Home to Hastings

It was pretty close to 4-1/2 hrs from Adrian to Hastings. Maybe a bit more, there was some construction.  It is hard to say but after almost 5,000 miles through North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming and South Dakota some of the worst roads we have seen are right here.  I 90 and US 52 are in pretty poor shape. It was a stark contrast between I 90 in South Dakota and Minnesota. So why is this? What is it about Minnesota? I 94 heading NW towards Fargo when we left was the same way.  

We stopped on a level spot just before home and disconnected the Jeep.  Susan drove on ahead and I followed, stopped just past the driveway and backed in.  The driveway seemed to be gone.  Grass and plants and leaves almost completely covered it. But in I went.  Susan had the barn doors open.  The tractor was in the barn, it started right up and it got moved and the coach was backed into the barn. It took about an hour and a half to unload the refrigerator and freezer, bring in all of the extra food, bring in all of our clothes and toys and be back. Move from one house to another.
We both are glad to be home but wish we had stayed longer especially in Oregon and the Tetons. Some of our reservations were made almost a year ago and others last March. These high demand places take some planning.  We usually try to keep things as flexible as we can.
Where to next?  Indiana.  We leave on 10/11 for Columbus where more that 100 Foretravel coaches will gather at CERAland campground right next to the Cummins engine factory. It will be fun to meet many of those we have come to know on the Foretravel Forum and many that we already know, attend technical seminars, get a tour of the Cummins factory and hear from Foretravel executives about plans for the future. And there will be lots of show and tell as well.  
More later.
Roger and Susan.

Adrian, MN

Our last stop before home.  

We were thinking about Blue Mound State Park just north of Luverne. This is a very nice park that we have been to several times. There was some severe flooding that damaged one of the two dams in the park in June, 2014.  These dams were built by the CCC in the 30s. So it would have been interesting to see what happened.  And Blue Mound is home to one of the biggest bison herds in the state, over 100 on one of the largest native prairie ranges left in the state. But we didn’t have a current park sticker for either the coach ot the Jeep and there is a water alert (something wrong with the water supply) in the park so there is no water.  A bit of searching using our Allstays RV and Camp app and we quickly located a city park in Adrian only 10 miles or so past Luverne.
Adrian is a small town, about 1200 people.  But they have a big city campground in a park area with softball diamonds, soccer fields, a swimming pool, a frisbee golf course and a big play ground.  There are over 100 camp sites.  Full hookups were about $26.  We just wanted 30 amp connection over night for $22.  A very nice campground, grass sites, showers, lots of shade.  Great for overnight. They also had weekly, monthly and seasonal rates.
I forgot to take a picture.
So our last leg will east on 90 to Rochester and then north on 52 to Hastings.  The routing things on the computers say 3 hours and 45 min.  We add 20% to get 4-1/2 hours.  Much more likely time for us.
We don’t think too much about getting home until we are on our last leg.  We get were we get to. But now we are ready to get home, do what needs to be done.  Apples need picking, yard probably needs to be mowed after two months and there are the mail piles, 80% goes straight to recycling.
But we have to get there first.  Task at hand sort-of-thing.
More later.
Roger and Susan.

Big Bend Dam Corp of Engineers Campground

We left the Devils Tower National Monument after two nights. It rained a bit overnight. We went up over the top of the Black Hills into South Dakota and then down towards Rapid City and then east. It started raining again, the wind was blowing from the north at 20-30 mph.  We had to stop at one point because one of the awnings was trying to unwind in the wind.  We pulled into a gas station parking lot where there was another coach there with the same problem. We added a couple of ropes to hold the awning in place.  It was fine. So it just poured and blew all the way across the wasteland. This has to be the most boring drive we have ever done.

We got all the way to the Missouri River just up stream from Chamberlain where the Big Bend Dam holds back the river making Lake Sharp and makes electricity. There is a nice Army Corps of Engineers campground there.  Water and electric, $9 with the geezer pass.  These are great places to stay. This is clearly a fishing campground.  It is on the tailrace of the power plant.  This is where the water comes out of the turbines.  Lots of swirling water, lots of boats, apparently lots of fish.

It was still raining when we got there and slowly stopped while we got set up so we got a walk in.

In the morning the sun was out and we headed for Adrain, Minnesota.  Another four or five hours across exciting South Dakota except the wind was coming from the south.
More later.
Roger and Susan

Will There Be Mashed Potatoes?

The drive across Wyoming was interesting, diverse and engaging.  Things to look at, wonder about, ask questions and postulate answers. From Caspar we headed north east towards Gillette and then a bit east to the first National Monument in America, Devils Tower.  Yes, there is no apostrophe.  Whether left out on purpose or accident it is as the act of Congress declared it to be.

Just as Richard Dreyfus imagined it, it looks like a giant pile of mashed potatoes formed with a fork.  More than 1,500 ft high. In fact, it is a highly regarded sacred place by many Native American people.

We stayed at the campground in the park, $9 a night with our geezer pass, nice.

