Friday, August 24, 2012

New Look to the Blog!!
Whaddaya think?  Comment with any feedback, good or bad.  I'm interested in what readers say.   I'm not certain yet.  I may make more changes or perhaps revert to the old look.  Stay tuned!!

We've been kinda busy and kinda lazy the past few weeks.  We've done a couple hikes, visited with friends, watched a handful of Netflix movies and did a bit of general vegging out.

We also found time to work - Sheesh - I thought we were retired!!

What a Small World...
I follow a handful of blogs.  Pete and Oscar of 'Pete and the Wonder Egg' have been traveling about this summer and finally got out here to Yellowstone.  The fun thing is, we all met when we were in Austin a couple years ago when they were attending an 'egg' rally at our long term RV park, Austin Lonestar. (Eggs are the egg shaped fiberglass campers:  Casita, Scamp and the rare and no-longer-built, Oliver)

One day last week, when we were actually working, I was called from the stock room to the front area.  Pete was there making contact!  What a pleasant surprise.

Just like when Sue of 'rv sue and her canine crew' stopped by, I was not able to linger.  BUT, this time I did get over to their site one evening and had a fun visit.  Oscar is a great little dog - the perfect lap dog.  He laid in my lap the entire time yet he never attempted to get in my face.  Perfect.  I love dogs but never have been fond of the 'in your face'rs'.

Pete and Oscar will be here until the 27th.  Perhaps we will get a chance to visit again.  If not, who knows what will happen down the road...

We've Walked a Few Miles in Our Boots...
Mt. Washburn...
We hiked up Mt. Washburn.  It is one of the highest points in the park.  We started at the parking lot at Dunraven Pass.  Altitude:  8850

We hiked up:

And up:

Toward that little Fire Tower in the Sky:

We viewed our progress from afar.  The trail that we had already covered is in the foreground.  We parked and started on the road in the background.  The trailhead is blocked by the mountain:
Yup. We went 'round and over the mountain.

We got closer:

And closer:

Almost there:


Wow! - 8850 feet at the start and 10,243 feet at the top.

We felt like we were on top of the world.  The views were fantastic in spite of the slight smoke haze from forest fires in neighboring states.

The walk down was a repeat of the walk up, but much easier.

I can't believe I didn't get any photos on the way down.  Guess it was the thin air...

A great hike with 1400 feet altitude gain and 1400 feet altitude loss.  Quite a day!

Fairy Falls...
We did another fun hike - Fairy Falls.  A 200 foot back-country waterfall.

The trailhead is a couple miles up the road from Old Faithful.  The main trail goes 2.5 miles and skirts along the Midway Geyser Basin which includes the famous Grand Prismatic Spring - the largest hot spring in the US; third largest in the world.

We went with Charlie and Karen and as always, the four of us had a lot of fun.

The trail entered a thick lodge pole pine forest after passing the geyser basin.  At places the trees were so dense we could not see more than about 40 or 50 feet off the trail.  Kind of eerie when we thought about grizzes possibly moving about.

Over the river (I did not get a pic of us going over the Fire Hole River at the beginning of the hike.  You'll have to imagine):

And through the woods:

To Fairy Falls we all go:

From Fairy Falls we headed toward Imperial Geyser, about 3/4 mile away.  We thought we had reached it but later found out we did not.  Rats!

The bubbling pool we thought was Imperial Geyser was actually Spray Geyser:

This is not my pic.  I hijacked it off the internet
We were about 3/8 mile short of Imperial Geyser but we did not see it for the trees.

We did see the runoff from some sort of thermal activity.  We could tell there was thermal activity upstream due to the brilliant yellow/gold color of the stream bed.  We just did not know how far it was to the source and did not want to venture too far off our planned route (more to come on that!)

The incredible color is the result of bacteria living in the hot water from the thermal activity:

A Change In Route...
We had planned to retrace our steps back to the originating trailhead but after we got to Spray Geyser we decided to continue on along the Imperial Geyser Trail.  This added somewhere around 4 miles to our hike.

