Motoring Across Wyoming

Day 39: Friday, June 7, 2013
Start: Jackson, WY
End: Fort Collins, CO
Miles Driven Today: 466
Total Miles: 6,229

We’re moving! We ‘turned the corner’ in Jackson and are finally heading back East. Towards home. Hm. Where’s that again?

We opted not to go to South Dakota (Rushmore, Badlands) and instead spend a day seeing the Rockies and then motoring towards Kentucky, Tennessee, the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway. That will put us on a path home before our hard deadline (Tom has a Woodturning conference in Tampa on the 27th).

Today’s drive was about making tracks and putting us in a position to see Colorado tomorrow. We said ‘goodbye’ to the Grand Tetons and headed through the Teton National Forest and the Shoshone National Forest on our way to Fort Collins. The forest drives were great, but we soon came to some less scenic landscape. Wyoming has a vast, dramatic landscape, but we have been a bit spoiled by the roads and views as of late.

Bye Bye Grand Tetons

Bye Bye Grand Tetons

Togwotee Pass - Continental Divide

Togwotee Pass – Continental Divide

Wyoming's varied landscape

Wyoming’s varied landscape

Today's open road

Today’s open road – LOVE the cloudscape!

However, we did have one great diversion–Medicine Bow National Forest. We decided to go through the woods and over the Snowy Range Pass (10,847 feet). While it sounds like quite a climb, the gradual ascent was great. The Pass was aptly named; there was plenty of snow remaining at the top (AND HOW!). Even the lakes near the summit were still skating ponds! It was a beautiful drive, and it only added 30 minutes or so to our route.

Medicine Bow National Forest

Hello Medicine Bow

Up to Snowy Ridge

Up to Snowy Ridge

Snowy Ridge - Medicine Bow National Forest

Snowy Ridge – Medicine Bow National Forest

Snow? In June? BRRR!

Snow? In June? BRRR!

We arrived at Fort Collins around 5pm, tired and hungry. So hungry in fact that the VERY closest restaurant was our favorite option; that turned out to be Denny’s. Yup. And I do have to say that we had really really fresh and tasty salads there and exceptional service.

Welcome (?) to Colorful Colorado

Welcome (?) to Colorful Colorado – But do not pass!

We’re hunkered down for the night. The girls are stretching out after a long day of…stretching out in the back seat. We’ll get an early start tomorrow so we can visit the Rocky Mountain National Park and drive the Top of the Rockies Scenic Byway, regale in the shadows of Pike’s Peak and finally reach tomorrow night’s lodging in Colorado Springs. After that, we’ll barrel through Kansas, Missouri and Indiana to stop once again in Kentucky. We’ll visit our friends Minda, Pete, Sam, Grace and Sparky, and then decide our next move. Will it be the Bourbon Trail? The Corvette Museum? Stay tuned!

Ahhh...a soft pillow that isn't moving!

Ahhh…a soft pillow that isn’t moving! Hotels are nice!

Travel is SO exhausting

Travel is SO exhausting

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Kickin’ Around in Jackson, Wyoming

Day 38: Thursday, June 6, 2013

Today, we took a ‘down’ day in Jackson. Yes, Jackson is a touristy town. And yes, we’re tourists. 🙂 Hanging around the Cowboy Village Resort has been a great, relaxing haven from long days of driving (and fun!).

Office at the Cowboy Village Resort

Office at the Cowboy Village Resort

Cowboy Village Office - Carved pillar

Cowboy Village Office – Carved pillar

Back side of the pillar

Back side of the pillar

Back side of the pillar

Back side of the pillar

We slept in and then went over to Bubba’s BBQ for breakfast. Now, you wouldn’t think that a BBQ joint would be your first choice for breakfast. However, the front desk clerk at our resort highly recommended Bubba’s. She was spot-on.

I had the Chicken Fried Steak breakfast. I had been mulling over biscuits and gravy or the chicken fried steak…the waitress said that I could have both if I had a biscuit with my steak. BINGO! Tom ordered the Mexican Breakfast Burrito, and we split some blueberry pancakes. Yes, it was a heavy meal. And yes, we just about finished it all. It was SO good!

