Colter Bay, 9/3-9/15/2015 #2

Our first full day at Colter Bay.  We didn’t want to drive anywhere so it was a day nearby.  We walked along the lake around the point on the north side of the marina, maybe three miles.

From the campground it is only a hundred yards to Jackson Lake and the beach.  The beach is all rocks.
But it is a very pleasant place.  The trail went out around the point in the distance and then across a narrow land bridge to another island.  All geared up for a hike.

Most of the trail follows near the lakeshore but though the woods.  Squirrels and chipmunks were everywhere.  They are about 1/2 the size of the ones we have in MN.  They seemed mostly to ignore people.  You could be only a couple feet from a squirrel digging up seeds and eating them as fast as it could and it would ignore you.  They probably were watching you all the time but you posed no threat. These little squirrels are about 5″ long.  Think how you would feel if some giant thing a hundred feet tall or so came lumbering up to you.  Scared?  Probably but then they see big giant things all the time.
The forest is a process in never ending change.  Trees die and fall over, new trees are growing. Small plants and grasses are everywhere.  The soil here is measured in inches over glacial moraines of gravel all rounded off over time.  When trees are uprooted they pull up what little dirt there is and leave it in odd piles making you wonder what was digging there.  When you can see the roots they are very shallow but spread out.
When a tree dies what remains of its stump becomes a food store for all the mosses, lichens, bacteria and everything else that you normally never see.

Except in the extraordinary colors and textures on the forest floor.

Some one followed us the whole way.

Each small side trail to the beach gave us a new look at the Teton Range.  The mountains come right down to Jackson Lake which is more than 400 ft deep.  It is about a mile across from here to the other side of the lake.  We are at about 6,800 ft here.  Grand Teton is over 11,000 ft high.

These are very young mountains in geological time. They were formed only millions of years ago when two plates broke apart. One land mass where we are now sank and the other where the nountains are was pushed upward. This is called a block fault uplift.  Sort of like if you had a brick sidewalks and one brick sank down and the adjacent brick was pushed up and there was a sharp face remaining.  At least three ice ages have occurred since and they have come north to south and west to east gouging  and scraping the mountains out of solid rock. Bulldozing the lakes and pushing up massive gravel moraines and then smothing out the valley.  Wind, snow, ice and water do the day to day work to get the mountains to there they are today.
There are several glaciers in these mountaint.  Much smaller today that in 1980 when we were here last  but still there.  You might think they are left over from the last ice age but they are very young  maybe only 300 years old or so made during a mini ice age.

And back around to where the boats were lined up with the mountains in the background as if they were a jigsaw puzzle waiting to happen.

We did drive a bit later in the day down to the Jackson Lake Lodge, about 4 miles away.
Hard to get the inside and the outside but the 60 ft tall windows gave the main room quite a view.
Hard to describe this stye. Big lodge look? But outside the view was amazing.

Another stroll to the beach in the evening gave a different look.

Ducks in the water diving for whatever they were going for. Evening clouds from the west seem common lit up by the sun going down underneath them.
An evening stroll on the beach is rarely shared with more than 8 or 10 others on a half mile long “beach”. It is very quiet and peaceful.  Out here in the afternoon there are no more people, usually a bit more breeze and very warm mountain sun with air temps in the high 60’s and low 70’s.  A cold front is coming in the next few days, nighttime temps down into the low 30’s.  Not much change to daytime temps is forecast.
There is just so much here to see and absorb.  We are going down to Jackson to meet some folks and have breakfast in the next couple days.  Probably not much else there. 
So more to come, much more.  Maybe not in real time but I am trying to keep up or catch up or not get any further behind.  
Roger and Susan.

Colter Bay, 9/3-9/15/2015

We packed up in the morning at Gros Ventre after a nice breakfast and a short walk.  We didn’t have much to do really. For only one night we really didn’t unpack anything.  Inside stuff is usually where it needs to be whether we are moving or not.  We had no water hooked up, We rarely do unless we are adding water to our onboard tanks.  We had no sewer connection. We never do unless we are emptying waste tanks.  With a full water tank and empty waste tanks we gan go for 7-10 days. When we travel we start with empty waste tanks and only 25% or so water. Same with fuel, we try to run between 1/3 and 2/3 full, about 700 miles worth.

We checked with Colter Bay and they said we could check in at noon. So we pulled out of Gros Ventre at 11 and headed north.  It was only about 35 miles.  We had to go through the Park Entrance which took a few minutes.. There were maybe 5 cars there. 
We took the more eastern road, it was more direct with fewer turn offs up to the Moran Junction and then west towards Jackson Lake. It followed up along the lake past the Jackson Lake Lodge to the Colter Bay Junction. 
Every turn revealed more of the Tetons.

