10/20/19, Capital Reef Utah, Day 40

 

Michigan, Arizona, North Carolina, 

Morning

Last night’s wind storm and moderate rain has passed.  Undoubtedly it snowed in the higher elevations last night.  Daytime temperatures should be high and melt the snow in a day or two.  I’m feeling good about taking U-12 tomorrow and not today.

I’ll take a hot shower in a warm room today.  Unfortunately, It will be a short hot shower.  Southern Utah is in a drought.  We’re asked to conserve water, nothing unusual for a Californian.

Parking at Capital Reef trail heads over the weekends is difficult.  We’re planning to head out early this morning and wait for warmer temperatures while parked.

The World Stage

I’m reading an article about our withdrawal from Syria. It feels to me like we’re leaving with our tail between our legs.  It’s such a sudden retreat.  I can only think there was a “quid pro quo” with Turkey for our retreat that may one day come to light.

Always Walk Around, Always

Our Holander friends were gone early.  Han left a near full gallon of RV anti-freeze for us.  Thanks! However, I have more than we need already.  I left the gallon on a bench hoping someone who need it. Leaving this morning we went through our usual process.  Push-out in? Check.  Disconnect power?  Check.  We went through the remaining check list.  ALL OK!  I stepped out to walk around and saw our DirecTV antenna half way down. WHAT?  Then I remembered I disconnected power before the antenna had stowed.  Imagine if I had not walked around the motor home today. 

I simply reconnected power and with a push of a button, the antenna lowered and stowed.  No Problem, with a walk around.  Imagine if we had gone through a low clearance with the antenna half up.

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Hickman Bridge Trail Head

Leslie mentioned a few short moderate hikes we could take in Capitol Reef:  The Hickman Bridge Trail, The Cohab Canyon Trail,  Sunset Point, and the Petroglyphs.  Han, our Holander neighbor, mentioned that parking at Hickman Bridge was difficult, “Arrive early”.   Early for a trail head, that is different than “early” for Lamar Valley.  We did not get up at 4 AM.  We left Sand Creek RV Camp around 8:15 AM.  We stopped at the visitors center to do some recycling, and drove on to the trail head.  Are we lucky?  We found an oversized parking spot in the parking loop. Aside from that, the parking loop was full.  

We parked.  We had breakfast. We dressed for a short hike. We headed up the trail

We met a number of fun, interesting people as we stood in awe of Hickman Bridge. We spoke with a family whose son came on the trip without packing anything. He had a red pajama style top and bottom  That was it.  Another couple were avid hikers and well travelled.

 

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A Beautiful Day at Hickman’s Bridge

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Cohab Canyon Trail Head

Returning to Li’l Beast, we ate a quick lunch.  I changed into shorts and we went off again. The Cohab Canyon trailhead is close by the Hickman Bridge parking lot.  After lunch in Li’l Beast, we walked across the bridge over the Fremont River,  saw the huge rock across the street, and found the trail head for Cohab Canyon just behind the rock.   The trail climbs to a fork in the trail.  To  the left, the trail winds down to the campground.  To  the right, the trail continues up and away.  We took the path to the right.

Solitude.  Walking this trail we encountered nobody for the longest time.  “Just the two of us!”  Nearing a ridge top, as the wind picked up we heard voices above.  We met a couple from London.  They are vacationing across America.  Their travels will take them to San Francisco on this trip.  We spoke frankly about Boris and Donald with distain.  I wonder if travel is a political watershed.

In all we encountered five people on our hike.  Mid hike, we had an entire valley to ourselves. 

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Modern Graffiti Sucks, EDNA & MARI?

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A Step toward Prevention

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Petroglyphs

On the way back to Li’l Beast, Ellen felt ill.  We sat in the parking lot for about 30 minutes while she recovered.   She didn’t’ really recover, but agreed we should move on to the petroglyph turnout.  We both walked the boardwalk that is the petroglyph trail.  The petroglyphs are remarkable.  I was pleased to see a huge fine for defacing archeological resources on Federal Land is a crime.  I was equally surprised that the graffiti carved in stone have not been erased.

