Yellowstone Nat’l Park: Go for the Flora & Fauna not Old Faithful

by Bob Sparrow

Upper Falls

Upper Falls on the Yellowstone River

My first experience of Yellowstone was yesterday’s geezer of a geyser and as you have no doubt surmised, I was less than thrilled. Today was a totally different story as we headed to Canyon Village in the heart of the park, which affords some of the most spectacular views of the deep canyons that the Yellowstone River has carved out over the years. Pat, Pam and I took a 6 miles loop hike on the South Rim that gave us spectacular views of Upper Falls, Lower Falls, Artist Point, Lilly Pad Lake, Clear Lake as well as some close up inspections of geysers, mud holes and hot springs. We could have run into any type of animal on this hike so I made sure I had my bear spray with me. Which reminds me that I forgot to tell you about our encounter with a bear at Jenny Lake yesterday. We were hiking around the south end of the lake, minding our own business, when hikers coming from the other direction said that they just encountered a bear a few hundred yards up the trail. They said the bear had ‘faked charged’ them and one of the men who had bear spray stood in front and sprayed the bear, who then retreated. I thought I was being smart and prepared when I brought along some bear spray, but since I was the only one who did, I ended up being the stupid one as I was pushed to the front of the pack as we headed down the trail towards the bear. The rest of the group stayed close behind me, very close, in fact I was concerned about stopping quickly and getting ‘rear ended’, so to speak. We did indeed run into Mr. Bear as he crossed the trail about 50 feet in front of me; I stopped (and wasn’t rear ended, thank you!) and pulled out my bear spray and had my finger on the trigger not knowing exactly what would come out or how far it would go if I squeezed it. The bear must have sensed that I was ill prepared for this situation and moved on without incident. It wasn’t, however, without accident, as my shorts were in need of some laundering.

Back to Yellowstone – we wanted to see some buffalo – from a distance, and our server at Saturday night’s dinner recommended we go to Hayden Valley just north of Yellowstone Lake. So after our hike and another lunch of cheese and wine (I was feeling so ‘French’ that I think I started to smell bad) by the river, we headed out to see some buffalo – which we did. If I can get a video on this blog (NOT!) I will show you a buffalo walking right down the middle of the road right past our car – he was a huge, magnificent animal. We also saw elk and moose along the way, just minding their own business, making this place even more beautiful. The wildest of animals in the park are the multitude school-aged children, and I applaud the parents for introducing their children to this environment at an early age, but a quick travel tip, if you plan to visit Yellowstone, go in September when the kids are back in school.

Buffalo Bar

Start of the West Yellowstone ‘Pub Crawl’

We drove back to West Yellowstone, cleaned up and as I write this we started our pub-crawl. We decided that we’d have one drink at each of the five bars that our server on Saturday night said were the best bars in town. We decided we would all go to the first bar in one car, which we’d pick up in the morning and walk to the others, which were all within a couple of blocks. First stop, the Buffalo Bar, which had a bunch of buffalo, elk, moose and deer heads hanging on the wall. After two drinks (We wasted little time in breaking the one-drink rule), we wondered how hard those animals had to be running to get their heads through the wall like that. Also on the wall there was a sign that said, ‘If you have to drink somewhere, drink in the Buff’.

Next stop was the Slippery Otter, which we drove to (Oops, broke another rule). It had a scuffle board table in it, which some people played while others drank. I started wandering if it was a good precision to bring my laptop and record this as things were starting to get a little fuzzy navel. Bob Pacelli complained that he tasted the soap used to wash his wine glass, but the waiter said that was implausible as they never wash the wine gasses. We then waddled to the next block to Bull-wrinkle’s, where we ordered some more imbibing. We ordered some sliders, but they brought us these little hamburgers instead. We didn’t want to raise a rumpus, so we just ate them and currampulated over to the next salon, which was Wild West Pizzarena. We ordered another rounder and listened to the guy praying his guitar and singing like a bird-watcher. By now we were slurping our word and acting incognito, so the servant recommended that we have coffee. We told her we were not driven, but we ordered a Long Island Iced Coffee just to make her snappy.

end of crawl

End of the ‘Pub Crawl’

The last place we went, we didn’t go to, as it was getting latte and we were no longer Thursday. So now I’m thinking I’m back in my hotel womb, as I see a bed that needs buttering and I believe I was over-swerved, but want to varnish this before I crush.   But tomorrow I’ll be somber as we get back on the Rhode Island and head for wherever we’re headed.  Chow.



