Saturday, May 31, 2008

Matt and Patty Brackin

We had been waiting for the day to arrive. Storm after storm rolled over the mountains, day after day. It seemed that there was little chance for the outdoor wedding, yet at three o'clock the clouds broke over the Grand Teton. A window of blue sky opened and we walked to the wedding site.

Spring creek, a small braid of the Snake River, flowed along the way, held in check by beaver dams, Two buffalo head ducks swam leisurely by as if to witness the event. The wind calmed and a wilsons warbler flew around us, adding a touch of golden yellow.

Matt and Patty recited their vows to one another and there was not a dry eye in the sheltered alcove. They looked so beautiful. The bride dressed in a gown that captured the sunlight and the groom in his tux......

After the wedding the party returned to the resort. The cake was a work of art with the folds of frosting matching Patty's gown. The meal was superb, the two families talked and danced. Renita cried as Matt danced with her. The circle of life continued again. Thank you God, we have been truly blessed. Clear skies.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cascade Canyon

The weather finally broke, at least for a few hours, and we were able to take the shuttle boat and hike Cascade Canyon. While there were a lot of deep patches of snow, the trail was passable and we were able to view Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.

We took the first shuttle across the lake and both of us were a little surprised at the numbers of people who had already hiked the two mile trail. Fron the dock it was an easy half mile climb to hidden falls. Cascade Creek treated us to a view of plunge pools and rapids along the trail. Hidden Falls really deserves its name as it is possible to miss it entirely. Luckily we ran into some other people who told us to go up the south side of Cascade Creek. We took turns taking pictures of us and the falls with a German couple.

The man's wife decided she had had enough climbing for the day so the husband kind of adopted us and followed us up to Inspiration Point. Snowy and slippery at first, the trail turned into a dry rocky path with several switchbacks. It was tiring, at elevation,(I think we are both acclimatizing to the elevation. It is 7200 feet above sea level at Inspiration point. My heart rate was fine and Renita slugged it out as usual), but we took our time and were treated to a great view of Jackson Hole and the mountains of Yellowstone. The point is directly below Symmetry Spire. To the south the Cathedral Group towers over the canyon. We only stayed a few minutes as a storm broke over the top of the Grand Teton.

Retreating down the trail the sun broke out and we stopped for lunch, only to be attacked and surrounded by ground squirrels and yellow marmots. They became disappointed at the lack of handouts and one ground squirrel started chewing on Renita's pack. As we ate we enjoyed the view off the mountainside. We were also treated to a spectacular view of Teewenot Mountain,(Which I had climbed in the late 70's. I enjoyed the view of the moutains even more than the valley. It made me want to climb again).

Another storm broke over the mountains and we quickly descended to the boat dock where the boat captain told us that high winds, hail and lightening were expected. The ride across the Jenny Lake was a boat ride through whitecaps, with blowing mist chilling our bodies. We reached the other side before the full fury of the storm was released on us and as a reward we went to the Jenny Lake store for a cup of Mocha Cappuccino...... Clear skies.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bears in The Tetons

All is well, we saw a bear yesterday in the park. We also were warned about two young grizzly cubs in our campground. The park is it's usual self with wildlife viewings everywhere.

Molly and I took our morning walk and decided to walk the other campground as it is still closed due to snow. About halfway in she stopped and refused to go any further. It turns out that the mother grizzly chased her cubs away last week as they were grown up and it was time. They have been in the campground but the rangers chased them away. Didn't see the bear but discretion can be good at times. On the way back I looked to our right to see a coyote walking parallel to us. As Molly is prey,(she never noticed it), I was nervous but we got back safely.

Getting a late start we headed to Jenny Lake intending to ride the shuttle across to Cascade Canyon. On the way a line of cars developed behind me as people think its ok to speed in the park. A jerk from Arizona passed us and then I spotted a black bear on the road a little ways ahead. The idiot stopped and then blew his horn to get the bear out of the road. So we didn't get any pictures, just the tracks. We saw a bear!

At one stop we saw a bunch of tourists walking past a bear closure warning sign but no bear appeared to eat them so nothing for America's funniest home videos. We stopped for lunch at the Jackson Lake dam where I cast a lure for a bit. Didn't catch anything but saw people launching their canoe to float to Pacific Creek takeout. To cold for us to do that but a future trip?