Breakfast at Bubba's

Breakfast at Bubba’s – Chicken fried steak, gravy, two eggs, hash browns and a biscuit.

After rolling back to the resort, we decided to take a stroll downtown. We put the girls in the doggie stroller and did some sightseeing and shopping. The galleries here have some interesting stuff, from a $450,000 Triceratops head fossil to your normal t-shirts and souvenir shot glasses. I ended up with a Bison purse and Huckleberry taffy. 🙂

Elk Antler Arch - Jackson Town Square

Elk Antler Arch – Jackson Town Square

Bear? Where?

Bear? Where?

Tom REALLY likes Bison

Tom REALLY likes Bison

We also took the opportunity to get the oil changed on the car and to do laundry. Do we know how to party, or what? In fact, we had so much fun that the dogs were just…dog tired! They are definitely bonding more and more every day.

Tired puppies

Tired puppies

Tomorrow, we head to Fort Collins, CO in preparation to see the Rocky Mountain National Park. Then, we’re going to motor through the Midwest before exploring Kentucky, Tennessee, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachians until heading home.

Home. Yes, we’re moving in that direction. Part of me really misses home. The other part kind of wishes that the adventure could continue on indefinitely. But hey, we still have a few more weeks of rolling.

A Day in Yellowstone National Park

Day 37: Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Miles Driven Today: 259
Total Miles: 5,763

Today’s adventure was a visit to Yellowstone National Park. While it was a bit of a haul from Jackson, we’re glad that we decided not to stay in Montana. We’re really enjoying our cabin.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

I hadn’t realized that Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park were so close together. You’re out of Teton for just a few minutes before you hit the entry to Yellowstone. Once in the park, you pass over the Continental Divide for the first time in the park at an elevation of over 7900 feet.

Continental Divide

We encountered the Continental Divide throughout the park

Our ‘must see’ in the park was Old Faithful, so we took the Grand Loop to the West. The scenery (not surprisingly) was magnificent. Tall pines lined our road, sheer cliffs and canyons flanked us to the right. Old Faithful was around 40 miles INTO the park, so it took a bit of time to get there. As we turned the corner, we could see it spouting above the tree line. Uh oh. That meant a 60- to 90-minute wait until the next ‘show’.

We parked in the village and walked around the visitor’s center. There are a number of villages around the park that include a lodge, visitor’s center, groceries, restaurants and gasoline as well as campgrounds and cabins. Old Faithful Village was teeming with people; not surprising since this is the single most popular attraction in the park.

There were benches and a viewing area all around Old Faithful, so we took the pups out in the stroller and sat in the sun waiting for the next eruption. A little over an hour later, the geyser spouted, shooting water and steam over 100 feet into the air.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

We then went on to the Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin. The springs and pools around here are uniquely colorful, with brilliant cerulean, orange and ocher rings and boiling, steaming cauldrons of mineral-rich water. The colors are formed by micro-organisms that thrive on the hot water. I found the area to be particularly inspiring; the photos are going to serve my artwork well!

Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble

Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble – Excelsior Geyser Crater

At the Grand Prismatic Spring

At the Grand Prismatic Spring

Brilliant color at the Grand Prismatic Spring

Brilliant color at the Grand Prismatic Spring

We went on to see waterfalls, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Yellowstone Lake and so many other vistas. And we only saw one part of the Grand Loop; we would need several more days to see all that the park had to offer.

Base of the falls at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Base of the falls at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Beautiful Waterfall in Yellowstone

Beautiful Waterfall in Yellowstone

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

Tom was exceptionally happy that we were also able to see Bison in the wild. We stopped on Fountain Flat Drive and saw a herd of Bison (including young calves) across a river. We also spotted a bunch of Bison in Hayden Valley along with some antelope, mule deer and a number of Canadian geese. It was a good wildlife day. (We also saw some additional bison, antelope and deer near Teton on our way back!)

