have one that’s not heated.”  “Two maybe?”   Ellen took two back with her.  Two out of Three isn’t that bad.

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Rt 89 Going Right Through Town

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Going Down.

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We Followed This Guy All Day

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We drove 89 south to 30/89 south to 89 south to 80.  The weather front drove heavy winds that made driving tedious, sometimes intense. We followed a fifth wheel with a CA license plate from Jackson to the Salt Lake/Ogden turn off.  They went Ogden.  We turned toward Salt Lake. I’d had enough of long distance driving in wind when Ellen said, “Lets stop before Salt Lake”. Oh Yeah, Let’s do that!  We’ve stopped maybe 50 miles shy of Salt Lake City at Echo Island RV Park.  We have WATER, YAY!  We do not have toilets or showers, BOO.  Still we’re far enough off 80 to be quiet and have Sat reception.  The wind kicks up now and then.  I vividly remember driving in a wind storm in the 70’s in Wyoming.  I was driving into a head wind in second gear making maybe 20 mph. It was unbelievable.  I came around a curve on 80 West to find a 16 wheeler on its side.  Now THAT was WIND.  I remember that sight every time I drive through Wyoming.

Watching the wind now, the aspen are losing their leaves.  It’s more like a leaf storm than a wind storm.  We’ve been seeing more fall yellow in the aspen and TBD as we drop in altitude.  Now to see wind stripping leaves from the trees, we’re sad.  Perhaps there will be no fall color for us.

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Site C7, Echo Island RV Park, Coalville Utah

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“I don’t like it!”  Neighbors drove in beside us to our left.  Ellen prefers a view, over a view of a camper.  I don’t blame her.  No big problem though.  I’m having a Blue Sky IPA in my new Jackson Drug Mug; No Problem.

For the first time in weeks we have not turned on our electric heater.  Temp inside was 70 F. Outside temp showed 67F.   I do not expect temps below freezing tonight.  Even so we were told to disconnect our water line, “It could freeze.”  It is raining now.  It’s not heavy rain.

Plans

“How about going to the Grand Canyon”, Ellen floated that idea as we descended through a valley’s long 5% grade.  With little traffic and nothing to worry about, I actually heard her. “Sure!  Should we go North RIm or South?”  We both agreed, south would be best.   It may rain tonight.  I hope we don’t have snow. We’ll see.

Sometimes you just know it’s time to go home.  Other times the fun is not over, you keep going.  This may be a keep on keeping on moment.  It is weather dependent, but less so as we move south.

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One Possible Destination

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Another Possible Destination

10/16/2019 Cycling Grand Teton National Park, day 36

 

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Bavaria in Wyoming!

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Cable Repair, Jackson Hole

 

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Schwabacher Landing Grand Teton

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Yesterday

We had driven to Snake River Overlook of highway 89 in our search for wildlife.  The west side of the Snake River rises up to a mile wide plain of sagebrush.  That plane rises up another 40 feet to another mile wide plain of sagebrush backed by aspen and pine. The trees cover the lower Teton Range.  On that second plain about two miles distant, “Hawkeye” spotted motion.  There stood a bull elk.  He was massive compared to the nearby cows.  Even with minimal thermal radiation, the elk’s image was small and focus was difficult at 60x.  Ellen had spotted the bull elk with the naked eye, “Hawkeye” indeed.

The pot pies we ate for dinner last night were loaded with chicken and vegetables. They were very good.  Were they as good as Mountain Mama’s?  We don’t know.  We do know we’ll get more on our way out of Jackson when we leave.

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Bicycle Boneheadedness

I had a fall on my bicycle in Coeur D’Alene that seemed insignificant at the time.  Now weeks later, my shoulder is giving me fits.  I cannot raise my arm above shoulder height.  I’ve had similar injuries to my left shoulder in a ski accident (showing off).  I know it will heal, but for now what a pain this is.  Ellen asked “should we just go home”  She’s concerned that I might crash again.  It’s not likely on the flats.  The cause has to do with accessing my bike’s granny gear, badly.

Temperature this morning dropped to 25 F.  Not very cold compared to Gardiner or West Yellowstone. I’m no longer concerned about water line freezing if we have an electric hookup.

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This is my “half” of an apple? Smile

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Fireside Resort, Ready to Go.

