So after spending two weeks in Yellowstone, I headed out on Thursday morning. But I stopped first at the Grant Village Laundry/Showers and did both. And that is where I saw my dream camping machine.
One of the things I really enjoy about walking through different campgrounds is checking out the equipment. Tents, trailers, RV's, it is like walking through a showroom outdoors. From tiny single person tents to 45 foot quad slide-out diesel pushers, it is all on display.
I have always been drawn to smaller vehicles. I owned several Volkswagen Westphalia's many years ago and that is my style of ride. You can buy a completely restored and improved one from GoWesty for around $70K (!?!) but for about the same money you can get one of these:
That would be a short wheelbase high roof Sprinter Van customized by Sportsmobile. The owners were from California and let me take a look inside. It was the "50" floor plan which basically mimics the Westphalia's interior with a lot more space.
I offered a straight trade for my car, bike, and trailer but they politely declined. We ended up leapfrogging each other on the drive to Grand Teton.
There was still one last campground to visit on the way out of Yellowstone called Lewis Lake.
It's a good sized campground with 84 sites but nothing like the behemoths like Grant and Bridge Bay that have over 400 sites. This place is a favorite for locals as it is right between Yellowstone and Grand Teton and has a great fishing lake and boat ramp.
The sites are good sized and shaded, like number 47, but the camp road is tight so vehicles over 25 feet long are not allowed.
I continued onwards.
The two National Parks are only about 10 miles apart. One of the first views you come across is Jackson Lake and the Tetons rising dramatically from the shore.
They had been having a drought here all summer. The lake level was very low. Wait until you see the photo of the marina.
But Moisture Man had arrived and it rained for a few hours every day I was there. In fact, there was even an article in the local paper about how the new rainstorms had greatly decreased the fire danger. I kept waiting for an interview but no one showed up.
There was a primitive campground in this area called Lizard Creek that I wanted to check out but it was closed and gated.
No matter, my campground for the next three nights was Colter Bay.
And that is where I found a foxy lady waiting for me at my campsite. At my picnic table. Under it, actually.
She had beautiful reddish blond hair with white whiskers. I used my standard line.
"Hey cutie, what's your sign?"
I think she was foreign because it was hard to understand her response.
I believe it was something along the lines of "Shut up you idiot I am trying to catch a mouse!"
The mouse got away and so did Red.
I think my standard line is a little old.
A Ranger stopped by and I told her of my sighting.
She told me that a pair of red foxes had been terrorizing the campground all summer. What they would do is look for any shoes that were left out overnight. And they would take just one from each set. Which explained this one that was left on top of my bear box.
Yep, just the one shoe. So somewhere in the woods around Colter Bay is a pile of single shoes.
I chuckled and made tacos. You can see the shoe in the top right of the photo.
Red stopped by again on Friday morning.
I gave her one of my treadless hiking shoes and she left. I never saw her again. Take care, Red. I will miss you.
The plan for Friday was to visit Signal Mountain and Jenny Lake Campgrounds. On the way there I passed over Jackson Lake Dam and captured some nice views of Mt. Moran and the Tetons.
Signal Mountain is a cool spot with 85 sites and a secret you won't find on any of the National Park handouts.
Walking distance from the campground is a lodge and a store.
There are also several sites with electricity. Look closely at the site sign.
For just $24 dollars more than the standard rate you can plug in. OK.
The secret lies in the boat launch area.
There are 20 parking spots for day use where you can enjoy views of the mountains and play on the beach.
Shhh. Don't tell anyone.
The most popular campground in the park is Jenny Lake. Tent only. Fills up very early every day.
The reason is the hiking. This is the closest campground to the mountains and offers a bazillion hiking trails ranging from not much walking, like taking the ferry boat across Jenny Lake, to actually hiking up the Tetons.
A typical campsite looks like number 6.
Which brings me to an observation. In my mind there are two types of campgrounds. I call them Destination Campgrounds and Base Campgrounds.
Most National Parks and some State Parks like Custer are Base Campgrounds. That means no one is there during the day. The campsite is secondary. The attractions lie elsewhere. Everybody is out driving to different locales to hike, fish, climb, or just plain explore the geysers, canyons, and wildlife. You never really meet them except for a passing wave of the hand.
A Destination Campground is just that. A destination. You might not even start an engine for a weekend or a week. They are on a lake, river, or ocean. They usually have an over-priced store within walking distance and possibly a resort nearby for dining out. You will find all kinds of boat rentals.
The campground is full of kids riding bikes during the day. Midday meals are cooked over campfires. Fellow campers become friends. A small community of like minded people not caring about the world outside for a brief time. The campsite location is more important at these places.
But I digress.
Saturday morning I walked Colter Bay campground, all 350 sites.
I was staying in number 125.
Yes, the shoe is still on top on the bear box. It remained so after I left. Red, I hardly knew you...
The Fed's redid some campsites in J loop to be in accordance with the ADA act. Paved and leveled and they added electricity as well.
And just to make sure no one uses them they raised the price to $45 from $21.
While walking the campground I came across this:
No Mr. EE, this is not what I mean when I say I want to camp off the ground.
Saturday afternoon I went to Colter Village to have a shower (these are the only showers in the whole park) and check the place out.
