Things are winding down

The leaves are starting to change, the mornings have been a crisp 30 degrees, yes, fall is in the air here in western Wyoming. And our work camping season at Luton’s Teton Cabins is starting to wind down. The cabins officially close on October 10th, and we have guests right up until we close for the season.

Dan’s brother Gary and his wife Julia visited with us for a week. We were able to do a few hikes with them on our off days. Taggart Lake has always been a favorite hike of ours.

Jonell, Dan, Julia and Gary at Taggert Lake

The next day we did a long hike around Jenny Lake, with stops at Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. This is probably the most popular hike in Grand Teton National Park. To avoid the crowds on the way back down from Inspiration Point, we took the horse trail, and ran into about 6 people on the way down, versus hundreds on the way up on the main trail. The road less traveled always makes for a better experience!

Hidden Falls
Inspiration Point

While the view from Inspiration Point overlooking Jenny Lake is spectacular, so is the view facing the other direction, of the Tetons. This is why the hike is so popular.

The “other” direction

The Jenny Lake trail offers so many nice views.

The wildlife have been pretty active this month, and we did manage to see a good sized grizzly bear at a distance.

Due to the drought affecting the western states, Jackson Lake, which feeds into the Snake River, is being drawn down to provide much needed water for the farmers. This is a view from June of Jackson Lake, followed by a view last week.

June

In the six years that we have been here, we have never seen the water level this low.

September

All the boats in the Coulter Bay marina had to be removed by July 31. It just looks sad.

We are hoping the Tetons and surrounding areas will see record snow falls this winter, so the lake can get back to normal levels next summer.

Quote of the day: “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

Family Time!

We continue to be super busy at Luton’s Teton Cabins this summer, and have been taking many reservations already for 2022. It is nice that families are able to get out and enjoy our wonderful national parks again. Both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks here in Wyoming have been setting records each month for visitors. This past week my brother Brian, his wife Annette and daughter Breanna, along with my sister LuAnn and her daughter Alicia were able to spend a week in the cabins visiting with us. Annette had to fly home after a few days to go back to work, but she was able to see the “highlights” of the Tetons, and get some hiking in with my sister. They also got to see one of our spectacular sunsets over the Tetons from the front porch of their cabin.

Brian, LuAnn and Annette were able to get a little hiking in while we were working.

My niece Alicia (LuAnn’s daughter) has been enjoying learning photography, and she took the “money shot” below, at Schwabacher Landing in Grand Teton, a very popular spot for photographers. It’s always nice when a moose shows up!

We did several hikes in the Tetons, including our favorite trail, out to Taggert Lake. (Dan had to work, so he missed out on our 9 miles of hiking! And Alicia got bit by the altitude sickness bug and took the day off) We quickly learned not to let my niece Bre (Brian’s daughter) take the lead….I was able to keep up for a while, but my “older” siblings needed to stop and rest!

Everyone seemed to agree that Taggert Lake is a beautiful spot!

Bre, Brian, Jonell and LuAnn

After our first hike of the day, we drove up to the top of Signal Mountain, where a young man was just finishing a marriage proposal – she said yes! It’s a spectacular spot for a proposal.

My brother just retired, and to prove that he is still “young” he decided to stop and do a handstand on our second hike of the day, around the shore of Jackson Lake.

Very impressive Brian

Then next day, when Dan and I were both off. We drove up to Yellowstone with everyone, and did the highlights of the lower loop.

The siblings at the Lower Falls

The upper falls

The park service is testing out these new shuttle busses in Yellowstone, at the Canyon Visitors area. They only work a few hours at a time, and then have to recharge. We did not get to see them in action. The busses are called “TEDDY” for The Electric Driverless Demonstration in Yellowstone.

We did a short hike up to the overview for the Grand Prismatic, one of my favorite spots.

Dan, LuAnn, Jonell, Brian. Alicia and Bre in front

And no visit to Yellowstone would be complete without a stop at Old Faithful, which erupts about 20 times a day.

