Monday, August 28, 2017

Utah, Now Colorado

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow 
That path is for your steps alone

The big takeaway from our month in BC was how friendly and happy the people are. I think someone came to our campsite every time we parked to welcome us. Women at the gas bars would give me big warm smiles. When was the last time that happened to you in the US? I would say, “You Canadians are so happy”. They would reply “Why not?” We could sure use some happiness in the USA right about now.

Thursday - Saturday, August 17-19
Steinaker SP near Vernal, UT
We had a chance encounter with some LD chums from Texas. They were headed north on US191 to Flaming Gorge for the day and we were headed to Dinosaur NM. A text message made us reconsider and we parked at Steinaker and enjoyed a visit with them. We opted to stay two more days and do nothing much.

Surprise, this was the first state park we have been in over a weekend where the masses were not teaming. In fact, it was not even filled.

Having shot Dinosaur twice before, I tried to pay attention to some different things this pass.  Here’s what I got. What do you think?

I want to return to Dinosaur one more time when it’s cool and shoot from the Rim and Bench roads again. And I have a reason. My camera is in it’s death throws. I ordered a new one. A friend will deliver it to me the end of the month. More pixels! Anyway, I am thinking camping on the Yampa so I will be convenient to the wonders there. It’s just too damn far to drive in and out to take pictures.

Rafting the Yampa has long been on my bucket list. But after talking with some knowledgeable folks, I realize it’s just not for us. Damnit.

On the way out of Vernal, I grabbed this shot of one the best Mexican restaurants in the country. Yeah, a former gas station, Tacos El Gordo.

Thursday, we both had the Chile Relleno. Devine. As with all good food, it’s the sauce that makes it. He used a blend of cheeses and it was unlike anything we have tasted before. A HUGE serving and we ate it all. We went back Saturday and the owner recommended his Smothered Burrito. It was even better than the Chile Relleno. No tourists in the place. They were either locals or oil field workers.

Sunday, August 20
From Vernal, we went 3 hours south to Rifle Gap SP in Colorado. Opted for hookups. 89 is too hot for old people.

Forgetting it was Sunday, we went to see Rifle Falls. It was also Latino Day there, every picnic table was taken by large familia’s. I managed a picture through the masses. Pretty cool falls.

We continued north through a canyon, picnickers galore,  and then begin climbing the mountain. It had rained there a few hours earlier and the road was slick as owl shit. On a inclined turn, we slid to the drivers side bank. I backed down and then continued up, but we soon encountered a truck coming down the hill who was having no small problem staying in the road. He advised that a camper was coming down behind him. That bit of information made my decision to abort and head back. I could handle the Jeep - maybe. But, there was no way I wanted to attempt to handle on coming traffic as I already knew you could change sides of the road in a heartbeat.

Monday, August 21
The eclipse was never on our list. When we checked in yesterday, they gave us a note explaining the eclipse will be 90% here and they have glasses for us. So we will experience some of what millions are passionate to see.

And so we did under a cloudless sky. The sun was golden colored, like it sometimes is at sunset. It did not get as dark as I imagined. It cooled off nicely. I thought the light and temperature were perfect. Venus was visible. As soon the eclipse got to max, we headed back to the falls, as I figured the light would be as good as it could get. Got a decent shot. I could have gotten a cotton candy effect of the water, but I never think about using a tripod and second my camera is on the fritz and will not go below 1/30. I just carry the tripod around in the back of the Jeep. It’s never been used.

How We Saw The Eclipse

Behold - Rifle Gap Falls

Tuesday, August 22
A new record, we turned a 1:15 minute jump into 4 hours. We had to stop and shop at City Market. It’s our fav grocery in the country. Some love Trader Joe’s or Whole Wallet. It just does not get any better than City Market for us. We only needed eggs, butter and milk, but we spent $87. They had lamb and NY Strips on sale.

Then down I70 to near Eagle where we stopped at Costco. Had lunch and finally went a few more miles east and parked along the Eagle River. We had some noise from I70, but we had cell coverage for the first time in many days.

Join Feidler’s book of scenic Colorado drives put us on the Colorado River Road. We were not all that impressed. John has got to do better.

We heard this weather report this morning on the radio. “Temperatures will be about normal for this time of year for the two communities”. What communities? What’s normal? We were in Rifle, we figured out the station was in Breckenridge, which is some distance away.

