Travel Catchup Post

Bison along the Yellowstone River

Travel Catchup Post

Falling behind is always my terror in blogging. I’ll get busy, things come up and the next thing I know you I’m a couple of months behind on posts. I then feel overwhelmed with the amount of writing I have to do to get caught up mixed with guilt of not doing what I need to do. Then I just give up …

Well, I don’t want to give up so soon, so in this case I’m going to have to make a compromise to keep this thing going. So here are inadequate but necessary catch-up posts of our travels from the end of this year. I’ll try to be better going forward.

Grand Tetons & Yellowstone

This was our big trip of the year and our first attempt at extended boondocking. We started off with a week in far eastern Idaho, in the small town of Victor, just over the range from Jackson, Wyoming. It was a great place to stop and get our bearings. I was really amazed at eastern Idaho, with its mile after mile of rolling fields of wheat and scattered potato farms. It reminded me more of Kansas than the rugged far west.

Victor was a very cute little town where not much was happening, which made it perfect. They have a nice main street with a few stores and restaurants to support the limited tourism trade on this side of the Tetons. It feels mostly like a bedroom community for the people who work in Jackson but couldn’t possibly afford the real estate prices just west over the range.

Color photo of a bicycle leaning against a wood fence in the countryside.

Cycling Near Driggs, Idaho

The town supports a fantastic, and for a guy who hasn’t been riding much, wonderfully flat, 7 1/2 mile bicycle trail between itself and neighboring Driggs. It’s a nice ride that lets you marvel at the Tetons without the traffic in the park. Additionally, it takes you by the most Idaho named drive-in possible, The Spud!

Color photo of the spud drive-in in Driggs Idaho with a giant fake potato on a large truck out front.

The Spud Drive-In

We also started doing our explorations of the Teton and Yellowstone parks. This was both amazing and in it’s own way upsetting. You don’t realize how big these places are when you are traveling out here. Once here, we suddenly realized how much time it would take to really explore these places and how limited our time was for our visit.

This is one of the early frustrations we are having on our travels. Due to some obligations back in OKC right now, we have to take short out and back trips which makes our stays seem more rushed and more like a working vacation than a working adventure. We will both be glad to have some longer stints in areas to get a chance to dig a little deeper into the places we visit.

On our first day of exploration, we certainly hit the wildlife jackpot. In one stop at Blacktail Ponds at dusk, we spotted within about a three-minute window: mule deer, a massive elk herd, moose and a red fox. Plus we were presented with an astounding sunset over the mountains.

Color photo of a sunset going behind the Teton mountains.

Sunset at Blacktail Ponds, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The next week, we crossed over into the Wyoming side of the Teton, snagging an amazing boondocking spot at the aptly named Upper Teton View. You can read our in-depth review here. It was sometimes hard to work with this view presenting itself.

My mother joined us for a week and a half for this part of our trip which allowed Grace and her to do some exploration during the week while I worked. This was also our first test of our ability to do long-term boondocking. Overall we did well, though we did run out of drinking water on one day and were forced to run to the dump station a few days before we moved out. Once we have the composting toilet installed, I think long-term stays will become much easier.

My mother and I had a really nice long photo trek through Yellowstone on Labor Day weekend. Yellowstone really wasn’t as packed as I would have expected, but there certainly were a lot of people around. The best part of the exploration was getting to West Thumb right before dawn. The place was almost completely deserted except for a couple of intrepid photographers there to capture the golden dawn light.

Color photo of the sun rising over Yellowstone Lake with a bright blue geyser in the foreground.

Dawn at the West Thumb Geyser Basin, Yellowstone, Wyoming

As we were tramping around, we kept hearing nearby bellowing from a male elk. All of the sudden, two females came galloping at full tilt through the geysers followed in close pursuit by a male, in pursuit of a mate. These are the moments I think I most look forward to having on our trips. The sites are great, but this was a moment that was purely mine, a trapped memory to keep and revisit.

We capped off our trip with a dawn visit to Old Faithful and the surrounding geyser basin on Labor Day. While it was cloudy and gloomy, the lack of crowds made for a wonderful way to see this generally packed site. Actually, the surrounding basin was maybe even more amazing than the grand event. Mordor jokes seems appropriate in this land of steam and sulfur …

High contrast photo of steam rising from geyser vents.

Old Faithful Geyser Basin, Yellowstone, Wyoming

It was too short of a visit, but a nice introduction to an amazing place. I hope to return here again before our adventures are over …

Hot Springs & Eureka Springs

The plan has been to spend the fall and holiday season back in Oklahoma, not only to be close to friends and family, but also to give us some time to finish some trailer projects and to better organize the trailer based upon what we’ve learned. However, we’ve already learned that the Airstream can struggle in really warm weather, so we planned a very short two-week trip up into the Ozarks of Arkansas with the hope that the slightly higher altitude and tree cover might make it slightly cooler than central Oklahoma. It was a theory anyway …

We started off in Hot Springs, which is an astoundingly odd National Park being that it’s a park that is really mostly a city with grand 19th century boulevards and amazing turn of the century architecture in the grand bath houses.

Faded color photo of the spanish influenced Quapaw Baths in Hot Springs.

Quapaw Baths, Hot Springs, Arkansas

The whole place has an amazingly weird feel to it with old-fashioned tourist trap shops (magic stores, houses of wax, t-shirt shops specializing in vulgar clothing, etc.) along with the old architecture including crumbling 15 story former grand hotels and with amazing levels of extreme poverty as well. Not sure exactly what to make of the place. Maybe best described as an interesting combination of contradictions.

We did make sure to get a bath. Not sure it cured me of any particular ailments, but it was certainly a relaxing experience.

We then moved over to Eureka Springs for a week. A far more prosperous tourism community which felt almost artificial in some ways after the grittier Hot Springs.

Faded color photo of the spanish influenced Quapaw Baths in Hot Springs.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

However, it was a nice way to finish out our big travels for the year. We had some great photo walks through town and generally enjoying some last moments on the road.

You can see the full gallery of Yellowstone photos here.  And a small gallery from Hot Springs / Eureka Springs here.

See also