Jan. Feb. March April May June July .Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.
Click on links to go to that place or date in this travelog  and/or for related pages of photos and text.
January - March We left California the first week in January and made our now annual trip to Arizona.  We first visited family in Tucson then arrived in Mesa by mid January to square dance through the end of March.  We are getting as much dancing time as we can, plus we are taking some additional lessons at the C2 level.  Old friends and newly made ones abound in this surreal world where we can square dance morning, afternoon and evening. 

One day was spent at the Renaissance Festival which opened here in February.  We had a great time.   We also managed to get to the movies to see Chicago--great flick!

Dancing will wind down here the end of March.  Many “winter visitors” have already returned to their Northern homes in Canada and the Midwest.  We’ll visit with Ray’s family before we leave Arizona--the temperatures are rising here already so that means we’ll soon be on our way.

April - May When square dancing was winding down in Arizona, we decided to make some decisions.  We had been looking at homes in the Mesa area and finally decided to build a winter home in adjacent Gilbert, AZ.  We chose an "active adult community."  So that maneuver took quite a bit of time. 

We've never built a new home before, so we weren't familiar with the drill.  But, we got it done and look forward to its completion at the end of 2003.  We'll let everyone know the address and hope folks come visit us in the winter sunshine.  If you're looking to visit after April or before October, we'll leave a key!

The month of May meant Gail's wedding in the Gold Country of California.  She and Tom were married on May 10, 2003 at an  Historic Homestead in Fair Play, California in a lovely gazebo bedecked with flowers, ivy and tulle.  It was a lovely wedding with our granddaughter, Monica, and Tom's daughters, Shelley and Nicole, as attendants.

Following the wedding we spent a week with our younger grandchildren, Selina (6) and Rico (2) while their parents enjoyed a long overdue vacation in Costa Rica.  The next week we moved to Gail and Tom's home for the remainder of their honeymoon time in Figi to be with the teenagers. 

We have taken care of several business items while here in California and are once more ready to roll.

Fruita, CO

Colorado Natl Monu-ment

Dinosaur Hill

Ouray, CO

Silverton, CO

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Most folks are probably aware that we love the “life on the road” that we gypsies have chosen; however, if anyone had asked us on about June 11th if we would like to give it all up and live in a shack next to a railroad track, we might have said yes. When we left the Bay Area on June 1st we had to go to a nearby RV Resort for a couple of days, because the registration sticker for our tow car had not yet arrived at daughter, Bev’s.  We are licensed in Nevada, the sticker arrived at our mail service who sent it Priority Mail to Bev’s house, but it didn’t arrive on time.  So we relaxed over the weekend and returned to pick it up on Monday, which pushed back our exit to Tuesday.

Carson City, Nevada was our next stop where we stayed for a few days, then decided to move on Saturday.  Ray always checks the air in the tires and in our “air bag springs” before leaving.  The little spring that looks like a 10" pot-bellied stove on the driver side registered zero pounds of air pressure.  So, on a Saturday we had to find somewhere to have this done.  Monday morning we found an RV service in town who not only could do the replacement, but also had the part in stock.  One more night in Carson City, and we were on our way.

Tuesday morning about 110 miles down the road there was a huge bang–the passenger side dual tire had blown.  This was our fourth blow out since July 2002, and we were not happy campers.  The tire company had found the last one blown defective and replaced it, but we hadn’t requested anything for the first two blowouts, since they weren’t suspicious yet.

Our cell phone was not in a service area, but luckily we have a dual band phone, so we used our analog service and called our insurer.  After about five hours and several visits with various police officers, we were on the road with our spare tire firmly in place and the mutilated one in our storage compartment.

Approximately 60 miles down the road, another BANG.  The front passenger side tire blew out its sidewall.  Same thing with the cell phone and police visits.  Finally the AAA tow truck driver arrives ready to change our tire.  We had explained that we no longer had a spare when we called, but that didn’t get relayed to him.  We made a reservation for the night at an RV park in town, told the tow driver where it was (he said he knew it well), and we followed him into town in our car.  He whipped into the RV park and passed up the #2 spot where he was supposed to stop almost immediately and got stuck at the end of a row unable to make the turn with his truck and our RV in tow.  With a little bit of maneuvering he was able to get our motorhome’s right rear side about four inches from the protruding front of a parked 5th wheeler.  With a little more maneuvering he managed to get it about 1/4 inch from the 5th wheeler.  He called another tow truck, and they hooked onto our tow bar in the rear and pulled our home away from the other vehicle.  When the second tow driver was leaving, he drove over the water and electrical connection boxes on an RV site.  The water looked like Old Faithful, and the electrical sparks ignited into flames. About midnight we were in our parking space with our stabilizers holding up our damaged rig and exhausted.