Sunset Point

Sunset point was one of Leslie’s suggestions.  It sits at the end of a dirt road.  I took that road.  It is a mile of brutal washboard punctuated with potholes, some huge potholes.  We shook and rattled our way to the end.  Ellen was “relaxing” in the back bed and getting thrown about.  She had no interest in hiking a half mile to an overlook. I drove back, bumping and rattling all the way.  I stopped at The Chuck Wagon in  Torrey for ginger ale and water.

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Sand Creek RV Resort

We’re back “home”.  There was some confusion about sites.  #2 was taken. We wound up in #10.  I think Leslie overbooked.  The fellow who was in #10 moved to a non-site “site”.  I’m glad Leslie worked it out.

There are three Winnebago Views grouped together.  Our 24J,, a 24H behind us, and a 24D with dual push outs.   Of course Ellen chatted with both families.   Each floor plan has advantages and disadvantages.  We’ll revisit floor plans if/when we get serious about replacing Li’l Beast.

Plans

We’ll drain the swamp and refill our water tank to 2/3 before we drive off on highway 12.  We’ll go through Boulder,  stop at Calf Creek, and go on to Escalante.  Temperatures are not expected to be sub freezing tonight.  We can dry camp if we want.

Han sang the beauty of Bryce Canyon without even mentioning highway 12 as an issue.  Another fellow in camp could only talk about 12 as “dangerous”.  Ellen wasn’t pleased.  Did say the drive is gorgeous.  At one point you’re driving a knife ridge that drops off on either side.  “There’s no guard rail!  How could they not put in a guard rail?”, he was incredulous. He said he’d asked if anyone ever drove off the ridge, “Not that we’ve ever found” a ranger answered.  I’m confident in the sprinter chassis and my driving ability.  We’ll be fine.

10/19/2019 Sand Creek RV Park, day 39

In reviewing yesterday’s post, I lied.  We saw a cottontail scamper across the road as we drove south on 24, not just cattle.

Happy Birthday!

It’s a never ending birthday celebration.  I could get used to this. 

It’s another 28 F day with clear skies.  Looking out the kitchen window, Ellen said “Everyone’s gone.  We’re slow pokes.”  I think there are still a number of people here.  The four tent people broke camp and left.  At Mammoth Campground we saw groups of tent campers enduring 7 degree morning temperatures.  My days of hiking and tent camping in the snow were over years ago.

Ellen just dragged our hiking boots from cold storage under the bed. I’ve exchanged flip flops for hiking boots. 

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No Cold Boots Here!

Last night I finished “Roses are Red” by James Patterson.  Though Patterson has a great reputation, I did not like this book at all.  Each chapter is a few pages long.  It makes reading choppy.  There’s little description.  In the beginning it was nearly impossible to know if Alex Cross is a man or woman!  The ambiguity was stunning.  Worst of all was the ending.  It simply fell flat.  There was no resolution for the main character.  We, the reader, knew what had happened.  But the main character is left in the lurch.  Unless there is a sequel, this sucks.  If there is a sequel, I hope it flows better than this book did.  Compare any book by Robert Ludlum.  Patterson is a hack by comparison.  End of Rant!

Oh No.  “You should put away whatever you’re doing so you can eat your croissant!”   “Oh Yes Boss!”

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Dry Humor?

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The Castle

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I Should Have Worn Shorts!

Armed with the information Leslie gave us, we drove off to Capitol Reef Visitors Center.   The drive took us through the small town of Torrey Utah.  The tarmac ribbon winds around, up, over, and down hills along a magnificent red rock escarpment.   The geology of the area is there for everyone to see.  Layers of very different rock are exposed to the marvel of all.  There is little vegetation on the exposed rock faces.  The foothills are a mix of grasses and sagebrush with an occasional stunted evergreen.   We were driving through a virtual desert.

