Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Chasing Petroglyphs: White Mountain, Eden and the Pilot Butte Ponies

Route for May 22, 2022

This morning, we slept in. Well, 0830 is sleeping in for us, it’s 9:30 in Pensacola and we are up and ready to hit the day. It is a quiet Sunday morning. We have a quick breakfast at the Outlaw Inn, and head out with our friend Google Maps to find White Mountain, and our first petroglyphs of the trip.

It’s an easy drive, just turn right outside the Outlaw Inn and then turn right onto a pretty good County Road. It’s a dirt road, but well maintained. Then we turn onto another county road, a road less travelled. And then Google tells us we’ve missed our exit to White Mountain. What?? There was not a sign of an exit! Not a road sign, not a track, not a visible indicator of a way. We back up. We get out. Oh. There. Faint tire marks turning off the road. AdventureMan goes further on foot to make sure the road continues.

The tracks are more visible once you are actually out in the field. We have an AWD vehicle, we have experience – so we decide to continue on the track. We continue for about half a mile, and the ground is softer. We have visions of being rescued, elderly, dehydrated, because we’ve bogged down out of sight of any road . . . we turn back and decide to follow the county road.

We are so glad we do. Just a couple miles further, we see signs for White Mountain Petroglyphs, and then come to a legitimate turn-off, a marked turn-off. Part way to White Mountain we see those tracks join the road, and we are glad we are not still out there in the field, worried about getting stuck in the sand, no shovels, no cardboard, nothing to help us free ourselves.

Although remote, there is a parking lot, a long-drop toilet, and a clear trail to the base of the mountain, and a clear trail – straight up.

Although Rock Springs is not as high up as Denver, we are still adjusting to the altitude and the dryness of the air. It is still cold, we are glad of it, because the hike heats us up and we take it at a comfortable pace because the air is so dry and our lips and faces are chapping.

Totally worth the hike. While these are not the best-preserved petroglyphs we’ve ever seen, they are original and intriguing. There is also a lot of modern-day petrographic activity of the high school demographic.

Elk

Bear Eating Deer?

The standard rule with petroglyphs (carved into rock) and petrographs (drawn onto rock) is NO TOUCHING. No rubbing, no outlining with chalk, nothing which might degrade the incision or erode the lines. Someone has used chalk, probably a guide, to help viewers understand what they are seeing. If you know anything about petroglyphs, you know that we can speculate, we can ask modern-day First Nation people, and in the end, it is all speculation. Are they celebrating a triumphal hunt? Are they imploring the spirits to be available for the hunt? Are these incised bear claws a tribute to the bear’s strength? A brag about a bear-clan strength? We can only guess.

Is this a birth petroglyh? Is it celebrating a real event or is it a metaphor? So many questions!

An idea of hands? Bear claws?

Impressive. Deep bear claw impressions – how long did it take to make these?

The zigzag – is that for long life? A direction to go for game?

Some are really hard to see on the rock faces, depending on the light and angle

View from White Mountain of Boars Tusk and Killpecker Sand Dunes, the largest living sand dunes in the USA

Boars Tusk is the remnant of an ancient volcano thrust 400 feed above the plain; an instantly recognizable landmark for hikers (and people looking for White Mountain.)

Boars Tusk with Killpecker Sand Dunes in background

We are pumped. We’ve spent a couple hours traipsing around the mountain, seeking out these obscure petroglyphs, trying to decipher what they were meant to communicate. Bottom line – we don’t know, but we are exhilarated and delighted to have found this site.

The county road loops back around to the main road to Farson, and we know that just short of Farson is the Sweet Water Smoke, a barbecue restaurant we’d like to try. We are famished. Hiking and cold fresh air will do that to you!

We find Sweet Water Smoke and are delighted. It is small, and four of the five tables are taken, which leaves one for us. The entire time we were there, people were coming and going, take out orders rolling out the door, this place is humming with activity.

And no wonder! This is not ordinary barbecue! Their cole slaw is Sriracha cole slaw. They offer roasted brussel sprouts as a side, along with more traditional baked beans, macaroni and cheese, etc. I was just blown away to find roasted brussel sprouts as a side in a small Wyoming town. We remember one time traveling through Wyoming when we felt desperate for vegetables and were told to go to this “wonderful restaurant with a salad bar.” The steak was delicious. The salad bar had potato salad, cottage cheese, jello salad, and macaroni salad.