Very quiet, lots of RVs and tent campers.  

The Tower is an old volcano core which filled with molten lava and then cooled.  As it cooled the lava cracked and formed hexagonal columns which are the vertical columns you can see.  Most of these are 10 feet across on each side or more. In the middle of this picture there are two climbers decending this side of the tower, the more difficult to climb. Permits are required and nothing can be left behind. When we first saw them they were standing on the top of column to their right about 80 ft above where they are now.

When the core filled with lava and cooled it was more than a mile and a half under ground.  All of this happened before the Tetons were formed. Ancient rivers, several ice ages and weather wore away at the landscape until after millions of years this is what is left.

The base of the tower is surrounded by the rubble field.

Many of these fallen rocks are sections of columns much bigger than a city bus.

Here is another climber.  I took this with my iPhone at maximum zoom through a binocular device visitors were using to look up at the Tower.  It took a bit of adjusting until everything was aligned and then I took the picture.  Pretty amazing.

Same thing with the iPhone with no zoom just the binoculars.

We baked one last loaf of bread.  Amazing how it came out.

Ponderosa pines and oak trees were all around.
Just to the right of the green fields below is where the landing site in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was filmed.  At that time there was nothing there. The land owner rented the land to the movie company and with the money he opened a KOA and gift stores right near where the entrance to the Monument is today.  Lots of alien references. Only eleven minutes of actual local scenes were in the movie.  Everything else was on built up sets.
We had thought about going to the Buffalo Roundup at Custer State Park but it is a week away and we just don’t think there is enough draw in the Black Hills for a week.  So we will get to the buffalo roundup another day.

A few more days to get home.  There is the vast wasteland of South Dakota to cross.  A Corp of Enginners Campground at Big Bend Dam looks like our next stop.

A bit more later.
Roger and Susan

Colter Bay, 9/3-9/15/2015 #8, Time to Head East

We have really enjoyed our time here in Colter Bay, Grand Teton National Park, The National Elk Refuge and Yellowstone National Park.  There is so much to do and see that two weeks is hardly enough.

In 1980 when we were here we arrived in the Tetons just before July 4th.  Our friend, Roger Henry, flew to Billings, MT, rented a car and came down and stayed with us for week. That was a very busy week. We stayed at Jenny Lake in our small Class B (big van camper). Today the Jenny Lake Campground is tents only. We went on a horseback ride around one end of the lake, up Cascade Canyon towards Lake Solitude. This was an epic horseback ride. Not just an hour sissy trail ride but an all day up really steep, rugged mountain trails kind of ride. And it was raining. It was raining when we got to the stables in the morning. Ponchos on. And it rained every step of the way up the mountain until we couldn’t go further because there was several feet of snow covering the trail and the guide didn’t want the horses to go through the snow.
We stopped there for lunch in the rain and several folks including Roger Henry walked some distance through the snow only to find Lake Solitude still covered in ice.
It gets worse. It was still raining, drizzling perhaps but by this time we were wet and cold. The ponchos had long ago given up on their job.  Rain ran down the back of the poncho, down our backs, down on the saddles down our pants. Everything was wet. And we had maybe 10 miles to go, straight down.
The back end of the saddle has a raised rim to keep you from sliding back.  Going downhill you lean back to stay vertical.  Wet everything, constant back and forth, constant contact.  Maybe you get the idea.  We were sore, tired, cold, hungry and rubbed raw from wet jeans rubbing on a wet saddle of several hours.  Imagine a cheese grater.
What a memorable trip. We have scars to prove it.
There is no longer horse back riding at Jenny Lake.
And then the three of of went us to Yellowstone to finish out the week.  Roger went out on some long solo hike to prove that he was not a tempting grizzley bear snack. We nursed our wounds.
By the time we left Yellowstone six weeks had past. We changed campgrounds several times and had a really good time.  We had our dog, Xenia, with us.  She was a 65 lb Malamute. Best dog ever.  We think back on that time and while we were glad she was with us we realize now that there were things we didn’t do because she was. We could leave her in the camper for quite a while but not all day.  Today as then you can’t take your dog on any trails. And today it is even more restricted, you cannot leave your dog unattended in your car or RV. 
So finally it was time to leave the Tetons.

It was supposed to rain so we packed everything up the night before.  And it did rain pretty much all night.  Just a  steady gentle rain.  It got down into the 40s.  We were heading east through Togwotee Pass at 9,700 feet. I was concerned about snow or freezing rain.  The next night was supposed to be in the 30s so we were going to go.
The highway was almost deserted going east from the Tetons.  It was a good road, two lanes most of the time, plenty of passing lanes.  Most of the grades were 6% or so so we had no trouble just climbing up over the pass.  The rain had stopped about half way up the pass and once over the pass the clouds broke up and we had a very pleasant drive east towards Camp WalMart in Caspar.
This part of Wyoming is very scenic, lots to look at, big rolling hills, trees.  The Medicine Bow mountains are off to the south.  This would be a good route coming back.
More later,
Roger and Susan

Colter Bay, 9/3-9/15/2015 #7, Snake River Access, Jenny Lake

Schwabacher Road gets you down to a side channel of the Snake River.  Another one of these dirt roads on which most people don’t want to get their cars dirty. But when you get to the end of the dirt road there is a small parking area near where Schwabacher’s homestead was. There was river access through the channels out to the Snake.  Not something used by anyone other than fishing folk now.  No boats.

