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Adventures in the Villa

2021-06-19 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 24 – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Free Day today. We love these on these caravans…

Our daughter, Erin, is camping at San Clemente for a few days. Her kids always like back-pack rides… This is Evelyn, proving you’re never too old…

Today we slept late, leisurely drank coffee, and walked around the RV park. I caught up on these blogs because I finally have internet access…

We discovered n interesting piece of history about the town of Gardiner…

Gardiner is a census-designated place (CDP) in Park County, Montana, so it’s not even a real city. The population was 875 at the time of the 2010 census. Today it is about the same in the winter…

Gardiner was officially founded in 1880, but the area has served as a main entrance to Yellowstone National Park since its creation in 1872. Yellowstone National Park Heritage and Research Center, which opened May 18, 2005, is located in Gardiner and houses National Park Service archives, Yellowstone museum collections and reference libraries.

The name Gardiner derives from Johnson Gardner, an illiterate fur trapper who operated in the area in 1830-31. He named the lush headwaters valley of today’s Gardner River Gardner’s Hole. Originally, named Gardner’s Fork, the river took on Gardner’s name although prospectors and explorers who visited the area later in the century were unaware of the trapper Johnson Gardner. In 1870, when the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition passed through the area they began calling the river Gardiner, a phonetic error. Hiram M. Chittenden (1895) and Nathaniel P. Langford (1905) confirmed this spelling in their accounts of the expedition.

When the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871 passed through the Gardiner area, they encountered two men, named J.C. McCartney and H. R. Horr, who had laid claim to 320 acres and established a ranch and bath house on the Mammoth terraces near Liberty Cap. These entrepreneurs eventually established a primitive hotel at Mammoth and were not evicted from the area until many years after the park was established. McCartney also went by the name Jim Gardiner and received messages, consignments and such destined for guests of his hotel addressed to: Jim on the Gardiner. On February 9, 1880, a territorial post office was established just outside the park boundary and Gardiner, Montana began.

I caught a view of the parked Airstreams…

Lynda found an Elk resting in the shade here in the RV park…

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We explored more areas of the park…

About 4:30 we joined Airstream neighbors for Happy Hours.

We returned to the Villa for dinner. An enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-18 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 23 – Yellowstone National Park

We had set the alarm for 4:30 am to be ready to board a small bus at 5:45 am. We are going into Yellowstone today to look for wildlife…

We gathered with the other Airstreamers. There are four buses coming to pick us up to see various parts of the park and to lead us on hikes, keyed to various activity levels.

Our tour today is from Yellowstone Forever, a non-profit subsidiary of Yellowstone National Park. All profits go back to the park, funding various projects, such as the reintroduction of wolves, bison conservation and transfer to prevent overpopulation, fish conservation, the cougar project, and others. Our driver/guide is Mike. The tour was very entertaining, interesting, and comfortable…

Our van arrived and we clamored aboard… There are 11 of us in our Transit van… We left about 6:15 am.

We weren’t in the park for 5 minutes when we spotted a black bear about 300 yards away…

Shortly after that we saw a small herd of Bison…

They decided to cross the road… A classic Yellowstone “Bison-Jam”…

Once they were all safely across we continued on our way…

While we were traveling through the park to our first viewing site our driver told us an interesting story…

In 1870, an accountant named Truman Everts, from Burlington, Vermont, decided on a whim to join an expedition led by Henry D. Washburn and Nathaniel P. Langford into the still largely unexplored wilderness that would later become Yellowstone National Park. This was the second official survey of the Yellowstone region in less than two years.

After falling behind the rest of the expedition on September 9, 1870, Everts managed to lose the pack horse which was carrying most of his supplies. Without food or equipment, he attempted to retrace the expedition’s route along the southern shore of Yellowstone Lake in the hopes of finding his companions. He ate a songbird and minnows raw, and a local thistle plant to stay alive; the plant (Cirsium foliosum, commonly known as elk thistle) was later renamed “Evert’s Thistle” after him. As well as the lack of food, Everts faced the coming autumn weather, including early snowstorms, and at one point was stalked by a mountain lion.

