Mountains are Callin – Again

Our time in Oregon was pretty spectacular.  It always great to see new territory and visit with family, friends and shipmates. The journey through eastern Oregon was magnificent. Scenic route US Hwy 26 was a spectacular drive. Our first stop in Idaho was Mountain Home AFB FamCamp. Unfortunately, the park was full, but the camp host showed us where Overflow (dry camping) was and we roosted for the night. Deb and I have enjoyed the military campgrounds in our travels. Being on base provides a degree of comfort and security that we appreciate, not to mention all the perks of the exchange, commissary and convenience stores that are always nearby.

Our initial Idaho adventure was to see Shoshone Falls. Nicknamed “The Niagara of the West”, it’s 212-foot drop, is one of the largest natural waterfalls in the USA. We managed to drive the rig with the Jeep down to a parking lot within walking distance to the falls. The narrow road had a couple switchbacks that could have been interesting if we had encountered oncoming traffic. Fortunately, no close encounters, just some “white knuckles” to show for our interest in getting close to the falls.

The 200 mile drive down I-84 brought us back to a familiar Hill AFB for a few days to visit some of areas that were still on our bucket list.

Deb and I have enjoyed visiting train museums and rail yards, we were fortunate to visit the Golden Spike National Historical Park. This year was the 150th anniversary of the site where the last spike was driven. We observed a reenactment where they completed the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.

Ogden Utah is an interesting rail town. We had intentions of visiting the Union Pacific Railroad Museum but were distracted by the downtown street market and craft show so we spent most of the day street walking and checking out the local artisans.

This year we were determined to make it to the Ogden Union Station, formerly the junction of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads.

Although, no longer a railway center, the building remains a cultural hub: we visited the Utah State Railroad Museum, the Spencer S. Eccles Rail Center, the Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and the Browning-Kimball Classic Car Museum. Quite a collection of diverse local history, all under one roof.

The drive to the Grand Teton National Park from Ogden is one of the best scenic drives around. Logan Canyon Scenic Byway from Logan to Garden City up through to the Wasatch-Cache National Forest following the Logan River is breathtaking.

While in Garden City be sure to stop at Merlins Diner for an awesome burger and raspberry shake.

US Hwy 89  then meanders up through Ashon to Alpine where you follow the Snake river into Jackson Hole and into the park.

We were hampered by inclimate weather (rain) then smoke from distant wildfires that completely cloaked the majestic peaks during our last stay.  This year we were fortunate to stay closer to the park at the Flagg Ranch Campground which is located between Tetons & Yellowstone National Park on the John D Rockefeller Parkway.

The morning light was as breathtaking as we had hoped for at Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher Landing and the “iconic” Moulton Barn. Millions of photos are taken at these places and I would have to say, justice is NOT served in pictures. The experience of being there far outweighs what we hope to capture in our photographic memories.

We acted like tourists one day and visited Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The highlight of the day was lunch at the Roadhouse Pub & Eatery. DO NOT leave the place without ordering the Duck Poutine French Fries, Au Poivre Sauce, Duck Confit with Fried Cheese Curds. Definitely a “Foody-Moment”.

Regardless of where we go and what we plan to see, Deb ALWAYS calls an audible that takes us to places that we had no idea existed. Teton Pass Highway – here we come! Off to Idaho to see the “other side” of the Tetons. The Pass is quite an adventure in itself, so glad we weren’t driving the Black Pearl, the 10% grades up and down would have been nerve racking.

Wyoming Hwy 22 becomes Idaho Hwy 33 after you cross the state line, up through Victor, then the roadside eye candy begun. The vintage Spud Drive In Theater was a classic, the truck out front was a treat.

Up the road, we turned on State Hwy 32 and discovered we were following an old railroad grade that is now the Ashton-Tetonia Trail State Park. It’s a 29.6-mile rail-trail conversion built on the former Teton Valley Branch of the Union Pacific Railroad from Ashton to Tetonia, Idaho.

Along its path were the grain silos that once lined the railway. It was a spectacular sight to see these towers amongst the amber waves of grain.

We picked up US Hwy 20 in Ashton, crossed Henry’s Fork River, up through Island Park and Big Springs, past Henry’s Lake and quickly into West Yellowstone, Montana.