The outcome was the tire company gave us three new tires, we got everything replaced and hit the road for Salt Lake City.  On the third day in Salt Lake Ray decided to stay home while I drove to the library.  Exiting the freeway, I felt the car was slowing down, and moving along the surface streets things got worse.  Approximately two blocks from the library I was sure the transmission had gone as I could only move in first gear.  Ray drove the motorhome in and picked me and our errant car up.  The mechanic informed us that the fluid in the new rear brake cylinders (which we replaced in May) was the wrong kind and had caused the brakes to lock up–so much for my knowledge of what is wrong with a car when I’m driving it.  So, now we needed to replace the new rear brake cylinders, plus the master cylinder.  Fortunately, the company in Concord, California which did the work is going to refund our money (The check’s in the mail?). 

So that’s our tale of woe for this month.  With all the down time I did manage to get the harddrive on my computer reformatted, programs reloaded, web pages updated and photographs in order.  We have reservations for two weeks in Yellowstone at the end of July, so we plan to tour Colorado and Wyoming until then.  We possibly won’t have much telephone and/or internet service for the remainder of the summer.

Fruita, Colorado is on Interstate 70 and just over the border from Utah into Colorado.  We were surprised when we made reservations that the RV park was almost full.  Seems we arrived the day before the opening of “Country Jam,” one of the largest country music festivals in the USA.  Before you get to the town of Fruita, there is a highway sign for the Country Jam exit.  Out there in a field will be thousands of RVs serviced by “water wagons” and “honey wagons” during the festival.  There are even two separate RV parking areas–one quiet one and one party one.  The list of stars coming in to perform is quite long and includes one I recognized, Ronnie Milsap.  Ray says they are all well known, though.

We are just down the road from the Colorado National Monument, 32 square miles of plateaus and canyons, which was first protected by the National Park Service in 1911.  The rim drive around the canyon was built between 1931 and 1950 and is a beautiful, winding drive around the soaring canyon walls.  We saw two eagles dipping and soaring and screeching just above us, and the scenery is stunning.  From many angles the Bookcliff range of Utah forms the backdrop for viewing the canyon.  The spectacularly colored formations in the National Monument are a vivid contrast to the solid grey of the Bookcliffs. 

Between the campground and the Colorado National Monument was a roadside marker designating “Dinosaur Hill,” so one morning instead of going for a walk near the campground, we went to Dinosaur Hill.  It turns out that this place played a very special part in our personal history.  On this simple looking hillside in 1900, Elmer S. Riggs, Assistant Curator of Paleontology at the Field Museum in Chicago, excavated the remains of an Apatosaurus (Brontosaurus) excelsus.  This was the dinosaur exhibited on the Field Museum main floor and visible each time we entered there, which was possibly hundreds of times.  The Field Museum was one of the places you went in the winter when the weather kept you inside, and the inside was too confining.  It was the place you went on a rainy Sunday afternoon in spring or fall, when other plans had to be canceled.  And, if you were at the beach in summer when the weather turned ugly, the Planetarium, the Aquarium or the Field Museum were your choices of refuge.  Anyway, now Dinosaur Sue holds the place of honor once occupied by Riggs’ Brontosaurus, but it is still there in another location.  So, that’s how our past is connected to a hill in Colorado, and we very much enjoyed our morning stroll there.

The hot springs once enjoyed by the Ute Indians now feed the outdoor municipal pool in thistiny mining town.  The first silver strike was in 1875, and the Camp Bird Gold Mine between 1896 and 1910 produced $26 million in gold, enough for the Walsh family to purchase the Hope Diamond for their daughter, Evalyn.  Just off main street, a road leads to Cascade Falls which tumble three hundred feet to the end of 8th street.  And at the southern end of town, a 20 foot wide canyon surrounded by perpendicular granite walls 285 feet high has a creek rushing through it that creates a spectacular waterfall.  The town bills itself as the Switzerland of America, but the quaintness has a long way to go to equal the lovely chalets and abundant flowerboxes in the Swiss towns. 

