Notes from Day 7 – July 1

IMG_2255We saw wildlife

From afar

Until we hit them

With our car

Slow Down!

This morning we left Yellowstone National Park. Packing up the campsite was pretty efficient. There is definitely a lot less food in the car, and there was tons of space in the ice chest for random things. I’m sitting in the back seat of our car now with tons more space than I had when we stopped for groceries in Bozeman. I’ve got more leg space here than on a plane!

We said goodbye to Yellowstone and drove through the Rockafeller National Forest. The lady at the Flagg Ranch outpost was lovely and recommended the Leek’s Marina pizza place for lunch. We started into Grand Tetons National Park and stopped to eat. The place sits rights on the water and has great pizza and a good selection of beers on tap. Their music they played was right up my alley. The employees and some customers started signing when a song came on. It kills me that I can’t remember it right now. Dale and Jessica are also having brain farts. It might have been I’ve Had the Time of my Life. Either way, Electric Avenue and Tainted Love bookended it, and well, I’m impressed. We stopped quickly in Coulter Bay for stickers, postcards and to stamp Betty’s passport.

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Coming up were two of my required stops for the day. After driving around Yellowstone for four days, I was surprised as how quickly we got through the park. I got one inspiration stop at the Snake River Overlook, setting for one of my favorite Ansel Adams photographs. There was the first time in a while I had signal and could get some information on my phone. Dale’s phone also picked up 4G and he was able to check his email to find out his GoToddle app was OK’d by the Apple Store and is now available for purchase!

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A short car ride later and we took a turn off the main road to Mormon’s Row to see the Moulton Barn. You’d be hard pressed to be a photo student or a barn enthusiast or a collector of calendars to have never seen this barn before. I’ve probably spent 10 hours of my life staring at digital files of this barn. It is the generic landscape photograph, with fields, flowers, buildings, all standing before the majestic majesty of the purple tetons on the background. We had to drive through some bison to get there and I got a hilarious shot of a bison crossing the road in front of us, while Jessica’s scared face is reflected in the rear view mirror.

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Before stopping in Jackson (not to be confused with Jackson Hole, the conceptual valley this all is in) we thought we might stop at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. At $12 a piece, I had to balk, but maybe for some next trip. The building it was in was spectacular, in the architects concept of building it from the local rock and having it blend in with the hillside. It looks like an outcropping on a hillside that has been there for years.

DQ was an awesome stop in Jackson for our brainstorming session on where to stop and how far to go the rest of the day. I sit in the car now on our way to Provo, UT. I like mixing Provo, Parvo and Provolone together in my mind. A dog with Parvo eating Provolone in Provo. Something Meta like that.

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Zion is looking hot and dusty right now, but Vegas looks pretty nice. I’m in need of a Martini at the Chandelier Bar. This air conditioning in the car is nice, but it’s wreaking havoc on my lips and nose, in addition to the pollen festival that was happening in Yellowstone.

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Wyoming is  really growing on me. We’re finally in towns that look populated with America than tourists. We just passed under the worlds largest elkhorn arch in afton. These are towns with old signs old buildings and posters for the Barnum and baileys circus. Stuff here is “yumbelievable”…the LDS churches look the same yet different.

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Hike & Hayden Valley

Woke up this morning around 7:30am. Slept well considering the temperature (probably around 43 degrees). The new sleeping bag worked well. I was able to turn around in it, and stay pretty warm throughout the night. Sometime in the night I woke up with what I call “different temperature feet.” I’m certain I don’t want to call them cold, because I know what cold feet feel like, but they were just slightly cooler than the rest of my legs. I pulled off my socks and rubbed my feet a bit. I put the socks back on and pulled down my long johns to cover my socks. I guess that’s the advantage of having not yet hemmed them. I still can chuckle about my bad joke last night when I said they were so long I could probably pull them over my feet and tie them in a knot like Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump. Jessica got up right after me, and we got to making the coffee. At 9:30 or so we made breakfast burritos with the leftover lentils, eggs and slices of american cheese. It was nice to have something warm in our bellies to start the day. We’ve planned a hike to Cascade Lake nearby. We didn’t even want to get into the car to go to a trailhead. I’m ready to get dressed and start cleaning up breakfast messes.

