Thursday, June 29, 2006

Where has the week gone!?

If we're in National parks we just don't get an internet connection - pah! We spent a few more days back in Grand Teton last week. Enough time to do a big 14 mile hike up into the mountains. The last 1500ft and 2 miles of it being in thick snow (we were still wearing shorts and vest t-shirts mind!) Saw some enormous bull moose on the way back.

Also hiked out into the backcountry and spent a night under the stars. Shared our campsite with a family of pesky marmots who keep trying to steal our peanuts from our Pad Thai meal. Things were going great till the hike back to the trailhead and the RV the next morning - turned a corner and there was a black bear on the trail in front of us - ahhhh! OK so it was pretty scary stuff but the fact is I'm writing this now and that's all that matters. We did all we were supposed to do - talk calmly and loudly, clap, sing and back away slowly. Bears aren't supposed to like noise - this one just kept walking toward us! He was pretty interested in the trees and roots by the trail and lost interest soon enough giving us the chance to beat a hasty retreat (although we still had to get past him to finish the hike!) Gave it time and it all worked out - did see him again as we passed him about 15 yards from the track but he wasnt bothered with us - phew!

Did another days' climbing in Jackson and then moved about 100 miles east to Lander - BIG rock climbing area and we stayed in the Sinks Canyon state park where there's some particularly good climbs - it's getting hot now though. Today we were climbing in 90 degrees + which saps the energy right out of you but great all the same. Sinks canyon is so named coz the river running through the canyon dissapears down a 'sink hole' then reappears 1/4 mile downstream. Mystery is that it takes over 2 hours to get the 1/4 mile, more water comes up the rise that goes down the sink and it comes out several degrees warmer - weird! With all todays technology you'd have thought they could work this out but it's only recently they could confirm it was even the same water (using dyes) They think there's lots of subterraean passages but they really don't know!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Jackson, WY

Have spent the last 3 nights in Jackson - just on the south end of the Teton Nat Park. Wyoming is Cowboy country and there's plenty of evidence of that here in Jackson. Each night in the town sqaure there's a 'shoot-out' reenactment which is fun and there's lots of cowboy bars. Visited the Million Dollar Cowboy bar a couple nights ago with some great country music and lots of really serious couples dancing away. Just before we left we finally had enough drinks in us to get on the dancefloor ourselves - we were obviously really good and everyone else was rubbish coz everyone kept apologising for banging into us!!! Last night we went to a Comedy Improv show which was also great fun and fairly mild entertainment after the heavy night the day before! Today we've just spent the day rock climbing and are on our way back into the park for a few more nights.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Grand Teton Nat Park

We are now in Grand Teton National Park - it's just 8 miles south of Yellowstone but it is a separate park. There are 14 peaks above 10,000 feet in the range and they are all still snow covered at the moment making for very pretty views. The campsite we're staying at is lovely with the peaks just visible through the trees and jackson lake in the foreground. We've riden round the 40 mile loop here and enjoyed the views - we had a lovely lunch today sat in the sun out on a restaurant terrace with Grant Teton in the background - just great.

Have seen lots of Moose since we got to Teton - highlight today was a mummy moose with 2 babies - ahhhhh!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Lone Star Geyser

I'd actually heard about this particular geyser in a scrapbook mag! It wasn't that publicised in the park - probably because it was in the 'backcountry' - ie there was no road and they didn't predict its activity. It goes off every 3 hours or so and it's actually only 2.5 miles down an old service road so it's a pretty decent trail and one of the few that we could mountain bike on. We'd heard through the grapevine that it had erupted at 4pm so we took a picnic and our books and settled in expecting it to blow about 7 - bang on!! (well it was a minute late!) It lasted a good 10-15 minutes and then settled into it's steam phase for another 10 minutes and was gorgeous - the evening light caught it just right from where we were sat and we saw a rainbow in the water spout. And like I said about a lack of people away from the roads - there was just 2 other people there for the show! It might not spout as high but this was way more spectacular than Old Faithful - more so because of the lack of crowds, boardwalks and over-commercialisation we just loved it!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mammoth Hot Springs

In yet another area of the park now. The Mammoth hot springs are really cool and like no other area of the park. Great travertine terraces of whites, oranges & browns - the colours depend on the temperatures of the water. When the springs dry up in an area they turn white and eventually grey - if there's water flowing then you'll get the pretty colours - caused by bateria that thrives in hot water.

Have based ourselves here for the last 3 days. Yesterday I got up at the crack of sparrows for a 'photo safari' basically a 5 hour guided tour of this part of the park by a photographer guide - pointing out good photo opps and tips and tricks on composition and lighting etc - good stuff but sadly she had her work cut out as the weather turned horrible after the first half hour or so. Still it was nice to be driven to enjoy the views and lots of interesting info about the park and it's history. We've also been to the evening 'campfire' programmes' - hour long talks given by the rangers - again SO interesting - so we are just full to bursting point with stuff we've learnt about the park!

Did another hike out today - a distinct lack of wildlife sightings on our hikes so far (but maybe we're being too effective with the noise levels!). We did drive out this afternoon and saw our first Pronghorn Antelope then went looking for wolves. Didn't see any BUT we did see 2 black bears close to the road - initially just feeding together but after a while they started play-fighting with each other. We watched for about 1/2 hour - they never really wandered out of sight it was amazing.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Well I hadn't realised that Yellowstone had it's very own grand canyon although the image of the Lower Falls is pretty darn 'famous'. We carried on driving round the loop road yesterday and now are staying in the canyon area of the park - it's a much nicer campsite and village.

