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Expat wanderer

Coming Up: Red Desert, Dinosaurs, Petroglyphs and Night Skies Travel

Denver, Red Desert (WY), Dinosaur Monument (UT), Moab, Breckenridge, Denver

We take small local trips, but this is our first Spring Out-West trip since last year. We’ve got some highlights – seeing our niece in Denver (early readers know her as Little Diamond) and getting to know her growing children, staying in the Elk Hunting capitol of the world, Craig, Colorado (well, just because who knew?), exploring the Red Desert of Wyoming and visiting remote and rarely seen petroglyphs and pictographs, on through the Flaming Gorge to the Dinosaur National Monument, and then down to a cabin just south of Moab where we will be heading down to the Canyon of the Ancients, near the four corners area of the United States, for more exploration of ancient ruins, focusing on petroglyphs and pictographs. From there, a family meet-up in Breckenridge, a stay with my sister in Colorado Springs, and back up for one last family visit in Denver before we fly back to Pensacola.

Monument Valley Petroglyph

Grand Escalante Petroglyph
Moab Petroglyph

The trip focuses on remote locations, petroglyphs, pictographs, and lesser-visited sites with dark skies, where we will stay mostly in cabins. We are always up to try to find an unknown gem, like the Traveler’s Rest Cabins, where we stay on the east side of Glacier National Park. (I see they are now for sale; I can only hope the new owners are as wonderful as the current sellers.)

Sometimes when choosing a hotel or restaurant, I am hooked by a clever name, so in Rock Springs, WY we will stay at the Outlaw Inn. It’s a Best Western, not a cabin, but I love the name. Rock Springs is also famous for herds of wild horses and outdoor activities.

The whole trip is outdoor activities, with an occasional visit to a specialty museum or two to help us understand what we see. We have two reservations at Arches National Park, the earliest reservations we could get so as to have the benefits of fewer people and the glorious morning light hitting the arches, and reservations for a sunset cruise on the Colorado River, for the same reasons – views with the glorious light of sunset. My husband wants to eat at a famous restaurant, the Sunset Grill, overlooking Moab, so we will make reservations far in advance – the place fills up quickly.

When we land, whether it’s Bozeman, Denver, Juneau, Portland or Seattle, we always give ourselves enough time to visit a local store to stock up on water, apples, oranges, peanut butter, crackers and necessities like tissues, paper towels, toilet paper, insect repellant, sunscreen – anything we might need and not want to carry in our suitcases. It gives us a lot of flexibility, so we don’t have to worry about finding a meal when we are remote. On the other hand, we love a good meal, so we plan to find places in advance, and make reservations. It works for us.

I’m getting excited just writing about it. Planning trips has gotten me through the COVID desert; even just doing the research and getting reservations gets my blood going faster as we anticipate new sights and experiences, new adventures.

And yes, I’m taking you with me 🙂

April 28, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Eating Out, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Spiritual, Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open: Postscript

Our son and his son, our grandson, quarantined for ten days and are now back at work and in school. My granddaughter continually tested negative; I speculate she had it last Spring in a very mild case. My daughter-in-law remains well, stalwart, caring for her family, by the grace of God.

It took me a while to get this trip written up; we bought new computers in June. We laugh at a concept our daughter-in-law introduced to us, the Law of Unintended Consequences. It strikes all the time. AdventureMan discovered he has to keep his old computer running in order to play his favorite game. I discovered I had never uploaded any photos from my camera to my new computer, and didn’t have a card reader with an appropriate connector. It took me two orders from Amazon to find the card reader which would connect and upload photos. It is also beautiful, in rose gold, and it gives me pleasure to use it.

In answer to a question I often get, yes, I take notes. I don’t often nap in the afternoon because then I don’t sleep well at night, so while AdventureMan catches a little snooze, I write up our experiences while they are still fresh. As I waited to receive a working card reader, I wrote up the narrative, and then once I had my photos, inserted them where they would be most helpful.

AdventureMan was inspired in Bozeman, at the Italian Blacksmith, and yesterday he was busy gathering supplies and planning dinner. Here is his first success at a charcuterie plate. I cannot imagine how he can make this any better than it was; it was a glorious festival of taste treats. (He made the pickled red onions himself!)

