21 September 2011

Onward to Yellowstone National Park

 After a great visit to Ten-Sleep we moved on toward Yellowstone NP, specifically we wanted to visit Cody, WY which is 50 miles east of the eastern entrance to Yellowstone.  It was a short days trip from Ten-Sleep to Cody through more beautiful WY landscape.

We deceided we wanted to stay at Buffalo Bill State Park west of Cody on the Buffalo Bill Reservoir.
Our campsite at Buffalo Bill St Park

BJ enjoying the campsite!

It is a beautiful setting on the water with mountains all around.  The dam on the Shoshone River is at a narrow canyon about 3 miles from the campground.  The dam was built 1905-1910.  Because of high water volume during Spring run off the could only work on it from Sep-Apr of each year.
Sunset from Buffalo Bill State Park
Several companies went broke trying to build it due to unforseen weather and technical difficulties.  Labor strife was an issue throughout the construction period and the first strike that caused a work stoppage in WY was at this dam.
Buffalo Bill Dam still standing 100 yrs later

narrow canyon Buffalo Bill Dam is in

As I was watching the film about this in the visitor center on top of the dam, I was thinking I don't want to be around this thing; no telling what condition it is in100 years later!  Nonetheless it still stands and is doing a great job of providing much needed irrigation water to the fertile Bighorn Basin.

The land is fertile because of the volcanic activity a million years ago, but with only 5 inches of rainfall a year farming is not possible without the irrigation water from the dam.

One of the statues at Buffalo Bill museum courtyard
We enjoyed visiting Cody, a town of about 10,000 people and is very much a tourist destination year around.  They have a magnificent Buffalo Bill Museum that is extremely well done and, while giving a lot of info about Buffalo Bill, it has a lot more about the history of the area and accomplishments of others, both settlers and Indians.  It is well worth the effort to see it.  When we go back we will visit the museum again. 

As magnificant as the museum was, I believe the highlight of our stay was the day we took Chief Joseph Scenic Highway to the American Scenic Highway across Bearthooth Pass at 10,000+  feet.  Chief Joseph, a Nez Pierce leader took his tribe over this very high and difficult pass to escape the US Calvary who was still mad about the loss at the Little Bighorn (aka Custer's Last Stand).
Overlook of small part of Chief Joseph Scenic Highway

One of the memorials to the exodus led by Chief Joseph!

Another scenic view on the highway - pics don't do it justice!

The Calvary thought they had him cornered against the mountains because it was late in the Fall and the passes were nearly impossible to pass, especially for a group of 600.  Through brave leadership, innovative thinking, and real determination he did get his people through the pass and to safety in Canada.  The highway follows their route and has numerous wayside markings and memorials.

The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway ends at US highway 212 in the Bearthooth Mountains and 212 is the American Scenic Highway which continues on to the peak at about 10,100 feet.  The scenery was just breathtaking all the way.  I am going to let the pictures try and show you what a great day we had.  On the north side of the Beartooth Mountains at the bottom we visited Red Lodge MT, a neat little town that we enjoyed a late lunch at before taking the lower road back to Cody.   

One of a number of high altitude lakes in the Beartooth Mts.

Some of last year's snow!

From the American Scenic Highway (US 212)

A valley in the Beartooth Mts

One of a number of mountain lakes in the Bearthooth range

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

18 September 2011

Ten Sleep Wy

I forgot to finish the story about Ten Sleep and its unusual name!  It is a small town in the Bighorn Mountain basin west of the Bighorn range.  About 5000 ft elevation with mountains around it.  Beautiful Yellowstone NP is about 150 miles west of Ten Sleep.   If you don't slow down (as posted) you could miss the town!   We stayed in a small private campground there and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.  The Ten Sleep is one of two places to eat in town, plus there is a biker bar.  Then Ten Sleep Saloon serves good selection of COLD beer and has first rate food - we highly recommend it!  However, we also heard the Crazy Lady Cafe is good, but did not get a chance to try it!