The trail emerged from the forest and headed across expansive meadows that are sometimes very boggy, hence a trail of cut logs:

That must have been a LOT of work to build.   Sure glad we carry our trekking poles.

We moved alongside some thermal action:

The rest of the hike was rather monotonous.  No good pics to share. BUT - fun was had by all!

The Voice of Experience...
At the beginning of our hike to Fairy Falls we saw a woman walk right past a sign warning of the dangers of leaving the trail and go directly to the edge of a thermal pool.  She put her finger in and declared it HOT!

I don't recall if I've told this story before but if I did, it bears repeating

Robin and I honeymooned at Yellowstone in 1983.  At dusk on the day after we arrived we decided to take a romantic hike from our cabin at Old Faithful.  We loaded up a thermos with coffee and put some snacks in our little pack and headed up a trail.

The trail ascended pretty good for a few hundred yards.  I saw a grass covered meadow to the left.  Looked like a good spot to sit and enjoy our reverie.

Because it was so grassy I told Robin to stay on the trail while I checked to see if the meadow was boggy.

I walked out about 25 yards, turned to tell her to come on out.

And broke through the crust of the ground!!!!

I instantly sank to my thighs in mud - COOL mud, thank God.

I yelled to Robin to stay where she was (on the trail).  She had started to run to me when she saw me sink.

I did a quicksand-type crawl out to the path.  All ended well.

It was without a doubt the scariest thing I have ever experienced.  It came right on the heels of the second scariest thing I've ever done - getting married the day before.

To this day, I cringe whenever I think about it:
    Why did I stop sinking at my thighs?
    Why was it not thermal and I did not get boiled alive?
    Why did I do something so STUPID?
            (Inexperience I guess - I was not an experienced outdoorsman
             and had never been to a thermal laden area)
There were no signs anywhere near where we were walking so at least I did not bypass a posted warning.  We were a long way from any visible thermal activity.

All I can say is God was sending me a BIG message - I got it.

So, I cringe when I think of it or watch someone bypass warning signs.

My Stars They Were Beautiful...
We went to the boat ramp at Yellowstone Lake at 2:30am on August 12 and watched the Perseid Meteor Shower.  Pretty neat.  No ambient light and high altitude.  Magnificent.

Here is a link to some photos of the shooting stars.  I don't know how to shoot good night time pics.  Rats!

I Think It's Waning Out There...
The number of people in the park is on the wane.  The season is drawing to a close.  Pretty soon it will be as if we have the park to ourselves.  We are having a grand time here and look forward to the next month of lesser crowds while we pursue more "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Friday, August 3, 2012

Another Early Morning...

Third Morning Rising Early...
Remember my last post?  I said we got up three times.  I described two.  Well, the third was not as neat as the first two.  No pics for this one.

Truck Concerns...
Monday, we got up at 4:00am to drive 100 miles to Cody.  We had a 7:30 appointment at the Dodge dealer.  The "Check Engine" light came on about 10 days ago.  The Dodge dealer had blocked 5 hours to see what was going on.  $eemed a little exce$$ive to me but it wa$ a warranty job...

A beautiful morning.  Too bad we could not stop to smell the flowers and sulphur springs.

Did you know that the bison move about the park on the roadways at night?  We did not see a single bison, but they left a BUNCH of evidence of their passing on the road.

When we got to Cody we had to stop at the car wash to clean off the bison poop.  I could not make the mechanic work in it.

We got to my sister, Demity's, house at 7:15 all sparkly clean.  We quickly lifted the camper off and zoomed over to the Dealer.

In the five minutes between Demity's house and the Dodge dealer ----  the "Check Engine" light turned off!!!!

What th....??  Did the truck know it was going to the doctor and suddenly feel all better?

