Travel: WYOMING

Thermopolis, Wyoming to Salt Lake City, Utah

Finishing up our Wyoming trip odyssey, we left Cody, Wyoming and headed south, deciding to take the eastern route back to Salt Lake City instead of going back through Yellowstone. I had bookmarked Thermopolis and their famous hot springs as a place to check out and it wasn’t far from Cody. Their town name is written in stone across the hill next to the spring.

I loved capturing this touching moment…

A small stream comes from the spring and pools further down the hill. The minerals then creep over the bluff into the river. There’s a walking bridge to cross over the river and look towards town.

This Native American Indian family was taking in the view as well. I wonder if this was the land of their tribal ancestors – I wish I would have asked them, but didn’t want to intrude. Isn’t the daughter lovely? The hot springs were once used by the local Indians.

The actual beginning of the spring is at the foot of the hill and doesn’t look like much…

The little stream brings the hot water to a holding pool and just beyond is the State Bath House and pool area where the public can soak inside or out for free.

Thermopolis State Bath House entrance

We had packed our bathing suits and a towel and I had left them out so we could reach them easily. The Bath House offers free soaks but donations are welcomed. They do rent towels out for a $1 donation or bring your own. They have nice locker room to change and shower after your soak. The warm water felt good after our week of driving, hiking and riding.

A vent was placed further down the hill from the springs and over time the minerals created a dome.


It was back on the road and down through the amazing Wind River Canyon on the Scenic Byway. I didn’t snap any pictures of the canyon as we were whizzing down through the canyon so fast and I was just trying to take it in. After you leave the canyon, the Wind River Lake with the barren Wind River Range is an amazing view to drive past – so different from our green Tennessee and tree-lined lakes!

We drove through the Red Canyon and stopped at the top to take in the view. You can take the scenic windy red road you can see in the picture but we chose the fast route. Another AMAZING view!

We turned left at Riverton, but not before checking out their Main Street area that lured us in with their neat old buildings. Unfortunately it was Sunday and no one was open.

Some of the pretty Wyoming scenery…

We made it from Cody to Evanston, Wyoming and decided to stop for the night. That left us with a short drive on Monday to get to the airport at Salt Lake City.

Being Sunday night, our restaurant choices in their small town was limited, so we went with Don Pedro’s Mexican Restaurant. They’d been there forever, and it hit the spot. I loved their old partially-lit neon sign.

We had checked into the Hampton Inn right off the interstate, and I would recommend it for other travelers. It was fairly new, nicely appointed, super clean and featured quality bedding and a comfortable mattress for our weary bones. It was nice to finally have wi-fi to catch up on the world too! Breakfast was included, and they had a good selection of hot foods, cereals, fruits, etc. that should satisfy most anyone.

In just the week and a half since we arrived in the area, the maple leaves had turned to a vibrant red on the hills. They have a Welcome to Utah sign at the state tourist welcome center so you can get your stateline photo fix.

We had a little time to kill before getting to the airport, so decided to stop back off in Park City and check out the Utah Olympic Ski Park.

Wally hit the slopes… hee hee

View from Olympic Park across the valley

Then it was time to go get checked in at the Salt Lake City Airport for the flight home. They had some beautiful art hanging in the airport I thought I’d share as my parting views.

That concludes our week and a half in Wyoming and Utah. Wyoming is definitely on our return list of destinations! Happy Trails!

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Cody, Wyoming

We spent a couple of days visiting Cody, Wyoming, usually driving into town from Wapiti Valley for lunch. The first day we had burgers and fries at the Silver Dollar Bar and they were GREAT burgers!

