Airstream Adventure #5: Seattle to Jackson Hole, Wyoming

I flew to Jackson Hole to work on a video project for a client and John followed a few days later with Margaret traversing close to 900 miles in 2 days and 17 hours of driving. Between our last trip to Mt. Adams and this trip, we changed out our tow vehicle from a 4-Runner to a Ford F-150 XLT with tow package. This made all the difference. Towing with the F-150 is a far better experience and nearly automatic in every way with their tow package that shifts gears, has much better braking and has a 4000 pound advantage in GVW than the 4-Runner did. It just feels much safer. John did comment that you have to remember on occasion that you are pulling something behind you.

IMG_4541

Our plan was to stay at the Lazy J Corral RV Park in Hoback Junction to be near my work, but they don’t take reservations and luckily they were booked. This RV Park sits hard by the highway and has a mix of long-term residents and RVs smacked up right next to each other with absolutely no trees to speak of. We then tried KOA down the road, but they were full and the nice ladies efficiently running the front desk hooked me up with a place called Fireside – AKA – Jackson Hole RV Camp, which I’d already booked a reservation for two nights later.

Fireside/Jackson Hole RV Camp (74.00/night for a pull-through, which is expensive in my book) is a mix of brand new custom cabins built from old Wyoming snow fence, metal and other materials, which you pass by on your way into the RV sections and comprises the mid section of the entire acreage. It is a narrow slice of land. Fireside has many pull-through sites as well as several back-in. Unfortunately, since we called late, we were closest to bathrooms in a fairly narrow, hard to back into site, which John negotiated with the help of some campers.

IMG_6088

Pluses for Fireside include close proximity to Grand Teton National Park, Teton Village and Jackson. The bathroom is kept clean and the spots all include fire rings, picnic tables and full hook-ups provided you can park your trailer in a way to utilize the sewer line. Some of the sites are extremely close to each other, but others feel spacious. They do have a dump station, which we utilized on the way out. WiFi was very spotty and I ended up having to go into the office to conduct business.

Jackson, itself, has become a huge disappointment as it’s over-run by cars and tourists, and traffic during the day is horrendous.  We chose to stay out of Jackson as much as possible. The best part of Jackson, however, is Ernie Patterson’s Veterinary Clinic where we went to have Buster’s leg looked at, which wasn’t diagnosed by our vet in Seattle. He had been suffering terribly on the trip and required knee surgery upon our return to Seattle. We cut our trip short and headed back a week early.

IMG_5455

After a couple of days at Fireside, we headed up to Granite Hot Springs on the advice of the mother of two children selling lemonade at the entrance to a dog park along the Snake River. It was the best thing that could have happened. As we drove up the dirt road towards the hot springs we saw several other boondockers along the way up, which gave us the impetus to boondock ourselves along the Granite River with incredible views of the majestic mountains and valley. This river flows into the Hoback River, and joins it along the highway between Pinedale and Hoback Junction.

Pinedale has become the poster child for all that is wrong with fracking and natural gas drilling that is quickly ruining the water tables, environment and lives of the people living nearby. Winter in Pinedale sees vast amounts of Ozone depletion, methane gas usage and water contamination as a result. 32 ounces of Benzine, which is a chemical they use in this process, can contaminate thousands of gallons of drinking water. Wildlife habitat has been destroyed, and roads have been cut through pristine wilderness for huge Halliburton trucks that rumble up down the roads incessantly. There is simply nothing good about the fracking process, which this country will feel the results of for hundreds of years to come. It is sad that Dick Cheney has sold out his own state, by opening up vast amounts of territories to Halliburton and other energy companies, like he did our country.

IMG_5981

But back to our wonderful valley and the Hoback Basin, where we spent the entire day shooting photographs and video.

IMG_5517

IMG_5669

We made our way to the top of the canyon and discovered a lake with the brightest blue dragonflies I’ve ever seen.