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Can’t Forget her Flag

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Crossing the Snake River

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Sitting on Big Don Dahlin’s Bench

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Bicycling

The cycles are unloaded. Ellen’s trike’s battery is charged and ready to go.  There’s a paved bicycle path that runs from Teton Village to Jackson then runs north through the park.  “The path is perfect.  It was just paved.”  fireside’s manager told me as I paid for another night here.  “Today is going to be a beautiful day and even warmer than yesterday!  Have Fun.”  We can pickup the path just across Moose Wilson Road. 

The path follows Moose Wilson Road along sparsely populated private property.  We looked for wildlife as we peddled.  The  path goes through a tunnel under Moose Wilson, crosses the snake river, and winds through Emily Stevens Park before running along Rt 22.  down to Jackson.  

We rode from Fireside Resort to Jackson square. Downtown Jackson is busy with traffic.  We walked our bikes in town.  On the square we stopped at The Local, but they stopped serving lunch just minutes prior. Jackson Drug, the original drugstore and soda fountain, was open.  Our lunch was OK.  Interestingly I recognized a cut from Dark Site of the Moon done in a country format. “Do you know who this band is?  It sounds like a country cover of Pink Floyd, a rock band.” I asked our waitress.  She didn’t know, but went to find out.  The Band is “Green Sky Blue Grass”.  “You might have found a new favorite band”, she said.  Blue Grass?  This was very good blue grass

Today was a gorgeous day with temperature into the 70’s.  I wore a shirt over t-shirt and was comfy warm.   I remembered the drive up route 22 to Moose Wilson Road as steep.  The bicycle path runs along Rt 22 some of the way.  The path does not have any steep grades of any length.  There are 5% grades both up and down. None area a problem.  The path along rt 22 skirts wide fields on the right.  Hawkeye spotted a coyote hunting and stopped to watch.

After lunch we considered taking the path toward and into Grand Teton National Park.  We considered leaving the bikes at sunset, taking Lyft back to our RV, and getting the bikes.  That would work, but we could easily cycle out of cell phone range.  Instead we chose to cycle back to Fireside then continue on to Teton Village.

We arrived “home” at 6:23 a full 15 minutes before sunset.  We’re relaxed, far from exhausted.  What a fun day. 

10/15/2019 Grand Teton Jeep Extravaganza, day 35

 

FIreside Resort

The resort has a number of fee standing modern looking cabins that are available year round.  The resort is five miles from Jackson Hole, the rebound ski area.   I wonder if we can take the gondola to the top today.

We arrived just before closing and were assigned site 57.   The sites are packed pretty tightly though that’s not a problem.  It’s so cold mornings and evenings that everyone is buttoned up tightly.  Even with so many close in, it’s quiet here.

The resort rents jeeps!  We heave one for the day.  Now we can drive the entirety of Moose Williams Road.  Part of the road is closed to motorhomes.  The Jeep has blacked out rear windows.  No worries about having our camera gear visible to thieves (not that there are many). We’ll head off in search of moose and The Four Seasons.  The Four Seasons, Jackson is located in the ski village at the end of Moose Williams Road.  One of Ellen’s daughters was there just a few days ago.  We’re sorry we missed her.

How strange will it be driving a jeep after 35 days driving The Beast?  I’ll know right away.

Moose Wilson Road

We loaded up the jeep and drove up Moose Wilson Road.  It runs to Teton Village and the famous ski area of Jackson Hole.  We stopped and walked the village.  The Four Seasons Hotel sits at the base of two chair lifts.  It would be a wonderful place to stay in January.  The tram was closed and under repair.  I saw workers high up working on the tram;s cable.   The Village is open year round.  The Four Seasons concierge said they have much more foot traffic in the summer. In winter they see outdoor enthusiasts and skiers.  Yes, there are stay and ski packages available at the hotel.  Understated elegance with a western theme, that is The Four Seasons, Jackson Hole. January room rates for two people is expensive, but not exorbitant.  I’d love to ski here next January.

We skipped getting a quick bite at the hotel,.

The road is mostly paved, though it becomes a packed dirt road as it does into Grand Teton National Park.  There the road runs into sparse trees with meadows and marshes scattered here and there.  The dirt road runs for miles. A sign ahead of the park entrance reads: No RVs beyond this point.  That sign thwarted my Moose Road drive last year.  We cruised on through in the jeep.