A pitstop for ice cream and we were quickly off to Yellowstone National Park. To put things into perspective, Yellowstone is  3,472 square miles or 2,221,766 acres. In our previous trips to this park we had used the North and South Entrances. Entering the park from the West on US Hwy 191, let us follow along the Madison River, we drove past the tourist laden Grand Prismatic Spring, Morning Glory Pool and Old Faithful.

We continued our journey and stopped at the Kepler Cascades on Firehole River, crossed the Continental Divide at Craig Pass, then began our southerly route to the South Entrance on US Hwy 89. A puppy stop at Lewis Lake Campground, past Moose Falls and we were soon back to Flagg Ranch campground near the shores of the Snake river.

The drive to Cheyenne started on US Hwy 191, the John D Rockefeller Memorial Parkway. Down past Jackson Lake in the Grand Teton National Park to Moran where we headed east on US Hwy 26. This route was a beautiful surprise. Over the Continental Divide, past the North Breccia Cliffs and followed the headwaters of the Wind River and past Rolling hills & periodic red rock cliffs. Dubois was the only significant town on this route until we headed south on US Hwy 287.

We motored through Fort Washakie, Lander and then Rawlins before we hopped on I-80 East to Cheyenne where we would stay at the Famcamp at F.E Warren Air Force Base.

We stayed here for a few days last year and it was nice to be back for a longer stay. Cheyenne is famous for its Frontier Days, which takes place each summer during the last full week in July. Thankfully we missed the chaos of that world-famous event.

We visited several Antique malls in Cheyenne that were really interesting. So much cowboy / western memorabilia that we weren’t accustomed to seeing. Deb also found an old cool camera and we discovered an awesome Asian Fusion place for lunch. If you ever visit Cheyenne, check out Bejo Sushi & Asian Cuisine. Top shelf.

A bit of history on vintage steam locomotives. 25 Union Pacific “Big Boys” were built to haul freight over the Wasatch mountains between Ogden, Utah, and Green River, Wyoming, later they were reassigned to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where they hauled freight over Sherman Hill to Laramie, Wyoming. Big Boys” were the only locomotives to use a 4-8-8-4-wheel arrangement: four-wheel leading truck for stability entering curves, two sets of eight driving wheels and a four-wheel trailing truck to support the large firebox. Whew,, enough choo-choo lingo! Today, there are only 8 remaining. Cheyenne has two of them! We visited Holliday Park which hosts the 4004.

Nearby at the Union Pacific Steam Shop is the home of the recently restored 4014. Union Pacific’s historic Big Boy steam locomotive No. 4014 toured the Union Pacific system throughout 2019 to commemorate the transcontinental railroad’s 150th anniversary.

While in Cheyenne, we kenneled the dogs and did a day trip to Brush, Colorado. Why, you ask? You just  cannot pass up a chance to see your grandson play football!

The timing and logistics fell into place so we could meet our daughter and her family before our Labor Day visit in Wray. It was awesome to see Andi, Troy, Wesley, Josh & Taryn! Football game was fun, and we had dinner and a nice visit at the local Mexican restaurant before we headed back to Cheyenne.

Soon we were off to Wray to spend Labor Day weekend with Andi’s family. The drive east on I-80 gave us the opportunity to stop in Sydney, Nebraska where the Cabela family began its sporting goods empire with a whopping 85,000-square-foot store in 1961. Quite an experience as Deb and I have visited many Cabela’s as we have traveled across America. Recently, to our dismay, it has been bought out by Bass Pro Shop (BPS) and the Cabela’s era has come to end. Yes, the stores still bear the name but no longer carry the Cabela’s merchandise that we enjoyed.

Soon we exited off I-80 to US Hwy 385 and arrived in Wray at the Hitchin Post RV Park. A fun filled five days with the kids/grandkids. Seen some of the local sights, a place called Flirtation Rock which was the site of the First Masonic Meeting in eastern Colorado in 1886, we had a nice morning puppy stroll on the Wray Walking Path, Wesley rode his bike, Josh walked Matilde and Taryn inched along on her roller skates.

We drove out to the Battle of Beecher Island along the Arikaree River. The site is notable for having been the scene of an 1868-armed conflict between elements of the United States Army and several of the Plains Indian tribes.

Deb and I took a drive to see Bonny Dam. We got a crash course in water rights between states and the resulting impact. Its closure had a significant ramifications on water availability for that part of Colorado and its recreational benefits that were lost. Bonny Reservoir was drained in 2011. It formerly had a water surface area of over 2000 acres, a maximum capacity of 170,160 acre-feet, and a shoreline of about 15 miles. All water was released downstream to flow across the Kansas state border, about six miles to the east, to satisfy a May 2003 United States Supreme Court decision on a dispute arising from the Republican River Compact.