Everts’ party searched for him for more than a week, setting signal fires, firing guns into the air, and leaving notes and caches of supplies for Everts along the lake. Though a site near the lake had earlier been designated as a meeting point in case one of the party members became lost, Everts, for unknown reasons, never showed up. The expedition returned to Fort Ellis by early October. Believing him dead, his friends in Helena, MT, offered a reward of $600 to find his remains.

On October 16, more than a month after his separation from the group, two local mountain men – “Yellowstone Jack” Baronett and George A. Pritchett – found Everts, suffering from frostbite, burn wounds from thermal vents and his campfire, and other injuries suffered during his ordeal, so malnourished he weighed only 50 pounds (23 kg). Baronett and Pritchett were part of a search party which had been sent from Montana to find Everts’ remains. They discovered him, mumbling and delirious, more than 50 miles from where he had first become lost.  One man stayed with Everts to nurse him back to health while the other walked 75 miles for help.

Everts’ rescuers brought him to Bozeman, MT, where he recovered. The next year, Everts’ personal account of the experience, “Thirty-Seven Days of Peril”, was published in Scribner’s Monthly.  The story of his survival became national news and contributed a great deal of publicity to the movement to preserve the Yellowstone area as the country’s first national park. In spite of their assistance, Everts denied Baronett and Pritchett payment of the reward, claiming he could have made it out of the mountains on his own.

We finally arrived at our viewing location. Our guide hauled out telescopes so that we can get a better look without getting too close to the wildlife – we are trying to see wolves…

Nothing. We stared into the hill across the way looking for wolves. Some folks saw 3 running across the hill. Lynda thinks she saw one wolf…

But I saw more Bison, and a Pronghorn Antelope…

These Bison decided to cross the river…

Next we started out on our hike. We were met by a horse-drawn wagon. These are used to carry supplies into the back-country where Rangers and other workers live year ’round…

Our hike offered many views…

Off to our right, about 30 yards off the trail, we sighted another Black Bear, this one was cinnamon brown color… Luckily we saw him about 200 yards away. We walked through the sage brush to maintain at least 100 yards of separation…

He wasn’t bothered by us, and he was in no hurry to wander away. We spent a lot of time watching…

As we continued watching the cinnamon bear another hiker came by and told us there was a Grizzly Bear across the valley… So he is out there, somewhere, just to the right of the Bison. But he is about 1 mile away, so he is hard to spot…

We stopped for lunch, eating the sandwiches we had brought along…

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We started hiking back…

We returned to the Villa. We were hot and tired. We enjoyed a soak in the hot springs after dinner…

(The water isn’t really brown… The pool bottom is…)

And an enjoyable time was enjoyed bay all…

2021-06-17 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 22 – Travelling to Yellowstone National Park

So we bid farewell to the Grand Tetons! It was the prettiest park we have seen on this trip. On to Yellowstone!

We left about 8:00 am to avoid traffic in the park. We’ve been told traffic can be terrible in Yellowstone.

The drive was short – only 112 miles. We drove directly through Grand Teton National Park, through the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, and on into Yellowstone National Park…

Yellowstone National Park is located in the in the northwest corner of Wyoming, with some areas extending into Montana and Idaho. It was established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. Yellowstone was the first national park in the U.S. and is also widely held to be the first national park in the world.  The park is known for its wildlife and its many geothermal features, especially Old Faithful geyser.

We loved the Grand Tetons NP. In comparison, Grand Tetons covers 485 square miles, while Yellowstone covers 3,500 square miles. However, Grand Tetons is much more scenic, while Yellowstone features geothermal natural wonders and much more wildlife…

The views along the road are nice…

We soon stopped to see Old Faithful. First we hassled the very busy and crowded parking area. We only needed to jack-knife the Villa into 6 parking stalls, and we were set!

We entered the Old Faithful Lodge. Interiors were nice…

But the exterior was less than impressive…

We walked out to the viewing area where people were already waiting to see Old Faithful; they will wait another 45 minutes…

We wandered over to the Old Faithful Inn. It is much more impressive…!

