Finding ourselves without any pressing tasks to be performed, we took all morning to eat some cereal, drink coffee and read. However, we soon both became sort of interested in looking around the local area. Yesterday, we went north on a big loop so today we went south on US-89 to Afton, about 15 miles south of our RV park in Thayne. Afton is a bit more populous than Thayne but that doesn’t mean their grocery stores are any more open on Sunday than those in Thayne. Do not attempt to buy any groceries in the Wyoming/Idaho border region on the Sabbath because you will not succeed.
We took a side road that ran west from Afton called UT-238. It crossed the few miles of valley floor before turning north toward a dinky little community called Auburn. Lots of horses and cattle and pastures here. We also spotted a bald eagle and some other, smaller raptors feasting on little creatures. Unfortunately, other than the gorgeous, bucolic scenery, there were no other interesting roads less than 75 miles long that we encountered so we went back to our RV park and watched movies.
There are no pictures today.
We were free to explore today. We chose to go north up US-89 to the town of Alpine. The road there passes through rolling pasture with big mountains running on both the east and west sides of the road. It is awful pretty country and there does not seem to be anyplace that isn’t covered with some sort of vegetation. Everything, except the flowers, rivers and buildings, is green.
Just north of Alpine, we turned northwest on US-26 and into Idaho. 26 skirts the northern edge of Palisades Reservoir which is a beautiful and striking lake liberally used by boaters and fisherpersons. The road starts to climb and we continued up it until we turned notheast on ID-31 toward Victor, ID. 31 starts climbing fairly steeply right away and is very twisty. Near the summit and the town of Victor, the road gets even steeper (10%+) before arriving at nice brake check and overlook where you can see down the steep mountains into Jackson Hole. From Victor, we turned on ID-22 for a few miles before crossing back into Wyoming where the road is designated WY-390 and leads to Jackson, WY.
From the summit, the road starts a long 10% downgrade that runs to more than 5 miles. Anybody who loses their brakes here will be getting to the bottom soonest but without the benefit of the road. There are many low-speed corners on the way down but the scenery is great for passengers. Peg kept the velocity pretty low on the downhill portion because she is not comfortable with squiggly roads and abrupt edges plunging to unseen bottoms. There are ample turnouts alongside the road to allow slowpokes like us to allow the insane to pass.
Down in the valley floor, we pulled into the town of Jackson, WY. Peggy and I had been in the town of Jackson in 1979, during our honeymoon trip across the U.S. It was quite small with quaint, touristy stuff like wagon rides downtown, architectural similarity between downtown buildings and nice decorative arches spanning the streets and made from the horns of animals that certainly won’t be needing them anymore.
It has changed, based on our passage through a bit of town today. There are many fancy European SUVs, considerable numbers of traffic signals, more roads, more people and more commerce. We did only see a bit of town as we skirted it on WY-390 and turned south once again on US-89. If I get more info during our travels into Jackson over the next week or so, I will amend my widely-ignored opinions.
Once back on US-89, we dropped down toward Hoback alongside the Snake River. It cascades down through a spectacular canyon where there are a few places to pull off the side of the road. Many rafters and kayak aficionados seem to enjoy this stretch of river because we spotted quite a few folks being carried downstream through this fabulous, rock-lined river canyon. We even found some…uhhh….river surfers, I guess. These folks were equipped with short surfboards and some paddle boards. They jump off some rocks at the edge of the river and quickly paddle out into the stream passing through a rapids section. They have found a continuously-operating standing wave which they can carve around on until they foul up and get swept downstream. About 100 yards downstream, the water flattens out into a nice lagoon which untalented or failed surfers used to get back out of the river. It was pretty cool. We had lunch here although it was about 6:00 PM.
We continued south on 89 until we emerged from the glorious canyon near Alpine. Dead south from there for about 20 miles and we were back in Thayne and back to our RV park. The wi-fi here is terrible. Phone doesn’t work most of the time, either.
