21 June 2013

Waiting for Registration Plates

We have started moving north and hope to reach Glacier National Park in a few days. We are in our first RV park with hook ups, so the hot water and fridge change from gas to electric. We have our electric fire on; how do they make those flames? Washing is on and dinner is being prepared by my live-in chef. Life is good.

After leaving Yellowstone we decided we needed some R&R, life’s tough I know but you can’t just keep going indefinitely. We needed some time out from all the hub hub of buying and setting up our new way of life. Yellowstone just kept up the pace as we felt we needed to be out there every day looking for wildlife.

When Lindsay got tired from driving, we found a Montana State park right on Flathead Lake near Big Fork, not far from Kalispell – a large enough town to support a Super Walmart and Costco. The campground was called Wayferers and we lobed in there without a reservation and found a campsite before we asked if it was all right to stay. All but four in sites the campground were reservable but as no-one had booked ours we could stay for three days, we later moved to a non reservable site so that we could keep adding nights. There was a lot of greenery, tree cover, blue sky, birds singing, a lake near by, what else could we want? Perfect.

The campground can get a bit noisy on the weekends as the locals come and camp - from the town just down the road!

On the way up we had checked with Karen to see if she had received the two MSO’s (Manufacturers State of Origin) for our vehicles, which were required for registration. Yes for the truck, no for the trailer. So we chased it up and were told it would be there on Monday. It arrived on time, so now Karen had to go to the department of motor vehicles to register our vehicles and get their plates. She didn’t get them on Tuesday as the line was too long. Okay, so how long was this going to take? It only just dawned on us that we needed to get our plates now because we couldn’t go into Canada with temporary registration plates. We needed to stay in one place so that we could get our registration plates posted to us. We couldn’t have been in a better spot. The camp hosts wanted to give us a job as co-hosts but we declined, although Lindsay was tempted. In hindsight, we should have organized the plates to go to Columbia Falls near Glacier NP, but we weren’t thinking that logically. It usually takes 1-2 days for express post, but we weren’t in a major town, so it took four. The post office is open on Saturdays and as we thought it would be risky to move camp sites on a Saturday night, the weekend before the 4th of July we stayed put until Sunday. Our quiet campground that night was full and quite noisy, with most of the campers only from the town five minutes away!

Glacier NP wasn’t far away and we thought we would get there fairly early. What we didn’t count on was a low railway bridge obstructing the main entrance. Two inches clearance was just too risky. Having a MacDonald’s with the lot home on wheels has its disadvantages. I asked at the local fuel station if there was an alternative route. There was, but the short story is that we ended up on a dirt corrugated road. This was not doing our new home any good or Lindsay’s patience because of course it was all my fault that we were on this road (LOL), so we turned around after some time and found an RV park. I learned a lesson: always ask what the roads are like and do they think we should be driving a 5th Wheeler on it. We wasted most of the day.

16 June 2013

Yellowstone National Park, WY

We knew we couldn’t fit two of us in at Tower Hill campground, so we were trying for Slough or Pebble Creek out on the Lamar Valley road, which is towards the North East entrance of Yellowstone. If we couldn’t get into either of these we would have to try Mammoth. No time for lunch at the normal hour, we had to go straight there.

We drove past Slough, Full. Not looking good. Lindsay raced on. It was just after two and there were a couple of spots left, two that would take RV’s. Two for us. I’ve lost count of how many campsites we went to last year and got the last or nearly last spot. Our luck is still going it seems. Pebble is really nice with streams running throughout the campground and our own resident bears in the meadow (field) nearby.
The animal life is very different to last year. And instead of snow we have blue, pink, white and yellow flowers everywhere. We have seen a couple of badgers, black bear and cubs, courting black bears (male and female) and single bears. A grizzly in the distance, way too far away to photograph. Lots of bison, pronghorn and a single moose. The badgers have striped faces and are pretty cute – from a distance. Apparently they are not so friendly. I managed to get a great shot of the male courting bear as he drank from the stream and then had a bath as it was a warm day. We have a couple of cute shots of the badger and her baby too. One time we waited for hours for them to come out of their den, gave up, left to have lunch and came back a few hours later to find them out, and she had only been out for 15 minutes. Sometimes it is just luck or a waiting game. The main thing is that you have to go out and find it, it won’t come to you. Last night Dale and Shelly saw their first moose just a few metres from the entrance to our campground as they were coming home. 

black bear cub
Dale and Shelly in their campsite at Pebble Creek
The wolf pack has diminished in size as the alpha female was shot as she crossed over the boundaries of the park. Yellowstone is bordered by three states, two that allow shooting with quotas and one that allows shooting as many as they can. Some animal conservation groups are trying to get a 20 mile buffer around the park to protect the wolves, which is a great idea and we signed their petition. As the alpha female is dead, the alpha male has moved on to find another mate outside the park as the other females in the pack were his, so he can’t mate with them. The pack has now split up. From a pack of eleven in the Lamar Valley last year, there is only a pack of three now. Because the odds of seeing one are so much smaller we haven’t got up at an ridiculous hours to try and spot them. They were sighted this morning, so we might try tomorrow. We went back to Tower Hill campground to see if we could get our trailer in, it will be challenging with tree branches over the entrance. Lindsay is planning to go in the exit road, so we’ll see how well that goes next year! There is one site that we could fit in, so he is planning on camping at Mammoth and driving down really early, to be one of the first one’s in. Then come back and get the trailer and me. Pebble Creek campground opens between 3 and 4 weeks later than Tower Hill, so is not an option next year. It’s only because we were late this year that we are here.

Dale and Shelly left for home today and we are staying another night. So glad we did. Today we made our way down to the Petrified Tree where a black bear sow and her cubs have been sighted. And they were out and about, quite close to the road and down an embankment. We got some great shots, including one of the cubs rubbing itself up against a tree, an iconic photograph. Not long after the rangers (fun police) came to shoo us all away as we were well inside the 100-yard rule.

13 June 2013

Grand Teton National Park, WY

Now our journey could begin. Next stop Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming.

One of our favourite campgrounds is Gros Ventre in the Grand Tetons and it hardly ever fills up, so we knew there would be a vacancy and there was. We went looking for the moose again, but didn’t find her or her new baby. This time we were treated to warm days with blue skies, birds singing in the trees and cold nights. Our large picture window at the back of the trailer gave us a wonderful view of trees and shrubs.

Backing for the first time into our campsite was a bit challenging. Lindsay is an excellent trailer backer in a right hand drive vehicle, but it will take some practice to be as good sitting on the opposite side of the car.

You can use a generator in this park so we were able to test ours but found that it didn’t power anything inside. Had they installed a converter? He wasn’t looking forward to driving 11 hours there and back or the fuel bill. Luckily we had mobile and internet connection here and had to wait until the next morning for Lindsay to ring the service department back in Draper who explained where the converter was and suggested that maybe a wire had come loose. Lindsay had to take the back undercarriage off the trailer and found that none of the three wires had been connected at all. He was not happy as this was blatant incompetency. Lucky he is someone that is willing to get his hands dirty and knew sort of what he was doing, and only one screw left after reassembly!  

Jackson isn’t far down the road, so we drove back there a couple of times to do supermarket shops, checked out our favourite local bakery, walked around the town and filled up with fuel without the trailer.

Next stop, Yellowstone. Connecting the trailer to the hitch is apparently easier than connecting our previous camper at home – bonus...