Monday, September 24, 2018

Wyoming - Yellowstone National Park - day 1

We entered the park on a sunny day and headed towards the iconic spots - Fountain Paint Pots and Old Faithful.  The other tourists were plentiful, and several of the parking lots were quite full.  We managed to find a spot every where we wanted to be, so it wasn't too bad.

Unfortunately, we were at Old Faithful when the jerk wandered out onto the geyser.  It's been all over the news and social media.  He sauntered out to the hole while smoking a cigarette.  Picked up some of the alkali and put it into his pocket.  Then he laid down to look into the geyser.

There were more than just a few of us that was hoping the geyser would blow while he was out there....ok that's not really very nice of me.... but I wasn't at all displeased to see him wearing a new set of handcuffs as he was put in the sheriffs car!  He seemed pretty pleased with himself.  Not sure how he'll feel with a year in jail and a $10,000 fine!

Anyway, all that time allowed us to be really ready for the geyser when it blew!

The sun was peeking in and out of clouds all day.  Mother nature came through with some nice dark background clouds and peeks of sun.  As with a lot of things that I'd experienced either previously as and adult or as a child, the perspective is a bit different.

I was last in Yellowstone in the winter for a snowmobiling trip, that my dear friend Char talked me into.  I would have sworn that the geyser on that cold day in February 2000 was much taller than on this day.  But then, I went to Disneyland as an adult and was so disappointed to see how small the Matterhorn ride is!

We continued our journey around the park to Artist Paint Pots and other scenic lookouts.

The colors were muted due to the overcast day.  But then some of the colors just seem unreal, like the photo at the top.

The trees in the pools are called bobbie sock trees.  The chemicals in the pools clogs the 'pores' of the cambium, starving the tree of nutrients, causing it to dye.  The result is quite interesting.

I know that there were several geysers that we should have stopped at, and there were several 'hot' spots that we could have passed.  We also saw the newly active Norris Basin Geyser shooting really high while we were passing by on the road.  It was loud and big!  By the time we got tot he parking lot for the feature, it had started to decrease.  It was cool to see that it made the front page of MSN! While the geysers are pretty impressive, but we were on the hunt for animals. Check in tomorrow!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Idaho- Victor to West Yellowstone

Lower Mesa Falls
 As I mentioned in and earlier blog post, we like to travel the less traveled roads.  It's easier to slow down for an out the window shot, or pull over for more time, or a walk, or just exploring.  We've found ourselves on several scenic byways and they always prove to be delightful, and lately, lightly traveled.  The Mesa Falls Scenic Byway from Ashton to Island Park was a good little drive.
Upper Mesa Falls
We've had such good weather, that we were quite disappointed with our overcast day.  Especially me as the fall spray creates a pretty dramatic rainbow in the bright sun - but not today! I only saw a hint of the rainbow as the sun sort of peeked out from the clouds.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Idaho - Wyoming- Grand Tetons

We spent two nights at the RV camp in Victor Idaho, a short 20 mile run into Jackson Hole Wyoming.  It is however, over the Teton Pass, a 10% grade.  Ten miles up, then 10 miles down!

We left Victor early in the morning, to get some good early light shots on the east side of the Tetons.  A few clouds played over the peaks as we drove along the valley floor.

We stopped at the little church of the Sacred Heart.  The stained glass in the chapel was very pretty.

We drove a loop around the lower end of the park, and found the traffic in the tourists spots and trailheads to be quite a challenge.  

These cars are several blocks from the visitor's center.  I can't imagine what the traffic would be like in the middle of June or July!

Constantly on the lookout for animals, we have been a bit disappointed in how few we've seen.  But, we did find a moose cow and her baby.  The weird hind legs, are actually the calfs head drinking water.  We arrived at this location late, as she soon headed into the bushes and this was the 'grab' shot.

We also seem to be a bit early for the trees to turn.  This little grove will be impressive in a few days, but we'll have moved on by then.

Our day looped us through Jackson Hole, then back over the hill to our campsite.  We'll head north into Yellowstone soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Idaho - RV issues update/solution

It's not often that we travel on the interstate highways.  We prefer the 'major' highways and smaller scenic roads.  The speed limit on the interstates being one reason!  Our top speed is 60, so doing 70 puts the rig at risk as well as increasing blow out potential.

In this case, we headed to Boise to Wilsons RV Repair to assess and hopefully fix our slide issue.

You can see that our 'bedroom slide is out, but the living room one is catywompus!

The short story, so we can get back to the good stuff, is the hydraulic ram that is under our bed for the bedroom slide is bad.  The seal has gone allowing  the fluid to just run through the system with out building up pressure to activate the other two rams.  Unfortunately, the fix requires us dismantling the bed to remove the ram to determine the size needed.   We opted to disable the bedroom slide - we can still get into bed, but have the other two slides open for living while we travel.
With the slides for the galley - left, and the living area- right in.  To reach the refer you climb over the counter!

We will get to wherever we decide to set up camp for the winter, or at least for a while, and proceed with the  repairs then.

