Day 27, Blackwell Island RV Park Coeur d’Alene Idaho

IMG_E5246

Another Day on Blackwell Island and Coeur d’Alene

Today is a cold and cloudless day.  It promises to warm into the high 60’s.  I plan to visit Daft Badger Brewing today; Ellen will revisit a shop that had a nice pair of inexpensive glasses (reading I think).  Our “big decision” is to chose between staying another day in CDA or pushing on to Spokane.  If we stay, there’s a zipline tour we may take on Monday.   If we go it makes getting home in time for Ellen’s trip to Utah a day “easier”.  I hope to visit Victoria and the Straits of Juan de Fuca either before or after visiting Jerry & Michelle on Whidbey Island.

Blackwell RV Park is pleasant.  It is just a mile from the city and yet feels like being in the country.  The Spokane River separates the Island from the hubbub of “downtown”.  Unlike some parks, they have plenty of very hot water.  I have no problem taking long shower here!

We’ll fill the propane tank today. I’m curious how much it will take.  The last time we filled was the day we left Yellowstone on the east side and a very nice fellow gouged me: 3 Gal of Propane for $18.00.  “We have a 5 Gal minimum”.  Right, sure you do.  That was on October 3, my birthday.   Eleven days later our tank is down to 1/4, which actually means we have somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 a tank left.  With a 33 Gal tank, we have between 8 and 16 Gal. left.  We’ve been using propane for heat regularly, for stove top cooking a bit, and to run the refrigerator when we’re stopped on the road.  I am pleased with Li’l Beast’s propane consumption and far less concerned than I was entering Grand Teton NP weeks ago.

We will stay overnight here at Blackwell Island and push on tomorrow early(ish).  No zipline for us in CDA this year!  We are planning to come back to Yellowstone and Grand Teton next fall, but this time start by going north to Victoria, driving east through Canada, dropping down to Coeur d’Alene, then north to Glacier National Park, south to Bozeman,, and then drop into Yellowstone earlier in September than this year.  We may leave mid August to have time for stops along the way.

1:08 PM, we’ve done laundry, re-upped for a third day here at Blackwell Island and we’re about to Uber to Daft Badger Brewing for a bite & brew.  We contacted Jerry yesterday.  He and Michelle are busy with two businesses.  We’ll meet them for dinner, but their time is consumed by their work.  It seem frenetic to me, but then I’m enjoying retirement and leisure.  I hope they are enjoying the lives they’ve created for themselves and being kind to each other.  I expect we will go to Victoria and see them on our way south.  Our plans are always flexible.  If we find a place we love in central Washington State, we could stop for a few days.  For now we’re enjoying peace and solitude here with excitement in CDA a short ride away.  Blackwell Island RV Resort closes tomorrow at 11 AM.  I’ll get a propane fill before 11 or get none here.

We were told that the Dakotas got 17” of snow in the past few days and that Montana is seeing single digit temperatures in the early morning.  We fled Yellowstone at “the right” time.  I’ve had snuffles and other signs of a coming cold for the past week.  The past few days it’s subsided. Ellen’s been fine the whole time.  

IMG_5249

Daft Badger Brewing, five stars!

After laundry, an Uber trip to Daft Badger Brewing.  The kiosk we saw yesterday beckoned to me.  Our driver, Steven, said the brewery is in a residential area.  A house was converted to a brewery and pub restaurant.  Some of the locals are none to happy about it.  Yelp’s ratings for the brewery are all glowing, except for a few people who rate the restaurant on minor glitches that can occur anytime. Get over yourself people!

We arrived at a house with a covered patio open on one side.  Inside the bar/restaurant was packed.  Outside the patio had space and we sat along the open side, but moved inside where it was warmer.

IMG_5251

Daft Badger’s Beer List

They were busy.  A 20 something gal came by, “I’ll be with you in a moment”.  It was a long moment.  A bit later she came by and asked if we want something to drink to get started and handed us menus and drink cards. Ellen, “water no ice”, me “An IPA”.   She replied, “We have six IPAs”  “Ok, I’ll check out the menu”.  “I’ll be right back with your water.”   Of course, she was not right back.  Perhaps ten or even fifteen minutes later she was back with water and an apology, “It’s crazy inside, I got really busy”.  No problem, I don’t expect the world to revolve around us.  I ordered a Badger IPA though I said the Blood Orange IPA sounds really good.”  “Would you like a sample of the Blood Orange?”  “Sure, that’d be great!”  I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and  Ellen had an arugula salad and a champagne.  Yes I’d like the habanero potato chips and marinated jalapeno on the side.  Spicy is always a good thing for me!

Some time later our drinks arrived.  The Badger IPA was good, but the Blood Orange was superb.  It was not the fruity sweet take on a citrus beer I feared.  It had a hint of orange with that hoppy IPA grapefruit crisp finish.  What a beer.  She vanished as quickly as she appeared, off to handle the full house.  It was lunchtime.

Another ten or fifteen minutes later Ellen’s salad and my sandwich appeared.  Ellen’s salad looked like most arugula salads.  My pulled pork sandwich was different.  Most such have pulled pork, some BBQ sauce, maybe some coleslaw or sourkraut.  This one was “different”.  The pork was prepared with dried cherry.  The cherry was present in the background.  The pulled pork was cooked perfectly and without being smeared with sauce.  It had a few marinated red onions and a generous helping of a mild melted goat cheese.  I am on a “heated goat cheese” kind of guy.  Goat cheese often overpowers whatever it is put on.  Either the goat cheese was particularly mild or the sandwich could handle the intensity.  The pretzel bun was great.  The combination of flavors and the moisture of the goat cheese made this sandwich very special.  This was not your typical pulled pork sandwich and would be a disappointment for anyone who expected a BBQ brisket like experience.  This was a level above any pulled pork I have ever had.  It was wonderful.  The beer wasn’t bad either.  I probably bored Ellen to death with ohhh and ahhh and “This is so good” between bites the whole time I ate the darn thing.

 IMG_5253

Daft Badger’s Pulled Pork Sandwich, Heaven.

Score a big one for Daft Badger Brewing and their Blood Orange IPA.  I took a six-pack of Blood Orange and a few bottles of other IPAs “to go” to sample later in San Diego.

IMG_5255

After Lunch the Crowd Thinned Out

I very highly recommend a trip to Daft Badger Brewers if you like beer and visit Coeur d’Alene.

IMG_5257

6-packs of Blood Orange IPA Waiting for YOU.

IMG_5258

The Brewery Emptying As We Left

Sherman Ave

We walked the mile and a half down 2nd to Sherman Ave.  2nd ends and restarts, a detour is necessary walking 2nd.  We passed the “moose head” gallery and passed the kayak gallery and Logan.  We stopped into an eclectic gallery that mostly had artwork that didn’t appeal.  There were aluminum or steel images of Lake Coeur d’Alene painted in bright blue.  If you didn’t know the lake, the image would be lost on you. I really liked them.  There was also a pointing of Aspen that was well done and could have found a place in our home or RV, but no. Just up the street we stopped into a Knick knack shop that already had Christmas items for sale.  It was here Ellen had seen reading glasses she liked.  I saw nothing that appealed to me and Ellen got her glasses.

IMG_5265

Fall Colors Coeur d’Alene

IMG_5266

It Reminds Me of New England in the Fall

IMG_5268

IMG_5270

Halloween Is Coming

We walked on the shady side of Sherman Ave to avoid the heat! A novelty in the past three weeks.  Eventually we “Ubered” back to Blackwell Island and “home”.

IMG_5283

Seaplane Returning from a Tour

The Bugs are Back In Town

Yesterday evening we encountered swarms of blue gray flying insects that reminded me of gnats, but bigger.  This evening they were out in force too.  “Home” I Googled “coeur d’alene gray blue bugs that fly” and up popped a Coeur ‘’d’Alene/ Post Falls Press article headlined “THE BUGS ARE BACK IN TOWN” all caps.  “Smoky-winged ash aphids are back. CDA is inundated with aphids.  New residents continue to plant ash trees and he aphids are quite happy about it.  The article explains how to control them, sort of.  This happens in warm weather in the fall when they breed.

We had a heck of a time getting through the swarms at the RV campground and and not letting too many into Li’l Beast.  At least they’re not the deer flies of the north east or the black flies of Ontario.  These fellows are harmless.  There are just so many of them, great swarms actually.

A word about Getting Around

With the prevalence of Uber and Lift in most cities in the U.S. it is becoming unnecessary to tow a vehicle behind your motorhome.  At CDA we could request an uber car and have one arrive within five minutes both going to and coming from town. No need to find parking, no concern about parking tickets, no extra tow weight or RV handling issues.  Simply call an Uber/Lift.  Going further, if you want to tour an area, Enterprise will (in select locations) deliver a rental car to your motorhome or offer pickup nearby.  We often drive our motor home into cities and park.  A 24 footer is relatively easy to tool around in.  Even so, for extended tours outside national parks, we have rented through Enterprise for a day.

blackwell Island RV Resort, five stars (off season)

I recommend this campground to those who want to “camp” near Coeur d’Alene for a few days.  In mid October it was quiet and very sparsely occupied.  I imagine during the summer months it can be full and bustling with children running around.  I’m not sure how much the ambiance changes in summer.

October 13 2018 CDA

 

This morning I called suspension outfitters in Spokane about Sumo springs and Fox/Agile shocks for Li’l Beast.  My reading suggests this is the best solution for side to side sway entering and leaving parking lots and such.  The shops specializing in suspension are closed weekends as is Agile who customizes the fox shocks for the 3500 Winnie View.  While I was researching suspensions, the aroma of steak and eggs with crab snapped me back to the moment.  Ellen was reheating our leftover steak Oscar and potato and egg.  Tender steak, with potato for breakfast?  Yum.

IMG_5099

After Breakfast, Breakfast

We decided to stay over in CDA for another day and take uber into town.  Mark, our driver, arrived on time and drove us to “Bakery By The Lake at Parkside”, Ellen had a craving for an almond croissant.  Mark, our Uber driver, arrived quickly and took us to the bakery, “Did you know that American Idol is filming here in CDA?  They’re at the resort with the floating green.  It’s exclusive with security, not just anyone can get in.  I drove one of the contestants there this morning.  You may see celebrities walking around today or tomorrow.”  Cool, we’ll do more people watching than usual.  The bakery had just one; Ellen grabbed it.   I had a cherry cheese Danish.  Both were scrumptious.  My doppio Machiato was excellent. If we stay another day we’ll return here.  The cherry Danish was so good I wish they made cherry pie.

