Saturday, August 8, 2009

August 8, 2009

Gray Day

We woke to gray skies and quite chilly temp.   Was not going to be a good day for touring.  Glad we pretty much had done the sightseeing bit although sightseeing could be done constantly in this place and never get old.  One valid pastime  would be to sit in the great room of Jackson Lake Lodge and just watch the mountains.  Every twenty minutes the view will be different. 

We did have one important thing to do.  We went to Coulter Bay Visitor Center and turned in our paperwork to become Junior Rangers.  Almost every unit in the National Park System has a Junior Ranger program.  A number of them do not limit age and even encourage adults to participate.  Coulter Bay had one ‘Junior Ranger’ do the program who was 103 years old.  It was fun, we learned some things, and got cool patches.

From the center we took a three and a half mile hike through the woods and around some ponds and lakes.  We were hoping for wildlife.  Saw three birds and a beaver. And some pretty clouds.


Last thing we did for the day was to drive to the top of Signal Mountain.  Good views of the mountains but more spectacularly you can see the entire length of Jackson Hole from one end to the other.  Even with gray skies it is very impressive.  DSC02654

August 7, 2009

More of Teton NP

Up early again.  This time in hopes of seeing wildlife.  We went back to Jackson Lake Lodge.  The day before a pack of wolves and a grizzly bear had been from there early in the morning.  We stood on the overlook scanning the meadow for twenty minutes with no luck.  Finally off in the distance I spotted a herd of elk grazing at the far edge of the meadow.

We continued on hoping to see wildlife and picking up our tour of the park where we left off yesterday.  We tried to stop at every formal turnout we could to read the interpretive signs and take pictures, often of the mountains from a different perspective. A couple of miles in to our tour continuation we made a stop and slightly off to the right was this:

a pronghorn.

Just before the south entrance station we came to the Menors Ferry Historic District.  An early settler had a small ranch, a store, and a ferry which was the only way across the Snake River in the valley.  The ferry has been recreated and is functional.  Unfortunately the ranger was not there when we were and the docent was not ‘qualified’ to do it so we did not get a ride.  Very cool ferry design.  It uses the flow of the river to move the raft across it.  No input of force or power required at all.

Just south of the entrance station is the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center.  Informative displays, art work and great view of mountains.  While I’m thinking of it, I forgot to mention one thing in the first blog from here.  Coulter Bay Visitor Center has a Native American Art museum.  We are not too big on museums but if you are ever in this area see this museum.  It is very good. 

We continued south to Jackson to gas up the car and have lunch.  On the way back north on the edge of town is the Jackson Hole Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center.  Probably the best visitor center we have been to.  Great displays.  VERY helpful staff.  It is also the center for the National Elk Refuge with great viewing platforms.  In the summer the elk are further north in the park so we did not see any from the center.  If you are planning on visiting the Teton/Yellowstone area and coming from the south, make this your first stop.  Just ask for ideas and specifics if you have them and you will be flooded with good information.

The main reason we stopped at the visitor center in Jackson was to see if a road indicated on the map was open.  The ranger had to do some searching and calling but did determine it was.  We wanted to take this back road because it went through an area of old Mormon settler homesteads and taking the dirt road would avoid having to double back to see it.  When we first entered the park we were fortunate to see a lone buffalo (from a distance and while driving at 55mph.  See earlier blog for picture.).  From that time on, nothing.  As we drove toward our turn to the dirt road, we came around a small bend and saw this:

This was only a small group on one side of the road.  On the other side were 50-60.  I did not get wide angle of large group.

The cow and calf were about 40 yards away. The bull passed about 40 feet from the car.

On to our planned destination, Mormon Row.

As we neared the turn to the campground we saw more elk grazing on a ridge above us.

Not too bad a day.

Friday, August 7, 2009

August 6, 2009

Partial tour of Teton, Hike

We headed south, stopping at every vista point and lodge along the way.  Took lots of pictures, mostly of mountains.

Here is a landscape summary.  Will post more – probably on Picassa.


Almost everywhere you are in the park the mountains are there.

We took a boat trip across a Jenny Lake to a trailhead.  The trail goes up a canyon into the back country.  In the first mile two sights are passed in the first mile.  The first in about a half mile is Hidden Falls.

Another half mile and you come to Inspiration Point.

The trail from the boat dock to the point is a pretty good uphill climb and quite rocky and uneven.  Never the less it is the most traveled trail in the park.  We saw people of all ages, dress, and states of health.  VERY young babies in backpacks. Women in skirts and flip flops. Saw an 88 year old man using two canes and a family member on each arm.  Saw a man on oxygen carrying his portable tank.  Even saw a woman sitting in a wheelchair about a third of a mile up the rough rocky trail.

See the brown spot in the middle of the next two pictures?


Thursday, August 6, 2009

August 5, 2009

Fossil Butte and Drive to Tetons

We left pretty early again because we wanted to reach the campground by early afternoon.  Everything one reads about Coulter Bay campground says that it rarely fills.  Even so we wanted to be sure we got a spot.  All sites are first come, first served. 