AdventureMan’s First Charcuterie Board

I have included a link to the Blacksmith Italian website above; if you are visiting Bozeman, it is a guaranteed hit.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Family Issues, Food, Health Issues, Marriage, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 2 Comments

Leaving Bozeman, Day 14

AdventureMan hates my phone alarm, which is a tune called “Twinkle.” He always says it reminds him of hotel mornings when we have to get up at what he calls “The Cr#p of Dawn.” This was one of those mornings, we need to be up, get to the airport, turn in the car, check in two hours in advance, etc. 

Don’t you love this Mama Bear’s big claws?

It all goes smoothly. We drop our keys in the drop box, still a little nervous that we never received a contract for the upgraded vehicle. By the time we reached Dallas, I had a confirmation of the car rental return and a copy of the contract. Go figure.

The airline people were not at the airport two hours before the flight. Oh well. We checked in and had time for breakfast at the Copper Horse before boarding for our flight. In Dallas, we found a BBQ take-out and ate in the waiting room. 

We arrived safely back in Pensacola, on time, and there were zero taxis and about six sets of people in front of us. We never do this, but we called our son and asked if he would pick us up. He arrived, fully masked, welcomed us back, and drove us home. That night, he texted that he and our grandson both tested positive for COVID and the family would be quarantined, They live just blocks from us, so we were able to see them, to bring groceries or whatever they might need. They were tired and achey, but never got very very sick. 

I just took a break; AdventureMan asked me how the trip report was coming and I said I was finishing up and I was astonished at how much COVID had been an influence on this trip. From the start, when Viking cancelled our planned cruise in May, to the end, with hotels and restaurants struggling to find staffing, COVID had played a major role. We need to be paying attention. Things are changing. We are going to need to do things differently. We need to start figuring out those strategies now.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Climate Change, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Public Art, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open, Day 13, Bozeman and the Museum of the Rockies

We have space! I am up early, and I can brew a pot of coffee while AdventureMan sleeps in. We are not in a hurry, the Museum of the Rockies won’t even open until 9:00, so we can take our time. We like museums, and we really like the Museum of the Rockies. Last time we were there, they had a visiting exhibit on Genghis Khan; this time they have an exhibit called Vikings Begin, and I love all the new things we are learning about Viking culture and explorations. We have a quick breakfast downstairs, grab what we need and head out. 

Usually when we get to a museum we are early and there are few people. This time, there is a bus load of people who look a lot like us. They seem to be Montanan, maybe not from Bozeman, but maybe a church group or an affiliated group of some kind, around our age, all of them. There are also a few families with children. Not a big crowd but a healthy number of people.

We go through the Viking exhibit, which is exquisite, but small. I watch a couple of the videos, blown away by how far the Viking trading ships went, from deep into current day Russia to the coastal areas of North America. 

We go through the early western exhibits, then split off, AdventureMan to spend time with the dinosaurs, and me to see a planetarium presentation on the northern skies. I love this show; it focuses on what our early ancestors saw from different countries, they show us the differences between what people see in Bozeman, at 45° latitude, New Orleans, at 30° latitude, and Northern Europe and Alaska, at 60° latitude. 

I had a little time after the show to visit the gift shop, which had many empty shelves, which they were busy replenishing. As I checked out, I asked “didn’t you used to stock more of just about everything?” and she told me that they were even pulling stock from old exhibits to display as the containers were not arriving with new stock. This is another recurrent theme, here, in Pensacola and just about anywhere we travel, problems with the supply chain. This COVID has put a huge kink in the old normal, and we are going to have to find new ways of dealing with changes brought about by both COVID and climate change.

Our lunch was hilarious. The Museum of the Rockies is close to down town Bozeman, so we found a parking place and walked around until we found something that looked like it would do. It was called the Main Street Over Easy, and you go through a door and down a hallway to find it. We arrived just at change-over time; the place was packed with breakfast eaters just finishing up, and we were shown to a table and given breakfast menus.

A lady at the next table said “At the risk of being intrusive, they have a lunch menu. Just ask for it.” She was right. We asked for the lunch menu and we got it. The server, who was a delight, said “Here’s the menu but today we don’t have any burgers.”

Not a problem. I ordered a French Dip and a salad, AdventureMan ordered Fried Fish sandwich with salad. I don’t know how long it took to get them; we were engaged in conversation with the lady who was from Whitehall, between Butte and Bozeman. We were as interested in her, and her views, as she was in ours. We both have governors who have forbidden schools to mandate masks. (Upon my return from Montana to Florida, both our son and his son tested positive for COVID and are currently still in quarantine.)