IMG_0016

IMG_0017

“According To Yelp”

We walked Sherman Ave, CDA’s “main street” on the sunny side of the street.  At a corner stood a kiosk about CDA’s Brewery Scene.  One panel described “Draft Badger” as the best brewery in Idaho.  Cool, we’ll turn on 2nd street and find the brewery when we get there.

I will not go into an art gallery if the show window does not appeal to me.  I walked past “The Art Spirit”.  Ellen stopped to go in.  “We should check this out” she said.  Reluctantly, I walked in.  Nothing I had seen had appealed to me.  Once inside I was struck by two hand made wooden kayaks.  These were works of art that took long hours of labor to build.  They were clearly created with love.  Amazing. “These are meant to be used on the water.  Not around rocks, but to be used”, the fellow behind the counter said.  “They are amazing”, I said, stunned.

IMG_5123

Hand Made “strip” Kayak, Made from Strips of Wood

IMG_5124

Another

Made of wood, I expected they would be heavy. They are relatively light at 44 lbs.  I cannot justify purchasing one either as art nor as a working kayak.  It seems a travesty to put one in the water.  We were about to leave and I asked about the kayak’s creator. There were three people behind the gallery’s counter; the fellow I originally spoke with, a woman who appeared not to be his wife, and a young girl.  The guy said, “there’s information about the artist on the table.” and the woman said, “Have you been upstairs?  There is more upstairs.”   We about faced and went “upstairs”.

The artwork here is more to my taste.  I particularly liked a collection of masks and might have been moved to purchase one.  No more spending on goodies for me on this trip.

IMG_0018

IMG_0019

My Favorite Mask

IMG_0022IMG_0020

IMG_0021IMG_0022

IMG_0023

 

On the way out I stopped and mentioned I really liked the masks, but I couldn’t consider purchasing one after buying a spotting scope in Yellowstone then breaking my iPhone and purchasing an XS replacement.  The woman said, “Oh too bad” while the young girl said, “Ooooh, I’m jealous.  Good for you.”  She captivated us.  Ellen said we were from San Francisco.  She said, “I love San Francisco.  My birthday is 10/10 and when I turned 10 we flew to New York to see Hamilton.  It was great.  But once you’ve seen it it’s just ok. We’re going to London and Wales next year. My mom’s from Wales.”  She was so cute, confident, and intelligent.

IMG_5125

Precocious Logan

As for my new iPhone XS, I love it.

Sometime later as the conversation progress, she became CDA’s ambassador, “Have you been to the boardwalk?  You have to visit the boardwalk.  One of my friends was leaning against the rope and fell in. It was winter.  She was ok, but she was freezing”.  I assured her we would not lean against the ropes.  She was vary talkative and gave us one of her cards.  She could well be very successful in life.

Leaving we walked past the art gallery with the huge bull moose head in the window.  It was both disgusting and fascinating.  The sheer size of the head and rack is astounding.  This time Ellen went in.  A hunter shot this moose.

IMG_5129

Big Bull’s Antlers are Huge

At 2nd street we turned looking for “Daft Badger” brewing.  We walked a few blocks before it became apparent the brewery was too far away to comfortably walk there and walk “home” to Li’l Beast.  We U-turned and went back to take a photo of a moose statue Ellen had seen then walked on to find the boardwalk.  We walked through a small mall of shops.  Most were of little interest except for TreeTastic, Timberline Adventures Coeur d’Alene.  They offer a 2.5 hour zipline tour twelve miles east of CDA.  It’s a 4 hour excursion in total.  This we may do.  We also encountered an artist exhibit in which five artists were painting a seated model.  Two of the artists rendition of the model’s face were striking.  They were a remarkably accurate and flattering representation of the model.  One fellow’s work was technically accurate, but he had somehow given the woman an austere almost angry look, which I clearly did not see on her face. The exhibit was accompanied by an accomplished violinist playing moody, touching, and unrecognized (to me) pieces.  I would have love to have talked to her, but not while she played.  We walked on.

IMG_5135

The Artist Exhibit

IMG_0024

Wolf or Coyote?

The boardwalk circles a marina adjacent to the Coeur d’Alene Resort.  The boardwalk is floating on pontoons and includes a floating three story walk-up bridge that allows yachts access to the marina.  Along the Marina stand a few coyote statues to keep birds away.  We saw these last night at Cedar, the floating restaurant. We walked the circle up and over the bridge and back through the resort.  The boardwalk offers stunning views over the lake and to Tubbs Hill.  You can see a seaplane tour outfit and lake dinner cruises from the boardwalk.

IMG_0028

Perhaps Next Year We’ll Take a Tour

IMG_0029

IMG_0030

IMG_0035

Outside the Resort

IMG_0036

That Two Story Tower is Floating, it rocks with the Waves

After finding our way through the striking posh resort, we continued walking along the Centennial Trail to the bridge over the Spokane River and “home”.  We found a second moose sculpture and discovered we were on a “moose trail”.  Two young women were complaining about the bugs.  We had run into a few that looked like gnats.  One tried to fly into my eye.  We commiserated with them about these flying devils and walked on.  The further we walked, the more dense these small flying kamikazes became.  They were very thick in the air, landing on our jackets and sunglasses.  They’re blue gray roughly 1/8 inch long and cute in a bug-like way.  Eventually they grew less dense and not a problem.

IMG_0038

Moose Trail

IMG_0040

Mudgy & Milly, Five Bronze Moose in CDA

IMG_0042

Ellen Learning the Red Berries are a Variety of Crab Apple

IMG_0044

Approaching the Hwy 95 Bridge, The Meeting Place

IMG_0045

One CDA Beach on the Lake

IMG_0047

On the Bird Watching Trail CDA

IMG_0048

Li’l Beast Sitting on Blackwell Island

IMG_0050

No Fake Coyotes? Birds Gather There!

IMG_0055

The Hwy 95 bridge over the Spokane River has a narrow bike lane.  We walked it over the bridge to our RV park and Li’l Beast.  Ellen did “ok” crossing the bridge and later said, “I don’t want to to that again.”

IMG_0057

Quail Sped into the Bushes, Ellen in Pursuit

Back “home” Ellen cooked up leftover chicken soup. While I resumed writing.

Yellowstone, Some highlights of a “fantastical” journey part one.

 

Another cool morning with the promise of rain.  We decided to drive north to Norris and visit Artist Paintpots on the way.  With flat lighting, we knew colors would not be vibrant.  Taking what the weather gives us, we chose to go in spite of the weather.

On the way over the first low pass between plains we encountered our first traffic jam in Yellowstone.  A herd of Bison were making their way over the pass to the second plain.  We crept forward a few miles an hour for thirty minutes.  With the bison off the road we seemingly sped on.  We stopped at Gibbon Falls.  There is ample parking and a paved walkway.  Many others had stopped and were walking to the falls.

IMG_1426_thumb1

Gibbon Falls in Flat Light

While we watched the falls, there was a commotion and a few people raced past us down the walkway.  Turning we saw the bison coming up the road.  It was a dramatic sight.  We took a few photos and video.  Then it dawned on me.  If we stay here and watch the bison go by, we will be stuck behind them again and for who knows how long.  With people hurrying down toward the bison, we literally ran back to Li’l Beast and got away.   A group of young people were standing behind a steel railing as the bison walked up.  They were too close to be safe.

 IMG_1444_thumb1

Bundled Up Against the Cold

We drove on to Artist Paint pots.  Artist Paint Pots is a group of geysers and colorful mud pots.  We walked the path and boardwalk up and around the geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, and mud pots.  Some smelled heavily of sulfur.  Our photographs do not do this area justice.

IMG_1637

Mud Pot Hurling Mud

IMG_1460

Mid Basin Pool

IMG_1479

Mid Basin Geyser

IMG_1457

A Bus Load Arrives

 IMG_1435

Geothermal Activity Mid Basin

We left Madison Campground at a reasonable hour.  We dawdled a bit; we had our Nespresso and breakfast, packed up, and drove  away.  After not being able to back into the site because an oversized pickup truck blocked the street, I was certain I’d have to back out this morning.  Surprisingly, it was easy to pull out.  I guess I should have been able to back in last night.

Oddly for October, Yellowstone is busy, not crowded, but busy.  There are no lines of cars on the roads.  Most turn-outs have spots to park, but there are lots of people taking in the sights.  All the campgrounds report going full every day.  We had had no problem getting sites at campgrounds by checking in early.  We wanted to do the same at Mammoth Campground and we boogied, while taking time to visit a few geothermal sights along the way.

IMG_1615

A typical day on the road between Madison and Norris

IMG_1618

The first time we drove north from Madison Campground, we had a 30 minute wait as a herd of Bison meandered along the road getting from one grassy plain through a pass to a second plain.  Once we passed the herd, we stopped at a dramatic waterfall overlook.  Some time later a group of tourists rushed past us to photograph Bison coming up the road.  It was a great photo op and we succumbed to the urge.  Then it occurred to me.  If this herd walks past us, we will be stuck behind them for another 30 minutes or more!  We ran, literally ran, to Li’l Beast and headed out.  We passed a number of people moving quickly the other way for photographs.  I imagine the wondered what we were up to!

Unlike the last time we took this road, there was no bison traffic jam.  We sailed past both grassy plains with no bison on the road.  We did encounter road work and a 30 minute delay.  A road crew had torn up the old road and was widening a long section.  For now the single lane that was open was packed earth and very bouncy.  The old road in this section of the park is very narrow, practically unsafe for wide vehicles.  I learned later that this is the original road of 1903. I assume that means the road has not been widened, not that it has not been repaved since 1903.

Rain, Jamboree, and Wolves

The weather report at the visitor’s center yesterday called for rain today, rain and snow tomorrow and the following day.  We slept through the night comfortably and awoke around 6:30 to the sound of rain drops on Li’l Beast’s roof.  The thermometer showed outside temp of 38 degrees F. The rain was sporadic and light.  I asked Ellen how she felt about heading to Lamar Valley.  “Sure, if you want to”. That was enough for me.  With Ellen comfortable in bed, I backed up a few feet, pulled the few leveling blocks I put out last night, and prepared to go.  In the evening we stow everything we don’t use.  That makes it easy to get started in the morning. “Jamboree” pulled past as I was setting up to leave.

