October 9 – 12, 2015 Jackson Hole, WY to Pojoaque, NM

Lunch for Two
Lunch for Two

Time to Head South

After finally getting my elk shots at Grand Teton National Park, I headed south on Route 191. Stopping in Pinedale for fuel, I just had to get out the camera when this young lady and her lunch companion happened to show up in the lane next to me. As you can see above, I wasn’t the only one who got a kick out of this sight.

Lunch for Two
Lunch for Two

As I was heading south, they were heading north to Bozeman and a new home.

Horse Portrait
Portrait

A handsome fellow, wouldn’t you say.

After passing through the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area in northern Utah, I stopped for the night at a roadside pull off. I was awakened the next morning by the bellowing of a bull elk outside my bedroom window and greeted by a very heavy frost when I stepped outside with the dogs, confirming that, yes, it definitely is time to be heading south.

Petunias
Petunias

Someone in Vernal must spend a lot of time and effort tending the curbside petunias.

Route 191 from Red Canyon to Vernal, Utah, makes a slow ascent through some scenic country, climbing to a summit elevation of some 8,428′ before descending on a long 6 – 8 % grade through 8 hairpin curves, to Vernal, Utah. The long climb ( when heading south ) was barely noticeable until you are just short of the summit when the grade suddenly increases dramatically, in my case, slowing me down to 15 mph and leaving me wondering if I was going to make it over the top. That, and the long, slow descent on the other side will make me reconsider whether to ever do this route again, it probably did kind of take a toll on the the old Workhorse’s transmission.

Continuing south on 191, I joined I-70 East for a bit before rejoining Route 191 south, past Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, to the town of Monticello where I joined Rote 491 south to Cortez, Colorado. After a quick stop for supplies at Walmart in Cortez, I headed west a short bit on Route 160 to the Ancient Cedars campground, just outside the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park, one of the few national parks I had not yet visited. At $37/night with Good Sam discount, this park is a little expensive for my tastes, yet is a very nice campground with a level full hookup pull through site, decent Wifi, and no trees to interfere with satellite TV reception.

Uncooperative Mulie Bucks
Uncooperative Mulie Bucks

Mesa Verde National Park

At dawn Sunday morning, I made my way into Mesa Verde. From the entrance to the park, located just off the highway, it is about a 30 mile trip to the end of the park where the cliff dwellings are found. I spotted a small group of Mule Deer bucks along the park road, but could not get them to cooperate on any photos as they kept their heads down browsing on some shrubs, too bad, because a couple of them had some very impressive antlers.

Mesa Verde National Monument
Mesa Verde National Monument

There are several spots in the park where you have a view of these very unique ancient dwellings from the top of the mesa. The park service does guided trips, for which you need reservations, down and through some of these dwellings, but warns that the climb down and back to the top of the mesa can be quite challenging physically.

Mesa Verde National Monument
Mesa Verde National Monument

I am ashamed to admit that, while i do find the history of this sort of thing quite interesting, it really doesn’t appeal to me the way wildlife and grand vistas do, so this is not my kind of place. That and the fact that even in this relatively remote and not heavily visited national park, there already were more people crowded in here than I find tolerable. I just am not one who enjoys standing in lines and being part of a shuffling mob.

Mesa Verde National Monument
Mesa Verde National Monument

On to Santa Fe

I continued east on Route 160 through Durango and on to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, where I picked up Route 84 that takes you south to Santa Fe. I actually stopped a little short of Santa Fe in Pojoque, where I pulled into the Roadrunner RV Park, right on the side of the highway. This is a convenient spot for an overnight stay, a no frills, level, full hookup pull through site for all of $25/ night ( with Good Sam discount ).

I have an appointment tomorrow morning at Hal Burns Truck Service in Santa Fe for some work on the motorhome. Having had a mostly pleasant experience having work done there two years ago, I am having them take care of a gas tank, or filler pipe, leak, as well as getting my rear running lights working again, plus some other minor maintenance issues.

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September 17 – 21, 2015 Return to the Lower Forty-eight

Glacier National Park Mountain Goat
Glacier National Park Mountain Goat

Back in the USA

September 17th

I broke camp at Meziadin Provincial park around 9 AM and headed east on Route 37 to Prince George. The last 100 miles of Route 37 was nothing special, unlike the rest of that highway, and Route 16 East to Prince George was the same. Of course, the steady all day rain and grey skies didn’t help matters as far as great scenery goes.

Arrived at a pretty new Walmart Superstore right on the highway at the western edge of Prince George, and since I was pretty much out of everything, provisions wise, I stocked up on essentials, not knowing when i would have the opportunity to do so again. Since it was getting dark, I decided to do a Walmart boondock and settled in for the night.

September 18th

After a decent night’s sleep at Walmart, I proceeded east on Route 16 to Jasper and turned south on the spectacularly beautiful Icefields Parkway to Route 1 and Lake Louise. Unfortunately, the Icefields Parkway, under low hanging clouds, fog, and rain, loses a lot of it’s luster and I managed to travel it’s entire length without stopping for even one photograph. Hoping to get some autumn shots of Lake Louise with fall colors, I settled in at the overflow camping area just south of town on Route 1 for the night, hoping the weather would improve overnight.

