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

Monday, August 17, 2015

Fun With Friends: Mystic Falls and Grand Teton N.P.

The week before our friends Jim and Judy were due to arrive on their summer road trip from North Carolina, we decided to meet Dan and Jonell up in Yellowstone National Park and do a hike we've been wanting to do to Mystic Falls. It's in my "Best Easy Day Hikes in Yellowstone" guide, and the falls sounded really nice. Remember the "easy" part in the title :-).

It turned out to be a gorgeous day, so we headed out from the ranch early in the morning. We wanted to be at the trail head by 9 AM as it is so busy in the park that if you arrive too late it can be difficult to get a parking space. We were pretty close, and pulled in at the exact same time as Dan and Jonell. Great timing!

The trail head is in an area called Biscuit Basin, another geyser and thermal feature area in the park. Biscuit Basin was named for a former feature found here, geyserite knobs that resembled biscuits that used to surround some of the features here, predominately Sapphire Pool.

Crystal clear Sapphire Pool used to have strings of bubbles coming to the surface, that would occasionally reach a rolling boil engulfing the entire spring. In 1959, the Lake Hebgen earthquake occurred to the northwest, and Sapphire Pool began erupting 125 feet in the air. These violent eruptions increased the size of Sapphire's crater, destroying the unique "biscuits" and changed its shape from circular to oval. After 1964 the eruptions dwindled, and ceased any significant activity.

Mustard Geyser is actually two small geysers connected underground that merge and spouts through one crater.

Avoca Spring is a grotto-like cone that was an active boiling spring until 1959 when it developed into an erratic geyser.

Silver Globe Geyser is next to Avoca and is actually connected to it.

 From here we veered off the boardwalk circling the basin and headed out on the trail to Mystic Falls.The trail is 3.5 miles round-trip from this point, and is quite steep in a few areas.

The trail started out innocently enough, following the Little Firehole River for awhile.

The forest area opened up as we got closer to the falls...

and we saw a lot of wildflowers, especially these sunny yellow ones.

A turn in the trail brought us to our first sight of these beautiful, 70 foot high falls.

We then started switch-backing up the mountain to higher vantage points.

Looking back as we climbed, we could see how high we were getting. The river we were walking alongside is in the lower right of the picture.

Now much higher than the brink of the falls, we could see the cascades leading to it. And we still had higher to climb before getting to the Biscuit Basin overlook!

Finally arriving at the overlook, we took in the view of where we had started out, far below!

After a brief rest, it was time to tackle to steep switchbacks heading back down. As much uphill as we had on the way up from the direction we came, I sure was glad we hadn't decided to take this route up to the overlook!

Back at Biscuit Basin, we checked out some cool, bright yellow thermal bacterial mats...

and some dead trees beside the blue pools, and then headed off to the Old Faithful Visitor Center for some lunch.

We decided to have a nice lunch in the restaurant of Old Faithful Inn rather than the cafeteria this time. 

After lunch we tagged along the free tour of this historic Inn.

The tour took us down and showed us one of the rooms available for guests.

Its pretty small, just a double bed with a dresser...

and a sink to wash up in. There is a shared bathroom for several rooms in the hallway...no private baths!

The staircase went up to an area called the Crow's Nest, but the same 1959 Lake Hebgen earthquake caused enough structural damage to render the staircase unusable.

I liked the "candles" used for lighting at the Inn; all electric, no open-flame candles allowed.

After a stop for some huckleberry ice cream, it was time to say farewell to Dan and Jonell and head back home to the Tetons. We do expect to visit with them one more time before we head off to Amazon for the fall, we would like to visit and see West Yellowstone.

This past week was very busy for us. We had visitors from back east, our good friends Jim Walker and Judy Edwards. We've known them for a long time, back in New York, and now get together when we are traveling in the same areas. They decided to take a road trip out west this summer, and we were quite pleased to be able to give them the whirlwind tour of our summer playground.

Judy and another friend from Bridgehampton, Clay Dilworth, posed for a picture at Oxbow Bend with Judy's cute little dog Shadow.

We also went for a drive to Two Ocean Lake.

A stop at Jackson Lake for a view of the Teton Range across the willow flats.

String Lake....

and Jenny Lake, with Cascade Canyon in the distance.

The best part of the drive occurred going up Signal Mountain, with a big black bear teasing us as he poked through the bushes alongside the road...

and finally came in sight for a great photo op!

We planned several activities together for the week, with a trip to Jackson for sightseeing and dinner one night, and Al took them all four-wheel driving on River Road one night while I was working. They took a great float trip on the Snake River one evening, seeing elk, moose, eagles, beavers and river otters. All too soon, the week was up and we bid them a fond farewell as they headed north to stay at West Yellowstone for another week. 

We also have family arriving for a visit starting tomorrow! Al's sisters Ginny and Susie and our best friend Patti arrive tomorrow night for a ten night stay here with us. So we will be reprising our roles as tour guides, with driving tours, a float trip, a rodeo, and a dinner cruise on Jackson Lake among the highlights for the next ten days. Pictures and news will arrive as I find time between guiding and working :-).

