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Solo Road Trip Wyoming: Pinedale & Lander

August 26, 2020 - Backpacking/Camping,Wyoming

Among the wanna-be wild west cowpokes in my Oklahoma hometown, one was from Wyoming.  At least that’s what he claimed. Envy roiled within me well before I was consciously smitten with the state. I’ve always believed there to be a correlation with the envy of that boy’s Wyoming roots and my intent to become a vet – it seemed at the time the perfect entrance to a state mostly populated by large-hoofed animals.

Wind River Mountains

The Winds As I See Them

Wyoming Bucking Bronco

The Cowboy State

Wind River Mountain Range

Wind River Mountain Fishing

Wyoming Map

Pinedale & Lander, Wyoming

Wind River Mountains

Wind River Glacial Lake

Eventually I did make it to Wyoming as a resident (but not as a vet).  By the time I finally got there it didn’t matter the method.  It may only be my imagination and continued infatuation with the state, but I sense a keen curiosity from those who discover I once lived there. Apparently there are a lot of 7 year old wanna-be wild west cowpokes at heart.

Pinedale and Lander are primary base camps for treks into the Wind River Mountain Range, a range in western Wyoming that runs northwest to southeast. Gannett Peak, the highest peak in Wyoming (nope, not Grand Teton) at 13,804 feet is contained within the range as are 40 other peaks above 13,000 feet. The Winds are old. As such they’re worn down and not considered as classically attractive by mountain range standards (as say the Tetons). Personally I can’t get enough of the Winds even after 3 grueling hikes into their back country terrain. 

The towns are about 135 miles of driving time apart because the Winds literally split the space between them; as the crow flies they’re separated by 57 miles of unspoiled wilderness.   

But not everyone hikes. And for those these towns offer sights and activities for everyone, both laying claim to fantastic museums documenting pioneer life and culture. 

Lander lies on the southeast section of the Wind River Mountains and is home to the Museum of the American West, the Fremont County Pioneer Museum and the Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary where you can see wild mustangs in one of three wild horse sanctuaries in Wyoming. Lander is 125 miles north of Rawlins on highway 287.  Dubois hasn’t anything on Lander where strange name pronunciations go. Lander runs along the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River. Popo Agie. How do you think that’s pronounced?  Wrong! Here goes: “poe-POE-zha”.  Say it fast and run it together and good luck.

Speaking of food… the Lander Bar & Grill is a don’t skip. A New York Times writer said “it was one of the finest burgers I’ve eaten”, for what that’s worth.  I’m a fan of their local microbrews, and when I can tear myself away from a cheeseburger, the pizzas are tasty as well. 

Lander Bar & Grill

Lander Bar & Grill Microbrews

Lander Bar & Grill Microbrews

Lander Grill Kitchen Sink Burger

Lander Bar & Grill Kitchen Sink Burger

Pinedale is about 100 miles north of Rock Springs on highway 191 and centrally located on the southwest side of the Wind River Mountains.  It’s home to the Museum of the Mountain Man (open May – October), and naturally formed glacial lake, Fremont Lake. Fremont is the 2nd largest natural lake in Wyoming and 600 ft at its deepest. Take Skyline Scenic Drive to Elkhart Park to see the lake at it’s best perspective.  Do the Pinedale Walking Tour for an overview of the town’s main attractions. 

An annual event in the mid 1800’s, the Green River Rendezvous is the 2nd week in July. “The Green River Rendezvous was an annual event in the 1830s. Mountain Men, Trappers, Travelers and Indians all gathered in a valley “below the Green” river and bartered, traded, sold, and swapped various items such as skins, pelts, guns, jewelry and whatever else they needed.” While scheduled for a few days of good times and procurement of necessities, it often extended into months, and word is it was raucous. 