The park entrance kiosk was closed.  It seems that Grand Teton is less seriously controlled than is Yellowstone.   Moose Wilson is best driven at slow speed.  We drove 15 mph over long stretches of the road.  We scanned for moose as we went.  From time to time I’d pull over to allow faster traffic past.   As the road approaches Moose Crossing it rises to a bluff overlooking a picturesque stream and marsh.  Perfect moose habitat.  A sign at the parking area there warns people not to approach wildlife.  Watch the wildlife at a distance.  We stopped, looked, listened, and after about twenty minutes I drove on.  “We’ll come back around dusk”

Dornan

That observation area is at the end of the road at Moose Crossing.  We were famished.  We drove past Grand Teton National Park Headquarters on our way back to highway 89.  Just across the snake river Dornan’s Road branches to the left.  A sign announces food at Dornan.      

Dornan has cabins on the snake river.   I expect they had closed for the season, but I didn’t check.  The cabins are centrally located and would be a great place to stay in the park.  There are two places to eat here: Dornan’s Chuckwagon and Dornan’s Pizza Pasta Company.  We parked.  Ellen said, “I’d live a slice of pizza”.

As you walk through the doors to the pizza company, you pass a spacious shop on the right that has hundreds of bottles of wine for sale.  I was stunned.  The wine shop rivals many shops in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Passing the wine shop, you walk into a large room and picture windows opening onto the stunning view of Grand Teton.  To the right sits a spacious rustic bar.  We ordered two personal pizzas and took a table.  The pizzas were very good.

On the way out I stopped at the wine shop. “We were the first wine shop in the valley.  We used to have wine and food pairings.  I’ve looked at binders from the ‘80’s that list the wine and food pairings.  Some of the wines served are mind boggling.”,  She was very knowledgeable about wine and the history of the shop.  The shop carries wines from around the world with a very representative selection from the Napa Valley.

We drove back across the Snake River to the visitors center.  We wanted to find last year’s memorable turnout where we walked with a moose.  The Ranger mentioned a few likely places.  “That’s it” He mentioned Schwabacher Landing and I recognized the name.   It’s the next turnout north of Moose Crossing.  We chatted about the park and wildlife.  He didn’t have information about moose sightings.  “They are solitary animals.  They’re common in this area.”  He gave us a better map.

Schwabacher Landing

The road to Schwabacher was open.  As we recalled, the road makes a sharp right turn as it drops down into the Snake River valley.  This is a area where the river branches into a number of rivulets branching off from the main channel. With a jolt the paved road becomes dirt and bounces along for a few miles to a dirt parking lot.  A hiking trail winds along a rivulet.  On the trail side sits a plain of sagebrush while evergreen trees line the opposite side of the rivulet.   I was flooded with memories of last year’s encounter as we walked.  This year we saw playful pairs of ducks and a few other hikers.

The view of the Teton Range, gray and towering over the green pines, the golden marsh, and deep blue water is breathtaking.   Though our anticipation of moose sightings was dashed, we thoroughly enjoyed our walk along the gurgling water with warning calls echoing from the trees.  “Danger” they called.  We were the danger.

We drove back to the moose overlook and walked a trail along the water.  We stayed for a few hours as the sunlight slowly faded.  Groups drove up, looked for a moment or two, then drove away. Now and then a couple would stop and wait with us.  When we gave up the hunt and drove away there were five other hold-outs.

At Albertsons we replenished our supplies.  Ellen found fresh baked pot pies in a warming shelf.  “They’re not Mountain Mama’s, but these really look good”  Checking out, the fellow ahead of us had two of them too. “They’re very good” he said.  “I’ve never tried one.” I had the impression the checkout gal would go get a few herself.

Driving back to Fireside Resort, I turned off 22 too early and drove far up and into the boonies.  It took a while for us both to realize “this is not right”.  Just before finding a turnout, we saw a low wide animal lumbering into the brush.  A porcupine!  The correct turnoff for Fireside was another three miles up 22!  Shortly after the turnout I  saw reddish-brown motion ahead roadside.  Just In time I saw a red fox briefly stare into the headlights then disappear.  “Did you see that?  A red fox roadside!”

Home, we carefully unloaded the Jeep being careful not to forget anything.  I was not impressed with the jeep.  It did its job without inspiring confidence in its handling.  I actually prefer driving Li’l Beast.  Now that’s a surprise to me.

Today, temperature climbed into the 60’s.  It was warm in the sun.  In mid afternoon the day’s cold wind abated.  Even the shade was comfortable without the wind.

10/14/2019 Evening Fireside Resort Jackson Wy, day 34

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Ready to Go!

