Grand Teton National Park

We left Baker’s Hole on Sunday the 8th. We have been camped at Gros Ventre campground in Grand Teton National Park since then. We intend on staying until Friday. It might snow then, so that means it is time to leave! We have been enjoying it here. We took the bikes into Jackson and peddled to the Fish Hatchery, a round trip of only 7 miles or so. We also did such exciting things as laundry and grocery shopping. There is a new laundromat in Jackson that we tried. It is all front loaders (four different sizes!), very clean, and lots of big dryers. The only disadvantage is that it is expensive for the washers, but the clothes were really clean so I guess it was worth it. We have had dinner in town at Bubba’s BBQ which was pretty good. Of course, being as it is in Jackson it cost more than it would in any other place.

One of the treats we gave ourselves was an evening at the Bar J Chuckwagon. We had a blast. The food was good, but the show was tremendous! It was an hour and a half of comedy and music. It was soooo much better than the one we went to in South Dakota.

The stage at the Bar J.

I was also able to do some sewing. We have had trouble with inverters (changing 12v to 110v), but we actually found a Radio Shack with a nice selection. That let me connect my Bernina 440 to the electrical power in the trailer without using the generator, a big plus. However using the iron requires the generator, so I haven’t pressed the borders on this one. It is an appliqué kit from AQS called “Lunar.” I used a fusible backing then used a button hole stitch with invisible thread. I like it!

Ignore the unpressed borders. And it is straight – promise!
Close up of the appliqué stitching.

Today we went to Jenny Lake and took the scenic boat tour. As many times as we have been to GTNP, we have never taken the boat so it was a new experience. The smoke has disappeared mostly so I got some great pictures of the mountains.

The Jenny Lake boat.
The top of Grand Teton is covered in clouds but still gorgeous.

We are having scattered showers which has cooled things off. The solar is still keeping things charged nicely.

Yellowstone – fabulous and smoky

We are back on the road. We left Tuesday after waiting for the Labor Day crowds to go home. We arrived at Baker’s Hole campground around 4:00 and got the next to last spot here. It is a huge site next to the river with a good open exposure. We were really interested in how the solar set up would work, and it is wonderful! We have turned on the generator only long enough to run the expresso machine in the mornings. The solar has brought the battery up to full charge every day. We have run the fans all day, used the satellite television system extensively, and run the heater quite a bit at night and in the mornings. We have been more extravagant with power than we usually are, and it is still lovely.

For the last few years we have concentrated on seeing animals while in the park. This time we decided to concentrate on the thermal features. I always recommend first (or second) time visitors to Yellowstone really spend time at the variety of thermal features. The animals and scenery are spectacular, but there is nowhere else on earth with such an abundance of funeroles, hot springs, paint pots and geysers like YNP. My back is still bothering me, and Kevin’s knee is still a problem, but we did take some short loops to see some of the best spots.

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The basin from a distance on a cool morning
An itty bitty geyser on a ~5 minute cycle
Another geyser
Old Faithful from the walking trail
Another view of Old Faithful

The park is weirdly smoky, though the pollution is still better than at home.

A very smoky sunrise heading into the park
The smoke was intense. Trust me, there are mountains over there.

We were planning on heading to Mammoth Spring campground from here, but the road between Norris and Mammoth is closing for construction on Sunday. The detour is something I do NOT want to do with a trailer, so we decided to go to Gros Ventre in Grand Teton National Park again. Tomorrow we will ride the bikes into West Yellowstone and visit the museum and Visitor Center there. Oddly enough, I haven’t ever been to either of them.

Family trip to Black Hills

I am way behind on documenting this trip, and I know I will forget some things. I had no cell service for much of it, and I didn’t even take very many pictures that I can post.

We left home on Wednesday, 7 June, for a big family get together in South Fakota. The first night we stayed at Flaming Gorge in a lovely campground named Lucerne near Manila, UT. Kevin made a reservation at the last minute to guarantee a lake front site with electricity. Cost was around $20 since the electricity was from a concessionaire. We had a lovely view of the lake and surrounding hills plus ok phone and data service. We just enjoyed the view from the recliners while under the trailer awning. It was a lovely start.

The next morning we headed to the Bighorn National Forest and found a spot at Boulder Park on the west side of the park. Absolutely no cell service, but a gorgeous mountain forest site. There were quite a few sites with long pads, but we had some trouble with narrow entry roads that weren’t wide enough to back in the site. Cost was a whopping $8 with our Senior Pass. We enjoyed the roaring creek providing all the white noise we could manage that night. On Friday morning I had a medical issue arise (lots of brand new “floaters” in my left eye) so we headed to Gillette on the east side of the NF to find an eye doctor. The very helpful Gillette Optometric Clinic worked me in on a busy Friday afternoon. I really appreciated the thoroughness of Dr. Fischer was did the examination. Turns out I had a vitreous detachment, fairly normal for someone of my age, but there is a 10% risk of a serious retinal issue in the next month so I need an ophthalmologist. He did say it was ok to continue with the vacation as long as I am aware of the symptoms and know where to find an emergency room with an ophthalmologist on call. This trip that is basically Rapid City! (I have already made an appointment for a follow up with the Moran Eye Center in SLC.) The only immediate issue is the huge bother of numerous dark floaters in my eye, one right dead center. Sigh. Supposedly they will get better in the next 3-6 months.

