WEEK TWENTY: TALL MOUNTAINS AND BIG GRIZZLY

CONTENTS
Rearview Mirror - Summary of the past week: Snake River, Tetons, and Yellowstone
Pups Across America! - Halfway Truck Pups and More
Favorite Photograph - “Outta Here,” a shot of Bad Brad, Grizzly Bear
Camper’s Corner - Copperfield Campground, Oxbow, OR
Headlights - Our schedule as to where we will be heading: Rocky Mountain National Park



REARVIEW MIRROR
Start: Copperfield Campground, Oxbow, OR
Stop: Mountain View RV Park, Boise, ID
Stop: Teton Valley Campground, Victor, ID
Stop: Flagg Ranch Campground, Yellowstone National Park, WY

Sunday
To Hell and Back (Canyon, that is)
We awoke to a gorgeous morning, and by 7:00 a.m. the four of us were in the car heading backing into Hell’s Canyon on the Idaho side, making the same trip that we had taken on Thursday. Within five minutes we had seen a half dozen deer crossing the road in front of us. We stopped at the Sawpit Creek (the location where we had seen the Mountain Goat) and admired the stream and the small waterfall that fed it. By 8:00 we were at the end of the road, the Hell’s Canyon Visitor Center. Here we drove as far as we could down to the water, in hope of seeing the bears coming down to fish...no bears today, but we walked around soaking in the impressive scenery.

Two Deer

Another Goat Sighting
Just for giggles, on our way back we stopped once again at Sawpit Creek. It was almost the exact time of day of our goat sighting three days earlier. Although I felt almost no hope in seeing one again, I thought, why not? Walking around, we were just about to leave when Jan spotted a small white rectangle. She said, “That couldn’t be a goat, could it?” I replied, “No, can’t be,” as I looked through the viewfinder of my camera. My next response was, “Cripes, it is!” Our buddy, Monty, was back! (I assumed it had to be the same goat and this boy sure looked like a “Monty.”) I quickly set up as I did last time, and got off a few shots. I then picked up my tripod-mounted camera and started to slowly move up the rough terrain to get a little closer to my subject. Just as I was setting up, Monty moved out of view. I waited several minutes, made my way back down to the side of the road, when out he came again. I snapped a few more shots before he moved up the mountain and out of view. Way too cool.

Mountain Goat_1

Closed Highway
Just for fun we decided to drive up the closed highway that got washed out a few weeks before. After two miles the road was blocked with concrete barricades (I guess they were serious), so we stopped the car and walked through a two-foot opening out on the deserted road. Here we enjoyed the solitude and stopped to watch horses come down to the creek below for a drink.

Monday
One More Change in Plans
Our plan was to get in a full day of travel (which we eventually did), however, a knock on our coach door threw us a small curve. Come to find out, our right front tire on our tow car was flat. After thinking through our options, we: (1) Got out our air compressor and filled the flat tire and confirmed that it was only slowly leaking air; (2) Found, then sprayed our never-used rusted tire jack with WD 40; (3) Filled the mini-spare tire up the recommended 60 pounds (it had less than 20 in it); and (4) Drove separately to a flat-tire-changing place we had confirmed existed 20 miles from camp in Halfway.

Watchful Jerry

This proved to be a wise decision as the tire held up fine to Halfway, and after only an hour wait, the tire was patched and we were on our way. Once on the road, things went smoothly as we motored along enjoying a just-about-perfect day.

Good Luck
In last week’s blog I reported an “engine warning” alarm and our remedial plan to get it checked out at a CAT dealer in Boise. However, after driving for over four hours with no warning light coming on, we decided to cancel the appointment and keep going. We will know later if this was a smart decision, saving us a day’s time and several hundred dollars, or a not-so-smart choice in which we pay the consequences down the road. Who knows?

We headed west back through Richland, and when we got to Baker City we turned southeast on I-84, continuing on by the towns of Pleasant Valley, Durkee, Huntington, and Ontario. Here we passed into Idaho, driving by Emmett, Middleton, Caldwell, and Nampa, before we stopped for a one-nighter at an RV park just off of interstate.

