Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Grand Tetons

Thursday morning, August 23rd we left Jordanelle State Park and drove to Grand Teton National Park. We're camping in the Gros Ventre (pronounced grow vaunt, not gross venture - although that’s mostly what we called it) campground. No hook-ups so we’re dry camping. Generators are permitted from 8am to 8pm but that’s primarily when we’re gone so the end result is that the place is really quiet. After we got settled Thursday afternoon we drove into Jackson, WY to get our mail (General Delivery) and stopped at Dairy Queen where we enjoyed our first wildlife in the area, some ducks playing in a pond directly in front of our truck in Dairy Queen parking lot..

Then we noticed some red-winged blackbirds. Haven't seen any of those since we left Florida.

After enjoying our ice cream, we traveled to the Moose Visitor Center in the Park. We hadn't been there a minute when it became apparent that everyone was scurrying around to see momma bear and her two cubs. They were just wandering around the grounds of the Visitor Center. It was crowded and we never were in a position for a good picture.  But here's the best of our proof we saw a bear.

Very cool! We cruised a small portion of the park some to get our bearings. It was only mildly disappointing that the park was somewhat smothered in a smokey haze.  The initial pictures of the mountains were compromised with the haze but the conditions improved as the days passed.

Friday morning I began, as I always do, with walking the dogs. I was out about a minute when a fellow camper motioned for me to join him. No bear, just two gigantic Moose! We, and many others, just stood there a while watching Bullwinkle and his side kick amble through the campground. Eventually I took the dogs home, grabbed the camera and moseyed through the campground until I found the two visitors (or maybe we're the visitors) and snapped their picture.

Too cool! After some world famous eggs cooked by yours truly we returned to the park. First stop was the Laurence  S. Rockefeller Preserve.

I let Debbie out of the truck so she could go to the bathroom while I parked.  Debbie reported that as soon as she got out of the truck she noticed a small crowd forming and once again there was a bear!  I totally missed that bear experience, but again, Debbie did get her "bear proof".

The preserve Visitor Center is a very serene place.  They have a room where you sit and watch, via beautiful rotating pictures, the sites of the woods and mountains as the seasons pass. This is accompanied with recordings of the sounds you'd here in these locations.  A very pleasant experience. The preserve includes numerous hiking trails and we did a 3 mile round trip  hike to Phelps Lake. Alpine pretty!

The only wildlife we actually saw along the trail are what we think are ruffed grouse,

although we did see "evidence" of what else might be around. 

We did lots of singing and hand clapping to warn of our presence to anything that might be watching us!

We spent the rest of the day touring the park, gawking at scenery,

enjoying the BEAUTIFUL weather and looking for wildlife.  We saw some dear along the road.

Then we stopped at the Jenny Lake Lodge and enjoyed the beautiful views of Jenny Lake.  It’s my impression this is one of the premier locations in the park.

On the way home we drove down Antelope Flats Road.  Sure enough we saw some Antelope (Pronghorns, from afar). 

But the highlight of the drive home was a heard of buffalo who had taken possession of the road. They roamed back and forth at will while the humanoids sat in their cars taking pictures and waiting for the road to clear.
A nice end to a great day.

Saturday we drove to Coulter Bay at the northern end of the Park. We checked out the Visitor Center, watched a 30 minute movie about the enormous wildfire of 1988 in Yellowstone and did another 3 mile hike to Swan Lake and Heron pond.  No swans or herons appeared, but still a nice hike.

Later we stopped at Jackson Lake Lodge, where we did see some white pelicans cruising Jackson Lake.

That evening we headed out at dusk to a location we had scoped out earlier in the day in the hopes of seeing moose. We scored! Right on schedule 3 moose appeared in a marshy area maybe 50 yards below our overlook site.

Two adult females and a fresh young moose standing about 6 feet tall. The “baby” was cool because his coat was rich and blemish free. No scares or mares resulting from life in the wild.

Sunday we left early to again look for wildlife but this time at a different site. It was a pretty morning but the only wildlife we saw were a few ducks and birds.  Haven't taken the time to figure out what these are yet.