Our hike to cascade lake was beautiful.

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We got to the lake and in our moment of departure saw our first bison over the hill. Jessica also spotted an elk. We played a good few round of 20 questions and Dale had a good stumper with “cowpie”. We stopped in canyon village for ice cream and coffee.

Jessica and I took showers when we got back to camp. The showers at the campground are nice. There is a desk in front if the entrance where they also sell snacks and stuff next to all the laundry facilities.
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I felt antsy to go and do more so I convinced dale and Jessica to go for a drive.
_MG_2222We went through Hayden valley to the mud volcano and saw the Dragons Mouth. On the way back up the road we stopped for more pictures and I was asked about my camera by a man who wanted to see my website. This is great advertising but my gosh I never thought people would be interested in what I was doing.
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Be Bear Aware

I’m happy that we got an early start yesterday morning. We arrived in Yellowstone by Noon and were in the campground set up by 2pm. After what has become a traditional arrival snack of PB&J sandwiches, we set up our tents and made plans to spend as little time in the next 24 hours not in a car.
We were met at the Canyon Campground registration by two very nice gentlemen, who took it upon themselves to realize that we were only three people with two tens, and that with the sites available upon our arrival, we had a choice to pick D85 or D83 because they thought that D85 would be big enough to hold both of our tents. This portion of the loops (A-L) doesn’t have assigned tent spaces. There are thin pine trees cut into loops with paved roads. We drove up to D85, decided it was awesome, and Jessica and I went back to fully register. The registrar, Lenny, even credited the $30 I spent on the other site to the stay at D85, so I only had to pay the other 2 nights. He explained how many people he saw come into Yellowstone with no reservations. I find it shocking that people will drive for hours and hours (or days in our case) to come someplace just to get turned away. I was glad he didn’t charge us a cancellation or anything, but he explained that it wasn’t going to be hard at all to sell the campsite to another camper. We bought two boxes of wood for the time being. It’s park policy that it is acceptable to gather fallen dead wood for campfires. I like it, but you definitely need to go out of the campground to find some because the area around the sites is picked clean.
Our site is nice and wide. There is a family of four at D86 and two men at D83 (our discarded site). We rarely hear them, and the kids are generally well behaved, though they have unfortunate looking matching girl and boy pajama bottoms that the little boy is growing out of too quickly. I’ve seen him pick at his wedgie multiple times. This morning in the cool air being warmed by the sun, he’s wearing shorts. I hope his parents get the idea that he’s a growing boy and that “clothes to grow into” might be better for him.
The loop we’re in has two separate bathrooms. The stalls are nice with old fashioned Standard toilets. Reading the campground website and the online reviews, I didn’t comprehend the “dish washing stations” that people mentioned. I understand that bears are a huge problem here, and that any preventative measure they can take to make the bears less likely to wander in is money well spent. Each bathroom has a separate room in between the restrooms that has stainless steel counters, trash and recycling receptacles, and big porcelain sinks. We were able to do dishes in about half the time it normally takes. I’m only slightly disappointed that we won’t be using our new double washbasin we got from Coleman, but the time and effort the dishwashing room saves us is worth it. Our washing room even has cute green and white checkered tile on the backsplash. Doing the dishes while camping is fun for a change!
IMG_2195After our camp setup and general naptime for Dale, we walked down to Canyon Village. Our campground is the most centrally located, but the amount of people we saw didn’t shock us. There are cabins and little lodges at Canyon Village, in addition to a cafeteria, a soda fountain, a general store, a sporting goods store, and an information center with lots of exhibits. We browsed the general store for possible future trips and went to the information center on how to maybe get down to the canyon to see the waterfalls. The woman ranger behind the counter at the information desk said there was a trail that started behind cabin P26 in the loops behind Canyon Village. We got a little lost behind the big general store building, but we found the trailhead  and walked a half mile down to the edge of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. We arrived at the rims edge, where the trees suddenly stopped and the walls of the canyon shone bright in the sun.
IMG_2186The Yellowstone rivers cuts through the trees about a mile up the river and drops down in a stunning fall to then travel a short distance and drop again. We walked from Grand View where the trail empties you out at, to Lookout Point. Along the way there were a few other outcroppings with parking spots for people who arrive in cars. At the short 200 feet trailhead to the Lookout Point which gives you a good view of the Upper Falls for the first time (Grand View, not so grand, but you can hear the roaring of the falls) there is an auxilliary trail called Red Rock (?) that goes down a couple hundred feet of stairs that take you down the canyon walls to a lower view of the Falls. There is also another view point at the top of the falls looking right at the water, which I think we’ll do some morning when I take my camera down to shoot from Artist Point.
We walked back to the campground via the road, which was definitely not made for pedestrians. There was a bike lane, which gave us a better buffer than just walking in the dirt beside the road. We got back to camp and started dinner preparations. We cooked what will be our longest meal of the trip, lentils with instant mashed potatoes. The instant mashed potatoes are a revelation for me. Lentils are something that Dale and I make occasionally, and I just love putting them over real mashed potatoes. But for camping, the instant bags do just the trick. Just add water and they’re ready to go.
IMG_2191While Jessica and I washed up the dishes, Dale made the campfire for the evening. We had a good 2-3 hours of fire with one box of wood. Dale, after years of cub scouts and coming from a long history of scouts, makes some of the best fires ever. It’s nice knowing that I don’t have to worry about fucking up the fire, and Dale takes pleasure in making and playing with the fire. Jessica set up her hammock near the fire and we sat around enjoying the light fade to night. It must have been somewhere around 11 we went to bed.

