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Day 11: From sea to shining sea


240 miles

16mpg

Secret Oregon Coast Camoground: $26

The moon made it hard to get a starry photo, so I aimed instead for making 2am look like 2pm with a long exposure ( w/medium f-stop). When I’m at the laptop again, I’ll include the 360 link.

Left Pine Mountain Observatory at 5:15am. I had been nearly alone atop the mountain, sine it’s 8 dirt-road miles off Rt.20 bear Bend, OR. At some point an old coupe pulled into a spot, and whenever I looked over in the night, I’d see the glow of a lit cigarette. You never know.

The sun was rising as the moon set when I reached the bottom.

A note about Airstreams and dirt roads. I never shy away from them, since the view and isolated camp spots are usually worth it. What folks don’t often tell you is that you’ll need to spend 15 minutes at some point finding the screws that popped out, popped rivet heads, loose drawer handles, aluminum shavings…  The sliding panty comes out. The water pump turns on for no reason (no open faucet). Just something I expect now. Now that I have a 2k watt inverter, I bring a household upright vacuum.

Warning: this next paragraph is a little gruesome. If you’re squeamish, skip to the “Oregon smells great” paragraph.

I witnessed a disturbing “deer encounter” as I headed west up the pass from Sisters on 20. An F-150 in front of me hit a deer, and I pulled over on the wide shoulder to see if the driver was ok. An older gentleman got out of the car, and put most of his broken grille in the back seat. His car was steaming and I could smell antifreeze. The deer lay with its broken leg in the #2 lane, alive but suffering. I helped him drag it to the shoulder. It was panting and afraid. The man muttered something about a doctor appointment and got back in the car. Rather than back up and go around the deer, he drove straight forward, over its neck. I’m not making any political statement, but it was at this point I noticed his Trump “Make America great again” bumper sticker (I haven’t seen many in Oregon), and wrote down his plate number, just in case. I assumed I would see his overheated truck down the road in a few miles and I’d need to call it in, since there aren’t many services on those roads.

Perhaps he ran it over again to mercifully kill it? Perhaps he was in a hurry? I’ll never know.

I remained in my car to alert 911 to the injured deer in the hopes an officer or animal control could put it out of its misery. 

Later, I looked up what Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) suggests motorists do, since it’s not something I experience every day.

If you do hit and kill a large wild animal or see a dead one on the roadway, remove it to the side of the road if it is safe to do so. If this can’t be done safely, call Oregon State Police or 911. Position your vehicle in a safe way and turn on your hazard flashing lights to warn other motorists. If your vehicle is damaged, call OSP or 911 to report it.

Drivers should not take the animal home or attempt to dispose of it themselves. ODOT or county road maintenance crews are responsible for disposing of animals hit on roadways.

If the animal has been injured but is not dead, contact OSP or ODFW. Drivers should not put an animal down in this situation unless authorized by law enforcement or OSP.”

Now I know.


Oregon Smells Great!

As I was driving west I noticed a familiar and nostalgic odor: one of my favorite things about Oregon, and the Oregon coast. The Cascades smell like a musty bookshop. Not the classy kind w/hard-bound Shakespeare, but one with your grandma’s old copies of Erma Bombeck and slightly-used crossword puzzle books. I don’t know if it’s the volcanic soil, or ferns. I don’t care. I love it.

And at long last, I arrived at my secret Oregon coast campground mid-morning: that magical time when folks are checking out, and walk-up sites become available. I lucked out and locked in a waterfront site for 3 nights. $26×3

Please don’t ask me where this is (some  of you may know). If word got out, it would be even harder to get a spot… Can’t I have just this one secret?

Now I’ll stay put and walk a bit on the beach. It’s a happy place.

Guest blogger: Junior Ranger Tim (2 of 2)

Bears, Oh My!!
Junior Ranger Tim took advantage of a day in Teton National Park to see the mountains up close. Though the views are breathtaking from the lake, I knew the real gems required hiking up into the Tetons and away from the crowds.

Favorite brother Dan graciously loaned me his trusty VW Touareg for the day. After a 30 minute drive, I left the Lupine Meadows trailhead around 8:30 on the way to Amphitheater Lake. 10 miles round trip with 3000 feet of climbing.

I know this is off topic, but while preparing my body for the climb ahead I noticed this sign in the restroom. Although I am thankful to my mom and dad for all the important life lessons they taught me, this one must have slipped through the cracks.

