The ever changing Tetons

The advantage of spending the summer in one area, is getting to watch the seasons changing.  This year, I made a point of taking a picture of Mount Moran from Oxbow Bend, every few weeks while we were here in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  It’s interesting to see how the mountain changes.   I took these photos with the same camera, and did not edit them.  Our first view this year was on May 14, 2018.  The mountains are still snow-covered and the Aspen trees are starting to bloom.

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May 14, 2018

 

By June 6, the mountains still have snow, but everything has greened up nicely.

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June 6, 2018

By the end of June, the snow has continued to melt, and the wildflowers are starting to bloom.  The trees seemed to have turned a darker shade of green.

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By the end of July, a small amount of snow remains on the peaks.  The skillet glacier on Mount Moran is more in view.  The locals refer to it as the Jimmy Hendrix guitar.

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July 25, 2018

The fires from California started to bring a haze over the mountains in August.  The view is not as “sharp” as July, as a result of the haze.

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August 14, 2018

 

We had our first winter storm watch of the season on August 28, at altitudes above 9,000 feet.  So the next day, we ventured into the park to see the tops of the mountains with a fresh coat of snow!  The snow cleared out a lot of the haze, which brought the mountains back into focus.

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August 29, 2018 after our first snowfall of the season

 

On September 8, the leaves were starting to change in the park, but not yet in the Oxbow Bend area.  The bushes on the right have started to turn, however.  It was a late afternoon photo, with haze over the mountains, from a new fire 60 miles south of the park.

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September 8, 2018

By September 19, the leaves on the Aspen trees were turning yellow, and the haze was not too visible.

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September 19, 2018

Fall has arrived in the Tetons, and the park is bursting with visitors for the wildlife and colors.  On September 25, the color in the bushes on the right has faded, but more trees are showing color, and with the cool nights, the mountains are clear.

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September 25, 2018

On our last day of work, October 3, we made one last quick trip through the park.  The final “green” trees, have turned yellow and orange.  The leaves on the trees to the right, have mostly fallen off.  The ducks and geese are migrating through on the way south.

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Good-bye Wyoming!  See you next year….

Quote for the Day:  “You are not in the mountains.  The mountains are in you.”  – John Muir

Another week to go in Wyoming

I would like to say that it’s hard to believe the summer season here at Luton’s Teton Cabins is almost over but when you wake and it is a brisk 17 degrees outside, it just slaps you in the face and reminds you to start packing up the 5th wheel!  This has been a very busy month, as the cabins are full of guests, enjoying the active wildlife and fall colors in the park.

We have also had our own visitors as well, which we always enjoy.  Mike and Sue, our good friends from college, drove out from Wisconsin for a short visit.  Makena enjoyed showing them her favorite off-leash walking trail!

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Gary and Julia, Dan’s brother and sister-in-law, also flew in for a few days to visit.  It was Gary’s 60th birthday!  He informed us that we have to stop referring to this time of the year as the “newlyweds and nearly-deads” and add in the “empty nesters” as well!  We scheduled a float trip down the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park, and they both enjoyed the relaxing 8-mile evening float.

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60 and still going strong!!

With both Mike and Sue, and Gary and Julia, we did our best to play tour guides of both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.  With only limited time to explore, we did hit the high points.

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Jenny Lake at GTNP

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Grand Prismatic Hot Spring at YNP

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Lower Falls and the Grand Canyon at Yellowstone

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Old Faithful at YNP

Of course, it is Wyoming, and late September, so it’s not unusual to encounter a quick snow storm at Yellowstone!

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Both Mike and Sue, as well as Gary and Julia, took some time to enjoy the beautiful sunsets that we get to watch right here at Luton’s Cabins.  With the cooler nights, we have been getting a lot of colorful ones.

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We always enjoy having visitors, and are more than happy to show off “our parks” to others.  We have already committed to coming back to Luton’s next year, as well as everyone else that works here.  Brad and Joanne said this is the first time that all their employees will be returning the following season.  They are such wonderful people to work for.  So if you will be out in Wyoming next summer, let us know!!

Dan and Al have been busy fishing this summer, and have caught their limit many times.  We have had two potluck meals with everyone where they grilled the fish. These are native cutthroat trout – they look like a rainbow trout with the exception of an orange line under their mouth.

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I had a bit of an adventure with a wasp nest.  Makena was out on her leash and got stuck under one of the jacks on the fifth wheel.  When I crawled under to get her unstuck, I came face to face with this bowling ball sized nest!!  Dan has had an allergic reaction to bees in the past, so it was my job to get rid of this thing.  I waited until the morning when it was in the 30’s, so the wasps were less active, and used an entire can of wasp spray, plus I had a shovel to scoop up the nest and throw it into the creek behind our 5th wheel.  Now we look under the slides every week to make sure they don’t rebuild!  It’s one of the disadvantages of being in the same place for a long period of time.

