May 2006 News Letter Alaska Via Cassiar Journal | Page 2 | Page 3 | Wyoming Antelope | Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6
Some of us stuck around for another day to help Larry Kerr and family clean up the place, unwind a little (recover), return the left over booze to the liquor store, and figure out where we were financially compared to when it started. We came out down some but not a killer.
Now the journey begins in earnest. I finally got going about 10 A. M. on my way back to Alaska. Along the way I stopped at the old Pueblo Ruins near Denver to see for myself. It is not a large park, but it makes for a couple of hours of amazement on how they
Picture of Pass above Steamboat Springs
After departing the ruins, the goal for the day was to get to Steamboat Springs and crash for the night. I prefer the Forest Service campgrounds because most of them are free to Seniors and disabled with a Golden Ages Pass. I just had one problem, there are none around Steamboat Springs, just State forests and they don't honor the passes. They also wanted 5 bucks for a car and 17 for a person, which was just to much to pitch a tent. They made no differential between tent and Motor Home So as late as it was I decided to hop over the top on a dirt road into Wyoming and stay there. It is 59 miles of dirt, but it is loaded with deer and Elk. I jumped no less than a hundred on the way over the mountain. By 11 PM I had made Baggs WY and just grabbed a motel. I was beat and figured a shower and a good nights rest and I could start fresh
Click to Enlarge
Today's goal was to reach Jackson Wyoming and Teton National Park, and it was easily achieved by 5 PM.. Along the way I became convinced that a million antelope live in Wyoming. On the section north along Hwy 789 from Baggs to Creston and its intersection with Interstate 80 there were thousands of them in little groups of five to ten, but they were everywhere. I hopped on I 80 and headed west to 191 which leads you north through the Gros Venture Mountains and into Jackson. It is a really pretty drive with its twists and turns and new mountain landscapes at every corner.
Picture of 191 above Hobart Junction
I arrived in Jackson around 4 PM, and headed immediately to Teton National Park. It is one spectacular view with Grand Teton Mountain staring at you. I took some pictures as the sun was setting but the sun was aligned wrong, so I would re take them with morning light the next day.
Picture of Jackson downtown Elk Refuge entrance
I set up camp at Gros Ventre campground near Kelly, just afew miles to the east of the main Park Highway. It is a neat little place nestled among the cottonwoods. By the sign on the ground, elk roam that area of the park freely. After camp was set I still had a couple hours of light left, so I went cruising around looking for wildlife. I was not disappointed, I managed to find a lone buffalo, and with the evening light made great pictures.
Pictures of Buffalo
That pretty much ended the day. By midnight dinner had been cooked, the dishes done and I was fast asleep.
Dawn broke crisp and cool with clear skies. It had gotten down to the mid 30's during the night, and I had to fire up a lantern for a heat source, but survived it well. After making some coffee, I headed back over to my view point to re photograph Grand Teton with the morning sun hitting it. It came out great.
Pictures of Grand Teton Peak in early morning
After that, picture taking was over and it was off to explore other parts of the park and to see what mother nature would provide, which turned out to be a great deal. I ran into a group of Coyotes hunting for mice, a few cow elk,antelope, and more buffalo.
I spent the late morning and afternoon in Jackson getting film processed to CD's, figuring out which pictures to print, grabbing lunch in town, and in general exploring the city. It had changed so much since I was there as a kid.
Late that evening I took a back road out of the park on the east side, and was confronted by a herd of nanny mountain goats and their babies. I watched them for a couple of hours, kind of a hide and seek game. Also came with it a cow elk and her new baby. It had been a virtual potpourri of wildlife, and some breath taking scenery. By 9 PM I was finished and ran back into town to drop off the film and have CD's made of the shots. They came out surprisingly well.
I slept in a little today as I was to pack up and tour the north end of the Park and continue on to Yellowstone Park. I finally got going about 10 AM. It was another cool morning, but with the smell of the pines in the air it was almost exhilarating. As I was firing up the old Coleman stove, the pump crapped out and I had to tear it apart and install a clip that had come loose inside, which delayed my plans almost an hour. It was a gorgeous day bright and sunny with just afew of those big pillow like clouds in the sky.
I arrived in Yellowstone and drove through the pass, residue of snow was everywhere, actually there was a lot of snow, I was low on ice so I dug in a snowbank and filled up the cooler with snow. It did the job and actually lasts longer than the bag ice . Fishing Bridge campground is along the south portion of the Yellowstone loop, so I sat up camp there for the night. It was also close to Artists Point, and I wanted to get some pictures of that. It is probably the most photographed water fall in the world. It is teeming with different colors of volcanic activity from the centuries before people inhabited this area. When I arrived, the light was wrong, it would take morning light to get the effects I wanted, so I planned on getting up early with the sun to get it right.
On my way back to camp, I stumbled into a group of bull elk in a little meadow not to far from the main road, but just far enough away to not draw a crowd. I took the camera gear and eased through the woods to get closer, but not so close as to spook them off. One of the bulls was huge, and he was laying down, and I was bound and determined to get a picture of him standing up, so a two hour wait began. Finally as the sun was headed below the mountain tops, he stood up and I spent another hour shooting pictures of him to get that one good one, and It was worth the wait. He was huge, with his rack still heavily enveloped with velvet
As I once again headed back to camp, off the road below me in an expansive meadow along the Yellowstone River was a herd of buffalo. If you imagined hard enough you could almost picture the setting in the old west, with a hunting party watching from the bluff overlooking the river meadow below with buffalo as far as the eye could see, waiting to ride down and secure the winters meat. It was truly as picturesque scene.