 

Pinedale, Wyoming Landscape

Pinedale, Wyoming

Wind River Range Camping

Wind River Wildlife

Trout Look Out

Cairn

Back-country hiking lifeline

Death Valley Sailing Stones

July 9, 2019 - National Parks

The fat on my forearm began to render immediately, the skin crackling and puckering, the hairs standing on end. Death Valley feels like one of those industrial heat lamps in a restaurant kitchen that will sear the skin of a human hand. 

As I got out of the air conditioned van the skin on my neck started crawling like it does when my husband blows on my poison ivy.  All of this happened before I could plunk on a hat and unroll my sleeves and the thought crossed my mind that given only a few more moments, my brain might have begun budging around by the slow rolling boil of the juices in my skull. 

People come from all over to experience the heat of Death Valley, because who doesn’t want their fat rendered? 

I prefer vegetation with my heat.  But nothing grows on the Playa. Nothing blooms, wilts, or dies because it never gains a start. Between the heat, lack of moisture, and the low elevation air pressure, the earth is compact and unmoving. There were a few shimmery silver mirages on the road. Everything else was white hot, not a glancing white hot, but a straight on, there’s no escape, Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White, blinding white. 

The ground temperature can be 80° F hotter than the surrounding air. The alternating hard-pack scabbed and pocked earth under your boots looks random, but it’s not. Geometrical hexagons of mud form that are 3-4 inches across and configure in sets of three at 120° to each other. So says the universal language of geometry. 

the hexagons of packed earth on the floor of Death Valley

Geometry of Death Valley’s Playa

There may be an absence of plant life, but the sailing stones make up for the lack of greenery.

The sailing stones of Racetrack Playa are nocturnal.  Furthermore, they only move when no one’s looking.  Stones are the things you skip, or throw, or hide in a snowball. But some of these stones are hundreds of pounds, making them in my opinion, boulders. Aliens have been given the credit for this phenomenon and I can’t argue. I walked upon one and saw the skid marks fade into the distance and stood there for a long time as in observing a tennis match.  Scientists have claimed the explanation that the stones are awakened by a specific combination of natural events —  wind, an icing of water for a skid, and a fair amount of juju that no one fully understands and voilà, they move across the plain of the desert floor. 

Sailing Stone of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley

Racetrack Playa Sailing Stone

 

the starkness of Death Valley

Stark Beauty Defined

 

 

 

John Batdorff of Batdorff Photography in Chicago, and his wife Staci Prince offer this photography workshop.  If you’re interested in seeing parts of Death Valley that you won’t see on your own, you should go.  The instruction was one-on-one, and everything was top-notch.  They are a delight to travel with and learn from. It was a fantastic trip, and they have a knack for summoning exquisite sunrises and sunsets in a place that seldom experiences the moisture required for clouds.  Thank you John and Staci. 

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The 5 Gateway Towns to Yellowstone National Park

Despite the general Western flavor of the towns that give residency to Yellowstone National Park’s gateways, before 1890 these five towns would have appeared an inconsonant mishmash of patched together backwoods watering holes.  But Yellowstone National Park, as vast and varied and tumultuous as it is, leaves no room for discord.

Like an army on a battlefield made cohesive by the power of a common cause, everything within its vast caldera and expansive rim has been pulled together, however begrudgingly, by the same forces of nature that once blew it apart. All those stray, eccentric pieces are now part of the YNP common denominator. But Yellowstone’s gateways are the Old West and the old west, still true to its hard fought infamy, continues to kick common denominators to the ever dusty curb.

Among the who’s who of western towns, Yellowstone National Park’s gateway towns embody our romanticized daydreams of the Old West. In other words they have an element of kitsch.  But it’s so guileless and enthusiastically presented that our expectations for an old west experience, however kitschy, are exceeded by the same leap the Colt revolver made over the bow and arrow.  We become immersed voyeurs to the old west ways, loving every moment of it. 

Small treasures offering inimitable charm and scenery, abundant wildlife, and a broad range of alternatives capable of meeting everyone’s entertainment needs, these towns will not disappoint.