 

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Approaching a Cottonwood Grove and the Visitors Center

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Traffic & Parking at Capitol Reef Visitors Center

The fist sign you’re approaching Capitol Reef National Park are the cottonwoods.  They stand in defiance of the arid red rocks. Cottonwoods love to have their feet wet.  They thrive along river and creek  banks.  Now, in the fall,  they are vibrant yellow.  We turned toward the visitors center and immediately parked in an oversized parking space.   As busy as the center was, we were very lucky.

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Milhous?  Really!

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We were drawn to the cottonwoods.  They stand in a grove fed by small streams.  As cars and motor homes came and went, we wandered along the road among the cottonwoods.  The contrast between the yellow leaves and red crags held us transfixed.

There was an ebb and flow of families at the visitors center.  Crowded one instant, it was nearly empty the next.  As with most touristy information centers, the visitors center is loaded with trinkets and memorabilia.  We found a copy of the tour and trails book Leslie had loaned us.  Among the geological picture books, I found and purchased what looks to be an informative text focusing on southern Utah geological formation.

Back in Li’l Beast we drove the Scenic Drive.  We didn’t get very far.  First we stopped at a picnic area for photos of knurly trees and cottonwoods.  Leaving the picnic area, we passed the Gifford Homestead and had to stop.  The last two vanilla ice creams in the Gifford House freezer went to us.  A trail runs along a branch of the Fremont River just behind the Gifford house.  We walked that trail.

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Cottonwoods along the Fremont River

Ellen loves to dally, taking photos as she goes.  I found myself on the trail by myself, with tall thicket standing seven or eight feet on either side of a four foot wide path.   A mama mule deer and her fawn entered the path ahead of me.   I stopped and eyed they.  They stopped and eyed me.  We were twenty feet apart.  I moved a step aside.  Mama deer took two steps toward me.  I moved another step aside. Mama took three steps toward me. The fawn did not move.  I stepped off the trail, and mama strode past me.  I could easily have reached out and rubbed her fur.  The fawn still had not moved.  I pushed a bit further into the grass and the fawn sprang past me in a rush.  I managed to take one photo early in the encounter.

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Kismet

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The trail opens onto the campgrounds and into fields of delicious apples and pears.  Visitors can pick fruit from the trees.  Mule deer love the apples and claimed this as their territory.  They were playing together and eating fallen apples.  Two mid-sized males squared off in a mock duel.  The colors of the trees, the young children focused on picking fruit while their parents watched them and the deer, and the deer resting or cavorting weaved a marvelous tapestry of color and motion.

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Apple Pickers, Two and Four Legged Varieties

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And Apple Eaters

Ellen and I were separated for a while.  I thought she had forged ahead and doubled my pace to catch up.  Not finding her in fifteen minutes, I turned back.  There she was watching the mule deer.  Reunited, we walked loop C of the campgrounds when a fellow said, “If you want a really great photo, look over there”, he said pointing behind him, “There are two bucks with huge racks just sitting there.   You could get quite close.”  He was right, we could get quite close.  I heard Ellen say, “Not so close!  You’re too close!” a few times as I used a tree to mask my forward motion.  

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The campground is idyllic.  Perhaps we could stay Sunday night.  The camp hosts are in sites 1 and 2 on loop A.  We found a sign outside site 1, “Have a reservation?  Pull on through. If you don’t have a reservation, a limited number of sites may be available at 8:30 AM depending on cancellations.  They will be handed out on a first come basis.”  Cool, we thought, we just have to be here early.   Further up the road another sign read, “Campgrounds Full.  No First Come Sites until Nov. 1st”  Crap.  We’ll stay at Sand Creek.

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Oh Well, Play On…

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I should have worn shorts!  The weather today was outstanding, 70 F with full sun.  With luck I’ll wear shorts tomorrow.

We drove the remainder of the Scenic Drive out to the turn-around and back.  The road is narrow in places, though easily negotiated at moderate speeds.  We crossed numerous washes.  These are places where cement lines dip in the road  to prevent erosion. These are places where a flash flood could wash out the road.   At one turnoff a sign prominently stated, “Do Not Enter If a Storm Threatens!”   Dangerous flash floods fed by the rugged terrain are common here.

