8/5/17 – 8/22/17
On our way to Grand Teton National Park, we stopped in a town called Thermopolis to check out the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, claiming to have the sixth largest collection of artifacts and fossils in the world. Living up to its fame, the huge warehouse was filled with dinosaur and plant fossils, including Jimbo the 106′ Supersaurus (the longest species of dinosaurs). They also have a fossil of the Archaeopteryx, which is the transitional fossil between dinosaurs and birds, and the only specimen on display in North America.
We camped in Thermopolis at the Fountain of Youth RV Park and Hot Springs. The town is know for the “World’s Largest Mineral Hot Spring” which we visited at the state park. The bonus was our campground had it’s own swimming hot spring. A three-section pool with each part getting progressively hotter was created from the Sacajawea Well that flows 1,370,000 gallons per 24 hours at 130 degrees. We enjoyed the middle section, which was around 100 degrees, and the minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, carbonate, sulfate, and more) seemed to soften the water and make our skin feels silky smooth. Now we look 10 years younger!
Bob did some researching about boondocking near the National Park (free camping with no hookups) in the nearby national forest and found “Upper Teton View” off Forest Road 30310 from Campedium.com. Uncertain about the condition of the road, we unhooked the car nearby and drove up the 1 mile dirt road to the top. There was an open area with campers tucked in different spaces with an overlook of the Grand Tetons. Yup … gotta camp here! Found a spot off to the side and the next morning an opening near the overlook opened up so we moved over. Over the next 16 days we watched many beautiful sunsets. The camping community was a lot of fun and we met some wonderful people. More on that later …
The Tetons are gorgeous and we spent our days hiking at Taggert Lake, Jenny Lake, Phelps Lake, and Colter Bay.
All the lakes tempt you with their crystal clear and aqua blue color but they are freezing. One cool and windy day, Alyssa couldn’t resist, and jumped into Leigh Lake for a swim in the cold mountain water.
“Be Bear Aware” signs advising visitors to carry bear spray and be cautious on the trails are abundant in the National Parks in Montana and Wyoming. Bob was very faithful about carrying the bear spray ($50) at all times. While hiking we heard from others coming in the opposite direction that there were moose, elk, or bears ahead. But many times we “just missed it” and felt disappointed. However, while hiking along Teton’s Death Canyon trail, our timing was perfect. Up on the hillside, we saw a mother and baby black bear happily enjoying some ripe huckleberries in the bushes. (They were only 30 yards, 60 yards or 100 yards away – depending on which of us you ask.) Not phased by our presence, we took some photos and happily told others coming along the trail about the bears.
In nearby Jackson, we visited the National Museum of Wildlife Art ,which has a beautiful outdoor collection of wildlife bronze sculptures. Inside were exhibits on Endangered Species featuring Andy Warhol and a National Geographic photographer, Joel Sartore. Both displays were amazing and very entertaining.
Jackson is the place to grocery shop, see craft fairs, and have dinner. One evening Bob and Alyssa attended a rodeo while I did laundry (horse allergy). The town also has a recreation center to swim and shower for $7. In the Tetons, at Colter Bay, the showers were $4 so we went there a couple of times. Places to keep in mind when boondocking, since we were using the RV water very sparingly!
We drove into Yellowstone a number of times. It’s a huge park and took us an hour just to get from the entrance to the visitors center. We saw Old Faithful, very cool, but the cement sidewalk, stadium seating and large crowd made it feel less like a natural wonder. We visited three of the Geyser basins and the mudpots. The bubbles, steam and scarred earth makes you feel like you are on another planet.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone has spectacular views and beautiful waterfalls that we viewed from above, below and in-between. We’ve been accused (Merna) of Photoshopping these photos, but they’re the real deal.
An unexpected (to us) experience was getting to see the Total Solar Eclipse. When we pulled into our boondocking site we had no idea the eclipse was coming and we planned to leave well before the big event. However, Richard and Michelle, RV full-timers who acted as the unofficial camp hosts, gave us the lo-down suggesting we should stay for the eclipse and more importantly Michelle’s birthday. We are so glad we did.
The campground became busier every day – but what a great crowd. We were situated between the Wanderland Travelers (Maggie and Brad) and FueledByFreedom (Michelle and Richard). There were three astrophysicists from Cypress and a Turkish poet, and two Aussies tenting nearby, a group from Britain in their rented RVs – Tony, Mike, and Harriet and ah (sorry but you had to know we’d forget at least one name). We had the California contingent Max, Tamara, Jude and our North Carolina contingent John and Lisa. And we can’t forget Earl! He gave us the latest wildlife sightings in the park and we were very happy to report back to him once we finally saw a moose on the last day.
Michelle’s eclipse birthday party was a blast. We had magic tricks provided by an astrophysicist and found out the tank in the “Wonder Woman” movie is owned by our British friend Tony. The eclipse itself was pretty awe-inspiring, both visually watching the sun disappear and feeling the temperature drop during the middle of the day.
If we hadn’t stayed, we wouldn’t have had the joy of watching Brad revert to his twelve year-old self while toasting marshmallows (he really does not like them to burn), or learned how to conserve water while boondocking and while we got to watch the eclipse free of charge – campgrounds in the path of the eclipse were charging $400 dollars a night (with 3 day minimum).
We are so happy that our paths crossed and we are Facebook friends so we can continue following your adventures. Until we meet again, thanks for the great memories!