September 19th

It didn’t ! With the weather remaining terrible, I left Lake Louise and traveled south on Route 1, through Banff, and on to Calgary, a city I will religiously avoid traveling through in the future. I felt like a rat being forced to run a maze, trying to get from Route 1 to Route 2 in this city’s confusing, poorly signed, heavily congested system of roadways. By the time I finally made it out of Calgary and was headed south on Route 2, after three days, the weather finally cleared and it was an uneventful trip to the border crossing at Carway. I had no problem at all with the crossing, just the normal fruit, veggies and firewood , and booze, questions and I was through and back in the lower forty-eight.

Around 4 PM, I arrived at Johnsons of Saint Marys Campground, on the east side of Galcier National Park, a place I have stayed in many times before. I paid my $78 for two nights and headed up the hill to their fairly tight, fairly unlevel campsites, that do, however, have a superb view across the valley of the mountains of Glacier National Park. These are water and 30 amp electric sites with a surprisingly strong Verizon internet signal.

September 20th Glacier National Park

Stormy Sunrise Over Johnson's Campground
Stormy Sunrise Over Johnson’s Campground

I awoke to a spectacular sunrise and howling winds, indicating that a predicted stormfront was moving in.

Stormy Sunrise Over Johnson's Campground
Stormy Sunrise Over Johnson’s Campground

Taking advantage of the morning’s decent, though very windy weather, I headed up to Many Glacier hoping to get some bear shots, as i have had quite a bit of luck there in the past. This summer’s dry conditions have produced a very poor berry crop and there were no bears to be seen this morning, so I headed back home around noon hoping to watch some football on TV.

Didn’t happen ! I have no idea how strong the winds were blowing, but the motorhome was rocking and the slide toppers were in danger of being ripped off, so I was forced to bring in the slides and lower the satellite dish before it was destroyed by the gale force winds. Welcome back to the lower forty-eight !

September 21st

By morning the winds had diminished and the rain had set in. Having a lot of image processing to do and blog work to catch up on, plus facing an October 15th deadline to file my 2014 taxes, I almost looked forward to a day in the rain to try and get some of this work done.

By late afternoon, tired of working at the computer and finding the skies clearing, I hopped in the Prius and took a drive up Going to the Sun Highway to Logan Pass.

Unreachable
Unreachable

And I am so glad I decided to do so. On previous trips here I have gotten many nice mountain goat images, but have never had the opportunity to find them high up on the cliffs, where they live out a good portion of their lives, safe from predators.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Glacier National Park Mountain Goat
Glacier National Park Mountain Goat

This evening, just as it was getting dark, I came across a lone ram, just about all the way up to Logan Pass, and before it became just too dark to shoot, was able to capture a few images of their incredible cliff hanging abilities.

Leap of Faith
Leap of Faith

Just mind boggling how easily they traverse this impossible landscape … and you can see from the first vertical photo above, that there would be no chance for survival if ever there was a misstep. I certainly hope I get another chance over the next few days to catch this guy up there again, perhaps with a little more light to work with.

 

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April 15, 2015 North Too Soon ?

Heading West on I-80
Heading West on I-80

Traveling From Lees Ferry, Arizona to Winnemucca, Nevada

Monday morning I headed west on 89A up through Jacobs Lake and had no trouble with the long grade, actually pretty much kept up with the posted speed limits. From Fredonia, I headed west on Route 389 crossing into Nevada, then 59 north and 17 north to I-15 north to Cedar City, Nevada, where I did some shopping at Walmart then moved next door to the Home Depot parking lot to overnight, the Walmart lot being very busy with no clear place to safely find a spot and the Home Depot lot being recommended by Day’s End. Encountered no trouble there and got a decent night’s rest. A wind advisory for tomorrow has me wondering how to proceed. There are supposed to be sustained winds of 35 mph with gusts up to 70 mph as a cold front moves into the region. Gusts that strong can have a pretty nasty effect on a motorhome traveling at 60 mph, so I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be on the road when they are supposed to hit.

Tuesday morning, I was up very early and decided to try and make the drive from Cedar City north to the Ely Elk Viewing Area where I know I could stop and spend the night off the road if I had to. The wind advisory turned out to be correct but fortunately,  I had little trouble on the drive north because the 30+ mph winds were from the south acting as a tailwind. By 4 PM when I reached the Elk Viewing area, the gusts were becoming more frequent and were now coming from the west, so I decided to quit while I was ahead and set up camp.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Ely Elk Viewing Area Overnight
Ely Elk Viewing Area Overnight

Just 15 minutes after stopping, it sounded like a freight train roaring through with the motorhome shuttering and rocking as the gusts must have reached the predicted 70 mph. Kind of glad I stopped when I did. I put the jacks down for stability but didn’t dare extend the slide outs for fear of having my slide toppers ripped to shreds by the wind.

The temperature started dropping rapidly soon after and now freezeup became a major concern as temps were forecast to drop to the teens overnight and I was just not prepared, having decided at the start of this journey, that I would judiciously avoid winter weather FOREVERMORE. So, I decided to set the gas furnace, that I never use, at 50 degrees and let it run through the night and figured I would just have to get up every few hours and run the water a bit to help keep the lines from freezing.