A storm moved in and it started raining again so we put off the shuttle boat ride and Cascade Canyon hike, instead opting for a drive up to Two Ocean Lake. The road was closed but we did drive up Pacific Creek, almost to the trail head. Really muddy and we didn't see any bears but we did see more elk and even a elk calf.

Returning home we saw moose and more elk. All in all a great wildlife day. Clear skies

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Tetons

We left Flaming Gorge early on the 23rd and decided to take Matt’s advice to drive on 320 and then 189 to Jackson. Quite unexpectedly it ended up being one of the most beautiful drives we have ever taken.
The first part wasn’t new, as we followed the Green River northward, but as the Wind River Mountains became visible the view of them was the best we have ever seen. Of course we knew that Gannet Peak is the highest point in Wyoming but the view from other Wyoming roads is so far away that you don’t appreciate the majesty of the Winds. It rivals the Tetons and the Sawtooths of Idaho. The snow capped peaks and flanks reminded us that as we were heading into the mountains we were heading into winter and we were glad we rescued our long johns and winter coats from the bins in his garage.
Soon there was snow along the roadway, but the roads were clear of ice and dry. Signs frequently reminded us that the elk were migrating, although we didn’t see any. So it was with a bit of apprehension as we neared the Hoback and Hoback Canyon. It was needless worry. The roads were dry and we were treated to a spectacular mountain drive. We both had no idea that this drive would be so beautiful. The road itself was quite good and wide and we had no problem with our long rig.
The drive through the town of Jackson, Wyoming renewed my disgust with tourist towns,( I really think the true Wyoming spirit is in the small towns and the boom towns. Places were real people work hard for a living. We had friends who taught there and left, saying it was no place to raise a family as the clothes and their labels defined your status). We were also surprised at the number of tourists already flooding the roadways.
Another sign warned us that three moose and already died in vehicle collisions, yet we were the only ones who were driving the speed limit. Car after car rode our bumper and passed us. It was a far cry from my trips to the area during hunting season and our trips to the Teton Science school.
Finally reaching Moran Junction we turned into the park entrance gate only to be told that the rv park hadn’t opened because of today’s snow,(It turned out they had opened but the snow took down the phone lines so his information was outdated). Renita spotted a red fox cruising through the parking lot and we saw elk with the usual traffic jams. We stopped at the Colter Bay visitor center where we were told the rv park was open, but not the main campground so we checked in and parked in a nice spot surrounded by lodge pole pines.
The rest of the day was our typical moving day routine, with the exception that we had to bear proof our coolers and the truck bed by locking the collers up inside the truck. No bears were around the campsite yet but a mother bear and three cubs were reported to be two miles away,(the same mother bear attacked a hiker in Colter Bay last spring as he surprised the bears on their newly killed elk calf). After dinner we walked down to Jackson Lake, only a hundred yards away yet hidden by the dense black forest. A fine day. Clear skies.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I have a lot to learn about fishing salt water, but the fishing at Flaming Gorge is awfully darned easy. The first day we went to Holmes draw and I caught a couple of nice rainbow from shore. The next evening I caught a nice lake trout by casting from the bank. Yesterday we got the boat going and caught four nice kokeenee salmon.
It was the first day in the our boat since last July and it felt good, no great. We started fishing for Lake Trout without any luck, so we switched to kokeenee. On the advice of one of Matt’s friends we bought a worm threader, put worms on leaders and trolled for quite a while with no luck.
So the old trusty kokeenee killer went on and bingo, a nice kokeenee. The water temp was 47 and the fish were already in their July mode. It was too easy. Well not quite that easy. After putting two more in the live well things seemed to go wrong. After losing a couple, the boat suddenly lurched and then returned to normal. The next thing we knew the homemade downrigger started bouncing on the bottom! Too shallow! Quickly lifting that I looked at the downrigger and realized that the ball had broken off. A first time for everything. No wonder the boat lurched.
An hour later we finally got three poles back in the water. We caught another salmon, lost another, and then got checked by the game warden. No problem right? When I took out my lifetime license I discovered that it had broke into two pieces! It was still okay but it seems like Game and Fish could make a more durable license.
Returning to trolling, the fish had quit biting. Go figure. We trolled back and called it a day. Clear skies.