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We are ready for new adventures, and look forward to hitching up and heading south next week.  We will have about 10 days to get to Yuma, Arizona, where we will be working at Westwind RV and Golf Resort.  It will be our first time working at a campground.  With all new adventures, I will have more to blog about.

The other morning, the moon was setting West behind the Tetons, as the sun was rising in East.  It made for a colorful morning photo.

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Quote for the Day:  “Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall.  It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events.  Joy comes in sips, not gulps.” – Sharon Draper

 

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

It’s been 5 years already?!

Five years ago today, July 25, 2013, I hugged my co-workers in the CT Department at Froedtert Hospital, and swiped my badge on the timeclock for the very last time. It was the last thing on our “to-do” list to prepare for full-time living on the road.

Dan had already finished up in June with his job as a high school math teacher.  Our house in Wisconsin had sold in April, along with most of our belongings, and we picked up our fifth wheel at the end of June and parked it at Doug and Linda’s (Dan’s sister) a/k/a “Camp Meyer.”

I remember walking out the doors of the hospital to my car with a lot of mixed emotions.  Dan and I had always talked about RV’ing when we “retired,” but with working at a Level One trauma center, you see first hand how quickly life can change.  It’s what prompted me to realize we need to do this sooner, rather than later.  I had spent so much time researching the RV lifestyle and following blogs that I knew we were ready to try this.  And it didn’t take much to convince Dan…he was all-in as well.

Our future was now a blank piece of paper and we could fill in the details as we went along.   We have never looked back and not once have we regretted our decision about living a nomadic lifestyle.  Yes, we have missed weddings, graduations, and other special events, but we just can’t imagine coming off the road any time soon.  I feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface with the places we want to see and the experiences we want to share.

We have relied solely on work camping jobs for our income these past five years, and have not had to touch our savings at all.  Our very first job after we quit our careers, was with Amazon, in Campbellsville, Kentucky.  I remember thinking after two weeks of working as a Picker, what have we done?  It’s a hard, and mind-numbingly boring job.  However, the people we met and the places we were able to explore more than made up for the mundane job. If you want to read more about our Amazon experience, you can search our past blogs.

We spent our first full summer in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota working at Crazy Horse Memorial, and our second summer at Madison Crossings store in West Yellowstone, Montana.  The past three summers we have worked here at Luton’s Teton Cabins in Moran, Wyoming. We have worked with great people and it is nice when we are able to meet up with them on the road and catch up on all of our latest travels. We also enjoy catching up with friends and relatives when we return to Wisconsin and when some of them are able to visit us somewhere along our path.

The social aspect of the RV lifestyle has been the biggest surprise for me.  People become like family in RV parks.  Everyone really looks out for each other.   And if you don’t like your “neighbor” it’s easy to move to another spot!    We have lived in neighborhoods for several years, and never really knew all all of our neighbors.  Yet in an RV park, you can know most of the people in just a few days.

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

Any time you have an anniversary, it gives you time to pause and reflect on the past, and think about future plans.  We have decided to make some changes going forward.  The past four winters, have been spent in Florida.  We have accepted a position to work at Westwind Golf and RV Resort in Yuma, Arizona from mid-October to mid-April.  Although it’s a six month commitment, (our longest work camping position so far), we are looking forward to exploring a new area for the fall/winter season.  A couple that we worked with at Crazy Horse Memorial, Henry and Terry, contacted us about the job openings.  Dan will be working three days a week doing golf course maintenance, and I will be in the office the same three days.  My position will be paid, and Dan’s position will cover the site rental.  In addition, we will have a $50/month credit towards electricity, and a $100/month credit to use at the RV park’s golf course, restaurant and concert tickets.

After we finish our jobs here around October 1, we will slowly make our way south to Yuma. We are leaning towards coming back here for one more summer in 2019, and are just beginning plans to go to Alaska in 2020.  Our friends Karen and Al also want to go, and we hope to have a few other couples join us as well.  We don’t plan on working that summer, just exploring, so we have already begun saving for that trip.

After that, we would like to start exploring the eastern part of the United States.  That’s our plan for now, but we know things can always change.

Another change we are considering is down-sizing to a smaller RV, either a small class A (but still diesel), or a class C.  We’ve been looking, but not very serious yet.

And so the journey continues…..stay tuned!

Quote for the Day:  “Go for it now.  The future is promised to no one.” – Wayne Dyer

 

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