Sweet Water Smoke changes out two additional entrees every week and features a goat-cheese cheesecake with chocolate ganache. Who could resist?

There is a route we want to follow next, the Pilot Butte Road, which is supposed to be challenging, but I think they may have improved the road since we read the warnings because it was easy with our AWD. Having said that, we passed another group busy changing a tire; the road was dirt and gravel and some potholes. Not what we would consider challenging, but a road where we took care.

We were looking for the herds of wild ponies.

Petrified log alongside the guide sign

No wild horses in sight, but some mind-blowing expanses of scenery along the track. There were inescapable signs of wild horses, piles and piles of signs of wild horses, but we never saw a single wild horse.

Pilot Butte, after which the trail is named

In front of us is a valley where Interstate 80, the old Lincoln Highway, runs. It is also where the Pony Express trail ran before the coast-to-coast railroad took over prompt mail delivery. It makes me sad to see that prompt delivery of mail is no longer a priority for the US Mail system. Here also ran several of the migratory trails as America moved westward. What courage and initiative it took – blasting away hills, bridging canyons and rivers, tunneling through mountains and building across swamps – feats of imagination and engineering. We are in awe of the minds that solved these problems.

June 11, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Building, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Geography / Maps, Restaurant, Road Trips, Survival, Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Joe Pickett Guides Us Through the Red Desert, Wamsutter and the Lincoln Highway to Rock Springs, Wyoming

The sun wakes us early the next morning, streaming in our window. The temperature is 22°F and there is a light frost on the ground. All we brought in are our backpacks, so we grab a quick breakfast from our supplies and head out.

It’s a beautiful day at 22°F

“Why would you want to go to Rock Springs, Wyoming?” asked my new brother-in-law with genuine bewilderment, at the end of our trip as we were spending time with him and my sister.

I didn’t know he had been born there, and still has family there. No, we had chosen this obscure route because of a series by C.J. Box about a game warden named Joe Pickett, a series we have both read from book one to book 22. In Off the Grid, Joe is tracking a crazy bear into the Red Desert when he finds a bunch of terrorists and naive young people putting together a magnetic pulse bomb to create havoc in the civilized western world. (Honestly, I don’t even know how to describe the plot to you, sometimes it doesn’t have to make a lot of sense, you just sort of have to roll with it.)

I had never heard of The Red Desert before, and I had driven that stretch of Highway 80, the old Lincoln Highway, several times. It was always just a place to get through, but this time we would be looking at it with different eyes.

It all started in Qaqortoq, on our Wake of the Vikings trip (just type in Wake of the Vikings in the search window of this blog if you want to more about that trip). In Qaqortoq, AdventureMan asked me what I would do if I lived there and I told him I would learn to spin wool, something I’ve always wanted to do. He said “If I had to live here, I would kill myself or drink myself to death.”

On this trip, we passed through several towns about which he felt the same. We like being remote on trips. He doesn’t like the idea of living remote.

The field irrigators are on, and the spray etches patches of fairy ice onto the grass.

It is a beautiful day, and we stop often, just because we can. It is cold, but it is also beautiful. These rocks, we learn, are called fortification rocks, because in territorial wars people could use them to strategic advantage.

note the bullet holes. Bullet holes were everywhere.

There were mountains in the distance capped with white snow. We began seeing pronghorns, and at one point, when we stopped to take a photo, I almost stepped on a dead elk, probably hit by a car. There was no smell, probably because it was still so cold.

Pronghorn

Baggs, Wyoming, is at the border between Colorado and Wyoming and is at the southeastern tip of The Red Desert. Baggs was where AdventureMan said he would kill himself if he had to live in a town with 411 people.

AdventureMan mentions there are routes into the Red Desert coming up, and I counter saying that they are tracks, not routes, and if we were to go in, and get into some trouble, it is very remote and we might be those tragic elderly people who foolishly thought they could survive, but couldn’t. Honestly, I would love to see the Red Desert AND I know we are not the people we once were. I think we could survive a lot, being who we are, and I also know it is not wise, at our age, to tempt the fates. I can’t really tell whether he is disappointed or relieved by my response. My best guess would be – both.