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Dropping Into Grand Teton NP

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Like a Wolf in the Sage

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Snake River, Grand Teton National Park

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No Snow and a Short Walk to Water

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We Stood Here Last Year!

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Snake River and Grand Teton

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WOW

What a view descending into Grand Teton National Park.  Mount Moran and the Tetons are magnificent sitting across the Snake River, Jenny Lake, or Jackson Lake. We love Yellowstone.  We love the Tetons.  They are both wonderful in very different ways.  Jackson hole is a flat plain surrounded by mountain ranges.  It is home to elk, prong horns, moose, black bear, wolf, fox, cougar, and any number of smaller mammals.  Ellen is excited to take a bike trail north from Jackson.  It runs for twenty miles and more.

At each bend in the road, we remembered details from last year’s trip:  the outstanding grove of aspen near Coulter Bay; staying at Coulter Bay;  getting up early to catch sunrise at Oxbow Bend; seeing bear on a carcass so far away that our binoculars were useless;  driving to Jackson to purchase a spotting scope; having a fantastic lunch at Café Genevieve on a local’s recommendation; visiting the Mountain Trail’s Gallery and their fantastic art. 

I drove right past the right turn to Coulter Bay Village.  I remembered reading that the campground had closed.  I asked Ellen if she’d like to visit Coulter Bay.  “Sure”.  One U-turn and we drove in to Coulter Bay.  Our first clue, the road to the campground had big signs stating “Road Closed”.   On to the Coulter Bay Visitors Center, the General Store, and the Laundry/Shower facilities.  All were closed.  Not one thing was open at Coulter Bay.

We remembered the approach to Oxbow Bend.  The aspen are typically brilliant yellow at this time of year.  The extreme cold of the past few weeks has turned the aspen leaves a dull brown.  Even so, the landscape is dramatic, even awe inspiring.

The massive sculpture that stood outside of Lewis & Clark was sold.  It sits outside a picture window overlooking the snake river in a custom build house.

As we approached Jackson, we remembered and found RV parking.  We walked toward Café Genevieve for a repeat of last years memorable meal.  At the Mountain Trail’s Gallery, I noticed the massive sculpture of Lewis and Clark paddling a canoe was gone!  We walked on to Café Genevieve.  Unfortunately it was “shut”.  They had a fire and are closed for repairs. 

We both thought then said, “Let’s go back to the Mountain Trail’s Gallery and ask for another recommendation”.  At the gallery the same fellow who walked the gallery with us last year asked, “Can I help you?”  We talked art, life, and driving around Jackson.  Teton Pass on highway 22 west, has 10 percent grades.  Just this year a tandem truck rig smashed through and past the emergency truck stop and disintegrated.  The driver didn’t survive. “Be careful if you take that pass!”  I’m planning on going south on 191 and avoiding that pass.  I’ve read about it.  As for restaurant recommendations, he had three: Local, Trio, and Gather.  We checked out all three and settled on Trio.  Ellen had a massive piece of Alaskan halibut, fried green tomato, and corn and red pepper.  I had their pasta Bolognese.  Both were excellent.

We are now at Jackson Hole Campground which is part of Fireside Resort.  The resort is 5 miles from Jackson Hole Ski Resort on the Moose Wilson Road.  Moose Wilson Road is a great place to see moose.  According to the reservation gals, it’s not unusual to see moose in this RV park.  Even better, this resort rents jeeps.  We can leave Li’l Beast and go moose “hunting” on roads our motor home cannot go!  It’s a bit more than renting a car in Jackson might be, but the convenience may be worth it.

 

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We Found the Cafe

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But the sign reads “SHUT”

 

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Whimsical Bears

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Alaskan Halibut

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Pasta Bolognese

Weather

The forecast for Jackson is for increasingly better weather until Friday.  From Friday through the following Monday snow and rain are expected. On Tuesday and Wednesday rain is expected.   Rain in Jackson could easily be snow in higher passes. Do we want to spend five or six days constrained by the weather.  The other option is to remain in Jackson for another two nights and head south on Thursday. Salt Lake City is about 5 hours drive away and is projected to have rain and snow on Sunday.  We should have clear roads south if we leave Thursday.  Weather is changeable and something we will be checking daily.

10/14/2019 morning @ Pony Express RV Park, day 34

 

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Lower Geyser Basin

Ask a Ranger

When you visit Yellowstone or Grand Teton undoubtedly a number of questions will pop into your mind.  “How do you keep the bison in the park” is one I had to ask.  Another we asked: “Which wolf packs are active in the park now”.  You’ll see steam, mud, and boiling water gushing from the earth, “how?” or “Why”.

