Saturday, August 4, 2012

2012-25 Lander to Dubois Wyoming


Dubois Wyoming
Grand Teton
Shoshone National Forest

Campground:  Shoshone National Forest, Falls Campground.  Elect. $10 senior rate.  Reg. $15-20.  Some pull-thu sites can accommodate larger rigs.  Most sites recommended for 32ft or less.  Water available and pit toilets.   No Tv, radio or cell phone service.  8,000 ft elevation.

I thought I’d start out this blog report talking about my modus operandi when traveling during the summer months.  My Canadian friend Mary, was questioning it and got somewhat of an answer from my previous report.  Basically I have a few major destinations planned for the season and then just start traveling in the direction of the first major stop.  Now it could be many hundreds of miles to the destination, so I begin by looking on a map and start plotting a route.  Part of my decision is based on where inexpensive and beautiful campgrounds are located.  Like Army Corp. campgrounds, Passport America and others that may fit the bill.  Because I usually stay at least a week at most places, or longer, I now check to see what commercial campgrounds are in the area and what their weekly rates are as well.  Sometimes even without using my Passport or Gov. senior Pass, I can still get a great rate at one of those commercial campgrounds.

Next I use my National Geographic map book to see what is highlighted in red.  These are usually important or interesting sites that may fall along the route I’m planning.  Or I may change my route to accommodate those unique sites.  This year I planned on hitting Hot Springs Arkansas and Bentonville home of a wonderful new art museum.  I had previously highlighted those maps with my own points of interest and found out that Bartlesville Oklahoma was not that far off from my upcoming destinations and they had the Frank Lloyd Wright high-rise building in their town.  So that got added to my route as well this year.

This years wildfires also had me scrambling to change my routes around those wicked forest fires.

I try not to have any schedules what so ever.  Now for most folks that’s not always easy.  What with birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions that require a whole different route and planning of itineraries.  Usually I don’t have those to be concerned about.  Without any schedules, I can stay as long as I like or leave at a moments notice if I decide to move on.  Of course by staying out west this season, I will miss visiting both my sisters, Ann and Dorothy.  Both in Michigan and for that I do have some pangs.

Although the Grand Tetons were on my list of major places to visit, my timing puts me in the area at the height of the tourist season.  So I may just bypass the area for now.  Besides, Idaho is calling and I have barely visited the southern third of the state so far.  But then an E-mail arrives from a friend Elaine who tells me about a Shoshone National Forest campground that has electric sites and is a 45-60 minute drive into the Grand Teton National Park.  So my route changes once again.

So that’s a bit of how I plan, if you can call it planning of my travels throughout the summer.

Back here in Lander, I did drive into Sinks Canyon.  It’s where the Sinks Canyon State park is located and features the Popo Agie river as it sinks into a limestone cave and comes back out about a half a mile away.  Lots of trout are along this river for you fishermen.  Another note if I haven’t mentioned it is that Wyoming’s state parks for the most part don’t have hookups.  They are mainly primitive campsites.  I talked to the park ranger and he said even their camp host has no hookups.  I suggested they at least install solar panels to charge the volunteers batteries.

Drive distance:  97 miles.
Shoshone National Forest.

Moving day is on Monday and as usual I’m eager to get out on the road.  The drive along hwy 26 heading NE towards the Grand Teton mountains is easy going with very little traffic.  A nice wide two lane road with good paved skirting.  As I head NE the scenery becomes more rugged.  Bare tan mountains surround broad green valleys covered in lushly irrigated farmlands create a striking contrast as the high dry desert stops the minute irrigated farm lands appear.  Then as the land continues to rise, rich red rock outcroppings appear and then the mountain ranges covered in spruce, lodge pole pines, Douglas fir begin to take over.  Only this time I notice that well over half of the forest has been blighted with the pine bark beetle.  Dead trees interspersed with still living half surviving pine trees.  How long before a devastating forest fire completes the remaining devastation this area has already gone through.  I stop at a beautiful log cabin style Resort along the way.  It’s brand new, beautiful restaurant, gas station, convenience store, cabins and RV park.  But this season after having been open only 5 years the gas station has no gas and the restaurant is only open on weekends for BBQ dinners. Come to find out the owner was a lotto millionaire and had the place built with his winnings.  I understand they do a booming business in the winter with all the snowmobilers. Always interesting to note small things.  The main buildings have beautiful metal roofs and had rain gutters and spouts, probably for all of one summer.  Unit the first snows and then the snow and ice came crashing down and took those gutters with them.  Big signs warn vehicles to park 8 feet from the roofs edge.

