Home is where we are parked

Home is where we are parked
Home is where we are parked

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

ID -- Victor, 2 - 16 April 2015

Map picture
Map picture

Two weeks in Victor, Idaho…

Adding the sticker for our first stay in Idaho

Why we came…

To ski Grand Targhee, snowshoe the Tetons, and fish the famous Henry’s Fork.

The campground…

Teton Valley RV Park, on the southwest end of Victor, is nice and has spacious sites.  The gravel RV pads are fairly level with full hook-ups, and have grass and mature trees between each one.  Views of the Teton and Big Hole Mountains are spotty between the trees.  Laundry facilities are a bit outdated and expensive costing $2 to wash and $3 to dry.  Wi-fi worked well and the Verizon signal provided strong and reliable data.  The campground was actually closed, but Gary, the owner, kindly let us stay.  The empty campground was very peaceful.

The Teton Valley is wedged between the Big Hole and Teton Mountains and has an average elevation just over 6,000 feet.  The towns of Victor and Driggs each have about 2,000 people and are 9 miles apart.  Driggs has a great grocery store and there are roughly 40 restaurants between the two towns.  Jackson, Wyoming has even more options 25 miles to the southeast.  Idaho Falls, the largest town in eastern Idaho, is 65 miles to the west.

The area is an outdoors paradise all year long.  We could easily spend a significant amount of time here!

   

Sun setting on the Teton Mountains  /  Two inches of snow on 6 April

Adventures…

Victor-3 Apr 2015-snowshoe   

Snowshoe route in Grand Teton National Park  /  Jumping high in the Tetons!

On 3 April we snowshoed in Grand Teton National Park…

We woke up to bright blue skies and pleasant spring weather and decided to spend our first day in Grand Teton National Park.  The 40 mile drive over Teton Pass and through Jackson is beautiful.  Surprisingly, the Taggart Lake parking area was half full when we arrived and completely full when we left. 

From the trailhead, we left on the well packed trail.  There was 2-3 feet of old, hard snow with a thin, one inch layer of new snow on top.  We didn’t stay on the trail long.  Snow conditions and the open, rolling terrain made it easy for us to blaze our own route.  We snaked along a three mile loop, constantly in awe of the incredible scenery.  The heart of the Tetons loomed 6,000 feet above us and just a few miles away.  The clear spring air made us feel like we could reach out and touch the rocky peaks.  And the people that belonged to all those cars in the parking lot?  We didn’t see a single sole!  Other than the occasional chirp of a bird and our snowshoes crunching through the snow, we didn’t hear anything else either…it was serene.

On the way back through Jackson, we loaded up on groceries and enjoyed a tasty lunch.  It was a great day!

Snowshoeing in Grand Teton National Park

Victor-4 Apr 2015-snowshoe   

Snowshoe route near Teton Pass  /  Deep snow in the Teton Mountains

On 4 April we snowshoed near Teton Pass…

Clouds and winds were increasing ahead of a storm, but we wanted to explore Teton Pass.  We chose to snowshoe up the Coal Creek trail and look for a place to snowboard some slushy spring snow. 

We trudged up the hard-packed trail, safely negotiating a few tricky spots.  We climbed about a thousand feet in a mile and half.  We felt a bit winded and were chilled by the strengthening winds.  I stopped at a slightly pitched, small hill that I thought might provide some fun snowboard turns. 

I climbed a few hundred feet through a stand of aspens, strapped on my board, and weaved carefully down the hill.  Unfortunately, the spring snow was tricky so I couldn’t cut it loose.  Arleen played photographer and had fun capturing the “action”. 

The trip down took much less effort and time…it was quite enjoyable.  However, I got tired of my snowboard bouncing off my head and ended up hand-carrying it.  I need to find a better way to secure it to my backpack and we need to find better snow!

Snowshoeing up to EARN the down

Threading through the aspens

Victor-6 Apr 2015-ski   

Ski route at Grand Targhee  /  It’s going to be a fun day!

