Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Teton Valley Paradise

It wasn't long ago on a chilly, rainy day at the ranch that Steven and I pulled out our apps and maps and began planning our trip back to Washington. Our goal was to be in Bellingham by June 13 for Zoe's graduation from Western Washington University, but everything between the ranch and Bellingham was wide open. We could go anywhere. Oh, the possibilities!

After some boondocking in Utah with Clarke and Elaine, and visiting my cousin in Ogden, we had planned to travel west through Idaho and into Oregon for a slow, month-long meander through the eastern part of the state. But then I happened to mention to Steven that from Ogden, we would be awfully close to the Teton Valley in eastern Idaho and that we could squeeze in a short two-day visit before moving on west. That, we decided, was a no-brainer.

Why the Teton Valley? We own property there. In 2006 we purchased 3.25 acres in Tetonia, ID in the foothills of the Grand Teton mountains. From our little slice of Heaven known officially and affectionately as Lot 5, we have a four-peak view of the Tetons. It's gorgeous. We have always thought someday we might like to build a little "Lobin" on Lot 5 and retire there. A Lobin is half lodge, half cabin. You know, Goldilocks-sized - not too big, not too small. Just right.

The entrance to Lot 5 looking a little Disneyesque.

Our beloved trees are vibrant with color when in bloom.

Toadie stands guard as we wander around Lot 5.

Steven can't quite believe that we own this view :)

Four Teton peaks as seen a few miles from Lot 5.

In addition to checking in on our property, we were looking forward to visiting the small towns in the valley - Tetonia, Driggs and Victor. It was a lot to take on for a two-day visit, which wasn't nearly enough. At the time, though, two things kept us from planning a longer stay. First, it was April. Last time I was in the Teton Valley in April was 2008 when I took my Mom to see Lot 5. She didn't see much, because the entire region was under five feet of snow. We figured it was just too early in the season to plan a longer stay. You can read about that trip here. Second, the RV park in Tetonia where we had stayed over the years had apparently closed down a few years ago. There wasn't much of an affordable alternative, so two days was it.

The entrance to Lot 5 was barely visible in 2008!

Linda's mom Anita waves from the comfort of Ace Yukon.

But the more I thought about it, the more I wondered why the RV park had closed. It was a great little campground and motel. It just didn't make sense that it would simply close down. So I did a little research, looking back on newspaper articles to see if I could learn anything. There was nothing about the closing, but lo and behold, I found an article indicating that it had been purchased and recently reopened under a new name. YIPPEE!!! We called and made reservations for six days. We arrived in sunny, warm weather, and quickly extended our stay to two weeks. I am not usually very happy when we extend a stay, but this one was my idea. That's how much I love the Teton Valley.

We love this cute Tetonia sign!

Toadie and Scoopy settle in for a couple of weeks.

Steven raises a flag on our 22ft pole!

We visited a local distillery near neighboring Driggs.

We were truly alone at our Tetonia campground for the entire two weeks!

Nearby Driggs has a quaint appeal but also has an awesome supermarket.

Fabulous breakfast at Forage restaurant in Driggs.

"Endless Mimosa" and a delicious Bloody Mary!

There are plenty of other gorgeous valleys in the foothills of beautiful mountains across the country, but what makes the Teton Valley so special is its proximity to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Those are two gigantic cherries on top of an already stunning sundae and are certainly a huge factor of why we love the valley so much.

The weather for our two week stay was mostly gorgeous sunshine and perfect temperatures. Because of that, we outdid ourselves in the picnic department, traveling to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton NP on numerous occasions just to see what was shaking and have some lunch by the river. It was kind of glorious, actually. And when it was time to leave, we didn't want to go far. We packed up and headed Bakers Hole in West Yellowstone, MT.

Toadie loves her view of the Grand Tetons.

Packed lunch by the Madison River in Yellowstone.

Toadie's all, like, oh oh...

And we're all, like, SELFIE!!! (Don't try this at home, kids)

Traffic in Yellowstone is a unique experience.

The colors in the geyser basins were spectacular!

Steam everywhere and a lovely smell of sulphur.

Another selfie at Lower Falls in Yellowstone Canyon.

Raven says "I will block your view for evermore."

Our lovely hideaway site in Bakers Hole.

Unexpected snow delayed our departure by a day.

But we got to see Yellowstone in the snow. Yay!