The lobby is this giant 3-4 story high space, all done up in National Park architecture…

The dining room is also very grand… Unfortunately, it is closed…

We ignored the sign and walked up the stairs.

Very nice upper level lounge areas…

Near the top is what they call “the Crow’s Nest”. It is a room at the top of these stairs where orchestras would play in the evening. The top is 76′ tall! Unfortunately, in 1959 an earthquake damaged the structural integrity of the Crow’s Nest, so it is no longer habitable.

These writing desks are all over these upper floors… Beautiful!

Unfortunately, there are no dining or lounge areas that are open. Only fast food is available, and only for take-out… Gift shops have such a restricted capacity that there lines hundreds of people long just to get inside. Yellowstone is much more shut down for Covid than Grand Tetons was…

So we moved on to a modern Visitors Center. Again, capacity is restricted… But the views are grand…

We returned to the Old Faithful viewing are. The crowd has tripled…

Old Faithful is a cone geyser. It was named in 1870 during the Washburn–Langford–Doane Expedition and was the first geyser in the park to be named. It is a highly predictable geothermal feature and has erupted every 44 minutes to two hours since 2000.  The geyser and the nearby Old Faithful Inn are part of the Old Faithful Historic District.

So thousands of people are standing around looking at this for the past hour. The next scheduled eruption is due at 11:06 am.

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About ten minutes before the scheduled time the geyser spouts briefly…

Finally, at 11:07 am Old Faithful earns her name…

And it goes on and on…!

Finally the eruptions start to fade…

Eruptions can shoot 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water to a height of 106 to 185 feet, lasting from 112 to 5 minutes.

We continued to drive north. We found some Bison…

We found some Fumaroles at Roaring Mountain: (Fumaroles are similar to geysers, except that they do not have enough pressure to erupt; they just emit steam…)

We had some fine views

The traffic is bad and the roads are rough, slow, narrow, and curvy…

More green valleys…

We saw this female elk hanging out along the side of the road…

More Pronghorn Antelope… But they are far away…

We continued out of the park and into Gardiner, Montana…

The town of Gardiner is just outside the park; it was the original entrance to the park, and at the time all guests would arrive by train, so there was a large train station here…

Today Gardiner has mostly tour companies, gift shops, lodges, motels, and RV parks. We met with the club for dinner at this recently-constructed dining terrace… (Construction workers were still working when we arrived…)

Airstreamers started arriving (early, as usual)

We enjoyed a very good fried chicken dinner buffet…

After dinner, we returned to the RV park and walked around. We are right next to the Yellowstone River, but only tent sites are adjacent to the river.

The park is dry and dusty, but there is a small grill for dinner and other amenities…

There are extensive hot spring pools…

After checking out the hot spring pools we returned to the Villa. We have an early morning tomorrow.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-16 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 21 – Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

We were up early today and were on the road to Jenny Lake by 5:45 am. We will take a shuttle boat across the lake and hike Cascade Canyon.

At this early morning hour the reflections on the lake were perfect!

We started our hike up the canyon…

We came to Cascade Creek, cascading down Cascade Canyon…

We reached Hidden Falls…

The hike got steeper and rockier as we continued up and up…

We finally reached Inspiration Point. Great views, and we were all alone!

This is about the halfway point on our hike… As we continued up the canyon we found a natural dam forming a beautiful lake…

We finally reached the end of our upward hike, at about 2 1/2 miles and 750 feet of elevation gain… You know you have reached the end when you say, “This is the end. Let’s turn back…”

By the time we returned to Inspiration point it was crowded like a discotheque…!

We hiked down and down and down, dodging people coming up all the way…

We returned by boat, and drove back to the Villa. While I napped, Lynda met some new friends just across the street from our site…

These are Mule Deer…

After Lynda woke me up to see the deer I went in search of Internet… She went to the beach…

That evening we went to dinner with friends to the Jackson Lake Lodge… It is a fine old National Park Lodge…

Dinner was wonderful, and it is always nice to share with friends…

We returned to the Villa; an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-15 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 20 – Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

Today we visited the National Museum of Wildlife Art, just outside Jackson…

The museum, as its name suggests, if chock full of wildlife art, including paintings, sculptures, videos, etc. The museum’s best feature, however, is that it has great cellular service; I brought along my laptop and updated a few things in the parking lot before our visit began…

Wildlife art is not something to which I am particularly attracted . However, there was one video display that had three screens. The wall on which the videos were projected is black, and the videos, all of wild animals caught on camera, were shown in black and white, except reversed. It was quite ethereal and captivating… I could have spent much more time watching.

