Prep Work

We have been quite busy around here in the first months since arriving.  We started with a remodel of part of the house.  The former owners did most of the work, however, the master bedroom/bathroom & spare bath still needed to be completed.  Additionally, we painted the laundry room & spare bedroom.

John took what was probably one of the more hideous bathrooms that I have ever seen & turned it into quite the lovely space.  The bathroom had pink walls, pink countertops with a southwestern pink & turquoise wallpaper.  The carpet was a grey berber with pink undertones.  It really had to go!

We wanted to continue the barnwood accents that are in the rest of the house so we headed over to an old homestead and tore down a barn, board by board.  It was actually quite fascinating!  We found boards with writing on them that dated back to the 1950’s.  Re-using a piece of someone’s history was really a great experience.  Plus, it made really fantastic wainscoting.

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After the bathrooms were complete, we started working outside.  We have been working in between snow storms & arctic fronts.  First, we put up the greenhouse.  Wow!  This was a chore.  We were really grateful that my mom & brother came down to help us out.  After 4 days, we had it up.  Now it’s just begging for plants.

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The next order of business was the fodder system.  Well, this took some trial and error— actually, LOTS of trial and error.  We chose not to buy a pre-made kit and decided to make our own.  Additionally, I wanted larger than normal trays to limit the work load once this system was at 100% capacity.  John built the racks & the watering system and then it was time for the testing.  We had originally intended for it to be out in the greenhouse, however, the temps have been too cold and that was impossible.  We decided to put it in the back bedroom which meant we had to be sure not to flood the wood floors :)  Well, we did in fact flood the floors a couple of times but luckily we were right there to clean it up.  Once we figured out shelving & tray arrangements we have a great system that works quite well.

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Many people ask us what exactly is a fodder system?  It’s a very economical way to feed your livestock with actual live nutrients that is far more nutritious for them than bagged feed plus you save about 2/3’s on your feed cost. They are actually able to absorb 80% of the nutrients which means you get to feed less during the months that you don’t have pasture available for them to graze in.

We start with organic oats, barley & wheat.  We soak it for 18 hours before putting it up on the racks.

Then it gets watered every 4 hours for 30 minutes using a flood & drain procedure.  This allows the seeds to soak up water without retaining it so that mold doesn’t form.

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After 5 days, we have sprouted grains

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After 7 days, grass appears

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2 days later, we are ready to feed!

This is used to feed chickens, turkeys, rabbits, pigs, horses, cows, goats, etc.  It’s a pretty unique system and whenever you can feed live nutrients over processed food, your animals will all be healthier.

We thought we would get away with doing all of our prep work & then bring the animals in.  Well, right in the middle of finalizing several projects the phone call comes in that we had been waiting 4 weeks to receive.  A rancher with the heritage breed of Berkshire hogs that we want to raise, has 4 gilts available.  If we want them, he can bring them by on Monday (this was Friday!)  Panic set in as we rushed to rip the wall down in the tack room, prepare the fence & get ready for pigs which neither of us know anything about!

Monday came and ready or not, we are pig ranchers.

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Pigs are like toddlers (good thing they forgot to mention that!)  They eat everything in sight including my tennis shoes.  They steal your glove and take off running, they figure out how to open doors which causes you to chase them down the driveway & through the pasture.  They knock you onto your knees and think everything is a game.  They’ve been quite hilarious to watch as they play their own games.

We had a friend suggest a basketball for them, apparently, pigs like to play ball.

Here’s the video–http://youtu.be/LFNJ2cGV7rM

As if all of these new arrivals and projects weren’t keeping us busy enough, I saw an ad on Craigslist for a gal in our area doing a group order of baby chicks so that we could all receive a quantity discount.  Sounds good to me, sign me up for 150 buff orpingtons!

They were supposed to arrive in 10 days but the email came in that they shipped a week early.  Sheesh!  panic again, rush to set up their room & get everything ready.

Luckily, we have had chicks in the past so the learning curve wasn’t quite as big as it was with the pigs.  BUT, we only had 4 chicks last time, not 150!!!!!

I do believe I have lost my mind (but that’s another blog all by itself :))

The room was all set up & of course, my two blue eyed helpers really thought they could hide in the pine shavings & maybe just maybe get away with being left in there for when the chicks arrived.

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Sorry boys!  The box arrives, the kitties are kicked out of the pen and we have a room filled with chirping yellow pillows of fluff

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My always gentle Riley, loves baby chicks.  Every time he comes in from outside,  he now has to race to the back room just to make sure they are ok.  They have a rather big brother as their guardian :)

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As March begins, we will start our next major project–portable chicken & turkey coops.  I’m sure a few comical adventures will come along with this.  We’ll keep you posted.

