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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tour Guiding and Hiking

It's been another busy couple of weeks at work, and on the weekends as well. Our friends Dan and Jonell came down one Sunday from West Yellowstone, and Steve and Joan and Dave and Maxine  came west from Lander where they are working for a few weeks.
We met for lunch at Signal Mountain Lodge. We had a great time catching up with what everyone is doing for the summer. After we finished lunch, we took a drive through the Park, but not on your normal roads. We decided to go down the RKO Road, a dirt/gravel road that runs  35 miles mostly parallel to the Snake River, but high on a ridge above the river.

We had some beautiful views from atop the ridge. Joan said she would love to just bring a comfortable chair up here and hang out for hours :-).

We did see some wildlife along the way, mostly pronghorn with some young'uns. After our drive we headed back to the ranch and had a bit of a visit with Steve and Teresa (who worked with Steve and Joan at Chalk Creek) before everyone headed back to their respective areas. We had a wonderful time spending the day with everyone!

The next day we had a bit more vigorous activity planned. It was a sunny, cool morning, so we packed up our hiking gear and headed off to String Lake to hike into Paintbrush Canyon. The trail actually goes high into to the canyon to Lake Solitude, over 10 miles. Many people make it a two day hike, going up to Lake Solitude, then descending through Cascade Canyon back to String Lake. I am not that ambitious :-). We just go as far as we want to, then return via the same trail.

We arrived at the String Lake trail head around 9:30 in the morning. Even that is fairly late for this time of year, but luckily we were able to find a parking space easily. Its been so busy in the park this summer that if you don't stake out your parking space early, you lose!

The first 1/2 mile of the trail is flat, following the shoreline of String Lake. This is one of my favorite areas of the park, it's so pretty and scenic. Last year we had our kayaking adventure starting on String Lake, and you can read about that here. At the end of String Lake is a bridge we crossed to get to the other side, and from there it was all uphill!

The first of three marmots that were checking us out as we hiked.

Most of the hike was shaded by these beautiful trees, which really helped keep us cool.

There were some open areas, where we were tantalized with glimpses of the mountain peaks we were headed towards.

Not forgetting to look behind us, Leigh Lake in the distance. Yes, we've climbed pretty high up at this point, but still more to go!

We kept going, hoping the trail would head into a more open area of the canyon.

The mountains seemed to be getting closer, and we could finally start to hear the sound of rushing water. We knew from the trail map that the trail eventually reached a river.

Darn! The trail twisted back into the forest again. It was starting to remind us of a queue at Disney; just when you think you're getting close, the line turns and you see how much longer it really is!

We were especially cautious through this area, as I thought these might be huckleberry bushes....a favorite food of bears!

The sound of water got louder again, and I had stopped to take some pictures so Al got a little ahead of me, and rounded a bend out of sight. As I started to catch up, all of a sudden a fat little marmot came tearing around the bend in the trail, moving as fast as his little legs could carry him towards me! He suddenly saw me, stopped with a loud squeak, then turned around. I think he realized that Al was up ahead though, and then he darted off the side up onto the rocks.

He then proceeded to inspect me very thoroughly!

I guess I passed inspection, as he allowed me to pass by him on the trail without running away. He was very cute :-).

We finally had reached the river! 

We went a little further up, until we reached the four mile mark. We figured that was far enough, giving us an eight mile hike. We had ascended a little over 1000 feet by this time. 

This was the view from one of the back country campsites that hikers can stop at. I don't think we're getting our trailer up here :-)!

One of my objectives for the day was finding the wildflowers blooming. There were definitely a lot of them! The canyon's namesake, the Indian paintbrush, is the red flower on the left.

We made it back down to String Lake as the afternoon clouds were rolling in. Lately we have been having late afternoon thunderstorms, sometimes quite strong, so it is always best to be off the mountains by mid-afternoon. In fact, July 9th we had an extremely severe thunderstorm, so close that several bolts of lightning landed here right on the ranch. By the end of the storm, the ranch had lost our internet, our phone lines, our time clock, and all the breakers in the maintenance garage had flipped off. In our RV's, we lost the phone connections to the office that are in ours and Elaine's RVs, Elaine and Larry lost their air conditioners and water heater, Gail lost her converter and electric fireplace, and we lost our Wifi Ranger booster and the bedroom TV. I will never underestimate a lightning storm! The storm wasn't even upon us yet, and I had been walking back to our trailer at the end of our shift when a bolt struck in the meadow off to my left. I actually felt my hair starting to stand up. I dashed for the trailer in no uncertain hurry after that! It took a few days and a lot of work by Brad, but we did get our equipment replaced and the internet and phones working again. 

