Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Teton Valley to Portland

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I think the longest I've gone between blog posts is about four months back in 2015. At the time, we were more in love with adventuring and our new fulltiming lifestyle rather than writing about it. Since I'm not looking to break that record, I'd better get going, right?

Speed Blogging

I'm going to speed by some of our stops so that I can get caught up, mainly because either we've been there several times and I've written about them over and over, or because we didn't do much worth writing about. I will, however, lean on Steven to include a fair number of his fabulous photos for your viewing pleasure.

The Big Eddy

What's this? Another Top Ten camping spot??! Indeed it is, and it's located in the Teton Valley just 80 miles south of Henry's Lake. I wasn't kidding when I said we've been here before and I've written just about all there is to write about the area. See here. Here. Here and here.

The special part about this return trip is that we were still traveling with Bill and Kelly and we got to show them all around our beloved valley and, of course, the fabulous Lot 5, our property. The Big Eddy was the perfect boondocking spot. I mean, really, what's not to love about wild camping in the foothills of the Grand Tetons? We stayed there for 18 days, visited Jackson Hole and the Grand Teton National Park, twice. We revisited our favorite restaurants in Driggs, Victor and Tetonia and celebrated Bill and Kelly's 33rd anniversary at Teton Thai - fabulous! We had a Great Horned Owl who entertained us endlessly, lots of eagles, hawks, ospreys and sandhill cranes squawking overhead. There were moose, deer, coyotes and cows. Steven enjoyed early morning photo shoots and Bill managed a couple of solar installs. Mostly, though, we just chilled in the shadow of the mountains and enjoyed happy hours, lots of good food and great company. This is the part we love most about our fulltiming lifestyle.

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Our side by side spots at the Big Eddy with incredible views of the Tetons.

What follows are some of Steven’s favorite sunrise and sunset (and some wildlife) photographs taken during our fabulous stay at the Big Eddy:

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With Bill and Kelly at one of the elk antler arches in Jackson Hole.

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T. A. Moulton Barn near Grand Teton National Park.

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This photograph embodies the fun we had together at the Big Eddy.

Parting Ways

From the Big Eddy we moved about 60 miles to the Juniper campground in Ririe, ID. I'd like to say that we spent our three days here out and about, but it turned really windy, so we were kind of stuck going back and forth between rigs. In some ways, it was kind of nice to just hang out some more before going our separate ways. But, after 39 days, three states, five campgrounds, countless happy hours, dinners and memories made, it was time to say goodbye. Bill and Kelly left to make their way south, while we stayed one extra day in Ririe before heading to Boise. It was a bit of a sad day but Kelly and I always talk about looking forward. In that sense, we both felt a lot of excitement. There's always something fun down the road.

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Our cozy and somewhat picturesque site in Ririe.

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We had an amazing time with Kelly and Bill and it’s sad to say goodbye.

Scratch That

Sometimes what you find down the road isn't fun at all. For example, when your two-day stay in Boise turns into a two-week stay at Camp Cummins. It's a long story, but suffice it to say that Scoopy got a new fuel pump and a new hydraulic motor. It was the latter that took a bit of searching to locate and get it to Boise. In the meantime, we were just hanging out in the parking lot with water, 50 amps and gorgeous sunsets. It's not like we had any pressing matters to attend to, so we were actually quite happy there. We took the time to begin our downsizing and dropped off several loads of household goods to Goodwill. We also purchased a bit of gear for our upcoming hike in Spain.

As we were finally preparing to leave after our two week stay, the mechanic took Scoopy out for one last spin. A dog ran in front of him and the impact knocked out our drive light! The poor dog was transported to the local vet's office, our mechanic was devastated and our departure was delayed. We still do not know the fate of the dog, because they found a drive light and by the next morning we were on our way. We did ask before we left, but they did not yet have an update. So, even though our stay in Boise morphed into an unexpected lengthy one, we were quite content. That said, our overall contentment with our stay at Camp Cummins does not include the final bill, of course, but as my Mom is fond of saying, "Oh, well."

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Sunsets and sunrises galore made for a not so bad stay at the Cummins parking lot.

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While waiting for Scoopy’s parts, we managed to catch up with two for our favorite peeps, Dustin and Laci.

These Boots Are Made For Walkin'

We made our way from Boise to Sherwood, OR, just south of Portland. We had planned to stay a month and were only a couple of days delayed by the time we arrived. We like to travel with lots of wiggle room and it really paid off for us this time.

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The photogenetic gazebo at the Sherwood Elks Lodge.

We made a beeline for REI where I purchased a new pair of hiking boots. Steven had gotten his in Boise, and at the time, I chose Salomon Trail Runners. We did a couple of walks and I never stopped agonizing over my choice. The day before we left Boise, Steven returned them. I just couldn't commit to trail runners, and certainly not those Salomons. I went back and forth, trying to decide if I wanted sturdy boots or trail runners for my Camino. Either way, a decision had to be made because we needed to start walking and break in whatever shoes we were going to take with us to walk 500 miles. Still, it's no willy nilly decision.