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The Winds of Change

They say in life that only two things are certain, death & taxes.  I think I would add, change.  Most people fear change and they tend to be very uneasy leaving their comfort zone.  I’ve always been one of those odd people that really enjoys change.  It usually means a new adventure and finding out something about yourself that you didn’t know existed within you.

So, what’s this change?  Well, some family issues have risen that require our attention.  It’s not a subject that we can discuss but a few of you have an idea of what these matters are.  With these issues taking a front seat, we tried to figure out how we should go forward.  We decided if we needed to stay put for an indefinite period of time then we should do something that we enjoy.

After much soul searching and a great deal of prayer, we chose to follow one of our other passions in life that we began in Montana.  This time, however, we will be taking it to a larger scale.  I can already see Claudia Mathis grinning as she reads this!  We have chosen to begin raising all of our own food for both ourselves and our animals.

We have found a 40 acre mini ranch in Ramah Colorado.  This is an area that we would have never chosen to live in but an amazing 10 week journey showed us loud and clear that we did not have control over this situation.  Ramah is a very small town (150 people) about 40 miles east of Colorado Springs.  We are officially flatlanders!

We purchased this property because of the growing season, ability to raise livestock and the existing barns and other outbuildings.  We will be raising  chickens,  turkeys,  pheasants,  rabbits, hogs, a full scale garden capable of producing enough food for the year, orchards with both fruit & nut trees and also bee hives for producing honey.   We will also be raising enough of each product to sell.  We are going to be VERY BUSY!

We will be using organic practices and the animals will all be raised on 100% grass year round using a fodder system.

So, what does this mean for life off the leash?  We will be continuing our blog but the direction it takes will obviously be taking a 180 degree turn away from travel and scenery and turn towards life on a farm, baby animals, vegetables and how we are going about all of this raising of our food.  We will also share some of our favorite gardening articles on subjects like companion planting, biological agriculture which I’ve been reading a great deal about, fodder systems and of course lots of pictures.

This is a huge undertaking for both of us as neither one of us has ever lived on a farm let alone built one from the ground up but we both feel very strong about this endeavor and we truly believe that if you work hard enough and put your mind to it,  you can accomplish anything.

We hope you will continue to follow our journey as it moves into a new direction.

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Western Colorado

We began making our way into Western Colorado through Eastern Utah.  We came over Douglas Pass which is just south of Rangely, CO.  Neither of us had ever been over this pass and we figured with as many Colorado passes as we both have experienced in our lives, it should be no big deal.  Famous last words, right!  The climb up the pass is innocent enough, however, when you reach the top, you cannot see the road below you.  It’s like the feeling when you reach the top of the roller coaster and you cannot see just how steep the drop is, that’s exactly how this pass felt!  There was a moment of fear, followed by, oh my gosh! this is steep!  We dropped into low gear and thank goodness for exhaust brakes!  The view, however, was amazing!  We tried to focus on just how beautiful the valley below was and it worked.

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We made our way to the small town of Crawford, CO.  Neither of us had ever been to this area but after reading about all of the wonderful orchards and beautiful scenery, we decided to make our way over to it.  We are so glad that we did!  The West Elk Mountains were just spectacular with the fall colors!

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My mom and sister with her 4 kids decided to come up and visit for a few days.  This was a great time to enjoy all of the fun activities that the orchards in the nearby town of Paonia have to offer.  There were pumpkin patches and corn fields and ponds with ducks and a vast world of exploring for little minds.  We showed them how blackberries, raspberries and grapes grow and they were able to pick apples directly off the tree, which, if you’re 6, is pretty cool!  Hayvin & Zoey helped us pick tomatoes, and several types of peppers.

Uncle John made a donation to the local children’s outreach so that the kids could all pick out a pumpkin to take home.  The kids walked up and down the rows looking for just the right pumpkin and when I picked one up and showed it to Hayvin, she said, we can’t take that one home!  When I asked why, she responded with, it has dirt on it!  I tried to explain that all pumpkins have dirt on them when you get them from the pumpkin patch.  It took a little bit of convincing but she finally agreed.

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That evening we headed over to Crawford Lake to grill hamburgers and roast marshmallows over the fire.  While we were there a fascinating cloud formed over Needle Rock just as the sun was setting.  It was beautiful!

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We plan to stay in this area for awhile and then make our way over to Montrose, CO before we continue south.

