Monday: Jackalopes, Jackson and Just plain stuck in the mud...
Sinclair, WY- Lander, WY - Jackson, WY
Sinclair to Lander was absolutely beautiful, even if it was only green sagebrush and blue sky, it's so refreshing not to see even one single solitary building or structure. Out here, it is truly still the Wild West. We pass many historical markers along the way including the grave site of Sacajawea. Unfortunately we did not have time to show Sinks Canyon State Park. It is spectacular but we are short on time and focused on getting into Jackson for the night and hopefully having a beer with some friends.
To save time, we pulled to the side of the road and had a quick sandwich lunch in Lander and eventually got into Jackson around 4pm. Driving through Teton National Park we saw quite a bit of bison and elk. We really didn't know where we were going to stay and sometimes that's a hard thought for me but I have to keep telling myself that its all part of the adventure. Take this evening for example, we grabbed some more groceries then headed into Teton Mountaineering to ask about free campsites. One of the guys directed us to an area east of town and a little bit outside of the National Elk Refuge boundaries. Which, just so happened to be the same spot my husband and I had camped 8 years ago on our honeymoon! We tried to get to the same spot, but in 8 years, a lot had changed and the road to our amazing viewpoint was closed. So, we looked around and found a location down a hill that was secluded from other campers. We parked on the most level ground we could find then we cooked dinner and started a campfire. It was shaping up to be an amazing evening! That was until we decided to get our van more leveled. My hubby got in the van and I directed him to a location I thought would be a good place. As soon as he turned the corner, one wheel started sliding in some mud...something we overlooked when we pulled into the spot. He backed up and tried it again, this time at ramming speed. Luckily he made it to the second level of this hill, but we still had about two smaller hills to go. I felt helpless standing off to the side watching our new soon-to-be sports mobile just slide down the hill. Finally, success! He got it up to the third level of the hill...but without our trailer. Hmm. Ok, reverse, go back down, hook up the trailer, RAMMING speed and...bad idea. The 500lbs trailer made it heavy enough to get stuck every which way we went. Last option: get the van up to the top of the hill then push and pull the trailer up. WHAT!? Yep, we did it. We pushed a 500lbs trailer up a hill and got the heck out of there. We went back to the first place we saw and camped in the van there. This would be the first night sleeping in the van. We have a homemade sleeping platform, storage and cabinets so it is a great place to crash if we do not use the camper. The location was not an ideal spot but just what we needed to rest our heads. I sure am glad we cursed and pushed our way out of the mud hole because as I'm writing this...it's raining. Tomorrows destination: Yellowstone and on to Bozeman, MT!
Our dog enjoys the sleeping arrangement as well!
Tuesday: Tetons, Thermals and Topos.
Jackson, WY- Yellowstone, WY- Butte, MT
Woke up to this:
...an amazing view of the Tetons! Luckily the boy had pee at 5 in the morning which motivated me to get up and grab some beautiful sunrise photos of the Teton Range. I spent about an hour (and a cup of coffee's worth) patiently waiting for the sun to paint the mountains. Meanwhile, I photographed other things like wildflowers.
Since we worked so hard last night to get our vehicle and trailer unstuck from mud, we decided that we deserved a special treat this morning. We went to a downtown Jackson cafe called Dolce. We had some of their delicious homemade donuts and huevos rancheros plus a nice mocha. It was a nice treat while I posted my first post to our website. Although that special treat made our overall budget a little smaller, it's important to celebrate successes and still enjoy yourself as a family. Leave some room in your travel budget for special treats. After that, we hauled butt up north to Yellowstone. During these long 2-6 hour trips, lots of activities for my soon-to-be 6 year old really help! Comic books, activity books, legos, transformers all help! We pulled up to the gates and because my husband was active duty in the Army for awhile, he was able to get a Golden Access Passport which allows us to go into the National Parks for free. Bonus! Saving money everywhere we can! We chose to stick to the western most part of the park which is Old Faithful to West Yellowstone. We arrived into the southernmost part of the park around 10:30am and pulled into the Old Faithful parking lot just in time to catch the show. The geyser show that is! Old Faithful was estimated to spout off right at noon! My son and I ran up there to get a good spot among the couple of hundred other geyser-gawkers. Around 12:06, a women passing me says to her family, "It's 6 minutes late, where IS IT!?!?" Well lady, I don't know what to tell you, it's nature not a faucet that you turn on and secondly, it's an "approximate" eruption time, so back up off it. Two minutes later, one of the most spectacular natural occurrences happened in front of our very own eyes and I was so happy to share it with my family. Oohs and ahhs could be heard through the entire crowd. (I'll post video later, right now the photo will have to do!)
