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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

UPDATED: A Reading at Alumafandango in Oregon – August 8, 2013 9:30am

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I’ve been asked to do a reading in support of my novel, AIRSTREAMING at Alumafandango in Oregon. I’ll be reading, Thursday, August 8th from 9:30 – 10:30am. So grab your coffee and come listen in! I hope all of you can make it! I’ll have AIRSTREAMING on hand to sign and my other novels, THE PALISADES and THE NARROWS, MILES DEEP as well.

Alumafandango is an Airstream Rally being put together by the good folks at RB Alumapalooza where ‘streamers from all over the country (about 100 Airstreams and their owners) will meet up and share stories about their Airstreams.

I’m very excited about doing this and they’ve asked me to talk a little about writing about Airstreams as well. To read up on the genesis of AIRSTREAMING, go here to a post on GLAMPER: An Airstream Diary. There are also pictures of places that exist in the novel. There is also a story by RG Coleman on TralerChix.com here.

I will have books on hand to sell at the event as I have at the last two rallies I’ve attended. People are responding very positively to the book, which makes me extremely proud and happy. You can also download AIRSTREAMING on KINDLE or NOOK before the event!