Thoughts on Oregon
We had traveled the state of Oregon for over three weeks, following the coast all the way up, then selectively checking out certain areas as we worked our way east. Overall, I just love the place—a huge variety of beautiful scenery (from Pacific beaches to mountains to high desert), nice people, moderate prices, and very camper-friendly every where we went. Highly recommended.

Reflective Alex Hitchhiker

Tuesday
Up early and back on the road, continuing east on I-84, Jan driving the bus and me sitting in the copilot chair working on the computer. We rolled along past Mountain Home, Gooding, Jerome, and Twin Falls, stopping at Burley for fuel and the truck stop hot dog special (not too bad). Past Heyburn we picked up I-86 heading east by northeast. It was right then that the terrain changed and Jan commented that we had arrived in “No-Man’s Land.” I looked at the map and my hunch was correct, we were almost exactly 60 miles south of Craters of the Moon National Monument that we visited last year. I remember getting there as one of the most desolate areas I’d ever been through.

Up I-86 through American Falls and Chubbuck, at Pocatello we took I-15 north wheeling past Blackfoot and at Idaho Falls we turned off onto Highway 26 slowly making our way through the stoplights and 20 miles of road construction. After 45 minutes from our turnoff, we crossed the Snake River once again and connected with scenic Highway 31 at Swan Valley heading up and north, up and down the Caribou Mountains. Late afternoon we arrived at the hamlet of Victor, the last Idaho town before taking the Teton Pass over to Wyoming. Here we set up camp at Teton Valley Campground. After driving into the quaint town of Victor, we decided to extend our stay a day and do a little exploring on the west side of the Teton Mountains.

Horse _ Buggy

Wednesday
Scenic Road Trip
We turned north out of Victor on a fine summer’s morning, taking 33 through Driggs, then on to Tetonia. Here we exited onto 32, the Teton Scenic Byway, following it north, with the Tetons on our right, then west to Ashton across the farmlands of potatoes and wheat. At Ashton we turned right onto the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway (47) that headed east for a few miles, changed course to the northeast, then meandered to the northwest. Along the way we stopped at both Lower and Upper Mesa Falls, got out and enjoyed the waterscapes. At Island Park we stopped for lunch at an Inn with an outside eating area that viewed a lake. Here we turned around, backtracked our route, and ended back at camp mid-afternoon.

Stacks Stormy Tetons

Thursday
Groomers
Jan had set up a grooming appointment to get Jerry’s nails clipped and the silver shaggy pup, Mitzy, trimmed. While she did that I got the coach ready and caught up on computer work.

Teton Pass
A little after 11:00 a.m., we headed east out of Victor, picking up Highway 22. We traveled over Teton Pass, the steep pass with 10 pecent grades that last year I chose not to travel. This year, with our 400 HP diesel pusher, we made the trip with no issues, Jan and our coach, BALY, have become one!

As Highway 22 entered Jackson, we took 89 north through the city, out past the airport and into Grand Teton National Park. All the while the Teton Mountains towered to our left, the tall sharp edges contrasted with the whites and grays of unmelted winter snows.

At the very northern tip of the park, and just two mile south of Yellowstone National Park, we pulled into our campground at the Flagg Ranch. Here we set up in a wooded site all by ourselves.

Grizzly!
Immediately outside the campground we turned our Element west on Grassy Lake Road. After a mile we crossed over Pole Cat Creek and the pavement turned to gravel. About two miles in we turned a corner, and there he was—grizzly bear. We pulled over to the side of the road and watched this handsome fellow stroll through a meadow. He knew we were there, but paid us no mind. A local in a pickup truck pulled up behind us. He said he thought by the size of the critter it was a bison, and he wasn’t going to stop! We stood on the road watching this mature, 400 pound-plus male (I later confirmed this with a park ranger) go about his business. After a couple minutes a kid on a motorcycle came flying up the road from the other direction. He didn’t see, or ignored, Jan’s flashing headlights and drove by the bear within fifteen feet, totally oblivious to the situation! It startled the bear, but only for an instance. Giving him plenty of space, we slowly drove down the road watching the bear meander through the meadow. Soon he was hidden, and I doubted we would see him again. As we drove along barely moving, out he popped, right along the road, he tore about an old log (we surmised he was looking for termites), and then he rubbed his chin up and down on a tree getting a good scratching. Next, he turned on to the road, slowly lumbering away. We followed him at a distance, but when he turned around to look at us, we turned around and left him to do whatever grizzlies do. We had spent over ten minutes with Bad Brad (by then we were on a first-name basis, naming him after Jan’s uncle Brad), thoroughly enjoying it all.