Just twenty-three miles farther down the road from Ouray, or I should say, up the road, is the town of Silverton.  Another mining town whose remoteness makes it one of the best preserved towns of the Old West.  The twenty-three mile drive took us over forty minutes.  Multiple switchbacks and the beauty of the San Juan Mountain Range slowed the drive considerably.  Silverton sits on a flat meadow in the bowl of an old volcanic caldera.  The surrounding mountains are over 14,000 feet high.  The original buildings of this mining town are well preserved, including hotels, restaurants and bordellos, which are now hotels, shops and restaurants.  The Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad still runs here, and the shops are full of railroad paraphernalia. 

We especially enjoyed the purple Grand Imperial Hotel which opened in 1882.  The lobby features a larger than life-size portrait of Lillian Russell painted by Joseph Imhoff, an ornate iron staircase, a mirror-backed reception desk, a tin ceiling, and a wonderful Remington bronze.  The Painted Lady Saloon is the place Sheriff Bat Masterson snagged outlaw gangs, and Bat left a bullet hole in the 100 year old carved back bar.  Looks to me like old Bat was a pretty bad shot though, since the bullet hole is almost at the ceiling. 

This park is just another spectacular canyon with a rim road around it to make viewing of it possible–you know, like the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Colorado National Monument, Crater Lake and possibly countless others we have yet to visit.  Geologist Wallace Hansen says, “...no other canyon in North America combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness and somber countenance of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.”  And I say, “Well said.”  The Gunnison River and millions of years created these steep canyon walls and continues to do so at the rate of one inch per century.  The river drops an average of 96 feet per mile in the 48 mile park.  In one two mile stretch it drops 480 feet.  What spectacular sights the rim drive provides.

Telluride, CO

Montrose, CO

Royal Gorge, CO

Colorado Springs, CO

Cheyenne, WY

Casper, WY

Thermopolis, WY

Meeteetse, WY

Cody, WY


Yellowstone NP, WY

.....Buffalo stories
.....Yellowstone River
.....Lake Yellowstone
.....Old Faithful
.....Old Faithful Inn
On the other side of the mountain from Silverton is the ski resort of Telluride.  Silverton’s brochure is obviously referring to Telluride when it states, “Silverton has not yet suffered the fate of some of her neighbors and been developed to unaffordability, yuppified to death with trendy chain shops, pricey cafes and high dollar condos.”  Telluride is a delightful town, but the statement certainly rings true.  We were walking along a trail next to the river in town, and Ray picked up a brochure for a penthouse condo–three bedrooms and 3.5 baths.  He asked me how much I thought it was, and I took a wild guess at $1.2 million.  Well, I wasn’t even half right.  It is $2.75 million.

So now that we had the lay of the land, we proceeded to take the gondolas up the mountain to enjoy the mountain ski village and the sights from on high.  We returned to town to enjoy main street, and some of its history.  The town surged with a mining boom beginning in 1875.  Butch Cassidy and his “Wild Bunch” began their bank-robbing career at the San Miguel National Bank in 1889.  William Jennings Bryan delivered a version of his “Cross of Gold” speech in front of the Sheridan Hotel.  By the 1960's Telluride was practically a ghost town with less than 600 residents.  The 2000 population today is still less than half of what it was during the mining boom, but there is possibly more money there now.  Looks like a great place to ski, so if that’s your avocation, try it.

While visiting the Black Canyon and the mining towns, we stayed in Montrose, Colorado.  The local paper advertised Thursday night entertainment on Main Street.  So we ventured into town and took in the various groups playing everything from jazz to Broadway.  By far the most colorful group was a country one using the bed of a bright red c1940's pick-up truck for a stage.  The entertainers played keyboard, guitars, banjo, washboard, harmonica and triangle.  Seems they are a motorcycle group (mostly three-wheelers) who also perform.  They all had nice voices and did numbers like Cool, Cool Water and Ghost Riders in the Sky

The weekend of Independence Day, Montrose hosted a hot air balloon festival.  So on the 4th, we got up at the crack of dawn and drove to the field to see the thirty balloons take off.  Too windy, so no go.  Ever confident, we repeated our efforts the following morning and were rewarded with the thrill of our first balloon festival.  Watching them inflate en masse and then rising into the sky was fabulous.  Now I’m ready to head to Albuquerque’s Festival, which folks have been talking about for years.  We took over 100 photos and have to narrow that down a bit to conserve some hard drive space.  In the evening we went over for the “Glow,” which takes place after dark and the flames in the inflated balloons makes them glow from the inside.  Sort of like big luminaries.