Kokeenee(Part 2)
We went out fishing, after more days of working on our house and Matt’s garage. We had talked with another fisherman in the rv park who talked of catching kokes and a lake trout. He was pretty excited as another fisherman boated a 30+ pounder.
So we went out, after repairing the canoe carrier, and the kokeenee were biting like there was no tomorrow. the water temperature had risen to 59 degrees. A front was coming through which also may have put them into a feeding frenzy but again, the fishing was great. We boated ten kokes, released seven, in four hours. We caught them from the island to the marina bay.
After returning to shore and filleting the unlucky ones, Renita talked with the same person we had talked with before. He said they had only caught two all day. Guess it was our day.
We cleaned and put the boat away as we are leaving for the Tetons on Friday. Sounds like it’s going to be cold and rainy, but as long as it clears for the wedding all will be well. Clear skies.

Nothing at All

Nothing At All (A personal journey)
Renita said, “It feels good to be home”. I knew what she meant, (Wyoming, seeing Matt and Patty, fishing at Flaming Gorge), but I didn’t feel it yet.
The next morning, I took Molly for our walk. We walked along a dirt road that ends at the lake. I looked to the west, across a desert filled with big sagebrush. The sage has pungent aroma that is unmistakable to anyone who has lived there. A large buttew with parallel bedding planes, was in the distance. To the south I could see Big Timber mountain and the Wasatch Range covered with snow. There was not a sign of human habitation. Nothing at all. I felt at peace and felt that of all the places we had been, this was the special place for us.
Now we have been to other places where I have had those moments of peace, Oklahoma, Iowa, Louisiana all come to mind. Big Bend, Texas is a lot like here, but with different plants and wildlife, it also has a feeling of peace and contentment. In one of my earliest blogs I wrote of the peace and beauty of an early morning walk in Keosauqua , Iowa. I have had may such moments. Maybe its being retired, maybe it’s having the time to finally stop and enjoy each day, maybe………
So far, in our travels, we have journeyed through twenty states. In that time we have explored five deserts, four national parks, three national monuments, two national historic sites, two wildlife refuges, and numerous state parks and beaches. In all these places we have found nothing at all. Clear skies.

(Six days later it's cold and snowing, hmmmm.....)

Mothers Day at the Gorge

The next day was Mothers Day. After a special breakfast, we prepared for a fun day exploring the west side of Flaming Gorge. We loaded up the fishing gear, Renita’s new metal detector, and headed to Manila, Utah.
It was only about twenty five miles to Manila. Miracle of miracles, the cell phone connected and Renita was able to talk to Jenny. We drove through town, found a restaurant and ate lunch, (Renita does not recommend the Taco Salad). After lunch we stopped at the grocery/hardware/bait store to check out their inventory and buy some worms.
It was about a four mile drive back to the border of Wyoming and Utah. Our first stop was at Anvil Draw. It is a pretty rough road in, big gravel. The boat ramp is really good there and there is a place to park our house so it has the potential for boon docking. There is a 16 day limit so it would be possible to spend the summer by shuttling back and forth between there and the next ramp, at Holmes Draw. AS we checked out the shoreline and dock, We were surprised to see all the turetella fossils. The collect mode almost kicked in, but sanity returned and we put the rocks back. The shoreline was full of flooded trees, so it was not a good place to fish/
The next draw, Holmes Draw, has been renamed. Part of the Federal Government’s push for political correctness. It’s previous name was Squaw Hollow. We drove to the shore, where Renita quickly started metal detecting and I got my pole ready to fish. In almost no time at all she found her first coin, a lucky penny! We both had a good time there as the fish were biting, two nice rainbows, and Renita found more treasures.
Returning home Renita got a text message from Matt, wishing her a happy mother’s day. All was well. Clear skies. (the picture has nothing to do with Mothers Day but Matt is on the right side. He also had an article in the magazine.)

