Friday, June 26, 2015

Grand Tetons Southeast to Nebraska

Well, well, well!  We had mentioned in the last blog that we had not seen any bison this year at Gros Ventre Campground in the Grand Tetons.  Not a one!  That was in the campground and all along the park road. What we did find were scenes like the one right above-----just about everywhere in the park.

So, as we were leaving the park, we approached the Moran Junction where you can go left up to Yellowstone or right for eastern Wyoming.  At Elks Ranch turnout, guess what?  The whole herd of bison that you see in the pictures above. Not only were they there and spread out all over the fields, but some were gracious enough to be very close to the highway, posing for the pictures above.

At Moran Junction we take Route 26/287 towards Dubois.  This road  goes over the Continental Divide ( 9,584 feet as you see above) and continues through the Shoshone National Forest.  Jan and I chose a great little campground called Falls Campground and Overlook just a little east of the divide.For $7.50 we had a very private site.  There was another loop with electric hookups for a few dollars more.  With that we had a great walk by the falls and also a view of what are called the Pinnacles.  

On the way into Dubois we see these tall , red and white cliffs.  Somewhat reminiscent of stops in Utah and the Painted Desert of Arizona. There were a number of nice homes such as the one above.

From Dubois , we follow Route 287 to Lander and then out Route 131 to Sinks Canyon State Park.  The park is along the Popo Agie River ( an Indian word pronounced po-poshia).  This active snow melt river flows down to the cave above. You can tell how large by looking for the people inside on the left.  At this point the entire river goes underground for a quarter mile and then pops up at the Rise.

It was such a nice spot by a rushing river, that we decided to stay two nights.  The second day we headed down to the visitor center.  Many state parks and national forest stations have displays of stuffed animals. Sometimes the taxidermy is old or of questionable quality as are some of the displays. But most we have seen are quite good. This one was impressive in spite of being rather small.

At the center, a ranger shows us a trail back to our campground, the North Slope Trail.  So off we go, Jan and I.  Straight up, any steeper and we would be on our hands and knees.  Oh well, good exercise.  And some wonderful wild flowers along the trail.  That third picture down is of some colorful lichen that was on many of the rocks.

The view from the top of the trail includes our campground and the national forest land beyond.
As you can see, our site was right on the river-----and the white water was loud!!!, but so nice!!
HONEST!!!! Jan let me go out dressed like this.  A very wobbly suspension bridge.

From The Sinks Canyon, we still follow Route 287 down to Rawlins and then east on Interstate 80.  East of Laramie, Wyoming we find a great site in Vedauwoo Recreation Area Campground in the Medicine Bow National Forest.  This strange accumulation of ancient boulders is in the middle of what is wide open cattle range. It is also at 8300 feet.  A number of groups and individual campers attest to the fact that it is a world class rock climbing destination.  Jan is giving her own demonstration of that. Go Jan!!!!

Cheyenne, Wyoming is about 50 plus miles beyond Laramie and close to the Nebraska border.  We cross over into Nebraska and travel a short ways to Oliver Reservoir State Recreation Area in Bushnell, Nebraska on Route 30, not far from Route 80. A quiet, very pleasant spot with no specific campsites, but some tables and fireplaces. A sign indicates the camping is free, though a donation is accepted in an iron ranger at the entrance.  There is a nice view of the lake, some weekend people in fishing and camping, and , if you enlarge the above picture, you will see one of many long trains passing on the other side of Route 30. Last night, at Vedauwoo, we watched some strong storm warnings on Colorado TV.  There was talk of golf ball sized hail and strong winds.  We are trying hard to miss all of that!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Snake River to the Grand Tetons

Coming out of the Sawtooth Mountains past Ketchum, Idaho, we follow Route 75 south to Route 20 and then east towards Craters of the Moon .

It certainly is a strange thing to come across this lava field in the middle of the high desert.  Suddenly you see a large area of hardened piles of lava, thousands of years old, that look like they had just cooled off. 
The top picture is a view from Lady Blue's back window at our campsite.  A little different from Redfish Lake and others? Around the preserve are some very colorful ground flowers, these dead limber pines, and colorful lichen on the rocks.

These are a few of the very colorful flowers all around in the preserve

After Craters of the Moon , we head east on Route 20 and 26 towards Arco and Idaho Falls.  We are now following the Snake River again north towards its headwaters in the upper Tetons.  Just before the border we happen upon  Calamity Campground in the Targhee National Forest, just below the Palisades dam.
A lot of fishermen below the dam, as well as boaters and rafters.  Above the dam is the Palisades Reservoir that goes on and on and on. A very pretty ride.  In the distance you see some of the Teton range in Wyoming.

Jan and I follow Route 26 into Wyoming, joining Route 89 and then 191 into Jackson, Wyoming. 
Along the way are some great views of the Snake River with a number of rafters.  
Jackson is very busy tourist town.  On a quiet day, we might like to mosey, but we prefer a quieter environment, so we head right through to Gros Ventre campground in the national park.

We love this park and we prefer Gros Ventre as a campground, though there are a number of other campgrounds here. From our best site( number 69), Jan and I get the bicycles tuned up and head out to Kelly on Gros Ventre Road.  We figure 8 miles is more than enough for a first ride in a while.  That bottom panorama picture is from our ride.  Oh, and that picture of those two strange people!!

The next day, we drive Lady Blue over to the visitor's center, which is about 11 miles from our site. From there, we can leave Lady Blue and take the bicycles up to Jenny Lake---about 7.5 miles. There are some beautiful views of the mountains along the way.  After a total of about 16 miles--pretty good for us--we bike to Dornan's which is close to the visitor's center.  The bottom picture is from our seats at the bar where we had a glass of wine and shared a very good pizza while looking at this view!!  Afterwards, we visited Dornan's store and picked up some great looking Wyoming steaks for a Father's Day dinner.  It helped that the bike trip back to Lady Blue was downhill!

If you would like to see more pictures from Gros Ventre and Tetons, go to the right and click on 2013, then June. You will see 2 Grand Teton postings as well as postings from Yellowstone Park.  Two years ago there were a number of bison here.  This year they are nowhere around. Some of the hosts thought that with the rainy spring they have stayed longer up in the hills.

On our rides through the park this year, we do see a number of pronghorn.  A better picture is the top one. The middle picture is of a mule deer.  The pronghorn is the second fastest mammal in the world. Quite often it is a case of now you see them, now you don't.

The last day of visiting inside the park, we drive Lady Blue up the Teton Park Road.  Along the way are some great views of the Teton mountains from different perspectives.  Of course, we could not end the northern stretch of the park without stopping for a meal on the deck of Signal Mountain Lodge looking out at the southern end of Jackson Lake.  At this lake it is possible to rent a boat, hike, or many other activities.
Eustis enjoys the ride back to Gros Ventre with different views of the mountains.  It is in the 80's here but still a fair amount of snow on the 14,000 foot mountains.  The Tetons are so impressive, partially because there are not the extended foothills you might see in the Sierras.  The mountains seem to rise up directly from the valley.
Lady Blue seems to really enjoy her return trip to the Grand Tetons.  Who knows, maybe we will be back a third time?