Exploring the national forests

While Grand Teton National Park offers many excellent hiking trails for all levels of abilities, we have decided this summer to spend more time away from the crowds on the trails of the US Forest Service.  The trails, while still being well-maintained and most have vault toilets near the trail head (something that I prefer), are seldom used by the tourists.  If you only have a limited amount of time in the park, most visitors will do the “popular” park trails.  But if you have more time in an area, or want a more “serene” experience, then check out the forest service trails.

Our first hike, with our co-workers Shawn and Erin, was a trailhead behind Togwotee Mountain Lodge, at an elevation of 8654 feet.  Brad, our boss and life-long resident in this area, recommended this trail to us, and said it’s “about 6 miles,” and “all downhill.”  Since this was going to be a one-way, downhill  hike, we left one vehicle down near Turpin Meadows, and took the other car up to Togwotee.

The wildflowers were in full bloom, which made the hike extra special.  Even the vault toilet at the trailhead was surrounded by flowers.

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The Grand Tetons, about 45 miles away, are peeking out over the forest, with wildflowers covering the hills.

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Erin, Shawn and Dan, on our “downhill” hike…

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We made it down to the river.  You can see where we started, by the red X in the photo.  Dan checked his elevation app that he has on his phone, and it said we were down to 6800 feet, from the 8600 feet when we started.

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But once we made it down to the river, we realized the trail did not follow along the river, but instead went straight up a hill.  Brad and Joanne don’t go hiking, they take their horses and go riding in the forest.  That should have been our clue when he said it was all downhill…..!

So off we went up a steep hill, only to realize once we were at the top, there was another one we had to climb as well!  It was a bit of a struggle, as I checked my Fitbit, and we had already hiked over 6 miles.  Once we made it to the top of the second hill, Dan’s app read 7800 feet.  But we could finally see the end in sight.  In the photo below, our car is where the red mark is.  Only a few more miles…

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All together, the “6 mile, all downhill” hike that Brad recommended, was 8 1/4 miles, with 1800 feet downhill, followed by 1000 feet uphill and another 1000 feet downhill.  When we mentioned to Brad about the uphill portion, he said “oh yeah, but it’s only 20 minutes,” to which we replied “if you’re on a horse!”  But the spectacular views, and seeing the wildflowers in full bloom, was well worth it.  And we were the only ones on this hike.  We had the forest to ourselves!

BROOKS LAKE/JADE LAKE HIKE

Dan and I spent another one of our off days taking advantage of another forest service hike, at Brooks Lake, which is part of the Continental Divide Trail.

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The loop trail starts at an elevation of 9100 feet, and is relatively flat for the first 1/2 mile.  Then you climb 700 feet in one mile, which may not sound like much, but when you are starting out at such a high elevation to begin with, it really gets your heart rate elevated. We had to go up and over the tree line in the photo below.

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We took it slow, and stopped several times.  Dan asked if I wanted to turn around, but this time we knew that once we made it to the top, the remaining five miles would be relatively easy.  After 40 minutes, we finally made it to the top.  Then it was just a another mile until we got our first view of Upper Jade Lake, which was spectacular.

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The trail gradually descended down to the lake.  The wildflowers were just past their peak, but still pretty.

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We had to cross over the river between upper and lower Jade Lake, and the trail wound around lower Jade Lake.

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The trail crossed over the river two more times, before going out into a meadow for the last mile of the trail.  I managed to make three of the four river crossings without a problem.  On the last crossing, one of the rocks that I stepped on moved, and down I went into the river!  The water was cold, but it was so hot out, it was actually refreshing.  And on a positive note, I discovered the hiking “fanny pack” that I use, is waterproof, as everything inside the bag was dry.

Since the last mile was out in the open, I was able to dry out a little on the way back to the truck.  We had a nice view of Brooks Lake on the way back.  Our truck was parked on the other side of the lake.  I usually bring a change of shoes/socks when we hike, but from now on, it will include a complete change of clothes!

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WORK UPDATE

We continue to be busy at Luton’s Teton Cabins, at least for another week.  Then we enter the “change-over” of the summer, when kids are back to school, so the family vacations end, and the “newlyweds and nearly deads” begin their vacations.  We will have about one week when our occupancy is light.  It will be a much appreciated break, as our cabins are full for the month of September.  The downtime will give us time to clean and prepare the truck and fifth wheel for our trip to Arizona for the winter.

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

Back to work and a little fun in the Tetons

First off, I just want everyone to know that Makena did gain some “freedom” on the Fourth of July!   We took her out, off leash, for a walk on the 100 acre ranch where we are working for the summer, Luton’s Teton Cabins.  She was ecstatic, and did very well running around.  Then she spent the rest of the day napping!  The next day she was walking just fine, no pain from her running around.  So that is a good sign, although we do keep her in the kennel a/k/a “jail” when we go to work. Hopefully the vertebrate in her back are fusing together and she will continue to improve!!

Woo-Hoo!!!

