Friday, January 27, 2017

Whazoo's Funundrum Parts 1 & Deux & Trois (is that three?) Animas Forks CO, Engineer Pass CO, Kebler Pass CO, Leadville CO, Green River Lakes WY, Tetons WY,

Whazoo’s Funundrum should not to be confused with Whazoo’s Theorem, my theorem that postulates the real possibility of time travel due to my experiments with quantum non-locality. No, the Funundrum is much more complicated than that. In fact more complicated to the degree of 10 to the 100th power which as everyone knows is the number googol, 1 followed by 100 zero’s, often misspelled as google. The equation would be thus...W/F = M-C. That means the Whazoo’s are divided by the Funundrum on whether to go to the mountains (M) or the Pacific coast (C). You see, we started out with 22 days of vacation which had me doing cartwheels with heady delight, being able to do both the mountains and the coast. But due to a miscommunication and change of schedule we lost 6 days. Oh, the heady delight? Snuffed out like a match in a wind tunnel. 

So the issue was solved scientifically between Mr. and Mrs. Whazoo with the best of 2 out of 3 arm wrestling matches, and off to the Rocky Mountains it was. I won’t tell you who won, but just let me say that Mrs. Whazoo cheats every time. Regardless, the Funundrum was solved.

Speaking of the Mrs., she has wanted bicycles, mountain bikes, since we first bought our camper over 3 years ago. So we know have two new bikes as well as a very nice swing-away bike carrier by Thule. I also had Dave at DSC Welding in Scottsdale Arizona make a hitch extension that moves the whole shebang up high for ground clearance. The bikes not only swing away but pivot as well, and will end up along the side of the camper when parked for camping. I think it looks real jiggy too.

Driving in route we passed the turn off to the “Four Corners” area where people can take those pictures of themselves in a crab position with 2 hands and 2 feet all in different states. That would be Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Oregon. Ah yes, just checking to see if you’re paying attention. Make that Colorado instead of Oregon. As we drove past we noticed the gate locked for construction due to a state of disrepair. That would be 4 states of disrepair. And what a shame it is to be closed for all the many people from around the world standing there in a...state of confusion, as they stared through that gate in a...state of disbelief. All statements above are as stated and that’s all I can state at this time. I am thinking though, that when the “Four Corners” opens back up those pictures will cost a pretty penny to take and people will be in a...state of shock. I remember when it was free.

I would also like to say that the pavement on this highway was so un-level that doing the speed limit in the truck and camper is not a possibility. I mean Mrs. Tidwell’s 3rd grade class could have done a better paving job, and we felt as if we are crossing the Atlantic in the Santa Maria on a bad day.

The winds were also at us again, trying to separate us from the road as we drove along. And it was for this reason that I brought no fire wood on this trip. I’m afraid that I’ve taken fire wood and brought it home so many times that it will soon start writing trip reports of it’s own. 

Driving through Durango, Colorado I was thinking of a place to spend the night, having found a lake on Whazoogle Earth named Vallecito. With my navagation system up and running we headed that way. My current navigation system has blond hair, blue eyes, tells me where to go and what to do when I get there, in a very nice way, of course. Sometimes I listen and sometimes I don’t. This time I do and to my surprise, with signage being less than perfect, we found Lake Vallecito.

At first we were dammed. But then we weren’t after driving right on across to hit the dirt road around the east side of the lake. That road is now closed because of terrorist fears.

The dirt road led us to some nice fee campgrounds along the eastern side of the lake. We stayed at Graham Campground one night and enjoyed the use of clean restrooms and great lake views. Not to mention the view of 2 fishermen coming in with several huge trout. I think that I’ll be back at some point, with more time to fish.

After leaving Vallecito Lake we drove back through Durango again, and with traffic being terrible we switched to leap frog mode and got the jump out of town. But not before stopping to buy, can you dig it, some firewood. There was no wind the night before and we had wished to have a fire. Isn’t that how it works? 

