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CO/UT/Yellowstone Trip Report 2012 (lots of pics)
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joetiger Premium Member
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 10:30 am    Post subject: CO/UT/Yellowstone Trip Report 2012 (lots of pics) Reply with quote

This past Friday, we made it back from another successful week-long trip from Denver to Yellowstone and points between.

We left Denver on Friday 7/15 and headed up I-70 to Silverthorne then north to Steamboat, where we stopped by a friend's house to say hello while he was redoing the floors on his really cool house from the late 1800's:

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(The Rocky Mountain Mustang Roundup was going on there too, so if you're into Mustangs, they were everywhere. My personal fave was a lime green '71 Mach 1.)

We had only one Westy sighting in Steamboat Springs, by my kids: "it had really bad black paint with swirls on it and a red top and they didn't take care of it." My wife was able to corroborate this description. I'm sorry I missed it.

We then headed to Steamboat Lake State Park, about 20 miles north of Steamboat Springs in Hahn's Peak, CO. It wasn't crowded and the weather was cool but not cold. After a good hike down the bluff to the shore to skip stones, we enjoyed a dinner of chili Frito pies and s'mores for dessert, along with the brief company of one rather large buck mule deer who came by (about fifty yards out of our camp) at dusk.

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Of note: why would an American flag camp chair not have a beer holder? Worthless.
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The next morning we headed back down to Steamboat Springs and west on US40. In Craig, CO, I exchanged waves with a nice '83 or '84 white Westy. Near the Utah border, we met a massive herd of sheep crossing the highway. We sat and watched for a good twenty minutes while one man on horseback and a platoon of yellow labs led the sheep across.

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Utah!
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Dinosaur Nat'l Monument was very interesting, a whole mountain full of fossils from a riverbed. My daughters loved it.

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We then checked out the Green River campground in Dinosaur Nat'l Monument. It was right on a bend in the river and had Cottonwoods for shade, but was filled mostly with climate-controlled RV's. We decided that this being 1:00 PM in the middle of the desert, it was too hot (90+) to stop there. We instead continued on to Vernal and north into Flaming Gorge National Rec Area and hopefully cooler climes.

We drove through on Hwy 191 past the dam to the eastern side of the gorge. Our first stop, Mustang Ridge Campground, had been evacuated the night before due to a forest fire which was still smoldering less than 200 yards from the entrance Shocked We were told that we could stay but to be prepared to leave.

We chose, unanimously and emphatically, to skip it. After passing by fire crews continuing to hem up the fire and the sounds of a chopper overhead, we drove to Antelope Flats Campground, over the large and unburnt ridge to the north. This place was a ghost town save a few fishermen's pickup trucks, probably due to either the fire or the six miles of rough washboard you have to drive to get back there. It was basically us and a few pronghorn sheep for the evening. Eerie buy absolutely beautiful, each campsite had these funky metal shells curved over the picnic tables. After hot dogs and baked beans and an impromptu dance party to Willie's "On the Road Again," we were blanketed in stars.

Sometimes, especially when your original plans break down, everything clicks and you find yourself in a perfect place, at the perfect time, with the perfect people.

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On Sunday, we woke up and headed north on 191 towards Wyoming. This road, between Flaming Gorge and I-80, is one of the most beautiful I've ever driven. The road climbs and twists along the sides of grassy, windswept mountain slopes and the broad switchbacks allow you to look back into the lower elevations where you've just been and even further back into the desert, desolate and absolutely beautiful; however, with high winds and my wife not keen on looking down 1000-foot dropoffs, I didn't get any pictures of it. Maybe that's best, though. I don't think pictures could possibly give an idea of the beauty or scale of the place.

Next, on to Jackson and Teton and Yellowstone.
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"get metaphysical with it. if it's simply a means to get to and from places, it will let you down. if it becomes your zen, it can't fail you." -dabaron

"Still, it's good to be afield."--VWagabond
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sagebus
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 10:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let me be the first to say, Nice Trip Report, Looking forward to Tetons and Yellowstone. Thanks much!
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wontfalia
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 10:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice write up! Good pictures. Thanks for sharing. I'm feeling pretty good about our road trip now. Was the date supposed to be 6/15 when you left Denver? Very Nice

Wontfalia
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 11:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your wife's smile says it all! Thanks for sharing. Next year we're headed west for three or four weeks. We can't wait!!!
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Northward into Wyoming.

Lindsey valiantly attempts to kill a flying bug while Meg sleeps it off. We eventually had to stop on the side of the road somewhere north of Eden so that I could jump back there and hunt it down. You can also see my version of the upper bunk extension in this picture.

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The site of the bug killing.

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We made Jackson at around 3, checked into a motel and walked around downtown, which was crawling with tourists and a bit crowded. We had an early dinner at a friend's restaurant, Cafe Genevieve. Excellent food but more upscale for dinner than I was interested in. Last year we were there a week earlier (and during the week) and the town seemed more laid back. Jackson is a nice place, but we were ready to go the next morning.

We made our way through Grand Teton NP and took our obligatory photos. The wind was howling! My suspension upgrades proved their worth because we had very little sway on the road. If we'd had more time, I would have liked to have camped in the Tetons.

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Finally we made Yellowstone. We stayed at Canyon Village again, and as fate would have it, we got the exact same site as last year. Here's a couple of good comparison photos:

2011:

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2012:

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I was ecstatic over the lack of snow.

Armed with the knowlege of last year's visit, we decided to go to bed early and get up at 4:30 AM, brave the sub-freezing temps, and hit the road to avoid the crowds and tourists and hopefully see more wildlife.

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Sunrise from the top of Mt. Washburn.

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We truly had the park to ourselves. We hiked trails, visited different sites, and saw elk, coyote, a grizzly, moose, and not one other human. Because we kept off-hours (dawn and dusk,) we also saw a mink, a beaver, a fox, and loads of Bison.

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....but we did get up pretty darned early.

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On the North Entrance road...We wanted to go to the Boiling River, but it was closed due to high water.

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We stopped at Virginia Cascades for a picnic--a great spot and apparently often-overlooked spot between Norris and Canyon-- but it was cold, cold with sun behind the clouds, so we did it Wolfsburg Westy-style.

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Back at the site, making dinner. I have to say, my $15 thrift store Chuck Box was one of the stars of the trip, especially since I had to pack everything up and put it in the vanagon as soon as we finished eating--there had been black bears in the campground each day, and the camp hosts were walking around and inspecting sites. We also heard that two Grizzlies had been seen up at the very top loop of Canyon Village; apparently they have to cross through there at dusk to get from Mount Washburn to Hayden Valley.

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One of them loves getting up early, the other, not so much.

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It snowed one evening, there was still some on the Yak box when we woke up. It was a very, very cold night for me, alone upstairs while the girls and mom stayed warm in the bottom bed.

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After four days and three nights in Yellowstone, we headed out the East Entrance and into Shoshone Nat'l Forest. We stopped at a ranger station and met a very interesting Forest Service rep who had a bear pelt and presentation about being bear aware. The girls were enthralled.

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After that, we hit a hot spring in Thermopolis to wash off the cold and dirt.

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We stayed that night at the Days Inn. The whole place is safari-themed, with trophies in every empty space on the walls. My girls were thoroughly confused about this; through dinner, we discussed big game hunting and wildlife management. It didn't help much--they were baffled as to why anybody would want a bunch of dead animals looking at them all the time.

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Some thoughts on the trip:

--For you parents out there, my wife bought a stack of plastic buckets and a pack of cheap spatulas at the Dollar store in Jackson. The girls made mud pies with them the whole time we were at our campsite; it kept them busy, happy, and out of trouble.

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--One MVP of the trip was our new 2 qt. dutch oven bought on Amazon (thanks to a suggestion here!) Talk about great for cooking and keeping food warm! We used the hell out of it. another was the upper bunk extension/pillow catcher (also from a thread here.) Having an extra foot of head space up there made a HUGE difference. Also, the Yak Box was an indispensable addition and the many mechanical upgrades I've made over the past year were very worthwhile.

--The poptop insulation that I made out of bubble wrap foil did a decent job of cutting the wind, but not much more. It was just cold up there. I've not been able to justify buying a Propex, but at 4 AM in the high twenties with the wind whipping around, I would have paid $4k for one.

--I now have unanimous consent to buy a fridge. Two ice chests and the constant monitoring for coolness and buying ice, when coupled with soggy food, was quite convincing!

--We did Ranger Fireside Talks and Ranger Walks at Yellowstone and loved them. The Rangers really know their stuff. are extremely engaging, and are great storytellers. I want to be a Park Ranger when I grow up. The first thing I noticed about them is they don't have bags under their eyes (maybe because it's early in the season?) They seem to just be content, like they've got something figured out that the rest of us are blind to.

--There was one spot in Northwest Colorado and another near Flaming Gorge where I really wanted to go offroad but didn't want to risk it. The Syncro Lust was stronger than ever.

--Having said that, Tatanka performed flawlessly. There's always work to be done, but damned if it didn't do everything (on-road) that we asked it to.

So, the trip was a rousing success. We're already planning for next year--we're thinking about three weeks in the Pacific Northwest down to San Fran.

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Thanks for looking!
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Joe T.

'86 NAHT Vanagon GL Syncro/ supercharged ABA 2.0
'85 928S
'19 Golf R
'02 Beetle GLS

"get metaphysical with it. if it's simply a means to get to and from places, it will let you down. if it becomes your zen, it can't fail you." -dabaron

"Still, it's good to be afield."--VWagabond
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danfromsyr
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great trip report and awesome pics. Applause


I see you're still using the roof bag I'd sold ya, hows it holding up?
they should last years unless the straps flap & chaffe the fabric.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey Dan,

It's still working like a charm! We have used and abused it for five years now and it is still up to the challenge. It's a great product, thanks!
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Joe T.

'86 NAHT Vanagon GL Syncro/ supercharged ABA 2.0
'85 928S
'19 Golf R
'02 Beetle GLS

"get metaphysical with it. if it's simply a means to get to and from places, it will let you down. if it becomes your zen, it can't fail you." -dabaron

"Still, it's good to be afield."--VWagabond
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wontfalia
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The plot thickens. Thanks for the pictures. I'm glad to see your van performed flawlessly. My wife was wondering what the box was on the picnic table in your earlier posts. It's a chuck box you say? Much different than a tote?

My family is leaving for Steamboat and all around CO from KY in 3 days!

Thanks again!
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wontfalia wrote:
It's a chuck box you say? Much different than a tote?
wontfalia


Great trip report & photos! I'm curious about the chuck box too, have a picture of that?
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's called a Dosko CampMate Kitchen.

I was at the thrift store one day and ran across it, complete with directions and all of the attachments for $15 Shocked. Apparently they don't make them anymore, but they show up on Ebay and Craigslist from time to time.

Here are a couple of photos I found on Google:

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It's a little bigger than a tote and holds a camp stove perfectly. Just to give you an idea of the size and usefulness of it, here's what we had in ours on this trip:

Camp stove, skillet, and Propane
Four plates, four bowls, two coffee cups
Two cutting boards
Two sauce pans (8" and 6")
One 12" frying pan
Salt, Pepper, sugar, and other seasonings
Spatula, serving spoon, two knives, tongs
16-piece camp silverware
two oven mitts
two dish rags
box of green tea
campfire lighter

(I'm sure I'm forgetting something.)

The lid is huge and doubles as a wash basin, or at least a dish catch-all to take to a wash area. It's easy to load and close and fits nicely behind the passenger seat if you're in an area where it can't stay outside overnight.

It's made of some kind of plastic resin and is extremely durable. I dropped it once on this trip and nothing broke, thank goodness...
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Joe T.

'86 NAHT Vanagon GL Syncro/ supercharged ABA 2.0
'85 928S
'19 Golf R
'02 Beetle GLS

"get metaphysical with it. if it's simply a means to get to and from places, it will let you down. if it becomes your zen, it can't fail you." -dabaron

"Still, it's good to be afield."--VWagabond
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phatveedub
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nice write up Joe. Keep it coming. It's almost like I'm there. Except I'm not. I'm here at work looking out the window wishing I was. Next week we are heading over to Idaho, Washington, the San Juan Islands, and back through Oregon, Cal, and Nevada. That van of yours looks better every time I see it. Awesome wheels. Safe travels...
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

becida wrote:
Great trip report & photos!


Ditto! Cool

Amazing... I camped at Dinosaur back in the '80s after a river trip and no one was there except us river rafters. My how times change!
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BoneMachine
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

joetiger wrote:
It's called a Dosko CampMate Kitchen.

I was at the thrift store one day and ran across it, complete with directions and all of the attachments for $15 Shocked. Apparently they don't make them anymore, but they show up on Ebay and Craigslist from time to time.

Here are a couple of photos I found on Google:

Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


Image may have been reduced in size. Click image to view fullscreen.


It's a little bigger than a tote and holds a camp stove perfectly. Just to give you an idea of the size and usefulness of it, here's what we had in ours on this trip:

Camp stove, skillet, and Propane
Four plates, four bowls, two coffee cups
Two cutting boards
Two sauce pans (8" and 6")
One 12" frying pan
Salt, Pepper, sugar, and other seasonings
Spatula, serving spoon, two knives, tongs
16-piece camp silverware
two oven mitts
two dish rags
box of green tea
campfire lighter

(I'm sure I'm forgetting something.)

The lid is huge and doubles as a wash basin, or at least a dish catch-all to take to a wash area. It's easy to load and close and fits nicely behind the passenger seat if you're in an area where it can't stay outside overnight.

It's made of some kind of plastic resin and is extremely durable. I dropped it once on this trip and nothing broke, thank goodness...


Man, I've been watching those things on Ebay, you absolutely stole it for $15! They've been going for about $100, give or take a little.

My wife and I have really enjoyed this thread.
Thanks very much.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

phatveedub wrote:
Nice write up Joe. Keep it coming. It's almost like I'm there. Except I'm not. I'm here at work looking out the window wishing I was. Next week we are heading over to Idaho, Washington, the San Juan Islands, and back through Oregon, Cal, and Nevada. That van of yours looks better every time I see it. Awesome wheels. Safe travels...


Thanks Dave! I'll be very interested to hear about your trip--that sounds like at least part of the route we want to take next summer. My brother just bought a house in Fairfield, CA so we'll have a base of operations out there, and we're going to try to integrate the High Sierra Music Festival into our trip somehow.
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Joe T.

'86 NAHT Vanagon GL Syncro/ supercharged ABA 2.0
'85 928S
'19 Golf R
'02 Beetle GLS

"get metaphysical with it. if it's simply a means to get to and from places, it will let you down. if it becomes your zen, it can't fail you." -dabaron

"Still, it's good to be afield."--VWagabond
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BillWYellowstone
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2012 5:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joe, thanks so much for stopping by and saying hello. Highlights of my days are when online friends stop in and ask for me. Very nice meeting your family too. Wish we could have spent a little more time, maybe share a coffee or something.

Enjoyed the writeup, and next time try for a night at Gros Ventre CG in the Tetons.
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