Now armed with that information, Matt from Wilson's RV had us up and ready to go in 4 hours!   They are a great shop, did a good job and had extremely fair pricing.  If you're ever in the Boise area, and need RV repairs, they're your guys!

So, back onto the interstate we went.  I found us a campsite in Victor Idaho, so we could enjoy the 'fast' drive.

Tom had found a 'birding hot spot' on route, so a short stop was in order.  On the way out, we found this lovely falls.  Falls Creek is the campground, and this is the Falls of Falls Creek!

On the way to Victor - wheat fields
Victor Idaho is just west of the Tetons.  Sun rises over the tops of them to shine on the lovely little town.  We are both very attracted to the town.  Small, only a couple thousand residents, but a very good vibe and seems to be up and coming.   If they only weren't so snow bound in the winter, but who knows where we might end up.  After all that's what a big part of this traveling is all about.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Oregon- Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

For most of my childhood through high school, I grew up in a small town, about a ½ mile from the beaches of Puget Sound.  Salt water and sea level.   My travels as an adult took me many places, mostly on or near the ocean or sea.  Living on a cruising sailboat pretty much guaranteed that I was going to continue to be near the sea! 

I’m now experiencing, for the first time that I can recall, a truly dry, high desert climate. Eastern Oregon is about a mile high. It’s dry.  There is very little humidity.  It’s dusty.  Did I mention dry? Oh, and let’s not forget to add in all the smoke from the forest fires in the western states! My skin, cuticles, hair and eyes, not to mention my sinuses don’t quite know what to do!  I can’t seem to get enough fluids in me! My hair is staticky and almost board straight. While brushing my hair, I feel like I’m in that science experiment where you place your hand on the electrically charged globe and your hair stands on end, only without the charged globe!  

And then we arrive at Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge, north of Lakeview Oregon.  This area is on the Pacific Flyway for the bird migration from South America to the Arctic.  We seem to be a bit early for the southerly migration as there are not many birds around.  And, there is not much water.  But there is lots of dry!

It is really, really dry here.  There are ponds that haven’t seen water in quite a while, like maybe several years. So, we drive on the refuge’s dirt roads, sending up big clouds of brown dust searching for an elusive bird or two that might be early or decided to summer over here.
We have to be sure to roll the windows up quickly in the case of a passing car, or we make a bird stop. But, no matter, the dust is everywhere. Our white truck is now the color of the tan interior!  

With a couple of tips from a volunteer worker at the refuge center, who also happens to be a wildlife photographer, we headed to a few good ‘local knowledge’ viewing spots.   Tom managed to check off of his list 3 different owls in one afternoon, and a 4ththe next day. The Barn Owl, the Short-Eared owl, the Great Horned owl and the Burrowing Owl.

Can you spot the owls in this shot? There are two of them.

You’re looking for Burrowing Owls.  They take over a rabbit’s burrow, sit around camp during the day, and wander out in the evenings to hunt.  Sometimes in the late afternoon they can be seen sitting on nearby fenceposts… but not today.

Here’s a close up of them… see the eyes poking up over the mound? Without the help of another photographer, we never would have spotted these guys.  There are five of them, but only two are visible.

The resident Great Horned Owl was taking a nap on a tree in the visitor’s center.

Due to the extreme dry, the smoky skies and the dust on everything, the colors of the refuge seemed to be very muted, like soft watercolors.  Some of the dry ponds and fields have had some interesting color patterns.  Makes me think about getting shots with a drone to see the patterns better.  We haven’t had a clear day for scenic shots, so everything seems dim, somewhat hazy.  I’m sure a couple hours of rain would lay the dust down and brighten things up.  But then our ‘sunshine’ streak would be over! We’ve seen 6 days of rain since leaving Mexico in February and traveling around the world.  So, here’s a case of good and bad.  I’d like to see the rain clear up things, but I really like the sunshine.

So, I’ll keep working hard to stay hydrated, my skin sun-screened and hair conditioned.  I’m in the desert and the scenery tends to be muted, so my photos will be a bit like that also. Keeping my lenses and gear dust- free may just be a full-time job!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Oregon - RV Issues

Our camp site with Hart Mountain in the background

When I started this Beyond the Big Left Turn blog, I decided that I wasn’t going to bore you with our adventures of owning a used RV and being rookies at it.  We’ve had several adventures, but to hear them, you’ll have to provide the wine, or rum!  Instead, this blog was to be, and will be about the places that we visit, and the sights and images that I find appealing.  Obviously, as life goes, there will be a different sort of story for you.  This is one of those.

Upon arrival at our campsite at Hart Mountain, we had trouble getting our slides to open up. They didn’t.  Tom futzed and played and checked all the wiring.  We added more hydraulic fluid and bled the lines. Still no go. Rather than getting the slides stuck in the out position, and being 75 miles from any sort of town, we opted to keep them closed and returned back to Lakeview to see about repairs.