Colorado River

Wednesday, August 23
We managed to make the 1:11 hour drive to Leadville in less than 2 hours. Until two days ago, I had no idea Leadville was a popular destination. We drove through two of the Forest Service campgrounds on Turquoise Lake that had great reviews. We did not think so much of them. Only 10% of the sites are not reservable and we only saw one that would fit our vehicles and it was well shaded. Plus they were crowded for a week day. We found Tabor campground which is really nothing more than an asphalt parking lot, but it’s open and there was only one other rig. 

After lunch, we drove the heralded Haggerman Pass. We give it a C+. About half the trail is over softball and larger size rocks, so there is plenty of rock and roll. Not much in the way of views until you top out. I am trying to find beauty in Colorado, but so far, it’s not showing me much that I have not seen before. Green trees and grey mountains. We came home in a rain shower, that continued off and on through the night.

Thursday, August 24
Clouds all round, so we did the Mining Museum. Well worth it. We would have stayed longer than two hours, but we were both drained of energy due to the altitude. I think I was in worse shape than Dorothy.

Friday, August 25
The weather forecast called for rain today. However, we had a clear sky around the compass, so we got away as fast as we could to Aspen to see the Maroon Bells. We made it here by 10:30 and it’s magnificent. One of the most scenic places in the country. The drive through the canyon was worth it by itself. It looks like the San Juan’s, but without the colors. I had a good day, no altitude problems. Dorothy was coughing some and her energy went way south by noon. We treated ourselves to fried chicken at Safeway.

Not sure why, we saw several dozen Audi’s on the highway to Aspen. Not a common car.

Maroon Bells

Our Moose sighting for 2017. Taken through a bus window with ultra telephoto

Lincoln Creek Near Aspen. Love It

It's the local swiming hole. 40 Degree Water

Actual comments made to park rangers:
The coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake. Please eradicate these annoying animals.

A small deer came into my camp and stole a bag of potato chips. Is there a way I can get reimbursed? Please call.

Saturday, August 26
I offered Dorothy a choice of destinations today. A 4WD trail to one of the best remaining mine mills or to a town of restored homes. I knew which she would pick. She was not pleased that people were living in some of the old structures. The drive through the valley was OK, not outstanding. 

The thing that stood out to us were the 78 cars parked along the road. We asked a local and he told us it was people seeking to bag a 14er. There are three trails to 14er’s along Clear Creek Road. Farther down down, signs declared it 4WD, but there were dozens of SUV’s parked along the trail. I guess saving a half-mile was important to them when climbing Mt. Huron. PS Monday we learned that five died trying to bag 14er’s in the last two months. That explains the number of out of state plates we saw on the 78 cars we counted - inexperienced climbers.

We have never seen a beaver in the wild

Aspen Grove

On the short drive from Leadville to Nathrop, I was driving the speed limit. Of course, any driver behind something big develops the irresistible urge to pass. Most do not drive faster once passed; they just can not bear to be behind a truck or RV. A woman passed us and forced me to drive on the shoulder to allow her to avoid the on-coming traffic. Guess who was the lead vehicle in the oncoming traffic? A Colorado Highway Patrol. He hit his lights and made a fast u-turn. I again pulled on the shoulder to allow him to pass. The woman figured out she was his target and pulled over before he got behind her. I would have loved to hear what he said to her.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Out Of Idaho, Through Wyoming, Into Utah

All the years combine
they melt into a dream

Thursday, August 10
We turned another 2.5 hour drive in 6 hour affair. We stopped for propane, cheap in Idaho. We needed groceries, so we shopped at Smith’s in South Jackson. It’s always busy there, but today took the cake. We found parking a half-mile away. Unhooked the Jeep and went to the market. Too busy at Smith’s gas bar, so we headed north and found gas in north Jackson 20 cents higher. Arg. I hate to get screwed like that.

Jackson is exactly on the eclipse path and folks are already congregating there. Motel rooms are $300+ for a four-day minimum. Jackson has the second highest per capita income in the US. HRC beat Trump by 25% there. It’s the bluest town not on the ocean or with a major university in the country.

We stopped at Turpin Meadows. We were hoping for more. It’s a campground for the horseset to take the trails from here into south Yellowstone. There must be three dozen stock trailers in the campground and the adjacent outfitter ranch. Glenda took us on a short cut to the campground, five miles on a decent gravel road. She could have taken us six miles “out of the way” on the paved road.

