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Late, For Nowhere in Particular

Rolling down some back-road cloaked in the bliss of anonymity, one arm in contact with the wheel at the point that encourages my wrist to flop carefree at the end of it, head bobbling to a slow rhythmic beat that doesn’t match my rousing vocal accompaniment to Life is a Highway that’s cranked up so loud it’s oozing from the Yukon like displaced mortar, I come across this.

Signifying a certain arm flex to the grinding pressure of today’s world, a ballsy show of throwing caution to the wind, a take-this-job-and-shove-it head toss, THIS is temptation.  If you look at it with just the right tilt of your head, you’ll get the same glint in your eyes.  Selling everything I own would enable the purchase of a few acres in any number of states, on which I could move or build a small house, delivering my bobbling head into town once a week for provisions in this.

Run Away From Home!

I don’t succumb. Others in my life would highly disapprove and I highly value these others.  I photograph the Ford and pull back onto the road with a slow-mo melodrama moving frame by frame through my brain. It conveniently loops from the part that shows me walking up to the house, knocking on the door, engaging the owner in negotiations, taking the keys from them and driving away into the sunset in that truck.  My melodramas never include the pragmatic part about what I’d do with all my crap in the Yukon, the Yukon, the exchange of titles, discussing what oil the Ford uses, insurance, etc.

Not many of us ever throw this degree of caution to the wind. But who among us hasn’t entertained the thought of running away from home, even if it’s for a mere few harmless days?  It’s a bit risque and for the first time in my long history of SRTs I see it for that. You’re out there by the droves sending me emails  about the longing to get out there. I fully understand the longing. Few things in our lives are as liberating, empowering, and rejuvenating as a solo road trip.

So I ask all of you with latent and repressed open road wanderlust sitting at home fantasizing about the cloak of anonymity, arm draped over the wheel, or resting lightly on handle bars, aren’t you late, for nowhere in particular?

Camp-Out Cooking

May 21, 2014 - Backpacking/Camping
netting one
netting one

As the final camping/glamping post (for awhile), listed below are a few items recommended to be on your camp-out cooking grocery list along with some tips and a select few ‘recipes’ that are practically fail-safe. Here’s a quick reference to all the posts in the Camping series:

See the hard work below? It’s not always possible to 1) do this safely – this guy’s a pro, or 2) have an open fire due to drought/burn bans.  If you can’t have a fire, memorize this word: resourceful.

During the winter I roast hot dogs at home over my gas cooktop. So the trip’s not bust just because of a burn ban.

hard work

Wyoming Campsite

Wyoming Campsite

I made a comment in the post A Little Dirt Won’t Hurt that is not really accurate.  To be diplomatic, instead of stating that camping and cooking don’t mix (which is my opinion), the correct statement would be that I camp to get away from every-day activities, cooking being one of them.

If you spend a lot of time cooking in camp, you can’t do these activities:

Fishing but not really

Fishing but not really

DSC00173

Preparing to arm wrestle – psyching out the opponent

serious napping

serious napping

not so serious napping

not so serious napping

posing

posing

sending a campmate to timeout

sending a campmate to timeout

gazing

gazing

pretending you're a circus performer on stilts

pretending you’re a circus performer on stilts

So if you don’t want to be staked (pun intended HA!) to the kitchen machine, take heed:

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A Little Dirt Won’t Hurt

May 9, 2014 - Backpacking/Camping
No I didn't

-20 F. Film shatters. Digital rebels.

By the time the fire got its lick of the sugary ooze it was too late to save it.  The entire glob let go, the creamy interior flashing briefly as it separated from the blackened gossamer crust crashing one then the other into a gooey splat. Cum-candy gone wrong. Not the happy ending I’d anticipated. Humpty Dumpty’s poem always breaks in at this, the first marshmallow to hit the skids.  Since it looks like a bird took a crap, the Humpty Dumpty trigger is obviously a mis-wire somewhere in the psyche.  It screws up the camping vibe until a waft of molten sugar belch reaches my nose freeing my brain from the HD song long enough to refocus on the sloppy technique that caused the mishap.

Backyard Fire Pit

Campfire Cooking

All that passionate effort, the perfectly timed tiny puffs aimed to put the fire out but not dislodge the softening bolster pillow mass;

salty beads of sweat banding together into a trickle down my forehead as my hand and the stick turn,

dip and contort in order to keep the object intact, the anticipation of the ritual touch to the lips

ooh too hot twirl a few times then back for the final plunge, and now, the indistinguishable charred remains could just as well be calf nuts on the crackling coals.

