Sunday, June 29, 2014

Jackson, WY & Grand Tetons: Meadows to Mountains, Whitewater to Waffles

The journey continues.  From Zion in Utah, we proceed to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming.  "Grand Teton" apparently means "large teat" in French (and really, who doesn't love a great boob pun?) but Philip swears that it means "we didn't pack warm enough clothes" in English.  Dorothy, we're not in Arizona anymore! Clouds -- rain -- driving hail -- YES PLEASE!!!

On the road

One of our favorite locations was Jenny Lake, where we hiked with the doggies and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery of the National Park.  You can take a boat across the lake and then hike up a glacier, but us Phoenicians were not adequately outfitted for such cold-weather activities -- but we're figuring it out quickly!

Downtown Jackson was delightful in every way, with a town square and iconic elk antlers arches at each of the four corners.  I tried very hard not to think about the furry friends that used to be attached to these antlers.  Everything about Jackson just screams "old west," but not in a corny way -- just good clean Western fun!

Philip bought me some new cowgirl lingerie!  Kidding.

But our favorite find was a local bar called the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, which was the first bar in the state of Wyoming to receive its liquor license after the end of prohibition in 1937.  Check out the great artwork over the bar, and the saddle barstools.  Yee-haw!!!  Totally fun and the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night in Jackson.

When planning this trip, I asked Philip what he really wanted to do while in Jackson.  "Why, I think we should go up 10,000 feet and see if we can find any waffles up there!" he answered.  So, never wanting to disappoint my man, we took the tram to the top of Jackson Hole Ski Resort, to indulge in the Brown Sugar Butter Waffles for which the restaurant (shack) "Corbets Cabin" at the top is world-famous.  The tram rises 4,139 vertical feet, with temps dropping from the mid-60's to low-30's, in 12 short minutes.  The 360-degree views from up above are spectacular, but the waffles were even more amazing!

Another "must-do" on our list was a rafting trip down the Snake River, which twists and turns for over 1,000 miles from Yellowstone through Grand Teton and ultimately to the Pacific Ocean.  See it there?

We rafted eight miles down the Snake in water that was cold, cold, cold.  Even with wetsuits, it was cold! .... Philip:  "I haven't been this small since I was ten years old."  LOL!  Besides unbelievable beauty, we encountered eight different rapids, the biggest of which were Class 3 and in which we got VERY wet.  On the last rapid, we spun in circles (intentionally) (I think) by the left 3 paddling forward and the right 3 paddling backwards all through the rapid.  Again ... yeeeee - hawwwww!


Because our home in Phoenix is in a beloved community called "Spur Circle," I have made it a passion to collect spur-related photographs!  Check out the additions to my collection during the first week of this vacation!

Next, we sally forth to Yellowstone National Park, approximately 100 miles north of Jackson, where we will meet up with Phoenix friends who are also RV'ing it.  Before we pull out of this delightful little town, let it be noted that the fine citizens of Jackson have a terrific sense of humor!



UMMMM ....... YAH!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Zion National Park, UT: 85% Wilderness, 100% Awesome

Leaving Page, AZ, our next destination was Zion National Park on the southern edge of Utah.  Steep cliffs, narrow canyons, and a park that has remained over 85% wilderness (according to our expert source: the front of a t-shirt in the gift shop) had us excited to get to see this park up close and personal!

Sheer cliff drops of 3000 feet or more!  People die while  rappelling and hiking these mountains ALL THE TIME!

To enter the Park, one must go through the Zion - Mt. Carmel Tunnel, which having been built in the 1920's when everything (dinner portions, Americans' waistlines, sports stars' egos) were smaller, cannot accommodate single lanes of larger vehicles.  So, RV's require a special "ESCORT SERVICE."  Philip was very excited to employ an escort service, until I explained it wasn't that kind of an escort service.  Rather, we would pay a $15 fee that would cause the rangers to stop oncoming traffic so that we could drive right smack dab down the center of the road in the 1.1 mile long tunnel, ostensibly while humming the 1964's classic Roger Miller song, "King of the Road."

The Zion Canyon RV Campground is perfection, situated just outside the West entrance to the park.  This RV Park has a lot going for it, most notably its location right under the towering rocks of "The Watchman" mountain of Zion.

The other reason we learned to love this RV park was the huge, clean, bright laundry room.  Why oh why, you might ask, would we need a laundry room on the 3rd day of the trip?!!!  Well, if you must know, its importance was magnified when we discovered that a small dog (who shall remain nameless) had peed in our bed (Philip's side -- hmmm). WTH!

Lastly, our site is nestled up literally on the banks of the Virgin River, allowing lots of splashy play time with the puppy-girls.  See the Lucky Charm right there in the background on the right?

Zion is not particularly dog-friendly, and dogs are not generally allowed, well, anywhere, except for one sweet 3.5-mile paved trail with lots of beauty all around.  We imagined since it was the only pet- and bike-friendly trail in all of Zion, it would be a superhighway of activity.  Bikes zooming by!  Pets snarling and charging at each other! People sidestepping each other and glaring at those taking a slower pace!  Imagine our delight when we had practically the whole thing to ourselves.  We had just learned the most important lesson to avoiding crowds in national parks ... go early!  Easy to do when you forget to close the miniblinds on the RV and the dogs therefore wake you up by jumping on the bed at the-crack-of-early.

This interesting formation is called "Checkerboard Mesa" -- the horizontal lines were formed from wind and shifting sand, and the more vertical lines are caused by joint fracturing of the rock.  You have just learned 100% of our combined knowledge of geology.

Zion offers "Ride With A Ranger" Programs for a mere 30 people per day, but their Marketing Department must really suck, because literally nobody knows about this program so we were therefore able to secure a spot.  It was awesome to have a (very young) (very enthusiastic) ranger explain everything we could possibly want to know about Zion during a beautiful, private, two-hour ride through the Zion Canyon.  Free! Absolutely free!

There are tons of rental RV's all around, and the CruiseAmerica brand has photos of charming small children, adorable pets, and perky senior citizens looking out the door window.  We loved them!  So cute!  So clever!  UNTIL of these rentals moved in to the site next door, and Sprinkles proceeded to growl and bark at the "intruder" until she grew hoarse and finally decided she had "won" since that other dog was obviously completely frozen in fear.

After Zion, we are headed to Jackson, WY and the Grand Tetons.  Check out Philip's awesome mobile office!  He can work while I drive, with the added benefit that I can spot a Dairy Queen from two miles away.  It's the perfect arrangement.  See you soon from Jackson Hole!