Prior to going to Cody I did some research and found out that these Cummins engines like to be driven hard.  They are work horses.  We have been puttering about the park at low RPMs.  That clogs up the pollution stuff and other techy things resulting in the "Check Engine" light glaring from the dash.

Considering all the bells and whistles on this truck you'd think it could have shouted "Hey, can you put your foot in it a little?  I'm choking to death here."

I have been running the past week at higher RPMs.  The Dodge guy said the system cleaned itself out by driving it hard.  Sheesh.

Oh well, let's get a couple other things done since we had 5 hours blocked out.  Rotate the tires, fix the little overhead light that has a loose connection .  On/off, on/off.  No clapping required.

Tires were rotated - $20 even tho we bought the truck from them  --  Kinda hoped they'd comp that.

Light - Wellllll, they couldn't get to it because the 5 hours were blocked for a different technician.

Grrrr.  I'll fix it myself.

We drove 100 miles through all kinds of crap just to get more when we got to town.

At least the issue causing the 'Check Engine' light cleared itself up.  I now know how to drive appropriately to keep the system cleaned out.  AND - the tire$ have been rotated.

We spent the rest of the day and night camped in my sister's driveway in Cody.  We sure do enjoy our visits with Demity and John.

Tuesday - Billings, MT...
Tuesday we went to Billings, MT; 100 miles from Cody; 200 from our place in the park.  It is the closest Sam's Club and Cabela's from Cody.  We needed some things from both plus it's fun just to get away for a few days.  It is kind of strange to realize just how remote Yellowstone and all of Wyoming are.  Towns are small and things are a LONG way away.

An interesting fact - Wyoming is a little over 1/3 the size of Texas, yet it has a population of less than 600,000.  That is sparse with a capital arse.  Traveling 100 miles to shop is routine.

Anyway, we camped, for the first time, in a KOA.  Believe it or not, it was the cheapest place to park for the night.  A nice RV park.

We Like Arctic Foxes...
Wednesday found us doing our shopping and looking at some Arctic Fox campers.  We've heard a lot of good things about them and want to get a bit educated.  Someday we will have to replace our motorhome and we are learning as much as we can about good quality rigs.  We have no plans to make a move any time soon, but it is fun to research.

The other day in Cody, we saw an Arctic Fox 5th wheel in front of a house.  I decided to stop and see if they were of a mind to visit.

Lois was a bit skeptical when she answered the door.  I explained that we saw their trailer and had never looked at an Arctic Fox before.  A couple minutes later we were inside it and learning all about its features.

To say she was enthusiastic about her RV is an understatement.

We were impressed with the quality of Arctic Fox.  They are now on our short list for possible future purchase.

Back to Cody...
We returned to Cody and had a fun evening with Demity - Pizza, adult beverages and a movie that kept us laughing - Wanderlust. (Disclaimer:  Some of the content is really not appropriate for young'uns!)

Days Off Are Over...
We're back in the park and ready for work.  Great days off with lots of time spent "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Are We Becoming Early Risers????

Up Before the Crack of Noon...
I have never been known for being an early riser.  For the last years of our working careers we were forced to get up early.   I rarely did it willingly.  We got up around 5:00am in order to be at work by 6:00.  Ugh!!!   Robin is a lot better at it than I am.

It could be the result of my penchant for staying up late.  I seem to wake up around 10:00pm and can go unfettered until 2ish.  That makes it a bit difficult to get up at 5:00...

So what the heck has happened?   We've gotten up at 4:00am three times in the past couple weeks!!!!

Yup, you read it - 4:00am THREE TIMES.   Sheesh.

Actually, it's been a ball.  We got up early so we could watch the park wake up.

We'd leave the motorhome around 4:30.  Jump in the truck.  Head to the employee dining room to fill up our coffee mugs.  Then hit the road.

The park is ours at that time of the morning.  We can drive for miles and miles and see only a couple cars, if any.  I guess not being early risers is the norm.  Whodda thunk?  Me being part of the norm???