We turned in the Colter Bay road,. It was about a mile to Jackson Lake and the entrance to the campground.

Normally there is a line of RVs waiting to check in.  When we got there there were none.

Check in was quick and then down into the campground to H66,

This is by far the nicest of the National Park RV campgrounds we have stayed in or driven through.  Big roomy sites, most all pull throughs, lots of tall lodgepole pines and shade.  Very quiet and calm.  Maybe 100 yards to Jackson Lake.
Colter Bay is towards the northern end of the Grand Teton National Park. It has a large campground (360 sites) about 10% of which have electric hook ups (very rare in National Parks). It is like many campgrounds in the National Parks, first come, first served.  Same with the electrical sites.  If they are available when you show up you can get one and once you have one you can stay for 14 days.  The other campground at Colter Bay is more like an RV park (160 sites) no tents, electric, water and waste connections. And they are reservable.  For many people, including us, the reservable part is worth a lot.  In this case they are $15/night more than the non-reservable sites in the other campground that only have electricity. 
There are also 160 cabins here for rent. They range from very tiny with a single double bed and a detached bathroom that you share with four other cabins (about $100) to a big double cabin, two bedrooms, one bath with four double beds for about $300. No kitchen facilities.
And there are tent cabins you can rent for about $95. These are a tent on a concrete pad with a canvas covered outside area with a fire ring.  Inside there are four single bunk beds with a mattress and a wood burning stove.  Bring your own sleeping bag and pretty much everything else you want or need.  Bathrooms and showers and a small store were nearby.
And there was a horse corral for all the cowboy wanabes.  A one hour ride was almost $50.  They had longer rides, breakfast rides, chuck wagon dinner rides.  Just about anything your never-before-in-a-saddle butt could stand.
And there was a fairly big marina.  Jackson Lake is quite large (a reservoir) many miles long and more than a mile across in some place.  So there were some very large boats, cabin cruiser types to go with the show homes and private jets, sailboats, speed boats, lots of boats.  And canoes and kayaks for rent and small 10HP powered boats (even more than a horse ride) and a scenic cruise boat for a ride around this part of the lake. 

Mount Moran straight ahead and,in the distance, to the left and much higher, Grand Teton.

What else.  Oh there was a laundry and a shower building ($4.25 for the shower) and a grocery store and a gift shop, of course, with a few interesting things and some more bathrooms.  There is a smallish parking lot for all of this and it was rarely full or even close to full.
There is a Visitor’s Center with an auditorium and a gallery of native art that changed from one artisit to another each week. And another gift shop. There has to be those,  where else would one get a patch from every place we go that has one for sale?
And all of this is closing piece by piece while we are here.  By the end of the month Colter Bay will be essentially closed for the season.
We are taking lots of pictures.  I am trying to keep the blog close to current.  Trying is the operative word.  We are busy, go to bed early and sleep a long time.  
So more to come,
Roger and Susan

Into Wyoming, Gros Ventre Campground, Grand Teton NP, 9/2/2015

We left Idaho Falls by nine in the A of M.  We were one day ahead of our scheduled arrival at Colter Bay which is about 45 miles north of Jackson, WY.  Gros Ventre campground is the first campground into the park, about 8 miles from Jackson.  RV accomodations like everything in Jackson are beyond comprehension expensive.  Gros Ventre (it is the name of a Native American tribe in this area, pronounced Grow Vaan) campgound is first come first served and usually had space at noon. That was our target.

