Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Each New Day

"With my base of operations established and having no set schedule or commitments, I slept in a bit the next morning and got up cheerfully anticipating a day of exploration in another new and unknown place. Spreading out the detailed map I had picked up the day before from the tourism people, I studied it as I ate breakfast and found a number of places that caught my interest and sparked anticipation."

Yes, I feel similar on many days. But this was spoken by a fictional character, Maxie McNabb, a 60-something woman traveling around in a 30-foot Minnie Winnie RV. In a series written by prolific mystery author, Sue Henry, the storyline line appears to be semi-autobiographical.

Maxie has Stretch as her companion. I guess some would question if it is easier to travel with a mini-Dachsund like Stretch or with a human male -- I'll say, I 'm happy with my choice!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Best Hike, Yellowstone - Photos

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Tracking Hike, Yelllowstone

Our wonderful ranger-led Tracking hike was mostly about scat...and this ranger was very hands on!

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Bicycles, Bridges, and the One to Nowhere

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Yellowstone trail

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7th week on the Road

Greetings to All,

Thanks so much for reading and responding. We enjoy hearing from all via email and blog comments.

We had a great week in Yellowstone -- although I have to admit, it was not my favorite park. I was much more enamored by the less-popular Grand Tetons and also by Rocky Mountain Natl Park.

We are now in Missoula, MT, enjoying a couple of city days including the convenience of getting chores done. I sat in an ac'ed, cushy-couched, wifi-accessible area for two hours yesterday while we waited for our van to get routine maintenance done (oil change, tire rotation, and a good washing!).

We are on our way to Glacier Natl Park and then to the Canadian Rockies -- where we will meet our first visitors. Looking forward to spending time with my brother and sister-in-law. They will stay at Park lodges in Banff and Lake Louise -- while we are parked at campgrounds very close by.

Hoping we get to post some more photos before we move into areas with less communication access.

For those of you interested...I am still very much enjoying my Kindle, the ebook reader. I do also read print books as does Alan so there are a number of books stashed in various places onboard. We have been in regions -- whole states like Montana-- where the special whispernet service to download books for the Kindle is not available. A little frustrating. But, of course, I can still use the device to read any books that were already downloaded --and that is quite a few.

Traveling Around


Never trust the sighting of a binocular-bearing tourist in a large group, especially in a spectacular viewing area like the Grand Teton Lodge patio, who wants to be the first to see the bear...when they scream out, "It's a bear," the it almost always turns out to be a rock or a dead tree limb.


On our last day in Yellowstone. Moved from the south (Grant Village) campground to the upper (Mammoth Springs) one....about 75 miles north. Although it is spectacular and the geothermal features interesting, Yellowstone is an over-visited park. Most of the features are accessible (or secret -- see below) by strolling a boardwalk. Buses unload groups at one vista and pick them up at another parking lot below so folks don't have to hike up (while Alan and I are some of the few who enjoy the hike-through's). Even the more strenuous trails -- like Uncle Tom's -- seem as crowded as a Disney attraction.

So, we found a more isolated trail -- the Beaver Pond trail, a little more than 5 miles. Starting with a sharp ascent, the trail soon rewarded us with a lush wildflower strewn meadow -- again, that brilliant tri-color palette of primarily purples (lupines and geraniums),yellows (profusion of small western sunflowers and butter-and-eggs) and green foliage accentuated with some pink roses and white yarrow. Next, we viewed ducks (and ducklings) on a pond and got bitten as the mosquitoes congregate in this area.

We momentarily lost the trail as we had to cross a stream and then as we wended down hill, we were back in full sun on an arid hill. Around the bend we were "caught" in a large herd of elk crossing the path. Only a few other hikers were on this path. We felt lucky and rejuvenated.


Crowds sitting on rows of metal seats according to a posted time schedule. Like many natural phenomena, Old Faithful doesn't end with a bang. Its trajectory is like a upside down U. Starts sputtering, builds to crescendo, and then slowly and gracefully ends. But we people are used to climaxes from musical finales to fireworks displays. So people walk away in droves as the geyser continues..


