Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Another Great Walk

This past week we only had one day off having done an overtime day on Sunday. It was a huge checkout day, with 6 cabins turning over and having new check-ins arrive the same day as well as the other 8 cabins being occupied and needing service. So we were definitely ready for a day off on Monday. Did we sit back and rest? Heck no, we got up early to go for a nice hike with our friends Dianna and Pat Brown, then did our weekly chores and bi-weekly shopping trip to Jackson :-).

Dianna and Pat are in their first year of full-timing, and we had chatted via email last summer, finally meeting at Campbellsville KY where we all worked at Amazon together. We also got to socialize with them a couple of times this past winter as they were staying several weeks at Chassa Oaks in Chassahowitzka FL, about ten minutes away from us. They have been traveling this summer and finally made it out here to Grand Teton National Park. We had dinner one night with them and John and Carol Herr, at Signal Mountain Lodge, and made plans to do a short "easy" hike on Monday morning. We chose Lookout Rock, a 3.8 mile lollipop trail leaving from Jackson Lodge, winding past Christian Pond, overlooking Oxbow Bend, and going up to Lookout Rock on Emma Matilda Lake.Suitably attired with drinking bottles, cameras, hiking poles and bear spray, off we went.

Christian Pond was about a half mile into the hike. Supposedly a favorite haunt for moose, all we spotted were a few ducks.

The trail gradually climbed up, not a problem. We were taking it slow, stopping to take pictures. There was some huffing and puffing going on, nothing we couldn't handle :-).

Some really nice views as we hiked along the ridge, this is part of the Tetons with Jackson Dam in the lower right-hand corner. We hope to do a nice float kayak trip starting at the dam and going down to Pacific Creek turnout one day.

Mount Moran. The glacier has never disappeared since we arrived.

A short distance of the loop travels on the Oxbow Bend Scenic Trail, and gave us a beautiful view of the Bend.

We saw many interesting flowers and butterflies along the way.

Finally Emma Matilda Lake came into view, and we climbed the last uphill portion to Lookout Rock. At times the trees closed in around the trail, and as the area is a known location for grizzly bear, we made quite a bit of noise, talking and laughing, with Pat occasionally calling out "Hey Bear".....no sightings though.That's ok, I really don't want to see one while on foot :-).

Emma Matilda Lake. It was so nice and quiet there. It really surprised us that such a nice hike in such a busy park didn't have more people on it. We only passed one other couple the whole time we were out there. I'm not complaining :-).

We finally tore ourselves away from the peaceful lake and set out back to the trail head.

We stopped here in this open area to take a picture of the awesome views, and a flash of color caught the corner of my eye...

a beautiful male dusky grouse was checking us out! Isn't he funny with his orange eyebrows?

All of a sudden he started prancing about, and puffing up with grunting noises....I've never been courted by a bird before :-). He was great fun to watch.

Down we continued, coming back past Christian Pond again...again, no moose only ducks. 

Once back at the trail head, we headed back to the ranch, with Dianna and Pat coming for a short visit to see our new trailer. They soon headed out as they wanted to check out Colter Bay Campground, their next destination, and we busied ourselves preparing for our trip to Jackson for groceries and gas. 

We've had another busy week at the ranch, at full occupancy almost every night. Everyone is pretty well settled into their jobs and we're all having a good time together. Tonight our bosses took us out on a road trip for pizza at Leek's Marina, and we had a wonderful time chatting. I really enjoy hearing about their "pack trips" into the mountains, where they pack up the gear and head out on their horses for several days. Brad and JoAnn are real down-to-earth people and we are very fortunate to be working for them. 

Sunday is our next day off, and we hope to have another new adventure to write about. We are planning to spend the day in the Canyon District of Yellowstone National Park with Pat and Dianna, and John and Carol Herr. We plan on hiking both the South Rim and North Rim Trails, and hope to get the iconic photo of the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone....so stay tuned!!

The End!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Phone Issues, Work and a Nice Walk

Thanks for all the sympathy on the truck issues, it is really appreciated, and we hope our story may help prevent it from happening to someone else. We are cautiously optimistic that with the new fifth wheel and a new truck engine hopefully our home and transport issues are behind us for a good long while. Meanwhile life does go on....and as so many of us know full-time life is not always rainbows and unicorns every day. We just do the best we can.