Wally let me browse through the Old Trail Town on the edge of town, ($8 admission I think) and if you love the Old West, you really should take the time to visit to see how people lived. They also have a nice collection of Plains Indian collectibles in the museum. www.oldtrailtown.org

I’m going to post a few highlight pictures and then put the rest in a gallery you can browse…

Old Trail Town, Cody, Wyoming

I love western wear and all kinds of horse trappings, so I was attracted to the Custom Cowboy Shop. The owners, Don and Kitty Butler have put together an amazing offering of quality gear for horses including handmade saddles, chaps, bridle headstalls, ropes, bosals and much more. There’s western wear for men and women, purses and belts and jewelry, and in the back room is a colorful selection of woven rugs, blankets and pillows and home decor items. Be sure and shop here if you’re in Cody! www.customcowboyshop.com

Custom Cowboy Shop

On the second day, we had lunch at Adriano’s Italian Restaurant, ordering pizza and lasagna. Both came out piping hot and so delicious!  I liked their local cowboy and western decor in the front of the restaurant and the back was more “Italian” style. adrianositalianrestaurant.com/

Adrianos Italian Restaurant

I was lured past the Irma Hotel by the enormous rifle and antique sign on the corner. A local blacksmith was working in front of the antique store and had lots of neat items for sale.

Blacksmith at the antique shop

The antique store had lots of western and cowboy memorabilia, art, general store and kitchen collectibles as well as the rest of the usual finds. Just don’t expect anything to be cheap as this is a tourist town.

When at Adrianos, I got to chatting with two ladies eating lunch and they said to come see their new consignment shop in the shopping center on 17th Street, 2nd Hand Rose Boutique. They had a variety of home accessories, furniture, high-end clothing, shoes including cowboy boots, purses, accessories and such. It’s across from the big boot store in what used to be the Hallmark Store.

My favorite shop that I found by googling thrift stores was the Cody Bargain Box at 1644 Alger Ave, just a block or two off the main drag. I bought a Bill Cody Ranch t-shirt for $2.50, a pair of Ariat riding boots for $8, a western-style necklace for just a few dollars and a traditional dark green felt German hat for $8.
The lake and dam pictures are the Cody Dam and Reservoir. Here’s the rest of my pictures of Cody:


That’s it for now. Next stop: Thermopolis, Wyoming and back to Salt Lake City

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Wapiti Valley, Wyoming: Hikes, Rides, Bill Cody Ranch & Rand Creek Ranch

Continuing our Wyoming explorations, we had stayed three nights at Elephant Head Lodge and wanting to experience several of the guest ranches, moved down the Wapiti Valley to the Bill Cody Ranch for three nights. We really loved the amazing scenery in Wapiti Valley and everyone was so friendly. The owners, Ronnie and Tonia Stuard were super nice and helpful  with all my questions about hiking and shopping. billcodyranch.com/

The common gathering area had a comfortable sitting area, tables, dining area and delightful outdoor deck off the bar area. Wi-fi is available in the common area, so you catch up on the world.

I loved the carved bar stools…

Resident blue heeler Maverick will entertain you and loves to play if you’ll give him the time. He especially loves you to throw the frisbee for him!

Maverick

Rope the sawhorse bulls, hang out by the outdoor fire with Smores or play games in the game room

I went for a ride with their horse wrangler one morning, up the back of their valley, through the woods, over the stream and up to the top of the hill. Thank goodness I had taken gloves with me, as it was COLD!

My trail guide – Lauren? (sorry, memory is failing me)

Me on the mountain – great view!

While we were in Wapiti Valley we tried to get out and hike or explore every afternoon. You have to ask the locals or your ranch management where to hike, as you won’t have much luck finding anything online or signs along the valley road. When doing this blog, I finally discovered that the Shoshone National Forest website shows campgrounds, hiking and such on their site. Here’s the link so you’ll have better luck than we did in finding good trails. Use their map feature and look for the hiking figure symbol along the valley. www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/shoshone/recreation

Our favorite trail was the Elk Fork Campgrounds trail that went up a valley overlooking a stream. You drive all the way through the campground and park by the horse corrals. There is a definite horse trail that follows the edge of the valley and overlooks a stream. The views are amazing and this would be a great trail to pack a picnic for lunch and explore.

We also hiked a ways on the Blackwater Fireman’s Memorial Trail.  The first time we attempted to find the trail, we made the mistake of not realizing you had to cross over the bridge past the memorial to get to the trail head. So we wandered past the little pond with cattails and then followed game trails.

