Wednesday, August 26, 2020
We start the day as usual- get up (duh), walk the dogs, feed the dogs, feed ourselves. We are in no hurry- we break camp and are on the road at 0830 hours instead of 0800. We are die hard early morning people- what can I say?
We head east on US 26 passing the villages of Swan Valley (204 souls), Irwin (219), and Palisades (no census). Swan Valley, Irwin and Palisades comprise the scenic communities that nestle the banks of the South Fork of the Snake River, one of the best dry-fly fisheries in North America.
The valley is part of the Yellowstone ecosystem which is home to the largest elk and Rocky Mountain big horn sheep herds in the country as well as numerous white tail and mule deer, moose, bear, mountain lions and some mountain goats. Swans, sand cranes and many other species of birds.
The west end of the valley is mostly farmland . As we head towards Palisades Lake the valley narrows and soon we are traveling on the slopes that parallel the shoreline of the lake. It’s beautiful but still a bit smokey.
The dogs need to stretch, we see campers out in a large meadow and vault toilets. The road looks paved from our perspective- and it is for all of ten feet. The rig’s tire falls into a large pothole and everybody and everything inside the coach rocks! The refer flies open but nothing falls out. The dogs enjoy the walk and we are able to advance a hundred yards to wide spot in the road and extricate ourselves by retracing our path, avoiding that big hole in the gravel road.
US 26 and US 89 combine at Alpine Junction. The road follows the Snake River through mountain passes and canyons ejecting into the Jackson Hole Valley just south of Jackson Wyoming. Jackson (9580 souls) is the seat of Teton County. I seems to grow every time we come through this city- up 900 folks since the last census. Winter draws are three ski resorts and nearby Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks which draw two million visitors a year. The National Elk Refuge borders the north side of town and the National Museum of Wildlife Art lies just out of downtown.
We stop at the visitors center- closed! However there is a nice grassy park next to it. Jil goes one way with Megan, I go another with Ollie. We passed a sign stating “No Pets” back at the center’s elk viewing stand. We’re not interested in climbing to the viewing stand and keep walking in the grass. Ollie does his business, I pick it up. Megan pees one hundred feet away. I dump the doggie bag in the trash, see a park employee stop in the parking lot a few feet away. I say hello and commence to read three signs facing the parking lot. One says No Pets. Oops. I am then chastised by the park employee. I apologized and told him we had walked in from that-away and there were no signs the way we entered the park. Ollie and I were on the sidewalk by then- and then he spots Megan taking a leak. He runs over towards Jil yelling “You dog pooped! You have to pick it up! You can’t have a dog in the park!”. Jil replies- “She did not poop!” The employee is emphatic- “I saw brown!” Jil- “That was her tail……” We left as the employee searched the area diligently for the nonexistent poop pile……..
We left passing by the Elk Refuge. The elk are still in high country browsing fresh greens so we didn’t see any of the magnificent animals. Five miles down the road we pass the Grand Tetons. There’s still a lot of smoke in the air- we don’t take any photos and we don’t enter the park loop road at Moose Junction choosing to stay on what is now US 191.
Boy, there’s a lot of folks out enjoying this beautiful country! The Park service did it right and provides a lot of large parking/viewing areas. Most are full of vehicles so we don’t stop. The view is obscured by smoke anyhow so what’s the point? We’ve seen the Tetons when the air was crystal clear.
A few miles down the road traffic comes to a crawl. There is not viewing area so people are parked half on and half off the road. A buffalo herd (they are magnificent animals) is grazing a couple of hundred feet to our right. Many of my fellow humans decide to block the road, get out of their vehicles with some approaching much too closely on foot towards the 2000 pound animals. Some who are very intent on shooting that “Kodak Moment” photo actually walk backwards out into traffic without looking! I had to give a guy a big, loud air horn blast to let him know he was in imminent danger of being squashed by our 30,000 pound RV! Geez! He was almost a victim of natural selection!
After the Beefalo, er, Buffalo Jam we turn right again joining US 26 and head the 48 miles to Dubois. We cross the small Buffalo River and head into the mountains. The air is much more clear and fresh smelling as we climb, climb, climb, cresting at Togwotee Pass, summiting at 9655′. Sheesh we’ve been up and down so many grades there was no telling the elevation. Hmm, I found an elevation setting on Miss Garmin RV GPS- elevation- imagine that!- and it was dead on.
Now we are on the downhill slide. We pass some beautiful ragged mountain peaks, wonderful meadows, and before you know it we are down in hilly, dry sagebrush country at just under 7000′. Just before coming into Dubois we pass what appear to be painted hills. Hues of burnt umber and earthtones run horizontally through the hillsides- just lovely.
Dubois (968 souls) isn’t pronounced the French way, Dewb-wah, it’s pronounced the Wyoming way, DEW-boyz. Who knew? The original residents wanted to name the town Never Sweat but the postal service found that name unacceptable, so it named the town after Fred Dubois, an Idaho Senator. The locals protested by rejecting the French pronunciation- thus DEW-boyz, heavy accent on the DEW…………
Dubois lies within the Wind River Valley- a very historical place. The Sheepeater band of Mountain Shoshone used to frequent the area. Many petroglyphs adorn rock faces as well as hunting traps and blinds and stone teepee circles. Homesteaders arrived in the late 1870’s. Butch Cassidy owned and managed a ranch on the outskirts of town in 1890. In 1913 the town expanded with the addition of a hotel, bar, and general store in anticipation of the arrival of Scandinavian lumber workers. I believe all of these structures are still standing.
Attractions in town, besides the old buildings are the Dubois Museum and the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center. The sheep are seen in certain areas near the town, albeit not too frequently now as most haven’t come down from the mountains to their winter grazing areas. We chose not to travel 16 miles round trip on a gravel road in hopes of seeing one.
However one can mount a “real” stuffed giant jackalope or enter the alleged Butch Cassidy hideout, a mine, right here in the middle of town.
So what we did was spend a relaxing couple of days in town, spent time checking out the town and walking the river path several times with the Mutzos. We parked at the Dubois Campgrounds. It’s a funky place. The owners decided to make some extra cash and put an RV park on their property. The layout is OK, the grounds are pretty nice, the owners and their employees super nice, and the Wind River runs through it.
More next time.