Sunday, July 24, 2016

Grand Tetons - Idaho - Montana

Wyoming & Montana July 2016

We continued with our adventure in Wyoming with four days at Grand Teton National Park. I don't think there is a more dramatic range of mountains like this one rising from the valley floor of Jackson Hole. We did an easy hike along the shores of String and Leigh Lakes on the first afternoon. Once we made it past the people swimming, canoeing, and paddleboarding the peacefulness took over. The park was very crowded, but we expect that in mid-summer. We just remind ourselves that it is a wonderful place that we must share with others.
                  The Grand Teton Mountains

       On our second morning, we made it to the Jenny Lake parking lot very early and began a more strenuous hike up to Inspiration Point. We met a woman hiking alone who grew up in Woodville, TX and we ended up completing the 6-mile hike with her. The view over Jenny Lake was beautiful – worth every mile of hiking. On the way back to the campground, we made a side trip to the top of Signal Mountain where we gained a panoramic view of Jackson Hole.

       Cascade Canyon Trail 

         Overlooking Jenny Lake from Inspiration Point

Early morning reflection in Oxbow Bend Lake

Our third day was spent exploring areas outside of the national park, including a drive along the Hoback River south of Jackson...very scenic. We made it down 3 miles of gravel road to an old abandoned cabin to find a geocache...nice to be away from the crowds.
The cabin
Back at GTNP, we joined a ranger talk at an old historic general store. We bought a bottle of sarsaparilla “sodie pop” that had cane sugar in it. We could drink only a little bit at a time because it was so sweet. Later that afternoon, we attended mass at the Chapel of the Sacred Heart. It is a log church situated within the park boundaries, but maintained by the parish in Jackson. We really enjoy these small churches and worshiping with fellow travelers.

Chapel of the Sacred Heart, Grand Tetons National Park

We decided to spend a fourth night at the Tetons campground so we could make a day trip to Yellowstone NP. We had much trouble getting a campsite there 4 years ago and spent only a brief day and a half and visited the more central and northern parts of the park. This time we decided to concentrate on the Old Faithful area. We arrived early and got a good parking place and watched Old Faithful erupt on time, then walked around the geyser basin for another hour or so. By 1:00 we were tired of the crowds and headed back to GTNP.

 Old Faithful

 Yellowstone thermal feature

another Yellowstone feature

As we were leaving the next morning, it was hard to see the mountains because of smoke. A wildfire was burning in the Hoback River area where we had explored two days prior. We are glad we drove out there when we did! Before leaving Jackson Hole for good, we made a visit to the National Museum of Wildlife Art.

This sculpture overlooks the National Elk Refuge, Jackson Hole

We found ourselves not far from Fossil Butte National Monument in southwest Wyoming and found it quite interesting. They have found fish, turtle, crocodile, lizard, plant fossils, and this guy:

The next area we explored was eastern Idaho. This was the first time we have seen the Teton Mountains from the west side. We drove the Teton Scenic Byway and saw the thundering Mesa Falls in Targhee National Forest.

Upper Mesa Falls

Early morning rainbow at Upper Mesa Falls

  We drove up to Salmon, Idaho after stopping at a hot springs pool maintained by the Bureau of Land Management. It was not advertised from the highway but we knew it was 5 miles down a gravel road because of a nearby geocache. Another place we would never have found if it weren't for geocaching.

We crossed Lost Trail Pass into Montana, following the route of Lewis and Clark. We made a visit to Big Hole National Battlefield where the U.S. Army and a band of Nez Perce Indians fought on the Big Hole River... a very sobering place to visit. We continued down the Bitterroot Valley and Lolo Creek – more history relating to Lewis and Clark.

On the way to Flathead Lake, we made a return visit to St. Ignatius Mission Church with its 100+ year old frescoes.  Still an inspiring place.  We visited on a Sat. and by Sunday morning we were 80 miles away so did not backtrack to attend mass there.

Love this Madonna painting in the church!

Soon we will cross into Canada from Montana and visit several Canadian national parks in British Columbia and Alberta – places we haven't been to since 1980. 