Kitsch:  “Sentimentally charming, tacky and fun all rolled up in one. One catch with kitsch is that you’re never quite sure if it’s supposed to be serious or not. It’s that uncertainty that is amusing. Kitsch is melodramatic, overdone, gaudy and tacky or sentimental and folksy. It’s so bad that it’s cool.”  Yes, please. 

Map of the 5 Yellowstone entrances

Map of the 5 Yellowstone Entrances

** Exploring Yellowstone’s entrances and the towns anchoring them, takes homework.  The North Gate entrance in Gardiner, Montana is the only entrance that’s fully accessible and open year-round.  

West Yellowstone, Montana: West Gate Entrance

In 1905, E.H. Harriman, president of the Union Pacific Railroad, and Frank J. Haynes, president of Monida & Yellowstone Stage Line met in the area of West Yellowstone for a tour of the Park. Afterwards, Harriman constructed a railroad branch from St. Anthony, Idaho to the west entrance of the national park. By December 1907 the tracks were laid and when the snow pack melted, the first tourists made their way to the Park through this entrance in June 1908. Each summer, the “Yellowstone Special” train made trips daily from Salt Lake City to West Yellowstone. West Yellowstone developed around this flow of tourists.  For reference, park tourists had already begun entering the North Gate from Gardiner, Montana in 1903. 

When you get to West Yellowstone, park the car.  The town is compact and meandering friendly.  

Not To Be Missed — Strolling, huckleberry ice cream, the Union Depot Dining Hall, and the Yellowstone Historic Center Museum.

West Yellowstone airport (WYS) is open to commercial flights (Delta) from June 1 – September 30. 

For 2019, this entrance opens April 19. 

 

sign for entering West Yellowstone, Montana

Fun Times Ahead

 

sign for huckleberry ice cream

Snacks and Kitsch

 

a cone of huckleberry ice cream

Out of Focus Huckleberry Ice Cream, In Focus Bare Feet

 

Jackson, Wyoming:  South Gate Entrance 

It’s easy to believe you’ve reached Yellowstone National Park when you haven’t — you’re still in Grand Teton National Park. Beauty begets beauty so the confusion is understandable. Grand Teton National Park begins about five miles north of Jackson on 191/89. The physical entrance gates to Grand Teton National Park are at Moose Junction, 12 miles north, and/or Moran Junction, about 30 miles north of Jackson.  The south entrance of Yellowstone National Park is about 50 miles north of Jackson on 191 (for reference, Old Faithful is approximately 40 miles further).  

Since we’re talking about Jackson in the context of Yellowstone’s South Entrance, in the fall (my favorite time of year there), you may be able to drive a distance towards Yellowstone from Jackson, but that entrance closes in October.  This area can see snowfall in the range of 300 inches over the winter season.  Which means if you don’t do your homework and you wind up in Jackson desiring to drive to Yellowstone after the entrance closes, you’ll have to drive west into Idaho, then north into Montana, east to Livingston (yep, all the way to Highway 90) and finally, south to Gardiner (the West entrance is closed for the winter as well so don’t go knocking on that door). Gardiner, Montana is home to the North Gate and the only Yellowstone entrance that’s open year-round.  Do your homework. The trip is about 200 miles of brutal driving. In other words, throw a kiss at Yellowstone because you won’t be seeing it until spring. One qualification, you can enter the South entrance with a snowmobile.  

Jackson Hole’s airport (JAC) is open year round to commercial flights, typically Delta, United and Skywest, with occasional/seasonal flights available from American.

For 2019, this entrance opens May 10 and generally closes in October. 