I guess that's enough for this installment. I will start working on the next, which will include another visit to the Tetons by Dan and Jonell, among other fun stuff! 
A parting view of Mount Moran across String Lake.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Slide Lake

It's very tempting to keep posting beautiful pictures of the awesome mountain range known as the Tetons. I mean, what's not to love?

A view from Lunch Tree Hill takes in the entire 40 mile length of the Teton Range.

There are, though, several other interesting and beautiful area of this section of Wyoming, known as Jackson Hole. With our unseasonably hot weather a few days ago, we decided to take a drive and explore the Slide Lake area.For this excursion, we headed south from Moran towards Jackson, and turned off onto Antelope Flats Road. This area is known for the "most famous barn in America" the Moulton Barn.

This is a part of what is called "Mormon Row". In the 1890's Mormon settlers moved into the area, creating 27 homesteads.In 1997 this historic area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. But we need to drive further east to get to the topic of today's blog.

We passed into the town of Kelly on the Gros Ventre (pronounced "gro vant") River. Kelly has a population of 138, contained in a very small area on the east side of Jackson Hole. On May 18, 1927 the town was destroyed when a natural dam formed by the Gros Ventre landslide two years earlier collapsed and sent raging flood waters down through the town. This history is what we came to explore that afternoon.

From Kelly we drove a bit north and turned onto Gros Ventre Road. The road is paved until you reach Lower Slide Lake, then turns to a well maintained gravel road. Before continuing up the Gros Ventre Road, though, we made a turn onto Taylor Ranch Road on the recommendation of our co-worker Elaine, who used to work at cabins in that area. We crossed a bridge going over the Gros Ventre river and had a nice view of the river rushing downstream towards the Tetons.

The other direction showed us our first view of Slide Lake, a very popular place in the summertime for locals and tourists alike.

This is a view of the Gros Ventre slide. The Slide is a mile-long mountain mass that slid 2,000 feet off the side of the mountain in 1925.In just three minutes, the geography of the area was changed forever, 50,000,000 cubic feet of debris hurtling down the side of the mountain, riding 300 feet up the adjacent slope and blocking the Gros Ventre river.

Lower Slide Lake was formed by this blockage, stretching back five miles. 

William Bierer, a long-time native to the area, predicted a slide in the near future. Convinced of the validity of his theory, Bill sold his ranch on Sheep Mountain to Guil Huff, an unsuspecting cattle rancher, in 1920. Bierer died in 1923 before his prophecy became reality. Two years later, on the afternoon of June 23, 1925, Guil rode horseback down the river to the north side of Sheep Mountain where he had heard loud rumblings. He arrived at 4 p.m., in time to witness 50 million cubic yards of land mass descending rapidly toward him. He and his horse escaped the impact by a mere 20 feet. Along with Guil, two other men witnessed the phenomenon of nature — Forney Cole and Boyd Charter. In a matter of minutes, debris covered 17 choice acres of the Huff ranch. Guil, along with his wife and daughter, escaped. Ranger Dibble took Mrs. Huff and the child to safety at the Horsetail Ranger Station. By 4 a.m. the next morning, the Huff house was standing in 18 inches of water. By June 29, after heavy rains caused the dam to fill and overflow, the Huff house was floating in the lake, to be joined by the ranger station on July 3. Ranger Dibble moved his family to Kelly, Wyoming, where he kept a wary eye on the slide dam. A man-made dam has a built-in spillway so that the waters cannot top the dam, erode, and breech it. The slide dam, made by nature, was not equipped with a spillway. Engineers, geologists, and scientists came to the area to study the slide; they determined that the dam formed as a result of the slide was permanent and safe. Most of the local people accepted that decision and ceased worrying about a possible disaster, especially when the spring runoff in 1926 passed with no major problems. The winter of 1927, however, was one of the most severe ever recorded in the state to that time. When spring arrived, the unusually deep snowpack melted quickly, aided by days of rain. On May 17, water began spilling over the low places of the dam. The Gros Ventre River was rising. Ranger Dibble and Jack Ellis, along with some other men, were poling driftwood and floating debris away from lodging against the Kelly bridge and endangering the structure. Suddenly Ranger Dibble saw a hayrack—one that had been in the lake above the dam since 1925—floating down the river. He and Ellis jumped into Dibble’s Model T and drove toward the dam to assess the situation. On the way, they were met by the main thrust of water and debris. The top 60 feet of the dam had given way under the pressure of the excess water. Dibble and Ellis turned around and headed for Kelly to warn the residents of the impending danger. By the time they arrived, the people had only 15 minutes in which to flee to safety. Despite the warning, Henry (“Milt”) Kneedy refused to believe the water was coming, and would not permit his wife and foster son, Joe, to leave. Ranger Dibble tried to rescue little Joe, but he got away and ran back to his mother. Later, Joe was reportedly seen clinging to the top of a barn floating down the river. The Kneedy family died in the flood. Through field glasses, a rancher watched May Lovejoy and her sister, Maude Smith, load their wagon with valuables and drive off, but the horse became frightened and raced out of control toward the oncoming water. A wall of water rolled the wagon over and over. May’s body was never found. Maude’s body was retrieved after the water subsided. Max Edick and Clint Stevens were trying to save their livestock when the water came. Quickly, they climbed to the top of a small chicken coop. Though Clint managed to jump onto a passing hayrack, he did not survive. Max was swept into the swift water. He somehow managed to catch hold of a tree branch, and was later found alive. By 4p.m. the water receded. Six lives had been lost in the tragedy. Along with the human lives lost, hundreds of domestic animals perished. Property damage was estimated at $500,000. The little town of Kelly was almost completely obliterated. As a result of the flood, Kelly was not awarded the special recognition of becoming the county seat. That distinction was given, instead, to Jackson. Credit ttp://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5340454.pdf

