11. Spring road trip….April/May/June.2019 

Day 43 6.3 
I felt so good this morning.Yay!  I made coffee, ate my oats & went for one last soak in the hot springs.  Then I packed up to drive the 250 miles to Teton National Parkone of my favorites!  I drove & droveit was all so scenic! My first stop was the Grand Teton Brewery in Victor ID.  I enjoyed a Coming Home Barrel Aged Barleywine & sipped it out on their front porch, looking at the mountains.  This place is turning into trip magic for sure.  Last time (the first time) I was here, I met a woman named Laura & we connected on social media & have followed each others adventures & lives ever since.  She even came by my house on her way from the west coast to the east coast during her last move.  So, this time, I was delighted to meet a couple from Wichita KS.  Each on their motor cycles doing a big road trip, where as it turns out, some of our route was the same.  We chatted until we were all done with our beers, connected on Facebook so we can follow each others travels, then they were headed out for dinner in Victor & I was headed over the pass to find camping.  

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Hello Wyoming! 
Id read about Shadow Mountain Road & how it not only had dispersed camping but a fantastic view of the Tetons.  But Id also ready that the road was crappy, & practically impassable during wet or muddy season & Im still definitely in that season.  So my back up plan was to pay for camping in the parkif I could even find it late in the day.  Like every National Park, this one is busy & crowded & its not even peak season.

But, as fate would have it…I was buzzing up the road, following my girl Mapquest & buzzing a bit too fast.  20 mph too fast & was pulled over by a NP Ranger. I sort of was freaked out…because I knew this ticket would be lots of money & crazily trying to find my registration which was buried in the glove box among Claire’s 30 postcards.  The Ranger was nice, took a long look in the window to my camping set up & then took all my info then was back at his truck for the longest time. The Longest Time. When he returned he said he was just going to give me a warning.  He asked where I was headed & I told him Shadow Mountain Road hopefully to camp.  He said the road was good & there was open camping up there.  I thanked him…several times.  Then he left.  OMG…I’ve never heard of anyone getting a warning for 20 over.  It wasn’t the road that needed the 35mph speed limit, it’s because of all the wildlife.  During the next three days, I never once went over the speed limit.  So, I continued then found the road &  drove down the rutted by dry road to the campsites.  There are 3 or 4 different areas, but I took a spot in the first loop, still feeling slightly crazy from the pullover.  But WOW…this view!  I was there for the night, so I made dinner, had a beer & felt so grateful on so many levels!

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My part of the campground filled up, but no RV’s, just vans & cars & SUV’s.  It was a nice evening weather wise, I was content to just sit at look at this view!

Day 44 6.4 
started my tour of the park at the north end & took some photos at Oxbow Bend. And the memories started flooding back. The most special time Ive ever been here, was just with me & Danny.  Looking back, it felt like we had so much time, although Im sure we didnt.  We traveled together more often back then, & I really miss it.  So, during my days in the Tetons, Id find myself smiling at the memories Danny & I made here together. I love this view!  Although, I can say that about most of the views in the Tetons.

I drove up to Jenny Lake Lodge & looked around (& used their flush toilet & their WiFi for a little bit) & bought something in the gift shop along with my postcard for Claire.  A friend I’d met traveling last year in California recommended a hike that was low elevation, therefore snow-free, so I went up to Colter Bay to hike the Heron Pond & Swan Lake trails…about 4.5 miles total.  

I could hear geese all during my hike at the lake, but it took me awhile to realize there were a ton-- all camouflaged within the lily pads.  The photo below doesn’t show them that well either..just look for the dark spots.

Then I went to Jenny Lake, parked Camper & ate lunch while overlooking this beautiful, beautiful lake!  My next stop was up the winding road of Signal Mountain.  I could see a few elk in the binoculars, but that was all the wildlife below methat I could see anyway.  Then, I drove back out to camp, hoping again to get a spot for tonight.  I didactually the same spot I had last night, as did most all of my neighbors from last night.  Id met one of them this morninga young woman named Laura.  Wowshe is really a adventure bad ass!  I made dinner & watched the sunset from this perfect campsite!