Toadie selfie at Yellowstone's North Entrance.

Serious construction in West Yellowstone.

The little tree out our window in Tetonia on our arrival and departure days!

As usual, Steven made some beautiful photographs. You can check them out by clicking on each story below.




Saturday, June 6, 2015

Bluff, Moab and Beyond

After three glorious days of living on the edge, we moved a few miles up the road to Bluff where we could have full hook-ups for a couple of days. It's amazing how three days of boondocking causes us to have such appreciation for water and electricity. We plugged in all the things and washed everything whether it needed it or not.

Our campsite at Cottonwood in Bluff.

There was a dramatic storm the first night.

The tiny town of Bluff surprised us. There is a really nice Pioneer museum and a four-star restaurant, Comb Ridge Espresso Bistro, recommended by Clarke, which of course we had to try.

Replicas of times past at the Pioneer Museum.

Each cabin had a different theme inside.

Steven and I don't eat out all that much during our travels, as we prefer to cook at home. So when we do go out, it's either for pure convenience, like at the end of a long travel day, or when a local restaurant catches our eye and seems worth visiting. Comb Ridge fell into that last category. They are only open for breakfast and dinner, and we opted for the latter meal. It was outstanding!

Such a nice atmosphere at Comb Ridge Bistro.

Food was delicious with excellent presentation.

Since leaving the ranch, we've pretty much just been winging it on campground stays. We made no reservations until the day before, or maybe even the day of, arrival in a location. The only time this didn't work out for us thus far was in Moab, where we intended to stay for a week, but could only secure our spot for four days. Apparently there was some big car thing going on in town. We decided four days would have to do us, because the idea of closing up just to move to a new site or campground is very unappealing. Like, if I go to all the trouble to pack everything up, I want to hit the road!

Waiting to check in at our campground in Moab.

With Moab as basecamp, there is a ton of stuff to do and see. We could spend a whole season in Moab and still just scratch the surface. With our time there limited, we accepted that we had to narrow our focus to just a couple of places. And let's face it, Utah is a photographer's dream, so it really was up to Steven to chose what he wanted to do. He picked Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park. We also made a drive into Dead Horse State Park, but we really didn't stay long.

Landscape Arch at Arches National Park.

Sunrise at Canyonlands.

Lots of photographers lined up at Mesa Arch.

This is the final shot. The sun rises right through.

After the Mesa shoot. Note the big tour bus.

Toadie poses for one last photo at Arches NP.

Steven put together larger collection of the images he shot at Arches National Park. You can give it a look by clicking on the image below. Also, for those of you who are interested in Steven's process of creating the Mesa Arch sunrise photograph, you can read the behind-the-scenes story.

On our first trip into Canyonlands N.P., we drove to Grand View Point Overlook, which by the way was spectacular. But no sooner had we parked and began walking to the edge, a couple walked by us and I noticed the man starring at Steven. It took a few seconds to click, but I realized we had just run into my cousin Scott Burrows and his wife Kristen! What a shock that was! We had just seen them at Thanksgiving at the ranch, but honestly, if we hadn't just seen them, I have no doubt we would have walked right by each other none the wiser. How weird is that?

Linda's office at Canyonlands State Park.

During our scout before the Mesa Arch sunrise.

Anyway, when they were at the ranch, Scott and Kris were in a toyhauler. In Moab, they were in their new-to-them Newmar Mountain Aire, and they were boondocking just south of town! We made plans to join them for dinner the following evening. What a joy it has been reconnecting with my cousin!

Steven, Linda, Kris and Scotty at Canyonlands.

Scotty and Kris boondocking with the new rig.

Our four days in Moab flew by, but as usual, I was rarin' to go. Even though Departure Day is also Arrival Day, I always say my favorite day is Departure Day. There's just something about hitting the open road that appeals to me, no matter how wonderful the place we are leaving behind.

We had an uneventful drive to Ogden, UT, where we stayed in our first ever Mobile Home Park. We were in Ogden to visit my cousin, Sherrie, and this was the closest place to her home, so it worked out well. The price was right and the views of the Wasatch Mountains were spectacular! We intended to stay three days, but due to rain, we ended up staying five.

Our spectacular view in Ogden, UT.

Our next destination was a familiar one, yet it turned out to be a total surprise - the glorious Teton Valley.