So to actually get to the trail head, drive over the bridge and there is a trail entrance just over the creek, or you can keep driving a mile or so to a further entrance by a bridge over the creek.

At the time, we didn’t realize you could drive that extra mile, so we walked alllll the way down the road to the bridge… But it did have nice views.

We were a bit tired by the time we got to the bridge…

From there it was up into the hills and woods and then we walked out the trail along the creek instead of back down the road. There were lots of these huge crickets along the way…

And saw this track – mountain lion!

On another hike we went all the way through the Boy Scout campgrounds, past the river, than up a fork. On the way back out, this is what was hanging out in the picnic area… I heard Wally say, “Doe”, but it was actually a Homer Simpson “Douhhh” as it wasn’t a deer!

He seems to be telling us to keep moving…

Wally asks, “so what do the guide books say to do when you come upon a buffalo???” We moved as far away as possible at a steady walk – and he continued with his nap – Whew!

Rand Creek Ranch Ride

One day we went for a ride at Rand Creek Ranch, which is located just a little ways outside of the Wapiti Valley as it opens up on the way to Cody. This ride was described as a “high desert” ride and that should have given us a clue…  randcreekranch.com/

Amy from Pennsylvania was our wrangler/trail guide

Wally and Charlie – happy for now…

The other couple on the ride was an Italian couple – she had never ridden before and I don’t think he had much. They had a great time, constantly taking pictures the whole way.

The ride was steep and rocky, going up, and up, and up… The view was amazing along the way and at the top you could see all the way to the Bill Cody Reservoir.

China wall

Great views at the top of our ride!

And it was all downhill from there… literally! Poor Wally’s knee had begun hurting on the way up, and the way down was awful for him. We hadn’t thought about that when we signed up for the ride. So for those of you with knee or ankle issues, I wouldn’t suggest rides in the valley, as most of them have steep climbing and descents that will put lots of pressure on your legs. (Maybe try riding in Yellowstone if they have rides through flat areas)

My closing shot for the day is a silhouette of the famed crazy log cabin mansion on the hill as you go through Wapiti above the gas station… I love that wacky gas station sign!

Next up.. a day in Cody, Wyoming!

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A Day at Yellowstone National Park

We packed up our picnic lunch, snacks, water and drinks for the day and headed out from Elephant Head Lodge to explore Yellowstone. The Grand Canyon and Geyser Basin topped our to-do list so our plan was to do the lower loop of Yellowstone.

I had picked up a Yellowstone travel guide at McKay’s Books in Nashville the week before our trip and it really was helpful in telling us things not on the park map. I would highly recommend visitors invest in a detailed guide to let you know areas worth stopping, places to picnic, good trails, etc. The park is HUGE and if your time is limited you will want to maximize what you see.

Since Elephant Head Lodge is located just outside of the East Entrance of Yellowstone, we stopped off at Pahaska Teepee Lodge to fill up with gas on our way. Here are a few snapshots of Pahaska Teepee, which offers cabins, a store, gas, and restaurant. It’s also prime wildlife sighting territory – we spotted a moose mama just across the road in the river and several guests spotted grizzlies along the river in late Sept/Oct.

I’ll post my favorite pictures to go along with our day and then include all the rest in the gallery of photos for explorers to check out.

Pahaska Teepee Lodge

Pahaska Teepee bear and cabin

Little hikers ready to GO!

Up, up, up and over Sylvan Pass, and as we were winding down the mountain on the other side, we spotted some mule deer in one of the meadows. We stopped off at the Fishing Bridge Lodge in the park to check it out and use the restrooms. They have a big assortment of Yellowstone and Wyoming souvenirs, supplies, sundries and a casual restaurant in the back.

We dodged the buffalo wandering down the road around Fishing Bridge without losing too much time and turned to go north towards the Grand Canyon and Falls area.

Mud Volcano along the Yellowstone River was the first stop off along the way… the buffalo were hanging out by the river right by steaming geysers…

We then passed through a golden-colored open area known as Hayden Valley and home to many of the park’s grazing wildlife.