That’s the tip end of The Red Desert in the background. If you look at the Google Map of today’s journey, you will see a big empty space in the middle, a biblical “trackless waste.”

Just around lunchtime, we enter Wamsutter, a boom-and-bust town with several past lives. AdventureMan finds the Hacienda Mendez, where we have our first taste of cactus salad – it is delicious.

Dining area
Bar
Crispy chips and tasty salsa

Cactus Salad – Nopal Salad
Mexican Burger

Shrimp Tostadas

And on we go, down the Lincoln Highway toward Rock Springs, the Red Desert to our left with high tabletop plateaus guarding the tracks leading to the interior, and the Great Divide Basin to our right, along with the Killpecker Sand Dunes (Wikipedia calls them the largest living dune system in the United States. I didn’t know that – did you know that?)

We head into Rock Springs and find our home for the next couple of nights, The Outlaw Inn. I could not resist the name.

They gave us a really great room, with two bathrooms, one with a toilet and shower, one with a toilet and tub. Just pure luck.

Calamity Jane in one of the party rooms

Dropping our gear, we headed out to explore Rock Springs. We wanted to find the college museum, but when we found it, nothing was open. In Joe Pickett’s world, this was where his daughter April went to university, a rodeo college. What we did find was a wonderful museum, the Rock Springs Historical Museum, and a wonderful docent who was willing to answer all our questions. This museum was wonderful. It included a full jail, and a padded cell as well as well-curated exhibits of communications, health care, etc. through the earliest history of the county.

I am eager for tomorrow, when we have a real adventure, searching for the White Mountain Petroglyphs!

June 9, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Safety, Social Issues, Survival, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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: 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 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

Out in the Great Wide Open: Montana and Wyoming Day 1

Our first major trip since the beginning of COVID had an ambiguous start. AdventureMan and I over prepare, we always do. So the day before we are scheduled to leave for Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, we are actually pretty relaxed. We are all packed – actually packed, and then re-evaluated when the weather suddenly turned from the high 90’s to much lower, and we scrambled to add some cold weather gear to the mix. We are enjoying some down time when AdventureMan calls from his office to mine – “Hey, we just got a letter from Viking you need to look at.”

AdventureMan is a big picture kind of guy. He gets right away that our trip in May 2022 is being cancelled. I capture the details – that we either apply the money we have paid in full to a future trip or we call immediately to tell them we want a full refund. This is the second time we have had this particular trip cancel and we look at each other and agree that two cancellations are enough.

There is an incentive to putting the money forward – a 10% reduction in the cost of the trip. We already have another trip booked with them, but for less money, so we wanted to keep it clean. We needed to call right away, because the deadline was during the middle of this trip which we are about to take, and our lack of internet connections in the remote locations we seek could prevent us from getting our refund. AdventureMan got right on it, the representative answered, encouraged us to book the trip again (we declined) and worked it out so that our refund will arrive shortly.

Crisis averted. Don’t you hate it when things happen at the last minute?

The following morning we were up at 0345 and Patrick, our taxi driver, arrived exactly on the dot of 4:15. For me, it was a scramble. Morning feeding of the two indoor cats and the one outdoor cat is my responsibility, plus getting dressed. I scrambled. I was finished just in time, we got to the airport, checked in and went through security. No problems, except I forgot I had my Fitbit on and had to be searched. 

One other problem. For this trip I had really tried to manage with a carry on bag, which preparing for two weeks is problematic. I had really thought things through, had clothes with multiple purposes, got it all in the one bag and my purse – and then they wouldn’t let me take the bag on board, they valet’ed it. I have a large handbag, large enough for my computer and meds and rental car paperwork, so all was well, but it was annoying to follow all the rules and then not to be able to take it with me. We call this a first world problem – in the greater scheme of things, it was small stuff. 

Our first flight was to Charlotte, and there was some passenger having a problem about wearing the masks over both mouth and nose, and about whether the female flight attendant had the authority to require full coverage. No problem, they had a big male flight safety monitor who explained his choices to him – cover, or get off the flight. 

The Federal Aviation Administration has had more than 4200 reports of unruly passengers since the beginning of 2021. More than 3000 of these reports were due to refusals to wear masks, in spite of clear guidance from every airline that this is a mandate. 