I imagine sunrise over the Lamar Valley is spectacular.  On an overcast day, the sky simply goes lighter with time.  The aspen along the road glowed even without direct sunlight.  There was no traffic: I took the drive slowly and enjoyed the view around each bend as dark gray became steel gray.

After the Roosevelt Turn, Ellen perked up and joined me in the cab.  We stopped at a few turnouts and scanned the tree line for motion.  We saw nothing each time and drove on.   Sitting at a turnout was “Jamboree” with people scanning the tree line for motion.   We pulled in and a few moments later jamboree left.  We played hop-scotch down the Lamar Valley for a few miles.

The last time we caught up with them, there were hundreds of people stopped along the road.  There were spotting scopes on tripods, people with binoculars and umbrellas all staring at a spot in the distance.  Great I thought, but there was no room for us to park.  I drove by slowly, looking for anything we could squeeze into.  The roadside was too steep to risk pulling over.  There was little room for us to stop.  I drove on slowly passing scattered groups of onlookers.  Eventually I found a turnout well past the action and with a a back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth U-turned.  A woman, stopped in the turnout, stared in disbelief with a grimace of distain.  Oh well, onward.

There were no places to park all the way back to jamboree, but there beside them was a spot easily large enough for us. I pulled in, dressed for rain, and jumped out with the spotting scope.  “What are you seeing?” jamboree’s driver (name long since forgotten) said, “wolves, three of them.”  I setup the scope and scanned the valley.  “Look in the yellow above the left most Bison, then scan right to a fallen tree.  The wolves are about 50 yards further to the right”.   Without his help I might still be looking for the wolves.  It took a while to find them, but there they were.  Two large black wolves that were visible at 20x and were clearly wolves at 60x.  “Jamboree” said there were three; I saw two wolves.  They frolicked in the grass.  One mounted the other, then one ran off followed closely by the other.  All the action was framed in the eyepiece. Fantastic.

IMG_9641_thumb[1]

Typical Traffic in Lamar Valley (September, off Season)

IMG_1700_thumb[1]

Quite The Dapper Guy.

IMG_1734

Yellowstone’s Version of Ox Peckers?

It was not a brief encounter.  There was time for me to adjust the scope for Ellen to see.  Jamboree said they were headed to look for moose next.  “Where?”  “Near cook toward or past the NW Entrance.  There’s report of a big bull moose there.”   Jamboree left in search of their next adventure.  We drove back down the road toward Mammoth, found an unoccupied turnout, and with the generator rumbling away I made cappuccinos for us both.  We celebrated our second wolf sighting.  Hopefully the spotting scope adapter had arrived at the post office.

IMG_9642_thumb[1]

UPS, USPS, SNAFU, IPA

We drove on to the visitor center at Mammoth to talk abut wolves and visit the post office to inquire about my delivery.  I left Ellen at the visitors center and headed to the post office.  “Can I help you”, asked a white haired fellow with four bright front teeth and a number of missing side teeth.  I asked they had a package for me.  “What’s your name”  I told him and he went through his packages.  “No package is here for you.  What address was on the package?”  “Ron Leavitt, General delivery, Yellowstone Post Office”, I said.  He asked again, “what is the street address for the package”.   I said, “General Delivery.  The package was shipped by UPS.”  He said, “Oh, we cannot accept packages shipped UPS.  They will not pay us for processing any packages” We went round and round about this.  I finally said that I would pay the post office whatever reasonable fee they wanted to accept the package addressed to me and that I would pick the package up.  No delivery past arrival at the post office was necessary.”  He agreed that this was reasonable and suggested I track the package.  He would look the package info up on the web, “What is the tracking number?”

IMG_9629_thumb[1]

One Herd Makes Mammoth Their Home

Tracking number? Right, I didn’t have one!  I went back to the visitors center to contact phoneskope for the tracking number and to look for Ellen.  It took two calls, but eventually Jerome answered and agreed to message me the tracking number.  Ellen was nowhere to be found.  I went back to the post office, tracking number in hand.  The fellow I had been dealing with is the Postmaster General for Yellowstone.  His name is Matt.  Matt looked up the package and found there was no delivery address assigned.  He printed out the info and showed me a blank where the address should have been!  “What The Hell?” I thought.  Things were growing stranger.

I looked up UPS and called their 800 number.  The fellow I spoke with was apologetic and said he would look into this and call me back.  He found that the package had arrived at Bozeman Montana.  He asked what the delivery address should be and I gave him General Delivery Yellowstone Post Office.  He assured me that was all he needed,  the address was now in the system, and all was good.  Great.  I explained to Matt what was going on.  Matt said there were two drivers in the park and that one of them goes to Old Faithful.  If the package finds its way onto the other truck who knows where it will wind up.  He also said that he will look for the package in the next UPS delivery.   Everything seemed reasonable now, except that the package was late and I could be out a “Handling fee” at the post office.

As I walked out thinking I’d now have to track down Ellen,  I called her and she picked up! She was at the hotel and would join me at the post office.  Cool.  Just then I received a call from UPS. The caller verified my name and the tracking number, then asked what address I wanted the package shipped to.  “???” I thought.  I regurgitated the “General Delivery” address and she said UPS cannot ship to a Post Office.  She needs a street address to deliver it or it will go back to the sender!  “Where are you?”, she asked.  “Yellowstone NP, Mammoth Campground” “What is their address”  I checked AllStays (our campsite app), no street address was listed.  Ellen walked up as I was searching for an address. “It’s probably on the reservation papers, oh we didn’t get one.”, she said.  Talking to the UPS gal, I suggested she call me back in 15 minutes.  I’ll drive down to the campground, get a physical address, and drive back where I have ATT coverage.  That should take less than 15 minutes.

At the campground, the registration woman said visitors often get prescriptions shipped to the campground, and gave me their address.  On the drive back to the visitors center, I thought I’d give Matt a piece offering, a beer.  He was a gentleman throughout and probably puts up with any number of irate park visitors.  UPS did call back and I gave them the campground address.  She assured me the package would arrive on the truck tomorrow.  I asked if this happens often in the national park.  She said very often and that many people are not very understanding.   I thought of Matt who has to deal with people face to face.

I walked back into the post office, IPA in hand.  “Don’t take this the wrong way,” I said, “I would like to give you a beer.”  Matt replied with a grin, “I cannot accept that”.  I said, “OK.  I am leaving this beer on the counter over there.  I am not giving you this beer.”   Matt said, “Ok, that works for me.”  A woman who witness this exchange laughed merrily.

Quiet Times

Ellen and I spent the afternoon in Mammoth generally hanging out, charging our devices, writing, reading, and enjoying an afternoon’s down time.

For dinner we had leftover Michelangelo’s Lasagna mixed with the remains of Beth’s pasta.  It was a better dinner we had last night at the Mammoth Hotel’s dining room!  We saved some of last night’s salted caramel ice cream Sunday and had that for desert.

The wind has picked up this evening as a front moves in.  The awning above the push out was making noise, flapping about.  I took the push out in!  We’re getting serious rain now. The temperature will drop overnight and we’ll get snow.

IMG_1695

IMG_1701

 

Perhaps tomorrow evening I’ll be able to take photos through our spotting scope.

IMG_1699

Yellowstone North Entrance & Gardiner

The heater kicked on three times in the early morning.  I set the thermostat to 55 deg. F “just in case”.  We love to sleep in a cool to cold environment.  Most nights the internal temp doesn’t drop below 60.  Today was different.  A strong wind blew in around 7PM.  It shook Li’’l Beast and dropped the temperature too. We awoke to the sound of rain at 2:26AM, to the heater going off around 5AM, and to the trumpeting of 12-pt before sunrise.  12-pt was on a tare.  He trumpeted off and on for an hour or so. He must have walked right by.  The weather forecast for today was rain in the lower elevations and snow above 6800 ft.  Perhaps 12-pt was reacting to the weather?  More likely another male was encroaching. 

Today is the day I should get my new toy, a phoneskope adapter for my Pentax spotting scope (assuming all goes without a hitch after yesterday’s adventure).  Should we head out to Lamar Valley and look for wolves or wait until the adapter arrives?  The cold of the morning won out.  No wolf hunt today.  Instead we parked in our “usual spot” near the visitors center to use their facilities and ask about the weather going forward and wolf sightings.

Coffee first! We fired up the generator, pushed out the “push out” and had “wake up” cappuccinos.  With Ellen in Li’l Beast keeping warm. I walked over to the visitors center. Surprise: it opens at 9 AM, forty minutes away.  I headed over to the Mammoth Hotel to “make a donation”.

IMG_1691

Gardiner Montana

Back at the RV, we decided to check out Gardiner Montana, and headed back down the hill.  Just past the park entrance there were a number of people photographing wildlife to the left.  Some were taking selfies with the Yellowstone sign and arch in the background.  It was the antelope that interested me.  We stopped.  I headed toward the antelope; Ellen went the other direction.  I had never seen pronghorn antelope.  They are remarkable.  The females looks somewhat like impala.  The males are dramatically different.

IMG_1724

Female Prong Horn Antelope

IMG_1904-001

The Male Prong Horn Antelope

 

I spent some time framing the herd when a fellow asked, “Get any keepers?”.  I said, “I hope so”.  He stopped and we chatted about the pronghorn males.  He said, “The males have a gland either side of their head that exudes a waxy substance that smells like popcorn.  They rub it on shrubs to mark their territory.”  I asked about the nature of the haram, thinking knows a bit about these antelope.  He said, “The males herd the females to a location of their choosing and keep them there.  Another male who encroaches on the marked territory is asking for a fight to the death”

IMG_1909-001

He asked if I was from Whidbey Island II was wearing a Whidbey Island hat that Jerry had given me).  I said no, I’m from Hercules hear Berkeley.  He own 23 acres on an island in 1000 Islands.  We talked about Salt Lake City and how the air quality has deteriorated.  I mentioned the San Francisco Peninsula and how the air quality has changed dramatically since air pollution laws have been enacted.  We talked about Jerry Brown and how politics has become so divisive.   We spoke of the way instant media and sound bite communication is wreaking havoc with a nuanced understanding of practically anything.  All in all it was fun talking with him.  I hardly noticed that his face was tragically disfigured, probably by an automobile or motorcycle accident in his past.  It is unusual to reach such a depth of mutual understanding in such a short time.  He is an unusual human being.