Herd of Buffalo
I arrived back at camp well after dark, made a bite to eat and hit the sack in anticipation of the next morning
Dawn broke clear and cold. It was in the mid 30's with a brisk breeze, so I quickly made some coffee, broke camp, and packed up so I could get to Artists Point as the first rays of sunlight hit the waterfall. It was a thirty minute ride back to the falls but there was little traffic, as most tourists were still sacked out in their motorhomes.
I was actually a little early as I arrived at the upper falls, the sun would have to clear the mountains before it was able to hit the falls. I had the place almost to myself, except for two deer that were grazing nearby.
Upper Falls Deer at Falls
I got my pictures, and then drove the couple of miles up to the lower falls, the most scenic of the two where I could scope out the best views before it became to late. They came out great, just almost what I had hoped for.
I spent the rest of the day exploring the north loop of the park that would lead me to the Madison River Campground. The Campground sits on the banks of the famed Madison River, one of the premier trout streams in the country. Along the way I would be treated to many amazing things of nature. Tower Falls and a rainbow to go with it
A black bear that would wind up causing a traffic jamb, several herds of cow elk with their new babies, a herd of buffalo and yet more new born babies. A mother moose with her new baby bedded down, with idiot tourists approaching within 50 feet or so taking pictures. I left the tripod and camera set up for a long time figuring at least one tourist was going to get an ass whipping by one irate cow moose and I didn't want to miss getting a picture of it, but that never occurred. Sometimes people amaze me they can be so stupid, and not even realize what they are doing is dangerous.
As I traveled on to the Madison River campground, I passed through a northern section of the park that had been burned in the 80's. Other than the few standing dead trees it would be hard to imagine the devastation that had occurred. The whole area was covered with 6 foot or bigger new evergreen trees that had been naturally seeded by the adult trees following the fire.
I finally got camp set up near dark. As I was driving in to my camp space, a herd of buffalo was also in the campground grazing. I wondered just how well that was going to work out. One stampede and good by tent with a crushed me inside it. The night brought rain, and the next morning everything was drenched but at least no leaks this time
Today started off partly cloudy and cool. It took a great deal of time to dry out the tent and it was nearly 11 before I got going. Today I would leave Yellowstone Park and head towards Kalispell, unsure yet if I will go through Glacier Park, or go to Libby and visit some old haunts. Either way the road would lead through Hamilton Montana, another of my old haunts when I was just back from Vietnam. There were also a couple of our guys who lived there, it was a good break point to get laundry done, pictures developed, and just nose around at all the new things in town before I moved on.
I got as far a Sheridan Montana, and the mother of all thunder storms hit, so I holed up in the Sheridan Hotel cafe to wait it out,check the mail, and wait for it to blow over. It took several hours to quit, so I decided maybe I should just stay there for the night. There was a forest service campground nearby, so I checked it out and along the way found an old mining camp. It's old buildings still in descent shape after a hundred years of non use. I managed a few pictures,
and the rain started again so I abandoned that idea of staying and headed up the highway, hoping to run out of the rain. I didn't, but had gotten as far as Anaconda and just got a room there for the night as it was late and I didn't feel like putting up the tent again at this hour.
Back Road to Anaconda from Sheridan
After the rainy cold night the morning was bright and clear, not a cloud in the sky and by ten AM I was underway south past Georgetown Lake then on to route 7 over Slakaho Pass and on to Hamilton where I used to live back in the 70's. Route 7 is a dirt road that twists and turns its way into the mountains for about 40 miles until it turns paved again at Bear Creek Campground on the west side at the foot of the mountains, and the eastern most portion of the Bitteroot Valley. If you chose to, you could stay on a series of logging roads all the way into the Big Hole section of Idaho without ever hitting the asphalt. It is a very scenic road, although a bit dangerous as some of it is very narrow and drops straight off a thousand feet or more in places if you missed a turn. It is not someplace to haul a larger trailer or Motorhome. Skalkaho Falls is encountered about half way down the west side. It is quite pretty as it bounces its way down the mountain over larger boulders.
Creek on Anaconda side of Skalkaho
The whole trip over the mountain takes a couple of hours, and is really worth doing. It is definately a road least traveled, and cuts about 100 miles off the trip to Hamilton if you went via Missoula on the Interstate. Grouse, Elk, Deer, Moose and Bears flourish in the area, so for the wildlife lover it can be a rewarding experience and a photo opportunity.
View from Skalkaho Road Skalkaho Falls
I arrived in Hamilton just after noon, dropped off the laundry to be done,dropped off 24 rolls of film to be developed at the I hour photo place, then crusied around town. I was amazed how much it had grown. When I lived there we had two stop lights. One on Main Street and one on Second Street. Now they have four or five just on the highway that goes from Darby to Missoula. I tried to find my old house in Grantsdale, but the roads have changed so much and new ones added I couln't even find it.
While in town I called Don Winters and Cal Schlapman but was unsuccessful contacting them both of them were with the 25th in Vietnam with us. I will try again when I go home this fall.
By 7 PM the laundry and film were ready so I picked them up and retreated the ten miles back up the Skalkaho Road, to Bear Creek Campground to set up camp, and fix dinner. By 11 PM I was out like a light. I was awakened sometime after 1 AM by gunshots. I think someone was up on the mountain poaching.