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson


Missing in Action

Missing in Action


Well, by now we should have heard from Bob about his adventures in Yellowstone Park.  But suddenly he seems to have vanished from the face of the Earth.  Was he the victim of a bear attack?  Was he swallowed up by Old Faithful?  Did he run off with Sandra Bullock?

The answer is actually more mundane.  He doesn’t have any wifi connectivity.   So we’ll all just have to wait to hear about his travels through the Park.  Stay tuned…he should be back online in a couple of days.  Or not.

Grand Teton National Park

by Bob Sparrow


Jackson Hole tram

Sorry this is late (you weren’t awake anyway!); no I wasn’t off somewhere with Sandra Bullock, she never called, if you can believe that! It’s been a very busy couple of days. Friday we took the tram to the top of the Grand Teton Ski Resort – visibility was 70 miles! It was spectacular! That evening we went to a dinner show of ‘Paint Your Wagon’, which was surprisingly quite good.

The next morning Linda’s sister called from Rochester to let us know that their father, Warren, had had a heart attack the night before. He’s 90 and has had a quadruple by-pass, but has otherwise been in very good health. The prognosis was not good and the doctor’s suggested that the family come as soon as possible. So Saturday morning Linda flew out of Jackson Hole into Rochester, MN. The news is good – they put in a stent and he is doing miraculously well, in fact went home on Sunday! Linda will be flying back to Missoula, MT on Monday to rejoin us; we’ll pick her up as we’re passing through on our way to Flathead Lake, MT.  Thanks to those who were aware of this – your prayers worked.

Gang at Jenny Lake

‘Hoodwink Hikers’ at Jenny Lake

Meanwhile, the seven of us drove to Jenny Lake, which is named after a Shoshone Indian woman who married an Englishman named Richard “Beaver Dick” Leigh. I’m not making this stuff up! The lake is at the base of the Grand Teton Mountains and spectacularly beautiful and serene. Some took a boat and some of us hiked around the lake to ‘Hidden Falls’ and half way up to ‘Inspiration Point’ where we got half inspired to have a wine, bread and cheese lunch on the shores of Cottonwood Creek that flows out of Jenny Lake (apparently the picture is not available at this time).




Just as exciting to watch

After lunch we continued up the road another 50 miles to Yellowstone Nat’l Park where we drove directly to ‘Old Faithful’ and waited, and waited. As we sat waiting along with a thousand other ‘tourists’, it took an hour-and-a-half to see this ‘every 26 minute eruption’ erupt. For me it was like sitting at the roadside waiting for your radiator to explode – it’s hot water and steam coming out of the ground for crying out loud.  The big deal was that it did it so consistently, it was so regular, predictable . . . faithful!  Not so much anymore.  I put a check mark by ‘see Old Faithful’ and we drove another 30 miles to West Yellowstone where we had dinner around 10:00 p.m. and crashed.

We’ll be playing around Yellowstone today and then doing a pub-crawl in West Yellowstone – so if I’m late again . . . sorry.

Jackson Hole Dilemma: Should I Call Sandra Bullock?

by Bob Sparrow

snake river

Rafters on Snake River

It was my favorite kind of flight from Long Beach to Salt Lake – uneventful. Back to Long Beach for a moment; for those who might be looking to fly into Southern California and find LAX too busy and Orange County too expensive, try Long Beach Airport, it’s a great little airport half way between the two. OK, enough of the travel tips. Mark & Kathy picked us up in Salt Lake and we took the ‘long way’ (Hwy 89) to Jackson Hole, Wyoming which is what I would recommend for anyone making that trip unless you love driving on Interstate freeways. OK, that’s my last travel tip.  Highway 89 is resplendent with spectacular scenery through Logan Canyon, Bear Lake and along the Snake River into Jackson Hole.


cowboy 2

Where Sandra and I met

I had last been to Jackson Hole some 44 years ago . . . it’s changed a bit, me too. The town is built around the ‘Town Square’ (When I was last here the Town Square, was the town), and is filled with outdoorsy and cowboy kinds of shops – if you’re looking for a cowboy hat, this is the place!  It is apparently not the place for fine dining, unless you consider Buffalo Burgers gourmet. But we managed to secure a second story balcony table at the Town Square Tavern that afforded us a panoramic view of the Town Square where we enjoyed a nice dinner as a beautiful evening settled over the town.

