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, June 25, 2016

Life on the Ranch

We have been here on the ranch for almost six weeks now, and have settled into a regular routine. We are having a very strong season already, probably due to the 100th birthday of the National Park system and of Yellowstone itself. The increase in visitors has also led to many publicized stories of visitor misbehavior, many of them sadly ending in fatalities, both for wildlife and humans. There have been two human fatalities in Yellowstone, both due to carelessness. One woman was struck and killed by a car as she walked into the road, trying to get a picture of an eagle. In the other fatality, a young man in his twenties wandered far off the boardwalks in an active hot spring area, and fell into one of the thermal features; needless to say, there were no remains to recover.  But the one tragedy that really breaks my heart is the death of our resident celebrity grizzly bear 399's cub of the year, nicknamed Snowy because of his unique white face. Snowy was struck and killed by a vehicle late Sunday evening, along with another sow black bear about an hour earlier. I so wish people would heed the speed limits and slow down to enjoy our parks. How can you see anything when you're speeding through the park??

We've been very busy here at work, and enjoying our down time on our days off. It's been a while since I've talked about the work we do here, so I thought I'd show a little slice of daily life for any new readers I may have.

We are now in our third summer working here, and it still holds its magic for us, believe it or not. When we first set out on the road six years ago (six!!), we firmly believed we would land in a different spot every summer, as there are so many interesting and beautiful areas of the country that we still have to discover. We held to that formula right up to our fourth year, and when we were invited back for a second season, we promptly said, "Yes, thank you!"  It's hard work, but so satisfying to be a part of something so well-run, so clean, and so proud of what it is. The owners, Brad and Joanne Luton, are such nice, genuine people, and treat all of us so well, that it makes one want to work hard for them. Our coworkers this year are all really nice, and we enjoy getting together with them after hours; it's always a nice perk to make new friends. As far as the location, well, I can't say anything more about it than what my pictures show; fantastic scenery, lots of outdoor activities, and supremely quiet, at least here on the ranch. The park is quite busy, but we have a little haven of peace here.

This is the view from our front door this year. We are surrounded by willows on both sides, and a short path leads down to...

our screen room at the creek. I call this my "study hall," as this is where I've been retreating to do the studying for my class that I'm working on. 

It's really not too hard to get used to!

We are trying our hands at a little gardening this year. We have a container tomato plant, some pepper plants, and two trays of herbs. They've been doing pretty good so far, although tonight I will have to put them in our little portable greenhouse as it's suppose to go down to freezing!

Now that everyone is trained in their housekeeping responsibilities, we've settled into our regularly scheduled programming. Another person has been trained for office work, so now Jonell does three days in the office, and I do three days. The other two days of our work week we spend in housekeeping. Al is still doing laundry duty five days a week, as well as coordinating the housekeepers. A second person, Terry, has been trained for laundry on Al's two days off. So we are in a routine now, and we have Tuesday and Wednesday off this year. 

I really enjoy working in the office. I still have plenty of cleaning to do, as the office person is in charge of keeping the lodge clean and tidy, and I also assist the housekeepers on busy days by doing a couple of kitchens in the mornings. Office days, I work a split shift; usually from 8AM to about 12ish, then back in from 3PM to 7PM for check-ins. My mornings consist of paperwork, reports, returning calls and emails, taking reservations, cleaning grills (there are a dozen grills throughout the property for guests to use, and they get cleaned every day), inspecting cabins for check-ins, as well as the vacuuming, dusting, and bathroom cleaning in the lodge. The afternoons are mostly working with guests who are checking in, answering questions, and generally acting as a "concierge service." This year, so far, has been very busy with helping guests plan their itineraries, and suggesting activities for them to do. It is something I really enjoy doing, and I really feel that I am starting to know the area well enough that I sound like I know what I'm talking about :-)! 

We go to town, Jackson, once every other week for groceries and shopping. It takes about 45 minutes each way from the ranch, and it just seems like it's a least a half-day ordeal, if not longer. We decided early on during our first year that we didn't want to do it each week, so we plan and arrange meals for at least two weeks, leaving us one full "weekend" every other week for playing in the parks :-). It is really helpful that we are allowed to use a big refrigerator and an upright freezer in the maintenance garage to stock up on items, especially sale items :-). We do have a small general store about 20 minutes away for any perishables that we may need to restock during the second week. The system has been working pretty well for us.

It goes without saying that Honey and Casey love their walks here on the ranch as well! We've all been going out every single morning since we got here, before work starts, and I'm happy to report that we've both lost some much-needed weight :-). There are dogs here for them to run around with, so it's been a fun time for all.

Last week we had the pleasure of hosting Rick and Gail Houle, who used to write the blog "Gypsy Turtles," for the day. They are on a summer-long tour of the west, and we had met them back in 2011 at the RV-Dreams rally in Sevierville. We took them on a day-long tour of our favorite spots here in Grand Teton National Park. 

The historic Mormon barn, the Moulton Barn, is always a worthy Kodak picture spot. It's said to be the most photographed barn in the United States.

Schwabacher's Landing is another personal favorite, and I'm sure many of you will recognize this spot from previous postings.

We took a short hike along the river, hoping for some wildlife.

It was a little sparse, though, but we did see this flock of common goldeneye ducklings; they didn't much care for arrival, and scooted off quite quickly.

