Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Driving Through the Big Horn Mountains


This is a view of Meadowlark Lake, elevation 8,465 feet, which is 8 miles from Powder River
Pass which is at an elevation of 9,666 feet along the Cloud Peak Skyway in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming.  But before we entered the Big Horn Mountains, we had a 120 mile drive first to get there...and did we have wonderful surprise.  So we will start with the first 120 miles first.

We came upon what we found out a little later the south end of Boysen Reservoir in Boysen State Park, a public recreation area surrounding the Boysen Reservoir, made from the Wind River.  We just did not realize the reservoir is the fourth largest Wyoming reservoir.  

We drive another 15 miles and we come to the north end of the reservoir, and then the dam, and then enter a canyon where the Wind River flows north along our route.

Marcia took a BUNCH of pictures in this canyon.  Thank goodness there was a pullout, which gave me a chance to walk the little wiggle handful of fur (she was ALL OVER the motorhome today!), and get this shot looking back at the Wind River.

Marcia got some nice shots of the canyon walls, but getting more pictures of the river required another stop, which just was not happening.  When suddenly...

I make a U-Turn into a picnic area that runs along the river in between the canyon walls.  Marcia says, "What are you doing?" and my response is, "It looks good facing the other way too!"

Still could not get a good picture of the river, but it is down there.

And then the canyon opens up, and our surprise canyon ride was over.

We then drive through the town of Thermopolis, Wyoming (from the Greek for "Hot City"), population just over 3,000, and on the east side of the town find Hot Springs State Park, a public recreation area known for its hot springs, which flow at a constant temperature of 135°. The state park offers free bathing at the State Bath House, where temperatures are moderated to a therapeutic 104°.

Just outside of town we saw Wind River again, and they obviously are using some of the water for irrigation purposes.

Oh, here is that ball of fur demonstrating one of her hundred attempts to get into my lap.  Yes, I let her up there three times, once while we were waiting for a road construction red light where they were using one lane for both ways, and twice when no other cars were around, and put her down as soon as one appeared.  Now with Marcia she us up and down and up and down all day long.

Just before we got to Meadowlark Lake (first picture in the posting today) we pulled over for a little breather.  Then, out my window on the other side of the road, a herd of cows start walking by, verifying the sign I saw earlier which said that Free Range Cattle roam the area.  But we took advantage of it to introduce little Indy to Cows.  That sure got her engine running.  GRRRRrrrrrGRRrr over and over.  After they passed, she finally let out a bark. 

Then as they got further, she got on Marcia's lap where she could look out the front window, and that engine just started GRRRRing again.

Just shy of the summit, we see a little bit of snow along the tree line just off the highway.  Temps were around 50 in this area right around 1:30 pm.

Officially the summit is 9,666, but our GPS put it at 9,675. 

It was all downhill from here, still 35 miles from Buffalo.

And all the way down Marcia concentrated on finding Aspen Trees and getting pictures of them.

Back in 2012 we were on the other side of the Big Horn Mountains when suddenly, after putting a fresh piece of gum in my mouth, and I had the most painful tooth ache, it affected my entire right side of my mouth.  We headed to Buffalo the next day, going over the same Cloud Peak Skyway (there are three Scenic Byways traverse the Big Horn Mountains in north central Wyoming: the Big Horn, the Medicine Wheel Passage, and the Cloud Peak Skyway.)  We ended up in buffalo for eight days, I had to have antibiotics twice a day, and had one Wisdom Tooth pulled.  We stayed at Indian Campground and RV Park then, and we are staying here again this time, but only for two nights this time.

Teton Pass, The Tetons, Togwotee Pass ... Just a Nice Day of Driving


Indy's First...first picture from an Iconic place.  I am sure there will be more, and eventually I hope she will be able to stay, without leash, and look at the camera.  Skruffy did that a number of times.  Bubba...well he took off (ran away) so many times that I decided very early not to try with him.  

What a nice morning for a drive...but let's start at the beginning.

We head east on Highway 26 passing more farmlands, and then the Snake River with the morning sun beating down.


We turn on highway 31 and start a climb.  The trees at this new altitude have started to turn.  Soon we hit the town of Victor and turn on highway 33 and all sorts of warnings about Teton Pass.  Must be under 60,000 pounds.  No trailers between November and March.  We drive in second gear, even first gear for a small part of it, until we finally reach the 8,431 foot summit. 

Then we have 10% downward slope for six or seven miles in second gear, tapping the breaks to keep the speed down and the RPM down.  We stopped a few times at pullouts to allow cars to pass, and Marcia got this shot of the valley below.  I have been over many passes, and Teton Pass is not the hardest, nor the easiest.  It does climb over 2,000 feet in six miles, and back down again in six more miles.  Both Victor and Jackson are about the same altitude.  But with such a steep climb you don't want to loose momentum, and pulling over to let people pass is a total momentum loss.  It would be easier if there were more passing lanes, but it is that nature of this pass.

We glided through Jackson, except for a small area which has some road construction.  Soon we are through town and entering Teton National Park, which is our opening picture.

This our third time at the Tetons, my fifth or sixth.  Last time, in 2016, I got a text from my youngest son..."Dad, where are you at?"   "At the Tetons son!"   "Ya, I think we just passed you going the other way..."  I called, and we turned around and met up with Ryan and his buddies at Jenny Lake.  So today I sent him a text with a picture of the Grand Teton, "I am here looking for you"  He was jealous, but he and his wife Kaelyn are headed to Acadia later in the week.  Now I am jealous!

We did pull over a few times, and we sure enjoyed the right pass the Teton Range.  I am pretty sure we will be back through again some day...I sure hope so.

We saw many (like forty or more) Pronghorns on our trip today, a couple of deer, and a few Buffalo.  The Buffalo caused a small traffic jam, and with the motorhome and tow car, we had to cruise on through, but Marcia got two good pictures, albeit it was far from the roadway.  Had we been in just a car, we would have gotten better pictures...but you know, we have so many picture of buffalo from our visits to Yellowstone.  As we got near the end of our ride today, we also saw a small herd of buffalo on a farm...but that just isn't the same.

We got back on Highway 26 in the town of Jackson...and Highway 26 along with Highway 287 soon headed east away from the Tetons.  Marcia was tired and decided to lay down, leaving Indy to be my co-pilot for a good hour or more as we climb up and over Togwotee Pass. 

I had never been over Togwotee Pass.  Although the top of the pass is at 9,655 feet, it was easier to get over than Teton Pass earlier this morning...had to drop it into 2nd gear a few times, but never in first gear like Teton Pass.

It was just a wonderful and pretty drive.

As we came into Dubois, there was a reddish color to the mountains.  Between Dubois and Riverton the landscape was flatter, less scenic.  We pulled into the Wind River RV Park and called it a day by 3 pm.  Tomorrow, Buffalo, a place we have not been to since 2012.