We really love this area but one fly in our ointment has been our AT&T cell phone service. We've had AT&T since 2010, which is when we decided we were really going to need a good cell phone and service before hitting the road. Prior to that, we only had a "pay as you go" cell phone as we really didn't need one....I could always be reached at one of two places, either at the shop or at home. And Al had a bad habit of either losing them or dropping them overboard so I wouldn't let him have one :-). But once it was determined we needed a good phone, Al decided on the iPhone, and at the time AT&T was the only service offered for it. And it has been mostly fine since then, until we got here in Moran. Service here at the trailer, behind the cabins, is terrible, and not much better in front of the cabins. The bars jump around like crazy, and every time they change the call gets dropped. I was driving up to the post office where service was better, until about two weeks ago when it got lousy there as well. We pretty much have to drive 45 minutes to Jackson before we get good reception. So its getting very frustrating trying to make or receive phone calls. And having an elderly parent with health issues I really need a good phone.

So, other workampers here have Verizon and it works much better, so we investigated getting a "burner" phone as a temporary line while we're here. It was more expensive than we had hoped, but they don't seem to have the cheap phones that you just load with so much money anymore. So we looked online, picked out the cheapest phone, selected the cheapest "no contract" plan for $35/month, and tried to order it. However, they wouldn't send it to us here in Moran, only to the billing address in Florida :-(. Rather than do that, we knew there was a Verizon store in Jackson, so we decided just to go to the store on our day off, as we were doing a hike down in that direction anyway. As our luck goes, however, they don't have any of those phones in stock, and suggested we check at Staples. Off we went to Staples, and drew a blank there as well.

Frustrated, we headed back to the ranch, and I remarked it was too bad my mother doesn't have a computer, since our wireless internet here is so good I could Skype instead of phone calls. After Al thought about it, he did some investigating, and did you know that now there is an app for that? Of course there is! He downloaded the Skype app to the iPhone, set up an account, and for less than $9 we have unlimited calls via Skype to any phone for three months. How cool is that? It is working very well, so my frustration level has gone down, thank goodness. Which is good, because I see many calls in my near future, as my mom is having some medical issues and we need to get her settled. I thank God every day for having such a good sister-in-law and best friend down in Florida willing to help her out when we're not there.

We're very busy now here at the ranch. It is peak summer tourist season and we are almost always at full occupancy. Al has been doing very well in the laundry, picking up more hours, and I've started training for some office work, which gives me more hours as well. We are also doing an overtime day this weekend as Sunday is a big turnover day this week and they need extra hands to get it done before check-in. Its all good, even though we have to delay a planned kayak trip with our friends Carol and John, and Dianna and Pat Brown who we met last fall at Amazon and are visiting. We will all be going out for dinner Friday night though, so that will be fun, and we'll be here until the end of September and I doubt the lake is going anywhere before that :-).

We did do a great hike this week on Monday. We spent Sunday taking the dogs out for a walk and ride, as the hike we wanted to do Monday is in Tetons NP and they aren't allowed to come with us. Bright and early Monday morning we headed out and drove down to Jenny Lake, and got on the first boat launch over to the trailhead for Cascade Canyon. This is a very popular hike in the park, said to be the most used trail anywhere in the park. The first mile climbs pretty steeply, gaining over 500 feet in elevation, and then levels off to a "mild" climb upwards to and through Cascade Canyon. That first mile, though, is totally awesome! Not that the rest is any slouch, but lets get to the pictures, shall we?

We could have walked around the south end of Jenny Lake to the trailhead, that adds 2 miles onto your hike right from the start. We elected to take the shuttle boat service, which zips you across the lake in 5 minutes and drops you right at the trailhead. Cheating? Maybe, but on a limited time schedule it allows us to walk further into the canyon.

The boat heads back across Jenny Lake for another group as we started up the trail.

It was a perfect morning with a brilliant blue sky.

As we crossed Cascade Creek on the way to Hidden Falls we had a preview of the ferocity of the rushing water.

My favorite hikes follow creeks :-).

Half a mile into the hike is our first treat: Hidden Falls. Stupendous. 