On 6 April we skied at Grand Targhee…

The weather forecast called for 2-4 inches of new snow…it was time to hit the slopes!  Grand Targhee is 20 miles northwest of Victor, on the west side of the Teton Mountains.  It’s nicknamed “Grand Foggy” because it’s often shrouded in clouds. 

It snowed all day and the visibility was horrible, confirming the nickname.  However, the snow was great!  Eight inches of new snow fell on us.  Few other people braved the conditions so there were few other tracks.  We did laps in the fresh powder and had a fun day.

       

Picking her line  /  Ice beard!  /  Easy turns in the powder

Victor-7 Apr 2015-hike   

Hike route to the Henry’s Fork  /  1-2 feet of snow covered much of the route

On 7 April we fished the famous Henry’s Fork…

I’ve been reading about Henry’s Fork (of the Snake River) since I learned to fly-fish in my teen years.  You would be hard-pressed to find a fly angler that isn’t aware of it.  Often touted as the “perfect trout stream”, it’s reputation reaches far and wide. 

Early spring is part of the “off season”.  Sections of the river are closed to fishing and the trout are immerging from their winter lethargy.  Unlike the summer when hordes of fisherman invade, you’ll likely have the river all to yourself.

We wanted to check out the Box Canyon, south of Island Park.  As expected, one to two feet of snow covered most of the route.  We had planned to snowshoe, but we were able to walk on top of the firm snow.  The final descent to the river was tricky.  We carefully negotiated the large boulders and inconsistent snow and made it safely down.

We eagerly strung up our rods and methodically fished a nice, long run.  The tally…we each hooked two, but only landed one: a strong 14 inch, brightly colored rainbow trout.  We saw various birds and no other anglers…it was very peaceful.

As we walked back to the truck, the clouds thickened, the winds got gusty, and a few snowflakes fell…spring in the Rockies…we love it!

This was just a teaser sample of the Henry’s Fork.  We’ll be back someday and will get to know this “perfect trout stream” much better.

Fishing the “Box Canyon” of Henry’s Fork

       

Fighting a strong trout  /  Thanks for playing!  /  Stringing out some nice casts

Victor-9 Apr 2015-snowshoe   

Snowshoe route in the Big Hole Mountains  /  “Which way now?!?”

On 9 April we snowshoed near Pine Creek Pass in the Big Hole Mountains…

We wanted a little exercise and figured Pine Creek Pass, just 9 miles southwest of our home, would be a good place to snowshoe.

The late season snow was patchy.  We gingerly crossed multiple bare spots, but were glad to have the snowshoes for the slushy spring snow.  A couple of heavy snow showers dumped two inches of graupel and giant flakes on us…it was very pretty.  Between the clouds and showers, we enjoyed good views of the surrounding Big Hole Mountains and the Teton Valley below.  The view of the Tetons is probably good too, but the clouds kept them out of our sight. 

We had fun posing for a bunch of pictures and headed back.  We spotted some elk tracks that told a really interesting story.  Where the tracks stopped, was a roughly three foot, round depression in the snow.  Most of the depression was tinted slightly red, and there were clearly small drops of blood scattered about.  Along with the large tracks, a small set of tracks led away from the scene…a brand new elk calf was born!  Based on the snow that fell on us, we missed the baby’s birth by only an hour or two!  Sadly, we didn’t take any pictures, but the memory will stay with us.

GOOFBALLS

   

Trying to slide in the slushy snow  /  It’s snowing!

     Victor-10 Apr 2015-bike     

Bike route in Grand Teton National Park  /  Three feet of snow along the dry road

On 10 April we rode our bikes in Grand Teton National Park…

Sixteen miles of the Park’s primary road are closed to vehicular traffic during the “off season”.  Sometime in April, they start clearing the snow in preparation to open the road on 1 May.  During warm, dry springs, the road is clear and perfect for a memorable bike ride.

We arrived at the Taggart Lake trail head parking area around 11am.  As we prepped our bikes for the adventure, others were doing the same thing.  The temperature was in the mid-40s with spotty sun and light winds.  It was comfortable while not moving, but quite chilly as we cruised along at 15mph on our bikes.  We were smart to wear decent gloves and head socks.

