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RV Trip – Day 5

Wednesday June 28, 2017

We were advised to leave early to find a parking spot at Phelps Lake. So we set the alarm for 7am, and slowly made our way up there after a 20 minute or so ride. We find plenty parking space, so we’re set. The hike is supposed to be a 6 miles loop around the lake, but it will take us about 4 hours.
Wendy, who is our planner extraordinaire on this trip, has consulted yesterday with a ranger who strongly advised her to buy a can of bear spray, in case of an encounter. It is a very potent chili pepper mix that you’d use in an emergency (if a bear charges towards you). Its supposed to shoot 30 feet, and, just like mace for humans, is extremely uncomfortable for the attacking animal. Interestingly, the manual says that once you spray, it’s better not to hang around the same spot, because what starts as an extreme repellant eventually becomes an attractant when settled on the ground. It is also effective in deterring other potentially aggressive animals such as bisons, moose, elks, wolfs, etc. We start walking on the trail and the views are just spectacular.
We are on the lookout for animals and start seeing a few pocket gophers, and finally a mule deer.
…and another one.
The trails are very well designed and I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
The weather is perfect… for now. We were told to make noise to make sure not to startle a bear, which is a big no-no. For a while we abide by the rule, but after 30 minutes or so, we walk quietly. Regis is on the front, followed by Lucas, Audrey, and then Wendy. As we’re walking on a narrow path along the lake and against the side of the mountain, we turn a corner and Regis and Lucas  spot a grizzly bear (yes, not a black bear but a grizzly bear! brown color, flat face, hump on the back…) on the path, literally 35 or 40 feet away. This really gets our heart pumping because the bear only has two choices, running away in the opposite direction, or running towards us. The four of us quickly huddle, and Wendy pulls out the bear spray from its holster and removes the safety. What particularly gets our adrenalin rushing is that the bear first shows signs of going away, but quickly stops and turns his body around towards us. We will later learn that they often do than, checking to see if we run away, which would be an invitation to chase us. Fortunately, we’ve read a bit about such situations, and know enough to stand our ground and back away slowly. The bear eventually goes away. What a rush. We will realize later that this was a very lucky encounter, but also a dangerously close one. Bears should not be approached less than 100 yards, or 300 feet. Because of the tight corner, we only saw the bear when he was much closer, and worse, we startled him. Oh well, everyone is safe, and it makes for a good story to tell.
We complete the loop around the lake and only 10 minutes from the finish line, a storm breaks out and it starts pouring rain and hail. Wendy planned very well, and bought some disposable ponchos in Jackson. We’re set. We make it uneventfully to the car, not before we cross a few folks and make sure to tell them to look out for the bear. Both kids and adults had a great time.
We head back to the RV park and have lunch there, then Wendy and I leave the kids and head to “Elevated Grounds”, a coffee shop nearby, recommended by J.R. (our river guide), since he’s the manager (when he’s not giving tours). Cappuccino is not great (over-roasted beans) but we are snobs.  For the anecdote, J.R. told us that he served a coffee to Jimmy Kimmel the day before. After coffee, Wendy and I go to the grocery store nearby to stock up on supplies: Yellowstone will not have the same amenities as Jackson, and we have plenty of room in the RV, so might as well be prepared. We head back to the campground, and unhook the RV: we have to return the rental car by 5pm. We head there, get rid of the car, and go to Jackson city center again, where, to our great surprise, we find a large parking lot for RVs, just steps away from the central square. Shops in Jackson are beautiful, and browsing through them is actually a lot of fun. One in particular has tons of stuffed animals, and although we’re not into that stuff, it’s a great way to see wild animal up close: One can by an 8-foot standing stuffed grizzly bear for $29,000, or be more reasonable and bring home a moose head for $5,000. Another beautiful store sells thousands of cowboy hats, leather horse-riding boots, or rocking chairs (a spectacular one, made out some kind of burl wood, caught Regis’s attention… too bad it cost $7,000 😉 Anyway, it’s a perfect time to wait until 6pm, when a daily cowboy shoot out is staged at the northeastern corner of the central square. A few cowboys and cowgirls re-enact an altercation scene that ends up in a shoot out, where most die. The cow girls kick butt of course. It’s a 10-15 minutes show, and seem to be a popular touristic attraction. We all enjoyed it. Time to head back to the camp. We made 8pm reservation at an Italian restaurant not even half a mile from our camp. We decide to bike there. Restaurant is great, and we all thoroughly enjoy the food, the drinks, and the desert.
Meal over, it’s dark, so we carefully cycle back to the camp and call it another fantastic day.
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