50 Things To Do in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park

 

antler arches Jackson Hole Town Square

Antler Arches Jackson Town Square

 

stagecoach driver

Jackson Hole Stagecoach

 

western bluebird on a post at the base of the Tetons

Western Bluebird

 

atlas view map of Jackson Hole and Yellowstone area

Map of Jackson Hole & Yellowstone are

Cody, Wyoming: East Gate Entrance 

Cody’s offerings pivot around its progenitor Buffalo Bill Cody.  Which means one thing – you’re in for a show. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show ran for 30 years, making him the most famous entertainer in the world in the early 1900s.  Set aside plenty of time for your  52 mile drive from Cody to Yellowstone National Park.  President Theodore Roosevelt called it “the 50 most scenic miles in the world.”

Yellowstone Regional Airport in Cody serves the entire area with commuter flights offered by major carriers year-round from Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah.

For 2019, this entrance opens May 3.

Buffalo Bill Historical Center

Cody Nite Rodeo

The Irma Hotel

Buffalo Bill State Park / Reservoir

 

snow covered mountains on road from Cody to Yellowstone

Road From Cody to Yellowstone

 

the bar at the Irma Hotel in Cody

Irma Hotel Bar, Cody

 

sign for Chief Joseph Scenic Highway

Highway 296 between Cody, Wyoming and Cooke City, Montana

Cooke City, Montana: Northeast Gate Entrance

For so little infrastructure, I’ve a lot to say about this Yellowstone gateway. Cooke City, Montana has done with its remote birthright what it could. First mining, then Yellowstone National Park. Originally named Shoo-Fly, the mining town was renamed in 1880 in an attempt to flatter a Northern Pacific Railroad executive into putting a stop there (apparently Shoo-Fly struck even the 1880 sensibilities as uncultured, and they dreamily desired to live in a city). In 1877 this country helped hide the Nez Perce Chief Joseph and his 800 or so band of hold-outs from General Howard’s 2,000 strong Cavalry for three months. Railroads don’t go where outnumbered bands of undersupplied men on horseback can elude the United States army for months.

I can see why the townspeople wanted a railroad in there.  Getting to Cooke City is a gutsy endeavor.  Highways 296 and 212 merge into a single road and from that junction the town is another 14 miles of nothing but bravery. And that’s assuming you’ve got any left.  Coming out of Red Lodge, Montana on 212, BearTooth Pass at 10,974 ft. fiercely protects this route.  Coming out of Cody, Wyoming on 296, Dead Indian Pass at 8,066 feet on the Chief Joseph Highway with views of the Absaroka’s Pilot and Index Peaks (11,708 & 11,313 feet) guards the other. Pretty sure the railroad executive never made it to the town hall meeting. 

Cooke City has a year-round population approximating 100. Three hundred cavort on the one paved street in the summer months of July and August. Even though it’s considered Yellowstone’s Northeast entrance gateway community, Silver Gate, a few miles past Cooke City, actually claims the ranger station.

Take note, if you’ve not entered the Park through this least-traveled gate, this small community and the drive to get there, epitomize Yellowstone’s wildness.

The Northeast Entrance remains open year round but that’s a mere technicality.  Since the Beartooth Highway (212) closes in September/October, you can only access the gate and Cooke City from within the park.  Tricky. 

 

Index Peak in the Asbsaroka Mountains

Pilot Peak, Absaroka Mountains

 

sign on the tree indicating snow levels

Snow Country’s Obvious Signs

 

historical stop, the general store in Cooke City Montana

Cooke City, Montana General Store

 

northeast entrance sign Yellowstone National Park

Northeast Entrance Yellowstone National Park

 

Gardiner, Montana: North Gate Entrance (the original gateway into YNP)

In 1872 when President Ulysses S Grant declared Yellowstone the nation’s first national park, Gardiner, Montana, 100 miles as the crow flies from what would become the park’s darling South entrance, was the only threshold.  Home to one of the oldest roads in Yellowstone, the Old Gardiner Road was used to ferry visitors into Mammoth Hot Springs from the Northern Pacific Railroad depot in Cinnabar, Montana. The original host to Yellowstone’s first visitors established as a 1880s stagecoach route, it’s still unpaved, and one of the few roads in the park that excludes RVs. 