Our last hurrah with the daughter’s family was an outing to Burlington and a free waterpark. A perfect day for a picnic, we had a nice time and enjoyed the sunny weather.

Nearby was the fully restored Kit Carson County carousel featuring hand-carved and painted wood animals crafted by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1905. We toured the museum as we were waiting for the carousel ride. The Carousel features 46 hand carved animals that have been restored to their original paint. The animals have intricate carvings, detailed coats, real antlers on the deer and real horse tails on many of the horses.

Labor Day Weekend with the kids was in the books, we were off to Colorado Springs for our last stop in Colorado.. A short drive down US Hwy 385 got us to Burlington where we hopped on I-70 to US Hwy 24 that took us right into Colorado Springs.

The US Air Force Academy is a beautiful base. For those that are RV’ers like us, your odds of getting a site at the FAMCAMP during the fall increase significantly if its NOT a football weekend. Nice trails on the base allowed to walk the dogs daily while we were here.

Colorado Springs has one of our favorite restaurants downtown, The King Chef Diner has some of the best green chili sauce around. Fittingly I always order the The Grump…A mound of hash browns, your choice of (Bacon, Ham, Sausage or Fakie), grilled yellow onions, shredded cheese, another mound of hash browns, two eggs all stacked up then smothered in our homemade country gravy and topped with more shredded cheese. 1/2 Order (1 potato, half the meat, and two eggs). Definitely NOT a lo-carb meal…LOL.

There seems to be an ongoing debate who’s is better, Pueblo green chiles or Hatch, NM. When we get back down to New Mexico we will have to decide,,,, AGAIN.

Garden of the Gods is on the outskirts of town and always a photo op heaven with the contrasting red rocks, blue skies and a few white puffy clouds. Off in the distance, you can see the iconic Pikes Peak.

Anxious for a little off-road adventure, Deb found Rampart Range Road near Woodland Park.  After about 10 miles of washboard hell, we found Johns Gulch Road and thought that would get us down off the mountain without any further teeth jarring and puppy bouncing. A spectacular, easy two track that weavy winding through the forest until we were thwarted by a downed tree and a cable across the road that ended our adventure.

We got back on State Hwy 24 W at Woodland Park and headed off to the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. Beneath a grassy mountain valley in central Colorado lies one of the richest and most diverse fossil deposits in the world. Petrified redwood stumps up to 14 feet wide and thousands of detailed fossils of insects and plants reveal the story of a very different, prehistoric Colorado. A short stop at the visitor center and a dog walk capped our stay as we wanted to visit some of Colorado’s mining towns ahead.

Teller County Rd 1 took us past dog Head Peak, Dome Rock and Mount Pisgah as we made our way to Cripple Creek and Victor, Colorado.

Cripple Creek was a prominent gold mining town , as well as its nearby neighbor community Victor. Mining is still being conducted in the area but since legal gambling was authorized in the early nineties, many of the old historic buildings are now occupied by casinos. The skeletal remains of the mining towers that have been preserved and/or restored still stand, while many others are severely weathered and left to decay.

Our return to Colorado Springs on State Hwy 67 took us past familiar territory from a previous visit. Pike’s Peak loomed in the distance. Its fall color majesty was only a fraction last year’s glory. Once again, our time in the mountains has ended and a new chapter in New Mexico awaits.

4 thoughts on “Mountains are Callin – Again

  1. Wow, I so would love those fries with Duck grave and fried cheese curds. You two went through some amazing parts of the country, gorgeous pictures. Have you went to Devils Tower yet? They have a KOA there right by it, awesome! Hope you winter has been decent, ours has not been nearly like we normally have. We are just now starting to get the Nov. and Dec. rain and snow. Hugs all around

    1. Thanks for checking in on us..it’s been an awesome winter here in Tucson. We did see Devil’s Tower but it was overcast and they wouldn’t let us drive the motor home up to the visitor center. Appreciate your comments and glad you guys are tagging along..
      Chuck & Deb

  2. They must have had the area blocked off due a chemical release.Did you see any dead sheep or military personel in hazmat suits.

    1. Thanks for your remarks…not sure what you are referring to, we have been down many roads that have barriers that are invisible on Google Earth and Google maps ..private property….the nerve…lol

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