CAUTION: Fires and Yellowstone Ahead

Another SUPER delayed post here – due to a few factors including fires, no cell/internet, and exhaustion. So so sorry – but better late than never!

Here are a few pics of the girls to kick things off!

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Gemma on an AUTHORIZED outing
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Schnabbies reflecting on life on the road
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Gemma keeping warm or trying really hard to 😦
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Schnabbies just being really cute

After our haircuts in Soda Springs, we hit the road for Jackson Hole/Grand Tetons. The drive out of Idaho was so beautiful. Before all of this, I had given no thought to Idaho and to be honest – I assumed we would pass through the state quickly. I know I keep writing this – but I could not have been more wrong! Idaho remains my favorite state so far. Pretty quickly after we entered Wyoming we met the Snake River! Holy lord – this river is GORGEOUS. It’s really big (it’s actually probably small as far as rivers go in general, but to a girl from Southern California – this thing was HUGE) and an incredibly pretty blue/green color. We got to drive along this all the way to the turn off to our camp spot in Moran, WY (about 30 minutes outside of Jackson Hole). I was driving so I couldn’t take it all in – but I was still quite taken with this river. Bryan had found a free BLM spot in a forest east of the Grand Tetons. The tiny, windy dirt road through the trees to the site was a whole lot of scary – but thankfully the trees eventually opened up and there was a clearing and open spot for us and Merlin with a very awesome view of the Tetons.

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Our view of the Tetons – amazing!

The plan was to stay here for several days so we could explore Jackson Hole, the Grand Tetons, and head into Yellowstone using the South Entrance on day trips. This great plan started to crack the very next morning when we woke up and the Grand Tetons were GONE! There was so much smoke – we couldn’t see anything beyond the dirt clearing where we were parked. Regardless, we decided to head back down the mountain for a day trip to try to explore whatever we could. Thankfully the smoke had cleared and we were able to enjoy all the pull-offs and scenic spots into Jackson Hole. The Grand Tetons are quite grand and the Snake River continued to dazzle me. The bummer was that as soon as we got into cell service range, we started getting alerts announcing evacuation areas due to a large fire at the southern part of Yellowstone (hence ALL the smoke) and it included where we were camping. Uh-oh! We also learned that Yellowstone’s South Entrance was closed indefinitely. At the same time – the smoke started to get much-much worse and quite worrisome. Needless to say, our day trip was cut short as we raced back to get Merlin and the kitties the hell out of dodge!

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Same spot as above – but Tetons are all gone 😦  So was everyone else – campers were all heading out.

We scrambled to find somewhere to go. Thankfully we had just joined Harvest Hosts (a club that links RVers with wineries, museums, farms, etc. that allow RVers to park and stay at their property for a night or two) and there just happened to be a Harvest Host liquor distillery 30 miles away that was closing but said we were more than welcome to head over for the night. PHEW – what a huge relief. The only minor problem was that the 30 mile trip included the Grand Teton Pass! This was the absolute biggest climb and downhill that we have done in Merlin and was absolutely terrifying. Thank god Bryan was driving and handled the pass like a champ. Our home for the night was Grand Teton Distillery in Driggs, ID. We ended up staying here for 2 nights (THANKS GTD!!). This allowed us to regroup and figure out where we’d go next. Also, we found time to do a distillery tour (really good booze @ this place – we took home a cherry vodka [makes the BEST “cherry cokes”!]), hit up Grand Teton Brewery (awesome beer and super cool people [staff and customers]), and gave blood at a Red Cross blood drive.

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Merlin and Archy parked @ the Grand Teton Distillery in Driggs, ID.

With the fires in Yellowstone, we had originally thought we might just skip it all together. At the last minute, we decided to head to Island Park, ID instead of Idaho Falls – giving us the option to enter Yellowstone at the West Entrance. We hoped that after a few days the fires would wind down and the smoke would clear.

We had found 2 free BLM options in Island Park – but unfortunately neither worked out. We were tired and desperate to find a place to camp and while we were slowly trudging down the bumpiest dirt road I’ve ever been on at the warp speed of 4 mph, Bryan found a FREE county RV park on a lake just a few miles ahead. YAY!!! This park was the true definition of a hidden gem! It was virtually empty, with so many sites to choose from. Our spot had 2 views of the lake! This would be our home base for 5 nights (our longest stay so far).