Ten Sleep has a nice little stream going through it and on the south side of the stream is a high cliff overlooking it.  In early, very early days before the white man, it was the crossroads between several very large Native American communities!  One was near Casper WY, south of Ten Sleep, and another was near present day Billings MT.  It was about a 20 day trip for the Native Americans between the two communities.  The stream at what is now Ten Sleep provided a good layover that was about half way between the communities.  So it took them 10 sleeps or 10 days to get there and they started referring to the spot as Ten Sleep and I guess the white man had no better idea!  The Indian sign for the town is two palm prints and a tepee!  Each palm print shows 5 fingers! 
The Ten Sleep Saloon across the street - good food, good drinks!

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

SCUBA Wyoming

As I mentioned in previous post, we took a side trip from the main gravel road and wondered down a narrow canyon that eventually opened up on to another open plain.  On this plain there was a small lake about 3/4 mile long and 1/4 mile wide.  It had been created by a rancher named Renner years ago when he damed up a small spring fed creek.  When he died he left the land to the State with the proviso it be open to the public. The lake was called Renner Reservoir and water looked very clear and I had visions of seeing some of the fabulous landscape scenery under the surface of the water!  I imagined walls and crevices and big boulders all at the bottom of this lake.  So I persuaded BJ I needed to get wet; she concurred and I am still waiting to see what that is going to cost me!!
Renner Reservoir was a favorite fishing spot

We extended our stay in Ten Sleep for a another sleep and the next morning I loaded up my gear and we headed out to Renner Reservoir again.  The ride was just as beautiful as the first time.  Most of the campers in the canyon were gone since it was now a weekday, not a weekend as our first visit was.

The grass separating the canyons!
The best dscription I can make of the dive was Canyons in the Grass!  Depth never quite reached 15 ft, viz was OK at about 25 ft.  But, most of the bottom which was all mud, was grass fronds about 5-7 feet high.  Too thick to swim through but there were clear spots irregularly located around the pond.  I would swim to the clear spot and explore it, a few fish and sometime some algae on the bottom, then swim up over the grass until I found a new "canyon"!  

One of the bass in the pond.
There were a number of small panfish that appeared to be sunfish type which is what a fisherman said was the most prevalent fish.  It was a hybrid that was supposed to be good eating.  I saw a few bass looking fish with a dark wide stripe down their side.  They were decent sized and I suspect would have been nice to take home to dinner.  But, I did not have a fishing license and was not interested in trying to get one! 

Did see one large fish, i.e. 2 ft or so.  It appeared to be a catfish, but never did see his head.  I came upon him laying on the bottom with his head in the grass.  He never moved as I approached him.  Finally when I touched his tail he moved violently and stirred up the mud bottom so much I could not see him at all.
The snoozing catfish!

Water temp was 65 degrees and I had a 3 mil vest on under my 3 mil step-in so I was never uncomfortable.  After about 20 minutes diving some threatening clouds moved in and BJ was getting nervous about thunderstorms.  By the time I climbed back into the banana and got my gear secured they were gone!  So we paddled around some and I kept looking for something other then the grass canyon pattern, but no luck. 

My SST (surface support team), BJ in the string bean herding my banana around the pond while I was wet!

Unloading the banana!

Some of my dive buddies for the day!

The road back to Ten Sleep!

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

Fabulous Sunday

We are in Ten Sleep, WY for a few days.  We took a day and decided to tour the area.  What a great day we had.  Ten Sleep is a small town of about 300 residents between Buffalo on I-90 and Yellowstone, our next destination.  So on that AM we left the RV at the campground and took off north in the Jeep.   Immediately outside of Ten Sleep the road turned to gravel, not uncommon out here.  It was good road and scenery just kept getting better.  The map showed about 20 miles of this road before reaching Hyattville, WY.   But, about 10 miles into the trip there was a sign pointing to the east saying there was a canyon road.
Road out of town!

This was BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) and we decided to take the side trip.  Went through a narrow canyon with some RV and campers widely dispersed in the area and eventually the road ended at Renner Reservoir.  A small spring fed lake with crystal clear water.  More about that little jewel in the next post.
Narrow canyon road to the reservoir

We returned to the main road and continued on to Hyattville, population 47, and hit paved road.  We turned west and went about 20 miles to Basin and then north a little to Greybull, population about 1300, the largest city we saw that day and where we stopped for lunch.