We were close to where the flight attendants were chatting during take-off, laughing that a man would refuse to believe a woman had the authority to instruct him to wear a mask. Welcome to 2021. 

In Charlotte, we had just enough time to stop at the Farmer’s Market and pick us sandwiches and chips for the next leg of the flight. There were huge lines at all the other places, for Biscuits and Eggs, for McDonalds, for Starbucks. The second flight also departed on time. We don’t take these blessings for granted.

We arrived in Bozeman on time, 50 degrees F. outside and raining. We were delighted. There have been forest fires sending waves of particulate matter towards Bozeman for weeks, and now the winds have shifted, and the rain has helped tamp down the pollution. Again, we feel blessed.

AdventureMan had to wait for his bag so I went to pick up the rental car. Things got weird. Not in a hard way, just in an unusual way. There was no one at my rental agency’s counter, but there was a sign to check in with another rental agency. There was no line, so I checked in. The guy offered me an upgrade for a pittance to a Rav4, a car we really like anyway. Then he handed me the keys and told me how to return it when we were done. 

“Wait!” I said. “Don’t we have to sign a rental contract and talk about filling the tank and stuff?”

“Our printer isn’t working,” he stated, and I didn’t believe him for a heartbeat. “I can send you an e-mail copy if you wish” and yes, I so wished. I had my own copy of the initial agreement, but it was for a different kind of car. I’m glad I had it with me because the entire two weeks we drove this rental car, I never received a copy of the new rental agreement. A couple hours after I returned the car, I received the updated rental agreement. 

But the car was a beautiful turquoise blue, and close enough to the cars we drive to be easy, even better than AdventureMan’s 2010 version. It was an easy drive to our hotel, the Spring Hill Inn, which had our room waiting for us, a large, serene and quiet room, close to everything. Then off to the nearby Walmart, our usual Bozeman outfitter, for what we call car foods, and insect repellant (which we never had to use) and other small items of convenience.

There is a lot of construction going on in Bozeman, and we are told by many we talk with that the problem is trying to find an affordable place to live in Bozeman. Outside our window, we can see new housing going up, and we can also see the solution the construction workers have found to deal with the housing affordability problem.

We parked downtown when we found a place that looked wonderful and had a smoker out front, but it turned out to be a fine food purveyor, not a restaurant. We asked her for a recommendation, and she said ‘You have to go to the Rocking R” so we did. The Rocking R is actually a bar, a great cowboy bar, and the restaurant is called Hail Mary. We both had elk burgers – hey, we’re in Bozeman – and they were delicious. I think mine was called something like the Outlaw, and my beer was a Maverick Mary; it tasted good and because I don’t drink much, half a beer and I was buzzed. I also had roasted shaved brussel sprouts to salve my conscience. We had a great time. We are happy just to be back in Bozeman. 

We had time to take a walk along the main street – woo hooo, lots of fun stores, a rug store for AdventureMan and a book store for me. 

We couldn’t ask for a better first day. No delays, no negative events. Hardest part of the day was trying to keep myself awake until 8 p.m.

September 12, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Bureaucracy, Civility, Cultural, Eating Out, Financial Issues, Geography / Maps, Hotels, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Restaurant, sunrise series, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone; The North Entrance and Gardiner, MT

This is all the same day, still, the day we left Canyon Valley early in the morning and it is only about 10 a.m. and we’ve had all these adventures.

But AdventureMan and I also love to eat good food, and we are (ahem) fed up with the Yellowstone offerings. We know Gardiner is just across the border, in Montana, mere minutes away. I haven’t had my coffee this morning (not a good thing if you are traveling with me) and we can’t get into our cabin until later.

Gardiner is FUN. We spent time in Gardiner three times. This time, we discovered the Wonderland Cafe and Lodge, where I had coffee and AdventureMan had hot chocolate. The Wonderland Cafe has all the things we love; high ceilings, lots of light, wood, comfy furniture – it has a great feel.

 

 

 

 

 

The view from Gardiner is purely grand:

 

 

 

And here is the famed Roosevelt Gate at the North Entrance:

We decided to head back out to Lamar Valley, our happy place, but first, we needed to have a good lunch. We found Rosie’s Bistro, loved the look, and had a great meal.