Past Lower Slide Lake the road turns to gravel, and we passed into the Red Hill area. Visually stunning, and worlds away from the jagged Teton range, the Red Hills are an exposed sandstone deposit that is a leftover from the time the region was submerged in a shallow sea 50 million years ago. The road was actually engineered in such a fashion that the vista just smacks you in the face as you come around a bend in the road.

A small waterfall flowing into the Gros Ventre River.

We made it pretty far up the road, going slow and stopping several times for the dogs to splash around in the river. 22 miles in, we reached Goosewing Ranch and decided it was a good turnaround spot. This area is called the Gray Hills of the Mount Leidy Highlands, and extends all the way east from the Red Hills to Upper Slide Lake. We had a great view of the Gros Ventre River, as it headed west west through the different geographical areas to the Tetons in the far distance.

It's wildflower season all over.

One last splash in the river.

I think these are wild lupines. There are huge meadows of them right now, just beautiful.

One thing we did as a group several days ago was attend the Bar J Chuckwagon Dinner and Show. It was an entertaining night, where we were served an "old west" chuckwagon dinner of meat (steak, ribs, chicken or BBQ beef) with potatoes, beans rolls and spice cake. After dinner the Bar J Wranglers entertained us with their singing and comedy sketches. You can watch their introductory video here. We had a great time, both at the show and sharing the time with our coworkers. 

I think that was about it. We had a nice Fourth of July, it was a little quiet time for us but we needed a break from our hectic work schedule. We are now at full occupancy again, pretty much until mid-August now, and even late August is starting to fill in. We did manage to spend a day with several friends and take a nice long hike into one of the canyons, but I will save that for the next installment of our great adventures in the Tetons!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Mountain Lions, Horses and Rapids...Oh My!

First: Happy Independence Day to all our friends and family!

This summer I was determined to find interesting and "off the beaten path" things to experience. We had an awesome time last summer hiking and kayaking with our friends John and Carol Herr ( who are having a grand time in northeastern Canada this summer, head over there and check it out!), but we didn't really delve into the area's more calm activities. There is so much here to see and do if you look for it.

One of the things we didn't do last year was attend the weekly lectures sponsored by the University of Wyoming and the National Park Services. Thursday nights, for 10 weeks, the AMK Ranch is host to a different guest lecturer on a topic related to our area. The first lecture was June 18, and the subject was "Altruism in Mountain Lions". For a donation of $5.00/person, you are able to have dinner (hamburger or hot dog cookout) and attend the lecture. Four of us, (me, Al, Steve and Teresa), decided to see what it was like, and headed off to the AMK Ranch after we were finished with work.

It was a beautiful afternoon, and the picnic area was right on the shores of Jackson Lake. The burgers were really good, supplied by a local meat company. It was very crowded, though, and we were glad we got there early, although we did end up sitting in the overflow room for the lecture. Luckily, they had anticipated a large crowd, and had set up a video feed to a TV so we could still see the speaker. The lecture itself was very interesting. Through the use of modern technology in the form of webcams and tracking devices, researchers have been able to do much more in-depth studies of mountain lions in the wild, and have pretty much dispelled the common theory that mountain lions are isolated, solitary animals. A description of the lecture can be found here. We had hoped to go to the lecture the following week, which was about the fish hatcheries management in the West, but that leads me into a side story about our refrigerator!