Back to Wyoming

Driving through Salt Lake City was actually pretty easy. We left at 9 am and avoided the rush hour traffic. The exits were well marked. As we got on 80 and headed east the road started to climb to Park City. The truck handled it well, both up the grade and then downhill. It did rain off and on us when we reached Wyoming the rain stopped.
The drive from Green River to Flaming Gorge reminded us of the Big Bend Texas area, with a lot less cactus. The antelope, ever present, barely moved as we passed. The road was new and so we arrived at Buckboard Marina, checked in and set up. It’s actually a pretty nice rv park, for Wyoming. No cable, no internet, and a phone service that costs a buck a minute…….but the view is great and we do have electricity, water, and sewer. Renita asked about the showers and the owner looked at her funny and said, “They are four or five dollars with a towel and soap per shower”. It kind of makes you wonder how often they are used. Looks like the rv shower is the ticket here.
The next day we drove to Rock Springs and went to Matt’s House where we visited a while before getting down to business. We moved the boat and hooked up the battery chargers, repaired a flat tire, and then Matt and I went to his bachelor party, (while we were there Renita met Patty and they went out to dinner and shopped).
It was quite a different conversation at the bachelor party. The usual joking was normal, but being around Troopers and DCI agents was a new experience. The shop talk was not the teacher shop talk I was used to. It was nice to see Matt had so many friends, and to get an insight into law officers and their lives. May God bless and protect them all.
Leaving early, Renita and Patty met me at Matt’s house. Renita told me of how much fun she had with Patty. We returned home late and tried to watch a movie, but it was no use as bedtime beckoned. Clear skies

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Springville, Utah

After leaving Moab we had planned on driving to Duschenes and even called to make reservations, but the owner of the rv park told us that the route we were taking was narrow and had some intense switchbacks. She recommended we not travel that way.

Instead we turned off US 191 and took US 6 across the Watsatch Mountains. The road was busy, with lots of trucks, and was the steepest and longest down the mountain run we have done so far. I started braking a bit too much so I shifted to manual an used the engine to brake. It worked great as I only used the brakes a couple more times. It turned out to be a good learning experience. We did have to pull over to let trucks by us but that's ok.

As we neared Springville. Renita found a really nice rv park, East Bay, and she got us reservations for two nights. We pulled in, set up, and decided to go wedding clothes shopping.

One of Renita's friends had suggested we go to The Gateway Mall. What a nice place. Renita found a pretty outfit and I found a nice suit. Too nice. 1680 bucks and hand sewn Italian wool. Anyway we left with me suit less and instead went to a Brazilian restaurant. The waiters carried spits of grilled meats and served you by carving of a portion. If you wanted more you had a sign post, red meant stop and green meant more. It was a lot of fun. We both ate so much that we couldn't eat any dessert.

We left downtown Salt Lake just in time. A big storm came through and caused all kinds of delays and jams on the interstate. A good day, but more shopping is needed tomorrow. Clear skies.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Delicate Arch

The next morning we had planned stopping at Balanced Rock and hiking the Delicate Arch Trail. It is about a three mile roundtrip and climbs 500 feet to the arch that’s Utah’s State Symbol. Both of us were a little worried about hiking uphill at this altitude as we had spent so long along the seashore and we had not yet acclimatized.
The first part of the trail was pretty easy. When we reached the solid rock it turned into an uphill grunt. Added to the free exercise was the fact that we had packs with a lot of water, but it was weight well needed. We made frequent stops and finally made it up the hill. The trail then turned west, wandering through fins of red sandstone before turning into a narrow rock trial. On one side was the vertical wall of a fin and a small arch. The cross bedded sandstone was classic southwest rock. On the other side was a vertical drop of a hundred feet. It was really neat and provided a view of some beautiful arches and pour offs.
As we turned the corner of the fin, Delicate Arch was before us in all its glory. They could have named it surprise arch as it is a sudden surprise on the trail. We took some pictures, sat down and ate an apple, before getting in line to have out pictures taken under the arch,(Yes, I said line as we shared the beauty with a large group of high school student and teachers. They actually looked somewhat human unlike the goths and gangsters we saw at the Petrified Forest )((Look under the Arch and you can see Renita).
The hike back was easy and fast as it was all downhill. We stopped and took pictures of some wildflowers as the desert was still blooming. After returning to the vehicle we drove to the viewpoint of the arch from down below. It was a far away view and was pretty dull after standing under it. Really tired we headed home. Clear skies.