Once at REI, I ended up choosing the same hiking boots that Steven got in Boise, OBOZ Sawtooth Low Shoes, not quite a boot, more hearty and supporting than a trail runner. Then, we started walking. And walking. We were settled into the Elks Lodge in Sherwood, which was surrounded by hills. We scoped out a six mile path through woods, parks and the cute downtown area, which we walked three or four times a week.

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Training for the Camino along a trail in Sherwood.

Overall, we've put about 120 miles on our new boots and while Steven loves his, the jury is still out on mine. Well, I love the shoes, it's the size I'm worried about. I got them one size bigger than usual because feet swell when you walk 15 miles a day, so that's the advice. I hope they work out, time will tell.

Portland Peeps

The main draw for us to stop for a while in Portland is our friends, the Vegans, and their neighbors, the Vegetarians (mostly). Steven likes to say we are meat-eating vegans, but regardless, we eat very, very well when we are with them. I think I say this every time we visit, if Kris would cook for me, I would become a vegan. Well, maybe not 100%, but close, and by close I mean about 50%. That would be good, right? Steven says the thing about becoming vegan, it's like anticipating a new Star Trek adventure and then finding out it's all about the Klingons. That made me LOL when he said that, because I get it. The thing about going from being a carnivore to a plant-based eater is that I'd have to learn to cook all over again. Even though I am a pretty good cook, I find that kind of intimidating. That said, our move to Europe opens up a slew of opportunity, so we'll see what happens. LOL, y'all don't hold yer breath, though. :)

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Kris and Glenn joined us along the Sherwood trail.

Next Up: Seattle

Monday, November 5, 2018

West Yellowstone & Henry's Lake

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Saying goodbye to Cody, we headed out of Buffalo Bill State Park at sunrise, which is not so early for us, but not typical for our travel companions. We wanted to travel over the 8,500 ft. Sylvan Pass in the cool weather and get through Yellowstone before the roads became jammed with traffic. Morning is the best time to see wildlife, and no sooner had we cleared the pass and entered the grasslands, we were met with a slow-moving bison herd who seemed to prefer the road rather than the goat paths through the fields. We loved it, of course, but soon enough along came a ranger with some kind of sound device on his vehicle to encourage the big beasts to move along.

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Early morning construction and bison crossings in Yellowstone!
 
'Round and 'Round They Go

Our destination was Bakers Hole campground just outside of West Yellowstone, MT. Bakers Hole is first come, first served and has some sites with electric and some just for boondocking. Because most of the sites are wooded, solar isn't always the best option here. As it turns out, we didn't have a choice as all electric spots were taken. We did manage to find two spots across from each other, both with a good amount of sun. Though not perfect, they would do.

There are two loops of sites in the campground, and all day long rigs arrive and drive the loops looking for a suitable open site. Such is the peril of a no reservation system. While Bill and Kelly went to fill up with water, another rig pulled into their site intending to settle in. Steven went over to inform them that it was taken (and already paid for!) but the guy insisted there was no tag on the pole. Helpfully, Steven pointed out that indeed there was and this made the fellow very cranky and stressed out his wife. Off they went to make another round and (hopefully) find another spot. We never saw them again.

A Bee Story

We only stayed at Bakers Hole for three nights, but we made the most of our time there. We spent a lovely day visiting the Grizzly Bear and Wolf Center. We've been here before and enjoyed it. It's good to see it is expanding to include river otters, which top my list for cuteness. A few years ago, with Steven's parents and Tara and Zac in tow, we went to the IMAX Theatre next door to the center. While we were watching the movie "Yellowstone" (what else, right?) a bee stung Tara squarely on the leg. All hell broke loose in our section of the theater as we all yelped and jumped around while Steven whisked Tara away to get help. Since he is allergic to bee stings he thought Tara might be as well and indeed her leg was swelling up nicely. Turns out the doctor (only one in the whole town, I guess) was actually out of town taking his own son to a doctor, so Tara just had to tough it out. She did great. We got our money refunded, even though the rest of us saw the entire movie. We seem to have our fair share of fond family memories based on emergencies. :)

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Plenty of wildlife to be seen at the Grizzly Bear and Wolf Center.

Pajama Party

On our second morning at Bakers Hole, we enticed Bill and Kelly to get up early again (noticing a theme here?) and drive to Hayden Valley. For years this has been one of our favorite places to see wildlife before the crowds set in. It was, as always, beautiful, but the hoards of bison were missing. It appears they've moved to the east side of the park, as that's where we found them in numbers. Following our sunrise adventures, we headed to Canyon Village for breakfast. This is my favorite place in Yellowstone for breakfast, partly because it's so central. When we used to camp in our little popup Alfred Hitchpop, I usually started out the day wearing my pajamas because it was way too cold in the early mornings to do anything other than hop out of bed and make a dash to my warm SUV with butt warmers blasting. We'd spend a few hours sightseeing at sunrise before we'd arrive and Canyon and I would change into regular clothes. Steven has a ton of video footage of me roaming around Yellowstone in my PJs. :)

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Hayden Valley is one of our favorite places to be at sunrise.