IMG_4581

Exhausted, we then went to Granite Hot Springs for a dip in the 96 degree water ($6 per person). Well-maintained and peaceful, we ended the day feeling renewed, but tired. Quite simply, heading up the Hoback Basin was, for me, the highlight of the trip and camping along the Granite River was sublime.

IMG_5901

John made a delicious Caprese salad, a couple of cocktails and all three of us enjoyed the evening sunset.

IMG_6162 IMG_6084 2 IMG_6074 IMG_6052

After boondocking, we headed back to Fireside for two days of camping and John drove the River Road in Grand Teton National Park as I took photographs. The flowers and the Snake River were unbelievable and Buster enjoyed looking out over it along the way. It was a stunningly beautiful drive, but you need a truck with high clearance and best to have a 4×4 just in case. We stopped at Jackson for dinner at a very mediocre Mexican restaurant called The Three Piglets.

The following day found us exhausted and so we just did some chores, went to the Auto Parts store for grease and napped. We met some wonderful people from The Netherlands and Portland.

IMG_6197 IMG_6227_2IMG_6208

That evening, we met up with fellow ‘streamers, Monica, Jeff and their son Bradley for an extraordinary dinner at Couloir, which requires a gondola ride to the top. Monica is doing a story on Coloir for her blog, Just Five More Minutes and photographed their amazing dishes throughout the 4-course meal. The view was spectacular, the food delicious, and once again, as we usually do with Monica and Jeff, talked non-stop throughout. It was so much fun! For those wanting to spend less money, they do have outdoor seating at the top, the gondola ride is free and there is a deli restaurant and drinks to enjoy while watching evening descend on the valley below.

We then went through Yellowstone National Park and headed towards Montana and home to get Buster back for surgery.

IMG_4607

We went through Ennis, Montana, which stirred up many memories for me as I used to fish every summer there with my brother and dad and friends. It hasn’t changed at all in all these years and I was glad to see that.

IMG_6255

That night we boondocked just outside Missoula at Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest (free camping!), which was also grazing area for cows. Buster was very curious about them and at about 3am I heard footsteps outside our Airstream only to discover several cows wandering through our camp.

IMG_4623

We stopped in at Airstream of Spokane to fix a few things and rework our hitch due to the new F150.  Doug fixed us right up and Nick and Karyn, as always, were a delight to see. Unfortunately, between AOS and the Columbia River Gorge, our TV completely came off the wall of our Airstream and broke. Still under warranty, we’ll get this fixed soon.

IMG_6361

Our last night found us at Wanapum State Park by the Columbia River just off I-90. The clouds were extraordinary, the campsite beautiful and well maintained with hookups ($32.00 a night) and a view that is gorgeous.

All in all, it was a great trip marred only by lots of stress from selling my house, Buster’s knee issue and me trying to work and enjoy all of it at the same time.

IMG_5676

However, I’m blessed to have John stick by me through all of it, and Buster be our constant joy during the whole trip. Next stop: Alumafandango in August in Oregon.

(As always, click on the photographs to see larger versions of them). All photos © 2013 by Tom Schabarum

Rally #2: Area 33

IMG_4433

I cannot overstate the beauty of this location. Hard by Mt. Adams, the view is spectacular. But, one of the best things about finally getting our Airstream has been meeting the people. Hands down. It’s such a diverse, friendly and deeply interesting bunch with stories and music to share that it sort of takes one’s breath away.

While Airstreams are definitely the main source of conversation, there are doctors, retired National Park Service, teachers, musicians, engineers, repo-men, non-profit workers, etc. all held together by the common thread of loving their Airstreams both new and vintage. This rally saw more vintage models than last and it was great fun to tour them and see what they’ve done. I was impressed by the creativity and ingenuity – and the attention to keeping much of the units as close to vintage as possible.

IMG_4958

Nestled under the trees were 19 Airstreams beautifully restored or taken care of by their owners. I was impressed that, for some, they’d brought just one from their collection of Airstreams at home. I found that amazing.