 

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Headed “home” we stopped at the Chuck Wagon General Store in Torrey.  It’s a small reasonably stocked friendly place.  Off season, their bakery closes at 3 pm.

Dutch or Hollanders?

We were settling in at Sand Creek, when a neighbor pulled in beside us.  We took a curious interest as campers will.  I was outside doing something when the fellow came around and asked if I owned my rig.  He said he’d be going to higher elevation and expected the temp to drop to 17  F.  What could he do to protect his water lines.  This led to a discussion of water pumps, external showers, antifreeze in gray and black tanks, for thermal mass fill his water to 2/3.  Provided daytime temps are well above freezing he should have no problem.  Then he asked if I  had wire.  “Why what’s wrong?”  The sewer line on his rented rig had come loose.  He had jury rigged it with tape and wanted something more reliable. “Sorry no tape”  I then helped him get his sewer line working as best I could as an informed observer. His wife, Rosalie said, “This is pretty shitty”.  To which I replied, “literally”.   She spoke what sounded like German, but was significantly different.  “Dutch?” I asked.  “Yes, we’re from Holland.  We had visited our daughter in Los Angeles.  Now were on vacation, but with this.”

“Do you have a screw driver?”, Han asked.   I pulled my took box out, “Here’s what I have.  Here’s a screwdriver.  Use anything you need.”  After a while he got the sewer line to drain using a wand attached to a hose. He drained and cleaned his tanks, then secured the broken line with aviation clamps.  “That should hold for a while” he said.

We shared some wine to celebrate the end of their misfortune and chatted about politics, and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Holland.  The 75 anniversary of the battle of Arnhem was last week.  I mentioned HBO’s Band Of Brothers, a miniseries, as devoting one episode to the Battle of Arnhem.  As we spoke the wind came up.  It grew cold.  We exchanged information: email, phone numbers, addresses.  If you’re ever in Holland/San Francisco call and we’ll get together.

While chatting, Han mentioned there was one of these huge RV Busses that went off the road recently.  There were 30 Chinese who had rented the bus through a Chinese company.  Four of them died, the other 26 were hospitalized.  He said he stopped to help a group of Chinese who couldn’t speak a word of English, let along Dutch.  He said they had plates stacked high in the kitchen sink and the RV stank. Their electrical was out.  They had probably drained the house batteries.  “How can they safely drive in the U.S. without understanding the road signs?”, Han asked. “At least someone should speak English!” I thought of driving in Italy and Germany where I certainly do not speak fluently.  I did take the time to research road signs.  Perhaps the Chinese did too.  Who knows?

Han also sang the praises of Bryce Canyon.  He said, “You gotta do this” and he explained where to go, which hike to do, and what to avoid.  Not only can you see the hoodoos, but you can walk among them.

I asked Rosalie where they were from, “Holland” she answered.  There is a distinction made “in country” between being from The Netherlands and being from Holland.  Holland specifically refers to Noord-Holland and Zuid-Holland.  Amsterdam is located in north Holland and Rotterdam is located in south Holland.  Han said “Amsterdam is a zoo.  There are too many tourists. Rotterdam used to be like Amsterdam before the war. It was heavily bombed by the Germans.  There are some old parts, but most of Rotterdam is brand new.”

In honor of our freezer/refrigerator going out, we cooked all our “frozen” burritos tonight.  With enough Lime Cholula and salsa slathered on top, they were great.  

Just before my conversation with Han, I had opened a beer that fizzed all over the kitchen counter.  That put Ellen on edge.  A bit later I had a 2nd beer (a no-no, just ask Ellen) and it too fizzed all over the dinette table.  That put me in the dog house, bigly.  Then having a glass of wine with Han was too much, until I invited her to the party.  She and Rosalie chatted up a storm.  All was forgiven, or at least forgotten.

We’ll stay at Sand Creek another night.  Tomorrow we’ll take two hikes, weather permitting.   Tonight the wind is knocking Li’l Beast around.  We’re swaying side to side as if a huge hand is shaking us.  No rain thus far though.