Some of you may remember last summer our Norcold 1210 stopped cooling. Nothing was ever found wrong with it. We had replaced the thermistor, but that didn't work. What did end up working was leaving it turned off for 48 hours and restarting it. This is known in the RV world as "burping" the fridge. It worked fine again until the end of December, a week before we finished up at Amazon. Once again, after being off for at least 48 hours, it started cooling again. Meanwhile, you're tripping over coolers on the floor holding all our food! Of course it was working fine when we took it in to Lazydays for other warranty work, so they weren't able to fix anything...it wasn't broken! I have noticed that it tends to frost up a lot faster than our Dometic fridge that we had in the Cougar. I thought maybe it was getting too much of a frost build-up, so I decided to do some preventive care and defrost the fridge before it stopped cooling. I imagine you can guess that after I had it defrosted, it refused to cool! So we turned it off and left it for two days, and this time, it still didn't work. We called the mobile tech and he had us turn it off for the weekend. In the meantime, we called Norcold, and they won't even discuss the issue with you, they will only talk to a certified technician. Well, after the weekend, we turned it on, and it did get cold.....for less than 24 hours, when it stopped cooling again. So the tech stopped on Wednesday night, got some numbers he needed and called Norcold in the morning. Of course, before Norcold would approve anything, there were several "tests" the tech needed to do, so he came back on Thursday night to do them. We missed the lecture, but it all turned out ok, because as he delved into the guts of the fridge, he figured out that it had been installed incorrectly. There's something called a baffle inside, and it was way too big, preventing good airflow from occurring. He also cleaned out the burner (which I'm pretty sure was supposed to have been done on that bogus service package we had Lazydays do, and apparently THAT wasn't done either!) and showed Al how to do that and a few other things himself for the future. So, knock on wood, we have a good running refrigerator once again!

Something new and different this year in the area is a "horse whispering" demonstration. It occurs weekly, on Tuesdays, at the ranch across the street from us, The Diamond Cross Ranch. As employees of Lutons we are able to watch, and we went over on their second session. It was extremely interesting.
This is Grant on his horse Freckles. The brown colt in the background is two years old, and had been in an abusive situation.

Grant would quietly explain to us his methods, and stressed how important it was to gain the colt's trust.

By the end of the session, the colt was following Grant around the corral.

Grant got further along than he thought he would, with the colt allowing Grant to rest his body weight on the colt's back.

Grant is hoping at the next session he will be able to get a saddle on the colt. That should be very interesting to watch! We've had several guests go over to watch the demonstrations, and they have all declared it to be a highlight of their trip. 

Another of the perks we enjoy as employees here is comp'ed float and rapid trips on the Snake River. Last year we never seemed to get out there and do it, so this year we picked a day where the weather looked good and booked a white water rafting trip with Dave Hanson in Jackson. The rapids are pretty good this year, with the water running high due to all the rain we had in May and early June. They had room for us on the 12:45 trip June 22, so off we went to town! We ended up on a pretty large raft, but there were only 8 of us on it, as a family of four never showed up. It was about a 45 minute drive south of Jackson to reach the put-in spot. There's only the one area of the Snake River here that gets the rapids enough to do the white water rafting, and it is an extremely popular activity in Jackson, with several different companies running boats. It wasn't too crowded, though, as it was still early in the season. (It is MUCH more crowded here now, with the holiday upon us and schools all out for the summer). We had a great time, mostly easy floating and some smaller rapids to get us primed for the big event called The Lunch Counter. I did spring and purchase pictures from the photography crew, so I would have something to show....after drowning my camera this winter I wasn't about to risk it again!
Here we are, about to enter the Class III rapids. Of course, Al is right up front as a lead paddler. I elected to stay in the back :-). If you can see the two little heads in the middle of the front, they were brothers who had been fairly apprehensive about the whole thing, and gradually got brave enough to get up front and they had a blast!

Yes, we had an absolutely awesome time. I think the pictures make it look worse than it was, but it was so fast that I really don't know! We did get very wet, it seemed as if waves were dumping in all around us. It really did get the old adrenaline going, and I'm very glad we did it.

We've been pretty busy working at the ranch, and everyone seems to be settling into the routine. I am really enjoying working in the office and meeting our guests that come in from all over the country, as well as some international visitors. Oddly enough, we have a bit of a slow break in the next couple of days, but it doesn't last long and then we are solidly booked for about 6-7 weeks. September is also shaping up as a pretty busy month, so we should be able to keep ourselves quite occupied for some time. It has also been unseasonable hot the past week, so we are looking forward to the heat breaking tomorrow and getting back into the low 70's. In the meantime, I will try to find more interesting adventures to write about. It shouldn't be too hard, this is such a great area! Have a wonderful holiday, wherever anyone is today :-).