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Showing posts from June, 2014

June 30 - Red Lodge MT to Bighorn Canyon NRA (WY and MT)

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Forgot to mention yesterday that we had our first sour experience at a micro-brewery/brewpub. The establishment was Red Lodge Ales and Brewing. We sat at the bar... our preference when tasting craft beer. In all fairness, the gent who was working the bar was swamped with customers re-filling their growlers, but I think he could have been more attentive to his bar customers instead of working the line of re-fill customers exclusively. It was unfortunate, but these things happen.

We broke camp and headed east out of Red Lodge on MT-308 to MT-72 to US-310 south toward Lovell WY. We're straddling the border through here and weave back and forth between Montana and Wyoming. Generally, we're headed toward the Bighorn Mountains which we'd like to cross on US-14A.

Of note, we were amazed at the little town of Cowley (WY, I think). The main street through town was wide... very wide... and brand-spanking new. The new sidewalks on both sides of the street were wide... almost as wid…

June 29 - Yellowstone to Red Lodge MT

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Broke camp at Canyon Village CG and headed north toward Tower Falls and the Northeast park entrance. Everyone in Yellowstone was happier today due to the bright yellow warm sun. First bright day in many.

First of many highlights today was a good, relatively close, sighting of a grizzly bear... brownish/copper-ish in color, large in size. Found along Grand Loop Road just south of the Tower Falls area. Got a few good shots, er..., pictures. It was unmistakably a grizzly per the hump on his shoulders.

We stopped at Roosevelt Lodge near Tower Junction for breakfast. We get a kick from consuming food and/or drink at the old lodges in whatever park we happen to be exploring... and we'd never been to this one. It's not my thing to comment about food on this blog, but for some reason (atmosphere? sunny day? good mood? or ??) my scrambled eggs with chilies and jack cheese was notable. Too many people overcook scrambled eggs. These were perfect.

The Lodge itself is a small rustic ti…

Early Impressions of our Four Wheel Camper

At this point in our experience with the Four Wheel Truck Camper we've camped with it about 30 nights. In a nutshell, it's working out as good as we'd hoped. As with all things RV, it's all about compromises, your camping/traveling paradigm, your expectations, and you're ability to be flexible. I've written about this before.

Some folks would never, ever, choose a camper as small as this one. It's just so outside they're comfort zone. And I've got to tell you, we had concerns about it too... coming from a 40 foot diesel pusher motorhome. But in our minds, the motorhome is our "home". The truck camper is our "camper". Few people would consider a tent an acceptable "home", but many (I'm continually amazed at just how many...) use tents as their fold-up "camper". It's all your frame of reference, the paradigm you're starting from.

For us, the trade off is space for nimbleness... for the ability to go…

June 28 - Day four in Yellowstone

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Stayed more or less local... around Canyon Village today. Woke with hope for a little sun today. Getting tired of rain and cold. 30s last night. Remember, we are at 8000 feet.

First up was Red Rock Trail for arguably the best front-on view of the lower falls. Also drove out to Inspiration Point and watched sunshine advance down the Yellowstone valley.

After fueling at Canyon Village (3.999/gal) drove up to Washburn Hot Springs Overlook for a snack lunch.

As the weather was still a little iffy, crowds were still manageable so we did walk down to the brink of the upper falls. However, felt no need to buck the congestion along the more popular south rim drive. Headed back to camp (Canyon Village CG) early to allot time for showers and to enjoy what looked like was going to be a more sunny afternoon.

Miles today: 17
Same camp as last night: Canyon Village CG
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I'm not fond of crowds and congestion; lines and the teeming masses. But here I am, one of them... and here for th…

June 27 - Day three in Yellowstone

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Have noticed many trees in the Park, in some areas literally every tree, have the barked scraped or rubbed off from 2 or 3 feet to maybe 5 or 6 feet above the ground. We've seen this before and have always guessed these are animal "rubbings". But the phenomena was so extensive it was time for a definitive answer. A veteran park ranger confirmed our guess. The trees effected the most are lodgepole pine, which have a very thin bark. The culprits are elk, bison, deer, even bear... there's a chance you can identify which by examining left behind hair or fur. It's considered a part of the natural ebb and flow of things and the Park doesn't seem to be overly concerned about it. What's to be done anyway? Often the scrapings will completely girdle the tree, killing it. But the forest has a life cycle like other living organisms, and must renew itself on a regular basis. Fire is another example of a natural process that causes the forest to renew... to bring fort…

June 26 - Day two in Yellowstone

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Woke to rain this morning. Took advantage of a hole to pack up and head out, but a steady slow rain continued as we headed north along the west side of Yellowstone Lake.

First stop along the way was the Lake Hotel and Lake Lodge area. Hard on the shore of the Lake are two impressive structures that became a destination of early visitors to the Park. Built in the 1890s and early 1900s the large hotel building (4 floors and hundreds of rooms) has been through cycles of neglect and renovation over the years... the latest renewal was just completed earlier this year. I'm told every room was touched and our walk-around/through of the public spaces revealed an impressive result that people are lining up to pay somewhere north of $300 per night for a standard room. There are 9 lodges in Yellowstone Park with a range of amenities but this one must be near the top.