It was a great week spent with family, and I am happy that two of my siblings were able to make it out here (finally!)

Quote of the day: “To the outside world, we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were, we know each other’s hearts, we share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys.” – Clara Ortega

Back to Work…for now

With temperatures staying above 100 degrees for an extended time, it was finally time to leave Yuma, Arizona, and head to cooler weather, while we wait for the Canadian border to open.  Our air conditioner on our truck camper was running all day, trying to keep up with the heat.  Yes, it’s a dry heat, but it’s still hot!

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This forecast looked much better to us, so off we went to Moran, Wyoming.

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We left on May 2nd, and planned on taking a few days to get to Moran, but at our first stop in Utah, we discovered that our refrigerator would not work on the propane setting.  So we continued on, planning on staying at a campground for the night, with hook-ups, so we could try to run the refrigerator on electric.  As we approached the town, we noticed lightning to the West.  After checking the radar, which was a big red blob, and reading the special weather bulletin indicating 40 mph winds and pea size hail were coming, we just decided to continue North to get ahead of the storm.  Dan ended up driving around 600 miles that day, and we stayed overnight at a Wal-Mart for the first time ever.  With the store closing at 9 pm, it was very quiet.  Since it would be in the 30’s at night, we were not too concerned about the refrigerator getting too warm.

We were able to participate in a Zoom call with my brothers and sisters while we were driving.  It was a lot of fun catching up with everyone, and hopefully my brother Jerry will be able to attend the next one.

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We have also been doing Zoom calls with Dan’s family as well.

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When we arrived at Luton’s Teton Cabins in Moran, Wyoming, Brad and Joanne (the owners) had a cabin all set for us.  We have worked for them the past four summers, and they graciously offered us a cabin to stay in, so we didn’t have to spend so much time in our tiny camper.  It’s not as well insulated as our fifth wheel was.  We were able to park and unload our stuff.  Makena was absolutely thrilled to have a big space to run around in, and I’m enjoying having a dishwasher!

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This is our view from the cabin.

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When we arrived on Sunday the 3rd, the State of Wyoming was still requiring all visitors to do a 14-day self quarantine.  That order expired the next day, but with the parks and almost all stores closed, there was really nowhere to go.

When we did venture out on Wednesday, we had to be very careful of the Elk.  Without visitors bothering them, the Elk have taken over!  We have never, in four years, seen so many Elk.  The park closures have been good for the wildlife.

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Of course, this was a little too close!

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We took Makena for her annual veterinarian visit in Jackson.  You are not allowed into the building.  You have to call them, and then they come out to get your pet.  Everything went well, and once you give them your credit card over the phone, they return your pet.  I felt like she was being held hostage!  You give us “X” amount of money, and we’ll bring your dog out to the car!

After her visit, we went to the grocery store.  Last year the city of Jackson banned plastic bags, so we were curious to see if that ban was still in place, as we had heard some grocery stores were not allowing people to bring in their own bags anymore.  But the ban is still in place, and you need to bring in your own bags, as well as bag your own groceries.  They have stopped bagging them for you.

We were also happy to see that close to 100% of the people in the store (employees and customers) were wearing a mask.  In Yuma, it was about 80%, so it’s nice to see everyone doing their part to keep others safe.  Our friend Ellen made us some masks, and we have been wearing those when shopping. We needed to go to three other stores before finding two bus fuses for our RV refrigerator. Our fridge is now running again!

Over the past week, the non-essential stores in Jackson have started to re-open, as the Wyoming closure orders have gradually been lifted this week.  As of today, you can now have a gathering of up to 25 people, with churches, funeral homes and livestock auctions exempted.  That limit is set to expire at the end of the month.  The two bookstores and a toy store have both stated they will remain closed (online orders only) as they are a “high touch” store and haven’t come up with a plan to keep everything sanitized.  And a shoe store said they will only allow two people in at a time, so they can sanitize the shoes that people try on, but don’t purchase.  Other stores and restaurants said they are going to wait until the summer before re-opening.