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The park of Cañon City in Central Colorado is Royal Gorge.  The Arkansas River, a popular rafting river, runs through this deep, picturesque gorge.  Back in 1929 the highest suspension bridge in the world was built to span the gorge.  As near as I can determine, there was no reason for this other than to attract tourists.  Well, it worked, and as of this visit they have added a tram which takes you above the bridge to the top of the gorge and an incline railway which takes you to the bottom.  The city owns the park and charges a hefty admission fee which covers the bridge, the tram and the incline railway but not this year’s addition, which is one of those swings where one to three people lay face down and swing out over the gorge.  It seemed to be popular, but I passed. 

Next stop, Pike’s Peak.  We spent four days in Colorado Springs which gave us plenty of time to trek up to Pike’s Peak and to revisit their city park, Garden of the Gods.  The weather was unbearably hot, so the fifty degree temperature atop Pike’s Peak was a pleasant change.  The day was slightly overcast, so we didn’t get to see for 80 miles to New Mexico.  We haven’t enjoyed that view on previous visits here, either.  But what you can see is spectacular from that high up.  Because we have visited Denver several times in the last decade, we decided to go directly to Wyoming.

We arrived in Cheyenne the week of their annual spectacular Cheyenne Frontier Days.  We managed to get a reservation as long as we promised to leave before the beginning of Frontier Days.  We visited the Wyoming State Capitol, the Governor’s Mansion and the State Museum.  It is so informal visiting these places in such a small state.  The Capitol is small and workspace is cramped.  The Governor’s Mansion is hardly a mansion, but we got to visit with the curator and enjoyed the insights he provided.  A visit to the Frontier Days Museum put us right at the site of Frontier Days, and the lot was wall to wall horse trailers with horses tied to trailer sides and every available tree.  Walking was a challenge, since the sidewalks were not limited to humans.  Horses were being worked out in the arena and steers were in an especially fragrant area at one end of the arena.  All this two days before the actual show started.  It might be fun sometime to come back for the rodeo, but I’d check the weather first–it was in the nineties.

The North Platte River runs through this town, and it is here that Westward bound travelers followed the trails that led them to their various destinations.  The Oregon Trail, the California Trail, the Mormon Trail and the Pony Express Trails all converged in what is now Casper.  A new Bureau of Land Management Museum known as the National Historic Trails Center opened here last year.  This impressive building on a hill overlooking the site of Casper and where the trails converged offers imaginative and informative displays about the trails, the people, and the trials of the Westward Movement.  We thoroughly enjoyed our visit there and came away much better informed on this portion of our country’s history.

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This Wyoming town with the Greek name that means “Hot City” is home to the world’s largest mineral hot spring.  The town’s elevation is 4500 and its population is 3200.  I only know the population from a brochure, because the towns and cities in both Colorado and Wyoming give their elevation as you enter the town, instead of how most other places in the world give you the name of the town and the population on a roadside sign.  Anyway, the huge mineral spring is in Hot Springs State Park.  There is a free state run bath house because in a treaty with the Indians the state agreed to make the springs free to all who wished to use them.  There are, however,  numerous other places that charge for the springs including several hotels in town whose indoor facilities use the springs, but the free one is still there. 

This tiny town houses two museums, one of which is in a bank building that boasts it was never robbed.  The story goes that Butch Cassidy kept his own money there, so the “Wild Bunch” never robbed it.  Needless to say Wyoming is Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid territory, and notes about them are everywhere.