Roosevelt Arch Entrance

Woke up this morning before the alarm went off. It was 6:30am, 5:30am pacific. I have no idea how I will sleep when I’m camping. It will be at least four nights until my ass hits a mattress again. I like the early rising. We’ve already made our grocery stop, loaded the ice chest and are on our way to the park entrance. It’s before 10am. We hope to get there in an hour and a half. We might stop at the Mammoth hot springs before making our way to the campground. Lets hope setup is easy and that our tent fits.
“Gusty crosswinds”. Passed a sign on I-90 and thought of a really old stripper.
We arrived in Yellowstone, and it’s spectacular, even if the light is disappointing.
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No Room For Desert

We woke up to news of the DOMA and Proposition 8 Supreme Court decisions. We were having breakfast in the Days Inn, located in Brigham City Utah. We were notified by the Fox News reporter while we noshed on bagels, waffles and cereal. The continental breakfast was pretty good for a side of the interstate. I’m thinking our luck tomorrow morning won’t be as good.

This trip was hopefully going to check off some items on my bucket list. Traveling with two people who know me very well, I felt ok trying to suggest things that might be a little out of the way, but worth their weight in experience points.
My art history classes in college were hit and miss. There are tons of names and dates and ideas that I can rattle off, but not much that really sticks with me a long time. One of the things that had an effect on me was Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty.
IMG_2166It’s located on the Great Salt Lake, about 40 miles away from Brigham City. The idea of public art that is made out of something natural strikes me in a way that paintings and photographs don’t. In my research of the Spiral Jetty, I found that the Golden Spike National Historic Site is on the road to the Spiral Jetty. Nerd-Do-Well Ashley is fascinated by trivial history as well as historic sites.
Jessica drove out to the Golden Spike National Historic Site first. We crossed over some railroad tracks, but I wasn’t expecting much other than a general marker and a visitors center. Doing research I found they were one of the places that sold the Interagency National Park passes ($80, a year of National Parks, Forests, State Parks, etc). When we got inside the visitor center we met a really nice ranger that upsold me to the park pass which I was already going to buy. He was super nice and laughed at my Sheldon Cooper joke. Why do you ask I made a Sheldon Cooper joke at a National Historic Site? Because the trains were on their way! He told us that we were on time to see the arrival of the 119 Steam Engine, a replica of the engine that was there at the finishing of the transcontinental railroad. We looked at an exhibit while we waited for the train to arrive.
IMG_2135There was a nice selection of photographic memorabilia on the wet plate process. The train arrived at about 10:15, and we were able to see it in motion as well as when they parked it, we got to see it up close.
We bought some postcards and played with some stamps before making way to the spiral jetty. (This was before Dale and I decided to get Betty her passport, and before we realized that cancellations at all the National Parks were something we would love).
There’s about 17 miles between the GSNHS and the Spiral Jetty. We passed some horses and some dead cows on the side of the road. When we got out there, after all we passed was the dead cows and the broken concrete that said “aliens” we actually met some rangers out there. They were from the BLM and they said that even though this was included in the land they cover, they had never been out there. We discovered a guest book under a rock that said guest book, and climbed down the rocks to the waters edge.
IMG_2164 I wanted to walk all the way out, but the rocks have broken up since it was created and there weren’t enough spaced close enough for me to not fall in the salty pink water.
