Scenic shot with photographic evidence of unnoticed missing cover
Some people come to national parks for the flora and fauna. I come for moose, and maybe a bearings repack. I have many odd habits, but they tend to be consistent. Case in point, we bought a thermometer gun several years back and it is now running out of batteries. It takes a 9v and that is not the kind I normally stock. But I figured, if I had been operating within my normal specs, I probably bought and stored one in the car door pocket where the thermometer goes. And there it was. I have no memory of doing that, but it was unsurprising that I had. Another thing I do regularly is take pictures of Dory in campsites. So when we pulled in to the Gros Ventre campground and Richard noticed we were missing the decorative cover on the hub of Dory’s port side wheel, I was able to go back in photos and determine the exact day when it must have come off. This brought good news and bad news; the good part being that we had already traveled about a week without it and no wheels had fallen off. The bad news was that we were both unsettled by how many campsite setups had taken place without either one of us noticing a part of Dory’s wheel was missing.
Huh. Well that’s not right.
I was not willing to continue on without addressing it somehow, and it was the weekend. Sunday we made calls and wrote posts and sent texts (sorry Randy and thanks for ALWAYS being there for us!!). The ultimate consensus was that while we were probably fine, it would be a good idea to take her in and at least have someone look at her wheel before we moved on, since we did not have a good explanation for why things had fallen off. And, on the off chance that Big O Tires of Jackson, WY was out of stock on Dexter EZ Lube grease caps, or somehow could not get ahold of properly sized bearings, I had two complete sets on hand. After our plan of action for Monday was decided, we were able to enjoy the rest of the day by going on a hike.
I know you’re out there.
Backing up to Saturday, I need to share the absolute most important detail of this stay; way more important than grease caps, rubber plugs, decorative covers, or spare bearings combined. I SAW SEVEN MOOSE!!! Or possibly six if I saw one of them twice. I had been purposely going to all of the places all of the online tips had said to go this whole trip, frequently annoyed with all of the road signs telling you to watch out for the dangerous and unpredictable moose crossing the roads. I mean, the signs are EVERYWHERE and seemed to just be taunting me. And everything is named tantalizing things, like Moose Meadow.. Moose Creek… Moose Pizza & Beer…. And still, nothing.
On the way into the park, I stopped at a place that had all the moosey ingredients. And they may well have been out there, but they are sneaky and surprisingly stealthy considering how big they are. They also are known to come out when it is cooler, so either dawn or dusk. Dawn is straight out for me, so we went moosing after dinner to another specifically mentioned place.
No really! The slightly darker spot amongst the dark spots is a moose!
There were already a handful of moosethusiasts who must have read the same things I had. We all stood around with our hopeful binoculars and cameras at the ready. Then someone spotted her! We were all at an overlook with a good view of a wide river valley, so a good respectful distance away from her. I watched giddily as she munched flowers and then took five steps into the bushes and completely vanished. I can’t believe how well these animals can hide!
There she is! Look at that face!
After that sighting, we drove another bit up the road to another likely location. Again, there were others out there, including a wedding party doing publicity photos. Another stoke of luck occurred and we saw a mama and her calf just across the river! My pictures, despite being pretty good for an iPhone, barely capture them. The guy next to me with the ginormous telescope lens showed me the shots he had gotten and they were amazing. He also said that lens cost him around the price of a decent used car, so maybe I am fine with my iPhone.
Definitely moose shaped splotch
After this pair also disappeared without a trace into the bushes, we headed back. But I wanted just one more try at that first place, because it was on the way. This time, there was a mama and her TWO calves way way out in the valley. And there was a female not too far away. She may have been the same one I saw first, or someone new. If I had a used car priced camera I could compare details. The best I got was undeniably moosey shapes silhouetted against the grass. I was elated. And relieved. That was a long hunt throughout Canada without seeing any. I could have consoled myself with having seen that mama and yearling back in Coeur d’Alene, but this was a fabulous way to bring closure to the summer.
What the heck are you?
Once it was too dark to see anything, we drove back to the campground via a short dirt road. There was some crazy waddling little animal in front of us that neither of us could identify. As we slowly passed, it raised up its quill filled coat, letting us know that a) it was a porcupine, and b) that it was super badass and not to be messed with. I never knew to have porcupines on my bingo board, but that was an exciting score! That, along with a brief coyote spotting earlier in the day made this stop a wildlife winner.
The wildflowers out here are just nuts.
For our hike on Sunday, we spotted only birds and butterflies, along with an abundance of wildflowers. We drove up the Moose-Wilson road (see what I mean??) to get to the Death Canyon trailhead. The name did not inspire my enthusiasm, but our aim was just to get to Phelps Lake Lookout. Which we did. And it was pretty. I did go back out to the moose lookout after dinner, but I was just being greedy at that point. Instead, I spied a herd of Pronghorns running super fast through a meadow, way too far away for a clear shot.
Even with Dory jacked up and conversations happening with mechanics, people still came up to us to ask us how we liked our Alto.
Monday began with several hours spent in the parking lot at Big O Tires. We will be high tailing it back to California with 2-3 hundred mile travel days and it was worth the peace of mind to get things looked at beforehand. I got a little more caught up on the blog and Richard got some work done with good service. We rolled away from Jackson with a new grease cap and the ultimate contentment of having finally found some moose in the wild. Priceless.
Total miles from Canyon: 123, 21.1 mpg, 6 hours 20 min with stopping. No hookups. No generators allowed in that part of the campground. Some solar. Good dump. Didn’t see where to fill up on potable water. Some Verizon. Terrible ATT. Note for the future: the pass over Highway 22 is quite steep with 10% grades up and down for many miles.