Camp Cookery

Camp Cooking Essentials

All for what you ask?  Another go of course.  Losing one or three or ten is part of the ritual.

The whippet of green branch is even better prepared now that the tip’s coated with a sticky clump.  It’s like giving someone your hand as they slip from a 10 story window ledge – it’s hopeless but it makes you both feel better in the moment.

The next marshmallow victim has something to cling to as you begin another intricate dance. That’s how it goes roasting marshmallows – casualties are high but the payoff memorably delicious.

A lot of dancing takes place in camp cooking.  Unlike Fred and Ginger, the results are cluggy, less than perfectly orchestrated processes that aren’t much to look at, generally requiring resourcefulness and a willingness to be happy with something under or over-cooked, sometimes even unrecognizable.

Camp Kitchen

camp kitchen

One needs to be willing to oohh and ahhh over anything cooked over an open fire regardless how shitty it turns out.

That may be what camping is all about,,,,

being happy and grateful for your own mediocrity and learning to deal with it.

Which is why camping and cooking in my opinion don’t go together.  Those of us that cook at home need on-staff camp therapists because it’s hard to handle the fact you can poach a perfect egg in your home kitchen but even your scrambled eggs out here would bounce from the nearest pavement [20 miles away].  High tech with one of those heat seeking digital read out guns?  It’ll be accurate. But a smidgen either side of that spot might be 100 degrees different.  Good luck with that.

Uigher Woman Carrying Water

Uigher Woman Carrying Water – Lots of dishes = you doing this

You can buy a camp-cook recipe book but you’ll find a lot of things skewered (the veges will wind up in the fire next to the marshmallows and it’s damn messy handling the food without running water), delicate food items packaged into neat little bundles of aluminum foil to be thrown onto a fire you have no idea the temperature of, to be timed at 15.5 minutes but oh wait you left your wrist watch at home (the proper thing to do by the way), and things like muffins and eggs cooked in an orange shell.  Don’t know about you but when I cook in a less than stable environment I prefer to see the food as its cooking/smoldering/burning.

And I don’t cook in camp things I wouldn’t make at home like anything in a friggin’ orange shell.

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50 Things to-do in Jackson Hole & Grand Teton National Park

 

Teton Pass Sign

 

Higher clearance vehicle recommended

At some point every year, my thoughts turn to it. A hunger to see it, breathe the mountain air, gaze upon the abundant wildlife, dine at my favorite restaurants, and hike favorite trails, inevitably begins to gnaw.  

There is something to be said for the delicious stride of habit’s familiarity.

Some can’t fathom traveling to the same place twice; there is indeed a great deal to see in the world. But even among those with the most severe case of wanderlust, many have a favorite destination – a place whose familiar embrace is longed for.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming is that place for me.  The wonder and enchantment of the mountains and the valley is constant. It’s the intrigue generated by the continual motion of rotating sensory stimulus that causes me to travel there again and again — it is never the same twice.

Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole overlap (one of only two airports in the United States in a National Park).  But I’ve broken the list down by what’s technically in the Park and what isn’t. With a map and this list, you’ll see some of the best the area has to offer.

Mormon Row Barn

Explore!