2014-07-24 20.08.47

Sandra, on a rare occasion when she wasn’t looking at me

It was apparent from outward appearances that ‘The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar’ was ‘the’ place to be after 9:00 p.m. in Jackson Hole, and this seemed like the perfect spot for Linda to keep her promise to several lady work colleagues to bring them back a cowboy.  We headed there after dinner and had just settled into a table next to the dance floor when the band was playing and when a group of eight young ladies came in and took the table next to us. After way too long a wait without a drink, the server came over to us and apologized and said that she had to take care of the ladies next to us first as the group included Sandra Bullock and comedienne Chelsea Handler. She told us not to look over there, which we did.  I looked straight at Sandra Bullock, who was sitting no more than 10 feet from me and she was looking straight back at me, smiling. I smiled back and looked away, as did she. For the next 30 minutes or so I tried to stay engaged in our table’s conversation, but I was unnerved as every time I looked over Sandra’s way, she was looking at me. At one point I thought she kind of motioned me to ask her to dance, but I wasn’t certain and when I told Linda she reminded me that I didn’t know how to do those ‘western dances’; which had never stopped me in the past, but I acquiesced . After about 30 minutes, Sandra and her group finished their drinks and got up to leave. I swear that as Sandra was leaving she put her thumb to her ear, her little finger to her lips and mouthed, “Call me.” I obviously was flattered, but of course didn’t have her number and wondered if she was going to leave it with the hostess to bring over to me later.


Chelsea, who never looked at me

OK, none of this really happened except the part that Sandra Bullock and Chelsea Handler came in and sat at the table next to us; my imagination sort of took over from there. I did manage to sneak this picture of Ms Bullock and will be calling TMZ later to see if they want to buy it.

Stay tuned.


My Real ‘Next Adventure’

by Bob Sparrow

yogiSince returning from Nepal, I have been asked a number of times about my next adventure; it seems some of you folks take a perverse pleasure in watching me bust my ass in some far-off, third-world country. I am indeed embarking on my next adventure and no, it’s not to Yemen, Somalia, Syria or the Antarctica “just before they close it for the winter” – but thank you Sister Suzanne and several loyal subscribers for your amusing, albeit life-threatening, suggestions. I’m trading in that 26-hour, back-wrenching, butt-numbing flight, for a short hop within the U.S. borders this time. And while this trip may not be as exotic as traveling through Nepal, I’m hoping it will provide a unique look at the spectacular beauty of my favorite part of the country.

I’ll have more company on this adventure, as it will be with couples from ‘the ‘hood’, affectionately, or maybe that’s ‘infectionately’, referred to as the ‘Hoodwink Hikers’. The ‘Hoodwink Hikers’ include our ‘Trail Boss’, Patrick (my Nepal companion) and his wife, Pam; long-time close friends, Mark & Kathy; the comic relief couple, Bob & Jeanne and Linda and me. We are headed to the ‘Intermountain West’ for some hiking and hijinks, not necessarily in that order.


‘The Harvard of the West’

Our plan is to fly into Salt Lake City (home to my son’s and my alma mater, Westminster College, or as we alums like to refer to it, the Harvard of the West), take the beautiful drive from Salt Lake to the Old West town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which sits in the shadow of the Grand Teton Mountains. We’ll spend a couple of days cavorting in the surrounding environs then head to Yellowstone Nat’l Park. Once we’ve seen ‘Old Faithful’ and Yogi Bear (or is that in Jellystone Nat’l Park?) we’ll continue north to join another couple from the ‘hood, Mike & Tanis, who have a second home on Flathead Lake in Polson, Montana. We figure to wear out our welcome there after a couple of days, so we’ll be heading further north to Lake McDonald, which is in scenic Glacier Nat’l Park, where we’ll do some hiking. Some will hike and some will take a tour bus on the picturesque road over the Continental Divide called, ‘Going To The Sun Road’ (sounds long . . . and hot!). We’ll then journey on to Many (pronounced Manny) Glacier for a night.