Next stop, the town that Buffalo Bill founded, and the gateway to the eastern entrance of Yellowstone.  We spent several days in Cody and bought the two-day pass to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, which is actually five museums under one very big roof.  Hence the two-day pass for this multiplex of museums.  The Buffalo Bill Museum houses a collection of Cody’s personal and historical memorabilia–he was quite a guy.   Buffalo Bill’s story has been popularized through  folklore and movies, and it all seems to be true, and then some.  A gallery of western art holds an impressive collection; a museum of natural history gave us good insights into Cody and a foretaste of Yellowstone; a Plains Indian Museum featured Sioux, Cheyenne, Shoshone, Crow, Arapaho and Blackfeet Indian displays; the firearms museum was extensive but didn’t interest me in the least. 

While at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, we attended a lecture about Sacajawea given by her great-great-great-niece, Rose Ann Abrahamson.  In case you’re scratching your brain’s grey matter to recall why the name Sacajawea sounds familiar, it is because you undoubtedly studied about her in seventh grade history class.  She was the native guide that accompanied Lewis and Clark on their famous expedition.  Abrahamson (I’m assuming this is her married name) gave some history of the Lemhi Shoshone tribe of which she and Sacajawea are both members.  Her tale of Sacajawea is a little different than in the history books.  Seems Sacajawea was an abused wife who traveled with her young child and  abusive husband until she couldn’t take it any longer.  She then left the expedition and returned to her Idaho tribe.

Lunch one day at the hotel Buffalo Bill built and named for his daughter, The Irma, afforded us a closeup look at the  cherrywood bar that Queen Victoria (of all people) gave to Buffalo Bill.  We didn’t attend the nightly rodeo held in Cody this time through.  We intended to, but put it off and a huge windstorm the night we planned to go made us reconsider, c’est la vie!

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YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WY   (click here for photos)
What can describe this wonder?  It has been almost thirty years since our first visit here, and we were once again awed by the thermals, the river, lake and mountains. Historically speaking, artifacts show prehistoric hunters were here 11,000 years ago and humans have lived here for most of the 8,500 years since the last Ice Age.  A small group of Shoshone made it their home year-round, but many others traveled through the region.  The earliest written history of the park is attributed to William Clark about 200 years ago, and John Colter spent the winter of 1807-1808 in the park after which his accounts of it were called mad hallucinations.  Imagine someone speaking of bubbling mud pots, hot water rolling off cascades and various pools shooting steam and streams of hot water into the sky.  Certainly they were mad.

The trapper, Jim Bridger, told outlandish stories of the park, and mountain men bragged, “A fellow can catch a fish in an icy river, pull it into a boiling pool and cook his fish without ever taking it off the hook.”  Post Civil War adventurers Folsom, Cook and Peterson took off their hats and “yelled with all our might” when they saw Old Faithful erupt, but they only confided this to their closest friends for fear of being laughed at.  Finally, in 1871 the director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Ferdinand Hayden, took a party to explore the region in June 1871.  He was wise enough to include a landscape painter and a photographer in his group, so finally their artwork and a 500 page report convinced Congress this place was not a hoax.  Yellowstone became the first national park (in the world) in 1872.  The rest, as we say, is history.

Entering the park from the East Entrance, we arrived at the RV campground at Fishing Bridge rather quickly.  We decided to take a drive and get the “lay of the land.”  Wisely, we chose to go to Hayden Valley and encountered herds of buffalo grazing all over the area.  We estimate we saw five hundred to a thousand buffalo on that first excursion.  They dotted the landscape near the river, on the hillsides and even along the road.  Buffalo were a pretty common sight during the remainder of our stay, but we never saw that many herds again.  It’s funny how excited we were that first night and how we took so many photographs, and only a few short days later when there was a road jam, we said, “Oh, only buffalo.”   Visitors are warned repeatedly to keep 25 yards away from all wildlife, but few heed that warning.  Rangers say that most of the injuries in the park are the result of gorings by the bison.  As one ranger put it, “They have anger management issues.” 

The present Fishing Bridge was built in 1937 replacing a 1902 construction. It spans the Yellowstone River at a major spawning area for cutthroat trout.  They spawn just like salmon and hence fishermen crowded to the Fishing Bridge to catch them in their weakened state.  However, because of the popularity of this, the cutthroat population declined, and in 1973 fishing from the bridge was banned; it is now for viewing the spawning phenomenon.  Fishing areas along the river are numerous, and fly fishermen can be seen at all times of the day and evening.  The view from the bridge is quite beautiful, and some of the park’s white pelicans are usually hanging around to amuse the tourists.