Field of wild Bison

Field of wild Bison (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Bison

Bison

Big Bison

Big Bison

I couldn’t imagine how congested this park gets in the heart of the summer season. Today’s visit was filled with tour buses and full parking lots, but the park wasn’t at capacity. Once again, we’re happy about our timing, good weather and good fortune.

Today's Open Road

Today’s Open Road

Tomorrow is a ‘down’ day in Jackson. We’ll hang out, do more sightseeing (and perhaps a couple of the local museums) and just relax before heading out on our next adventure. I did find this t-shirt at a gift shop in the Grand Teton National Park. It so fits the trip!

My Motto

My Motto

The Grandeur of the Tetons

Day 36: Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Visited: Grand Teton National Park
Miles Driven Today: 94
Total Miles: 5,504

Grand. That’s an appropriate, albeit modest, description of the Tetons. In reality, the Tetons blew us away.

We started the day making breakfast in the room and then heading out towards the Tetons. The resort we’re staying at provided us with a ‘guided’ scenic driving tour that gave us some really great spots to see and explore.

We started with the park entrance and sign. We got a great shot of the sign with the magnificent Tetons in the background. A German couple was kind enough to take our picture. The views from the highway were incredible. The day was partly cloudy, adding drama to the scenery. I was simply in awe of the beauty of this place.

Entrance to Grand Teton National Park

Entrance to Grand Teton National Park

Entrance to Grand Teton National Park

Entrance to Grand Teton National Park

Majestic Tetons

Majestic Tetons

We went on to the Mormon barn, one of ‘the most photographed’ buildings. I (of course) skirted the trend and took a picture of one of the homesteads. 🙂 Stunning.

Mormon Village w/Teton Backdrop

Mormon Village w/Teton Backdrop

Mormon Cabin in the Tetons

Mormon Homestead Cabin in the Tetons

We headed over to the park, where I got my National Park stamp. If you didn’t know, there are National Park passports and stamps. Each park has a stamp with their location and the date. You can keep track of the parks you visited. I’m getting quite a collection. However, I almost blew it by leaving my passport in the Visitor’s center. Luckily, I discovered that it was missing and was able to retrieve it!

National Park Passport

National Park Passport

We drove the park loop road and decide to stop for a picnic lunch at the very large Jackson Lake. But before we got there, we found a friend. This little guy wasn’t afraid of us at all. He kept munching away on the grass as I took pictures.

Hello little mule deer

Hello little mule deer

We bought some sandwiches and sat on the shores of Jackson Lake. The day was a bit cool, but we hardly noticed…we were enthralled at what we were seeing and experiencing at this magical place.

Jackson Lake reflecting the Tetons

Jackson Lake reflecting the Tetons

Picnic spot at Jackson Lake

Picnic spot at Jackson Lake

After lunch, we decided to go searching for some of the ‘residents’ of this area. We encountered a herd of bison, but they were so far off that they were hard to see (and photograph). We really wanted to see a moose, so I referred back to my ‘scenic drive guide’ and we headed on to Moose-Wilson road behind the Visitor’s Center. Within ten minutes, we spotted a collection of cars along the road…and YES…there he was! My first MOOSE!

Hello Mr. Moose!

Hello Mr. Moose!

Mr. Moose unconcerned by the paparazzi

Mr. Moose unconcerned by the paparazzi

We moseyed after waving ‘bye’ to the moose and stopped to view the lovely Snake River. It just so happens that one of the views was a favorite of Ansel Adams. Of course, I’m no Ansel Adams, but my iPhone very adequately captured the serene beauty of this valley.

Snake River and Tetons

Snake River and Tetons – An Ansel Adams View

It doesn't get any better than this

It doesn’t get any better than this

We headed back to the resort and then walked to downtown Jackson. Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, we’re tourists. So, we happily window shopped and looked at restaurants in search of a decent meal. One of the shop owners told us that at 6pm, there would be a shoot-out show at the town square. So we moseyed on over and watched the show. Cheesy, but still…fun!