We had a long lunch break at Leek's Marina, and we're happy to report the pizza is once again very good. They were having issues last summer, but I noticed the manager from our first year here is back, so maybe he has things on an even keel again.

It's not remotely a good picture, but we were lucky enough to spot a mamma and baby moose as we headed over to Jackson Lake Lodge for the exquisite view.

We parted ways with Rick and Gail at this point, as we had to return to the ranch to feed and walk the dogs before heading out again, this time joining our coworkers for a fun evening at the Bar J Chuckwagon Show. We had gone to this show last year and enjoyed it very much, so we didn't mind going back again. 

So that's about it. We've been working, playing, and having a pretty good time so far this year. Soon our dear friends Carol and John Herr will be arriving in the area, and perhaps then I will have more exciting adventures to talk about. But for now, we're enjoying our daily life here at the ranch :-).

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

June in the Tetons

We are halfway through June already! It doesn't seem possible :-). 

We have been busy beavers here at the ranch, and we have a great, hard-working crew this year. Spring cleaning was finished quite early, and everything was sparkling clean when the guests started arriving. And they have been arriving in droves! It's shaping up to be an incredibly busy season here in the Tetons and Yellowstone, what with it being the 100th anniversary of the National Park system. 

It hasn't been all work, though. We've finally gotten on our regular schedule of working five days with two days off, now that the crew is trained and we have help both in the office and the laundry. The weather has been beautiful the past two weeks, which is a little bit odd for spring here in the Jackson Hole area. Usually it's very wet and chilly, but we've had beautiful sunny days and even warm weather, up near 80 degrees a few days! People vacationing these past couple of weeks have been treated not only to good wildlife viewing, but beautiful weather as well. 

We took a ride up a favorite road of ours one morning, Buffalo Valley Road. It's not in the park, but runs through the Bridger-Teton National Forest. We caught this osprey guarding its nest by the side of the road.

We also found a good herd of elk running up the hillside. 

We couldn't resist stopping to take pictures of the famous "Ansel Adams view" on our way to town one day.

This view of Jackson Lake on the way home from town was too nice to ignore as well!

On our next day off, we took a hike with our coworkers Dan and Jonell over at Colter Bay. The hike to Heron Pond and Swan Lake is a favorite of ours. We first hiked this trail with our good friends John and Carol Herr :-)

The view from the Jackson Lake overlook; since the trail to the overlook was first blazed, the trees have become so tall that the view of the lake is obstructed. It's still a pretty awesome view, though.

We saw our first bald eagle of the season across Heron Pond.

Heron Pond is a favorite haunt of the white pelicans as well.

Heron Pond makes a perfect picture spot, especially on a day as nice as this was. Dan and Jonell posed for this opportunity.

I never get tired of seeing these mountains. This year, I can even get a peek at them from my bedroom window!

There have been many sandhill cranes in the area this year. They are much browner here than in Florida due to the high iron content in the water, so I've been told.

Leaving the Swan Lake area, we hiked back towards the mountains and Colter Bay.

Later that night, we took a sunset drive to Schwabacher's Landing, to see what we might find. First up was this elk mamma with her baby.

We also saw several common goldeneye ducks on the river.

A few beavers were busy doing their beaver stuff :-).

We walked pretty far down the river trail, hoping to find a moose around each bend. We did find these mule deer crossing the stream in the fading sunlight.

There were plenty of photographers set up, hoping for a stunning sunset, but it wasn't to be that evening.

It was back to work the next day, and we had a busy week, not only in housekeeping, but I was also training Jonell to work in the office. It's been good to get back to work, the checking account sure does appreciate it, but we have been tired. We have found time, however, to get together with some of our coworkers, and have a couple of game nights. It's been fun, getting to know everyone and learning about their previous experiences and travels. Al and I are also concentrating on losing some weight this summer, and have been doing quite a bit of walking here on the ranch. The dogs sure do love this activity! So between work, card games, walking, and studying for the class I am taking, we've been quite busy so far this summer!

The following week, on our day off together with Dan and Jonell, we went for a drive through the park. I know, why not a hike?? Well, Jonell is going to be out of hiking commission for several weeks, as she had an accident coming out of her trailer one afternoon and ended up breaking the fifth metatarsal bone in her foot. Sp she's stumping around here in a walking boot, but being ever the trooper, hasn't let it stop her from keeping up with her work duties. So we went for a drive to see if we could find a moose.

And we did!! We were so excited.

It was a little boy moose, happily chowing down in the brush alongside Moose-Wilson Road.

Surprisingly, there were very few people stopped to see him, so we were quite lucky to be able to park and find a clearing to get a pretty good picture of him.

It's early in the season, so while they do have their anters coming in, they are still covered with the soft velvety covering. He was quite accommodating, showing his best side in clear view. 

We didn't have any more wildlife sightings, but did take a drive down to Lupine Meadows to check out the long waterfalls coming off of the Grand Teton mountain. Even from a distance, you could hear the roar of the falls.

Here's a close-up of a section of the falls.

So we are having a very pleasant summer here so far in our little slice of paradise. It is so wonderful being away from the mainstream hustle and bustle, but sometimes life does intrude upon us, as it did two days ago. Reading the current news, we learned of the tragic mass shooting in a nightclub in Orlando. The horror of what happened is beyond belief, but sadly is becoming all too common. I don't know what the answers are, but something really has to be done. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. But for the grace of God, it could have been any of us, in any public place. Wouldn't it be lovely if someday we could all live in peace with each other?