Yellowstone Lake at 136 square miles is the largest alpine lake in North America.  The road follows the 110 mile tree lined shoreline which was delightful to travel.  A small geyser basin known as West Thumb along the shore is where Fishing Cone is located–the geyser the mountain referred to when they spoke of catching and cooking a fish still on the hook.  At Lake Country is Lake Yellowstone Hotel, which first opened in 1891 and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.  The gracious hotel is surrounded by many small cabins, and everything is bright YELLOW, and I mean everything, even the fire escapes.

Of about 10,000 hydrothermal features in Yellowstone, Old Faithful is by far the best known.  The geyser basin surrounding Old Faithful has wooden walkways to facilitate viewing the many fascinating thermals in the area, and a semi-circular cement walk with benches facing Old Faithful provides a safe viewing distance for the eruptions every 92 (give or take a few) minutes.  We enjoyed an afternoon eruption early in our stay, but the sky was full of puffy clouds which meant the white steaming eruption sort of blended in with the clouds when we checked our photos.  So, we went again near  sunset another day and got a few more less cloudy photos.

Aside from the natural wonders at Old Faithful, the inn that bears its name is worth a visit.  This National Historic Landmark was built in the winter of 1903-04 of local logs and stone and was restored sometime in the last ten years.  Think of the biggest log cabin you can conceive, and you still don’t have an idea of this masterpiece.  I love the polished logs that crisscross everywhere making the whole thing stay together.  The lobby is spectacular, and around every corner is another touch to delight you.  The first day we visited there, we parked in the lot and had to circumvent what appeared to be the main entrance and go in through a hall where the rooms are.  Yellow “caution” tape was strung everywhere.  When we finally reached the lobby, there were loads of people looking out one of the windows and taking photos at something outside.  We followed the crowd and discovered a bison, a very large bison, snoozing in one of the window wells. 

It was also just outside the inn that we encountered a bison family.  The mother and calf were grazing contentedly with hundreds of people streaming by.  The park rules state you must keep a distance of 25 yards from all wild animals but there was no such distance observed here. However, just a few feet away a ranger closed off the trail and was routing people around it because Poppa was grazing there. He said the cow and the calf were pretty safe, but the bull was not to be messed with.  We took him at his word and made a wide berth around the bull.

At our sunset visit to Old Faithful a coyote was making a nuisance of himself in the parking lot scrounging food that careless visitors had spilled.  A ranger would shoo him away, and he would retreat to another spot out of the ranger’s view.  Earlier we had spotted a couple of coyotes along a road, but they we quite skittish, unlike the street-wise one in the parking lot.

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Yellowstone (cont'd)
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Roosevelt Arch

Mammoth Hot Springs

Thermal Features

Grand Teton NP

Craters of the Moon

Canyon Country is home to this breathtaking place.  The view from Artist’s Point looks like a Hollywood set, because there couldn’t be anything that spectacular for real.  Plunging 109 feet from Yellowstone Lake, Upper and Lower Falls bring the Yellowstone River through the golden and white cliffs of the 24 mile grand canyon.  On a Ranger nature hike we walked the South Canyon Rim and saw the tremendous power of the falls close up while gaining information on the plants and animals in the park.  An interesting note, bark missing from trees is caused by three kinds of animals.  We had already observed bison scratching themselves against trees, so concluded they caused some of it.  But, the Ranger pointed out rings of missing bark higher up on trees are from porcupines.  Seems lots of porcupines make their home there, but because they are nocturnal and very shy, they are seldom seen.  Bear marks are distinctive also, more like claws.

At the northern entrance in Gardiner, Montana, early visitors could ride the Northern Pacific train to visit Yellowstone.  The trains brought passengers here until 1948.  The cornerstone of Roosevelt Arch was laid by President Theodore Roosevelt during a vacation to the park in 1903, and several thousand people came by train to attend the dedication. The arch was built to serve as a formal gateway to the park. In his speech, Roosevelt said, 

 "The Yellowstone Park is something absolutely unique in the world. . .This Park was created and is now administered for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. . .it is the property of Uncle Sam and therefore of us all."

