Saturday, July 30, 2016

Wandering Aimlessly

Alred Flats NFS CG, Smoot, WY – 7-28 to 30, 2016


Thursday morning is here already and we haven’t decided where we are going. Every where we look is hot or getting hot. We briefly consider heading to Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah because at 10,000 feet it was going to have some very pleasant temperatures. But we both were unhappy with our stamina at that altitude. We needed cooler weather at lower temperatures.

One thing that our stay at Warren Bridge taught us is that with the low humidity if you can stay in the shade you can stay comfortable. So we need to find a shady spot at around 5,000 feet.

Also getting away from the crowds for a few days seemed like just what we needed. We choose two possible sites, one in Afton, WY and one near Smoot, WY. Our decision made, it was time to pack up and head out.

First order of business is the dump and fill routine. We pull up to the dump station and wonder of wonders, we are the only ones in line. We take care of the dump part, then pull up to fill with fresh water and then the crowds converge.


One thing that is sorely lacking at Gros Ventre is adequate capacity to handle the volume of RV’s that need to do what were are doing. There are 325 sites and two dump stations but only one water fill spigot. And the pressure at that spigot is pitiful. we sat for about 20 minutes trying to fill the tank before we finally gave up because no one could leave until we did. We’ll try to catch something down the road.

We ended up bypassing our first choice for camping near Afton because we never found any signs locating the campground. We continue on to choice number 2, Alred Flats.

We find it and it is partially occupied, but still plenty of spots to choose from. Circling through the campground is pretty tight in Big Guy. So we stop, unhook Sonny, park Big Guy and make another loop around the campgound to find the perfect spot. And we do.


The site is somewhat unlevel, but we manage. We can still get into Big Guy without having to use a ladder so we’re OK. There’s plenty of shade, but for several hours during the day we’ll get plenty of sunlight to charge the batteries. Oh, and satellite reception is adequate. There is no Verizon signal, but life is still good. We sign up for 2 days. Now it’s time to relax.


The next day we travel back to Afton to check out the stores and see the sights. The main attraction is the largest elkhorn arch in the world. It’s pretty impressive and while we are there 2 tour buses regurgitate their cargo that immediately swarm the sidewalks and stores bringing normal commerce and travel to a halt. Fortunately they are only there for about 30 minutes.


Try as we might, we find nothing we must absoultely posess so we head out of town.

That evening we take a short hike back into the woods and discover a beaver damn.


As we walk back, a grouse comes strolling by.


Right outside our dining room window we catch these two little fellows exchanging secrets.


We have enjoyed the peace and quiet here so much we extended our stay by one more day. But finally, we decide we need to do some more research about where we are headed next and the internet is necessary to do that. So it’s time to move on.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Grandeur of the Tetons vs the Crowds of Jackson

Gros Ventre NP CG, Kelly, WY - July 24 to 27, 2016

Daniel to Jackson Map

We said our farewells to our new friends Debi and Randy and old time friends Steve and Nancy. Highway 191 to Jackson was now open so we decided to visit the Grand Tetons one more time since we were this close. (Notice how we are straying from our original plan of going no further than Colorado?) What can I say, we wander. Its what we do.

Smoke from the Cliff Creek Fire is still an issue as we head up 191 to Jackson from Daniel.


The hot shots, forest fire fighters, are camped along the road. Talk about tough. These guys are not getting a break this season. It seems as though fires are breaking out every where. These encampments have mess tents, showers and toilet facilities so they get cleaned up, eat, sleep and go out and do it all over again.  We hear they are working 12 hour shifts.


Driving through the area after the fire has ravaged the forest.


We make it to Jackson, Wyoming.


We only had a light snack for breakfast so we looked for restaurants on the drive up here. The only one we found didn’t have room to park Big Guy and Sunny so we waited until we got to Jackson. By this time Frank was starved and didn’t care what we ate so long as it was food. In a pinch a McDonalds big breakfast with pancakes, sausage and square eggs will do.

But, as is the drawback to any popular tourist town, the hoards of non-english speaking foreigners have taken over. We feel like strangers in our own country. Our timing was bad as two tourist buses had just disgorged their loads overwhelming McDonalds.


Ok, we got some food, now its time to head on to the Gros Ventre NP campground (pronounced “grow vaunt”). But first, the road takes us through downtown. And yes, it’s packed. Well, we’ve seen Jackson before and we don’t imagine the shops selling the tourist doodads have changed all that much since the last time we were here. Unfortunately we need to resupply so that means we will have to revisit town.


Upon arrival at Gros Ventre NP CG, we are assigned a site. This is primarily a no hookup campground except for one loop which has electricity at a premium cost. Since we don’t feel the need to pay an extra $20 or so per day to run the AC for couple of hours we go for the dry camp sites. If it gets warm, we can run the generator for about $1 an hour and we’ll only need to do that for 2-3 hours a day at most. But it means we’ll have to get picky about our site so our solar panels have good sun exposure to charge our house batteries.