The views while climbing were not ideal due to blowing smoke from a couple of nearby forest fires, but fire is necessary to keep the forest healthy.

Partway up the climb I had the pleasure of running into 3 friendly and charming ladies and their very experienced guide who were taking a break. After chatting a bit, they invited me to join them for the rest of the climb to the lake. I was surprised when we reached a lake before Amphitheater Lake and appropriately it was named Surprise Lake!!

After being forced under duress to take multiple pictures with many different phones/cameras, they agreed to pose with me for a picture.

Following a short break to admire the lake, we continued on up to Amphitheater Lake. The trail became hard to follow for this last .2 mile, but the guide did what he does best and got us there safely.

After fueling up, everyone got ready to head down the mountain. They graciously allowed me to start hiking a couple of minutes before them to clear the trail of any bears…so thoughtful. With about 1 mile to go until the trailhead I ran into a big black bear and 3 cubs in the middle of the trail. I was walking pretty fast with my head down and got about 20 feet away before I noticed them. After slowly backing up the trail, I grabbed and armed my bear spray. I watched them move through the woods, cross the trail uphill from me, and then wander away.

I arrived at the car around 1:45. It was a very scenic hike, but meeting and spending time with a great group of people made it memorable. I hope to run into them again someday. After driving back to camp I changed into a swimsuit and met Dan at the shore of Jackson Lake for a refreshing swim.

I’m writing this post from the Boise Airport. Dan just dropped me off and is on his way to the Oregon Coast. I’m flying back home to MD. As I reflect back on this great adventure with my brother, I remember back to last year when returning to work after our trip a co-worker asked me how the trip went. I told her it was a “trip of a lifetime.” This one was just as great and I hope that Dan invites me along again so we can create more memories and reminisce. He is such a generous brother and wouldn’t let me pay for anything on the trip (free vacation for me!). As a parting gift, I crafted (and promptly ate before spoiling) Dan’s name in marshmallows. He’s a performer so I think he has had his name in lights, but not marshmallows…and he was jealous of mine!

Day 10: 700 miles

700 miles

16mpg

Pine Mountain Observatory (Oregon): $0

Tim and I are always tired after a long drive.

1973:

1974:

2016:

Dropped Tim at the Boise Airport. We called to check if it was ok. Anything under 14.5′ can drive through. So we did.


Thank you, Tim, for sharing the first 3,000 miles with me.

It was a long day.

Tetons sunrise.


Tetons pass (10% grade)


700 miles. Took a risk on an 8 mile dirt road up to Pine Mountain Observatory. Worth it. And now I’m just 200 miles from the coast and have a shot at my favorite secret park overlooking the Pacific.

Look for some night shots if I can drag myself out of bed.

Guest blogger: Junior Ranger Tim (1 of 2)


Just wanted to share my latest epic hike with all of Dan’s blog followers. This is only my second guest posting so be gentle. It contains the same theme as last year’s blog with a strenuous hike to a breathtaking high-altitude view. A couple of lakes with fish enticed me to bring my fishing pole along this time. The destination was Stough Creek Basin in the Popo Agie Wilderness Area – a 7.5 mile hike from the Worthen Meadows trailhead.
There were reports of bears in the area so I hoped my brother would join me (bear taste buds prefer musicians), but I took along some bear spray instead.


My favorite (only) brother Dan graciously dropped me off at the trailhead around 7 and planned to pick me up at 5. As you can see I’m already feeling the effects of the altitude by messing up the register entry. 


Entered the wilderness area after about 1/2 mile.


The first 3 miles was a gradual climb with some meadows. Gotta love the hard work done by the trail crews to keep the meadow intact with a wood crossing.


After about 4 miles, the hike turned truly epic with my first view of the Wind River’s high country.


Couple forget a couple of wildflower shots for my Dad.


First view of one of the Stough Lakes.


I reached the lake around 10:30 after a hard 7-8 miles of hiking with around 2500 feet of climbing. Time to eat my first Big Mc of the day!


Fishing was great.


I planned to leave around 12:30 to give me plenty of time to get back before 5 and the shortcut up and over this peak was beckoning me.


The views were well worth the seared lungs.


BUT, my shortcut soon turned into a brutal longcut.