A large part of our trip plan was to travel with Tom’s sister Sue, and husband Jeff. We haven’t been able to spend much time with them since leaving Seattle in 2011, and had hoped to do that on this trip. Since they only have a month to do this travel, they continued towards Yellowstone, as we were now uncertain of our timing for the fix. We will hope to meet up with them for some camping together later this week.


We were able to drive towards town to get cell coverage and call for a mechanic to take a look at it in the morning.  Ray at Max’s Garage, came highly recommended for RV repairs, even though his specialty is big rigs and farm equipment.
One out of three slides.....

After looking at it, the mechanic felt that our hydraulic pump was not getting enough pressure and needed to be replaced.  He made many calls to his contacts in between fixing other trucks and gear. Being frustrated by just sitting, I got on the internet and was able to source a replacement pump/motor.  It was ordered and was to arrive from Portland the next day.  

It arrived too late in the day for the mechanic to install it, so Tom and I removed the old one, and got the new one in place.  Wiring hooked up, and the tank full of fluid – and still no go. We could have taken the rig back to Max’s the next morning, but really felt that it was time to see an RV specialist.

Since this was Thursday and we really couldn’t get anywhere to a repair shop until the first of the week, we headed north to the Malhuer National Wildlife Refuge, our next planned stop, about 120 miles away. 

Even with the slides in, we still have access to the bed, bathroom and the refrigerator by climbing over the kitchen island.  A bit awkward, but we can do it, especially with cooking outside on our campstove. We did have to stop and buy a skillet, as my pans are in a cupboard that isn’t accessible.  So, we spent the weekend exploring a good portion of the 187,000 acres of the refuge.  You can find my images of Malhuer on a separate post.

While searching for a pump, I had spoken with a couple of RV shops regarding assistance.  Wilson’s RV in Boise was helpful and called me back. I made an appointment with them for Tuesday morning.  

It’s now Monday night, and we’re in Boise at a very full RV park, right next to I-84 freeway and about ¼ mile from the Boise airport.  No worries about noise from the planes… we couldn’t hear them due to the noise from the highway!

We’ve been to the shop the check out the route and their parking.  We’ll be there at 7:15am for our 7:30 appointment.  We’ll let you know how it all turns out.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Oregon - Hart Mountain


Frolicking at the Lakeview Oregon roundup was a lot of fun, but we were ready to head north, to Hart Mountain.  Tom has many fond memories of times spent at the mountain and in the nearby town of Plush. He, and Jeff, his brother in law, spent their high school summers in Plush working at a ranch, haying and running cattle and being a cowboy.
The view from Warner Lookout

Since our cell phone coverage is pretty much non-existent, we are using radios to communicate between the vehicles while underway and in campgrounds.  As we passed by their former employers ranch and saw the dilapidated bunk houses they spent summers in, there was lots of laughter on the radio reminiscing about practical jokes – a mouse and a bull snake were two, and several other ‘remembers?....’

 A local bull snake....

My first look at Hart Mountain

the locals

After seeing Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge for the first time, I think it should be called Hart Mesa.  It’s flat on top! Yes, you drive up the side of it, but it’s flat on the top!
Being a National Antelope Refuge we did see antelope, but not as many as I expected.  And we were out both late and early looking.  I’m told that the late afternoon to after sunset drive we all did together, took us right past the area where the highest concentration of antelope generally congregate.  We passed by the area when it was too dark to see much of anything other than bunnies hopping across the road.

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A favorite spot of Tom, Sue and Jeff’s is at Hot Springs Campground.  We passed through here on the afternoon drive, then Tom and I returned the next morning for some bird hunting.

testing the waters

While Tom was busy in the willows chasing little birds, I wandered off through the field towards the hot springs.  I was perfectly content to wander along and take photos with my superwide lens.

I wandered then got on my knees to compose shots, even laying flat out on the ground for a couple.






I was having a very enjoyable morning taking lots of ‘fun’ shots…..until I found this….


No more laying on the ground for me!

After rejoining Tom we headed off to Rock Creek, towards the northern end of the refuge to an area that he hadn’t been to before.


A small, seldom used road led us to an old home and log cabin building.  Both were in really bad shape.  With several decaying structures around – a home, the cabin, several corals and small barn, it must have been a happening spot at one time.



The sun set on the reddish hillsides where there used to be tons of big horn sheep.  Evidently the local mountain lion population is very fond of big horn sheep.  About 10 years ago, the population was about 800.  Today there are about 200 in the park.  Many have been outfitted with radio transmitters to follow them.  When the beacons become inactive and tracked, the evidence of cat attacks has been noted.   Our camp neighbors, hunters with 1 of the three hunting tags awarded for this 10 day of hunting, had been scouting for 4 different weekends, and hadn’t seen an animal yet.  Too bad, as I was looking forward to sitting in our camp to watch them on the hillside. 


The Hart Mountain area is pretty.  It’s also flat, dry and rather bleak until you look closely.  We’ll be back to see it in springtime after the snow has melted and turned everything green!
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