Stagecoach in downtown Jackson

Stagecoach in downtown Jackson

Shootout show in downtown Jackson

Shootout show in downtown Jackson

We had a nice dinner and an ice cream at the local parlor and headed back to the resort. We actually have changed our plans a bit. We liked this place so much that we are staying two more nights and using Jackson for our ‘home’ base for our Yellowstone visit. It’s not much further of a drive than Bozeman to Yellowstone, and we really love our quiet and comfy log cabin. We’ll leave on Friday for parts unknown…we’re still discussing where to go next. But that’s the beauty of an unstructured vacation. We love it!

Today was a great day. But then again, we’ve had over a month of great days…and more to come.

Today's open road

Today’s open road

All this sightseeing and sniffing make the dogs sleepy

All this sightseeing and sniffing make the dogs sleepy

Up to the Tetons

Day 35: Monday, June 3, 2013
Start: Richfield, UT
End: Jackson, WY
Miles Driven Today: 418
Total Miles: 5,410

Today was a mega travel day. We decided to drive straight through to Jackson, Wyoming so we could spend a full day exploring the Tetons. We originally were going to stop at the Utah/Wyoming border, but I’m glad that we motored through and reached Jackson. The dogs were rarin’ to go!

Let's go!

Packing up the car. Juliet says, “Let’s GO!”

Once again, the scenery was incredible. We have found the Utah landscape absolutely breathtaking, ever-changing and a dream to drive.

Route 89 in Utah

Route 89 in Utah

Blue skies, open road, lovely drive

Blue skies, open road, lovely drive

Breathtaking Utah scenery

Breathtaking Utah scenery

Our journey to Jackson took about 10 hours total, including a few stops. We mainly took backroads, but there was a stretch of I-80 that couldn’t be avoided. Our route took us through Utah, into Wyoming, BACK into Utah, back to Wyoming, a quick flirt into Idaho and then solidly in Wyoming for the rest of the journey. Whew!

Wyoming! Yeeeehawwww!

Wyoming! Yeeeehawwww!

Winding road

Our route took us from Utah to Wyoming, back to Utah, back to Wyoming, Idaho then Wyoming

Wyoming was a mixture of large ranches and pastures surrounded by hills and mountains. The “Home on the Range” song kept playing in my head. And yes, we did see some antelope grazing amongst the cows!

Many ranches, cattle, sheep, goats and a couple of alpacas

Many ranches, cattle, sheep, goats and a couple of alpacas

Today’s travels skirted and went through a host of National Forests. In Utah, we started around the Manti-La Sal National Forest and then drove on the edge of the Uinta National Forest. In Wyoming, we went through the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests. As we approached Jackson, the road followed, crossed and played around the Snake River.

Bridger-Teton National Forest

We went through Bridger-Teton and Targhee National Forests today

Beautiful Bridger National Forest

Beautiful Bridger National Forest

We went through many small towns. Most had populations around 100. Afton, Wyoming was the largest town (aside from Jackson) that we saw along the way. It was a quaint little town with a really awesome sign!

Afton Wyoming

Afton, Wyoming

We really enjoyed the drive, but it was a long day. We were happy to reach our destination in Jackson–the Cowboy Village Resort. Cowboy Village is made up of individual cabins. Each cabin is complete with a kitchenette and sofa. We opted for a one-bedroom suite. The accommodations are really comfy but have the rustic feel of a cabin. But hey, if all cabins had Wifi, a kitchen, nice carpeting, granite countertops…I’d be going ‘rustic’ every day!

More of today's open road

More of today’s open road

Cowboy Village Resort

Cowboy Village Resort

Once again, the girls did great on the long ride. We did stop for dinner in Alpine, Wyoming and fed the girls before we fed ourselves! They are definitely getting more chummy. It’s great to see.

Closer every day

Closer every day

Tomorrow, we explore Grand Teton National Park. I can’t wait!