IMG_1745

Bison, these Fellows were Distant

The town of Gardiner is small and rustic in appearance.  Perhaps it was never prosperous; it has a run-down feeling around the edges.  It is an extremely slow-paced town.  We drove through the town, found a grocery store, and stocked up.  The rip-stop waterproof nylon cover over Ellen’s Catrike had ripped somehow.  I purchased some Gorilla Tape and tried to make a repair.  A local hardware store had duct tape.  That actually holds better in the cold.  With the repair in place, we headed back to explore Gardiner.

Ellen walked the main street while I waited for the diesel pump to free up.  She came running back saying, ‘”You have to see this gallery!”  She had found Christopher Thomas Hoff’s gallery.  He has lived in Gardiner for 15 years and has taken many remarkable photographs of wildlife in action.  His is perhaps the most remarkable collection of photographs of American Wildlife I have ever seen.  I highly recommend visiting Gardiner just to talk with Chris.  He is not very forthcoming when you first engage him, but he comes ‘round.  We had a late morning cappuccino at “the apothecary” a coffee and ice cream shop on the main drag.  Jason was making waffle cones when we walked in.  The aroma was intoxicating.  We had our coffees and Ellen asked for a waffle cone, just the cone.

It is amazing how quickly time escapes us.  It was now 11:15.  The UPS truck was expected to visit the campsite around 11.  With any luck my spotting scope adapter for my iPhone had arrived.  Ellen quipped, “I hope they sent the right adapter!”.  Me too!

Back at the campsite, we asked about availability for yet another night.  Yes, we could stay another night if we like and YES, there was a package for me.  Here you go!  Sitting in a plain manila shipping envelope were three pieces of plastic and two sheets of “how to” instructions.  My phone fit snugly into the cradle and it appeared to be the correct size to mount on the scope’s eyepiece! Excellent.  Now let’s go find some wolves!  But first we stopped at the visitors center for Wi-Fi access and we had a bite to eat. 

IMG_9652

Mammoth & Motorhome Wreck

At Mammoth parked along the center divider sat a tow truck with a wrecked RV in tow.  It was one of those RV Across America rentals that are so common.  It looked as if it had been rolled.  I asked the tow truck driver if they had rolled it.  He said, “They put it on its side” just as two Asian fellows came up to get their belongings out.  I hope they opted for extended insurance.

IMG_9653

There have been numerous times I’ve wanted to pull off the road, but the drop off on the side is too steep to safely negotiate with an RV.  In such cases I’ve always driven on and not forced the issue.  Just a moment of carelessness or inattention can be extremely destructive.  Just last week a bison was hit and killed on a road.  How the hell do you hit a bison?  They are HUGE and if one is near the side of the road, I go slowly.  I don’t want 800 to 2000 pounds of animal jumping in front of my rig. 

Driving Lamar Valley, we stopped at every turn-out that could accommodate Li’l Beast and scanned the valley and tree line for motion.  We drove down the valley and back up and saw nothing.  There were numerous people with binoculars looking and looking, but nobody had a spotting scope out.  No luck and no chance to use my “new toy”.  We packed it in.

IMG_9657

Sickening, Bison Skulls used for Fertilizer.

At the Mammoth visitors center, we checked the weather report.  It looks like snow tonight dropping to 5200 feet (we’re well above that) with overcast skies tomorrow, snow Saturday night, rain Sunday and clearing on Monday.  Do we hang out in Yellowstone for another three days or do we boogie on through Montana?  We’ll see how we feel tomorrow morning. 

We took showers at the Mammoth Hotel (for a modest fee) and returned to Mammoth Campground.  We have no idea when this campground closes.  I’ll have to ask tomorrow. For dinner we had a bit of leftover pulled pork with julienned onion and peppers and avocado.  it was so good.

Today was a good day.  No wolves, but pronghorn antelope are cool.

Day 24 October 12 2018, Heyburn State Park to Coeur d’Alene (a short hop)

IMG_4933

Walking Coeur d’Alene

Morning

I love the peek-a-boo view of the lake through trees and scrubs from our bedside window.  The sunlight is playing on the opposite shore in brilliant golden hues.  I could stay here a few more days.  Ellen wants to go back to the town and cycle along the near town trail. I think we pick up the Centennial Trail in town.  It goes all the way to Spokane.  For now we’ll take a relaxed few hours on the trail.

I hate it when my mind dwells on things and I cannot sleep.  This is a very unusual thing for me.  I can fall asleep in a hurricane, no problem.  Last night I couldn’t get past Sumo shocks, an Apple Store to replace my iPhone, and can I recover my data. Over and Over this went through my head between 2:30 and 3:30.  It’s nuts.  I am glad the fellow View driver mentioned Sumo shocks though. I had read they make a world of difference in Li’l Beast’s handling, then simply neglected to act on it.  The fellow must have seen me swaying side to side coming into the gas station.  Good on him.

Ellen and I have had our coffee.  Ellen’s looking over the cereal’s sugar content preparing to have some breakfast.  She chose the box we bought yesterday “on sale”.  This state park is located near an American Indian Reservation.  The thing about locals near a reservation?  They’re “different”.  I don’t know why society works this way but…  the less wealthy a community, the pricier the goods and services are for those folks.  Take the local “family” market we shopped at yesterday.  Planter’s dry roasted salted peanuts that come in that plastic jar-thing was priced at $6.00.  That’s just one example.  Everything in the store looked to be priced at least $1.50 more than it should be.  I didn’t check the beer and liquor prices.  Shipping alone cannot explain this.  Plummer, the local town, is a short hop from Coeur d’Alene.  So why?  Could it be people soaking the Indians because they get federal (“our”) money and “we” want it back?  I know I’ll never get a straight answer by asking.  Yesterday in the market I had one of those WTF moments that “chaps my hide” so to speak.

IMG_8869

Helmet Nazis

Sisters on the Fly are still here, bolstered by new arrivals.  I assume the get-together lasts through the weekend. I get the desire for women to get together without men.  We guys can be such dicks sometimes.  And that’s us being “nice” (sometimes).  I wanted to ask if a random guy could join them by the fire, but thought better of it.  I could handle “No”, I would rather not subject myself to a lecture should one arise.  It’s a bit like yesterday when through a bone-headed move while clipped in on my cycle, I took a spill.  Wham, right on my side just as a couple with cycle helmets came to a stop near by.  “Are you ok?”  “yes, my ego is bruised.  I’m fine”  Then the kicker “You should wear a helmet!  You know most head injuries are bicycle related and wearing a helmet can prevent it?”.  Then the fellow piped in supporting his wife, “It’s true, really you should.”   Funny, I’d expect the helmet Nazi’s in California, sure.  This is Idaho, you know “your own private Idaho, home of the independent mountain men and such”.  Helmet Nazis in Idaho?  The topper?  I usually do wear a helmet, but on such a glorious day and with so little bike traffic I thought “Oh,, what the heck”.

The Helmet Nazis have nothing to do with Sisters on the Fly.  In fact the sisters who l saw on the trail also were helmetless with their hair streaming in the breeze.

Sumo Shocks

I cannot get this thought out of my head.  I’ll see if I can have them installed in Spokane.  I’ll call ahead today on my non-existent phone.  Have to get one of those in Coeur d’Alene if possible.  How do I retrieve my data and apps.  (my mind is still rolling this ‘round and ‘round).

Coeur d’Alene

It is 40 miles from Heyburn State Park to Coeur d’Alene.  The drive is over rolling hills with a few steep grades.  It’s a relaxing drive. Ellen remembered seeing an RV park in Coeur d’Alene just off HW 95.  As we approached the city, Ellen pointed out the RV Sign and I pulled into Blackwell Island RV Resort.  Matt was momentarily caught off guard when Ellen asked, “We want to know what the deal is”.  I actually blurted, “I have no idea what that means” Recovered Matt said, “Well the deal is we have RV sites that we rent and you have an RV and want to rent a site.  I think we can work something out!”  With that we all relaxed and had a great conversation about the city, biking trails, restaurants, were the most scenic stretches of the trails are, what to avoid.  Matt was a wealth of information.  “Do you know where there’s an ATT shop in the city?” “There’s one near the Costco up Government Way” and he marked the spot on a map. “It might be T-mobile  it could be ATT, I use Verizon.”  Matt mentioned a floating restaurant a few blocks away that had evening specials between 4 PM and 6 PM.

We paid for a night at the campground at a site Matt said would have good Wi-Fi.  We drove by the site to check it out (it was a pull-in/back-out), and left for the “ATT shop”.  We found the T-Mobile shop near the Costco as Matt said.  “It’s not ATT, but they will know where the ATT shop is for sure.” and they did. I did get a good natured ration of crap about not buying T-mobile and asking about ATT there and an offer of better pricing.  They were amazed at how my broken iPhone was bent into an arc.  We had a good laugh about it.

The ATT shop was beside Albertsons a few blocks back toward the city.  They too were surprised at the bent iPhone.  “Yes I sat on it when I fell off my bike and it bent into an arc.  It is totally non functional.”  The two sales guys were busy, one with a guy and Mike with a husband and wife.  The wife was asking pointed questions about pricing, deals, discounts, hidden fees. She had lots of issues.  I felt sorry for Mike.   While I was waiting another fellow walked in and because mike’s customers were waiting for their android phone to load, Mike helped this guy.  The wife grew anxious and made some snide comments about Mike helping them and not “this guy”.  Mike answered the fellow’s question and he left.  Then Mike asked if he could help me gesturing to the couple and saying their phone is loading and there’s nothing he can do for them until it completes.

Ok I explained my problem, “Could he check if I have insurance on my phone.  If I don’t I’d like to purchase a replacement.”  “Sure” then a few minutes later “You do not have insurance”  “I’ll have to purchase one then”.  At this point the wife, who was apoplectic said, “ Well go to another shop to finish this. What’s your name?”  Mike replied, “Mike” as she took her packaging and phones into her arms and walked out, husband in tow.  They didn’t have the phone I wanted, but they did have the latest phone with the memory and color I wanted. Would that be ok?  After some time getting my login and password to work (I use multiple email addresses) I got my phone.  Yay.