The highway from Idaho Falls across towards Jackson followed the Snake River and by the large Palisades reservoir.  I was expecting more of a challenging drive but it was good roads, not big grades up or down and very little traffic.  
The pictures with the dates are from our dash cam.  Pretty good I think. It takes a continuous high definition movie as we drive along along with recording real time speed, direction, GPS coordinates and three axis accelerations.  When we play them back we see what the camera saw and we can follow our progress on Google maps.  These fill up a 32GB memory card in six hours and then start overwriting the oldest files.  They are easy to save the files and get stills from the video.
We drove into Jackson.  We were here in 1980.  This is not the Jackson we remember.  
Ranting rises up …
It is now just like every other tourist mecca.  Sort of like a Cowboy Las Vegas. No grocery stores, no Target, no Walmart, some over priced gas stations, dozens of tourist related merchantile stores, many very expensive art galleries, many over priced, under quality food venues, extraordinarily pricey RV resorts, hotels, motels, lodges, (35 for a town of 9,000) condos, ski wear, cowboy wear and people comically over dressed to impress the art dealers.  Another out west town gone to retail tourist trade and the over-the-top trade to the ultra rich.  I guess there really isn’t much left out here other than that so milk it while you can.  And then there are the multi-million dollar show homes where the dozens of private jets at the local airport have brought the art gallery shoppers for their annual one week visit.  Susan says I am being a bit overdramatic.  Indeed!  In this small once ranch town the median home price is $749,000. Where do all of the ranch hands live?  Can they?
John D Rockefeller brought his family to the Jackson Hole (Hole = Valley) area to see the Teton Range in 1926.  He was so shocked by the gaudy tourist trade, the prostitutes, the bars, the gambling casinos and all that had settled in the area that he set out to buy everything in the valley that he could.  Over time he bought up more than 35,000 acres.  When the park was established in 1929 it only included the mountains themselves and the glacial lakes at their base to the east. Rockefeller tried to donate all that he had purchased to the park but it took until 1943 for President Roosevelt to accept the donation by making it a National Monument thus sidestepping a congress unwilling to do anything. It took until 1950 for the original National Park and the National Monument to be merged into the Grand Teton National Park as it is today.  There are still small ranches and private holdings within the Park boundaries.  Some of these are private homes, some are operated as Dude Ranches.  Wouldn’t Jeff Bridges be proud.
So somewhere along the way a robber barron did right by us all.  We should be thankful for everyone’s efforts to protect areas like this.  It is just stunningly beautiful.  Away from what happens in Jackson it becomes a place to enjoy what is here.  In Some places there are more people trying to enjoy it than others but find that spot only a few hundred yards from everyone else and you can be alone in the quiet beauty and amazing mountains so close.
Ranting subsides …
The town square is still there with the elk antler arches.

Now, this is like many old western towns.  The center of town, where people meet and gather.  This one had a fence all around to keep people out except through the gates and along the diagonal sidewalks and a small place to sit in the middle. We are pretty sure there were no other benches.  It was a photo opportunity. We compared it to the vibrant and full of life Plaza in Santa Fe. There is no camparison.  
We drove our coach right through town.  The picture above from the dash cam was while we were turning the corner.  Another mile of gaudy commercialism (well, there I go again) to the park boundary past the edge of the National Elk Refuge and our first views of the Teton Range and another three miles to the turn to Gros Ventre Campground.
Check in at Gros Ventre was easy.

A nice campsite.

Color is starting in the Park.

And over the glacial moraines that formed the sides of the Gros Ventre River valley, the Tetons poked up. 

The next morning, Thursday, 9/3 we move to Coulter Bay.  Internet service here is slow but I hope to show in pictures what we will see as much as words.

More to come,
Roger and Susan

Idaho Falls, 9/1/2015

We left Caldwell, Idaho about 11 AM.  Took the opportunity to do some laundry. Then headed east somewhat following the Snake River on I84 then I86 and then I15.  We were maybe 50 miles from where we were last month in the sand dunes.  The routes east and west are limited.

This part of Idaho is big rolling hills. Mostly grass land.
We passed a major milestone, 70,000 miles.  When we bought the coach in May, 2011 it had about 41,000 miles.  We will pass our 30,000 mile soon.
There were some very large birds flying ahead of us.  Never really figured out what they were.
One area we passed was a very jagged lava flow area sparsely covered with grasses and sagebrush.

And then we got to Idaho Falls.  We saw the Snake River several times but going east it seemed like much less often than when we followed this route going west.

We had two Camp Walmart options, one right next to Interstate 15.  Easy to get to but usually more noise.  The other was maybe eight miles through the city to Ammon, sort of a suburb I guess.  This one was nice. An older Walmart, now supercenter with a big wide open parking lot.  The Walmart in Bend had a maze of narrow lanes, lots of conrete curb barriers.  
So we pulled in over on the Garden Center end where they seem to usually want RVs to go.  There already was another RV there.  We got a nice spot next to the grass.
It was green here, lots of watering.
By the time we had gone into Walmart, walked all over and stocked up for our two week stay in the Tetons/Yellowstone there were more RVs including one from France.  It seems that on every trip we go on now we see European built RVs.  They seem very well built, quite compact.  They must ship them over here and travel in North America for a long time.  We saw one two winters ago built in France. The folks said it was shipped to Canada.  They flew over and were on a world wide tour that they expected to last a year or more.
Tomorrow we head east through the pass towards Alpine, WY and then north towards the Tetons.
More later,
Roger and Susan

East Towards Wyoming 8/30 – 8/31/2015

We left the Oregon coast on Sunday.  18 days went by way too fast, next time at least a month.  It rained on and off most of Saturday so we got the out door tasks done. Good thing,  it rained steady all night Saturday.  By Sunday morning it had stopped, we did the last few things we needed to do and were on the road by shortly after nine.