Hayden Valley

Then we parked and walked out to Artist’s Point to see the view of the Grand Canyon and falls. An artist was set up painting so I captured her too.

We backtracked down the road and got a different view…

The Geyser Basin was next on the agenda after leaving the falls, and I couldn’t wait to see all those bubbling geysers!

Norris Geyser Basin view

My guide book noted picnic areas before and after Gibbon Falls, and this is where we stopped off for our picnic lunch. As we were driving along the Gibbon River between Elk Park and Gibbon Meadows, Wally spied something weird looking by the river. There was a pullout, so we stopped to see what it was. Another car was there and when I got out a lady excitedly told me that it was the “chocolate pots” we had found. “We’ve been here four or five times and this is the first time we’ve seen them,” she exclaimed. While they don’t spew, this big one is just really cool looking!

Chocolate Pot on Gibbon River

When we reached the junction at Madison, we stayed left towards the Geyser Basin. It was worth driving through the Firehole Canyon Drive to see the Firehole Falls which looks like it would be fun for families in the summertime. (Worth noting – they have bathrooms along the road by a swimming are in the river for those in need).

We took the Firehole Lake Drive and it’s worth your time with some colorful pools and big blows..

Bubbling brew… on Firehole Lake Drive

We missed the big spew… Firehole Lake Drive

Next stop was the Midway Geyser Basin and Grand Prismatic Spring – WOW! My favorite of all the geyser areas! Loved the popping colors … the oranges and aquas are amazing!

View as you walk up to Grand Prismatic Spring…

Biscuit Basin was next… and then Old Faithful! We arrived in the huge parking lot, found a spot and headed towards the lodge area. We saw people lined up and figured that must be what we were looking for…

We found a spot and watched as the geyser began to sputter and spit. Weren’t we the lucky ones??? Less than 10 minutes from when we arrived, we got our photos and headed to the Old Faithful Inn to do a quick run through and beat the crowd’s departure.

Old Faithful lobby

Old Faithful dining room

We made it back to the Elephant Head Lodge in time for dinner and to visit with the other guests about their day. Wow! What an amazing American treasure!

I have to say the pros to staying inside the park is less driving so you can see more. The cons are fighting the crowds and feeling like you’re on a cattle drive.

Here’s the rest of my shots from the day…

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Elephant Head Lodge, Wapiti Valley, Cody, Wyoming

Continuing with our trip to Wyoming, we spent three nights at Elephant Head Lodge, located about 10 minutes from the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The lodge and cabins are located on a hill with amazingly figured red rocks framing the backdrop and a view out over the Shoshone River. The name of the lodge comes from one of these figural rocks – the head and body of an elephant stand sentinel on the ridge. www.elephantheadlodge.com

Antler arch in foreground, Elephant Head rock in background

The lodge and most of their cabins are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with the lodge, dining room and trapper cabin built in 1910 by Buffalo Bill Cody’s niece, Josephine Thurston and her husband Harry W. Thurston.

A natural spring in the front yard was the reason Harry Thurston chose the cabin site, and today, wildlife wander through the yard daily for their morning and evening drinks. If you sit quietly, birds, chipmunks and squirrels are also usually busy around the water. Mule deer does and fawns browsed and cavorted about the yard daily, a buffalo bull had been stopping in every few days and mountain sheep girls made an early fall appearance while we were there. The water is also used for the lodge and it was wonderful! We filled up the gallon pitcher provided in our cabin and all our water bottles for when we were out hiking. The altitude definitely makes you dehydrated, so I would recommend packing some powdered Gatorade to take on your trip.

Regular visitors include these mule deer does and their fawns

Kevin and Debbie Millard are the current owners of the lodge and they are fourth generation Wyoming natives with ranching backgrounds. Debbie and their staff were so welcoming and friendly. Kevin was on a packing trip so we didn’t get to meet him. Ellie, a blue heeler, is the lodge guardian and greeter, but she’s a bit standoffish and prefers you just say hello and not give her a pet.

Debbie Millard and Ellie


Here are some snapshots and then I’ll post a gallery of photos at the end with many more.