Bad Brad Oblivious Biker Snack Time

Confession
I’ve hiked a fair amount in isolated areas, often in wee hours, many times by myself, and I’ve never felt any concern for my safety. However, after our unexpected friendly encounter, I made a vow never to hike in bear (or other critter) country without bear spray. Although the odds of a bad encounter are small, the risks are quite big. I vowed to buy it the first opportunity we had. Wise decision, don’t you think?

Friday
The Big Yellowstone Trip
Before sunrise and in the glow of an almost full moon, the four of us left camp and headed north on the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Highway, traveling the two miles into Yellowstone, one of the most special places on the planet. We drove through the unattended south entrance continuing north, passing Lewis Lake on our left and slowly driving by Grant Village. Traffic was very light, the air was crisp, and the road level and smooth. We curved around the West Thumb and enjoyed the wisps of geyser steam gently filling the air from Yellowstone Lake. We circled around Bridge Bay and made our annual stop (well, our second year in a row) at the filling station at Fishing Bridge after an hour on the road. Here we made a restroom break and I bought a coffee to go.

Alex at Fishing Bridge

In a Rut
Thirty feet from the store was the edge of a herd of about 50 bison. This is rutting season, so the air was full of the bellows of males closely following selected females, and the dust kicked up from young males challenging each other’s maleness.

Bison Eye Oh Baby

Yellowstone River
We continued our journey north along the Yellowstone River, past the Mud Volcano and the Sulpher Caldron into the wide outstretched spaces of the Hayden Valley. We drove slowly, spotting lots of bison off in the distance. We continued on past the turnoffs to Artist Point and Upper and Lower Falls and on up to Canyon Village. We continued north at 9,000 to 10,000 feet taking the curvy highway up through Dunraven Pass. At Tower Roosevelt we turned east and were soon in the Lamar Valley, one of my favorite places in Yellowstone. For miles and miles, first the Lamar River then Soda Butte Creek paralleled the road, with fly fishermen busily casting almost the entire distance. Lamar Valley is where the wolf pack lives. I kept an eye out, but nothing this trip.

Lamar Valley Lamar Valley #2

Bison Galore
All day long we had seen bison everywhere, but they were most abundant by far in the Lamar Valley. Oblivious for the most part of the humans viewing them, they meandered about minding their own business, which appeared to be eating, resting, sniffing, or just walking back and forth across the road for their own hidden enjoyment as they glanced at the traffic backup they caused. Along with these big beauties, we spotted antelope, a few elk, and a coyote running across a meadow. Good critter day.

Walk the Line Coyote Antelope

Return Trip
About ten miles from reaching the northeast entrance gate (a little ways past Pebble Creek), we turned around to follow our earlier steps back. It had taken us about four hours to drive the 98 miles, and it was time to return. The tourist traffic was heavier, but nothing like I had feared. We took our time, stopping off at the campsites at both Fishing Bridge and Bridge Bay as possibilities for future trips in future years. At the Bridge Bay store I bought the bear spray I had committed to purchasing.

Back at camp we took the pups out for a nice walk down to the Snake River, then Jan and I stopped at the Visitor Center to report our grizzly sighting the day before. From there we headed south 25 miles into Grand Teton Nation Park, stopping at the Jackson Lake Lodge, one of the few places around purported to have reliable WiFi. In addition, the ATT signal was just strong enough to pick up voice messages, so here, overlooking a magnificent view of Jackson Lake backed up by the Teton Mountains, we reconnected our communication link with the world.