Anyway, the park is amazing at this time of day.  Peaceful is an understatement.  The silence is hard for us to perceive given that we lived in a large city for the past 20 years.  Austin does not sleep.  You always hear planes, trains and automobiles - along with a mix of every other sound associated with a metropolis.

And those blankitty-blank thumping stereos...  Grrr.

Here, you step outside at 4:30am and you hear - nothing.  I mean nothing.  The animals are sleeping.  The roads are deserted.  All is silent and still.

It's magical.

If we go near a thermal area we can hear the ponds softly gurgling.  The steam vents silently hiss.  All else is silent.

It's eerily beautiful.

Our Inaugural "Sunrise Excursion"
We drove to the edge of Yellowstone Lake and waited for the miracle.

Where is the color?  Are we too late for the colors?  Perhaps this is one of those days with few clouds and few colors:

Oh well.   At least we saw some elk on the opposite side of a close by pond:

We waited.  Messed around with the camera:

Whoa!   What's happening?:

It's growing:

Almost there:

Tah Dah!!!

A Couple Days Later...
We got up again.  We didn't see the sun rise this time.  The hills and meadows looked like they were simmering with smoke.  The sky was blanked out.

It was fog.

The air was cold.  Warm water and thermal activity cause a lot of fog.

They say pictures speak a thousand words.

I'll just shut up and let them talk:

Did you notice something - No cars or people!!  Mornings are a great time to see the park.

And for us, anytime is a grand time for "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Friday, July 20, 2012

Just a "Normal" Day...

We DO Have to Work - Sometime...
To the rest of the world this is Friday.  For us it is Monday.

We've had a schedule revamp at the store.  Originally we were working five days per week:  Thursday through Monday.  Tuesday and Wednesday were our days off.

I've stated before that we are a very busy store.  That is true, but it is somewhat sporadic in guest activity.  As a result, there are periods of "not busy".  The parent company determined a need to cut labor costs.  That resulted in people, including us, being sent home early or sometimes upon arrival.

A week ago the supervisors were looking for ways to make the impact more predictable and less harmful economically for employees.  They asked if we were interested in scheduling more days off.

"Are you kidding?   More time off in Yellowstone?"

"Gee, lemme think about it."

Our answer jumped our of our mouths as soon as the question was asked.

"Of course we'll take more time off!!!!"

We went home and checked a few things.  If we work three days per week we will cover all our living expenses.  We won't have much extra, but that is OK.  We'll cover our expenses and not touch our retirement for the full time we are here.

We offered to work three days and have four off.  We figured that was asking too much.

Dennis, our store manager replied with a resounding "Yes! - and thanks for being willing to work less so others who wanted, or needed, more hours could have them!"

Did we really hear what we thought we heard?  The boss was thanking us for working less?

This Yellowstone place is magical.  Some refer to it as "Colter's Hell."  For us it is "Herber's Heaven."

That is why today was our Monday.

RVers Have Domestic Responsibilities Too...
Other than our hike on Tuesday, we have been caught up with domestic things the rest of our days off.

Living in an RV is similar to living in a house except every time you move your RV you are subjecting your house to a strong earthquake.  Things loosen up, break and generally deteriorate.   There is always something needing attention.  I am lucky in being able to fix almost anything that needs fixin'.

Right now it is our truck camper.  We are getting water inside during rain events.  I determined that the rim around the perimeter of the roof is leaking.  I spent the last few days working on that.  I have it almost all fixed.  A little more effort and it will be as waterproof as the Titanic...

After that, our hydraulic levelers on the motor home need work.  The electric motor is having problems.  I have that almost fixed too.  I would have been finished but the leaky truck camper took precedence.

Robin spends a lot of time cleaning, washing clothes (yup, we have a clothes washer and dryer - just like non-movable homes!), cooking and all the normal Domestic Goddess things in a household.

