Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sept 16-17 Yellowstone to Grand Teton National Park

Some time before the BSOL there was a discussion on the OL email list about routes home from the BSOL. Debbie and I said we'd be taking the opportunity to spend 2 days in the Grand Teton National Park before heading home, as it is so close to Yellowstone, and neither of us had visited there before. Jerry said he'd also like to visit it, and arranged to stay at the same lodgings as us at the Heart Six Ranch in Moran. We were looking forward (probably selfishly) to this part of the trip where we could spend time with Jerry as part of a smaller group. Of course, sadly this did not come to pass. However, as the reservations were made, and we could not cancel, we left Yellowstone on Saturday morning and headed towards the South Park Entrance. Weather conditions were such that we'd been warned that many of the Park Entrances were being closed, so we didn't stop to see many of the features of Yellowstone.
A frosty morning in Yellowstone - Lloyd's kitty topped with icing!

Yellowstone Lake is on fire! Presumably a hot spring very close to the lake edge...

A waterfall close to the road. Below freezing temperatures causing a mist of freezing spray
Shortly after exiting Yellowstone Park we entered The Grand Tetons National Park. By now it was raining, rather than snowing, but still very cold.  We decided to pull off and take a break for an early lunch at the Jackson Lake Lodge. This very impressive structure has a dining room overlooking Jackson Lake and the Grand Tetons beyond. When we arrived the mountains were shrouded in clouds, but as time went on we were able to get a glimpse of what we had come to see.

A glimpse of the Grand Tetons over Lake Jackson from the Lodge
After a while, the clouds closed in again, and this was followed by more rain and snow squalls. We therefore headed for our lodgings at the Heart Six Ranch early in the afternoon.

Horse corrals in front of our cabin at the Heart Six Ranch

Clouds beginning to lift as the sun set at the ranch
The following morning (Sunday 17th), I awoke to find a coat of frost on the E-Type, and clear skies.

A frosty morning at the Heart Six Ranch

The Grand Tetons clear of the clouds at last in the early morning sun
Debbie wakes after a night in a Tipi!

The ranch offers horse riding treks. Here the early morning group set off past our cabin
We decided to spend Sunday on a gentle drive to Jackson, past The Grand  Tetons, and then explore the town of Jackson itself.

The mountains became more and more impressive as we headed south.

Grand Tetons with the Snake River in the foreground
We stopped at the Snake River Overlook on Hwy 191 to admire the snow-capped Grand Tetons. Many travellers stopped at the same vista point with cameras in hand. After a while we noticed that more photographs were being taken of the car than the magnificent mountain range! Then someone asked us if we could move our car to a position where they could photograph it with the mountains in the background! We duly obliged, and soon folks were lining up to take the shot...

The Grand E-Type
When we reached Jackson we spent several hours exploring the quaint town. Definitely a place for the ladies to enjoy with many jewelry stores, gift shops, art galleries and clothing stores.

At each corner of the central square are large arches fashioned from elk antlers
On our return to the Heart Six Ranch we found the corrals outside our cabin were now filled with 50+ horses. A few minutes later we were treated to a comic entertainment when more than half the horses discovered at escape route, and proceeded to gallop away into the surrounding pastures. They were rapidly followed by cowboys on quads and dirt bikes who ultimately shepherded them back to the corral!
A full corral of horses looking for an escape route...
And so, our days in Grand Teton have come to an end. Tomorrow we head back to Arizona. All being well, we will be back on Wednesday.

Sunset over the snake river with the Grand Tetons in the background

Lights out!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sept 15th - Bozeman to Yellowstone National Park

The final day of the 2017 BSOL promised to be another wet one. The weather forecast in Bozeman was for steady rain, and snow at higher altitudes. The original plan of entering Yellowstone National Park via the Beartooth Highway (212) with a section at 11,000 feet altitude had been abandoned a day or so earlier as the road was closed, but the backup plan of entering from the north at Gardiner also had to be dropped due to snow on a 8800 foot pass. We therefore all opted for Hwy 191 to the West Yellowstone entrance. This still involved some rain and light snow, but nothing too untoward. Some of us then broke for lunch, whilst others drove on into the park. After lunch we opted to first visit Old Faithful, before checking out some of the other features of the park.