Now don’t you meet the most interesting people sometimes?  At the campground, our camp host, Ed, after my talking about living in Northern Michigan, said he was from Duluth MN, which of course is on Lake Superior.  Said he was one of the last people to see the Edmond Fitzgerald before in sank into the depths of the deep, clear cold waters of Lake Superior.  Said he was standing out on a peninsula in Duluth watching the Edmond Fitzgerald head out to sea and waved at one of the sailors on board.  The sailor waved back… never to be seen again.

I’m already impressed with the Shoshone Forest, even with it’s tree blight problems.  Being so high up, at 8,000 feet, the sun is a little brighter, the air is a little cooler and without any TV or cell service, I’m practically boon docking.  Only with electric.  Though I could do without that as well if need be.  I always enjoy being surrounded by forest and in particular the very tall narrow spruce trees that feel as if they are trying to reach for the sky.

I drove back into Dubois today.  It was originally going to be called Never Sweat, but the post office said it could not give a town that name and instead selected a prominent citizen by the name of Dubois from I believe Idaho or some other state.  The town folk didn’t really appreciate the name and insisted on pronouncing the towns name as “Dew-boys”.  So today if you pass on through, be sure to call it by what the 971 citizens of the town call it, Dew-boys.  National Geographic calls it one of the most remote towns in the country, being 80 miles from the nearest stop light and 120 miles from the nearest interstate.  It’s truly a western town in every way.

I did my usual weekly laundry, talked to a volunteer at the Dubois Museum who was most informative on the area and things to see and do.  So much so, I may need to extend my stay in the area a while longer.

A brief note on expenses.  Even though I do a pretty good job of watching my expenses I had a couple unexpected bills such as truck insurance, some of those camper repairs and such that came along this month that I spent close to $1,000 on those misc. extras.  Rare but it does happen.  Hopefully next month will be back to normal.

The following day I drove west instead of east and headed on over the Togwotee Pass at 9,658 feet.  Doesn’t seem that high up since the campground is already at 8,000 ft. Would have been an easy drive except for the 25 miles of road construction on the pass.  They’re probably over half way completed with about a good 10 mile stretch still being dirt roadway.  Lots of work goes into re-grading the roadway, the hillsides and seeding all that new bare ground before they can even begin to lay the final asphalt road.

The pass is actually beautifully graded with no steep inclines or declines to speak of.  The slow pace following a lead car though all that construction was ok since it gave me more time to ogle at all that pristine alpine mountain meadow scenery.  Then it was on into the Moran Junction and the valley of the Grand Tetons.  Even though I’ve been here before, I’m always impressed by the beauty of the Teton mountains and abundant wildlife.

After stopping to take numerous pictures and gaze out at a small herd of elk (yes, elk this time not pronghorn) and yes I do occasionally make a boo boo describing either or.  But thanks to some great friends they keep me on the straight and narrow.  Then it was onto the Jackson Lake Lodge for it’s wonderful views and great lunch in their fine dining room overlooking it all.  The lodge is packed to the rafters with foreign tourists this time of year adding a wonderful mix of European and Asian culture to it all.  Almost a bit too crowded in the lodge and on the scenic roads and overview sights for my taste and that’s why I’m camping in the mountains 45 minutes to an hour away.