The rangers in the national parks are there because they love the outdoors and love the park system.  They are a wealth of information. Sometimes you may ask a ranger who’s grumpy, or can’t wait for dinner and a shower.  They may not be very conversational in that moment.  A bit later ask another ranger.  Typically you’ll get the answer (or a statement similar to “I don’t know really) and you’ll get much much more related information.

“Which wolf packs are active in the park now”  The “answer” included, “well,, the phantom pack is growing huge.  They had ten pups this season.  They range in this area.”  We’ve seen the Junction Butte pack every day we went looking.  We’ve never seen the phantom pack nor the 8-mile pack.  “Our” ranger went on to talk about grizzly.  We could find them up the Old Yellowstone Trail, a washboard dirt road used by river runner busses, or at Tom Minor.  He explained how to get to Tom Minor which we did yesterday.

Less well known, chat up any of the Yellowstone service people.  They are all here because they want to work in the park, love the outdoors, and may want to become a ranger.  You may be surprised at the experiences they’ve ‘had in the park. “I’ve had a wolf pack stride right past me while I was hiking.  They weren’t interested in me at all. I’ve seen lone bison walk past a pack.  You can tell when the wolves are on the hunt.”  This because I took the time to chat with her rather than just pay for my book and move on. “We’re closing up tomorrow.  I’m going back to Austin!”  “No, Austin is not a small town anymore.”   I didn’t ask where she had her close wolf experience.

Get Out There

As with most things in life, the more you do “it”, the better “it” gets.  Just being outdoors opens you up to experiences you would otherwise never experience.  Go outdoors often enough and amazing experiences may unfold.   You could be very lucky and have an extraordinary experience your first time out.

Get out there and to it.  “That was some real exercise”, said an overweight middle aged man to his daughter. After walking the boardwalk to Mammoth Hot Springs, they were sitting on a bench.  My first reaction was less than generous, “Really? You need to get moving more” I thought.  My second reaction was, “Good for you, at least you’re out soaking in a new experience”.

Closing Down

Yellowstone National Park remains open all year.  By December all the roads south of Mammoth Hot Springs are closed.  Many close earlier.  Dunraven Pass on the Grand Loop Road between Tower and Canyon Village  is now closed for the season.  https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/conditions.htm shows which roads are open, which are closed, and what construction is ongoing or planned.  It’s a valuable resource in late fall and early spring when sudden snow storms will cause partial or full road closure.

Now, October 14, all the campgrounds in Yellowstone will be closed today or tomorrow.  We will push south to Grand Teton where all the park campgrounds will also be closed.  We loved to stay at Coulter Bay Campground in Grand Teton National Park.  Coulter Bay is unusual; ;it has electric hookups for motor homes.  It closed a while ago.  We’ll have to stay outside Grand Teton and drive in daily.  Jackson is not all that far from last year’s moose sighting or Oxbow Bend.

We stayed at “The Virginian RV Park” last year at $110 a night!  They closed last week.  Jackson Hole Campground Fireside Resort is open year round.  After October 1st they provide electricity, WiFi, and Cable at $59 a night. We may get a AAA or Good Sam discount,  It is commonly available.  Jackson Hole is a bit out of the way for Grand Teton access, but it may be our only option.

Weather

Since the snow storm, the weather has been better every day.  We’ve had bright sunny days with temperatures hitting 50’s, then high 50’s and 60’s.   The weather will close out this thursday with rain and snow forecast.  This could make heading south from Jackson problematic.  Until we drop down from the high country, finding RV Parks with electricity could be difficult or impossible.  We depend on having an electric hook-up to run our tank heaters.  We’d be risking frozen pipes without an electric hook-up.  I suppose we could run the generator all night.  How would we sleep through that racket?

I’m not worried, I’m sure we’ can drive out of the high country if need be.

On the Move

We could drive through Hayden Valley going north to head south on a long loop.  I’d love to see Hayden Valley.  A simple drive through feels wrong.  As with Lamar Valley, a few days spent watching, waiting, and soaking in the feel of the valley would be a much better approach.  Simply driving through feels wrong.

We’ll save Hayden for another time.  Today we will depart Yellowstone National Park for Grand Teton National Park.  Though they are in close proximity, the two parks are quite different.  They feel different emotionally.  I wonder how the transition will effect me.  That phrase “something lost and something gained” springs to mind.  It is time.  Yellowstone’s great migration is underway.  Elk are moving out of the park along the highway 89 corridor.  Bison have left Hayden Valley for lower plains in the central park.  Winter is coming to Yellowstone.