The Next Morning
The Next Morning

Awoke around 4 AM and found I wasn’t frozen up, yet, at least. A dusting of snow lay on the ground, but the wind has died down so I had an unusual second cup of coffee while waiting for daylight to head out for the long trip to Winnemucca and an overnight at a campground there with electric hookup since the cold weather will go on for another day.

Filled up with gas in Ely, Nevada and headed west on Route 50, climbing to 7000 feet as I did so, and last night’s dusting of snow had brought out the sand ( and salt ) trucks as the drifting snow had blown onto the roadway and created a light coating of ice. So it was a slow haul up and over the upper elevations toward I-80 and Winnemucca.

SALT, the Damage Is Done
SALT, the Damage Is Done

Nearing I-80, I pulled over to assess the salt accumulation on the vehicles. Although the RV is 11 years old and I am originally from New Hampshire, I have always been diligent about being sure not to travel in it when the salt was melting off the roads, knowing what kind of damage the salt does and knowing that I needed this rig to last a long time. The 2012 Prius has also never been exposed to salt. I guess I can no longer make that statement. This hurts !

Along I-80 in Nevada
Along I-80 in Nevada

Once on I-80 west, the road was clear and dry, but the damage has been done. The sun had come out, but the temperatures never made it up to the 30’s until after 1 PM.

Nevada Snow Covered Mountains
Nevada Snow Covered Mountains
Nevada Snow Covered Mountains
Nevada Snow Covered Mountains
Nevada Snow Covered Mountains
Nevada Snow Covered Mountains

Though the light snow has meant disaster to my vehicles, it has also produced some pretty dramatic sights as I cruised west on I-80. Beautiful, but something I could very well have done without.

Snow Dusted Hills
Snow Dusted Hills
Sun and Snow
Sun and Snow

The closer to Winnemucca I got, the more signs of spring that appeared. I arrived at the Frontier RV Park, just off I-80 Exit 180 in late afternoon to spend my $30 for full hookups to help make it through the last ( I hope ) sub freezing night I see.

Tomorrow I continue north to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to meet up with Jim Palmer, a wildlife photographer very familiar with the refuge. I met Jim in Yellowstone National Park in year one of my full time travels and then ran into him again when I was shooting eagles on the Hood Canal in Washington the next spring, where he was kind enough to give me a lot of local info. So I am looking forward to a week or more of getting back to shooting some new wildlife in a new spot with an expert guide. Here’s hoping this is the last of the winter temperatures and the sun warms things up in Oregon.

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April 5, 2015 Northward Ho !

Travel Day Rodeo, N.M. to Petrified Forest N. P., Arizona

New Mexico Route 80
New Mexico Route 80

I Left Rusty’s Sunday morning about 8:30 AM. Boring drive north on 80 …

Not a Lot To See on I-40 East
Not a Lot To See on I-40 East

 to I-10 East to Lordsburg ( even less to see along this stretch ) where I filled up at Love’s.

Took route 10 into Lordsburg, what a depressing town …

Tyrone Mine
Tyrone Mine
Tyrone Mine
Tyrone Mine

and picked up 90 north past the Tyrone Mine and on to Silver City where I went to Walmart to stock up for the road ahead. I’m pretty sure I will not be seeing any place to do grocery shopping for a while as I head north through Arizona and Nevada.

Got on route 180 west heading back to AZ.

I really had wanted to drive Arizona Route 191 north up through the mountains to Alpine, for it is supposed to be one of the more scenic drives in the state. But after doing some research on the internet, I decided to not risk it in the motorhome and maybe drive it some day in the Prius, just afraid of too much wear and tear on the RV with all the steep grades and narrow twisting road.

Route 180 High Desert
Route 180 High Desert

Boring scenery again until about 25 mile short of the state border when the road started climbing,

Route 180 Foothills
Route 180 Foothills

dropping and twisting until we eventually hit an elevation of over 8000 feet.

Flattened back out once in AZ and I stopped to check out the Luna Lake Campground just outside Alpine. Drove in a couple miles to find the campground closed, no signs saying that, of course.

Route 180 west joins up with Route 191 North at Alpine and I continued north to Lyman Lake State Park and stopped for the night. $30/night for a flat site with water and 50 amp electric. Park is a little run down and the sites are really, really poorly designed. One atop another with my neighbors fire ring within 6 feet of my bedroom window and the roof of their picnic table shelter all but touching my living room slideout. Fortunately, there is no one on that site, I surely would not want to be here when it is crowded.

Taking advantage of what most likely will be my last campsite with electricity, I cooked up a large batch of chicken and asparagus alone with some biscuits, that I can heat and serve on the gas range as I boondock my way north to Oregon.

Route 180 Whole Lot of Nothing
Route 180 Whole Lot of Nothing

Got back on Route 180 around 11 AM and drove the short distance to the Petrified Forest National Park Road. Tomorrow I plan on checking out this National Park, one of the few I have never been to before.

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