Wednesday, September 25, 2013

final trip up to the hi uintas & bison burgers

we made one final trip up to the hi uintas this season. we hit a few new lakes and caught some good fish. it was a long, tiring hike, and it rained on us, but we had a good time.

 some views of the boulder fields we climbed through. 

 it was very expansive.

 can you imagine: we didn't see any pikas!

 b checking the gps. thankfully, we were able to get down from the boulder field and hike on more level ground.

 the dead elk we fished by, and i almost wiped my fishy hands on. we could smell something, but it wasn't until i almost wiped my hands on the elk's decaying body that we figured things out.

 a fine fish i caught. beautiful too.

 having a good time.

we saw a lot of beaver dams on the hike back to the car.

 the water we saw gushing out of provo canyon. there is never water coming out the canyon wall here. while we were in the mountains, provo got a huge rainstorm--with tons of water in a short period of time. there was flooding in town, and this coming out of the mountain wall.

and here are the pics of our bison burgers. we had wanted to eat some bison in the tetons, but we didn't have time. so i got some meat at our local grocers, and b cooked them up for us. they were good.
 i had the kids dress in their favorite western wear. s has a bandana and shawl.

 b trying to look tuff.

 w has a kachina bolo tie (that, ironically, we found in maui) and his hat. 

the best labor day weekend ever!

To celebrate labor day weekend, we decided to head over to flaming gorge—a part of UT we had never been to before. We left on Saturday morning and drove to vernal (which, btw, we had never been to before). We conveniently got there in time to hit the DI right as it opened, which was fun.

Then we headed over to a place called the McConkie Ranch and went on a couple short hikes around the place to see pictographs and petroglyphs. There were a ton of them, which was really exciting. But, sadly, a lot of them were drawn on or over. It was frustrating sometimes because it was hard to tell which images were authentic and which ones weren’t. Despite this, though, there were a lot of images that you could tell were genuine pictographs and/or petroglyphs. These were some of our favorites. 

Once we finished at the ranch, we moved on to Flaming Gorge. We got there, taking the left side of the gorge. We got a camp site, and then crossed the dam and went down to the Green River. We tried our hand at fishing but had zero luck. We were rewarded with the beauty of the river, and W caught 5 lizards, which he was very proud of!

 w, so happy with his lizard.

 the green river. very nice.

 s playing on her own.

 more lizards!


 it's biting w.

 a pic that w took of us. just slightly tilted.

We went back to our camp site and discovered upon trying to set up the tent that I had accidentally brought our 2-person tent rather than our family-size tent. After a lot of thought about how to deal with this, W offered to sleep outside on his own (to fulfill a scout requirement), and I said that B, S, and I could all fit in the small tent together. It was a tight fit in the tent, but we made it. And W successfully made it through the night on his own sleeping in just his sleeping bag (on top of a big plastic bag) underneath some pine trees. It worked out really well.

 a beautiful sunset at flaming gorge.

 w's sleeping arrangement.

 he's very bundled up. this is how he sleeps in a tent though too. he always gets hunkered down in his bag.

 s playing at the campsite.

On Sunday morning, we got up and packed our things. We drove to McKinnon, WY to go to church there. There were closer places, but I thought it would be neat to make it to WY. And it was neat. McKinnon is a very small, rural town, but the ward was wonderful. They were very welcoming and warm. We were going to just go for the first hour, but we liked the people so much we stayed for all three hours. The building was old and reminded me of the meetinghouse I went to as a little kid. The primary room was up some stairs in kind-of an attic area, and there was a downstairs area too. W and S were two of eight kids in primary that day. It was a cool experience for them to see what things are like outside of the big wards we’re used to. We even met a woman and man who served a mission in Papua New Guinea.

After church, Brian and I sat down to discuss what we should do next. We had originally planned on staying in the Flaming Gorge area during the entire weekend (including seeing Dinosaur National Monument), but we quickly realized that flaming gorge wasn’t for us. You need a boat or to float down the Green River to enjoy a place like that, and we weren’t going to be doing any of that. So we got out the atlas and looked at what was in the McKinnon area. There didn’t seem to be much right by McKinnon, but I did see Grant Teton NP about 4-5 hours north of where we were at. I threw out the idea, and B grabbed it. So we jumped in the car and headed up to the Tetons!

It felt exhilarating to be headed to such a cool place that we hadn’t been planning on. Oh boy oh man, oh man oh boy! The drive was lengthy—it really did take about 4.5 hours—but we saw tons of antelope. We saw well over 100, which is so many more than I had seen in the 32 years preceding that drive. We loved the Hoback River area, which was gorgeous. The river looked amazing.

Then we got into Jackson. We weren’t sure what kind of camping might be available in the Tetons—so we cruised through Jackson, but W and S got very excited when they saw all of the antlers in the town square. We soon made it into the park and had a wonderful view of those Tetons. They were beautiful. To our relief and delight, there were plenty of camp spots available. We made our way to a campground on the southern end of the park and got a spot near the river.
 the air was a bit atmospheric, but we could see those old craggy peaks. 

B heard about a heated pond area in the Tetons that had tropical fish in it (fish that people have put in it). He heard about it, and told me about it, about 11 years ago, which was the last time we had been to the Tetons. Ever since then he has wanted to go to that pond. We asked a ranger about it, and made it there Sunday night. The sun was going down over the Tetons, there was a single bison about 100 yards away from us, and we circumnavigated the pond to see the fish.

 a tadpole.

 can you see any fish?

 so exciting to see the bison near the pond.

 night two was another beautiful sunset.