Many of the wonderful Yellowstone features -- geysers and steaming springs -- can be seen by walking along boardwalk paths. When Alan and I first visited this park briefly about thirty years ago, my favorite feature was the hot bubbling mud pots.This time we looked for them and couldn't find them and then discovered that there was a "Mud Pot Special," a ranger-led hike, offered twice a week.

Disappointed that the hike was already full when we tried to register for it, we decided to walk the area by ourselves. So began our inquiries...where exactly are the mud pots, where does the mud pot special hike go? One ranger responded that the hike was in the Pocket Basin area -- but he didn't know where that was exactly. When asked about Pocket Basin, three other rangers said they never heard of it. When we finally seemed to track it down, one ranger called the hike leader to get the info....we were then told that the leader wouldn't disclose it. Overhearing our discussion (and our increasing frustration) another ranger piped in...lecturing us about why we couldn't get the info and that people have gotten burned hiking on their own and we couldn't.. yadda yadda.

So, we gave up. We weren't persistent enough sleuths. We never tracked it down, never saw the special mud pots. Maybe we will on our next visit --in another 30 years?


With images of Smoky and Yogi and Bullwinkle, is it a surprise that we humans have an unrealistic view of animal behavior? The signs are everywhere, Don't feed them, don't get too close. And then we are reminded about how long this has been going on. Old photos of Yellowstone show guests hand feeding the bears. And the story that it took awhile for the Park admin to figure out feeding the animals was a problem and then they killed over 250 bears because after being fed they were spoiled -- and aggressive.

After I wrote the above I came across this quote from the novel, Blood Lure by Nevada Barr. The main character, Anna Pigeon, is a Natl Park Ranger.

"The Glacier rangers routinely lamented the fact that the American people were such idiots they thought of these wildest of animals (grizzly bears) as big cuddly pets. One man had been stopped in the act of smearing ice cream on his five-year-old son's cheek in hopes of photographing a bear licking it off. "

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Morning in the Tetons

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Snake River, Tetons

We enjoyed our guided float trip on the Snake River. It was generally flat but fast moving with some riffles, no real white water, and occasional areas of obstacles (like lots of clogged floating trees). Some areas were so calm that our guide, Jess, had the kids paddling. Nice way to spend a few hours on the water in the Tetons.

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Kayaking Jackson Lake, Tetons

And we very much enjoyed paddling our own boat...a 2-person inflatable kayak. Uninflated, it is stored in our "trunk" space. With my paddling jacket and the paddles. This is the day Alan lost his life jacket...

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Not Exactly Home

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Sunday, July 20, 2008


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The Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks are famous for the abundance of their wildlife including black and brown (grizzly)bears. Lots of warrnings both by sign and in park literature to be cautious, though this time as opposed to years ago the emphasis is on protection of the bears ("a fed bear is a dead bear") rather than in protecting the human population. I guess that makes sense as there are more of us than of them.

But how to protect ourselves?

Mace. This is not your wimpy little 1/2 ounce pocket size type carried by some postal workers.
No, this is the 9 1/2 ounce bear mace cannister requiring some sort of quick draw holster so you can have it out in less than a second when a bear attacks. So as per the literature included with the mace ("you will panic when a bear attacks") I have endeavored to figure out how to carry the mace so it is accessable and then have practiced my quick draw many times. At his point I'm sure I could deploy it in about 30 seconds, enough time for the bear to have lunch and be gone. Oh well.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Time in the Tetons

So we moved on...and are now in Grand Teton Natl Park. Alan and I stayed here for a couple of nights three decades ago (on our post-graduate school trip) and although I recall the peaks, I don't remember the water -- many gorgeous lakes and a river.

Not as hot as Arches -- pleasantly cool mornings and evenings and warm - hot afternoons (in the mid-80's one day, mid-70’s the next).