Dining room

We stayed in one of the Bill Cody Cabins and ate dinner and breakfast at their restaurant. I have to say everything we tried was DELICIOUS!!! The steaks were tender, juicy, and melt-in-your-mouth divine and the fried chicken was up to our “southern fried” expectations and then some – crispy golden brown and perfectly seasoned while still maintaining a juicy interior. MMMmmm. We tried some of the local Yellowstone brand beer and it was yummy too.

And breakfast was good too. I had to get one of their famous cinnamon rolls just to see what they were all about (you know, so I could write about them) and they were huge! Three people could eat on one. Their dining room is open to the public for breakfast and dinner and they can arrange bag lunches for you daytime excursions.

As restaurants are far and few between in this area, expect to pay quite a bit for dinner at all of them, but breakfast is usually pretty reasonable. They also offer a bar in the lodge common room where guests can share their “sights” for the day, wind down and relax. The common room also houses the lodge computer with the only internet access.

The river is just across the road below the lodge and has a trail running along it so we decided to do some afternoon exploring. We checked out the bear spray from Debbie in the lodge office and headed down the hill. This is a horse/game trail and wildlife lives here – including deer, bear, buffalo, sheep, moose, etc., so you never know what you might run up on. We heard rustling in the bushes … but it was only the mule deer mamas and babies heading up to the spring. We packed a few “cold drinks” and sat down by the river to watch the trout jump and await some more wildlife activity.

We gave up and headed back to the lodge about dusk, and look what we saw on the trail! BEAR TRACK!

Black bear track!

Since Sylvan Pass is dangerously impossible to drive over in the winter, the park closes it down, and most of the Wapiti Valley lodges also close for the winter. They’ll be re-charged and ready to welcome visitors in the spring, so make your reservations now!

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Jackson Hole to Yellowstone Park

It was time to leave Jackson Hole and journey to Yellowstone, so we said goodbye to Poot and Kim, Sally and Boudreaux…

Sally and Boudreaux

Poot and Kim’s house

It came up a quick storm right before we left, then the clouds cleared out as we went along.

Chair at Dornan’s at Moose, Wyoming, the stopping spot for gas, food and sundries.

Horses turned out to pasture for the winter

Crazy cloud face…

Wally at Jenny Lake edge

Leaving the Grand Tetons…

Hello, Yellowstone…

We ended up following these guys quite a ways

Me at the Yellowstone River near one of the waterfalls

Travelers

Our destination for the afternoon was the Elephant Head Lodge outside the East Entrance of Yellowstone so we took the loop towards the right past Fishing Bridge. The road follows Yellowstone Lake and there are several nice pullouts where you can stop and have a picnic – which we did.

Yellowstone Lake

I was quite surprised as I sat eating my sandwich, when a little gray bird landed on my shoe!

A little birdie on my shoe

Our next excitement was a buffalo jam in the meadow area by the lake.

Buffalo crossing

There were lots of bulls fighting, some bulls chasing cows, some calves nursing mamas in the middle of the road…

Bulls fighting

Roadside lunch!

Pond by Yellowstone Lake the buffalo like to hang around

That’s all for now.. next up, we arrive at Elephant Head Lodge for the night in the Wapiti Valley.

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Grand Tetons, Nat’l Museum of Wildlife Art, Taste of the Tetons, Horsethief Canyon Fire Grows

For our morning outing to the Grand Tetons, I was on the hunt for a black bear sighting so we headed to the Teton Village Entrance side of the park to drive up Moose-Wilson Road. It was reported that the bears had been feeding on berries in the woods along the road, and sure enough, cars were parked along the shoulder of the road. We parked and joined the others to see what was clamoring around in the bushes.

Black bear in berry bushes

We headed on up the road and stopped at an overlook on the right where some moose were down in the little valley eating willows by a pond. They were too far away for a good shot so we kept going. The road comes out by the Tetons Welcome Center we had visited the day before, so we left the park and headed back towards Jackson. At the Gros Ventres River bridge, there were cars stopped again, so we pulled off to see what the moose were up to.

However, this time they were on the Tetons side of the bridge and it was a bull moose twice the size of the one the day before. Wow!

We also spied a mule deer by the river but it was too far away for a good picture. The National Museum of Wildlife Art was my next stop on the way into Jackson, www.wildlifeart.org/. It’s just on the edge of town and overlooks the National Elk Refuge. Large bronze wildlife sculptures cavort along the hill and the building of the museum is stone and blends with the terrain.

I would highly recommend this museum to anyone that appreciates wildlife and wildlife art in all its forms. Be sure and block off some time to work you way through the galleries and one whole side is dedicated to art that is available for sale, so you can take home a wonderful souvenir to remember your trip to Jackson.

The “Taste of the Tetons” Festival was in full swing on the Jackson Square when we arrived in town and found a parking spot. Tents were set up around the square with local arts and crafts vendors and restaurants offered select food and drink items. They also had a wine tasting tent for those that wanted to check out the local wines. You bought $1 tickets at the square entrance and then could get food and drink items at the different tents – thus the “taste” of the Tetons.

Taste of the Tetons tents

We sampled our way around the square and ran into our hostess, Kim Wynn

Wally and Kim Wynn, Taste of the Tetons

My dessert was the Huckleberry Buckle – delicious!

A neat looking outdoors store and art gallery lured me inside and they had clothing, accessories, a fly shop and upstairs was a fabulous art gallery. It was Jack Dennis Outdoors and they have been in business there for 40 years. Check out their website at http://jackdennisoutdoors.com/ I loved their art gallery upstairs. Here’s some snapshots for my fellow art lovers:

JD Wyoming Gallery

And a view from their balcony overlooking the Square and festival…

Antler wreath

Turpin Gallery is just off the Square

We finished up on the Square and met our house hosts Poot and Kim on the edge of town at Cutty’s Bar, where the locals were hanging out watching football and the Horsethief Canyon wildfire grow behind Jackson.

Plane that was dropping fire retardant

Poot and his friends had been out elk bow hunting and had lots of exciting tales to tell. Dogs are welcome at Cutty’s and we had fun tossing the tennis ball for them.

Well, that’s enough for today! Tomorrow we’ll say goodbye to Jackson and head north to Yellowstone and our lodging for the next three nights, Elephant Head Lodge in Wapiti Valley.

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The Grand Tetons and Jackson’s Horsethief Canyon Wildfire

Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012:  The Grand Tetons were on our agenda for the day and our hostess had suggested we start in Antelope Flats to see some wildlife. We had gotten a late start and were on our way by mid-morning. We turned right just past the Gros Ventres (pronounced Grow Vant) River to make the driving loop around Antelope Flats. This is open, sagebrush country with a few trees along the river to the right and the Grand Tetons towering to the left.

We were driving along and I saw movement under a cluster of trees that looked like a deer so Wally braked and parked. By the time I jumped out with the camera, I no longer saw anything. But then I saw antlers – he had bedded down right under the tree!

Nap time!

View from Antelope Flats

This little guy wasn’t scared at all!

That was all the wildlife on the loop we saw, but snapped a few shots of the famous Moulton barn. What a fabulous view these homesteaders had!

Moulton Barn

We finished up the driving loop and turned left back onto the main highway towards Jackson. Just down the road to the right is the official Grand Tetons Visitor’s Center where visitors can pay their admission (be sure and keep your receipt for re-entry), learn about animal sightings and the history of the park. Be sure and fill up your water bottles for your hikes!

On the road to the right before you get to the Visitor’s Center is a grouping of buildings that have a market, deli, a chuckwagon-style restaurant and a dine-in restaurant. This is the little settlement of Dornan’s, and this is Moose, Wyoming. We were disappointed to find that they close the chuckwagon outdoor restaurant between 11 and 12 (which was when we arrived). Instead we went inside the market and ordered deli sandwiches and chips and had our lunch out at the picnic tables with a view of the Tetons. Dornan’s is the go-to place to eat, sign up for Snake River float tours, get gas and sundries. www.dornans.com/

After lunch we headed towards Jenny Lake – and what a gorgeous treasure for the area!

Jenny Lake and the Tetons

If you see a turnoff for a little chapel on the left, there is a path down the hill that leads to this lovely little beach. Great spot for a picnic! There’s also a bathroom outside by the chapel.

The turnoff for Inspiration Point is along the stretch where the chapel is, but the sign is on the right side of the road if you are headed toward the dam. It winds up, and up, and up.. (and yes, there is a bathroom at the very top!)

On top of the world!

He’s just happy he could drive up, cause we never would have made it on foot!

We made our way back down and continued on, stopping at the dam to check that out. Back at the main highway we turned right to work our way back towards Jackson. We stopped at the pulloff at Oxbow Bend, where I had read there is lots of wildlife and bird spottings.

Oxbow Bend

The next stop was the buffalo meadows and we were lucky enough that the herd was right next to the road and fence. The shoulders are really wide along the main highway, so you can safely pull off out of traffic. (Do not stop in the roads and block traffic!) There is a huge herd and we also spotted antelope and a coyote loping along.

Buffalo siesta time!

My itchy back..

Hello – you stay on your side of the fence…

Further down the road are several pullouts on the right side of the road overlooking the Snake River.

Jamie at Snake River overlook. Notice the haze to the left side of the mountains?

There was a sign for Schwabacher Landing and I asked Wally to stop – again – to see what was there. Isn’t he patient? And surprise! There was a bride and groom and wedding party that were doing their pre-wedding photos by the Snake River. What a FABULOUS backdrop for their pictures. I happily started snapping away too – I hope the bride eventually finds these photos to add them to her memories. I’ll post them on my Facebook page too.

Schwabacher wedding party photo shoot

Wally and the wedding party

What a sweet couple!

 

I love the mountains reflected in the river

They quickly piled into a white van and were gone… off to get married!

That was supposed to be our last stop before Jackson, however, a car jam awaited at the Gros Ventres River – actually it was a moose jam! This was where the English tourists had seen the moose the day before. They hang out in the Gros Ventres River, so if you park along where the bridge is over the river, check both sides as they munch on the willows there. Just don’t go close – I have a long telephoto lens. Moose are very territorial and can move FAST when they want to!

Young moose bull on left side of Gros Ventres bridge

Mama moose chilling

I think I’ll join you..

Back on the road again we noticed an ominous smoke cloud coming from Jackson – it looks almost like a mushroom cloud in the first shot.

Horsethief Canyon fire – in the beginning

Growing smoke cloud

Smoke cloud covering the sun – the airport was just to the right of us – see the plane?

We made it into Jackson and got over near his friend’s house and realized the wildfire was right across the road from his neighborhood!

Little Horsethief Canyon on fire

Helicopters started getting water from just down the hill in the Snake River. There was also a bike race going on to add to the confusion! His neighborhood was under a pre-evacuation order and everyone was worried. Lots of people just sat around watching the fire and helicopters working until dark. It was amazing how accurate the pilots were at dispensing their water loads directly onto the fire line.

View from Poot’s balcony!

Trees burning at dusk

Well, it was an extremely busy day and lots of excitement! Time to have a cocktail and chill…

Next time: bear sighting, more moose, a visit to the National Wildlife Museum, the  Taste of the Tetons on the Jackson Square and the wildfire is growing!

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Arriving in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

We arrived in Jackson Hole in the late afternoon and decided to scout out the town to get oriented. The town square was easy to find and we went around it and out towards National Elk Refuge and The Grand Tetons on the north side of the square. For those of you that are going for the first time, the Elk Refuge is just a short walk from the square to the refuge.

We stopped in the Visitor’s Center that is just before to the Elk Refuge to get maps and information on the area. They have a really great center and I encourage all tourists to stop in when in the area. All of the visitor centers in the area and in the parks encourage water refills for water bottles, so be sure and fill up!

The National Elk Refuge is on the right side of the road and there’s a pullout to stop and look over the river bordered by a scenic marsh area. Trumpeter swans are the kings of this domain and share it with migratory ducks and other waterfowl. The elk hadn’t come down from the mountains yet, so we only got to enjoy the birds.

The National Elk Refuge sign

Trumpeter swans and ducks in the refuge

Trumpeter swans

Mallard duck on the wing

A cedar waxwing was eating berries off bushes

Wally’s friend that we were visiting, Patrick “Poot” McFarlin, recommended we meet him at his favorite local bar, The Silver Dollar Bar in the historic Wort Hotel, so after bird watching, we headed the few blocks back into town and found a primo parking spot right outside their door. www.worthotel.com/

The Historic Wort Hotel lobby entrance

The lobby is welcoming and filled with great local art and rustic accents…

The Wort fireplace and moose

The Wort lobby, cowboy painting

The Wort Hotel lobby, Indian painting

The bar is on the opposite corner of the hotel on a separate street entrance, so we found us a spot and ordered a local special brew.

Silver Dollar Bar beer

Now, I think I had the Snake River Lager (or three) and I remember it being reallllly good. The singer/band was warming up for their show a little later in the evening, so we enjoyed a bit of their local country/western music. I should have written their name down but didn’t..

Silver Dollar Bar singer

Silver Dollar Bar & Grill

After a while, a few travelers came in and joined us at the bar and their accents peaked my curiosity. We got to talking and they were English – one had moved to the area and was hosting visiting family from England. They had gone to The Grand Tetons and were excited about their moose sightings. They shared photos they had taken and told me where they had seen them, so I was taking notes for our Tetons outing the next day.

Wally’s friend showed up to meet us after that and we took our leave from the Silver Dollar Bar. His two trusty yellow labs, Sally and Boudreaux were waiting patiently in his truck for their evening run, so we followed him to his neighborhood “dog run” area, just across from Horsethief Canyon.

We got a big kick out of his dog walking technique… open door, let dogs out and they take off through the local nature preserve area to do their business and jump in the creek.

Wally, Poot and Sally

Note that directly behind Wally and Poot is Horsethief Canyon… which will be in flames tomorrow… Sadly, this was the only picture I got of Wally and Poot while we were there so yes, I know it’s not a great picture, but this was a 20+ – year reunion so needed documenting.

End of the day swim

Well, that’s it for tonight… the rest of the evening was too fun to photograph, with lots of catching up on Murfreesboro memories and lots of drinks and such. Needless to say, Poot did not make it out to go elk bow hunting bright and early as he had planned.

We did make it up and out – eventually – to tour part of The Grand Tetons. Stay tuned for mule deer, moose, great scenery and the beginning of the Horsethief Canyon Wildfire!

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Afton and Star Valley, Wyoming to Jackson

Picking up where I left off from my last entry, we continued north towards Jackson Hole, Wyoming, our destination for the night. We headed north up U.S. 89, passing farm land and forests along the way. After climbing upwards a ways we came to a scenic overlook at Salt River Pass.

Wally at Salt River Pass with the Lytro

Salt River Pass signs and info

Salt River Pass – what a view!

Lander Cut-off sign

From there we descended and came into Star Valley, which is ranching territory. I enjoyed the distinctive entrances at the ranches along the way.

Star Valley carved wood eagle entrance

Old Wyoming homestead

We were getting hungry and Afton, Wyoming was just ahead on our route. Afton is home to the world’s largest elk arch built in 1957 and it was quite impressive.

Afton antler arch

The downtown of Afton is only about three blocks so you can park and walk both sides of the street. I enjoyed browsing an independent new and used book store, gift stores, and a large furniture and accessory gallery.

Love the honey bear!

My only Grizzly encounter of the trip.

After browsing the shops we filled up our water bottles at the free spring water fountain under the arches and headed towards Jackson.

The next impressive site was going through the Targhee National Forest driving alongside the Snake River. We stopped off at one of the lookout points to check out the view.

Targhee National Forest

Our first memorable sight coming into Jackson from the south was this photogenic barn and farm.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming farm

That’s it for now…. We’ve arrived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and tons of great adventures to come! Stay tuned…

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