Landscape Arch and the Windows

On Sunday we headed to Arches National Park. Our goal was to hike two trails, the Devils Garden trail and the Windows trail. We filled our camelbacks, packed some food and headed to the park. As we drove we made a few stops as the scenery left us in awe.
The first hike was up the Devils Garden Trail. The trail was really well maintained and an easy hike. Our goal was to reach Landscape Arch, and maybe Navajo and Partition Arches. As we hiked we passed between massive slabs of sandstone rising vertically.
We rounded a corner of the trail and suddenly saw Landscape Arch in all its glory. Landscape Arch is over a football field long. It seems to defy gravity in a way that words can’t describe. In fact it barely does as a 180 ton piece broke off in the 1990’s. It was actually witnessed by tourists and filmed. Landscape Arch is one of the most beautiful natural objects I have ever seen. Renita disagreed and said the Window in Big Bend was her favorite.

Continuing on the trail, we tried to find Partition and Navajo Arches. The trail led us to Wall Arch and then to a view of Partition. Confused and tired, we went back to Landscape and had an apple.

As another hike was planned, for the day, we returned to the trailhead. Back towards the Headquarters is the Windows road and trail.. Another beautiful hike, this one about a mile,(the part of Devils Garden was about 2.3 miles). It was neat that the trail surprised us with the South Window. The north Window is visible from the parking lot. The trail continued to Slot Arch. We had another snack there before returning to the truck.

We have been truly blessed. Clear skies.

Pretty Utah Drives

We left Cortez and headed up US 491, then turning North on US 191 to Moab, (While I don’t usually comment on the drives, this one was on good roads and was very scenic). Among other sites we were treated to a huge arch, called Wilsons Arch.
Arriving in Moab we found our rv park, overpriced, cramped, but scenic. After resting and getting set up we first went to the visitor center and then to the Arches National Park Headquarters, to make our plans. The next morning after connecting on the internet and discovering that REI was having a sale on their canoes so we decided to run to Grand Junction Colorado and check them out.
It turned out to be a wasted drive as the REI in Grand Junction is probably the smallest in the world. They didn’t have any canoes. We did stop at a Sportsman World where we almost bought an Old Town Stillwater canoe. But, we decided against it.
On the drive back we took a different route, State 128. This road drives along the Colorado River and the drive turned out to be a beautiful canyon drive. We made frequent picture stops, looked at numerous rapids on the Colorado, and passed bikers and motor cross off roaders. It was an unexpected pleasure.
So it turned out that we had another couple of days of unexpected pleasure. The best thing about this journey has been the unexpected beauty we have found. Clear skies.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Durango, Weaving, and Cortez

The last three days have been pretty easy. On Tuesday we went to the Anasazi Heritage Center. On Wednesday, Renata's birthday, we went to Durango. Finally today we rested and went to some pottery and silver stores in Cortez.

The Anasazi Heritage Center is about 8 miles north of Cortez. It's operated by the Bureau of Land Management. As we expected it, featured numerous displays of pottery, food sources, and lifestyles of the ancient puebians. The neatest display was an interactive display in which we got to grind corn with a manos and a metate. and another in which we got to learn to weave! They both were fun!

For Renita's birthday we drove to Durango and visited the historic downtown. We saw a lot of neat and pricey stuff. The highlight of the trip was the lunch at an Italian restaurant. Renita got a huge serving of gelato. It was so good.

Today we stayed home and went to some shops in Cortez. One, called the Notah Dineh, had more stuff than any other place we have been. It had a huge collection of pawned jewelry, woven baskets selling for $6000, and had supplies for the artists. Lots of the stuff you see sold was from premade components sold to and then assembled by the Native Artists.

We went to several other stores, one had rugs woven in India. I didn't ask if they were the same as magic carpets,(When our daughter went to India I asked her to buy me a magic flying carpet. She didn't see any, but I think she was spending too much time seeing elephants and doing yoga....Go figure.).

The last store we stopped in was closing but we had a nice visit with the owners, who were tired of snow and want to head south,(Did I say we saw snowflakes today?).
All in all the time went to fast. Tomorrow we leave for Moab. Clear skies.