IMG_0001

Centennial Trail

 

We drove off to find the Centennial Trail past the far end of town near a big parking lot.  There was a large dirt parking area that is not the parking for the Centennial trail.  That parking lot is a half mile further down Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive.

Centennial Trail is another one of Rails to Trails success stories.  That organization made the trail happen.  Support them!  I do.

The Centennial Trail from that parking log runs down a bicycle lane alongside the road (highway kind of).  Ellen was not impressed, “I thought we’d be bicycling along the lake” “We will be” I said; “I hope” I thought.  A left turn off the highway bike lane took us onto Mullin Drive, a back street.  We were still on a bike lane and still not biking along the lake.  There were Centennial Trail signs along the route.  We were on the trail, just not on the lake.

Mullin Drive ends at McEuen Park.  There Centennial Trail turns along the lake.  The ride from McEuen park along the paved path beside the lake is beautiful.

Ellen does not like sharing the road with cars.  She is happy with a paved bike path and she loved Centennial Trail once we hit the lake.  She did well cycling along the roads.  We rode out past U of Idaho, then turned back.   We stopped for a scheduled conference call (Ellen with friends).  We hoped to be back at the floating restaurant for dinner before 6 PM. Heading back the bike lane was obstructed.  We had to cycle in a traffic lane for a few hundred yards.  Ellen boogied through that section.

IMG_0014

Conference Call: Melissa, Cynthia, & Ellen

We actually did make it to Cedar, the floating restaurant and had dinner.  Our dinners were good, but not exceptional.  We both had Steak Oscar and clam chowder.  Our drive “home” was two blocks.  Our antenna is up and we’ll watch Bill Maher later this evening.

Did you notice I did not mention the weather today?  Today was sunny and 70F.  What a glorious day!

How things can change.  I was just finishing this up when we heard rain on Li’l Beast.  This was the one time I did not cover the bikes!  Oh No!  With my raincoat on I tied a makeshift tarp over both bikes.  It is secure now and I’ll have to dry the cycles off and lube the chains tomorrow.  I got soaked, but the cycles are now protected from what comes.  In retrospect I should have checked the weather rather than just assume all would be good.

Day 23 October 11 2018, Heyburn State Park Campground

 

IMG_9773

Li’l Beast in the Pines and Cedar

Site 43

We wanted site 44 when we pulled through yesterday. It was taken. Site 43 is just fine.  With no campers between us and the lake, we have a view through pine and cedars and a sense of privacy.  It feels like a small trailer convention is visiting.  There are seven or ten of those small throwback to vintage tear drop and boxy campers parked together in the 20’s loop.  One I assume single woman in particular had Christmas party lights in a vast array strewn over her camp site and table.  They were relatively quiet last night.  I heard conversation around a campfire as I walked to take a late shower.  Our electric heat pump made more noise (sorry…).

IMG_E4937

The View from Site 43, Heyburn State Park

Showers at Heyburn State Park.  They are FANTASTIC, really.  We showered at Old Faithful Lodge, right?  These showers are better, at least the handicapped shower is.  It is big, roomy, the heat vent is directly over the shower, it has two (!) shower heads, a fold down in the shower, a chair in the front dry area, and three (!) hooks for clothes and stuff.  It was well lit, very warm and had loads of very hot water.  The temperature outside was 38F, the temperature in the shower area had to be 70F. Heaven.  I loved my shower.  Oh, and a shave.  It had been a few days; my gray grizzled face felt renewed. 

This morning’s temperature was 31F.  Again we had no fear of frozen anything overnight.  31F is brisk.  We put our moose hunt on hold awaiting the sun and somewhat warmer temps.  Our first concern this morning; heat and espresso first thing as usual.  Our propane gauge has been sitting at 1/4 for a few days now.

Sisters on the Fly

Who knew?  The small camper “convention” is actually a gathering of members of the “Sisters on the  Fly” a national women’s group that extends into Canada.  “No men allowed?” I asked.  “There are a few rules: No men, be nice.  The no pets rule was relaxed, there are a few pet rules.  Most women are over 45; there are a few young ones.”   I’ll look them up the next time we have WiFi/connectivity (not the young ones Smile )

One of the gals suggested that site 20something had a view of the lake.  I got the feeling she’d rather have us move.  I like our little spot.  There are more small campers arriving. Could our site be in jeopardy if we leave? We’ll see.

 

IMG_9767

Christmas Lights, Hawaiian Leis, Turquoise

IMG_9768

Self Explanatory

IMG_9769

These folks were up late by their fire

IMG_9771

Part Golden Retriever & Part Great Dane

IMG_9772

Beauty is in the Eyes of Who Tows Her

IMG_8890

The Converted RR Bridge Across Lake Coeur d’Alene

Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes

I convinced Ellen to stay here another night.  I made arrangements at the visitors center and said, “I hope we don’t lose site 43”  To which Leslie replied, “did you leave something there to mark it occupied?”  “No.”  We drove back and put our two “comfy camp chairs” out and with just a touch of “I hope this works” we headed off.  Leslie, the visitors center meet and greet gal, said there were two parking lots that access the bicycle trail.  The first is small.  We should avoid that one to let people hiking other trails park.  The second lot is huge.  We should park there.

IMG_4966

Li’l Beast at the Large Parking Lot Access to “The Trail”

IMG_8888

Lake Coeur d’Alene is Quite Large

 

We found the first parking lot and it was small. We didn’t pull in.  That would be a great place to stop to access the marsh in the early morning.  The second parking log is indeed huge.  There was a $5 use fee for parking or using the boat ramp.  There was also a large open air log kitchen/meeting place with a huge fireplace and running water.  That facility could be rented for $26 per day.  What a deal for a group campground themed get away.   It took some walking to find the day use pay kiosk (at the entrance to the lot which I blithely drove right past).

We parked for a bit waiting for the sun.  It was still very cold in the shade.  While I unpacked the bike and trike and setup to go, first an elderly couple arrived and walked off, then a group of six or seven women arrived in three vehicles, unpacked bicycles, and headed off on the trail.   Ellen and I left shortly after.

IMG_8875

Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes was a Rails-to-Trails project that converted an old railroad right of way into a walking and bicycle path for general use.  As an increasing number of railroad right of ways are being abandoned, Rails-to-Trails is leading the charge to make this space accessible as walking paths.  These “trails” wind through rugged country full of wildlife.  They’re “off the beaten path”.  If you are inclined, check out Rails to Trails on the web.  I contribute and laud their efforts. This particular path is in the Rails to trails “hall of fame”.  It is gorgeous

IMG_8877.

Ellen and I caught up to the women (part of the Sisters on the Fly?) atop the bridge crossing Lake Coeur d’Alene. They left as we approached and were never seen again.  Across the bridge, the trail skirts the lake for about 5 miles then turns east along a creek, marshes and small lakes. What an experience bicycling along the lake past reed covered coves, but the beauty of the marshes and fields past the lake was remarkable.  We scanned left and right looking for wildlife.  Sometimes I led, sometimes I followed Ellen, and often we’d cycle side by side.  Ellen, on her trike, was more upright and better able to look around.  At one point I stopped thinking I had seen a deer or elk, but no. Nothing was there. 

IMG_4979

Ellen’s Catrike Sits Low, a shot from her Trike-Mounted iPhone

IMG_8878

Funky Art along the Trail

IMG_E4991

Ellen Saw A Moose!

I pedaled on thinking Ellen was just behind me up to a road crossing trail head with parking and a picnic table.  I stopped and waited, and waited, and waited.  I waited for perhaps 10 or even 15 minutes, then headed back to see what’s up.  I was moving pretty quickly as I approached a couple we had met on the road  earlier.  The woman shouted, “your wife is ok, she saw a moose”.  Ah, that explains it.  We both stop and gawk at wildlife; a moose is not just “any” wildlife.  I caught up to Ellen riding toward me with a big grin. She had seen a female moose at close range.  We pedaled back to see if we could find her but she was gone.

IMG_8872

Not the best shot, but it’s a MOOSE!

The day started with clear skies and a cold 41F.  Towards mid afternoon temperature rose to the high 50’s with a few scattered clouds.  We were pedaling with the sun on our backs, our torso in self created (and cool) shade and headwind.  I expected we would enjoy the sun in our face as we headed back.  Nope, not today.  Partially cloudy became cloudy by late afternoon.  We were never warm on our adventure, though never cold either.  Ideally we would have done this in mid September, before nighttime freeze set in.  This is still a glorious bicycle experience.  The trail goes on for 72 miles.  I’ve read that the lower portion is more scenic than the upper half.  Then there is the Hiawatha Trail that goes over RR Trestles and through tunnels.  That trail is now closed or it would be next on our list.

IMG_E5003

Ellen’s Moose,the Real Deal

 

IMG_5028

A typical View along Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes

IMG_8893

Soft Focus, Ellen Crosses the Bridge

I had a conversation with a fellow from New Hampshire this morning at the visitors center, Heyburn State Park.  I always ask about local wildlife, this morning I asked about moose. This fellow said they have many moose here.  Mating season is just starting and it will be more difficult to find them.  They’ll be running around, not staying in any one place.  He called Idaho “the wild west”.  Like me, he had spent much of his youth fishing or looking for wildlife in Maine and New Hampshire.  We both agreed, there was nothing to be found there.  But here in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming?  There is plenty of wildlife and birds, and fish.

We are back in Heyburn Campground.  The two chairs we had left did the trick.  Our campsite was waiting for us.  Ellen is cooking up some chicken soup (with Costco roast chicken) in a crockpot.  Dinner is on its way.

One sad note: today I trashed my iPhone.  I fell and sat on the damn thing.  It was bent into a U shape.  It’s done.  I wonder if Coeur d’Alene had an Apple Store.  I wonder how much can be recovered.  New Rule: smart phone never goes in back pocket while cycling, put it in a shirt pocket or backpack.  It’s startling how much I depend on a smart phone for data collection, photos, and a the like.  Scary too!

Tomorrow we may bicycle again, we may look for moose (again), we may head off to the town (cty?) of Coeur d’Alene.  We don’t know.  We don’t really care.  Whatever comes will be fun. We can take our time and enjoy.