The drive today was filled with terrific scenery. The Tetons are visible from a few short sections. The view from the overlook up by Victor is amazing. We spotted some big hawks along the way. The roads are lined with gorgeous scenery. The rivers are beautiful. There may not be a lot of things to do near Thayne but the scenery in this part of the world is breathtaking.
You can see some photos from today if you click here
We started our day by going through our Get-Out-Of-Dodge routine. Peggy took care of all the functions requiring finesse and talent while I pursued the more mundane sewer dumping and utility disconnection. We have printed lists of our individual responsibilities and we are happily a bit more efficient than we were 2 years ago when we started this adventure. Remarkably, we have not left anything behind when departing an RV park for over a year.
By about 9:30, we were on our way out of Fort Bridger headed north on WY-412 until we merged with US-189 until turning west on US-30. After a bit, we got to US-89, the road we intend to follow north all the way to Glacier in Montana. Once we turned north on US-89, we passed through gorgeous pasture lands between very nice mountains on each side of the Salt River Valley and some tiny Wyoming towns with names like Cokeville and Smoot before arriving at Flat Creek RV park just south of Thayne, population 366.
The drive today took us up over some alpine sections in the 7500′ range but the ascents were gradual and the road surfaces were well maintained. It is gorgeous here on the Wyoming/Idaho border and any drive is a scenic one.
Flat Creek RV Park is okay for overnight stops but it is a bit rustic. There are a few rental cabins. The spaces are all parallel and close together, giving that parking lot feel but the water, power and sewer work fine. The wi-fi must be an inside park joke because despite allegations wi-fi is there, it really isn’t. They have small, but tidy, restrooms and shower facilities and the road noise from nearby US-89 is negligible. Park staff we dealt with were very nice.
We shot a few pictures today and you can see them if you click here
Today we had no onerous tasks to perform so we were free to go exploring. We started the tour by driving almost two blocks from our campground to the entrance to Fort Bridger Historic Site. We parted with $4 a head ($2 for Wyoming residents) and pulled into the parking lot. Very close is a building used as a trading post in the 1880s. There was a young kid dressed up as a period soldier inside the building and he seemed quite sharp about both the history of the site and the contents of the store. Back in the day, apparently the store sold everything from nails to crank-operated butter churns. They had some old guns, some very well-crafted casework to hold goods and even sold nice beaver hats.
Once beaver hats and other fur items went out of vogue in the fashion industry, the death knell was sounded for trade in pelts. Jim Bridger, explorer and original trading post operator, got in trouble for providing his clients, Indians, with guns and booze which made numerous people angry. Bridger got out of retail marketing and went back to having fun. The US Army and the Pony Express and Mormons all added to the original trading post and some tried to burn it down although they weren’t entirely successful. At one time, there was a detachment of some 2500 soldiers here during some unpleasantness with the Mormons.
It was a tough place to survive in the 19th century. An Army group headed for Fort Bridger lost 600 cattle in one night due to the -16 degree temperatures and lack of fodder. Mormon zealots also attacked the column during winter, burning up supplies and leaving the soldiers with inappropriate cold weather gear and shelter.
We made a stop in the post museum which has some neat exhibits in it. They also offer some short videos of historical stuff which you can see while sitting in their nice little theater. They also have a small store in the museum and Peggy found some stuff she liked called Chipmunk Poo and something else called Moose Poop which she felt compelled to purchase. In fairness, she also found some nice jewelry and some small decorative items to spice up our mundane trailer interior decorating.
After finishing up at the Fort, we decided to go see the ghost town of Piedmont which is located about 10 miles west on I-80 and 15 miles down a dirt road. There are 3 complete and 1 mostly destroyed charcoal kilns there that were made back when the railroad was coming through this part of the world. There are also the remains of about a dozen old structures like barns and small houses that don’t look like they will survive for too much longer. The terrain around Piedmont seems to have plenty of water and lush grass, gently rolling hills covered with sage and no electricity. It looks like a lot of people live spread out across the land, mostly in trailers and not within sight of each other. We spotted deer, pronghorns, two big brown hawks, yellow-headed blackbirds, red-winged blackbirds, Canadian geese, barn swallows near water, yellow-bellied marmots and prairie dogs along the dirt road to and from Piedmont.