Love all this space
Getting organized for flight back to Pensacola

We headed back to our hotel to strip our bags, re-pack, and in my case, iron my little linen dress for the next day. We rested up, then headed out for dinner, again at the Blacksmith Italian. 

We had a booth in a side room, more quiet until a large family arrived to celebrate a special occasion, and that was fun, too. 

AdventureMan ordered the Caprese Salad and the Charcuterie board has his entree. The Caprese salad was wonderful, the tomatoes had taste and the cheese is house-made. I ordered squid ink noodles with shrimp and crab, very tasty, spicy, just the way I like it. Our last night in Montana, so we split the Tiramisu, which is really enough for four people, loaded with a rich whipped cream on top and a taste of liqueur moistening the ladyfingers. We shouldn’t have, but we enjoyed every bite. 

Caprese Salad – a WOW
Squid Ink Pasta with Shrimp and Crab
LOL, the Charcuterie platter with nothing missing 🙂
This bread was delicious!
Tiramisu!

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Eating Out, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Into the Great Wide Open: Day 12, Jackson Hole to Bozeman through Idaho

I have a Swedish sausage with my breakfast, because of Swedish descent as I am, I have never had a Swedish sausage. I like the taste, but not the consistency, which is kind of loose and crumbly. Great coffee, great muesli and love those berries. 

Very hazy day, trouble with allergies and breathing due to particulate matter from raging forest fires

Gas leaving Jackson Hole is $3.99 a gallon at the cheapest station.

I take a photo of the motel we stayed more than forty years ago, just outside Jackson Hole, when we were traveling across the USA in our Volkswagon Bus en route to Monterey, CA for grad school and language school and knew we couldn’t afford to stay inside Jackson Hole. We were right across from the Elk reserve, and once we got our little baby to sleep, we sat outside and watched the enormous herd of elk as they munched and wandered. It isn’t so far outside Jackson Hole, now, and I am glad it is still there. 

This is the second day where we experience haze. We drive up over the mountains into Idaho, and spend a couple hours on very rural highways sharing the road with large combines, harvesters and all kinds of farm equipment. 

The scenery starts to change when we near Big Sky and the Gallatin River. Lunch was apples with peanut butter alongside a road with trucks whizzing by.

Marriott Residence Inn

Once again, our hotel room is not ready. As we wait, another man gets the same response and also that he will not be on his requested floor. He is very angry, says he reserved a month ago (!) and wants to be accommodated. Later I ask the desk clerk if they are having problems with finding people to work and she says yes, that it is a problem everywhere in Bozeman. I suspect that they have closed off the top floor and are also limiting the number of people they can serve until they can guarantee the ability to take care of them. 

I am thinking that this has a lot to do with demographics, and problems with finding good, reliable, safe child care, and finding jobs which will protect their workers and also provide benefits. We can see that many of the hotels are now offering health insurance and educational benefits to the people they hire. I am thinking the labor market has a little leverage, and they are using it to better their conditions. 

And yes, that may inconvenience business owners and managers, and inconvenience customers, like us, but for the greater good, perhaps we can find a balance where everyone wins?

Our room is lovely, and quiet, and spacious. 

We have reservations for dinner at Blacksmith Italian, a restaurant we both found intriguing. Bossy Lady totally screwed up getting us there, sometimes she doesn’t really know everything, but she got us close enough and we figured out the rest. 

The minute we walked in, we knew we were in the right place. It was full of local people. The plates coming out looked very fine. The smells were delicious.

We split a platter of meats and cheeses; it was full of delicate tidbits, duck and Italian sausage and tiny pickled peppers filled with ricotta, etc. This came with crispy tasty triangular bread, a little salty, very tasty. AdventureMan had mussels and a side of pasta as his main course, and I had calamari with a Putenesca sauce and a side of pasta. The sauce was fabulous; I didn’t even need the calamari, the sauce was so engaging. The wines were equally good; I had a Barbera and AdventureMan has a Lacryma Cristi white wine which was so good, I ordered it the next night.