Driving up Colorado Hwy. 550 to Silverton we were relaxed,  driving with the windows down and happy to be in cooler temps. My eyes seemed to have gotten greedy as they tried to download as much green scenery as possible into the brain for total recall later when I needed it the most. That will be the day after getting back to my desert home in Scottsdale Arizona. 

As we drove by, a dirt road reached out and grabbed us with a sign that read “Paradise Found.”  Ok, it really said Lime Creek and some other things that went un-noticed as I focused on the word “creek”. We love to sleep with the sound of running water, so with high hopes we turned down that dirt road.

Several miles down the road we hit creek level and some great camp spots. Paradise it was!

After setting up camp we were wanting to try the new bikes. Now I can’t tell you exactly how it feels to ride a mountain bike after not riding one for a hundred years, but the initial feeling was goofy. I now have a helmet that makes me look like Herman Munster and my style is enough to make the forest animals laugh.  While Mrs. Whazoo takes to hers like she rode just yesterday, with perfect balance and class. 

Pedaling out of camp on the dirt road we enjoyed the sights and sounds of the mountains. As the road drops along with the creek we were laughing as we rode. Giddy with the feeling of youthfulness and wind on our faces we were, we were...we were going downhill! No wonder this is so much fun, and I’m sure that miles passed before I thought of the ride back up to camp.

This fellow was obviously unimpressed with our cycle abilities and seemed to be waiting for a crash of the Whazoo kind.

Later that evening camp had become a source of frustration, especially for being in such a great spot. Now it’s been said that I am a few merit badges short of an Eagle Scout, but I have successfully started a campfire many times before. That night was an exception as I got smoke, mostly. The gathered wood looked dry and broke like was dry, but my eyes were not dry as they filled with smoke. The joke will be “come sit by the smoke Dear” or “ let’s smoke some marshmallows Dear.” Even the small bits of flame I did coax out of the wood never made it to greatness as they gave up and floated off as worthless wisps of frustration. Of course I don’t actually take pictures of smoke, they are too smokey. So I give you a picture of my 5 minute fire!

Driving out of camp the next morning our thoughts were trained on Engineer Pass above Silverton. A pass steep with history including an old ghost town named Animas Forks which was started in 1877 at 11,300 feet above sea level. Can we say that they had high hopes? “High hopes?” “11,300 feet altitude?” Was it that bad?

A little known story about the founding of Animas Forks told only in closed circles...
It was named after Mr. Animas, an immigrant from the “old country”, his first name was Yun pronounced with a hard “u” like you with an “n” at the end. He came to America as a traveling salesman for silverware, hence “Animas Forks.” He discovered the rich veins of precious metal that he used to make his unique silverware. And while being the founding father he was also the first mayor. During the first election everyone that could vote, voted for Yun, every single person. When the town crier went from mine to mine to let the miners know who had won he yelled “It’s Yun, it’s Yun Animas, it’s Yun Animas!”  Say it fast and it becomes/became “unanimous.” And a new word was born to the English language. Now you might ask if this is a true story, and I might say...let’s vote on it.

“What do you think Dear, did the last tenants clean up enough to get their deposit back? Looks to me like they missed a rats nest.”

The lighting in the “throne room” was surreal, as if being occupied by a ghost. “Excuse me, you forgot to close the door.”

The largest abode in town was a two story and I just know it was Madam Orr’s Ore House, where folks could come to spoon at the Forks and spend the knife together. Sometime thereafter they would be needing an extra set of small silverware.

Leaving Animas Forks we crossed an old bridge. “Weight a minute, will it hold me?”

The road up the mountain climbed climbed climbs until we were hanging by the thread of dirt given us by the road builders of old. Afraid to look while driving I had to stop to admire the view, my hands shaking just a wee bit. Must be the lack of oxygen, mostly.

With the dapples of snow looking like the sugar on my Mother’s home made apple cobbler, I found myself hungry for more of these views. “A little more please Ma’am.”