We took a loop through Evanston and as soon as we got on I-80 eastbound, we spotted Bear River State Park and got right back off the freeway. They have some very large bison and elk here, penned in big pastures with very sturdy fences augmented by the repelling effects of DC voltage. There was a bull bison there that looked about the same size as a car and in another pasture they have a seven-point bull elk whose rack requires about the same size as the rest of his body. Both of them were magnificent specimens.
After ogling the wildlife in Bear River, we jumped back on I-80 and drove about 30 miles east to Fort Bridger. The scenery around here is beautiful, the weather has been quite nice and the people we have spoken with have all been very pleasant. I would not make this a primary destination but I certainly would enjoy coming back here. Tomorrow we will go a bit west until we pick up the connector to US-89. From there we stay northbound on 89 until we get close to Glacier National Park in northern Montana. Fortunately, 89 passes through The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone on the way north.
We took some photos at Fort Bridger, Piedmont and in Evanston’s Bear River State Park and you can see some of them if you click here
We got up late today. We took time for our usual fortified coffee ration and I cooked a breakfast for us. We got in some showers and mostly loafed around the trailer before figuring we ought to get a little something done.
We decided to do our most dreaded task – the laundry. They only have two washing machines at Fort Bridger RV Park and we had at least four loads. We started two loads and then took off for the local post office so we could get rid of out outbox contents. We also drove a few miles over to the community of Mountain View which does have a spectacular view of the snow-capped mountains to the south. In Mountain View we were looking for a liquor store but ended up getting a small re-supply mission done at a bar. It seems the bars are the liquor stores in small communities in Wyoming. The selection is small but you can sit down at the bar and have a drink of anything you care to before packing away your ultimate choice.
After completing our re-supply mission, we went back to our park and finished up the laundry. It was about 4:00 PM before we were finished. We were not in a hurry. The weather here is much cooler than that we encountered in Utah so we spent some time riding the glides on the office porch in the shade. It was glorious.
There are no pictures.
Today was a travel day so we gathered up our stuff, disconnected from the utilities at Fossil Valley RV Park and headed north on US-191 toward Wyoming. 191 is a tough road that starts with a big climb up switchbacks from about 5000′ elevation to 8400′ at the pass. They do not show a pass on the maps but, believe me, it is there. After the big climb, where Charlotte again performed admirably, the road takes a couple long 9% downgrades all the way to Flaming Gorge. We left 191 and turned west on Utah 44 to a town called Manila despite there not being any Filipinos there. At Manila we turned west on Utah 43 for about two miles which transforms into WY-414 after crossing the border into Wyoming.
The drive on 414 is pretty lumpy and there are some ups and downs between 6000 and 7000 feet elevation along the way. The countryside along the road is very nice rolling pasture. There are also some badlands that you drive through before emerging into pretty flat pasture land that goes all the way to Urie, WY. We turned west at Urie for a few miles before driving into Fort Bridger, a town of some 300 souls in the middle of nowhere. It is the location of Fort Bridger State Historical Site which we drove past.
Fort Bridger RV Park is a nice, grass-covered field with some shade trees spotted around the site. They have wi-fi of sufficient capabilities to allow us to stream Netflix. That hardly happens in any other parks we have been to and it is glorious. The individual RV spots have full hookups and cable TV that boasts 12 channels, 9 of which work. They have a small laundry facility and big clean restrooms. Check-in is pretty informal; you pull into an open spot and they come around to collect the money later.