President Chester A Arthur was the first U.S. president to visit Yellowstone. In 1883, he and his party led by General Sheridan, rode on horseback over the Old Gardiner Road to the park headquarters at Mammoth Hot Springs (Mammoth Hot Springs still reigns as Park headquarters).  

The Roosevelt Arch was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt on April 24, 1903. 

The Gardiner entrance remains the only entrance that’s open year-round.

Fort Yellowstone and the beautiful travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs are just beyond this gate. 

 

the large stone entrance to Yellowstone in Gardner, Montana

Yellowstone’s North Entrance; Gardner, Montana. The Roosevelt arch was dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt on April 24, 1903.

 

travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs

Travertine Terraces, Mammoth Hot Springs

 

baby buffalo with mother at Yellowstone's North Entrance

Spring at Yellowstone’s North Entrance

 

US post office Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Main Post Office, Mammoth Hot Springs

 

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Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom and a Solo Trip to Sweden

June 24, 2019 - Abroad

The article in WSJ Magazine was called “Dream Weavers”.  I’m not a subscriber but they sent me a magazine anyway. And I’ve never received another one and in a way I’m glad because who knows for where I would have next booked a ticket. I tore out the article but it has no date on the two pages so I can’t even tell you when. I read it and in rapid succession developed an inexplicable covetous urge to own a weaving from the Swedish textile atelier of Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom, then booked a flight to Sweden. Let me tell you no one was more surprised than me. 

I’ve always loved fabrics and rugs and linens. I’m a tactile human, always reaching for things in no touch places, but until recently I couldn’t have told you it was TEXTILES in which I have immense interest in and appreciation for and a few regrets about not having pursued this passion before now.  I’ve brought back a textile from every country I’ve traveled but I was unknowing of the broad, beautiful term, textiles until this purchase and the research I did as a result. 

On various travels to Paris I discovered Aubusson rugs and Gobelin tapestries.  I bought a small, sweet red fox needlepoint kit from Bucherie of which I’ve not begun, but it’s here next to me, always calling for someday.  I’ll eventually get to it.  My grandmother taught me to sew.  Home Economics honed the skill.  4-H brought it all home because there were blue ribbons involved and wearable clothing (beyond my Mom’s pretty feed sack shorts and matching tanks).  I taught myself to do cross stitch embroidery and laboured for months on a crewel pillow that I gave my Mom. She still has it and I’m amazed every time I see it.

But it was the choosing of the fabric for the sewing projects that I most enjoyed.  I recall shopping for fabric for a prom dress and telling Mom I wanted something to stun. It was for my 1st husband’s senior prom and since I was a year older, I had graduated and would be returning on his arm and wanted to make sure all the girls knew who was in charge.  Mom and I found a gauzy pale pink fabric with raised dots of darker pinks and pale tans that had enough body to stand up to the dress pattern we had chosen (I hope it was Vogue but it may have been McCall’s). The fabric was zephyr thin, requiring a lining in the body and the entire project was decadent and gloriously tactile and I was so happy to wear that dress.  A few years later a friend wanted to borrow it for a wedding and they never returned it.  It slipped my memory at the time, but once I (much) later recalled the favor and the absence and loss of the dress, I’ve never gotten over it.  That dress and its fabric was the beginning.  

Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom 1873-1941 was a Swedish textiles pioneer.  She opened her weaving shop in 1919 in Båstad Sweden at the age of 46. Already a Swedish design icon, she’s been likened to a composer, her weavers the musicians.  Her rugs and tapestries hang in museums, grace the floors of palaces all over the world, and occasionally the smallest ones find their way into homes of new converts. Works of art in linen and wool, I can’t imagine having one underfoot.  It would be like constantly looking at the new pair of shoes bought for the new school year. I’d never want to look up again.  She left behind over 700 designs – a legacy of an extent the textiles world may never see an equal. 