The smoke is much less here just east of the Tetons. But the granite spires are still not all that visible.

Just Lovely Huh?

Friday, August 11
South though the sage brush country of Wyoming to Landers. We stayed at their city park beside a babbling stream. We got our chicken fix at Safeway. Really glad they do not have Safeway in Alabama as we would eat their fried chicken every week.

Saturday, August 12
Another 3 hour drive we turned in five. The big delay was shopping at Walmart. We came through some misting rain just north of town and could see blue skies to the SW. We decided to have lunch and surf until the blue skies came to us. These were the first clear skies we have seen in weeks.
I was beginning to feel like Joe Btfsplk in Little Abner.

Joe Btfsplk

We went south on US191 to  Firehole Campground in Flaming Gorge. We had been in this area in 2007 and I was guessing it was the same place. It was. Nice to be back in colored rock country.

Sunday, August 13
Being Sunday, Dorothy made foule for breakfast. We only have enough pita bread left for two meals. Times are tough. 

We decided to explore our environs and tripped over a narrow road that ran the spine of a ridge. I expected Dorothy to say You are not you going up there, are you? And she did not disappoint me. The Jeep crawled up two super steep sections and we were “on top” with a fantastic view down the gorge. The clouds parted and the hills were painted in a soft light. It would have made a good picture. But, all the camera’s, four of them, were back in KoKo. And so it goes.

This is our 1,800th night in KoKo. That’s 5 years of use in the 10 years we have owned her. About 104,000 miles. 58 miles a day. Guess we park in place a lot.

Monday, August 14
We continue down U191 to the south end of the Gorge. We stopped at a pullout and I saw a half dozen RV’s coming from the reservoir to 191. The field glasses showed boo-coo places to park. We decided, what’s a little more dust. So down we go 4.5 miles to the end the point. A fantastic location. You know the sun is out, the birds are singing and nothing but horizon.

Then I thought to check the weather. Weatherbug predicted 50% chance of rain and was more dismal with a 90% chance. We ate lunch and it started misting. We decided no matter how great the location being on a clay road in Utah with rain in the forecast was not prudent.

We retraced our steps and found a home in a Forest Service campground. 

Tuesday, August 15
It rained.

Wednesday, August 16
Blue skies! We moved to a disbursed site we had “discovered” at Sheep Creek Bay [40.92927, 109.67950] the last time we were this way. We think it’s one of the best sites anywhere. We put the boats in and paddled around the red rock shores. This was first time the boats have been in the water since 8/2 on Clearwater Lake in WA. 

Now a few pictures under clear skies

See the oval parking area in the center of the picture

Our Home And One Of The Best Views In Utah

Our collection of mussel inspection papers for the kayaks. One each from BC, WA, MT, UT and ID, plus three from WY. We can enter a lottery with the WY papers. 

Since we are out of the smoke, we have decided to explore places in CO we have never been before. I am sure we will see some rain and it will be chilly in the mountains. But, we need some scenery.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Moving Through Idaho

Thursday, August 3
We found an RV park south of Missoula at a reasonable price. They only had one site open and that was for only one night. They feature square dancing and that must be a big draw. We had prime rib for Dorothy’s pre-birthday and it was divine. So was Dorothy.

Friday, August 4
Made it south on US93 to just north of the junction with I15. I noted a ghost town on the map and Dorothy is all over ghost towns. This is close to the ghost town of Bannock which we enjoyed, so we decided why not. There are several forest service campgrounds along this designated scenic route and I figured they would be little used. Wrong. We were lucky to find a space. We are at 7,000 feet in the Big Hole, so the temperature is a little more comfortable. Seems odd to call it a hole at this elevation, but mountains surround The Hole.

 Walking to the ghost town of Coolidge, named after the mine owners good friend

Perhaps the school house?

A fixer upper

We could only see the outlines of mountains on both sides of the road as the smoke is still with us. I never paid much attention to western fires. Now I appreciate the problem. The weed that covers the hillsides is as flammable as straw.

I have never thought about it, but a lot of the water in the US rivers comes from Canada. There would not be a Columbia or Missouri without the snow melt from Canada.

Saturday, August 5
We enjoyed the ghost town. We got there at 9 and the light was superb, just breaking over the hill. Of course, the short walk of a mile and half made Dorothy’s feet swell and she turned her ankle a bit, so tonight she is on pain meds.