On the way we took a side trip to Fossil Butte.  Very interesting place but, other than visitor center, hard to do with a motor home.  We studied a bit and moved on. 

Fossil Fish

fossil Fish

Went through Jackson, WY.  Good sized town but very touristy.  Was glad to leave it.  Cheap gas though. 

Drove up the east (faster) side of Teton NP to the north end where the campground is located. 

Along the way we saw this:


Yes, that is a Bison.

The campground has 360 sites.  The site we got is in the farthest loop - #323.  Kind of funny to look down the loops and see RVs lined up with no spaces between them.  It was predicted that there would be less RV travel this year because of the economy.  Don’t believe it.

We went to the visitor center to get info on activities and hikes.  Just in time to catch a ranger talk.  Learned something that cleared up a question I’d had for some time.  One often hears the terms ‘Jackson’ and Jackson Hole’ used interchangeably.  We went through ‘Jackson’ the city but saw no sign of ‘Jackson Hole’.  The ranger cleared it up for us.  A ‘Hole’ is a valley with mountains on all sides.  Generally created by glacial action.  The term was common with mountain men and trappers.  So, ‘Jackson’ and much of Grand Teton NP are in ‘Jackson Hole’.  Tidbit for the day.

When we drove back to the carbus we passed a sign, “Campground Full”.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August 4, 2009

City of Rocks, Golden Spike

Yesterday was a travel day that included a couple of National ‘Spots’ and a bit of reminiscing.  We drove southwest to Hagerman, ID.  The visitors center for the Hagerman Fossil Beds is there.  We studied the exhibits a while and chatted with the ranger.  Turns out that center is also the visitor center for Minidoka NHS.  Minidoka was an internment camp during WWII.  Similar to Manzinar in California’s Owens Valley.  We chatted some more about that and then moved on.  We chose to drive on the same road we traveled several years ago.  Very picturesque still.  We made our way to a RV park north of Delco, ID.  Very nice park.  One of the nicest we have seen except for one large distraction.  The park is about 100 yards from an Interstate freeway and probably the noisiest we have been in.  Some day we will find a park that has it all.

Today we left early and went south to City of Rocks.  This area has large rocks and rocky hills that stick out of the surrounding landscape.  Very popular with rock climbers.  The area was a major landmark for pioneers traveling the California Trail. 

Back east and south to Golden Spike National Historic ‘Place’.  Site of completion of Transcontinental Railroad.  Interesting to wander around and read all the info spots.  Ranger at front desk gave us an orientation talk and pointed out the ‘replica’ of the golden spike on display.  He told us the original spike was at Stanford University.  I didn’t tell him that I grew up in the shadow of Stanford University and had seen the original golden spike many times.

This is an exact replica (with a couple safety changes) of the Union Pacific engine at the driving of the last spike.  There is an exact replica of the Central Pacific engine also that is normally on display but was undergoing maintenance today.

This is not a static display. A couple of time a day they drive the engine up and down the track.  We didn’t stay for demo.

Here is replica of telegraph that paralleled tracks.  Every day the telegraph line was extended to keep up with rack construction assuring communication with people in east and west of the country who were closely following the progress.

View west down original Central Pacific track.

Ceremonial last tie.  Note ties on each side.  Ties on left (west) were laid by Central Pacific.  Ties on the right (east) were placed by Union Pacific.  The Central Pacific produced all their ties  in a lumber mill, hence they were all uniform in size with sharp, crisp edges.  The Union Pacific ties were all hand hewn.  Basically logs with two flat sides.


Forgot to mention, on our way to turnoff to Golden Spike site we passed a massive complex of buildings and bunkers that covered the hillside for several miles.  It was labeled ATK.  There was a sign that indicated ‘Missile Display’ ahead.  Sure enough we passed an outdoor display of various missiles.  Looks like this is the place that makes the solid propellant rockets for NASA and other things.  As we were leaving Golden Spike road we saw a series of very small rockets launched in series.  Kind of like 4th of July in the daytime.  Pretty neat.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 2, 2009

Craters of the Moon

Craters of the Moon National Monument is located 18 miles southwest of Arco.  Evidence of several types of volcanic activity is found in the park.  We did the driving tour, several walking tours, climbed a cinder dome, and went in to some lava caves.  Pretty much took up the morning. 

Here is a small part of the views from atop the cinder dome we climbed.

One lava field.  There are many different types in the park.

Back to campground to do a few sewing projects.  While that was happening I decided to wash the windshield on the carbus.  This is not a major operation but it is not your simple 30 second event either.  While I was doing that the RV park owner happened by.  I mentioned that I needed to find a place to wash the whole RV as it was looking pretty shabby.  She said that I could do it right there.  Would help water the grass.  Very nice of her.  So I did just that.  Washed the carbus and the car and watered some grass.  Tomorrow we head south and west and then south and east.