Holliday Bicycle and Tricycle Rack

I packed the cycles on the rack on September 19.  They rode to Idaho Falls where we used them for an hour.  The cycles were in great condition.  Now on October 11 I unpacked the cycles after they had been through Grand Teton, Yellowstone, rain, and snow.  They are both in excellent condition.  I’d say without a scratch, but Ellen’s tricycle has a small scratch on its rear fender. No big deal. I am extremely happy with Holiday’s bike and trike rack and with the grommets a Richmond sail maker installed on our Yardwork tricycle cover.  The system of covers, foam protection, and the rack worked out!

What’s on the Menu?

Sometimes we eat out for dinner or lunch. Often we’ll pull frozen food and micronuke it. Often Ellen cooks or I’ll BBQ.  Tonight Ellen cooked.  Crockpot cooking and fantastic.  Vegetable broth combined with carrots, peas, corn, brown rice, spices, and lots and lots of roasted chicken pieces cut from a whole chicken.  We each had two servings and have leftovers for lunch or dinner tomorrow.  I may have an espresso to cap off the evening.

Peace Out.

Day 22, October 10 2018 Coeur d’Alene Campground to Hayburn State Park

 

 

Coeur d’Alene Campground

IMG_9761

The Turnout for Coeur d’Alene Campground

Another cold, crisp, but clear morning.  The campground is nestled in a valley against the north side of a ridge.  We could see the sun on the ridge to our north across the south side of Coeur d’Alene Lake.  We welcomed the warmth of the sun when it arrived.

CDA Campground is one of the better ones we’ve visited.  I enjoyed talking to Rhonda and Jim (I think).  The campground has a stack of firewood for the fire rings, two paddle boats and a canoe for tooling around the open waters of the marsh.  A road divides the marsh from the lake.  Paddling the marsh is quite safe; paddling the lake is another matter.

Again with the cold, we felt no need to leave early.  Ellen said our goodbyes around 11AM and we drove on to the town of Coeur d’Alene.  Coeur d’Alene means heart of the Owl! I’ve read it was meant as a compliment to the American Indian traders who drove a hard but fare bargain.

The drive to the town was short.  Nearing town we followed a sign to the visitors center.  I stopped for diesel and to dump our gray & black tanks at an Exxon station.  As I pulled in I noticed another Winnie View getting gas.  The fellow had a small sized motorbike on his hitch.  Not a bad idea.  He walked over to ask if I had a cycle in back.   He noticed the obvious bulge of our covered tricycle and bike.  I said no.  He asked how my view handled. I said it’s ok.  I don’t notice the hitch weight.  I asked how he liked his View.  He said it handles great after he installed Sumo springs.  He said they stopped the side to side wobble and made the ride much more stable.  He must have seen me pull in with the side-to-side shake.  He said they’re easy to install.  He did his himself, “The best $300.00 he’s spent”.  I had read about Sumo’s years ago when researching the View.  Now they’re on my short list for improvements.

Coeur d’Alene

The visitors center is at the lake end of the street.  We drove a few blocks looking and looking. Then a few more and still another.  Finally we saw a sign saying “Visitors Center 9 blocks”.  We found the visitors center and pulled into a parking across the way.  We were greeted by a sign “No RV Parking”.  I drove through, around, out, and saw parking behind the VC.  Again there was a no parking sign.  Further down a parking lot for Momo, “for patrons only, others will be towed”.  Really?  I drove further and saw more “patrons only” parking.  We saw no street side parking space large enough for us.  A few blocks away I found open parking spaces with a 2 hour limit.  Here I thought Coeur d’Alene was a small town with small town attitude.  No Way, this parking thing is reminiscent of large cities.  San Francisco came to mind.  CDA is much smaller than SF, but some attitudes are similar.

The woman at the visitors center said, “No, we are not a small town any longer.”  She pointed out RV parking spots on a city map and gave us a bunch of pamphlets describing things to do in town.  “Any restaurant that has outdoor seating will have great food.  We don’t have chains here in town”  Great we both said.  No MickieD’s. 

IMG_9766

Local or Tourist, Who Drove the Vespa?

The day was growing warm in the sun, but still crisp in the shade.  We walked the sunny side of the street.  None of the curio shops or art galleries interested us.  There was one gallery who had a huge moose head sitting on the floor in the window.  It was massive.  From tip to tip his antlers must have been more than six feet across. We walked on.  Ellen thought to go in, then thought not. 

Tito’s Italian Grill & Wine Shop, Michelle General Manager

We passed an Italian Grill, a number of Bar and Grills, some bars; the Italian Grill won out.  We had a very good lunch there.  I had sausage and peppers with thin spaghetti. Ellen had a margarita pizza.  While we ate a fellow pulled up in a Vespa-like scooter across the street.  Was he a local? Was the Vespa a rental or carried on a motorhome?  We enjoyed people watching in CDA We will stop back here on our way to Yellowstone next fall.  It was very good.

The restaurant has huge prints of photos of Cinque Terre. Some of Rio Majore, a number of prints of Vernazza.  In one your could find the terrace high on the hill where we stayed while we were there. 

I pulled one of the restaurant’s business cards.  I want to remember this restaurant for the next time we visit “Heart of an Owl”.  I think Michelle was the woman who waited on us.

IMG_1720

I had planned to go to a local state park close to access to the “Trail of the Coeur d’Alene” a 72 mile converted railroad trail.  This is Rails to Trails most successful project in the U.S.  The old rail track has been paved for foot and bicycle traffic.  It is an easy to moderate mostly flat trail.  Perfect for Ellen.  I sensed some reluctance on Ellen’s part to leave the town and go to a state park.  Worse, I had read that the park had pit toilets and some electric hookups.  I shanghaied Ellen.  I drove the 40 miles to Heyburn State Park.

Heyburn State Park

The drive from CDA to the park is uninspiring.  It winds up and over a low pass through evergreen, then drops into a valley that looks more industrial than pastoral.  Great, I thought.  Not the best approach to what I hoped would be an idyllic state park.  A left turn took us into a forested area.  Another left took us to Heyburn State Park’s visitors center.  The visitors center was a surprise.  It is large, warm, has a gift shop, and overlooks a reedy marsh the the side of Coeur d’Alene Lake.

IMG_1716

Leslie greeted us.  We explained that we would like to stay the night with a 24’ RV.  She said, “Here’s a map of the campsite.  Drive through and pick one that you like.  Then come back.”  Ellen asked, “Do any sites have a view of the lake”  “Yes, and she pointed out four possible sites”.  Ron, her boss, walked in as we were about to leave. After exchanging hellos, I asked, “Do you get many large animals coming through the park?”  That started a fun long conversation about animals.  They get Moose, Elk, lots of deer, some bear, but the raccoons are a nuisance!  “Moose are pretty common.  They come down to the lake some mornings.” Leslie said she sees moose every time she goes elk hunting.  “Maybe you should go moose hunting to find elk.”  I asked if it is legal to hunt moose.  Ron said they have lots of moose in the area.  Moose permits are done by lottery to keep the number of hunters down to allow the moose to prosper.

IMG_1717

Moose Tomorrow? Spotting Scope for Sure!

We selected site 42 overlooking the lake through some trees.  Our rear microphone decided not to work lately making backing into sites more challenging.  Ellen is very good at guiding me in.  We found lots of firewood sitting at the fire circle and may have a fire tonight.

IMG_1719

A word about Heyburn State Park.  It is fantastic.  Every campsite has electricity and water.  Some have sewer hookup as well.  The men’s and women’s toilets are well heated and have showers with plenty of hot water.  The campsites are nestled in pine and cedar; the cedar are wonderfully aromatic.  Heyburn State Park was the first state park in Idaho and the first in the west.  We walked along the lake’s edge past reeds and flushed a vast number of ducks.  Their beating wings and dragging feet sounded like gushing running water until we realized it was the fleeing ducks.

IMG_1721

Back Side Visitors Center, Heyburn State Park

We’ll look for moose tomorrow morning and for the reclaimed railroad line in the late morning sun..

IMG_1723

Day 21 October 9, 2018 Missoula Mt to Coeur d’Alene Idaho

 

KOA Campground Missoula Montana

IMG_4756

Missoula KOA, cabins, sites, and rain clouds

IMG_4757

But they have Rabbits!

Rain.  It rained pretty much all night. 

Yesterday evening we walked to WallyWorld looking for a few things for Li’l Beast and for some cough drops for me.  We passed a few steak and BBQ houses on our way out and chose to stop at Kobe as we returned.  We wanted steak. The hostess said, “Then you want Teppanyaki and the tables to your left.” 

I had never experienced this style of Japanese cooking.  First was a demonstration of our chef’s prowess with spatula and knife.  Clanging the spatula on the grill, he flipped first the spatula then the knife and caught both in the air a number of times.  He flipped the spatula over his head and caught it behind his back. Next,, out came an egg.  With his spatula placed flat on the grill, he placed the egg on the spatula and spun it.  With the egg spinning on the spatula, he flipped the egg in the air, catching it on the spatula.  By shuffling the spatula, he kept the egg spinning as he flipped it in the air a number of times.  He flipped the spatula, sending the egg high in the air and caught it in his hat.

The chef produced two other eggs, took the one from his hat, and scrambled them on the grill.  He then separated a portion and cut it into bite sized pieces. The rest he mixed in with rice and oil.  He then selected one bite sized piece and flipped it at the first guest to his right.  The fellow caught the egg in his mouth and ate it.  Another piece went to his wife, another two to the couple to Ellen’s left.  Ellen’s turn.  She was game, but missed both.  The chef was willing to go for three, but Ellen declined.  I got lucky on my second try.

The chef then sliced up and grilled vegetables, produced steaks and chicken as ordered and sliced and grilled that too.  Dinner of fried rice, vegetables, and Kobe beef was very tasty.  The chef’s performance was remarkable.

The weather projected another day of rain tomorrow then clearing through the week.  I had thought we’d stay here at the KOA for another day before pushing on.  Ellen thought it better to get to Coeur d’Alene and stay there waiting for better weather.  With the cold weather we were slow getting going.  We left the campground around 11 AM.  The Missoula KOA is clean and well setup, but it is a “city parking lot with trees” campground.  They have done what they can to make it feel like camping.  Even so, it lacks appeal.  Ellen’s suggestion that we push on made sense to me.