I don’t know why I travel, I really don’t. I had such an intensely passionate desire for one of those weavings in the article that I created an overseas itinerary to procure one despite the fact I hardly knew what a loom was. If I can be moved to book a trip abroad to a country I’ve never been spurred on by an article in a magazine I don’t subscribe to about woven wall hangings and rugs by a Swedish textiles design icon of which I’d never heard, there is no rhyme or reason.  I like that idea.  To be driven to go see something on as slight a whim as this is as good a cause for exploration and discovery, as any I think.

 

Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom

Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom Atelier, Båstad Sweden

 

Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom

Full tour. Antique looms.

 

Marta Maas-Fjettersrom

glorious, intricate, intoxicating textiles

 

MMF International Executive

Win Win. Martin Chard International Executive MMF.

 

Swedish Flat Weave by Kaisa Melanton for AB MMF

 

Kaisa Melanton

Woven 1974. Kaisa Melanton design. Linen warp, wool weft

 

Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom

Hello Marta I Love You

 

Workshop at Agardhsgatan 9, Bastad Sweden

 

Kaisa Melanton

Kaisa Melanton 1920 – 2012, Swedish Textile Designer and director of Marta Maas-Fjetterstrom studio in 1970

 

MMF Studio & Shop

MMF design in progress

 

Post purchase wind-down

 

Mom's crewel pillow

The Crewel Pillow, circa 1999

 

I posted all these pics so my son will someday know what he’s inheriting.

 

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Båstad Sweden

June 19, 2019 - Abroad

You don’t set out solo for Båstad Sweden because of a glossy travel brochure. 

“She was standing with the sun glowing round her head, the North Sea behind her. Dark glasses. It was the last photo of her. They looked for hints in the reflection of glass but there were none. She disappeared in that place. And really, who could blame her?” This was the only thing I wrote in the stumbled upon place of Båstad Sweden. Unless you’re a California transplant, in Oklahoma we don’t often use the term “existential crisis”.  But the one I’ve been experiencing crescendoed on that coast. 

Flying Lufthansa to Germany I knew of two things I planned to take from Båstad – inspiration from a writer’s workshop, and a weaving. I knew these things before I embarked on this first trip to Scandinavia.  But that first evening as the North Sea lapped at my toes in the dark while the bathhouse lights rose as if by queued stage production, strange tears came as my self came to an abrupt halt, so quiet and still I was aware of my held breath; a surprising and unexpected standstill as my senses locked onto the place.  

Two days later I’m enjoying a massage when Charlotte asks what I think about Båstad. She specifically uses the word energy. Charlotte is quiet and unobtrusive in her query but internally I’m disturbed.  Disturbed at her perceptiveness, disturbed at the notion of energy so pronounced that someone else has noticed, disturbed at my recollection of the evening when I collided with that energy, disturbed at my truthful response. I tell her it’s dark.  She chuckles and suggests “it’s strong”.  And then recommends I take a dip in the North Sea the next morning and spend the day at the bathhouse. So I did. 

A nude plunge into the open, frigid sea, a large warm outdoor caldron-I-mean-tub with steam fighting for air space with the glorious February sun, a plush white robe covering me inside near a fireplace with nothing but glass separating the indoor refinement from the prodigious contrasts on the other side… repeat.  The existential crisis didn’t end, but I learned a lot that day about dark energy vs strong energy.  Thank you Lotta. 

People travel for a lot of reasons.  Yes I go to see, but mostly I pursue a discovery of place that leaves a mark as indelible as the tattoo I continually threaten. I want a place to unexpectedly hurt. In all the best ways. 

North Sea bathhouse

Energy

North Sea bathhouse in the morning

Bathhouse på morgonen

 
a map of Båstad Sweden

Båstad Sweden, Earth

Swedish flag flying over coast of North Sea

Swedish Coast of North Sea

Black and White photo of Båstad Sweden after dark

First night walk about town

 
Båstad and the North Sea from a restaurant window at the blue hour

Båstad and the North Sea from a restaurant window

 

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The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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