Continuing on, we cross Cascade Creek again...

and continue climbing up...

and up.....

switch-backing up the side of the mountain, at times on a narrow, rocky ledge. Going up was fairly easy though, as there weren't too many people at that time. Coming down, well that was a different story and a lot more people passing up and down.

We reached Inspiration Point, with it's beautiful view of Jenny Lake and the distant mountains. Most people turn around here and return, but we wanted to continue on further into Cascade Canyon.

So off we went. And yes, it is strange to have hiking pictures without the dogs.

The trail follows Cascade Creek through the canyon for about three more miles, then forks into two different trails, one going up higher to Solitude Lake, and the other trail actually going over the mountain range and  into Idaho. We went about halfway to the fork, another mile and a half past Inspiration Point.

The craggy peak of Teewinot (Shoshone for Many Pinnacles) was visible from many angles, and looks very different when you are this close compared to looking at it from the highway overlooks.

The water of Cascade Creek is so clear, and COLD! It is amazing to me that this is all snow melt. The guide on the shuttle boat said there was over 500 inches of snow this past winter. Can you imagine??

Cascade Canyon
“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” 
― Ansel Adams

 We kept saying let's see what is around the next bend, until reluctantly, watching the time, we turned around to retrace our route back. We had not arranged for anyone to take out the dogs at lunchtime, and we still needed to stop in Jackson for our (futile) search for a working phone. 

This little cutie met us on the way down. I'm not sure if it is a chipmunk or a ground squirrel, but he was quite unconcerned with our proximity to him. I don't know if you can see it if you make the picture larger, but you can actually see the mountain reflected in his eyeball. Its really cool!

Yes, we have to go all the way back down there!

Every turn has another beautiful picture.

One last look at the rushing water of Cascade Creek....

and we boarded the boat back to Jenny Creek Visitor Center. It was a beautiful walk on a beautiful day. 

On a last note, we've been going out on a drive after work every couple of nights, laughingly saying we are "bear hunting". Alas, we haven't seen a bear YET, but we did spot a beautiful fox one night...
which was really awesome :-). And nobody else was around at all!

And we have some awesome sunsets around here also, this is the view right from our driveway, looking across the ranch to the Tetons. Life is, still, mostly good!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Yellowstone National Park at last!

It is taking me quite awhile to get anything posted these days, sorry! We are quite busy here at the ranch, and we find we are pretty tired at the end of the day. It is actually pretty good training for working at Amazon in the fall :-). We are both losing weight, which is a good thing, and gaining strength in the old leg muscles, making the hiking seem easier. Now that we have our full complement of workers for the season, we are all on regular schedules and our routines are becoming familiar. It is a nice bunch of workers, and we are having a good time getting to know them all. So all is good.

On the truck front, we do finally have our beloved tow vehicle back! To answer some of the questions, yes we consulted legal advice, and after 7 days someone from Banks did contact us. Pretty much as expected, they flat out denied that their system could have caused the damage to our engine, BUT if any warranty issues came up we are on our own. They sent some paperwork to us, but after reading it, any recourse we might have had applied only to the original warranty on the truck, not the extended warranty after the original was done. Extended warranties are not considered "warranties", but "service contracts". It's all in the wording, isn't it? We also looked into arbitrage, but that is a long, involved process that would require us to go back to Florida for the sessions, and the majority of the appeals are denied after months have dragged on. So it was ready last Friday, and we spent our "weekend" off driving the 5 hours down to pick it up on Sunday, and then coming back to the ranch on Monday. We did decide to take a different route home, and that will be the next post (just a tease for you to keep reading!).

Anyway, the weekend before we finally had our "virgin visit" to the country's first National Park, Yellowstone, established in 1872. We had arranged to spend the day with John and Carol Herr again, and we had a totally enjoyable day. Being such a huge area to explore, we have decided to concentrate each visit there on a single area, and we chose the Old Faithful and Upper Geyser Basin area for our first visit. There is a walking trail starting from the visitor center that goes to Biscuit Basin and back that is about 5 miles long, and we figured we could do this, even as slow as we are :-)! There are dozens of geysers, pools, springs and other geothermal pools along this trail, and I'm afraid we underestimated how long it really would take us to do the trail, as we did not make the entire loop to Biscuit basin; we did, however, do over 6 miles, and spent 6 hours doing so!