We have been working at Luton’s Teton Cabins since mid-May.  This is our third summer at the cabins.  As we watch the rest of the country suffer with the high heat and humidity, we are happy to be running a space heater at night, when it dips into the upper 30’s, only to warm up into the 70’s during the day.  Although this week it has been in the 80’s for three days now.  We had to turn the air conditioner on for the first time yesterday!

I continue to split my time between the office and cleaning the cabins.  Dan has added the job as “laundry guy”  on to his cleaning duties.  One day a week he is in charge of doing all the cabin laundry.  He enjoys the variety, and has mastered the art of folding fitted sheets – Grandma Joan will be proud!

Our friends Karen and Al are back for their fifth season, and Shawn and Erin returned for their second season.  We have two new couples this year and all together, we have a great, hard-working, drama-free crew.  It makes for a pleasant working environment!

Since this is our third summer, I don’t plan on spending much time talking about our jobs.  You can do a search on our blog, under Luton’s Teton Cabins if you want to learn more about what we do.  Or you can always write a comment or send an e-mail.  The owners, Brad and Joanne, are wonderful people who reward their employees for doing a good job.  It makes it easy to keep coming back.  (and the weather and view is nice too!)

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View from the cabins

We have been trying to get out on our off days to do a little bit of hiking and sightseeing.  Last fall, the park service in Yellowstone added a new overlook to the Grand Prismatic Spring, one of the prettiest and largest hot springs in the United States.  We made an early trip up to Yellowstone to check it out, before the park became overrun with tourists for the summer.  It was spectacular.

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We also hiked over to nearby Fairy Falls, about a four mile round trip hike from the Grand Prismatic.  When we arrived, there were eight people already at the Falls.  When we left, there were over three dozen people arriving, so we time it perfectly!

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We did some hiking with Karen and Al on another one of our off days.  It’s hard to take “bad photos” when you are in the Tetons.  Al was quite jealous of the people on the boat!  The rivers are a little murky and very fast right now, so Dan and Al have only tried fishing once and they had no luck – although they say the conditions should be improving very soon.

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It’s hard to believe it’s July already.  This summer is going by fast.

ONE PIECE OF ADVICE

I do have a very simple piece of advice for anyone staying at a hotel/cabin/B & B, or any place where there will be housekeeping done.  Do not leave your toothbrush right next to the sink!  No matter how careful we are, the odds are pretty good that your toothbrush could end up with a small amount of overspray from a cleaning chemical, if you leave it uncovered near the vanity/bathroom sink.  Just something to think about next time you are traveling…..!

 

Quote for the day:  “Summer is the annual permission slip to be lazy.  To do nothing and have it count for something.  To lie in the grass and count the stars.  To sit on a branch and study the clouds.” – Regina Brett

 

 

Summer 2017 ‘a bear-y good time’

We have finished our summer work camping job at Luton’s Teton Cabins, just east of Grand Teton National Park.  Dan feels the summer flew by, but I think it was just the right amount of time.  There was snow when we arrived in May, and snow when we left in October…a lot of snow!  We were the last ones to leave, as Dan was busy steam cleaning the carpets in the cabins. Although the weather was supposed to be 50s, we ended up with about 7 inches of snow!  It was pretty though!

IMG_3128It did make for an interesting drive over Togowotee Pass, at 9600 feet and a steep grade! And this is after they had “cleared” the pass!  Normally we like to leave early in the morning when we are in travel mode, but we had to wait until late morning for the road to improve.

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We had another hard working crew this summer, and six of us will be coming back next summer.   Last summer, with my broken foot, we did not get to do as much hiking as we had planned.  This summer, we did many hikes, and even got our bicycles out.  The Tetons and Jackson Hole are very bicycle friendly areas, with miles of paved paths.

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Dan and Al had a great summer fishing (and catching!) trout.  After a slow start due to the spring flooding, they were able to get enough to have a pot luck fish fry for everyone.  Al brought his inflatable Sea Eagle boat, and they floated down the river many times.  The boat folds up into a small bag, and is strong enough to hold both the guys, and all their gear.

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The highlight of the summer, for me, was seeing (and experiencing) the Solar Eclipse.  You can read about that here.

A close second was watching a grizzly and her two cubs, feasting on berries.  (a special thanks to our co-workers Karen and Al for texting us when they spotted them in the park – about 2 miles from us).

 

We also had a bull moose run right across the road on our way back from the grocery store.  I have learned to always carry my camera in September, as the wildlife is very active.

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After we left Wyoming, we had a long travel day and stopped at the Cabela’s in Rapid City, South Dakota, which lets you stay overnight in their parking lot.  We were woken up very early to an alarm going off.  We though it may have been our carbon monoxide detector.  We both woke up in a panic, and started searching, only to discover it was our temperature gauge, which has an alarm clock.  We have had this for over 8 years, and never knew it had an alarm clock!  Apparently when we packed it up and put it away for travel, a button must have been pressed to set the alarm.

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And 10 minutes later…we discovered it has a snooze feature!

Since we were up early, we just got on the road (it was 5 am), and watched the sunrise as we traveled east.