 

“When do they let the animals out?”  I still cannot get over the implications of this question:  how profoundly unaware.

10/13/2019 Canyon Village, Tom Minor, Pony Express, day 33

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Buffalo Crossing RV Park

Ellen and I both thought Buffalo Crossing was less appealing than Pony Express!  With snow melting, Buffalo’s roads were muddy.  It was difficult not to bring sandy mud into Li’l Beast.   They did have water available during the day.  We topped up our drinking water and flushed & cleaned our waste tanks.  Funny, the black tank didn’t flow right away.  On went the tank heater and the icy log jam broke.  Love that tank heater.

I called Pony Express early in the morning to reserve site 5 tonight.  Pony Express isn’t much to look at.  Everything works very well, there’s plenty of heat and hot water in the showers.  That’s a huge plus in sub freezing weather.

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Today’s Low Temperature

 

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Today’s High Temperature

About the weather…  Today we saw an enormous temperature swing.  The overnight low was 10 F.  The high hit 76 F.  No kidding, I was comfortably walking around at Canyon Village in a shirt over a T.

We left Buffalo at checkout around 11:04.  We’ve been moving slowly in the morning.  Lots of cappuccino and some CNN.

Hayden Valley

To get to Hayden Valley from West Yellowstone, we drove to Madison Junction, turned left toward Mammoth Hot Springs, then turned right toward Canyon Village.  We hit some icy spots in the pass headed to Canyon village.  Dropping into a valley over the pass there were cars parked in the road looking to the right.  Cool, wildlife.  I pulled off the road as much as I could (not much) and stopped.  Ellen grabbed the binoculars, but didn’t need them to see “them”.  THEM.  Now that we know relative size, it was clear what “they” were.  Not foxes, “they” were too big.  Not wolves, “they” were too small.  Coyote!  We watched two coyote hunt.   Ellen watched as I checked traffic to ensure there was room for cars to get by.  Traffic was low, we were good for a while.

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Coyote are solitary animals.  It’s unusual to see two of them together.  We took a number of shots. 

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At some point traffic was coming both directions.  Clearly we had to move and we did.  We drove on to Canyon Village.  Neither of us remembered stopping here for anything more than diesel last year.  As we walked into the General Store, we knew we had eaten here last year.  It was memorable for how good it wasn’t.  My “burger” was all onion and lettuce (good), but the meat and bun?  We both remembered, “overpriced and poor quality”. We walked around, looking at the memorabilia and walked out.  If you are looking for Yellowstone Memorabilia, go to the IMAX theater in West Yellowstone. We left.

At the visitors center we went separate ways.  I chatted up the Yellowstone Forever register gal.  Ellen headed to the rangers manning the entrance fee register.  I learned a bit about wolves and found an academic text about wildlife in the park.  Ellen learned that the migration was happening and that the bison had left Hayden Valley.  Most wildlife was headed up 89 to the north, leaving the high country!   I got my book, Ellen suggested we head more north, even out of the park.  We both had heard about Grizzly at “Tom Minor”.  Where the hell is Tom Minor?

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On the Road to Tom Minor Campground

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Tom Minor

OK, we’ll not drop into Hayden Valley if the wildlife has gone lower.  “Let’s go to Tom Minor.  It’s north of Yellowstone.”  I agreed and we drove off to Mammoth Hot Springs.  This took us west and north some 40 miles.  At Mammoth, I took a bathroom break.  I found Ellen talking to a knowledgeable ranger who know Tom Minor well.  He runs there.  He also suggested Old Yellowstone Road as something we should visit. Both are packed dirt roads.  The ranger mentioned going over the Yellowstone bridge at tom Minor.  River runner busses drive Old Yellowstone Road in-season.  The road is wash-burn in many places.   Neither road should be a problem for you.  Cool.  With an assurance that there were no cliffs on Tom Minor road, we left the park and headed toward Livingston looking for the Tom Minor turn-off after the bridge over the Yellowstone River.