The entire arch is 50 feet high, and the main opening is 30 feet high and 25 feet wide.  While it can’t compare to the triumphal arches of Europe, it is still  pretty impressive standing there in the middle of nowhere.

Next to Old Faithful, I would think the terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs are the second most recognizable feature at Yellowstone.  These spectacular travertine terraces are ever changing, as they are formed by super-heated water which dissolves underground limestone that forms interlaced pools on the surface, one on top of another. 

A visit to Yellowstone makes me wish I had paid better attention in my geology class in undergrad school.  We did attend a lecture by a geologist who explained the difference and similarities of the many thermals.  We learned about geysers, hot springs, sulfur pools and fumaroles.  These wonderful features all exist because Yellowstone sits in a caldera of a volcano which still has molten rock just below the earth’s surface.  Frequent earthquakes change some of the features periodically, but the molten rock continues to do its job.  The geologist pointed out that the volcano erupted every 600 to 700 thousand years, and it has been about 600 thousand years since the last one, so we might expect one in the next thousand years.  We decided not to worry about it and went on to enjoy the park.

While the geological features of Yellowstone hold your attention most of the time in the park, there are other things of interest.  The 19th century history of the flight of the Nez Perce Indians with Chief Joseph through the park in 1877 is a haunting story of a people trying to maintain their freedom.  The amazing herds of buffalo which were once almost extinct,  the elk and deer grazing in meadows at sundown, and the coyotes are merely a part of the wildlife in the park.  While we did not see any of the bears or wolves that live in the park, they apparently are flourishing.  In 1995 fourteen wolves from Canada were released, and the latest count in the park was 271 living there.  Yellowstone is truly an amazing place, and we feel fortunate to have visited there.

The choice of an exit route from Yellowstone determines your itinerary for a while.  We considered exiting north towards Glacier National Park, but signs posted everywhere in Yellowstone said because of the fires in Glacier, the road and entrances were closed.  So, Grand Teton National Park to the south beckoned.  My last visit was in 1975, and Ray never visited there, so we pointed south.  Well, they still had that movie set of mountains to the west of the highway which hadn’t changed a bit since 1975.  If their glaciers were any smaller, it was undetectable.  Seriously, this majestic Grand Teton Range is so breathtaking that the National Park Service brochure warns you not to be distracted by the sights–very good advice.  The park is 56 miles from north to south and has a 43 mile loop drive that affords access to all park vistas.  A lot of ooowing and ahhhhing go on along these roads. 

Once again, the history of the place is fascinating.  Archeologists have determined that Paleo-Indians made summer camps in the Teton valley following the last ice age, about 9000 B.C. until they left between 1000 and 1600 A.D.   This is about when the tribes of Shoshone, Crow, Gros Ventre and Blackfeet made summer camps here.  Spain included the Rockies in their ownership, but the Spanish explorers who visited the southwest in the 1500's didn’t come this far north.  France claimed ownership of this part of the Rockies until the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, the Russians extended their ownership of Alaska south, and in the early 1800's the English and Canadians argued over ownership with the U.S.  A treaty with the British in 1846 finally made American control official. 

An explorer from Lewis and Clark’s 1806 expedition returned and did some trapping here, and the beaver trapping explosion began.  The fur trade brought the likes of the Hudson’s Bay Company and the mountain men.  Indians and white men shared in the beaver business, and also in the white man’s smallpox.  About 1840 when beaver hats were no longer fashionable, interest in the Tetons faded.

Mountain man, Jim Bridger, collected information about the valley in 1840, and the Homestead Act of 1862 brought settlers to a difficult life the valley.  In 1929 the peaks and some lakes became Grand Teton National Park.  John D. Rockefeller, Jr. bought 35,000 acres over a period of years for $1.4 million with the intention of donating it to the national park, but for 15 years, congressional and local opposition kept them from accepting the gift.  He forced their hand, and in 1943 FDR created a national monument with the land, which didn’t require congressional approval.  Today’s park was finally created in 1950 by merging the two areas. Since then tourism has surpassed cattle ranching, and Jackson Hole to the south has a year-round thriving economy. 