Calimari with Puttanesca Sauce
Side order of pasta

Yes. It was so good we reserved for the next night, too. It would be our last night in Bozeman, might as well end on a high note.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Work Related Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open: Day 11, The Tetons, Jenny Lake and Jackson Hole

We are up leisurely, no place we have to be in a hurry, and breakfast is included in our room. We get up, dress, head down to the breakfast room where there is not a buffet, I am guessing a concession to COVID, but a nice menu from which we can order. I order the muesli with a bowl of fresh berries, and AdventureMan orders an omelette. I get a great big pot of coffee, and he has tea. The breakfast room is so like being back in Germany. 

We are headed for Jenny Lake today, and are directed once again to Moose Wilson Road. As we near the middle, we see a car stopped and a lively elderly woman is hanging out of her car gesturing wildly to our side of the road and mouthing “MOOSE! MOOSE!” We drive slowly; I am so close that I have a hard time getting a good shot because the side mirror gets in the way. The moose, a cow, is very thin and enjoying some nice fresh shoots in a freshwater creek. If she is aware of us, she doesn’t let on. She just munches along. 

Although we are early, Jenny Lake is crowded, and there are no parking places. We head up for the overlook, and spend some time on a trail that leads to the Jenny Lake recreation area. The Jenny Lake Lodge is closed except to registered guests, a great disappointment because I love to look at the lodges. 

The view from the overlook is purely awesome. Mountains have that capacity, to awe and make words insufficient. We just filled our eyes. 

Remember that guide back at Yellowstone, as we watched Old Faithful erupt? He had told his group (and us) that one of the best places to eat in Jackson Hole was Teton Thai, in Teton Village, so we thought we would have lunch there. As it turns out, no, at least on Mondays they don’t open until dinner, so we needed to find somewhere else, and were told to try Spur, at the Mountain Lodge. I ordered Salad and a side order of brussel sprouts, which were roasted and crispy and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and AdventureMan, who has never had any fondness for brussel sprouts even tried one . . . and then another . . . and another. They were really good. 

AdventureMan had a salmon – avocado toast which was also very satisfying, very tasty.

We spent time just walking around Jackson Hole, exploring, observing and yes, shopping. We are getting close to the end of our trip and we like to have something to bring back for our family. 

Jackson Hole is a lot of fun. It has a very young, energetic vibe. It has a lot of public art, and it seems to have a sense of humor about itself. We found some nice things for the family, and then, we also found an Eddie Bauer where we found some things for ourselves, too. 

This day had one sad event. We had booked a couple months ago for a restaurant in Bozeman that we really love. The day before we were going to arrive we got a call from the owner that his front staff had all quit and he had to close the restaurant. We were shocked, and sad for him; he has a truly distinctive and elegant restaurant, with foods we loved. I have to believe he will find a way to hire new staff, or convince former staff to come back. It would be too sad if such a lovely restaurant disappeared from the Bozeman scene.

At the same time, I am reading the Jackson Hole newspaper and there are nine full pages of help wanted ads. Many of the hotel and restaurants seeking help are offering free room and board in addition to salary and benefits. There are ads all across the spectrum though, librarians, engineers, substitute school teachers, airport security, etc. If we were young people, Jackson Hole would be a wonderful place to work, full of other active young people and world class skiing. 

Dinner that night at the Alpenhof is French Onion Soup and salad. We want to go a little easier on ourselves.

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 11, Mammoth Hot Springs to The Tetons and Jackson Hole

It is COLD! It is sunny! It is gorgeous! It is one of the prettiest days of our trip as we leave Mammoth Springs. I make AdventureMan stop several times, trying to capture how beautiful is the frost in the shadows between Mammoth Springs and Old Faithful. 

I’m trying to show you frost in the fields . . .
Can you see the white frost?
There it is! It shows up better in the shadows! (AdventureMan is very patient with me)
It is August 29th, and this field is still with thick white frost!
The heat of the volcanic fissures show up particularly well on cold days

We come to a traffic clog – buffalo crossing. We are patient, it is entirely possible on this route that these are people who have never seen bison before. They are jumping out of their cars and seem a little wild with excitement. 

I can never get enough of Roaring Mountain. AdventureMan is being a good-sport; see the halo of light spotlighting him?

We crossed the Continental Divide at least three times.

The drive is just breathtaking.

Lewis Falls

Around noon, we leave Yellowstone and are immediately in the Tetons, which we begin to see to the West.

We find the Flagg Ranch Lodge on our right, just in time for lunch. It is a lovely lodge, but you can see that the season is already lagging; the express shop is open but the gift shop is closed.

See the Pay Phone?

