Grand Teton and Yellowstone
Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
10Trip End Nov 01, 2006
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First stop was the area of Pinedale, Wyoming, just 70 miles south of Jackson, Wyoming. We were told at the visitors center that the mountains and landscape here are just as nice as the Tetons, and much less crowded, and it is. Pinedale is the home of the original Mountain Man Rendezvous, originally started as a trading of furs and swapping of tall tales back in the 1820s-1840s. These were the first white men to enter the new Northwest after the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Driven by the fad of beaver-skinned top hats, these men were part explorers and part businessmen, killing over 100,000 beaver per year until the beaver supply almost ran out and fashions changed
The big news around Pinedale, as in most of Wyoming, is oil and gas. A major gas field is only a few miles away, so the area has an influx of new money, higher housing prices, and job openings, especially for regular service jobs. We were told that a starting teacher makes $40K a year. Despite the new push for energy exploration, there are a number of articles in the paper of lawsuits to limit new permits, especially on the federal lands. The feds own 80% of all of the land in the state, as well as in many of the other Western states. ( I would like to know more about how these states were carved out back in the 1890s, while the feds retained the land-and the oil, gas and mineral rights.) Apparently even the Republican Senators are trying to limit the new drilling because of environmental concerns.
From Pinedale we traveled through Jackson, picked up a Sunday New York Times, and got resituated for a few more days as we explored the Grand Tetons (yes, that is French for Big Boobs, as named by the early French explorers.) We spent one day in Jackson getting caught up on civilization, shopping and galleries and even Thai food for dinner
The Teton park was not crowded, so we traveled about 100 miles north to Yellowstone expecting the same. Definitely wrong. We arrived at a central camp ground only to find that there was one site remaining, out of 400 sites altogether. All the rigs were bumper to bumper, so we barely got out the trailer, and left early the next day to find a more remote site, complete with privacy, very hot weather, large black horseflies and mosquitoes. One night we traveled to Cooke City, MT, just outside the park, just to escape the heat-the temperature dropped from 95 degrees to 75 degrees in just 30 miles, as the elevation increased. On the way back in the dark we encountered another bison herd, a little intimidating, since any one of these gigantic animals (larger than a typical steer) could turn over our truck.
The unexpected heat dictated the rest of the week, as we decided to get our hikes in early before it got too hot. One day we hiked about 7 miles roundtrip up a long gravel road to Mount Washburn at elevation 10,000 feet. Along the way we saw summer flowers, the last of the winter snow, sightings of the burned forest from the 1988 fires which are now regenerating, and numerous animals. From the top we could see Yellowstone in all directions from the Lamar Valley to the Yellowstone Canyon. Unfortunately, the air was hazy and the sun was bright, so it was mostly a bust for photographs.
Yellowstone has kind of a Disney feel, and there are thousands of visitors, especially during late July, which is surely the busiest time
Despite the higher gas prices, the parks seem quite busy this summer. All of the shops and restaurants have "help wanted" signs, and many of the staffers seem to be senior citizens and Eastern European kids. Don't American college kids do summer jobs anymore? (OK, I'm just showing my age again!)
We spotted a few other animals while in the park, including a gray wolf just walking down the road, and a bear down a creek bed. Our campsite area had warnings about sightings of mountain lions, with directions along these lines: make noise with a bear bell, if you see a lion try to seem big and intimidating by flapping your arms (but also hang on to small children). If that doesn't work, run like hell, but try not to act scared. We decided not to take that hike. One night we were visited in our dinner tent by twin baby deer, who were very curious about us
We left Yellowstone on Sunday and headed straight to a KOA campground with electricity, so we could turn on the AC and escape the heat. It was over 100 degrees, so we just vegged out, read books and watched TV-just like we would do at home.
Sorry-no mechanical crises to report, just the usual humdrum life of living on the road. I will start to share some of the adjustments we have made to living in a 23-foot trailer.