We finally made the grade as I pointedly asked, “Can you top this?”

Descending the eastern side of Engineer Pass we were looking for a place to camp. Another creek falls into place as the dirt road splits off to the side, leading us to another nice camp site at the roads end. With Henson Creek just across the culdesac
running rapidly I knew it will be another good night’s sleep. We were camped at 10,800 feet above sea level.

Still feeling yesterday’s joy of the bike ride we got them out to start the cycle all over, beginning with another downhill. I noticed quite a different breathing pattern as we tried to pedal uphill back to camp at almost 11,000 feet. I was a little punch drunk from the lock of axygen and felt the need to lo gay down and nake a tap, my sspeech was not quite right. Instead I tried to light a fire, which after a promising start was quickly reduced to smoke… again. I wondered if there was a smoke signal merit badge I could get on this trip. At least I could still start the grill, I had self-starting charcoal. 

Our departure the next morning had us on the road high above the creek. Looking down Mrs. Whazoo spotted a beaver pond that made her exclaim, “there’s a beaver pond.” Now this was no ordinary beaver pond, but a text book beaver pond complete with huge lodge and a massive dam that took more than a little dam engineering. 

It has always amazed me that these creatures can build these dams that will let just enough water to flow out so as to not collapse the entire dam. And to block off such a large area of water is astounding. 

Passing another old mining establishment, man’s efforts to tame nature were evident in a failed dam and crushed roof. These men did not learn a thing from the beaver just upstream. And whose idea was it to use wood shakes when all other metal roofs are still standing? Must have been a newby.

Further down the road we felt to be at least 25 miles east Jesus from nowhere. Rounding a corner and there stuck to the hillside was a very small general store. I’ll call it a private store, maybe a corporal, it was to small for a general. Like the mines of the area, it made claims. It claims to have supplies, and we are very suppliesd indeed.

Part Deux of Whazoo’s Funundrum has us winding our way to higher passes. I hope we don’t pass out from the fun. 

end of part 1

The Whazoos had completed Engineer Pass and passed through Lake City Colorado on the way to other locations of interest. Feeling free as a bird we flew through the state with our nest strapped to our back. And I wonder, how many other birds can do that? 

Gunnison and Crested Butte were up next for a fly by. Coming from Lake City Colorado to Gunnison the jagged peaks of the San Juan Mountains had melted down to softer ridge-lines with high chaparral vegetation. Gunnison is another clean and quaint town but we had envisioned a more forested location, while it is more of the open valley type.
We waved as we drove by.

Crested Butte was up the road from Gunnison and an eye opener of a town, located right at the base of Mt. Crested Butte. We fell in love right away with it’s unique views and scenery. Most small towns have a main street that is a walk back in time and Crested Butte is no different. But the main street itself is an exception, active and restored it seems to be on the crest of something big. The scenery is million dollar and after stopping at a local real estate office we find this to be more true than we could have imagined. Good bye Crested Butte, we knew you for just a minute and our dreams of living here are dashed.

Leaving Crested Butte, Schoefield Pass was closed due to snow so it’s Kebler Pass for us. Kebler may be the more domestic of passes to drive but it is definitely not passe and all truck campers should take this easy drive. The scenery is second to none. Let’s see now Whazoo, you are doing some stretches, rubbing your hands in the dirt, telling us he was safe at first? I got it, the road is real flat, smooth and well graded. Thanks for that, I would have never known just by looking.

Driving the pass we stoped at Irwin Lake and Lost Lake both to check out the campgrounds. Irwin is the most well kept of the two, but Lost Lake pulled at us the most with it’s scenery. However the shoreline is dotted with fishermen wearing camouflage outfits. Now this disturbs me a little bit as to their thinking. Do they really think the fish will be fooled by the clothing? I know for a fact that trout are fairly smart. So I personally have taken a chapter from the duck hunter’s bible and use a rubber trout decoy, on a string. I call him Kilgore Trout and when we fish it becomes a “Slaughter House”. Now I won’t debate the usefulness of Kilgore but I will say that at least I don’t look silly fishing with camo clothing. So we decided to move on.