Even tho we are in an RV and live in different places, our life is a lot like everyone else's.

Time For Smelling the Coffee...
We do try to set aside time every day to enjoy a latte:

I have secret desire to be a barista!

Other than work and normal, boring domestic things, this was still a great day for "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

The Tetons are Grand!

Hiking Through The Tetons...
This past Tuesday we got together with Charley and Karen for an 8 mile jaunt around Jenny Lake which lies at the base of the Grand Teton mountains.

It was incredible.

It kicked our butts.

The first half was along the eastern shore.  It is the most easily accessed portion.  So, it was the smoothest and busiest.  We met many other hikers.

The views of the mountains on the opposite side of the lake were awesome.  They were a preview of what was coming.

So we hiked:

And hiked:

And hiked some more.  We were getting closer to the mountains:

Finally!!!  We were in the foothills of the Grand Tetons!

The mountains are immense.   Pictures do not convey how big they are.

While looking at them I got the strange feeling that I was looking at something that was not truly there.  It was as if I was looking at a gigantic picture.  They were so incredible it seemed they were not real.

I am NOT  a photographer so here is a link to some fabulous pictures of the area.

The day was perfect.  We had temps in the 70s.  No wind, just a gentle breeze.  Some clouds to keep the sun at bay and great company.

After our majestic day, we stopped at Leeks Pizzeria on Lake Jackson.  The perfect ending to a perfect outing.

Days like this are exactly what we envision when we pursue adventures while "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Yellowstone - WOW!

There is only one word I can think of when talking about Yellowstone - "Wow!"

The longer we are here the more spectacular we realize it is.  No wonder it is one of the most amazing and diverse places on the planet.  Words to not do it justice.   Literally hundreds of books and countless pictures and paintings have attempted to capture the splendor

Nope, ain't going to happen.

No matter how hard a person tries to convey the majesty and wonder, they can't.  One must see it for real.

A Little Background...
We are here due to the influence of our friends, Charley and Karen.  We became friends at Lonestar RV park in Austin.  They are full-time RVers as are we.  They heard about summer opportunities at Yellowstone with the retail concessionaire Delaware North and applied.  They were accepted and this is their third summer.

They regaled us with stories of the park, the work and the people visiting and living here for the summer.

We had to give it a try.

Last summer we came up and visited Charley and Karen.  They showed us around and introduced us to their manager, Dennis.  We buttered up Dennis and I guess it worked.  Our applications were accepted and now we are here working at the Grant Village General Store, located at West Thumb on Yellowstone Lake.

The work is HARD.  I work in the grocery and Robin is in apparel.   Now realize that I spent pretty well my entire career sitting behind the wheel of a bus or truck or at a desk in a cubicle.  Yup, I was on my butt.  I did NOT do manual labor - nothing requiring me to be on my feet all day long.

Robin was an operating room nurse for 20 years.  Even SHE says it is hard.  Sheesh!

But, it is worth every second.  When we are off we have time to explore the park.

As for work, the grocery is for all intents and purposes, a full blown convenience store.  A very busy convenience store.  Our customer count is certainly in the hundreds each day.  The park gets a bit over 3 million visitors each year.

The facilities are spread throughout the park but this is not a metropolis.  It really is wilderness.   Plus, there is a 420 site campground about 1/2 mile from the store.

We are B-U-S-Y!!

And loving it!!!!

I have never done retail before.  This is all new.  The experience has been so good I am ready to move to India and open an American Owned Convenience Store...

I get a kick out of the customers.  We have people from all over the world.  Lots of Europeans, Asians, South Americans etc.  All cultures are represented.  It has been interesting to observe how foreigners function.  It is obvious that Americans are accustomed to a lot more personal space than other nationalities.  Because we are not so densely populated (OK -OK - take NYC and the other biggie cities out of the discussion) we have the luxury of more space.  Foreigners don't realize they are 'invading' our space.