We stayed at the KOA next to Devil’s Tower Friday night. We didn’t even do any hiking, since I was emotionally exhausted and Kevin’s knee was really acting up. It was nice to have full hookups before going to a dry camping site (the family get together) for a week. Cost was somewhere around $35 or so for an older campground that definitely makes its money on tourists stopping for Devil’s Tower. One of the unusual thing they do is play the move “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” every evening. The movie centers around Devil’s Tower, and we saw a number of people heading that way. We have seen the move a number of times, so I didn’t feel the urge to see it this time.

Saturday was check in at the vacation rental we were staying at. Since the cabin was just outside of Spearfish and we spent the night only an hour away, we really dawdled leaving the KOA. We then decided to drive around some of the Black Hills since we couldn’t get to the rental until 4:00. We had a nice lunch at a cute diner in Hills City across from the school. I can’t remember the name because the sign out front just said “Diner”. We also looked at the railroad museum there. I wish I had thought to make reservations for the short train ride, but I totally forgot.

The vacation rental included one main cabin and a separate bunkhouse, each with two bedroom spaces. My oldest son’s family (including their three kids) took the bunkhouse, my daughter and her husband and baby took the upstairs bedroom in the main cabin, and my second son (single) took the second bed in the cabin. The cabins were in the woods, but there was a lovely meadow nearby where we parked the trailer. The new power converter Kevin installed a month or two back seemed to maintain the battery better than we expected. We were in a canyon without any cell service unless we had the cell booster turned on. With the booster we occasionally got two dots of LTE service on our Verizon phones. Just as often we would get one dot of 1X – voice but no data. We somehow burned out the transformer on our booster after the first day, but Kevin found one at a local store that worked just fine. One of the reasons I don’t have many pictures on this post is that I don’t like posting pictures of other people on a public site, and I did take lots of pictures of the family! We alternated spending a day primarily at the cabin with a day that had some sightseeing or exploring. It seemed to work out well for the little kids.

The last night at the cabin was Thursday, and everyone was gone by 10:00 on Friday morning. Kevin and I decided we wanted to stay in the Black Hills another day to do some sightseeing and relaxing. We ended up at the Rafter J, a really great private campground. It was also expensive at around $65. For that we got full hookups (including cable) and a pull through gravel site with lots of grass around it plus room to enjoy sitting outside. It rained quite a bit though, just like it had a lot of the week. We did get a chance to go through Spearfish Canyon and the Needles Highway though.

We had planned on staying in Rawlins, WY at the Walmart on Saturday night, but there wasn’t room in the parking lot! By 4:00 when we arrived there were already 3 vehicles with big trailers pulled in plus one pickup camper, and it has a small parking lot. We decided to go on to Rock Springs, and I am now in the Walmart lot there. It just kills me to pay $30-40 to just park for a night since we don’t need utilities, and I knew we would never find a public campground on a Saturday night in the summer. There is a lot of highway noise but no brakes or trains, so it should be ok when we close the trailer up to sleep. Continuous road noise acts likes white noise to me and doesn’t keep me awake. We should be home fairly early tomorrow since it is only four hours or so. Sometime on Sunday I will edit add a post with some pictures, but I wanted to write what I could now. Monday we will do laundry, go through the mail, and head to Bozeman on Tuesday to help my son move so we won’t be home long. I intend on being back Thursday night with a utility trailer full of his stuff while Kevin will stay until Friday. I am coming back early for the appointment with the ophthalmologist, and hoping for a good report.

On the road again

It has been HOT in Salt Lake City! It has been over 90 degrees, and sometimes higher the last few days. That is 10-15 degrees warmer than normal, and I have been dying. We finally got on the road today, heading in a very slow manner to Spearfish, SD and a family get together. We have so much stuff the truck is filled to capacity. We brought our Pack and Play for the youngest grandson to use plus some bouncer toy thing that my daughter originally intended to rent. I was able to buy a used one on KSL classifieds for less than the rental would have been! Add to that a few goodies for the grandkids, birthday presents for oldest son and his wife, my sewing machine and some goodies there, and it is a lot of stuff.

We originally intended on going to Fossil Buttes National Monument, but it was just too hot to enjoy walking around so we just went straight to our campsite at Lucerne campground on Flaming Gorge Reservoir. We don’t normally make reservations in advance except for destinations, but Kevin decided to make this reservation a couple of days ago, and I am glad. We got a site that looks over an arm of the lake and has lots of space between us and the neighbor.

The view from my door is pretty nice.

Nothing between us and the water except a meadow. This site also has electricity, a definite plus though we didn’t need AC today. The cost was $18 plus the $10 resevation fee, so it wasn’t too bad. The Senior Pass we have discounts the basic camping, but the electricity is provided by a concessionaire so that isn’t discounted.

We did have some visitors. Can you see the two pronghorn? These two (or their friends) wandered through three times that I noticed.

They walk within 30 feet of the trailer.
You can tell they aren’t afraid of campers.

There is even an osprey nest right at the edge of the campground.

Osprey nest just outside the campground.

This is one of the nicest evenings we have had in a long while. We sat outside enjoying the view, then I roasted some carrots and potatoes. We ate those with some brisket we brought from home. Ahhh. The campground is very quiet except for insects and the occasional bird – just the way I like it.