view from the upper saddle

base camp

Grand Teton base camp

Grand Teton National Park

1. Walk through Jackson Lake Lodge. The wall of windows at the back facing the Teton Mountain Range frame a spectacular view. The wildlife watching at dusk from the outdoor patio at the back is fantastic. Highway 89/191 just north of Jackson Lake Dam.
2. Enjoy a meal on the patio at Signal Mountain Lodge – the PILE of memorable (based on size and taste) nachos and the tequila lime chicken quesadilla are a must. Add insult to injury and get the chocolate pecan bourbon pie to go and one of their palm-sized homemade cookies at the checkout counter.
3. Since you’re already there, drive to the top of Signal Mountain. Teton Park Road south end of Jackson Lake. And yes, you CAN drive to the top.
4. Take the boat across Jenny Lake and walk up to Inspiration Point/Hidden Falls. Teton Park Road.
5. Take a hike. There are many from which to choose and for all fitness levels. From the Taggart Lake hike of 4 miles to the all day not-for-the-faint-of-heart Amphitheatre Hike (rated very strenuous), there’s something for everyone. Taggart Trailhead – Teton Park Road just north of the Moose Entrance gate; Amphitheatre Trailhead – Teton Park Road, Lupine Meadows, north of Taggart trailhead and south of Jenny Lake.
6. Drive to Antelope Flats for wildlife viewing. Road turns East off of Highway 89/191 just north of Moose Junction. Watch for a sign.
7. See the barns on Mormon Row for a classic view of the Tetons. 13 miles north of Jackson on 89/191, go east at the Gros Ventre Road turnoff, then head north on the first road that junctions. Mormon Row is in the southern area of Antelope Flats.
8. For scenery and wildlife viewing, find Schwabacher’s Landing. It’s a photographer’s dream. Highway 89/191 north of Moose Junction.
9. The same goes for Oxbow Bend. Highway 89/191 north of Moran Entrance Station and south of Jackson Lake Junction.
10. Find the spot where the 1953 Western film, Shane, was filmed (towards Kelly).
11. See the Gros Ventre (Grow Vaunt) Slide Geological Area. On June 23, 1925, 50 million cubic yards slid off the side of Sheep Mountain damming the Gros Ventre River and creating Lower Slide Lake. Highway 89/191 just north of Jackson and south of the airport, turn East onto the Gros Ventre Road. Follow the paved road past Kelly.
12. Stand in awe at the Snake River overlook made famous by Ansel Adams. Highway 89/191 north of Schwabacher’s Landing, south of Triangle X Ranch (all marked).
13. Locate the Old Patriarch Tree (about a 15 minute walk off the road). 89/191 north of Moose Junction. If you want the GPS coordinates, you’ll have to leave a comment and ask me for those!
14. Stay at a dude ranch. Any dude ranch.
15. Take a horseback ride. Anywhere.

Wyoming Cutthroat

snake river overlook B&W film

Jackson Hole Area

Home Away From Home

Big Smile, Tiny Cutthroat Trout

 From the Top

16. Get pictures at the top of Teton Pass (8,341 feet), in front of the famous Teton Pass sign with the cowboy pointing towards Jackson Hole (especially fun during the winter when the snow covers most of the sign). Approximately 11 miles west of Jackson on Highway 22 and just up the mountain from Wilson.
17. Speaking of Wilson: grab a cappuccino and bagel at Pearl Street Bagels (my fav? everything bagel with sundried tomato, olive oil cream cheese + an oatmeal craisin cookie) and eat it on the picnic table just out back.  There’s also a Pearl Street Bagels in the town of Jackson but it lacks something (even though the food is just as good) compared to the Wilson location.  Also in Wilson, eat at Nora’s. Shop at Fish Creek Interiors. Get a soda pop at the General Store.
18. See the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Just north of Jackson on 89/191. Be sure to check out the gift shop.
19. Drive to the Curtis Canyon Overlook. In Jackson behind the hospital, take the Elk Refuge Road. It’s a dirt road that makes a forced turn to the north – after that change of direction, take the first road east. Wind your way into the backcountry until you see the sign and the overlook. Great place. I once photographed an eclipse from there. And big horn sheep.
20. If you know how to flyfish, then wet a line here. If not, take a lesson or a guided trip. Check out Jack Dennis or several other flyshops for their offerings.
21. Take a drive on the Moose-Wilson road. Make sure you have binoculars for the wildlife. North of the airport on 89/191, take the Moose Junction exit. Before you get to the Grand Teton National Park gate, you’ll see a sign for the road on your left.
22. Wine tasting at Dornan’s; pizza at Dornan’s; cookies at Dornan’s (inside the grocery shop). North of airport on 89/191, take the Moose Junction exit. Dornan’s has a sign just past the turnoff.
23. Raft down the Snake River (through the Canyon). Several outfitters to choose from.
24. Chicken pizza at the Brew Pub (Snake River Brewery – downtown Jackson). Any beer at the Brew Pub – micro brewed on the premises.
25. Latte & Bagels at Pearl Street Bagels (one in downtown Jackson and another location at Wilson)
26. Stay at Wyoming Inn (Red Lion Inn), or the Four Seasons, or the Snake River Lodge & Spa, or the Wort Hotel.
27. Try Pica’s restaurant near Albertsons in downtown Jackson. There’s a florist and a few other shops next to them. They have great Mexican food, terrific margaritas. The fish tacos are my favs.
28. Breakfast at Bubba’s – biscuits and gravy, pancakes – best I’ve ever had!! Great omelets.
29. Any meal or snack at The Bunnery (downtown Jackson)
30. The Blue Lion Restaurant! Have the stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and the lamb shank for an entree (downtown Jackson).
31. Dinner & oyster shooters at the The Rendezvous Bistro. My husband loves the green oyster shooters, I love the red ones. Try both. (South of downtown Jackson)
32. Massage at the Rusty Parrot (downtown Jackson)
33. Take in one of the many festivals. The Fall Arts Festival is in September. Film Festival in September/October. Music Festival in July and August. 
34. Lunch at Sweetwater Restaurant, on the patio (downtown Jackson).
35. Shop at Skinny Skis and Teton Mountaineering in downtown Jackson – my two favorite shopping excursions in the world (go up the stairs in Teton Mountaineering and you’ll find their sale items).
36. Check out Cloudveil’s flagship store (they’re headquartered in Jackson). It’s on a corner in downtown Jackson, but off the square.
37. For fun, unique, home interior shopping and small colorful gifts, check out Wild Hands for really neat artsy colorful objects (downtown Jackson), Paradigm Interior Design next to Pearl Street Bagels, and Jackson Lighting.
38. Shop at The Bootlegger in downtown Jackson.
39. Take a sleigh ride on Elk Refuge in winter.
40. Order an Arnold Palmer wherever you eat (it’s a tea/lemonade mix and very Jackson).
41. Tram ride to the top of the Teton Village mountain (Rendezvous Mountain) and hike down, or NOT.
42. Enjoy lunch or simply a walk through at Teton Village’s Mangy Moose Restaurant. The Idaho trout fish and chips are memorable as is the full sized stuffed moose hitched to a sleigh hanging from the ceiling.
43. Dinner at the Bar J Chuckwagon on Highway 22 (on the way to Teton Village). You’ll get a real chuckwagon meal (fit for a king), a wagon ride, and a cowboy music show.
44. Hike to the top of Snow King (ski mountain in downtown Jackson) and if you can’t do that, take the ski lift – GREAT aerial view of Jackson.
45. Hike up High School Butte and watch the handgliders take off.
46. Find the Sleeping Indian (hint: Sheep Mountain).
47. Find the town square’s live webcam and wave to friends at home (stand on the corner near the stagecoach office and wave to the cam on top of Jackson Trading Company); sit in the town square, admire the elk horn arches (all naturally shed), and people watch.
48. Attend the Shootout every summer evening at 6:00 p.m. (downtown Jackson)
49. Find an art gallery brochure and take a self-guided tour around the galleries located on the Jackson town square.
50. Attend a rodeo.