IMG_E4807

Fall Colors Are At Their Peak

IMG_4870

We Missed Most State Line Signs, Got This One!

IMG_4912

We’re Close!

IMG_4895

Arrived!

Coeur d’Alene Campground

The drive from the Missoula KOA to Coeur d’Alene is on I 90.  It goes over a pass with a  7% downgrade.  I kept Li’l Beast in a low gear and tooled down the grade at a moderate speed.

IMG_9761

Coeur d’Alene Campground is across a marsh from i90.  The campground is well outside the city limits.  It’s country here. We heard no highway sounds overnight.  Compression brakes are outlawed on that stretch of highway.

IMG_4915

The campground is located on a hillside. The camp sites are cut into the hill and are quite level.  Most have a small log cabin which can be rented separately.  Rhonda and Jim (I think) welcomed us.  “There is free firewood.  You are welcome to use the paddleboats or the canoe on the lake.”  As cool as it was, paddling on the “lake” was not happening.  A fire though, that we cold do.  Our campsite was low on the hill with electric and water.  The men’s and women’s room was heated, though just barely.  Showers would have to wait.  I selected some small pieces from the firewood stack for a fire later in the evening.

IMG_4913

Evenings CDA Sets A Welcoming Gas Fire

We had Michelangelo’s Vegetarian Lasagna piping hot from the microwave for dinner.  These frozen dinners are a step above anything else on the market.

IMG_9763

Our First Campsite Fire Ever!

Li’l Beast

In Yellowstone we effectively boon docked with no water or electric hookups.  We kept an eye on our propane consumption and tank levels.  I would often refill the propane when the level dropped below 3/4 “just in case”.  I have come to realized that we can do much longer between fills. Our tank holds 33 gallons.  When the propane level reads 1/4, we could have just under 15 Gallons of propane left.  Further on a propane fill, the tank typically fills to 80% and the gauge reads 3/4 until the cool liquid reaches ambient temp.  I had also been overly concerned about freezing temperatures.  Thermal inertia will prevent a water tank from freezing overnight should temperatures drop into the low 20’s provided temperatures rise well above freezing during daylight.  We have been in temperatures into the teens with no trouble, though we did bring in the water hose a few times.  I do not want to learn the hard way where the limit is on water tanks freezing.  Reading articles on the web has shed some light on the issue while creating more questions than answers.  Our propane sits at 1/4 this evening.  Our water tank is at 2/3.  Both gray and black are empty.  I prefer to keep the water tank at 2/3 for “thermal inertia” while not keeping it full.  We don’t use that much water.

The issues we had with the refrigerator in Middleton Idaho were fixed the day we stayed over at Jeff’ & Beth’s.  The fridge has been rock solid on 12V, propane, and 110.  We’re using the heat pump more than the propane heater when we have electric hookup, even though it is loud.  It moves more air creating more warmth, provided the outside air temp is moderate. Our water heater has been rock solid.

The only issue we have is with the retractable stairs. Sometimes they refuse to extend.  I’ve found that if give the actuating motor a few swift raps with a rubber mallet, they heal themselves.  I’ve mentioned this to a Winnebago Dealer who said, “We could replace the motor, but it might not fix the problem.  The new one could be just as bad.”  Oh well.  I keep a rubber mallet handy.

Gas mileage has been all over the place.  Uphill with a head wind?  13 mpg.  Downhill?  30-40 is possible.  We average about 15 mpg; sometimes 16.2 sometimes 14.4.  I don’t take mileage seriously, there are far too many variables to state flatly we get X.Y mpg.

We have found our packing in the motorhome is becoming more efficient over time.  When we need a bit more room, we find it.  Often that leads to better organization with easier access to or ability to find “things”.  Luckily the “garage” (the outside storage) is “mine”, though from time to time a thing gets exiled to the “garage”.

We’re travelling well together, as usual.  We’re very happy we have the space our 24J View provides.  I hadn’t realized before that this model has more storage outside than other View models.  That’s worked out well for me. 

We had planned to sell our View in 2019.  We’re thinking we will keep this rig for a number of years more.

Day 20 October 8 2018 Butte to Missoula, Clark Mansion

IMG_9756

Butte KOA

It was trying to rain this morning. The outside thermometer read 38F though it felt bitter cold outside.  I considered taking a shower and decided not to.  The men’s room was poorly heated.  Joe said they were closing down this Sunday the 14th. They had shut off their water.  The campground was practically empty.  Again we took our time getting ready to go knowing it would be a short hop to Missoula.  We wanted to explore Butte some.  Joe recommended a few places in town for a meal.

The Butte KOA is above average for a parking-lot style campground.

Butte

Butte is a small town, made smaller by economic decline.  Many of its shops are boarded up.  The past few decades has not been kind to Butte.  There are a number of remarkable houses a few blocks off the main street.

IMG_4631

IMG_4637

The Clark Mansion

IMG_4640

Now a Bed and Breakfast In Season

Senator Clark

One of our touristy brochures suggested visiting the Clark Mansion.  We dialed Clark Mansion’s address into our Rand McNally GPS and headed into Butte.  GPS took us right to the front door and a sign that read in part “Winter Hours: Tours By Appointment Only” with a telephone number.  A group of people were milling about the front door then left.  I thought “why not call” and dialed the number.  A woman answered and said a tour was starting in fifteen minutes, would we be interested in joining?  Sure, sign us up!  She let us in and had us wait in the foyer until the other guests arrived.  The tour was a modest $5 per person.

TJ, the woman who let us in, also gave the tour.  She was a fountain of information, more like a fire-hose.  Names, dates, relationships, births, deaths, a sea of information washed over us.  It was difficult to keep track without a score card.  Clark became wealthy when the gold and silver mines he owned failed, but he recognized the need for copper for the telegraph industry.  The failed mines were rich in copper.  With his wealth he build mansions around the U.S. and in Paris.  The mansion he had built on Park Avenue across from Central Park was demolished decades ago.  His mansion in Butte is privately owned with all but part of the third floor open to tours.

What is fascinating about the mansions is the use of state of the art technology throughout. All the lights could be run on either gas or electricity.  The electric lights pointed downward, the gas lamps opened upward.  The house was forced air heated, extremely modern for the day.  It took builders four years to complete the 18,000 square foot mansion. 

 

IMG_4642IMG_4645

All the Lights Were Powered by Both Electricity and Gas

IMG_4656

This Full Immersion Shower is Available to Guests

IMG_4665

The Doll Collection is Intact

IMG_4666

And it is Extensive

IMG_4667

As is the Penguin Collection

Given the fire-hose level of information, I retained very little.  Clark ran for senator though he was tainted by a corruption scandal.  He later became Senator by appointment (I think), but held the seat for six years and didn’t run again.  He build homes in San Francisco, Paris, New York, and Butte for his family.  The worst mining disaster in the U.S. took place at his mine when a minor’s candle caught a kerosene soaked rope afire and killed a number (161?) of miners.  We were told that Clark mourned with the miner’s families and curtailed all parties and celebrations for some time after the disaster.  None of the other wealthy in town did likewise. 

IMG_4732

IMG_4712

IMG_4641

I was tempted to purchase a book about Clark, he was an unusual man for his time.  I did purchase a book about Yellowstone’s geology and one about Lewis and Clark’s surveying adventure.  I wonder if the two Clarks are related.

Uptown Café

TJ recommended a restaurant in downtown Butte that is run by the owner of the mansion. Today is Columbus Day.  All federal buildings are closed.  So were most of the downtown shops! The restaurant TJ recommended was closed.  Joe, the owner at KOA, recommended Uptown Café.  It was open.  The enchilada filling was good but couldn’t make up for the soggy tortilla wrap.  It was just barely ok.  We arrived just before lunch closed out which might explain the sogginess.  Otherwise, the service, restaurant, and price was good.  I’d be willing to try it again; after trying TJ’s suggestion when we’re back in town.

IMG_4736

Leaving Butte for Missoula

IMG_E4741

On the Road to Missoula

Missoula Montana

The road from Butte to Missoula follows rivers and winds over a few passes.  I remember crossing the “Clark Fork” numerous times. The Missoula KOA is a large campground with cabins, showers, full hookups, and a few pet rabbits.  The campground is off the highway; there is little road noise after hours.  It is right off a main street with shopping and restaurants close by.

 

IMG_4756

Missoula KOA Campground

IMG_4758

One of the Pet Rabbits

day 19 October 7 2018 Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park to Butte

 

We had too much fun in Grand Teton and Yellowstone to keep track of each day.  I’ll summarize and post photos when we’re home.  We jump forward to Day 19.

 

IMG_4487

Li’l Beast @ Lewis & Clark Caverns Campground

We walked to the Jefferson River last night. There was no movement in the craggy hills or along the river; there was sign of dog in scat along the trail.  Back at Li’l Beast we had a light dinner and enjoyed the amenities of a 30 amp hook-up.  No need for concern about battery drain or running the generator. Electric heat and DirecTv played well in “camp”.

IMG_4490

The Campsite was Empty in the Morning

This morning outdoor temp held at 40.  Inside was 60, cool but comfortable.  I feel Yellowstone’s pull. The park is only a few hours drive south east.  Yellowstone is getting cold.  The open campsites are basic: no electricity, limited drinking water no propane. Li’l Beast’s resources  were a concern from time to time.  These are minor inconveniences and easily dismissed with water and propane levels above 1/4. The prospect of viewing apex predators in the United States easily outweighs any battery concern (we have our generator) or inconvenience.    The park is only a few hours drive south-east. We could go back!

Last night as we settled in to sleep, I heard what I though were dogs walking past.  Strange, the two guys camping nearby do not have dogs.  Maybe the camp hosts have dogs.  At first light this morning I heard yelps and howls in the near distance.  At least three coyote were celebrating sunrise. What a wonderful way to greet the day.

In practical terms, returning to Yellowstone now is not feasible.  Most camps in the park are closed and the few the were open last week either have closed or are closing in a few days.  As much as I’d like to go back, and we still could, it just doesn’t make sense.  From time to time I’ll see a sign “Yellowstone” so may miles next left.  Steady hands on the wheel.  No left turn.  I am genuinely surprised how much I loved being in Grand Teton and particularly in Yellowstone.  Both are magical places.