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

More Touring, Biking and Deer

Another work week passed, busy as usual. Overall, we have have really nice guests, but as anyone who has worked in the retail, service, or hospitality industries knows, there are always those few. I really try not to let the grumpy ones get to me, even though it is hard. One thing working in these positions has taught me, though, is to take all reviews I read with a healthy grain of salt. I rely heavily on two different forums for reviews while traveling, rvparkreviews.com and tripadvisor.com. I like to know what folks are saying about the areas I am traveling to, and the things to do as well as places to eat ;-). Here at Luton's we are very proud of our five star rating, and work very hard to maintain that rating. It can be very aggravating to receive a less than stellar review, especially when the complaints are either not valid or arise from someone who is disgruntled about one thing or another. A valid concern is always addressed immediately upon our being made aware of the problem. When we get complaints about things like how much road work is in the area, or that the wildlife is hard to find, I just shake my head...what can you say?? In the meantime, we are very proud to be working at such a wonderful establishment, and take comfort in the fact that we do our best every day to ensure a satisfactory guest experience for all of our guests. So when I read reviews of campgrounds, restaurants or activities in a spot we are traveling to, I really try to look at the overall feeling of the reviews, and if there's only a small percentage of not-so-good reviews amidst plenty of good ones, I have to figure that as an outlier! 

Enough about work! Dan and Jonell joined us again here in the Tetons for a day of exploring the park. Arriving early in the morning, we met them in the park and we proceeded to take a leisurely driving tour. Our first destination was Signal Mountain, a five mile drive to the top of, you guessed it, Signal Mountain.

Folks unable to do a strenuous hike up a mountain find beautiful views from atop the summit. The view to the west shows the Teton Range across Jackson Lake. The name is derived from the search from a missing business man in the area in 1890, Robert Ray Hamilton, who ran a lodge nearby with his business partner, John Dudley Sargent. Search parties were organized and instructions given to light a signal fire atop the mountain when he was found. he was found a week later, his body floating in the Snake River. Although never convicted, it was suspected that his partner had murdered him. So even though there is a cell tower located at the summit, that is not the reason for the name Signal Mountain!
We stopped at several overlooks on the scenic Teton Park Road, which follows the base of the Teton range from Jackson Junction all the way to Moose, 21 miles away. Just before the Moose Junction, we turned off onto a side road called the Moose-Wilson Road, heading for the LSR Preserve to do a short hike. Along the way, we spotted this female moose in one of the many ponds alongside the road. You can't see it in this picture, but she was protecting her baby in front of her. There wasn't any place to pull over to get a better picture, and there was a lot of cars, so we couldn't just stop in the road. 

Upon our arrival at the LSR Preserve, we found a line of cars waiting to get into the parking area. Not good! There was a ranger handing out information, and said there was a wait of 8 vehicles in front of us for a parking space, and it could be quite awhile. We decided not to wait, and headed back out, thinking we would try the trail head at Death Canyon....yes, I know, a horrible name but a beautiful trail :-). That parking area was also jam-packed with cars, so we did the next best thing to going for a hike; we went to lunch! Dan has been wanting to go to the Pizza and Pasta restaurant at Dornan's, a popular area in Moose. After ordering our lunch, we headed up to the outdoor patio on the upper level to wait for our food. I have to say, lunch was very good. Al and I split a baked brie with raspberry jalapeno compote, then I had an individual pizza while Al had a meatball sub. It was so good, I could eat that brie dish every day!! The view was quite nice as well, don't you think?

After dawdling over lunch and drinks for awhile, we drove to one more scenic spot before Dan and Jonell headed home; Schwabacher's Landing.

There's a short walk along the shore of the Snake River, with multiple spots for fantastic views of the Teton Range.

Its also a great spot for wildlife spotting, although the only thing we spotted that afternoon was a beaver!

Schwabacher's Landing is one of my favorite sights.No matter what season, it is beautiful.
That pretty much rounded out our day, and we said our fond farewells to Dan and Jonell. No worries, though, they will be making an appearance again in my next blog :-).

The next day was promising to be a rainy afternoon, so we loaded up our bicycles and headed out in the morning to the bicycle path that runs along a section of the Teton Park Road. Its the first time we've taken out the bicycles since we left Florida! We figured we really did need to do some riding, to justify bringing them along with us ;-). 

there is definitely some nice views to look at as we biked along.

The trail does run right alongside the road.

After about 2 1/2 miles of mostly uphill pedaling, against the rather strong wind that was blowing, I was ready to turn around....no sense overdoing it!

We crossed over Cottonwood Creek...

where I found a nice picture of some of the many wildflowers blooming alongside the trail. We rode a total of 5 miles, and we have vowed to ride more often and get the mileage up higher before we leave for the season.

One night we went out to eat for dinner with our friends Larry and Elaine. There's a small place close to the ranch called the Buffalo Valley Cafe at the Heart Six Ranch. The menu, and the restaurant, is small, but it's really good. After eating, we went for a wildlife spotting expedition, riding up Buffalo Valley Road into the Bridger-Teton National Forest. No bears, but we did spot this young mule deer sporting his new set of antlers. 

It was a great night for a drive.

That's about it for this entry. We are fully booked now here at the ranch, and I am fielding several calls a day looking for a place to stay. It is very busy in the Parks, and not really too advisable to come without a reservation to stay, but plenty of people are doing just that. It is really nice to see the interest in visiting these beautiful parks. Visitor count to Yellowstone National Park through June 1 was up 24% from last year.  It does make it harder to get around, but hopefully visitors realize what a treasure these parks are and more people will see the need for preserving our lands. 

Our next adventure will be a beautiful hike to waterfalls in Yellowstone National Park. We also have our friends Jim and Judy arriving next Sunday for a week, then some of our family is coming for a visit as well. We are surely in tour guide mode now!