In this case 'invading' is not a negative.  I just had to get used to the idea that we are all different except for one thing - we all are blown away by Yellowstone.

It Really Is A Wilderness...
Given the conveniences we have locally: three eating facilities, a post office, the General store, a full service gas station with mechanic and an actual convenience store, a large laundromat plus a big Park Service information center, we are essentially a small town.  It is easy to lose sight of the fact that we are in the middle of one of the most unique wildernesses in the world.   There are BIG critters here who will eat you if you mess up.

Shortly before arriving a woman in our employee's RV section was doing something with her car.  All the doors were open and she was pre-occupied when she heard some rustling outside.  She looked over and this guy was right next to her car!!!!!

Yup - that's a grizz.  Looks pretty cuddly doesn't he?  Especially while he is moseyin' around eating dandelions.  Sounds like something in a fairy tale.  Well take a look at this:

Uh Huh - Those are BIG teeth and claws.  Eating dandelions???   I guess he was full from the six deer and three mooses (meese?) he had for breakfast.

When our friend realized he was there she "vewy-vewy swowy" climbed in her car, closed the doors - and started taking pics.

The Park Service actually delays opening our local public campground because there is so much bear activity due to the nearby trout spawn in the Spring.

It was initially a bit daunting to have to take a few moments every time we exited the motorhome to look around to make sure we were not on the menu.  We always carry bear spray.

Now the trout spawn is mostly over.  There are lots of people milling about.  The bears have left for now, but you never know if one is passing through...

Building Up Our Strength...
We have been gradually building our hiking and exploring stamina.  We are at 8000 feet altitude.  We are not used to this.  When we lived in Wyoming prior to moving to Austin, we lived at 8000 feet.  We were very used to the altitude (I'm trying to ignore the additional tidbit of us having been 20 years younger then) so hiking and running around was no problem.

Austin is 700 feet above sea level.  Hmmm.  7300 feet lower.  Things are a bit different now.  BUT, we are catching up.

Other workers here say it takes about a month to really get going.  I believe it.  Our first couple days were uncomfortable at best.  We were worn out and sore after work.  Just now we are beginning to feel more like getting out and hiking after work.

Unimaginable Sights...
We've done a few car drives exploring the area.  Each time we see incredible things.

A buffalo heard held up traffic for a while:

Great mountain views across Yellowstone Lake:

The "Dragon's Mouth" fumarole:

Thermal area of the Artist's Paint Pots:

We see this stuff every time we leave the house.  Amazing....

Numerous times per day we look at each other and thank the Lord for our opportunity to spend an extended time in this splendid place.

Here, it is not hard at all for us to find ways to keep "Chasin' Our Dreams"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cody Wrap Up

This is a neat town.  We agree that if we were to settle down right now (ain't going to happen!) Cody would be our town of choice.

In the Summer it is all tourist.  In the Winter it is cozy and quiet.  It is definitely all cowboy all the time.  Real cowboys.  These ain't no dudes - they really do work cattle on horses.  When you see an old guy with bow-legs you can be sure it's because he spent a long time in the saddle.

Everyone is so friendly.

The bears aren't:

We spent a good bit of time walking around town.  Spring, Summer and Fall are short lived.  A lot must happen in a short time.  Trees bud, flowers bloom and the place wakes up quickly from their Winter's nap.

Robin especially likes the lilacs. Retirement finally has time to smell the flowers.

The road between Cody and the East Entrance to Yellowstone was described by Teddy Roosevelt as "perhaps the 50 most beautiful miles in America".  I could be persuaded to agree.  The area is entirely different from what is seen in Yellowstone.

We did a great walk with my sister, Demity along a road that parallels the highway.  The scenery speaks for itself :

We also found a possible new rig:

We had a lot of fun but were anxious to get on to Yellowstone.  We'll be re-visiting Cody and my sister and BIL a bunch over the next few months.

Onward to Yellowstone and more "Chasin Our Dreams!"