Day 45 6.5 
This morning most people cleared out of camp earlyexcept me & Laura.  So we visited more & I am super impressed by her bravery, outdoor skills, & sense of adventure.  She was wonderful to talk to.  Shes also a painter & showed me some of her drawings & paintingsthe AWE I felt just didnt stop.  We connected on Instagram & I can’t wait to follow her travels & adventures.

Todays hike would be one of the most popular in the park & the same one as I did the last time I was herethe Taggert & Bradley Lakes trail.  If Istart coming later in the summer or early fall, I could get on some trails not snow covered.  The time Danny & I were here, we did our longest day hike everin June & it was 20 hard-lots-of-elevation-gain-&-loss hike, but it was so fantastic!  But, for now, a lot of Teton NP is still under snow.  My new friend Laura is skilled with an ice ax & goes about wherever she wants to...but I am not.  So, I’ll go with the crowd today.  Which actually, wasn’t too bad.

On a super fun trip magic side note:  Two of the people I follow for blogging/vlogging & travel are Mandy Lea & Kendrick Calloway.  They travel all over the country in a NuCamp teardrop, like Jill’s.  Jill & I both are fans & we actually got to meet them at the RV show in Tampa last January.  They were doing a photography workshop here in the park for two weeks.  I’d messaged her & told her I was here, but knew her time while here, was filled up with either her work or really needed down time, but I would say if I saw them on the trail.  So, as I was waiting in line for the bathroom at the trailhead, there was Mandy.  It was a highlight chatting with them & I can’t wait to hear all about their new RV & where they’re headed to next!  Check out her amazing photography at Mandy Lea Photo 

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Then I hit the trail & it was just the perfect hike for today.  It started out with quite a few people, but I went to the less visited lake first, loosing most of the crowd.  The trail follows a stream for a bit, then crosses it (on a bridge; not that log).

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The trail was muddy & snowy in parts, but most of the time good.

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Bradley lake was magnificent this morning!

Then the trail goes through the forest where a few wildflowers were beginning to bloom.

Taggert lake was super busy, but blue & beautiful!

I hiked back down to the parking lot feeling physically great & super grateful…I loved this trail today.  The perfect mix of sunshine & shade on the trails..the perfect cover…not too enclosed (don’t like that because of the bears) & good both on mileage & elevation.

I drove into Jackson Zoo…or at least that’s what it felt like.  I’d gotten the same feeling driving through there yesterday just to get through town to camp.  It’s grown so much & already was super busy…just wait until July & August.  But I headed over to Snake River brewery for lunch & a beer & to pick up some beer to take home.  We both like their IPA & I also got some 6 packs for Danny to try of the style of beer he likes. 

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This is the longest Ive been in any campsite & I wanted to get there early.  Its Thursday, so I knew it would be getting busier & I just wanted al little time to chill, clean up Camper & enjoy the evening.  But when I got back, only three spots remained in my little loop.  And only one of them was a previous neighbor.  And they were all big rigs.  I went back to my site Id had the two previous nights, but a big Airstream & truck were parked where my view was.  There was also a smaller Airstream & a giant Class A. So, I moved to another site & by the time Id parked Camper where Id wanted her, there was only one site left & it was right next to mepretty close in fact.  But, I had the other side all to myself since I was now on the end.  Within 30 minutes a big truck camper came & backed in next to me.  They were a couple from New York that had driven their truck to Washington to pick up this camper & now they were on their way home. As I sat in my chair outside to read, to eat & just to take in the view, probably 25 more cars came by looking for camping in one of the loops.  I was kind of glad I was leaving in the morningit was going to get crazy out here.

But, I really enjoyed my last night; my neighbor was nice & gave me tour of their huge truck camper.  It wont be one going on my wish list with three different slides, two recliners, two TVs & a whole lot more, but I wished them good & happy travels & they seemed joy filled to be taking it home.

