Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Day Trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone

We arrived in Mountain Home on a Monday evening, and that Saturday we decided to take a drive to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. It's really only a five hour drive, so not that bad at all. In Ohio, we lived six hours from the Smoky Mountains and we drove down there all the time! We just had to go see this beautfil place again, the last time we were there was 2009.
So, we woke up bright and early (5am), packed up the Dakota since we'd be gone all day and set out on our way. The plan was to drive to Jackson and into the Tetons and come back home. Well, on the way we decided we would be so close to Yellowstone, we should go there too! We are incredibly spontaneous.
Just before Jackson there was this beautiful put-in for kayakers. We got out to stretch all of our legs and take some pictures.
I can see why it's popular with the kayakers - we're definitately not up for rapids like that yet. : )

We got into Teton and stopped at the first visitor's center and spent some money. Bought a few things, including a Teton ornament. We've started collecting Christmas ornaments from the National Parks we visit together as another way to commemorate our travels. Plus, I love spending money in parks, any way to give back!
Just a little ways north of the visitor's center we saw a few cars along the side of the road. We thought  it might be an elk-jam considering the area...but it was just for magpies!

Just kidding! It was for this gorgeous grizzly right by the road. Within minutes of our arrival a ranger showed up to usher people away, the bear was really close to the road. Digging for grubs and paying us no mind. It's my best grizzly shot to date. 

We wound our way further north and reached Yellowstone. We drove slow, and stopped a lot, just taking in the scenery and trying to find all the birds we could!

I was seeing these large gray birds flying in the trees and whenever we would stop to try and ID them, they were gone. I was starting to think they were Clark's Nutcrakers. But, finally there was a pair eating some roadkill. Pleasantly posing for photos before we drove on and we found out they were Gray Jays. Still, a new species for me!

We stopped at the Old Faithful area and checked out their new visitor's center. This building was under construction when we were here last. It's quite beautiful. We didn't buy anything, the larger gift shop was closed for the season. We'll have to go back next summer, shucks!

We left through West Yellowstone around 5pm. After seeing the standard bison and large bull elk. The rivers along here were super busy with flyfisher people. And I can see why, fish and beautiful scenery, what could be better?
As we left the park I called my mom to tell her about our awesome day. I told her about all we'd seen and we lamented that I had not seen a moose. I'd never seen a moose in the wild, despite them being one of my favorite animals from a very young age. Andrew and I took a scenic road as a last minute decision and down the road a ways I saw something large crossing the road. Andrew started speeding forward to reach it. I was frantically reaching for my binoculars thinking maybe it was a large cow and saw it was a...

As soon as I realized what it was my eyes started to tear up and I was telling Andrew I was going to cry! I managed to stay calm enough to take some pictures and enjoy this awesome, gangly, young bull moose wander into the woods.
It was all kinds of magical.
What a wonderful Saturday it was, we even made it home by midnight! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Adventures in Bruneau Dunes State Park

We are lucky enough to live just a few short miles from a very nice state park: Bruneau Dunes. And, like the title suggests, there are some lovely sand dunes in this park, two rather larges ones by a lake. They make for pretty pictures. We've found ourselves there a few times since we've been here since it's about a 15 minute drive from base.
The first night we got there rather late, we went on a whim and got there as the sun was heading down over the dunes. We just spent a little while walking around and taking some pictures.

We had an awesome encounter with a great horned owl, that seemed to be rather mad than we were in its space! It probably didn't help that I was crawling in the sand towards where the owl was making sounds...

The second time we went, we purposely headed out just before sunset so we could set up the telescope and get a good look at Venus in the southwestern sky. 
Bruneau is a great place for stargazing, there are very few (dim) lights in the campgrounds which are far enough away from the dunes that it gets very dark right after sundown. The silence is something, too! It's so quiet you can feel the silence pressing in on your ears, amazing considering you are only 15 miles from town!
We kipped out on the sand and waited for the stars...and they delivered.

There was a fire in the agricultural valley near Bruneau, that's what's lighting up this shot. See the Big Dipper?  And the streak of light is what we think was the International Space Station. It was moving so fast, and was much lower than a standard satellite. Which lead us to think it was the ISS. 

On another day we found ourselves back in the Bruneau a more remote section looking for a trail that was supposed to lead to Indian Hot Springs. The guide we were using was giving horrible directions and failed to mention the road back there might require technical 4x4. 
Because within minutes we found a giant sand pit covering the road. About 12-14" of fine, powdery sand and no way around it. Andrew barreled through in our Subaru while I took pictures. (Horrible pictures because it was on manual focus from star pictures)
It was bad, the car could very easily gotten stuck and we are very lucky. About 20 miles from anywhere, in a desert with no service.  Adventure, right?

 We were indeed dusty. The trail didn't even pan out, because down the road it turned into a techincal rock climb and we had to turn around and drive through the dreaded sand pit again.
It is quite beautiful out there.
We went along the road to Bruneau Canyon, and saw this sign.  Ok, then. : )

Bruneau is awesome, and we've only seen a small portion of it. We look forward to hiking some more trails, and hopefully avoiding anymore dangerous roads.
Oh, and a cow.

The Big Move

Well, it's been a crazy few weeks. It's hard to believe we left Ohio on October 5th. We spent a week in Minnesota visiting with family and just hanging out. On the way we were in for some rather flat scenery. I-90 through Minnesota and South Dakota are the most boring sections of 90 across the country. At least the sun was shining and it was a beautiful crisp fall morning when we left Minnesota. But flat...see the flat.

We finally found some snow outside Rapid City, SD. And a lot of dead cattle. We're quite lucky we didn't drive through here a week earlier because the area had a massive snow storm in which thousands of cattle were stranded and unfortunately died. In places, there were just piles of cows, it was quite disturbing to see. 

We arrived in Rapid City pretty early and after stretching our legs and letting the pets run around the hotel room, we put Dakota back in the car and went for a little drive.

After a horrible nights sleep  (we were right by the stairwell, and some kind of party was happening) we were on the next leg of our journey. So we drove through the rest of South Dakota into Wyoming. 

And then into Montana, where an hour outside Bozeman it started to snow like crazy. 

The snow was sticking to the roads and making a terrible mess of everything, thankfully we were staying in Bozeman, I would have hated to drive much further in the snow. During the drive, my car rolled over to 90,000 miles. The car is 5 years old...

After a better nights sleep, and a delicious made to order breakfast at our hotel we were on our way. We decided to cut down through Yellowstone for a bit of scenic driving. Of course, as soon as we left the Bozeman valley we hit more snow! But it was beautiful. There's Andrew's car up ahead, leading the way!

Everything was so pretty, it was really too bad we were in separate cars, it would have been nice to just enjoy the scenery. In this spot in Yellowstone we saw a mama bear and her two cubs crossing the road.
Down the road we left the park and drove through West Yellowstone and finally we reached:

Our next home state for who knows how long. 
 We stopped at a scenic overlook at Craters of the Moon and took some pictures. We'll definitely have to come back here, there are some awesome lava rocks and formations, it does kind of look like the moon!

Then, we finally arrived in Mountain Home, and after only one day we were able to move into a house on total miracle. This is a picture of our backyard. 
We've been having adventure after adventure since we got here, there are a lot more pictures and stories to come. We absolutely love it here!