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Back to the Flathead!

We were so excited to be heading back to Montana!  The chance to spend some time with friends and re-visit a few of the magnificent places that surround the Flathead Valley is always a time to cherish.

The weather was beautiful as we made our way from Oregon over Lolo Pass and up to Kalispell.  The trees had just started to put on their fall colors.  We spent most of our days playing with Riley at Flathead lake and visiting friends and neighbors.

We took a quick trip up to Glacier National Park and while most who follow our blog know first hand about all that Glacier has to offer, there are a few of you who have never been there.  The weather turned the day we headed into the park so we were not able to take very many long range vista pictures since the clouds were very low and it began snowing up on top of Logan Pass.

We did take just a few pictures that we can share up on the top of Logan and a few of the magnificent colors in McDonald Creek.

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After spending a few weeks in the Flathead, it reminded us just how much we love this area and the people that we know here.  I think it made the second round of goodbye’s that much harder!

Our plan was to continue down to Dillon, MT and visit Bannack State Park.  However, the weather forecast called for a significant snowstorm to move in.  Normally, we would have just waited it out, however, after several white knuckle experiences in the snow last spring, we decided to move on.  This brought us to an area of Northeastern Utah and Bear Lake State Park.  During the summer, this area is quite busy with sailing, jet skiing and fishing.  It’s a beautiful lake with turquoise waters and sandy beaches.  The back drop of the mountains and the turning colors this time of year is something that you don’t expect to find in Utah.

We spent a few days in the area taking some hikes in the surrounding hills and we found some areas of foliage turning which always makes for nice pictures!

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Our next stop was to spend a few weeks at the Flaming Gorge which borders Wyoming and Colorado.  A beautiful area with tons of hiking and we were looking very forward to the time here.  WELLL, the weather we tried to avoid in Montana, brought significant snowfall to this area and they shut everything down early this year.  I think we’re starting to feel jinxed this fall!  We were unable to find anywhere that we could park and we could not find water, so we spent one night, took some pictures and then moved on.  We did not plan on making it south in such a short time but thank goodness we’re flexible!

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Saying goodbye to an Oregon Summer

We have truly enjoyed our time here in Enterprise.  We have enjoyed the small town atmosphere and the friendly people that we have met every day.

We were told about the infamous Bowlby Bash that occurs in town each July.  We were quite curious about this event so we headed into downtown Enterprise to witness the festivities.  The streets were lined with craft and food vendors.  The main event is the soap box derby.  Several children and adults work on elaborate carts that they race down the hill near the elementary school.  They have several categories for voting from most creative to the fastest soap box.

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I was curious how the rather unusual name of Bowlby Bash came about.  I did a google search and found the following information:

the courthouse in downtown Enterprise is made from the famous Bowlby stone from the nearby Swap Creek Quarry.  “Tuff” is a porous volcanic rock that can be cut easily when wet and then dries as hard as concrete  when dry.   It is still praised to this day for its uniqueness in the pacific northwest.

“Tuff” is a volcanic crater a broad cone with a saucer shaped interior built of ash that has weathered and cemented together in a rocky material.

We also wanted to visit one of the popular attractions in the area which was the tram that ascends vertically 3700 feet up Mt Howard.  It allows for a vast view of Wallowa Lake and the surrounding area.  Once we arrived on top, we found several trails for exploring the mountain.

We were met with beautiful views in all directions as we made our way around the mountain.

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One direction you are able to see into the Eagle Cap Wilderness and then once you circle around the other side of the mountain, you are viewing into Hells Canyon.

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We were greeted by an adorable chipmunk, who, obviously had been fed by how friendly he was :) and the wildflowers were still in bloom

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We made our way down the mountain and enjoyed beautiful weather for our tour around the mountain.

John took a 3 day fishing trip down into the Imnaha.  This is part of Hells Canyon where the Snake & Imnaha Rivers meet.  While his fishing trip was not successful, he did bring back some great pictures of the canyon.

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As we close out our journey in Oregon this summer, our family has suffered a great loss.  I know not everyone follows our Facebook page, so for those who don’t know, we lost our little Dakota on July 15th.  One of her tumors ruptured.  We are very grateful that she did not suffer and she was playing with Riley in the backyard that afternoon.  We brought her home that evening and fed her pretzels, cheese, cookies and ice cream.  In the middle of the night, we are very thankful for the small town vet that came by and made sure that her passing was peaceful with her 2 legged and four legged family surrounding her and holding her.  We find comfort in knowing that she was almost 15  years old and she led an amazing life!