There is also a store, restaurant, cabins, and a marina. The marina was my favorite. They had canoe rentals.
I looked at the lake behind me and offered them $1 for a rental. They replied, actually laughed, and said they were closed for the season. I took another look at the lake.
Wouldn't have got much paddling done anyway without a lot of portages.
I went back to camp slightly disappointed and tried to figure out what to eat for dinner. I found four hot dogs at the bottom of the cooler and four buns in my glove compartment. That should work.
I let the buns steam while I boiled the hot dogs.
Supposedly some nuts can eat 60 of these things in 2 minutes or something like that. I managed two in ten minutes. Tossed the others. No nitrates for my gal Red.
Sunday I headed south to the other big campground here, Gros Ventre. I thought it was pronounced Gross Venter (which reminded me of my sister) but it is French and pronounced "Gra Vont". Yeah, like we don't know what "Grand Teton" actually means.
The morning was beautiful and I passed by the Snake River, which drains from Jackson Lake, and grabbed a few pics.
That is Mt. Moran again. And my kind of country.
And my kind of roadblock.
A few more miles down the road brings you to a spot called the "Snake River Overlook".
Ansel Adams took a classic photo from this spot many years ago. Google it. If your kids wonder why there is no color just spank them and say they missed the good old days.
My effort is garbage compared to his. The trees have grown and the lighting is bad.
But that was the spot. I did capture the Teton's wearing modest clothing, however.
One mile north of Moose Junction is a shortcut to Gros Ventre campground that includes a neat old barn.
And lots of mud.
Courtesy of Moisture Man. That would be me for those not paying attention.
I arrived at the campground.
The campsites are numbered up to 372 but 54 of them are now set aside for staff.
This was a crowded campground, being a Sunday in mid-September. I got number 330.
I parked and walked it. They have the same deal as Colter Bay, a few new electric sites like number 169.
But what I was most impressed by was this campsite.
I think they have it all covered. Except for an ATV.
I only stayed one night and kept moving. I saw the sun hit the mountains heading out on Monday.
There was also a fog bank that I ran into shortly thereafter. You can see it in the picture above.
This is about the point when I first started noticing weird cloud formations, but more on that later.
Downtown Jackson, Wyoming was socked in but as I crossed the Tetons it became clearer.
More weird stuff in the clouds.
I ignored it and kept driving the Teton Scenic Byway.
Followed by the City of Rocks Back Country Byway.
Remember the great movie "The Jerk"? One of my favorite parts was when Nathan was standing near the gas pumps while being shot at.
"He hates those cans, stay away from the cans."
Well someone hated that sign. Threw some shotgun pellets at it.
Anyway, there are two campgrounds here in southern Idaho, 270 miles away from Grand Teton National Park.
Conveniently they are on one sign.
Castle Rocks is a state run spot. Showers, electricity, well kept up and $28 for you to enjoy it. Well worth it.
The sites are spotless, like number 29.
There are also several equestrian sites, such as number 38.
And even a couple of yurts.
I decided to stay at the Federal spot a mile or so away. Just a tad over $12.
For a reason. The sites are spread along five miles of dirt road. Most of the sites are walk-in and some are even farther away like the first four and the last three. I was towing a borrowed trailer and stopped one mile up the road.
That is the good road.
I set up next to Elephant Rock. Site 12.
Then I looked over and saw climbers on it.
My favorite part of the brief section that I visited was Camp Rock.
OK, this is part of the California Trail. Folks would dip their fingers into the axle grease on their covered wagons and write names on this rock.
Not much left.
Think about it. That is history you are looking at. They are all long dead and I sincerely hope that their pioneer spirit lives on in some of us.
In addition to some deep stirring in my soul I also took with me some unwanted guests.
A few dozen flies hitched a ride. I hit the road.
I rolled down all my windows and relocated them in Beverly Hills, Nevada.
Probably not the one I told them about. They are flies. They had no choice.
Couple of hundred miles later I camped at Southfork Recreation Area in the Silver State.
A big recreation area with only 25 campsites. Mine was number 20.
The park is only 10 miles south of Elko and fills up quickly.
But what I liked was the sunset. As it was going down a boat motored by.
Another 300 miles across Interstate 80 on Wednesday brought me to Washoe Lake State Park. But not without some delays.
Washoe is located 5 miles north of Carson City and 18 miles south of Reno, a few miles east of the 395. I stopped at the Sierra Trading Post Outlet in Reno to pick up some hiking shoes with tread. Those pics will be in another blog post.
There are 49 sites here and most have great views of the Eastern Sierra's like mine, number 8.
It was as the sun was setting, however, that the aliens came out to play.
An Imperial Battle Cruiser showed up first, disguised as a cloud.
The battle raged fiercely, the sound deafening.
Finally, a well placed Alliance shot destroyed the enemy, turning it into a cockroach.
Yeah. The things you experience while camping. I don't need TV when I've got T-Rex.
I will leave you with a helpful hint.
You are at your campsite, the meal is done, you are relaxing in your chair reading a book. You like birds and you pay attention when there is a sound or flash of color that is new to you. Suddenly the new bird you noticed swoops towards you and lands on a limb right above your head.
Do not look up. After I went to the bathroom to wipe my face off, I never did see it again.
Regards, Park Ranger