Well, no!  Ellen pointed out a big sign, “Tom Minor” on the left.  What? No Bridge?  I U-turned (I’ve regained my mastery of the U-turn) and went back.  Sure enough a dirt road wound off to the right.  No Bridge?  Oh, there’s a bridge AFTER the turnoff. It’s an old rusted one-lane steel bridge.  Two signs announce loudly “6 Tons Maximum”.  Li’l Beast is just under 6 Tons or just OVER 6 Toms depending on water and waste tank loads.  “I’m sure we’re under 6 tons”, said I, hoping I was right.  With some misgiving, we drove across the bridge.  A bit further on we crossed another smaller cement bridge with no load limit and continued up a steep slope past some large log cabins, a few massive stone custom homes, and some ranch entrances.  To the left there were distant groves of aspen, stunned into drab brown by the sudden freeze. Fall colors are all gone to grays and browns.  We scanned the tree line for motion and found none.

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We didn’t drive to Tom Minor Campground at the road’s end.  We turned around in a driveway with two dogs who oversaw our manoeuver.  We didn’t see Grizzly this trip.  “Next Time”  We’ll revisit Tom Minor’s around dusk the next time we stay at Gardiner.

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The drive back through Gardiner, Mammoth, Madison Crossing to West Yellowstone was uneventful.  We saw elk as we descended toward West Yellowstone.  The drive is wonderful.  It rises through Douglas Fir and Lodge Poll Pines, along rivers, and through gorges.

Pony Express RV Park

We arrived “home” at site 5 around dusk.  Temperature was dropping.  We work like a well oiled machine setting “camp”.   We can be setup or ready to leave in a matter of minutes. 

Now at 8:30 and 31 F, Ellen has cooked a stir-fry with noodles that was excellent.  She has showered.  We’re watching CNN’s review of how Trump’s unfounded Ukraine conspiracy came to be.  We’ll watch “Last Week Tonight” a bit later.

Plans

We’ll drive south to Grand Teton tomorrow.  We could go north and east to Canyon Village through Hayden Valley then back south of Old Faithful, or we could go directly south past Old Faithful.   That depends on how we feel tomorrow.  I think Ellen would like to mark Hayden Valley mentally “for next time”.  We’ll figure out where we’ll stay once we’re close to Jackson.  I’ve been told there are three massive bull moose in the south Tetons.  Moose grow huge.  They would be something to see.  I loved the Tetons when I first saw them.

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Clearance

 

The specifications for the 2015 Winnebago View 24J lists height at 134 inches.  That is 11 feet 2 inches.  I always figure in a 4 inch fudge factor and will not go under anything below 11 feet 6 inches.  Check this photo of us getting diesel fuel:

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Limbo, How Low can You Go?

The attendant came running out as I approached, a look of amusement bordering on horror on his face.  As I slowly swung to the pump his expression changed and he signaled thumbs up.  “11’6” works, I’d avoid anything under 11’”, he said.  I was thinking this is as low an overhang as I’ll go under.  11 feet would sheer something off the rig’s top.

10/13/2019 A few Photos from yesterday, day 32

 

Plans

We’ll head to Hayden Valley a bit later.  We’re watching Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN for now.  Below we revisit 10/7’’s “goats” and yesterday’s excursion. 

10/7

Here’s a surprise.  Some days ago we drove back north toward Livingston to an outstanding grove of Cottonwoods.  That grove is magnificent cloaked in fall colors.  We were just leaving Gardiner. a few miles out of town, when we came to an abrupt and complete stop. These guys ambled or ran across the highway right in front of us.  “What are they”, we thought.  They look like goats or sheep.  They couldn’t be big horn, where are their characteristic looped horns?

How right our initial thought was.  These were young big horn sheep. Their horns are far from fully formed.  Bit horn sheep are notoriously shy.  These fellows were inquisitive.  Li’ll Big Horn Sheep?

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Just across the highway

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Little Big Horn Sheep!

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Yesterday

Lamar Valley will spoil you.  It spoiled us.  Elk, Prong Horn, Bison, Big Horn Sheep, Badger, Chipmunk, Coyote, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Grizzly, and Gray Wolf; we saw them all, some quite often.  Our wildlife sightings have plummeted once we left the valley and drove south from Mammoth Hot Springs.  Perhaps this is because the road between Mammoth and Old Faithful is the most heavily trafficked road in the park.  Perhaps it’s because of the terrain.  The wildlife we’ve seen is limited to a few bison, an Elk harem, and fly fishermen. The fishermen far outnumber the wildlife, even the elk!

Here are some of our photos from Yesterday’s excursion.

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Approaching Lower Geyser Basin from the North

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Walking a Madison River Loop in the Snow.