IMG_3144We are now back in Wisconsin.  Originally, we planned to be here a few weeks, then head down to Amazon in Kentucky.  However, our friend Mike’s bar and grill that we had helped remodel is not yet open.  He was very busy this summer with his landscaping business, and did not finish the remodeling.  So we are back helping him out, probably through Thanksgiving, and then we will head south for the winter.

Quote for the day:  “You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.”  Joyce Meyer

 

 

 

 

Winding down in Wyoming

Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the flooding in the southern states afterward.  And now we have been reading about Hurricane Irma, soon to be hitting Florida.  Add in all the forest fires raging in California, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana and it has been a devastating month for millions of Americans.  Our only impact here in Wyoming has been hazy skies and poor air quality.  If only there was some way for the rain in the South to make its way to the northwest, it would solve some of these problems.

Our season will be coming to a close at the end of September, but we have been keeping busy.  Labor Day weekend means the end of families with school-age children.  Now our visitors are what those of us in the tourism industry refer to as the “newlyweds and nearly-dead’s.”  Luton’s Teton Cabins continues to be full, until the last week of September.  At that time, we will start winding down, and begin fall cleaning.  All the linens and curtains will be removed from the cabins and cleaned.  Joanne will strip and wax the linoleum, and Dan will shampoo the carpeting.  As with our Spring cleaning, it is an efficient process.  The cabins are  open this year until October 10, but all of us work campers will be done by October 1st.  Brad and Joanne, the owners, will handle the cleaning of the few cabins that are rented after the 1st.

In the meantime, we have been out on a few hikes.  Tom and Ellen, our friends working in West Yellowstone, Montana, came down for a visit.  Next year, they will be working at a gift store in Skagway, Alaska.  We will miss seeing them in the summer, but are looking forward to hearing about their adventures in Alaska.  That is definitely on our list of states to visit…hopefully soon!

We did a short hike out to Taggart Lake with them.

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Tom, Ellen and Dan

Here’s our Sound of Music photo!

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The “hills are alive!”

We also went hiking on our off day with co-workers Karen and Al.  Last year the trails to Hidden Falls by Jenny Lake were closed for renovation.  Most of the trails have now opened, so we were finally able to do that hike.

We made the short trek over to see Hidden Falls.

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There was a group of people learning how to rock climb.  It was entertaining to watch, but not something I would want to try.

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Then we had a lengthy upward hike to see Inspiration Point, which overlooks Jenny Lake.

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On the way back down, we saw a two-toned bird, later identified as a Stellar’s Jay.  That was our “wildlife” highlight!

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After we leave Wyoming, we will head back to Wisconsin for a few weeks, and then head down to Kentucky to work at Amazon for our fourth season.  I’m not looking forward to working there again (too boring), but it is a great weight loss program for us!

Take care and stay safe everyone!

Quote for the Day:  “Most anyplace one lives is essentially dangerous.  There are floods in the Midwest, and tornadoes.  There are hurricanes along the Gulf.  In New York you get mugged.” – John Gregory Dunne

 

Cousins come a callin’

First off, thank you for all the wonderful comments, e-mails and telephone calls from our last blog post.  It really meant a lot.

Dan’s cousins, Roni and Jodi, made a long road trip from the Twin Cities to come out and visit with us for two days.  We tried to pack as much as we could in the short amount of time they had, and we think we succeeded.  The only thing they were not able to check off their list was seeing a grizzly bear.

We spent the first day on a quick tour of Grand Teton National Park, trying to stop at some of  the highlights: Colter Bay, Jackson Lake Lodge, Signal Mountain, String Lake, Jenny Lake, Lupine Meadows, The Chapel of Transfiguration, Schwabacher Landing, etc…

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Dan, Jodi, Roni

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After seeing some of  the highlights, we stopped in Moose for a little pizza at Dornan’s.  While sitting outside we were briefly entertained by a fox walking near the deck.

DSC04474 (2)The next morning we headed up to Yellowstone, making a few stops in the Tetons to view a herd of Elk,

P1000307 (2)followed by a mama and baby moose!

P1000363 (2)And no morning is complete without a stop at Oxbow Bend, with the low-lying clouds covering parts of Mt Moran.

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Yellowstone was pretty busy, but Roni said she had “positive vibes”, especially after our wonderful start to the day.  She was right, and we never had issues finding parking spots!  Our wildlife sightings continued, with an Osprey in a nest,

P1000516 (2)and a lone buffalo taking a nap along the side of the road!

P1000500 (2)The cousins were impressed with the view of the Lower Falls.

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I think Roni and Jodi may have a new future career in the park service!

P1000472 (2)No stop to Yellowstone is complete without a visit to Old Faithful.  It was Roni’s first time seeing the geyser go off.  Despite its name, it did not erupt until 25 minutes after its scheduled time.  The crowd of thousands was growing very restless, and a lot of cheers erupted when it finally went off.  Roni said it was worth the wait!

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Although their visit was very short, we had a wonderful time and are thankful Roni and Jodi decided to venture out west to see us!  Our door is always open for our family and friends to visit!

Quote for the day:  “Nobody will understand the craziness of your family better than your cousins.” – unknown