AdventureMan stops to get a map of the area and I see an oddity, a pay phone. When was the last time you saw a working public pay phone? After lunch, we try to call our son and discover we are in an area with zero bars. Now the pay phone makes all kinds of sense.

I have soup, and the Prismatic Salad, AdventureMan has the Pig Whistle Salad, and lunch is delicious. We talk with our servers; one is a trucker who works during the season with his partner at Flagg Ranch. Off-season, they go back to California.

Great Prismatic Salad
Pig Whistle Salad

We stop several places to take in Lake Jackson; we can see it has been greatly depleted by the drought, but also replenished somewhat by the heavy rains tamping down the forest fires. Near Lake Jackson, the air starts to get a little hazier from forest fire related particulate matter. 

Look at those gorgeous blues and greens!

The Tetons are grand. Impressive. Awe-inspiring. We can’t get enough. 

Coming in, we are directed by the Bossy Lady to Moose Wilson Road, isn’t that a great name? There is a large parking lot, and multiple signs warning people that this little dirt road is only for cars, no getting out of cars, no walking and no stopping. There is a ranger in the parking lot – in fact, every time we take this road, which is like four different times because the Bossy Lady sent us over this road to get to different places. In spite of the signs, inspire of the ranger presence, people were . . . stopping. Getting out of their cars. Walking. This is a protected wildlife track, bear, moose, deer. 

Alpenhof Hotel

We arrive shortly at The Alpenhof, in Teton Village, and our room is ready. It looks very German to me, but it is actually very Swiss, German Swiss I suppose. Our room makes me smile; it has so many familiar German touches. It is a nice large room, opening out to a balcony shielded by fresh smelling pines. We can hear the funicular in the background, squeaking now and then as the little carriers round the bend coming down and going up. 

Great reading lights 😉
Funicular going up mountain

We walk around, take a sweet nap and have dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant. AdventureMan and I met in Germany; we still have a weakness for German food. Reservations are strictly required, we must be masked, and we see people turned away who do not have reservations. 

As we are waiting, a couple comes in and asks the Maitre d’ if they have “Sloshies.” The Maitre d’ says no, but they can find them in the Bodega at the nearby filling station. The couple tell us that Jackson Hole is famous for “Sloshies” and exit to go find them. They also start a tirade against masking, social distancing and young people who won’t work because they are getting unemployment. If you’ve ever worked with the poor, you know that unemployment doesn’t do it. It is just a supplement.

Dining Room: The Alpen Rose
I really liked this beer, like beer with fruit on a hot summer day in Germany

We are seated, and the menu is lovely. We both decide on salad and a Jaegerschnitzel. If we had known how large they were, we might have thought to share one, but we didn’t, and in truth, while they appeared huge, they were pounded thin, and deliciously prepared with a wine-mushroom sauce. We each ate our entire schnitzels with no problem. We also shared a dessert they called Heisse Liebe, (Hot Love!) but we used to eat along the Hauptstrasse in Heidelberg and it was called Heiss und Eis, vanilla ice cream with a hot sauce made of fresh raspberries and a little liqueur poured over the ice cream. Divine. Heaven. 

We took another walk around the village and called it a night, glad we also have reservations the next night at the same restaurant. 

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Privacy, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 10, Lamar Valley, Gardiner, Montana and Reflections

We are up at 6:30 without even setting the alarm, and head out to pick up coffee and go directly to Lamar Valley. Once again, no biscotti. AdventureMan buys a muffin, too sweet for me.

Great clouds

There was a heavy rain last night, the day is very clear, partly cloudy, with rays of sun beaming down. It is beautiful. Just past Roosevelt Lodge, and the turn to Lamar Valley, a truck in front of us slows down as a group of bison approach the road, maybe 20 of them, and start a trek across the bridge over the Yellowstone River. Cars start to pile up behind us, but they are all the kinds of early morning people who are respectful, there is no honking or people exiting their cars to take photos, and it is really a delightful experience. 

On the other side of the bridge is a trail the bison are climbing to get wherever bison go. Why shouldn’t they take the easy route, rather than down into the basin, cross the river, struggle up the other side? 

Because it’s so beautiful and I cannot resist . . .

We saw lots of groups looking for wolves in Lamar Valley, and bear, but we saw no wolves or bear. Often they are just little dots, off in the distance. We see many anglers casting their lines in the Soda Butte River, having the time of their life. Maybe they are all catching and releasing; I never see any fish being taken back to the cars. 

