Sunday, June 16, 2013

Wyoming, here we come!

Wow, a whole month in Wyoming, how will we ever spend it?  Ha ha, sorry, I couldn’t resist the chuckle!  For a state that is known for it’s “wide open spaces”, it’s got two of the biggest National Parks:  Grand Teton and Yellowstone!  That’s a pretty big draw, for us anyway...that, and some other stuff like Cody, The Devil’s Tower, and a big FMCA rally in Gillette.

Unlike our visit to Texas, this trip will have so much, that I will have to break it down into several blogs, or it will take you a week just to read one! So much has already happened, and it’s only June 7th!  (as I shared, I kept writing, not knowing when I would be able to post!)

We left Colorado bright and early June 3rd and made it into Wyoming and over the Continental Divide and into the Grand Tetons by end of that day!  Phew, what a full day!  A beautiful one though.  The wind kept following us, but the sun was shining the whole way and “no traffic” as you might guess, since as everyone keeps saying, “there’s more cows that people here!”

I really got lucky and was able to book us right into the Grand Teton National Park’s campground at Coulter Bay RV Campground.  What a great campground!  Just what you would expect...large pine trees with nice long pull-thru sites tucked in here and there.  Close to neighbors, but not intrusive.

Once settled in, we were off!  So much to see here, and only 4 1/2 days to do it all!  With no time to waste, and map in hand we jumped into our little Toyota truck and started our first excursion.  It didn’t take long before the “Oh my goodness” and “wow” and “oh, oh, I see an animal!” came out of our mouths.  Our first spotting was some majestic Trumpeter Swans and then a gaggle of Canadian Geese in the neighboring pond.  Right on the heels of that, I spotted an elk peaking out from the forest at us.  I have learned to be quick on my camera, I’ll tell you! ...and thank goodness for telephoto lens!  Soon after we saw several people pulled over to the side of the road, so out we went to see what they were all looking at, and was informed, it was some Sandhill Cranes, so out comes my camera and telephoto lens!!

That was it for the “animal spotting” for the first day.  As much fun as that was, they are outdone by the grandeur of those mountains, I must confess.  My father, who was a world traveler (many times over) once told me that of all the places he’d visited in the world, he thought the Tetons were the most beautiful.  I came to see what he meant...and I have to agree, they are truly majestic and can only really be appreciated in person, I think.  To stand in front of them, and look straight up at their cragily formations, with snow covering only parts (at this time of year) is a sight to behold.  I think, as others have said, it has a lot to do with the fact that they don’t start with a rolling hill then head upward, but rather the land is flat and then they go straight up.  Of course there are explanations and names for all that, that’s what the museums and visitor centers are for, me, it’s just about the simple beauty of it all.  It doesn’t hurt either that the “flat” land in front of those mountains is covered (at this time of the year) with the wildflowers of deep purples of the lupines & duncecap, soft blue of the Alpine forget-me-nots, yellows of the little sunflowers and arrowleaf balsmaroot, and the gray-greens of the big sagebrush.

Back at the campground, we’d met our neighbors, so we end our day with wine and shared stories of what we saw and did.  They chose to float down the Snake River and have lunch.  Sounded like so much fun, but I just didn’t see how we could fit it in!

Day two brought us one of our “big wow’s”!  The one animal that I have wanted to see, for the last 18 months, has been a moose.  I have looked for one in all the places that “advertise” to have them...all the way up to Nova Scotia!  And do you think I could ever see one? Noooo.  I’ve gotten to think that they are a myth that is just an advertising PR ploy to get folks like me to come to their area!  Well, I FINALLY GOT TO SEE ONE!!  Yep, full on!  As we were driving along, coming back from one of our excursions, a bunch of cars were pulled over to the side, so we did (of course, that’s what you do here!) and someone whispered loudly, "a moose!") I ran!  He was just lazily standing in HIS pond, munching away on HIS afternoon snack, ignoring all these strange creatures staring at him.  I was able to get about 20 feet from him, snapping away as fast as I could.  After about 10 minutes, I just sat there and watched him.  I was in awe.  What a magnificent creature, so handsome yet so funny looking at the same time.  One time when he looked up, he had some algae on his nose, it was just so cute.  He would blow bubbles, take a few steps, take a look at us, at me? and just continue on as if we weren’t even there.  What a thrill.  I still get a chill when I think of it.  Now I’m a happy camper.