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From there we got back onto I-15 North, passing a gigantic NASA rocket and a fireworks manufacturer. We drove through Utah into Idaho and stopped to have lunch in Malad. Nothing hits the spot better than a $5 footlong from Subway. We kept on going all the way through Idaho Falls (still no clue if there are waterfalls there) to West Yellowstone. We dipped into Montana and then into Wyoming and the corner of Yellowstone before following the Gallatin River up into Montana again to get to Bozeman.
West Yellowstone looks like a great place to fly into in the winter time. I’ll have to put that on my list. I’m still a good 15 hours away from seeing any other parts of Yellowstone, but I’m sure it’s even better in winter time. The Gallatin river was picturesque. The rivers here are flat and mild. You can see the river rocks that go into so many chimneys here.
We ended up at the TLC in in Bozeman. It’s a little janky, but I think it will do. We’re going to a tapas place for dinner tonight. We’re going to hit the grocery store tomorrow morning before we head out, and try to get to our campsite while there’s plenty of time to see other stuff in the late afternoon. I’m still crossing my fingers that our huge tent fits on whatever site they give us.
(Post Dinner Post)
Just got back from dinner at Over the Tapas. We had a fantastic meal prior to starting our four days of camping. There were more than a couple beers on tap with a substantial wine list. We ate curried lamb empanadas, steak and manchego cheese with chimichurri sauce, morrel mushroom croquettes, vegetable tangine, patatas bravas, fried plantains, lamb sliders and crab cakes.  Even though we would probably fall into bed from the 1200 miles we’ve driven in two days, the food will definitely make us sleep well.

Hands at Two and Ten

We set out on a Tuesday morning after squishing all of our equipment into the car. The foggy San Francisco June morning had starting releasing its moisture and the mist had turned into rain.

This isn’t what we planned. We also hadn’t really planned on this much stuff. There were a few things left behind such as Mr. Fuzzy (Dale’s faux fur Burning Man blanket) and my REI folding seat. We still had all of Jessica’s stuff to cram into Betty, and we didn’t want to be totally overloaded. Dale is the only one tall enough to get all the things into the roof rack holder and close it. I appreciate having a little extra space to expand into, like an empty shelf or drawer, or in the case of Betty, a place to put my feet. We armed ourselves with the final dredges of coffee and set out from Benicia.

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I drove to Winnemucca, where we stopped on Potato Road. I was finally able to play with my phone and take some pictures.

IMG_2100IMG_2104After dinner in Elko, Nevada, I squeezed into the backseat so I could poke at Jessica should she fall asleep driving through the Bonneville Salt Flats.

IMG_2128I kept awake with Car Bingo, but when you’re in the middle of a salt flat, there’s not many things you can check off.

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We rolled into our hotel an hour later than thought (thanks, Mountain Time) and I fell asleep to an old episode of Friends.

Please Don’t Break Down

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This is Betty White. This is not the person Betty White. If it was, I’m sure she’d crack a joke about us riding her. My dear old nearly dead 1989 Toyota Corolla that I drove since the day I got my license was just not cutting it anymore. If my boyfriend and I wanted to travel longer than two hours away, we’d have to seriously think about the possibility of treking to a service station as well as planning a stop or two so he could get out and stretch. So the old Toyota (I sadly never named her, but I think it’s a she as she was shy about looking under her hood) reunited with Mom as her work car, and we adopted Betty into our lives. She had lived a pretty quiet life since we got her, going to Sonora and back a few times and tripping to Point Reyes National Seashore.

My biggest break from work landed in the end of June this year, and we prepared for a long road trip to Yellowstone National Park. She needed to stretch her legs, and I needed to stretch mine. I love a good road trip, and being able to do it without the high probability of getting stranded on the side of the road was a new feeling. Leaving a little bit to chance and planning a hell of a lot, we set out.