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.