Steam rising above our bonnet from some of the many hot water features
After circling the parking lot for 15 minutes to find a free spot, we finally walked towards Old Faithful. It's hard to imagine how busy it would have been if the weather had been better...

A large audience awaits the old geyser...

A circle three deep waiting for up to 90 minutes for...

...this. There was so much steam that most of the water went unseen
Having never visited Yellowstone before, one of the surprises to us was the generally high altitude of the park. Much of it is at 8,000 feet or more. As a result, road closures for snow are very common late in the season. By the time we'd seen Old Faithful "perform", we had to head for our hotel which took us 90 minutes or so to reach in the snowy conditions. Bison roam the park, and often stand close to, or on the roads. As a result, there are frequent hold-ups. Park Rangers try to move folk along, but were often unsuccessful, and became frustrated at motorists...
A bison approaches the E-Type for a closer look
We finally made it to the hotel at around 5pm. The Lake Yellowstone Hotel, is set right by shores of the large Lake Yellowstone at 8,000 feet.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

On close inspection we found our headlights to be totally covered with ice, which probably meant they were invisible

We each stayed in "Frontier Cabins", which turned out to be cozy and warm 
The group, which by now was down to 16 strong, got together for a final dinner at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. At the conclusion of our dinner, we got together in the lounge and toasted our dear departed friend Jerry, with a bottle of Glenfiddich kindly donated for the purpose by Lynn Gardner at the start of the tour.

A final toast...
And so, with thanks to Christine and Rick for organizing this tour of the sights and roads of Montana and Wyoming, we said our goodbyes. Many of us have several days of driving to go before we reach home, but have a lot of memories to take with us. Though some of these memories will, no doubt, fade over time, our fond memories of Jerry Mouton will endure. We will memorialize him in future tours, and hope to join together again in October 2018 in Arizona and Utah. Safe travels home to everyone...

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sept 14th - Great Falls to Bozeman, Montana

We awoke in Great Falls to the sound of falling rain, and a forecast of little change throughout the day. For several of us, this was our first experience of driving our E's in steady rain all day. A few lessons were learned...

Lesson 1 - just because your parking lot is covered, doesn't mean your open topped car doesn't need covering...

Our route took us south on Hwy 87 and Hwy 89. The rain was steady, but progress was good apart from several stoppages for road works.

A long line of E-Types wait for the flag to fall on Hwy 89
As we headed south on Hwy 89 the altitude steadily increased until the summit was reached at over 7000 feet. By then, the rain had turned to snow. Close to the summit, we were halted again for road works....

Debbie and David with the convertible top up - a first on 7 Oil Leaks...

Waiting to proceed at the summit on Hwy 89. It's your choice whether you zoom in on the individual standing to the right...

Summit of Hwy 89 - do zoom in on Christine's left had to see a very small snowman!
Soon the snow turned back to rain as we descended to our lunch venue in White Sulphur Springs. It was great to get inside out of the cold and wet to enjoy a relaxed lunch with no time pressure. The food was good and helpings generous...

Now that's a wedge salad!
After lunch we continued our drive to Bozeman, Montana via a variety of routes and reached our hotels by mid-afternoon. We had been invited to join Gary and Nancy Herzberg and family for drinks at their home in Bozeman. Gary participated in the North-West Oil Leak in 2012 in his FHC E-Type, and has been involved with the local Going To The Sun Rally for many years. We were made to feel very welcome in their magnificent house. In particular, the family's Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever/Poodle mix) Pepe was a great hit with everyone and stole a few hearts! We all had a great evening, and hope to meet up with Gary, Nancy and family again tomorrow in Yellowstone.

Entryway of Gary and Nancy's magnificent home

Gary (back to camera) talks with Drew, Don and Christine
And so, it was back to our hotels to rest prior to tomorrow's final leg to Yellowstone National Park. The likely rain and snow tomorrow has caused us to modify our route plans to avoid  the high passes at close to 11,000 feet where significant snowfall is likely. The good news is that this should give us more time to explore the park and it's many attractions.

Wembly has a bed all to himself this evening!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Sept 13th - East Glacia to Great Falls, Montana

Our overnight accommodations having been selected at short notice due to the evacuation of Waterton Park, several of the Leakers had good stories to tell about their lodging experiences when we got back together on Wednesday morning. I don't have room to recount any of them here, but if you get a chance ask Glen Wior about his delightful B&B.....