There weren't many side trails turning off the main road, and every one we tried had people camping. I was dumbfounded since there are no large towns or cities close by. Mrs. Whazoo reminds me that this is Saturday after all and people will find a way. A sign told us that we had fourteen miles left before hitting the highway, the pressure was on to find a camp spot. The very next turnoff led us to what I call Lynnview Estate. Mrs. Whazoo expressed her desire to have a little cabin right here. I smiled and pointed out that we do, it just happens to have four wheels under it. Our cabin is a truck camper.

Evening was everything we could have asked for. My friend Buck came by and visited for awhile. Buck dropped off some pop corn for us to have with our movie. The pop corn was a little off color though so we passed. The movie was “The Greatest Show Of Earth” with the star of the movie being Ms. Terra Firma in all her glory. It was in 3D.

Finishing off the Kebler Pass I had the thought that Colorado must surely be the US Mint for the color green as every shade of green is made here. Then it’s passed around to the other states on a need to have basis. I love green and wish I had more of it in my back pocket. But I have certainly enjoyed seeing so much of it on Mother Natures canvas in Colorado.

Coming down a grade along the highway I saw a sign that I thought was just plain wrong, so I took out my digital magic marker to change it. That’s better don’t you think?! That’s how the Whazoo skis, on his back. Some call it sledding.

Still traveling on the same highway we came to a whole kit ‘n caboodle of beehive coke ovens. Now being from the south I’m used to all kinds of things cooked including bananas. Actually they were fried like those green tomatoes and okra. But something about cooking coke just doesn’t seem right. We also used to love a frozen coke but how do you cook it? Then, right there on the sign it says the coke was “smelt.” Now I even smelt it once myself and all those bubbles made me sneeze. So I wonder which was it, cooked or smelt? Well it seems you can “coke” certain grades of coal to be used in the processing of steel. It’s all very complicated to me but obviously they had it figured out in the 1890’s when these ovens were made. For more history on the Redstone Coke Ovens go to “10 to the 100th power”, I mean google.

Next up on this increasingly wonderful trip was the drive over Independence Pass, the second highest paved pass in Colorado at 12,095 feet above sea level. Even though it’s only the second highest it might well be the narrowest of the paved passes. We were heading from west to east, uphill on this thin ribbon of asphalt. Somehow I always manage to get Mrs. Whazoo on the outside looking down. At times like these her religion shows as I heard exclamations of “Oh Dear God” as she looked down. Rounding a corner near the top in one of the narrowest places we almost went head-on with a another camper. All I saw was a camper on a red truck as I tried to keep the side mirrors from kissing and at the same time not over correct to the right. At that point, being on the outside my camper would need wings. Independence Pass is beautiful and reminds me that even though there some troubling issues in the world these days, we in America had two things right from the very beginning...Independence and truck campers! If you ask me the two words are synonymous. Although I don’t know what synonymous means, I was never very good in synometry. It just sounds to me like the two words could mean the same thing.

Clearing the pass I heard Mrs. Whazoo getting rid of held breath.  Happy now, we did feel our Independence as we were getting the lead out for Leadville Colorado. There we hoped to climb Mosquito Pass, the highest of all passes in the continental US. There are some higher, but they are up and back the same way and not a true cross-over pass. We’d been there before in a jeep and now want to go back with our Outfitter and GMC.

The mining sites above Leadville were very worth seeing and many pictures were taken. How many? You’ll have to count for your selves...

Well chute, might as well fill er up. I could use a little high grade!

Hold on to your hats, this is going to be an “E” ticket ride.

Inside this building owned by the Barney Rubble Yours and Mine Co. we found some very interesting old equipment. It was hard to tell what the cables had attached to in the past with some of the history missing a few pieces.