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Zumwalt Prairie

One of the most fascinating things about this part of Northeastern Oregon is the diverse landscape.  The towering Eagle Cap Wilderness and its majestic mountains fill up the skyline and they quickly give way to vast prairie land which extends all of the way to Hells Canyon which is actually deeper than the Grand Canyon.

We heard a great deal about the Zumwalt Prairie so we packed a picnic and headed out to explore.  We began the 30 plus mile trek on a dirt road with the sun shining and the grasses blowing in the wind.  The prairie used to the be the hunting grounds for Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians.

As we drove along we noticed countless hawks flying over head and hunting from the fields.  There are also a few remnants of the old homesteads from the original settlers in this area.

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We continued on and we saw a herd of elk grazing up on the ridge.  We leave the grasslands and find our way into a dense forest.  The wildflowers are in full bloom.  We were told about a certain spot to dig wild onions so we stopped along the way.  It’s a little early in the season but we did manage to find some.  Apparently, as it becomes fall the onions get quite hot in flavor.

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We really had no idea what we were looking for.  The only description we were given was a leaf base with a single stalk and a flower.  There were several of those around so it made things a little tricky.  After a couple of tries we discovered this purple flower with seeds in the top and quickly discovered an onion at the base.  Success!  We took a bag full home and added them to dinner.  They were quite good.

Just beyond the onion patch is an Indian Village Grove.  Large oval scars on these ponderosa pines give lasting evidence of the traditional spring camp of the Nez Perce people. In the early spring, the indians would peel the outer bark, using the cambium layer as supplemental food and perhaps as medicine and weaving fibers. These scars were made in the late 1800′s and were probably created using metal implements acquired by trade.

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The wildflowers surrounding the grove were just beautiful!

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Our drive continues to the Buckhorn Lookout.  This overlooks Hells Canyon and down to the Imnaha River.  Hells Canyon is on average 7,900 ft deep and 10 miles wide.

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Our drive back to town gives us a beautiful view of the Eagle Cap Wilderness.

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Oregon Mountain Cruise

For all of you car buffs out there, we went to the 25th Annual Oregon Mountain Cruise in Joseph a few weeks back.

Over 200 cars arrived from every corner of the country to show off the amazing restoration work that their owners have done on them.

There were lots of ooohs and aaahs to be had by all and lots of envy to be heard throughout the crowds.  I was absolutely amazed at the amount of work that had been put into each of these vehicles.

It was a beautiful day to be out walking the streets of Joseph.

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Some of the awards were Moonshine Hauler which is the fastest car that can beat State Agents to the State Line while hauling moonshine and King of the Mountain for the top car in the show.

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Heading to Oregon

It’s been awhile since I updated my blog.  The following took place over Memorial Day weekend.  I know, I am VERY FAR behind!

We decided to try something  a little different for this summer.  We are heading to a small town in Northeastern Oregon called Enterprise.  We’ll be spending June, July, August and half of September here helping out at a Bed & Breakfast.  We are anticipating a great experience and a beautiful area to explore.  Enterprise is in the Eagle Cap Wilderness and ample hiking and beautiful mountains await our arrival.

Part of our blog includes a look into our personal lives and the adventure that we are experiencing.  Part of that includes some of the low times that we may experience as well.  As we all know far to well, not every moment in life can be amazing and we all face times that shake us to our core.  As we made our way towards Oregon, we had anticipated staying one night in Boise.  We chose an RV park just outside of Meridian.  About 1 1/2 hours after our arrival, we were having lunch inside and Dakota all of sudden had a seizure.  I was quite scared as I’ve never seen an animal have a seizure.  Once we stabilized her, we rushed her to an emergency clinic.  About an hour after our arrival, she had another seizure which fortunately they were able to stop with Valium.  They performed an ultrasound on her and they found two masses, a lemon sized mass on her liver and a golf ball sized mass in the connective tissues.  Her liver numbers have been escalating over the past year and we have been aware of it but at 14 1/2 years old, we knew that there wasn’t much we could do about it.  We were not mentally prepared for the vet’s diagnosis and she gave us only 2 options, which were both difficult to fathom and accept.  First, keep the seizures under control and keep her comfortable for the remainder of her days or #2, put her down.  She had been rolling in the grass and happy before the seizure and I knew that she was not ready to go so we chose the anti-seizure meds.  She spent the night at the clinic and they allowed Riley to visit her while we brought her some dinner.  Seeing Riley made her tail wag  and she kissed him several times.  I knew that we had made the right decision.  We know her days are numbered at this point and our job is simply to keep her as happy and comfortable as possible.