Despite the short 137 mile distance covered during today’s drive, the roads were quite challenging for those pulling large trailers through 20 mph corners, steep upward climbs followed by harrowing downgrades and pretty beat up road surfaces with hidden potholes the size of badgers. We set up our trailer and climbed inside to take advantage of the delightful air conditioning. We arrived early so Peggy and I rewarded ourselves with some tasty booze followed by nice naps. It was luxurious.
Peggy got a few pictures of the gorgeous terrain along the way in you can see ’em if you click here
We were lazy today. Late rising, long coffee time and a good breakfast almost killed the entire morning. We fabricated a list of groceries we needed and drove down to the local Waldo-Mart where we found all the stuff we wanted plus some cords for recharging phones and Kindles and other fancy electronic gizmos.
I led the charge on dumping the tanks and getting prepared for our early departure tomorrow. We would like to get out of Vernal as early as possible since right away we have an 8300′ pass to go over followed by a long drive through wrinkled Wyoming terrain on our way north to I-80. By mid-day, it can get pretty hot here and we would prefer to let Charlotte do the climbing in cool weather.
Vernal turned out to be a very nice small town. The RV park was nice and shady, Dinosaur NM and Flaming Gorge are nearby and the terrain around town is quite striking. Downtown Vernal has the entire main drag lined with posts and pots full of glorious flowers. There seems to be quite a bit of wildlife and we found a good Mexican restaurant. Not bad for a tiny place like this.
It was pretty boring today so we didn’t take any photos although we could have snapped a few at WalMart. I wonder if I look as strange as some of the shoppers there. I sure hope not.
Today, since we believe our trailer’s systems are all now functioning properly, we were liberated from any kind of maintenance work and were free to go sightseeing. As we pulled into town yesterday, we noted a big upthrust of the earth that looked like a two mile long stegosaurus and damned if that isn’t where Dinosaur National Monument is. We drove over there from our spot at Fossil Valley RV and again were granted free entry due to our Federal Access Pass.
We took the first left after the fee station into the Quarry Visitor Center. From there, you can catch a free shuttle to the Quarry Exhibit Hall. It is a big steel and concrete air conditioned two level structure which houses and large rock bank with all kinds of dinosaur bones sticking out. When you look at some of the massive spine and leg bones you can get a pretty good idea of how big these monsters were. They have vertebra bigger than dinner plates. They have teeth that look like big rows of rifle rounds and talons that look like they would make a pretty good claw hammer head.
We re-boarded the shuttle and went back to our truck at the visitor center. We chose not to go look at the other two roads into the park property since they were pretty long (60 miles, one way) and we came to see the dead monsters. We also felt compelled to reward ourselves since my sister Julie recently informed us there should be a reward at the end of each excursion. We went to a Mexican restaurant in Vernal called Don Pedro’s. Good enchiladas are available here at a reasonable price.
Afterwards, we chose to go up US-191 from Vernal toward Wyoming. This is another example of the wide red line of the map concealing the true, squiggly nature of the road. There are about 10 big switchbacks ascending an 8% grade for quite a ways near the top of the nameless pass which maybe should be named 8298 because that’s how high it is according to our Garmin GPS. Over the top is another long, 9% down grade so brakes were substituted for brawn. The highway continues the descent all the way to pretty close to Flaming Gorge Dam where we turned west on UT-44. In the little squint of a town called Manila, we turned east on UT-43 which became WY-503 after about a mile where we crossed into Wyoming.
WY-503 took us all the way to Green River. Unimpressed there, we drove east on I-80 for about 10 miles to Rock Springs which was maybe a bit less impressive than Green River. In Rock Springs, we turned south again on US-191 back toward Flaming Gorge. It is a beautiful road but we didn’t see anything resembling a gorge or related to flame but we did spot some pronghorn. It is a beautiful drive anyway.
Soon we were approaching the Flaming Gorge Dam and started to notice rock formations of extraordinary colors, shapes and textures along with an enormous dark blue reservoir. 191 eventually passes over the dam and crosses a steel bridge over an arm of the reservoir and from this vantage point it seems plain why they call it Flaming Gorge. The purple/red rock in the afternoon sun almost looks like it is on fire. The water is lovely. The surrounding terrain is magnificent.