It didn’t take long for us to leave everyone behind.  The further we got, the fewer people we saw.  We rode roughly 11 miles out, turned around, and took the Jenny Lake scenic route on the way back.  We only saw two or three other cyclists those last few miles and felt like we had our own personal national park…it was special! 

The views were incredible!  We joked that our necks were going to be sore from constantly looking up at the craggy peaks.  Words can’t express how great it was to bike an empty, dry road surrounded by snow and some of North America’s most spectacular scenery.  If there wasn’t so much to see in our great country, we would come back every April for this unique experience!

Victor54-10 Apr 2015

Spectacular!

   

Cardboard Box Derby at Grand Targhee

On 11 April we watched the cardboard box derby at Grand Targhee…

The Cardboard Box Derby is held annually each spring before Grand Targhee closes for the season.  The rules are simple:

“The craft must be constructed solely of cardboard, paper, glue, tape, and string.  This is not a race! There are no points for speed. A panel of judges will rate each craft for originality, costumes, and construction. Of course you also need to finish with all your team members on board.”

Yep, they were original, and had great costumes, but construction varied considerably.  The slushy snow conditions made a slow course.  Most of the creations needed help to get down the hill.  Some didn’t make it and some fell apart…it was quite entertaining!  The kids were especially cute.  We enjoyed the show and so did hundreds of other spectators. 

On the way home we stopped for a quick hike.  The Tetons look quite different from the west side, but they are still incredible.  We also scouted the Teton River in preparation for a float.  Coincidentally, there were geocaches near the two boat ramps…our first ones in Idaho!

   

Cardboard Box Derby at Grand Targhee

   

The Tetons seen from the Idaho side  /  Our first Idaho geocache found near the Teton River

Victor-14 Apr 2015-kayak   

Float route on the Teton River  /  Cutthroat trout

On 13 April we kayaked and fished the Teton River…

The Teton River originates just a few miles from Victor and slowly meanders north for nearly 20 miles through a picturesque valley before dropping into a rugged canyon.  Multiple access points and decent roads enable various float options.  We chose to float the four and a half mile section from South Bates Road to Bates Road.

First, we positioned Arleen’s bike at the take-out at Bates Road, and then drove to South Bates to launch the kayaks.  It was sunny and warm with winds varying considerably from calm to 20mph. 

We floated slowly with the current, occasionally fighting the winds in order to drift our flies effectively through the “fishy” sections.  In places that we got hits, we paddled back upstream and made multiple drifts.  This tactic proved effective!  We caught a few trout out of each hole.  I hooked three just a few hundred yards downstream of the bridge.  We expected to catch cutthroat trout, but the first two were surprisingly brook trout.  The day’s tally:  3 or 4 brook trout, 4 or 5 rainbow trout, and 4 or 5 cutthroat trout.  A strong 18 inch cutthroat was the prize of the day.

Not only was the fishing good, but we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery too!  The Teton Mountains loomed large to the east and the Big Hole Mountains to the west.  We saw lots of birds including, eagles, ospreys, ducks, and geese.  The highlight was a big bull moose standing in the river a few river bends before the take-out.  Thankfully, he stayed put and just watched us float by! 

Our Teton River adventure was outstanding.  We would float it frequently and get to know it well.

Floating the peaceful Teton River in the shadow of the Teton Mountains

Posing with a rainbow trout.  Look closely for the bald eagle.

       

Brook trout  /  18 inch cutthroat trout  /  Rainbow trout and the Tetons…great fishing!

       

Soaring bald eagle  /  Goose taking flight  /  Osprey with a trout snack

A bull moose hanging out in the Teton River…we quietly floated by him!

Next…

We will spend two weeks in Ennis, Montana.  We plan to fish the Madison River, explore the historic mining town: Virginia City, and hike the surrounding mountains if spring conditions allow.  The adventure continues…

Parting shots…

    Victor40-8 Apr 2015     

Thunder snow and graupel on 8 April

   

Full moon rising over our slice of paradise  /  Sunset over the Big Hole Mountains

(77,000)