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Changing Weather and a Violent Sunset

10/18/2019 Points South, day 38

A Few of Ellen’s Photos from Echo Island

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Tee Pee Moon

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Anderson Pot Pie

Our hot point convection oven had given us conniptions in the past.  We’d turn it on, put food in, and it would shut off in two minutes!  I tried everything I could think of to no avail.  I even read the manual.  This evening we’d try convection on the pot pies. Google to the rescue!  I found a video of a woman cooking raspberry scones in her hot point convection oven.  She did exactly what I had done; exactly!  Except she waited until the oven reached temperature, then she put the food.  Opening and closing the door triggers “step two” for the oven.  Once the door is closed, the oven accepts a cook time!  That’s news to me.   We set the timer and cooked the chicken pot pie.

When Ellen bought the pie, she was told that any Anderson’s supermarket has them. The pie was as good as expected and they’re easy to prepare now that we know how to use the convection oven.  When we (Ellen) doesn’t want to cook, we’ll pull out a chicken pie.

Echo Island RV Resort, Coalville Utah

On long distance drives, we look for an RV campground a few hours before sunset or when we get tired.  Ellen found Echo Island in Coalville on AllStays, a smartphone app. They had a site for us.  In fact they had many sites open.

This RV Park was envisioned as a destination resort.  Members paid a membership fee and could use the park “free” based on their membership class.  It has modern tiled sowers and bathrooms, hot tub and swimming pools, a half basketball court, horseshoes, 160 RV sites, tent sites, cabins, and four Tee Pees.  It has a fishing hole and a creek that runs through the property.  Fishing is said to be good here.  For a family looking to get away for a week, this could be a great place to go.   Their website emphasizes family activities in the park.

Two years ago the LLC declared bankruptcy and Echo Island was purchased by its current owner.  Some of the original club members are grand fathered in.  There are a few fifth wheels that look to be unoccupied.  We walked the grounds, which are extensive for an RV park. There is no “draw” here; little here or nearby to explore. 

We were surprised that the restrooms and showers were closed.  Last night we refilled our fresh water tank to 2/3 and stowed the hose. We had moderate rain overnight, The temperature dropped to 28 F this morning, not cold by our “new standards”.   The sun is up.  Temperature and barometric pressure are rising.  I thought today would be cloudy.  For now we have glorious sunshine and clear blue skies!

Plans

I’m sure we will drive through high passes that had snowfall overnight.   We have a choice of taking WY-89 or I-80.  89 is a more direct route to Escalante and Bryce, though I-80 will be clear of snow and ice.  I cannot say that of 89.  We’ll probably take i-80 then cut over to 89 later. It’s the longer, safer route.  Li’l Beast has done just fine in snow and ice.  Even so, there is no reason to go looking for less than optimal driving conditions.

We’ve agreed to save The Grand Canyon for another trip.  We would have to back-track. We’ve done that often enough. More significantly, we could feel rushed.  Like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon is huge.  A few days here, a few more days there; that could easily become two weeks or more.  Should we go to the canyon, our travels could bump up against November commitments.  

Long term travel in a Small Motorhome

You had better be best friends for long term motor home camping in cold weather.  In warm weather, you can enjoy the great outdoors.  In freezing weather, you’re confined inside.  That can be warm and cozy, or a tight quarters nightmare. 

We chose a Winnebago because they have a long track record and a reputation for building reliable motor homes.  They listen to their customer base and “fix” things that could be improved.  We chose a View because it is built on a Mercedes Diesel Sprinter platform. We chose a 24 J for its large living space with its push-out.

The 24J is perfect for a couple, or a very small family. It can sleep six, though I cannot imagine traveling with four children or four adults.  For the two of us, it is perfect. There is enough room that we’re not constantly bumping into each other mornings and evenings when were indoors.  With the temperatures often below freezing in fall travel, we are indoors for hours.  We read, talk about yesterday, today, and tomorrow’s plans.  We review our photos. We post on the web.  We also have the TV on tuned to  off air HD, cable when it’s available, or a satellite DirecTV channel.

