Well, I was preparing to winterize the AS last week, but kept thinking it would be nice to take one more trip this year. So I checked the weather forecasts, and went in and told DW "Honey, we're going to the Tetons". She was less than enthusiastic, but begrudgingly agreed. I scheduled the trip for October 30 - November 2. It snowed up there on the 28th, but it looked like it should melt off by the 30th. It also looked like rain and snow were supposed to move in on the 1st and 2nd. I forgot to mention that to DW until we got there. We knew it would be cold at night, so we prepared for that as best we could. How bad could it be, after all we've got a furnace in the AS.
Thursday was a beautiful day in Wyoming. Temperatures were in the 50s, and no wind. We took our time on the way to the Tetons, even taking a little longer route so we could stop at Walmart in Riverton. The plan was to boondock on Forest Service (FS) land between Dubois and Moran Junction along Highway 26/287. However, we decided to check out Hatchet Campground. It is a FS campground just off of the highway, right next FS district office, and the last campground before entering the park. The campground was officially closed for the season, but still open for use, ie; no restrooms, trash service, or fee. It was also totally empty. We'd been on the road for seven hours, which is more than I like to drive, so we pulled into one of the pull-through sites. This would be home.
After unhitching and setting up we went for a walk up FS Road 30160. We had been warned that the bears were very active, so we took the bear spray along, but the only wildlife we saw was a muskrat and some roughed grouse. Once the sun started getting low, the temperature began to drop rapidly, so we headed back. It got pretty chilly Thursday night, down to the low 20s. I had the thermostat set as low as it would go, but the furnace kicked on frequently throughout the night, keeping the inside temperature at about 50. By morning the battery was pretty much dead. It would barely power the led lights. I had naively thought the battery would last the weekend.
Friday morning we headed into the park, looking for wildlife. There really wasn't much. We saw a couple of moose, and a wolf trotting along the Snake River. There were a lot of elk hunters about, even within the park to our surprise. So the elk were well hidden. We went up the Gros Ventre and Slide Lake area looking for a trailhead. We checked out the Atherton Creek campground. This is a very nice campground right on the lake. This will be one we keep in mind for the future (bring the canoe). The trail we were in search of looked a little steeper than we had energy for, so after checking out the campground, and letting the dog take a dip in the lake, we headed into Jackson, thinking we might buy another battery. This was a rather unpleasant experience, and we left with no battery. We headed back to our home base in search of a trail.
Hikes are a major part of why we take these trips, and we always take the dog. Unfortunately, the Park Service has a deep hatred for all things dog. So we try to find trails outside of the park. We found Turpin Meadows recreation area near our campsite. It is on FS land. Turpin Meadows has a campground that looks nice, and a trail. However, it caters to a lot of horse and ATV users. It's got corrals and other facilities for horse users. There was nobody else here while we were there, but evidence suggests that during tourist season, this may be a hopping place. I don't mean to disparage horse and ATV users, but it is something one should be aware of if planning on using this campground in the summer. We walked a mile or so up the trail, but we encountered grizzly tracks on the trail, and the dog seemed nervous, so we turned back.
We don't have a generator, so back at camp, I hooked the truck battery to the camper with jumper cables and ran the truck for a little while so we could run the furnace enough to warm things up before we went to bed. When it was about time to get up in the morning, I did the same thing again. Since we were the only ones in the campground, I didn't feel guilty about running the truck for a little while. It didn't get as cold as the night before, probably low 30s. So this worked out fine.
Saturday morning we headed back into the park at about sunrise and went to the Pacific Creek Trailhead. This is another FS recreation area, but is accessed from within the park boundaries. It is very similar to the Turpin Meadows area, except I didn't care for the campground as much. It has lots of horse facilities. I don't think ATVs are used here though. Evidence suggests that the trail gets extreme horse use. We were there fairly early in the morning, so the ground was frozen. However, if it weren't, the trail would have been impassable due to the mud caused by the horses. We walked in a mile or so until we felt the ground begin to thaw and headed back. In another hour, we would have had a very difficult time walking in the mud.
After we left Pacific Creek, we headed north toward Yellowstone. We enjoyed the sites. I've never seen so few people in the area. This was the last weekend any park services are open. All campgrounds are already closed. Yellowstone will be closing all roads tomorrow. It was nice to have no traffic and no bison/elk/moose/bear jams. Although there was very little wildlife to be seen from the roads. We did hear some elk bugling, but were unable to locate them. We drove through Coulter Bay campground to see what it is like. It was completely empty, but I don't think this would be the kind of place we would enjoy. By now, it was about noon, and it looked like a storm was coming in over the mountains. I really didn't relish the idea of pulling the trailer over the continental divide on icy roads, so we headed back to camp and hitched up. We headed towards home with the intent of finding a place to stay overnight, however we just kept moving, and made it home in about six hours, right after sunset.
This trip illustrated that before taking any more cold weather trips, I need a generator. We also observed that the refrigerator went out when running both the furnace and stove. I think this might be in part because the pressure in the propane tanks is lower when cold. Not a big problem, just need to periodically check that the frig is running. While at camp, I had set up a wildlife camera by the camper. I was hoping to catch a bear walking through at night. DW was hoping for the opposite. I didn't catch any wildlife, but did find someone checking out the camper while we were gone. He clearly didn't have any harmful intent, but this may be a good security measure that I'll use again.
We found some good boondocking sites up FS Road 30160, a couple of great sites, and one incredible site. This will be for the next trip.
Now to go winterize the camper.