Boy those are some big...bolts. Are you a nut, what did you think I was going to say?

The drive up Mosquito Pass was a rocky affair and not a drive to be done quickly. While other vehicles have few issues on these types of trails a truck camper will test your patience and your suspension, the rocks making their presence known with every forward movement. I now remember why they call it Mosquito Pass, it’s very rocky! Having made it near the top we were disappointed to see a snow field across the road on an off-camber hairpin turn. It made me perform the ten point turn on the side of a mountain which I would like to not do it again. 

Not to be denied, there was a side road to the top of an old volcanic crater just below Mosquito Pass where we went to spend the night. We were camped at 12,500 feet where breath is short and the view is long, stopped only by the limits of our vision. There was no one else on the entire side of the mountain, we were alone. What an incredible feeling to have when we are all so electronically connected these days, solitude.  Please excuse all of the truck pictures, I took them to pass the time as it was too windy for badminton.

A pleasant surprise was discovered on this mountain top of lava in the form of the smallest yet most beautiful of flowers. Jeff Goldblum said it in the first movie of Jurassic Park, “Nature will find a way” as indeed it does.

After breakfast and a cup of Lava Java we were on the move again. More places to go and things to do. But first we had to get off of this rocky topped mountain.

Stung by a small patch of snow on Mosquito Pass I hung my head and buzzed back to Leadville and another pass just south, Weston Pass. It’s another beautiful drive that has a rough beginning on the west side but any truck and camper with 4 wheel drive will easily make it. There are quite a few nice camp spots along the way and we find the perfect place for lunch. I have named this Pass Out Pass since lunch on the grass next to the small creek made me pass out. Well, I am just posing for the picture but feel I should receive an award for the acting. Do you know how hard it is at my age to act like you’re taking a nap without actually doing so?

And with a passing grade we left the “pass or fail” portion of this trip. We had both passed and failed but everything has a reason, and I reason we would not have seen Weston Pass if we had made Mosquito. There will be another time for the Mosquito!

Up next was a quick stop at the birthplace of my camper to see our friends Bob and Brian the owners of Outfitter. My next set of upgrades were discussed and I know that if the gods and the pocket book are willing I will be back some time for the solar panel and Tundra refrigerator. We also just happened to drive by the most famous of all beer manufacturers.

Part Trois(3) will see the Whazoos at the Green River Lakes.
Thanks for reading,
Dave Rogers

A ten hour drive followed to the Green River Lakes, the gem of the Wind River Mountain Range of Wyoming and one of my favorite places on earth.

Arriving to the area at dusk we weretreated to a view not often seen by city slickers like us, a herd of elk crossing the Green River. With windows down we could hear the cries, maybe the young ones, as they swam across the cold water.

We drove the few remaining miles up to the Green River Lakes campground only to be stopped by a gate. A GATE! The notice says the campground will be open the 25th of June yet it’s only the 22nd. The website I checked two weeks ago said it would open the 23rd and we’re pulling out on the morning of the 25th. Not only have I paid an outrageous amount for 2 days of non-resident fishing license but this has been a dream since first coming here three years ago. To come back with a canoe to paddle the lakes and river in between. I cried like a baby elk.

A couple of miles back down the road is a real nice spot to camp right on the river which improved my spirits a bit. While setting up camp we heard the call of a male wolf close by followed by the replies of the pack. It was thrilling and chilling at exactly the same time. I wondered what was dogging them, or rather what creature they were dogging as their sounds seemed to be getting louder. I stopped crying like a baby elk.

The following morning the bikes came off the rack and we had our morning peddle. We rode around the closed gate through the once beautifully treed campground to the Green River Lakes. We were depressed by what we saw. When we were here last the Asian Bark Beetle had just started their decimation of the camp and surrounding trees. Looking at the mountains around us I could see...the forest was falling. Part of my belief in the fabulous chaos theory is that “nature will find a way”, a favorite saying of mine, ok Jeff Goldblum's, and we pray it will find a way to overcome these insidious bugs before it’s too late.