Heading south on US 101 once we got past Tillamook, was much better than the part from 26 coming west from Portland and then south on US 101.  Most of this road going south from Tillamook had been repaved so the ride was better.  It is still a narrow winding road with some turnouts and generally little or no shoulders. We were headed to Oregon 18 which heads east towards Salem from Otis and then connects to Oregon 22 through Salem and continues east.
Diesel in Oregon is $.30 to $.50 more than any where else we have been on this trip.  Typically it ranges from $2.99 to $3.59.  So we were surprised to find diesel at two stations in Salem for $2.37.  Seems there was some competition going on.  A third station across the street was at $3.59, not playing.  Gasoline was not on sale. $3.39 for regular, $3.89 for premium.  And you cannot pump your own gas here so we occupied a lot of their space while we took on 107 gallons.
Oregon 22 is a two lane road in good shape with reasonable shoulders.  It heads up into the central mountains and connects to US 20 (another good two lane road) that rises through the 4700 ft McKenzie Pass just before you get to Sisters, OR and then down into Bend, OR.
Before you get to the mountains it is pretty flat, few trees, sort of like lots of places out west, dry and covered with sagebrush.

TX, AZ, NM? Hard to tell.

And then the west slope of the central mountains, big trees, lots of trees.  And it rained most of the way up.  They really need rain.  It is very dry.

Normally this river (South Yamhill) would fill the picture side to side.

Everything that is brown here would normally be under water.

Water levels at this dam are about 50′ low.

Cloudy, misty, rain.  Steep climbs, slow turns, traffic not too bad.  The coach did just fine on both the uphill and down hill parts.

There are a series of dams and powerplants as well headed towards the pass.

Susan’s favorite part, nothing but nothing on the right.

And then over the pass, down hill, much drier, very few trees and grassland.
Sisters, OR looked interesting but very much manufactured for the tourist trade.  It reminded us of Durango, CO. We went on to Bend and stayed at Camp Walmart.
From Bend going east towards Ontario there is another 4,800 ft pass. And then a long downhill winding path towards Ontario.  All of this is two lane, 55 mph. Good road, not much traffic.
As you get towards Ontario the land gets very flat, mainly because they graded it that way for flood irrigation.  Many years ago they grew a lot of grass seed out this way. Now it is the onion capital of the world, or so they claim.  Over 1 billion pounds of onions from this area every year.  Irrigation canals, pipe lines and equipment everywhere.  Even the John Deere dealer had equipment that was quite odd, specialized for the onion growers.
The dirt looks like light, gray plowed up mud.  It is hard to imagine anything would grow in it but with enough water onions must.
We stopped just past Ontario in an old RV park full of museum aged rvs.  It is OK.  Lots of folks just living here in old RVs that will likely never move again. Doing some laundry this AM.  
A shorter drive to Idaho Falls today and then over another pass into the Tetons on Wednesday morning. 
More later,
Roger and Susan

Foretravel Forum Folks

While we were at the coast we had a chance to meet some folks from the Foretravel Forum.  It is always fun to do, we sort of know them from the Forum but getting to actually meet someone is great.

Dick S as he is known on the Forum is Dick Shanahand and his wife is Rocky.  They are 14 year full timers and have a 40 ft Foretravel, a popular size for full timers.  They were staying in a Thousand Trails campground up in Seaside, OR about 20 miles north of us and drove down one day for a visit and lunch. Dick agreed to bring desert and he experimented on us with his first flan baked in a silicone baking dish.  It was fabulous.  Dick and Rocky were very easy to get to know. It was interesting to hear about their full time life.  It is mobile but almost in slow motion.  There is no hurry to travel although in 14 years they have.
The Old Hippie as Rick Webster is known and his wife Debbie have a 36′ Foretravel. They also came for a visit.  I first met Rick on the Forum when they were looking for a coach.  They have had their coach now for two and a half years. We have missed them by one or two days this year alone in three places and so when we were both in Oregon at the same time we really made an effort to connect.  They came to Oregon thinking they would be able to just go from place to place finding a spot to stay where ever they went.  They found out that this is really hard on the coast in the summer.  Everything is almost 100% full. They found a place in Lincoln City for a few days and then were moving down to Newport.  They wanted to see more of the northern coast so they drove up for a visit.  We had a great visit, a nice lunch thanks to Susan and a a lemon cake that Rick and Debbi brought.  They are busy travelers, lots of shorter trips, getting longer.  And still more shorter stays also getting longer. They also were nice folks, easy to talk to and fun.

So for us we got to see both ends of the spectrum.  Long time full timers and fairly new owners. We are somewhere in between.  We are taking longer trips, staying in place for longer and are getting comfortable moving less often, for less distance and taking more time to be where we are.
It was fun to make connections. There are many more to make.  We are signed up for the Grand Vention, a gathering of Foretravels, in Indiana in October.  There should be about 120 of them there, more than half are Forum members.
More later,
Roger and Susan