Jackson Hole

Exclusive Hotel in Jackson Hole

Our final stop will be so far north that it’s south . . . south Canada – a place called Prince of Wales in Alberta, where we’ll stay in a majestic old ‘railroad hotel’ in the Canadian Rockies. We will then drive back to Kalispell, Montana (assuming they will let us back into the country) and fly home.

That’s the plan, but anyone who’s been following our blog, knows that sometimes we deviate from the plan – and with this group of deviates, no plan is safe. Connectivity permitting, I’ll try to post what we actually do and maybe even include some videos, if my son shows me how to do that before we leave. Hope you tag along and enjoy the trip. As always you’re welcome to send me your comments while you’re sitting comfortably on your couch at home eating Bon Bons and I’m busting my ass on that Draconian-sounding road to the center of our solar system.

If you’re not already a subscriber, we’d really like you to ‘subscribe’ at the top, right hand side of this page; there’s no cost and you will get our blog each week sent directly to your email. If you are a subscriber, thank you and ask a friend to subscribe – they’ll thank you too . . . maybe.



By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

The Sun Valley Inn

The Sun Valley Inn

Each year, beginning in 1988, we have travelled up to Sun Valley, Idaho to relax, refresh and, let’s be honest, get out of the Arizona heat.  Almost always we come in September, when the leaves are turning and – this is critical – the kids are back in school.  It is clear from our travel patterns that we are creatures of habit, for while other people dream of new places and revel in collecting travel brochures, we come to the same place every year.  Sort of like lemmings.  Sun Valley is made up primarily of the Sun Valley Resort, with its two lodges, ice rink, golf courses, shops and restaurants.  Walking through “the village” is like stepping back in time, assuming that the time was Bavaria in the 1930’s.  The resort was conceived by Averil Harriman, chairman of the Union Pacific back in the mid-twentieth century.  He employed surveyors and architects from Germany to carry out his vision and their influence is apparent from the moment you step on to the grounds.  The resort has long been a favorite of the rich and famous…but more on that later.

Downtown Ketchum

Downtown Ketchum

Ketchum, Idaho is the town adjacent to Sun Valley.  In fact, if you blink your eyes you will not see the sign that indicates you’ve left one jurisdiction and entered the other.  Ketchum is a former rough and tumble place that allowed gambling long after it was outlawed in the U.S. and is famous for hosting Ernest Hemingway in his heyday.  He was known to throw back more than his fair share of cocktails in the local bars and even staged a phantom bull-fight after one particularly “wet” night.  Ketchum is still a small town in many ways – the only national chain store of any sort that has been allowed to open is Starbucks and that was only after much hue and cry among the locals.  The shops and restaurants in town are owned by hard-working people who make a living catering to the seasonal crowds.  And some years are a lot better than others.  Last year, the wildfires forced evacuations the first week of August, thus cutting in half the normal summer season.  As if that weren’t bad enough, the snowfall last winter was a bit sparse, so the ski season was also worse than normal.  We have gotten to know many of the local merchants over the years and you could not find a nicer group of people.  Which is why they really don’t deserve the summer “swells”.

As I mentioned, we are usually here in September when it’s quiet.  It is a wonderful time to re-charge and appreciate the surrounding area.  This year we decided to rent a house for July and August.  Mistake.  Big, big mistake.  First of all, there are kids everywhere.  Why is it that when your children are crying and running around they are still darling, but when it’s other people’s offspring they are just a pain in the neck?   And up here they all seem to be on bikes, darting in and out of traffic as if they were in cahoots with the auto industry to test tire treads and braking efficiencies.  But the worst are the “swells” who come to the area to spend time in their summer homes.  Many of them are from Santa Monica or San Francisco, although I suspect there are jerks from everywhere here.  I have personally witnessed three occasions where these socialites have treated local merchants and their employees as if they were personal servants…or worse.  And the locals have to just grin and bear it as their livelihoods depend on “service with a smile”.   I’ve been appalled by what I’ve seen and heard and then last week we got “the treatment” ourselves.