As darkness & the temps fell, I tucked in.  But almost every night, Im up at least once or twice to look at the sky (actually its to pee, but I always take extra time to look at the stars.)  But when I woke up tonight, I noticed that the area was not near as dark as it had been…it was almost bright.  I got out & double checked the moon…I knew it wasn’t full tonight.  It was coming from the other side of my neighbors truck camper.  I walked out to see what it was & the small Airstream & left their spot/porch light on & it was glaring.  It was casting shadows over on the tree on the other side of my 4Runner.  If the truck camper hadn’t been there, it would have been lighting me up!  It was probably an accident, but I wished they’d have checked.  It’s surprising to me that so many people never come out of their RV’s to look at the sky at night, if it’s clear & dark, it’s fabulous!  Danny always does even though he’s in a tent.  I can see the sky from the window & my moon roof in the 4Runner.  My neighbors & almost everyone else (since they were all RV’s except for one Sprinter) have night shades so it probably didn’t bother anyone but me.  Oh well, it was still pretty when I looked up & was glad I took the opportunity to do so.  My camera doesn’t shoot good night photos, but I took one anyway.  

Day 46 6.6 
I set the alarm to watch the sunrise this morningnot as colorful as some places, but it was still pretty.  I made coffee & ate my oats, not in any huge hurry to be gone.

I hadnintended to detour in Pinedale, to make the drive up to Elkhart Park trailhead in the Wind River Rangethe place of mine & Dannys  first big backpacking trip & where 10 years after the first one, we did it again.  But, I just couldnt be that close & not go.  I figured it would be under snowjust like the last time I was here, but I wanted to be up there.  And, all of that was trueeven that I loved it all in spite of only getting out to see the views & not hike.

Still so much snow up there...I couldn’t make it all the way to the trailhead.

My pano pic

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It was not my intention to stop at the Wind River breweryIve been here before & today was supposed to be an off day from eating out.  But, I needed to find a bathroom & the Visitors Center was closed for lunch.  I get tired of seeing so many handwritten, taped on signs on businesses stating “NO PUBLIC BATHROOMS!  CUSTOMERS ONLY!”.  So, the brewery was open & I went there.  I had a stout, which was good, but passed on the food.  And, I used their bathroom.

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I kept driving through Wyoming to the Pilot Butte Wild horse tour along the way to Green River.  It’s a 21 mile dirt/gravel road that takes you through BLM land where wild horses live.  I’ve never had much luck at seeing wild horses or donkeys (even though I try every chance I get), but I saw a few today & that was all it took to make me happy.  I pulled off the road, ate something & watched them graze.

I stopped at the Visitors Center & got a map of Flaming Gorge scenic byway.  I’ve been here once before but only on the east side; never on the west.  I really, really loved this drive.  This is such a beautiful place & the water is so blue.  It is a reservoir, so theres a big ugly dam on the other side.  There’s a place I drove by called Sheep Creek & I wished I would have stopped & camped & hiked.  Guess I’ll save it for another trip.

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But, I was headed towards where the forest begins so I could find camping.  I drove up a 4 mile red dirt road that had some sweet camping & a trail that I could have hiked the next day.  But, I would have been 2 miles back on the road & it looked like it was going to rain.  This is not the type of dirt you want to have to drive on when it’s very wet.  Not knowing how much it was supposed to rain, & with the skies growing cloudy & dark, I didn’t take the chance & went on up the highway.  During this part of the drive, the Uinta mountains are in your viewall snowy in the distance. I  found a spot not too far off the road, but it was good enough for me.  I’m at about 7,400’ elevation.  I made dinner & kept hearing a noise (I was close enough to the road to hear road noise, but this was kind of a plopping sound) but couldn’t see anything.  Then I started walking around & saw this stream running right down behind where I was camped.  I was pretty sure it’s just run off water, but at least I found the source of the noise.

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Day 47 6.7 
I left pretty early the next morning & drove to the lookout where the Flaming Gorge Visitors Center is.  They weren’t open yet, so I toured the trails around to various viewpoints.  All was quiet….for about 30 minutes…then a busload of teen agers came.  But, it is so pretty looking down into the canyon.  Imagine what it was like before the dam.  A much deeper canyon; more colors; more rock…so cool.