But it’s lunch time. We drove into Jackson and found a great French Bistro…

We dined on Buffalo Steak Tartare, Moules Frites, and Duck Croque Monsieur… And a very nice Vacqueyras wine…

After lunch we walked around Jackson. Crammed with tourists. The central park square has one of these corny antler arches at each corner… tourists swarm to get their pictures taken in front of one of the arches…

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Back at the RV Park, we took a walk out a small peninsula in Jackson Lake adjacent to the Marina…

Back at the Villa we had the sandwiches that were given the first day here, and another nice bottle of wine…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-13 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 18 – Traveling to Grand Tetons National Park

We are Parkers! Every caravan assigns various duties as needed throughout the caravan. In the past we have been parkers, de-parkers, singers, and Grace-sayer…

Today we are parkers. That means we need to leave extra early , arriving extra early at the next RV park, so that we can assign campsites to the various caravaners before they arrive and help them find their sites when they do arrive…

We left at 7:00 am. Today will be the longest travel time on the caravan… 290 miles!

We were following one of the Co-leaders… You will see a lot of pictures of his rear-end…

We traveled north across northern Utah, and somewhere (we don’t know where…) we crossed over into Wyoming…

We stopped briefly to stretch our legs and buy some groceries…

We continued north through Wyoming…

We started to see evidence of mountains ahead…

We stopped again in the small town of Pinedale, WY…

Looks like a great place for lunch, but we had no time!

We finally arrived at Jackson, WY, the main town in Jackson Hole. What a touristy mess!

Leaving Jackson, we now viewed the Grand Tetons in all their glory!

We parked the Villa in our assigned site, then showed up for our parking duties…

We had a flagger, to flag in the Airstreamers so that they did not miss the park and have to drive all around the world again to find it… Some of us handed out sandwiches, others gave directions and site numbers, and others kept track of who had arrived and who was still on the road…

After our parking duties were over, we walked about. We are parked right on Jackson Lake. This is the marina, with the Tetons byond…

This is just above the swimming beach, on Jackson Lake.

Our campsite, naturally, is in the trees. No internet, no satellite TV. No TV of any kind…

We had a meeting with the Ranger to explain to us the rules, mostly rules on how not to get eaten by a bear…

We returned to the Villa. No power. Half the park is out…

We had an early dinner and turned in early. (Power came back on at about 9:30…)

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-14 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 19 – Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

Exciting Day Today! Our four grandchildren are all starting “school” today! Roisin and Ian go to Spanish Camp; George and Evelyn go to all day preschool! After dropping them off, our daughter, Erin, will do nothing. Or something. Or whatever she wants…!

Back at the caravan, we started the day with a Ranger talk at the amphitheater adjacent to Jackson Lake…

We heard a brief history of the Park:

In the late 1920′ s John D. Rockefeller, Jr., with his family, visited Yellowstone National Park. They met with Horace Albright, the Superintendent of Yellowstone. He took the Rockefeller family through Yellowstone, and south into the Grand Tetons area. Albright was trying to get the Grand Tetons National Park expanded to include the valley. The mountain range had become a National Park in 1929, but the valley to the east, known as Jackson Hole, was cluttered with billboards, honky-tonks, and hotdog stands. JDR, Jr. took the bait. He formed the Snake River Land Company, and anonymously purchased 35,000 acres of land; he subsequently offered the land to the National Park Service. Due to various political reasons, the donation was denied. Finally, many years later, against public opinion, and with repeated Congressional efforts to repeal the measures, much of Jackson Hole was set aside for protection as Jackson Hole National Monument in 1943. The monument was abolished in 1950 and most of the monument land was added to Grand Teton National Park.