IMG_5060

Rob and Diane’s vintage was blessed with a rainbow on the last day of good weather. Rob let us borrow his solar panel, which we hooked up for an afternoon to restore some much needed power to the batteries. I think we’ve decided to go solar for the time being as it’s quiet and green.

IMG_4407 IMG_4409 IMG_4412

We took the scenic Hwy. 14 to the site, which was beautiful, but where I got my first real scare driving through a narrow tunnel with two oncoming semi-trucks. But the Columbia River was quite beautiful, and John loves the lore of the Lewis and Clark Trail so we stopped for lunch in Stevenson.

IMG_4415

When we came upon the camp, here was the view we had. Stunning. Snow-capped Mt. Adams and a wide field where the light and clouds were constantly changing.

IMG_4826

Carmella and Ruth’s Airstream had the best view. A rare lenticular cloud formed over Mt. Adams on Saturday night, which I was able to get in a time-lapse with the help of Rob and Diane’s vintage Airstream. Click on the photo below to see the movie here:

AIRMTADAMS

IMG_4484 IMG_4486 IMG_4494

Rhonda Coleman’s Design Within Reach Bambi was fantastic to see. Christopher Deam (watch his TED Talk here) designed 25 coaches initially, which started a renaissance of design in the Airstream line, modernizing them for a new set of owners. Ultimately, only 60 were built and all were sold quickly and have become collector’s items. It was so good to see Rhonda who writes extensively about Airstreams for Airstream Life and Airstream.com.

All three nights we were treated to wonderful music from glampers with guitars, mandolins and a cello. It was quite funny, moving and wonderful to listen to music by a roaring fire. I took portraits of several of our members as well, and had a great time doing so. Here are some of the portraits.

IMG_4964 IMG_4979 IMG_4991 IMG_5028

John, who loves to mountain bike, broke in our bike rack for the first time and took Buster on a long run up the side of Mt. Adams. He told me he made it to the snow line, but I didn’t quite believe it.

IMG_4995

Our camp hosts, Janet and Gary, did a wonderful job putting it all together, cooking, playing music, and being such gracious and lovely people with a killer, newly restored Airstream.

IMG_5024

We really do believe that we have found our pot of gold under the rainbow in our Airstream and are endlessly thankful to my Grandmother, Airstream of Spokane and the many people who’ve we’ve met so far online and in person.

IMG_5059

So to the great people and our little village of Airstreams under the beautiful Washington sky, we say thank you and we’ll see you next year.

IMG_4227

THE GOOD: The people, the location, the views, solar power, our bike rack, not running out of water or power, the potluck dinners and breakfasts, the sky, Hwy. 14, Buster’s new friends – Olga, Roadie, Wally, and Ziggy, Our new friends. One dog-tired Buster, sharing my novel, AIRSTREAMING, with many of the Glampers, The camaraderie of ‘streamers, the music! Oh, and the breakfast at Bette’s in Hood River that finished the trip.

THE BAD: The tunnel scare, realizing the 4 Runner was simply not up to the task of pulling Margaret.

THE UGLY: The traffic coming home on I-5, which is not so ugly given that the bridge at Mt. Vernon collapsed (thankfully no one was seriously hurt) and ruined many other people’s Memorial Day weekend, which saddened me.

Outfitting the Airstream: #2

th

We made a trip to Camping World about 30 miles south of our home where they have all things RV. It’s pretty cool, but we were the youngest ones in the building. We found a lot of stuff for Margaret: collapsable bowls, extra fuses, hitch pads, suction cup thingys, RV toilet paper, an LED lantern as backup, and we checked out the different generators that I think we’re going to need if we go boondocking a lot. It looks like the Honda 2000i is the one to get. We’ll have to save our pennies for that one.

I have a feeling we’re going to be spending some time at Camping World in the near future!