We spent an extra day in Boise until Dakota was allowed to come home & the vet said that she could ride in the car.  We knew that she was feeling better when she barked non-stop in the kennel at the clinic.  I explained to the staff that she doesn’t do well in a kennel.  I think they were more than ready for her to leave.

The drive into Enterprise was filled with emerald green fields and lush forests.  It was quite beautiful.  The mountains still have a cap of snow on them and it made for a beautiful color contrast.

We arrived in Enterprise and realized that there are not any stop lights in this small town.  It’s very quiet in this area and I think we will fit right in without a problem.

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The dogs are thoroughly enjoying having free run of the 2 1/2 acre property and they are once again on deer patrol which is one of their favorite jobs.  The owners of the b&b are quite happy with the dogs keeping the deer out of the property and away from the apple trees.

Dakota is struggling with taking walks so the b&b owner made a suggestion that I would have never thought about.  She took a jogging stroller and we made some modifications to it and with some straps, John made her a custom hiking rig that she absolutely loves to take her daily walks and hikes in.   I never would have thought that she would become so comfortable in it, however, she thinks it’s quite fantastic.  I do believe after a summer of pushing 40 pounds up and down trails and countless hills, I should have some very in shape legs :)

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We decided to do some exploring in the area after our arrival.  We took a trip up the Lostine River and found beautiful streams and green lush canyons.  It was a great afternoon for a picnic.

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Upon our return from our picnic and hike, we were greeted by a quail hanging out on the fence.  They are quite colorful and make a unique sound.

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We have several events to share with you that have happened while we’ve been in the area so I will get back to updating the blog more often.

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Sawtooth National Recreation Area

We arrived in Hailey, Idaho on a beautiful sunny afternoon.  As we pulled into town, the scent of lilacs filled the air.  We continued up past Ketchum and found a beautiful spot up on the West Fork of the Big Wood river.  With the sound of the river right out our windows and beautiful flowers surrounding our spot, it was perfect.

Neither of us had ever been to this area but we both had looked at it many times.  It was just spectacular!  If we didn’t have a prior commitment in Oregon this summer, I was more than ready to spend the next 3 months in this area.  We spent the next 7 days hiking up the various creeks in the area and found some beautiful valleys hidden far away from the road.

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We decided to go up an extremely rough 4wd road and hike to a ghost town.  The Boulder  Basin ghost town had several cabins and structures still standing.  The first mining claim was filed in 1879 for the area.  The mining in the Boulder Basin between 1884 and 1949 amounted to nearly 8,000 tons of ore and several hundred tons of old tailings. The processing of this raw material yielded 610 ounces of gold, 111,620 ounces of silver, 48,094 pounds of copper and 1.3 million pounds of lead. Between 1884 and 1894, one estimate put production value at $1 million for a block of claims known as the Golden Glow group.

I was surprised how well several of the structures had weathered the years.  The other interesting fact about the cabins that I noticed is that the corner of each cabin was dovetailed.  This is the first time that I have ever seen cabins with corners like these.  I don’t know if it’s normal for this area or if it was unique to these miners.

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On our way back down, the wildflowers that filled the field were just to beautiful to pass by without taking pictures.

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After a picnic in a beautiful meadow at the base of the mountains, the dogs happily took a much deserved rest!

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Gros Ventre River

An afternoon trek up to Slide Lake lead to some unexpected sites.  The lake is at the head of the Gros Ventre river which is an area of the park that is rarely visited.  The Gros Ventre River is 74 miles long and it’s a tributary of the Snake River.   As we made our way up the canyon, the colors of the hillside were completely different than any other part of the park.

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We took a hike around the lake and let the dogs play in the water.  On our way back, we noticed a bald eagle hunting the river.  We pulled over and watched as the mature bald and an in-mature bald went fishing.  I snapped off a couple of pictures of the two as they flew back from the river with their dinner in their talons.  It was quite difficult to take pictures while they were in the air.

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It was quite the amazing site to witness!

We continued back down into the main part of the park and headed over to Mormon Row.  This is one of the most photographed areas of the park.  In the 1890’s Mormon settlers began making their way to this area.  These homesteads are quite unique in the fact that instead of being isolated buildings like most homesteads, they are clustered into a community.

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Around these homesteads, the buffalo roam free with the spectacular Teton Range in the background.

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A day filled with spectacular beauty!  Our time here in the Tetons has come to an end and we are headed to the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho.  This is an area that I have been wanting to visit for many years and we are both really excited to explore this part of Idaho.

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