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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
7 yrs and 6 days - end of the road

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Finding Solace While Chasing Wolves

Jun 27, 2015
by John
in: USA

Deciding we were in need of a soak, we pointed the van to Granite Creek Hot Springs on our way north from Bryce Canyon. We tried to locate a primitive hot spring but struck out, settling for a developed pool was still quite soothing. At $6.00 per person it was a splurge, we hope to find some free ones as we get a better hang of this long-term travel thing. There was a bit of excitement when our dry bag, containing everything we needed in this world, went missing. A happy accident, yet a valuable lesson in security.

Arriving in Jackson the following day we caught up on email then walked around a bit. We found a replacement pair of shoes for Mandi’s absolute favorites which were well overdue for retirement. Then another splurge for some Indian cuisine, an enjoyment of mine we will try to indulge when the opportunity presents itself. An interesting but pricey little tourist town, but a great place to stock up just outside the city center.

We have been realizing that camping inside the National Parks is convenient so when we are in between parks we really try to balance the budget with free camping in national forests or parking lots. We drove out to Curtis Canyon and settled on a beautiful overlook for the night. Unbeknownst to us, it was a local haunt for a group of twenty somethings so it got a bit loud. We were tying up some administrative bits while the ruckus moved a half mile to a lone fire ring atop an adjacent hillside. The owner of a mini dirt bike was tear assing around which resulted in a $300 fine, he wasn’t happy about us sharing the truth with the local authorities… we didn’t know they weren’t allowed. Close to 11 PM the group dispersed with Mr. Dirtbike spouting some business about karma in our general direction. Douchebags really just don’t get that they are douchebags. If he would have been honest he would have probably received a warning. Did he really expect the officers to believe he pushed the dirt bike a half mile down and then up a sandy slope just to have it there and not ride it? The view was spectacular, so we can’t blame anyone for wanting to hang out there, just leave the mini bike at home yo.

Granite Creek Road, WY, USA

Something wicked this way comes

Following our restless night we moved to just below Grand Teton National Park, Gros Venture campground. The lake hikes we wanted to do were close to the south end of the park and we wanted to drop down to Jackson before leaving to stock up on groceries. Both the Taggert/Bradley and Phelps lake hikes were wonderful. The soothing effect of nature is hard to capture in words. It’s no mystery why the great wilderness writers are still celebrated. Ambling amongst the trees and wildlife is captivating, grounding of oneself within the whole.

Taggart Creek, Grand Teton National Park, WY, USA

It'll be fine unless it rains

Phelps Lake, Grand Teton National Park, WY, USA

No woodland creature, this is our pot pie

Taggart Lake, Grand Teton National Park, WY, USA

The location is great, we're just not sure about the view

Realizing we couldn’t live there forever, foremost in desperate need of proper bathing, we visited Jackson to restock our coffers then moved to Colter Bay at the northern end of the park. Hot water is wonderful, getting used to paying for showers will be an adjustment. Standing under the almost scorching water as it washes away the accumulated grime is so much more than refreshing, a modern convenience we have been reminded to always appreciate. The washing machine is another marvel indeed, so much we’ve taken for granted. All clean and returned to the human race we sauntered towards Yellowstone bright and early.

Visiting the parks during peak season, or as the peak season starts, is a lesson in the early bird gets a campsite. While there are several first come first served campgrounds, the best ones usually fill up early (by 7AM). The requirement of an alarm is foreign to us as of late, an essential tool for traversing the circus that encompasses the parks. A 5:30 start was our secret to success, there are no guarantees but the wildlife viewing is also excellent during the first hours of morning.

Yellowstone National Park, WY, USA

Boy, these tour buses let out at the damnedest places

Due to the sheer size of the park we split our time in Yellowstone between Lewis Lake and Tower Falls. We had heard of the park's diversity, experiencing it first hand is other worldly. Everyone should be able to find a favorite place in Yellowstone, ours was the northeast corridor where the wildlife was abundant. We did stop at Old Faithful, chatting with a wonderful retired couple up until its eruption. Our favorite geyser is Imperial, we had it all to ourselves for half an hour. The mini Bison herd stampede, 30ish, was the most exhilarating experience we have had so far on our journey. We have no idea what, if anything, spooked them but we were the only ones that witnessed their rumbling by. What a wondrous creature, their big brown-eyed stare is captivating.

Yellowstone National Park, WY, USA

We got mind control over Deebo, we kept walkin

Imperial Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, WY, USA

We ain't in Kansas anymore Mr. Frodo

Fairy Falls, Yellowstone National Park, WY, USA

We do believe in fairies, we will clap as loud as we can

Imperial Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, WY, USA

Just how smart is it to hang out in the caldera of a super volcano?

Having an unnatural infatuation with wolves (that would be me), we ended up doing a little chasing, more like stalking. We headed out early on two occasions to try our luck. Our first attempt resulted in Mandi seeing a pair of ears and me getting lucky with a full face glimpse, thanks to a kind person who let us look through their spotting scope. We would have seen more on our second attempt but we just didn’t feel right standing on the hillside waiting them out. Good to know we aren’t the super creepy free candy sorts. Leaving to make coffee, a chance encounter resulted in making new friends we hope to see again as we run the west coast. We understand the importance of tracking the wolf packs, we worry about the carefree acceptance of human presence. Hunting wolves is still legal outside the park, several of the Yellowstone wolves have been killed as they roamed from their protected boundaries. Nature doesn’t have artificial lines bound by superficial rules, that’s a human condition.

Yellowstone National Park, WY, USA

If you build it, they will come

desolate landscape full of eruptions
bubbling earthen pots of mud
endless rolling waves of grass
sweet aroma of new sprung life
unconcerned nature’s stare
peaceful moments of understanding
perfect pitch of silence
no climax nor crescendo
balanced existence of souls
the howl of healing land

Bee-cause We Remember

As all road trippers could relate, many an insect hurls through open windows during travel. Usually a splatter of bits and pieces, on occasion, an unhappy interloper. During our departure from Zion we had an unfortunate encounter with the latter, a wee fellow of sorts with a larger than life attitude. My shirt collar had apparently spared his life, in return I was given a sting. “Ouch”, I smacked at my neck then mistakenly pulled my shirt away from my back.

Obviously something had bitten me but I was still preoccupied with operating a motor vehicle, no need for concern. One off occurrences are usually the case so why bother. “Ouch, there’s a bee in my shirt!” My brain now recognizing the severity of the situation and that a vigilante insect was beginning to seek vengeance. Smack grabbing my shirt again, nothing unusual in between my fingers, where is the little bastard?

“Ouch, do something!” As if anything could be accomplished while we were still hurtling down the highway. “Pull over!”, Mandi’s voice of reason. Me thinking what a great idea as I began to apply the brakes. “Ouch, do something! I think it’s in my pants!” Now my thoughts focused entirely on hoping it would avoid my butt crack. Bee sting in butt crack, definitely not on the ever do list.

On the side of the road, me shirtless but still seat belted in, we were both looking at the carcass of what had to be the tiniest bee on the planet. Five distinct and extremely large welts were starting to develop from my shoulders to the lowest point of my back. Solid black, as pure evil itself, the lifeless body was a reminder of what had just occurred. A creature of a mere ten grams had just handed me my ass.

Say what? (2)
Jun 30, 2015 at 02:27 PM
The pics are simply awesome!!
Jul 4, 2015 at 02:14 PM
Thanks Sri! We're starting to get a little better with our cameras and the iPhone 6 is simply amazing. We're finding ourselves using it more and more. Not to plug a product but the advancement is really an example of great technology.
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