Ellen cooks and cleans up.  She thinks I make a mess and throw water “all over the place” when I do dishes.   She’s a great cook.  We carry prepared food for those times she just wants to relax.  Paper plates ( not great for the environment ) help with cleanup on those days.

On a typical evening we’re exhausted from the day’s activities,  we relax after dinner, and hop in bed around 11:30 give or take.  We don’t watch the clock or plan to hit the sack at a particular time.  It just works out that way.  Unless we’ have plans, we do not set a morning alarm.  We get up when we get up, usually between 7:30 and 8:00.

At night the heater is set to 55, regardless of projected overnight temperatures. We sleep on and electric pad that we set to 4 to preheat.  Most nights a 2 setting is perfect.  If temperatures is expected below 20, we’ll set it to 3.  We drove Li’l Beast home from Connecticut in January 2015 in a cold winter storm.  Sleeping we felt cold creeping in from below the mattress.  We tried an electric blanket.  That didn’t work out.  Ellen found an electric heater pad that solved the problem.  We’ve used it ever since.

We’re now comfortable not winterizing in freezing weather provided daytime temperatures rise well above freezing.  We prefer to shut everything off when we travel and don’t’ want to risk frozen pipes. Evenings we turn on the black and gray water tank heater, put a light bulb in the outside water cubby, and set the heater to 55.  The heater has a small duct that feed into our fresh water tank.  With the electric pad, we don’t need the heater but set it to keep our fresh water tank above 32 F.  The View’s propane heater and insulation can keep the interior warm in near 0 F  temperatures.  The heater is very efficient.   Running it as we do in very cold weather, we use about 10% of our propane on a cold day.  In Gardiner, Montana, we purchased a small electric space heater.  I first thought it would go in the outside water cubby,, but it is too big and way too powerful.   We use it inside to augment the propane heater.  It’s amazing, we use it daily.

The black and gray tank heater is what makes it possible for us to camp in freezing weather.  We have to be plugged into power to use it. I’m guessing here, I think that heater would drain our batteries in about four hours.  Then we’d be SOL.  For us, the key to freezing weather camping is having an electric hook-up. 

Regards recycling, we learned that Montana does not recycle.  Yes, you will find recycling bins at resorts that separate out glass, paper, aluminum.  Those are there to keep the environmentally aware visitors happy.  All those bins arrive at land fill in Montana.  One day that may change.

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Foreboding Skies, but perfectly clear Over the Pass

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8% Grades are Common in Utah

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Clearer Skies and a Hint of Fall Color

Heading Out

We have a pre-flight check list we go over before driving off. Toward the bottom are: ensure fridge is running on 12 volts and walk around the RV.   Last night I noticed a abandoned 40 ft. quality yellow extension cord hanging on a power post with no camper in sight.  Someone drove off and left that cord!  I’ve learned to always do a walk around.  You never know what you may have forgotten to stow.  I’ve nearly left a rubber mallet, my water filter, and a sewer connector.  When we pulled in the push-out, we heard a karumph followed by the sound of breaking glass. WTF?  Rain on the push-out awning had frozen solid.  It was breaking free and falling to the ground making an awful racket.

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Always Walk around Your RV Before You Drive Off

Our near final check: Is the refrigerator running on 12 volts? Oh Crap, it didn’t switch over.  “It’s the fuse”, I thought. I’ve seen this before.  To get to the fuse I had to take off the fridge’s controller board’s cover, remove the controller board, and unplug some of the connectors.  Yup, the 20 amp fuse was blown.  I installed a fuse extension that brings the fuse outside the housing. I bought one anticipating another blown fuse.  This little gizwatchie makes fuse replacement easy. I installed a fuse and tried to power the fridge.  I’ve learned not to reassemble everything before testing. The fridge would not power on.  The display was dead.  I checked the refrigerator breaker. It hadn’t tripped, but another 20 amp fuse was blown too.  Cool, I replaced that.  Still the fridge display was blank, it would not power on.  In my overconfidence, I had not shut of power to the fridge while making my “repair”.  I probably shorted something that killed the fridge controller board. What a rookie mistake.