Some misc. shots of the area to follow:

After the downhill ride back to camp it was time to start the paddle event of the day, this being the 
peddle/paddle part of the Whazoo biathlon. The idea was that if we couldn't drive the canoe to the lakes we’d paddle to them. My canoe creeked as it hit the water, not having been used in a while. After a full hour of paddling against the seemingly slow currant we finally hit full stoppage as our arm muscles had turned to jelly. A full half mile from the lake we were wasted, so it was time to drift back to camp along with my thoughts of a cold beer. In the meantime we seemed to illicit curiosity from some four legged friends. We felt like we were the new reality show for the Bovine Channel. I hoped that show wasn’t Wipeout.

Out of gas...

Sitting at camp that evening we were being dive bombed by mosquitos. They must have been the
Kamikaze variety as I swatted the buzz right out of them. It was June 23rd, the first night of the “skeeter”. We hadn't seen a one before that night and I’m was thinking of starting a Whazoo fire to smoke them out.

While sitting at camp a forest service truck rambled by heading for the lake. Jumping on our bikes we gave chase, hoping to have a conversation about the locked gate and no access to the lakes. Meeting up with several of Wyoming’s finest rangers was a blessing. After telling some of my best 8th grade jokes we found a common interest to talk about, the Green River Lakes. Joe Neal who was the South Zone Fisheries Biologist for the Bridger-Teton National Forest was a great source of information and a delight to talk with. After giving my plea some thought, and losing rock-scissors-paper three times in a row, Joe gave us permission to enter the gate the following morning several hours ahead of the general opening. This would salvage the trip for us, add to another trip report and altogether make this portion of the trip a huge success.
Joe and his troop of Rangers have the job of balancing the needs of nature with the needs of man, which can be thankless from both sides at times. I want to thank Joe for allowing us access to the lake a bit early. I’m sure he could recognize my passion and dream of canoeing the head waters of the mighty Green River. Many thanks Compadre!
Morning June 24th, the expedition of my dreams began. We unlocked the gate and drove through, so excited to finally be here with my canoe. How excited was I you might ask? Well I was definitely itching to get started, or were those the mosquito bites?
The view to the upper end of the lake was still the scene I’ve dreamed of and that’s why we were there. And best of all, we have the entire lake to ourselves.

A full hour of paddling across the first lake went fast with the excellent scenery and no wind. The sound of canoe paddles throwing off water in between strokes and birds on land were the only things we could hear. The word “sublime” came to my mind as we beached the canoe next to the mouth of the river leading up river to the second lake.

Now the real fun begin as I had to tow the canoe against the current a full mile up to the next lake. We had tried paddling like lunatics against the flow but it didn’t take long to realize we couldn’t do it. So this is the toll I gladly paid to reach the upper lake. The towing worked out great and my wife gave me a new name, Tug.

We finally made it to the upper lake just as my feet were turning to blocks of ice from spending so much time in the cold water. Here the feeling of solitude and peace was so intense that the few words we spoke were in whispers. It was like being in a thousand churches, all at once. I asked myself in what alternate universe could this have fallen into place so perfectly, to have this dream all to ourselves. Under my breath I whispered “thank you God”.

Three hours of paddling and pulling have brought us to this spot. In my mind I will always be here having lunch with my wife in this Jeremiah Johnson type setting, urban mountain man that I am.