I thought I could intercept the trail home over this single mountain, but there was another one I had to go over. Once over the top of the first mountain the wind ceased, which allowed the mosquitos to unleash a withering attack. I was prepared to defend myself against bears, but left the bug spray at home. It got so bad at one point I considered using the bear spray, but then came to my senses before trying to kill a couple of the thousands of mosquitos with a whole bottle of bear spray.

Needless to say the trip back was very challenging. It took me about 4 hours to get back to the trailhead. To add insult to injury, just before reaching the trailhead I was passed by 2 female trail runners who kicked dust in my face while zooming past.


Hoping to catch a ride back to our camp from them, I picked up the pace only to get more of their dust as they pulled out of the lot in their car as I arrived. I’m sure they’ll apologize in person in the future.
Overall it was a great day. About 7 hard hours of hiking, but the 2 hours spent in the idyllic granite mountains and lakes was well worth it. Thanks, Dan.

Day 9: Beach Day

0 miles

Colter Bay Campground, WY: $25

While Tim had his hike in the Tetons, I walked to the swim branch at Colten Bay. There area worse views.

Since Tim is leaving this tour tomorrow, he’s working on a blog post with photos from his hikes. Stay tuned.

I’ve decided this photo will be his byline.


He made it himself! So crafty.

I would’ve had a nice 360 night shot of the lake with the Tetons in the background, but I think I ran into a bear in the dark, and I thought better of walking around the still campground and abandoned visitor center parking lot at “feeding time”.. Remind me to tell you about it someday.

Day 8: Uncertainty is OK

Day 8 was a study in contrast.

We woke up here…

…and ended up here.

In my experience, there are two main types of campers, at the extreme end of the spectrum:

  1. Hotel in the woods
  2. YOLO

“Hotel in the Woods” makes park reservations in advance (using Visa points), planning their itinerary with details rivaling a papal visit. HITW expects concierge-quality service at parks, and writes one-star Yelp reviews national parks.

“YOLO” like to be in the outdoors, sleep in a bag under the stars next to a campfire with friends and a few beers.

No judging. Just pointing out the two extremes.

I like to think of myself as a little more YOLO than HITW, but I recognize the irony in my writing this blog from a shiny aluminum trailer with a memory foam mattress.

My point is that camping with an allowance and acceptance of a degree uncertainty opens yourself up to a wider spectrum of enjoying the outdoors.

Normally, I wouldn’t have dreamed of trying to see Grand Teton and Yellowstone  NPs on a summer trip, let alone camp there. I did a little homework about the walk-in camping situation at both parks, headed out early, and took my chances. Yellowstone fills up by 7am in some parks. You can see (from my photo above) the line of RVs hoping for a spot here at Teton (Colter Bay) at 7am on a Tuesday morning. It speaks for itself. I was lucky, but I could have been turned away. Here’s my spot (the photo carefully leaves out the RVs around me…).

Not as epic as Frye Lake…


…but “embedded” in a gorgeous National Park, and near another. After we set up camp around noon, we headed to Yellowstone. Yes, there were crowds.


But we saw Old Faithful.


Tim added “Junior Ranger” to his Lieutenant Commander rank (retired Navy), with a collectible hat/bowl.


He biked back to our campground (38 miles?), and almost beat me home, with the traffic, stopping to gloat as he passed me.


I stopped to see Lewis Falls..


…and walked to the beach for a cold swim last evening, in the shadow of the Tetons.

IMG_9128[1]

My point is that at both ends of the spectrum, a little uncertainty will reap rewards, whether you’re a HITW, or a YOLO, or something in between. Don’t be afraid of it.

Day 8: BLM to NP

160 miles
16 mpg
Colter Bay Campground, Grand Teton National Park: $25

Quick post at the gas station, where I get two bars of Verizon LTE.

It was our last night at Frye Lake, so must make the most of it. The campground was nearly deserted.


The drive down the hill from Frye Lake was beautiful at 7 am.

Fun Fact: today, we crossed the continental divide 7 times. Once before Grand Tetons, then 3 times in, 3 times back from Old Faithful in Yellowstone.

And here we are, in the middle of summer, with no reservations, at one of the walk-in sites at GTN park. Arrived around noon. Everything in Yellowstone was full by mid-morning. The contrast from BLM campground to a popular national park in the height of its season is amazing…

More photos to come when I have a signal.

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