That was a long winded way of saying the site they assigned us did not meet our criteria. So we scouted around and came up with several that would do and went back to checkin asking to be relocated. There was no problem as that is more or less standard procedure. They assign you a site based on the size of your RV then you tell them the site you really want. It’s first come first served so get there early. As we get set up this raven clucks at us the whole time. Maybe this was his space?


As you know, we are suckers for lattes, mochas, and macchiatos. Well, last time we were here there was a small coffee shop/cafe about 2 miles from the campground in the community of Kelly. For lunch the next day, we decide to see if it is still there. It’s called Kelly’s at Gros Ventre and yes, it was still in business, although much more popular than it was the last time we were here. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to talk to the owner this time, much too busy, but the sandwiches were amazing.


Afterwards we made the dreaded run back into Jackson to do what EJ referred to as “Combat Grocery Shopping”. Frank doesn’t go in the grocery store because he figures the store is crowded enough with him clogging up the works too. Plus he has a very low tolerance for people who block the aisles and are oblivious to the presence of others. So let’s just say it’s better for everybody if he doesn’t go into the store.

To avoid having to drive back to the RV through the circus called Jackson one more time, EJ finds us a way around that mess. But even here obliviousness is rampant. Trailers are prohibited on this road, but you can see the van on the right is, yep you guessed it, pulling a trailer. The young lady manning the booth was very upset that they slipped by before she saw the trailer.


We are craving a hike away from the crowds and EJ is hoping to see some wildlife. The popular trails are out of the question as we don’t enjoy “Combat Hiking” where you are elbow to elbow on the trail with others. If we want to hike in a crowd, we’ll just go to downtown Jackson. But Frank does some research and thinks there may be a trail along Clear Creek way out past Kelly. Since there is no mention of the trail in the park literature, hopefully it won’t be crowded. Along the way EJ spots a Pronghorn.


Then we drive by the Gros Ventre Slide. In 1925, following the melt from a heavy snow pack, weeks of rain and earthquake tremors the land slide occurred. It blocked the Gros Ventre River and formed Lower Slide Lake


We found a little shade and set up for a picnic. In the shade it’s very comfortable and even a little breezy. The view is awesome.


Then we continued on to our hike destination admiring the hills and colors along the way.


There ended up being a fairly well worn trail right next to the creek. It wandered through a couple of campgrounds while hugging the creek most of the way. The only folks we encountered were 2 fly fishermen and a couple of sunbathers. Nice and quiet, just the way we like it.


After our walk it felt good to peel off our boots and socks and go for a wade in the creek.


On the way back to Big Guy we passed a herd of horses enjoying to sprinklers. We guess you could say they were enjoying horse showers.


We saw very few animals this time, and no Bison. Which struck us as odd because when we were last here it was the same time of the year almost to the day. We wonder if it is because of the onslaught of tourists that the critters are staying away. Mormon Row goes right through a prime Bison range. Last time we saw herds of them here. This time, nothing. Every where in the park and town we went there were many more people this time than last time.

The next day, wanting to see what a local town looked like that wsn’t over run by tourists, we took a trip to Victor, Idaho. Wow! What a difference! No frantic pace. Folks are genuinely friendly. No crowds to deal with. We found a tiny home community and drove through it looking for that perfect spot. We wandered the downtown area, had a wonderful burger and fresh cut fries with fry sauce. They claim the fry sauce is uniquely Idahoan, but it is a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup, and secret spices. And it is quite tasty.

Well that worked up a thirst and it was time to find the local brewery. It turns out Victor has 2 breweries. Grand Teton and Wildlife. The second was closed when we drove by so we stopped by Grand Teton. It was the perfect setting, sitting on the porch, mountains in the background, sipping a couple of micro-brews.


On the way back to Jackson we did a little sight seeing. Never did figure what this big wall was on top of the mountain.


The Cliff Creek fire still burns in the distance.


Black Eyed Susan?


EJ has a mischievous grin on her face. No telling what she’s been up to.


Then it’s back to the traffic to Jackson.


To lighten the mood we enjoy some purple wildflowers.


One final look at the Antler Arch at the park in Jackson and we’re on our way to Idaho.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trapped by Fire!

Pinedale Area, WY 7-13 to 23, 2016


Our departure was not as smooth as we would have liked. We got a late start, EJ’s GPS threw a tantrum and refused to work, and the high altitude did a number of the driver’s side window. We had to make stops to fix each problem. The window, which is double pane, had swelled due to the sea level pressure between the panes, and would no longer slide into a closed position. At this altitude the air between the glass panes had more pressure than the outside air and was pushing the panes apart. With EJ on the inside pushing out, and me on a ladder outside pushing in, we finally managed to coax it into the closed position. We will no longer open this window until we get to a lower altitude.

We are our own worst enemies when it comes to diet. We try to be good, but if one of us suggests food that is bad for us the other one says “Yeah, yeah!”. So I suggested we stop for some ice cream and my stalwart partner said “Yeah, yeah!”. We are so bad!. But while indulging our bad habits EJ got to play with this group. They stayed on the flatbed truck the whole time, but loved attention.


