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Just when we thought the incredible sights nature had to offer couldn’t be topped we arrived in Grand Teton National Park and were wowed by the amazing mountain views. We took a day for a pit stop in Idaho Falls so Izzy could have a spa day. The day after we hit Craters of the Moon Nation Monument. We are in awe of all the different landscapes created by nature!
June 19 – Grand Teton
Bundled under all our layers, we hesitated to arise from our slumber into the cold morning. It was not a day for the shorts, tees and flip flops we’ve been normally adorning. It was a day for sweats, boots and a toque. We didn’t waste much time with breakfast and coffee but rather jammed away our things and fired up Izzy with a thick blue smoke show hovering through the icy cold mountain air. It had been days since we’d had cell service and that didn’t appear to be changing anytime soon though. We were anxiously awaiting a reply from Idaho Falls for our service request on Izzy. The highway between Yellowstone and Grand Teton was short and desolate other than one resort, Flagg Ranch, where we stopped in to the info center for maps, brochures and our obligatory park stamp. Fo-fooing the restaurant’s breakfast buffet and minimal breakfast options we decided to wrestle up some oatmeal and coffee of our own brand in the lot before heading back out on to the highway. We reached the gates to Grand Teton National Park, we were a little too quick for the turnoff and missed the obligatory selfie with the park sign. By the time we had reached the Colter Bay Visitors Center, where we of course got our necessary park stamp, the rain had let up and some long awaited sunshine began to peer out from behind the clouds. The ranger at the tourist center gave us a well laid out path for a single day stay in the park which paired well with our timeline and made the most of a north to south route through the area. Not really having done any research on the park, we were amazed with the natural topography giving us views of the snow capped mountains from the highway along the wide valley floor. The first of the few scenic suggestions was Oxbow Bend Turnout.
It was quite a nice scene even with the still dense clouds hanging over head and we made the most of the cameras before continuing to North Jenny Lake Junction. The light rain continued on and off some but our sheer determination to get out and do a trail hike appeared to whisk the clouds away and made for some remarkable photos as we walked along String Lake taking in the reflections of the mountains in the lake at the base of the Tetons.
After our walk we rumbled along the valley highway peering up at the peaks every chance we had to hit up two more visitors centers in an attempt to collect all the Grand Teton stamps, Gotta Catch Em All! The eastern part of the loop road was a small back track for us as we turned back north for a few miles but we were assured that the views were well worth the trip so we couldn’t resist. Though the specific lookout we were aiming for was closed for construction, we found ourselves a more interesting looking switchback, pot hole riddled, dirt path to follow down to the valley floor along the river at Schwabacher landing. There were a few raised eyebrows as our rig bounced down the narrow path but the reward was worth the risk as we were gifted a breathtaking view of the peaks rising up from the mountain stream and river grasses before us.
As the hours grew on we decided it was time to head out and waved the beautiful park goodbye, even with the mixed weather it was easily the most gorgeous park we’ve visited yet. The highway out had a similar tone and beauty to it as we twisted our way to the skiing hot bed of Jackson. We stopped for some much needed diesel and headed straight to NAPA auto to investigate the battery issue once and for all. Not having more than a few hours of power for the last week has been an excruciatingly, frustrating problem we’ve been unable to diagnose without a service center or cell reception. Bottom line is that we prepared to drop stack on new batteries and needed a load test performed to verify our electrical intuition. Once we had unhooked the batteries the NAPA guys ran the test and it came up with 30 CCA, a meaningless stat till you read the sticker claiming 800 CCA on the batteries. It was proof enough that our hypothesis was correct and we dropped $250 on a new set of lungs for our electrical system It was a hefty sum but kicking that gremlin off the bus was priceless. Not only did we now have lighting for days, but it also solved our generator not starting problem!! Two birds!! Being warned warned against HWY 22 due to 10% grade both up and down, we took the 26 out of Jackson and found ourselves a budget friendly campsite with power for the night just below a dam on the Snake River. Later that evening the rain caught up to us so we battened down the hatches and stoked the heater for a night studying the maps over a warm cup of steaming tea.