IMG_4514

IMG_4513

 

Virginia City, J E T S, funky bar tender

A gal at the visitors center recommended we visit Virginia City and Nevada City.  Virginia city is the phoenix of the old west. The town has been restored to its old self through the dedication of a few people who kept the town from falling into total disrepair.  It could have become what Nevada City is, a ghost town.  Instead there are shops that appear to be doing well.  Most were closed for the season.  One gift shop was open, managed by a grizzled woman with a bubbly personality.  “Most shops are closed for the season.  The antique shop next door is open and of course the saloon is too”  I bought Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage at the gift shop.  She had an unusually complete library of books about the old west, all of them for sale.

IMG_4523

IMG_4539

We couldn’t visit Virginia City without visiting the saloon.  The bartender, a tall woman in her late 40’s, was unusual.  Her bone structure was striking as if chiseled from stone.  Her speech was slow and labored as if finding words was difficult.  She was friendly and generous.  “What will you have?”  “do you have a local IPA on tap”.  She said yes and drew a bit of beer in a glass.  “Do you like this?”  How unusual to have a sample of beer.  IT was good and I a pint.  Ellen had a vodka on ice.  Glancing around I noticed an NFL game on the TV behind us.  There was just one TV in the saloon and it was tuned to the Jets Bronco game!  Here we were in the old west, in a saloon, watching the Jets demolish the Broncos.  It was 4th quarter and the score (which I do not remember) was lopsided.  Toward the end of the game with the Broncos threatening to score, a Jets defensive player intercepted the ball in their goal and ran it back to the 1 yard line before being tackled.  This player was a defensive back.  He was not fast as he ran down the field and he slowed appreciably with every ten yards he ran.  You could see he was tiring with Bronco players closing in. Other faster Jets players threw blocks protecting the run.  Even so he could not make it to the opposing end zone.  That play ended the game for the Broncos.  J E TS!

IMG_4584

One TV playing NFL Jets vs Cowboys

IMG_4586

Enjoying an IPA and “the game”

IMG_4590

The Bar @ the Virginia City Saloon

Too funny, the whole weltanshauung.  Our bartender said she visited San Francisco when she was in college playing on a woman’s volley ball team. 

IMG_4592

I do recommend visiting Virginia City if you are passing through.  Earlier in the season would be better.  More will be open.  We didn’t visit boot hill.  The shopkeeper said most families in town had their family remains moved from boot hill.  They didn’t want their ancestors resting with the outlaws.  So boot hill didn’t have that many boots anymore.

With threatening rain, we skipped Nevada City.

IMG_9756

Butte KOA, Closing Sunday 10/13

Butte KOA

This campground is not right on the freeway.  It is easy to find and convenient.  I pulled in behind a motorhome that was adding drinking water from  the registration building.  Joe, the owner, explained that they had turned site water off for the season.  If I needed water, I could use the hose in front.  I refilled our water to 2/3.  Propane was sitting at 1/2.  Eventually we would need propane, but we were good for now.  The last time I filled was at Yellowstone’s east entrance.  Each time the propane dropped to 3/4 I had filled it thinking propane was critical to our comfort.  With Li’l Beast’s  33 Gal. tank there was no need to fill so often.  Now I’ll wait until it drops to E before refilling. E when it first shows up indicates a bit less than 1/4 tank of propane. That’s assuming the propane gauge is working.

IMG_9755

 

Our site was unremarkable. It had electricity which is all we needed.  The rest rooms were well heated and I took a much needed shower that evening.  A heated shower with plenty of hot water was great.   We also did a laundry.  The outside dish washing station was closed (no running water).  I did the dishes in a sink indoors.   DirecTv worked.  We watched an episode of “Last Week Tonight” before hitting the sack.

Day 11 Sept 29 2018, Madison Campground Day’s Highlights

 

IMG_1353

IMG_1354

IMG_1359

Grand Teton is dramatic.  The uplifted and tilted mountain peaks are inspiring. They tower above Jackson lake.  On a calm day their reflection in the Snake River is the most picturesque spot in the park.   By comparison, Yellowstone National Park sits atop the Yellowstone hot spot.  The park encompasses a massive caldera that filled in with basalt lava flows thousands of years ago.  Yellowstone is predominantly flat with geysers, fumaroles, mud pots, and fissures; evidence of its volcanic and geothermal history.

I loved Grand Teton for its ruggedness and beauty.  I love Yellowstone for its rolling golden plains, wildlife, and in-your-face geology.  It is impossible to visit Yellowstone without asking, “how”, “what caused this”, or “what makes this area so vastly different than the rest of the world”.  I also get a kick out of the bison, the elk, the pronghorn antelope, the coyote and wolves, the bears.   As much as I was in awe of the Tetons, I left my heart in Yellowstone. We’ll be back.

Today I awoke early to 20 deg. F. temp.  My concern about the batteries faded when the push out came in.  We had used the inverter to charge batteries last night and had an electrical hiccup with lights, water pump, and inverter going. The lights dimmed and off went the inverter.

IMG_9555

Predictions are Remarkably Accurate!

The plan this morning was to drive to Old Faithful early enough to avoid crowds.  This was Saturday after all.   We hoped to run the generator to recharge the batteries and get ATT connectivity at the Visitor Center.  We arrived at the Visitor Center around 8:12 and went there directly.  Old Faithful was scheduled to erupt at 8:46.  We had time to both run the generator and make some Nespresso.  Adequately caffeinated, we scurried back to the Visitor Center.  Access to Old Faithful is either around the Visitors Center, or through it. I realized I’d need a tripod and motioned Ellen ahead as I ran back for a tripod.

Tripod in hand we setup right in front.  Early in the morning in 22 degree weather, only the hardy are up.  As time approached 9:46, Old Faithful made a few false starts that triggered everyone.  Some steam and a very little bubbling.  Right at 9:46 another false start kept growing and away she went.   Geysers are not commonplace on earth.  I overheard a ranger say there are just over 900 geysers on earth, 500 of them are in Yellowstone Park.

Old Faithful Video

As we drove to Old Faithful earlier in the  morning steam from the fumaroles blanked the highway and obscured visibility for  a few hundred yards.  It was much like tulle fog.

IMG_1545

Bison are Quite Common in the Park.

 

What next?  We thought we’d visit the Upper Basin the move on down to the Lower Basin.  On the way we saw Biscuit Basin,, turned in, and were greeted immediately with a “No RVs Allowed”.  I am growing adept at about faces! Back on the road to Upper Basin, we hit heavy traffic ahead of “Midway Geyser Basin”.  Crap we missed Upper Basin!   Traffic turning into parking for the basin was crazy.  Down the road there was a turnout that made a U-turn possible and we parked on a paved pullout a hike away from the traffic.  It was crazy.  There were cars and motorhomes going into the basin, bicyclists tooling by in both directions.  This is during late September, a shoulder season.  What would this be like in the summer?

We had found Grand Prismatic Spring.

IMG_1387

Grand Prismatic Pool, Difficult to do it Justice in a Photo

IMG_1402

IMG_1409

Turquoise Pool, more easily photographed.

IMG_1413

It was overcast with flat light on and steam rising from the pools.  What a unique experience. We took our time walking the boardwalk and taking in the bubbling and whooshing sounds and the colorful pools.  Prismatic Spring is best photographed from above, on a hot day, with little wind.  For us, on a cold windy day, Prismatic pool was picturesque.

IMG_1414

Yellowstone is Busy for September, Imagine it in July!

Back at Li’l Beast, there was far too much traffic to U-turn there.  I drove south to a turn around.  A groups of people with binoculars were stopped, standing in a turnout on the opposite side of the road.  We passed them, U-turned,  and slowed to a crawl.  Ellen asked, “what do you see” a few times before the answer: “Wolves” came back.  With room to park, we stopped and out came the spotting scope, tripod, telephoto cameras.   We saw nothing.

A youngster spotted a wolf and the family pulled over.  Others stopped and excitedly watched a wolf.  The crowd of people changed as some left and others arrived.  Ellen and I scanned the tree line where the wolf had been spotted.  Ten minutes into our search, Ellen said, “there he is”.  “Where” a chorus of voices.  Between the two dead trees that created an

inverted V, stood a large grey wolf.   In the time it took to setup the scope for Ellen, and for Ellen to check him out, that wolf was gone.  We continued to scan the tree line.

Far to the right of the first sighting, I saw motion and with the spotting scope watched a “wolf” coming head on in the far distance.  It was a dramatic sight, though something was wrong.  This wolf was not dark gray, it was light gray fading to light brown down its body.  Coyote, I thought.  But coyote and wolf don’t mix.  You would never expect to see them this close together.  He (or she) disappeared in the tall grass.

A fellow setup beside me.  Rafael scanned the tree line with an impressive lens.  Another five minutes later he said, there he is, now far to the left of the first sighting.  Ellen was on the scope.  I panned the tree line with our long lens and found him.  Again this looked more like a coyote than a wolf.  My older 40D had a difficult time focusing, the “wolf” and the grass blended too well.  I snapped a few photos in manual mode just before the “wolf” disappeared.   “These shots are probably trash, but what the hey”, I thought.

The first sighting was definitely a wolf.  It was dark gray bordering on black and it was massive.  The other two sightings were probably not a wolf.  I spoke with a ranger about this.  Yes, coyote and wolf will not appear together, unless there is a carcass dump nearby.  In that case all predators will converge on the site.  If there was a carcass dump nearby, you could easily see both a wolf and coyote.  she also said the coyote population in Yellowstone has plummeted since wolves were introduced in the park.

There had been a bison killed on the road somewhere between Madison and Old Faithful.  Some idiot had run into a bison on the road.  In cases like this, rangers will move the carcass into the tree line away from the road.   If the carcass were left by the side of the road, wolves, coyote, and grizzly bear would congregate by the roadside.  No doubt tourists would exit their vehicles to “get a good shot” of a predator.   The carcass had been moved into the tree line, quite likely it was moved near where we were spotting wolf and coyote.

IMG_1591_cropped

3rd Sighting, Coyote or Wolf?

Oddly, my trash shots are “ok”. Later a ranger said, “If you think you saw a wolf, it was probably a coyote”, implying that if you saw a wolf you would know it was a wolf.  I wish I had a photo of the first wolf sighting for comparison.