This has to be the most interesting, surreal environment that I have had the privilege of seeing with my own eyes. The hydrothermal region of Upper Geyser Basin contains more than 20% of all the geysers in the world, as well as thousands of non-erupting hot springs. This concentration of hydrothermal features provides ample evidence of Yellowstone's volcanic geology. 3 major eruptions have occurred in the past two million years, and the volcano is still active. Molten rock, or magma, may be as close as 3-8 miles underground, and provides the first ingredient for the thermal features: heat. Rain and snow supply the second ingredient: water. The water seeps down several thousand feet below the surface where it is heated. Underground cracks provide the third ingredient: a natural plumbing system. Hot water rises through this plumbing to produce hot springs and geysers. But enough chitchat, onto some pictures!

Parking at the Visitor Center, as we began our hike up to the upper observation area, we were able to take a nice picture of the iconic Old Faithful Inn. We had written down the estimated eruption times of the geysers that are predictable, and figured we had just enough time to climb up to the upper level. It was a pretty good rise in elevation, but the hiking guide had said "the trail is in excellent shape with well-planned switchbacks, making the small climb seem easy". Well, that statement is kind of relative, what seems "easy" to folks from around here doesn't seem quite so "easy" to those of us from the flat lands :-). 

We did make it with a couple of minutes to spare, and saw Old Faithful's eruption for the very first time.

Other treats we saw up at the top of Geyser Hill Viewpoint was this beautiful Western Tananger...

a yellow-bellied marmot...

and her baby :-)!

We headed down the trail, following the signs, and ending up taking an unplanned detour from the main trail....

but it was ok as we ended up visiting Solitary Geyser, out by itself off the well-trodden path. 

Solitary Geyser very obligingly erupted for us while we were there; sometimes you do end up in the right place and the right time.

As we made our way back to the main trail, we passed such beautiful features. The ribbons of color in and around the thermal features are usually formed by thermophiles (heat-loving organisms). These organisms-algae, bacteria and archaea, are primitive life forms that have inhabited the earth for almost four billion years. 

Can you imagine the first explorers stumbling into this environment, and what they must have thought?

Spasmodic Geyser...erratic, splattering eruptions.

Ghostly white trees, near the hot springs

A great example of the thermophiles around a spring.

The whole area was completely fascinating. Carol and I were taking picture after picture, one reason it has taken me so long to get this post up :-).

One of the most loved features in the Upper Geyser Basin is known as Morning Glory Pool.

Another predictable geyser, Daisy Geyser. Daisy erupts to a height of 75 feet for 3-5 minutes. 

A gorgeous western bluebird was posing perfectly, showing off his hapless insect.

We walked further up the trail along Firehole River...

to the beautiful Gem Pool area.

I find it impossible to pick a favorite picture, so I know I'm including way too many!

At this point we turned around as we didn't want to miss the eruption of Riverside geyser. As we arrived, we could see the basin area starting to fill with water that spilled back into the river. We waited, and waited and waited, until it was at least 30 minutes past the predicted time span for eruption. It would look like it was getting ready to blow, but then didn't! We hated to leave, but a bank of very black, threatening looking clouds rolled in, and we could hear thunder. It was almost two miles back to the Visitor center, so we turned to go and of course, you know what happened!

It finally erupted! I snapped few quick pictures, and then we hot-footed it quickly down the trail. Luckily, we made it to shelter before the hard rain came, and I think it was the quickest two miles I've ever 

We were all starving at this point so what was going to be lunch at the cafeteria turned into an early dinner and it was pretty good. I was surprised :-). We spent a little time in the Visitor center....

Saw one more eruption of Old Faithful, and then piled into the car for the hour and a half drive back to Moran. One quick stop at Lewe's Falls...

and a view down the river of the Tetons. Still no bear sightings for me, though :-(. Our next excursion to Yellowstone will be in a couple of weeks, when we will be exploring the Canyon Area, with the beautiful Lower Falls and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. We do have a couple of things over the next couple weeks planned here in the Tetons as well, so stay tuned.