June 20 – Idaho Falls
We arose toasty warm and brewed a pot of morning joe for the road. We were heading for civilization today and Izzy was booked in for a fluid and filter changin’. On route to Idaho Falls we pulled in to a scenic lookout admiring the Snake River as we’d been doing for days but this time from a ridge line up above the state stretching river flowing through the canyon below. It was a beautiful spot and we couldn’t resist the temptation to send out the drone on a little recon mission to get a closer view.
50 more miles and a few circlings of the block later we arrived at “All Things Automotive and Diesel” around 1:30, to drop Izzy off for her spa day. Unsure of our plans while our home was occupied with workers, we asked about a park nearby where we could pass the hours and catch up on some work while the cat could sprawl in some grass. The lovely people at the shop offered us their courtesy car to use, and supplied us with directions to Russ Freeman Park about 5 miles from mechanic. It was a nice big park and a beautiful sunny day to be there. Monty enjoyed roaming around while we chilled out in the shade. It turned out to be a full day at the park as the shop needed some extra time with Izzy’s aging quirks but that was cool as we were in no rush. There was a Thai spot nearby that supplied us with a late lunch before finally getting the RV back around 5 with new oil, oil filter, fuel filter, and right blinker (been out for awhile just procrastinated fixing it). With Izzy stocked up with new essentials we needed to do the same with ourselves so we headed to Walmart for groceries and a mattress topper to bring our foam up to 6”. Back on the highway another 15min brought us to our hideaway for the night at North Bingham County Park. We were in desperate need of a wash after our adventures in the parks and this was full hookup with showers for $25, a total bargain!! We snacked for dinner and then made up an avo, peanut butter fruit wrap for dessert. Yes, that’s a real thing and it was fantastic!!
June 21 – Craters of the Moon
Maxing out the facilities at our disposal, we did a septic dump on our way out of the park and headed onwards and west toward Craters of the Moon National Monument. The drive was incredibly windy through the open country side and our box was being blown around like a rag doll. Flanked by mountains on our right and flat lands with Butte formations on our left, we met the wind head on and powered ourselves to Craters of the Moon in unremarkable time. We munched some lunch wobbling around in the wind swept driveway before getting a move on into the visitor center to formulate a plan. We captured our stamp and sticker, the first of the Pacific Westcoast section of our passport. The park consisted of a 7 mile loop drive with multiple stops and short walks throughout. We started at the North Crater Flow which had a short walk path through an ancient lava field and a lookout over top spanning the view for miles. Devils Orchard Nature Trail, a 0.5 mile loop walk was the second adventure where we strolled through a forest of gnarly trees and small foliage splattered with lava boulders spewed from the last eruption thousands of years ago.
We checked out two small splatter cones down the road a little which were encircled with a corkscrewing boardwalk up to the top to look into the lifeless spires from the top. The view was cool but we expelled most of our energy attempting to not get blown off the top in the wind squall. Our final stop on the loop was a hike for sure as we followed the pathway out across the lava field to Indian Cave, a partially collapsed pocket of air formed when the flow originally occurred. The cave was more of a tunnel with roof top openings allowing us to journey through without torches as the sun cast in from above. It was an easy tunnel to explore though we did have to maneuver over a boulder mound and up a cavity to ultimately escape. The return walk felt endless as were were feeling tired and windswept, however we tramped on across and over the lava flows to return to Izzy.
We left the windy wasteland and headed toward a free campsite about 40 min away we found online. The free boondock was a ways down a washboard dirt road and through a tight scrubby trail before ending up along side Silver Creek. There was only one other camper in our area and plenty of room of us. The place was well set up with two large gazebos and impeccably hand crafted steel plate fire pits with adjustable grills. We spoke with the neighbor who had made the trip from Utah to this Idaho nowhere which apparently turned out to be a world renown trout fishing river and we had it all to ourselves… There was a berm along the windward side of the site supplying a partial wind block but we were sure to lower Izzy’s stabilizers and enjoyed a rockless dinner of Huevos Rancheros and relaxed with the peacefulness of the creek for the night.