We got away by 12 and went south an hour or so to a fav place, Clark Creek. We are perched above the lake and the view would be great without the smoke. We are two weeks and 800 air miles from our first smoke. 

Why this park is not used is a mystery to me. Good sites, and it’s free. Thanks, Bureau of Reclamation.

We see hay grown everywhere. I wondered how it compared to other crops. It takes a LOT of hay to make steaks.

Crop Million Acres

Corn 89
Soybean 85 
Wheat 56
Cotton  9
Hay 58,500

250 times the acreage to grow hay to feed livestock as to grow, corn, soybeans, and wheat.

Sunday, August 6
It’s 2.5-hour drive from Clark Canyon to Idaho Falls. The way we do it takes 6 hours. First, we had to stop at a Mex restaurant so Dorothy could get a Mex Fix. She picked it from reviews on the net. We were the only gringos there. The food was good. I had Carne Asada. I had never been served some much flank steak. She had the Chile Relleno. I sampled it. It was quite tasty.

We then went to a city park in Idaho Falls. It was billed as free and on the river. It was a parking lot with no hookups and was $15. We passed and found a fantastic place. It is operated by the county but is a Bureau of Reclamation site. We are in, what is to us, a “luxury” park - full hookups, asphalt, TV, Cell, green grass and on a reservoir. $9 a night! And it’s about empty. So quiet. 

Monday, August 7
Dorothy is resting. I am doing little chores that are long overdue. We plan to stay here four days and catch up on chores. You know exciting stuff such as defrost the freezer, washing the vehicles, etc. We would stay longer, but the place is booked solid for the weekend. A family gathering or such.

Tuesday, August 8
Laundry Day. Had lunch at Olive Garden.

Wednesday, August 9
More chores. Vacuumed the Jeep and KoKo. Why does it take me three hours to vacuum the Jeep? We would like to stay another day, but worry we may not find a home near Jackson Hole on a Friday.

Dorothy asked me why I moved the Windex and paper towels. I said I had not seen them. She looked some more and went to the cabinet where they are kept. Then she sprayed the Windex on the mirror and discovered she had already cleaned them. I live with this daily. No wonder I am so daffy.

Where to go next? It's raining in the San Juan's. It's too hot for Moab. I expect we will spend some time in northern New Mexico before we head home.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Back In The States

This was NOT the year to tour BC. It was hot and had numerous fires and then we were sick for awhile.

First, backing up to Fort St. James. New Caledonia for the Hudson Bay Co. was BC, Washington, and Oregon.

Tuesday, July 25
Provisioned at Costco, Walmart, and Save-on. Overnighted at Mama Yeh’s RV park. The name alone made it imperative. Great for one-night. Full hookups for $15. Lowest cost our whole time in BC.

Wednesday, July 26
South 3 hours on 16 to Valemount. Saw jagged mountains through the smoke. The Cariboo’s on our right and the Rockies on our left. A little too much smoke and no blue sky to make them look interesting. Parked at Tête Jaune RV Park. A really nice facility on the Frazer River.

Tête Jaune Cache was named after a Métis fur trader and trapper named Pierre Bostonais who guided for the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1800s. Bostonais was nicknamed Tête Jaune by the French voyageurs because of his blonde hair. (Tête Jaune is French for yellow head.)
I wonder if this way 16 is called the Yellowhead Highway?

Thursday, July 27
Yesterday, the forecast for today and the rest of the week was Sunny or Partly Sunny. Guess what? It was near full overcast today. And now rain is forecast for Friday.

Under heavy overcast, we viewed Rearguard Falls. We liked the way the viewpoint was built within feet of the falls. Up close. We met two young women returning from the falls in hot pink bikinis and flip-flops. I asked if they went swimming, they said it was too cold, but hustled on up the trail, so I did not find out why they were on display. I should have asked for a picture.

Rearguard Falls

Here is how Mt Robson appeared to us.

Here is how it looked to others.

We are in tourist land. A big shock to us. Asians, Indians, Europeans are everywhere. We had thought about returning through Jasper, but learned due to it being the 150th Canadian anniversary plus the exodus from the fires everything is full.

Last week, a woman spent over 30 minutes trying to back a Casita into her site. Yesterday was the first Chinese family we have seen in a camper. He spent a half hour getting his short trailer between the pine trees. It was a hoot. The wife was most helpful, she just stood there. Looking up she caressed the hitch with both hands.