Lunch was over, pictures taken and soul food eaten. As if on command a good wind came up along with distant thunder. The Gods had given us an incomparable treasure, and now want edus to leave. Not wanting to tempt the forces of Nature we set sail. And that is exactly what it was like. The hour long paddle across the upper lake now takes half that to get back to the river as our canoe surfs the small white caps pushing from behind.
We hit the river portion between the two lakes and our excitement level streamed from our mouths. Well, mostly my mouth as I yell non-sensical and un-spellable utterances to the wind. We were really moving past the scenery now. And as we did I looked down at the water dripping from my paddle. I couldn't help but think of how this very drop of water from the upper Green River in Wyoming will make its way to join the mighty Colorado River in Utah as it flows from the Rockies. Below the Grand Canyon in Arizona it will be siphoned off into the Arizona Canal to be used as drinking water. And I wonder if you’ll be waiting for me, little drop of water, when I get home and turn on my tap for a drink.

Duck Mrs. Whazoo, duck!

With the canoe trip of my life  over, it was time to load up. “Take a bow” said Mrs. Whazoo with a stern look as I grabbed the canoe from the...front. It was a sad Whazoo that bid farewell to the Green River Lakes. And the following morning we said goodbye to the Green River itself. We’ll be back, you can bank on that.

Leaving the Green River we were not headed for greener rivers or pastures but for the Tetons. Specifically a favorite spot on Shadow Mountain just across the valley from the majestic Tetons. It is a camp spot accessible by any truck and camper and something to write home about. So I e-mailed all my friends, having internet via phone service at the top of the mountain courtesy of Jackson Hole to the south.

With the sun going down I looked through the camera to take a peak, or several as I zoomed out to expand my horizons.

5:00 am came with baggage. It’s true, samsonite bags right there under my eyes. It’s amazing how fast I’ve gotten used to sleeping in and how hard I do sleep in our camper. But I know there’s a sunrise just about to happen and I had a date with a one-eyed friend named Sony. Letting Mrs. Whazoo sleep in I had the mornings visual breakfast all to myself. And what a full plate it was.

While watching an army of dark clouds joining forces to attack the Tetons from the west I could hear cannons thunder and see the flash of giant breech loaders as they mustered an overwhelming assault. The view from my watch tower on Shadow Mountain was one of unrelenting movement as wave after wave of attacking rain drops moved in one large curtain to isolate us from the mountains that disappeared before my very eyes.

Within minutes I was forced inside by the onslaught of rain. This was no ordinary storm, the angry drops hitting the camper roof as if they were indeed shot out of a cannon. I was hoping they weren't TPO piercing rain drops, TPO being the material my roof is covered with. Thunder and lightening surrounded us so closely making me feel like the key on Benjamin Franklin’s kite. Looking out the window we could see other trucks and SUVs coming down the road sideways in the fresh mud as they tried to make an escape. It was either time to move or time for a movie. I chose the movie. And what a great time for this particular movie, the best western of all time, “Shane”. You see, the movie was filmed down in the valley below with the same views we had before the storm dropped in. Let’s talk about how timing is everything, and this was the perfect time to watch “Shane”.

The storm moved out gradually on its way to conquer other mountain ranges. We took the opportunity to break camp and leave the mountain top to the molecules of ozone left floating there.

The drive down the hill to Mormon Row didn’t take long and the rain seemed to have washed away most of the tourists. Mormon Row is so named because of the Mormon farms along the road. Left standing over the years they are popular with photographers using the Tetons as a spectacular backdrop. As I stood there I could feel the ghost of Shane and imagine the life and times of those early settlers.

Just down the road from the old homesteads we had a problem with cell phone service. It must have been the fact that we were in roaming mode.

As we came upon this shaggy individual I could just hear him give his best Robert Di Nero impersonation. “You talkin to me? You talkin to me?”

The day before, while in line at a convenience store, I heard two fellas talking about how they liked to jerk buffalo to make the best jerky on the planet. Of course I wanted to try it for myself, I love jerky. So I grabbed the south end of a north bound buffalo. About that time my wife screamed “Whazoo, you’ve been buffaloed!” And I ran like a baby elk.

Moving on we stopped at Schwabacher’s Landing for some pictures. The name itself is a mouthful and hard to say while chewing crackers. It is also a favorite place for photographers, professional and otherwise.