In contrast Debbie and I enjoyed our room at the Lodge on St Mary, where the view from our room was very appealing.

View towards Glacier Park from Lodge at St Mary
That said, we paid for the view with a very cold drive into East Glacier to link up with the main group. We finally caught them up at the first stop of the day at the  Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning.

A parking lot of E's at the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning. MT

 At the museum we saw many artifacts, and learned much about the history of the Plains Indian Tribes, as well as an exhibition of current arts and crafts. Unfortunately, photography was prohibited in the museum, so this photo from a web site was all I could find to illustrate our visit.

Part of a large display of Indian costumes including amazing fine bead work.
After our visit to the museum, we headed south east on Hwy 89 to our next stop in Bynum to visit the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center and the adjacent Rock Shop. Some visited one location, some the other, and some just took the opportunity to stretch their legs.

Two Medicine Dinosaur Center
 By now the weather had warmed to the point where driving an open topped car was enjoyable, and we headed in convoy south on Hwy 89 and then Hwy 287 to our lunch location in Augusta.

Flat landscape contrasts with the dramatic mountains of the previous two days
 Lunch was enjoyed at the Buckhorn Bar in Augusta. We were made to feel very welcome there, to the point that the entire group was invited to stand behind the bar for a group photo, which I hope to post here later if I can get a copy.

The Buckhorn Bar in Augusta
After visiting some of the small stores in Augusta, we took the road eastward to Great Falls for our overnight stop. Many of us are staying at the O'Haires Motor Inn, which features the Sip'n Dip Lounge which dates back to the 60's. It is decorated in Hawaian style, and features a pool tank where Mermaids swim to entertain the clientelle!

Relaxing at the Sip'n Dip Lounge

A swimmer in full Mermaid outfit blows bubbles in the tank behind the bar!

Christine and Rick Kuschel, who have planned this Oil Leak for us, relax in the Sip'n Dip Lounge
Tomorrow we head for Bozeman, with cold temperatures and rain anticipated. There is even the prospect of snow on our drive to Yellowstone the following day....

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sept 12th - Whitefish to East Glacier

The original plan for this second day of the Big Sky Oil Leak was to drive the Going-to-the-Sun road through Glacier National Park, and then drive north into Canada, explore Waterton Park, and stay overnight. Fires in Glacier Park closed the Going-to-the-Sun road, and caused Waterton Park to be evacuated. As a result, our plans had to change, but we made the best of a bad situation.

We started the day by driving as far into the park on the west side as smoke conditions permitted. The road was closed at the end of Lake McDonald and the village of Apgar.

This is the view we could expect to see on a clear day....

This is what we saw today... 
Once again, Christine's forethought came to our assistance, as she provided everyone with masks to protect us from inhaling the smoke. Given the reports we'd received, the smoke was less pervasive than we'd expected here, though we were grateful for the masks later in the day. No stop would be complete without a little under-bonnet tinkering....

Rick and Glen in silent prayer as Norm tightens a leaky fuel banjo
As the Going-to-the-Sun road through Glacier Park was closed, we had to make a diversion to reach the East side of the Park. This was accomplished via Hwy 2, Hwy 49, and Hwy 89 which brought us to the Eastern Entrance to the park in St Mary. The drive on Hwy 49 was particularly enjoyable with spectacular mountain views and very little smoke. As St Mary, we regrouped and took the Going-to-the-Sun Road westbound into the park as far as Logan Pass where the road was closed. The smoke was pretty bad, but this meant that traffic was greatly reduced from usual levels, so at least we were able to find space in the parking lot.

This view doesn't look too smoky, but on a clear day this peak would be topped by others on either side in the background

One of the vintage 1930's tour buses used throughout the park
Just before we left the Logan Pass parking lot, we were fortunate enough to be visited by a Bighorn Sheep who posed for photos for several minutes, before wandering off into the bush.

Bighorn sheep at Logan Pass
From Logan Pass we headed to our overnight hotels. Most of the group stayed in East Glacier, where we will assemble again tomorrow morning. Debbie and I stayed in St Mary, so we have a bit of a drive early tomorrow morning to catch up with the group. Maybe the smoke will clear overnight, and we'll get a few clear photos before we set off...