The “outdoor museum of volcanism” and “the strangest 75 square miles in the North American continent” are a couple of phrases used to describe this unusual national monument.  The lava flows that formed this unusual landscape ceased only 2,000 years ago, so geologically speaking, this is a young formation.  What is unusual is there is no volcano here.  The earth just opened a great fissure and lava flowed out.  This blackened land with sharp lava rocks everywhere is truly moon-like.  However, unlike the moon, plants and animals seem to flourish here.  We’re not talking lush green expanses with wildlife roaming around, but desert type plants and tiny insects, birds and mammals. 

After Craters we managed to get an appointment for Ray with an endodontist in Boise where he had his root canal done.  That took a couple of visits, so we were there for several days before going west into Oregon. 

We made our way down to Mc Cloud, California for some square dancing with that Texas charmer, Bob Baier.  We called ahead to make reservations for the Shasta Dinner Train for my birthday so we could celebrate a belated anniversary and my birthday simultaneously.  Square dancing was a very pleasant diversion, and we loved visiting with friends while having a great time. 

With little time to spare, we rushed back to the Bay Area (yes, again), visited with the grandkids over the Labor Day weekend, then caught a plane to Michigan for our son’s wedding on Mackinac Island. On a clear but windy day in the presence of his and her parents, Paul and his fiancè, Robyn were joined in matrimony on a Mackinac Island veranda overlooking the Straits of Mackinac.  A buggy ride around the non-motorized island followed the ceremony, then dinner, champagne and cake. They honeymooned in Ireland.   Wedding photos here!

We returned to California to pick up Camelot and to hurry up the Pacific coast to join friends in Oregon for a week of dining, pinochle, fishing and friendship. What began several years ago as a pinochle playing fishing visit to their Oregon home has grown into an annual event, which we try to join whenever we are in the western United States.  The fishermen fished, and even Ray caught a big ling cod.  Their efforts produced most evening meals, but we did some other “hunting and gathering” for meals at the local fishery, supermarkets and Wal-Mart.  Pinochle players got their fill of pinochle, and we all got our fill of fine cooking.  It was a great week.

Next back to the Bay Area to prepare for the California wedding reception in October and movers when our Arizona home is complete in November. 

October We boxed and repackaged various items which we had rummaged through in storage over the last few years and finally got everything shipshape for the movers to come when needed.  Next we turned our attention to getting the party for Paul and Robyn’s Wedding Celebration underway.  Everything came together nicely, and we celebrated with them and friends on the 18th at Gail and Tom’s home.  The weather cooperated, and the evening was cloaked in candlelight, white lights, friendship, good food and good friends. 

We managed to visit some more with family and friends before heading off to Nevada where I had to report for jury duty on November 3rd.

Arriving on Sunday before I had to report for jury duty, we attended church in Las Vegas, and Ray remarked how each time we have been to church there, the song leaders are so good.  I just figure they are retired lounge singers.  The one we had this time was certainly animated.  Fortunately, I wasn’t picked for a jury and had to spend only the one day there, so we left for Arizona early.  We visited our new home shortly after arriving in Arizona, even though it wasn’t quite finished.  Everything was coming along nicely, and we were thrilled with the outcome of all our choices in the building.  We closed escrow on the 13th, the movers delivered our stored belongings a week later, and we have been unpacking since then.. 

Unpacking was truly an adventure, even more so after not seeing our things for over four years.  I would open one box and think, “Oh, look at that, isn’t that nice.”  Then the next one and say, “Why on earth did we keep that?”  Then frequently, “What WAS I thinking when I bought this?”  I reminisced over old photographs, mourned when I found articles made by a dear friend who died last year, and cried when I opened the box with the note from my mother identifying items of hers and bidding us farewell with love. 

We did some necessary shopping––a dining room set (gave our old one to an offspring), sofas, and garage cabinets went in to give us room to store the things we possibly shouldn't have moved at all. We have no landscaping or window coverings yet, but all things in good time. 

Social activities have been limited.  We attended a wine and cheese party and saw the Rockettes when they were in town.  Square dancing has been infrequent so far, but we plan to change that as soon as the bulk of this work gets finished. 

By Christmas when Pam and Mark came to visit a few decorations were in place, all boxes were unpacked, and everything that had a place had been put away.  Of course, many things still didn't have a place, but, like I said before, all things in good time.  We had a great visit with two of our children and visited on the phone with the others.