We headed back to the campground. While B and I set up the tent, W went down to the river to look around in the fading light. All of a sudden, he ran back to us at top speed to tell us that he had just seen a mother moose with her two babies! We grabbed the camera and ran down to the river. It was very exciting. W and S had never seen a moose, and here were three only about 50 yards away. W was so proud that he had spotted them. He thought it was funny that the moose had sounded like an old man—snorting and making strange throat-clearing noises. What a treat.

 look above w's head--that's where the moose are.

That night we had a campfire and tried making brownies in foil. That didn’t work well, but it was fun to have a fire. That night W slept in the car, and the rest of us slept in the tent again.

We got up the next morning and cleaned up/packed up our campsite. We saw a big bull moose on our way out (it was a big of a distance away, but we had our trusty binoculars). We also saw some deer and elk. We went over to a part of the park we’d never been before and went on a 7-mile hike around Phelps Lake and into then into Death Canyon. It didn’t rain on us during the night, which was a blessing, but it did rain on us during our hike—really it rained on us the whole hike. We wore our ponchos (except W who was soaked by the end) and made it through quite well. The Tetons were obscured with all of the clouds, but the lake was pretty and there weren’t a lot of people around, which is always a plus for us. We saw some Mountain Chickadees—a new bird for us—and really enjoyed the views of Death Canyon. It was beautiful. Sadly, we didn’t see a pika (I was constantly on the lookout for one) or many animals besides the new chickadees, but it was beautiful, and we had a good time.

 a moose we saw on monday.

 b thought the no dogs image was funny. i agree.

 a teton's quirrel.

 phelps lake. wet and wonderful.

 w holding up the rock.

 a view of the lake from death canyon.

 it was very misty up in death canyon.

On our way out from the hike, there was a small group of cars pulled off the side of the road. We pulled off to and found—to our delight—that there was a black bear in the woods nearby. It came out, and we got pretty close to it. So close, in fact, that I ordered us all back into the car. But then it changed course and headed in a different direction. It made its way across the road and started eating some berries, which seemed like a perfect bear thing to do. It seemed oblivious to the gawking people snapping pictures.

 such a fine bear.

Funny, too, there was a little backup of cars by the time the bear started eating the berries. One of the cars being held up started honking and yelling out the window “I’m on my way to my wedding! Move out of the way please!” The lady yelled this and things like “I’m going to be late for my wedding!” many times before the car in front of hers moved out the way. I wondered if the people in the car in front of her didn’t speak English. It was funny and strange and very frustrating for her all at the same time.
We did a little more sightseeing around the park—and in some areas just outside the park (on the southeast side). We saw some nice birds, including an osprey nest but not any other large animals. But, again, the scenery was gorgeous. 

 i think there's a moose out there. 

Sadly, by about 4 o’clock we knew we needed to leave the park. We headed back to Jackson and stopped at the town square with the elk antlers. W and S loved seeing all of those antlers. Then we cut through the mountains to head out. We got out of the mountains (the less steep of the two mountain passes) and drove through the Star Valley area of WY. It was so idyllic—with soft, rolling hills and valleys with farming and livestock. We saw a lot of birds of prey and some deer. It was very scenic.

 oh the horns!

 i like this one.

 a pic b took of a postcard. the caption says it all.

We got to go through a small portion of ID, and went through Montpelier. While we were driving through town, I saw a big statue of Old Ephraim—the last grizzly bear of Bear Lake/Cache County area! Although we had a mantra on this trip of “Mom won’t stop for anything,” we did turn around excitedly to stop at the statue of Old Ephraim, which, according to the sign there, was built to scale. OE was big! It was so fun to see him. Honestly, finding that statue was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

 s ran immediately over to old ephraim and started reading. makes you feel proud to see your seven-year-old do that!

 we really liked this statue if you can't tell.

We went through Bear Lake and stopped to get some of their famous raspberry shakes. I have wanted a raspberry shake from Bear Lake ever since we went there a few years ago (my first time there). I have always regretted that we didn’t get some. But, I come to find out that B has wanted a Bear Lake raspberry shake since he was about W’s age! We stopped at the same place that B had always wanted to get a shake and ate outside in the warm-cool Labor Day evening. The shakes were delicious—very worth the effort!

 i love this picture!

We headed through Logan Canyon to continue our journey home. Right before we got into Cache County, B said that he saw a big bird up on top of a tree along the side of the highway. Then he said, “It’s an owl!” So being the family that we are, I immediately pulled off the side of the road and we jumped out with our camera and binoculars. To our extreme delight (imagine how extreme it was!), we saw that it was a Great Horned Owl perched on top of a nearby pine tree. Oh man oh boy, oh boy oh man! This was literally a dream come true for me (I have dreams of seeing owls perched on trees). We watched the big bird excitedly for about 5 minutes—shaking from a combination of the excitement and cold. Then we tried to get closer, which made it fly away. We got to see it spread it’s beautiful, large wings and fly off. So, so cool.

 look at that buho.

The rest of the trip home was fairly uneventful. We stopped in Logan quickly for dinner and got home around 11pm. We were exhausted, but in a good way. This is definitely a trip for the family history books.

PS—The next morning, W and S got up for school. I told them to tell everyone about their great trip but not to rub it in since probably their friends didn’t have such an amazing weekend. S came home from school that day and told me that she told her friends about seeing the moose and going to the Tetons, but she didn’t mention the owl. As she said, “I didn’t tell them about seeing the owl because I didn’t want them to get distracted. The owl was way too exciting.”