Beside all the natural beauty here, there is a lot of history too.  Mormons had a settlement here at one time and some of their homes and barns are still standing.  Some of the old trappers and surveyors along with their photographers also left behind buildings and reminders of the past.  Reminders of how tough life was, and how tough these people were to live here then.

For something a little different, we took the aerial tram up to the summit of Rendezvous Mountain.  Wow, what a incredible view!  You get a full 360 degree view of the whole Jackson Hole Valley.  Once there, you climb a little more and you are at 10,450’!   We’ve been lucky and the weather has been spectacular, so even though it was windy and cold up at the top, it was clear and sunny, so you can see for miles!  Pictures and hot chocolate were a must!  Afterward, I found out that they also do paragliding trips off of the same I decided this would be the perfect place to give it a try!  It’s something I have wanted to do for years (well, hang gliding, anyway).  What better place than here?  So I signed up for the next day.

On our way home, we had another surprise...Jack, like me, has an animal that he has wanted to see...a bear.  Every time we go out, he and I keep our eyes out, and he just keeps saying, “ok bear, come on out...just cross the road for us, it’s ok”.  We had heard that there was a grizzly that had been coming into the campsite at night, but we hadn’t seen him (that’s probably a good thing, actually).  But...we got a treat!  We saw a mommy black bear with her triplet cubs!   She was just about on her way out of the open area, but we were able to catch her for a couple of minutes and a couple of photos.  So cute!

Our third day, I kept waking up from 5am on, all excited about the flight.  Finally we were out the door and on our way.  We were almost there when I got the call...they had to cancel the flight as the wind died down.  Darn.  Well, we rescheduled for the next day (our last!) and I reserved the first flight out at 7:45am.  Since we were more than half way to Jackson Hole, we decided we might as well go on into that town and see it.  So we spent about three hours browsing and having lunch there.  Cute “tourist” town.  I read that the medium age is 32, but that it caters to the wealthy tourist and the young “workers” have a hard time affording to live there.  The young man who runs the photo imaging for all the tours etc. agrees.  He makes pretty good money, and gets free ski lifts ($1600 for the season) but rent, food, etc is still really expensive here.  If your not a ski snob, I can’t see the attraction (over other areas) myself. 

Our fourth and last full day was flight day!  Up bright and early (it’s over an hour’s drive there) and excited!  The day was gorgeous, and had a little wind, yea!  We took a truck ride up the mountain where we learned that we would be jumping off at about 9,500’!  I asked about the differences of hang gliding and paragliding and found that with hang gliding you needed stronger wind and were at it’s mercy, as you pretty much went were it sent you, and it was also a bit more uncomfortable with your neck stuck up while you were prone.  With paragliding, it takes less wind, you have pulls on either side of the canopy that maneuver you around, so you control where you go and how fast you go, and it’s more comfortable since you are in a sitting position.  Cool.  My pilot was Dan, a great instructor who explained everything I needed to do - since I was in front and the one who would be leading us down the hill and jumping us off it!  I have to say, the idea of running off a cliff that is over 9000’ high really sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  But, hay, you only live once, right?

Well, what can I say, it was the thrill of a lifetime!
 Off we went and into the air like a dream.  So great up there, just like I imagined it would be.  Some part of me has always wanted to be a bird, flying high above, looking all around, with nothing but the sound of the air around me,  This was like that, except I didn’t have to work at it, just sat back and floated.  Dan let me control the canape, so we did some swaying to the left and then to the right, we did a circle, then he showed me some dips and some dives, then I said my stomach needed some more “float time” and all to soon our time came to an end and we landed as easily as we took off.  Pure joy.  One more thing I checked off my bucket list.  Good for me. 

What a great way to end our visit to the Tetons...from the top!

...on the road in Wyoming,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

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