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Not a Cloud and 60’s in the Sun.

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A Crystal Spring Pool.

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Bobby Socks, Mineral Seep into the Trunks

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Opal Waters, Partially Obscured

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One Massive Buck and his Harem

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One Shore Angler

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And the River Variety

10/12/2019 Firehole River, Crystal Springs, day 31

 

Many thermophiles are not liking the cold weather. The Crystal Pool was a disappointment.  Spring snow melt feeds the hot springs that feed the pools. In the fall with less water, the springs are not as active and the thermophiles suffer.  The colorful beds of bacteria that segregate by temperature are muted.  The geysers reliably shoot plumes of steam high in the air.  Steam can be seen rising high in the are south of Madison.   Here we encountered the most traffic we’ve seen in the park. People come for the active geothermal features of the park.  Driving through a super-volcano has its charm.

We drove from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful stopping frequently to take in the sights: an expansive meadow here, geysers there.  Elk were numerous just outside the park.  There were a few bison south of Madison.  Today was a ho-hum day for wildlife sighting.  It was a warm day reaching 70 with bright sunlight.

Dunraven Pass was closed today.  All other roads were open.  Patches of shaded roadway facing north were covered in ice.  Not smooth black ice, rather ice that had pits and divots affording some traction at reasonable speeds.  One particularly dangerous icy curve has a sign posted that reads, “Accident Ahead”.  It’s a valuable marker.  Each time I see it I think, “Yeah, and that accident could be you!”

We’re staying at Buffalo Crossing RV Park tonight,  “four star” rated.  It is not that different than Pony Express Worse, the main roads are dirt and muddy in the afternoon thaw.  For our site fee, we got a discount to the IMAX  theater, a two minute walk away.  We saw Ad Astra this evening. Don’t bother seeing it. Brad Pitt does a reasonable job acting, but he cannot rescue the film from a poor plot line.  Attempts at drama and suspense fall flat.

We may go back to Pony Express tomorrow, assuming we stay another night.  I want to see Hayden Valley.  People compare it to Lamar Valley for wildlife viewing.  It has the largest herd of Bison in the park (and in the world).  That reminds me, while scoping out the Junction Butte pack in Lamar Valley, we were told that two packs got together and took down a bison for the first time in the park. (Who knows if it’s actually the first time …).  This is a huge step in the survival of the wolves.

We took panoramic photos, photos of fly fishermen, some of The Beast, a few of Elk and Bison, and some of us tramping through 6 inches of snow.  I’ll post some tomorrow.  I’m not taking the time to off load photos from five devices.  Some quiet time reading before crawling into bed is far more appealing.

A New Motor Home in our Future?

 

2020 Winnebago View 24J, similar but improved

A few days ago before the weather turned cold in Gardiner Montana, knowing where the plumbing components in our motorhome was critical.  Rather than hauling out our manuals, a web search turned up online copies of manuals for our 2015 Winnebago View.  One of the websites my search turned up was a video review of “the new 2016 Winnebago View” by Lichtsinn RV.  For grins I started watching their video.  Ellen, now curious, stood then sat to watch too.  Many of the new sprinter features are great.  Lane following, adaptive cruise control, automatic breaking.  Mercedes has been busy.  The new View’s interior looks great and has a number of ease of use features that appealed.

I’ve been very impressed with Winnebago’s design of the View and its components.  There are a few things I’d like to see changed.  Not surprisingly, they have been addressed in the 2020 View.  The only thing I saw that I didn’t like is the way the propane tank is mounted. In the 2020 it replaces a storage locker.  It might even be a smaller tank. 

“Maybe we should get a new motorhome”, Ellen said.  Though surprised, I didn’t take that comment too seriously.  Later that same day she mentioned budgeting for a new RV.  That comment I took seriously.  I’ll research pricing and options for the 2020 Winnebago View over the winter.  I hope they retained the cold weather package.

We really enjoy the freedom our motor home gives us.  We can travel all over the Americas.  Retired, we have no schedule to follow.   We stop where and when we want.  We can hunker down if the weather turns sour. Ellen has surprised me.  On our first few trips, being out for a week or two seemed excessive to her.  Now on this trip, we’ve been gone for 31 days.  Yesterday she quipped, “We’ve been gone how long? Really?”  We can go for a few months and it feels natural.  There’s no rush to be anywhere at any time.  We travel in an unhurried, relaxed tempo. 

“ Maybe we should get a new motor home.”   Indeed.