Jackson Hole Hill Climb

51.  BONUS!  Attend the World Championship Hill Climb (snow mobiles — great fun).

 

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Hard Life

 

25 memorable sights: The Black Hills

The Black Hills (Pahá Sápa in Lakota) are an isolated mountain range rising from the Great Plains of North America in western South Dakota. The range extends into Wyoming.  The hills are covered in trees, an effect that gives them a darkened appearance from a distance. The dusky corner was distinctive enough to garner the name “black hills.”

The grandeur of granite rising from the cliffs of Mt. Rushmore will in one upward glance sweep away any countryman’s negative sentiments. And impress the hell out of everyone else.  Mt. Rushmore is but one impressive sight however, among the many packed into South Dakota’s southwestern corner.

Black Hills South Dakota

the little squiggle that you can’t read is a secret note in my Atlas. Sorry about that. While I won’t share that, I did want you to see a map of the area.  Nebraska to the south, Wyoming to the west.

 

Air Force One over Mt. Rushmore. Wikimedia Creative Commons.

Air Force One over Mt. Rushmore. Wikimedia Creative Commons.

First. -- Tammie Dooley all rights reserved

First. — Tammie Dooley all rights reserved

Anchored by Rapid City (airport code RAP), the Black Hills area still echoes with the report of Wild West Colt pistols. You can wander through Native American Indian Reservations as you contemplate what to take in first — the sights of Mt. Rushmore featured on the big screen in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the cavernous limestone formations of Badlands National Park, Sturgis or the frontier town of Deadwood. Throw in the Crazy Horse MemorialCuster State ParkWind Cave National Park, the 1880 TrainBuffalo Gap National Grassland, the Geographic Center of the U.S., the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Jewel Cave National Monument, or the Mammoth Site, and a week’s vacation can be easily spent in one of the most scenic and pivotally historic areas of the lower 48 states. And that’s before you even cross into Wyoming. Forget the guidebook, you’ll need only your Atlas and a penchant for discovery.

The Badlands?

Badlands, South Dakota — Tammie Dooley all rights reserved.