We had driven a long ways so Peggy made me get in the pilot’s seat and drive home from the dam. The switchbacks did not seem so terrifying going back to Vernal.
We took pictures at both Dinosaur NM and Flaming Gorge NRA and they can be seen by clicking here
We pulled up stakes in Grand Junction this morning and continued our aimless quest northward. We started by going a bit west on I-70 to a place named Loma where we turned north on UT-139. On the map, 139 appears to be a nice, straight road but hidden under the map’s thick red line lies a myriad of crude switchbacks, pavement omissions and very steep grades for a pickup pulling a 12,000 pound trailer. Charlotte the Truck performed admirably despite the rotten highway conditions. As soon as we made it to the top of Douglas Pass (el. 8268′), the road immediately started a 10% decline so we switched from running the motor hard to downshifting and braking. It is a pretty nasty road.
Eventually the road flattened out at about 6000 foot elevation and ran a bit straighter to a dinky town called Rangely. There we turned west on UT-64 to Dinosaur, CO. At Dinosaur we picked up US-40 to Vernal where we happily pulled into the Fossil Valley RV Park. It is situated in a grove of big hardwood trees that offer ample shade. We got a spot with full hookups, cable TV, and wi-fi. There are nice patches of grass between the sites. The guy operating the place seems to really hustle to make sure everyone is happy.
As a matter of fact, he made me happy by providing us with the name and phone number of a guy named Cameron Boren who does mobile RV service in the Vernal area. We have already replaced our power cord and converter which crapped out in Monument Valley. We replaced the house battery in Grand Junction but the house 12 volt system and battery charging function were still gunnybag. Cameron initially had his phone’s voice mail system answer, perfectly reasonable on a Saturday afternoon. However, he soon answered our call, indicating he was about 10 minutes away and could pop right over.
As it turns out, the guy who replaced our converter in Dolores a week ago made an error when hooking it up to our trailer’s 12 volt system. Cameron poked around a bit, ran some continuity and voltage tests and soon found the fuggup. He fixed the problem, ran tests on the 110 and 12 volt systems to prove they were functioning properly and charged us for an hour although I think it took a bit longer and he was probably just being nice. I think all systems are now nominal except the microwave oven which apparently breathed it’s last gasp during the Great Monument Valley Electrical Catastrophe back on June 5. We will replace it when we get to an area where there is more than one RV supply house in the interest of competition. It might be a while considering we are going to Wyoming, then Montana.
You can see some pix we took on the road by clicking here
It was hot today. We fooled around for a good portion of the morning and, once air conditioning became mandatory inside the trailer, we buggered off for another visit to Colorado National Monument. This time we went in the Fruita entrance and Peggy got to drive. Peggy has little faith in vehicles operating along the top edge of dizzying bluffs and going in the Fruita entrance keeps most of the terrifying cliffs on the oncoming traffic side. She did very well.
The Monument offered the same superb scenery we ogled yesterday. This place has sandstone formations that look a lot like they were shaped by artistic humans although none of them were. Just geology and erosion doing their things are responsible and the effects are wonderful.
About 1000 feet in altitude from the summit of the loop road, we encountered some healthy, insane types riding their bicycles up the grueling slope. We offered a nice, tired-looking lady from Salt Lake City a lift to the top of the hill, throwing her bicycle into the bed and popping her into the back seat of Charlotte. We felt pretty good about giving the nice lady an air conditioned ride and re-stocking her ice and water supply before being overtaken by her obviously buffed husband zapping by on his skinny bike.
We ended up today’s drive by taking a spin through downtown Grand Junction for some drive-by culture and a trip to the Conoco station to top off Charlotte’s tanks for tomorrow’s travel day. Although we will be happy to get some relief from the shriveling heat, we will regret the departure from this area’s fantastic scenery.
We got a few pix along today’s route and you can see them if you click here