Laura Robinson: Ruka gets lucky and a near cliffhanger in Spud Country

laura4I have been weaving in and out of the incredibly gorgeous Wyoming/Idaho border the last 3 days, working my way up north through the Caribou/Targhee National Forest. I came along Alpine Lake, then into west Yellowstone, north again to Mesa Falls.  Spending nights at National Park Campgrounds where the flowers are in full regalia, perfuming the valleys and mountain meadows.

We get to this cute little mom and pop at the north end of Bear Lake.  It’s creatively called, Bear Lake North and is in St. Charles, ID.  Anyway, we get out of the van to check in and there is an old black lab named Lucky who came out to greet us. Lucky isn’t so old that he can’t have some fun, but you know he’ll need some extra strength doggie aspirin tomorrow.  He and Kent, his Human Minion, led us to our site  and directed Olga until she was well situated under the shade tree; Kent even pulled the picnic table over for me!  Kent left.  Lucky did not. Lucky stayed here until it was time for bed. Lucky got treats. Lucky got his own ball to chase. Lucky got to go for a walk with us.  Lucky got brushed because Ruka deserves a well groomed beau. laura5

After the day Ruka had, walking to Green River early a.m . Walking the refuge later. Hiking Fossil Butte, then getting Lucky, she is dead to me. Dead asleep and won’t move until 6 when she shakes her collar to get my butt out of bed and let her out. She didn’t come in until after dark and was never on leash today. I think this was her best day yet as well as mine.

I actually saw a moose. At the Ranger Station in Medicine Bow, the lady said to watch for them. I in the area for a long time and had given up seeing anything.  Then, as I was driving out, I spied out of the corner of my eye, a dark shape under a tree off to my left.  WHOA! BACK UP! TURN OFF ENGINE. GET TELEPHOTO.  Of course, he being under a tree was terrible lighting for a shot, but I had the binos handy and got to watch him chew whatever it is moose chew for a while. He didn’t seem the least bit annoyed with me watching. I don’t know if it was a young male, or just a guy who had shed and was growing his new rack, but he had little knobs for antlers and was shedding his shaggy winter coat.  Yay!  Right after the moose I saw a cute little muskrat in a shallow stream, taking a bath.  I have seen about a ga-zillion ground squirrels and gophers and a few mule deer. No bears yet.

It seems like I have been away for a long time. Funny how time slows down with this sort of travel. I have done group tours before, once on a birding trip to the Everglades and then to Turkey and China. Those were so jam packed with itineraries, every day flew by and I was exhausted after just a few days.  Driving Olga with no agenda and taking time to walk with Ruka, makes me slow down; I feel so much more relaxed.  Plus, there is always “That Person” in a group who is aggravating and asks the same silly questions over and over.  Here, I get mad at myself when I bump my head or burn the toast, but that’s about it.  Well, other things I do, too. Like….

laura2Okay. I don’t want to admit this. It was idiotic.  But I have to release it to the world and get it out there.  The day started swimmingly. It was a gorgeous morning with cows mooing and birds singing and warm sunshine on the fields and lake.  I made breakfast, did laundry, took a long hot shower.  Walked with Lucky, the park mascot (who came back very early to get some more good mojo from his favorite campers). We all shook paws, farewell good fellows, and were under way.

There was the fabulous Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Important Bird Area to find and we saw some wonderful birds.  It is one of the largest nesting areas for Canada Geese in the US (not that I care much for those pecking pests but the goslings sure are cute) and White Faced Ibis. I have never seen that species of Ibis before and got very excited. The closest I got was an animal that looked a lot like a White Faced Cow in a field.  But I did get to see a graceful pair of Sand Hill Cranes and their chick! I was on dirt roads and got a little lost but headed the general direction and voila!  Took the 34 scenic byway through Soda Springs and north.  Idaho is loaded with scenic byways and that is the thing to do!laura6

At one point I had to stop and let Ruka plant her flag of ownership and stretch. I pulled over on a gravel access road in National Forest. Thought I’d drive down and take a look. Stunning! Tin Cup Creek meandered through a small valley with the road running higher along side.  We stopped so I could photograph the thousands of deep purple Dwarf Larkspur and yellow Daisies.

But let me tell you, the black flies were vicious and biting, in my ears, eyes, arms, nose , AGGGGGG! Get the hell out now! Jumped back in the van along with about 251 of the nasties and backed out onto the road which was tight. I was swatting at flies, rolling up the window and swearing when I felt the back end of Olga tilt. I had backed my left dual wheels right over the edge of the deep ditch on the other side. Olga was pitching right to left, just like in the movies.  Good thing I had filled my water tanks under the front passenger seat and Ruka was sitting there. I think the extra weight saved me. But if she had jumped down and gone back…..I gunned her and the right wheels grabbed gravel and got us back on the road.  OMG!!!! We were out of cell range, on a remote road with deadly killer black flies and pterodactyl mosquitoes. Could have been bad, but my trusty green steed dug in and did her thing.

Thank you Roadtrek! And next time I pull over by a trout stream, DEET!