Sun Valley in the Fall

Sun Valley in the Fall

We were on a walk down the “street of dreams” in Sun Valley, a lane that is resplendent with some of the most spectacular houses here – or anywhere, for that matter.  At the end of the road is a National Forest Service trail so the street sees plenty of hikers and bikers going up and down the road.  We were across the street from one of our favorite houses when the owner came out to the front lawn.  We were about to tell him how much we admired his home when his VERY large dog came bounding over to us.  He was intent on pouncing on Dash the Wonder Dog, so I picked him up to get him out of harm’s way.  The dog kept pursuing us and that is when I learned that you just shouldn’t threaten the Wonder Dog with my husband around.  He told the owner that he needed to get control of us dog.  No action.  Again, my husband asked him to get his dog away from us.  Nothing.  Finally, the man looked both of us up and down and asked where we lived. Admittedly, we were not dressed to the nines, but our jeans didn’t have holes in them and I swear that neither of us has body tattoos or piercings through our noses.  So “none of your business”, was our reply.  He then told us that we just didn’t “belong” on his street and that we should leave.  A public road!!

So, would I recommend Sun Valley as a place to vacation?  You bet!  It’s got everything – hiking, golf, biking trails, rafting, shopping, and tons of good restaurants.  But I advise going in the fall. when the leaves are turning and the summer “swells” no longer own the streets.

‘The Tape’ Chapter 4 – Oh, Where the Trap Door Leads!

For those who have joined us recently, you can find previous chapters of ‘The Tape’ in our ‘Archives’ as follows: Chap 1 (Jan 6), Chap 2 (Jan 20), Chap 3 (May 5).

by Bob Sparrow

trap door

The Trap Door

The Chief took the first few steps down into the cellar and turned back to looked at me with an expression that said,   ‘Are you coming?’  I was still frozen in place across the room and reluctantly inched my way toward the opening in the floor and wondered why I was doing this, what was I going to find down there and what if the Chief was really an axe murderer? One thing I didn’t wonder about was whether anyone would ever find my body if in fact he was. No frickin’ way. Let me end the suspense, the Chief didn’t own an axe, heck he didn’t even own a tomahawk.


Stone walls & archway

The stairs down were longer than I expected so when we finally reached the stone floor at the bottom we were down about 20 feet. Chief’s kerosene lantern cast an uneven light against the cool, dank surroundings. I was not prepared for what I saw before me – the floor, walls and archways, were all lined with brick and stone; someone had put a lot of work into creating this place, whatever it was. As the chief held the lantern in his outstretched arm, we moved toward the main archway. At first I couldn’t make out what I was looking at and then as we got closer, I was stunned. Prison cells had been carved out on both sides of this cave; rusty cell doors hung open in rows as far as the lantern would allow us to see. A chill came over me as I realized I was in a real live dungeon.

(Don: “I’m getting a little claustrophobic, how about we all go up and get some fresh air?”)

The Chief was in deep thought as he looked around this underground prison. He walked over to a nearby cell and squeaked open the rusted door and stood motionless as he stared inside. I kept my distance, as I was pretty sure I didn’t want to see whatever was inside that cell. I asked, “So what is this? What the heck went on down here?”

(Don: “And why are we still down here?”)


dungeon cell

The Chief remained silent as the light from the lantern made eerie shadows play on his face.  He looked down the long row of cells lost in thought. He finally turned to me and said, “Let’s go back up.”

(Don: “Whew! How can I thank you?”)

I followed the Chief up the stairs, out of the house and to the top of a near-by ridge next to the house; from there the entire Coachella Valley lay before us. The sun had just slipped behind Mt. San Jacinto as the Chief sat down on a boulder and watched the evening shadows stretch across the valley floor.

overlooking coachella

Coachella Valley

I sat down a few feet away and asked, “That was pretty spooky; so what was that place?”


To Be Continued . . .


Update: ‘Murder on the Road to Hana’  For those regulars who read/subscribe to our blog, I wanted to provide an up-date on a earlier story published on March 3rd.  Nothing earth-shattering, but the Maui police have reclassified the case  of missing Carley Scott from a ‘missing person’ to a ‘homicide’.  Additionally they have found something in the waters just off the Hana coast that they believe can help them solve this mystery.  Ex-boyfriend, Steven Capobianco remains a ‘person of interest’.