BACK TO WORK

We have just been hanging out in the cabin, watching movies through Amazon Prime on our iPad.  But then everything changed on the afternoon of the 13th, when they announced that Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park would be re-opening, on a limited basis, starting Monday, May 18th at noon.

Brad and Joanne knocked on our cabin door, and Brad said we need you to start work in the office tomorrow, and work every day for the next week!  Apparently as soon as word got out about the parks, the telephone was ringing off the hook!  Up until then, he had been getting nothing but cancellations for this summer.  Some people did reschedule for next year.  Although we are still getting some cancellations, we are now getting a lot of new bookings.

With Yellowstone, the only entrances that will be opened up initially are the two in Wyoming.  The other three entrances are in Montana, and they still have a 14-day quarantine for visitors (as well as Idaho, which is only a few miles from the West entrance.)

Dan has also gone back to work in housekeeping.  Mitch and Amanda, who we have worked with the past two summers, have returned again.  They did spring cleaning on a few cabins so they will be ready for visitors next week.  As with all businesses, Brad and Joanne are starting to implement a lot of changes as a result of the virus.  It’s going to be an interesting summer for everyone.

UPDATE ON ALASKA

We are trying to remain optimistic that we will be able to go to Alaska.  Canada and the United States first agreed to shut the border around March 21 for 30 days.  They extended the closure in April for an additional 30 days.  That closure is set to expire on May 21, but from what we have been reading, Canada is pushing for another 30 day extension.  Canada has done a good job in controlling the spread of Covid-19 with extensive shutdowns, testing, and contract tracing.  It’s certainly understandable that they want to keep their people safe.  And we want all of our Canadian friends to stay safe!

So for now, we wait.  Al and Karen should be arriving here next week, and then we will decide on our plans.  If we don’t end up going to Alaska, Brad asked if we could stay and work for the summer, and we may decide to do that.  But we would rather be headed North.

Quote for the Day: “Have patience.  All things are difficult before they come easy.” – Saadi

 

 

 

Winding down for the season…not yet!

We have started our last month here at Luton’s Teton Cabins, but instead of winding down, we are full speed ahead.  September is the third busiest month in the park, and we are at full occupancy until the third week of September, and then half full for the remainder of the month.  Many of our guests this month are repeat visitors, and it’s always fun catching up with them.  By the middle of the month, Dan will switch over from housekeeping to steam cleaning the carpets in all the cabins and the lodge.  He enjoys the change of pace.  Karen and I continue to be busy in the office, booking many reservations for next year.

I haven’t been faithfully posting this summer, but with this being our fourth year here, I just haven’t been that motivated.  We are very excited about going to Alaska next summer.  Our friends and co-workers Karen and Al  have done a fabulous job planning out an itinerary and looking into fishing and sightseeing opportunities.  We have already made a few campground reservations, but have a loose enough schedule to make changes, if need be.

Dan and Al have have gone fishing multiple times this summer, including one successful outing on Jackson Lake in the park.  I think it’s the “here fishy, fishy” hat that draws them in!

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All those fish led to a wonderful employee pot-luck for everyone.  Dan and Al grilled the fish.

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This has been a good summer for visitors!  A former co-worker of mine, Laura, came out here with her family, and we were able to spend a little bit of time with them!  Makena especially loved meeting her kids, and suckered them into some belly rubs!  Ironically, it was six years to the day that I left work when Laura and her family came to visit.  We had a great time catching up on the past six years, and I’m so happy she stopped by!

Dan’s brother Gary and his wife Julia also came out to the Teton’s.  Julia’s father John was celebrating his 90th birthday, and their entire family flew out to the Teton’s, and took a bus trip for the next week visiting many national parks and historic sites.  They were only here two days in this location, but we enjoyed our brief visit, and took Gary and Julia out for a hike along String Lake, one of our many favorite places here.