After that we returned  to Jenny Lake to hike. Our plan was to do a 6-7 mile RT hike around the south side of the lake to Hidden Falls,

and Inspiration Point. Although the final push to inspiration point was somewhat difficult for Debbie (very steep and rocky) with those drop-offs she loves,

we were able to make our destination.

At Inspiration Point
But instead of hiking back we decided to return  on a boat shuttle. Debbie had to potty like real real bad! She was afraid to go off trail any distance for privacy due to her fear of Yogi and there were too many people on the trail. Too much information? The boat ride was short but scenic.

On our way back to the camper we stopped at another overlook adjacent to the Gros Ventre River.

More moose, 3 is our lucky number. We spent the rest of the evening at the home front.

Monday morning we headed to Yellowstone.  It was the clearest of our days so we pulled over for a few more pictures. 

Debbie did take a few pictures of the mountains but the real stars were Bo and Laska.  They had apparently taken an overdose of cute pills so we responded accordingly snapping multiple pictures of their cute faces. 

Boys at the Grand Tetons

Those who know Bo, understand he probably is sticking his tongue out at us!!

The reward for posing so nicely

I'm SURE that you MUST agree that they are just too precious.  OK, you can go puke now!  But we do love our dogs!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

More from Park City (Park City, Utah)

I’m guessing that on Wednesday, Aug 22nd, we did the two most traditional activities in the Salt Lake City area. We began our day visiting Temple Square. I think it’s accurate to say that Temple Square is the showcase, the heart and the headquarters of the Mormon Church.

It encompasses 35 acres and includes endless gardens with truly spectacular flowers,


THE Temple of the church,

historical buildings, the genuine headquarters building and a conference center that seats 21,000 people and has 9 acres of gardens on the roof.

Those trees are on the roof of the convention center
According to one website Debbie checked, Temple Square receives five million visitors annually, more than the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone National Park!

We started with the Visitor Center. It was interesting, with lots of spiritual stuff and an impressive model of the Temple showing the many rooms inside the temple, which non-Mormons are not permitted to enter.

From there we roamed the grounds on our own.  Lastly, we got a brief (at our request) tour of the conference center and rooftop gardens. Since 9/11 all guests are escorted through the building.
While researching this portion of our day (we all know that means Debbie) we read on line numerous comments from folks who said they received a lot of pressure from Mormon missionaries. We didn’t find that to be true at all. The few people we did speak with were simply pleasant.

From there we headed to the Great Salt Lake, specifically Antelope Island State Park. The island comprises 28,022 acres and is 15 x 4.5 miles. According to the Utah State Parks website, in 1969 Antelope Island State Park was created with the purchase of 2,000 acres on the northern tip of Antelope Island. In 1981, the rest of the island was purchased for recreational purposes. Prior to becoming a state park the island was dominated by varied agricultural activities. The ride there is across a narrow two lane causeway with magnificent views and lots of shorebirds.

The Fielding Garr Ranch is a great intact ranch that is free to tour.  Again, according to the website,  this ranch is distinctive for two reasons: first, it is the oldest continually inhabited Anglo home in the state of Utah (from 1848 to 1981 when the island became a state park), and second, it is the oldest Anglo built house in Utah still on its original foundation.

Check out the curtain rod brackets

How clever!

Quite interesting.  There’s also a Visitor Center where a variety of birds appear to love to hang out,

What a cutie!

a beach, the salty lake, some buffalo (I know, they’re really Bison), some hiking trails (we did a short but steep hike that took us to a panoramic overlook), two campgrounds and unique views.

Like the Mormon stuff (I say respectfully) people on line said they were bothered by biting flies and gnats. We didn’t have flies but OMG the gnats. As we walked toward the lake it looked like the dirt on the beach was moving. But no, this was like 100 trillion gnats per square inch getting into position for the kill. In reality, they didn’t bite but I guess if you’re a gnat your job is to hover at the ankles and work their way up on any available human.

Yes, those are gnats!

We stayed on the beach about a nano second and departed. The gnats win! The island is one of those sites with unique scenery coupled with an interesting history.   From there we headed home, stopped at Walmart then back to the camper at Jordanelle State Park.