Headed West – Again – Day 7

10 Sep

The Grand Tetons are — well– grand. Fairly young, as mountains go, they are only 10-15 million years old. Eons ago, glaciers wore through them leaving sharp, angular cuts and gaps. SONY DSCSONY DSC
These glaciers also pushed the valley on the eastern side down, forming glacial lakes and the long depression called Jackson Hole.SONY DSC
Today we drove from Jackson, at the southern end of the Tetons, to Gardiner at the northern end of Yellowstone. We will be here in Yellowstone for three more days.
This paragraph is for Nick Sainato. We had our one chance to see Old Faithful today. We could either see the geyser or hurry to Montana to see the art work of Elmer “Bottle-Cap” Lufton. “Bottle-cap” was worth ten Old Faithfuls. He paints highly emotional portraits on bottle caps. Here’s a picture of the one we bought. This portrait is of Bottle-Cap’s father, Eldon “The Bottle” Lufton. Tragically, Eldon drank himself to death on Thunderbird Plum Wine. He always broke the bottles after going on a toot, but his son saved the caps. Note the power of Elmer’s brush strokes and how he has used vertical rather than horizontal lines. We can’t afford to stay in motels for the rest of this trip, but this painting was worth the inconvenience.SONY DSC
If you are not Nick Sainato, read here. We timed our arrival at Old Faithful almost perfectly. We parked about ten minutes before the geyser’s next scheduled geyse. After parking in a huge parking lot, we headed in what we thought was the general direction of the geyser. Then we saw hundreds of people as Old Faithful began to tune up. “Bottle-Cap” Lufton could not compare.SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSC
Yellowstone has much that was unexpected. We drove through the geyser/thermal pool areas today, but there was also much mountain scenery.SONY DSCSONY DSC
For a bit we drove along the Gibbon River. We stopped at Gibbon Falls. A Ranger told us that both the river and the falls were named for the shy North American apes that have lived for centuries along the river. As luck would have it a group of the creatures were gathered at the base of the falls, but they had hidden behind the rocks before we could get a picture.SONY DSCSONY DSCIMG_0856
Tomorrow we are going to Mammoth Hot Springs, where the last known wooly mammoths bathe in the thermal waters.
Here are pictures of some of the wildlife we saw in Jackson Hole, and Ranger Jastram’s bird-of-the-day. We also spotted a familiar t-shirt at Old Faithful.

Eagle

Eagle

Trout in a stream

Trout in a stream

Moose

Moose

Vogel State Park

Vogel State Park

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Headed West – Again – Day 6

9 Sep

I’ll write about today in the Grand Tetons and our trip up to Yellowstone tomorrow, but for now, here’s still another bird for Ranger Jastram to identify.IMG_0754

Headed West – Again – Day 5

9 Sep

In the middle of nowhere, which is much of Wyoming, we come to the tiny crossroads of Sweetwater Station. A sign on a driveway reads “Old Books and Fresh Eggs.” Who would have imagined, in a place as isolated as the Ames Brothers’ Memorial Pyramid, here is a bookstore with eggs on the side. Polly Hinds and Linda German moved to Sweetwater Station from Denver to raise sheep and chickens and sell books. Polly also doubles as the custodian at the nearby rest area and Linda makes gorgeous “paintings” from wool. We bought some books but had to pass on the eggs.IMG_0634
Past Sweetwater Station, we came to the Shoshone and Arapaho Wind River Reservation. Chief Washakie seems to be the major attraction here, except there is also the Sacajawea Cemetery. Lots of people think that Sacajawea died in her twenties in South Dakota. The Wind River folk make a strong local case, and, oddly, the DAR took up the cause and provided gravestones and a statue. Aside from Sacajawea’s grave, the cemetery is fascinating. I don’t have much of an opinion about where or when Sacajawea died. Ask Kathy or Janice for more expert information.IMG_0656SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSC
The scenery around Wind River became more and more what I expected in Wyoming, though many of the mountains and mesas reminded me of Southern Utah and Capitol Reef.SONY DSC
The supposedly mythical, but quite real, jackalope is the main attraction in Dubois. Lee almost rode the mounted specimen in a local store. I had not realized how large jackalopes are. (Lee says, “The entire creature felt wobbly on the base, and I did not want to tell an ER doctor that a jackalope threw me.”)IMG_0662IMG_0658
Outside of Dubois, we began the approach to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.SONY DSC We will spend the next two days in the Grand Tetons.SONY DSC The hotel here is a step up. Here’s the view from our window.SONY DSC

Headed West – Again – Day 4

7 Sep

Mountains, waterfalls, tundra, elk, bighorn sheep are all well and good but travel is not travel without a place like Swetville Zoo. Bill Swet retired from farming and in 1985 began creating metal creatures and displaying them in his yard just outside Fort Collins, Colorado. We did not get to meet Bill but we saw a lot of his work. Next time you’re in Fort Collins —–IMG_0487IMG_0556SONY DSCIMG_0526IMG_0517SONY DSC