You know we are careful eaters. We have fruits with us, and crackers and peanut butter. We drink a lot of water. If you are that kind of people – stop reading now.

At Rosie’s, we went off the rails.

We could smell wonderful smells.

AdventureMan ordered a BBQ Pork sandwich, and did not bother ordering a salad. The french fries were fantastic. I ordered the not-on-the-menu ribs, which were so tender I only needed a fork. I ate them all. I barely even pecked at my salad. We did not order dessert.

 

View from Rosies Bistro:

 

 

I took this picture because of the picture. I thought I had a cool photo of the bison in the steam, but this one, oh WOW.

 

 

 

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Food, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yellowstone National Park; Bear En Route to Mammoth Hot Springs

I’m posting this Yellowstone National Park map again to help you orient yourself on today’s adventures. We go from Canyon Village to Artist Paintpots (at last!), stop a lengthy time to watch a sedate mother grizzly and her cubs, view an awesome mountain, arrive in Mammoth Springs, have lunch in Gardiner, Montana, outside the North gate to the park, visit the upper Terrace at Mammoth, and spend the late afternoon once again in Lamar Valley, our happy place. This evening, my husband gets attacked by an irate Mama elk.

Yellowstone is so do-able. We did all the above, and never felt rushed.

 

This is an easy day, and our plan is to get up when we feel like it, but we are both awake by seven, and in fifteen minutes we are ready to go. We shake the dust from our feet!

From Canyon, we take the road directly going West. When we get to the junction, we turn South, just to get us to Artist Paintpots. We’ve tried twice before, and the parking lot was jammed and overflowing. This time, we are the first car in the lot. It’s only about 7:30 a.m. and the long weekend is long passed. There are fewer visitors, and even fewer who are out and about this early. (We are still early in the park season, once the summer rush starts, even early may not be early enough.)

 

 

Yep, you guessed it, Artistic Paintpots is so named because of the wondrous colors created by the variety of minerals leached into the boiling hot water, and the bacteria that thrives in the steaming springs.

 

I cannot even imagine a caldera this big, but as we drove, we tried to identify the ridges. The floor of this caldera thinly covers molten lava and the geysers and springs are caused by the heating of water in the ground which expands and comes out with varying degrees of force. This is how I understand it; someone with a more technical background can give you a more thorough explanation. So Yellowstone is a super volcano, and last erupted 700,000 years ago. It could erupt again. We were constantly aware of how very thin the crust of the earth is here, and now we obliviously walk over the possibility of instant, painful death.

But oh, the combination of heat, and minerals creates some magnificent colors and an eerily beautiful landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

It is a beautiful hike, one of the best on our trip. It is worth finding a serene time to visit the Artist Paintpots.

Back in the car, we see a big jam of cars on the road, and people running. Anywhere else, you would think someone had a car accident, but in Yellowstone, a jam like that with people parking anywhere – sometimes just leaving their car in the middle of the road (!) means that some kind of game has been spotted. This time, it was a Mama Grizzly and her two cubs.

So many people! Many of them had powerful, huge lenses, and tripods. They were all set up to take photos when the bear would be in clear view. I just use a little Lumix with a big telephoto, and it takes surprisingly sharp photos, considering it has a very light and easily tucked-in-a-purse kind of body.

There was an empty place where no one wanted to be. We really just wanted to watch. (Yes, we had backed up to a real viewing point and parked legally. The rule is – or is supposed to be – that you are supposed to be outside the white line delineating the outer boundary of the road.

We watched the very placid sow dig up some roots, keeping an eye on the playful cubs.

 

 

 

 

I just got lucky. The bear and her cubs moved to directly in front of me. It’s . . .well, it’s like a God thing, if the photo is put right in front of you, you are meant to take it, right?

More and more people came. They were quiet and respectful of the bear, and of one another, but their parking was not respectful of the trucks and RVs that needed to get through. Soon, the park rangers arrived. We were told they can ticket anyone not parked outside the white lines, and that the fine is HUGE, but this is a tourist attraction, and the rangers we saw used good humor and persistence, and cajoled people into moving along and parking legally. We never saw anyone ticketed, and we also never saw anyone argue with a ranger.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Civility, Customer Service, Geography / Maps, Law and Order, Lumix, Photos, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , | Leave a comment