EJ and I had a difference of opinion as to which route we should take north. Her’s was longer. I should have listened. Mine was steep, so steep that a couple of times 15 miles an hour was our max speed. Mine took us through Steamboat Springs, CO which was a mistake as it was slow and crowded.


Oh, what fresh hell is this? Just to make things difficult the DOT decides to squeeze the road down to 10 feet wide. I know we are only 8 foot wide, but with only a foot to spare on either side made for a few tense moments.


We tried for the Elks lodge in Craig, CO but no one would answer the phone. We tried a couple of Days End recommendations, but the information was out of date and no parking signs were plastered everywhere. So we fell back to our old standby, Walmart.

We pulled into the Craig Walmart parking lot and saw all these No Parking signs. We were tired and really didn’t want to keep driving. I called the Walmart number and learned that it was a city ordinance that prevented parking overnight here, but Walmart didn’t care. Just park on the west side and don’t block traffic. Didn’t have to tell us twice.

Refreshed by a good nights sleep, we pushed on to Pindale, WY. I forgot to mention why we are headed in this direction. Friends Steve and Nancy were going to be in Pinedale and it was only a 500 mile drive so what the heck. They were going to a rally so we would only have a few days to visit before they had to leave. We checked into the Warren Bridge BLM campground and met the camp hosts, really nice people. This place really gave us a feeling of solitude.



Over the next few days we are entertained by a variety of wildlife in our campground. Some of these guys are just so cute!


This camp ground had the only dumpstation for miles. So all of the campers who’ve  been out boondocking on BLM land stop by to take advantage of it. Of course, you’re supposed to pay $5 for the privelage and it keeps the camp host busy making sure they do.


Pinedale, the closest town, is about 30 minutes away. We are amazed that with all the traffic that goes through this town on the way to Jackson, WY and the Grand Teton NP that it is not a tourist town. We only found one store with tourist trinkets and doo dads. There are quite a few restaraunts and motels but nothing to attract tourists. It’s almost like the town is saying we’ll feed you and give you a place to stay the night, but then it’s time for you to mosey on down the road.

However we did see this conestoga style wagon going down the main street through town.


The Warren Bridge (never did figure who it was named for), now abandonded, crosses over the Green River.


And EJ explores the bridge. It’s still standing, but the DOT rerouted the road and the bridge is no longer used.


Right next to the abandoned bridge, a BLM road beckons. We are intrigued.


Not too far along the road we are intimidated by a herd of cows guarding the gate.


They give us the evil eye as slip by.


We’re always interested in finding boondocking spots and the road on the north side of the Green River presented a good number of opportunities.


Along the way we spotted these two guys trying to be invisible. It almost worked.



And we even came upon a small herd of antelope.


On our jaunt along the Green River we ran into some rain that had quarter sized drops. When they hit the car, they really went splat! Off in the distance the lightning is putting on quite a show. Fortunately, we reach the end of the road about the time the rain hits,

Once done exploring BLM area, we decide to go see the town of Daniel where our mail will be delivered. What we didn’t know was there was a big surprise waiting for us on the way back to the campground.


What now?! It turns out while we were exploring BLM land in the rainstorm one of the lightning strikes started a forest fire. They shut down the road back to our campground even though the fire was about 20 miles on past where we are camped. We had passed by this intersection about 10 minutes ago and it was wide open. No amount of pleading or cojoling on our part would budge the DOT guys. They would not let us through. But then we overheard one of the locals say there was a back way to get around the road block. That’s all we needed. Google came to the rescue and we plotted a way around the roadblock.

This is the smoke from the Cliff Creek Fire as seen from our campground. As you can see it’s still pretty far off.


Last we heard, this fire continued to grow and was not expected to be extinguished until late September. Only one structure, a pole barn that had been built too close to the woods had been destroyed. But this meant our friends, Steve and Nancy, were on the other side of the fire and couldn’t get back to Daniel, WY because the road, Hiway 191, was closed.

In the meantime, the smoke produced some awesome colors.


And we enjoyed a really big full moon.


And our camp host went about his duties which included raising and lowering the flag.


And we watched the fire fighting aircraft fly back and forth battling the blaze.


Finally, Steve and Nancy ran out of time because they had to come to Daniel to pick up some packages that had been delivered to their friends house and pick up thier golf cart. So they took a detour around the blocked road which added several hundred miles to their journey. Normally it is a 60 mileish trip.

We joined them at their friends and spent a few nights camped out in the back yard.


It was good to catch up as we hadn’t seen them since Alaska in 2014. There were lot’s of stories to share.


Pinedale was having a festival and advertised that a number of breweries would be showcasing their brews. Alas, only two brewers showed up and their offerings, all light beer, were disappointing.

Afterwards, Nancy wanted to show us some of the surrounding area so we went for a drive. We found several pronghorn antelope.



All too soon our visit is over and it’s time to go our separate ways. Steve and Nancy invite us to participate in thier rally. But we wander and don’t really like schedules and besides we aren’t done with this part of Wyoming yet.

See ya down the road.