After lunch we headed east on US 14 towards the mountains.  We were thinking of going thru the pass and 9600 ft and on to Sheridan, about 100 miles east and a little north.  Shell. a the small town, population 50, right at the base of the Big Horn Mountains on US 14.
Dinosaur Track National Monument main track area

Dinosaur Track National Monument canyon narrows

Shortly before Shell there was a gravel road leading to the Dinosaur Track Park about 5 miles down a gravel road.  At that site they unearthed dinosaur tracks along what was a beach about 160 million years ago.  The whole "scene" had been preserved in time.  You could see the ripples in what had been the sand and various tracks left by a number of 3 toed dinosaurs.  It was now of course all hard rock in a gulch.  BLM had done a nice job of making the site accessible and preventing damage.  We met a volunteer that worked at the site explaining it.  There is another volunteer job we would be interested in after we do Alaska next summer!!

We continued on US 14 thru Shell and started the climb to the pass.  Shell was about 4300 ft and the pass was at 9600 ft.  As we started the climb we entered the canyon and on the north side of the road was Shell Creek.  at the beginning, it was only 20 or 30 ft below the road, but that distance increased the further we went.  At one point we stopped in a pull-off and hiked down to the creek, which was pretty fast moving, but not raging like it is in the Spring with the thaw in process.  At about 5500 ft we reached Shell Falls.  National Park service had set up some trails and viewing sites to look at the Falls which were created several million years ago when the earth had shifted and the rock path of the creek had dropped about 75 ft, while the rock plate about had not!
A "sentinel" at entrance to Shell Creek Canyon!

Entrance to Shell Creek canyon

Shell Creek

Cooling my heels in Shell Creek
Shell Falls at 8500 ft in the Big Horn Range

We decided it was getting too late to continue on to Sheridan, still about 60 miles away so reluctantly turned around and headed back.  When we got to the turn-off for the Dinosaur Track we took it as the map showed a WY Scenic Byway back to Hadly.  What a scenic byway this gravel road was.  We were riding along a high ridge (Potato Ridge) heading south.  The road was gravel and in great condition.  We could easily and comfortably do 50 mph or so on it!  It was about 35 miles to Hadly.  At about the 20 mile point the road went to hell in a hand basket!  We could see the landscape change to ignacious rock as we approached.  And it was the surface of the road and very, very rocky and uneven.  At some points the road was barely discernible thru the rocks!  We could do no more then 15 mph at best, usually less.  BJ of course was no longer a happy camper.  At one point there was a guy on his motor cycle taking a break.  The bike was loaded with camping gear so we assumed he was out for the weekend.

We asked him how much further this hell road continued and his answer was vauge and not reassuring.  But, we pressed on and in about another mile we were out of it.  It was about a 4 mile stretch.  Then back to the beautiful scenery from high on the ridge line.  When we got to Hyattville we opted not to take the gravel road of this AM, but went about 5 miles east and took a paved road back to Ten Sleep.  Got back there about 8PM.  We had been gone 11 hr and covered 180 beautiful miles.

Along the road to Hyattaville

One of the campers in Renner Canyon - there were about 6 widely separated
I am posting more pictures below.  They don't do the scenery justice, but they are better then my mere words!

Interesting air strip that had not been used in years, far from anything!

On last leg home we were running along Potato Ridge which gave us a birds eye view of the beautiful countryside!

At a crossroads in middle of nowhere!


Always at home, no matter where we are!!

04 September 2011

Really in the West Now!

We left Gillette WY Saturday about noon time headed west to Ten Sleep, WY about 130 miles further west toward Yellowstone.  Vick and Susan, some dear friends we met at the Escapee Rally recommended we visit this area which is in the prairie between the Big  Horn mountains and Yellowstone.  They described several places to visit that would be interesting and not convenient if we went directly to Yellowstone as we had planned.

The first spectacular site was the trip itself.  As soon as we left Gillette we could tell the road was rising toward the clouds overhead.  They were not coming down; we were going up.  We followed I-90 to Buffalo, then we took US 16.
Big Horn Mountains in the distance

On I-90 we could see the mountains in the distance getting closer and closer.  Those white spots near the tops came into better view and it was not warm looking.  Snow remained from last year.  At Buffalo I-90 turned from an E-W route to a more northerly route and we got off on US 16 headed west..  We went through town and immediately started doing some serious climbing.  Buffalo was was at 4,600 ft and we were headed for Powder River Pass at 9,666 ft!!

