Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tues, Sept 29: On the road to Salt Lake City, Utah

It is not as cold this morning and there seems to be less smoke. We are moving early. It is 8AM and we head toward the Yellowstone’s West gate. The idea is to see some more wildlife, sun rise was at 7AM, but in reality we would like to be in Bryce Canyon National Park tomorrow night and that is 600 miles away. Plus we want to spend a little time in Grand Teton National Park.

Well, there are not many animals to see. The eagle is still high up in the tree and there are three elk near the same place we saw the nice group yesterday, but they are too far away.

We do see another bison, but it also is too far to photograph. The light is right to get some neat shots of what the Indians called the "Valley of 10,000 Smokes."This is the area of thermal activity near Old Faithful.We can definitely see how they came up with that name!Near the South gate we stop for Lewis Falls. It is in a really pretty setting.After we leave the Park we hit 7 miles of big time road construction and are held up for some time. They are completely redoing the whole road and we have to wait for a pilot car then weave around all the heavy equipment.

Finally we get a good view of the Grand Tetons across Jackson Lake. We stop at the Colter Bay Teton Visitors Center for a map and information. We are so long we can’t always pull in to the overlooks. The Ranger gives us a map and shows the places where we won’t have a problem stopping. Dick would be really "upset" if he pulled in somewhere and had to unhook to get out! Carolyn shops for children’s books again. At the Visitors Center we learn that there are three fires in the park or right on the park border. That explains the haze. To bad because it is an almost cloudless day. We see several staging points for the people fighting the fires. The general policy on fire now is to let the natural ones burn out and to try to put the man made one out. One of the current fires was started by hunters.

On to Jenny Lake which is our favorite viewpoint. The wind is picking up and has cleared most of the haze.
We head on out of the parkand to Jackson where we stop for Subway sandwiches for lunch. From here we head mostly south and a little west to the southeast corner of Idaho. We have been this way before, but don’t remember the winding, up and over road as it goes from one high river valley to another.It is a beautiful drive! We are in beautiful fall colors of aspen, birchand red maple.We leeave this pretty canyon and drop down into a more baren area.Then we are out into a open, broad valley of little towns and wheat fields. We stop at the little town of Paris, Wyoming to look at the Paris Tabernacle built in 1888and stretch our legs. It was designed by a son of Brigham Young and is very handsome. It is 5pm and there is not a soul in town; not even a car driving through!

We cross into Idaho a little later and drive along the west shore of Bear Lake. It is a big lake and must be very popular. There are many vacation homes and recreation sites along the shore.We climb up and over another set of mountains and again are heading down a beautiful canyon full of fall color.We finally get to Salt Lake City a little after 8PM, an hour after sunset. We are running ahead of the first big winter storm of the season that is expected to drop as much as a foot of snow in the higher elevations which is the main reason we drove this late. We wanted to out of the mountains before the storm goes through. The wind has been blowing hard all afternoon and is suppose to have gusts up to 60 and 70mph overnight.

We find a camp ground and after some confusion get set up and fix a light supper. By the time we get in bed the wind is blowing so hard it is shaking the rig big time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mon, Sept 28: Yellowstone National Park

It got down to 19 degrees last at the rig. Our propane furnace kept us nice and warm though. It is another beautiful morning. Dick went to the office to pay for last night and tonight and found out the park road from West Thumb is closed due to a fire. That has really messed up our plans! We had planned to drive the big circle but that is now out because the road from Madison to Norris is also closed for construction. All we can do is the is the section from Madison to the South Entrance...all of which we will also drive tomorrow. So, we spend the rest of the morning answering email etc.

About noon, Carolyn puts together a picnic lunch, some of the cheese we bought in Canada, crackers and a few other things and we head into the park. Since 9AM, when Dick went to the office, the sun has been covered with a smokey haze! We drive into the park anyway, but the smoke really gets bad by the time we get to Madison and we almost turn around. Fortunately we don’t and head on toward Old Faithful.
The first thing we see are many empty cars and the owners standing in the river fishing.

We take a side trip through Firehole Canyonand see Firehole Fallsand a neat swimming hole above the falls.A young boy and his dad were swimming! Then we pull off on an overlook for the Lower Geyser Basin and have our lunch.The wind has picked up and is clearing the smoke out.

After lunch, we turn off for Firehole Lake. Here we stop to look at one of the many bubbling pools of hot water. There are several geysers on the road that are smoking,but none are going off. We then head to Old Faithful and the Visitors Center. The Park Service is really in the building mood. A lot of changes have been made since we were here in 2003. There is a temporary Visitors Center and a huge building right in front of Old Faithful that will be the new Visitors Center that will open in August 2010. At the Visitors Center, we find out that the brown trout are running which explains all the fishing, that there are actually four fires burning in the park and that Old Faithful will go off in about 45 minutes. We kill some time by heading up to Kepler Cascadesand then come back and wait for Old Faithful. Right on time she goes off with a nice display (the puff of white just to the right of the water plume and just above the tree line is the smoke from the fire near West Thumb). We then go over to the Old Faithful Innfor a couple of pictures of the six story timber lobby.

and wind up buying some really well done photographs from a guy selling pictures he shot in the park.

It is now a little after 4PM and the sun is low in the sky. We drive back the way we came and turn off on the Firehole Lake road again to see if anything is happening. We find several of the little geysers are going off,but we missed the Great Fountain Geyser.Back on the main road, the fishing continuesand it is prime time to see wildlife. Sure enough we do. There are several traffic jams! First we drive by an elk cow and calf grazing along Firehole River.Then we see a bison.The best is a bull elk watching over his haremas they graze along side or wade in the river.One calf is even nursing while he and his mother are wading. There is also a grey wolf near the edge of the river checking out the herd and catching rodents (the elk is looking right at the wolf; he is the dark spot to the left of the dead trees on the right).The last jam is for a Bald Eagle. He is close to the road, but is up in a tree with too many branches for a good picture.

We get back to the rig and cook up the rest of the corn and the beans we bought just after we crossed the border and grill the trout. It turned out to be a nice day even with all the closed roads.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sun, Sept 27: On the road to West Yellowston, MT

We spent a restful night in Bozeman, MT and did not smell the smoke from the fires to the west during the night nor when we awoke this morning. The sky is clear and it is cool but not cold. We spend the morning working on the blog and the rig. We are planning to meet some friends at their home in Big Sky, MT. Dick and Trish worked together for seven years and she and her husband built a retirement home in Big Sky.

We stop at an Appleby's for lunch and then head south on Hwy 191 toward Big Sky.Right on time we meet our friends and drive to their home where we spend two plus hours visiting and admiring their collection of western art.

About 4PM we bid them goodbye and drive the 50 or so miles through the high valleydown to West Yellowstone, MT. There are cars in many of the pull offs. Men are having a great Sunday afternoon fishing.
At West Yellowstne we get a nice campsite at Grizzly RV Park right in town. This is one of the nicest parks we have seen. There is a freeze warning for tonight (26F) and we are cautioned to disconnect the water hose from the faucet and the rig before retiring.
After some discussion, we decide that we will stay here tomorrow night also and drive the Explorer into Yellowstone instead of trying to find a campsite in the park. We take a walk and admire the shiny rigs parked around us. They sure make our dirty one look sad but those have not traveled as far over muddy roads as ours has. I think both of us are toying with the idea of upgrading our rig in size and we have already talked about going to the RV show in January.