We took one day to chill and did a bike ride along the lake on Friday – it was really nice. The relaxing came to an abrupt stop when Gemma and Schnabbies decided to break out of Merlin and go on the run. We had been at a campfire with the camp host Bud (incredible guy – 85 years old and still managing this campground after 20+ years!) and I couldn’t shake a nagging worry about the cats. I finally excused myself to go check on them. As I got closer to Merlin – I noticed the screen door open and absolutely FREAKED OUT! Next I saw Gemma and Schnabbies cowering and scurrying under Merlin. The rest is a bit of a blur – but it involved Schnabbies climbing up the side of Merlin and me and Bryan scouring the entire campground with flash lights searching and searching and searching for Gemma for what seemed like eternity. I can’t even express how horrible this was – one of the worst nights of my life. Turns out she had climbed up on one of Merlin’s slides and was there the whole time – so our search of the whole area was for nothing. This would be the first of several Gemma escapes. This understandably put me on the absolute edge and I’m still recovering.

We had planned on trying to get into Yellowstone bright and early Saturday morning – but I was still so shaken that we didn’t end up leaving the campground until 2pm. The park was only 30 minutes away and it was still offering free entry because of the National Park Service’s 100th birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY NPS!) – so we figured why the heck not. Plus we had found a webcam that showed us the West Entrance and it was open but had very few cars. Off we went to visit Yellowstone!

There were still several fires in Yellowstone and we actually passed one of the Fire Camps in West Yellowstone on our way to the park. The crazy thing is that Yellowstone is so HUGE that it can have numerous fires burning and still be open and ready for business. In one area, the flames were just right off the road. In other areas the smoke was so dense you could hardly make out your surroundings and then in other areas you had no idea that any fires existed at all – this park is that BIG!!!

While I have heard countless times that Yellowstone is incredible and a must-see place, I really had no idea what to expect. I had, of course, heard about Old Faithful – but beyond that – I had no clue. Driving into the park, I didn’t even know where to begin. Thankfully the park is divided into loops and there are countless pull-outs, stops, scenic look-outs, etc. This made it really easy to just drive and see amazing stuff! We ended up spending almost 3 days in Yellowstone. This was an okay amount of time to get a taste of the park. To include longer day hikes and really explore more deeply – you would need at least a week if not longer. (NOTE: I recommend giving yourself a break here and there because as beautiful and amazing as it all is [and it truly is all that and much much much more!] – you begin to get a little bit of amazement fatigue. Taking a little break will definitely help you appreciate everything more). Of course, though, I think you could spend your entire life in the park and still not see everything – again, it’s that BIG!

As we drove through the park and took in all the unbelievable wonders of Yellowstone, I was regularly at a loss for words. “Incredible”, “amazing”, “beautiful”, “stunning”, “interesting”, “awesome”, etc. do not even come close to the reality of Yellowstone and I know anything I write here won’t either. The park is vast and varies so much from stop to stop, mile to mile. The 3 days we spent were fantastic and I saw things that I didn’t even know existed and a level of beauty I could have never imagined. Instead of trying to explain what I saw – I’ll include some pictures. But Yellowstone is truly a place you must see for yourself, I am not kidding – please come here, if you can.

 

Aside from the awesomeness of the park, I do have two messages that I’m pretty clear on:

  • Inconsiderate people with selfie-sticks are terrible people and I wish upon them very bad things.
  • Bison are really, really big and being just a foot away from them is scary and at the same time so very AMAZING.
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4 thoughts on “CAUTION: Fires and Yellowstone Ahead”

  1. Hi didnt know the girls got out again.. good grief. pics are great. sorry I missed u today on email.. outside again. love u and talk soon.

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  2. Hi Jaimi and Bryan – this is from Jan and Fred Waggoner – we met you in Wallace (twice!) I hope we will meet up again somewhere, but if not, happy trails. I am keeping up with our travels via FB for now (less bandwidth and I can do it from the iPhone) I will catch up on the journal later.

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