Did our first hike out yesterday morning before we left the last campsite - that area is 'the' area for grizzlies so we were shouting, singing and clapping our way along the river like lunatics for 7 miles (thankfully we didn't meet anyone on the trail to witness our behaviour!, nor did we meet any bears) The trails are shockingly empty as soon as you get more than a mile from a road - great for us but sad when Yellowstone is 2.2 million acres big - too many people are missing out on so much. (and really we didn't scratch the surface with our hikes out). As soon as we were back and the RV and driving off we got stuck in traffic - absolute carnage - more than the bison jam so we figured more than bison must be the cause and lo and behold - a grizzly bear foraging in the field no more than 50 yards from the road - so cool!

In the canyon area we've been on another hike today and cruising around on the bike visiting the view points for the canyon and the falls (300-odd foot tall and pretty wow) The view is spectacular and I just can't get enough of it - already been back to the viewpoint twice in varying light. Spent the evening in the lounge bar of the lodge - need I say more.....

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Yellowstone at last!

At last - we're in Yellowstone. Somewhere that has always been on our intinery but so long in finally getting here! Arrived in the park yesterday morning and within minutes were stuck in a bison-jam! So cool these huge lumbering creatures just wandering down the road (with babies!) seemingly oblivious they were causing so much excitement from the passers-by.

The whole park basically has a big 140 mile loop road which takes in pretty much all the 'sights'. We started driving round this - seeing more Bison, lots of thermal features, waterfalls, deer, elk, bald eagle (usual stuff then!!!!) Got to Old Faithful and watched a quick 'performance' just as it started pouring with rain - made a dash to our campsite for the night via one of the visitor centres which had displays and films about the great Yellowstone fires they had in 1988 (just over a third of the park burned and driving along there is still so much burn damage visible)

Today has been a pretty grim day in terms of weather so it's been difficult getting out doing the things we want to do. We walked into the 'village' by the campsite and this afternoon went out on the bike getting soaked through to do a ranger-led walk around a nearby thermal area - lots of mud pots, fumaroles (steam vents) and hot springs. So interesting - the rangers are just so enthusiastic and knowledgeable we've always enjoyed ranger activities at the National parks.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Busy, busy, busy

Yesterday we visited the Smokejumpers visitor centre and museum. Cool. Although these guys are brave nutters. When someone spots a bush fire they parachute in and dig trenches. Work is punishing - digging for 14 hours a day breathing smoke and all. And talk about DZ's - it's just wherever! Most commonly trees so they have standard equipment that let's them rappel down to the ground after each jump. Ouch! Next up we went did another museum - of mountain flying. Lots of local stuff, and more on the smokejumpers. All interesting stuff. We did a quick round of retail therapy at the local shopping mall and wound up in the cinema early evening. Watched Poseiden. Pretty good, the old one was such a classic and this was a respectable remake I guess - certianly an easy going way to spent 1 hr 45 mins!

Today we went out for breakfast in a groovy cafe downtown called 'The Raven'. Missoula is a University town and this cafe was obviously quite a popular student hangout - grungy but great food. We had planned to get out about but there was a stonking rainstorm so the shops called instead! We actually wound up back at the cinema again. We'd had to toss a coin over yesterday's choice of movie so this time it was an easy choice - watched The Da Vinci Code. This was great - we'd both really enjoyed the book and both reckoned it was an honorable screen version (so often the movie are rubbish compared to the books but definately not the case here). Parked up at the local Walmart. Signs quite clearly state (to us anyway?!) that a city ordinance prevents RV's from parking overnight for camping purposes. Mmm - OK. Right now there are about 20 RV's and campers parked up. Most with their levelling jacks down, slide is out, curtains are drawn!!! What is with this?! So we join them. We did earlier in the week too - didn't get bothered then so we settle down for what we know will be an uninterrupted night!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Ghost towns, beer and Hot Springs

Have had a great couple of days in sunny big skied Montana. Yesterday we rode out on the bike to Garnet Ghost town - it's supposed to be one of the best preserved ghost towns in Montana. It enjoyed it's heyday between 1895 and 1912 due to the nearby Gold mines. At its peak it had about 1000 residents. About 20 odd building remain today. The most interesting were the old businesses - the saloon, general store and hotel - the hotel in particular had been really 'posh' - wallpaper and everything and it's still there, be it in strips hanging off the wall. It was in a fabulous area too - we had to ride 12 miles into the forests along a gravel logging track to the middle of nowhere - all around were fresh smelling pines and clear air - the old town was at just over 6000 feet!

Today we did another ride out. This time day tripping across the border to Idaho and to a great undeveloped hot spring called Jerry Johnson. By the side of a creek it was about a mile through the forest to get there and then it was just a big open clearing with a few stone lined pools dotted around. Temps were about 100-102 degrees so quite pleasant to soak in (apart from the seemingly obligatory fat naked man you tend to get in these places!) We also saw a moose calf wandering around about 50 yards away from us! Bonus was the road to the hot springs was along an awesome biking road so Chris was very happy.

Have enjoyed the last few days - have spent some quality time just sitting out by the RV and sunbathing - something that we really don't tend to do - we're always on the go! Oh, yeah and we found the local brewery and it's tap room and free samples - Big Sky Brewing make Moose Drool Brown Ale, Scape Goat pale ale and Summer Honey brew amongst others - of course we had to sample all of them and Chris came home with a 'growler' - a 64 oz bottle filled with the pale ale to go with the BBS that evening!