There's another lodge on the Lake property known as Lake Lodge. Build in the early 1900s, this is a more rustic affair t…

June 25 - Day one in Yellowstone NP

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This morning we headed into Yellowstone without a clue as to where we'd be staying. Figured worst case was finding a semi-hidden place to parking-lot-dock. The climb into the Park is gradual but steady... on up to the 8,000 feet level where things flatten off a bit. First stop was the Grant Village area where we made a bee-line for the campground office to beg for any site they might have. As luck would have it we snagged one of the last 4 available sites for the night (cancellations... no-shows...). My Senior Pass is certainly paying off this trip... this one was $14.80/night including showers, half what it would be if I was a young kid (less than 62).

Our observations of NP campgrounds are that they're old (just like this author), designed years ago for tents and much smaller rigs, are plumb-full three months out of the year, and get a lot of wear and tear from all the traffic. But we're here, right? We're here to see the Park and there really aren't good alter…

Sunday June 22 thru June 25 - Grand Tetons National Park

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A few days of exploring the GTNP... both on foot and on wheels. Our camp was at Gros Ventres (site 300) which was acceptable considering the proximity to the Park but certainly wasn't the nicest or roomiest camp we've experienced. But our mission was to see the Tetons and get a few miles of hiking on the boots.

Sunday we started with the Jenny Lake boat shuttle over to a trailhead for the Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point hikes. Both are located right at the foot of the Teton peaks and provide some good training for muscles suffering from a little atrophy after a few days riding in the truck. The falls was OK but the more challenging and rugged Inspiration Point hike, with somewhere shy of 1,000 feet of elevation gain was more agreeable.

Afterward we checked out more of the park... an "overview" if you will... including Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake lodges. Our stop at Jackson Lake lodge was notable as we availed ourselves of nourishment and precious fluid replacemen…

June 21 - Victor to Jackson via Teton Pass

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Trail Creek CG to Gros Ventres CG NPS near Jackson ID
77 miles
6500 elevation
N43.613; W110.671
Weather: Mixed sun and clouds. Nice day.

Camped at Gros Ventres CG (NPS) near Jackson but on south edge of Grand Teton NP. $11.50

Highlights from Day:
Teton Pass… Wow. Now there’s a mountain pass. No wimpy 6% grades here. No Sir. It’s quite a climb. Long 10%+ grades on both sides and it summits out at over 7,300 feet. But truck, complete with camper, gear, and two explorers, handled it fine. We didn’t go up as fast as a diesel pickup would… or come down as fast as many with diesels do… but it was a respectable showing for a naturally aspirated gas engine at 7,300 feet.

Jackson is a bustling town both summer (Grand Teton National Park visitors) and winter (skiers and other winter sports types). Might be a little less busy during spring and fall… don’t know for sure. The place reminds me somewhat of other tourist destinations (Gatlinburg comes to mind) but this one seems to have more of a…

June 20 - Mesa Falls and West Side of Tetons

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Clark Canyon Reservoir CG to Trail Creek CG NFS near Victor ID
231 miles today
elevation: 6700
N43.540; W111.038
Weather: Mix of sun and clouds; warm.

Camped at Trail Creek CG (NFS) just outside Victor; site #7 no … #6 no … #5. $6

Highlights of Day:
Again, the varied geography in this part of the world is amazing. Deep in the mountains for a while but in just a short while we’re among flat agricultural fields irrigated by runoff from the aforementioned mountains.

Stopped at a king-sized waterfall called Mesa Falls. As waterfalls go this one ranks right up there near the upper bracket. A bit out of our way but worth it.

ID-33 runs north/south along the eastern edge of the Grand Tetons. The afternoon sun lit-up the western side of those jagged snow covered peaks… a scene unseen by most who only view them from the east side… from within Grand Teton National Park. There are a few trails through the mountains but I think I’ll have to get into better shape before even thinking about that. …

June 19 - To the Top of Lemhi Pass

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Camped tonight on the shores of Clark Canyon Reservoir at the junction of MT-324 and I-15 near Dillion MT. A surprising deal from the US Bureau of Reclamation -- campsites are free. The only bad news was that they did not accept my Senior Pass.

Highlights of the Day:
Nice sunny morning. Cap clouds over the peaks of the Bitteroots (or Beaverheads?) east of Salmon. Those peaks are the Continental Divide through here. Being this close we felt some real motivation to get going.

Today is Lemhi Pass Day. I’ve explained before how we missed this segment of the Lewis & Clark trail a few years ago and have ever since wanted to stand on that pass.

From the west side the road to Lemhi Pass starts at Tendoy ID. There you leave pavement behind and take one-lane gravel and dirt roads up some pretty amazing terrain… through some pretty amazing places… trails carved on mountainsides. The Forest Service provides a 36 mile loop road to the top and past historic points of interest. With an elevatio…