The Route: starting in Rapid City

Interstate 90 East of Rapid City will deliver you to Wall, South Dakota. If you’re already parched or ready for a stop, the Wall Drug Store offers refreshment, take in the National Grasslands Visitor Center, or search for the Minuteman Missile Silo.  From there 240 South will take you directly to the scenic drive around the North Unit of Badlands National Park. The loop ends at Interior. To continue into the South Unit’s 2.7 million acres of sprawling erosion of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, proceed past Imlay to Scenic, turning South at the first/only turnoff. You’ll need to stop at the White River Visitor Center to get permission to proceed into the Reservation. West on Highway 2, then North on Highway 40 to Redshirt will complete the South Unit. “Highway” 2 is a misnomer. The road is gravel, albeit wide and well maintained. Continuing past Redshirt on Highway 40 to Hermosa presents the choice of turning North on Highway 79 and back to Rapid City, or west on Highway 36 to 87 South to Custer State Park and Wind Cave National Park. From Wind Cave National Park you can easily hit 385 North taking you to Custer, the Crazy Horse Memorial, Mt. Rushmore, and the ’1880 Train’ in Hill, as you progress northward.

Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Plains Indian Burial Platform

Pyre — Tammie Dooley all rights reserved

The area is deceptively compact.  While distances aren’t great between any point (from Rapid City to Hot Springs on 79 is only 57 miles) you will not desire to cover any of it quickly.  And the twists and turns of the roads preclude speed.  While limited lodging is available in the smaller towns and in Badlands National Park, the high season summer months make day trips to and from your pre-reserved lodging in centrally located Rapid City conducive to combing the area.

Deadwood

Once you’ve exhausted the sights south of Rapid City, 385 will take you to Lead (as in lead a horse to water), Deadwood, the Geographic Center of the U.S. in Belle Fourche, and Sturgis to the East just off Highway 90.  Either of these towns is worthy of securing lodging if you’re ready to venture past the Rapid City anchor.  Summer is high season though and Sturgis along with towns in the area are choked with bikers for the annual Bike Week Rally usually the first week in August.

Deadwood is a personal favorite (fall only, please). Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried in the Mt. Moriah cemetery. Saloon 10 is where Wild Bill made famous the Dead Man’s poker hand of Aces & Eights when shot from behind by Jack McCall (hanged for his crime). The town, while a haven for gambling is replete with history and the nostalgic charm of false storefronts.

Deadwood, South Dakota

Deadwood, South Dakota — Tammie Dooley all rights reserved

Regarding FOOD, if you’ve got a nose for chocolate on the road, stop by The Chubby Chipmunk for a fix.  For lunch, try the Deadwood Thymes Bistro. The last time there I had the White Bean & Chicken Chili, a Three-Cheese grilled sandwich with bell peppers and a slice of apple all melted together between perfectly browned, thick sliced bread, and a large, cold, creamy slab of their Peanut Butter & Chocolate Pie.  I was hungry; the meal memorable. I’d like a repeat please.  For dinner I sat one night on a perch over downtown Deadwood in the 2nd story location of Kevin Costner’s Sports Bar & Grill (above the Midnight Star casino on Main Street).  While I don’t recall the food in the same longing manner as the lunch from Deadood Thymes Bistro, I do fondly remember the view and the numerous photos/posters of Kevin Costner in his Western movie roles.

A Wyoming Detour

Since you’re on the border and you could add another state-notch to your holster belt, or you’ve got another day or two to burn, why not venture into Wyoming? Devil’s Tower National Monument is a quick drive and well worth the time. Take Highway 90 to Sundance, Wyoming. From there head north on 14 for a few miles. Or if you’re sticking to the backroads, Highway 34 west out of Belle Fourche (turns into 24 at the Wyoming border) will get you there as well.  Should you venturing here during the off-season, don’t count on lodging nearby. There IS lodging, but…

Devil's Tower National Monument, Wyoming

Devil’s Tower, Wyoming — Tammie Dooley all rights reserved

President Theodore Roosevelt Proclaimed Devil’s Tower the first National Monument in 1906. Many Plains Indians have legends associated with “Bear’s Lodge” and consider it a sacred site. The Kiowas legend goes like this: Kiowas were camped by a stream where there were lots of bears. Seven little girls were playing away from their village and bears took chase. The girls ran and just as the bears were about to catch them, they jumped on a low rock. One of the girls began to pray. The rock began to push itself out of the ground raising the children higher and higher. The deep grooves running down the sides are said to be made by the bears attempting to claw their way to the top. The rock continued to push the children upward into the sky so far they reside in the sky today as the pleiades star cluster.

This Great American Drive will compel you to sing the Stars & Stripes and purchase a long, black duster.  Be prepared.

WARNING LABEL: If you decide to venture out of Belle Fourche to locate the original Geographic Center of the U.S. or anywhere in the above discussed areas, BEWARE of Rattlesnakes.

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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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