Our last stop on this side of the Tetons was the Snake River overlook. It’s here that Ansel Adams stood with his large format camera and took one of his masterpiece pictures. Wishing I could channel his talent I took a picture and was disappointed as I knew I would be. I can’t pan and tilt. I have no patience to wait for just the right light, the right cloud, the right second out of a million. I am what most are, decent at many things but not good at just one. So I smiled and moved over for the next person with a camera.

Departing the east side of the Tetons we drove back through Jackson Hole and over pine-clad Teton Pass west into Idaho. We were in tater country as fields of Idaho potatoes alternated with crops of alfalfa flew past our windows. There was more rolling green here than I had seen since my last bank heist and I wanted to ask, is that potato with an “e?” The sprinkler systems were large enough to make the Green Giant envious. We saw miles of rolling misters proudly showing their joy of making things grow by producing rainbows.

We didn’t know exactly where we were going, lost in Idaho. The map we had didn’t show the road we were on. But luck was with us on that trip and we found a sign that pointed us to some camping on the mighty Bechler River at Cave Falls, a dusty twenty miles from the highway. Another clean and remote campground with a paltry cost of $10 per night we were able to camp looking through the trees down to the fast flowing river, music to our ears.

 Jumping out of the truck our thoughts were flowing as fast as the river. The main thought being how to defeat the hordes of carbon fiber reinforced mosquitos that upon swatting, jumped back up to attack again and again. Even getting in and out of the camper became an act of haste as a hundred of the basty nasterds managed to fly in each time. Thank goodness for Fantastic fans, I have two, that when put in reverse suck the skeeters to the screen for easy eradication. That takes care of the carbon fiber bodies but now I have two screens to clean. Spending any time outside means taking a bug repellent shower. “Keep your mouth closed Whazoo” said Mrs. as she gleefully sprayed me down. If I lit a match I’m sure I’d go off like a roman candle, or would I just sputter and smoke like my fires?

Before leaving the home of the carbon fiber mosquitos I have to ask, is that mosquitoes with an “e”? Dan Quayle where are you?
I decided to see what Cave Falls looks like since I’ve driven twenty miles to get here. So we turned right instead of beating it right back to the highway. Besides, it was  morning and the skeeters seem to have slept in having really gotten buzzed the night before. The next sign we came to struck me as funny. There was a question mark on the sign. If they don’t know how will I?

A good friend and professional photographer had mentioned that I need something in the foreground to make the pictures stand out. With Cave Falls in the background, I tried...

Just below the falls Mrs. Whazoo bended, bent, ok leaned down to touch the smooth surface of a large boulder. “Of course I know what that is Dear, it’s a piece of noliphtium.”

Back on the road with no name we were heading north, still lost and loving it. Sometimes it’s a treat to stumble across things unknown and unplanned. And we did stumble across Mesa Falls, another scenic stop on this incredible journey. Looking down river from the falls I noticed a rock, or was it a bear? Or am I just seeing faces again?

This trip and subsequent report is like the Ever Ready rabbit, it just keeps going and going. And so did we as the drive took us into Montana. I knew we were in Montana without even seeing the sign. The sky just suddenly seemed...bigger.
We drove up past Kalispel to see our friend Mark at his nice little cabin on Rogers Lake. We liked the lake as much as the name and enjoyed our brief visit with Mark. See you again at the Black Dog Lodge Amigo!

We had a quick trip out of Montana and back to Arizona, a quick two days uh huh. We’ll go back to Montana in the future with more time. We’ve been to Glacier National Park before and want to go back with the canoe and bikes. So long Montana, hasta la vista baby.
After the trip we agreed that the bikes and canoe together add a whole new dimension to truck camping. I don’t have an excuse to sit around camp playing bridge anymore. But I will watch Shane again sometime, and cry like a baby elk.
Thanks for reading,
Dave Rogers