Lucy at Powder River Pass
Forty miles later and much mind blowing beautiful scenery we arrived at Power River Pass.  Lucy climbed those mountains pulling the Grey Ghost like it was Florida flatlands (well nearly)!
BJ was so absorbed with the beautiful scenery she forgot about her role as the backseat driver!  We stopped for some pictures at the pass, no snow was there.  We could see it at higher elevations surrounding us.

As beautiful as the climb up was, the ride down was even more so.  The western slope of the Big Horn Mountains is dramatically different then the eastern slope.  Much higher and steeper cliffs, nearly vertical drops from the top.
The road down the Big Horns

Meadowlark Lake created by dam built by CCC!

It was only about 20 miles down to Ten Sleep which is at same elevation as Buffalo, just on the other side of the mountains!!

Some of the steep cliffs on the western slope of Big Horns

We are at a nice campground in Ten Sleep.  We walked through town after we got setup in the campground.  It is less then a 10 min walk from the west end of town to the east end of town!! 

How did the town get its unusual name?  Stay tuned for the official explanation!!  Next!!

Always at home, no matter where we are!!

Our First RV Rally

Wyoming Center was main activity center, but not only one!

The mascot of Cam-plex!
Escapees RV Club is a nation wide club with headquarters in Livingston, TX.  They have a national Rally each summer and this year it is in Gillette WY in NE WY.  The site of the rally was the Cam-Plex Center east of Gillette.
One of the 3 campgrounds at Cam-Plex
It is a very large multi-use facility that includes over 1100 RV spaces with full hook ups.  It also has space for rodeo performance and at least 3 large buildings for indoor activities.  The Wyoming Center was the center of activities for the SKP Rally.  It had a large floor that could be converted into an ice rink with plenty of seats and they probably had a basketball floor in a closet somewhere.  At any rate half of the facility was set up for the events such as opening, closing and nightly entertainment events.  The other half was divided into large comfortable rooms for the numerous seminars presented and a large Market Place for the vendors to set up shop.  In the large hall/entry way was numerous meetings places for the groups part of the rally and meetings of the various subgroups.  All in all, a very nice facility and was well suited for our needs.

Part of the SKP tradition is the formation of Classes for the full-timers.  Your class is the year you started full timing.  It is all very unofficial and some folks participate and others don't.  There is a section on the on-line forum for the classes to participate as desired.  Somebody starts a thread on the forum end everyone interested jumps in!  This is for past years, current years and projected years.  I believe the most projected class I have seen is 2019!  Someone that is planning on going full time in 2019 has already started the class forum and has several members!  The Class of 2007 seems to be the most active right now and they even hosted a "happy hour" for all first timers at the rally.

Class of 2010 dinner!!
We are in the Class of 2010 and enjoyed meeting our classmates that attended this rally.  We had several happy ours together and the last night we had a potluck dinner - all are traditions of the rally.  Part of the tradition is that everybody brings their own drinks and place settings with some food to share and it avoids putting a burden on any one or two folks.  If it is outside, then you also bring your own chair!!

SKP's has a non-profit arm called SKP Cares.  It is an program at the SKP Park in Livingston TX for those older folks that cannot travel anymore but still have the ability to help in their care.  They live in their RV at Livingston and the organization helps them by providing transportation for their doctor appointments, shopping and even has a "meals on wheels" type of program.  During the rally there were several events that were fundraisers for the SKP Care program and over $3000 was raised during the rally.  Also, 833 knitted baby caps were presented to the Gillette Regional Hospital for the newborns. 

Lots of empty spaces by Saturday!!
 So we have enjoyed the week with like minded travelers.  Many are full timers, but certainly not all.  The only requisite is that you are interested in the RV lifestyle.  But, closing ceremonies were Thursday PM.  Next day BJ and I spent doing some catch up stuff.  I washed the RV, she made a trip to the laundromat and we generally got ready to move on out Saturday.   We are heading to a small town called Ten Sleep that was recommended by our neighbors here at the campground this week.

It is about half way to Yellowstone and there is some beautiful country surrounding it.  We are going to spend several days there before moving on the Yellowstone on Tue or Wed.

Always at home, no matter where we are!!