And like many western areas, there have been a number of differences this season -- from many more mosquitoes (so many that all the campground stores ran out of bug spray -- and they don't know when they will be resupplied!), there is still 50 (yes, 5-0) feet of snow on the northern peaks -- but not here in the lower elevations. And an incredible amount of wildflowers in bloom --including wild lupine, western sunflower, asters, sticky geranium, a western version of indian paintbrush…a wonderful palette of yellows and lavender with some pink and orange.

Without a reservation, I was N-e-r-v-o-u-s that we wouldn't get a campsite (anticipatory lodging anxiety?), it being high season and all. Maybe it's the rising cost of food and fuel which made it easy to get into the campground in the Park. Another nicely situated site.

We arrived late morning yesterday and after getting situated we walked the mile or so over to the nearest visitor's center -- which turns out to be in a complex of buildings/concessions inc. a restaurant, laundry, pay showers, and marina.

A pleasant surprise was a String Quartet playing on the back deck of the visitor's center....part of a series entitled Music in Nature and the musicians part of the Annual Teton Music Festival. They played Hayden's Birds and Mozart's Bees (or is it vice-versa?).

We walked about 6 miles this morning -- I won't call it a hike since it was so leisurely with many stops and comparatively so flat. We strolled around Jackson Lake

Today's Bonus Questions:
Any surprises for you today? What did you listen to and what did you hear?

Monday, July 14, 2008

More Views from Arches Natl Park

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Too Damn Hot

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Sunday, July 13

Problems with our AC this afternoon. Pleasantly cooling for awhile and then it shuts off. We are sitting in the van trying to figure out where to go next – yes, we will go north and cool down. It is about 95 degrees out but only cooling into the 80’s in here. I am getting cranky.

Still, coming to Arches National Park in Utah was a good choice. We had been here over ten years ago and remembered it as a favorite. Of course, the local town, Moab has grown and sprawled but we haven’t spent any time there. We tried to locate a restaurant we enjoyed during the late 1990’s (Honest Ozzie’s) but learned that it had been sold years ago and “upgraded” to a fancy dinner place.

Woke early this morning, around 5:30 AM (that was my usual time to get up on workdays but now I usually sleep at least an hour later). It was dark out and windy. Thinking that there might be a slight chill, I opened the van door to a 78 degree breeze. (It hovered around 99 degrees yesterday when we drove through sections of the park.) After morning ablutions and driving into the park and to the trailhead, we started out just before 7 AM. Only a couple of others hikers were out at that time. We hiked the Devil’s Garden trail out to Double O Arch. Graded a “strenuous” hike and described, “the trail becomes more challenging as it climbs over sandstone slabs footing is rocky; there are narrow ledges with exposures to heights.”

It was a challenging hike – very sandy parts, like walking miles on a beach but in hiking boots and carrying a daypack and then some scurrying on what’s aptly termed “slick rock.” Again, the views were worth it. As we approached the end of the trail and the magnificent Double O arch, a foursome of young folk were on their way out and we were graced with our own private arch seats for a breakfast picnic. Oh, and once again hiking out just as the crowds were starting the trail, priceless.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

PART 2 – MORE (IN) Frequently asked Questions


There’s a lot that we are still learning (even Alan, who built a house before ever reading a book about house building has been reading the Roadtrek manuals).

There are many amenities which also means there are many systems to adjust to. For example, at home, one – other than the designated plumber – goes to the bathroom, flushes the toilet, and hopes for the best. In an RV, one needs to keep track of how much waste is in the system and then manually (well, hopefully wearing gloves and using a hose) empties into a “dump station.” Enough said about that.

Two other concerns:

Shake, rattle, and roll – Drawers and doors must be latched and various items padded to lessen the rumbles and movement as we drive. The first week we had a few minor mishaps like being bopped by a flying book and being startled by the bathroom door swinging open. Now we mostly have that part of our routine down.

The biggest thing for me to get used to is the refrigerator settings. For the Trek refrigerator to work under all conditions there is an ingenious 3-way system. When driving, the frig is run on DC power and when we are plugged in to campground electricity (providing the van system with 30 amps), we switch to AC. But when we are parked (or camping without hookups) we have to switch to propane.