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Jean, Julia, birthday boy John and Gary

We met up with friends Jack and Ruth Ann, and Ruth Ann’s sister Jean.  We first met them working at Amazon in 2013.  Jack and Ruth Ann, as well as our friends Tom and Ellen, took us “under their wings” when we first started.  We all ate lunch together at Amazon, and learned so much from them about RV’ing.  Jack and Ruth Ann have been full-time since 2005.  They have volunteered several times at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival, and we talked about doing that in the next year or two with them.

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Jean, Jack, Ruth Ann, Jonell and Dan

And speaking of Tom and Ellen, we did make it up one night to West Yellowstone, Montana, to surprise Tom for his birthday!  We will be seeing them again next week when they stop through for their last visit to the Teton’s.  They will be joining us this winter in Yuma, and next summer they will be working in Skagway, Alaska.

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Happy Birthday Tom!

Friends Dan and Nancy from Wisconsin also stopped in for a visit.  Dan just retired from teaching in June, and they were visiting their son in Idaho, and stopped on the way back.  We had a long discussion on full-time RV’ing, and on their way back home, they stopped in South Dakota and changed their residency.  They will be working on transitioning to this wonderful lifestyle!  We wish them all the best!

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Dan, Nancy, Jonell and Dan

We always enjoy playing ‘tour guide’ and giving out suggestions to our guests on things to see and do in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.  We have enjoyed our four summers in this area, but we are also ready to move on to new adventures!

Quote for the day:  “Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Wildlife in the Tetons

As we continue on our journey to our winter job, I thought I would share some final photos from the Tetons, of our animal sightings this summer.

We have had good success this summer in seeing many birds and animals in Grand Teton National Park.  I wasn’t able to get pictures of everything, as I did not always have my camera with me.

Our first trip into the park, May 14, resulted in success when we spotted a black bear, and then saw two very small cubs running several yards behind her.  The cubs were hard to see, as they kept darting in and out of the woods.  One was brown in color, and one was black in color.

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Mama Bear

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Wait for me, mama!

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Another cub

Brad and Joanne, the owners of Luton’s Teton Cabins, own several horses.  One day on my walk around the property, I sensed something behind me, and turned around to see the horses sneaking up behind me.  Maybe they thought I had carrots or something in my pocket.  Sorry guys, no food!

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I’m not a ‘bird nerd’ so I’m not sure what these birds are.  I call this one a ‘yellow bird’

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And ‘purple/green bird’

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I tried all summer to get a picture of the Mountain Bluebird.  They are very jittery birds, and this was the best I could get.

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On an outing with Erin, one of our fantastic coworkers, we spotted a grizzly roaming around the side of the highway.  I only had my cell phone with me, so it’s not a good picture.

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Elk, pronghorn and buffalo roam about five miles down the road from the cabins.  Some days there are just one or two, other days, a large herd of them.

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Elk in foreground, Buffalo in background

 

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Hello, Mr Buffalo!

In the spring, you will see a lot of “red dogs,” which are the baby buffalo.  They like to run around and play.

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Thanks for posing for me in front of the Tetons

We always warn our guests not to stand near the fence to take pictures of the buffalo.  People don’t realize that the buffalo can easily jump over fences.  They may not look graceful, but stay out of their way!

Our biggest highlight, was “Moose-a-Palooza” when we found 10 moose in the Gros Ventre Campground when our friends Mike and Sue were with us.

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We were surprised to find two bull moose together.

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The one laying down on the left, had a “lady friend” hiding in the tall grass behind him.

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Eventually the one on the right laid down and started “chatting” with us.

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You’ve seen those “share the road with cyclists” signs…in Yellowstone, you have to share the road with buffalo!

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Unfortunately, the one animal that I have been specifically trying to find, continues to elude me….the porcupine!  Karen and Al must have felt sorry for me, as they surprised me at our last employee potluck meal with my very own porcupine!  I guess this will have to do for now.  I wonder if they have them in Arizona?

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Thanks Karen and Al!

Quote for the day:  “I’ve never met an animal I didn’t like, and I can’t say the same thing about people.” – Doris Day