We continued our day in Yellowstone visiting Artist's Point and the spectacular Lower and Upper Falls, Firehole and other geysers. Then we made our way through Mammoth Hot Springs to the north entrance at Gardiner, MT.

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An artist sets up his easel and paints at Artist’s Point. How fitting!

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The colors are breathtaking at Mammoth Hot Springs.

For The Benefit and Enjoyment of the People

Every time I see the arch at the north entrance of Yellowstone with this saying etched in stone at the top, I get a little verklempt. To me, it somehow seems even more poignant today than ever before. In 2016 when the National Park Service had their 100 Year Anniversary, they launched the "Find Your Park" campaign. At the time, we were in Alaska. Denali! Still, I knew, Yellowstone was my park, no question. It has been my park since I was a child and it thrills me to no end to take friends to see the sights I have enjoyed most of my life and have shared with my own family for years.

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With our favorite peeps at Yellowstone’s North Entrance.

Just You Wait

After three days in West Yellowstone, guess where we moved to? ANOTHER of our Top Ten campgrounds! How many is that, like,14?

Henry's Lake is a serious Top Tenner, though, because it's a gorgeous state park nestled at the edge of a beautiful lake and surrounded by mountains. Overall, we had not seen a great deal of wildlife in our travels through Yellowstone, but just you wait, we said to Bill and Kelly. Just wait until we get to Henry's Lake, you'll be tripping over the wildlife!

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You can’t beat the views at one of our favorite parks: Henry’s Lake State Park.

Well, not so much, but we did see two moose, a herd of pronghorns, a couple of elk, deer and lots of raptors. But most were really far away and it was difficult to see them without binoculars. I don't know where all the wildlife has gone, but this year they were scarce.

A Grand Sunrise

The campground at Henry's Lake is still a great basecamp for Yellowstone, as it's only about 15 miles or so from the west entrance. We all got up again before the crack of dawn to make the drive into Yellowstone to watch the sunrise over the Grand Prismatic hot spring in the Midway Geyser Basin. If you've seen a photo of Yellowstone, you've probably seen this gorgeous spring with it's rainbow-like colors. Even though it's quite large, it's actually very difficult to photograph. That money shot you've seen on the cover of National Geographic is taken from a fixed wing aircraft, a perspective not readily available to visitors. But, all is not lost.  

Just south of Midway is Fairy Falls Trail. From the parking lot, it's about a half mile hike, somewhat steep but completely doable, to an overlook. Not only did we get a better perspective of Grand Prismatic, we also enjoyed the beautiful sunrise that backlit the steam from surrounding springs. We didn't get to see the rainbow colors of the spring, but that's because the ambient temps were far too cold. Still, it's quite an experience and well worth losing a bit of sleep over. We shared the overlook with one other couple and could hear just a few hikers below us.

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Spectacular views from the overlook on the Fairy Falls trail.

Later in the day when we passed by the parking lot was full and the cars overflowed into the road. As we strolled the boardwalk that surrounds Grand Prismatic, we could see the crowd gathered at the overlook and congratulated ourselves for getting there early.

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Grand Prismatic Spring from the boardwalk.

Don't I Know You?

We visited a few other geyser areas and as we made our way around a boardwalk, we ran into friends from Sammamish, Jerry & Sandi Bishop! Dr. B, as we call him, was our beloved veterinarian for many years for our kitty Pixel, then both Steven and I went to work at the clinic. Dr. B retired not long ago, as did Sandi from her teaching job, and now they are traveling from their new home near Spokane. We later met them in West Yellowstone for dinner. How fun to meet up during our travels!

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After bumping into Dr. B and Sandi around the geysers, we met up again for dinner. So much fun!

Breakfast And A Show

We made our way once again to Old Faithful and this time she did not disappoint! We were pretty happy to see she still has it in her to reach high in the sky! While I do like visiting Yellowstone in the early mornings, Old Faithful is one place where I prefer the afternoons. In the days before we got a rig too large to fit in most of the park campgrounds, we always stayed inside the park, along with a ton of other people. The line for the showers always seem to snake around the building, but of course we were usually there in the height of the season. We learned early on that at the Old Faithful Lodge you go up to the check-in desk and "buy" a shower. For $3.50 we were given a fluffy towel, mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner, and all the hot water we could stand. Afterward, we would mosey out to the second story balcony, order a glass of wine and settle in to watch Old Faithful. Now THAT's the best way to see the show!

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Old Faithful in (most of) her glory.

And, finally....

At Henry's Lake State Park we enjoyed eight glorious days of the beautiful Idaho autumn, with colors seeming to change before our very eyes. We also managed a day trip to Mesa Falls and beyond, but for the most part, we were happy to just relax by the lake, watching for wildlife.

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Sunsets at Henry’s Lake were beautiful, of course.

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A rainbow over Mesa Falls!

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Bill, don’t look now, but . . . .

NEXT UP: The Big Eddy!