The actual adjustment (turning the propane valve on the outside of the van – near the back license plate – and pushing the correct button on the refrigerator) takes less than two minutes. It is the remembering to do it.

And my mantra has become…”Lefty loosey, righty tighty.”


It’s been said that everything should have its place. A principle that us compulsives try to follow to limit chaos in our lives! But in a small vehicle like ours many items have separate daytime and evening positions. From our water bottles and coffee maker to couch and bed cushions there is a daily shuffle.


A little problematic when first started out but now most evenings are pleasant – nice views and aromas (except the night we camped at the Terry Bison Ranch and smelled those bison all night) and cooled by the breezes through our bedside windows. But I must admit most nights we sleep like Ozzie and Harriet (how many of you remember them and other TV couples –who slept in separate twin beds with a night table in between them?). It is easier to leave the beds in the U-shaped couch position rather than complete the jigsaw puzzle of assembling the king-size width bed.


Wish I had a good story here but nothing comes to mind. If anything, there is too much stuff and we are over-prepared. But, hey, it makes me feel more secure to have a stack of clean undies and lots of reading material.


We are happy to report that our Walnut St building was sold. Although we had hoped to close prior to the beginning of our trip, it didn’t happen till about two weeks later. With phone calls and emails we were able to take care of last minute details. And we were very pleased with our “team” there in Binghamton –thanks to John B and Beverly H at John Burns Century 21 Realty and to Patricia M at the law office of Xlander


Are you familiar with the 80/20 rule? I wear 20 percent of my shoes, 80 percent of the time. Every day I wear Birkenstocks and Keens depending on the activity.

I’ve worn probably four or five of the seven pairs – but I am not YET willing to say I brought too many.


About the same as we get in the Trek. And I am happy to report that the helicopter blog entry got the most comments of any – mostly via emails to us.

As we say, keep your cards and letters coming…in this case, comments and emails.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Continuing Our Rocky Mountain Interlude

Wednesday and Thursday

How lovely to wake up in Rocky Mtn Natl Park. Wednesday was an especially cool morning – 45 degrees outside and 57 degrees inside our van. Alan turned on the van furnace and within ten minutes the temperature rose to a toasty 67. It was quiet with lovely views and mixed sites – so on one side of us were tenters and on the other side a bus-sized RV.

We hiked both days, six to eight miles, starting out between 8 and 8:30 am. We like to get out first thing in the morning, because we are both more energetic and also to avoid the hot sun or thunderstorms more prevalent later in the day, and certainly to escape the crowds.

First day we walked about a mile to the trailhead and then took Cub Lake Trail to Fern Lake Trail, and the Pool,. Thursday we drove to the Glacier Gorge trail, walked past Alberta Falls and on to Mills Lake and Jewel Lake.

The trails presented many wonders including a variety of wildflowers, running water, calm lakes with shallow pristine water, rock ledges, and narrow tree bridges. The paths were uneven and variable, changing from relatively flat dusty areas to stone steps to stone outcroppings, with shaded and sunny open parts. Steep climbs and hardy elevation changes – the campground is at 8100 feet and we rose another 750 feet each day (but the day we drove in we started much higher and ended at almost 10,000 feet) – an added challenge!

When we returned from the hike on Wednesday, we decided that we would like to extend our time there. Our original reservation was for two nights so we walked over to the ranger station to make arrangements. Suffice to say that this encounter renewed our skepticism about federal workers, at least enough to balance out my previous idealization of their intelligence coupled with the knowledge and commitment I’ve written about.

Other highlights of those two days…Tuesday was the first day since we started that we did not drive at all. A pleasure. We also tried the on board shower. It is small and reminiscent of the first European “water closets” that I encountered in the early 1970s. The shower is the bathroom with a drain on the floor. But this one even smaller than even the ones I used in B&Bs many decades ago. Still, wonderfully refreshed when done (as my good friend Barbara says, attributing it to her college room mate, “Take a shower, you’ll feel like a million bucks.”