From Fort Collins we went to Cheyenne, Wyoming we and took Happy Jack Road to Laramie. We ate lunch at the Bunkhouse Bar and Grill. A sign inside said, “Lunch safely; use condiments.”
After lunch we took in the Ames Brothers Memorial Pyramid – not the singing Ames Brothers of the 1950’s and 60’s, but the industrial magnate Ames Brothers of the 19th century. These Ames Brothers built a stone pyramid in the middle of nowhere. The pyramid is about 2 miles down a dirt road near Buford, Wyoming, the smallest town in the United States.IMG_0586
Not too far from the Ames Brothers’ pyramid is a giant head of Abe Lincoln, marking the original route of the Lincoln Highway.IMG_0582
We ended our day in Rawlins in Carbon County, Wyoming. We should have been suspicious when we saw that the name of the county was Carbon. Plus, the town next to Rawlins is Sinclair. Think oil refineries. The landscape is Martian, kind of like Copper Hill back in the day, though more a dirty brown rather than red Georgia clay. Here’s the view out of our motel window.IMG_0619
There is a golf course with deep green irrigated fairways bordered by sagebrush.IMG_0618IMG_0616
The local museum features Big Nose George Parrott who was lynched after robbing a bank. A local doctor got his brain for experimentation and another doctor, John Osborn, had a tannery in Denver make a pair of saddle Oxfords from Big Nose’s skin. (I can’t make this stuff up.) The Carbon County Museum does not allow photos of textiles and human remains. However, we did get a shot of the local mural featuring Big Nose George – note the shoes toward the bottom right. Another mural pays homage to Cattle Kate, who was lynched for rustling. There was not much going on in Rawlins in the late 1800’s, so crime was an excuse for group activity and continues to be celebrated today.IMG_0604IMG_0606
Today we saw pronghorn antelopes (two on the golf course) along with a bird that looks like a seagull. Here’s a picture for Ranger Jastram’s identification.IMG_0612SONY DSC
Tomorrow we head for the Grand Tetons. Maybe the scenery will improve.

Headed West – Again – Day 3

6 Sep

We ate lunch today at over 11,000 feet. Just down the road was a traffic light.IMG_0443IMG_0431
At over 12,000 feet we came across a group of bighorn sheep, If you think a bear in the Smokies makes people crazy, you should check out bighorn sheep in the Rockies. Truly, a Ranger ran at some people waving his arms and blowing a whistle. The sheep were quite alarmed; the people not so much.SONY DSC
These mountains are big and rocky. IMG_0463 (2) Long’s Peak, the highest in the Park, is over 14,000 feet. It shows up around every bend. SONY DSC

Rain in the distance

Rain in the distance


The trees give up between 10,000 and 11,000 feet,I’ve always associated the tundra with Russia, but Colorado has tundra also.SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSC
Besides the bighorn sheep, we saw elk,
Lee has a nice trophy!

Lee has a nice trophy!

chipmunks,SONY DSC a raven, a magpie and another bird that I won’t name. I will post a picture–just to see just how good Ranger Jastram is.SONY DSC
Tomorrow we head for Wyoming. We’ll be in the Grand Tetons Sunday.
The end(s) for today.
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Headed West – Again Day 2

5 Sep

I sit here on the deck of a cabin overlooking the Big Thompson River. As rivers go it’s not that big, so maybe Thompson’s folks just named their child “Big.” Parents are likely to do anything. Just ask Frank’s girl Moon Unit and Kanye’s boy North.
Lee and I began this morning in a hotel in Atlanta, overlooking Virginia Avenue. A few hours later we had crossed the Mississippi River and Delta, the Ozarks Mountains, the Flint Hills of Kansas (and probably Lucas), the Great Plains and arrived in Denver. By the way, if you have not been to Denver since they built a new airport, you may be in for a surprise. The airport is so far to the north and east of town, that landings look like they are taking place in some rancher’s pasture.
Unbelievably, getting our luggage and rental car took less than half an hour. By noon Mountain Time we were driving through Denver, which, by the way, had temperatures of around 95.
We took the Peak-to-Peak Highway from Central City, Colorado to Estes Park/Rocky Mountain National Park.

Yellow coneflowers

Yellow coneflowers

The first part of the road was less than exciting, but the last 30 miles or so, as we approached and then ran beside RMNP, were amazing. I learned why they call them Rocky Mountains.
Long's Peak

Long’s Peak


Tonight the temperature is supposed to be in the 50’s – we’re over 8000 feet up. Tomorrow we go up another 4000 feet or so.
We have lost some things. Lee shipped a box with our boots, jackets and a few other items, to where we are staying tonight. The USPS has now informed us that the box is in the lost package warehouse — somewhere. Suffice it to say, no boots, no jackets for us until we return to Calhoun. What the heck, we were not going to climb rock walls anyway.

Headed West — Again — Day 1

4 Sep

Actually, we’re headed south today. We plan to spend tonight in Atlanta near the Airport. In the morning, the fine folks at the Hilton Garden Inn will shuttle us to the Airport and allow us to leave our car at the motel. The fine folks at Delta will then take us to Denver which is where we were headed on the day I lost my billfold. Assuming we make it to Denver, we will establish Base Camp and begin our assault on the Rocky Mountains, the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.
Thousands of people take trips like this every day, but all I can think of is Shelley Berman. I cannot quote him directly, but when I was in high school, he had a comedy routine on flying. The airline slogan was, “Flying is the safest way to fly.” Posters showed pictures of happy celebrities getting on airplanes — Carole Lombard, Will Rogers, Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly. When Berman boarded the plane, he asked the flight attendant, “What time will we arrive in LA?” She replied, “I don’t know; we’ve never made it.” The pilot gave only vague estimates of speed and altitude. I don’t know why, but all that has come back to me as I prepare for my first flight in fifteen years. My last flight was to Minneapolis with Ken Proctor for an IB Conference — no problems. Think happy thoughts for us tomorrow.
If everything goes as scheduled, we will drive from Denver to Estes Park, Colorado tomorrow and spend two days at Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ll let you know about the flight and the drive tomorrow evening.