The rest of the day was quiet and short and the whole family was tired. Jan grilled zucchini, summer squash, and chicken over the campfire, and then it was off to bed.

Saturday
I awoke to a wonderfully quiet campground. The place had less than 20 percent occupancy, and there was no one camping within sight of us. For whatever reason, they had put us in an area all by ourselves. The only lights were the almost-full moon and the dim lights from the showers in the distance. I used the quiet time to catch up a little on this blog and do some needed picture sorting/editing.

Just at dawn, I took the Pups out down a trail that led to the Snake River. Under careful supervision, I let them run loose by the water and they enjoyed the chance to stretch their little legs.

Snake River Dawn

Pole Cat Creek Hike
About 7:00 a.m. Jan and I walked across the road to the Pole Cat Creek Trailhead and headed off into the woods on a photo hike. Before we left, however, Jan practiced using our newly purchased bear spray (the canister is about half the size of a fire extinguisher), and then strapped it on her waist for easy access. Our plan was if Bad Brad or one of his relatives attacked, Jan would drop to her knees in the proper position, firing off a round of spray, if necessary, while I stood behind her taking photos documenting the event. It is a plan I hope we never have to execute, put we are ready, nonetheless. :’>>>.

Pole Cat Creek

It was just a gorgeous three-mile hike. Along with some ducks, we saw a coyote on the hunt and a hawk that made it very clear that it was his meadow we were walking through. Several times he flew directly overhead, and his warning cries echoed across the valley. We detoured onto an animal trail and walked down to a steaming creek—the water was hot enough to bathe in. About that time we heard thunder in the background. Minutes before, I was ready to shed my jacket, but as the temperature dropped considerably, I zipped it up a few inches instead. As the wind picked up and the skies darkened, we started back at a brisk pace, walking the last ten minutes in a refreshing rain. It was a wonderful trek.

Irritated Hawk Cranes Flower Child

Trip into Town
Late morning, Jan and I took the car 60 miles down to Jackson. It was a pleasant trip as we viewed the partially cloud-covered Tetons through intermittent rain. Our purpose was to meet our friends Esta and Brian, whom we had met last year at Yellowstone. We had a very nice time catching up on what had happened in our lives and what was planned, first chatting in their coach, then over lunch. They will stop by and visit on Sunday on their way up to West Yellowstone.

Quiet Afternoon
We drove back to camp in the rain taking the back road past Menors Ferry, Jenny Lake, and Signal Mountain before hooking up with the main drag that took us back to BALY and the Kids. Because of the weather, we had to cancel our evening campfire, and spent the evening editing pics, playing cards, and reading.

Another great day of another great week.

PUPS ACROSS AMERICA!
Take a look at Halfway Truck Pups and the latest of Jerry and Mitzy.

Jigs and Toby Pup and Girl

Jerry on Point Mitzy Lap Driver Mountain Goat Mitzy

Pass the Word
Know other Pup Parents who might enjoy this blog? Please spread the word.

FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPH
My favorite this week is “Outta Here.” It was great fun spending time watching this big grizzly go about his day paying almost no attention to us.

Outa Here

CAMPER’S CORNER: Copperfield Campground, Oxbow, OR
This very reasonably priced campground is right on the Snake River bordering Oregon and Idaho. Shady, paved sites with water and electricity, and grass. Great place to base out of while exploring the Hells Canyon area. Highly recommended.

HEADLIGHTS
August 29 to August 30
Flagg Ranch

September 1 to 3?
Heading toward Estes Park

September 4 to 6
Mary’s Campground at Estes Park, CO

September 7 to 11
Heading east to Michigan

September 12 thru September 25
Kalamazoo, MI

September 26 to 27
Cincinnati, OH

September 28 thru October 2
Lexington, KY

October 4 thru 6
Asheville, NC?

October 7 & 8
Charleston, SC?

October 10 & 11
Savannah, GA

October 12 thru 14
Apopka, FL?

October 15
Return to Pine Island?

Going to be near? Look us up. Have some suggestions concerning places to see? We are open.
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