We spent three boon docking different sites in Caribou-Targhee  National Forest campgrounds at the base of the western side of the Tetons.  First was along Alpine Lake, which is  famous for Jim Bridger and other trappers’ rendezvous sites.  We had a lovely spot and great view but near the highway as many of these are. Big Walt, my camp host, was very nice and gave me a ticket for a free dump out later down the road at the dam campground. Many state and national campgrounds are a lot less expensive than private,  which can cost more than $50 a night- but don’t have water, electric or sewer hookups.  Big Walt was indeed big, and is a retired career Army helicopter pilot. But he is also a gentle soul who had some hummingbird feeders set up that were full of the little jewels.

Again, I only made it about 5 miles north to the next campground and had a look see.  EDEN! Two miles away from the highway into the wilderness.  Great hiking with gloriously flowering mountain meadows, (I felt like singing, but didn't want to ruin the atmosphere) pines without beetles, aspen, mule deer, rushing creeks and soft wind. The hosts were a garrulous couple, originally from KC, and we had a wonderful time chatting that evening. Ruka and I went for a few hikes in the area and never saw another person on the trails. I am so glad I looked in and stayed.

laura1We;ve been weaving  in and out of Wyoming and I am on the western edge of Yellowstone now. In fact, we drove down 20 miles of dirt, washboard road (remember to close ALL of your windows – I spent an hour and a half cleaning last night….) to see Cave Falls in west Yellowstone.  Deanne, who owned the diner in town where I had a great homemade chicken noodle soup, told me to check out her favorite campground right on the Falls River. Well, we went, we saw the falls and we left. Mosquitos and biting Black Flies! You know how I hate those suckers. We couldn’t hike, either, because of all the Grizzlies in the area. There were signs everywhere warning only to hike in groups and make noise. Dogs are especially bad because they go nuts when they see a bear and bears don’t like to be threatened. I don’t know- I have spray and a whistle, but when there are THAT many signs, flies and mosquitos, I thought we ought to move on.

So to Warm River Campground we drove.  I walked dogs with my neighbor, a native of Jackson, WY, who later took her grandkids to town for a root beer float and brought one back for me! Gotta love it!  Okay- all the ice cream was melted by then, but who cares- it was still cold and tasted wonderful. Warm River is very shallow, only about 70 feet wide and there were several other campers, floaters and fishing folk.  Lots of Yellow Warblers singing in the willows and quite nice.laura3

Early this morning we went up the road to Mesa Falls to beat the rush and did. Hardly anyone around. WOWZER!  There are upper and lower and both were spectacular. I wanted to see some and got 3  in less than 24 hours.

Did I mention I am in spud land? Fields as far as you can see between the Tetons and the Sawtooths where I am headed tomorrow. I stopped early today, at another cute little mom and pop RV park, about 20 miles north of Idaho Falls for the Wi-Fi.  I am behind on emails, a little work and I need make a few calls.

More to come…





  • shari groendyk

    Laura, it sounds like you’re in heaven!!! except of course for the flies, skeeters and bears…. Love your blog, great descriptors. I have to ask you, how did you capture that rainbow at the falls? I tried to photo a rainbow at the falls in Kentucky but they washed out. Anyway, it’s exciting to read all your happenings. Very frightening though that you almost went off the road, alone and out of cellphone coverage. Is there some sort of techie gadget that you can get that could send out a beam of s.o.s. or something like that? I thought I’d read about skiers having something like that once…
    Looking forward to your next fun adventure! Roam, girl …. 🙂

  • Jim Diepenbruck

    Great post. Shari got it right with the descriptors. Flowers…”perfuming the valleys and mountain meadows”. Purfuming??? I would have never thought of that one but a perfect way to explain your surroundings. So nice that Ruka is making new friends along the way so she will have her own fond memories about your adventures.

    Looking forward to reading about your next escapades…safe travels.

  • William ” Bill” Browne

    Good post, Laura. When we worked in Yellowstone, Mesa Falls was an annual visit. Just a nice day trip from the park for us. We also overnighted in National Forest camogrounds when we wre out there. Lot cheaper Keep on writting.

  • The jam-packed itineraries of a packaged tour, vs the easy-going and magical pace & direction of a self-directed trip – I can totally relate. Don’t have an Olga, but I’ve got a Harley (my bike’s actual name!), and like you, I’ve logged a few miles on my own. it’s hard to beat the freedom to drive ON, or pull OFF. What you have going for you, Laura, that I don’t/won’t is the patience to record some of the highlights with a camera. On a motorcycle – photo’s mean stopping – and most days the ZOOM of riding is better than the ZOOM LENS of stopping for pix. 🙂

  • Sarah

    I love reading your blog but am curious as to why you don’t post the actual names of the places you stay. I am relatively knew to RVing and would like to stop at some of the places you’ve mentioned.

  • Linda

    We have a family cabin in Island Park ID. Before we bought the cabin we spent many summers at Buffalo Campground and fishing the Henry’s Fork of he Snake River. It is a bit of Heaven on Earth especially in September when most people have left for the season.