I enjoyed watching Old Faithful so much that I felt compelled to clap at the end. I started a small clap and wanted to throw a "woohoo" in there, but once I saw everyone just get up and leave, I decided that maybe it wasn't appropriate. After that adventure we grabbed a Jr. Ranger packet and headed back to our base camp to make lunch. The Old Faithful Visitor's Center has some great picnic tables and the far end of the parking lot. Hidden in the trees and easily accessible to a bathroom and trash, this was a great place to refuel before going to see the Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin.
A walk around the bubbly hot springs and we were on our way to West Yellowstone! Here we saw tons of bison and even got within 5 feet one on as it crossed in front of our van. (Never approach a wild animal, they can charge you and it could hurt...a lot.)
Sightseeing now over, we headed north on 191 into Montana (yay!) and continued to seek out our next campsite for the night near Butte.Big Sky to Belgrade has TONS of hiking and camping opportunities in the Gallitan Natl. Forest! Next time we'll make it a priority to spend the night here! A 15 minute construction wait time had us exploring a nearby creek and wildflowers. It's good to make the best of any situation. Sometimes, long road trips in a close enviornment with our family can drive us bonkers. When you have time, randomly pull over in a safe location and GET OUT! Run, jump, skip, play, chase the dog. BREATHE!! Take a break!
Dinner was a delicious $8.99 fried chicken special from Albertson's in Belgrade, MT. We have leftovers for lunch tomorrow which is great! It's only a short trip (or what now feels like a short trip) from Belgrade to Butte and tonight we're hoping to push on to our final stop in Missoula. Couldn't be happier with this Montana radio station 91.9, it's a Grateful Dead marathon. Just the tunes we need to take us home for the night! Now, I know Colorado drivers are crazy (the secret is they are actually NOT from CO, that's why they can't drive), but one Montana driver in an old blue ford had us a little worried. Swerving into the other lane and almost crashing head on into guardrails. Come to find out he was texting (go figure), drinking (hopefully a soda) and dumping chips into his mouth with eyes off the road. It was almost as if he could hear us talk about his shenanigans because he gave us a Montana Hello when we passed. (In other words, he flipped us off...)
We are hitting rain now near Butte, MT. We were lazy and put everything in the trailer, so lets hope it's not raining when we set up camp! Missoula will not be on our radar tonight, we are a little too tired. Took exit 197 off of I-90 near Deer Lodge, followed a dirt road east past some farm land then north for a short distance until a USFS sign (Smokey the bear) led us to what on the generic map looked like camping but turned out to be just a lot of dirt roads through farmland. I need a topo map!! We hopped back on the highway and took another exit to a rest area but decided to try a third location. This one was just across the highway and was a small pull-off on the side of the road. Pretty location but tons of mosquitoes! Good thing we pulled into a campsite just in time to sleep, there would be no outdoor activities with these things flying around! This will be a van camp night as well. Note to self: make sure to have a better topo map of the area we are visiting!! I know it will make me feel much better when searching for a spot. Did you know that UpaDowna has a small library of adventure where we have lots of great books and maps that soon, members will be able to check out? These items will help folks plan their next adventure so they are not guessing like us! Well, lesson learned, now, time for sleep!