I called some repair shops in Salt Lake. “We’re booked for a week and a half. Can you wait?”, was a common answer.  A week and a half in Salt Lake City?  Hell No!  I did get a call back from a mobile repair guy, but we’d driven about one hundred miles past Salt Lake.  We’ll use ice in tubs in the fridge and freezer to keep our food fresh.   A little adversity will not dampen our spirits or stop the adventure!

MY concern that we hit ice or snow was unfounded.  The roads were all clear with not a hint of water on them.

Where To?

We’re headed south, but where should we go first: Bryce, Escalante,, The Grand Staircase, Capitol Reef National Park?  We took I-15 to avoid Salt Lake. At Scipio we took 50 east to Salina.  We stopped at Barretts Foodtown in Salina for supplies and ice for our fridge, then continued on to highway 24 toward Loa and Capitol Reef National Park.   The road off 70 to 24 is bizarre.  The turnoff is to a “rest stop”, but the frontage road that runs along 70 for a few miles eventually feeds into 24! How really strange.  There could be a more direct route, but that’s the path our Rand McNally GPS preferred.

 

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The Only Wildlife We Saw Enroute

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Often on the Road

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An thousands of them

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Nearing Capitol Reef

Rt 24 winds through ranch lands with abundant free range cattle.  It rises and falls through rolling hills covered with fir trees then drops into a wide valley with near mountains to the left becoming red rock cliffs as we drove along.  We encountered numerous black Angus roadside with a number of them standing on the road.   24 is a comfortable slow drive with speeds of 55 to 40 and 30 “in town”.

When we hit 70, Ellen called around for RV campgrounds.  The first was full. The manager gave us phone numbers for two others. The second Ellen called had a single dry site available.  Nope, that’s not for us! Ellen called the third.  “We’re full, you should call the dry campsite you mentioned!” Ellen called the second campground back and said we’ll take the dry campsite if it’s available.  “It’s still available”, Leslie said.  “What is your name, and email?  I’ll hold the site for you.”  Ellen managed to get her name out before we drove out of cell coverage. We tried reaching Leslie a few times on rt 24.  When we neared Fremont and with good connectivity, I pulled over. Ellen called again and got through.  “Of course I held the site for you.  We may even have an electric hook-up available.  We have a guest who could be leaving tonight.”  we gave her the “usual’ info to hold the site. “I won’t charge your card until we know which site you’ll get.”  Spirits uplifted, we drove on toward Capital Reef.  This is only the second time we’ve had trouble finding a site off season.  The last time was in northern New Hampshire in October; RV parks were closing.

Sand Creek RV Park

We arrived at Sand Creek RV Park just as another Sprinter based motorhome arrived behind us.  We were slow to decamp from Li’l Beast.  A woman from the other camper walked into the office well ahead of us.  Though she was seated at the desk, Leslie waved us in and the woman said, “you arrived first”.  I have no idea what was said between the two of them before we walked in.  Leslie said, “I was able to get the electric site for you this evening.”  We were ecstatic.  The woman who arrived behind us took the last site, dry camping.

Leslie lives here and was happy to share her favorite places in the area.  She said, “It’s fall break for kids.  The campgrounds are full today and tomorrow.  You should have no problem getting a site Sunday or next week.  Our sites for tomorrow will fill quickly”  We took her hint and paid for two nights right away.

The last time Ellen spoke with Leslie on the phone when she learned the dry site was reserved for us Ellen said, “I’m so happy I could kiss you.”  Well, she actually did kiss Leslie.  I smiled and said, “I thought that was my job, but then I might have some difficulty with you all.”   That got a laugh from all three women.

Before settling in, we took a brief walk around the campground.  The sun was setting; it was growing cool.  We had missed sunset today. 

With our freezer’s status questionable, we’re convection cooking a frozen Michel Angelo’s eggplant lasagna.  Our little electric heater is warming our toes.  Though Sand Creek RV Park is nothing to look at, It’s location is great.  Most of all I appreciate Leslie’s handling of our “situation”.

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Warm and Comfy Once Again

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.