After we heard about the various sight-seeing options, we headed south… We stopped at the Jackson Lake Dam…

From the roadway atop the Dam we have a great view…

We continued south…

We stopped in to check out the Jenny Lake Lodge… Their dining room is not open except for guests…

We considered stopping at Jenny Lake, but the parking lots were packed, and people were parking on the highway, walking 1/2 mile to the lake Visitor Center. We continued on…

We were able to catch sight of some Pronghorn Antelope…

We continued south to the Moose-Wilson Rd. We drove south some more and were rewarded with our first sighting of a moose!

Just a bit further down the road we found his mate and their offspring, but they were moving quickly into the woods…

Our destination this morning is the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve…

The parking lot was again packed, and we waited 25 minutes for a space. Luckily, most cars belonged to hikers heading out to Phelps Lake…

We walked across the meadow towards the Visitors Center…

The Laurance S. Rockefeller (LSR) Preserve is a 1,106 acres refuge within Grand Teton National Park on the southern end of Phelps Lake. The site was originally known as the JY Ranch, a dude ranch. In 1927, when John D. Rockefeller, Jr. purchased much of the land in Jackson Hole for the creation of Jackson Hole National Monument and the expansion of Grand Teton National Park, he retained the 3,100-acre JY Ranch as a family retreat.  The Rockefeller family used the J-Y Ranch for over 70 years; over the years the family gave most of the ranch land to the national park. Upon his death in 1960, JDR, Jr. left the J-Y Ranch to his son, Laurance. Finally, Laurance S. Rockefeller donated the final parcel to the Park Service in 2001, effective in 2008. The donation came with special preservation and maintenance restrictions, with the vision that the preserve remain a place where visitors can experience a spiritual and emotional connection to the beauty of the lake and the Teton Range.

When the family took over the J-Y Ranch there were 48 various dude ranch buildings on the property. The family had 28 buildings removed or demolished, and the remaining 20 buildings were remodeled and updated for use as a family retreat.

Over the years, the camp was modernized and updated, and a few new cabins were added. However, the rustic camp experience was always retained. Finally the family decided to donate the property to the Park Service, and to move their retreat to another location a few miles south, just outside the boundaries of the National Park, on the Moose-Wilson Rd. They wanted the land to be returned to its natural state.

Laurance Rockefeller hoped that his project would serve as a model for the National Parks. The overall plan for the preserve was developed by D. R. Horne & Company with advice regarding user experience from Kevin Coffee Museum Planning. Prerequisite to creating the LSR Preserve, the cabins, stables, utilities, roads, and other built environment that had been part of the Rockefeller family’s presence at the JY Ranch were removed; about half of the buildings were moved to the new Rockefeller Retreat, and the other half were donated to the Park Service to be relocated and re-purposed for their use.

The land was carefully bio-remediated with seeds or plantings collected from nearby locations within the site. A nine-mile system of hiking trails lead through sub-alpine and wetland habitat, with vistas along the southern edge of Phelps Lake. The visitor experience is prompted via the 7,573 square -foot visitor center situated at the lowest elevation of the Preserve.

The visitor center building was designed by Carney Architects of Jackson, Wyoming with the Rocky Mountain Institute consulting on energy and daylighting analysis. Hershberger Design prepared the landscape design plan for the visitor center site and trails. A team of designers, cinematographers, photographers, sound recordists, writers and others contributed to the displays inside the visitors center and those efforts are noted on a plaque in the center, which was dedicated on June 21, 2008. The visitor center was the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified property in Wyoming and only the fifty-second Platinum rating in the LEED program.  Featuring composting toilets and a 10 kW photovoltaic system, the facility earned all 17 LEED energy points.

We entered the Visitor Center. (Lynda wasn’t really angry…)

Inside it was like a church. We were the only people there. There were marvelous displays: topographic maps, Photos, audio and video exhibits, and a meditation space. I loved it. I could have sat for hours enjoying the architecture and the displays of nature… But Lynda wasn’t that patient…

I threatened to take a nap in these really cool chairs, custom designed for the Rockefellers for their retreat…

We walked around, taking in the building. This massive fireplace is part of the staff lounge…!