Tonight, over at my neighbors campsite, John and Velda, a fire was roaring and I along with the camp hosts
shared dinner with them.  Chili and sausage and corn chips with home made apple pie.  Life is good.  Here’s the simple receipt to making a simple and good Chili.  I think I would use turkey myself since I don’t eat much red meat, though the hamburger worked just fine.

One can of Bushes Chili magic.
One can of chili beans.
One can of chopped tomatoes.
Add cooked hamburger meat.
Chopped onion.
Simmer for 45 minutes.

The next day I did one of my adventures into a wilderness site outside of Dubois.  The road off the highway immediately became a dirt road through private property as well as Government wildlife preserve land.  A major winter grazing area for elk.  The road was well maintained for the first couple of miles through the private property then became very bumpy with rocks and rough gravel.  The landscape becoming more rugged as well.  Far off on the side of a dry sun bleached grass hillside that seemed to go on for ever was a lone bison high up on the sloping hill.  I was in search of petroglyphs which are supposed to be opposite three lakes.  So odd to see glacier fed lakes surrounded by all this dry high desert scenery.  Opposite the lakes the rock outcroppings became more pronounced.  Spotting a small area to park my truck, which at this point has taken on the gritty tan tint of all the dust and dirt clinging to it’s sides with thick determination, I park the truck.  

Grabbing my camera, a broad brimmed hat with a strap around my neck to keep it from flying off in the gusty wind that has picked up, I begin my ascent up the side of the hill.  Following a small path that eventually leads in many directions, I take the one that looks the most trod on.  Over liken covered rocks and boulders, around scrub and sage, to my delight I find the first and most impressive of petroglyphs.
What perfect specimens of rock art.  Very well defined lines and humanoid figures are mesmerizing to me.  I trudge up and along more paths but believe I’m seen the best already.  Probably less than 1,000 years old since they are in such good condition.

Back at the truck, I continue along the lake front, stopping occasionally to explore other sites and just take in this rugged landscape so unlike anything I’d ever seen on the east coast.  Thinking how difficult it must have been to survive in this harsh environment.  After nine miles of roadway that keeps getting rougher, I give up and turn around and return the same way I came in.  A smile on my face having taken another journey down a road I hadn’t even known about until a couple of days ago.  Exploring the back country and loving every minute of it.

On one of my last days in the area, I drove over to Brooks Lake in the Shoshone National Forest.  The road leading to the lake is almost across the street from the Falls Campground.  Being at 8,000 feet I didn’t think I could go much higher, but as the washboard road led higher and higher, I realized the lake was going to be in Alpine country.  A steep gorge filled with dead Spruce trees was on the left as ATV’s passed me going down hill.  Each with at least one small kid on board between the driver and steering handles, waving as they went by.  After 5 miles of twisting and bumpy roadway I arrived at the lake.  There’s a beautiful lodge available up here with additional cabins and horse stalls, but no one was using it and the gate to it was closed with a sign indicating it was for registered guests only.  I would have loved to gone into the lodge and had breakfast.  Seeing wisps of smoke coming up from the lodges main fireplace chimney and lounge chairs out on the covered deck.  Instead I drove down to the lakes edge and walked around a bit and got some pretty awesome photos of the area.  About a dozen folks were getting ready to head out on a trail ride on horseback.  Seasoned and city slicker alike ready for a ride on this crisp 54 degree sunny morning.  The fireweed wildflowers are more profuse around here and the mountain peaks surrounding the lake are just awesome.  They have two small campgrounds overlooking the lake and would be a great spot to camp especially with a smaller camper.  I wouldn’t want to attempt bringing in a big rig camper.

Brooks Lake Lodge, but not open to public

This evening it’s off to the Lava Lodge for a haddock dinner and old country music by Mr. Callaway.  I couldn't think of a better way to end the week before sending off my Roving Report.

more photos on Picasa

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