Ranger heading down into Slough Creek

When we got to the Soda Butte the light was beautiful. It has been blocked off since the time we walked around it and attracted the attention of a very annoyed bison, probably because people like us were attracting too much negative attention of territorial bison. 

We went into Gardiner for breakfast, eager to get back to Tumbleweeks, a combination book store and cafe we particularly like. I had hot cereal with fruits, and . . . a slice of coffee cake, full of huckleberries and raspberries. One bite and I knew I was in trouble – it was SO sweet. And I ate the whole thing, knowing I would pay the price. (I did. The next morning I had the worst blood sugar reading I’ve had all year. I am usually so careful. I still remember that slice of coffee cake with great fondness.Sometimes we can’t help what we love.)

Tumbleweeds is doing gang-buster business, of course. You have a good product, it attracts business. They also are located next to Flying Pig adventure rafting business, and they have a sign that says “You do not get fast tracked because your rafting trip is about to leave.” I can only imagine the situations that have led to the posting of that sign. We heard one of the guides say to the cashier that they were closing down; “once the rains came the season is over.” People are closing up outside the park, also, clearly, inside. Yesterday, in the coffee line at the Mammoth Springs Hotel, we learned that there is noplace in Mammoth Springs serving breakfast; they tell people to go into Gardiner. 

En route back into the park from Gardiner, there is not even a person at the gate to check our pass. Back in Mammoth Springs, we walk around the village, visit the old Mail Carriers House, and head back to A23, our cabin. We ask the housekeeper about all the empty cabins, and she says “Yes, many cabins have been blocked because we don’t have people to care for them.”

I have a friend, a little younger, who asked me how aging is impacting the way we travel. I remember telling her first, that it hadn’t. Then, as I thought about my answer, I had to go back to her and tell her that we have changed, and because AdventureMan would get sick and tired from so much driving, we had devised a strategy of “shorter days, longer stays.”

On this trip, we discovered we still have the energy, we can do more than 10,000 steps per day, but we have to do it earlier, and later, and we have to have a rest or a nap in the middle of the day. Our transition days are the hardest, when we have driven further and we really need a nap and our room isn’t ready yet. 

In spite of rests we are sleeping very well, mainly due to quiet locales and cooler nights, also good mattresses. We also need our reading glasses more often, for maps, for menus, for directions, for bills and receipts, for fine print in guide books.

So we are packing, tomorrow is another transition day, Mammoth Springs to Teton Village, just outside Jackson Hole, WY.

I like my small suitcase; it is easy to manage, and I have enough clothing because I wear the same things over and over. I only brought the one sweatshirt; sweatshirts take up a lot of room. I brought too many short sleeve shirts. I brought one very casual dress and one dress that works for dinner, and one linen dress I use for travel and for transition days. All three of those items did heavy duty in the two weeks. One skirt got baggy because I wore it so often, it was pure cotton; the skirt that had some spandex in it kept its shape better. 

As we sit outside on our porch, we talk with some people we have talked with before; we were talking with them when I spotted the elk walking by behind our cabins, so they also got some shots. They were up this morning at 3:30 to go out with a Wolf spotting team and they saw lots and lots of wolves in Lamar Valley, and watched two packs of wolves meet up with each other. 

We have never seen wolves in Lamar Valley. We go there a lot, but I guess not early enough and/or not with the right people.

Tonight, we have our last dinner at Wonderland, but this is a valuable and hilarious evening. We know they open at five, so we make it a point to be there at 4:30. 

The word is out. Wonderland already has a line about twenty-five people long when we arrive. We are behind a group that is talking about having been out this morning watching for wolves, and they saw two packs of wolves meeting up, something no-one has seen before.

We can’t even look at each other. We have heard this phrase often, on safari in Africa. The wildlife spotters work together, they contact one another, they do their best to make sure their clients spot the game they want to see. 

So we’ve been looking for wolves and never saw a one. 

Next time, we might have to bite the bullet and hire a game spotter. We kind of prefer being on our own, not being in a group with other people, not being subject to someone else’s agenda, not being a part of those big groups along the side of the road. But this is our last night in Yellowstone, and we are thinking we might need to bend a little if we want to see wolves.