So what did you do today that made you feel that pricey??

Rocky Mt Nat Park

A lovely hike in the Park.

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Anthropomorphizing on the Trail

When I first saw this scene, a sulpher butterfly flying over to view a crushed companion, I imagined it to be grieving. When I thought about it, I realized that it could be curious or even gleeful (schadenfreude). Then I realized that I was thinking about it too much and wondered, do other folks, especially non-therapists muse like this? What say you?
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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rocky Mt Natl Park -- again


We decided not to go into Boulder. We both so enjoyed our time in Rocky Mtn National Park we decided to return (we only left because we couldn’t find a campsite for the July 4th weekend and had spent it instead in the Fort Collins area).

We spent Tuesday afternoon in the town of Estes Park – which was way too crowded last week when we went through the first time (at the beginning of July 4th weekend) to explore.

With the crowds thinned, we strolled the main street, stopped in a few shops, had ice cream, and went to the library and used free wifi (as well as got some good books from their book sale and freebies).

We walked a back trail in town, along elk paths, which led to some old stone ruins and brought us across the street from the opulent Stanley Hotel (in the style of Minnewaska or the Otesaga) which we also toured – unofficially. They did advertise a Grand Tour of the hotel with narration, hay ride and meal —but, alas, they were booked for the day. We would have passed anyway; it didn’t quite seem worth the $125 a person.

We saw an older version of our vehicle (Roadtrek 210 Popular) in the library parking lot and stopped to say hello as two people were sitting up front with the windows open. The male owner said he was living in Spokane, WA and was visiting this area and when he asked where we were from I replied my usual “Upstate NY.” We continued talking about hiking in the area and then he stopped and back-upped. “So where in upstate NY are you from?” “Near Binghamton,” I said. And so he told us that he was brought up in Greene, NY. Just one more example of – it’s a small world.

We are camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. Lovely setting. With no hookups or showers (meaning we need to be self-sufficient in our vehicle for water and energy to run the lights, frig. , heater -- if needed, etc.) Because of (a-hum) Alan’s youth, we only pay $10 a night here.

Went to an outdoor evening Park Ranger program, the amphitheater just a short walk from our campsite. Park Rangers seem to be a unique breed, knowledgeable, and committed to the outdoors and the park service. The presenter has been a ranger for 16 years and is one of the few that live in the park year round. His presentation included a short summary of the national park designations – there are 58 national parks – and an additional 28 categories of areas designated “national” – inc monuments, historical sites, etc. With wonderful large screen slides of some gorgeous natural features around the country. Inspiring us to plan to visit more and more of these incredible places.

Last week we really enjoyed a ranger-led hike in the alpine tundra (above tree line), which supplied us with clear identifications of flora and fauna and explanations of how elevation effects the wildlife – especially how the low-lying wildflowers grow slowly and with deep tap roots and stay shielded from the cold and wind by their stunted height.

The ranger also told wonderful anecdotes about the outdoors and the people who traverse it. And if it seems like she may have been too serious and dry, I assure you her talk was sprinkled with such wisdom as how to distinguish between elk and deer droppings, attributing her learning to a 9 year-old boy who had hiked with her. She taught us that “You can fit deer poop up your nose, but elk poop is too big to fit.”

And what did you learn today?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Barbara's Next Adventure

OK, all you wonderful readers and, right now, I am especially addressing the fantastic women in my life, all who are adventurous risk-takers in their own inimitable ways and yet keep saying via phone or email -- wow, I wouldn't do that OR that there is nothing to report about my current life in comparison with what you and Alan are doing on your trip. Stop it!
Stop it right now -- and just share what you ARE doing and reading and eating and feeling and thinking.

And know that we are taking some wonderful opportunities to explore regions-- external and internal. And that there are big and little challenges along the way.

Some of our biggest challenges these last few weeks have been how to deal with the blackouts in a certain campground's shower, dealing with the smoke alarm when Alan cooked hamburgers in the Trek, finding something I know I packed, and, of course, learning to pilot my own helicopter!
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