Other points of interest:

Sculpture in front of Idaho Falls Public Library:
"Where the Red Fern Grows" - author Wilson Rawls lived in Idaho Falls.

In front of a still-in-operation drive in movie theater in Driggs, Idaho
(we found the geocache there)

Our campsite below Tower Rock near Salmon, ID
Lewis and Clark camped here, too.

Osprey nest right next to our Tower Rock campsite in Idaho

We stopped for a tour of the National Forest Service Smoke Jumper Center in Missoula, MT


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Random Wildflowers








Mt. Evans / RMNP

July 14, 2016

Part of our sojourn this year will be to revisit places we saw on our first big adventure together in 1980. We did a 9,000 mile trip that summer and one of the places we ventured to was the top of Mt. Evans in Colorado. Once again, we traveled up the highest paved road in North America to an elevation of 14,100+ feet and trudged to the top (14,270 feet above sea level). We were fortunate to see mountain goats and bighorn sheep up there and more people than we remember the last time.

Not quite to the top yet . . .  we have a bit of hiking (and huffing and puffing) to do.

 You can see Summit Lake below.

           view from Mount Evans

      We hiked from the parking lot to the top.

                                                                           Mountain goats near the summit.

After coming down from the summit, we headed west on Interstate 70, We usually avoid interstates, but this drive took us through beautiful Glenwood Canyon where we stopped at one of the nicest rest areas we have ever seen. After camping at Rifle Gap State Park, we explored northern Colorado and ended up at a campground in Routt National Forest. We stopped for a short hike (and an old geocache) at Cameron Pass. Pulling back onto the highway we immediately encountered three bull moose grazing. The nearby town of Walden claims to be “the moose capital of Colorado” and there they were!

       moose at Cameron Pass

Our next destination was Rocky Mountain National Park – our last visit was in 1997. We spent 4 wonderful days – 2 on the west side, then drove over the continental divide (again!) to spend 2 days on the east side. We did a hike with a park ranger and several more on our own. We saw more moose, lots of elk, and 8 bighorn sheep. Evening amphitheater programs are one of the ways we like to end each day in a national park. (Geocaching note: We completed the “Across the Divide” Geotour and earned two lovely coins from the Grand Lake/Estes Park Chamber of Commerce.)

        Alberta Falls, RMNP

                       another moose

    4 bull elk with antlers near the Continental Divide, RMNP

   It's hard to see the 8 bighorn rams in the rocky terrain; good camo!

    Bear Lake, RMNP (some Kissell kids might remember this place)

We moved down to lower elevation to the Boulder area for a visit to one of Brian's old neighbors from Johnstown, Penn. They lived two doors down from the Kissells about 55 years ago. Roaming the country as we do, we are fortunate to be able to re-establish ties with long-time friends and relatives.
 Bill and Barb (Hetrick) Spence, Brian and Kris, Marge Hetrick (seated)

On to Wyoming! From this point on, we have no set schedule – no campground reservations, no appointments to keep... we are truly free to wander at will. Our first night in Wyoming brought us to Guernsey State Park. Surprising scenery and topography. We camped at a site overlooking the reservoir. The next morning, we backtracked down the highway a bit to visit Fort Laramie National Historic Site (no mules to greet us this time). Back to the state park to visit some of the structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. They were build to last and are remarkable sturdy. Many of the state parks in Texas have buildings constructed by the CCC. Before leaving the town of Guernsey, we stopped at two Wyoming State Historic Sites: Oregon Trail Ruts and Register Cliff.

view from our campsite in Guernsey State Park

     picnic shelter build by the CCC

     railroad cut - Guernsey State Park

      Oregon Trail Ruts in Wyoming

               Register Cliff, Guernsey, WY


          Boysen State Park, Wyoming

We are now spending the day in Thermopolis, WY after driving through the scenic Wind River Canyon. Later today we will soak in the thermal pool at the State Bath House for free... no need to seek out a shower today.

travertine terrace, Hot Springs State Park, Thermopolis

Next stop . . . Tetons National Park in western Wyoming.