Squash Soup
Grilled Chicken Caesar
Caldera Burger

Dinner at Wonderland is delicious, as always. I have the squash soup and a grilled chicken Caesar, and AdventureMan has the Caldera Burger, which he loves. We love to watch the Wonderland team work together; they are a great team.

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 9, Lamar Valley, Yellowstone, and Cooke City, Montana

Up early, head to the main hotel for coffee but the biscotti are already sold out, even though the shop just opened. The Tauck bus or the Le Bus group must have bought everything available. No matter, we grab our coffee, we have tangerines and AdventureMan still has a brownie left from yesterday. 

It is cloudy and sunny. AdventureMan hikes to Wraith Falls, a place we hiked last year and reports back that the falls are not so full as they were in the Spring, no great surprise. Together we take a nature hike highlighting the volcanic and geologic nature of the Yellowstone Crater; we have it entirely to ourselves. 

It is still early, barely sunrise, when we take a turn off the main road onto Black Tail Butte Road, a six mile, one way dirt road closed to campers and large vehicles. It goes high into a mountain, and the vistas are stunning. 

Then, all of a sudden, an old bull bison is strolling down the road towards us. He doesn’t look particularly concerned, but AdventureMan slows to a stop out of respect. Occasionally, he gives us a glance. He seems benign, but with wild animals, you never know, anything can happen.

“You Mind Your Business and I’ll Mind My Own.”

 AdventureMan doesn’t say it until well after the bull has passed, but he is thinking about how isolated this road is, how few people take this route and what if the bull charged us and damaged the rental car. None of this happened. 

The road rejoins the main route just before Tower Junction and the Roosevelt Inn, a great rest stop for coffee drinkers and also a place with sturdy trash receptacles. We’ve learned to keep an alert eye for both. 

We spend some time once again in the Slough Creek area, meet a delightful guide named Rachel who is with an adventure/eco tour and helps us spot white sheep up on a distant hillside. Skipped the photos; even with my large telephoto, they were just white dots on the distant hill. Rachel had a glorious standing telescope that helped her spot wildlife.

Apples with peanut butter for a great breakfast

Today we head outside the park past Lamar Valley (lots of groups stopped looking for wolves) and out to Cooke City, where we have trout at The Bistro. We look around a little, then head back, timing what it takes us to drive different segments:

Lamar to where the Osprey nests: 20 minutes

Osprey nest to Roosevelt: 10 minutes

Roosevelt to Mammoth Springs: 30 minutes.

Of course, when we stop to watch or to photograph, it takes a lot longer.

Today we see one of the crazy people, out of their car, trying to get close to bison who are well aware they are there, and a lot faster than they look.

Crazy

We head on for Cooke City, where we find the Bistro. We don’t even have to look at the menu; we have eaten here before and we are eager for trout!

Tonight we find sandwiches at the Mammoth Springs Trading Post, and we eat on our front porch, watching the colors change on the terraces as the sun goes down. We drink the last of our cherry juice, treasuring every drop. It looks like we are drinking red wine, but we are not.

We keep hoping that bull elk will come by once again. If he does, we don’t see him.

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Into The Great Wide Open, Day 8, Roaring Mountain, Norris Geyser Basin and Old Faithful

This is the book we use that tells us everything we didn’t know we didn’t know.

It’s hard to believe we’ve already been traveling a week, and only have a week to go. We are having so much fun, and time is skimming by.

Today we drive south. We are up early, to avoid the crowds. Too late, there is already a line for coffee. They have delicious biscotti; huckleberry for AdventureMan and Cinnamon for me. It is cold, so cold I put on my levis for the only time on this trip. We are headed to one of my favorite places, the Norris Geyser Basin.

We beat the tour groups for the only morning

On the way, we stop at Roaring Mountain, another of my favorite spots. It is a cloudy day, but that is OK at Roaring Mountain, a sulpherous, misty site full of fumaroles, holes out of which pour hot steam. In the cold morning air, the steam shoots out, and then billows dramatically around the mountain. 

Clearwater Springs
Roaring Mountain
Emerald Springs

The Norris Geyser Basin had two great hikes, and the parking lot has what we call Rock Star Parking when we get there, very few people. 

We love this hike. The first attraction is Steamboat Geyser, which is unpredictable but is always looking promising when we see it, burbling up with little bursts of geyser enthusiasm. Along the track are many geysers, but also bubbling pits and brilliantly colored springs of boiling water. All the steaminess is exaggerated in the morning cold. We can’t believe it can be this cold in mid-August. 