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I’d hiked the Rim trail when I was here before, but took a little bit of another trail down near the river.  Most of the trail was closed…underwater.  They were letting out maximum water in the past few days to reflect the spring run off (wonder why it isn’t happening?) for a spawning endangered fish.  The Green River is normally a pretty calm river & on the reservoir there are many motorized boats.  But, on this side of the dam, there are fisherman & rafts & kayaks.  I don’t know if it’s a rule or not, but while I saw a lot of fishing boats, I didn’t see anything motorized on this side.  But there was a current, for sure, pushing boaters faster than they usually float this time of year. 

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At the VC, the Ranger asked me if I’d ever been to Antelope Flats…it’s a view, a campground & a boat launch.  She told me the big orange rock feature you see there is why Powell, who explored this river, named it Flaming Gorge.  She also told me to be on the lookout for an Osprey nest.  I drove around the Gorge, then took the gravel road to Antelope Flats.  It was my favorite place so far in the Gorge!  I did find the Ospreys…both hanging out at home.

And took a lot of photos of the rock feature.  The waters were mixed blues & greens & crystal clear; the temperature was perfect & the sun was out & happy.  And so was I.  There were a few boaters out, but for the most part it was just natures sounds.  I had my binoculars to watch the birds, then sat on the rock beach to wonder what it was like when this place was explored.  The rock feature would have been over 200’ deeper…it’s now covered in water.  Such a wonderful morning at Flaming Gorge.  

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Then I got out my atlas & made a change in my plans.   I’d originally planned to go up to Rock Springs then take the highway east drop down into Ft. Collins from Wyoming & then drive on to Rocky Mountain National Park. But, I figured I could go a prettier more scenic way than the highway next to all the big trucks & sleep in rest areas at night.  Instead, I backtracked a bit south on the highway & headed east into Vernal, Utah.

Hello Utah!
Ive passed through Vernal beforeit wasnt all that impressive but to give it chance, I had just been passing though.  And, I was this time also.  I got gas & ice & bought a couple of six packs of Dannys favorite Utah beer (actually theres only one Utah beer we both really like) & I saw a beautiful brewery!  Wow!  In this little town, sat a really nice building that was Vernal Brewing.  It was 25 minutes till my Friday Cocktail hour with Jill (video chat) & seeing that it wasnt busy, asked the waitress if I could sit outside where I wouldndisturb anyone.  I ordered their stout & lunch & struck up a conversation with a local who is currently a real estate agent but used to work at this brewery & helped get it started 6 years ago.  She was super friendly & seemed to enjoy chatting.  She talked about the town, it’s near downfall when the oil drilling boom went bust & how it’s making its way back; she talked a lot about all the stuff there is to do there…tons & tons of rafting & hiking & camping & biking & fishing.  It was fun visiting with her & gave me a new perspective on the town.  Then she finished her lunch & no one was outside & it was time to visit with Jill & eat my lunch.

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Hello Colorado!
Vernal sits in the northeast part of the state & it wasn’t too long before I was in Colorado.

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I hadn’t intended to go all the way to Steamboat Springs, but thats where I was looking for camping.  I headed up to Buffalo Pass road where not only a NFS campground sits, but supposedly lots of dispersed camping.  But…when I got up there, the campground was closed (with many threatening notes posted about trying to stay in the campground while it’s closed) as well as the road was closed to get to the dispersed camping.  Nights like this have happened about 4 times on this trip…I just want a place to sleep.  There was a car park up there, & I was pretty sure you weren’t supposed to camp up there, there were no “No OVERNIGHT” parking signs like there was everywhere else.  So, I pulled in ready to be a rule breaker.  As did a couple of other trucks & a sprinter van was already parked along the road.  Right before dark a Sherriff’s SUV came flying in the big parking lot, pulled a U-turn, then tried to drive up the closed road, backed up & flew back to where he came from.  One of the campers in the in the parking lot said, “I was going to ask him if we could park here overnight”, but he left too fast.  Then we all had a discussion of it we weren’t supposed to be there, why didn’t he tell us.  Was he coming back?  UGH!  I had cell service & talked it over with Danny.  One truck decide to leave, then some cars came, then they left & it was down to just us two.  About 10:30 I saw about 7 cars go down the closed road…ummm…I didn’t know what happened to them.  But, I was ready to sleep one way or another.  And so I did.

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