|A short drive south of Yellowstone brings us into Grand Teton National Park. We were not yet ready to stop for the night and luckily the park is small so we took our time, making many stops, and driving the scenic back roads to capture the majestic scenery of the jagged peaks, before moving on.
Next comes the upscale town of Jackson Hole, similar to Sun Valley, ID, as a popular winter sports destination. And about 50 miles further south on Highway 89 we arrive in the Star Valley, WY area, where the landscape suddenly opens up into great grasslands, ranches and farms with a few small towns conveniently placed about every 15 miles; Alpine at the north end and Afton to the south. We decide to park ourselves in Thayne, population 341, altitude 5950', and about in the middle!
As luck would have it we found the Flat Creek RV Park & Cabins, pulled in for a night, and have now been here almost two weeks. The price is right, $125 per week for full-hooks, and everything, including the surrounding Valley area, is just laid back and somehow feels right to us... right now. We have crossed the Continental Divide so many times I'm never quite sure into which ocean we're flowing, but now we're back on the west side, at the base of the Salt River Range of the Rockies, and nestled between the Bridger-Teton and Caribou National Forests.
The park owners gave us lots on information on several drives through the national forests. Our first outing was the 120 mile Grey's River Canyon loop which heads east out of Alpine. The fall colors of gold and red are popping out all along the mountainsides and the many free campgrounds along the way are packed with hunters on this first day of deer season. This is a magnificent drive but check to make sure the bridge on the south end in passable!!
From the town of Afton to our south, there is a spectacular 4 mile drive on a narrow dirt road following Swift Creek that leads to a mile-long trail up to the Periodic Springs. Now if you clicked on this link hopefully you will feel as we did, this is a truly phenomenal, very rare occurrence with only 2 other locations in the world! These springs are similar to a cold-water geyser, they gush out of the mountain for several minutes and then, slowly, the flow recedes, then STOPS! We stood there for several cycles, taking pictures, but mainly just taking it in!
There are equally beautiful drives through the Caribou National Forest, on the east side of Hwy. 89, which quickly enters the state of Idaho. We drove part of the Pioneer Historic Byway, admired the Blackfoot Reservoir and meandering Blackfoot River, and stopped to read the many helpful historic markers along the way.
The weather has been rather nice, 70's and 80's and clear most days, but oh so cold nights and early mornings. We still need heat! This time of the year there are no bugs, namely mosquitoes, but I'm sure July and parts of August are another story.
The town of Thayne has certainly felt the effects of the economy but has somehow maintained its pride and integrity. During my morning walks through town, maybe a mile and a half from end to end, I have met and talked with locals who have lived here their entire lives. They claim the billionaires forced the millionaires out of Jackson Hole and many came to the Star Valley and bought up a lot of the large ranch parcels for subdivision and home building. This not only decreased the cash crops production but in recent years has increased the number of foreclosures and upside-down mortgages on the new subdivisions. A vicious cycle.....!
We have also enjoyed many days of just kicking back and not sight-seeing, doing laundry at our leisure as the park is winding down for the season, washing windows and screens, and as of today (the 21st), starting the "polishing of the motorhome" cycle. We have 3 more days before heading on to St. George, UT, and will probably make the trip to Idaho Falls, both scenic and shopping friendly. Thayne and the surrounding towns all have very adequate facilities, though the pickins' for good wine and bourbon are sketchy...we are in Mormon country, you know!