Steamboat Geyser at Dawn
It’s inviting, and deadly

AdventureMan tells me – and this is really true – that a man fell into one of the springs at Norris Basin, and died, and that his body dissolved in the chemical rich pool. He didn’t die on purpose, but, like many tourists, he wanted to take a dip. His sister says he tripped over his own flip-flop, fell in and died a terrible death, boiling to death. Aargh. 

Rockslide en route holds us up a couple minutes while blockage is cleared
Firehole River and Falls, a great side route

We head on to Old Faithful. There is a long boardwalk there I have never walked, and we have little hope it will be uncrowded. We decide to have breakfast first, and discover the dining room is not open, does not seem to be serving meals at all. The grill is open, all grab and go, so we pick up breakfast and for me, coffee, and ask if we can eat on the terrace. They tell us yes, so we head upstairs, and there is a lovely spot with a bench and two tables overlooking Old Faithful, so we set up there and have one of the most unexpectedly lovely breakfasts of our trip. 

Old Faithful Inn
Last time we stayed here we were in the room in the upper right corner

We could watch Old Faithful erupt from our front row seat, but we decide to leave our location for someone else, and to hike out to another vantage spot good for watching the eruption. It is a great walk, we find a good place and just as I am about to walk to the prime location, a family stops there and claims it. We sit nearby, and a bison comes near. The family can’t resist, they decide to follow the bison, so we get the place after all. 

We sit, and an EcoTour comes and joins us. We get the advantage of all this knowledgeable young guide’s experience just sitting there and listening. As we are listening, a Park Ranger comes hustling up to try to keep people from getting too near the bison. It seems to be a never-ending battle; people seem to think this is like Disneyland and nobody gets hurt. Wrong. People get hurt all the time. These are WILD animals and they are becoming less and less afraid of human beings. That is a bad thing, and can become disastrous. 

The Bison is in the upper right quadrant of the photo

AdventureMan took the guide aside after Old Faithful did its thing and tipped him, told him to have a beer on us because we benefitted from his discussions even though we weren’t a part of his group. We love young people who love their jobs and do them so well. 

We learned that early-mid morning is a great time to visit Old Faithful. There were people, but not so many, even in this near peak of summer visitors.

What we noticed is that there were no buses full of Chinese. No buses full of Japanese. No large groups of visiting Indians. No large groups of students. No European youths. We met one French-Canadian biker along the Firehole Falls road; he had started at the Canadian border and said he had 20,000 more miles to go. The bikers in Yellowstone and Glacier earned our unalloyed admiration – they were riding up very long high hills with gear. They had their sleeping bags and small camp stoves and their clothing. I cannot imagine how they persisted, but they almost all looked strong and wiry and like they were loving every minute of their biking experience.

We got in over 12,000 steps today. AdventureMan is happy.

We went into Gardiner for dinner, to the Wonderland, a restaurant we discovered the last time we were in Yellowstone, a couple years ago. We were astonished – we went early. Almost every table was full! They did have a table for us, and we were very grateful. I had trout with aioli sauce, AdventureMan had elk chili (it was sprinkled with powdered sugar, and was sweet!) with their famous jalapeño cornbread. Wonderland was hopping busy; we were so impressed with the way the team all worked together. While the servers were taking orders, others would be taking plates away, filling glasses, bringing food from the kitchens – everyone helping each other. It was awesome to behold. 

Trout with mashed potatoes and aioli sauce
Elk chili with jalepeno corn bread

Back at our cabin, coming back from a post-dinner walk, we looked up the hill behind our cabin and there was a huge bull elk! It had a huge rack of horns, and looked so noble as he sauntered along the hill. Word spread quickly and people grabbed their cameras, mostly cell phones, and ran out to the street to catch a photo of this magnificent animal. He was far enough away that the few people who gathered didn’t bother him, he barely noticed our existence, and we were very quiet and respectful. I didn’t have my camera, only my cell phone. I took pictures anyway. Nothing could capture the full grandeur of this creature, but we all clicked away in sheer astonishment and admiration. There are hundreds of female elk and little elk calfs around, but this is the only bull elk I ever saw in Yellowstone. 

Bull elk behind cabins
Such a thrill I had to put in two photos

September 14, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Fitness / FitBit, Food, Hotels, Local Lore, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment