Well, July started with a bang and ended with a sigh. Fourth of July found us in Cody, Wyoming, as planned. Let us say, this little western town knows how to put on a July 4th party. The partying started July 1st with the first night of rodeo competition. The rodeo continued every evening until Finals on the 4th. We attended those Finals and enjoyed every minute. (Well, after after the wind died down. Did you know Wyoming is the only state in the Union that provides "No Wind" warnings so the residents don't fall over - hee! hee!) As exciting as the competitions were, the 4th of July Parade and Fireworks were the big hits of the day. You have never seen so many horses in one parade! There were horses of every size, color, and occupation. Even Smokey Bear with a 12 mule pack train attended!
We overheard the following about one of the riders in the parade: "Last year, that therrrre buckskin started acting up. His rider got so mad he jumps off the horse and started beating it. That got him throwed out of the parade. In this state, you can beat your wife but not your horse." Maybe that's why the barns around here are in better condition than some of the houses.
About the time the 4th of July excitement settled down, Dolly - Suzi's daughter, showed up, looking great as always. She could stay only a short while but we made the most of it by catching up on all the latest news. We won't bore you with the details except to say she likes her job, got a nice increase in salary, and won't be leaving Montana any time soon.
Our only regret about Dolly's visit is we were camped in a private campground and didn't get to share the Shoshone National Forest's delightful Three Mile campground with her. We stayed in site 11, which is next to the North Fork of the Shoshone River and is more or less by itself. The only thing that could make this campground better would be a resident moose browsing on the other side of the River. Three Mile is located three miles (clever?) from the East Entrance of Yellowstone. If you want to visit Yellowstone, this is the entrance to use. The drive from there to the heart of the Park is through a spectacular canyon and along Yellowstone Lake.
After completing the Shoshone National Forest, the Bridger and Teton awaited us. The Teton National Forest is right next to the Grand Teton National Park and as National Forests go, it makes a nice buffer for the Park. The best (and probably kindest) thing we can say about the Teton is some of its campgrounds have great views of the Teton Range.
Our last Forest for July was the Bridger in Wyoming and, as Suzi said, it turned out to be a real goat rope of an adventure. We kept reminding ourselves there are no problems, just challenges. Overall, the Bridger's campgrounds were poor examples of what the Forest Service is capable of if given the resources. The Forest has been hard hit with personnel and funding reductions but there is a great deal of potential in the Bridger and someone is going to enjoy the challenge.
One thing that really surprised us were the fees charged at the Bridger's campgrounds. We haven't seen rates this low since the Mark Twain NF in Missouri! Of course, our delight might have been enhanced by the outrageous prices we paid in Colorado. But, if you don't mind camping under primitive conditions, we must give the Bridger National Forest our "Best Buy for Your Buck" award. Example - Fremont Lake campground just outside Pinedale, Wyoming.
First, let us describe the geology of western Wyoming. The earth's crust in the northern section (Yellowstone area) is riding over a "hot spot" and, therefore, there are geysers and earthquakes. The central section (Tetons Range area) is rising upwards because of something called "overthrusting." The southern section is not as complex in some ways and more so in others. This section does not have "hot spots" or "overthrust." It had, up to 70,000-years ago, glaciers and oceans that would come and go. Fremont Lake is an example of what a glacier can produce. With almost 5,000 surface acres (translation 22-miles of shoreline!) and 600-feet deep, Fremont Lake is the largest glacier-made lake in the area. The campground is located about midpoint on the Lake's eastern shore and offers pleasant sites, drinking water, vault toilets, excellent fishing, and a magnificent boat ramp - all for an amazing $7 per day. This is about a third the price we found in Colorado for an equivalent campground but without the lake and about half of what the Forest Service is charging nationally. Like we said, it is quite a bargain.
However, the most outstanding discovery we made this month was the Green River Lake campground adjacent to the Bridger Wilderness. Actually, the campground is pretty much your standard National Forest campground. What makes this one so very special? Try the fishing on the Green River. The canoeing on the Green River Lake. The hiking in the Bridger Wilderness. But mostly it is the scenery. Imagine the spectacular Yosemite Valley with Half Dome. Now take away the hoards of people, add a
pristine crystal blue lake, and you'll have Green River Lake campground! It also has one of the worst access roads we have every driven - crowd control ;-).
After enjoying the Green River Lake campground everything else seemed anti-climatic until we completed the Bridger National Forest and moved on to Idaho. Here we began the Targhee National Forest. Two events occurred during our last week of July in the Targhee that has given us pause: a dry lightning storm on Wednesday produced 47 wildfires within the Targhee's boundary (none were a danger to us); and, Fred was diagnosed with giardia. Fred is doing better and on his way to a complete recovery. (That means Tory is the only one in our group who has not been inflicted with this miserable bowel problem. Can a dog get giardia?) The forest is another story. While the fires weren't huge, certainly nothing compared to Mesa Verda or Los Alamos, they do indicate just how critical conditions are in the area.
Early in August we will be meeting up with our friends, the Hogans, who are on their way back from a temporary stay in San Diego to Virginia Beach and home. By the end of August, we hope to have the Targhee, Salmon, Challis, and a portion of the Sawtooth completed. It's going to be a very busy last month of Summer. Can you believe Summer is two-thirds over!?!?!? Hope yours was as much fun as ours. Until September, take care.
Suzi and Fred