This morning we have a European man in petal pushers with black socks and sandals. 

Friday, July 28
We continued south through the smoke from not so distant fires. It would have been quite a scenic drive without the smoke. Jagged topped mountains on both sides of the road. Most of the fires in BC were/are just east of us.

Wells Gray Park is north of Clearwater. It’s a huge park. If there were a road through it, it would take about five hours to drive it from north to south. The majority of the park can only be accessed by boat or trail. There are several tent camping places on the lake to boat-in.

Clearwater is a mecca for golfers judging by the number of campgrounds offering golf. It’s not far from Kamloops, so this is short get away location for locals, not to mention Europeans. We are back in tourist land for sure. Half of the sites are filled with rentals tonight. Half of them have Alberta plates.

Gone are the welcomes we were getting from BC folks in the northern lands. Here that just ignore us. We remembered that when we were in Alberta some years ago, they were not that friendly, but we got chatted up by BC folks. The same impression this trip. Albertans are sour, BC folks are cheerful.

Our purpose in Wells Gary is to look at some waterfalls and paddle the yaks. We looked at what is described as BC’s best waterfall this afternoon - Helmcken Falls.

Saturday, July 29
The smoke is little denser today. We visited Bailey’s Chute, a fine set of rapids. A sign advised us that these rapids stopped the migration of weary salmon. They spawned and died here. I am sure the bears appreciated their dying in shallow water. Signs are everywhere proclaiming proper bear viewing etiquette. We have not had occasion to adhere to proper etiquette as the only bears we have seen were scampering across the road. For that, we are grateful.

Mr. Bailey died trying to build a bridge here

Onward to Clearwater Lake, which proved quite disappointing. We are picky about our lakes and this one just did not have it. Of course, the smoke obstructed our view. We put the boats in for a quick paddle, just because we were there. The wind piped up and we terminated our voyage.

Tomorrow, we hope to make good progress in escaping the land of rental RV’s.

Sunday, July 30
We woke up to see ash on the vehicles. The camp host said more fires had started. They must be set by men as there have been no storms.

We went south to Kamloops which is in the arid lands, where most of the fires are. Just south of there the landscape rapidly changes to look like Oregon, green fields with pines and blue sky all around. The first time we have seen blue in some time. We stopped at a roadside dinner, towing service and hot rod shop for lunch. The owner's son gave us a tour of the cars they were working on. He said most of their work winds up costing around $300,000. He explained that a trunk lid they were working on already had 70 hours in it since it came to them folded in three places. At their hourly rate that’s over $7000 for a trunk lid.

We stopped in Vernon for the night at the same place we stayed our first night in BC. And it’s the most costly - US $52. Everything from here to the border is pricey. We could be in Washington tomorrow, but definitely by Tuesday. 

Monday, July 31
We started south thinking we might be in BC one more day and take the road through the Okanagan Valley all the way to the border. The bumper-to-bumper traffic convinced us to take the road less seldom traveled, 33 and 3, and get to Washington. We stopped and got peaches, cherries, plums, and corn. We ate most of it. Taking the back road meant we did not pass one bank that was open, so we are left with about $150. I am sure some US bank will convert for us after tacking on a fee.

We stopped at an NP campground on the Kettle River. It was warm here but as scenic, as one could hope for. 

Tuesday, August 1
We woke up to smoke. The Canadian fires have invaded the states. Time to move on, no paddling the boats here. 

In this tiny berg, there is a jazz radio station. I enjoyed Gene Krupa for breakfast. 

Stocked up at Walmart in Colville and then east to Priest Lake. I had found a note on my map that yakking on Upper Priest Lake was superb. I figured that parking at a lake 60 miles up a snakey road would be no problem, especially on a Tuesday. Wrong. The place is mecca. The state park is booked nine months in advance. We found the last place at a forest service campground.

We also learn that there are no roads to Upper Priest Lake. You put in on the lower lake and paddle through a narrow channel. We will see if we can go that distance.

Wednesday, August 2
We only managed to get about half-way up what they call The Thoroughfare. It would be called a channel elsewhere. We were into the the wind most of the way, but it was a good paddle. Through the smoke we could see the outline of the 7,000 footers in the Selkirk Range. I am sure it is quite a bit more scenic when it’s clear.

A tad crowded at the state park

We are going to head south in the morning to see if we can get beyond the fires. This is getting really old.