It is down there near the trees.  Don’t you just want to sit there and marvel at what is right in front of you?  What a spectacular place to be. Two weeks was barely long enought to begin to discover all of the treasures.
The primary user of this bit of Snake River side channel are beavers and ducks. We walked up the river and saw a series of dams each bigger than the downstream one holding back bigger and bigger ponds. 
Perfect time of day, good light, almost no breeze.

We didn’t see the beavers but there were three beaver lodges.  This was an amazing place. Quiet and peaceful, water running throught little openings in the dams, huge effort by the beavers to create this ecosystem and then the reflections in the ponds of the Tetons just in front of you.
On the other side of the Snake River closer to the Grand Teton is Jenny Lake.  This is the closest destination in the park to Jackson and therefore the busiest part as well.  Jenny Lake is another lake in the fault line between the valley and the Tetons filled by melting glaciers.  It is not very big, maybe a mile across and two long.  On the far side of Jenny Lake the Grand Teton just emerges from the lake. There are no foot hills, just mountain.

A small harbor to the right in the picture above has canoes, kayaks and small motor boats for rent.  There is also a boat shuttle to the far side of the lake which cuts off about four and a half miles from the hike up Cascade Canyon to the Hidden Falls.  They have four forty passenger boats. One leaves this side every fifteen minutes.  One leaves the other side every fifteen minutes.  It takes about seven minutes to cross and eight minutes to load.  The boats are pretty much full all the time.  320 people an hour all going up a steep narrow trail to Hidden Falls and the other 320 people coming down.  Some walk around the lake instead of riding the boat.
Just a bit too crowded for our liking.  There are other places to “get back to nature” without a tour bus full of people with selfie sticks.

But across Jenny Lake the Grand Teton looms large.

And of course there is a Gift Store.

Where we found another patch to add to our collection.  We now have about 40 from places we have been stuck to the fabric window valances in the coach.
We do OK without a selfie stick.
Another great day in the Tetons.
More later.
Roger and Susan

Colter Bay, 9/3-9/15/2015 #6, Signal Mountain, Chapel of the Sacred Heart

There are many side roads and trails in the Tetons.  Some have names, some do not.  Some are easy to follow, many are not.  It is up to each visitor to look for these places and to go or not go.

Signal Mountain is an area along the side of Jackson Lake just south of the dam.  Everybody is looking towards the lake, towards the lodge but off to the right is a small road that leads to Signal Mountain, up about 1500 ft above the valley floor.
Fairly steep winding road but it was paved.

They were doing brush and tree trimming along the side of the road.  All of the trimmings and logs were neatly piled up.  We wondered if someone was coming back to pick them up.  We had not seen this anywhere else.
Near the top the views were amazing.

There was a parking area and some trails towards the west.
Jackson Lake is pretty big, 7 miles wide and 15 miles long.  About 460 ft maximum depth.  The natural lake was expanded when an agricultural group from Idaho proposed building a dam.  They would build it and maintain it in exchange for water rights to any additional water it added to the lake.  Three dams later the latest one is “earthquake proof” beyond anything ever recorded here.  The new maximum water level is 39 ft above the original level. Lots of water for Idaho farms.  They rarely use it all or even half of it. Colter Bay exisits because of the higher water.  If the farmers used all they could Colter Bay would be empty.

Every angle looks different and I just never got tired of looking up at the mountains.  Up on Signal Mountain I didn’t have to look up as much.

The valley (Jackson Hole) goes a long way to the north and east all the way to Yellowstone.

Why is it called Signal Mountain? Well this big mast with microwave, radio, cell and who knows what else tells the story. Probably why the road is paved and they were mitigating fire risk.  5 Bars up here.  This is the highest point in the valley.
No buses, no trailers, no RVs.  Actually not too many up here at all.
Heading back to Colter Bay we had driven by the Chapel of the Sacred Heart a few times but not this time.  It is a small log church built in the early 1900s to serve the Dude Ranch visitors.  It was rebuilt in the 1940s and again in the 1960s and then a major rebuild in the early 2000s funded by a New York family and Wyoming family in memory of the 9/11 victims.

It had log flying buttresses.  Neat!  It was on a sturdy concrete foundation.  The latest rebuild should last a long time.

Very quiet inside except for the door that creaked loudly making sneaking in after the service started next to impossible for the late rising dudes.  I can just see His Dudeness trying to slip in in his bathrobe with a quart of milk.
There was a lovely stained glass window.

And a nice wood carving.

Another nice place to see.  So many of them.  You just have to stop.
More next time.
Roger and Susan.