By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Ely, NV

Downtown Ely

One of the joys of a long car trip is passing through towns that are barely on the map.  Such was the case on our journey up to Sun Valley, Idaho when we stopped for the night in Ely, Nevada.  Where, you ask?  Ely (pronounced EE-LEE) is smack dab in the middle of nowhere.  It is in the eastern part of the state on State Route 93, exactly 250 miles north of Las Vegas and 250 miles south of Twin Falls, Idaho.  This was not our first stop in Ely…it happens to be just a bit past the mid-point from our home up to Sun Valley so it’s a good place to rest for the night.  “Rest” being a relative term.

The nicest hotel in town is a La Quinta Inn that was built about five years ago.  It is pretty much what you would expect from a La Quinta  – the bare minimum of furniture in the room, cold bagels for breakfast, and people slamming doors at 2 am.  This trip we were delighted by people across the hall who left their baying hound alone in the room for five hours.  There are several casinos in town where, we assumed, the dog’s owners were on a hot streak.

However, as I stated at the beginning, I find a particular joy in going through small towns.  Having grown up in a town where everyone knew everyone else, I find it comforting to know that such places still exist.  A habit I picked up years ago is buying the local newspaper to get a flavor of what life is like in these small burbs.  In Ely, the local paper is called The Ely Times.  Clearly they didn’t spend a lot of time coming up with a catchy name.  On the other hand, I think simplicity is key in Ely.  My brother, Bob, has the same fascination with small town papers and we obviously came to that trait naturally since our parents owned our small town paper, the Novato Advance.  Or The Retreat, as some people took to calling it.

Mom and Dad in front of the Novato Advance

Mom and Dad in front of the Novato Advance

Regardless, the name of this blog is a tribute to a column that our mother wrote each week, “A Bird’s Eye View”, in which she regaled people with stories about local activities.  Her riveting articles chronicled such highlights as  “Mr. and Mrs. Tresch went into San Francisco for lunch on Thursday where they enjoyed a crab salad at Aliotos” or “Mr. and Mrs. J.J. Smith entertained their cousins from Modesto last week”.

So it was with some interest that I opened the Ely Times to see what constituted news in this small town of 4200 people.  Here were some of the major stories:

  • “The City Treasurer has been placed on a 90 day review for insubordination.  The Mayor asked her not to write a check to the Fire Chief, but she ignored his orders, asked the opinion of another council member, and then went ahead and wrote the check anyway.”
  • “Mrs. Zelma Brown died in February but the town will be celebrating her life at a memorial to be held at the Pool Park next Saturday.  Refreshments will be served but seating is limited so bring along a chair for yourself.
  • “The Ruth Mining Days competitions will be held on June 21.  There will be a mill ball toss, rock hammer toss, tire roll and a tug-of-war over mud.  In addition, we will hold the annual Adult Mucking Competition.”

Mucking..or something like that.

Mucking competition???  I thought that was a skill held by scrappy newspaper reporters trying to “get the goods” on corrupt politicians.  But, being the intrepid reporter that I am, I did a little research and discovered this is a very serious competition, conceived to keep old-fashioned mining techniques alive.  There are seven events in the competition: Jackleg  drilling, gold panning, hand mucking, hand steeling, timber sawing, surveying and track stand. Points are assigned in each event and the lowest cumulative score at the end of all seven events is the overall winner.  I guess it’s sort of the decathlon of mining.


I was sorry that we had to miss all of the festivities…I’ve never been one to pass up a good mill ball toss.  Driving out of town the next morning we passed the new Dialysis Center.  I recalled there was an article in the paper about the local quilting guild that donated dozens of quilts for the comfort of the patients undergoing treatment there.  In Ely, if someone is in need, there is someone to help out.

I’m not sure I could live in a town that small again; I’ve grown accustomed to Costco, Starbucks and high-speed internet.  But I envy these people in ways that others envy the Kardashians.  They live life simply, they take care of their neighbors, and the only muckraking they care about has nothing to do with politicians.  I think they’re pretty darn lucky to live in Ely.