The paths led to the creek flowing out of Phelps Lake…

After this contemplative experience we needed lunch. We drove to Dornan’s, a pretty mediocre restaurant…

We returned to the RV Park and walked along the lake…

I spent a little time in the “village” looking for internet. After dinner we walked to the swimming beach and enjoyed the sunset…

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We returned to the Villa and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-12 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 17 – Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, Dutch John, Utah

This morning, since we had not had a group dinner upon our arrival, we shared a lovely breakfast at the Flaming Gorge Resort…

After breakfast we drove towards Red Canyon. This is beautiful, but we still don’t know anything about Flaming Gorge…

We arrived at Red Canyon, and peered over the rim…

Flaming Gorge Reservoir is the largest reservoir in Wyoming, on the Green River, impounded behind the Flaming Gorge Dam. Construction on the dam began in 1958 and was completed in 1964. The reservoir stores 3,788,900 acre-feet of water when measured at an elevation of 6,040 feet above sea-level (its maximum).

The reservoir is mainly in southwest Wyoming and partially in northeastern Utah. The northern tip of the reservoir is 10 miles southeast of Green River, Wyoming (not to be confused with the town of Green River, Utah), 14 miles southwest of Rock Springs, Wyoming, and the Southern tip is approximately 40 miles north of Vernal, Utah. The lake straddles the Utah-Wyoming border. The nearby town of Dutch John, Utah, was built to serve as a base camp during construction of the dam, and as an administrative site afterwards.

We were spellbound at the views from here… especially since the land (rocks) we were standing on were clearly separated from the “mainland”…

After being amaized by the views from Red Rock Canyon rim, we drove a short distance to the Swett Ranch…

Swett Ranch, southwest of Dutch John, has buildings dating from 1909. A 14.1 acres section of the ranch was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It included nine contributing buildings and three contributing structures.

There were three houses on the ranch. An original log cabin, originally elsewhere, was disassembled and reassembled here on this site. This was the original house, and later it became a bunkhouse for the family’s sons.

This is the second house, added a few years later.

This contained a Kitchen-Living area, a primary bedroom, and a loft for the family’s daughters…

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The third house was the family home from the 1940s to the 1960s. While it is quite modern in appearance, it took them until the 1960s to finally add a fully functional bathroom… and even then, they had to walk outside to get to it…

This is the stable; beyond it is the schoolhouse…

Inside the stable…

The Spring House…

The root cellar… It has a long passage, with three doors, which extends into the hill beyond. Being an underground room, it is at a constant 55 degrees – it would make a perfect wine cellar…!

The Swett family live here from 1909 into the late 1960… living without electricity until the late 1950s… All farm equipment was horse-powered; they never had a gasoline or diesel powered tractor…

The countryside is beautiful here. After the ranch we drove towards Dutch John…

There is a great bridge we drove over…

And then we found the dam…

We returned to the RV Park…

This evening we were treated to a wonderful dinner at the Red Canyon Lodge by Patricio and Essy Donoso, new Airstream friends from Florida.

It is their 45th wedding anniversary today…

This is the finest restaurant in the area… I, of course, brought the wine… They had the audacity of charging $8.00 corkage fee! What are they thinking? I haven’t seen $8.00 corkage since the 1980s…

We had a lovely dinner, and the grounds were lovely in the twilight after dinner…

We returned to the Villa. An enjoyable time was had by all…

2021-06-11 – Springtime in the Rockies caravan… Day 16 – Traveling to Flaming Gorge, Utah

Travel day again. We are leaving the Dinosaur National Monument area, and traveling only a short ways north, to Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, near the town of Dutch John.

We left just after 9:00, and traveled through the town of Naples, where we topped off our fuel. We continued west a few miles to Vernal, which looked interesting. We stopped and walked the town for about 45 minutes. It clearly has seen better days, but it looks like improvements are on the way…

At Vernal we turned north again and climbed more mountains…

We continued driving north through the mountains…

We arrived at the RV Park and found our spot…

That evening we had happy hours and a GAM to celebrate our arrival…

We returned to the Villa and an enjoyable time was had by all…

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